Archive for October, 2010

Butter/Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

Using electric mixer

1. Cream butter and sugar

2. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla

3. Beat in 1 egg

4. Sift and combine  flour and salt

5. Add to butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape dough onto saran wrap and use wrap to form into a mass.

6. Chill dough 3 to 4 hours before rolling

I roll out 1/4 of the dough at a time – a pastry cloth lightly floured makes the job much easier

7. Preheat oven to 350

The cookie cutters and decorating sugars

8. Roll out and cut

9. Decorate with colored sugar and other fun stuff

10. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly colored

11. Cool on rack

12. Can be frozen


Michael’s – Long Beach

Michael’s On Naples in Long Beach was introduced to the Roving Reporter some time ago by a friend.   It is a really good place with very nice service, great atmosphere and excellent Italian food.   It is definitely the place to go if you are in or around Long Beach.

A simple, well priced Chianti style wine, $ 40.00 from a generally reasonable and intelligent list.

The green noodle Lasagna at Michael’s is tops.   This is a half portion and as you can see a very generous, big serving.  This was delicious with just the right mixture of meat and pasta.

The steak was perfectly cooked with potatoes and onions that were delicious.   Again, this was a half portion and was equally as generous as the pasta with more than enough for one.

A little something sweet, the Italian doughnuts are superb…sprinkled with orange zest, fabulous flavor and texture.   Here 1.5 doughnuts was enough, but had there been one more on the plate your reporter would have scarfed it down.

Michael’s is someplace to return to…too bad it took 1:45 hours to get there from Brentwood at 6:15…traffic ugg!!

The Palm – West Hollywood

The Palm is a consistent excellent stand-by for lunch or dinner.   Needing to be out of Brentwood because Michelle Obama was going to be tying up traffic, the roving reporter opted to meet his business lunch guest at The Palm, on Santa Monica Blvd. in WeHo.

Beer and lunch seem to fit very well.

The Gigi Salad is a Palm special.  It is so fresh tasting that even a non-veggie guy like the roving reporter loves it.   The green beans snapped as the were consumed and the shrimp were perfectly fresh and delicious.   A big salad makes a great work day lunch.

Dessert Fries

Faux “Fries” with Raspberry “Ketchup”

1 loaf of pound cake (homemade or store bought)

1 cardboard French fry container (ask politely at a restaurant that serves fries this way and you shall receive)


1 Preheat oven to 350°F.

2 Trim off a thin layer of the cake’s brown exterior crust. Then cut pound cake lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Turn slices on their side and cut into 1/4-inch strips. Trim to 4 to 5 inches in length (if this sounds confusing, just remember, you are creating French fry-shaped strips).

3 Arrange strips on cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and bottom. Turn strips and bake for approximately 4 more minutes, or until remaining two sides are lightly browned. Let cool, then arrange in fries container.

Raspberry “Ketchup”

1 12-ounce bag frozen raspberries, thawed, or 2 cups of fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons of confectionery (powdered) sugar

1 empty ketchup squeeze bottle


1 Place raspberries in a blender or food processor, and puree (add a few tablespoons of water, or lemon juice, if necessary, to facilitate blending).

2 Add sugar, one teaspoon at a time, to taste—until tartness is gone.

3 Place raspberry puree in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to force the puree through the strainer. Discard the seeds and transfer the puree to the squeeze bottle. Serve alongside “fries”.


Spago was very, very busy for Thursday lunch. My guess is that people were taking advantage of the fact that Spago is participating in the Dine LA promotion. We asked if we could just have a mini tasting menu – chef’s choice. Spago is a place where you ask and you receive.

We always sit on the patio, the table nearest the garden.

Sculpture in the garden.

Waterfall in the garden.

Laurent – one of the best managers in the city of Los Angeles

BYO Champagne

Spicy Tuna Tartar in a sesame tuile – signature dish

Ceviche of Japanese Hamachi with Emerald Plums served in a Chinese spoon

House-Smoked Salmon with Dill Crème Fraiche, Chives and Salmon Eggs served on a Blini

Bacon Confit en Croute

Heirloom Tomato Salad – micro cherry tomatoes plus regular cherry tomatoes, fresh burrata, basil aioli, balsamic, basil flower, croustillant infused with anchovies – this just screamed seasonality and quality ingredients. This is where Spago shines – let the ingredients speak for themselves and keep it simple, but with a great balance of flavors.

BYO White wine – Raveneau, La Foret 1997 – absolutely superb

Pan-roasted loup de mer rolled with Maryland Crab Meat, White Jerusalem Artichoke puree, French Ratouille, Champagne and Saffron Sauce, Basil Oil and fresh dill – The loup de mer was cooked perfectly (see photo below for the lovely crispy skin). Again this is cooking for the “less is more” school – no extraneous ingredients, no frills just for show.

Close-up of Loup de Mer

Pumpkin Agnolotti with White Italian Truffles from Alba – the agnolotti was cooked perfectly, but this is very early for white truffles and the truffles were more or less tasteless.

Close-up of the Agnolotti

Roast Loin of Sonoma Lamb, Summer Squash with Lamb sausage, Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Toasted Almonds, Apple on Celery Puree, Natural Jus with Black Olive – my favorite part of this dish was the sausage (personal preference), but over-all this was a well-executed dish.

Traditional Peach Cobbler, Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Yellow and Red Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries – a nice ending

Lunch at Spago is just a special experience and well-worth it.


Pittsburgh -The Roving Reporter Reports

Eleven is listed as one of the “best restaurants in Pittsburgh” and it probably is. I met very old friends there.  My friends are sophisticated world travelers who have dined at many of the top restaurants in the world.  But, I think they close their eyes to some of the local deficiencies.  It was a nice meal with very good company, but certainly not up to “A” level standards.

Nice plate of oysters.  I forgot to take the photo when they were in the shells.

Tuna tartar was very good.  Very finely chopped tuna without additional spices or vegetables other than the crème fraiche and small amount of caviar–quite good.

Creamy ham and white bean soup–very nice.

Arugula and lamb salad.  I didn’t taste this, but friend said it was “good”.

Caesar salad–my friend liked his.

New Zealand lamb with polenta–lamb was very good, accompaniments were lousy.

Over-all Eleven was just another meal.

Early Saturday morning I thought I would have one of the famous sandwiches at Primanti Bros.   I chose to go to “The Original” at 8 AM.

Inside are a few tables and a counter…nothing interesting plus a surly fat bleached-blond waitress who was about as helpful as the Styrofoam cups.

When in Pittsburgh…Yuengling is a local beer that I got to like…so makes for a good breakfast drink, right?   Who needs orange juice?

Philly cheese steak sandwich with egg and the Primanti signature–the fries and coleslaw in the sandwich–what a MESS!   I don’t know why anyone would want the fries and slaw in the sandwich and on top of that lousy slaw and not hot fries…the “cheese steak” was over cooked meat tasting like dish water and the eggs were like rubber. I only ate 3 bites and told the wonderful waitress to throw the rest away, Note: She never asked, “is everything ok?” Why is Primanti Bros. still in business?

Saturday to make up for the awful breakfast, I decided to try Lidia’s the Pittsburgh outpost of the famous Lidia Bastanich.

The interior is very nice, note a large number of very large patrons–there are a lot of large people in Pittsburgh, my old home town.  Many of the people are retirees who I think spend most of their time eating at places like Primanti Bros.

Brunch $ 24.00 includes a mimosa or bloody mary…buffet tables are very popular in Pittsburgh…people really went at the antipasto table.

Nice antipasto selection.

Excellent bread with 3 very good butters.

I ordered the “signature” Trio of Pastas…flat papardelle with sausage…the first serving was cold.  My very nice waitress got the guy to bring a fresh serving…quite good.

Gnocci–good, not my favorite.

My assortment …the tomato pasta was good also.

Dessert buffet–very very popular with big people…sales pitch looked good with her books.

I’m from California–restrained dessert selection.

Lidia’s over all was decent.   Limited selection of wines by the glass.  Service pleasant.   I can see how the $ 24.00 [all in] price tag is very attractive.  They were very busy…no recession here, but it was Saturday the day before a Steeler game at home…so many tourists up for the weekend.   Would I go back–no real reason to.   It has a chain restaurant feel.

Final comment:  You don’t go to Pittsburgh to eat.