Did You See The Date?????


I’m still eating Halloween candy!  It can’t be December 23rd! When did this happen???  What can I do but roll with it.  I feel like the Christmas Season really started Friday night.  My husband and I stopped into Tractor Room in Hillcrest for a drink and an appetizer.  I love entering the restaurant through the heavy velvet drapes.  I feel like I’ve entered another world when I go here.  It was dark and cozy, and old school music was playing.  We ordered a light appetizer of Braised Buffalo Fries with Griddled Smoked Cheddar Cheese.  I highly recommend this place for Happy Hour.  They have great nibbles, tasty drinks, and good prices.  It’s a great spot for dinner, too.  I haven’t had their brunch, so let me know if you’ve tried it!

Buffalo Fries

We headed down the street for dinner at Ristorante Arrivederci.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to this spot.  I figure that with the Christmas Holiday starting, why hold back now.  Franz ordered a delicious sausage orecchiette dish with broccoli rabe.  I had a craving for gnocchi.  We shared one of my favorite appetizers, burrata.  With a lovely bottle of Sangiovese, what could be better?




I made reservations at The Wine Vault & Bistro a couple of weeks ago for their Christmas Dinner.  Fortunately, we didn’t have much to eat on Friday, so we had a huge appetite.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love this restaurant.  If you haven’t gone yet, what are you waiting for???  Make sure to check the website and call ahead for reservations.  Dinner is only certain nights throughout the month, and the food and drink pairings are always changing.  Our first course was marinated tuna with celery root and a clementine ponzu.  It was plated with the second course of crispy white fish and what tasted like a parsley pesto.  The courses were paired with a glass of 2010 Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux, a sparkling blend of Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (20%), and Mauzac (10%).  I am very particular when it comes to sparkling wines.  My favorite (and always stocked in the house) is Veuve Clicquot.  I thought the sparkling blend we were served was just as delicious and not too sweet.  And at $14, I think it’s a steal!  So we bought two bottles to go.  They were almost sold out when we requested our bottles.

WV Course 1

Next up was an amazing dish of Dana Blue Cheese served with thinly sliced persimmons, toasted pepitas and mizuna.  Accompanying the cheese course was a sunchoke veloute with spice roasted apples and chesnuts.  Oh my.  I was dying at this point.  The cheese was perfectly creamy.  And the veloute??  Imagine taking the taste and smells of Thanksgiving, turning that into creamy liquid perfection, and pouring it into a demitasse.  I guess you could say I liked it.  It was paired with a 2010 Stolpman “Golden Point” White Blend (Roussanne (64%), Chardonnay (21%), Sauvignon Blanc (15%)).  Red wine is my favorite, so whites have a hard time meeting my expectations.  This wine was decent, and the smoky quality was an interesting match with these courses.

Perfection in a Demitasse

Perfection in a Demitasse

The next course served was a perfectly cooked thyme roasted salmon with fennel and beets with a light blood orange dressing.  Plated with the salmon was the 6th course consisting of a pomegranate glazed duck breast, spiced roasted plums, and scallion rice.  I thought the rice was a lame choice.  I changed my mind when I tasted everything together.  The rice was a welcomed texture on the plate, and it was flavorful.  These two courses were served with what turned out to be another wine pairing favorite, 2010 Vine Hill “Santa Cruz Mountains” Pinot Noir.  We were forced to buy a of couple bottles.  Not a bad price at $16!

WV Course 4

I was sad to see the arrival of our last savory courses: braised leg of lamb served on top of crushed kabocha squash, and (my favorite cheese!!!) ricota salata and a sous vide pork loin with rosemary potato mousse and dried fruit.  Even though ricotta salata is my favorite cheese, it was unnecessary in this dish.  The lamb and squash had such amazing flavors that the ricotta salata just got lost.  It’s hard to say which course was my favorite, but these two may have been the winners of the night.  But maybe it was the veloute.  I can’t pick a favorite!!  These bites were served with 2009 Sika Cabernet Sauvignon.

WV Course 3

The last two courses were desserts: a gingerbread cake with mascarpone mousse and quince and a maple pot de creme topped with a cinnamon crumble.  It was served with Wine Vault’s legendary eggnog.  I’m not a huge fan of eggnog, but this was really yummy. Fresh local eggs, dark rum, Cognac, vanilla, cream and spices could be to blame.  I am a huge dessert fan, so I will be honest.  I (and Franz agreed) was not a huge fan of the gingerbread.  It was kind of bland.  The maple pot de creme was heavenly!  It was so smooth and not too sweet.  The crumble put it over the top.  That was a huge hit!

WV Dessert

Franz and I thought they had a smart way to make sure the veloute didn’t fall off of the plate!  A dollop of goat cheese as glue!  Franz was the one who figured that out.

WV Cup Holder

We only bought 4 extra bottles, but they gave us a huge box.  Kind of embarrassing hailing a taxi this way.

We only bought 4 extra bottles, but they gave us a huge box. Kind of embarrassing hailing a taxi this way.

WV Wine to Go

As you can see, I kept this weekend very light in anticipation of all of the Christmas goodies I will be eating for the next week.  Let me know what’s on your list of places to eat (no matter where you live!!), and tell me what amazing stuff you or your family is making!  I will post again after January 1st, but you can always see what I’m up to on twitter (@megangillkopp) or on my Facebook page: Monkey Bread and Sweet Pea.

Take Care and Happy Holiday Eating!!

Tractor Room on Urbanspoon

Arrivederci Italian on Urbanspoon

Wine Vault & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Fabulous Friday?

My intention was to write about what I loved this week for another “Fabulous Friday” posting.  Yesterday was National Cocoa Day.  So, accordingly, last night I put on my pjs, whipped up a hot mug o’ chocolate, cozied up on the sofa with Sweet Pea, a.k.a. Monsieur, and watched a French movie I recorded months ago.  I was set to write about that amazing hot cocoa this afternoon.  I had a great run on my treadmill this morning.  I’ve been battling some minor knee and heel pain for a bit, and today I ran 3 miles without pain.  I was in a great mood.  I was about to write my post when I noticed a bunch of Facebook postings about a school shooting.  I turned on the t.v. and heard more details.  What started out as such a great day turned dark quickly.  I don’t feel like writing about the cocoa.


But I started thinking about what really made me so happy last night and today.  Last night I was really happy to be with my dog, and eager to see my husband who was coming home a little later than usual that night.  The cocoa and the glow of the Christmas lights inside and outside were just sprinkles on top of the sundae.  And today, I was so happy to have a relatively pain-free run so that I can get back to running with my husband.  I will discuss hot chocolate another day.  But today, let’s all remember what truly makes our week fabulous – family.  And whether family is your Mom, your husband, or your best friend since fourth grade, never forget how important they are in your life.  It’s so easy to forget.  So grab a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa and give those loved ones a big hug.  It’s those people who are truly what makes life fabulous.  Again, it’s so easy to forget.

Gill Fam Plus

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Fabulous Friday Again!

I hope everyone had a great week!  I had a sweet surprise this week.  My husband was craving sweets all week (I’m rubbing off on him!).  Tuesday night he proclaimed that we were going to Jack in the Box for milkshakes.  It was around 8pm, and we were basically in our pajamas.  Life is so good!!  If you haven’t had a Jack in the Box milkshake, I feel very sorry for you.  They are so thick that you have to remove the straw and lick it because the goodness of the shake just won’t flow through the straw.  We always get chocolate.  “Jack” tops the shake with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.  And it’s super cheap!  And you can take it home and sit on the sofa with your family in your pjs will attempting to slurp the cup o’ ice cream and milk down while watching another episode of Law & Order!

Popular Jack antenna ball (Christmas version)

Merry Christmas from Jack!

In keeping with my new Friday “tradition”, I want to tell you about my favorite thing (other than a milkshake) this week: Pomegranate Molasses.  It can be a little tricky to find in the grocery store, but ask around and you’ll find it.  If you have a Middle Eastern market near you, that’s a great place to look.  I bought mine in San Diego at Specialty Produce (http://www.specialtyproduce.com/).

I need another bottle!

I need another bottle!

I love this product because you can use it on so many things.  It has a very tart and tangy flavor, and it is thick (hence “molasses”) so it is a great saucy topper.  You can drizzle it over sweet or savory dishes.  You can take any grain, for example wheat berry, and some dark greens, like mustard greens or arugula, and drizzle the molasses over it.  Or you can go sweet.  The first time I used Pomegranate Molasses was about 8 years ago when I came across a recipe from Big City Cooking: Recipes for a Fast-Paced World by Matthew Kenney and Joan Schwartz.  It is the most simple recipe, but you have to use the highest quality of ingredients.  Hold onto this recipe until the peak of strawberry season.  I promise people will rave!  And, again, it couldn’t be easier!  Don’t wait for strawberry season to buy it! Go out, find a bottle, and start using it.  The next grain salad you make for dinner, pour a little over each serving.  It will be a great addition to your pantry!

Strawberries with Pomegranate Molasses and Fresh Ricotta by Matthew Kenney Serves 4

1 quart ripe strawberries, stemmed and halved

2 tablespoons sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt

(My addition: couple pinches of cinnamon.  I love cinnamon and it’s so healthy, so I always try to add it to recipes.)

1 cup whole ricotta cheese (***Remember, do not use the commercial stuff.  Go to a cheese purveyor and get the good stuff!!)

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, or substitute balsamic syrup (***But don’t!  And I believe the amount is to taste.  You may want a lot more!)

12 mint leaves

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with sugar.  Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt into the ricotta.  Divide the strawberries among 4 bowls, top with the ricotta mixture, drizzle with pomegranate molasses, and garnish with mint leaves.

Have you used this product before?  If so, tell me how!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Fabulous Fridays!

Happy Friday! I’ve decided to dedicate Fridays to a particular thing (food related, of course) that I have just loved throughout the week.  I feel like Oprah!  Unfortunately I will not be giving away my favorite things to my readers.  I wish.  Sorry.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

My favorite and fabulous thing this week is: Cooking Light Magazine!  You get a subscription!! And you get a subscription!!!!!! And you – wait.  I’m not Oprah.  Again, I apologize.

Cooking Light

Cooking Light (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Thanksgiving, Franz and I were still craving something sweet.  I know, I know.  We had left over pumpkin pie and a cranberry/rhubarb cobbler, so we should have stopped at that.  We couldn’t let the craving go.  I had the latest copy of Cooking Light staring at me. Sir even used it as a head rest. I usually cook dinner Monday through Thursday.  And of those dinners, about 80% or more come from Cooking Light.  I even own The Annual Recipes 2009 and 2010 Cookbooks.  The recipes are almost always tasty and relatively healthy.  Occasionally I may tweak a recipe, but it usually isn’t necessary.

CL and Sir

The November cover photo is a slice of Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake.  I ran to Trader Joe’s to purchase 2 items I needed to make this devilish dessert: instant coffee and some whipped topping (Cooking light suggested a reduced-calorie whipped topping, but I opted for regular.).  I had everything else on hand.  Word of advice: always have ingredients on hand to make at least a simple cake or a batch of cookies.  It’s the only way to live.

Once again, CL did me proud!  It was easy to make, and it was delicious!  Here’s the recipe . . .

Baked Chocolate Mousse from Cooking Light

Baked Chocolate Mousse from Cooking Light

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cooking Light, November 2012

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa

1 teaspoon instant espresso granules

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

1 tablespoon brandy (**I used Apricot Brandy.  Only kind I had on hand.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1/3 cup sugar

Dash of salt

1 1/2 cups frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy) (**I used butter and flour since I didn’t have the specified spray.)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add cocoa and espresso, stirring until smooth. Remove pan from heat. Add chocolates; gently stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in brandy and vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally. (**I didn’t stir occasionally and it was fine.)

3. Combine eggs, egg whites, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler, stirring with a whisk. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer reaches 115° (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk. Place egg mixture in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until ribbony, soft peaks form (about 5 minutes). (**It took my egg mixture about 4 minutes to reach 115 degrees.  To attain the ribbony, soft peaks, it took about 7 minutes.)

4. Gently stir one-third of egg mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg mixture. Gently fold in whipped topping. Spoon batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with baking spray, spreading evenly. Bake at 350° for 27 minutes or until almost set (center will not be firm but will set as it chills). Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. (**I buttered and dusted with flour a 9-inch spring form pan.  In my pan, it took about 21-22 minutes for it to cook.  Franz couldn’t wait the recommended chill time.  We cut into it after it was in the refrigerator for about 4 hours. It was fine.  But it was even better the next night!)

OR USE WHIPPED CREAM: If you substitute an equal amount of whipped cream for the whipped topping, you’ll add 62 calories, 6.7g fat, and 4.2g sat fat to each serving. You will also need to bake the mousse about 5 minutes longer.

Take Care and Happy Eating! (And have a fabulous weekend!!)

Thanksgiving Day Quiz!

Happy Thanksgiving! I know everyone is probably (hopefully) enjoying some great food with family and friends. As I type, the bird is in the oven, and it’s starting to smell like the Holidays! My dog, Monsieur, has a tough time every year on this day.  His body doesn’t react well to turkey, but the smell of the raw bird is an overwhelming experience for him.  He’s a lot like me.  We let him get close to the turkey to check it out and give him an alternative treat: banana.

Now for  the quiz!  Can you tell which one is the turkey??

As I was writing (and cooking), our neighbor stopped by to give us a bottle of wine!  What a great surprise!  It’s awesome knowing there are some great people out there – and people who know I would love a bottle of wine!!  Thanks, Matt and Britt!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Best Thing About Cold Weather??

You know the answer!  Food!

I hope everyone is doing well.  Word on the street is that at least one suburb of Cleveland, Ohio saw some snow the other day!  Yikes!  I guess it makes sense.  Stores are already playing Holiday music, as of today I’ve heard the term “Black Friday” about 500 times, and this is the second day in a row of turning on the heat in our house for a few hours in the early morning.  It gets cold in San Diego!

Let’s not think of the down side of Winter – at least not yet.  Let’s think about the food!  I love all of the squashes available, and I love making soup for dinner and serving it with delicious bread.  The other night, I combined my two loves (other than my husband and Monsieur) of dark greens and squash for a delicious side dish to accompany our halibut.

I found this recipe on Tasting Table, one of my favorite online sites.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe by Chef Nathan Foot while he was working at Northern Spy Co. (He’s now the chef at Calyer in Brooklyn – in case you enjoy stalking chefs.)

I made a couple minor changes which are noted throughout the recipe with “**” indicating that change.  Basically, you can do anything with this recipe.  If you are vegan, on a diet, or prefer meat in every dish you eat, you can adjust this recipe accordingly.  If you do, let me know how you make it your own!

Northern Spy Food Co. Kale Salad

2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded kale (preferably Tuscan or black kale) (**I used 1 bunch of Tuscan kale, finely chopped.)

1/4 cup toasted almonds (**I toasted a good handful of slivered almonds I had on hand.)

1/4 crumbled Cabot clothbound cheddar (**I had a coupon for Cracker Barrel Cheddar. I read that the company had won a cheese competition for its Aged Reserve cheddar.  I wanted to give it a try.  My local grocery store didn’t carry the exact winner, so I tried the sharp cheddar.  Not bad!  It had a nice creamy texture, and had a decent sharp cheddar taste.  I bought a “log” and cut a small chunk.  I crumbled the cheese by hand.  I didn’t use too much just so it would remain a healthy side dish.  However, the cheese does add a nice touch.)

1/2 cup cubed roasted kabocha or butternut squash (**Since I love squash, I used an entire butternut for this recipe. I think it was about 2 pounds or so.  I simply tossed the cubes in olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, and roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes.  The time was solely due to the time I was on a treadmill.  I like my squash slightly caramelized, but you may not.  Keep an eye on it and pull it out when it’s to your liking.)

Fresh lemon juice (**I didn’t like the idea of lemon juice in this dish.  I wanted something more savory and “Fall-like”.  I opted for a really great balsamic vinegar.  The recipe notes approximately 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice. Whichever you choose, carefully add either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to taste.  You can always add more, so be careful!

Extra-virgin olive oil (**Since I roasted my squash in olive oil, I didn’t feel the need to add any extra.  But give the salad a taste.  Maybe you prefer a little more?)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pecornio or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional) (**Again, I was trying to keep this on the healthier side, so I opted not to add another cheese.  However, I bet it would be awesome!  Maybe I’ll keep it in mind for a dinner party.)

1) In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with almonds, cheddar and squash.  Season to taste with lemon juice (**or balsamic vinegar) and olive oil (**if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2) Divide salad between two plates.  Garnish shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

What’s’ your favorite Fall or Winter food?  I’d love to hear some thoughts!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Guest Blogging Over At Hoptology SD

Hello everyone! I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend or you have planned some time just to wind down from the week. My friend just got married and headed across the pond for his honeymoon. He asked that I do a guest blog for his beer blog. Here’s the link.: p2vJCt-i

If you like beer and cupcakes, I think you’ll enjoy this post.

Take Care and Happy Eating!


PubCakes on Urbanspoon

Next Door on Urbanspoon

Happy Halloween And My Emmy Weekend (Part I)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!  This is my FAVORITE day of the year!  My favorites things in life all come together: scary movies, eating lots of candy (and it’s totally acceptable), dressing up like a fool, and getting together with friends!  What could be better?  On a more serious note, I have many friends and family that are affected by Sandy, so I will continue sending good thoughts your way!!  I was supposed to be on a red-eye flight to NYC last night, but Mother Nature had other plans. Now I can finally finish this post!  More importantly, now I need to go out and get Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters!!  And I’ve heard Halloween is being delayed in some areas, so here’s an image that will keep you in the Halloween spirit . . .

I apologize for taking so long to write about my weekend in L.A. I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats! Through People Magazine and L’Oreal, I won a trip to sit in the bleacher area of the Red Carpet at the Emmys. So on Saturday, September 22nd, a driver picked me and my husband up at our house and whisked us away to the airport to begin our star-studded weekend. Franz was looking forward to a weekend in L.A., but he had to ask me what the Emmy Awards celebrated. In his defense, there are a lot of award shows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We stayed at The London (http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/), my new favorite hotel in L.A. The complimentary breakfast at Gordon Ramsay‘s Boxwood Cafe was amazing! It reminded me of a scrumptious hotel breakfast I had once in Vienna – but this might have been even better! The hotel is perched on a hill in West Hollywood, so the view from the dining room was beautiful. Watching the sun rising as I had a delicious croissant and latte was a perfect way to begin the day. The decor was a cross between Restoration Hardware and a tea party in a doll house. That sounds bad, but it worked and I loved it. Our hotel room was so spacious. Maybe I’m getting too used to hotels in NYC and San Francisco, but this room was huge and so comfortable. The roof top pool had great views of the surrounding WeHo area (as I discovered it was called) and hosted the BBC party for the Emmy weekend. So not only did Franz and I take a dip, we were able to see a few stars. Unfortunately, I have yet to watch any of the nominated shows – but now I will! The cast of Sherlock was getting a ton of attention. The fans were not allowed into the hotel, unless they were guests, so many were camped out in front of the hotel. Of course, now I want to see what all the buzz is about, so I’ll have to rent the first season.  Another great thing about this hotel is the complimentary driver available for relatively short distances.  I love when hotels have this perk.  The car is beautiful, comfortable and clean, and the driver is always friendly.  Just grab the driver’s card, and most likely he can pick you up as well.  Not having to take a taxi: priceless.

Gordon Ramsay at the London on Urbanspoon

There have been two restaurants I’ve been wanting to check out: Animal (http://www.animalrestaurant.com/) and The Bazaar by Jose Andres (http://www.thebazaar.com/).  Friday night, we checked out The Bazaar and wished we hadn’t.  Maybe it was all of the hype, maybe it was because I thought Chef Andres was awesome on 60 Minutes when he described his philosophy on life and cooking, or maybe it was because I really wanted to try a molecular twist on a Philly Cheesesteak , but I was disappointed.  I ordered “The Ultimate Gin and Tonic”.  $18?  It better have been the ultimate!  I will say it was a beautiful drink.  It is served in a stout glass with a wide mouth.  It was perfect for taking in all of the lovely smells within the glass.  You have a choice of gin: Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Oxley or Hendrick’s.  I opted for Bombay Sapphire, my favorite gin.  I needed help on my next choice – tonic.  I will admit that I have never given tonic a second thought, and I thought it was a little silly to start at this point. There were two choices: Fever Tree or Stirrings.  I asked our server for guidance in this matter.  He explained that Fever Tree has tighter bubbles, and that was his recommendation for this drink.  Alrighty!  I will admit, I tried the tonic on its own, and it was really good!  Since my trip, I started reading about different tonics, and I was amazed how much I have to learn about this one little beverage.  I will not even attempt to go into it at this point, but I will suggest that you keep an eye out for restaurants that offer various tonics and give them a go.  It’s always fun to taste new things!  And because of this, I will never look at tonic in the same way.  I will also add that it was the best G&T I’ve ever had in my life.  At least it lived up to its name!

Franz and I proceeded with ordering a few items of the tapas menu: Papas Canarias (salted wrinkly potatoes with mojo verde), Seared Scallops (AMAZING!), Veal Loin with Cippolini, Roasted Sweet Long Peppers with a Romesco Sauce, Roasted Beets, the  famous “Philly Cheesesteak”, and Japanese Tacos with Eel and Chicharron.  The scallops were so tasty that after one bite, we asked for a second order.  I guess I was expecting to be blown away.  Everything was o.k., but The Bazaar wasn’t inspiring in its presentation or with its flavors.  Maybe we didn’t order the most creative items on the menu?  I was expecting more molecular gastronomy in each dish.  The Philly Cheesesteak was the only item that came close due to the way the flavors suggested a cheesesteak, but in fact was nothing like one you would get in Philadelphia.  If you decide to go here, make sure you eat before you go or plan on visiting another restaurant afterwards.  You will not leave full, and you will have spent a lot of money.  I was fine with that because I was looking for “the experience”, but I never got that experience.  I’m glad I tried it, but I will not go back.

The Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon

Check out Chef Andres on 60 Minutes: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6754666n

After dinner, we checked out a band at The Viper Room, another place that has always spiked my curiosity (http://viperroom.com/).  I didn’t like the beers available, so I ordered a gin and tonic.  Big mistake!  The Bazaar may have ruined me for life! The band playing, Brainspoon, was good.  I wished we could have stayed longer to see the headliner act, Boy Hits Car, but we knew we had a long day ahead of us.  Even if I’ve never heard of a band, I love hearing live music.  I don’t do that enough anymore!

The following morning we had the delicious complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel, and headed back to our room to await my make-up artist, Christiane Gendrey, and hair stylist, Joey, provided by People Magazine and L’Oreal.  Joey did a casual and fun up do, and Christiane kept the make-up light and natural.  Both were perfect ways to go considering it was a crazy hot day in L.A.  I have no idea how all of the actors wore tuxedos and heavy gowns without sweating right through them!  I did notice assistants wiping people down and reapplying sunscreen to women’s backs, especially the reporters.

Attending the Emmy Red Carpet was a very interesting and unusual experience.  There are many people who obtain the passes to sit in the bleacher area every single year.  I can’t imagine doing that.  Once was fine for me!  It’s an entire day that begins with a lot of waiting – and then more waiting.  Once you finally make it to the secured entrance, you are seated in the bleacher area, and you wait some more.  We watched Fashion Police on the Red Carpet being recorded (http://www.eonline.com/shows/fashion_police).  I love Giuliana Rancic, so that was kind of cool.  And I loved seeing Kelly Osbourne’s purple hair in person.  We were able to participate in some of their fashion polls.  Franz was wondering what the heck he got himself into at that point.  He was one of the few men in the bleacher area.  He was a trooper!  It was fun to have family and friends call us throughout the event to say they had spotted us on t.v.

Once the stars started rolling onto the scene, it was pandemonium.  I thought the Red Carpet would have some sense of order.  It was a sea of penguins and ball gowns.  After a period of time, it almost became overwhelming.  I was taking so many photos, but I realized I should put the camera down and just start watching.  Franz loved seeing “Al Bundy” (Ed O’Neill) and the cast from Modern Family.  We thought it was really cool seeing Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks.  However, Franz didn’t have the same reaction to seeing Jon Hamm as I did.  That was awesome!  I couldn’t believe Don Draper had to go through metal detectors!  That’s not right!

I still have to write about a few places we checked out during our L.A. weekend: The Surly Goat, Hamburger Mary’s, Rosewood Tavern, and Animal.  A couple were hug hits, and one was fun, but the food was a miss.  Spoiler alert!  I think Animal is one of the best restaurants I’ve visited.  I promise Part 2 will be posted soon with some more food details!

Until Then, Take Care and Happy Eating!

Happy Friday!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hello everyone! I just wanted to wish everyone a great weekend! I’m in the process of writing about my weekend in L.A. when I had the opportunity to check out the Emmy’s from the Red Carpet and hit 2 restaurants that have been on my list for years! Also, I just returned from an amazing trip to London and Ireland. And I have a wine fest to report upon as well. Phew. Lots of good stuff – I just need more time!!

I just wanted everyone to know I’m still around and checking out some great stuff. After the weekend, you will probably hear more from me than you care to hear. Until then, here is just a sample of what’s to come. Thanks for reading!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Got Thanks?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been in a rut.  I’ll admit it.  I’ve been complaining about the heat, that I have too much coming up in the next few months (only to be followed by the busy Holiday months), that my beloved dog has figured out how to maneuver under the front yard fence, that my allergies won’t lighten up, and that I just don’t feel like writing!  And with the extended heat wave we’ve been having, I haven’t been in the cooking mood either.  And when I go for a run, it’s a weak attempt at best.  What else am I forgetting?

In June I wrote a little bit about being thankful.  I think I need to revisit that state of mind!  I got an email from Panera Bread about a contest entitled “What We’re Thankful For” (http://www.facebook.com/panerabread?v=app_272143752885090).  Perfect timing!

Panera on Urbanspoon

So here are a handful of things for which I’m thankful:

1) Pomegranate Margaritas with my sister-in-law, Elisabeth, at Ortega’s in Hillcrest (http://www.ortegasbistro.com/).  I love that I have a sis-in-law that wants to try new food and new restaurants.  Before she left Cleveland, she did some research and read about this place.  It’s in my neighborhood, but I had never been inside.   I wasn’t super crazy about their carnitas, but I will return to sit outside, have a Pomegranate Margarita and some of their tasty chips and salsa.  I snagged a taste of Liz’s Chicken Verde Enchiladas, something I don’t usually order, and it was really tasty.  I think the star of this restaurant is the salsa!  Ohhh, I almost forgot!  They have killer flour tortillas.  I wanted to wrap myself in one – a nice, warm, soft, tortilla blanket!

Ortega's Mexican Bistro on Urbanspoon

2) Going Downtown and checking out the Sand Castle Competition with my mother-in-law, Elisabeth and my husband.  My father-in-law couldn’t understand why we wanted to do this, so he opted to sit on a bench under some trees where he met some very interesting people.  I’ll pass on telling that story!  It only took us about an hour or so to walk through the event, but it was so nice to be near the water and out in such nice weather!

3) Taking another tour at Suzie’s Farm!  Our tour guide this time was Eric, aka “Chicken Man”.  Eric is in charge of the animals on the farm.  Currently, they only have chickens, but that may change soon.  I can’t wait for them to get goats!!!  He told us about the 30 different breeds of chickens they have – some are on the endangered list.  The birds are used for 2 reasons: eggs and to help cultivate the ground.  Being out on the farm is always so relaxing, and I walked away with lots of veggie loot!

4) Getting a sprinkler system installed!!!  Woohoo!  You have no idea how excited I am!!  It deserves a second “Woo-hoo”!!

5) That my in-laws, visiting from Cleveland, Ohio, took a brief trip to Vegas so I have time to clean, recuperate and be able to write something for this blog. The day before they left for Vegas, we had a plumbing issue.  Never a good thing.  A big THANKS goes out to South Bay Rooter!  Thanks, Dave.  Not only did he quickly assess and correct the problem, the bill was very fair.  Greatly appreciated!!

6) That we can celebrate Franz’s parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  The official date was back in June, so Franz and I decided that we would have to celebrate with them once they got out here.  Later this week, the whole gang will head over to Kaiserhof Restaurant & Biergarten (http://www.kaiserhofrestaurant.com/) to celebrate in the appropriate German style: large pretzels, steins of Paulaner or Hacker Pshorr (which my Dad-in-Law just corrected me the other day because I wasn’t pronouncing the “P” in Pshorr.  Keeping me on track!!), and bratwurst.

7) That I don’t live too close to the best donut shop, but close enough to go every so often!  http://vgbakery.com/

V G Donuts & Bakery on Urbanspoon

8) For my littlest man in the world, Monsieur.

9) That my Dad is able to come out to San Diego for a visit this month!

10) For the delicious Thomcord grapes Elisabeth bought at Trader Joe’s the other day!  They are a hybrid of Thompson and Concord.  Yummy!!!  Go and buy some!!! They will make you smile! (I’m eating them right now and smiling!!)

What are you thankful for this week?  Let me know!

Take Care and Happy Eating!