Levon The Foodie

A gal whose obsessions lie within fat, sugar, carbs, caffeine, and beverages that could strengthen the heart or seal up a womb.

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Are Restaurants With Computerized Menus Winning The Way Geeks Are in 2012??

What was supposed to be a brief errand run turned into a full throttle trip to the mall and a menu vs ambience battle between The Lazy Dog Cafe and Stacked in Cerritos for dinner.  I was in the mood for something different atmosphere-wise but decided to stop by The Lazy Dog Cafe first due to its numbers friendly happy hour with half priced sangrias and apps, and its painless commute of hanging a right outside of the complex.  So I ordered a rather pleasing drink and app then wandered over to Stacked to see what all the buzz was about since the high tech restaurant was all the Cerritos locals had been talking about all day during my appointment runs.  Stacked is essentially a full-service restaurant with an innovative ordering approach that enables you to control when you order and pay, and customize your meal in a sort of uninhibited way.  After walking in and being coached on the self order customization process, I easily surpassed the 30 sec Ipad menu learning curve as most would in 2012, and decided on the custom macaroni and cheese aka Stacked Mac.  While going through the Ipad style menu, I couldn’t help but to wonder how humorous it would be to watch standard keyboard Blackberry users, members of the last man standing flip phone community, and non-touchscreen savvy people stumble through the order process.  It’s certainly not an experience that the old school diner types would easily embrace before walking out and going to the nearby Olive Garden or Fuddrucker’s.  Although geeks are winning in 2012 I’m not sure restaurants with the new method of technology that Stacked is offering are, with the mainstream anyway.  Even though it is unequivocally an interesting dining experience, I question whether we are ready to forfeit food quality and human interaction for the computerized dining technology and experience??  Although cool as hell, I’m curious to know how cool it is to the masses. I’ll let you be the judge.   


Palazzio State Street Santa Barbara

On a massive Italian hunt in downtown Santa Barbara, my FPIC and I were lured into Palazzio by the massive amount of people.  We knew we were in for a treat due to the crowd.  The menu had a wide selection of sauces, pastas and meats and I ended up ordering the fettuccine chicken alfredo.  Contrary to how amazing it looked,

 it had this unforgiving peppery taste that I couldn’t figure out.  I made my FPIC try it to make sure I wasn’t missing a memo on some new spicy alfredo technique, and by her reaction I concluded that it probably was a rushing chef moment where he accidentally over peppered my chicken.   So I did something that I absolutely never do and asked the server if I could try the same dish but with the vodka sauce.  I figured if we’re gonna have the spicy chicken moment we may as well top it off with pink sauce and not white.  So when the slightly modified dish finally returned, I found that the vodka sauce was a good choice for the heavily seasoned chicken.  It worked. 

 The food turned out good, the wait staff were amazing, it’s a relatively lively establishment, they have vegetarian pasta upon request if that’s your sort of thing, and they have the honor system house wine decanters.  Viva la Palazzio Santa Barbara. I’d go again.

Urth Caffe – A True Organic Experience

For an organic people watching experience in LA go to Urth Caffe on Melrose in W. Hollywood.  For good looking food, ask for their menu.  Did I say that backwards??  Either way it is truly a good place to patronize.  The food is certified organic and fresh, and so are the patrons.  Well, the patrons are certainly the latter.  I’m not sure which was better, the food itself or the scenery.  It’s a must go if you’re in people watching mode and want to have a good spot to sit and chat for hours on end on one of the most popular street cafes in West Hollywood.  They have excellent tea and coffee as one would expect, since they won the best coffee in LA Award over a decade ago.  Their food is fresh and cafe simple and the sidewalk patrons are good company.  Their White Albacore Tuna Sandwich was simply perfect in addition to their Green Tea Bebero..

And the richness and diversity of their Three Layer Chocolate, Espresso and Vanilla Cheesecake resembled several of our cafe table mates…   

I may just have to pay a revisit before the week is out to take in some more.. organic scenery..

Happy Hour Moment of The Week – Bistro 1111 S. Barbara

The happy hour moment of the week goes to the poolside happy hour menu from the Bistro 1111 Lounge at the Hyatt Santa Barbara.

Sweet Tea Lemonade cocktail, Meyer Natural Angus Sliders and Pacific Tilapia Tacos = $15

May 25th National Wine Day

Today, May 25, 2012 is National Wine Day!  Wine has been an important part of human history and culture forever. Whether your preference is red or white, merlot or pinot, chardonnay or sauvignon, everyone can identify with today’s celebration. So today I am celebrating my personal favorite..

 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ~ Thanks for the introduction years ago Marie..

So today after work (probably around 1:00 since the majority of you are skirting out of the office early today due to the holiday on Monday) have a glass of your favorite wine and start your extended weekend off right..


The Fat Dog W. Hollywood’s Perfect Happy Hour

John Gladish knows the right ingredients to lure non West Hollywooders and locals into his neighborhood establishment. The canine inspired cafe provides a friendly setting that falls right in line with the strip of bars and cafes on N. Fairfax, and much like its name is a very dog-friendly spot. It has a decent amount of natural light which gives it an easy feel and is a relatively casual environment.  It has really knowledgeable and savvy, yet laid back and friendly servers.  Most importantly however, it truly has the best happy hour I’ve experienced in W. Hollywood so far.  The Fat Dog offers a very impressive happy hour lineup that ranges from $3-6 and believe it or not, the food is actually good.  The food is amazing rather.  I tried at least five different items and they were all extremely tasty and perfectly prepared.

The onion rings were like no onion rings I have ever had before. They were crisp with a non-messy size and texture, and they were perfectly battered and seasoned. The alternative/vegetarian burger would please any anti-meat eater, and surprisingly with all the garnishes were neat and easy to eat. The sweet potato fries were simply great and everything else at that point, the fried green olives, etc is a blur. Oh but wait!  I can’t forget the mini burgers.  They were amazing.  They looked and tasted perfect, and were extremely generous in size.

It’s difficult to have high standards and expectations with places that offer food and drinks for $3, and skepticism does tend to come to play especially when quality not quantity is what you’re after in larger cities.  The Fat Dog will definitely change your take on cheap eats however. With the combination of quantity and quality, atmosphere, and service, I’d say this is a winning happy hour experience for anyone who appreciates all of the above.

Spicing Up Your Meals: 4 Must-Have Spice Blends

The best analogy I have for this simple cooking trick is like shopping in your own closet.  The same way you have those deceptive “I have nothing to wear” moments, you have those “there is nothing to eat in the fridge” moments.  The simple solution is to play around with the right combination of spices to dress up those meats that have been pushed into the back of your freezer for nearly six months.  You know, the traditional cuts of meats that got kicked to the curb due to the latest stuffed chicken breast creation from Whole Foods or the brie stuffed salmon rolls from Gristedes that you simply couldn’t resist.  Well it is basically the same concept as dressing up those slightly outdated pieces in your closet with the right combination of accessories and styling for a brand new look.  Check out more on this topic and get more specifics below from one of Marcus Samuelsson‘s contributers.

Spicing Up Your Meals: 4 Must-Have Spice Blends.

Courtesy of Clyde Robinson, MS site

We Interrupt This Program For A Message From Crumbs


Crumbs LA in Larchmont Village.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Michael Ealy’s Noodle Love Affair


Photo by Nigel Parry/USA Network

..Suddenly I want Chinese.

Catalina Island Birthday Secret

As if a complimentary roundtrip ride aboard the Catalina Express Boat on your birthday isn’t generous enough, you can also indulge in a free meal at Buffalo Nickel Restaurant on Avalon.  The other week I did exactly that. You see, Catalina island has two parts – Two Harbors and Avalon.  Avalon is from what I gather, for the first timers and Two Harbors is for the “I’m over Avalon and all the tourist traps, been there done that, gimme’ something a little more exclusive” travelers.  Since we were Catalina virgins and since Avalon has its long list of freebies for people celebrating their birthdays, we decided to venture over to that part of the island.  Part of that list was Buffalo Nickel which consisted of birthday girls and boys being able to choose any entree on their menu for free.  So I did what any recession influenced foodinista would do and made arrangements for their shuttle to pick us up.  Shortly afterwards they drove down the mountainside to us, brought us to the restaurant situated near the Catalina Island helicopter landing pad, and then we grabbed a table outside so we could elite people watch near the helicopters and their respective baggage claim. All in all the food was ok, but I have to say the warmness from the patrons and the staff, and the fact that the bartender clearly poured our drinks in a way that screamed “we desperately want you to come back since our restaurant is inconveniently located on the side of a cliff and no one can easily see it”, definitely made this a notable spot for a possible revisit.  So if you happen to be on the island on your birthday and you want to eat for free as well as magically get nice off of just one drink, come here. 

My New Zealand Love

After the painfully long day I had, an unexpected friend from New Zealand turned it around in two swirls, one sniff and one swallow..


Eco Love Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough, New Zealand

Bacon Deviled Eggs w. Caramelized Onions and Cheddar Cheese

Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Hooooov, actually no.  More like what the folks at the Endless Meal like to refer to as the “dietkiller”.  Allow me to reintroduce you to bacon, or turkey bacon depending on your preference.  Like they said at the Endless Meal, if you’re on a diet “Once he makes an appearance you can kiss your well intentioned diet’s ass(ets) goodbye“. I was speechless when I saw this recipe and immediately started to think of how well Gwaltney or Godshall’s turkey bacon substitute would taste in these babies. Well naturally there’s only one way to find out..

Courtesy of The Endless Meal

Bacon Deviled Eggs with Caramelized Onions and Cheddar Cheese Recipe
Recipe type: The Endless Meal Appetizer / Snack
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: Makes 12 devilled eggs
These will blow you neighbour’s plain old devilled eggs right out of the water they were boiling in.
  • 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked crispy (reserve fat for cooking onions)
  • 1/4 cup onions, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (light) mayonaise
  • A small handful finely grated cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Finely chop cooked bacon, remove any pieces that are chewy
  2. Saute onions over medium heat in a few tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes
  3. Carefully remove yolks from hardboiled eggs and place in a medium sized bowl.
  4. Add all other ingredients and mash together with a fork until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Add salt to taste
  6. Place a heaping teaspoon of the yolk/bacon mix into each egg white
  7. Sprinkle with freshly grated pepper before serving.
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The Great Googa Mooga Says Marcus Samuelsson

So in case you’re a NYC local and haven’t heard, or are a part of that NYC elite that can easily toss $250 for a street festival in Brooklyn that any other weekend would’ve easily been $10, get your black, gold or silver credit cards out because there are still tickets left to the Great Googa Mooga’s “Extra Mooga” food festival on Sunday.  Thanks to Marcus Samuelsson’s blog, I know Brooklyn will be housing the all inclusive food and drink lover’s wonderland at Prospect Park this weekend.  Although it’s said that general admission to the Great Googa Mooga is sold out or that registration has closed rather, you still can partake in the festivities that include a lot of food, a lot of drink, and don’t quote me, but I believe the legendary Roots headlining also.  So if it sounds like your cup of chai tea, just go to the site and check it out for yourself.  Oh and please do tell me how it was come Sunday.  I have a strange feeling I won’t be making this one.  Wouldn’t mind meeting Bourdain though..

Join Marcus at Extra Mooga this Sunday.




Inglewood Is Not On Fire

If you’re riding down Spruce or Market and see the massive amount of smoke, do not be alarmed, it’s just Woody’s Bar-B-Que.  This is certainly not an easy spot to miss and especially with your windows rolled down. The smell of BBQ is exactly what lured me into this little establishment. Lady’s Lunch was what I landed on.  The chopped bbq beef was succulent and sweet, and the smoked bbq chicken links were pretty awesome. The baked beans were great and I appreciated the way they let me mix both hot and mild for my seasoning.  A near heart attack experience at the infamous Cluck-U-Chicken in Upper Marlboro, MD taught me the significance of testing a foreign restaurant’s sauce before placing an entire order. That’s for another blog entry though. So yeah, mixed bbq was the was the way to go. If I’m roaming around Inglewood next week and am in carnivorous mode, all I have to do is follow the smoke and all my bbq dreams will come true.

Best Calamari Award Goes To..

Since talk of sea scavengers has arisen quite a bit as of lately, I may as well disclose some critical information to those of you who live in the Queen City or plan on visiting.  I’ve tried countless calamari appetizer dishes in my time and I have to say, expect the unexpected when I hip you onto who has the most well prepared calamari.  Can you guess??  Well ladies and gentlemen, the best calamari award goes to none other than Sullivan’s Steakhouse at South End, Charlotte.  Both myself and my N. Carolinian FPIC were stunned at how amazing it tasted.  We were honestly just trying to cure some late night munchies and all I can say is that pure silence took over the table when the dish came out.  Served in a sweet and spicy peanut sauce, drizzled with peanut shavings and green onions, these crispy calamari were large, fresh, well fried, and dressed to perfection.  So Charlotte, congrats.  Although you are certainly known for more than your battered and fried squid, you have impressed me beyond belief with your Crispy Shanghai Calamari from Sullivan’s Steakhouse at South End.  A calamari lover couldn’t ask for more.  Or could they?..

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