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Lily’s French Café & Bar in Venice

9 Feb

So, I went to Lily’s last night for a little dinner action.
Abott Kinney was a buzz on this particular Thursday night, with high falootin’ Venec-ian bohemians sneaking in and out of restaurants as I was wondering into Lily’s. What struck me about the décor: It was like a French Bistro that got hit by Pollock, only he wasn’t using a paint brush, he was using whole cans of paint, and throwing them about the walls haphazardly. But who cares about ambiance. Let’s talk food!

We had seared tuna salad on some lovely cabbage and other shrubberie, nice vinaigrette dressing…also had a beet salad complete with endive, walnuts (candied of course) and just enough blue cheese. Mains were beef Bourgenione, and Jen had roasted veggies with Quina…I know, who orders roasted veg with Quinoa? It was actually amazing! And the wine: I started with a glass of Sav Blanc from Bordeaux, crisp, with a bit of fruit. I also had a glass of St Emilion from the Bordeaux region. Big stinky, earthy red. Jen had a glass of Cotes du Rhones, which I actually liked the most.

The best part of the dining experience? We got 30% off using my membership through Village Vines.

See you next time.


R+D Kitchen: Santa Monica

1 Sep

The Business Lunch!

I’ve decided to bypass the regular fare or ‘the written word’, and instead, today, I present an in-action review of the R+D Kitchen:

R+D Kitchen
1323 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 395-3314

Was this useful?  Please comment!

Shishkebab, Shnishkebab.

27 Aug

A very good friend of mine, Gary, cooked an impromptu BBQ last night – and the main course was (you guessed it!) – Shishkebab!

It was a fine meal. As a rule, I’ll never turn my nose up at food, I appreciate all types, but I was infinitely more interested in the conversation about his Pizza Disaster that took place in Catalina Island this past weekend (apparently he took one bite and called it quits on the entire pie!).

As we packed it in, and were cleaning up, he noted: “Those Shishkebabs weren’t all that great”.  I pondered, and remarked that “With Shishkebabs, you’re really setting yourself up for a fall”.  (Did I just think something original?)

On further thought (clearly I have very little going on in my life), here’s the issue: Shishkebabs of the Chicken and Beef variety are really tough to get right (especially the Kirkland Costco brand – or American style).  Here are just three reasons to stay away from store bought Shishkebabs:

1.) Juice Retention (or lack thereof!) – The deadly sin is that the Chicken and Beef is cut into pieces.  Right away, you can kiss any juice-retention in the meat: Goodbye!  As soon as you get those suckers off the grill, any juice left in the meat just escapes.  I’m such a fanatic about juice retention that I cook chickens ‘whole’ on the grill, and ensure that a steak that comes off the grill ‘rests’ for at least 5 minutes in tinfoil so the juices can redistribute.

2.) Crappy Cuts – The actual cuts of meat found in Shishkebabs are breast (for chicken) and some type of loin (for beef) – two of the most un-tasty cuts.  Again, where meat is involved, fat + juices must follow, to really please the pallet.

3.) Deceiving Presentation – Ever watch those nature shows where the fly is buzzing around this beautiful flower, and suddenly the pedals clamp down viciously crushing the fly (yes, I’ve even had time to watch Blue Planet).   The point is, Shishkebabs look REALLY good on the shelf in the Grocery section.  The way the peppers (the green and red colors just pop) and onions contrast the beef and chicken – it’s very pleasing to the eyes.  But it’s a deceiving ploy to trick your eyes into telling your brain to tell your arm to pick up the package and put them in your shopping cart!

Am I saying you can’t eat Shishkebab?  Negative. I’m not trying to start a holy war.

You can go to an appropriate Lebanese restaurant and get good Shishkebab (They really know what they’re doing with marinades, and nice cuts of meat, cooked just right), or if you’re properly trained in the skewering art, you may be able to pull it off yourself, but don’t think you can just grab a pack off-the-shelf and it’s going to be tummy bliss.

Now, if you really have a hankering for something on a stick, the other alternative is to make vegetable skewers (the vegetarian’s answer to shishkebabs).

Pictured here are veggie skewers, which complimented the chicken drumsticks served recently at our Venice beach BBQ one particular Saturday evening.

We had three varieties of peppers, nice red onion, mushroom and zucchini.

Preparation is a cinch.  Simply drizzle olive oil (use as much or as little as you’d like), add crushed pepper along with some nice salt, and a few herbs if you feel inclined.  They can be prepped ahead of time, or you can do them while the party’s heating up.

I try to cook veggies on the grill at high heat, so they come off al dente, with just a little bit of char.  The trick is to get them on and off quickly.  If you let veggies sit on the grill, or you cook them at low heat, they’re going to be reminiscent of Grandmas Green Beans (soggy).

Ok, I think that about does it.  If you have more comments on Shishkebabs, please feel free to add. (I enjoyed writing this, but I will tell you I’m glad it’s over – if I have to write the word “Shishkebab” one more time…)

In summary, I’m not hating on Gary’s Shishkebabs (sigh), I’m hating on Shishkebabs (ouch) in general – an American interpretation gone awry.

Happy grilling and good luck out there.

India Sweet House

20 Aug

India Sweet House

A sumptuous little find in the heart or West LA.

When you open up the dictionary to ‘hole-in-the-wall’, a simple picture of India Sweet House should be visible.  Actually, nobody under 25 has a clue what I’m talking about.  Let me try this again:  When you Wikipedia ‘hole-in-the-wall’, on your iPhone, while driving…

Anyway, when you walk upon the establishment, there’s barely a sign, and the place looks closed, until you peer into the window and you see a smattering of scatterbrained people sitting around eating off of Styrofoam and paper plates, resting on bright orange plastic trays reminiscent of those you would see in the high school cafeteria.

Let me stop right here and take you on a slight ‘aside’.  There are two surefire signs that food in a particular establishment has a better than average chance at being good:

1.)    If you walk into a fancy restaurant and the Maître’d  tells you (while scowling) that your reservation is not for 20 minutes, and to come back later…you’re in for a good meal. (This actually happened at Sushi of Gari in NYC).  Needless to say, it was the best Tuna I’ve ever had.

2.)    If the place looks like a dump, and the patrons consist of a Motley Crue, you’re probably in for a good damn meal.

3.) If they accept checks as form of payment, you guessed it, good meal (this is foreshadowing).

I approached the deli style counter, where there were no menus and only a sign on the wall with some Vegetarian dishes (no meat here).  As I tried to decipher the print on the menu, which was a holdover from the 80s, I couldn’t help notice a sign besides it, which read: Cash or check only.  Really?  These guys would take a check!?  To me, that signage was worth the trip alone.

Anyway, I was busting for a pee, so I immediately asked to use the washroom.  It took me about three attempts (You may think based on my Spelling and Grammar that English is my second language.  It’s my first language. I don’t speak Indian), and a lot of squirming for the gatekeeper behind the counter to tell me to go back through the kitchen and on the left.

In the kitchen were about three generations of a family: Stirring he pots, sifting through rice in cookie trays, looking at me as if I was the first white man that had ever walked back there…

I sauntered back out to the counter and took a wad of bills out of my pocket and counted six one dollar bills.  I looked at the menu, which was all a la carte, and said “I really don’t feel like doing the math”.  I took the money, put it on the counter and asked the gentlemen for FOOD.  “Ok”, he said, “we have some combo for you”.

I sat at the restaurant style bench.  At this point I got to really take in my surroundings.  The actual dining area is about 100 square feet, or about nine tables.  At the back of the eating area, where you enter, there is a raised shelf about two feet off the ground.  On it is what can only be described as a cornucopia of miscellaneous crap that has accumulated over the years (A Mexican hat, paper napkins, some signs, take out wrappers, and tricycle).  I couldn’t love this place more.

Moving on, the guy behind the counter produced a tray of food from the kitchen, and places the tray on the deli counter, and says some words that aren’t English, and sound foreign to this planet in all honesty.  I catch a glimpse of his eye and he gives me a semi-nod, so I just up and grab the tray.  It’s filled with beautiful Naan, some Cauliflower concoction, dahl, and some other vegetable thing.  Then, there’s the rice, beautiful basmati, fluffy, filled with veggies and a little bit of Cumin.  Man do I love cumin.

I practically licked the four-compartment-Styrofoam-container.  But where was the water?  I see paper cups on the counter.  But no water in sight.  I ask the gentlemen at the counter, and he points to a beer sized refrigerator sitting on the floor…from which I produce a jug of water.  Thirst quenched – check.

I head out into the 95 F heat and drive back to the west side.  My palette, stomach and visual senses have been more than satiated.

P.S. If you want to see a couple Pictures, my man William is all over it.

The Beef was at Bora Bora this 4th of July

16 Aug

I just love unexpected surprises.  Especially when they’re about 20 lbs, in the form of beef.

This past 4th of July I got my hands on the biggest, priciest, hunk beef in Farlan Dowell’s short lived existence.

I had a few rib steaks sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked that evening for a pack of friends, when (lo and behold!) a neighbor of mine dropped off a present. It was a cooler with a 20lb 30-day-dry-aged-prime-rib-roast.

Apparently he cooks for an affluent family in Beverly Hills, and they weren’t going to be able to use it (cha ching!).

Just to give you a  few specifics here, end to end it almost covered the counter – I had to actually cut it up because it didn’t fit on the barbecue.

By the way, that’s a full sized cutting board on the left, and the piece of meat totally dwarfed it.

Here’s the specimen being cut into six individual rib steaks.

Check out that marbling!

I can’t really describe the smell of this meat.  It has a distinct smell given it was aged.  Some might describe it as gamey.  Care needs to be taken to cook these right, given the density of the meat, age and ridiculously thick cut.

Some might be shocked that these were cooked over a gas grill.  Tasty none-the-less. I’ll provide more information on cooking steak, but there are two essential qualities that “make an excellent steak”, they are: Quality of Meat and the Right Heat (I think I’ll trademark that).  For more information on cooking epic steak (as Matt likes to call it), see this link:  Click Here

Usually when cooking steaks, I’ll use only Montreal steak spice.  For this particular cut, given it was aged, and the meat was of the highest quality, I only put a dusting of salt and a bit of olive oil.

This next shot was courtesy of a good friend of mine – Lando – who prepared this particular piece, and photographed a nice “Bill the Butcher” shot.

We were left with six of these at the end of it (and an equal amount of empty red wine bottles).

So it was a great 4th this year.  As an aside, let me just say, as standard practice – it’s always a good idea to say hi to your neighbors.

Happy Eating My Friends.

The Chili Cookoff

14 May

I’ll likely have some commentary later on the Chili cookoff, but wanted to get some pictures up ASAP.

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