Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cafe Cordiale

14015 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks
It is so uplifting to see a family business thriving right here in the San Fernando Valley, in Sherman Oaks to be exact. For over 28 years David and Margaret May and their son Peter have been running Cafe Cordiale on Ventura Boulevard, which remains to this day a very popular restaurant for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch...and a hot late night club for live music as well. How many eateries in Los Angeles have this unusual feature?! Cafe Cordiale is definitely singular with an ultra modern allure and great food.

Ever so pleasant manager Patty, who greeted us on arrival, explained in detail how the restaurant turns into a night club. The red curtains in front of the kitchen window close and the two tables in front of them convert to a stage...and the partition separating the two dining rooms goes up, creating one big space. Amazing! I will just have to return some late evening to join in the fun and see it for myself. But first, on to my lunch-time experience and the elegant dining I encountered at very moderate prices.

I was feeling adventuresome and suggested trying different entrees for my friend and I to share. Patty said they would come family style. I started out with a Caesar salad and my friend, a chopped salad. Both were very ample portions, a meal in themselves! We proceeded to order three entrees: Baked Shepherd's Pie, made with ground beef  - instead of ground lamb, but still succulent and sweet - and mashed potatoes, fish and chips, and salmon and lobster cakes, all of which are personal favorites. Since chef David May comes from England, it is easy to understand why these three choices are on the menu. Shepherd's Pie is a tradition on British and Irish tables, and of course, fresh fish is a staple as well. With my New England background, influenced by these very traditions, I felt like I was in heaven; I had definitely come to the right place. Everything we ordered was tip-top. The salmon and lobster cakes were like homemade, and served with tomato, basil and onion salad and fries. My grandmother frequently made salmon loaf when I was a kid, and these patties reminded me of its great texture and delicious taste. Needless to say, the Shepherd's pie was scrumptious. For dessert I had the French Apple 'Tarte Tatin", baked & carmelized apples on a puff pastry, with vanilla ice cream. My friend ordered the black and white chocolate mousse pie. Both exceeded expectations.

Other lunch entrees include chicken marsala, grilled tilapia, sandwiches, including vegetarian, and soup and salad all reasonably priced from $8-$12.95, with grilled salmon, of course, slightly higher at $17.95. The dinner menu includes beef/lamb dishes, seafood and poultry selections all under $20. Monday through Friday lunch times are 11:30am-4:30pm and dinner starting at 4:30, 7 days a week. Weekend brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 4: 30pm, with breakfast items from 11am to 3pm.  Breakfast includes specialties such as eggs benedict, eggs Florentine, tortilla scrambled and smoked salmon scrambled… and a cordiale grand breakfast for only $15.95 that features eggs, bacon, sausage and multi-grain nut pancakes. There is an extensive wine list and a great selection of cocktails available at every meal. Cafe Coridale is also the perfect place for holiday and special event parties, featuring a variety of menu items. 
Peter May and his dad, chef David May

Late night live music is offered six nights a week, Tuesday - Sunday, accompanying a late dinner. Music featured includes R&B, Soul, Jazz, Pop, Latin, Blues and Rock. This joint is jumpin' from 11 am every day until the wee hours of the following morning...and the service is consistently warm and friendly. It's no wonder that community customers consider Cafe Cordiale their home away from home.

Call 818-789-1985 for menus and music schedules or go to

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market in Sherman Oaks

14141 Ventura Blvd

Looking for a casual place for lunch that is ultra spacious and airy with a unique look and feel to it? And, more importantly, one that serves sandwiches that are hand-crafted with only the healthiest ingredients to suit your individual needs? If your answer is yes, and I'm sure that it is, look no further than Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market where you can truly Eat Happy, now in its latest location in Sherman Oaks at 14141 Ventura Blvd.

Where else can you expect to see a full grown tree inside and passing right on up through an open hole in the roof! This accounts for the refreshing air which permeates throughout making the restaurant cool and comfortable, especially during peak hours, lunch time from 12 to 2 pm, when Mendocino Farms is, shall we say, swarming with customers. My friend and I stopped by around 12: 30 and we had to wait in a short line. Not a big deal! Time passes quickly, as you must browse through the large menu, which is an event in itself, and make your selection, place your order with the friendly hostess who greets you at the door, and then proceed on in to sample goodies at the deli counter, where you may also purchase beverages and pay for your order. Once your order is paid for, you find a table, and when your order is ready, it is brought conveniently right to you. Tables are neat with marble finish, and if you do not wish to sit in a chair, in some areas, you have your choice of a large comfy leather sofa on the opposite side of many tables.

My friend Dante chose the leather divan bank to sit on
As far as the menu is concerned, hand-crafted sandwiches with only the best ingredients are made to order, and there is a huge selection to choose from. Some, like the scrumptious Steak BLT that I chose, come on a specific type of bread to help hold the sandwich together, but in many cases, you may choose you own artisan breads like mom's seeded whole wheat, ciabatta, buckwheat, cranberry walnut or gluten-free bread for just $1.50 more. Classic sandwiches include chicken MBT, the famous farm club, BBQ pulled pork on soft roll, modern tuna melt...and farm favorites like the steak blt, which I enjoyed, or "not so fried" chicken, which is roasted free range chicken rolled in Mendo's krispies with herb aioli, mustard pickle slaw, tomatoes, pickled red onions and with a side of chipotle BBQ sauce.  There are also, for the cheese lover, ham and gruyere grilled cheese, and for the vegan, vegan shawarma, which my friend simply raved about. A baby blue plate special is offered - a half sandwich with soup or salad... and children of all ages are most wholeheartedly welcome.
I had a cup of cream of tomato soup - smooth, creamy and delicious. I definitely recommend this and, as far as salads go, there's a kale caesar, the blue cow steak cobb, and save Drake farm salad, which is named after Dr. Dan at Drake Family Farms. Also promoted are places like Drago Bakery, Petaluma Poultry and nearby Coldwater Canyon provisions. These local farms and artisan friends give Mendocino Farms its great reputation of using only local fresh produce which in the long run is better and healthier for all of us. And the prices? Ultra moderate. All hand-crafted sandwiches range from eight to ten dollars and most salads, $10.95. All Boylan fountain sodas are sweetened with only all natural cane sugar and feature a wide range of flavors: black cherry, root beer, cane cola, ginger ale and lemon lime, and of course diet sodas are available in all flavors.

Mendocino Farms is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week Monday through Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm. Remember in Sherman Oaks, the newest location is at 14141 Ventura Blvd near Hazeltine.
Call: 818-205-9744.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company

26787 Agoura Rd

With its high-ceilings and vast wooden interiors, Wolf Creek Restaurant and Brewery is flat out good old American tradition. On the walls are paintings of famous Pacific Northwestern locales and in plain view a big open bar area smack dab in the middle with a large screen television. Freshly-made homemade beer and ale are waiting to wet your palate as well as the best homemade entrees and appetizers prepared anywhere. Manager Jim Sebastian is proud of the restaurant's fine reputation. As in the original Valencia locale founded by Rob and Laina McFerren, this newest Calabasas restaurant/brewery offers samplings of all hand-crafted beers and ales to customers and participates in Octoberfest and community wine and beer-tasting events. As far as the food goes, Sebastian boasts that at 6 am every morning bakers are in their kitchens making bread and all handcrafted desserts from scratch with only the finest ingredients. Few restaurants prepare all of the food on the premises; Wolf Creek is definitely one that does, and on that, you can rely.

Since I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy, when I think of the old west and cowboys and wildlife, I think big-portioned meals like steak, potatoes and vegetables, and of course, homemade cake or pie smothered with rich cream, fruit or ice cream. We asked Jim if there were appetizers or entrees that he would highly recommend and he suggested that we try the calamari and the creek style chicken wings. We were offered a combo of smoky-hot chipotle and sweet and spicy wings with an Asian flair. These were absolutely succulent and the fried calamari sweet and tender. Next up was salad. Caesar happens to be a favorite of both my friend and me, so Caesar it was. What was brought to the table as a half-salad was huge. The portions at Wolf Creek are very generous. And the prices...exceedingly reasonable with most appetizers priced from $7 to $10. There are three different steaks on the menu Gaucho steak, Cowboy steak and a Flatiron steak. At Jim's recommendation, I chose the flatiron, which was served on a bed of caramelized onions, topped with gorgonzola cheese and with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli and giant mushrooms on the side. My steak was cooked to order, medium and was tender and juicy. My friend chose the Cowboy, a 10-0z ribeye which is cooked with spices, and served with garlic mashed potatoes, cactus thorns and ranch hand salsa. Both portions were enormous and moderately priced under $25.

Other popular entrees at Wolf Creek include baby back ribs, ale marinated tri-tip, ale battered fish and chips, jambalaya, BBQ chicken quesadilla, as well as a varied selection of chicken dishes including country fried chicken, chicken picatta, chicken dijon, bayou chicken and orange cashew chicken. For the pasta lover, there are among others Santa Fe chicken pasta, chicken ravioli, sundried tomato pesto, and pasta carbonara. And of course a large variety of sandwiches which include the California cobb, ale marinated tri-tip, chop house burger, turkey and avocado melt, fire-grilled ahi burger and a vaquero steak sandwich with that luscious flat-ironed steak and grilled asparagus. Wolf Creek also offers a wide variety of salads, and pizzas, so there are choices to suit every palate of the entire family.

As far as the beer goes, what started as a home-brewing kit one Christmas at the McFerrens has grown into one of the best blue-ribbon breweries in the valley. Beer, they believe, is the best beverage to accompany heavier foods, and who can argue with success? At Wolf Creek, it all blends together to perfection!

Desserts change daily, so you must ask your server what is on hand, but I will let you know there is more than one creme brulee and a Heaven/Hell cake that consists of angel food, chocolate and peanut butter icing with a garnish of fresh cream and die for! Try it, if it's on deck! Whatever your choice, remember, they are all made from scratch for your ultimate enjoyment!

Wolf Creek has an extensive catering menu as well and is big enough, with a beautiful patio area, to suit any kind of catered affair such as birthdays, anniversaries or weddings. Don't hesitate to choose Wolf Creek for its simply excellent food and friendly service. It's great!