Petit Trois…Los Angeles… A Little More Butter Please :-)

At Melrose and HIghland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza Chef Ludo's Petit Trois sits in a dive looking strip mall.  It's bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).

At Melrose and Highland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza) sits Chef Ludo’s Petit Trois – located in a dive looking strip mall. It’s bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).

For the past few years, I have battled keeping my blood sugar at a good level…recently my numbers jumped up and put me back into that type 2 diabetic stage… 🙁    So….I’ve decided to make a change.  While I normally watch my diet fairly closely and have gone through lots and lots of training on “how to eat as a diabetic”… something just isn’t working for me right now; therefore, after discussing a variety of options with a wellness expert, we determined my going with a reduced fat, “plant-based diet” for the next eight weeks (yep, vegan…but sshhhhh, “don’t say vegan out loud” she said…”people don’t like that word”).   I’ve gone plant based before…about 15 years ago, and remember how good I felt on that plan.  So, I am going for it.  My lab work is due at the end of August, and I am giving “plant-based” eating a shot to see if I can drop my numbers back to the normal range.  I am motivated!   I love a challenge and immediately embraced planning what I would eat, how I would prepare it and how tasty I could make it… However…I had a teeny obstacle before I could start.  My dear husband had reservations for us the next night at a “hot” new small French Bistro in L.A., Petit Trois.   I didn’t check out the Petit Trois menu before going, figuring there would be enough plant-based, low fat items on the menu to choose from, well, I was wrong.  It is a tiny place with a Parisienne flair and a delightful French Bistro menu … meaning EVERYTHING was authentic French … with butter to die for (almost literally for me I suppose).  I decided to embrace the situation (as not to hurt my husband’s feelings, who is always so supportive of my diet management)…and I treated this as my last full-fat, animal-style meal for the next two months…beginning with a lovely glass of Sancerre (chilled to perfection) to cut through the fat 🙂   It was seriously fabulous food, no wonder Chef Ludo (who was a judge on the short-lived cooking contest show called “The Taste” with Chef Anthony Bordain) is getting rave reviews for his bistro. Below are photos of our meal…starting with escargot…and the best crispy French bread and butter. I immersed myself in the environment and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel and all the butter!  Hurray for the butter!  I had enough to last my 8 weeks of going low fat!

Escargot drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic...and the best French bread and French salted butter...what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm

Escargot drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic…and the best French bread and French salted butter…what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm

IMG_6168

 

Escargot is one of their top menu items...we hadn't had them in ages...they are a meal unto themselves ...they had buckets full of them ready to order...

Escargot is one of their top menu items…we hadn’t had them in ages…they are a meal unto themselves …they had buckets full of them ready to order…

 

Our starter salad of tomatoes, creamy burrata, toasted bread crumbs, basil and a vanilla, lemon grass dressing was stunning (and NOT Italian they claimed...very French... I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds....drenched in butter of course...just perfect

Our starter salad of tomatoes, creamy burrata, toasted bread crumbs, basil and a vanilla, lemon grass dressing was stunning (and NOT Italian they claimed- NOT a caprese salad!…very French).. pictured below… I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds….drenched in butter of course…just perfect

IMG_6178

 

And then there was this...the last meat/animal product I plan to eat for 8 weeks... disguised under that beautiful frise herb salad is a crispy, golden fried confit style chicken leg...an excellent last meal choice if I say so myself (I just love chicken legs)

And then there was this…the last meat/animal product I plan to eat for 8 weeks… disguised under that beautiful frise herb salad is a crispy, golden fried confit style chicken leg…an excellent last meal choice if I say so myself (I just love chicken legs)

IMG_6189

 

Ludo has an interesting and mysterious looking full French restaurant next door to Petit Trois bistro…we will be checking this out soon (after August if all goes well with the numbers game I am attempting to manage).  It’s called Troi Mec and has an interesting reservation system…something like a lottery I gather.  Will check it out and let you know.  It is said to be exciting, unique and was named best restaurant in 2013.

The only bad thing about the whole experience…Petit Trois does NOT offer any tea service.  When I ordered tea…they said they could give me hot water with lemon, oh well…the rest of the meal was beautifully served in this relaxed bar, and clearly, professionally run kitchen.  Watching your meal being prepared in front of you in their tiny kitchen was cool too.

I had my cup of tea on the way home…a Starbucks run 🙂

I Need a Trip to Napa…

Napa Valley in February 2014...wild mustard profusely blooming all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop -- photo opps appear around every corner...

Napa Valley in February 2014…wild mustard blooms profusely all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop — photo opps appear around every corner…

IMG_5582

Arguably the best time of year to go to Napa is during “crush” season…when the air is permeated with the fragrance of grapes, and the days are long,  the daytime fall temperatures are warm and breezy, and there is the hubbub of trucks and trailers hauling up and down Highway 29 with massive amounts of grapes spilling over the sides; however, my favorite time to be in this stunning two-mile wide, 30-mile long valley is in early February.

The beginning of 2015 have been particularly hectic for me; yet, I was slowed down the other night when churning through thousands of photos I have stored on my computer…searching for a particularly elusive photo of a family member that I wanted to share with a cousin of mine…our Napa trip from last year flew by as I was on the hunt and the photos stopped me in my tracks.  I then took a virtual vacation to my favorite place and smiled…ahhhh…Napa.  While I love the cabernets…it’s the meticulous attention to the the full-circle of the food cycle created through the various properties using sustainable agriculture practices, the prevalence of stunning gardens (edible and flower), seriously fabulous restaurants, and a sense of grace exuding from this farming community that touches my soul.  And…they always have perfectly lovely, quality tea service readily available and accessible.

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town – this mini tasting plate was served at the Greystone Restaurant attached to the CIA (culinary institute of America) in St. Helena, Napa.

 

Everything seems to taste better in Napa..the town of Yountville is our favorite small burg.  We walk quiet little streets to shop, eat, drink, meander, and enjoy the gardens.  It’s a no-pressure, relaxed environment.  Of course, there are plenty of stellar wines to sample…which might contribute just a little bit to the sense of relaxation 🙂

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

IMG_5516 IMG_5541 IMG_5672

Yep, I’m ready for a drive up north 🙂

 

Mom’s Sweet Potato Biscuit … Re-engineered…Gluten free, Soy free & Yummy!

Food is memories.  That’s what my sister wrote in an email to me this morning after she watched the movie, 100 – Foot Journey, last night – Her email comments inspired me to write today.  Thanks sister 🙂

I just love food and learning anything about food, but have been a bit frustrated and stymied because some of our old food memory recipes don’t work for the whole family anymore.  Stubbornly, I don’t want to give up on these food memory foods; therefore, I decided to figure out how to re-engineer our most favorite family recipes… with a little re-work, re-invention, and responsible food sourcing…I’m inspired again and coming up with products that work for our dietary needs today…it’s turned out to be a feel-good journey too.

The first recipe I’ve re-done is Mom’s yam (or sweet potato) biscuit recipe.  For over 30 years, Thanksgiving at our family’s homes have included a petite yam biscuit served with her homemade pumpkin butter.  In the late 1970’s, Mom, (Betty), had taken cooking classes where she came away with petite bite recipes for her catering business.  Many of those stuck with the family as favorites for holiday dinners, happy events (cocktail parties or showers), and offered at tea time.  These yam biscuits hit a chord with all of us as a must have served with the Italian chicken soup course on Thanksgiving day.

Our niece has taken over the helm as the yam biscuit and pumpkin butter maker for our holiday dinner (often for over 25 guests).  With a new baby in tow, we shared duties this year…her pumpkin butter was the best I ever remember consuming.  For the yam biscuits (we often substitute with organic sweet potatoes as they are delicious and easier to source), I substituted the flour and fat historically called for to ensure everyone at the table could comfortably consume the biscuits, slathered with her stunning pumpkin butter.  We have gluten-fee, soy free, sodium reduced diet needs to accommodate.  The old recipe called for all purpose flour (wheat) and Crisco (soybean oil) … I substituted with William Sonoma’s Cup for Cup Gluten-free (wheat free) flour and chilled Kerrygold Grass-fed Unsalted Butter (soy free).  While a bit of a sticky, challenging dough resulted…the biscuits were just fabulous…and everyone could eat them.  We cut them small (1 1/2″ round) so they instigate your appetite and don’t fill you up.  Although my nephews can eat a dozen at a sitting 🙂

Below is the new recipe…gluten free, soy free and even me…the diabetic… can happily fit one into my meal plan.

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

IMG_4418 IMG_4420 IMG_4424

Sweet Potato Biscuit

I suggest baking them just prior to serving as they are sooo good served hot (or you can bake them ahead and heat them for a few minutes on a low temperature just prior to serving).

The first time we learned of these biscuits was at a Southern foods cooking class. They were served with a slice of country ham and honey mustard—a savory little “slider” that’s perfect for tea time.
Makes approximately 24 ( 1 1/2”) biscuits.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (including prepping yam and baking time)
Preheat oven to 400° F.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour).
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco® shortening (substitute cold butter – I used Kerrygold unsalted)
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup mashed yam, boiled or baked, then mashed and cooled (substitute with sweet potatoes – use organic if available).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening (or cold butter) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add yam/sweet potato and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Add cream to form a soft dough that holds.
Lightly knead and pat down onto a floured surface to ¾” thick, cut into rounds using 1 ½” to 2” cutter. Do not use a rolling pin…use our hands to lightly pat down. Rustic looking biscuits are cute :-).
Bake in a buttered pan or sheet pan lined with parchment or Silpat® at 400° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve hot with butter and sliced country or baked ham or with pumpkin butter.

 

 

Providence L.A. – Sublime Modern American Seafood…Beautiful Food, Sustainably Sourced

 

Providence sashimi...first dish...fluke, cucumber yuzu ...Normally I don't eat raw fish...this was just stunning with flavor, freshness, and the best of the ocean

Providence sashimi…first dish…fluke, cucumber, yuzu …Normally I don’t eat raw fish…this was just stunning with bursts of flavor, freshness, and the ocean

Well, happy birthday to me! My dear husband surprised me with what he knows to be my favorite gift…awesome foods, prepared with finesse, leaning towards  healthy, made with the  best  quality ingredients – which are  creatively manipulated into flavorful, beautiful,  bites…thus was our experience at Providence Restaurant in Los Angeles the other night…and it came with gracious, comfortable, un-austentatious service.  Enjoy the photos of our  courses…each were just a few bites…making you want more, and then the next stunning dish came…and mmmmmm….we were awed again and again.

Uni egg...Santa Barbar sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs...ok...I almost asked for a substitution dish here...but I am a sucker for anything custard-like...so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard :-)  This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother's kitchen  ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Uni egg…Santa Barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs…ok…I almost asked for a substitution dish here…but I am a sucker for anything custard-like…so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard 🙂 This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms...in season now...porcini like and stunning...can't believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms...our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night...they are  just wonderful..

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms…in season now…porcini-like and stunning…can’t believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms…our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night…they are just wonderful..

 

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night...scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night…scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

 

This was my favorite course of the night...striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame ... just incredible textures and bursts of flavor...you taste buds tingled mmmmm

This was my favorite course of the night…striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame … just incredible textures and bursts of flavor…made one’s taste buds tingle and come alive… mmmmm

…we  chose the main course …I opted  for John Dory – a white fish…David chose the Liberty Farms Duck…then…since we had eaten so “light” … the artisanal cheese cart came, just perfect for sharing…and finally elderflower sorbet and then my chocolate dessert (with a discreet birthday candle 🙂 …this was just possibly the best meal of my life – certainly a perfect one at this point in my life  …

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two...green tea now...petite perfect desserts...sorbet and chocolate torte

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two…green tea now…petite perfect desserts…sorbet and chocolate torte

IMG_4317 IMG_4329 IMG_4333 IMG_4344

 

So, who are these guys 🙂 ?  Their website states:

“For a decade, Providence has elevated the standard of modern American seafood restaurants. We invite you to experience Chef Michael Cimarusti’s award-winning cuisine in the heart of Los Angeles, welcomed by one of LA’s legendary hosts, co-owner Donato Poto.
Chef Cimarusti is completely dedicated to procuring the finest sustainable seafood—from regional coasts and international waters—and treats those ingredients with uncompromising respect and sophisticated technique. “First and foremost, what guides us here is sustainability,” Cimarusti says. “We use only wild-caught, sustainable products, mostly from American waters, and look to highlight their finest qualities.”
The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars.

I actually signed up to vote for them for the 2015 James Beard awards, something I’ve not been motivated to do before…

Of course, I finished with a lovely cup of green tea…beautifully vegetal and light, expertly served in an iron tetsubin pot. Just lovely!

 

 

 

Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…Go for the Spices & Join us for Tea 101

Have you ever come across a recipe you want to try which calls for one teaspoon of a spice you don’t have in your pantry?  You vacillate about preparing it as you realize to purchase the required ingredients at the traditional grocery store demands an investment of dollars beyond your liking, and… you already have a cupboard full of aging spices from other recipes that asked for a teeny bit of this and that spice.  What to do?  Go to Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach, Ca….they have an enormous selection of spices… and, with their expert assistance, they will dole out the amount you need.  They also have a wide selection of whole leaf teas and herbal infusions, as well as, beautiful tea ware, gift packaging and air tight tins of various sizes for storing your purchases.  You can create unique, custom gifts of spices or teas with their skilled guidance too.

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach...offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach…offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

IMG_3798 IMG_3800

We will be holding an intimate, first time, Tea 101 class at Spice Merchants this coming Tuesday, October 14 at 7 p.m….

Come learn a bit of history about tea, how to prepare a great cup of tea, and taste a variety of types of teas.

We will taste tea in their “tea room” towards the back of the shop pictured below  (center display will be moved out for our tasting experience).  Check out details on our “events” page and call Spice Merchants to hold your spot.  Their contact information is phone: 949 715-9600 and are located at 311 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651

The tea room at Spice Merchants -- a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

The tea room at Spice Merchants — a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

IMG_3814 IMG_3816

Spice Merchants offers  teas from quality purveyors…

IMG_3813

Quality teas from Spice Merchants...in tins or you choose how much you want to try...

Quality teas from Spice Merchants…in tins or you choose how much you want to try…

It’s also just a great location to come to and wander around town before or after class.

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants...come on in...

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants…come on in…

In visiting the shop this morning, I saw they just got in beautiful soup fixings too…they are ready for fall … as most of us in Southern California are…hoping the heat stops soon.  I’m ready for soup and hot tea!

 

 

Our Prolific Pomegranates…Fall is here!!!

Pomegranates are good for you!  The juice from the seeds have high levels of powerful antioxidants (similar to what you get from a whole leaf tea)!  I didn’t enjoy them much as a child, as they were usually too tart for my delicate palate; however, they’ve grown on me since using them as an ingredient versus eating them straight.  The tree is a beautiful sight.  We planted one about 20 years ago.   This year we have an incredibly large harvest of huge fruit.

 

Our prolific pomegranate tree...this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it...

Our prolific pomegranate tree…this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it…

IMG_3521

 

Our tree was planted more for it's ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees...we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations...

Our tree was planted more for it’s ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees…we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations…

We picked a basketful of poms. last week, along with some of my husband’s favorite Fuji apples (which he will not share with anyone), and a couple Fuyu persimmons, most are not quite ripe yet.

The morning harvest...plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons...then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

The morning harvest…plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons…then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

IMG_3547

Pomegranates are excellent as toppings for salads…adding a nice crunch and acidic flavor.  They also make an excellent juice … straight … or with a bit of sugar.  My husband has figured out an excellent way to get the seeds from the fruit without turning everything pink…he breaks open the fruit in a deep bowl of water, pull the seeds out by knocking the back of the opened fruit with a spoon (or with your hands).  It works well.  Remove the seeds from the water and juice them or use whole seeds.IMG_4105 IMG_4020

 

My favorite is sprinkled into a super chilled glass of bubbly.  Pomegranate infused teas are also available from many quality purveyors.  Harney and Sons has a delightful pomegranate oolong.  Peet’s teas has a pomegranate cooler.

 

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds...with the bubbly

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds…with the bubbly