Lady Gaga – Born This Way

OK, I may be a grandfather and a food snob (not really), but I am also a Lady Gaga fan.  The new video for Born This Way is brilliant!  Gaga takes the human condition: our hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, and gives them voice – she commits to telling it like it is.  She gives us a different lens to see it all through, or maybe holds up a mirror.  And, she understands the Tao Te Ching!  She knows that you can’t fully understand Good without also understanding Evil, and that in some ways we are all just passengers watching it happen.  Gaga may be inspired by Madonna, but she takes her own ideas to a whole new level.  Looking forward to the rest of the new album!

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Pinot Provence – Westin South Coast Plaza

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Part of the Patina Restaurant Group (Joachim Splichal’s group), Pinot Provence is in the Westin South Coast Plaza, which makes it very convenient for pre-theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (new name for OCPAC, if you didn’t know).  French/Locavore inclined, the food is always good, the drinks and wine excellent, the service gracious and efficient (they always take theater deadlines into account).

We had a great meal on Friday night, including Duck confit croquettes – with smoked bacon jam, baby yellow frisée, diced duck egg, vanilla cassis jus, and the Charcuterie – with shaved St. Daniele prosciutto, duck breast,  Soria chorizo, coppa, pickled vegetables, Dijon Chantilly, balsamic onions, and grilled ciabatta.  The starters were delicious.  Wonderful full flavor in all the meats, and the duck confit croquettes were melt-in-your mouth good.

For entrées, I had Roasted Loch Duart salmon – served with cauliflower purée, caramelized cauliflower, marcona almonds, golden raisins, vadouvan curry.  If you haven’t had this unique farmed salmon, try it – it is showing up on more local menus.  Susan enjoyed the day’s special – a very delicate sea bass served with three sauces, and very nicely presented veggie accompaniments.  Susan enjoyed a Proseco with the starter, and Sancerre with the fish. 

Too full for dessert on this trip, but based on previous visits, they do a wonderful job, and we’ll save room next time.


New Burgundy Wines

If you love Burgundy like I do, you might enjoy this article on Snooth about 20 new wines from Drouhin.


Breakfast “Cheesecake” – Healthy Weird Looking Breakfast

An old standby for me is baking fruit and cottage cheese on bread.  The cottage cheese melts, and if you have a good imagination, you can pretend it is healthy cheesecake!   It tastes much better than it looks!  Takes 2 minutes to make, and 5-10 to bake.

2 slices whole wheat bread (I love Whole Foods house brand – very soft)

½ cup of low fat cottage cheese

1 ripe banana (also works great with ripe pear – peeled, cored and mashed up)

1 Splenda packet (or you could use a touch of honey or agave)

¼ tsp cinnamon

Palmful of chopped walnuts (1 tbsp)

Mash the fruit and mix with cottage cheese, Splenda, cinnamon & walnuts.  Mound on the bread, and place on foil lined toaster oven tray.  Bake at 375 for 5-10 minutes. Make coffee or tea. Eat grapefruit. 

Your toaster oven may vary, so make sure it looks melty, but not brown.

This has about 375 calories, 20+ grams of protein, 8+ grams of fiber, and is very low fat.  Lots of energy!


Haven Gastro Pub

My crew & I went to Haven Gastro Pub near the circle in Orange, and only 2 of the 7 of us had NOT been there before.  Since we are the Chapman Alumni Assoc. Irvine chapter, that isn’t a surprise.  They have a huge beer menu, and a good wine list and full bar.  I can personally attest that they can make a good Kamikaze AND a good Caipirinha!

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We had their chips AND their fries, plus Mac & Cheese, Sliders, Short Ribs, Chicken & Waffles, and Burger.  All were really good. 

For dessert, we had BACON ice cream on a brownie (surprising, and great with the chocolate, I thought), plus the bread pudding with caramel fleur de sel ice cream.  This house made ice cream pushed the limit of how much salt I can tolerate in a sweet treat, but didn’t go over the edge.  I will be back!


Silver Palate Chicken Marbella

This is a classic – I won’t be cooking this weekend [bum knee :-(], but if you’ve never tried it, it is great!

Chicken Marbella
Recipe from: The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins [AN OUTSTANDING book – all great recipes]
This was the first main-course dish to be offered at The Silver Palate, and the distinctive colors and flavors of the prunes, olives and capers have kept it a favorite for years. It’s good hot or at room temperature. When prepared with small drumsticks and wings, it makes a delicious hors d’oeuvre. The overnight marinating is essential to the moistness of the finished product: the chicken keeps and even improves over several days of refrigeration; it travels well and makes excellent picnic fare. Since Chicken Marbella is such a spectacular party dish, we give quantities to serve 10 to 12, but the recipe can be divided to make smaller amounts if you wish.

Makes: 16 pieces or 10 or more portions

  • 4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered

  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed

  • 1/4 cup dried oregano

  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1 cup pitted prunes

  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives

  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice

  • 6 bay leaves

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1 cup white wine

  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

  1. In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight. [Mark’s note: 2-4 hours is ok too]
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans [I use my giant 12×16 baking pan] and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
  5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
  6. To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.  Can also be cooked the day before and reheated (just don’t overcook the first time).

Similar recipe that sounds good (posted by a friend of a friend on FB):  Braised Chicken with Apricots, Green Olives and Herbed Couscous


Decadent Valentine’s Dinner at Andrei’s

We just enjoyed the most wonderful Valentine’s Day dinner at Andrei’s in Irvine.  Susan had a “Love Letter” (Chambord, Champagne and Dancing Cranberries), and in the spirit of pink drinks, I asked for a Tru Organic Vodka with a little cran and a little Pom, and lime wedges.  Might have to find a name for this drink; it was good!

The winter mushroom soup sounded good, so we both had that, and it was great.  Very rich and woody and rich.  We had more appetizers, the Duck Confit Flatbread for Susan (because she never gets it and I have it all the time – wait – that doesn’t sound right).  I had California smoked salmon with blini and dill crème fraiche – delish!

We shared the special entrée of Surf & Turf – 2 perfectly cooked very jumbo shrimp dusted with pistachios, and a rich flavorful filet mignon, served with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, mushroom fricassee and zinfandel beef reduction.  Susan enjoyed a glass of Argentinean Malbec with this.

We searched the depths of our souls, I mean stomachs, and found room for the special Valentine’s dessert, Chocolate a Deux, with warm Toblerone and Guittard Chocolate, served with fresh fruit, bourbon pecan cookies, brownies, rice crispy bites, dried apricots.  Just look at that picture!  No, we didn’t finish it – we took some home for another day. 

Lovely service, live music: one of the best Valentine’s dinners we’ve ever had.