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Comfort Foods and Indulgences

Girlfriend’s Plum Cake

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by Jessica Harper

plumcakeI love this cake. I think of it as a dessert for a minor event, like when a couple of girlfriends come over for dinner or I’m celebrating an insignificant birthday, say, turning forty-three. (Okay, fine, so that happened a while ago.)

This recipe is easy and vey forgiving. I am a crabby cook, which is to say that after preparing a couple of courses I am often in a high state of irritability when faced with creating a third, as in dessert.

Once, when making this cake in a fit of impatience, I threw all the wet ingredients in a food processor, even the milk, which actually requires a more gentle, gradual entry. After I hurled in the flour mixture, the batter looked like something you use to make sidewalks but it all turned out beautifully.

I made this one with plums (which I bought way too many of at the Farmer’s Market) but you can use other fruit—peaches, pears, whatever. And if you have any patience left (I didn’t), make some whipped cream to go with it.

Chevre Brownies

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by Susan Salzman

brownie-chever-3Brownies are the perfect picnic food. I wanted chocolate, I wanted a brownie, but I wanted something a little different. I thought a cream cheese brownie would be great but didn’t have cream cheese. However, what I did have was some goat cheese. I thought, what the heck…I am going to experiment.

I used the brownie base for David Lebovitz’s (Ready for Dessert) cheesecake brownies, but swapped the cream cheese for goat cheese and added a touch more sugar (to compensate for the tartness in the goat cheese).

I also omitted the chocolate chips from the actual brownie base and instead took a skinny bar of Valrhona and did a rough chop. After swirling in the cheese mixture, I dotted the top of the brownies with the chocolate chunks.

Lobster and Chanterelles

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by Brenda Athanus

Golden-ChanterellesIt is the time of year when the spring fiddlehead foragers return to our store to sell us chanterelle mushrooms packed into rounded over Tupperware containers. It is an exceptional year for chanterelle mushrooms because it has rained a lot in Maine this summer and that make them grow large, luscious and most abundant.

We eat mushrooms regularly at our house usually sautéed in a combination of butter and olive oil with a touch of minced garlic at the end but once in a while I make “the dish”. The ultimate chanterelle preparation is combining the mushrooms with lobster meat, cream and cognac. I know what you are thinking; how rich… Yes, but spoon a small portion on a beautiful plate and eat slowly as you ponder how anything could taste this wonderful..

I use 1 pound of chanterelle mushrooms and I pick out the largest ones. Wipe them clean, trim the bottom of the stem off and I like to pull the mushrooms apart by hand keeping the pieces fairly large. The reason I prefer the mushroom pulled into large pieces is because it’s the star of the dish. You’ll see.

Sassy Sliders

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by Jessica Harper

SLIDERS1A couple years back i reported about a prize-winning, record-setting burger that weighed in at over 210 pounds. Well, apparently that record has been obliterated, shattered, knuckle-dropped, air-popped, heel-stomped and other synonyms for royally busted. A burger in Minnesota weighed in at just north of one ton. (It’s 2014 pounds.) Not just your basic lazy cook’s plain burger, this one featured 60 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese and 50 pounds of lettuce.

I, or one, would never make such a burger. First of all, they needed a crane to flip it, and my kitchen will not accommodate a vehicle larger than a bicycle. Also, I would be much to irritable to fry all that bacon. And as much as I would love to eat this monster, I’m not sure there is enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to calm the post-prandial abdominal pushback. I will therefore stick to cooking that burger’s diminutive cousin, the slider.

This little guy weighs in at only a few ounces, but I’m guessing that, flavor-wise, it is David to the Ton One’s Goliath. Only a couple of inches in diameter (vs. gonzo-burger’s ten feet), it packs a killer punch with it’s dab of chipotle mayonnaise.

Cherry Tomato Pizza

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by Amy Sherman

cherrytompizzaIt's hard to say no to cheese. Since I never tasted Parrano cheese I was more than happy to accept a sample to try. Apparently it has been around since the 1970's but I can't recall ever seeing it at the market. It's a semi-firm cheese created by a Dutch cheese maker who went to Italy and was inspired to create a Gouda that would be reminiscent of Northern Italian style cheese. It's aged for at least 5 months and often described as tasting like a cross between Gouda and Parmesan. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but I can tell you it's buttery and has a caramel like flavor that complements tomatoes beautifully.

I've been inundated with cherry tomatoes recently and decided I would use them on a pizza with Parrano cheese. I also happened to have some grilled marinated artichokes and that combination is really something. I added chives for a little color and oniony flavor, but really, just a plain cherry tomato pizza would be delicious too. The good thing about using cherry tomatoes instead of tomato slices and Parrano cheese instead of mozzarella is that neither will make your pizza soggy. That said, biting into a cherry tomato half can be a deliciously juicy experience.

Individual No-Bake Banana Split "Cakes"

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by Cathy Pollak

No-Bake-Banana-Split-CakesI have been making a version of this cake for the past 20 years. However, I’ve always made it in a 9 x 13 pan. I finally decided to streamline the recipe and serve it in individual portions. Since this cake was always something I would normally make for a party, it just made more sense to put it together this way. It’s so much easier to serve. And cuter too.

Nothing falls apart, it tastes great and believe it or not, it’s not overly sweet. The oven also never goes on! 

This cake gets a walnut crust just because it tastes so much better…more complex. The crust does not need baking, chilling it in the refrigerator keeps it all intact. If you have a nut allergy you could make a graham cracker crust using the same method. It works too.

I bought a wooden tamper originally to make mojitos. However, I rarely make mojitos but find I use this tool for so many baking and cooking projects. It worked especially well flattening the crusts in the bottom of the glasses.

Layered Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies

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by Cathy Pollak

Chocolate-and-Peanut-Butter-BrowniesLast weekend I went to a wine auction and indulged in chocolate-peanut butter brownies. Needless to say I thought about them all week. On about the third day of having brownie on the brain, I figured I better make a batch for myself. Does anyone else daydream about dessert like this?

Truthfully these are really, really easy to make. It just takes time with cooling and I like to let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. This is how you get those really nice side cuts for brownies.

Using parchment paper in the pan allows you to lift them right out into a block. They are much easier to cut this way.

The Juiciest Mediterranean-Style Burger

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by Cathy Pollak

MediterraneanBurgersIt's burger season. I don't care if it's cold out or a 100 degrees... it's time to enjoy some summery meals and eat outdoors. The weather here has been decent (knock on wood). Our summers in the Pacific Northwest often don't begin until July 5th, but I have my hopes up. We've already had our first 90-degree day....kind of amazing for these parts.

Anyway, with Father's Day coming up it's time to start getting some of my husband's favorite recipes and food together. And for him, that means lamb. The hubby couldn't be happier, it's his absolute favorite.

In order to make a juicier, more complex burger, I paired together three different types of ground meat; chuck, lamb and pork. I call it the meat trifecta and it's the perfect combination for a juicier burger. And if you love lamb, the flavor comes through nicely and doesn't disappear within the other meat.

The Squeeze Inn

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by Scott R. Kline

Squeeze Inn BurgerThe Squeeze Inn in Tracy, CA claims to have pioneered the cheese skirt, which I first experienced in at Nobby’s in Chico. The owner, Dean Davis, told me that the Nobby’s founder had learned the technique when he worked at Squeeze Inn before starting Nobby’s. Having gone to the source, I could not wait to try it.

I ordered the Famous Squeezeburger with cheese and bacon ($8.59). It has Mayo, mustard, dill pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce. I ordered my onions grilled. The burger has 1/3 lb patty on sesame bun. I also ordered the combo fries and onion rings. $3.99.

The Squeeze in is a very friendly place walking in. When I had arrived the server proudly told me they were famous from a stint with Guy Fieri on The Food Network. The owner Dean, came over and said hello. Another nice touch is a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld on the wall.

Getting Comfort from The Kids

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by Annie Stein

bergdorfshoesMy, my how the tables have turned! It wasn’t so long ago that I was the comfort food provider. Ok, I wasn’t the best at it, that's true. But I did try in my own non-foodie fashion. My own particular way of comforting tends to be located in the shoe department. Whenever I needed a bit of TLC, be it from a broken heart, a lost job or just a downright crappy day, I wouldn’t even think of heading into the kitchen but would head straight to Barneys shoe department. Better yet, if in NYC, into the shoe Mecca of all shoe Mecca’s, Bergdorf’s.

As a matter of fact, I was in NYC last week and after a family luncheon that left me feeling rather low, I marched myself straight into Bergdorf’s, took the escalator to the second floor and personally said hello to every shoe out on display. And this took a bit of time too.

Don’t know if you’ve ever been to Bergdorf’s shoe department but it is huge. Stellar and Amazing! A world unto itself. By the time I’d greeted each shoe, said “Hi, I’m Annie and I totally get and appreciate you”, an hour had passed and I felt all better. Thank God it’s the looking not the buying that sets me straight, shoe prices being what they are today.

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