Tag Archives: Review

Simmzy’s Pub- Huntington Beach Review

The Pacific City complex by the water in downtown Huntington Beach has brought a whole host of shops and restaurants to the seaside area of our great city; one of them being Simmzy’s Pub. A very small California concept – they only have five locations – Simmzy’s specializes in boldly crafted American fare, craft brews, cocktails, wine, with a big splash of SoCal surfer laid back vibes. With another location just up the road in Long Beach, I’d heard from others that Simmzy’s was a delicious and fun place to eat. Finally, this weekend I got the chance to dine at there latest and greatest location in Pacific City.

Simmzys Frontal

Situated on the first floor closest to the ocean, Simmzy’s offers stunning views of the beach on the south side of the pier. The seating at this restaurant is half inside, half outside on the patio; and they are known for having a great patio with those stunning views. However, no matter where you are sitting, you get to enjoy the views of the sea and the light ocean breezes sweeps into the restaurant and weave around the guests. On a sunny day, it just feels like a great place to be!

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Recipe Review: Giada’s Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon

What do you think I do on my lunch breaks at the office? That’s right, I watch the Food Network. And if you haven’t already guessed it, my favorite Food Network Star is Giada De Laurentiis, who is my spirit animal as well. I’ve reviewed her restaurant and another recipe of hers, but it’s been awhile so I figured it’s time for another.

giada dance

My Patronus

Back during December, there was a “Holiday” episode of Giada at Home in which she cooked this Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon.

Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon 1

I can’t even.

I mean, hello, just listen to the name of the recipe. Watching it cooked on the screen was torture for my colleague friends and I. The sight of it inspired a deep need for it within us.

need

Said Johnny and friends to the pasta.

Still, I didn’t see what made it traditionally “Holidayish”. But when Valentine’s Day came around, I thought it would make the perfect V-Day dinner! In my mind, shellfish and pasta are staples for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, and the addition of bacon makes everything much more romantic.

valentine

Valentine’s Day = Food!

Of course, I am single – and Whole on My Own – and so is my mother and sister, so we had ourselves our own little fancy Valentine’s Dinner where we enjoyed this fantabulous recipe, along with a Kale and Roasted Beet Salad and some Prosecco.

After cooking the meal and taking my first twirl and bite, I knew it was a keeper. HOLY HELL PEOPLE!

the taste

My reaction after the first bite basically.

Tender sweet lobster, salty smoky bacon, delightful linguine noodles, rich tomato cream sauce, fresh herbs and peas, and of course, heavenly Parmesan cheese; this dish has everything going for it! All the flavors and textures play off each other perfectly. It is a luxurious and sensual dish. And though it sounds indulgent because of the cream and bacon, a moderate sized portion of this was actually just the right amount, no one felt weighed down or bloated, but perfectly satisfied. Remember people – moderation!

The recipe is pretty easy to follow. Giada has labeled the difficulty as “Intermediate”. That’s just because you do have to do quite a few things at once, and once you start there is no stopping, so you have to be prepared. Plus, if you buy a whole cooked lobster or two, you have to break open its shell which is no easy feat.

xena fight

Basically the effort it takes to break open lobster. Damn those spikes!

My advice is to do all the prep work before you start the cooking. Chop all the vegetables and herbs, have the tomato and cream measured out, have the lobster meat cut up into chunks and set aside in a bowl, and have everything readily assessable. This way, once you start, you’ve got everything you need to execute.

Ingredients for Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon

Prepare everything ahead of time and lay it out.

I cut the ingredient portions in half because I was only cooking for 3 people while Giada originally intended the recipe for 6, but you could easily double this recipe or modify it for your friends and family as needed.

At any rate, you should absolutely 100% make this dish when you are feeling a little bit ritzy! Enjoy!

Also, here is a video of my lobster singing “Under the Sea”.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Book Review

You know Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert, because I know you have seen and/or read Eat Pray Love – that’s her book. And though you may only associate her as the woman who found herself through her time  eating in Italy, meditating in India and loving in Indonesia; what you may not be as aware of as I am is that Liz Gilbert is an earth-bound angel sent to help us capture inspiration and liberate our creativity in our daily lives. I’ve listened to her talks and interviews and read other works of hers and her words always touch me at my core; it’s the same story with her most recent memoir, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

In Big Magic, Gilbert touches on many different aspects of creativity and the undeniable human instinct that we have for it. For the book, Liz draws on experiences from her own life, stories from others, and the wise words of many different types of memorable people. It is, in short, a discussion of creativity, its importance to us and our world, and how we should go about treating it, cultivating it, and living it.

Now, I am not going to launch into some 10 page essay breaking down every facet of the book and dropping quotes left and write; you don’t need to read much more from me, you don’t need more words to process, you just need to go and read the damn book. The book manages all at once to be informative, educational, comical, thought-provoking and, well, inspiring. You’ll love it!

With that said, if you’d like to read on, I would like to share a few of my biggest, personal takeaways from my read of Big Magic.

idea

Inspiration and Ideas are often external forces – Gilbert theorizes that the inspiring thoughts and ideas that come to us do so in the literal sense of the phrase – they come to us from somewhere else, outside of ourselves. In a sense, she discusses the intriguing possibility that the ideas that spark us to create are their own beings of energy and light floating around, and they seek a vessel – a person – through whom they can be brought into the physical world. Ever had an idea that you thought, “Huh, that’s really cool!” but you never acted on it, and then a month, a year, or even a decade later you see that idea come into reality by someone else and you think, “Hey! That was my idea!” but you accept it as a mere coincidence? I know you have, we all have. Well, you probably did have that very idea. That idea probably chose you to try be born through, but you didn’t do anything with it. And so, it left you and moved onto someone who could and would bring the idea into reality.

I found this discussion in Big Magic to be incredibly intriguing. I had heard Gilbert discuss this topic before in this TED Talk, and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After reflecting a bit, I’ve come to realize that I totally and completely agree with this concept of the external idea. Have you ever had a thought or idea that when you first thought it up you believed it to be the greatest idea ever, but then you didn’t write it down fast enough and no matter how hard you try you simply can’t remember what that idea exactly was? We’ve all had it happen; the poem or song you dreamed up but didn’t pen down and now you can’t remember how it went in your head, the storyline of the epic novel that would be riveting but you didn’t draw it out fast enough and now the storyline isn’t as strong, etc. I have had ideas – flashes of inspiration – but I didn’t eternalize them fast enough; and when I go to remember them, no matter how deeply I rack my brains, I simply can’t remember them at all! I have lost great ideas and tore myself apart in search of finding them again, but I can’t. Why? Because they are nowhere to be found within me; they have literally left my body and my conscious and moved onto a person that will act on them more quickly and birth them into the mortal world where they can touch others.

This is not to say that this theory discredits people who appear to always be brilliant in terms of creativity and may even be called geniuses. Rather, the theory supports the idea that some people are great vessels or instruments for catching the ideas that are floating around in the ether, working with them, and developing them into something truly amazing. We can be creative people, but we just have to be open to reaching out into the universe and catching the right ideas that we can then work with to create. As you can tell, this was a hugely important part of the book for me; I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

personal-freedom

Stop putting requirements and expectations on your creativity – In Big Magic, Liz implores us to not burden our creativity with fantastical expectations and goals. Translation: stop telling your creativity that it must make you X amount of dollars so that you can leave your day job, stop telling your creativity that it must make you famous and adored, stop telling your creativity that it must produce more than the art you are making it for. This type of energetic thinking does no one service; it limits your creativity, it creates stress and longing within yourself, ultimately leads to sacrifice on the part of the creativity, which eventually leads to frustration and disappointment. There is no point to this! Be kind to your inspiration and creativity and do it simply for the fact that you feel compelled to do so without any attachment to the end result!

This was a very important takeaway for me. Look at this blog, Johnny La Pasta, for instance. This blog is one of my creative endeavors; through it, I pursue my creativity namely in relation to cooking, yoga, and lifestyle all through the medium of writing. Lots of other people do this too, and many of them make money for it – like lots of money for it. And so, I have at times placed expectations on my work for this blog that it will earn me a larger income than what I currently make, allow me to work from home, afford me more funds and time to travel, etc. When I have placed these bar marks on my work for Johnny La Pasta, I have noticed that my writing becomes more difficult and I become more stressed – especially when I am not seeing the high expectations that I created met. Now sure, the goal of turning my blog into a fiscally viable line of work is a decent and respectable goal, but I now refuse to make it a requirement of my work here. I create the posts and stories that I do because I have a passion for writing and the topics that I am writing about. I cannot burden my writing and artistic impulses with grand schemes. Instead, I will continue to create what I do because I feel compelled to and because I want to!

So, create because you feel it is something that you need to do, and do it without attachment or expectation. Enjoy the process, enjoy the result, be not disappointed by any of it!

splatter

Humans are meant to create…SO CREATE! – History tells us that humans have a deep need and will to create. Ever since ancient people figured out how to make scrapes on cave walls, we have been creating. We have been creating even at times where it doesn’t even make sense to create. When there is famine, plague, and terror; logically you would think that all creative endeavors would stop because there is a greater need to focus on tasks that support survival, but still, people continue to write and draw and paint and sculpt and weave and more throughout all of it. Creativity is nearly as a basic a need for people as food, sleep and sex. As a collective species, we have an insatiable desire to create and so we do.

In Big Magic, Gilbert tells us to follow our creative impulses when they come. Creating is good for us on many levels; it’s like a vitamin for the mind and the soul. And anyone can take that vitamin.

For some reason, we have come to believe that to create you must be creative, creative in the Pinteresty sense of the word. We have come to believe that if you want to create you must be a genius or a prodigy in one medium, only then can you actively and often create. The truth is, however, that anyone can be creative at any time. We can all be creative in big and small ways on a day to day to basis. This does not mean that what you create has to publishable or producible or worthy of a nomination. You create whatever you want simply because you feel the need on any given day; no one has to see or know about it, you don’t have to judge and critique after the fact. All you have to do is enjoy the process of it!

Look at children. They take a piece of paper and some crayons and just go for it. They aren’t attached to the end result. They aren’t worried about winning an award for it. They just see pretty colors in the crayon box, inspiration strikes them, and they ride that wave and create. The tree they set out to draw might end up looking like deformed purple octopus; but who cares? They certainly don’t. They are creating for the hell of it, and that’s beautiful. Let’s be more like that.

Are you a plumber with a poem ringing through your head? Write that poem! It doesn’t matter that you are a plumber, if you’ve got the inspiration, act on it. Even if it turns out as ghastly as some of the jobs you encounter in your plumber duties, just get it out of you and enjoy it for what it is! Are you a mechanic with music radiating between your ears? Pick up and instrument and play and sing it loud! It could be great, it could be okay, it could sound like cats dying; it doesn’t matter! Are you a screenwriter with a silver screen idea in your mind’s eye? Write that damn screenplay without concern of whether or not a studio executive would buy it or even like it. Ski that slope of creative energy for as long as it goes.

Okay, I’ll stop now, you get the picture. The point is, Big Magic was a reminder for me that creating is fun and it is healthy and it is accessible at some level to all of us at all times; so we should do more of it.

And with that, I hope I inspire you to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

big magic 2.jpg

True Food Kitchen Newport Beach

Last month, I revisited one of my favorite restaurants in Orange County: True Food Kitchen. Located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA, True Food Kitchen is one of twenty restaurants spread out across the country. As the name suggests, True Food Kitchen emphasizes quality food that is healthful and nutritious as well as seasonal, sustainable, innovative, and delicious.

True Food Kitchen is one of those restaurants that at once makes you feel healthier just for being present in the building while also getting you excited for a truly fantastic meal. The space is open, warm and inviting. A color scheme of bright green, soft yellow and honey woods help to convey the focus on fresh and healthy. The open dining room with high ceilings is set up to feel all at once collaborative and communal while also spacious enough for diners to enjoy conversations privately with their friends and family. Large wood islands stacked with vibrant produce and ingredients divide the diners from the visible kitchen, allowing guests a chance to see the ingredients they will be eating, the preparation of said ingredients and the chefs that make all of the magic happen. I can’t speak for the other True Food Kitchen locations, but the Newport Beach location also offers two different private dining rooms which can be rented out for private parties and events as well as a very nice, semi-private outdoor space complete with heating lamps and fire pits. The restaurant also boasts a beautiful full bar in one half of the dining room, making it easy to grab a drink while waiting for your table or to simply stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer. It’s all very casual and comfortable, but also classy and fun, and it possesses a very clean, organic feel. At any rate, I feel right at home here!

PLEASE EXCUSE THE PICTURE QUALITY – FORGOT CAMERA THAT NIGHT AND USED IPHONE!

Now, let’s get to the part you’re all waiting for: the food! One of the best parts of True Food Kitchen and its concept is that it offers a seasonal menu. So the menu options change several times throughout the year and highlight the foods that are in season and at their very peak for freshness and flavor. Remember my article on seasonal eating, its importance and why we should practice more of it? Well, True Food Kitchen has the same beliefs as I do and they help to make it easier for diners too.

I took my mom with me to True Food Kitchen for dinner before our annual Fashion Island Christmas Shopping date. We were there in mid-December so the menu being offered was the “Volume One: Winter” menu. Fall and Winter foods are my favorite: the root vegetables and hearty greens, the earthy herbs, and the warming braises and stews; so this menu was right up my alley!

True Food Kitchen Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

For our first course, along with our wine of course, we split the Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board. A literal board of roasted winter vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms, and Brussels Sprouts, served with two different dipping sauces: an avocado green goddess dip and a pimento cashew cheese spread. To be completely honest, I could’ve eaten this entire board by myself and called it my dinner. These winter vegetables, which again are my favorite, appeared to be dressed with little more than olive oil, salt, and pepper, but were roasted to absolute tender perfection which intensifies the natural flavors of the vegetables. The dips were fantastic compliments to punch up the produce just a bit more. The pimento cashew cheese spread added a nice heat, but the avocado green goddess dip was just phenomenal as it added a nice sweet richness because, avocado. Vegan and Gluten-Free, this is a dish anyone could eat with a very happy heart.

True Food Kitchen Braised Bison Short Rib

Braised Bison Short Rib – Split Plate

Next, we decided to split the Braised Bison Short Rib. When it’s Winter and cold outside, I love a good, hearty, braised dish that fills me and warms me from the inside out. This was the dish for exactly that on a rainy and unusually cold Newport Beach night at Christmas time. A large bison short rib braised slowly with lots of flavorful cooking liquids (I think there was red wine in there) to the point where the meat was so tender it shredded at the slightest touch of your fork and dissolved in your mouth, served with a creamy and savory cauliflower mash and earthy sautéed Swiss chard that acted as the perfect light sides to the meat. This entrée was masterfully done. Honestly, I like bison, but it does sometimes taste a bit gamey and plainer than say a beef short rib; but you could not tell at all with this bison. The dish packed tons of rich and developed flavors that hit all the marks of a good braised meat dish. A generous portion, mom and I were glad we split; and the best part – they split the dish for us ahead of time so we didn’t have to fuss with it at the table! That is a great point about True Food Kitchen, they cater to all needs; these guys are more than happy to split your dish, omit an ingredient, substitute, add, whatever you want! Even the pickiest and neediest of eaters can find or create something here.

True Food Kitchen Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

You cannot go to such a restaurant and not have dessert, right? Right. A Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake was our choice this night – we are chocoholics. This decadent and moist cake is made of nothing more than cocoa, eggs, and almond butter, baked till warm and gooey and topped with a touch caramel and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. Dear Lord, Dear God. This dessert was simply perfection; it had all the things I love in a dessert and with very little guilt. Couldn’t have been happier! You simply must get dessert when you come here, they are all great and innovative, ideal with a cup of fair-trade coffee or tea that True Food Kitchen also offers.

All in all, our experience was yet again wonderful. A warm and healthy atmosphere with delicious seasonal foods that are both nutritious while also pleasing to the tongue and stomach. I adore True Food Kitchen and am a regular guest there; it really has something for everyone. Omnivores and carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, gluten-frees and special needs, the folks at True Food have something for you, and if they don’t, they will make something for you. It’s affordable for a nice-ish dinner out; great for a catch up meal with friends, a casual date, a quick cocktail and appetizer, or even a celebration. I would recommend True Food Kitchen to anyone! Here’s to hoping there is one by you!

You can learn more about True Food Kitchen here.

Restaurant Review: Cleo Hollywood

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Ciao my friends! Johnny here with a little restaurant review for you! On October 17th, I headed up the freeway from Orange County to Hollywood to see Florence + the Machine at the Hollywood Bowl (it was a spectacular show – maybe the best concert I’ve been to so far). Anyway, having experienced the parking nightmare of the Hollywood Bowl before, I decided to head up to Hollywood early to ditch the car and spend a day being a native-tourist and of course, treat myself to a great meal at a new restaurant!

Earlier in the week, I had begun googling for good restaurants near the Hollywood Bowl; the one that really captured by attention was Cleo. The restaurant was described as a cool Mediterranean Tapas Restaurant, serving up small plates of Greek, Lebanese, and other Mediterranean inspired delicacies as well as great cocktails – these are things I love so naturally I landed here for my dinner before the show.

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Review: Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible

Want a great, inspiring read? Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Marking the Impossible Possible by Regina Brett is for you! I don’t remember how a copy of this book came into my possession, but it has sat on my bookshelf for years and I finally decided to pick it up one day to give its pages a good honest try; I was floored. I cannot accurately describe how much I enjoyed the book and how insightful I found it to be.

This non-ficition book is divided into 50 chapters which comprise the 50 lessons referenced in the book’s title. What’s really great, besides the fact that you get to read 50 life lessons, is that each lesson is a decently short 3-5 pages which makes this book an easy read during the week; pick it up and read 1 or 2 lessons in your only free 20 minutes before bed and then put it down to continue the next day. These lessons vary widely and are based on Brett’s own experiences and stories that she has heard from other people’s lives.

This book is real and honest, it is incredibly deep and moving while at times also exceedingly humorous; it is a book that I would venture to say will enrich your life. If you read my last review of a health/lifestyle/spiritual based book, you will know that I keep my own book in which I write down quotes that I find to be particularly wise; I took almost 50 quotes from Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Marking the impossible Possible because I found so much meaning in the lessons that comprise this book! So, read it!

You need to read “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”!

I’ve been trying to read Lord of the Rings, but good God is it a struggle; love the films, love everything to do with Middle Earth, but that book is a rough read! This past Sunday, I was looking to relax and read by the pool in my complex, and LOTR was not just not appealing at the time. Instead, I picked a tiny book off of my bookshelf that I had received in my stocking from “Santa” one Christmas but had never taken the time to read. The book was A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, at it touched me deeply.

Only 50 pages long (but filled with artsy black and white images on almost every other page so really it’s like 30 pages), this is a quick read with many valuable insights. Author Anna Quindlen admits, “I’m not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel.” And there’s something charming about that; a normal person sharing the the practices and concepts that have made their own life happy and fulfilling.

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