Saturday, February 25, 2017

review - Dog Haus

Dog Haus
Northridge Biergarten
8931 Reseda Blvd,

Hot dogs and hamburgers are a staple of the fast food American lunch, dinner or even between meals. It's our way of life! Even if you love one or the other or both, do your taste buds long for added flavor? Would you like to dress up your dog or burger with other favorite ingredients? Well, look no further than to Dog Haus, a new popular chain of eateries in So Cal. I found the restaurant in Northridge to be the most distinct in design and the most friendly and inviting with owners Paul Homayoun and wife Ramona actually working the registers and serving customers....with a smile. You cannot get any friendlier than that.

Just a few blocks from Cal State Northridge, this Dog Haus opened around Labor Day of 2016 and was designed by Homayoun, a former construction and real estate man who has some pretty sharp ideas on how a fast food restaurant should appeal to customers. If you have the young crowd from the college, allow for plenty of space, widescreen TVs and  high tables and stools as well as normal tables and chairs, to add a more laid-back feel to the ambiance. High ceilings create a better, healthier breathing environment and the menu right in front of your eyes at the register permits you to make fast, convenient choices. The waiting time is quite short and servers bring your food to your table in a very efficient manner.

My friend and I were more than eager to sample a variety of dogs and burgers, and Paul aimed to please. I had a cowboy dog with smoked bacon, caramelized onions, mayo, pickled peppers, mustard and ketchup and a cheeseburger with white American cheese, 1001 island dressing, onion, lettuce and tomato. Hot dogs are signature all beef skinless dogs and burgers are hormone and antibiotic free, Both my selections were hot and delicious. My friend Stan chose a classic corn dog cooked in a house made root beer batter. He was delighted. We shared freshly cooked french fries and onion rings.

For a beverage, I love caramel, so ordered a salty caramel shake that was perfectly blended with just the right amount of flavoring added. There is also Fosselman's vanilla ice cream for dessert, as well as vanilla, dutch chocolate and salty caramel shakes, and homemade cookies, chocolate chip and macadamia nut.

And, as well as the regular dogs, there are hand-crafted Haus sausages, that include Das Brat with bratwurst, Pig Lebowski with polish kielbasa, The Fonz with spicy Italian and for the vegans, Sooo Veggie with veggie smoked apple, tomato, avocado, wild arugula, crispy onions and spicy basil aioli. The burgers and haus sausages are only $7.49 each and the haus dogs, $5.99. The sides include fries, tater tots, cheese fries, haus slaw, and haus chili that range from a low $2.49 to $4.99. You may also build your own dog, sausage or burger from $3.99 for dogs to $5.49 for burgers. Sauces used, by the way, are all natural and made on the premises.

A special word or two about my favorite item, the sliders. These are sooo good, the burger slider with angus beef, caramelized onions, white american cheese and mayo for a mere $1.79 and the dog or corn dog at the same price. With the special sauces added, like the haus made cheese sauce, these are a taste treat worth savoring ... and eating two or three, a meal in themselves.

Paul emphasized that he holds many fundraisers on site. There is a very pleasant outdoor patio for eating that will accommodate a fairly large group of people.

So try something a little different this weekend and go to Dog Haus. The food is extraordinarily satisfying, especially at the Northridge establishment with its warm and cozy atmosphere. I'll be back!
Paul and Ramona, owners of the fabulous Northridge Dog Haus

Sunday, February 5, 2017

review - Lakeside

Lakeside Restaurant & Lounge
16817 Ventura Blvd., Encino
818- 616-2430

Nestled in Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino between Ventura Blvd. and Moorpark Street, Lakeside Restaurant & Lounge has been serving high quality meals for the past two and a half years. I say nestled, because if you drive past the quaint-looking adobe building on Ventura Blvd, you cannot imagine the magnitude of the unique experience and view that await you on the other side. Park behind the gas station on La Maida St, and once you've entered the lovely lobby, and go down the stairs into the bar and dining room area...prepare yourself to be enthralled by the magnificent view of the lake and 4.5 acre park seen through the huge dining room windows. The only other giveaway of your presence at a lake is the raucous yet fun-filled cocktail-party sound of the gaggles of geese who swim around it consistently.

The ample dining room is comfortably laid out with old style wooden doors and contemporary wicker chairs, presenting the overall feel of a typically western settlement...a sturdy, old-world charm... and the warm, friendly staff offer a more than abundant welcome. There is also a large outdoor patio equipped for events and parties lakeside, ideal during warmer weather.

I had heard that the lamb burger (pictured top right) was a delicious choice, but once our affable waiter Josh handed us the menu of the specialties of the day, the first entry caught my eye - a 16 oz ribeye steak with Bernaise sauce. My friend JJ and I both love steak, have hearty appetites and were quite hungry, so we immediately chose the ribeye. It was still Happy Hour when we arrived (3pm - 6pm) so from the Happy Hour menu we chose Calamari Fritti with marinara and cilantro lime aioli sauces as a $5 appetizer to share, and from the regular menu the soup of the day, which was tomato basil - a personal favorite. Ravenous, we decided to split an order of crabcakes as well. It was a pleasure to have Monty, the general manager, on hand to give us a brief history of the lake and the restaurant and to tell us about Lakeside's catering services and online delivery.

Soon after, our food arrived piping hot, and, no pun intended, we dove right in. The steaks were cooked to perfection, and the scalloped potatoes that I substituted for the mashed were scrumptious. I must say, I have had crabcakes many times over, and in some restaurants they taste processed, but these were like the old fashioned fishcakes I was brought up on, with potatoes and pieces of real fresh crab to savor in every bite. Lakeside uses, of course, the finest ingredients and takes full advantage of local produce companies for its meats, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables.

Monty brought us a large platter of desserts which included rustic apple tart, fresh raspberries, creme brulee, kahlua tiramisu, chocolate cake and a fabulous flaky pastry. All desserts are in-house baked and reasonably priced at $8.

The entrees, which range from $16 for a lamb burger to the ribeye which I could not believe fell under $40, are moderately priced too. Most pasta dishes, sandwiches, specialty burgers, chicken dishes range from $16-$22, and fish entrees like salmon slightly higher at $24. Steaks such as filet mignon and ribeye, of course, are understandably higher at $36/$37. But considering the prices at other establishments, this is quite a deal. And how can you beat the Happy Hour price of $5 for everything on the menu including food, wine and beer. There are also gluten free options, delivery available online through Eat24, and a specialty catering menu with a wide variety of delectable choices.

In every way, we could not have been more pleased with Lakeside's culinary treats, the service and with the ambiance itself which is truly original. I'll be back!

Lakeside Restaurant & Lounge is open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays from 11 am to 11 pm, Saturdays 9am to 11 pm and Sundays from 9 am to 10 pm. Saturdays and Sundays there is a special a la carte brunch menu. Happy Hour is from 3pm - 6pm every day , and a late night Happy Hour is currently in the planning stages, as on certain occasions, musical entertainment is featured in the bar.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

review - Fleming's Steakhouse in Pasadena

179 E Colorado Blvd
officially opened Monday October 10
The bar 

From our table in the dining room, you can see the opening to the kitchen

Our affable table mates and waitress

I highly recommend the new Fleming's in Pasadena for its delicious aged prime beef and fine service. The media party on Friday October 7 was a great treat, and the entire staff outdid themselves. For the first hour, we visited the bar, where jazz musicians were playing beautifully to put us in just the right mood. There were offerings of giant shrimp and cracked crab on ice, and waiters circulated with crab cakes, bacon slabs and little bruschetta-like pizzas. There was champagne, wine and a special bar for sangria. After introductions to the staff of the new restaurant, we had a wine tasting in a small adjacent room of the 100 incredible varieties of Fleming's special collection. I chose the Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon, always a delicious favorite.

Located on East Colorado at Marengo, Fleming's means elegant dining. Its ultra modern design, spacious dining room with tables and booths, a full bar in front and kitchen partially visible from the dining room, all add up to providing the comfortable surroundings one expects in a top-notch restaurant. 

A steak lover, I was excited to order the Prime New York strip steak, another favorite and famous for its juiciness. When you ask for a steak, cooked medium-rare, it sometimes arrives overdone, with you querying, "Where's the pink?" Not so at Fleming's! It met my total satisfaction. We shared family style the a la carte potatoes and vegetables: delicious Fleming's potatoes, similar to scalloped, chipotle macaroni & cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and crispy Brussels Sprouts. Before the entree, we were served a delicious housemade artisan bread with infused spreads, followed by a choice of salad, either The New Wedge with grape tomatoes, pickled onions, slab bacon and blue cheese dressing - absolutely scrumptious! - or Fleming's salad with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, onions and herbed crostini.  

That night, as far as steak was concerned, we had a choice of bone-in filet mignon, Prime dry aged ribeye, Prime dry aged New York strip, or the Prime New York strip that I chose. The dry aged steaks, I was told, are known for their robust flavor, whereas the non-dry aged are more juicy. For non-red meat diners, Fleming’s also offered us a lovely chicken breast, Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass and for the true vegetarian, a Roasted Stuffed Red Pepper with braised mushroom medley was suggested. On the regular menu, there are selections of pork, ribs, and chops and select, fresh seafood, such as barbecued Scottish salmon fillet, shrimp scampi, Alaskan king crab legs and North Atlantic lobster tails. Something to suit and satisfy every pallet! And, the extensive award-winning wine list featuring Fleming’s 100 wines, served by the glass, add just the right accompaniment to steak or seafood.

For dessert, there was a choice of a lovely Crème Brulee, carrot cake, or walnut turtle pie. I chose the crème brulee, which, yes, is sweet, but I must admit, the sweeter the dessert, the happier my taste buds. On the regular menu nothing beats Fleming's renowned Chocolate Lava Cake. It's a sinful concoction with luscious, warm chocolate filling, that literally spills out when you cut into the cake. It is served with ice cream, real whipped cream and cookies over chopped pistachios. It is difficult to stay on your diet when you eat at Fleming's. The rich food is simply divine, so plan a fast before and after you eat there, but, please, do not miss the foods I have mentioned, or their wonderful prime rib, a specialty. 

Treat yourself to an elegant dinner at Fleming's. It is guaranteed to please on any occasion. And this latest addition to the chain in Pasadena has a truly inviting atmosphere and staff. I'll be back!

Monday, August 8, 2016

review - MidiCi

The Neopolitan Pizza Company
14612 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (SO)
(818) 788-2178

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza! It's everywhere. But, nowhere is it served with such appeal and real Italian goodness than at MidiCi, The Neopolitan Pizza Company, a franchise that has a store right at the corner of Ventura and Cedros in SO, where the famousTower Records took up residence for many, many years. MidiCi opened about fourteen months ago and is a big, bright addition to the SO neighborhood, bringing an enhanced sense of community friendship and delicious food that will truly engender it.
In fact, the mission of MidiCi is to bring people together over pizza as "people are the best thing that can happen to anyone". When you enter, you pick up a menu, look over the tasty choices, order your fresh, non-GMO, pizza on dough that is baked fresh daily on the premises and walk cafeteria style around the serving area. You are given a number, so the pizza, soup, salad, meatballs will be brought to your table, have the opportunity to serve yourself at the drink bar to a regular soda or fresh Italian soda, adding your own syrup, with many delicious flavors to choose from. Along the way you will notice the real Italian wood burning hand built ovens and the huge olive tree spreading up to the ceiling. The olive tree is a tradition in Italian culture, expressing peace and serenity. Will you be relaxed and comfortable at MidiCi? You bet!

MidiCi means "You tell me!", encouraging conversation with new friends and Neopolitan Pizza is the original, the way the Italians invented it in Naples over 300 years ago, "exalting the flavors and celebrating the senses". The restrooms at the rear are plush, elegant stops reflecting the artful, traditional yet contemporary, clean decor of the whole store.

On to the food! Handsome, affable Thomas Bartsch, V.P. of Marketing for MidiCi (pictured below), was on hand to greet my friend and me. He took us through the order line, we made our Italian sodas and then sat down to a lovely meal which included housemade meatballs with smoked mozzarella, homemade Italian peeled tomato soup, which was my favorite. If you love tomato basil soup, this one's for you. FYI, on an interesting note, there are also sprigs of fresh basil throughout the store that you can pick up and add to any of your dishes. We were offered wood-fire baked truffle cheese bread, which was delectable. Encouraged to sample the pizza, I, a breakfast lover, chose the Egg N' Bacon with fresh whole mozzarella and all natural applewood smoked bacon. To say I practically died and went to heaven is putting it mildly. Those wood fire-roasted potatoes and freshly cracked free-range egg made this a real treat. Light and delicious, not heavy like the greasy pizzas experienced in many other popular pizza haunts around town! To top if all off, we were given the best dessert ever, Nutalla Calzone with Fresh Berries. Truly yummy, and proving once again with its fresh pizza dough, that the best natural ingredients are not only healthy, but often make the tastiest meal choices.

And did I mention the moderate prices? Meatballs and soup at $6 each; pizzas with enough slices for two people, under $10; and desserts, unbelievably $5/$6 each. A steal! There is also a gourmet Italian coffee bar, a gourmet tea collection and a huge selection of draft beer and wine for your extreme dining pleasure.

One thing that impressed me further about the concept of freshness is that you may buy cans of the non-GMO tomatoes on your way out, as well as a MidiCi cookbook with real Italian recipes. These folks believe in high quality, and with that in mind, who would not want to dine at MidiCi with its warm, open atmosphere and friendly staff? Thank you for being our friends!
I'll be back!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

review - Claudine

Breakfast is served Monday-Friday from 8am - 11am
All Day Menu is served Monday-Friday from 11am-8pm
Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 8am-3pm

Location: 16350 Ventura Blvd, Ste. F., Encino  
(818) 616-3838

Both Jacquet and Newton were on hand to greet us and prepare delicious hors d'oeuvres on Tuesday June 14 for a small audience of invited guests. Since both are from the San Fernando Valley, he from Northridge and she from Burbank, their goal has been to put together a restaurant for Valley residents and one in which all of their foods are produced with the finest natural ingredients of the surrounding communities. Highlights of the evening included hot hors d'oeuvres like Lea's Lightened Quiche, priced at $10.59, with spinach, basil and only one egg with greens; Briana's Short Rib Grilled Cheese, $12.59, with stout braised onions, roasted

mushrooms, house American cheese, black vinegar teriyaki and russet wedges. This was a triumph, at least with me. I love short ribs and the rich almost  buttery flavor of the cheese and homemade bread accompanying them really made them ring out with flavor. Another big hit was the B.L.A.T. Salad, $11.59, consisting of cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, little gems, avocado, buratta cheese, garlic croutons and creamy garlic dressing. It is a meal in itself!

All prices are fair and reasonable for the quality Claudine provides. Yes, the emphasis is on quality. All vegetables are fresh daily...and the pastries are baked every day. Nothing is ever left over. $4 for a brown butter rice krispy treat and $1.25 for one of Lea's scrumptious cookies is well worth the price. There was a tray of cupcakes, cookies, brownies as well as a grab bag of chocolate chip cookies, which are to die for. They should be sold nationally as Lea's Chocolate Chip Cookies. I understand that is being worked out as we speak. They are too yummy for words.

Also popular on their menu, and to which we were also treated, are Cianna's Naan-zza that includes pesto, buratta, bacon, mushrooms and asparagus. Think pizza but with a softer, more singular bread taste! It's delicious. Also served from the hearth is of course the quiche and... Avocado Toast, Nikki's Way with Spanish cayenne, fresh lemon, chimichurri, Serrano ham and fried egg.

As far as breakfast is concerned - and it is served every day Monday through Friday from 8 am to 11 am - we were nicely reminded of it with the serving of blueberry pancakes and bacon. Those pancakes were extra light and fluffy. Merveilleuses!

Look for a special of the day...and for the little ones, there are a grilled cheese and cup of soup, Margarita 'pizza' bread and Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, all at low prices $6-$8.

There is also a full bar with wine and freshly brewed beer. We were treated to a lovely lemon/lime sangria!

So, come on in to Claudine - Claudine Artisan Kitchen and Bakeshop -  and bring the whole family! There is something to suit everyone's tastebuds. And I cannot mention enough for the sweet tooth in you, there is nothing finer than Lea's Chocolate Chip Cookies, baked fresh every morning. They are the best anywhere!

Stephanie, Michelle and Emily from    bread & BUTTER pr ... their smiles tell it all!

Friday, February 5, 2016

review - All American BBQ


All American BBQ has been open in Northridge for about three months, but its vision came about years ago when Gerald Baker, born in LA, and Mike Musantry, from New York, met unexpectedly on a vacation and became buddies. At the time, they were both cops on different
Owners/ Buddies Gerald Baker and Mike Musantry
coasts, and as they both love food - especially Chef Baker who loves to cook - they decided that upon retirement from the police force they would open a restaurant together. With Musantry's Italian family background and an already successful business with ice cream trucks All American Softy, and Baker's grandma's famous recipes for peach cobbler, corn bread and the like, BBQ seemed to be an ideal all American choice.

When you first enter All American BBQ, you are instantaneously grabbed by the spaciousness of the place and its cleanliness. On the left is the All American Softy stand with a counter, reminding one of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. In the middle is the kitchen and long main counter with pictures of the scrumptious food choices and a wide screen television above. On the right, as well as in the middle, there is an abundance of tables spread out comfortably, making you feel at ease and setting the mood for a highly valued meal experience.

Both Mike and Gerry were on hand to serve me and my friend with a platter of delicious food. Friendly Mike, dressed in his wild and crazy All American Hawaiian style shirt, talked up a storm about their aspirations and made us feel right at home. His partner Gerry served us a platter that included baby back pork ribs, big beef ribs, chicken breast, pull pork and tri-tip sandwiches, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, and samples of their homemade chili and soup of the day, beef barley. There are two different kinds of BBQ sauce mild and spicy. The mild is not overly sweet, but tart, just right. They are not bottled yet, but should be. And I am a connoisseur of ribs, especially the beef ones. In many shops, they come tough and difficult to chew. These had an angel's touch, tender and juicy even before adding the BBQ sauce. Mike said that they never drench their food in sauce, but let the customers add their preferred amounts. The meat stands out on the sandwiches; they use a smoke machine, which really makes a big difference in its tenderness and flavor.

I was so very much impressed by the pride that these two guys have in their establishment. Gerry Baker praised his grandma's cooking, bragging that Famous Amos must have used her recipe for chocolate chip cookies, they were that good. He stands by her recipes and what she taught him. Such a passionate chef! Mike Musantry praised his Italian father and said how proud he was to be an American. He was thrilled to say that many celebrities use their catering services for parties. By the way their catering is family style and reasonably priced.

Some of the other items on the menu include: hot links, salmon, and petite filet medallions. All the entrees like the above or the ribs come with a side salad or two regular sides, all at about $12-$15, except the full rack of pork ribs that cost $23.95. But, there's a lot of delectable meat on those bones, so they are well worth the extra bucks. On the sides menu, there are also garlic mashed potatoes, fries, both sweet potato and regular, potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, steamed vegetables, garlic bread and corn on the cob, all at moderate prices and the first several items served by the half pint, pint and quart, as well as in regular portions.

Visit All American BBQ and bring the kids. There's a hot dog/hamburger menu especially for them. For the adults, it's about the best BBQ to be found in the San Fernando Valley. So treat yourselves! Your taste buds will thank you. I know I'll be back!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

review - Slaw Dogs

6220 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 
(747) 226-3119 / Fax (747) 226-3499

I first reviewed the Slaw Dogs when it was located on Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills about two years ago. Here's what I had to say about it:

The Slaw Dogs has now reopened in the new Westfield Topanga mall, and in my mind, it's a smart move. There is a steady traffic flow at this new mall, both young and old... and who doesn't love a hot lunchtime, dinnertime, or as a between-meal snack? Especially if it's served The Slaw Dogs way with all natural ingredients and in the most unexpected and delicious combinations. Owner Ray is indeed playful and has explained that at a barbeque - where it all began - something would fall on top of something else, and the taste combo that resulted is what prompted him to consider serving it that way regularly...seriously.

The Slaw Dogs menu has much, much more to offer besides its main attraction of hot dogs. There are also burgers, breakfast sandwiches, served all day, finger food like homemade pretzels, fork food like parmesan garlic fries and tasty salads. There is also soft-serve ice cream - homemade on the premises, and super sodas like all natural root beer and  reduced sugar black cherry under the new label Stubborn. As you can see in the window sign below, Ray has devised a root beer float with his delectable soft-serve, and even a beer float for a mere $4 more. It's worth it!

I have to admit. I am not a beer drinker, except maybe on a real hot summer day. So when Ray asked if I wanted to try a beer float, I was a little skeptical about what I would taste. Ice cream with beer? Well, let me tell you, it's a real pleasant combo. The rich milk and cream in the soft serve offset the bitterness of the beer, making it a unique taste treat, without ruining the taste of the beer that so many of you do love. Try it! It's especially delicious when you are munching on a homemade Oktoberfest pretzel, served with hand-made dipping sauces. My friend and I sampled a breakfast sandwich on a brioche with fried egg, double bacon, American cheese and chipotle sauce. It's yummy! We also tried a Turkey Club Salad in a wrap featuring a turkey dog, which is a little spicy, but in combo with the bacon, cheese, onion, cherry peppers and ranch dressing, it's super! Finger food? Popcorn chicken at Slaw Dogs: all white meat chicken, coated with spicy crunchy garlic sauce and cabbage slaw are fantastic, particularly served with Ray's garlic parmesan fries. And the size of the chicken pieces is so generous and the flavor, scrumptious, unlike those teeny, tiny tasteless ones at KFC!

One of the newest hot dogs is the Reuben Dog, which boasts a butterflied turkey dog, pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, special sauce on marble rye bread. And it is a winner! Other new additions to the menu include: The O.G. Thai Slaw Dog, The Super Dog, featured on the Food Network, the C4 Super Dog, featured on the Travel Channel and Sonoma, created especially for vegans. All of these items are reasonably priced from $6-$10.

What I find most appealing about this new venue for Slaw Dogs is its ambiance. You can sit outdoors, as the restaurant kitchen is like a little shack. No room indoors for seating, but more than ample, outside. That's just fine, as there is so much to take in while you are eating in the courtyard. The innumerable passersby, the classy window dressings for the upscale stores and I understand there's even entertainment on select days and evenings. Try Slaw Dogs in its new location! You'll have a great time! I'll be back!