December 23, 2007

Farewell Agent 2-007!

Well, I have officially finished my first semester of law school and am currently enjoying a much needed break. So, I would like to post some of the memorable good eats and sweets captured from the last few months of 2007. Let's get to it!
While visiting my sister at UCLA, we enjoyed some really fantastic Indian fare at Ambala Dhaba in Westwood. So, if you're ever find yourself in the Westwood area and craving Indian food, I highly suggest Ambala Dhaba.

During the same LA trip, my sister, Mr. Tall and I also waited in line for an hour (!!!) to get some Sprinkles cupcakes. We bought half a dozen cupcakes, which cost nearly $20. We got Red Velvet, Strawberry, Black & White, Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Chocolate. The shop was quaint and stylish (and located right next to a Monique Lhullier boutique). In my humble opinion, I thought the cupcakes' flavor offerings were creative, and their signature look of the dots and sprinkles definitely made them more fun and unique. They were all tasty but my personal favorites were Strawberry and Black & White.
I would wait in line for maybe 15-30 minutes for them but would think twice about waiting any longer than that. I am a cupcake fiend though so who knows I might just tough it out the next time I'm in LA and get some anyway!

Mr. Tall returned from the mall once upon a weekend while my head was buried in the books and had a sweet, little surprise of a Sprinkles Pumpkin Cupcake Mix from Williams-Sonoma ($14). The mix makes a dozen cupcakes and also includes their signature sugar dots and a recipe from Cinnamon Frosting. The cupcakes were almost as delicious as they ones from the shop so if you don't make it to LA or don't feel like waiting in line, the cupcake mix is the way to go!

It was not Sprinkles that LA Magazine named the best cupcakes in LA, but it was Dainties "It's All About the Cream" cupcakes.
Right after I told her about this exciting news, my sister brought some down with her from LA when she came to visit for Thanksgiving, to my pleasant surprise! All their cupcakes are chocolate with various creams which is topped as the frosting and also inside the cakes. I believe we had Raspberry, Mint, Banana, Caramel, some sort of candy bar cream, and chocolate chip, I think. Anyway, the cake itself was good and the creams were all very delightful, especially the raspberry and mint ones, but my only complaint is that if it's "all about the cream" then they should give you more cream! My sister said that she pre-ordered the cupcakes on their website, after which the chef personally emailed her to confirm the order--and the owner even gave her some extra cupcakes to take home with her order!

Is that a good-looking turkey or is that a good-looking turkey?! I am officially declaring Mr. Tall the Turkey master because so far he has handled our Thanksgiving turkeys like a champ! This year, we went for a fresh turkey instead of a frozen one, and I think it tasted a little bit better. Mr. Tall had a simple dry salt brine, which made the turkey flavorful but not salty. Since we invested in a roasting pan that came with a "v" rack, our bird turned out with the most wonderfully crisp skin, and with the meat thermometer we were able to ensure that it wasn't overcooked.

Our little feast for 4: creamy mashed potatoes (recipe from Tyler's Ultimate), brussel sprouts with crispy procuitto, mashed acorn squash with butter and brown sugar, and, of course, whole cranberry sauce. Oh, we also enjoyed homemade pumpkin pie and apple-cranberry pie. Yum!

My plate: I made a vegetable gravy (a recipe from Cook's Illustrated) to accompany the mashed potatoes because it is relatively healthier and lasts longer for leftovers than traditional gravy made from drippings. I could use another plate of that right about now!

Mr. Tall and I had a small, celebratory 2-year anniversary dinner at The Prado at Balboa Park. (We actually had to postpone the dinner plans because it was during the fires.) Mr. Tall was a little hesitant to try a Cohn Restaurant for many blogs did not greatly review them, but we thought that the atmosphere at Balboa Park should help make it a romantic dining experience. For the first course, I enjoyed the Warm Farmer's Salad (romaine hearts split and grilled, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette with pickled red onion, feta cheese and marinated tomatoes) and Mr. Tall got the Tortilla Soup. I really liked the salad because I love the acidity not only from the balsamic dressing but from the pickled red onion, and Mr. Tall liked his soup as well.

For our main course, Mr. Tall ordered the Adobo Braised Pork Osso Bucco served with sweet plantain mash, sauteed white corn, tomato and zucchini, with tomatillo cilantro sauce. Although osso bucco is traditionally made of veal shanks, Mr. Tall thought that this Latin-inspired version was flavorful and the meat was moist, but the presentation of the mash and sauce underneath the shank was a bit messy. I ordered the Roasted Sea Bass served atop organic baby argula, roasted fingerling potatoes (I'm a sucker for fingerling potatoes!), and a white truffle infused beet puree.

The dish was delicious, and even though the beet puree was more like a sauce and did not have as much of the white truffle essence as I would have liked, I still enjoyed it. The acidity from the beet puree and the peppery argula perfectly complimented the meaty fish. I also had a glass of a dry and delightful Pinot Grigio with dinner, which was just a great accompaniment to the meal. We ended the lovely evening with the Chocolate Souffle Cake served with triple espresso gelato capuccino with bruleed Italian meringue peaks (those were so good!), raspberry coulis, and tuille cookie spoon.

The combination of the warm cake and the cool gelato were fantastic, but we could have totally done without the tuille cookie spoon. All and all, Mr. Tall and I enjoyed a nice dinner with a reasonable price tag and a lovely view of the wishing well and terrace of The Prado.

A friend of mine was visiting San Diego on a business trip, so Miss Andrea suggested that we go to Urban Solace in North Park because she had read so many good reviews on Yelp and I had also read a few raves on other blogs as well. We started with the Sweet Potato Fries, which by the way is my new, absolutely favorite thing! This version was awesome and its accompanying Maytag Blue Cheese-Buttermilk Dressing was mild enough not to overpower the sweetness of the fries.

Wisconsin White Cheddar Mac n' Cheese topped with caramelized bacon and (not so) charred grape tomatoes

Sweet Corn Spoon Bread

Potato Gratin. Not your traditional scalloped potato au gratin, but it was still delicious.

Char-Grilled Hanger Steak with homemade steak sauce, caramelized parsnips and celery root mash. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try this as there was so much food on my own plate (and the sweet potato fries were tempting and filling). But Andrea said that it was very good.

Cinnamon Brined Center-Cut Pork Chop served with braised Swiss chard, shallot sauce and sweet corn spoon bread. The pork chop was well cook and tender. Mr. Tall and I will definitely be making a trip to US some time this week as I am craving the sweet potato fries, and Mr. Tall wants to try their take on the American comfort food trend.

I shall end 2007 with a toast of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt with fresh raspberries--cheers!

Happy 2008,
Little Miss Contrary


KirkK said...

Happy New Year LMC!

regina miller said...

Man, I guess I better starve myself before I come to visit you, huh? Geez, how can food look so good in pictures...

caninecologne said...

your photos from urban solace look so delicious - i think that's the new place my husband and i will try.

looking forward to your posts in 2008!