Sprinkles Cupcakes - Newport Beach

944 Avocado Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92660

There has been a battle brewing in the past few years with the cupcake craze going on. Whose cupcakes reign supreme? (a reference to Iron Chef) I don't consider myself a cupcake connoisseur or an aficionado but I have had a few in my life...ok more than a few and really enjoy eating them.

Sprinkles carries a wide variety of cupcakes (20+ to be exact) that are available everyday and others that are only available on certain days of the week. Despite all the different flavors, I am a chocolate lover and always pick the dark chocolate cupcake, which is made with a belgian dark chocolate cake and a bittersweet dark chocolate frosting sprinkled with chocolate flakes. This chocolate frosting is to die for. It's light and has just the perfect amount of sweetness that melts in my mouth and makes me crave for more.
The cake of the cupcake is perfectly moist and is actually not that sweet but the chocolate flavor is still evident. When the smooth bittersweet chocolate frosting and the little flakes of chocolate yumminess are eaten together with the cake - magic happens. I'm in Chocolate Heaven!!!


Amandine Cafe - Los Angeles

12225 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

I have never been to France, but if I were to imagine what a French cafe might look like, Amandine would be it. The outside of the Amandine is wholly covered with ivy and has street side tables and chairs, giving this cafe, located on a busy Wilshire Boulevard, an even more Parisian feel. Upon entering Amandine, I immediately noticed the large chalkboard with handwritten menu items and prices. I love entering restaurants or cafes and seeing handwriting on boards. To me, this means they are always introducing something new or selling items with the freshest ingredients.
Amandine carries a myriad of pastries, breads, cakes, sandwiches, omelettes, quiches, and more. Everything is made entirely from scratch daily.
Croque Madame - bechamel, ham, egg, and gruyere with mixed greens
Perfectly cooked egg, gooey gruyere, crunchy crust, ham, and bechamel are ingredients to make an excellent croque madame. The one at Amandine does not disappoint. Tastes like a high quality ham and cheese with an egg on top. Our favorite croque sandwich is still the croque monsieur at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Mmmmm Mmmm Mmmm!!!
Pain au chocolat or chocolate croissant
One of my favorite items to order at any bakery is the chocolate croissant... I have always been on the quest to find THE best chocolate croissant ever. Amandine's version is probably the lightest and most pillowy croissant I have ever had. I enjoyed their version but wished there was a tad more chocolate and a flakier crust.
Check out the cellular structure of Amandine's pain au chocolat.
Tart Fraise or Strawberry Tart
Just like everthing else we tried at Amandine the Tart Fraise was delectibly delicious. Tart and sweet strawberries, perfect pastry cream, and flaky pockets of deliciousness.
If you are in LA and in the mood for some high quality, fresh, and delicious pastries, omelettes, breads, and cakes this is the place to go.

Tip: If this is your first time going, don't do what we did and pay for parking on the street. Amandine has parking directly in the back for FREE.


Grace Restaurant - Los Angeles

7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA


We used the excuse of my birthday to allow ourselves to indulge at Grace Restaurant as a celebratory dinner. They are currently offering a 5 year anniversary tasting menu of 5 courses for $55 until the end of the year, so we had to take the opportunity to try out Grace. I unfortunately do not eat seafood, so when my wife made the reservations, she asked if the chef could accommodate us. Upon arrival, we were promptly seated and they were kind enough to wish me a Happy Birthday and also mentioned that the chef will be creating some non-seafood dishes for me.

Apologies for the dark pictures. We were trying to respect other diners from flashes of bright light.

Beef Carpaccio - green papaya, chili peanuts, carrots, mint

This was my first course as a replacement for the house cured king salmon. The chef must have had some sort of training in Asian cuisine as this dish was very similar to a Thai papaya salad or a Vietnamese Goi. The beef was very tender and went well with the other Asian flavors. This was a nice and light start to my meal.House Cured King Salmon - heirloom tomatoes, beets, brioche, creme fraiche

The salmon was soft, supple, and melted in my mouth. The cure on the salmon was mild with all the flavors complimenting each other. Sauteed Day Boat Scallops - aged goat cheese, risotto, chanterelle mushrooms, garlic nage

My wife is a huge scallop fan so she enjoyed this dish. The scallop had a nice sear on the top as you can see from the picture. She said that it was a tad bit overcooked. The risotto was cooked well with the goat cheese flavor present. Pork Belly - cabbage, black lentils? Couldn't remember the rest of the items.

Pork Belly seems to be on the menu of every single restaurant nowadays, but I am not complaining at all. This particular pork belly had a nicely crisped fat while still retaining some moist pork meat. The cabbage, lentils, and the other items went well the the dish. Grilled Sonoma Duck Breast - forbidden black rice, braised red cabbage, Black Mission fig sauce, persimmon

The duck breast was nicely cooked to a pinkish red color and had a good sear on the outside. I have no idea what forbidden black rice is or what's forbidden about it. After some research, I found out that it is a heirloom rice. The not overly sweet black mission fig and persimmons contrasted well with this duck. Braised Colorado Lamb Shank - socca galette (crisp chickpea pancake), cerignola olive gremolata

The lamb shank was our last course, and after eating the first 3 courses, we were both slowing down considerably. I am usually never one to complain about the portions of food being too big, but after eating 5 courses, portion size does matter. The lamb shank itself was nicely braised with a very tender and fall of the bone consistency. Neither one of us cared too much for the chickpea pancake. I would have been fine with just the lamb shank and the gremolata. Coffee came out served in these nicely polished silver sets. I really liked the presentation aspect of the coffee and the container it was housed in. (I actually ordered a "cup" of coffee but they brought out a coffee press that poured for me 4 cups..nice...) Butterscotch Doughnuts - vanilla ice cream and candied pecans

I have heard many praises about the doughnuts at Grace and was really looking forward to tasting them. The doughnuts at Grace have different fillings with these particular ones being filled with butterscotch. The insides of the doughnuts were still moist with a sugar coating on the outside. They were good, but not spectacular. We were so stuffed by the time dessert came around that neither one of us could finish all three. Overall, we enjoyed all the dishes and the service was good but not exceptional. I think that pretty much sums up our experience at Grace - good, but nothing exceptional, or at least nothing that really sparks our eagerness to return anytime soon. But I think it's definitely worth a visit for the price, good food and experience.


25 Degrees - Hollywood

7000 Hollywood Blvd

25 Degrees is located inside the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It's open 24 hours and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The name of the restaurant refers to the temperature difference between a medium rare and well done burger.

The decor of the restaurant has walls that are adorned in black and chrome mirrored tile, surrounded by rich textured fuchsia wallpaper. Lush and comfy leather booths wrap around wooden tables and flat screen televisions line the wall behind the bar of this Moulin Rouge style diner.
The menu consists of customizable burgers, starting at $9 with each topping/option ranging from $1 to $1.50 or you can choose their already created burgers known as #1, #2, and #3 for $12 with sides. They also have a few salads, sandwiches, and soups. 25 Degrees also has a nice selection of drinks ranging from beers, wines, cocktails, and shakes.

We decided to try out all of their 3 creations. The sides come with your choice of french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, half and half, or a half a salad. Each of these options are $12, which I feel is well priced considering you get a quality burger and some nice sides.

#1 - prelibato gorgonzola, crescenza, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, thousand island

This was our favorite burger of the night. All the components of this burger melded together nicely to make this one tasty burger!! I especially enjoyed the arugula, the cheeses, and of course the BACON!

#2 - burrata cheese, crispy proscuitto, roasted tomatoes, pesto
This was our second favorite. When I saw the crispy prosciutto on the menu, I was immediately intrigued by this burger. Unfortunately, the crispy prosciutto isn't even close to the flavor level of bacon. It was a still a solid and good burger, but not as good as the #1.

#3 - mezzo secco jack, green chili, avocado, chipotle
Our least favorite burger of the night. The flavor of the mezzo secco jack, green chili and chipotle added a spiciness to the burger, and the avocado added a bit of richness but not much flavor overall. If you enjoy green chili, chipotle, and jack cheese, then I suppose you might enjoy this burger. But it wasn't for us.
heirloom tomato salad - fromage blanc, watermelon, tomato vinaigrette
We decided to go with a half order of the heirloom tomato salad and we were glad that we did. This salad was excellent. The heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and formage blanc tasted excellent together. The sweetness of the watermelon and the saltiness of the cheese really elevated the flavor of this dish. It was also very refreshing!
sweet potato fries, onion rings, and french fries
The accompaniments to the burger were all good and fairly standard. None were out-of-this-world good, but all good nonetheless. Plus, you can't order a burger without fries..
Overall, we enjoyed ourselves at 25 degrees. Very laid back and casual restaurant with some gourmet style burgers. If we are in the area and craving a burger, this is going to be our place!


Pizza Port - Carlsbad

571 Carlsbad Village
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Pizza Port is an awesome place if you want to relax and have fun eating pizzas and drinking beer. The restaurant is big, crowded, and parking is limited. The restaurant has a surf theme throughout the place and most of the seating is picnic table style. Pizza Port has many different beers on tap and they even brew their own beer. This is one of our favorite pizza joints for pizza packed with hearty toppings. What I love about their pizzas are the toppings and the flavor of the crust.

Portzel- giant handmade pretzel made from their wholegrain beer crust with sundried tomatoes, feta, garlic, basil & oregano.
We have been to Pizza Port many times but never tried the portzel until our recent visit. It pretty much tasted like the pizza dough served with marinara sauce & mustard on the side. I would bypass this and go straight for the pizzas!!
Pizza Roma - Canadian style bacon, pepperoni, sausage, salami, onions, olives, bell pepers & mushrooms.
One of the other cool things about Pizza Port is that they allow you to order pizzas half and half style. Pictured below on the top half of the pizza is the Pizza Roma. I would have to say that this is one of our favorite pizzas there. What's not to love about the various meats and vegetables.

Pizza Carlsbad - Pesto, mesquite grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & feta The other half of the pizza is the Pizza Carlsbad. By looking at the items on this pizza, it sounds like it should be a delicious pizza pie. In my opinion, the Pizza Carlsbad is not as good as the many others that Pizza Port has to offer. I think the feta and pesto on this pizza does not make the pizza as moist and saucy as the other one.
Here is a close up of the Pizza Carlsbad. Look at the chunks of artichokes and chicken...

Pizza Lahaina - Canadian style bacon, pineapple, bell peppers & onions
If you are a Hawaiian pizza lover, then this is the pizza for you! Whenever we are craving pizza and are down in the south OC area, this is our go-to place. There's a Pizza Port located in Carlsbad and San Clemente, but I think the Carlsbad location makes a better pizza.


Ferry Market Building - San Francisco, CA

We love visiting the Farmer's Market to sample all the fresh organic fruits, breathe in the fresh SF bay air, immerse ourselves with the locals, and satisfy our food cravings. You can find everything from salami, artisan breads, cheeses, homemade jams, special olive oils, caviar, chocolates, and much more! Open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I believe that there are more vendors though on Saturdays. Inside the Ferry Market Building... So much going on... So many things to see.. So little time..
Blue Bottle Coffee Company. Coffee here is organic. They brew each cup of coffee individually at the side of this cart. Always a long line here...but definitely worth the wait.
Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie
The chickens are spiced and then spit-roasted at low heat for about 90 minutes on rotisseries in the specially built trucks. Its like a portable rotisserie chicken truck. I have had the chicken and potatoes on various occasions, which is good but not out of the world good. The chicken can be a bit dry at times. On my most recent trip, I tried the much-talked about porchetta sandwich, which was better than ordering the chicken in my opinion.Porchetta Sandwich - a juicy piece of porchetta to with rosemary salt, peppercress, and a special sauce.

Hog Island Oyster Co. http://www.hogislandoysters.com/
The oysters are raised in Tomales Bay, rich in nutrient fresh waters. The estuary is 10 acres and raises Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas), Kumamoto Oysters (Crassostrea sikamea) and Atlantic Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) as well as Manila clams and mussels. If you are a lover of oysters this is the place for you. They have a permanent location inside the Ferry Market Building and also have a booth on Saturdays. Oysters don't get much fresher than these.
Boccalone Salumeria
"Tasty Salted Pig Parts" http://www.boccalone.com/
Boccalone Salumeria is the first retail location of the artisanal salumi venture from Chris Cosentino and Mark Pastore of Incanto Restaurant. The Salumeria features more than 20 varieties of Boccalone’s handmade cured meats which are handcrafted in small batches uses sustainably raised pork and the highest quality spices and salts. We bought the "Mixed Salumi Cone" which included 3 types of Boccalone's salami:
1. Mortadella (original bologna, a delicate balance of fat, meat and spice, with a hint of pistachios and black peppercorns)
2. Brown Sugar & Fennel Salame (A coarsely ground salame that is slightly sweet and scented with fennel seeds, then slow-aged to develop the flavors)
3. House Pate (Paté di Campagna-a traditional paté made of coarsely ground pork meat plus tongue, liver, kidney, blood and herb spicing)

We stopped by Boriana's Corner to try their bombolonis but they only had the Custard and Raspberry ones left.
This is the Raspberry filled pastry...The filling was good but there wasn't enough of it and the pastry wasn't as moist as I thought it would be.
They have a selection of Miette ("little crumb" in French) is a little pastry shop inside the Ferry Market Building, inspired by the pâtisseries of Paris. Many of the ingredients are organic and are from local producers. They have a selection of cakes, cupcakes, tarts, cookies, confections, and vintage dessertwares. Their macarons are the best selling product. Their macaron version does not use food coloring and is baked with only freshly ground organic almonds.
The macarons here are good but a bit more "almondy" than the ones I've tried at Boule and Paulette. The Ferry Market Building is definitely a foodie destination that is not to be missed. Every time we visit San Francisco, this is always one of our stops!


Foreign Cinema - San Francisco

2534 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Chefs: Gayle Pirie and John Clark

If you walk alongside Mission Street, you might just pass on by Foreign Cinema, thinking it was some independent film theater. But once you open the door, you will walk through the long walkway, lined with red carpeting and lighted candles, to an open-air restaurant.

The current chefs are Gayle Pirie and John Clark - talented and innovative chefs who have long standing tenures at Zuni Cafe and Chez Panisse. Their California/Mediterranean-inspired menu changes daily.

The high ceilings, modern concrete walls, unique chandeliers, and chic decor make the interior of this restaurant exert a hip, contemporary, yet relaxed mood among the patrons. Right outside is the outdoor courtyard where foreign and independent films are screened. We missed the showing 'La Vie en Rose' because we came before sundown which is when the films are shown. Baked fromage d'affinois: summer truffle, roasted potatoes, toasts, summer greens (12).
I felt there was too much happening on this plate. We had the garlic toasts, baked fromage with olive oil, balsimic vinaigrette romaine lettuce and roasted potatoes. I would have been quite content with the cheese and toast. The summer truffle flavor was pretty much non existent in this dish. But surprisingly, the balsimic flavor went well with the baked cheese. Seared sea scallops, romesco, tortilla wiskers, lime, spicy house pickles (12).
Somewhere beneath the tortilla wiskers are 2 seared sea scallops. I was a bit hesitant in ordering this dish because of the lime and spicy house pickles. Sounds like a Mexican dish. But the chefs did a great job in melding the flavors together for this spicy and robust dish.
New Zealand cockles & chorizo, potatoes, tomato broth, basil, aioli, croutons (13)
The basil-infused tomato broth was so delicious that I had to ask for more bread to soak up the broth. The aioli was drizzled on a few of the cockles only and wished I could have tasted that more.
Grilled Kobe bavette steak, cranberry beans, tomatoes, arugula, lemon, pecorino (28)
I am always curious when I see Kobe beef on a menu. I have never tried actual A5 grade Kobe beef and maybe never will, but for now this other Kobe will have to do. I have no idea what a bavette is so I looked it up. Bavette is more common in France and is basically a skirt or flank cut of meat. This dish was actually excellently prepared with just the right amount of seasoning and the right ingredients. The steak was actually pretty tender and had a nice beefy flavor. The only thing that I didn't care for was the cranberry beans but that is just me and my bias against beans.
Northern halibut cooked in a fig leaf; summer vegetables, shelling beans, basil sauce (25)
My Mother ordered this dish so I can't comment on it too much. Very delicate flavors.

Moroccan seafood tagine: snapper, cod & local squid; couscous, aioli, fingerling, yellow beans (25) - My Father ordered this dish so I can't comment on this one either. He really seemed to enjoy it though. Lavender pork chop, white corn & fava beans, summer truffle, black chanterelle sauce (25). This was my brother's dish. He said the meat was tender and very moist. Each bite was very flavorful, yet a bit on the salty side.