Tag Archives: Food

The Weekend Escape

Across the street from Cafe 50’s and California Roll Factory, in the plaza next to Benito’s Taco Shop, you’ll find Nook Bistro hidden in a corner. Perfectly matching it’s name, the restaurant provides a cozy, yet contemporary atmosphere.

I’ve been to this place twice for dinner and both times were amazing! The food, the service, the ambiance…it’s a rare find for a mid-priced restaurant. The highlights were the Bendaberg ginger beer, the pork belly appetizer, and the desserts. The menu features comfort foods with an Asian twist. I’d love to go back and taste the rest of the menu.

I heard about their homemade mac and cheese, and personally, I’m not a fan. It’s thick, creamy, but it lacks that cheddar-flavor that I love. Then again, I have yet to try the lunch version of the mac & cheese, which I believe to be the one people are taking about. Personally, if you love mac & cheese…try the version at Luna Park because it’s flavorful, hearty, and cheesy.

By the way, if you’re a ginger ale/ginger beer fan, get Bendaberg’s Ginger Beer. It’s refreshingly crisp with a nice ginger kick. I’ve been searching for great ginger beer and this brand is one of my top picks!

Anyways, here are some photos from Nook.

Bendaberg Ginger Beer

Mussel Pan Roast

Pot Roast

Herb Roasted Pork Chop

Nook Bistro
11628 Santa Monica Blvd #9
Los Angeles, CA 90025
at Barry, between Barrington and Federal

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Salmon Week

Over the weekend, I made pound cake that turned out quite nice. I set aside 1/3 for a friend, 1/3 in the freezer, and 1/3 in the fridge…so nothing will be wasted. I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and bought enough food for 2 weeks. So far, the challenge is manageable, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s easier to feed one person than an entire family of 4 on this type of budget. Still, at least I know that I fare well on my own.

Groceries for the Third and Fourth Weeks

Here’s the list:

  • 3 lb bag of Russet potatoes -6 potatoes ($1.69)
  • 2 shallots ($1.49)
  • 2 lb bag of Gala apples – 8 apples ($2.49)
  • 1 dozen large eggs ($1.49)
  • 2 large organic red bell peppers (2.99)
  • Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon – .97 lb at $10.99/lb ($10.66)

Total Amount Spent: $20.81
Amount Remaining: $5.20

The plan is to use up my remaining ingredients from last week and combine it with this week’s supply so I can have a variety of meals and still be healthy. The salmon was the most expensive purchase because I wanted it wild, which tastes a million times better than farmed salmon and it has a deeper color to it as well. I separated it into 3 pieces (2 in freezer, 1 in fridge) to make sure I don’t waste it.

With the remaining  money, I’m thinking of getting yogurt, milk, and ginger. I’m not quite sure I want to use up everything in case I need something later…but we’ll see how things go.

Hitting the Halfway Point

It’s the end of the second week and we’re coming into the third week.

To be honest, I fell off the wagon a bit because I had the first week without meat, except eggs and I was craving meat like mad! So I went to my freezer and pulled out potstickers, pizza, and orange chicken from Trader Joe’s and survived the second week. I’m not fit to be a complete vegetarian, so I need to switch up my menu plan a bit to make sure I add meat into my diet.

I have some food left but not much. I have oatmeal, 1 can of corn, coconut milk, half a bag of spinach (I froze it), some leftover roasted vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and barley) and a couple of eggs. Since I ate frozen food last week, I’m taking $10 off my current budget to account for the pulled reserves. That leaves me with $26.01 to last me two weeks. I’m pretty sure I can pull it off and eat some wild salmon! I’ll put up the list of what I purchased soon.

The  Dinner Menu Plan

  • Thai Green Curry – vegetarian style with coconut rice
  • Lemon Pepper Salmon with coconut milk infused roasted potatoes and black eyed peas
  • Salmon Teriyaki with sauteed spinach and rice

I only got to eat out once and it was at Mozza Pizzeria…you can read my review on Yelp.

Fried potatoes from Mozza Pizzeria

Btw, I finally got around to watching Food, Inc. and it’s very similar to Future of Food. It definitely makes me evaluate how I purchase my food and where it comes from. Also, I’ve been watching all the episodes from Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and the rest of the world seems to have the right idea.

I gotta start buying less processed junk and better organic foods. It may not be the most efficient way to buy groceries or the cheapest, but it’s better for me and for the environment overall. When I talk to the farmers at the farmer’s market, at least I’ll know where the food comes from and how long it takes for them to harvest it and have it fully matured.

I never knew why tomatoes didn’t taste like how I remembered when I was young. But now I know that they’re picked when they’re green and artificially ripened with ethylene gas. So obviously, it doesn’t have that full-bodied tomato taste that you’d get from a naturally ripened tomato.

Just something to ponder.

Starting Up Again

I’ve tried the Food Stamp Challenge about twice this year and starting January 2010, I’ll be kicking it off again. This time, it’s gonna be crazy intense! I’ll be setting aside a cash budget of $50 in an envelope so it will be easier to track. I can shop as many times during the month as I want as long as I keep under the budget.

There are some conditions that I’ve set aside:

  • No coupons unless it is already marked off with my rewards cards
  • No processed/frozen food (unless it’s sausage and tofu)
  • Must have balanced meals (no living off of ramen and mac&cheese)
  • Can eat out twice this month (leftovers not allowed and prices don’t count in budget)
  • Spices, oil, and 10 other things in the pantry does not count (it’s a bit cheating, but it’s already in the fridge and I don’t want them to go to waste)

A lot of people say that in order to be healthy, you have to spend a lot more money than to be unhealthy. But I want to prove them wrong, it can be done…to be healthy and to be cheap are not mutually exclusive. Sure, it might not be possible for me to buy organic, but it will be ok. This challenge would probably be pretty tough, but I’m sure I can do it.

In the 50’s people had victory gardens and even Mrs. Obama recently set up a White House vegetable garden! As for me, since I live in an apartment, I am only growing basil and parsley. I don’t really have time to take care of any more plants. So, I’m not really cheating with my basil and parsley.

I’ll try to keep a better record of everything…pictures and all! Wish me luck!

Bar Food

Bar Food on Wilshire Blvd. is amazing and I have yet to frequent a bar that is up to this level. I gave it 4 stars on Yelp, but that’s because I’m stingy with my stars and they have potential to grow and be even better…hence the 4 star rating. Honestly, it blew me away…this is one of those few life-changing food moments.

The Atmosphere

A relatively new establishment, Bar Food is located where the old Z Robata used to reside. In keeping the previous decor, it adds a classy touch to a traditional pub. While there is only street parking in the neighborhood, it’s not tough to find a spot. Once inside, the staff are friendly, sincere, and genuinely helpful. Also, the owner, Jason, makes his rounds and makes time to talk to his customers. He’s a charming, charismatic Irishman with great stories to tell and doesn’t mind serving his customers. That’s a great touch!

They have happy hour from 5:00-6:30PM every weekday except Monday, because that’s the only day they’re closed. During happy hour, they give out free hot dogs. On a Friday night, it’s not packed and the music adds a casual, laidback ambiance. This is not a trendy hotspot, it’s a local hangout where people kickback and relax with some good food and great beer. With flexible seating arrangements, Bar Food provides a great location for larger parties and groups. If you come here regularly or even a couple of times, I bet you’d feel like you’re in Cheers…”Where everybody knows your name…”

The Drinks

Bar Food serves wine and beer, but with more emphasis on the beer. The wine selection does not list the details of the wines, only the type of wine you’d prefer. So all you wine lovers, if you want a particular bottle, tough luck. But if you’re new to wine or want to try a blind taste test, tell them what kind of white or red wine you’d like and they’ll bring you a glass.

Currently, with 12 beers on tap, it’s a great starter set. You got the standards that most people want and a couple surprises to round out the selection. I hear it’s expanding its beer selection, so don’t worry if they don’t have what you want right now, they’ll probably bring it around soon.

We tried 4 beers and they were all solid. I can’t tell you the exact spices and ingredients  in the beer, but I can say that it’s good. The Fat Tire is a standard starter with a light, crisp flavor and good carbonation. The seasonal beer right now is the Mighty with a refreshing citrus aroma. The regular Guinness is rich, dark, and creamy. The Guinness 250, the original formula, has a lighter body with a smoother taste. I’d have to say that the Guinness 250 puts the regular Guinness to shame…it’s that amazing!

The Food

I had a monster feast and with maybe two more trips, I’ll have tried most of their food menu. At first glance, it seems eclectic with regular Irish pub food and some Asian inspired snacks. But once the owner explained a bit about his Irish background and his girlfriend’s Thai ethnicity, it made more sense. Now onto the food…

The Traditional

hotdog

For $2 you can get the hot dog and it comes with ketchup, mustard, and diced onions. A pretty standard item that’s good when it’s free during happy hour, but not really something I’d especially order again.

barburger

The Bar Burger is a great burger that’s perfectly cooked at medium. With carmelized onions, bits of bacon, cheese, and some greenery, this is what a burger should taste like. With a side of ketchup for you sauce lovers, it’s a great pairing, but the burger can do find without it. This burger rivals the Father’s Office Burger and I think this one stands on top especially because it is a traditional burger.

sweetfrites

My new favorite…the sweet frites, or sweet potato fries. The fries are about the size of regular fast food fries but that’s where the similarities end. It’s cooked perfectly with a light crispiness and a soft center. The spicy aoili that comes with it adds hot kick to contast the sweetness of the sweet potato. I’d have to say that Father’s Office sweet potato fries are good, but there’s just no comparison to these ones. There is one other place that had great mind-blowing fries like these and it was a Citrus at Social Hollywood.

The Seafood

mussels

The mussels are steamed just right. At the top of the plate, they are a bit dry, but are quite fresh. The broth at the bottom is delicious! It mades a perfect dip for the buttered toast on the side. My only note is that if they added just a wee more broth, it’d be absolutely perfect.

calamari

The fried calami was also a great dish. Lightly battered and perfectly fried, it wasn’t even greasy! The sauce that was paired with it matched just right. I prefer my calamari a bit softer, but I know that if it was softer, it’d be chemically altered. So, this au naturale calamari is fine just the way it is and it doesn’t need any tweaking!

The Fusion

bangersandmash

If you know your Irish staples, you’d reconize the bangers and mash, only this is Thai Bangers and Mash. What’s the difference? Well, they have Thai sausage, a horseradish/mustard-type sauce, cilantro mashed potatoes, and some scallions on top. It’s a great spin on a old favorite and it works well. We got a bit carried away so we cut into it before we took a picture.

The Dessert

appletart

The apple tart, classic dish with a facelift that just screams gourmet! With layers of pastry and thinly sliced apples, this apple tart has a subtle apple flavor with a nice crunch. The ice cream complements the tart without overpowering it. Plus, the sauces add a nice richness to the dessert.

The Breakdown

After 4 beers and 7 dishes, the total came out to be about $80. That’s a sweet value and once you check the prices, you’ll see that everything is under $10. The menu is spectacular, but if you want the highlights, go for the Bar Burger, the Sweet Frites, the Thai Bangers and Mash, and the Guinness 250. You can’t go wrong with that selection!

I know I’ll be back.

Restaurant Info

Bar Food

12217 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90025

A Refreshing Appetizer

chineseappetizer

Since it’s getting pretty hot in Los Angeles, it’s nice to have a refreshingly cool snack. This dish is a Hong Kong appetizer. I’m not sure what the official name of it is called, but it’s preserved duck egg with sweet ginger. It’s very simple to make, no cooking involved, and the flavors are delicious! Just try it once and you’ll love it!

Ingredients:

  • preserved duck egg
  • sweet pickled ginger

Directions:

  1. Cut the duck egg with a sharp knife into quarters or halves for a larger bite.
  2. Add several slices of ginger either on the side or on top of the egg.
  3. Eat it together as an appetizer in one bite. Usually, the ginger should be more spicy and sharp than sweet to balance out the thick yolk of the duck egg.

Let me know what you think about this dish. It’s simple, easy, and one of my favorites!

Yummy Cupcakes

As I was wandering Santa Monica, I happened to notice Yummy Cupcakes bakery. It seemed pretty cute from the outside and even though it was late, it was still open. There was a fairly large display case of all their various cupcakes. Luckily, we went in there right before it closed and picked up a few goodies. The customer next to us was raving about the cupcakes and we thought we made a good deal getting these cupcakes. She was eating one at the counter too…so it seemed like a good bet since the lady said she comes here almost every day.

Taste Test

For the taste test, we tried the Red Velvet cupcake, the Carrot Cake, the Old School (Hostess looking one), and a chocolate fudge cupcake.

The Red Velvet looked darker in color than I expected, it was dark reddish almost brown. The frosting was applied sideways, so it was flat, which was ok, but make the cupcake look a bit deflated. At first bite, all I could taste was how dry the cake was and it crumbled apart afterwards. The cake lacked the usual red velvet texture and flavor. It was more of a regular chocolate cake. The cream cheese frosting was flavorful, not so sweet, but somehow, it didn’t match the cake.

Then, I had the Carrot cupcake. Once again, the cake was lacked moisture and even had a strange flavor. It was not the usual carrot cake and it was bland. There was no cinnamon accent and few walnuts, if any. However, there were raisins in there that didn’t quite help the situation. As for the frosting, it was ok, but not memorable.

Onto the chocolate cupcakes. The Old School had white frosting in the middle and it tasted like a regular chocolate cupcake, just dry. The same goes for the chocolate fudge cupcake. It had fudge in the middle of the cupcake, but other than that, the cake itself was dry. There was nothing special about these two. The chocolate frosting was ok and not too sweet.

This was quite a disappointing adventure, especially because the customer next us highly recommended this place. I’m not sure I agree and perhaps it’s because I came at the end of the day that the cupcakes were sub-par, but even so, I expect more from a place called Yummy Cupcakes. They were not yummy.

Pictures

yummycupcakes3

yummycupcake4

yummycupcakes1

yummycupcakes2

Store Info

Yummy Cupcakes

313 Wilshire Blvd.

Santa Monica, CA90401