Thursday, September 1, 2011

Triple Threat..."The Tripel" in Playa Del Rey!

Great new place to "lubricate" and fill up in Playa Del Rey...The Tripel
Gastropubs seem to be the rage right now. The term "Gastropub" refers to a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food. We were SUPER impressed with both during our first visit at The Tripel. Now for the title of this blog "Triple Threat"...not so sure what the third factor is but it sounded good.

Created by the same people behind Hudson House in Redondo Beach...this is a winner too!

Many "Yelpers" had suggested the cheesy tater tots...they were high on my "must order" list...until our bartender/waitress gave the REAL low-down. Although she agreed they were good...and popular...she had better things in mind for us.

Great beers on tap...awesome cocktails!

We started with the Bellegems Bruin with Flanders Ale and the Peche Mel Bellini...both fabulous.

When it came time to order our waitress recited a list of what we NEEDED to taste during our first visit. She was right about ALL of them.

Warm Vine Ripe Tomatoes

First up was the Warm Vine Ripe Tomatoes. Her enthusiasm won us over and the flavors did not disappoint. Everything was super fresh and tasty.

Not much of a photo...Baked Potato Dumplings...YUM!

The Baked Potato Dumplings came covered in this gooey, yummy, cheesy sauce that was to-die-for. I can't recall the mix of cheeses but it was insanely good.

The Tripel Burger!
Wow for The Tripel Burger. This thing is dangerously good. Made with duck confit, pork, and aged beef with truffle pecorino and apricot out burger connoisseurs!

Rouge Et Blanc...with Lillet Blanc, Fresh strawberry puree, and Cava
No dessert that day but we DID order 2 more drinks for our bike ride home. Tommy had another great beer...I washed my lunch down with a nice Rouge Et Blanc. I loved both cocktails that day but preferred their Peche Mel Bellini.

Very cool decor!
Sumerian beer-making poem carved into the it.
Can't wait to come back...the next time we're feeling up for an 8 mile bike ride to get some food and drinks!

Not a bad ride home, huh?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Da Best Beach Bar...Da Conch Shack!

Welcome to Da Conch Shack...Providenciales, Turks and Caicos of the best!
I'm on a lifetime quest to find the best beach bars...all over the world. The task could be daunting but I'm up for the challenge.

I've been to several Caribbean islands over the last 20 years and this particular spot stands out for me. The fact that we had about 30 of our closest friends there with us at the same time didn't hurt...but even without that added bonus...Da Conch Shack is THE quintessential beach bar. Period.

Stunning Caribbean Decor surrounds a huge patch of sand with picnic tables for dining
It's laid back in style and cute as a button. Built in a U-shape with a huge patch of sand in the middle. That's where you can sit with your friends to munch down a few conch fritters before dancing (and drinking) the night away under the stars.

Front row seats to a beautiful ocean and sunset on one of the many picnic tables set up on the sand...cheers!

Rows and rows of gorgeous, polished conch shells line the sides of the can buy them as souvenirs.
After a few hours of taking in the beautiful setting on the beach we prepared for a long night of dancing and enjoying what Da Conch Shack had to offer.

View from my picnic table seat post sunset
Tommy and I...2 nights before our wedding...gettin' down on the dance floor
This bar should be in a movie...something like the 2012 version of "Cocktail" perhaps. It oozes that exact vibe that so many try to recreate...and usually fail.

The fun never ends!

Pretty, blue, island little things written on the walls and ceilings...details!

How cute is this place?

Even the bathrooms are kinda cute...interesting at least.

I'll be hard-pressed to find better...but excited to discover the equivalent!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hitting it Out of the Park...The Strand House in Manhattan Beach

The Strand House in Manhattan Beach...Captain's Daughter cocktail

All hail Michael Zizlis! Between consulting chef Neal Fraser (known for BLD, RIX, and Grace, also winner of Iron Chef  in 2005), executive chef Travis Lorton (known for Gjelina in Venice Beach), and pastry chef Seth Caro (from "Top Chef: Just Desserts")...Mr. Zizlis has formed one heck of a team at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach. This new establishment is an obvious labor of love.

This past Sunday my husband and I walked in just 15 minutes after the doors opened for dinner. Since they are on a walk-in only basis until after Labor Day we figured it might be the only way to avoid the swarm of people that can only be expected from such an anticipated event. Within an hour we realized our assumption had been we looked around and the entire room was filled with excited patrons.
Best seat in the house!

We started off with an absolutely mind-blowing "Hamachi Crudo"--Garcia Farms avocado, tomato seed vinaigrette, red alaea salt, chives
Hamachi Crudo....MUST ORDER
The flavors in this hamachi plate came in multiple waves of deliciousness! The pickled onions aren't in the description on the menu but I can't imagine this dish without them. This whole experience from start to finish is just simplicity at it's finest.

Along with the Hamachi we started with the steamed mussels, which is a dish that my husband loves.
Steamed Mussels
Though I usually prefer clams to mussels I thought these were great. This version was different than most mussel dishes I've had and the broth was zesty and fresh.

Next up was the best heirloom tomato salad I've EVER had...with burrata that tasted like a stick of warm butter. Unbelievable.
Heirloom Tomato Salad--greens, balsamic onions, Burrata, avocado...MUST ORDER

This dish mixed with the ocean view...heaven
My husband's main dish was the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin. One word for this...WOW. The Cider Sage Sauce is too good for words. The best pork dish I had ever tasted before this one was a pork chop at Mario Batali's Babbo in NY City. The Strand House pork loin dish is on the same level...could never choose between the two.
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin--rustic mashed potatoes, escarole, cider sage sauce...MUST ORDER
My main dish was the House-Made Chicken Sausage Pizza. Holy cow this was a treat. Our waitress had suggested it and since I knew that pizzas were a big thing at Gjelina (Travis Lorton's past restaurant) I went for it.
House-Made Chicken Sausage Pizza--asparagus, Midnight Moon goat cheese, fennel...MUST ORDER
Just so you know, I don't usually have as many "MUST ORDER" captions...the food is just that good.

We decided to go all out that in addition to the 5 dishes that we had we also targeted 2 sides. The Roasted Brussel Sprouts and the Potato Gratin. Deeeeelish!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts--brown butter, maple, caraway seed...guess what? MUST ORDER
Potato Gratin--caramelized onions, bacon, gruyére...and again...MUST ORDER
The cocktails are designed by the pastry chef Seth Caro. Very inventive list...can't wait to try more. The two that we had were the Captain's Daughter and the Tom Hudson.
Captain's Daughter--Snow Leopard vodka, Persian cucumber, thai basil, lime juice
Super refreshing Captain's Daughter...before the masses arrived
The Tom Hudson--Tanqueray gin, fresh young coconut water, lime juice,
aromatic bitters...cheers to our front row seats staring out at the MB pier!
As if I haven't been enthusiastic enough about this new haunt...there's more praise coming. Our waitress Alexis (who was extremely knowledgeable and basically ordered our entire meal for us) recommended one last thing. She referred to this as the pastry chef's "baby". I had been studying the dessert menu earlier and had my fingers crossed that this suggestion would be the intriguing "Butterscotch Donuts" item. Indeed it was.
Butterscotch Doughnuts with a hot, liquid butterscotch center, served with powdered bacon and toasted peach jelly...MUST MUST MUST ORDER!!!
This takes the top spot as THE BEST DESSERT EVER...for me at least. If I could insert a picture of the heavens opening up and shining upon this dish I would...I did the best job I could (above).
I have been dreaming of this plate of heaven every night since.

For an obvious don't walk. The Strand House has only been open for less than 2 weeks and they are already hitting it out of the park.
Our walk home...gorgeous!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stuck in "Limbo"...Turks and Caicos

The back of my horse "Limbo's" head...swimming in the ocean in Provo, Turks and Caicos

I can still summon to mind the exact moment that I discovered that in Turks and Caicos, you can take a horse for a quick jaunt into the Caribbean Sea. Pure ELATION would be the best description for my response. Suddenly my obsession with meeting the swimming pigs in the Exuma Cays, (Bahamas) had been surpassed by this novel idea.
Swimming pigs in the Bahamas...courtesy of
Since we were planning on having our wedding on the island in May I began planning our itinerary...first on the list: Provo Ponies!

After tallying up the list of friends who would be willing to take the plunge with me I hopped onto the website and made our reservations. Yippee! Plans for the dream excursion were now in full swing.

Unreal beauty of the Provo waters

Nearly ten minutes after booking the deposit on my credit card one of my girlfriends sent me a text saying that she'd like to be taken off the list. She had just received an uber-negative review about another of our friend's past experience on one of these sweet little ponies.

"Nonsense!" I exclaimed. "Nothing can happen to you on a pony ride in the ocean. That's ridiculous. Don't be such a chicken."

As the story goes, she decided to come along...and I got my wish....boy did I. Well, you know what they say...

A quick pose with my "Man of Honor" before my long-awaited fantasy ride
From the moment that I was paired up with my horse "Limbo" otherwise known as "Bossman" I knew that his name was no joke. As he began displaying major signs of unrest and what they called "excitement" I asked for a new horse...pretty please?...but my guide just assured me that he was "one of the best" and that I'd be "just fine".

The other girls getting prepped for the big event
"Oh wait...there are just a few things that we need to tell you about "Bossman" before we ride...he's kind of the leader and tends to get upset and will kick or bite if any of the other horses get too close. He also likes to be in front of the pack...just make sure that he gets what he wants and everything will be perfect."

The other sweet, calm, horses waiting to be mounted
Wait...what??!! Suddenly the happy visions dancing through my head became a terror-filled nightmare. I had never heard anything like this before. I'm BEGGING you to put me on a new horse!

"Oh no, not necessary at all. He's a wonderful horse. We put young children on him all of the time. Okay, everyone ready? Let's go! Giddyup!"

The butterflies in my stomach were turning into full-blown seagulls. I was absolutely certain that I was going to die...two days before my dream Caribbean wedding.

Everything...up until now...had been WAY too perfect. I now had a firm belief that this would be my ultimate demise.

As we traveled down the (excruciatingly long) dirt trail that had lead so many others to that oceanic escapade that I had once dreamed of...I became riddled with anxiety. The other horses kept coming too close to Bossman...and he did not like it.

Another added bonus was the stable dog that decided to embark upon the journey with us.
Alive and well...for now
It seems that this pooch had an insatiable lust for chasing cars...every car that would drive past us on this never-ending road. Each time this pup swerved in front of the car tires my stress levels went through the roof.

This fantasy joyride through the Caribbean Sea had become the expedition to hell.

I tried to convince myself that everything would be better if we could just reach the ocean. The open waters would enable us to have our space. Then we could float through the clear blue waters with no distractions from all of the other stallions and fillies.

Why is it taking SO LONG to get there? Will I survive long enough to make it?

Just when I thought my heart could take no more...thank you GOD...we spotted that almighty, boundless, and ethereal ocean! 

My saving waters!
As we plunged into the sea my fear began to melt away slowly. I could barely take in the beauty that was surrounding me.
I couldn't get my camera out of my fanny pack (yes we wore fanny packs for the ride) fast enough!

Smiling for the camera

But of course that couldn't last forever. Limbo made a quick decision to slip so deep into the ocean that he could barely touch down on the sand below. All of the others were sauntering through with only their calves submerged in the salty waters.

That's me with my arm up...disappearing into the deep blue

I on the other hand, was completely saturated almost waist high...wondering if my horse was going to make it out of this alive. He was panting, groaning, and making a loud choking sound. The guide assured me that THIS TOO was normal behavior for good old Limbo. Well, that's reassuring. At least he's not going to die today.

Great at faking it...taking a moment from my heart palpitations for another photo

When all was said and done I ended up with a boatload of gorgeous pictures. I guess it was worth it ;)

Yep...still sinking

Me on the far left...thinking "wouldn't it be nice to have a normal ride like the others"?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Inn of the Seventh Ray...Worth a Drive Any Day

The entrance to this lovely little place tucked away in the woods (during the day).

After having dinner at this magical restaurant over five years ago with three of my (then) single friends we all exclaimed, "I'm coming back here when I'm in love"! Not that you have to be in order to come here...but it's definitely romantic.

Well, I've been in love for several years husband and I FINALLY made our way to share this experience together.
A toast to our arrival

We were lucky enough to nab the seats next to the fountain

From what our waitress told us there have been a few chefs to pass through in the last few years...lots of menu changes. Whatever they've was a huge improvement. This time around I was not only blown away by our surroundings and the overall feeling that you get from visiting this hideaway...but I truly enjoyed the food.
Pretty statues like this are found all around the courtyard...a very Zen feeling
Even the menus are pretty!
We started with the Crispy Jaime Farms Squash Blossom with Goat Cheese, Balsamic, Smoked Sea Salt, and Espelette (chili pepper). I probably wouldn't need to order it again although it was very creative...we actually ate flowers!

Along with the blossoms came our Beef Tartare (65° Egg, Soy Mustard, Paprika Remoulade, Capers, Espellete Coated Fingerling Potatoes and Crispy Toast).

Now this was my very favorite dish of the evening! Beef tartare is not for everyone...but if you like HAVE to try this one. Since Saturday I have found myself thinking about it randomly and salivating.
Above left...squash blossoms...lower right...a beautiful presentation of beef tartare, toast, egg yolk, and potatoes...gorgeous!

I'm not a person who orders chicken when I go out to eat...but something about reading "Chicken Breast with Achiote Essence (Soft Polenta Crème Fraîche, Spring Pea tendrils, Turnips, Roast Beets, Ramps, Pimento Granulate and Himalayan Rock Salt)" made me interested in this version. Fortunately for me the waitress urged me to go with those instincts. It was tender, flavorful, and one of the more interesting chicken dishes I've had.
The polenta, beets and rock salt really added to the unique flavor
 Tommy ordered the Crab Angel Hair Arrabiatta with Blue Crab, Trio of Basil, Tomatoes, Chili flake and Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil...which was fabulous.
Lots of blue crab and excellent flavor

If you happen to live near Los Angeles...or plan on visiting...this is a destination that should be added to your "list". There is no other place like least in Southern California. A gorgeous restaurant covered in lights, with amazing food, all tucked away in the middle of the woods. Ahhh-mazing.

Such a pretty setting we could stay all night

Above the main seating area

Another beautiful statue

A truly gorgeous place

The front lights

Pretty drive home down PCH