Monday, May 29, 2006

Mani's Cafe...fresh and yummy

There are so many restaurants in this city that sometimes it can be hard to choose a place at random to eat. Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were driving a guest around giving her a quick little tour of LA and all of were starving. We were in the Beverly Hills area (which we don't frequent very often) and were at loss for a place to eat. I remembered a sandwich place I had read about somewhere that was located along Fairfax just off Wilshire and even without me remembering the name, we managed to find Mani's Cafe. This turned out to be a perfect place for lunch with a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, and soups and also some outdoor setting. They also have an amazing bakery selection of cakes, cookies and other goodise (which I can't wait to go back and try). One reason I really liked this place was they had a large selection of vegetarian and vegan options, even vegan cakes and cookies and also clearly explained the ingredients. Check out their website for a menu.

For my meal, I ordered a bowl of the vegetarian chili and even though it was more like a chuncky bean and veggie soup it was very good. The broth was not as thick as most chilis and it wasn't very spicey, but I really enjoyed the chuncks of zuchinni and pepper and white beans. It came with a whole wheat roll which was absolutly amazing. It was very fresh and chewy with slightly sweet toasted oats on the top. I rarely finish my bread when I eat out, but I scarfed this roll down so fast and was even eating the toasted oats that I had fallen off of the top. It sopped up the broth of my chili very nicely but it has sucha good flavor I enjoyed it plain better. Both Dave and Leslie ordered sandwiches. All of the sandwiches come with a choice of either a salad, soup, french fries or chips and salsa which all make for a very nice size meal. Dave had a bowl of soup and Leslie went with the chips and salsa. All the soups are vegan and they offer one selection each day of the week. Sunday's is Tortilla soup day and it was so super yummy I couldn't stop stealing bites out of his bowl! It was very thick and creamy (if it wasn't vegan I would have sworn it was made with cream) with little thin strips of different colored totilla floating on top. It did have a slight cilantro flavor, which usually isn't my favorite but added some nice depth to the soup. Dave said his sandwich was very good and that he would consider going back there again. Since I love fresh and healthy food, I thought this place was great. A lot of vegetarian friendly options along with non-vegetarian things make it great for a mixed crowd. Since I work just around the conor from this place I will definitely be stopping in again. I really want to try some of their tea, especially the ginger macha and I am also super curious about some of those vegan baked goods...mmmm....hopefully they will be yum!

The Good: lots of vegetarian, vegan, and healthy options.

The Bad: maybe a little expensive for what it is...

The Yummy: vegetarian soups, bread, can't wait to try some of their baked goods they good a yummy for looks!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Above&Beyond at Spundae!!!

Yay...there are few things in life as good as food...and one of them is listening to Above&Beyond spin live!! I had a very boring food weekend (the most exciting thing I ate was an Amy's burrito) but that's okay since I got to meet Tony and Jono, two of three members from Above&Beyond. They are always so sweet to their fans.
Their set was amazing, as always, and I danced my heart out while they were spinning. I absolutely love their new album, Tri-State. Check out my tee-shirt, I didn't realize that I was so naturally skilled in writing in puffy paint! Yeee...too bad puffy paint is llike sooo 15 years ago!
I also got to meet all three members last Decemeber...and I also made a tee shirt then too! Hehe...check out me stealing a kiss from Paavo! Muah!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Recipe: Cafe au Lait Frozen Yogurt

This past weekend I made another attempt at frozen yogurt. I have only made frozen yogurt a couple times and have never been overly thrilled the results since I find it to be too tangy (or 'yogurty' tasting as I like to say). I was really excited to try this recipe since it used cornstarch and 1/4 c. of mini marshmallows, which I have never used in an ice cream recipe before. Plus, I was excited about using the Wallaby’s vanilla bean flavored yogurt, which isn’t too tangy. I think the cornstarch and the marshmallows did help since the frozen yogurt had a really nice thick and smooth consistency. Unfortunately, the wallaby’s yogurt didn’t help much with the tanginess and it still had a strong yogurt flavor. Oh well, luckily I like yogurt, so even though it doesn't taste like regular 'frozen yogurt' it was still yummy. The recipe called for instant coffee which I normally don't really care. I used a brand of instant espresso which I have used for baking before and it gave the yogurt a super delicious almost caramel like coffee flavor. I served the frozen yogurt as soon as it was done with a couple of twice baked butterscotch cookies from Trader Joes (they are like mini biscotti) and a dollop of cool whip...super yum! The frozen yogurt didn’t really freeze that well and the next night tasted kind of like a tangy coffee popsicle. Overall it wasn’t that bad but I don’t think I would make this recipe again. Update 3/17- I just had that vanilla bean yogurt for breakfast and it wasn't nearly as 'mild' tasting as I remembered...maybe it wasn't the best choice for the recipe. Following some recommendations I found on other sites, in my next frozen yogurt attempt I am going to try using Fage greek yogurt.

Cafe au Lait Frozen Yogurt

2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/4 c. milk
1 T instant coffee (I actually use instant espresso)
1 egg
1/4 c. mini marshmallows
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c vanilla bean yogurt (I used 2 6oz servings)

In 1-2 quart pot, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add milk and coffee and bring the mixture to a simmer. Beat the egg in a medium bowl and slowly add about half of the milk/sugar mixture to the egg and beat together. Beat in the egg mixture to the remaining milk in the pot and return to the stove over a low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes more until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the marshmallows untill they are fully disolved. Allow mixture to cool. Stir in the vanilla and yogurt and refrigerate for at least a couple hours. Freeze in ice cream maker and enjoy (well, sort of...)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

These are a few of my favorite things...

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been very busy lately with work and school and haven't had any time to get out and about to any new and exciting places to eat. Oh well, at least there are plenty of yummy fast foods and snacks for me to enjoy. Here is just a short little list of some of my favorite quick, easy, and super tastey foods:

  • Amy's meals - If you haven't tried any of the Amy's brand prepared foods you are really missing out on some super yummy, quick and easy, (supposedly) good for you food. My favorite items are the soups and Indian microwave meals. I almost went crazy when I had to live without a microwave for about 2 months last year and I could have my Amy's Palak Paneer meal! Her soups are thick and full of flavor, especially the fire-roasted southwestern vegetable. The vegetable bean chili is just spicy enough and full of yummy beans and doesn’t have any TVP. I also love to bring the roasted veggie pocket for lunch at work. Its full of roasted artichokes, peppers, and mushrooms and the sauce has a slight Asian taste to it. While cooking in the microwave, the corners of the pocket get really crispy, which is actually really good. All the ingredients are organic and made with whole wheat, so even though it is prepared microwave food, it is still somewhat healthy and absolutely delicious. (
  • Trader Joe's Papadums, tandori marsala flavor - hehe...I debated about putting this on my list, since my Trader Joe's already has a hard time keeping these on the shelves, but they are so yummy my list wouldn't be complete without them. Papadums are little chips made of favabean flour and coated with Indian spices. I’m not sure if they are baked or lightly fried, but there are fairly low fat (5 g per serving) and the serving size is very large (22 chips!) so I consider it to be somewhat healthy. Of course they are so good, it is hard to stop at one serving. They also come in a yogurt dill flavor, which I have yet to try. Its always left on the selves after all the tandori marsala bags are gone. I’m not a huge fan of dill but I might just have try them one of these days.
  • Wahoo's - mmmm....Wahoo's is definitely my favorite 'fast food' place, probably the only one that I visit on a regular basis. I find nothing can beat the quality of the food for such a cheep price. My boyfriend and I can eat there for about $8.00, which is less than if we had bought stuff at the grocery store. I always get the same thing: one flame-broiled fish taco a la cart. The fish is very fresh and moist with a nice flavor. They don't put any weird white sauce on it, just some cabbage, salsa and a little cheese. I like when I go with my boyfriend since he always get some beans and rice which he so nicely shares with me. I don't know what they do to season their rice, but it is so good. It is just very simple white rice but it is so tasty and it sops up the black bean so well. There shrimp taco's are good as well. One of these days I’m going to try a fish enchilada. Yeee! (
  • Wallaby's Vanilla Bean Yogurt - I love yogurt. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always enjoyed yogurt for breakfast, lunch, or just a snack. Back in the day, my fave was the Yoplait custard style strawberry and blueberry flavors. Nowadays, I usually get either Stonyfield farm or Wallaby's brand and the flavors I like best are vanilla and maple. I had never heard of Wallaby's until I moved out to California and I think it is only sold in health food stores (I’ve seen it at Santa Monica Co-op and Mother's) but it is definitely worth the price and a special trip. My favorite flavor atm is their vanilla bean. It actually had little flecks of vanilla in it and a soft vanilla flavor which counters the tangy yogurt flavor very nicely. I think I will try this type in my next frozen yogurt attempt (which hopefully will be this Sunday.) (

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Busy busy…future restaurants I want to try

I wanted the main focus of this blog to be reviews of restaurants ‘in and around Santa Monica’. However, since I work full time and also take evening classes I don’t much free time to get out and about. However, I have only one month left of classes and soon I will have the time to try many new places that I can write about! Yay…lots of food (good thing more free time means more time for the gym too!) Also, since the reason I’m taking classes is to get a degree in Nutrition Science and since I’m an ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian (eggs, milk, fish) I want to focus some of my critiques on the healthier vegetarian friendly options provided.

Here is my list of some places I hope to try in the coming months:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tempura Party!!

This past Saturday, my friends and I got together for a tempura party!! Now, for anyone who knows how little fried food I eat, they would find it quite odd that I actually own a deep fryer. I bought it a couple years ago when my parents came out to California for Thanksgiving so we could make our traditional fried oysters (super yum…future post?) and I haven’t used it since. Anyway, I guess it does come in handy for a super fun Tempura Party!! Tempura is the Japanese version of battered deep fried stuff, generally seafood and vegetables. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the origins of tempura, which was supposedly brought to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

It is actually quite easy to make and a lot of fun to do together with a bunch of your friends. Standard things to tempura include shrimp and various vegetables such as sweet potato, green pepper, eggplant, green beans, carrots, and onions. These are all super yummy, but the best part of making your own is being creative. One fun thing to do is to have all the guests bring various things to tempura ranging from the more standard stuff to things that wouldn’t typically be on a menu at a restaurant. Some of the things we tried turned out really good, while others weren’t quite what we hoped; of course that's part of the fun with experimenting. Some of the more standard things we did were shrimp, calamari, tiny scallops, onion rings, peppers, and sweet potato (soak potato in water for about an hour prior to frying). Here is a summery of some of the more interesting things:

  • Salmon sushi roll – good, the salmon inside became cooked while frying
  • Mozzarella pieces – yum, a nice twist on mozzarella sticks, be careful though since might melt
  • Blackberries – surprisingly very good, tasted like little fried blackberry cobblers
  • Banana – okay, some of my friends really liked it but, but I found it just gooey and not that flavorful
  • Chocolate truffles – didn’t really hold up well in the oil, although the melted chocolate became a perfect dip for the banana and blackberries, yum!
  • Green tea ice cream mochi (from Trader Joe’s) – okay…we were all so full by the time these came out. The mochi part helped it hold up in the oil
  • And my favorite…Oreo cookies (well, actually Joe’s O’s for those who shop at Trader Joe’s) – Absolutely amazing, the cookie part got really soft and chewy and the creamy filling became really gooey – super yum!!
I adapted the batter from a Japanese cook book I got from the bargin section at Borders (it was only $3.99!) The batter is just a simple mixture of ice cold water, egg, and flour with a splash of sake. Some recipes I saw online used soda water, which would be interesting to try. The batter must be kept cold, so a couple of ice cubes are added to the batter to keep it from getting warm while frying everything. Also be sure to dust the item to tempura in flour before dipping it in the batter. If you want a lot of batter (like for the ice cream) it helps to dip it in the batter, then roll in flour and then dip in the batter a second time. The batter should be made right before you plan to fry and keep enough extra of the ingredients handy to make more batter as the night goes on. I think I ended up making 3 batches!

Recipe – Tempura

1 cup ice cold water
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup flour, sifted
Splash of sake (about 1 ½ tsp maybe…)
Ice cubes
Extra flour for frying
Tempura dipping sauce

Mix together the water and beaten egg. Gently stir in the flour using chopsticks, batter should be thin and lumpy. Mix in the splash of sake. Add the ice cubes to keep batter cold while dipping and frying. Heat oil in a deep fryer (you could probably also use a pot instead) to about 350 degrees F. Dust the item for frrying with flour, dip into batter and then drop into deep fryer. Cook a couple minutes until coating is a light golden brown. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy with the dipping sauce!