Archive for April, 2012

fabulous food ~ our dinner at The London West Hollywood

Last week my fiance, Mike and I went to California. Mike had gotten a special deal, so he made reservations for dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant at The London West Hollywood. He is a dedicated foodie and I absolutely love trying new things, so this was a special treat for both of us. We were told that the dress was “smart casual”, so he wore dress slacks and a dress shirt minus the tie, and I wore straight-leg jeans with a navy blue and white lace covered jacket.

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We drove through the hectic traffic as dusk was closing in and hit West Hollywood where we were bombarded with ads and billboards aimed at reminding the predominantly gay residents to get tested for HIV, STDs, and to use protection. Then we slid into a side street and we were at The London Hotel. It was quiet, serene and there were, of course, valets waiting to take the rental car to parking.

The restaurant was on the first floor just past a comfortably luxurious seating area and gift shop. The doors had a faint pattern containing bamboo and monkeys that was repeated throughout the restaurant, including in the wallpaper behind the hostess desk. There the hostess was very cordial and sat us in a nice corner booth that looked like a plush pink couch you might find in a beach house. The entire layout was decidedly elegant, but the accents hinted at comfort. Faux lamps and stylized golden blinds adorned the windows.

We opted for the five course meal, which our friendly wait staff informed us included two appetizers, one entree, a cheese plate, and a dessert.

PRE-MEAL ~ Before the courses even began

Left: Sourdough crustini and truffle panna cotta.
Right: Crusty loaf of french bread and butter.

The crusty loaf was perfect — the crust was crunchy and crisp without being too tough to chew, while the bread inside was light and fluffy.

SPECIALTY DRINKS

Left: Virgin Mojito
Middle: Virgin Strawberry Daquiri
Right: Virgin White Peach Mixed Drink & Virgin Pomegranate Drink

The deal we found included wine, but because neither of us drink, we asked if we could have some virgin mixed drinks instead, so our waiter asked the chef and bartender and they agreed to give us four mixed drinks.  The mojito was spectacular! My favorite ever! (and I have had a lot of virgin mojitos) The mint was freshly crushed and the lime was freshly squeezed and there was just a slight bit more mint than lime flavor = fantastic.

COURSE 1 ~ APPETIZER 1

Left: (Mike) Roasted Truffle Risotto
Right: (Me) Duck Foie Gras Terrine, Fig Jam Ice Cream & Chocolate Viniagrette

Mike had to order a risotto, because Gordon Ramsay is famous for being quite particular on the show “Hell’s Kitchen” about the consistency and flavor of the risottos in other restaurants. I had a taste and it was devine. It was more like a rice pudding than Rice a roni (which is what I’m used to) and the flavors were skillfully blended. Very satisfying.  The Foie Gras Terrine was very rich and tasted better when I paired it with the croutons or with the sourdough crustini.

COURSE 2 ~ APPETIZER 2

Left: (Mike) Slow Braised Pork Belly, Sauteed Shrimp, Stir-fried green beans
Right: (Megan) Roasted Squab with Udon and Tempura

Both dishes ironically had eggs. The Udon and Tempura were delicious, and equally fascinating was presentation, because they came out and then poured the tempura over the top. A lovely addition was the little dab of orange chile-infused sauce, which really gave the dish a nice overall heat. As you can see all the meat was cooked well, so Mike’s Pork Belly was tender and delcious.

COURSE 3 ~ ENTREE

Left: (Mike) Chateaubriand – Herb Crusted, Potato Puree, Red Onion Jam
Right: (Megan) Mixed Grille of Spring Lamb, Asparagus, English Peas, Carrot Panna Cotta

Mike’s dish was and elevated classic “meat and potatos”. It came warm and hot with a melt in your mouth texture.  The roasted lamb and the lamb kebab were my favorites – they were juicy, moist and tender. The lamb sausage was a bit gamey, but the carrot panna cotta was cool and sweet – a delicious contrast to the warm lamb.

COURSE 4 ~ CHEESE PLATE

Soft goat cheese with grapes, Soft bleu cheese with honeycomb, Soft bleu cheese with almonds & toasted fruit and nut bread crackers.

Both Mike and I were served the same dish — a seasonal artisanal cheese plate. This was perhaps my favorite dish of the night! I love cheese. Each cheese was perfectly balanced with the item it was served with and the slightly bleu cheeses were delicious with honey and nuts. The toasted bread/ crackers were a revelation — just the right amount nuttiness with a hint of sweetness and just dry enough that the soft cheeses made a great contrast. Superb!

COURSE 5 ~ DESSERT

Left: (Mike) Pink Lady Apple Tarte Tatin, Brown butter caramel, Vanilla bean ice cream
Right: (Megan) Chocolate Souffle, Brandied Cherries, Malt Milk Ice Cream

Both desserts were fantastic! Mike’s came hot — love that when you have both hot and cold on a dessert plate! My souffle was rich, and creamy and perfectly chocolately. A wonderful end to a fantastic meal.

We were both deliciously satisfied by this point. I looked down at my dessert plate and thought it would be a great inspiration for a modern art painting:
I think I would call it “Demolished Souffle”.

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26 April 2012 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

garage sale lessons learned

This past weekend my fiance and I hosted our first garage sale! I’d done a few garage sales in my time, but Mike had not, so he was nervous about how well it would go and how much money we might be able to make in one morning.

Overall it was a HUGE SUCCESS!!! We sold half to two-thirds of the items, thus clearing out the back room where we’d been storing extraneous items, and after expenses we made a whopping $450! (That is really good considering the lower cost of standard of living in our area.) But along the way we learned several lessons.

THINGS WE DID WELL:
1. CREATE INTEREST – I decided to theme the garage sale and called it a “Bride & Groom Garage Sale”. I wore a white summer dress with a cheap Wal-Mart veil and a button that read “Bride to Be” while Mike work a ribbon that read “Groom to Be”.  A lot of people who came commented on the outfit and the idea. One of our customers even said, “When I saw that in the paper I told my husband, we have to go to that one!” The unique approach in the ad and the request from others to “help us pay for our honeymoon!” generated interest and got people there!
Next time we are even thinking of having a sort of guest register there with a space where they can offer us advice.

2. PRICING – We grouped similar items together on the tables and priced them at about the same price, which made it easier for people to shop and easier for us to remember how much things were. I had a 25 cent bin, a 50 cent bin, and many $1.00 bins. We also only priced smaller items for either $1, $3, or $5. Often they sold for less, but having set prices to start with made it easier to barter later.
For larger items, I usually estimate how much I want to get for that item and then up the price tag a little, so that I have some room to barter without feeling I got taken. For instance, I had a TV set – older and bigger than most people get now. I wanted to get $30 for it if possible. So, I set the price at $40. I ended up selling it for $28. It was less than I hoped to get, but not $10 less, because I’d started a little higher.
Also, for things like stuffed animals offer discounts for taking more. We priced the stuffed animals at “$1 each. 5 or more at 50 cents each.” There were at least 4 people who went through and chose 4 more animals after they found one they liked, so that they could pay 50 cents each. Not only did we get rid of more toys that way, but by buying 5, we upped a $1.00 purchase to a $2.50 purchase.

3. BARTERING – I was constantly talking to shoppers and offering them deals when they would ask about an item. For instance, if someone said, “How much is this?” and it was priced $5, I would usually respond with, “It’s priced for $5.” Then I had to watch their expression. If they thought it was too much and they really seemed to like it, I wouldn’t wait for another question, I’d just say, “But I will take $4 for it.”
I have been to garage sales where the hosts sit the whole time and just wait for people to come to them with items they want to buy. If you really want to make it a garage sale, you need to be interacting and noticing what people are interested in and offering them deals.
Also, joking around helps a lot! While people would browse I often asked them to purchase anything, because it would help with the honeymoon fund. Some people bought $1 items just to help out. And even those that didn’t wished us well, and offered advice. Of course, we were grateful for every purchase and made sure to tell every customer so.

4. PLASTIC BAGS & SERVICE – We had a little “check-out” station, of sorts and taped a bag full of our old plastic bags (saved from months of shopping) to the table, so that people who selected several items I could get them a bag, so they could take all the little items to the car easily.
Often I offered to give them a bag even before they finished shopping and I would calculate their total as they went along, so that they would keep shopping instead of stopping, because their hands were full.

5. HAVE CHANGE – Necessary to every garage sale is a ready amount of change, so that when people give you $20 bills for a $2 item, you can give them correct change and not be too long about it. We didn’t have an actual change drawer, but that wasn’t a problem. We are thinking of getting one for the next sale though.

THINGS THAT NEEDED IMPROVEMENT:

Results from our BRIDE & GROOM GARAGE SALE:
1. END SOONER – We scheduled the sale from 7am-2pm, but the crowds slowed down at about 12 noon. And those that came in the afternoon didn’t make large purchases. Had we ended earlier we would’ve made about the same amount and we wouldn’t have spent as much time in the sun.

2. BE READY FOR EARLY RISERS – Both Mike and I are not early morning people. We set the sale to start at 7am and started getting tables and stuff out at 6:30am. There were 5 cars of people ready and waiting for us. It turned out alright, but we weren’t really prepared for the early crowd and so it took a bit before we really had things running smoothly.

3. PREPARE FOR SIGNAGE SABOTAGE – we had 4 signs stolen. We think it might be the local HOA, but are unsure. If we’d had some doubles up or other contigencies, then it wouldn’t have mattered, or we could’ve replaced them.

4.  WEAR SUNSCREEN – Neither one of us wore sunscreen and after standing in the sun all day, we are both really feeling it!

5. OFFER FOOD – Mike realized it might be profitable to offer cool sodas and snacks to shoppers and when several children stated they were hungry, we both thought that would be a good way to up the overall profit.

Like I said, overall it was a great success!!! And Mike feels more comfortable preparing for the next one. We also both have a better idea about how the whole thing needs to run and what items will sell well.

 

9 April 2012 at 11:29 am 1 comment


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