Friday, April 11, 2008

I love my TIVO HD!

Finally jumped on the TIVO bandwagon...it's great! I now no longer watch commercials and it has saved me soooo much time. And you know it, TIME = $$$

Saturday, April 5, 2008

BLT Steak

What a whimsical name for a restaurant! BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tournedell. He’s a New York chef and his concept is an upscale steakhouse with small share plates. Alex has a lot of employees that also works at this new restaurant as food runners and cooks. So obviously, we were VIPs and were totally taken care of!

This place is only 4 blocks away from where we live. It was only opened for a week or two and we got a reservation there one Saturday evening. I was looking forward to taking out my new birkin for a spin!

First impressions: They did a good job with the restaurant. They had way too many staff but I think they were just testing them out since most waiters in LA are also actors. The clientele that evening was the wealthy, well-dressed and mature crowd.

We were greeted by the manager and were seated at a very nice booth. Once seated, all the people that Alex knew started coming by to say “hi”. We ordered a crab cake and a tuna tartar for starters and rib-eye and filet mignon for our entrees. Once the orders were put in, without surprise, more food followed. They sent out sliced hamachi with citrus vinaigrette, colossal shrimp cocktail and a charcuterie platter. Most of the appetizers were good, the tuna tartar was nicely presented. They were all served on small plates (the concept) on small tables so that they could jam pack lots of people in the restaurant. Their shrimp cocktail was overcooked, tough and tasteless. That was the only disappointment.

The steak came out hot and with a nice char on it. They sent out a few more sides as well. We are stuffed again and even could take some food home for my lunch the next day! Like the concept, like the restaurant. It was fun and casual and I can see longevity in the restaurant. Chef Tournedell is aggressively opening more restaurants in the States so look out for one in your neighborhood!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The long-awaited dinner at The French Laundry

Commentary by Alex:

It has taken me 9 years to come back to the French Laundry, this time, with my wife. My first meal there was a lunch with a buddy of mine in October of 1999. With the weekend planned staying at Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma, we were in for a good start.

This was my belated birthday dinner from my wife. Our reservation was at 5:30pm on a Saturday–almost too early to eat…but what the hell, it’s the French Laundry!

We got all dolled up and just like anyone visiting the French Laundry, we took a picture before entering the dining room. We were seated on the main floor, by the window, over looking the garden that is also owned by Chef Thomas Keller.

Liz received her glass of bubbly and I got mine too…but sans the alcohol (organic apple cider), which was quite tasty! We both ordered the tasting menu, Liz informed the waiter of her allergies and dislikes. Right on the spot, our waiter was able to go through 9 courses to mix and match to her taste. The professionalism was noticed throughout the dining room. The food runner came with the famous amuse bouche (smoked salmon with crème fraiche in a sesame cone) and he was gleaming with pride. As expected, it was finished in 2 bites and our tastes buds were stimulated.

As the courses progressed, you see Chef Keller bombard his clients with the best of the best ingredients i.e. organic extra virgin olive oil, thousand-year-old sea salt, European butter etc. He also used his own line of china.

The whole meal experience was great, but I did find some flaws in some of the courses. Some courses needed a little bit more salt, a touch of acid etc. Compared to the meal I had back in 1999, it did not stand up to it. Maybe it is because I was young and naïve and now my palette has changed. I have been their public ambassador for the past 9 years until today. Is this meal in 2008 one of my top 5 meals? I don’t think so. We have dined at many 3-star establishments in France since then. But it was worth every penny for Liz as it was her first experience at the French Laundry.


French Laundry dining room


Thomas Keller's famous amuse bouche—
smoked salmon with crème fraiche in a sesame cone


Oysters and pearls

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dinner at Bistro Jeanty!

We have visited Bistro Jeanty on numerous occasions and it has always been consistent. They serve authentic French bistro food. Compared to some of the bistros we visited in Paris, it truly stands out. Bistro Jeanty is situated in the heart of Yountville and is always busy. You’ll find all the classics i.e. French onion soup, roasted bone marrow, steak frites, crèpe suzettes etc. We had a reservation at 7:30pm.

When we walked in, the restaurant was already bustling. Chef Philippe came out to say hi. He also sent out a house-cured pork belly with seared foie gras to whet our appetites. I ordered the French onion soup without the gratinée and Alex ordered the roasted bone marrow bordelaise for our appetizers. These were followed by a classic chicken coq au vin for me and a cassoulet for Alex as our entrees. By this time, we were stuffed!! The cassoulet could easily feed a party of 2.

The food at Bistro Jeanty was big in flavor, they had generous portions that would be perfect on a cold winter’s night. As I remember, they also have outstanding salads. Chef Philippe comes in every morning to make his vinegrette–it’s always tart, yet balanced.

Alex always recommends that restaurant to anyone visiting Napa Valley and we look forward to our next meal there!


Roasted Bone Marrow Bordelaise


(background) House-cured pork belly, lentils and pan-seared foie gras
(foreground) Cassoulet

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Latest Shoe SLURGE!!!!

The SEXIEST shoes on the face of the earth!

I love that my husband is so into shoes, he just got me the sexiest shoes on the face of the earth–the Christian Louboutin Very Prives in Red Kid/Black Calf!!! I am ecstatic!!! I haven't been able to do any work for the last 4 hours. Every 5 mins, I open my shoe box and secretly smile to myself...yes, I admit it!

For those who are looking to get a pair, get them...you won't regret it. They are 4.5 inches high but surprisingly very comfortable! I think it's because of the little platform. They are pretty much true to size too. These shoes are so classic and sophisticated and will never go out of style.

I can't wait till I get to wear them this weekend!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Urasawa...WOW.


Sublime...I just died and gone to heaven.

Check back later when Alex is available to do a commentary about this because I will not be able to do it justice.

Alex's commentary:
After many months of reading reviews and all the build up, we finally get a reservation! The concierge at the Beverly Hills hotel negotiated and begged for an availability. After the reservation has been finalized, the concierge warned me how tough the chef is. He has kicked out many patrons because they fail to mention their likes and dislikes. Liz was getting scared because she has many food limitations.

The place was really hard to find. There was barely a sign...just a small one that read "Urasawa" by the elevator. It is located on the 2nd floor, in the nicest area of Rodeo Drive. We were greeted by our server by name when we walked in. Upon walking in, we realized how small the room was and there was a deadening silence. The decor was very minimal, barely an ambience. Only 9 seats at the sushi bar and a small room for 4, although the don't use that room for guests, except for hanging our coats. There was only 1 guest when we arrived at 7pm. He was already half-way done with his meal.

All 3 of us felt really uncomfortable at first, definitely not your typical sushi restaurant. Once we sat down, I ran my hands over the table and felt how smooth it was. Oh yes, I read that he sands his bar down every night. There and then, I knew we were in good hands...let the adventure begin.

Hiro-san asked for our names and we were on first-name basis from there. He asked Liz if she had any dietary restrictions, she said she doesn't eat salmon roe, uni and dairy. His response was "You cannot eat here then." Oops...big booboo! Then a smile cracked from his face and she was relieved.

I am not going to go through every single course that we had because we were served 9 appetizers, 22 pieces of "you have only 10-second to eat" sushi, 2 deserts and a green tea.

All in all, although it was quite intimidating at the beginning due to the small size of the restaurant and the attention that is lavished upon us, once we got into the meal, the nerves slowly left and the meal was tremendously enjoyable. I will definitely come back!

Click here for lots of pics!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dim Sum at Sea Harbor Seafood restaurant

It is interesting as a Chinese growing up in North America, every city that we have lived in, after searching for the best Asian grocery store, the next thing is always the search for the best dim sum. We always compare the standards to Vancouver's dim sum.

After eating at many sub-par dim sum restaurants, we finally stumbled upon Sea Harbor Seafood restaurant. It is the closest thing to what you would find in Vancouver, i.e. Fisherman's Terrace in Richmond.

What should one look for in a dim sum restaurant, you may ask?
I always look for:
  • quality ingredients
  • fresh seafood
  • "melt-in-your-mouth" dough
  • innovative and modern dishes
  • attention to details i.e. de-veined shrimp in dumplings
  • quality of their broth i.e. sharks' fin dumpling soup
  • knife skills i.e. finely sliced scallions
At Sea Harbor, they have a few dishes that they have pretty much perfected like their self-acclaimed "best in the world" mini baked BBQ pork bun, all of their shrimp dishes i.e. shrimp dumplings, shrimp rice rolls etc., steamed daikon cake, pork ribs in black bean sauce, braised chicken feet, glutenous rice with mushrooms and diced chicken, fried chicken "knees", and seafood/lobster congee. One of my favorite things to order at dim sum is the sharks' fin dumpling soup, however, sad to say, it did NOT meet my standards. Their steam BBQ pork bum is consistently bad because the meat always tastes like it has been oxidized. They have foie gras wonton on the menu which I will not ever try as I know how much foie gras costs and why mess with the classic wontons. I am not a big fan of Chinese desserts but I have tried their egg tarts a few times and it is always warm, flaky and delicate. Service is your typical Chinese restaurant, it is not consistent. You have to an extreme VVIP before they will even offer up their XO sauce...sometimes we ask for it, and the waiters "pretend" not to even hear us and just bring us the regular chili oil. What's the big deal? Oh well, we have not climbed the VIP ladder yet. Although we got seated right away once when there were like 500 people waiting for a seat (there is usually a line up out the door on the weekend).

In closing, Sea Harbor has hit my soft spot for dim sum. They are good compared to all the other dim sum restaurants in LA. They also have another branch in Richmond, by the same name. But if I were in Vancouver, I would ONLY go to Fisherman's Terrace!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel

Seldom does Alex get Sundays off...but he did this Sunday and so he decided to take me to the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge for Sunday brunch!

Yay...I am soooo excited coz I LOVE Sunday brunch! We got there and were promptly seated in the garden booth. Why? Because we are VIP and we roll like that...LOL. I had my morning mimosa and Alex had his double espresso. Then our chef du jour, Chef Dan Olson came out to say "hi". We ordered from the 3-course brunch menu but Dan decided to kick it up a notch and as usual, sent us out some really delicious courses!!

So for our first course, we got a very decadent and precise poached egg (to be exact-63.9 celcius for 45 mins) with luxurious toppings of osetra caviar, balik salmon, poached lobster medallions, shaved perigord truffles on micro greens, double-shucked peas and prosciutto, truffle purée, creme fraiche and shaved chives. Oh yah, don't forget the extra cute and mini brioche toast! They were sooo heavenly!

After enjoying this luxurious course, out came our "real" first course. I guess that was just the amuse...mmmm...Mine was the tuna tartar, sweet mango, sesame-infused seaweed salad and wonton crisps.

Alex had the crab cake, velouté of cauliflower, vegetable á la greque, and toasted Marcona almonds.

By this time, we were almost full...and running out of time. We had a day spa retreat scheduled for 1:15pm and it was already 12:20pm. We were supposed to be at the retreat 1/2 hour early. Oh well, we still wanted to eat. So next came our main courses. I had the linguini pomodoro and it was just supposed to be pasta and tomato sauce but since we were "VIP" I got hooked up with some shrimp and scallops...ooOOooOOooo la la!

Alex's main course was very extravagant BUT scary. He ordered the steak tartar (freshly ground tenderloin tip) which featured table side service. He likes his tartar mild with extra anchovies. For one to eat straight up steak tartar is a little much, so it also came with toast points and some really crispy and old school french fries.
OMG...we are so full!! BUT I had to have this waffle that Alex has been telling me about. It's the true yeast-risen Belgium waffle. It is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. When you cut into it, you can hear that "crisp" sound. It came with fresh berries and the Beverly Hills hotel's own maple syrup.
Everything was fabulous...compliments to the chef!! I had to pack my pasta for my Tuesday's lunch as I was WAY tooooo stuffed. Live to eat or eat to live, you be the judge.

Now off to the spa!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shopaholic Makes A Movie!!

Given the success of Bridget Jones' Diary and any number of other "chick flicks" based on chick lit, I'm ecstatic to say that a movie based on the Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic series is in the near future! I cannot wait to see a film all about Becky Bloomwood and her wacky adventures.

According to Sophie Kinsella's Vodcast, P.J. Hogan (Peter Pan, My Best Friend's Wedding) will direct Confessions of a Shopaholic, an adaptation of her bestselling novel. Jerry Bruckheimer will produce. Shooting begins this November and Isla Fisher will play Becky Bloomwood. For those of us who don't know her, she is Sasha Baron Cohen's (yes, that's right, BORAT!!) wife and her last movie was in Definitely, Maybe with Ryan Reynolds.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Murakami Exhibition at the MOCA...part 2

OMG...I wrote soooo much about our meal at Daikokuya that I had to create a new post for the actual Murakami exhibition.

So the main reason for me wanting to go to the Murakami exhibition was due to the Exclusive Louis Vuitton Store at the venue! If you know me, I am the ultimate bag whore.

Anyway, back to the store. Unlike your regular Louis Vuitton Boutique, this one that is specially set up at MOCA features only products specially designed for the occasion by Vuitton and Murakami. The exhibition store will feature a new Murakami-designed 'Neverfull' bag with an LV Hands print and a round Monogram canvas coin purse with the same design. In addition to that, Murakami has also designed a Limited Edition diary/organizer/Agenda/Year Planner featuring a new character called Chibi Kinoko (Little Mushroom printed on Vuiton's signature Monogram Canvas, Monogram Multicolore (available in both Black and White). Alas, most of the items were already sold out as it was the last week of the exhibition. Lucky Alex...LOL!

So since there was nothing for me to buy at the store, I was going to be artsy and actually enjoy the art exhibition. Too bad photography was not permitted at the exhibit. However, I did manage to find someone else's blog which had really good photos of the exhibit. So the following photos are credited to Supertouch blog. Enjoy!

Murakami’s masterpiece: This giant beast is finished entirely in platinum leaf, officially making it the ultimate piece of art bling…

KaiKai and KiKi...they are the mascots for Takashi Murakami's company, Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.

Murakami created an alter ego named DOB, whose name was taken from a line made famous by the late Japanese comedian Yuri Toru that asked the existential question: Dobojite dobojite?, (Why? Why?) As the complexities of Murakami's examination of his own identity evolved, so did DOB, in painting and inflatable form, morphing from a strand of DNA to a balloon-like form with innocent eyes.

Lastly, Milk and Cream, a pair of multiple-panel paintings, accompany Hiropon and Cowboy. Each depicts a graceful arc of white fluid against solid pastel pink and green backgrounds. The grand stroke of fluid, be it milk, semen or paint, recalls the paint drippings of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack. At the same time, the foamy white fluid resembles the crashing waves of Edo-era printmaker Hokusai. The influence of woodblock printing and screen painting show Murakami's training in nihonga, a school that sought to revive traditional Japanese art forms. Murakami remixes modern Western art and traditional Japanese art, while denying the hierarchy of high "art" culture vs. low pop culture.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Off to the Murakami Exhibition at the MOCA...part 1

I am so excited to go to the exhibition of Takashi Murakami, the artist who popularized the Superflat style of modern art. Murakami's art appears on the limited collection Louis Vuitton handbags, Kanye West's Graduation album cover and in his recent music videos.

But before we hit the exhibition, a girl has to EAT! So my friend, Janet, and I head off to fill our bellies with some ramen. Yummmm...we went to Daikokuya which is only a stones throw away from the MOCA. This place has a reputation of being "one of the best ramens ever" in LA. We were seated quickly as it was still early. Usually, you will have to sign your name on this clipboard they have on the chair right in front of the entrance and wait for a seat. We made our orders and the food came out like lightning too! This is what we ordered:

Japanese green salad–this was included as we ordered a lunch combo. It is different from the regular japanese green salad that you may be familiar with. The dressing still has the citrusy flavor, however, I think there is a little bit of mayo and garlic in it as well. A very appetizing start to our meal!

Then came our gyozas which were buried in green onions. They really love their green onions here which you will see in all the other pictures.

By this time, we are craving our ramens...I can smell the fragrance of the pork broth so strongly as we were sitting by the bar. They were roasting off some pork as well, I think for the preparation of broth for the next day. I WANT MY RAMEN!

OK, the ramen was not ready yet so they brought out our fried rice–this is also part of the combo! It has their famous shredded pork in it. I didn't eat the fried rice because I am packing it for my lunch on Monday!

Finally!! Our ramen is here...So what makes Daikokuya ramen so good? Well, according to their website and menus, the ramen broth is made up of pork bones that are simmered nearly all day long along with some shoyu. They soak their hard boiled eggs and use tender cuts of pork with tons of green onions, sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts. MmMMMmmm...I put my face over this steaming bowl of ramen and inhale...it smells like heaven...LOL.

Janet insists that we have to show how yummy their pork is. It is soooo soft, it melts in your mouth like "buttah"...LOL...and don't forget the egg!

It was a great start to the day...except now I am too full to be walking around at the Murakami exhibition!

Monday, January 28, 2008

My latest mini-splurge: LANVIN ballet flats

WHY, you ask?
Coz every girl NEEDS a pair of LANVIN ballet flats!!

LANVIN ballet flats seem to be quite popular these days. Even though the flats were last years collection they are still the most sought out item. And why wouldn't they be? They are comfortable, they are colorful, they are absolutely gorgeous! And since they are flat - they make superb walking shoes!

My latest mini-splurge are on a pair of LANVIN ballet flats in white perforated calf leather. They are true to size and are OoO-sooo-comfortable (I feel like I am wearing nothing when I put them on). When I saw them, I was actually thinking of buying them and flipping them on eBay (which is my 3rd job...LOL). But after I brought them home, the more I look at them, the more I fall in love. So I think I am going to keep them and wear them for the Spring/Summer 2008 season.

Dinner Date at A.O.C. Wine Bar

Alex and I seldom have time to go out for dinner but we did on Saturday, Jan. 26 and I am so glad we did! We went to this great little tapas restaurant called, A.O.C.

This tight, bustling wine bar and tapas restaurant offers a vast array of fresh, flavorful, simple plates. Well-sourced Italian and Spanish ingredients, a wood-burning oven, and a carefully selected cured meat and cheese selection provide the perfect accompaniments to their 50-plus wines by the glass. An L.A. legend, expect a wait or make reservations, but “worth it” is a definite understatement when it comes to A.O.C.

We started off the night with a plate of charcuterie. We had speck with apples and arugula. Then we had the duck confit, friseé salad with grilled sour dough bread (from La Brea bread company). From the wood burning oven, we ordered the clams which were simmered in garlic and amontillado sherry. This was also served with bread, some very crusty french garlic bread...yummy! I think the clams were my favorite dish-they are highly recommended! After that, we had salt cod fritters on a citrus salad. I didn't enjoy this too much as the texture was a little mushy. The last course was the skirt steak with roquefort butter. But obviously my darling husband asked them for the butter to be on the side coz you know me and dairy! :P The waiter then came with a rabbit ragoût with dijon, chestnuts and tarragon (we didn't order it, it was compliments from the chef). I didn't eat that one coz to me, rabbits are pets and they are too cute to be eaten. Sorry to all the hardcore foodies out there! But Alex had it and he said it was OK.

We ended the night on a sweet note, Alex ordered roasted pineapples, almond cake with crème chantilly and I had the
chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise with gianduja mousse and salted caramel ice cream...mMmMMmmMm...how can you say no to that?!?! I always end the night with some chocolate dessert when I am out having dinner. In summary, the presentation of the desserts were not a focal point for the pastry kitchen but the flavor, texture and taste were bang on.

I would totally recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves food. It has a romantic atmosphere even though it can be quite cramped/crowded. We sat upstairs in the corner so it was perfect for us. I really love the "small plates/share plates" concept. It's a very intimate dining experience. I will definitely come back!

And oh, dinner for 2 without wine was about $50 per person. I think that is very reasonable for consistently FABULOUS food!