Friday, August 30, 2013

Semi Sweet Bakery | Los Angeles, CA

Sure, we had to wait nearly an hour until the next batch of fifty was brought to the counter. And yes, as the clock ticked down to those last waning minutes, we all clamored for position in a line that stretched out the door and down to the immediate street. As troublesome as that may sound, it was well worth it ... Every single second spent, for every single bite it took to consume one. What am I talking about? Call it a Cronut or a Crullant. It really doesn't matter because, when all is said and done, it's still the same warm, flakey, and chewy goodness that filled me (and every discerning customer) with general euphoria while standing in the dining room of Semi Sweet Bakery.

Established in 2010, Semi Sweet Bakery is the brainchild of Sharlene Fong, a native New Yorker who transformed herself from a promising financial consultant to a well-respected and innovative pastry chef. Together with Dennis Hunter and James Gonzalez, she finds inspiration in a budding downtown LA food scene that has collided with the city's ever-changing and vibrant urban landscape. Maple Bacon Sticky Buns, 7-Up Poundcake, PB & J Pockets, Chocolate Butterscotch Potato Chips, and Homemade Pop Tarts populate her menu alongside savory salads and sandwiches such as the McFong All Day Breakfast Sandwich. And let's not forget to the bakery's original "talked about" dessert, the Ding-A-Lings. Sharlene's twist on a popular childhood treat, her Ding-A-Lings come in Red Velvet, PB Crunch, Hazelnut Crunch, or Traditional Cream-Filled.

But again, the real star of late is her rendition of the Cronut, the pastry that skyrocketed its creator Dominique Ansel and his Soho bakery into foodie folklore. While the concept is similar, Sharlene's version is not fried, but rather baked, which explains why they are not made in big batches and takes a while to go from kitchen to counter. Its other distinction is that hers comes candy-glazed and without a filling. Plain, simple, and light. This is a must have that should be on everyone's culinary bucket list!

Semi Sweet Bakery in located at 105 East 6th Street in  Los Angeles, CA. It is open on most days at 8:00a except on Mondays. Get there early!

Semi Sweet Bakery
105 E. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA  90014
(213) 228-9975


Semi Sweet Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge | Eagle Rock, CA

Next time you find yourself stopping into a neighborhood eatery, take inventory of not just what's on your plate, but also what's around you on the walls, the floor, the windows, and even the tables and chairs. Sure, the real artistry is what's on the plate (and we've seen some pretty spectacular culinary presentations), but many proprietors have taken great pains to provide a welcoming atmosphere to enhance their patrons' dining experience. Take for example, The Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge in the town of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, California. The murals and mosaics seen throughout its dining area is a testament of their support of local artists, writers, and musicians. They've been doing it since calling their nondescript 1930s building on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Shearin Avenue home. And the relaxed, colorful atmosphere has made this a regular stop for the locals to hang out, be casual, and be creative ... I should know. While living in SoCal, some of my best writings happened right here!

But don't just come to The Coffee Table Bistro & Lounge for the scenery and a cup of coffee. After all, it's still an eatery. SO, DO COME HUNGRY!!! 

The menu is chock-full of simple and light dishes that run you through the day. Breakfast specialties include their Super Breakfast Burrito, the Yo-Yo Benny O Scramble, and the Eggs From Hell. Lunches cover everything from wraps and sandwiches to burgers and melts, and the dinner menu, while small compared to everything else, boasts a flavorful Chicken Gumbo, Seared Cajun Salmon, and Grilled Moroccan Chicken. And by the way, if enjoying the nightlife or happy hour is more your thing, be sure to wander over to the lounge where small plates and appetizers are served alongside a choice of over 100 bottled beers and 16 drafts on tap.

They are open everyday from 7:00a-10:00p. 
Coffee Table
1958 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA  90041

Coffee Table Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mercedes Grille | Marina del Rey, CA

It doesn't happen very often when four young kids ... that's right, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 kids ... can come together in a restaurant and become instantly silent as the first plate of food comes to the table. Not only that, when all four of them can say after the meal is over that they really liked the food and can't wait to come back, you know there's something particularly special here. Credit the Truffle Parmesan Fries, the Tomatillo Pork Enchiladas, or the Bachelor Omelette, the folks at the Mercedes Grille had it going on the morning of our visit. Good food, a fun service staff, and a by-the-beach atmosphere certainly guarantees our return.
Mercedes Grille is owned by Mersedeh Ahrablou who, as the story goes, collected just enough cash after twelve years of waitressing around the seaside town to establish this quaint eatery. Cuban and Caribbean specialties are the featured staples on a menu that takes you through the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and well into the night. Each dish is light, healthy, prepared fresh, and is packed with island flavors that is not found so readily along this stretch of the SoCal coastline. When asked what's popular among the locals, our server was quick to say "everything." A better source of knowing what to order came from a very good friend's recommendation. She turned us on to the Mercedes Grille, after all, and there was no reason to doubt her. Jerk Chicken Enchiladas, Cuban Beef Hash, Chicken Empanizado, and those Truffle Parmesan Fries. Dee-Lish!!!

Located at 14 West Washington Boulevard in Marina Del Rey, Mercedes Grille is open daily from 7:30a to 11:00p, and as noted on their website, they promise to "treat you like family and hope to exceed your expectations."

Mercedes Grille
14 West Washington Blvd.
Marina del Rey, CA  90292
(310) 827-6209

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Rind | Sacramento, CA

If the lure of sampling artisinal cheeses is tickling your taste buds right about now, then start making plans to visit one of Sacramento's newest hot spots along the grid. Since opening in May 2013, The Rind has been offering guests the opportunity to discover a little of everything from buttery to blue, nutty to stinky, and the recently aged to something that's been curing for months. Couple such fair with a specialized glass of wine or a chilled pint of beer, and you'll be treated to a dining experience that's unlike any other ... Especially if you include the lively, informative conversation that owner Sara Arbabian encourages her staff to engage with her diners.

"Our mission has been to pair wines, beers, ports and bubblies with featured cheeses so you get to learn how to enjoy them together," Arbabian noted in a recent publishing of the Sacramento Press. "(With this in mind, the hope is) that we've created a really comfortable and fun environment where you can sit down at the bar and order a cheese plate and a glass of whatever you’re jonesing for.”

And don't think for one second that The Rind primarily caters to us grown-ups. There's plenty on the menu that appeals to folks of all ages with an assortment of classic and gourmet cheese sandwiches and a selection of creamy mac-n-cheese plates that are delectably sinful. In fact, high praise came from our young diners as they dived face-first in their individual helpings of the Prosciutto Baked Mac-n-Cheese. Me? I just sat back with my glass of Trefethen Chardonnay while noshing on one of the daily cheese boards assembled with loving care from behind the bar. Each savory (and sweet) offering on the menu is all-natural, seasonal, and embodies the "farm to fork" spirit that has gradually taken over the city's food scene these past few years.

The Rind, located at 1801 L Street in midtown Sacramento, opens its doors at 11:00a everyday except Mondays when they are closed. We recommend getting there fairly early since seating is limited and they don't take reservations.

The Rind
1801 L Street, Suite 40
Sacramento, CA 95811

Monday, June 17, 2013

Old Soul Company | Sacramento, CA


When given the opportunity to take a break from their busy schedules, it's not hard to imagine that the choice of activity for Tim Jordan and Jason Greist may be to sit down across from each other with a good cup of coffee. Why? Because it's been something the two friends have done since their first meeting in 2002. At that time, Jason had just opened the Naked Lounge Coffeehouse, and Tim ... Well, he was one of Jason's first customers. Years later, a business partnership blossomed and the Old Soul Company became the Sacramento scene's reward.

From fresh artisanal baked goods that feed the eye as much as one's appetite to gourmet soups, salads, and sandwiches, Tim and Jason are doing all the right things by championing all-natural ingredients from mostly local suppliers. As they've often described it, "Sac has soul," and there's no reason to go anywhere else to stock the kitchens. Except, of course, where they get the beans that go into their specialty coffees. But make no mistake, even if the beans are coming from great distances, they are still blended and roasted right in the heart of the city's downtown grid at their original midtown location, aptly named The Alley.

There are currently three other locations under the Old Soul Compnay banner that serve the city: Weatherstone, Forty Acres, and Terminal B at Sac's International Airport. Each embraces the urban culture of its surrounding community and celebrates the art and artistry of its patrons. So, pull up a chair and chill out for a spell. Who knows? Sitting next to you just may be Tim and Jason. They've been doing it, after all, since their first meeting over ten years ago.
Old Soul Locations:
3434 Broadway
Sacramento, CA  95817

812 21st Street
Sacramento, CA  95811

1716 L Street (Rear Alley)
Sacramento, CA  95811

6900 Airport Blvd
Sacramento, CA  95837

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Donut Man | Glendora, CA

For those who have followed our postings over the years, you have come to know that we make no secret of our love a good donut. We just can't get enough of these sweet (and sometimes) savory confections whether baked or fried. And during a recent trip through Southern California, we shared in the pure joy that many have come to find after biting into the tasty treats featured at The Donut Man.
Top:  Apple Donut 
Bottom: Strawberry Donut

Located along a stretch of California's Route 66 that is neither historic or terribly memorable, The Donut Man has carved itself quite a following since it first opened in 1972. Fan favorites include the buttermilk bars, french crullers, freakishly long twists (check out the popular Tiger Tail), and raised donuts topped with specialty frostings such as Creamy Peanut Butter or Sweet Cream Cheese. As good as these are, however, none are more notable than their clam-shelled strawberry or peach filled monstrosities that founders, Jim and Miyoko Nakano, have been quoted as saying "should be eaten like a hamburger."
And they produce all of this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Never skimping on quality, staying away from anything artificial, and using nothing but the freshest ingredients when creating the base for their donuts or mixing up a new batch of fruit fillings. Not convinced of this? Just take a couple of strides around the back of the storefront where boxes upon boxes of strawberries are stacked five feet high.


Simply put ... Among the BEST donuts we've ever had the pleasure of eating!

The Donut Man
915 E Rte 66
Glendora, CA 91740
(626) 335-9111

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, March 29, 2013

Harris Ranch | Coalinga, CA

Whether you're looking for an overnight stay or a hearty bite to eat after driving along California's Interstate 5 near Coalinga, HarrisRanch Inn  & Restaurant is an oasis to relax, stretch the legs, and enjoy drinks and great food with family and/or friends.  
As one part of a successful and innovative business operation that has been representing the Central San Joaquin Valley for over 70 years, the restaurant's menu promises only the best in prime meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, most of which were raised or grown right in their "backyard." 
This has been a regular stop for us when traveling up-and-down the state, and we've created many memorable family moments while visiting. So, we hope you add it to your own itinerary to experience much of the same.

24505 W Dorris Ave
Coalinga, CA 93210

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mix 'n' Munch: Cereal & Grilled Cheese Cafe | South Pasadena, CA

Breakfast Sandwich
As a kid, my mother didn't have to do much to put a smile on my face, especially when it came to that after-school snack. My wants (and needs) were simple. Gimme a bowl of my favorite cereal or grill up an old fashioned cheese sandwich, and... I was a happy camper. Jump cut to the here and now. When we discovered Mix 'n' Munch in South Pasadena, my excitement runneth over, and I just had to drag the family in for a bite. 

Rock N Roll Circus Bowl
Opened in 2010, the cafe offers no less than 25 varieties of cereals from the healthy to sweet favorites. If you're here for the cheese sandwiches, choose from an assortment of breads and fillings to go along with a selection of cheeses like cheddar, swiss, gruyere, American, provolone, and many more. A fun place for the whole family, and one that I'll be returning to to feed that little kid inside me.

Mix N' Munch Challenge
Mix 'n' Munch
1005 Mission St
South Pasadena, CA  91030
(626) 441-8808

Out of the Kitchen Los Angeles restaurants

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Eatery | West Sacramento, CA

We first met owners, Jess Milbourn and Monda Korich, two years ago when they were platforming The Eatery at a neighborhood farmer's market. On that night, they were serving up popular quick eats such as their Braised Short Ribs and Strawberry Shortcake. We fell in love instantly and have since been staunch supporters of their bistro-style restaurant, which they opened in West Sacramento's Town Center Plaza in late-2010. Refined comfort foods dot their lunch and dinner menus, and a full array of California wines and select beers stock the bar. This is one exciting, new spot that shouldn't be missed (especially their Sunday brunches).

Disco Fries Ryan: French fries, bacon, melted cheddar cheese, chicken gravy, sunny-side up eggs.
Dare I say, their twisted version of the popular Canadian dish, Poutine.
A small plate specialty:
Crispy fried pork belly, apple pancakes, cranberry syrup

2155 Town Center Plaza
West Sacramento, CA  95691

Out of the Kitchen Sacramento restaurants