A perfect dinner at Le Pain Quotidien

The closest Le Pain Quotidien to our home in Los Angeles that serves dinner is the one located in West Hollywood on Melrose Blvd next to the Design Center, amid all the beautiful home decor shops.  The dinner menu at Le Pain Quotidien is rather small and one may be put off to have dinner here for that reason, but should you walk away because of the lack of choices then know that you will be walking away from an absolutely delicious dinner.  One may say that the lack of choices is made up by the deliciousness of every dish available on the dinner menu- this is what we found to be true the first night we decided to dine at Le Pain Quotidien.

The outdoor seating at the Melrose location is extensive, a white fence surrounds the raised platform where tables and seatings are set out, the twinkle lights give off a yellowish glow that is charming and the service is friendly.  Aside from busy Melrose with cars driving by on this Friday night the ambience is lovely and the scene (lines of beautiful home decor stores) are eye-catching.

Warm Moroccan Chicken Salad: cucumbers, arugula, chicken, chickpeas, harissa, olives, tomatoes

The Warm Moroccan Chicken Salad was only slightly warm from the cooked chopped bite-size chicken, this otherwise cold salad included sliced cucumbers, peppery arugula, chopped fresh tomatoes, buttery chickpeas, tangy harissa and roughly chopped black olives.  Each bite of the salad was tangy and well-developed in flavor with spices and sauce.  Surprisingly delicious that makes the palate hum, you'll never have a more delicious salad... and good for you! At least that's what was going through my mind with each bite.  If you are a salad-for-dinner kind of individual then Le Pain Quotidien's Warm Moroccan Chicken Salad is a MUST TRY!  Deliciously flavorful, healthy and fulfilling, it is the perfect salad-for-dinner.

Mushroom Whole-Wheat Lasagna:  Sauteed mushrooms, whole-wheat pasta, carmelized onions

The Whole-Wheat Mushroom Lasagna was an entree ordered to satisfy a curiosity.  Layers of chopped sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions, cheese, whole-wheat pasta, topped with chopped tomato and green onion garnish.  I didn't know what to expect, my experience in the past with whole-wheat pasta has been sub-par so excuse me for being a pessimist.  However to my surprise, the whole-wheat mushroom lasagna was full of that earthy mushroom flavor I love so much, the layer of carmelized onion really brought it home, other than the usual bite that whole-wheat pasta has, the mushroom lasagna was very good.  The lasagna came out in a smaller healthier portion, on the bright side if you're planning to have an after-dinner coffee and a small pastry then you'll be right as rain.  The mushroom lasagna is a great vegetarian option to try.

Chicken Lentil Stew: Chicken, lentil, onions, tomatoes, spices

The Chicken Lentil Stew was quite a hit for me personally, hearty and flavorful with spices, almost spicy but not quite.  The stew contained pieces of chicken, tomatoes, lentils, green onions, carrots and onions.  

Double mocha

If there was anything to learn from having dinner at Le Pain Quotidien it was that the score was 3-for-3, and in my book that's not an accident.

Total Damage: $70.00 +/-

1 Mocha
1 Black coffee
1 Glass red wine
1 Chicken lentil stew
1 Mushroom whole-wheat lasagna
1 Warm Moroccan chicken salad

8607 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 854.3700

Traktir, a Russian restaurant suitable for two

A Russian restaurant that doesn't specialize in banquets or large parties but suitable for a two person dinner was the constant dilemma Mr. Borscht and I was running into when trying to find a Russian restaurant to dine at.  Then one night when we least expected it, we came across a little Russian restaurant called Traktir located on Santa Monica Blvd in LA's West Hollywood.

The smallish restaurant that offered indoor and outdoor seating was moderately filled with glossy wooden tables that reminded me of Danish culture. The restaurant is more casual than fancy and gives an air of simplicity, a place where good friends can gather to eat in leisure- in this way Traktir seems to be very Russian.

Complimentary bread basket

A basket of complimentary bread and butter to start. I'm almost positive the bread was "home-made" but the lack of moisture in each bite whispered "day old", or perhaps Russian bread is made and eaten dry?

Home-made Compote

Home-made Compote is a fruit juice made from the flavors extracted from dried fruits, the drink was refreshing, sweet and delicious and tasted more like flavored iced tea than a juice to my palate.

Vinegret Salad (Russian vegetarian salad) contains beet, carrot, potatoes, pickles and onion

For our cold appetizer we opted for something we were familiar with, beet salad (pictured above), this beet salad (called Vinegret Salad) was a small dish with a mound of small diced beets, potatoes, carrots , pickles and onion.  I found the Vinegret Salad to be rather plain and less flavorful than the Russian beet salads I've tried making at home. On another downside the beet salad dish was rather small and was likely made for one person not two.

Combination of different kinds of dumplings: potato dumplings, ground meat dumplings and mushroom dumplings served with porcini mushroom sauce and friend onion

For a hot appetizer choice we again decide to order something we are familiar with, dumplings. We go for a kind of dumpling sampler dish.  The small Russian trio of dumplings comes with 10 pieces of of dumplings, all once again fairly small.  The three types of dumplings include dumplings filled with 1. Ground meat, 2. Potatoes and 3. Mushrooms.  We order the Russian trio with the porcini mushroom sauce and a side of fried onions.  A dumpling with a little bit of porcini sauce topped with fried onions was scrumptuous.  The downside?  There were barely any fillings in the dumplings :(  

Chicken Shaslik, marinated chicken in lemon and spices served with a side of roasted potatoes and pickled cabbage

As our main entree we order the Chicken Shashlik which is Chicken kebabs, the chicken kebabs are served with a side of roasted potatoes and pickled cabbage.  The chicken is moist, flavorful with spices- absolutely delicious!  I may have been setback and gloomy from the under-stuffed dumplings, dry bread and plain beet salad but the Chicken Shaslik definitely made up for it.  The chicken Shaslik flame-grilled entree is perfect for one person if this is all you are having, but is also good enough to share if you are having appetizers before.

While I suggest foregoing the dumplings and the beet salad for other appetizer options, the Chicken Shaslik is a must try.

Total Damage:  $38.00 +/-

1 small Russian Trio
1 Vinegret Salad
1 Home made compote
1 Chicken Shashlik

8151 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 654.3030

Cooking At Home: Cooking perfect moist sausages on the stove

Cooking the perfect moist sausages can be done on the stove! Actually, in my experience the sausages that I cook on the stove tend to be more juicy and flavorful than the ones I cook on the grill outside, weird I know.  The first thing to tackle when your ambitions are to cook the perfect moist flavorful sausages is to get the right sausages.  Let's face the facts here, if you don't have the proper food with the proper yummy ingredients you're not going to be making delicious anything no matter how well you cook.

I recently gave a sausage party (sounds totally perverse) but it literally was a sausage party; I was serving sausages and sides for dinner.  My favorite sausages are Trader Joe's Bratzwurst (5 in a pack), I found that I could fit 2 packs (a total of 10 sausages) in my largest pan (which is great in terms of throwing a sausage party, less batches of cooking to do).

My idea of perfectly cooked sausages are browned on the outside, maybe a couple of tears here and there and juicy and moist on the inside.  After cooking sausages stove-top for a few years now I've got cooking the perfect stove-top sausages down.

Directions to cooking the perfect stove-top sausages:
1)  I like to take my sausages out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before cooking time and allow them to come to room temperature- I'm not all too sure if this is an important step but since this is the way I've always done it and my sausages come out so nice I'm not going to mess with the usual process.

2)  Heat up a large pan (or a pan with enough room for all the sausages you are going to cook) on med-high heat, no oil is needed in the pan since the sausages will give off enough fat and juices to coat the pan.

3)  When the pan is heated thoroughly add the sausages (you should hear the sizzle of the sausages on the pan).  Brown all sides of the sausages (and when I say "brown" I mean really brown, not slightly brown or tan but brown brown), the browning of the outer layer will help to keep most of the juices trapped in the sausages during the next step, slow cooking.  And when I say "all sides" this could be 3-4 sides (since the sausages are round and like to curl slightly its hard to get all sides as they like to roll from side to side, if I'm lucky I'll get 4 sides browned but 3 is good enough).

4)  After all sides of the sausages are browned, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan with a lid, allow the sausages to slow-cook in the pan on low heat for about 15-20 minutes, turn the sausages occasionally.  Take note that the longer the sausages take to cook during this process the drier the sausages will become, my usual 15-20 minutes results in pretty good juicy sausages though.

Now you have to do is serve those babies up with some potatoes and salad!

Figaro Bistrot makes a lovely chicken & mushroom stew crepe

Crepes au Poulet, chicken and mushroom stewed in garlic cream sauce served with salad

Cream of mushroom soup?  How about Chicken Pot Pie or thyme?!  These are the dishes and flavors that Figaro Bistrot's Crepes au Poulet reminds me of... absolutely sinful.  Mr. Borscht calls Crepes au Poulet a sauce lovers dish because, as you can see from the picture above, this crepe is saucy and without it it just might be nothing.  

The crepe is thin and soft, enclosed are chunks of bite-size chicken and mushrooms.  The sauce surrounding the crepe is a garlic cream sauce with a mild hint of mushroom flavor and each bite reminds you of thyme, cream of mushroom soup and chicken pot pie.  Absolutely delicious! 

Total Damage:  $13.00 +/-
1 Crepes au Poulet

1802 N. Vermont Ave
LA CA 90027
(323) 662.1587

Osteria Mamma! (Osteria= a place for wine and simple food)

Last weekend Brother Charlie took the family out to dinner for Papa Tapeworms birthday at an Italian restaurant called Osteria Mamma. Pleasantly nearby the restaurant is located on a corner, one block west of Larchmont on Melrose. The Italian restaurant looks like nothing special from the outside, very inconspicuous, I have driven by it countless times and have never noticed it before.

After having a rather delicious dinner at Osteria Mamma the weekend before Mr. Borscht and I decide to try it out for ourselves.

Osteria Mamma is a small restaurant consisting of two rooms, large blown-up black and white pictures hang on the wall, I assume it is the Osteria Mamma family. The wooden lacquered tables all have a bottle of organic EVOO made by Osteria Mamma- I find quite interesting, a restaurant that also makes its own olive oil.

Complimentary bread and sauce is served while one awaits for their orders to be served.  The bread is warm, soft, moist and chewy, the perfect texture for the tomato sauce which I'm positive also has tabasco in it, there is a tangy spiciness to the tomato sauce that I recognize as tabasco.  I'm not too big of a fan of the tomato sauce but the bread is great and so I eat the sauce anyway.

And because it has been hot out as of late I decide to partake in a sparkling white wine spritzer that includes Apperol, I asked for a refreshing alcoholic beverage but because Osteria Mamma serves only wine and beer this interesting drink is what I get; sparkling white wine, ice, Apperol and a slice of lemon. The drink indeed is refreshing, bubbly and cooling but the Apperol is mildly bitter and this does not appeal to me.

Carpaccio di Filetto, fillet mignon carpaccio with arugula and Grana Padano cheese
We begin our dinner with a starter of Carpaccio di Filetto. Thinly THINLY sliced beef carpaccio, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, sprinkled with salt and white pepper, then topped with a mound of fresh crisp arugula and shaved salty Grana Padano cheese. The carpaccio is fantastic! I tend to like my carpaccio slightly thicker in slice (Osterio Mamma's carpaccio is so thin one can pull it apart quite easily with a fork) but even so the citrus flavors with the white pepper together with the spicy crisp arugula and the saltiness of the shaved cheese is an absolutely wonderful combination that gets your taste buds humming and ready for more appetizing dishes, it is indeed the perfect starter for this restaurant and I highly recommend it if you have no qualms eating raw red meat.

Gnocchi ai Porcini, light cream sauce, Porcini mushrooms and all natural free range Jidori Chicken
Mr. Borscht and I both order the Gnocchi ai Porcini for our main course. The Gnocchi is melt-on-your-mouth (literally)! Buttery and full of Jidori Chicken flavors with mild undertones of Porcini mushroom essence. Should you not like mushrooms this is still a great dish to order as the mushroom flavor is so light within the dish. It is thus far the best gnocchi I've come across and not at all boring as many gnocchi dishes tend to be. There is a kind of loving feeling and tenderness one feels from eating the gnocchi at Osteria Mamma perhaps it is the strong but subtle flavors combined with the buttery and soft gnocchi, a pleasant texture for the palate, resulting in a slow and savoring dining experience; it seems to me the Gnocchi ai Porcini is a romantic food- perfect for a special date.

After dining at Osteria Mamma twice within two weeks and a couple hours of deliberation Mr. Borscht and I have an unspoken understanding that Osteria Mamma is now our favorite Italian spots in Los Angeles. 

Total Damage: $84.00 +/-
1 Sparkling white wine spritzer
1 Terroni beer
1 Carpaccio di Filetto
2 Gnocchi ai Porcini

5730 Melrose Ave
LA CA 90038
(323) 284.7060


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