Friday, November 30, 2007

First Trip to In-N-Out in 15 years

In-N-Out is a hamburger institution on the West Coast. People who leave the area crave it. The establishment inspires fierce loyalty among patrons who even have their own secret menu.

I however, don't really enjoy it all that much. This little known fact has caused much ridicule and shame from those to whom I dared reveal my dark secret.

The first time I went to In-N-Out was in college, probably 5 minutes after I moved here. My first impression was that the meat patties and fries were too thin. At 18 I didn't see anything spectacular about it. I was fine with McDonalds or Burger King for fast-food options. So I haven't been back in 15 years.

I recently got another lecture about the freshness and superiority of the food. The hamburgers are never frozen and only the finest cuts of beef are used. The lettuce is hand-leafed. The buns are made of old-fashioned sponge bread (whatever that means). The french-fries are hand-cut from real potatoes for heaven sakes. Ok. Ok. I'll go. So last night was the night.

The drive-thru line at In-N-Out is always long. I've driven by at all hours and there are at least 5 cars in line. So I queued up. Finally it was my turn to order. Even though I haven't been for 15 years the menu is easy to remember, how do I want my burger, fries or no fries and what kind of drink. I ordered a cheeseburger, no tomato, order of fries and a chocolate shake. Then she asked me if I would be eating the food in the car. Weird question. I said yes confused by why she cared.

When I pulled up to the window to pay the cashier handed me a lap mat. Then when I received my food it was in an open container not a bag. The sandwich was half-wrapped to make sure I had easy access to my burger. How clever.

From the age of 18 to now (32) I have made a few lifestyle changes and not eating at fast-food is one of them. I rarely go to McDonalds and Burger King is never an option. However, I can honestly say that the In-N-Out burger really does taste fresh. It is not a juicy burger. It isn't overwhelming in flavor, but it didn't taste processed. It was satisfying. The highlight of my trip was the thick, creamy milkshake. It was AWESOME. The fries, still not my favorite. But overall a great experience.

I don't feel like my life has been missing anything but perhaps my grown-up tastes can at least appreciate it more now.

In-N-Outs are located in CA, NV and AZ.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

La Perlita in Foothill Ranch

There are only two known Mexican restaurants in my town, and one is Taco Bell. So being a respectable Mexican I was compelled, dare I say required, to patronize the other Latin establishment called, La Perlita.

Actually, I've driven by it a million times and never visited until one of our vendors took us there for lunch. Apparently she'd been going for years and loves it.

The interior resembles Tijuana. It is very colorful with decorative paper strewn from the ceiling and inflatable Corona beer cans are prominently displayed. The booths are well worn and you sink into a butt imprint that millions before you have contributed to.

The story on the menu talks about the family, their dedication to tradition, love of quality Mexican food and desire to be the most hospitable. As evidenced by the quick delivery of chips and salsa and friendly waiter. The chips were decent, but the salsa lacked flavor. It was very runny and seemed like dressed up tomato sauce. There was nary a chunk of tomato, onion, or pepper in the mix.

The menu itself is a traditional one with tacos, enchiladas, burritos and a variety of meats all accompanied with rice and beans. Ty had a combo plate with an enchilada and a taco. Susan had a cheese enchilada plate. I had the red chili colorado - beef chunks in a red sauce. One huge downfall of this place is that the tortillas are not homemade. I selected corn and they were dry and tasteless.

Susan always orders the same thing and hasn't tried much else from the menu. So she was very happy. Ty said her meal was good, just a little bland. My chili colorado was ok. The chili sauce wasn't very savory, it lacked a depth of flavor. There were no hints of garlic, onion or chili. It was very tomatoey. The cuts of beef itself were poor and I found a lot of gristle and fat in my dish.

Overall I would say the food is kind of tastless. The rice while fluffy and red didn't taste much different than white rice. The beans, while not from a can, needed a lot of salt and were watery. I didn't have frijoles de olla so they weren't supposed to be.

I'm not in a big hurry to go back. If I did, I would probably go for something more generic like Ty. It isn't the taste of home I was hoping for. My quest continues to find real Mexican food anywhere nearby. Unfortunately I have to keep driving up to LA or down to San Diego. Although Avila's El Ranchito has delicious carnitas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Switchfoot in Concert at the Bren Center

Originally uploaded by ErinsWorld
A night of rock-n-roll, screaming, and dancing at the Bren Center with Switchfoot, Relient K and Ruth, all benefitting Habitat for Humanity. What could be more fun or charitable that?

Lisa, Janine, Carole, Colleen and I trekked over to UCI for an evening to cut loose, scream and dance to one of our favorite bands. They did not disappoint. From the opening with Oh Gravity! to the closing Meant to Live the crowd was jumping, singing and cheering them on.

They perfomed Awakening, Dirty Second Hands, and My American Dream from the new album. Other fan favorites included Stars, On Fire, We are One Tonight, Gone, and This is Your Life.

Switchfoot is really all about the fans. Lead singer, Jon Foreman spent a lot of time out in the audience and even showed up at one point on the side, in the crowd so that they could sing with him.

Switchfoot is even encouraging bootleg versions of the concert songs so they can distribute them on CD to that nights attendees. They want to keep the concert magic going long after the finale. You can also visit their web site and request bootlegged version of concerts from other concert goers. How awesome is that!

I had no idea who Relient K or Ruth was but they were a good fit with Switchfoot. I learned Relient K is from Canton, OH, the town were my parents live. Cool.

Another interesting component of this concert was the age range of people there. It was literally from 10 to 50. There were moms and probably grandmas rocking out next to their kids and some came on their own. It was interesting to think that some of the kids in there weren't born until the 90s. Yikes, at 32 I'm old enough to be someone's mother. And it this point it wasn't even as a teenager but I would have been in my 20s. Yikes.

Still a great night. Lots of fun. Switchfoot and Co continue to roll through the West Coast through the beginning of Dec.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disney Soda Fountain

No trip to the El Capitan is complete without dessert at the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store located next door.

It was was an old-fashioned parlor experience with quintessential Disney friendliness. The menu has a plethora of sundaes, malts, shakes, freezes, floats, and cones served with a variety of syrups, sauces and toppings. All made with homemade ice cream brought in once a week from Dewars in Bakersfield. It is creamy, rich and delicious. It reminds me of what ice cream should be - no ice or skim milk.

I had the hot fudge sundae with walnuts. It was delicious. You know the ice cream was quality because it didn't melt under the weight and heat of the hot fudge. It stayed cold throughout.

Janine had the enchanted sundae. A mixture of strawberry ice cream and marshmellow creme. She loved it. Fernanda had a cookies-n-cream shake. The serving was gigantic. There was enough there for two. Colleen had a rootbeer float. They serve the ice cream on the handle of the frosty cold glass so that it gradually drips into your drink. She said it was fantastic.

The menu also includes sandwiches, salads and waffles if you need a light lunch or dinner. I would go for the ice cream though. It is soooo worth it.

6834 Hollywood Blvd.Hollywood, CA 90028 Phone: 323-939-9024 Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Enchanted at El Capitan

After a late lunch at the French Crepe Company Janine, Colleen, Fernanda, Daniella and I acknowledged our inner princesses and went to LA to see Disney's newest fairy tale, Enchanted, at the El Capitan Theatre.

We sprung for the VIP admissions ($32.50) which included a reserved seat, popcorn, a drink and entrance to the special Enchanted Experience. It also saved us about an hour and a half in line.

The El Capitan Theatre is amazing. It originally opened in 1926 and was "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama." Disney has restored it beautifully with all of the lavish decor and colors. I recommended getting to your seat early so you can listen to Rob Richards play all of your favorite Disney tunes on the theatre's pipe organ.

The movie was great, very romantic and pays homage to all other Disney stories. Afterwards we were treated to the Enchanted Experience. You walk into a recreated ballroom where Aurora, Belle and Cinderella are dancing on stage. Prince Charming is welcoming you into the fantasy and urges you to explore the entire area where all the Disney princesses are there waiting for you. It was like we were 6 years old again.

Inside a massive tent we got our pictures taken with Snow White, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora and the newest Princess, Giselle. We got to see costumes and props from the movie and insert ourselves into "Enchanted" scenes with the help of a green screen.

Also included was a make-up station to make sure you look your royal best. A dress-up station where the littlest of princesses can try on their gowns and tiaras. An arcade and game station set up to resemble NY where the movie is filmed. Of course there was also a store to buy all of the latest movie paraphenalia, even your own take-home McDreamy doll.

We had the best time. I highly recommend going as a VIP.

Enchanted will be playing at the El Capitan through December 6.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

French Crepe Company

We began our LA adventure with a late lunch/early dinner at the French Crepe Company in the Hollywood and Highland complex.

I love crepes for dessert and breakfast. I wasn't sure how I was going to like one for dinner. Janine, Colleen and Fernanda had a La Normandie crepe. It is filled with free range chicken, button mushrooms, carrots & green beans in a white dijon sauce. Daniella had a La Poissoniere crepe. It has smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, sour cream, capers, and chives. I had a special of the day a beef stroganoff creme with sirloin, mushrooms in a cream sauce.

After samples all around we decided that the La Normandie was the best. It was delicious and light. The La Poissoniere was a little too fishy for our liking. The stroganoff filling was delicious I would have just preferred it with egg noodles instead of a crepe.

The best was the dessert crepe. We share a La Napoleon where we got to pick three incredients to fill our crepe. We choose - nutella, bananas and walnuts. It was topped with whipped creme and was PHENOMENAL. I highly recommend it! So delicious. I bet it would also be great with strawberries. Then again I like to eat nutella with just a spoon.

Average price is $8-10. I definitely think this place is worth visiting. Check it out if you're in the area.

The French Crepe Company is also located in the Farmer's Marketing at 3rd and Fairfax.

PARKING TIP: If you're looking for a place to park in that area you really can't beat the Hollywood and Highland structure. With validation from participating shops and restaurants you can park 4 hours for $2. We ended up being there for 8 hours and paid $9 for parking. In LA that is a deal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Sign
Originally uploaded by Pirvy

In order to properly give thanks I'm going to Vegas!

I will be visiting a spa, eating food from famous chef's restaurants, shopping and taking lots of photos.

I'll be back this weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Homemade Tortillas in the OC

Making homemade tortillas is just a giant pain. My grandmother tried to teach me over and over again as a kid. I could never keep track of what she put in them, just a pinch of this, a splash of that and who knows what else. There was no recipe and no measuring. It was by feel and sight only. I didn't really care because I was only interested in eating them. In the end she'd get frustrated and just shoo me out of the kitchen.

Now that she's gone and I have a touch more patience I wish I had paid attention. Instead, I relish restaurants and stores that offer a taste of the homemade without all of the work.

Here are a list of places I have found in the OC that offer handmade tortillas.

1. El Torito Grill - we usually go to the one by the Orange County airport. As soon as you walk in you'll see all of the little ladies patting their dough balls getting ready to roll these out. These flour tortillas are to die for. They are served with butter and salsa. I also recommend the guacamole, which they make right in front of your eyes - all ingredients are ultra fresh. The rest of the food is a california-flavor fusion but the tortillas make it worth a visit. Located in Southern California and Indiana.

2. Miguel's - Their fajitas are amazing and what better way to top them off than with the delicious handmade flour tortillas. Miguel's has a diverse menu and is a nice treat. Located in Foothill Ranch and Corona.

3. Acapulcos - A step above tex-mex in terms of authenticity but dinner and Sunday brunch is worth it because of the homemade tortillas. So tasty. Located in California and Oregon.

Let me know if you find other restaurants that serve tasty, home-made tortillas.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mamma Gina's Ristorante

After Corteo, Lisa and I went for some italian on the Newport Harbor at Mamma Gina's Ristorante. I had never heard of it before but Lisa had and said it was good, she was right. It was the freshest, most delicious pasta I've had since I was in NY.

Lisa and I like to order two different entrees and share. We settled on:

  • Pappardelle Alle Contadina - House handmade wide egg noodle with our genuine hearty meat sauce, grilled mild italian sausage, sweet red and yellow pepper on super tuscan red wine sauce.
  • Mamma's Lasagna - savory meat sauce served over handmade sheets of pasta layered with ricotta, mozarella and other cheeses.
Lisa loved the lasagna and I loved the contadina. But it was all fantastic. So good. The flavors were rich, without being heavy. I've heard the Barefoot Contessa talk about how fresh pasta needs no sauce and now I can see why. It is is so delicious and these sauces didn't overwhelm it.

While the food was fantastic there was no ambience in the place. The harbor location would have been fun and visible during the day, at night the house lights were so bright we couldn't see anything. The lounge next door was so loud we could hardly hear each other either. I wouldn't go to Mamma Gina's expecting romance or the ability to carry on a conversation, but the food is worth a visit. I would go for lunch when the prices are less expensive. Dinner entrees range from $20-$30. Average lunch prices are $10-15.

One of my favorite parts of the dinner was when the table next to us was filled with six, typical, middle-aged, Orange County women. They wandered in dressed like their daughters with clothes just a little too tight, hair just so, perfectly manicured nails and slightly liquored up. They sat down and immediately ordered drinks. It took them 15 minutes to figure out what two entrees the six of them would share. Gotta love the O.C.

251 Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
Phone: (949) 673-9500

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cirque du Soleil - Corteo

A clown imagines his funeral in a joyful processional in a carnival-type atmosphere.

The show explores the sad and funny, the big and small, the successful and failures. This show is about life - moments of supreme joy and beauty followed by the odd and uncertain.

There were so many things and people flying through the air I wasn't sure where to look. I was mesmerized by women twisting through and flying on chandeleirs with ease and elegance. Amazing acrobatics performed on beds. High wire acts done in ballet toe shoes. A trapzee act where men and women are thrown through the air without the aid of swings. A beautiful dance performed in the air, jugglers, comedic acts and so much more. It was two hours of childlike wonder and delight. So much fun.

Having never been to a Cirque du Soleil show before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I don't like the circus and I don't like clowns. It's ethereal, magical, breath-taking and amazing.

Unlike other shows I've heard about this storyline was easy to follow and the characters are actually human. The circular stage and constantly moving performers make sure there isn't a bad seat in the house, however I would avoid the ends. Pay for the Tier 1 or Tier 2 seats, they will put you dead center and give you the best view.

The Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) will be in Orange County at the Fairgrounds until Dec. 23rd.

Where: Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Nov. 8-Dec. 23. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 and 8 p.m. Sundays, 1 and 5 p.m.
How much: $38.50-$90
Tickets: 800-678-5440

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I'm so busy right now, I don't have much time to travel but I tend to eat out a lot, so here is one of my lunch favorites: Chipotle.

They are the freshest, tastiest tacos, burritos and salads. It's not authentic, it's just delicious. Don't question. Just eat.

I always order the same thing: burritos with white rice, black beans, barbacoa, corn salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and lettuce. Amazing.

This is a two-handed burrito that leaves you wanting nothing else. It is "unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal" food. Meaning it doesn't sit in your stomach like cement and might actually be good for ya.

Other options for your burrito, taco or salad include pinto beans, steak, chicken, carnitas, hot/medium salsa, pico de gallo and sauteed veggies.

Chipotles all over the U.S. Find one near you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Original Tommy's Burger

Today, after a staff training they arranged for the Tommy truck to feed us lunch.

I have never had an original Tommy burger but was told it is an LA institution and quite delicious. Apparently so, I actually saw a few guys run towards the truck and I swear a general yum swept through the crowd. So the expectations were high.

I was told the chili cheeseburger was the thing to order and many combined that with a side of chili-cheese fries. All that was missing was the milkshake to wash it all down.

With just one bite I wondered if I was eating what they described to me. It was the greasiest, drippiest, messiest burger I've ever had. I'm not a burger princess. It doesn't need to be neat and tidy. I'm all for a juicy burger packed with toppings, but I couldn't even taste any hamburger. The patty was really thin and small. I tasted the onions, chili and onions the most. So it was more like chili in a bread bowl than a hamburger. The chili itself didn't taste much different than anything you'd get from a can. It wasn't awful it just wasn't phenomenal.

The chili-cheese fries were tasty. I recommend those instead of the burger, which I don't feel the need to ever eat again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pot Pie Tour of 2007

As the weather starts to turn a little chilly, which here in So. California means about 68, my thoughts turn to comfort food favorites. I start to crave food that warms you up like potatoes, stew and soups.

Lately my hearty fare of choice has been chicken pot pie, which I have now sampled at three different restaurants: Mimi's, (pictured left) Claim Jumper and The Lazy Dog Cafe.

Now Mimi's, founded in CA and located through the U.S., is a homestyle, family restuarant with a French/Mardi Gras twist. They serve the best, fresh-baked breads. So I was sure that their pot pie would be hard to beat. It was full of chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots and onions but the sauce was too runny. The crust was flaky and crunchy but the edges were over done. It reminded me of a Banquet frozen pot pie. You know the ones where the edges get brown and hard while the sauce is just a touch underdone. It was still ok, just not fantastic.

Next was the pot pie at Claim Jumper, located only on the West Coast. Known for large portions I was sure this would be a meal for days, and it was. The center was very rich and creamy. I liked the sauce better on this one although it was almost too rich and it sat very heavy with the dry, thick crust. Overall a decent pot pie but not my favorite dish at Claim Jumper.

Finally, The Lazy Dog Cafe. I had never even heard of this restaurant. But a friend recommended it and the food was delicious. It is brought to you by the founders of Mimi's and is currently only in Southern California. The menu is quite eclectic with italian, mexican and chinese inspired choices. But I knew what I wanted, the chicken pot pie.

What I received was the perfect example of all that is good and holy about a chicken pot pie. The crust was flaky, soft, moist, buttery deliciousness. The inside was creamy, packed with vegetables and yet not too heavy. It was a great blend with the crust. I will definitely be back to taste this bad boy again.

Any suggestions on where to eat a good pot pie in Southern California?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cathedral of our Lady of Angels

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

A most unexpected elegance, serenity and peace.

That is what I experienced at the unique downtown cathedral. Built with warm tones to fit in with the tradition and history of the California Missions the church is welcoming, open, and beautiful. It is modern and fit in with the community of people that worship there.

We learned that there are no right angles in its construction to provide an era of mystery and majesty. It is built to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. It was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to be built in the Western US in 30 years.

It's worth a visit, even if you're not Catholic.
555 W. Temple St, LA, CA 90012

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Finding Nemo

New Finding Nemo Ride
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
I finally stood in line to experience the new Finding Nemo ride at Disneyland.

When it first opened this summer the wait was over two hours. We only waited 40 minutes, not too shabby. But as a caveat the park was pretty empty yesterday.

I have to say the ride is MUCH better than it was, no longer do you have floating styrofoam fish. Instead you're swimming with Dorie and Nemo.

I think this is a must, if you like Nemo or want to see the next generation of the submarine ride.

Blue Bayou

Tina, Janine, Lisa and I took advantage of our Disneyland passes and headed into the park to lunch at the Blue Bayou, inside the Pirates of the Carribean attraction in New Orleans Square.

I was afraid we were going to be distracted by those screamers, music and general noise from the ride but honestly I didn't hear anything. The ambiance was great. Dimly lit with overhanging lanterns it is cozy.

They are famous for their Monte Cristo sandwiches and au gratin potatoes. So that's what Tina and I ordered. Janine had the Jambalaya. Lisa ordered the pork chops. Average entree price for lunch is $21 - 32 dollars. Although many told us the food was just okay.

I hated my entree. It a deep-fried sandwich that had little to no meat on it. It was all dough and very dry. I guess that's why you're supposed to use the jelly, but I don't like ham and jelly. It was odd.

Janine didn't like hers either. The jambalaya had undercooked rice and was too spicy for her, even though she asked if it was mild when she ordered it. We were going to suffer through it until our waitress came to the table and asked us how our meal was. We all looked down at our plates. Should I say something? Should I not? So I eeked out, "the potatoes are great."

Everyone laughed. Then she asked, "Do you want something else? We're happy to exchange it for you." So we did. I ordered the tesoro chicken and Janine had the Mahi Mahi. We were much happier with our second choices.

Desserts on the other hand were extraordinary. We figured we were already spending a ridiculous amount of money to eat there we might as well have dessert. Lisa and I shared a Flying Dutchman Cookie Boat. Tina and Janine had the creme brulee trio. Our waitress kindly pointed out that both the treasure chest for the creme brulee and the mast on our ship were edible. But as Tina point out, "Just because its edible it doesn't make it good." Stick to the chocolate for sure.

Overall a delightful experience with very fun people. The service was excellent. I don't think I feel the need to go again, but if I did I'd just have an appetizer and some dessert. And if you have an annual pass don't forget to show it - you get a discount.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Walt Disney Concert Hall

hall entry great
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Debbie and I ventured to LA today for a photo day.

Our first stop was at the Disney Concert Hall. This is my favorite building, designed by Frank Gehry.

I learned today that the audio tour is now free. This 90-min tour of the hall, narrated by John Lithgow, gives an overview of the building's design, inspiration, materials, form and function.

We learned that the building was originally to have been made out of stone. That the warm douglas fir used on the interior is only for aesthetics it carries no acoutical value whatsoever. That Gehry designed the carpet specifically for Lillian Disney (still ugly). If you are interested in post-modern design this is a must see.

I was glad that it was slightly overcast today it made photographing the stainless streel structure somewhat easier.