Sweet Lady Jane's - Serious cake lovers only. Okay, as far as cakes go, we tend to be extremely picky in finding something that we like to eat. More often than not when eating out I find that restaurants lack imagination when it comes to desserts. They offer the usual heavy overly sweet cheesecake or the mud pie, or even manage to screw up the apple crumble by making it heavy and too cinamony etc. Well alas, at Sweet Lady Jane's on Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles, you find a whole new world of cakes. I could not resist the apple turnover, the puff pastry was incredibly fluffy (and yes even puff pastry can be disgusting sometimes) and the apples were sweet and tangy at the same time--great stuff. I also tasted the Dulce de Leche cake that a friend was having and that too was wonderful, very moist but also light and nothing artificial about the taste. The menu is accommodating to any sweet tooth, offering anything from layer cakes to pies, tarts, cheesecakes and many many specialty items. The decorations on the cakes are also to be admired. I drank pomegranate tea for the first time, actually expecting it to be red but in reality the tea was greenish in color. It was tasty. The whole experience left me wanting more cake.
Salades de Provence - Authentic French Cooking. On the corner of Holloway and La Cienega sits a quaint little French Cafe which offers a selection of typical French salads, soups, and quiches. The owner of this restaurant is a nice man by the name of Richard who basically told me that he took authentic French recipes without changing a thing (something that others might do to accommodate the American taste buds). They start you off with a plate of toasted French baguette and a sort of vegetable tapenade for spreading on top, it was very flavorful. For my main course I had their vegetable soup and again, something that sounds so simple but it was crunchy and very fresh tasting they only use organically grown vegetables. My salad was the "Salade de Mozzarella". For dessert I had the cheesecake topped with tangy bitter marmalade and a cookie base--wow, I have to admit that I love my mother's cheesecake but this too was absolutely magnificent. Also, the combination of chocolate on the bottom of the plate worked very well with the bitter orange. The whole experience was very memorable and I will definitely eat there again.
The Wynn Buffet, Las Vegas, NV- This is one of my favorites because it has a great selection of different cuisines. It’s beautifully designed so that you never feel overcrowded. The desserts! What can I say? I love sampling everything! Not only do they have good quality gelato, but a range of world famous desserts. I love their Crème Brule for instance because the portion size is just right, and it is not too sweet and very crispy on top. When I get my braces off, the first thing I will dive into will be their cute miniature candy apples. Six more months to go!
C&O Trattoria, Venice Beach, CA- Located in the heart of the restaurant district on Washington Blvd by the beach, this place has great atmosphere, not to mention the famous ‘killer garlic rolls’. You have an option of sitting outside in a rustic Italian garden, or sitting inside. It’s a happy place with great Italian music and talented singing waiters. Portions are humungous! I usually go for the traditional spaghetti, no complaints there. Additionally, I usually have a salad. By the end of the meal, there is no room for dessert, so I can’t comment on dessert. If you’re going around lunch and dinner time, be prepared for long lines.
Back to the Beach Café, Santa Monica, CA- After a long roller blade, there is nothing like a rest at this café located right on the sand. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere where a lot of the locals like to hang out and I did too when living there. You get to stick your feet in the sand, and then enjoy a healthy breakfast or lunch. For breakfast, I’ve had the ‘yogurt granola sundae’. It arrives in a very tall cup topped with fresh fruit. For lunch, I have had their delicious veggie burger with their salad and French fries.
Natalee Thai, Los Angeles, CA- There are Thai restaurants galore, but Natalee’s has great, tender beef sate accompanied with mouthwatering peanut sauce. Their spring rolls are the crispiest that I’ve ever had, and their monsoon noodles full of flavor. I order the noodles mild, although they still come pretty spicy. The acoustics are very bad there, but the food is definitely worth it.
The Paris Buffet, LV – It has a very big selection of food but what I like most is the grilled meat section. Apart from the regular prime rib and turkey served on the slice there is separate grilled meat area. The meat is very tender and spiced very well. Another favorite item for me is the selection of rolls. They are like none other with olives and sun-dried tomatoes, and very good with their cheese selection.
Papaya, Buffalo, NY- Wow, it’s so good. I’ve been there twice already, and just can’t get enough of it! The appetizers are incredible, and you should be careful not to get too full on them. I’ve had their calamari and I love it because it is very light, and the sauce is tangy. For my entrée, I’ve had the tofu and vegetable pad Thai. It is not heavy and thick like most pad Thai dishes. Instead, it is filled with summery vegetables and thin, tasty noodles. Right next door, is the Chocolate Bar where you can have a number of lip-smacking desserts. I’ve had many deserts there, but one of my favorites is the chocolate dipped fruit. They serve you a large glass of warm chocolate and you get to dip any fruits that you wish.
Cheesecake Factory, Boca Park, Las Vegas, NV – The portions are huge, and your appetite should be too! The lines are usually very long, so be prepared for a possible wait. I can’t resist the avocado egg rolls dipped in a cilantro vinegar sauce. They are nice and crispy, and oozing with avocado and sun dried tomato, making for a delicious appetizer, though I usually eat this as my main dish. It will be hard, but try to save room for dessert. My favorite cheesecakes are banana cream, and original with strawberries. They are both light and fluffy, and big enough for two to share.
Dagwood’s Pizza, Venice CA – If you are strolling down Main Street in Venice and you need a light bite, then Dagwood’s is the place. Their pizzas are very tasty, the tomato paste is not too thick and the crust is perfect too. I usually have this with a side of salad and it always hits the spot.
Rockenwagner Bakery, Venice CA – Their baked goods are very European and my favorite item is the chocolate bar. It has a fudge sweet taste and yet it is not too heavy—I always want more. They also have great rolls; I usually get their delicious cheese roll, again very different and very tasty.
Kiwiberry, Boca Park, LV – I am a huge fan of yogurt deserts and this new place offers a whole range of different tasting yogurt and fresh fruit toppings. My personal favorite is the plain yogurt with strawberries on top. The yogurt has a unique smooth flavor to it and you feel very refreshed after having this dessert. In L.A. these yogurt places also serve you fresh waffle bites on the side which are very complimenting to the yogurt taste. I wish they would offer the waffles here too.
The Rose Café, Venice, CA – This café features a lovely garden sitting area and usually I have gone there for their Apple Tart tar Tan. This French Apple cake is tangy and together with Fresh whipped cream it is up there with one of my favorite desserts. I have also had the salads at the Rose café and those too are very fresh and filling. There is always a nice atmosphere and it is a favorite amongst the locals.
Aroma Café, Las Vegas, NV – The dining area in this place is very comfortable and there is a choice between dining inside or in the garden area which features plants and a big water fountain. The menu is Mediterranean and European and I usually have their wonderful sandwiches which are made from toasted sesame bagels and feta with vegetables. The sandwiches come with a fresh salad and I just love the cucumbers that they put in the salad, very tasty and crispy. The service is fantastic and I’d watch out for Colt, he’s our favorite waiter.
Marmalades, Santa Monica, CA – I have had breakfast in this cozy little place on Montana Avenue. It’s hard to find a seat because it is very small, but it’s got good healthy food and wonderful blackcurrant scones.
Spumoni’s, Santa Monica, CA – A small Italian eatery with very good pasta dishes. I have had so many different dishes over the years and really love them all. They serve you fresh bread with tapenade olive spread. I have had to forfeit my meal because of it so be careful. Their spumoni ice cream is very good.
Jamba Juice, Marina Del Rey, CA – There are many smoothie places around the country, but Jamba Juice for me is the best. The smoothies are very fresh tasting with no strange after tastes. Recently I have fallen in love with the pomegranate smoothie.
Romans, Sherman Oaks, CA- This is a wonderful place with a huge selection of wraps. I guess that as in a sandwich, the bread is an important component of the taste and the same goes for the wrap. It’s very light as opposed to doughy ones and it is generously filled with whatever you wish.
Bibi’s Warmstone Bakery – Los Angeles, CA – If you are a lover of hummus then the pita you dip into the hummus becomes important too. At Bibi’s, a small ethnic neighborhood bakery on Pico Avenue, they bake the pita right in front of you and there are always bags full of fresh steaming pita to go. They have other menu items which are delicious but I love their own version of pizza which I find very tasty. It’s a small pizza, but certainly enough for my appetite. I have the one with the green olives. This place is open until late but shuts early on Friday and is closed on Saturday. I have sat there many times with my mother, a lover of little ethnic eateries, but I have seen my mom getting frustrated with the parking situation. Also, there is not really a lot of seating available, but it’s definitely worth picking up and taking home.
Abbot’s Pizza – Venice, CA – This is a tiny pizza place where locals go for a quick bite in the eclectic Abbot Kinney neighborhood. This pizza is different because it is made with bagel dough. There is a very big selection of toppings, and the slices are big and generous.
Amena Bakery & Deli - Las Vegas, NV- Finally, really great falafel in Vegas! Amena bakery is located on 2101 S. Decatur Blvd, literally a hidden treasure. We discovered this place when my mom went shopping at Trader Joes; just as she exited the car, the unique aroma of freshly baked pita caused her to veer away from the food store and walk directly into Amena. I have to say that the pita is an important part of the falafel sandwich and at Amena, they bake their own pita fresh every day! The falafel is tasty and crispy, and the condiments that accompany the sandwich are amazing, things like hummus, techina, pickled lemons, mango chutney, sehug and spicy tomato salad etc.. The portions of food are extremely generous, and the people who work there are very friendly. The place is usually crowded, it's obviously been discovered by true falafel connoisseurs. If you choose to take your falafel home, it will stay nice and crispy for a while. The menu offers other food too, but I just haven't gotten there yet because I'm still stuck on the falafel! If I were you, I would hurry to get a falafel!
One of my favorite things to do is to swim in the Mediterranean sea because the water is warm and quite clear. In Israel there is a whole beach scene that is very interesting and entertaining, it's like one big party where everyone knows each other. However, another favorite of mine is the Red Sea in Eilat, located on the southern tip of Israel. The water is a lot colder than the Mediterranean, but it doesn't matter because it's in the scorching hot desert anyway. The water is crystal clear and the snorkeling experience is amazing. We like to go to Coral Beach and snorkel for hours, looking at beautiful fish and enjoying the wonderful water. Before heading to the beach though we would stop for a traditional Israeli breakfast at Shibolim, a local chain restaurant. The breakfast that I had at Shibolim is the best I have ever experienced! All of their cakes and breads are baked on the spot and the selection is enormous, from plain croissants to chocolate and almond filled ones to a variety of Danishes and crispy Rogelach and Burekas (which is puff pastry filled with cheese and olives, or mushrooms or spinach or potatoes) and pita with Zaatar and so much more. When you order your food at Shibolim, say an omelet for instance, they first serve you a platter that includes a selection of their freshly baked breads and a choice of cheeses and jams and olive spreads. By the time you're done with that platter, there is no room for the food that you ordered so you really have to be careful but it's so hard to resist. Then when your own platter arrives it's another eating feast, with more amazing rustic bread and cheeses and spreads that accompany your eggs. This meal kept all of us going while we spent hours snorkeling at Coral Beach. Israel has THE BEST breakfasts on earth!!!
Casa Di Pizza
On trendy Elmwood Avenue in downtown Buffalo you will find casual Italian dining in an old local favorite, Casa Di Pizza. It’s been there for years, my mother used to eat there as a child and even played with the owner’s children, who now happen to run the restaurant. They have a huge menu, but I tend to stick to the pizza because that is what they’re known for. Everything from the crust, to the cheese and tomato sauce is absolutely delicious and different. What I love about their tomato sauce is that it doesn’t taste like canned tomato paste, but rather fresh as though the tomatoes were just picked off the vine. The crust is not doughy; instead it is crispy but chewy at the same time. If in Buffalo, NY definitely get your pizza from Casa Di Pizza.
I had the good fortune to travel to Israel this summer and when in Israel, of course you have to have falafel! The first day we arrived, after a quick swim at the Sharon Beach in Herzlia, we went to the first falafel place that we could find. It’s not a difficult thing to do because there are just so many restaurants, from the very simple stands, to sophisticated wining and dining, and they were all terrific. Later on that day we were told off for “wasting” our appetite on that falafel when we could’ve gone to Falafel Chaim. Of course at some point we made our way to Falafel Chaim and from the moment we arrived it was an incredible eating experience. It was just a stand in the middle of downtown Herzlia with about 6 chairs on the curb, but to be totally honest, nobody even bothered using the chairs (including us). I don’t know how to even explain it, but the minute we were handed our falafel sandwich, we were too consumed with downing this marvelous creation that sitting was just not an option! The falafel balls were light and crispy with the lovely flavor of chickpeas. The pita was soft and fluffy, and their French fries were something out of the ordinary. They were in the shape of round disks, dipped in a spiced batter and fried. Mmmmm…Mouthwatering!
Israel Aharoni’s Chinese restaurant in Herzlia’s industrial area. In Israel you will find that there is a large concentration of restaurants in the industrial part of town. Such is the case in the beach town of Herzlia. At lunchtime you will see the sidewalks crowded with people from the close by high tech industries, making their way to the many different restaurants in this part of town. It’s actually an interesting scene because people look very lively, usually walking in pairs or groups and they are always engaged in conversation, different to what I’m used to in the West. The evening time is just as crowded with a different wave of people coming for dinner. Getting back to Pat Qua, this upscale restaurant is also in the industrial area of Herzlia. I have to say that it’s up there with my favorite Chinese restaurants. We were a large group of people dinning together, so there were many dishes that we shared, like Szechwan style fish and noodles and dim sum and more. Everything was very tasty and once again, different. This place is so popular that you do need a reservation.
Sushi Samba-Palazzo, Las Vegas
My dad and I went walking around the Palazzo (the new Venetian tower), looking for a new place to eat, and we stumbled across Sushi Samba. After taking a look at the unique menu of Japanese cuisine mixed with Peruvian and South American, we went right in. From the specialty sushi rolls we ordered with mozzarella cheese melted on top, and jalapenos on the inside, we knew we were in for a treat. We then ordered a few different robatas, which literally means on the fire. We ordered lamb robata, scallop, and sea bass. Each plate came with two skewers, and the sea bass, which was my personal favorite, came with a side of Peruvian corn, which tasted like a mixture of potatoes and corn. For dessert we ordered the chocoloate fondue which was served with Japanese marshmallows rolled in coconut, brownies, “crispies”, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple along with 3 dipping cups filled with chocolate. The restaurant had a funky, modern, sophisticated theme that extended to the inventive menu. Our meal was truly delicious and has definitely become one of my new favorite places to eat.
Hash House A-Go-Go
This restaurant is located in Las Vegas and it’s one of my favorite breakfast places in town! It offers a unique take on breakfast food, not to mention portions that are out of this world! This time I ordered the artichoke, mushroom, sundried tomato hash which comes with two eggs and a biscuit that is to die for. The potatoes in the hash are the crispiest I’ve ever had and the biscuit is very flaky and flavorful. Lucky for me, my step-dad ordered one of their famous pancakes with brown sugar and banana, which is the size of a steering-wheel, no joke! I had to try some of that too, and what a fantastically fluffy pancake it was. We usually end up sharing because the portions are obscene, and the tastes are irresistible. The presentation of the food is creative and rustic looking. My hash was served in the actual pan it was cooked in. There is always some wait involved but it is so worth it. Don’t plan on eating after…