Friday, November 13, 2009

B Restaurant and Bar

499 9th Street
Oakland CA

Lunch: Tuesday – Friday, 11:30pm – 2:30pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30pm – 10:00pm
Online reservations available

Sometimes, a dinner with a large group can be overwhelming and a bit frustrating, especially with trying to split a bill. But, nothing could have been more enjoyable than the 19-person Warrior Girl Dinner at B Restaurant and Bar.

On Friday, October 23rd, the Golden State Warriors hosted an event called “Nibbles, Dribbles and Sips” which featured complimentary food and wine for all of their season ticket holders. With over 40 of the Bay Area’s top restaurants and wineries participating, I was sure to make a list of places I hadn’t tried yet. How wonderful it was when I discovered the WG dinner would be taking place at one of the restaurants on my list.

In the heart of Old Oakland’s, Historic District, each member of the dance team, including the Director, met at the new American cuisine restaurant on the corner of 9th and Washington. As each girl filed in to sit at the long table well-presented table, I can see that each seat was set up with 2 wine glasses, silverware, a cloth napkin, and a piece of paper that was titled, “Warrior Girls Dinner".

How exciting! A three-course prie-fixe meal had already been prepared for this special occasion. This called for a cocktail! If you haven’t seen, “Sex in the City,” one must know if you’re out with a group of girls, an order of girly cocktails must be made. The most popular order was the “Love On: Vodka, Raspberry puree, pineapple juice, made with love.”

Some girls had a special “W” in their drink to represent the Warriors.

With 19 orders from the WG Dinner Menu, all sorts of combinations were being made. I ended up ordering the butternut squash soup for a starter, the duck entrée, and a vanilla bean crème brulee for dessert. But, shortly after all our orders were taken, several baskets of truffled shoestring fries were brought to the table and we all know how much I love fries! With the perfect amount of crisp to the texture and a hint of truffle oil in the flavor, it’s hard to believe that these freshly made fries tasted even better when dipped in the garlic aioli sauce that accompanied the dish (along with a side of ketchup). With a yummy cocktail and fries, who could have came up with a better first impression? From that point on, my expectations were raised higher.

The wine began to pour and with multiple conversations, a few games of telephone and a ton of pictures being taken, our appetizers arrived in no time.

My soup was amazing! Plates were quickly switched out and replaced with our entrees. The beef would have been my usual order but, I never order Duck and something inside me made me want to try something different. Thank goodness I changed my order, last minute, to the roasted duck breast, prepared with a pear-potato tartlet, chicory salad, and a port reduction. Who would have thought duck could have been so tender and juicy?

You can bet I was still able to taste all the other dishes that were on the menu so I was still able to try the flat iron steak I almost ordered. [describe beef] But I was happy with my order, especially after the dessert was served.

It seemed cliché to order a crème brulee, but the vanilla bean flavor was different and I absolutely loved it!

It was an unforgettable night. The staff was friendly, the food was to die for, and the company was irreplaceable. Because of this memorable experience, B Restaurant and Bar will definitely be a place to come back to. I hear their mushroom and thyme wood fired pizza (oyster mushroom, fromage blanc, parmesan, and arugula) is a “must try”.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stefanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake

The Cheesecake Factory

After finding several one of a kind menu items around the world, it seems a little cliché to want to get a cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. But, being my birthday and after watching an amazing performance by the cast of Wicked at the Orpheum Theater, nothing sounded more enjoyable (and cliché) than a nice late-night cheesecake with the family while overlooking the lights of Union Square.

I briefly looked at the endless list of cheesecakes and made a quick decision in wanting a nice and simple slice of “The Original”; the classic creamy cheesecake with a sour cream topping and a graham cracker crust. I immediately closed the menu shut, but the back cover of the menu instantly changed my mind.

How can anyone be so clever in combining two of my favorite cakes into one? Without any hesitation, I placed my order as soon as our server approached the table and in no time, a group of servers were standing before us with my cake in hand.

The extra sprinkles, lit candle, chocolate written “Happy Birthday to You” and everyone singing the birthday song made the cake look much more appetizing than the picture on the back cover of the menu.

With layers of extremely moist red velvet cake between thick layers of creamy cheesecake, covered in a special Cheesecake Factory cream cheese frosting and white chocolate curls, it’s no wonder “Stefanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake” was the winner to The Cheesecake Factory’s “What’s your flavor?” contest in April.

From January 28th, through February 28th, nearly 10,000 contest submissions were made; each consisting of a unique idea for a new cheesecake flavor. The winner would receive a trip for two to Los Angeles, CA and the chance to have a cheesecake named after them and produced by The Cheesecake Factory, which, in Cheesecake Factory’s 30 years, will be the very first menu addition name after a guest.

Only one entry per person was allowed but each submission may have included any or all the following: a video, a photo, an audio file and a text description of the flavor combination. Five finalists were chosen on the basis of cheesecake flavor combination and creativity and each idea was posted online for public vote. The winner was graded on the basis of receiving the most public votes during the voting phase (50%), cheesecake flavor combination (25%), and creativity of submission (25%).

At the end of about 20,000 votes and weeks of intense anticipation, the winning cheesecake flavor was chosen and introduced on July 30th, 2009; National Cheesecake Day. Congratulations to Stefanie Gaxiola; a Redondo Beach resident who probably didn’t need the trip to Los Angeles. Nonetheless, thank goodness for her creativity and wonderful pallet, for I have found the perfect birthday cake.

In addition, because The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated and Feeding America has created a wonderful partnership, 25 cents from the sale of each slice will be donated to the national hunger-relief organization that helps feed more than 25 million hungry Americans each year.

P.S., I loved the cake so much that I went back the next evening to get it again!

P.P.S., The only reason I didn’t get it a third time is because on the second night, I discovered The Cheesecake Factory is so kind in showing the calorie content per slice in the display case!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morimoto - newyorkNY

88 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network Station is, "Iron Chef America." The show is based on a cooking competition featuring accomplished guest chefs around the world. Each chef is challenged against one of the show's resident "Iron Chefs" in a timed cooking battle built around a specific theme ingredient. The original, "Iron Chef," show was a Japanese television program which first aired on October 10, 1993 and ended on September 24th, 1999. (

All Seven Iron Chefs and Chairman Kaga in Kitchen Stadium. Left to right: Sakai, Ishinabe, Morimoto, Michiba, Chen, Nakamura, Kobe.

Chef Morimoto was the only one who continued to be an Iron Chef in the American spin off.

As a high-school student in Hiroshima, Japan, Morimoto was on his way to becoming a professional baseball player. Unfortunately, that career had ended due to a shoulder injury. On the up-side, he pursued his dual dream of becoming a sushi chef. After eight years of culinary training in Hiroshima, Morimoto opened his first restaurant at the age of 25. He specialized in Japanese cuisine, infused with European and Western cooking techniques and ingredients into his preparations. Five years later, Morimoto sold the restaurant to further explore and define his unique Japanese fusion.

In November of 2001, Mormoto opened his first U.S. restaurant, named "Morimoto," in Philadelphia, and later, another in New York City. (He also opened a restaurant in Mumbai, India, named, "Wasabi.")

When Brian and I heard Morimoto owned a New York restaurant, we made sure we made reservations for the next time we visited our friends who lived on the East Coast. As an accomplished Iron Chef in both Japan and America, who wouldn't want to?

"Going to a restaurant is like going to the theatre," says chef Morimoto and no other restaurant experience exemplifies these sentiments like his. After walking a few blocks on the cobbled streets of the Meat Packing District, we approached a large red curtain, resembling the curtains of a theater.

With all the geometric shapes and indirect lighting, walking into "Morimoto" felt like stepping into a whole different world. Being a little early for our reservations, our hostess recommended us to wait downstairs. As we descended down the stairwell, we were enthralled by the "bottle wall."

The "bottle wall" is composed out of 17,400 half liter plastic bottles, filled with mineral water and LED lighting. The combination created this shimmery effect that added to the Zen-like serenity throughout the restaurant. Glass privacy walls between tables, rice paper walls, and an organic ceiling that resembles the raked sand of Eastern rock gardens also added to the modern-chic ambiance. (

Downstairs, we found a bar accompanied by a 40-person lounge area.

People were dining in the lounge area, but a full meal was waiting for us in the main dining room.

After my glass of wine and Brian's bottle of Sapporo, our table was ready. As previously mentioned, Morimoto had dreams of becoming a sushi chef. In the the back of the restaurant, sushi bar seating was available.

As much as Brian and I love sushi, it was recommended to sit in the dining area for have the "full experience".

Everything on the menu looked delicious. Each item contained something familiar, but prepared in a completely different way from anything I have heard of. After ordering our appetizers and entrees, I quickly took a bathroom break. Who would have thought the bathroom would be just as chic looking as the main dining area?

Not only did each stall consisted an infinite backdrop of cherry blossoms they each had a remote-like fixture on the side wall.

I love how the Japanese are very innovated.

The concept of these remotes have been all over Japan and Morimoto brought it to his restaurant. The buttons are self-explanatory: Flush, Oscillating, Pulsing, Dryer, Rear Cleansing, Front Cleansing, Pressure, Position, Stop.

When I returned to our table, our appetizers had arrived. An order of Oh-Toro (fatty tuna roll), a Shrimp Tempura Roll (tempura shrimp, asparagus, and a spicy sauce) and Ramen Soup (iron chef chicken noodle soup).

This was a great way to get our palette going. The sushi tasted fresh and the soup had the perfect amount of seasoning. Nothing was too unfamiliar yet and the portions were just enough to get me more hungry for our entrees. Oh, the entrees...

Brian had ordered the Sea Bass which was prepared in sweet sake kasu, Japanese eggplant and miso. His dish looked delicious but did not compare to what I ordered. I had ordered the surf & turf which consisted of Kobe filets, finger potatoes and Hamachi ribbons with crushed citrus and avocado (prepared table side).

The beef was perfectly cooked medium rare as the juices gushed out when my chopsticks picked each piece up. Each flavor-filled bite was amazing, but the Hamachi ribbons were unlike any sashimi I had ever had. Although it seemed very simple to make, the mixture of the three ingredients made a perfect blend. I wish I had ordered a full plate of the Hamachi Ribbons!

As our experience was coming to an end, I told Brian he had to see the restrooms before we left. As I sat at our table alone, finishing my glass of wine, I noticed a man in shorts, running shoes, and baseball cap approaching the party sitting at the communal table next to us.

My immediate thought was, "How can this man dress like that in such a chic looking restaurant?"

Yet, everyone at the table looked so please as each member of the table shook his hand. One lady had pulled out a pen and book for this person to autograph. I couldn't help but stare and wonder who this "author" was.

Brian had returned very quickly with excitement in his voice.

"You'll never guess... that's him!!!"

Yes... Iron Chef Morimoto himself.

It turns out, Mr. Morimoto frequently visits all his restaurants. Knowing that he takes time to meet those who appreciate his creations made the "full experience" complete. Brian had ran into Morimoto in the restroom, but had left his phone and camera at the dining table with me. But when we identified the man in the white hat, we didn't hesitate to ask.

"May we take a photo with you?"

The Iron Chef had such a kind tone in his voice and willingly took a photo with us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fenton's Creamery - oaklandCA

4226 Piedmont Ave
Oakland, CA 94611

The restaurant business is tough. I have seen so many places open and close within a few years. But if you have a track record like Fenton's Creamery, you know they have to be doing something right. For 115 years, Fenton's Creamery has been a well-known ice cream parlor in the bay area. Since 1961 (48 years), it has been stable in at this Oakland location. Recently, in May 2007, a second location was opened in Nut Tree Village (Vacaville, CA).

After a Sunday night Warriors game, a group of us wanted to grab a late-night snack. Locals had recommended us to go to Fenton's which closed at 11:00pm (midnight on Friday and Saturday). Like Rachel Ray, we took the locals' advice.

After finding parking in a crowded lot, we entered the restaurant and found most of their flavors are on display in the front. It's a perfect way to ensure customers will order dessert.

I was amazed to see how busy it was on a Sunday night!

"Table of six, please."

The hostess immediately grabbed a few menus and walked us to our table. Since it was so crowded in the main room, she walked us to the back room. On our way, we passed the area where the sundaes were being built, as well as where the food was made. As we walked through an aroma of burgers and fries, my appetite began to grow.

Not only did it grow for food, but when we also passed the room where all the magic was made, I got even more excited for the dessert. There it was... The Ice Cream Factory.

What makes Fenton's ice cream so great? It is believed that by making hand-made ice cream daily in small batches is their secret to creating their signature style. With 33 ice cream flavors, a few seasonal ones, and four sorbets, it's impossible to find your favorite on your first visit.

Because I was anticipating for dessert, I didn't want to spend much time deciding what food to order. I just stuck with them special for the night to make it easier.

They were out of curly fries for the night, so regular fries had to suffice for the night. Yet, that wasn't such a bad substitution!

With three juicy beef patties and a pile of crispy fries, I was not disappointed. It was exactly what I had imagined when I passed the kitchen earlier that night. Now it was time to move on to dessert.

I had to get the coffee cookie dream. I love coffee ice cream and I love Oreo cookies and the coffee cookie dream is the best of both worlds. I also wanted to get something simple to see if homemade ice cream really was better. Strawberry ice cream seemed to be a good basic flavor that most parlors carry.

We ordered a, "Large Ice Cream Dish," which was described as, "Two GENEROUS scoops." They weren't kidding when they said, "GENEROUS!"

It really was a coffee cookie dream! And the strawberry really did taste like fresh strawberries! The strawberry scoop of ice cream was a little too soft for my liking, but the texture of the coffee was perfect; firm with a little "icy-ness".

After being served our dessert, I was a little ashamed of myself. I didn't ask the server what their preference was on dessert and my friends did. I got jealous! Our server recommended to create their own sundae...

It was a large ice cream dish of Caramel Cream Almond Crunch served on a couple of bananas, topped with caramel sauce, whipped cream, almonds, and a cherry.

That wasn't dream... it was heaven!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pink Taco - losangelesCA

Westfield Century City Mall
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Victoria Beckham has become one of my favorite fashion icons. Frequently, I go online to look up recent photos of her to see what new style she's sporting. Lately, I noticed a lot of her photos are taken at the Century City Mall, leaving Pink Taco.

Having two successful locations, (the first at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV and the other in Scottsdale, AZ) a third location opened on June 28, 2007 in Century City, Los Angeles, CA and has become a favorite lunch spot for the Beckhams. After several sitings of the Beckham family at Pink Taco, including Victoria's 34th birthday celebration, I really wanted to see why they loved it so much.

Although my friends and I were one of the first customers of the day, the lack of people did not take away from the fun environment inside. With so many bright colors and festive decorations, the interior gave a little Andy Warhol-ish vibe. It was Chevy's meets hi-fashion.

Since it was such a beautiful day, we were recommended to sit outside. As we walked through the restaurant, out to the patio, the multicolor scheme continued. Two large flat screens were set up outside to satisfy those who wanted to watch the games but not sit at the bar.

Thank goodness the weather was on our side that day. The patio seating looked even more fun. Bright orange umbrellas were everywhere with teal and green accented furniture. It was a great afternoon lunch atmosphere.

To top it off, the restaurant had a wonderful location. Being on the top floor of the Century City Mall, Pink Taco had a great view of Santa Monica Blvd.

With amazingly friendly service, we were seated in the corner, outdoor booth. I tend to find waiters and waitresses with great personalities in Los Angeles. A lot of them are aspiring actors or actresses who always run the chances of serving someone that can offer their next big break.

What else could complete a perfect girls-day-out on a hot LA afternoon, sitting on the patio of a very trendy restaurant?

"One Pitcher of Sangria Blanco, please."

If you are looking for that perfect summer drink, Pink Taco's White Sangria is it. With just the perfect ratio of wine to juice and tons of citrus fruits floating inside, it didn't take long for us to finish the pitcher.

Being named, "Pink Taco," you would think we would order the Panuchos (Pink Tacos); Corn tortillas stuffed with pinto beans and topped with arbol salsa, grilled chicken, pickled pink onions and avocado. These are the traditional tacos from the state of Yucatan. But, with three small appetites, already half full off the Sangria, we ordered the Pink Taco Platter instead. Although it was off the appetizer menu, the platter did not fall short of food. It included: Two chicken skewers, two carne asada skewers, cheese quesadillas, guacamole, two corn tamales, rock shrimp & ribs.

Everything was to die for! Each item was full flavor. From the freshly made Guacamole to the perfectly marinated chicken and beef skewers in a tamarind chipotle glaze, nothing compared to the texture of the amazing crispy battered shrimp. But, my personal favorite had to be the corn tamales. I loved the flavor of fresh sweet corn kernels with the texture of masa in corn husks. The only problem with the platter... it only had two corn tamales!

Now, when you're with your girlfriends, there's always room for dessert. It doesn't matter how full you are. Get dessert. If I'm at a new restaurant and haven't looked up reviews on the dessert online, I like to ask the servers for their preference. I don't know what it is, but when it comes to desserts, the server is always honest. You can tell, in their face, whether the dessert they are talking about is good or great.

We made a decision to only choose one of the four items on the dessert menu: 1. Flan (creamy vanilla custard, caramel sauce, vanilla whipped cream), 2. Mexican Mud (creamy chocolate pudding infused with canela. served with Bunuelos and whipped cream), 3. Fried Ice Cream (crispy vanilla ice cream with almonds & coconut, layered with cinnamon chocolate crispy tortilla with a rum & cajeta sauce), or 4. Caliente Brownie Sundae (a spicy chocolate molten brownie infused with ancho Chile, served warm on a hot skillet with vanilla ice cream & raspberry sauce).

I instantly would choose anything that resembled a molten cake (the Caliente Brownie Sundae). The thought of the chocolate mixed with a chile did not seem appetizing to me, but that could be the ingredient that makes Pink Taco's Brownie the best. When our server approached our table, I asked how good the Brownie Sundae was. He said it was good, "...But the Fried Ice Cream is also good." He made me think twice about my decision and needed to give me a few more minutes.

When he came back the second time around, I ordered the Caliente Brownie Sundae.

"Are you sure? the fried ice cream is also very good."

He didn't seem very persuasive, but if he had to mention it twice, I finally got the hint to switch my order to the Fried Ice Cream. Thank goodness I did.

It was huge! The almond-coconut coating of the ice cream was delicious! The texture had a nice crisp to it and the vanilla ice cream inside was nice and frozen. To add a little more flavor to this dessert, the cinnamon chocolate crispy tortilla tasted like a piece of peanut brittle taken to the next level. This after meal creation was a perfect infusion of sweet flavor and texture.

I'm definitely going to come back and try the infamous, "Pink Tacos". Well, I would have to start of the meal with some corn tamales and pair the meal with a pitcher of white sangria... and since it didn't happen for me the first time, maybe the Beckham family will be dining at the same time as my next visit.