Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunny Memories

My Boys June 2010 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
I just got back from a long walk around my neighborhood and FINALLY it seems that warm and sunny days are on their way. The sun shining on my face catapulted me straight in to "vacation mode". And although that is not hard to do as I think about travel quite often, this is the time when I REALLY get antsy and start craving a new place to go.  
Our last big summer trip was in June 2010 to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. When Planning this trip, we chose based solely on wanting beautiful water and white sandy beaches. Oh and also because Club Med where we chose to stay is UNBELIEVABLE for kids. As a matter of fact its so great for kids that this was our 3rd Club Med (we've been to Ixtapa and Coral Beach in Eilat, Israel as well). 

We booked, survived the 16+ our trek with connecting flights (nothing scares us after flying to Israel with 3 and 18 month old) and pretty much knew what to expect. What we didn't expect is to arrive and find ourselves smack dab in the midst of the "Club Med Wine and Food Festival". I just about fell over. As a result, Punta Cana pops up in my mind quite often when I think back to culinary adventures and experiencing beautiful new places. 

Not only was I surrounded by the most gorgeous turquoise clear water, sand that felt like a goose down comforter under my feet, but Celebrity Chefs as well! This I did not expect. Nor did I ever imagine that here on a family vacation at Club Med I would partake in daily live cooking demos, BBQ's on the beach with Dr.BBQ doing his "thang" and nightly wine tastings. I still have the bar of pure cocoa from the night we sat in on a chocolate-themed cooking demo while sipping an incredible glass of a perfectly sweet and semi-dry glass of Port.
Me and my Port
Food Festival or not I would not survive a Club Med vacation without the bread stations they are so known for. Particularly the WHITE CHOCOLATE BREAD that is a staple of Club Med whether you are in Morocco, France or Dominican Republic. To go and not help yourself to a piece of this heavenly creation with breakfast, lunch, dinner and all your snacks is a crime. Because without this waste-line expanding, sweet and special bread I would simply never go to a Club Med again! OK I'm kidding, I'm looking into the one in Greece as we speak. Since the menus at Club Med usually reflect the cuisine of the destination I cannot wait! Grilled octopus and moussaka, here I come!
Local fisherman in the Dominican Republic
The sand and water were truly spectacular

Its no coincidence that a little sunshine has me fantasizing and reminiscing about tropical vacations. Yes, you can call me a spoiled Los Angelino if you'd like BUT we did have "the wettest December since1889" according to The LA Times, so I am not completely off. I am ready for my flip flops, shorts and warm sand under my feet. And although I won't be heading to Punta Cana, we are off to Nuevo Vallarta Mexico in just three weeks. I don't expect to stumble upon a food festival again but I am sure delicious food will be all around me. The resort we are staying in is known for exceptional gourmet dining. YUM!!! I will eat and report back. Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Godmother"

On a recent gloomy Saturday morning, my husband suggested we spend the day in Santa Monica riding bikes, walking around, etc. Considering the weather it was unlike him to propose an activity involving a bit of a drive and beach. A lazy Saturday indoors on a day as such is way more up his alley. But after a quick weather check to ensure it would not rain, I agreed. Because overcast or not, cold or not, I never say no to Santa Monica, as I am certain that for the Hendelman  family, any outing in that direction will involve the "GODMOTHER" at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery I was right, as it turned out the real reason he suggested "bike riding by the beach" was because he was craving what for us and many others could quite possibly be the GREATEST SANDWICH IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.

How a sandwich can be so good is just beyond me. I am so grateful that thanks to a pregnancy craving for an "Italian Sub" almost 7 years ago, we found it! Took us a couple of days and a few misses, but when we did find the "GODMOTHER" it truly changed our life and I am certain it will change yours. I never expected that my love for it would continue after I had my son as I am not prone to loving sandwiches with such a passion. HOWEVER, this sandwich is now as permanent a part of my life as my own children! For nothing can make me stop craving and loving and enjoying and fantasising about this sandwich, never ever ever!

 "GODMOTHER" is worth waiting in line for, its worth driving an hour for if need be (we've done it on lunch breaks from Studio City to Santa Monica mid week) as it is truly mind blowing. Oh and by the way, this incredible deli has so many Italian specialties, wines, cheeses, imported sardines, olive oils, and about a dozen other sandwiches on the menu should you feel the need to deviate from the "GODMOTHER". Hands down you are certain to be pleased with anything you get there, my personal favorite is what I call "THE VEGETARIAN SPICY GODMOTHER" which has everything but the meats and creamy, tangy Havarti slices instead. When you order just ask for Vegetarian with the works, add Havarti, and don't forget to make it SPICY! The Spaghetti and Meatballs is a favorite of my kids, and comes with a generous chunk of that RIDICULOUSLY good bread on the side. YUM!

My Vegetarian with Havarti, Spicy!
A little bit about the Sandwiches at Bay Cities. The bread is a crucial part of this sandwich, they bake it on the premises, its crisp and soft and warm and prefect. The selection of meats and cheeses plentiful, and "the works" are what makes you speechless while you ooh and aah with every bite. "Works" is mayo, mustard (yellow, dijon or honey), onions, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, Italian dressing, and mild or hot pepper salad. Messy, spicy, tangy, chewy, tasty, goodness!

Every chance I get I talk about food, but when it comes to "The Godmother" hands down the Hendelman family's favorite sandwich in the universe, I will not stop talking. I will tell people I've just met, strangers in the street, friends, family, small children, anyone who will listen. I think that everyone must try the godmother at least once in their life, and since the number of its followers is infinite, this may in fact be possible! They have been open since 1925 after all.

The Last Bite

My kids scarfing down the bread in front of Bay Cities
"HOME of the Godmother"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fig & Olive-We Never Made it to Main Course

When I heard from my good friend Patricia that Fig & Olive was now open in LA, I immediately knew I had to go. I am always excited and curious to try new places, especially one that has 4 existing locations in New York. I jumped right on and called for a reservation. Naively I expected to get in (well at least my appetite did) on a Saturday night, when calling the Thursday prior, this was not to be the case.

Provence Vegetables and Burrata
The creaminess and simplicity if the burrata combined
with the acidity and the sweetness of the heirloom tomato
and the addition of the pesto is divine!

Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet
Warm gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnut, arugula, tomato
on a fine puff pastry.
This really put us over the edge. The combination of the
rich flavors and the warmth of the buttery pastry were the
perfect match in every bite.
As with any "new & trendy " restaurant in LA let alone one that opened less then 1 month ago, they politely declined my request and suggested I try a different day. I hung up the phone, emailed my girlfriend in NY, asking if she had ever been. After all, I needed a friends opinion and details while I patiently waited my turn. She hadn't but said she'd suggest her husband take a business associate there for a dinner meeting. He did, but wasn't much help in the "dining description department" but did say say it was good enough to bring his wife back. This was enough for me as he is pretty particular when it comes to food, so if they managed to please him even a little, then all would be OK.

After 2 weeks of patiently waiting to dine at this East Coast staple, Olive Oil centered restaurant (all of their dishes are prepared with Extra Virgin Olive Oil), I settled for a Tuesday evening. So with my palate ready to be tickled by Italian, Spanish and South of France flavors, my hubby and I embarked on this date-night rendezvous. I must say we were not disappointed. The food was excellent, service solid, and the dishes (especially the Beef Carpaccio) quite memorable.
Beef Carpaccio
This perfect 4 ingredient dish is so simple yet so full of complex flavors.
Comprised of thin slices of filet mignon, topped with tangy baby arugula,
grated fresh parmesan, and drizzled with olive oil and 18year aged balsamic
each bite took me straight to HEAVEN!

The menu consisted of way too many items I was salivating over. I asked the waiter which ones we absolutely HAD to try. He pointed out some musts, I should not say pointed...he made kissing noises by bringing his fingers to his mouth to help create the full affect of how amazing he considered his suggestions to be.

I was so excited by his recommendations and pleased that he seemed to fully comprehend my "food-passion related psychosis". He not only helped lay out a game plan for our dinner, but saw the importance of my needing to try all the "musts" he mentioned. In addition he suggested  we check in periodically to see if we had any room left for main course. Needless to say we never made it to the main course, but did try a desert ...a desert (and I quote our waiter) "Garnished with cherries hand picked by nuns in Italy".

Crostini Trio
1. Mushroom, trufled artichoke & Parmesan
2. Manchego, Fig, Marcona Almond
3. Shrimp, Avocado, Cilantro Tomato
I am making it my mission to go back and try all the Crostini
on their menu, as they are truly the perfect bites. 
Regardless of the toppings one chooses, the freshness
and purity of each ingredient is undeniable.
I am further investigating this statement and trying not to harbor "ill-feelings" towards my husband for making fun of this claim! Nuns or no nuns, I am certain the Carpaccio and the Burrata were blessed by someone, if not hand picked by Italian nuns. I plan on returning very soon for the main course. I know exactly what I will order. The Penne Funghi Tartufo with Cremini mushroom, black trumpet, parmesan, parsley, scallion and White Truffle Olive Oil. I witnessed the woman sitting next to me devour every last drop of this heavenly smelling creation. I must admit I leaned over to smell it so many times I almost fell off my chair.

So as it stands, I will call to make another dinner reservation very soon. Their generosity in the use of truffles, beautiful balsamic and olive oils is still lingering in my mouth. Welcome to Los Angeles Fig & Olive!


Dessert Crostini
Amarena Cherry (Yes the ones had-picked by Nuns in Italy)
Mascarpone, Pistachio on Shortbread
with Micro Basil.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Memorable Event

Me with Susan Feniger & Nancy Silverton

Santa Monica Airport Hanger 8 where the event was held
Today I was fortunate to attend a very special
event! I just got home from the The Power of Women Luncheon, a Centennial Celebration held by The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. The luncheon was especially jaw dropping for me not only because I proudly took part in a charitable cause but because I got to meet inspirational, incredibly successful and powerful female chefs.

My heart was racing when Susan Feniger (Chef, Restaurateur, Author and Top Chef Masters Winner), Nancy Silverton (Renown Pastry Chef, La Brea  Bakery creator, Co-founder of Pizzeria Mozza and Author) and Suzanne Tracht (Executive Chef/Owner of JAR, Top Chef Contestant) took the stage. I got to not only eat their food, but learn a little about their lives, their cultural upbringing and take part in live culinary demos. I walked away inspired, moved and truly amazed by their presence. Oh yeas and with a full and satisfied belly, a new cook book (Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book) and butterflies in my tummy from having met these incredible women!

Susan Feniger, Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Tracht

The menu consisted of Suzanne Tracht's feta, roasted beets, cucumber salad, Susan Fenigers's Vareniky with zucchini, ricotta and spinach filling and Nancy Silverton's chocolate dipped honeycomb for dessert. Beautiful centerpieces of gourmet delicious breads adorned the middle of each table (there were 750 attendees) and we dove right into them shortly after starting our tasty meals.

Bread Centerpieces

Suzanna Tracht's Salad 1st course

Susan Feniger's Varenyky

Nancy Silverton's Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb
(or what's left of it after I devoured!)

Three chefs cooked together, united as women, artists in my opinion bound by their heritage. The momentum of the three of them together, live on that stage was so much fun and a joy to watch. They spoke of their mothers and grandmothers influencing their cooking. They spoke of their reformed Jewish upbringing and how regular family dinners for all three were the "ultimate" connection to their culture. I easily related to "not necessarily having to attend Temple to feel Jewish, but rather reinforcing the family bond of eating together, living through food, importance of sharing mealtime together" as the key in our culture, in most cultures really. I completely agree with Susan Finiger's statement of "food shaping us as people and all of them as chefs".

Looking back at this wonderful experience I had today, I am not only proud to be a woman but am proud to have learned so much more about successful women in the culinary world. I am so passionate about this world already and this event justified my passion that much more.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I took this at "Great Chefs of LA 2009" kidney foundation benefit 
Cheese may quite possibly be my biggest indulgence. I say this because when it comes to me and cheese, its never just a slice, a taste or a bite. Once I unleash my cheese eating powers there is no stopping me. Let me clarify.

When I think of indulging in cheese, its not about a nice slice of Havarti added to my fresh turkey sandwich or a whipped cream cheese on a warm bagel. Of course I enjoy a slice of cheese in my sandwich, but I don't classify that as "indulgence". Oh no.

When I "indulge" in cheese, we are usually talking full on cheese platters, accompanied by slices of warm toasted baguette, gourmet crackers, dried and fresh fruits, nuts, jams and even Nutella. Cheese for me is an indulgence because I love it and I need to have a variety in one tasting whenever I am in the mood for cheese.

My perfect cheese platter must consist of the following and as a rule absolutely positively be shared and enjoyed with friends while drinking great wine!

 1. First Le Delice De Bourgogne. Wow, wow, wow and wow!!!!!!!!!!! Pure Ecstasy. SO WHAT IF ITS 75% FAT? Why do you think I share cheese with friends? This triple-cream brie-like (but so not a brie) hails from France. I never doubted that it would, as only the "French" can create the passion, moaning and groaning that comes with its consumption. The process of making this cheese involves adding cream to full fat cow's milk. Cream, cream and more cream how can it not be amazing?

Buttery, smooth, rich, decadent, soft, delicate, there is no end to the pleasure-inducing adjectives that can be used describe it. True cheese nirvana. I glass of Champagne or a light, fruity white wine is just heavenly with it. I love to spread it on a crisp, warm piece of baguette with a touch of Nutella and sprinkle of sea salt OR on a great cracker with a little fig spread OMG OMG.

2. Next we're off to the Netherlands for Parrano Robusto (aged 9months)-not to be confused with Parrano Originale (also yummy but aged 5 months). This nutty favorite is a type of Gouda and is always on my cheese platter. The flavor boils down to this: If the Italian Stallion Parmesano Reggiano had an affair with a Dutch Hottie this cheese would be their "love child".. No incident its marketed as "A dutch cheese that thinks its Italian" Whatever the comparison, for me its the perfect balance of nutty, spicy, sweet and a little crunchy. I have it as is, just crumble after crumble of nutty perfection washed down with a Pinto Grigio with apple and pear undertones.

3. Back to France for another favorite Fleur Verte a type of goat cheese. What is it about the French and cheese, they just get it right on so many levels, every single least for me. This is just so so good and so soft and so beautiful. Fleur Verte is rolled in fresh herbs like thyme and tarragon and pretty pink peppercorns. The flavor is tangy and at times citrus-like. I think when it comes to this cheese everyone experiences it differently and new flavors come up in every bite. I adore this cheese because its so pretty and a little sweet you can just tell how much love went into making it.

4. Last but not least the Etorki, a sheep's milk cheese that hails from the Basque region of France. Pleasantly salty, fruity and smooth when eaten, Etorki is delicious. I discovered it several years ago at a Whole Foods market next door to our house, and have been eating it since. The flavor is mild yet complex and whenever I put it on my cheese platter everyone seems to really enjoy it. I think it pairs well with Pinot Noir (some may disagree and prefer a white) Oh and I almost forgot, since my cheese plate MUST have at least 2 types of pate, Etorki is a favorite when eaten with a bit of my duck pate on a wheat cracker, YUM.

Some Extras Carrr's crackers (my fave is wheat-but get the assorted for your cheese plate), Fig Spread, hands down Dalmatia makes the most incredible one as well as a Ficoco (a fig spread with a bit of chocolate that's to die)
I always find it at whole foods.

Next we need to have fresh fruit.  Ripe, large, juicy green seedless grapes and slices of crisp, tangy granny smith apple. Last but not least a pate, 2 types preferably. Duck Foie Gras Mousse with Port Wine and Duck Foie Gras Mousse. Believe me that the euphoria that you will experience in your mouth when you try even a little bit of the pate is worth going out there and searching the gourmet markets and online stores such as this one for it is certain to become your favorite and a must near if not on your cheese plate!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Breakfast

Taking a break from our "egg-in a hole" Saturday morning ritual, usually involves scoping out a yummy new breakfast place. I must admit, we often stick with the tried and true like Charlies Coffee Shop at the Farmer's Market on 3rd & Fairfax. This old school diner is hands down the best for a traditional breakfast. I have been coming here since I was 14 when my best friend Alla worked there.

Charlies french toast is the absolute best. Thick triangles of egg-bread dipped into a sweetened egg batter and cooked on a griddle until golden, moist and delicious. Served lightly dusted with powdered sugar it is so good. I love mine with maple syrup and lick the plate every single time. I don't know what it is but the bread and the custard-like batter they use makes this french toast truly special. Every single warm sweet bite melts in your mouth. I am drooling just thinking about it.

The corned beef hash (Alla's fave-she orders it extra crispy/well done) and eggs is a must. My kids love the dollar size pancakes and the chocolate chip ones of course. They also have blueberry and banana nut pancakes that are prefect! So if you ever feel like a no frills, straight forward traditional American breakfast, Charlies Coffee Shop is always a winner for me.

Figaro Bistro on Vermont in Los Angeles 
 Yesterday morning we decided to skip Charlies and try something new. I was in an eggy kind of mood as usual and was feeling French. I mean I wasn't "feeling like a french person" as I am not exactly sure what that would feel like :) I mean I was in the mood for Paris. As in craving to be in Paris in a little sidewalk bistro I so miss from the last time I was there in 2002. Thus we made our way to Figaro Bistro on Vermont in Los Angeles

I have had lunch and dinner here before and they have always fulfilled my "I wanna feel like I'm in Paris" craving, so we decided to give breakfast a try. I must tell you, it worked! The food was good, the atmosphere so pleasant, the service great but the best part if this whole outing was THE BREAD.
Figaro Bread Basket Before

Figaro Bread Basket After

 The bread basket was served the moment we sat down. Warm slices of fresh baked, white bread, olive and the best raisin walnut bread served with jam and butter on the side! We devoured everything and in hindsight could have easily just eaten the bread with a great cup of coffee. Thankfully we stopped and had a tasty breakfast of poached eggs with asparagus for me, a croissant parisian for my hubby and a giant almost cake-like pancake with homemade whipped cream, apple compote and strawberries for the kiddos.

All the tasty breads are sold up front at the counter for $6 per loaf, should you feel the heaping bread basket you get at the table is not enough. I made the mistake of not purchasing extra for home and am still mourning this decision. I have every intention of returning to Figaro soon for the raisin walnut bread. I bet it will be amazing with a bit of foie gras pate on it or some triple cream with a little nutella and a touch of sea salt! Ok I need to eat asap.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Shawarma that lead to my Dietary Demise-sort off

Every Thursday I have an after work ritual that consists of planning what I will prepare for Shabbat dinner and going to my local Kosher market to shop for the ingredients. I look forward to making something delicious for my family every Friday, as that it is often the one time during the week all four of us get to sit down together. We love to talk about the week (its incredible how much a 4 and 6 year old have to share about their life-so funny) and ooh and ah over yummy food.

Today however my shopping outing to Cambridge Market took place around 10am with my sick daughter in tow. So armed with a grocery list I was on a mission to make this quick, precise and without succumbing to temptation of the kosher Deli. A deli filled with home made middle eastern delicacies. Try the matbucha, a spicy dish consisting of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic and seasoned with chili pepper. My absolute favorite, especially if you dip a warm pita into it, or pour some over a runny sunny side up egg! I'd bathe in it if I could.YUM!

I was doing my thing, flying through my list, and was almost ready to walk away from the deli-having purchased a container of matbucha of course, when through the window of the kitchen I spotted something. I mountain of grilled, perfectly golden, turning slowly on a spit chicken Shawarma. I called over the sweet woman behind the counter, and asked if it was done. Since Shawarma typically can cook up to 1 day, and it was just 10:30am, I was hopping she would say no. This way I could avoid the temptation of eating chicken for breakfast. Oh how I did not want to hear that it was done, ready to be sliced, and in her heavily accented words "so good today and you must try it sweetheart".

The container I ate
What's a girl to do. I decided to get just a small side of it, roughly 1/2 a lb. and planned on sharing it with my husband for lunch. How I wish that this would have been the case, as it SO WASN'T!!!!! Within minutes of smelling the mouthwatering seasonings, I opened the to go container, took 1 bite of the crispy, crunchy, hot chicken meat, and it was over. I scarfed down the entire container within 5 minutes, walked back to the counter with my head held low, and asked the woman for seconds. After all I needed to bring some back for my husband, so he could partake in this experience and justify my consumption of chicken at 10:30 in the morning.

In case you are wondering if I regret doing this (by the way I am currently eyeing his portion that is sitting on my kitchen counter as I type)...the answer is No Way! It was so freakishly delicious. Instead of regret I am planning weather I will take a Yoga class or Pilates this evening to work off the calories. I think I may do both and go for a run to make room for Shabbat Dinner tomorrow. I am making a roasted butternut squash with shallots, garlic and balsamic vinegar, grilled asparagus with sea salt and a touch of olive oil, and broiled seas bass with a tomato, green olives, capers and lemon.

Have a Delicious weekend Y'all!

Truly Perfect Piece of Chicken Shawarma

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Lemon Roll at Kushiyu
Although its been almost 1 month since my birthday, my husband's awesome but incredibly busy brothers, mom and sister in law offered to take me out for a belated birthday dinner. Since I could pick where to go and what to eat, there was only one obvious choice which is Sushi. My husband is convinced that I was a shark in my past life, and if not a shark then definitely some type of sea creature whose diet consisted primarily of fish. Therefore if ever offered to be taken out to dinner and being asked to choose, I will almost always pick sushi. Unless an airplane is involved in which case we're off to Tokyo!
Chicken Kushiyaki (Ground w scallion, Chicekn bresast w yuzu)
How can I possibly admit that I have a "favorite type of food"? I love all that is food, I love all different types of ingredients, flavors, colors, proteins, vegetables, grains, ALL OF IT. BUT I really really really really am a touch obsessed with sushi, and those close to me will concur. I've been known to go on month-long obsessive episodes of wanting to eat sushi so frequently, that interventions from loved ones have been necessary. They feared my going off the deep end and turning into an actual fish. So it was no surprise to those who know and love me that I chose kushiyu restaurant in Tarzana, CA for this belated celebration.

I have about a dozen Japanese restaurants that I adore. The reason I chose Kushiyu for that evening is because they are local and have a handful of menu items I simply can't live without. Kushiyu is also known for its Kushiyaki (tasty tidbits of meat, vegetable, fish, etc. charbroiled on tiny skewers) and daily specials that include a number of fish options from Japan. For me they provide a perfect balance in my belly when I crave Japanese food. I'd like to share a few must-haves from Kushiyu with you, and I promise they will not disappoint should you decide to go and try.
A staple on their menu is the albacore sashimi with garlic, jalapeno, ponzu and a mountain of tangy red onions piled in the middle. My husband and I always start with this as he saves the sauce and dips everything that follows into it. I know, this is so not how sushi is traditionally eaten, but I didn't say I do it :) I forgive him because I will allow him anything as long as he continues to support my sushi-addiction.

Albacore Sashimi Special

Shrimp with ground chicken

Asparagus and Bell Pepper Kushiyaki

Kushiyu's menu is filled with things any Japanese food addict is sure to love. Should you decide to go, please promise to try the albacore and the shrimp with ground chicken skewers mentioned above. On that note here are three more menu items I want everyone to try at least once in their life :)

1. Chilean sea bass potato (hot appetizer) delicious! Minced Chilean sea bass covered in super thinly sliced potato and deep fried.

Chilean Sebass Potato

2. Seared jumbo scallop and see urchin. Pray that the day you go it is on the "special" menu.  

Seared Scallop with Uni
3. Aji (Spanish Mackarel) from Japan-Again , fingers crossed this is on the menu the day you go.

Overall Kushiyu is great, but if you are more in the mood for traditional Omakase/trust the chef sushi experience, then Sushi-Zo in Los Angeles is my "Omakase place of the moment". I save Sushi-Zo for date night....I am not a fan of sharing the delicacies of Omakase style dining with anyone but the father of my children. And even them I hesitate.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


My love affair with the egg began many moons ago. Even as a kid I adored eggs. Eggs for me were so special that until today, my mother claims as a child, I frequently chose eggs over sweets. Needless to say this love affair continues.

Eggs are and have always been my go to since I can remember. They are inexpensive, easy to make, and are incredibly versatile. Hard boiled, poached, fried, omelet, fritatta, sunny side up, over easy, deviled eggs, egg salad, egg in a hole (my kids favorite-I use challah YUM, recipe to follow), on a burger, on top of a salad, the ways of preparing and utilizing an egg are endless. Which leads me to this next story, since I thought I had seen it all when it came to affairs of the egg.

Recently I had the great pleasure of spending my birthday weekend in January in Napa Valley. Oh how I love Napa. No words can describe how perfect this very special place is. On second thought I have plenty to say about Napa but will leave that for a another time, perhaps on Sunday, after the kids are down and I am typing away while sipping a great glass of wine.

My friends and I had a number of delicious meals over the course of that weekend, but one stands out the most. My official "birthday dinner" of the weekend was at Michael Chiarello's Botegga restaurant in Yountville Here at Botegga, is where my love afair with the egg reached new heights!

This was such a special evening. The obvious was celebrating my birthday in Napa, surrounded by people I love, eating amazing food, and drinking incredible wines. Then something happened...the Antipasti course was served and thank you the the generosity of my friend Ely who happened to order the Pork Belly "Confit", I had my first encounter with the Crispy Soft-Boiled Egg.

WOW. I don't know how when reading the menu I did not notice this particular item, in hindsight I blame it on the vodka-soda I had earlier as my friends toasted my birthday. Thankfully Ely noticed the item, ordered it and shared! Thank you Ely and Michael Chiarello for this experience as I have never before eaten an egg prepared so perfectly. Thank you Botegga for choosing to top the pork belly with the creation. I guess it is true what they say about fried foods. There is no way fried is not tasty, but this was so much more then tasty.

When I bit in to the perfectly crisp golden crust on the outside and the soft, warm, slightly gooey yolk on the inside, I just about fainted. The first though that ran through my mind after I bit into this perfect creation was "Is this real?". I Could not believe that someone managed to deep fry an egg (Genius) yet keep it so moist and not overcooked on the inside.

All I could think was I wanted more! I wanted to recreate the first bite. I wanted it then an there! For a brief moment I lost focus and forgot that I was surrounded by heaping plates of delicious food, and people whom in lieu of my birthday were eagerly willing to share and let me taste all this incredible food. So after a brief state of egg euphoria, I thanked Ely, told the waiter to thank the genius behind this creation and sat back to devour a very memorable birthday meal. Some may find it strange to have and egg makes such an impression on someone, I however will forever associate this memorable birthday getaway with an Egg. A crispy, perfect, deep fried egg.

Crispy, golden, yummy perfection

My Egg in a Hole

My Egg-in a Hole
This is a favorite at our house every Saturday morning. The kids help me make the hole in the bread and crack the eggs into a ramekin and then pour it slowly into the hole.
You will need:
A couple of 1-2 inch thick slices of challah bread. Make a hole in the center of each slice w a shot glass. Seems to work perfectly.
Eggs of course
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the skillet, add a table spoon of butter. When butter has melted, put the challah slices into the pan. Immediately crack the eggs into the bread, aiming for the yolk to land inside the circle. Continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then flip the bread carefully with a spatula, making sure yolk stays inside the hole. The side should be nice and golden.
Continue to cook another 3-4 minutes, longer if you like your yolk more cooked. In the Hendelman household we love it runny :) If you'd like serve with a touch of sour cream on top, my husband and daughter Lia love it this way, whereas my son Ben and I enjoy it as is.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

A friend of mine emailed me earlier today asking if I can recommend a couple of restaurants in Vegas. She was on her way there with her husband who surprised her with a last minute getaway. How exciting for her, but also for me!

For starters I am flattered anytime someone asks me to recommend a place to eat, I crave to be asked actually. But being asked where I recomend to eat in Vegas, is just something else entirely. This for me is the equivalent of being asked which of my 2 children I love more. How can I possibly pick? There is now way, they are both the loves of my life and amazing!

Seriously now....there are more places then I can imagine or have even had the opportunity to try in Vegas. There are however some favorites that I crave on a regular basis.

Olives -Todd English's restaurant in Bellagio

This is my go to when in Vegas for a few reasons, three to be exact. First the Beef Carpaccio, second the flat breads and third the patio seating overlooking the Bellagio Fountain Spectacle.

OK so the Carpaccio is a must, must, must starter. Generally I am not a big fan of raw beef, unless it is perfectly prepared. I must say this comes pretty darn close to perfection. Served with a Gorgonzola rosti cake, balsamic reduction, parmesan, cipollini onions, scallion cream and garlic aioli, this starter is an incredible burst of flavor in your mouth. The beef is so paper thin its perfect, and the mix of balsamic with parmesan and scallion sounds like a lot all at once yet somehow totally works in an explosive sort of way. I can easily fill up on the carpaccio alone as the portion is enormous. Accompanied by a great glass of Merlot or your favorite red its enough to share with someone special.

Oh how I wish for the sake of portion control that this was the case and the carpaccio was in fact enough to fill me up. Definitely not the case at Olives, which is perfectly fine with me, we are in Vegas after all!

Moving on to the flat breads. Olives has a number of deliciously warm, freshly baked flat breads to choose from. However, for me there is no deviating from the fig and prosciutto. Listen to this: rosemary crust, sweet and sour fig jam, gorgonzola, prosciutto di parma. Need I say more?
The crust is crispy and perfect, almost like a great thin-crust pizza but not quite. The saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the tanginess of the gorgonzola and the sweetness of the fig jam is just insanely yummmy. It is crucial that you get all the toppings in one bite and experience that wonderful mix of flavors together. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Now for the fountains. Let's just say that if you do get to sit on the patio while you devour the carpaccio and the flat bread (feel free to order more as the menu is filled with deliciousness) don't be surprised if when finished you are the proud owner of a set of overpriced cheesy photos of you and your special someone. I know, I should have known better. Yet, in hindsight watching those fountains sway side to side to the magical voice of Andrea Bocelli (or some other magnificent crooner) those photos were worth every penny!

I can go on for hours talking about the food in Vegas. So for now I shall leave you with a short list of a few more favorites that are a must for me when in Vegas. Too bad I usually go for a day or two. I think after this I will seriously consider an "Eat my way through Vegas week long vacation".

Breakfast-Jean Phillipe Patisserie in Bellagio or Aria
I say keep breakfast simple, at least I do. For I know that when lunch and dinner come its OVER. I'll be eating and loving it!
I go for the nutella or dulce de leche filled brioche and a freshly brewed cup of joe.

Lunch-Olives OF COURSE (or you may save for dinner).Unless...... you are in the mood for Chinese, Noodles at Bellagio is excellent. They have a killer dim sum cart with quite the variety to choose from. All the noodle dishes rock, its just a matter of personal preference. Just pick your noodle and you can bet they will get it right.

Dinner-I can't even go down this road in Las Vegas, because as I mentioned before how in the world do I choose? Thus, I will provide a list of favorites.

SW Steakhouse at the Wynn, Bortolotta at the Wynn, Aureole at the Mandaly Bay, Circo at Bellagio, Joel Robuchin at MGM.

I can keep going and going and going. I will however stop because I need to hurry up and book my next trip to Vegas.