Friday, January 23, 2015

For forty  years the Southern California Restaurant Writers has honored  the region's best restaurants at an annual awards dinner.
The forty first awards event will take place on Monday March 30 at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club.  This facility offers all the amenities of a private country club while remaining public.  Heading the food operations at the Club is Master Chef Bert Agor whose colorful contemporary cuisine has proved to be an instant success.
At the awards dinner besides presenting awards to Southern California restaurants who have earned five, four, three or two star awards there will be honors for Restaurateur of  the Year as well as chefs and servers.
James Woodin, president of the Writers, announced that invitations will be sent to all restaurants who have earned awards.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Once again we were at the New School of Cooking in Culver City to take part in a demonstration of Japanese culinary products.
The event was sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization, JETRO as a showcase for Japanese food products.
The New School of Cooking has been teaching culinary arts courses for fifteen years and adjacent is the New School of Cooking Cafe which is a coffee bar and pastry shop offering bistro style breakfast and lunches with the pastries baked each day by students.
Guest Chef Carol Cotner Thompson prepared the showcase Japanese  specialties that were presented for food professionals and members of the press.
We opened with a Hokkai Yamato processed corn soup mix.  Chef Thompson added fresh Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon zest and juice and snipped chives to the soup mix and the result was a wonderful treat, full of flavors and fresh tasting.
Next was braised shortribs with Hokkai Yamato wasabi furikake  mashed potatoes.  The shortribs were flavored with Ebara Ohgon No Ajio mild BBQ sauce from Ebara Foods.  Chef Thompson shared her recipe for these shortribs, which were moist, tender and most flavorful, with this Writer who must try it in his own kitchen.  With the shortribs was a spicy meatball which included ebara ohgon no Aji hot BBQ sauce.
Dessert was matcha panna cotta with kuromitsu gel and fresh fruit.  Extra flavor was from Yokohama Choshiya yonaguni kuromitsu, an aroma sugar syrup.  With this a Den's organic sencha tea was served.     This was another in a  series of events by JETRO to introduce Japanese foods and recipes in the USA.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Winery Restaurant and Bar in Tustin always makes lunch there appear as a special occasion.  Free Valet parking is available  which is a great opener.
Greeting at the door is friendly, seating quickly made and the service staff appear almost like magic.
We already knew of the restaurant's outstanding wine cellar but on this visit we got a personal guided tour by William Lewis, Sommelier and Partner.  Here is to be found sixty seven hundred wines from 13 countries and five continents.
On this visit we also had the opportunity to chat with Host Partner JC Chow, and Yvon Goetz, Executive Chef and Partner.
Since opening in 2011 in The District, The Winery has gathered a fist full of awards for its culinary excellence placing it as one of the best restaurants in Orange County.
The Winery is located at 2647 Park Avenue in the District at Tustin.  For more information call 714 258-7600, on the web at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Last evening we attended a media event in Costa Mesa to announce 2015 Orange County Restaurant Week which will take place March 1 through 7.  It will be the seventh in this series of events which allows people to enjoy special Prix-Fixe menus at some of the best restaurants in Orange County.
The Media event proved to be exciting as it allowed us to sample  original culinary creations from some of the restaurants taking part in the March event.
These restaurants included Slap N' Go, Blue C Sushi in Newport Beach, Maro Wood Grill in Laguna Beach, Casey's Cupcakes in Irvine and Fig & Olive in Newport Beach.
Orange County Restaurant Week is the perfect time to explore new restaurants and new cuisines since participating restaurants are offering prix-fixe menus within price categories:  lunch for 10,15 or 20 dollars and dinners for 20,30,40 or fifty dollars.  Over one hundred restaurants in Orange County are taking part and they are listed at
The media event took place at the Sub-Zero Wolf showrooms in Costa Mesa.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our experience enjoying Lebanese cuisine at Open Sesame in West Los Angeles also including a wine tasting of wines from Lebanon.  Christopher Lavin, regional sales manager for Broadbent Selections, conducted our tasting.
We already knew Christopher from the time he was Sommelier for two of Long Beach's five star restaurants, L'Opera and The Madison.  His work at these restaurants earned him "Sommelier of the Year' Award from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
He told us how Lebanon has a history of wine making extending back almost six thousand years.  The land was peopled by Phoenicians who were renowned principally for their wide travel and trading.  They were shipping Lebanon wine to Egypt two thousand years before Christ.
 Also taking part in the tasting was Eddie Simon of Misa Imports.
The first wine, served with our Mezza/appetizers, was Altitudes IXSIR White 2009.  It was a blend of Muscat, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon.  Another white wine served was a 2012 Chateau Musar, a blend of Viognier, Vermentino and Chardonnay.
The first red wine served with  the entrees was Altitudes IXSIR 2010, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo and Caldaro.  This was followed by another IXSIR vintage, a 2010 Grand Reserve from Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
We noted that all the Lebanon wines we tasted were blends and that all had enjoyed much bottle aging.
Our last wine was truly memorable.  It was a signature 2003 Chateau Musar Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon's best known wine region, with the name of Winemaker Gaston Hochar on the label.
Some of these wines are to be found on Open Sesame's wine list.

Monday, January 12, 2015

If you want to continue your exploration of the Mediterranean diet may we suggest you start with the 5000 year old cuisine of Lebanon.
A great place to start is the Open Sesame Restaurant located on the west side in Los Angeles.  Proprietor-chef Ali Kobeissi introduced his authentic Lebanese cuisine to this location one year ago to immediate success.  We were there with a group last evening and most impressed with both the variety and quality of the many appetizers and entrees we tasted.
Open Sesame shows a very large menu with a long list of Mezza/appetizers and here is where we started with fried potatoes, Hummus, Kibbi, fried cauliflower and the Lebanese salad Fattoush.
Then came our mini sized entrees, to taste and enjoy as many as possible.  First a charbroiled lamb chop, then grilled tiger shrimp layered on an exciting red sauce.  Then Ali's Favorite, sliced top sirloin steak on a layer of spicy roasted tomatoes and onions.
Followed by, what proved a favorite for some of us, Chicken Tawook, skewered cubes of marinated,char broiled chicken breast served with garlic sauce and wild cucumber pickles.
The service was excellent and, if you are a beginner with Lebanese food, the wait staff is knowledgeable and
and eager to help.  Our dessert was Baklawa, a flaky phyllo pastry filled with pistachios.
 Our host, Ali Kobeissi is a veteran restaurateur with two other restaurants located in Long Beach.
Open Sesame is located at 7458 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.  Open Sunday thru Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.--on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Telephone 323 525-1698.
With this feast we were served a remarkable group of wines from Lebanon.  Tomorrow in this space we will tell about the 5000 year history of wines from the region and those we tasted.