Friday, February 22, 2013
Cookin’ with Lenny Smokehouse
Do you long for the flavor of a home cooked meal? In most cases nowadays - even in good, well-established restaurants - food is mass produced, without those extra special ingredients and TLC that mom used to add. True, most people are health conscious, so they avoid sugar, butter, eggs and cream, but every once in a while these cholesterol busters make food fun to eat. As Lily Tomlin's raging teen Agnes used to bellow, "Not so rich, not so good!" A biscuit can taste like it came right out of a Bisquik box - bland as hell - or, it can be savory and rich, which calls for milk and butter. If I'm going to eat a biscuit, like a sinful dessert, I'd rather splurge. Caterer Lenny Bent really knows how to cook and gives the food he prepares these extra special qualities. Once inside Cookin' with Lenny Smokehouse in Chatsworth, the laid-back, homey ambiance, exceptional cooking and genuine, personal attention will make your dining experience truly one-of-a-kind. It's that good, believe me!
As the name indicates, a smokehouse means meat - steak, tri-tip, pulled pork and ahhhh, babyback ribs. If they are cooked right, they taste out of this world. Well, suffice to say, Lenny knows how to make every meat dish savory with the right amount of seasoning and boy oh boy, are the portions hefty. I left with a couple of boxes for my tri-tip and a pulled pork sandwich, which I was told I must try. My friend ordered a ribeye steak. It too was huge and exceedingly tender. Lenny marinates his tri-tip to make it real juicy – a melt in your mouth quality - making all the difference. Very interesting mashed potatoes! I usually like them smooth, whipped, but his had pieces of potato mixed in… I loved them. So flavorful and definitely made from scratch! The barbecued shrimp? Spicy, yes, but succulent... and the ribs, to die for! We were presented a duet: two raspberry chipotle and another two, whiskey glazed with roasted garlic and pineapple. I could have ordered another helping, they were so delightful. There were those luscious garlic biscuits, big salads - I had a Mexican Caesar and my friend, a Commander, and for dessert: I can't resist cobbler, and so a scrumptious blueberry cobbler came my way. Warm and smothered with vanilla ice cream, enough for two people! My friend chose the Beggar's Purse, a rich chocolate concoction covered with a flaky puff pastry and served with white chocolate ganache and fresh berries.
Lenny cooks, is your friendly host and checks in periodically to chat with you while you await the various courses of your meal. He loves to talk about old movies made in Chatsworth. The walls, in fact, are adorned with posters of classic westerns, shot right in the area. There is a lovely brick fireplace and a stage in front of it for musicians. I understand that on weekend nights, waitresses sing and Lenny plays guitar. A full jazz night is forthcoming. More about the layout: the kitchen opens onto the dining room and so, if you have a hankering, you can watch your meal simmering. Lenny comes right to the table with cart and electric pan to make bananas foster, another favorite dessert. (see photo below) Space-wise, there is also a huge patio out back with a separate barbecue and room to accommodate about a hundred guests.
Oh, did I mention that petite, pretty Olivia was our terrific waitress? Between Olivia and Lenny, we were wined, dined and entertained heartily for two hours. Cookin’ with Lenny Smokehouse is open every day from 11 am to 10 pm. All entrees are reasonably priced at $20 or less. Is that why Lenny boasts so many regular customers? That and…try Lenny’s! The unique wholesome experience speaks for itself.
|lenny makes bananas foster|
|wow! cobbler just like mom used to make!|
6373 Topanga Canyon, Woodland Hills
by Don Grigware
With a couple of very slight criticisms, I highly recommend Fleming's for its delicious aged prime beef and fine service.
Located in the heart of Topanga Canyon, 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 to the side, all add up to providing the comfortable surroundings one expects in a top-notch restaurant. On the weeknight I attended, it was early – restaurant opens at 5 pm daily – so, not yet crowded. This made for a very relaxed, pleasant experience. Our friendly server was Steve and the maitre d Kenne Hoffman, both accommodating and very efficient.
A steak lover, I was excited to try the New York strip steak, which is always a favorite. My friend had filet mignon. As it turned out, both steaks were cooked to perfection. When you ask for a steak, cooked medium, it sometimes arrives overdone, with you querying, "Where's the pink?" Not so at Fleming's! It met my total satisfaction. My only suggestion is that there be some garnish on the plate or perhaps an onion ring or two, as the presentation was simply the steak, nothing more. Not a complaint, just a tiny suggestion! We shared the a la carte potatoes and vegetables: delicious garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach that I swear was one of the best I've ever tasted – must be the added cheese, and a dish of nicely prepared broccoli with tiny grilled tomatoes on top. For starters, I had the French onion soup baked with gruyere and parmesan cheeses. This is also a favorite of mine, so my only qualm is: I felt the soup needed more seasoning to give it that extra special touch a la francaise, but, as is, it was excellent, especially the thick and tasty mass of melted cheeses. My friend and I shared one other appetizer, the sweet chile calamari. It had a sweet and sour taste which was delectable. For non-red meat diners, Fleming’s also offers a lovely chicken breast, pork rib chop 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 is incredible, featuring Fleming’s 100 wines, served by the glass.
For dessert, there’s a lovely Crème Brulee, but we chose to share 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 in January – that will be carried over until February.
February 10th, that is. It is a special 3-course meal on Sundays for only $29.95. There is also a great menu planned for Valentine’s Day from February 14th -17th. To sweeten the deal every couple who dines between Thursday the 14th and Sunday the 17th will receive a $25 dining card toward a return rendezvous at Fleming’s. Now, that’s something to look forward to, so, guys, treat your wife or your sweetheart to an unforgettable night out at Fleming’s. The pleasant atmosphere lends itself favorably to a romantic table for two, but at the same time can also serve the event/party needs of a larger group. Some customers had their kids in tow the night I attended. That speaks volumes about Fleming’s popularity. There are 3 locations: Woodland Hills, Beverly Hills and El Segundo. Visit their website for more info like exact addresses, complete menus and pricing: