Category Archives: Restaurants

next door lounge

Bar at Next Door Lounge with barrel aged cocktails and a variety of  house made bitters.

Bar at Next Door Lounge with barrel aged cocktails and a variety of house made bitters.

Hollywood’s Next Door Lounge is a speakeasy with a lot going on behind the mysterious entry jockeyed by the well dressed doorman.  I was fortunate enough to be invited for an evening of indulgence which began with a whiskey tasting hosted by the lounge’s head bartender Zachary Henry. After, inquiring about the barrel aged cocktail program which I noticed on the menu. Zac proudly sampled me on each of his creations most of which are made with housemade bitters and aged in oak barrels to balance and enhance flavors. They currently have 8 barrel aged cocktails on the menu and to be honest I didn’t dislike any of them. Delicious!  If your not in the mood for a true cocktail (a bittered sling) the bartenders here will customize a tipple to meet every palate and mood.  I do love that the barrel aged cocktails are actually true cocktails by definition as apposed to punch like you see on so many other “cocktail” menus.

Whiskey tasting at Next Door Lounge

Whiskey tasting at Next Door Lounge

Oh lord this can't end well...

Oh lord this can’t end well…

Next Door Lounge currently boasts 8 barrel aged cocktails and they're all good. I know because I tried them all!

Next Door Lounge currently boasts 8 barrel aged cocktails and they’re all good. I know because I tried them all!

The drinks are well crafted, delicious and pretty.

The drinks are well crafted, delicious and pretty.

Zac is more then the man with a garnish in his hand - he's the man with the plan and the visionary behind the bar program at Next Door Lounge.

Zac is more then the man with a garnish in his hand – he’s the man with the plan and the visionary behind the bar program at Next Door Lounge.

nextdoorlounge13

 

Why yes, I will have another...

Why yes, I will have another…

Next Door Lounge also hosts live music, murder mystery dinner parties, and comedy shows.

Next Door Lounge also hosts live music, murder mystery dinner parties, and comedy shows.

Comedy too!

Comedy too!

My advise is to check the calendar for Next Door Lounge because they are constantly hosting a variety of fun events. My wife and I still quote the comedian who talked about committing to yellow lights when making a left hand turn. Wish I remembered his name… too many whiskeys!

l’amande french bakery

I was recently treated to a tasting of the many offerings at L’Amande French Bakery in Beverly Hills. All I can say is this place is legit! From baguettes to pastries, hot sandwiches to cold and salads to deserts, L’Amande provides traditional French cafe dishes along with boulangerie specialties. The croissants are truly special requiring 72 hours of preparation to produce the perfectly thin, buttery, flakey layers. Don’t believe me? Check out these pics!

cinroll

Escargots aux fruits.

Cute, clean, modern interior with images of Paris and music to match.

Cute, clean, modern interior with images of Paris and music to match.

Pistachio croissant!

Pistachio croissant!

Papillote - flakey light crust with sweet fruit filling.

Papillote – flakey light crust with sweet fruit filling.

Specialty of the month - lavender scone with lemon custard spread. Yum!

Specialty of the month – lemon lavender scone with lemon custard spread. Yum!

Lavender scone.

Lemon lavender scone.

Super legit baguette - crusty on the outside/cloud like interior.

Super legit baguette – crusty on the outside/cloud like interior.

Perfectly prepared Croque Madame.

Perfectly prepared Croque Madame.

Quite possibly the best hot chocolate I've ever had and the only one prepared table-side!

Quite possibly the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had and the only one prepared table-side!

L’Amande French Bakery
9530 S Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 734-8922

2553 Pacific Coast Highway
Torrance, CA 90505
(310) 326-8980

baleen kitchen in redondo beach

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Photo by Gloria Plascencia
We recently visited the waterfront Baleen Kitchen in Redondo to check out their new menu. Fresh, holiday libations started off the evening! This is the Anti-Oxident Mojito with Appleton Rum, Pomegranate juice, muddled blackberry, raspberry and mint. Cheers!

Mezcalero - Mezcal, Aperol and strawberries.
Photo by Wade Hammond
Mezcalero – Mezcal, Aperol and strawberries.

duck
Photo by Wade Hammond
As a starter we all shared the decadent Duck Carnitas served with slaw and crepes. We had them earlier in the year and have been dreaming of them ever since. They are perfect for the holidays or any other time. I freakin love these things!

farro
Photo by Wade Hammond
The First Course was the Baleen Garden and was delicious. It was baby beets, farrow, tomato, quinoa, avocado, pea shoots, almonds with a soft lime vinaigrette. The texture of the farro, quinoa and almonds made this salad very unique. I would love to eat that for lunch everyday!

crab
Photo by Wade Hammond
The Second Course was a gorgeous Crab Salad full of avocado, haricot vert, and lollo rossa. They use both soft-shell crab and fresh Dungeness for this dish.

seabass
Photo by Wade Hammond
The Third Course of Roasted Black Sea Bass with roasted mushrooms and sweet potatoes in a fabulous aromatic broth was mind blowingly good!

waiter
Photo by Wade Hammond
Last but certainly not least, server Alain Inoue presented our Fourth Course – the GIANT “Tommy Hawk” Ribeye!

tommy-46Photo by Wade Hammond
The Tommy Hawk ribeye was quite impressive, tender, delicious and oh yeah – huge!

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Photo by Gloria Plascencia
As you can see, a fun night was had by all! Book your upcoming holiday celebration at Baleen Kitchen or stop in for happy hour with snacks and cocktails!

Baleen Kitchen is located in beautiful Redondo Beach, CA at The Portofino Hotel right on the harbor at 260 Portofino Way. (310) 372-1202

Christmas Day they will have their famous À La Carte Brunch and “Build Your Own” Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar from 6:30am-1:00pm. Then a 3-Course Dinner from 1:00pm-10:00pm adults $59 with wine pairing $70/$22 kids.

NYE They will have a fabulous 5-Course Dinner from 5:00pm-11:00pm for $85pp with wine pairing $110.

the strand house

First Course - Smoked Norwegian Salmon ‘Pastrami’ Brioche, Pickled Beets, Horseradish Snow, Mustard Greens

First Course – Smoked Norwegian Salmon ‘Pastrami’ Brioche, Pickled Beets, Horseradish Snow, Mustard Greens

I was fortunate to attend a 6 course dinner at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach The dinner creatively highlighted Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky’s inspiration from his stay in Norway. The event featured seafood flown in from Norway specifically for the event sponsored by the Norwegian Seafood Council. Often restaurants at beachfront locations don’t try very hard because they can rely on their gorgeous views to attract customers. I can’t express in words how surprised I was at the caliber of Hozinsky’s cuisine. Fortunately, I took pictures.

Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky of The Strand House

Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky of The Strand House

Amuse-Bouche - Nordic black cod, celery sauce, white truffle

Amuse-Bouche – Nordic Black Cod, Celery Sauce, White Truffle

Second Course Pan Roasted Fresh Norwegian King Crab Brown Butter Broth, Sudachi, Corn Pudding

Second Course – Pan Roasted Fresh Norwegian King Crab Brown Butter Broth, Sudachi, Corn Pudding

Third Course Norwegian Halibut Smoked Sunchoke Puree, Matsutaki Mushroom, Cauliflower,YuzuKosho,Hijiki

Third Course – Norwegian Halibut, Smoked Sunchoke Puree, Matsutaki Mushroom, Cauliflower, YuzuKosho,Hijiki

Fourth Course Venison Strip Loin Huckleberries, Root Vegetable Mille-Feuille, Grilled Chicories

Fourth Course – Venison Strip Loin, Huckleberries, Root Vegetable Mille-Feuille, Grilled Chicories

Fifth Course Fried Brioche with Lingonberry Whiskey Sabayon, Pistachios

Fifth Course – Fried Brioche with Lingonberry Whiskey Sabayon, Pistachios

Sixth Course Warm Almond Apple Cake Geitost, Brown Buttered Apples, Cardamom Ice Cream

Sixth Course – Warm Almond Apple Cake, Geitost, Brown Buttered Apples, Cardamom Ice Cream

Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz

Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz

 

emporium thai cuisine

Crab curry is just one of the more uncommon specialties at Emporium Thai  Cuisine

Crab curry is just one of the more uncommon specialties at Emporium Thai Cuisine

Located in Westwood, Emporium Thai Cuisine asserts its originality by specializing in southern Thai fare. You will find items not typically found at other Thai restaurants in the LA area. It does however share many similar specialties with the well know Jitlada restaurant and this is no coincidence. Founder of Emporium Thai Cuisine, John Sungkamee’s two siblings own Jitlada and many of the shared recipes were taught to them decades ago by their mother.

I love the depth and complexity of the spices used in the dishes and you won’t find the homemade chile sauces anywhere else in southern California. This is definitely a place to step out of your comfort zone and order something other than Pad Thai. Items not to be missed: Crying Tiger Beef, Coco Mango Salad with Fried Tofu, Pad Prik King with Crispy Pork, and Spicy Mussel Soup. If you have the opportunity to chat with the owner, do so. John will warmly welcome you into Sungkamee the family.

Crying Tiger Beef soooo good!

Crying Tiger Beef soooo good!

Pad Prik King is served with fried tofu or or crispy pork belly.

Pad Prik King is served with fried tofu or or crispy pork belly.

Khao Yam is a southern Thai rice salad with grated coconut and dried shrimp.

Khao Yam is a southern Thai rice salad with grated coconut and dried shrimp.

Coco Mango Salad with fried tofu

Coco Mango Salad with fried tofu

Astoundingly gracious host and owner John Sungkamee and me.

Astoundingly gracious host and owner John Sungkamee and me.