Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles)

641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich have combined their talents in Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, which are located adjacent to each other on the corner of Highland and Melrose. At Pizzeria Mozza, the crowd is bustling and loud, but happily eating, talking, and drinking. The wait is pretty long so be sure to make reservations to guarantee a table. We were walk-ins on a Wednesday evening and had to wait 30 minutes for just the bar seating.

Nancy's chopped salad ($15) - Shredded lettuce and red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, aged provolone cheese, finocchio salami and radicchio in an oregano vinaigrette dressing. All the different flavors and textures melded very nicely here.
Margherita with mozzarella, tomato & basil ($13) - Simple yet tasty. I love the crispy thin pizza with the light and airy crust. I usually don't like eat pizza crusts because they're usually too doughy, but here, it was just the right crispness and I ate every single crumb. I wish they laid out more basil leaves though.
Tomato, mozzarella, sausage, salami, bacon & guanciale ($18) - Very flavorful and again, the crust was so light and crispy.
For dessert, we tried a warm apple fritter with powdered sugar. It had a nice crisp on the outside and soft and warm in the inside.
We also also had the Butterscotch Budino. It's a salted butterscotch pudding with a side of rosemary pinenut shortbread. This dessert tastes really good if you eat the pudding and the shortbread in one bite...mmmmmmm!
If you are visiting Pizzeria Mozza for the first time, try the fried squash blossoms with ricotta which are also very popular.


Onotria Wine Country Cuisine (Costa Mesa)

2831 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 641-5952
Master Chef Massimo Navarretta

For Father's Day, we went to Onotria on Friday evening to avoid all the weekend crowds. The restaurant is located where the 55 and 73 freeways meet. One critic said the area is a "heartless dead zone." But the rustic ambience took me out of the normalcy lifestyle of Orange County and into a semi-experience of an Italian villa. Artichoke and lavender plants lined the sidewalk. Grapevines intertwined the trellises and hung over our heads as we approached the front door. They also had their own herb and vegetable garden. As you walk in, you will see a charming spiral staircase, stored wine bottles and archways to match its rustic decor.

The servers talk to its patrons like old friends. I was a taken aback when our server came and said in a bit sarcastic, yet friendly tone, "So, I guess you're stuck with me tonight." She was very helpful though and explained everything to us.

The menu, however, was a bit confusing. Instead of the usual organization by types of food (pasta, seafood, chicken, etc), they grouped their entrees around 6 types of wines & complementary food selections recommended by the chef. This is a great way if you know which type of wine you would like, and then flip to the page and choose a dish that way. But if you are the type of eater who thinks..."ok, I would like seafood today..." you would have to flip through several pages to read about each seafood dish they serve.

Taglierini Pasta with a Scampi, Scallop & King Crab Sauce - The seafood fragrance was very robust when the server brought this dish out. Each of our dishes had sprigs of lavender from their garden, which was a nice touch. The crab sauce here was sweet and buttery. And the scampi was pretty good and had a generous amount of meat for its size. Veal Scaloppini topped with Zucchine Blossoms & Fontina Cheese - There's the lavender sprig again. Portions were a bit smaller for this entree, but the sauce was creamy and had several layers of flavor.

The food was pretty good and the atmosphere was relaxed, but I think I will try other Italian restaurants in the OC area before coming back here again.


Babbo (New York - Greenwich)

110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011
(212) 614-6670
Chef: Mario Batali

It has been such a challenge to time our eating schedule in NYC since we had complied a long list of NYC's good eats from various Chowhounders and bloggers. At 5:45pm, we were not hungry at all, but were in the vicinity of Babbo. Since it was only 5:45pm and we didn't see many patrons waiting outside... we thought Babbo must be not be busy. So we we just strolled up and down the street, debating whether to eat then or wait til later.... We decided to eat anyway, just in case it might get busy..or so we thought... When we walked in, it didn't seem that crowded. Only the bar was filled up. But the host informed us that the wait would be at least 90 minutes AND we couldn't leave the restaurant. We have to stay INSIDE the restaurant, in the small space around the bar, for 90 minutes. Majority of the restaurant is reserved for those who made reservations 1 month ahead. (Reservation slots open up 30 days in advance and that even fills up quickly). For the rest of us walk-ins, there were only 6 tables available in the front of the restaurant. People can also sit about the bar. But if you have a party over 4, forget it. So we waited...(actually for only an hour)....but it was worth it!A complimentary chickpea bruschetta -
For our first antipasti, we ordered warm tripe alla parmigiana. As an antipasti, we expected this dish to be of a smaller portion. We were definitely surprised. It was huge! The tripe itself was wonderfully tender and delicate, not chewy at all. It just melted in my mouth....Loved it!
Pig foot "milanese" with rice beans and arugula. This was very good - crispy yet soft and tender in the inside.
For the primi, we ordered upon the waiter's recommendations, mint love letters with spicy lamb sausage. I could definitely taste the mint but it was not overwhelming. It was very interesting to taste mint as one of the main ingredients in pasta. Goose liver ravioli w/ balsamic vinegar and brown butter. This dish had more of a sweet, rich, bold kick to it. We didn't enjoy this ravioli as much as the balsamic vinegar was a bit overpowering.
We ordered grilled lamb chops "scottadita" w/ sunchokes, grilled onions and lemon yogurt. As they brought out this secondi dish, we were stuffed! The lemon yogurt was a nice, unexpected touch to the taste, complementing the grilled lamb.
Our complimentary petit fours...
This was our last NYC meal and I was immensely satisfied. So much thought, attention and preciseness went into these elegant dishes... I'm a huge Mario fan now!

Eleven Madison Square (New York - Union Square)

1 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Executive Chef: Daniel Humm

On our last day in NYC, we made reservations for an early lunch at Eleven Madison Park. They have a prix fixe "Market Menu" for $38 (appetizer and entree). This is the entrance of the restaurant with its rotating doors to a former bank in the MetLife building.
The art deco interior and high ceilings are accompanied with hanging lanterns, glass panels, leaf patterns, and grand centerpieces of flowers and shrubbery.
Here is my selection of the multi-grain bread and olive bread....
We both order the Market Menu. We started with a nice tomato soup with poached quail egg, basil, and bread pieces, finished with a drizzle of olive oil.
Our next course was a crusted lamb with sweetbreads, over turnip puree. The puree was smooth and creamy and complemented well with the lamb and sweetbreads. The lamb was perfectly tender and I enjoyed every bite of it. I'm fairly new in tasting sweetbreads (which are thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork), but these were very flavorful and had a soft, but plump texture. I'm not sure it's my favorite just quite yet.
Although the food was quite exquisite and tasty, the service was not up to par. Good service and timing is so important in these kinds of establishment. We had to wait a long while before getting our orders taken... and when our food came out.. we waited for another long while because we didn't have any utensils and our server didn't even notice us since he was standing at the counter, dazing off somewhere, while our food was getting cold! And plus he was a bit haughty and cold..(brought out the dessert menu without saying a word or smile). Thumbs down on service! But the food was excellent!


Barefoot Contessa Tour (Hamptons, New York)

My cousin and I are huge fans of Ina Garten! She's such an amazing and talented chef. Her recipes uses simple ingredients and are easy to follow and they always turn out so well. We couldn't leave the Hamptons without visiting some of the places she frequents and that are featured in her cooking shows and her cookbooks.

Green Thumb Organic Farm (Watermill) While driving on the main Montauk Highway, we stopped by the farm where they sell local organic fruits, vegetables and local jams since 1978. We picked up some really sweet and fresh cherries and strawberry jam for my mom. (The hand above the Green Thumb sign behind me has a green thumb...it's just camouflaged by the tree).

Tate's Bake Shop (Southhampton)- Ever since Kathleen King was 11 years old, she started baking chocolate chip cookies and now has a national baking empire. Everything that she sells are baked at the Tate's Bake Shop. (http://www.tatesbakeshop.com/) These are Tate's famous thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies. The recipe can be found online, which we are still trying to master. It's a thin-crispy style cookie, as opposed to the thick-soft-chewy style. The recipe calls for a higher butter-to-flour ratio, and the dough spreads quickly on the cookie sheet, leaving a sugary, buttery crispness. This won't help your healthy diet, but it is addictingly delicious.

Cavaniola's Gourmet Cheese Shop (Sag Harbor) - Michael and Tracey Cavaniola opened this cheese shop in 2001. Located away from the main street of Sag Harbor, this corner cheese shop is quaint and small, yet holds the finest domestic and international cheeses and salami. Just by stepping into the store, I smelled the fragrances of France. Inside the cheese shop, you can get some generous samples of the artisanal cheeses and salami.
We bought a panini with soppressata salami, Fontal cheese, roasted tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette. This panini was the highlight of the tour - simple, rustic, and elegant. We took a short picnic break near the waters harboring the yachts. The moment was so perfect and serene. Great food, great company, great weather, and great views.
Loaves & Fishes Cookshop (Bridgehampton) - Sybille Pump Van Kempen ran this cookware shop with her husband, where they sell high-quality cookware and tableware. Her mother, Anna Pump (cookbook author, baker, mentored by Barefoot Contessa), had run the Loaves and Fishes specialty food store where they have fresh baked bread, cheese, salami and salads. We didn't get a chance to actually visit the food shop, but next time, we'll stop by and try the fresh breads and cheese.

Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen... This shop is the classic old-fashioned "luncheonette" that prepares grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade ice cream. They also have Greek specialties such as souvlaki and Greek salads with pita bread. Tony is enjoying their creamy, homemade strawberry ice cream.

We wish we could have visit all the places that Ina Garten recommends but then we wouldn't be able to actually experience and soak in all the charm and peaceful ambience of the historic villages of the Hamptons. Our last stop was dinner at Duryea's Lobster Deck. (see next post).

Duryea's Lobster Shack (Montauk, New York)

65 Tuthill Rd
Montauk, NY 11954
(631) 668-2410

Our last stop on the "Barefoot Contessa tour" was Duryea's Lobster Shack at the East End of the Hamptons. With a peaceful view of Fort Pond Bay, we were spoiled with delicious seafood while watching a beautiful sunset. And we were very lucky to visit the Hamptons right before the busy summer season. We had the whole outdoor deck all to ourselves. Thanks to Ina Garten for the recommendations! Again, no one can go wrong with Ina!
Duryea's outdoor seating overlooking the bay...
Lobster Bisque - The first time I ate a lobster bisque was the Trader Joe's version, so I don't consider myself a lobster bisque connoisseur. After I sampled their clam chowder and loster bisque that one of the Russian workers gave us, I had to order a bowl of the steaming bisque. It had a cornucopia of flavors that included a creamy, buttery, smooth, and most importantly lobstery flavor. My one complaint was that the bisque was a tad on the salty side and that made finishing this soup a daunting task.
Lobster Rolls are also another popular dish here in these seaside towns. I had been reluctant to try these lobster rolls because I didn't want the bun and fillings to distract my taste of the lobster meat. But after several meals of only lobster, I was ready for a change. There isn't one traditional way to make a lobster roll. Some places make lobster roll with just lobster and a dollop of mayonnaise. Others use lobster, celery, and mix it all with mayo. Some toast the bun and some untoasted. This particular rendition include generous chunks of lobster, celery, mayonnaise, a toasted bun and a bit of dill.
Tony's non-seafood plate: Hamburger - The hamburger at this lobster shack was actually a tasty and flavorful version. This was quite a surprise, considering that this is a seafood shack. By the looks of the patty, it was most likely handmade. They didn't ask me how I wanted the patty cooked but when it arrived it was cooked medium. For some reason the hamburger doesn't have any accompaniments, so I had to ask the nice Russian ladies for some lettuce and tomato which they obligingly agreed to. The coleslaw was over seasoned and as a result not too much of it was eaten.A friend of ours ordered these mussels so I can't comment on this, but she seems to enjoy it. View from our table


Moby Dick's (Cape Cod, Massachusets)

Route 6
Wellfleet, MA 02667
(508) 349-9797
mobydicksrestaurant.comNext door to the restaurant is Moby Dick's gift shop. Tourists can buy their t-shirts and if they then send in a photograph of them wearing the shirt, the restaurant will frame it and post it on the wall. So all over the restaurant, there are pictures of Paris, Arizona, Italy, Chicago, etc. with people posing with the Moby Dick's t-shirt.

I ordered just lobster and corn. I don't think my stomach could handle the clambake. I just learned that clams are called steamers here in Cape Cod. My 1.5 lb fresh lobstah with drawn butter and lemon wedge. Nothing but fresh, supple lobster meat. It also came with corn, but really, lobster is all I need.


Toscanini's Ice Cream & Coffee (Boston)

Central Square
899 Main Street
Cambridge, MA

"The best ice cream in the world" - New York Times. With praise like that, we had to find out for ourselves whether or not it was the best in the world. We have yet to travel around the world, so I don't know if we would be qualified to back this claim. Toscanini's is located very close to MIT and Harvard. All of these geeks and geniuses can't be wrong. I think our IQ raised a point just being in this area.
We each ordered a double scoop of ice cream so that we could try a variety of flavor samplings. Toscanini's flavors are not your normal Rite-Aid flavors (nothing against Rite-Aid), but offers unique and strange flavor combinations. On the right is the blueberry and orange flavor and underneath it is ginger snap molasses. On the left is a chocolate and coconut combination and underneath that is hazelnut coffee. We both really enjoyed the flavors that we sampled that night. The ice cream was not as texturally smooth as I imagined it to be. This may be due to the fact that we just had some fantastic gelato at Il Laboratorio Del Gelato in New York and was comparing gelato to ice cream. Overall, the ice cream was very, very good. I don't know about "best ice cream in the world" good, but very good nonetheless.

Neptune Oyster (Boston, MA)

63 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113 (617) 742-3474

While walking Boston's Freedom Trail and seeing the historical sites, we stopped by Neptune Oyster, tucked in the streets of the North End.

Here's the many varieties of oysters they had to offer...each having its own descriptionThe shucker at work...Shown here, from the left of the lemon slice: Wellfleet, Island Creek, Ninigret, St. Simon, Kumomoto, and the Fanny Bay...Served with cocktail sauce and mignonette, which is vinegar, white wine and shallots. I enjoyed slurping my oysters with the cocktail sauce instead of the mignonette. The white wine in it was a bit overpowering for me. My favorite to this day is the classic mignonette from Hog Island that has cilantro, shallots and rice vinegar. My favorite was the Ninigert... it had a very nice sweet finish to it. If you look closely at the very top oyster in the picture, you will see that it's really two oysters on two connected shells. I guess they gave me a mutated one, but it still tasted good.


Lobster Shack at Two Lights (Cape Elizabeth, Maine)

25 Two Lights Road
Cape Elizabeth, Maine 04107

Thank goodness for our GPS to navigate us to the Lobster Shack. Nestled past the windy, tree-lined roads of Cape Elizabeth, we arrived at the coastline with one of the two lighthouses overlooking the waters. We walked up the steps to the Lobster Shack Restaurant and was amazed at the site....
I was so excited to be eating at these quaint picnic tables, eating my lobster, experiencing the breathtaking view, taking in the fresh East Coast ocean breeze, and watching the sunset as our dinner comes to an end.My second lobster meal in Maine. I can't get enough! It was quite a jump in prices from Fox's ($36 for 1.25 lb lobster with fries and cole slaw), but the outdoor seating and beautiful views were well worth it!!
The only disadvantage with eating outside in the chilly weather was that my warm lobster was getting cold...so I had to quickly devour my lobster to fully taste the warm, juicy lobster. We are satisfied for now!!! But still hungry for more lobster!