Monthly Archives: October 2013

Morimoto & Gene Simmons

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This is not a post on Halloween costumes.

I am really am going to tie Morimoto to Gene Simmons in this post. Just read on…

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When we stepped off the plane in L.A., I saw a restaurant called SKEWERS by Morimoto. As a fan of all things food television, I would have loved to try a Morimoto restaurant. Chef Morimoto is the man!

Why didn’t I do a little more pre-trip research?!

In any case, at the end of our trip, when we got back to LAX with plenty of time before our departure, we found that we were in the same terminal/gate area as that Morimoto restaurant and it was time for lunch!

As we made our way down to the gate area where Skewers was located, we noticed a huge crowd around another airport bar/restaurant. Camera flashes were going off left and right. With all that going on, there just had to be a celebrity present. I couldn’t see, so I asked someone in the vicinity who just looked like she would know…

What’s all the hype about? Who is there?”

“It’s Gene Simmons. This is a new restaurant in the airport and he’s here for the opening.”

Sure enough, Rob pointed him out. You could see the back of Gene’s head. The texture of his hair is unmistakeable. {And, no, I did not take a photo of the back of his head.}

The place was closed for a grand opening or something, so we ventured on to SKEWERS for lunch.

Holy busy and airport-like! The dining area was small. There was no room for us at the bar. The entire area was open to anyone for seating, not just for those dining there. Service was horrible, but it wasn’t the guy’s fault. He was the only server in the entire place. 113It took us a good 15 to 20 minutes to get him over to our table and take a drink order/get us a menu.

We chose the Kushiyaki and Kushisage, both with beef so that we could split them.

112To be honest, they didn’t taste much different from what you’d find in a food court. Ouch. The quality of the meat wasn’t very good either. But what should we expect in an airport restaurant? I’d once heard that you can’t really do much with airport restaurants because they are all run through one entity.

But then why is it that we’ve had decent, even excellent, food at other airport restaurants before?!

I’m quite sure Chef Morimoto would not be pleased that his name is on this restaurant. At least not by what we were served that day.

After that disappointing meal, I did some walking around. We still had a lot of time and I thought it would just be nice to have a cup of coffee or a beer at a bar and relax.

As I was coming back from a shop where I picked up a San Pe for me and a juice for Rob, I noticed that the Gene Simmons Rock and Brews restaurant was finally open for patrons! I walked in and found a couple of seats at the bar and texted Rob to leave the gate and join me. They had plenty of beers on tap.114

There are few interesting things to note about this place.

  • They really pushed the booze. I kept hearing the bartender ask if people were ready for a shot or wanted a shot of X for dessert.
  • They play old music videos! Instead of sports, you can watch old rock videos for hours on end. Okay, so they did change one of the tvs to a game, but without sound. The sound remained on the music videos! I loved that. It was nostalgic to watch old videos and talk about them. I wish more places did that.
  • The Hello Kitty Kiss dolls on the wall in the above photo.

Our bartender was Pawn Stars’ Rick Harrison’s doppelganger. And while he was trying to push the booze, I just really wanted an easy drinkin’ porter. “Just leave me alone so I can watch some videos!” I thought to myself. I wasn’t about to do a bunch of hard stuff and get onto a plane. Although, maybe that’s a rock star sort of thing?? He also liked to talk a lot and not really listen. Since our lunch at Skewers wasn’t really that filling, we ended up ordering a small flatbread. When the bartender asked if we wanted to add chicken, we explained that Rob was allergic. He added chicken sausage. I still don’t think he understood why we sent it back. We ended up paying $5 for the “added” chicken anyway.

No matter what, I thought the place was cool and I wish there were more places that played old videos like that! It would be a good change from Sports All The Time.

Seriously.

So, if you want a re-cap of our California Trip in the CORRECT order, here you go:

Before Taking Flight…

Pasadena

Beverly Hills

Malibu & Venice Beach

Old Town Temecula

10 Tips for Tasting Wine in Temecula

South Coast Winery & Resort

What We Learned about Wine in Temecula

PUBlic House – Temecula

Temecula Breweries

Where are you planning your next vacation?

Cheers~
Carrie

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3 Things I Learned about Wine in Temecula

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I’m no sommelier, but I’d to think that I know more about wine than the average American, though most of it was self-taught. One of the best ways to learn about wine is by reading and tasting… in the presence of Company! And you have to have a passion for it.

In Temecula, I was pretty impressed with the wine knowledge of the wine reps/bartenders/servers at each of the wineries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that. Maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve been to wine country. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to nice restaurants where people pronounce Viognier and Pinot Gris incorrectly.

For the record, they are Vee-yoh-N’YAY and PEE-no GREE.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been to places in the Twin Cities where people who should have the knowledge just don’t. Not that it’s that important for them to know. Because how many guests do they get that really care?

In any case, in my experience, the knowledge in Temecula was on par with other well-known regions in California. They knew which grapes were Rhone varietals and which were Bordelais. AND they knew things I didn’t know.

And I liked it.

It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about wine. There is always something else to learn. It never gets old. It never gets boring. Wine trends change. Flavors and styles change. Your palate evolves.

Here are three things that I distinctly remember learning in Temecula:

1) Champagne

I’ve mentioned before that a sparkling wine is not truly Champagne and cannot be called such unless it is from the Champagne region of France. However, at Wilson Creek they make an Almond Champagne. I don’t know why I didn’t think twice about it. Maybe I thought the name was just gimmicky. But a gal tasting next to us asked how on Earth they could call their product Champagne.

“It’s because the law didn’t go into effect until 2007. Anything produced before that, already having that name was grandfathered in. In addition, if anyone truly wants to, they can call their sparkling wine ‘champagne’ as long as it has a lower-cased ‘c’,”

I had no idea.

It was that recent? I truly believed that they just couldn’t call it Champagne. Of course, a search on the Internets offers conflicting information on the origins and laws. It’s a bit more detailed and complicated.

Still, I have noticed that the higher end sparkling wines in the U.S. will just indicat that they use the méthode Champenoise. I believe that they want to show respect for the region, but also indicate that they use the same rigorous method.

methode champenoise

2) Estate Grown

At one winery, the wine rep touted about a particular wine, “This wine is 100% Estate Grown.” Knowing that the term “reserve” means nothing {except to that particular vineyard} and that wines in the U.S. can be labeled by varietal as long as it consists of of 75% of that labeled grape, I wasn’t really sure if Estate Grown meant anything. So I asked…

“Is Estate Grown a legal term?”

“Why yes,” he said without hesitation. “For a wine to be labeled Estate Grown, it must be made of at least 95% of grapes grown on that estate. However, this particular wine is made of 100% Estate Grown grapes.”

It’s common for wines to be produced from grapes all over a region or outside of one vineyard. So to have a wine grown from a particular vineyard block is a big deal. However, what constitutes any particular “estate” is still a puzzle to me.

3) American Oak vs. French Oak

Okay, I’ve read a gazillion pages of tasting notes with my ten years doing in-home Wine Tastings for The Traveling Vineyard. Most of these notes indicate how long the wine was aged in oak. However, I never really paid much attention to that because most of my guests didn’t care. But at South Coast Winery, when Gregg was helping us choose which wines to sample, he mentioned that one was particularly smooth because it was aged in French oak, NOT American oak.

“Do you know the difference?” he asked. I was actually sort of embarrassed. Why? Because for as long as I’ve been doing Wine Tastings, I felt like should know. But I also knew that if someone asked me, I didn’t have the explanation at the tip of my tongue.

So here you have it:

American oak has a wide grain versus the tight grain of French Oak. The tight grain gives the wine a more subtle and refined taste. That’s a pretty generic descriptions in my own words. If you are looking for a longer explanation, click here.

But we could taste it in the wine.

Seriously. Even if it was the power of suggestion… Shit, this Cabernet was smooth. No wonder why so many high-end French wines are smooth, velvety and elegant. But they cost more, too. That’s because French Oak is more expensive. It’s also the reason why it’s not very common to see many everyday American wines fermented in French Oak. It’s costly to procure those French oak barrels.

And if you didn’t know this already, some of the most mass-produced wines take the short cut and just put oak chips in the wine to soak. Seriously. Who wants that?

~

What’s something surprising that you learned about wine lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

California Beaches – Malibu & Venice

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And you thought I was done talking about California… Nope!

If you are having trouble following our trip out-of-order, Pulp Fiction-style, know that I’ll be listing the links to each post in chronological order before the end of the week.

~

After leaving Beverly Hills, our check-in time to our lodging in Temecula wasn’t until 4pm, so my plan was to hit a few beaches before we left L.A.

First, you must know that neither Rob nor I are beach bunnies.

We both are very fair-skinned and have no desire to spend hours tanning on a beach. When we go to a beach, it’s usually to swim, to read {either in the shade or lathered in SPF 45}, to sip on a cocktail seaside or just to enjoy the beauty of nature. We did, after all, get married on the beach in Pensacola, Florida.

Our friend who recommended nearly everything we did on this California vacay, also recommended taking a drive to Malibu. She said to make reservations on OpenTable.com to have lunch at Paradise Cove. We were playing most of the day by ear, so we didn’t make the reservations. But it was a Monday and a quick scroll of OpenTable showed reservation availability every fifteen minutes. We figured we’d be safe.

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As we drove along the beautiful coast, Rob suggested I pull out his iPhone to use his Zillow app. Zillow tells you the approximate value of housing in the area. It was hard to tell exactly which homes were being referred to for a few reasons:

  1. It works better when you are walking or standing, not driving.
  2. Many homes, of course, are tucked away behind gates and up in the hills.
  3. It may not show the exact value of a home, but maybe just the listings of those for sale or that were just sold. Even then, you’d have to take the time to find which house number corresponds.

But it gave us an idea how much it costs to live around there. I think the least expensive home we saw on the Zillow app was $1.2 millon dollars. But they ranged from that end of the spectrum, up to $12.5 million. I am just so curious if those little condos right on the water were that much, too? They were so tiny!

We spent a good forty minutes driving along the coast until we happened upon Paradise Cove. As predicted, it wasn’t busy. We asked for a table outside, as the weather was perfect that day. We settled in, with the sand beneath our feet, kicked off our sandals and contemplated this view.

004Sure, we weren’t right in front of the water, but we had intended to walk the beach afterwards. It was so nice just to be outside, digging our toes in the sand.

A beach calls for a fun cocktail right? We ordered a Malibu Mai Tai and something called The Perfect Day. It was only fitting! It was a gorgeous day and the ten-year anniversary of our first date!

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What’s in The Perfect Day, you ask? Well, here is your answer:

007And who know Malibu had vineyards? Certainly not me! Love that they had a whole list of Malibu wines:
008I was pretty perplexed by what to order. The menu was a little kitschy, but certainly appropriate for a  beach. I finally settled on the Fish Tacos, but only because they were World Famous. 😉

"The Best Fish Tacos - Pablo's Recipe from Home. The Guys in the Kitchen Love These and So Will You!" - with rice & beans, fresh guacomole and pico de gallo

The Best Fish Tacos – Pablo’s Recipe from Home. The Guys in the Kitchen Love These and So Will You!” – with rice & beans, fresh guacomole and pico de gallo – $19.95

I know that they sound so basic, but they were sooooo fresh-tasting and good! And filling, too. I only ate ate two of them and even that was pushing it.

Rob went for A Steak Sandwich:

A Filet Mignon on Sourdough Cheese Toast with Onions and Mozzarella - $19.95

A Filet Mignon on Sourdough Cheese Toast with Onions and Mozzarella – $19.95

Somewhere hiding under those tomatoes {which Rob promptly removed and placed on my plate} was a cooked-to-perfection filet with a cheesy, toasted, well-seasoned slice of sourdough that was so good it could make you cry. The fries made Rob happy, too.

Before we knew it, we dropped $100 (including tip) – FOR LUNCH!

And although our jaws dropped over the thought of a $100 lunch, we reminded ourselves that we loved the food and it would have sucked to shell out that dough if it hadn’t been that good. We were in California. We had beautiful weather, a gorgeous view and some time to wonder along the beach!

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We drove away from Malibu, past Santa Monica. We decided that the next beach we wanted to hit was Venice for a completely different vibe!

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Even around Venice Beach, we were astonished by Zillow’s account of the housing costs for some of the little run-down units. What was one of the first things I noticed as we approached the boardwalk after parking our car? The Packer clock in one of the apartments! Can you spot it?

026I loved the artistic vibe of Venice Beach, from the wall murals, to the musicians to the artistic vendors.

033We stopped at a cafe for a beer:

027The prices were much more affordable here! I chose a beer that I thought was fitting for Venice Beach.

{Zoom in on the beer on the left.}

028I found it was fitting, especially since we passed by an “office” no the boardwalk that “The Doctor is in!” and that you could be tested to see if you were eligible for medical marijuana. Well, that is, if you didn’t bring in your camera. 😉 LOL!

Then we turned around and walked along the beach:

031It was such a gorgeous day to be by the water.

With such beautiful weather, walking along the beach, enjoying the views and people watching…

It truly was the perfect day.

That is, until we managed to get back into traffic in order to drive around the mountain to the highway that led us to Temecula.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Cheers~
Carrie

LOST 8.15K {Food & Fitness Link-Up}

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One of my favorite college professors once told our class that you can never do something again. You can do something similar; but you can never do it again. I believe, at the time, he was speaking of travel. But it can apply to pretty much any experience in life.

When Rob told me that he wanted to walk around the St. Anthony Main area of NE Minneapolis again, I was looking for it to it. Our walks exploring the city are my favorite dates with my husband. And since Joe created four more stations to the Get LOST in Running Virtual Race Series, my plan was to do the Looking Glass Station 8.15k.

But first, let’s see how I did with last week’s Food & Fitness Planning:

planning

Last Week’s Food:

  • Dinners
    • Monday – Spicy Thai Basil Beef
      • I used Coconut Aminos in place of the fish sauce and onions in place of the bell peppers. It could have used a bit more spice. That’s a note to self for next time.
      • It was good, but not overly-the-top awesome. Maybe if I would have SEASONED IT ALREADY! 😉
      • Then I read Kat’s tip to always double the sauce, when she made a different Thai Beef with Basil Recipe. I may have to take that advice.
    • Tuesday – Pork Chops this way – most likely with green beans on the side.
      • We skipped this and ate leftover still hanging out from last week instead.
    •  Wednesday – Meatballs with Tomato Sauce –  Just like we made in class the week before! A Keeper!
    • Thursday – TBDTurkey and Black Bean Cabbage Bowl with Avocado Salsa <-–An awesome, must-try! 
      • I made it when I had the girls over for dinner.
      • I’m going to make a Rob-friendly version this week!
    • Friday – Dinner night out with the girls – Restaurant Impression coming this week!
    • Saturday – Leftovers for Lunch, out for dinner – LOST 8.15k (see below!)
    • Sunday – Leftovers
  • Breakfasts
    • Egg Rolls – <– You must make these!
      • They aren’t what you think. It’s an egg rolled up in a tortilla.
      • I used some leftover enchilada sauce instead of the sriracha.
      • These are perfect when you have leftover tortillas to use up!
    • Magic Smoothies
    • PB on toast
  • Lunches
    • Leftovers + 1 piece Dove Dark Chocolate + applesauce or Chobani yogurt

It was certainly a most successful cooking week!

Last Week’s Fitness:

  • Monday – Walk/Run on Treadmill – 26 minutes
  • Tuesday – Walk/Run on Treadmill – 35 minutes
  • Wednesday – Walk/Run on Treadmill – 45 minutes
  • Thursday – Elliptical in am or REST
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – Walk – LOST 8.15k walk
  • Sunday – PilatesRaked the yard – 1.5 hours 
  • 30-day Arm ChallengeOkay, I keep forgetting about this. I need to post it somewhere where I don’t forget after I’m done doing cardio. I’ve only done 3 days so far. I want to start over so I can do these always according to the plan.

~

After we had so much fun getting LOST in NE Minneapolis earlier this summer, Rob wanted to go again. It wasn’t the same, but it was absolutely wonderful to be walking around in the cool, fresh, fall air! We finished the LOST Looking Glass Station 8.15k, but without a care for time. As I brought running back into my fitness routine, my back started to hurt again. I decided to back off. I’ll be sticking to walking for a while.

103Instead, we took the opportunity to stop and smell the roses enjoy the views and take photos. It was a brisk, but gorgeous day. I was in an incredibly good mood! I skipped ahead, climbed up on benches and tree stumps and took photos of the beautiful fall colors.

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We crossed the Stone Arch Bridge and happened upon the Mill City Farmers Market just as they were closing up.

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We walked St. Anthony Main and then followed the lower trail just like we did the last time, climbing, hiking and avoiding obstacles. However, unlike last time, Rob didn’t find any Liberty Nickles…

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We really do enjoy living so close to Minneapolis… and feeling like you can still enjoy nature on such an Urban Walk.

077But there was something strange I found as we rounded a block to make our way to the Bulldog NE for lunch:

101Would you discard your broken heels in the middle of the sidewalk?

The Bulldog NE was packed for the U of Minnesota Gopher football game, but we managed to find a seat at the bar. We split a lunch of some sliders and truffle tots. And I tried a new-to-me beer – a DOUBLE Black Ale, made by a local brewing company, Indeed. We just had to look it up online at Beer Advocate to learn more about it!

It was another great walking date day with my husband. It was truly a similar event to last time, but it definitely wasn’t the same. But I still loved every moment of it.

Now for this week…

Food:

  • Dinners
    • Monday – Mexican Cabbage BowlIt’s what I made last week for the girls, just with beef to make it Rob-friendly. I’ll skip the avocado salsa, too.
    • Tuesday – Pork Chops this way – with either green beans or this Cabbage with Braised Onions dish on the side
    •  Wednesday –  Cinnamon Beef Stew from Well Fed
    • Thursday – Leftovers
    • Friday – Poker Night
    • Saturday – Leftovers for lunch, dinner out
    • Sunday – Leftovers for lunch, dinner out
  • Breakfasts
  • Lunches
    • Leftovers or soup + 1 piece Dove Dark Chocolate + applesauce or Chobani yogurt

Fitness:

  • Monday – Walk on Treadmill 
  • Tuesday – Walk on Treadmill 
  • Wednesday – Walk on Treadmill
  • Thursday – Walk on Treadmill
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – Go for another Walk? (Weather permitting.)
  • Sunday – Walk on Treadmill
  • 30-day Arm Challenge – I really want to do this. I just keep forgetting. I need to put the schedule by the treadmill instead of on my bedroom mirror.

I never thought going on a walk with my husband would be my favorite sort of date, but I’m so glad that this year, I discovered that it is.

What is your idea of an ideal date?

Cheers~
Carrie

Happy Halloween BarkBox

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My photos for this month’s BarkBox, turned out all dark and scaaaarrrrryyyy!

There’s are good reasons for this.

  1. Halloween is approaching and such was the theme of the box.
  2. It was dark when we opened it. {But it’s dark when I leave for work and pretty much dark when I get home this time of year, though.}
  3. I’m not a professional photographer and, quite frankly, didn’t put in the effort in improving these photos. No apologies.

Here were the October BarkBox content for our “small dog” box:

Pet Qwerks Chevron Bear – I’m sorry. I have to call this toy Bucky the Badger! It looks so much like the Wisconsin Mascot! I got approval for this name change from my Michigan Alumnus husband. Of course, in true Shamrock-style, it was the first thing stolen out of the box. I had to retrieve it to get the photo below. It was a nice little birthday gift for him since he turned one on Wednesday. Happy Birthday, Shamrock!

photo 5Superior Farms Lamb Ear (not pictured) – Unlike Shamrock, who loves the toys, Sophie always sniffs out a chew from the box. Since Sham was already so busy with Bucky, I immediately unwrapped the lamb ear, to find TWO inside. SCORE! One for each of the pooches! Sham’s interest in his lamb ear helped me to retrieve Bucky for that photo above.

Your Dog’s Diner Mutt Meatball Treat Mix – What does that even mean? According to the instructions, you mix this with 1 lb of grand beef and an egg just like you would to form regular meatballs, and bake. Sounds like a bit of work to me for some dog treats! But maybe I should make them this weekend. I didn’t make a puppy cake, like I’d thought about doing for Sham’s birthday. Maybe we can celebrate with some meatballs. After all, I did make some for ourselves this week and we did not share with the pooches!

photo 2Baker’s Best Autumn’s Harvest Treats – There is rarely a complaint about treats in the box. In fact, there was only one time when Sophie was reluctant to take one, but ended up eating it anyway. This was not that time. 😉

photo 3Fruitables Dog Treats Share Pack – I almost shrieked with delight when I saw these! They are Halloween treat bags for dogs!!!! Perfect if you have any doggie trick-or-treaters (or should we say tricks-for-treaters?!) who stop by on Halloween. And we love the Fruitables-brand treats. Okay, so I’ve never eaten them, but they are some of the best-smelling dog treats ever. Nothing’s worse than handing your dog over a smelly treat or two and then having to wash your hands more than thoroughly so that you don’t smell like said treat. These treats are actually steering me in the direction to maybe even like Halloween.photo 1I have mixed emotions about dogs getting dressed up for Halloween. Part of me thinks that it is so cruel. But when I see the cutest costumes, the other half makes me think it’s so adorable! We dressed Sophie as a butterfly last year for the Spooky Tails 5k. She absolutely hated it. It was the first time I had ever dressed a dog in costume.

Look at my antennae!

Look at my antennae!

But Halloween might actually be fun if we dressed the pooches and walked through the neighborhood. Sham would bark at every kid and get pretty scared though, I’d imagine…

How about you? How do you feel about doggie costumes?

**Get $5 off your first month of BarkBox when you subscribe here. It is so much fun for our pooches and makes the perfect gift!**

Cheers~
Carrie

Italian Done Right: Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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Sounds simple, right? Maybe even boring.

To be honest, I never really made meatballs before those Award Winning Poker Meatballs… you know, the ones stuffed with cheese? What, I may have made some another time a while back when we had friends over and did a holiday potluck… If I remember correctly, they were really big.

In any case, at our last Cooking Class at Saga Hill, the theme was Italian Done Right. The premise was that although it can be satisfying, places like Buca di Beppo and Cossetta’s aren’t truly Italian. So one of the things we learned was to make meatballs in tomato sauce.

This dinner is one of those high-protein, minimally processed ones you can be proud of.

At Saga Hill, Chef Marianne likes to teach the “method” rather than a recipe. She sends the recipes out after the class via email. After following the pretty easy approach in class, I was determined to action those meatballs again right away for Rob. I pulled up the recipe she sent and realized that it was actually quite different from what we did in class!

This made me realize that it was more important that I learned the method… and that there was room to improvise. I could take that method, along with her tips and tricks that I learned in class and use the recipe as a guide. Then I just used what was in my pantry… and followed my gut.

meatballs

Here is the Rob-Approved-Keeper-Recipe that I created. He didn’t want me to change a thing for next time, so I thought I’d make an account of exactly what I did so that I don’t improvise next time!

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • garlic, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained {I used the kind with onions and garlic.}
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c panko (or bread crumbs)
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme (about 1-2 Tbsp)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan
  • shredded parmesan for garnish (optional)

Method:

  • Heat large skillet with olive oil.
  • Add diced onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent.
  • Add crushed red pepper and stir in quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • Stir in canned tomatoes (with juices!)
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low to simmer.
  • In a medium bowl, beat one egg.
  • Mix panko into beaten egg mixture.
  • Add meat, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and parmesan.
  • Mix well with hands so that seasonings are well-distributed. Add water if needed to get desired texture.
  • Form into about one-inch diameter balls (maybe a little less). I yielded exactly 30 balls.
  • Stir the sauce before adding balls because you won’t be able to stir it for a while.
  • Add balls directly to simmering sauce and increase the heat.
  • Turn balls often and continue to until cooked through. (You may have to sacrifice a ball or two to check!)
Keep turning those balls!

Keep turning those balls!

When meatballs are just about cooked, you can stir the sauce with the intact balls to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Serve alone or atop pasta or spaghetti squash. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. (Optional)

Ta da!

Get in my tummy!

Some tips I learned from class:

  • Traditional Italian meatballs call for a combination of beef, pork (sausage) and veal, but you can work with whatever you have.
  • It’s best to use a combination of raw and canned tomatoes.
  • Use whatever herbs you’d like – oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, etc.
  • Use 1 egg per lb of meat.
  • If you are tearing bread to create breadcrumbs, soak them in a little bit of milk.
  • Don’t make your meatballs too big. Make an “O” with your thumb and forefinger. That should be about right.

I like that I usually have these kinds of ingredients on hand, so it’ll be an easy go-to “recipe” that Rob will love!

What is your favorite meat combo for meatballs?

What herbs do you like to use?

Cheers~

Carrie

Beverly Hills & Maison 140

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Yes, our week-long vacay to Cali has been spewed at you completely out of order. So where did Beverly Hills come in? After Pasadena, but before Temecula. We spent one night in a beautiful boutique hotel called Maison 140, which I found on TripAdvisor.

What we learned is that, apparently, Beverly Hills pretty much shuts down on Sunday. That was our day there. I picked our hotel based on its (walking) distance from various restaurants. A couple that we considered were the Crustacean {for the Garlic Noodles we saw on The Best Thing I Ever Ate} and La Dolce Vita for the Italian food and the ambiance.

But both were closed on Sunday.

#planningfail

But we did still have a great time. Our hotel was in walking distance of Rodeo Drive. Walking down that street felt foreign to me. Not just because of all the high end shops, but because we didn’t hear any English spoken. I couldn’t pick out any celebrities, but then again none of the well-dressed shoppers were speaking any English. I am not sure why that surprised me…

Every girl from my generation remembers the scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian’s friend writes “Reg Bev Wilsh” on a pizza box with a tube of lipstick to remember where her friend is staying. Well, we were instructed by our friend to just go there… And to have an exorbitantly priced $20 glass of wine and people-watch.

So we did.

The Beverly Wilshire {Note: It is now owned by Four Seasons} is located on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, also walking distance from our hotel. We hoped to take a seat out on the patio, street-side, because it was a gorgeous day. However, there were no tables to be had. As we made our way toward the door to step inside, I heard Rob gasp. He saw this:

044This Batventador Lamborghini was parked on the side of the road. I find the little cones quite amusing. I wonder who owns it! Were they inside the building watching everyone gawk at it? The funny thing is that we actually ended up seeing four different Lamborghinis that day. Now, Rob is a car guy, so this was quite fun for him. In BH, Porsches, especially the Carerra, are so common that we started calling them Ford Focuses. “Oh, look! There goes another Ford Focus!” we’d say to each other – every time we saw one.

When I was finally able to pull Rob off the street, we stepped inside. There was no worry about a dress-code, really. Rob was wearing shorts and a nice shirt. I was wearing capris and a nice shirt. Maybe if we had been wearing sweats or something, it would have been different; but I didn’t feel out of place at all.

We strolled up to the bar and had a look at the menu. After all that, Rob just ordered a House Cab…

041She actually gave him a taste before she poured him a glass. He told me that it was the best House Cab that he’s ever had. Then she showed us the label – Iconoclast Stag’s Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa. Seriously? Who puts a wine from Napa on their menu as a “house” wine? Let alone, who puts one on their menu from a distinct vineyard? We were quite impressed. And while we were expecting it to be overly expensive, when we got the bill, it was “only” $15/glass. If only we had a glass of wine nearly this good for some of the $12 glasses we pay for back at home…

I went a little further into the menu book for my drink. The Pretty Woman cocktail caught my eye because it was made with St. Germain, which is probably my all-time favorite liqueur. But there was a pink version of the cocktail on the menu for Breast Cancer Awareness month that I chose instead:

Meyer Pretty

Meyer Pretty – house-made Meyer limoncello, vodka, Meyer lemon juice, St. Germain, pomegranate syrup & egg white – $17

Our total bill for those two drinks, with tip, came to about $40. But we enjoyed every sip. That is when we wandered around a bit to find a place to have a quick appetizer and perhaps another drink. We finally found a place open called Roni’s, which reminded me of a little neighborhood joint you might find in Europe. We each had a mediocre beer and some horrible poutine. They were probably the worst fries of my life. But we liked the vibe of the place and got to witness some strange interactions – including a request for $500 worth of twenty-dollar bills. The funny part is that it seemed like a regular occurrence.

I spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor and Yelp trying to find an open restaurant that would suit us for our dinner that evening. However, Rob was drawn to the menu of our hotel’s sister hotel that had a restaurant inside called Hush. We both just wanted a relaxing/lazy evening. It was close to our hotel and we didn’t have to think anymore about it, so I happily obliged.

But it turned out to be just a mediocre meal. We each ordered a cocktail that ran about $14 a piece. We started with the Mosaic Fries which sounded delicious. They were pretty good, as apparent by the photo of the remaining fries below…

Mosaic Pommes Frites Parmesan, Parsley & 8 Essence of Truffles

Mosaic Pommes Frites – Parmesan, Parsley & Essence of Truffles – $8

I ordered a caprese salad because a salad just sounded soooo good. And with my love of tomatoes…

Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, 14 Avocado, Fresh Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oi

Caprese Salad – Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, Avocado, Fresh Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oil – $14

To be honest, the tomatoes weren’t that good, but I had no problem finishing this bad boy. Rob on the other hand, ordered something you’ll never believe he ordered – A BURGER! 😉

The Mosaic Burger Swiss or Cheddar Cheese with Spring Greens, Tomato, Char re d Red Onion 16 & Butter Pick le , Choi ce of Fries or House Made Chips

The Mosaic Burger – Cheddar Cheese with Spring Greens, Tomato, Chard, Red Onion & Butter Pickle {+bacon}

Again, a decent burger, but we weren’t wowed. Let’s just say that the menu looked more intriguing than the food was satisfying. And before we knew it, we spent $75 {before tip}.  At this point in the trip, we had already spent about twice as much money as we had planned. So we decided our best bet would be just to go back to the hotel room and relax.

I can’t ever remember a time when I just lounged in a hotel room and watched TV on vacation! It was so nice to do this for once! Rob was able to log some hours for work, too, because Internet was included in the room rate. The mini-bar provided us a half-bottle of wine and I sunk in to the most comfy-cozy bed and settled in for some mindless TV…

046I adored this bed so much that I didn’t want to get out of it. It was sooo much better than the one we about to sleep in for three nights at South Coast. Seriously, I still dream of this bed. The room was cute in general. The funny thing is that I did not know this when I booked the hotel, but it is French-themed! {Yeah, Carrie, it’s called the Maison 140. Duh.} Check out this sculpture in the room:

048My chip-fanatic husband wanted me to get the Doritos in the picture. He picked these up at Target in Pasadena because he’s never seen the Tapatio Hot Sauce flavored Doritos before.

I loved the adorable Frenchness of the entire place, including breakfast! Breakfast is not included with the room rate and parking is an extra 28 smackaroos. So when I saw online that I could get a package deal for parking plus breakfast for two people for just $24, I took it. The breakfast was continental, but included croissants and pain au chocolat!

054Okay, so not the best pastries I’ve had… but still… There was strong, French Press coffee!!!

053Needless to say, Carrie was a well-rested happy girl departing Beverly Hills that morning…

057What else did I like about Maison 140? I loved that we were pretty much in a little, quiet residential neighborhood but still in walking distance of what we wanted to do that we needn’t drive anywhere. That was huge in Rob’s book, too.

How do you choose a hotel when you go on vacation?

Cheers~
Carrie