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.