Saturday, March 31, 2007


If you know us, you likely know Napa Valley Grille in Westwood and that we've continued to eat there through ownership changes and a few new chefs. The latest chef to take over at NVG lured us back for lunch with sandwich that just sounded too good to pass up. We each ordered the same sandwich: a half lunch portion for Andrea with soup and a full sandwich for me.

Mushroom Bisque and Truffle Infused Maitake Mushrooms
Organic Baby Lettuce Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
Half Grilled Cheese and Lobster “Knuckle Sandwich”

Grilled Cheese and Lobster “Knuckle Sandwich”
brioche, lobster and fontina cheese, Sweet pea tendril salad

Be sure to click on the picture above to experience just how good this sandwich was - and enjoying it on a sunny spring day out on the patio was a perfect start to the day.

While we don't have any photographic evidence of our remaining meals, it's definitely worth mentioning the rest of our Saturday adventure. After keeping full with a half bag of Harry & David's chocolate "Moose Munch" during a movie, we went back to West Hollywood. There, at the original Barney's Beanery (link at left) the pain of watching UCLA lose to Florida (again) was dampened somewhat by some killer chicken fingers and plenty of good beer. Not to mention the fact that the couple we allowed to share our table on this impossibly crowded Final Four day surprised us by generously paying our entire tab to return the favor!

We capped off the evening by stopping by Il Buco Ristorante in Beverly Hills. In this cozy little Italian eatery, Andrea continued the mushroom/truffle theme of the weekend with a an order of Gnocchi with mushroom, truffled fondue while I (surprisingly) ordered pumpkin ravioli. While the food wasn't aesthetically "blogworthy," it was incredibly good and Il Buco definitely deserves a return visit.

The evening WOULD have finished with a dessert sample at Upstairs 2, but unfortunately we failed to realize that the restaurant had been booked for a private event! Next time, we'll call first. So that was it for this very indulgent Saturday. I'll post Sunday's addition as soon as I can.

Friday, March 30, 2007

UPSTAIRS 2, Los Angeles, CA

From Side Bar in Beverly Hills and then happy hour at Red Rock in West Hollywood, we made our way back to West L.A. and the little joint perched on top of The Wine House appropriately called Upstairs 2.

The menu at Upstairs 2 is entirely small plates or tapas, with a column of cold dishes and one with hot plates and a wine suggestion for each item. It is simply impossible to visit this place only once. If you follow the link on the left and find their menu, you'll understand what I mean. I'm sure we'll visit quite often to sample different menu selections, and even just for one of their many desserts. This being the equivalent of our third meal of the evening, we only managed to try the following three plates:

Truffled Polenta Squares
Truffle Mushroom Mousse

Duck Confit Flatbread
Mozzarella, Dried Tomato, Wild Mushroom Ragout

Baked Veal Loaf
Taro Mashed Potatoes, Black Truffle Gravy

The extensive wine list, no doubt aided by The Wine House offerings below, offer 2.5 oz tastes, 6 oz glasses or 12 oz carafes of every wine on the list, which is categorized to match the pairing suggestions on the dinner menu. For the "soft & aromatic red" suggested for both the polenta and flatbread, we added a taste of the 2004 Terrazze Rosso Conero from Italy. The menu suggested a "new world, medium to full-bodied red" to accompany the veal loaf, and we opted for a taste of the 2003 Bowen Estate Shiraz from Australia. Both wines actually paired very well with all the dishes and complimented the mushroom and truffle theme of our selections.

We only managed a fleeting look at their dessert menu given our fullness, but it was enough to convince us to make late-night return visit for dessert alone. Next time we'll make sure they're actually open!

SIDEBAR, Beverly Hills, CA

This weekend turned out to be one of heavy "blog hopping" from the moment I hit L.A.. I managed to grab an early lunch after a half day of work, drove 325 miles, scooped up Andrea from Century City and went straight to The Beverly Wilshire hotel. This was our second trip to sidebar, the ultra lounge situated next to Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant, CUT.

This is definitely my kind of lounge: dark, modern atmosphere, killer selection of spirits (even my favorite rum, Montecristo), and not only great bar snacks, but the full run of the CUT menu, too. This trip, however, we stuck to the "Side Bar Snacks" and revisited the kobe sliders:

Mini Kobe Sliders, Brioche Buns, Sweet Pickle
Onion Rings, Smoked Paprika-Saffron Mayonnaise

The first time we had these sliders, we were tempted to order them without the sweet pickle, but the bartender basically denied our request and ordered us to enjoy them as is. Good call. I could've eaten dozens of these messy little burgers if we didn't have a full evening and weekend of eating to fit in elsewhere. Next time, with bigger appetites, we'll explore more of the full CUT menu, including their amazing "indian spiced" Kobe beef short ribs. Yum.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

CITRON, Oakland, CA

It's always fun to find new places that you'd actually want to revisit. Citron is a little place hidden in the Rockridge District of Oakland and offers a combination of French and Mediterranean dishes in a cozy upscale atmosphere. According to a SF Chronicle review, "Citron is a charming neighborhood restaurant with a destination attitude."

We had originally planned to sample Citron's tasting menu, but opted for a la carte options instead. There are lots of interesting choices, and given that Andrea couldn't keep her eyes off of other diners' plates, I'm sure we'll be going back to explore the rest of the menu soon. Here's what we had on our first visit:

Crab Cakes served with a Red Pepper Sauce and Lemon Aioli

Wild Mushroom Fritters with Red Pepper Sauce and Arugula

Roasted New York Steak over Escarole and Caramelized Onion, Straw Potato Cake and a Green Peppercorn Sauce

Grilled Lamb Sirloin with a Winter Root Vegetable Hash, Savoy Spinach and Caramelized Shallots

Lemon Huckleberry Ice Cream Sandwich with Honey Meringue and Petite Chocolate Lavender Truffles
Although we are notorious chocolate lovers, we decided to be bold and try something different - which was a good thing since this dessert turned out to be one of the highlights of the meal. The refreshing and creamy lemon-huckleberry ice cream, paired with the airy honey meringue and the rich lavender truffles was a perfect combination and a fabulous ending to a wonderful meal.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

CHEESE, anyone?

We're not all fancy destination restaurants and tasting menus. Sometimes we just eat what we crave, and today, it seemed we were craving CHEESE.

For lunch, we stopped at TGIFriday's, a great place to overindulge if you can avoid getting seated next to screaming kids. Normally, a place like Friday's wouldn't result in a blog-worthy experience, but this place has a serious cure for a cheese craving.

Fried Macaroni & Cheese

It's exactly what it sounds like, and it's exactly that good.
( Click on the picture to experience the ultimate in cheesiness)

Tuscan Portobello Melt
Sliced portobello mushrooms between layers of Provolone & Monterey Jack cheeses, roasted onions & tomatoes on grilled, buttery bread. Served with a cup of Fire-Roasted Red Pepper soup.

This twist on the classic "Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup" is thanks to the winning creation on an episode of Top Chef.

Our cheese day continued in slightly more upscale fashion with dinner at Zephyr Bar & Grill in downtown Livermore, CA.

We've been here a few times, and every time we really enjoy the trio of breads with a very addictive trio of regular, pesto & red pepper butters.

Then it was back to cheese.

Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese
This Mac n' Cheese is unlike any you've ever had before. Four cheeses, tomato snow, crunchy topping and a final flourish of even more molten cheese.

That extra cup of molten cheese is meant to be poured over the dish, but dripping a little extra on every spoonful seemed to work even better.

Not content to survive on cheese alone, however, we rounded out the meal with the following:

Molasses Glazed Meatloaf
An individual loaf of house cured ground beef, wrapped in apple smoked bacon and baked with molasses glaze. Served with sweet corn mashed potatoes and blackstrap gravy.

Texas Funeral Fudge Cake
Seven layer cake from a recipe gifted by Mrs. Nesselroud of Paris Texas, renowned for her contribution to the post funeral buffet. Served with an ice cold bottle of milk and a frosted glass. To die for!

Had we tried to actually finish that cake, it likely would've meant OUR funeral. That cake is roughly the size of Andrea's head!