Tag Archives: wine

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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Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

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Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

In the past year, I have fallen truly and deeply in love with my Slow Cooker, whom I affectionately call Carlotta. The relationship that I have with this piece of home-cook culinary equipment is nothing short of magical. In my busy 50+ hour work week, Carlotta often makes sure that I am fed healthful and delish meals with unimaginable ease. I adore her for it. This new recipe for Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken that Carlotta and I created together is just one of my favorite meals to make for the whole week, especially in the warmer months.

OH CARLOTTA!

Carlotta carlotta 2

The recipe is unfathomably simple, quite inexpensive, and greatly healthy! Chicken, onions, garlic, pre-prepared artichoke hearts, capers, lemon, herbs, and a splash of wine make this dish zesty and bright with the chicken so tender it can be shredded with a fork. Essentially, you dump all of these ingredients into the Slow Cooker (I’ll let you name your own) and turn it on: that’s it! If you invest in a quality Slow Cooker complete with a timer that switches to the “Warm” setting after it is finished cooking and stays there – like Carlotta here – you can make this on your way out the door in the morning and when you get home in the evening, the Slow Cooker will have kept it warm and ready for you all day long. Once you experience this for yourself, you will find it hard to break away from your Slow Cooker for more than a week.

Lemon Artichoke Chicken 5

It looks messy because it is all so tender, but boy does it taste great!

I like to serve this Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken with seasonal vegetables and some sort of carb to soak up the sauce like quinoa, rice, couscous, or my personal carb-fake-out cauliflower rice. This is the ultimate late-Spring and all-Summer week night meal that you are going to love!

Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Absurdly Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (your choice)
  • 1 yellow onion, large diced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts or 2 cans artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 lemon, halved then sliced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Place the chicken at the bottom of the Slow Cooker. Cover with the onions, garlic, artichoke hearts, capers and dried oregano. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the lemon slices and half of the basil over all. Pour in the white wine.

Cook on the low setting for 4 ½ hours or on the high setting for 2 ½ hours.

To serve, plate the chicken with desired sides. Spoon over some of the sauce and top with additional torn basil leaves. Enjoy!

Kitchen Republic Review

To the naked foodie’s eye, the Bella Terra Shopping Mall in Huntington Beach, CA is a sea of casual dining chain restaurants that offer decent to good standard meals but not much in the way of originality. If you sail through this island of entertainment a little more carefully, however, you will happen across a new gem of a restaurant that satisfies the craving for a unique dining and tasting experience amongst the flavors of the chain establishments: Kitchen Republic. Located across from the ever popular Cheesecake Factory and next to the polarizing Buffalo Wild Wings, the fairly new Kitchen Republic offers a space that is hip, cool, authentic, and welcoming with drinks and dishes from a tapas style menu to match.

Kitchen Republic 1

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Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

As you may be aware, I have recently become entranced by the fantastic vegetable that is cauliflower and all the vegan sorcery you can perform with it. Remember when I made Cauliflower Steak and highlighted the basic technique for turning a head of Cauliflower into a steak? Well, Oops I did it again, and this time got fancy!

oops.gif

with the Cauliflower.

This is my original Cauliflower Steak Marsala, which I am very proud to have developed. Inspired by Italian restaurant staple Chicken Marsala and steakhouse classic Steak Marsala, I have created a vegan friendly version of these beloved dishes.

I cut a head of cauliflower into steak looking slices, season them well as you would a piece of meat, and bake them to a crisp tenderness that possesses a meaty texture which I then effectively use to replace chicken or beef. Then I concoct a near traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. Since there is no meat, I have built the sauce to be even richer in flavor than the traditional with a few heartier components. My vegan Marsala sauce includes sweet caramelized onions for another added layer of flavor and texture. Rather than using cremini or button mushrooms, I use strips of hearty, meaty Portobello mushrooms to make the meal more substantial. I add thyme and garlic for an earthy note to contrast the sweetness of the wine.

i love magic

Vegan Magic!

Lastly, I have come up with another piece of vegan magic! Most marsala wine sauces call for butter to thicken the sauce, which is great because…butter. Butter, however, is not vegan and quickly adds another couple hundred calories of fat to the dish. Instead, I puree cannellini beans which are buttery in texture and taste, and add a bit to the sauce. The pureed beans dissolve into the sauce which not only thickens the sauce, but gives it a nice silky smooth texture just like a traditional Marsala sauce.

The result is a rich, hearty, and gourmet meal that is 100% vegan! Serve with your favorite vegetable sides and you will blow your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike away! I am super proud of how this development turned out and I hope you enjoy it too!

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pureed cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Slice the head of cauliflower into 1 ½ inch steaks. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with half the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, Herbs de Provence, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake additional 15 minutes, until the upward facing side of the cauliflower is browned and crisped.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Note* Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan if onions start to stick or burn. Add the mushroom strips and season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become tender and browned. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala wine and stock to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to reduce for 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce until dissolved and the sauce becomes thick and silky.

Plate the cauliflower steaks and spoon over the sauce to cover the steaks. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve!

Note: The sauce is also good for more than Cauliflower. Grill, bake, or sauté chicken, steak, or salmon and add the same sauce over the top for a carnivorous with marsala dish with an even healthier sauce!

Note: I have only made this recipe for 2, but you could easily double or triple the recipe as needed.

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.

Easy Bolognese

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find anything as comforting as a bowl of pasta with a rich, hearty meat sauce (sorry vegetarians, I practice Meatless Monday and yoga, but I am Italian thru and thru). When I was growing up my mom often made pasta with Bolognese sauce when it was chilly outside. Curling up with that bowl of pasta and watching a good movie was simply the best…and it still is! Bolognese is something I now make on the regular during Fall and Winter. It’s inexpensive, simple, rustic, hearty, and it can actually be decently nutritious if you use grass-fed organic meat and control your portions.

Now, there are lots of Bolognese sauce recipes in the world and some of them can be slightly complicated and require hours of cooking, but my recipe for Bolognese is fantastically easy and rather quick! Serve with your favorite shape of pasta, on spaghetti squash, or even by itself in a bowl with some crusty bread. My Easy Bolognese will quickly make you feel like you’re dining in Tuscany! Buon Appetito!

Easy Bolognese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • ½ lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed organic)
  • ½ lb ground pork (preferably grass-fed organic)
  • ½ cup red wine (preferably a chianti or darker)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • ¼ Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, celery, and 1 tablespoon of the crushed garlic, season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for 3-4 minutes longer. Add the beef and pork. Using the back of a wooden spoon, break the meat up into small chunks, cook until the meat is browned and slightly caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Pour in the red wine and cook until the meat absorbs the wine completely. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining 1 tablespoon of garlic, half the parsley, the basil, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes, a pinch more salt and pepper, and half of the pecorino cheese. Stir together. Allow to come to a simmer. Reduce the heat the medium-low and cook uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour until sauce is slightly thickened. Serve with the remaining pecorino and parsley. Enjoy!

Pro-tip: If you make pasta or spaghetti squash, toss the pasta or shredded squash with additional pecorino cheese and olive oil, then place into pasta bowls, and serve the Bolognese sauce over the top. Allow the guests to mix the sauce into the noodles or squash as they like on their own.