Stuffed Mushrooms

Posted in Appetizers, Recipes on May 16th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Fast, easy-to-make and delicious appetizer for any occasion!


  • 25 medium mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons reduced-fat stick margarine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (4-ounce) package low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons grated cheese (Mozzarella)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 pieces of toasted bread, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic pesto sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove and finely chop mushroom stems.  Melt 2 tbs of margarine and brush mushroom cap tops inside and out. Melt the remaining margarine in saucepan. Add chopped mushroom stems, onion and garlic - sauté until tender. Stir in cream cheese, grated cheese, parsley and bread crumbs and pesto sauce. Mix thoroughly. Lay out the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Spoon about 1 tbs of stuffing mixture into each mushroom cap. Sprinkle paprika for added color. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes until heated through. Serve warm.


Santa Monica Seafood Market/Cafe

Posted in Seafood on March 12th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
1000 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

How I love Santa Monica on a beautiful sunny day! Ocean breeze, 3rd Street Promenade, all sorts of shopping, and of course fish seafood! Knowing that Santa Monica Seafood is one of the best SoCal seafood distributors, I was excited to find out they have their very own restaurant right on Wilshire Boulevard. Parking in this area is definitely tough, but we were lucky enough to find a metered spot nearby. Upon walking in, you stumble upon a fresh seafood counter with a large variety of quality fish. To the left of the counter is a section of assorted herbs, spices, oils, various gourmet foods and wines. Along the right glass wall is a full size oyster bar and a small seating area.

The menu offers a good variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and main entrées. We opted for a bowl of clam chowder (to share), an order of Spicy Tuna burger sliders and a grilled Mahi Mahi flat-bread. The New England clam chowder which arrived in a fancy Crate & Barrell like bowl was full of clams, onions, celery, and potatoes. The ingredients were a bit chunky for my taste, but overall the soup had great flavor and was not overly salted (as some places make it). The sliders arrived in a portion of 3 small burgers with spicy tuna patties, avocado, tomato, lettuce, spicy mayo, and topped with sweet pickles. The tuna patties were juicy, delicious and cooked to perfection. The contrast of the sweet pickles and the spicy mayo spread was fantastic – every bite was like a party in my mouth. So simple, yet so perfect!

The grilled Mahi Mahi was a good size piece of fish inside a flat-bread mixed with shredded cabbage, pesto aioli and grilled peppers. The dish was served with a side of organic greens and balsamic vinaigrette. I enjoyed the rustic taste of the fish which was grilled very nicely. However, I wasn’t quite sure about the need of all the other ingredients. Maybe I’m just not as much of a fan of peppers as I thought. The dish was messy to eat and became soggy after some time due to all the oily components. 

Our server was great. Helpful, friendly and full of suggestions. We did not have the time to check out the fresh fish counter; however, that is just another reason to return to this wonderful place.

Spicy BBQ Restaurant

Posted in Thai on February 28th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Spicy BBQ Restaurant
5101 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 663-4211

Located in a somewhat rough strip-mall is a tiny, family-owned restaurant specializing in Northern Thai cuisine. Able to accommodate approximately 15 people, this restaurant offers an authentic experience packed with great flavor and presentation. After doing some research on the Northern region of Thailand, I learned that this particular cuisine is greatly influenced by the cultures such as the Lanna, Chinese and Burmese. The abundance of food and soil derived from this mountainous, cool region has resulted in availability of fats, oils, meats, and slow-cooking processes: such as roasting, braising, grilling, boiling and frying. So here we were, sitting at this very small but clean and cozy restaurant, as we were approached by a friendly woman who appeared to be the hostess, as well as the waitress, cook, and cashier [did I mention this was a family business.]

After several suggestion from the waitress, we ordered: Hot Tea, Northern Thai Fish Soup, Spicy Shrimp Thai salad, and Spicy BBQ Pork. The tea was brought out in a traditional Chinese style teapot with two shot glass like tea cups. How cute, I thought! The presentation took me a home-like place: a dinner at grandmas perhaps.

The wait for the food was not long. I surveyed the surroundings, noticing “CASH ONLY” signs posted around the register, several Asian posters on the walls, and Thailand posters under the glass at each table. Our waitress reappeared carrying out the dishes, one by one. The presentation was impeccable – colorful and creative – a food showcase!

Northern Thai Fish Soup: served in a large kettle over fire – smelled incredible.  Packed with boneless white fish, different wild mushrooms, and variety of green vegetables, the soup was very appetizing. Several hot chillies were floating on top, adding to the fiery spiciness. We topped it off with few spoons of steamed rice for texture and it was simply delicious. Hearty, savory and full of flavor. The fish in the soup was a good quantity and seasoned well; hence, no “fishy” smell to it.

Spicy BBQ Pork: served on a huge plate, strips of lean BBQ pork with a side of spicy, tangy sauce for dipping. To be honest, the dish was not as spicy as I thought it would be, considering the name of the restaurant is Spicy BBQ. And although the cut of the meat was a bit rough on some pieces; overall, the meat was tender and was complimented well with its side sauce.

Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad: everything you want in a big salad! Big chunks of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and cilantro, perfectly cooked shrimp tossed in a spicy/sweet/vinegar mixed dressing. All the components of the salad were well seasoned and I particularly enjoyed the cut and flavor of the cucumbers. Yum!

All in All, this is a hidden mom-and-pop shop that most people would pass by unless they are aware of its location. Although small and unassuming, the restaurant possesses a charming feel to it. The service was fast and friendly [however I must say we were there past lunch hour], the menu was unique [one of the very few restaurants that specializes in Northern Thai cuisine], presentation was creative and flavors were bold and well developed. Looking forward to visit this place again and trying out a few more popular dishes, such as their famous curries, glass noodles, and spicy jack-fruit.


Japanese Restaurant Iwata

Posted in Sushi on February 25th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Japanese Restaurant Iwata

14423 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

One of the more traditional sushi spots along Ventura Blvd. in the Sherman Oaks area. Iwata is a small, cozy, no-cell phones allowed, all about the experience Japanese restaurant. If you are one of those people that prefers specialty rolls, this is not the place for you. Their menu is centralized around sushi and sashimi, offering you a very unique, authentic experience. The ambiance is that of a typical sushi joint; we took our seats along the sushi bar. Immediately we were approached by a waitress who presented us with a menu, warm moist towelettes, and bean sprout appetizers on the house. Nice! I’m a big fan of free appetizers, particularly when they taste good! I prefer to dip my bean sprouts into the wassabi-soy sauce mixture  [after all both ingredients are there for a reason]. Having read a few reviews about this place earlier, we decided to order what they were known for best: sushi! There really is nothing better than the taste of fresh fish.

Edamame [it's not a sushi experience with a bowl of good, salted, boiled soybeans], 2 Spicy Tuna handrolls, albacore sushi, eel, and their famous spicy tuna atop of rice cracker. Albacore was fresh, soft and just the right touch of sweet in the sauce. Next I took a bite of the spicy tuna hand roll. It was wrapped well with just the right amount of ingredients inside [I hate it when hand rolls are too large]. It was so delicious; I knew we had come to the right place.  I wanted more. I surveyed the rice cracker. Very appealing: fried rectangular rice cracker with a good portion of spicy tuna on top, served in a set of two pieces. It tasted ok. I wasn’t completely in awe about it. In fact, I wanted more of the hand roll, this time wrapped in soy paper. MMM. It was delicious. Tender. So full of flavor. Just right.


I am not a fan of eel; thus did not happen to try it. However it looked very appetizing.

We finished drinking our hot green tea while snacking on edamame, paid our bill [a bit high for what we ordered, but hey! the food was good] and left fully satisfied.



Father’s Office Review

Posted in Burgers on February 21st, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Father’s Office
3229 Helms Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Currently holding two prime locations in Santa Monica and Culver City, this unique joint not only has one of the most talked about burgers in Los Angeles but also offers a great selection of exclusive beers. This particular location of Father’s Office [FO] has a large outside patio, which we gladly took advantage of on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Getting carded at the entrance this early in the day did catch me a bit off guard … I guess calling this a family restaurant is out of the question.

Walking up to the counter, we knew we wanted 3 Father’s Office Famous Burgers and a Basket of their Sweet Potato Fries. We had no idea that such simple order would end up being such a difficult task. Turns out this place is very particular when it comes to their food. They do not carry condiments such as ketchup or ranch. They do not carry iced tea or lemonade. Weird. They do not let you make any substitutions to their one and only signature burger – and let me tell you, you do not want it any other way.

Sweet Potato Fries – WOW! Simply Amazing. Fried to perfection with duck fat and served with aioli [honestly I think that's the only sauce they offer]. Hands down, the best sweet potato fries ever! Do not leave without trying them!

FO famous burger – the avant-garde of burgers! Served on french bread, cooked to perfection with caramelized onions, arugula, and Gruyère cheese. The patty, mix of ground beef and bacon, is juicy and absolutely mouth watering. The sweetness of barbecue sauce combined with the cheese and the onions really bring out the flavor in the meat; while the fresh greens make the burger light and easy to finish. I couldn’t stop eating.

Overall we had a great experience at this trendy, fancy burger restaurant. Having said that, this is not your typical burger. So if you don’t mind the lack of condiments, and can appreciate someone’s set-in-stone creativity, do give Father’s Office a try. Their burgers are one of a kind. Next time we’ll just bring our own ketchup.

Sushi Dan

Posted in Sushi on February 16th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

There are many sushi places in and around Studio City. Located in a strip-mall off of Ventura Blvd., Sushi Dan is a good trusted sushi spot with a great selection of specialty rolls. While the prices are a bit steep, the food has always been fresh and of good quality. The place itself is fairly large, trendy and great for a date or a visit with friends.

What we ordered: Edamame. Albacore Sushi (YUM. Served with crunchy onions on top. Great portion). 2 Spicy Tuna Handrolls (one soy paper. one sesame paper. Perfect Ying Yang). Hot Night Roll (WOW! I’m not a huge fan of eel sauce but it makes this roll pop!)

Service was fast and attentive. The restaurant is clean and has a great vibe. It does get crowded during peak hours, as it should, the food is pretty delicious!


Posted in Salads & Sandwiches on February 3rd, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Located in Downtown Culver City, “Lunch” is a great little spot for … well, lunch! Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating, Lunch offers counter-service dining experience. I never did understand this fast food with tips approach. The quirky menu presents a variety of healthy eating choices: hot and cold sandwiches, soups,and salads.

After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Seared Delight: mixed greens, seared ahi tuna, edamame, corn, red onions, avocado tossed with honey mustard dressing.As we sat out on the patio talking business and soaking in the beautiful California sun, our food arrived promptly. The salad looked great. Nice portion, fresh, colorful … yet, bland. No salt or pepper, tasteless dressing – I couldn’t understand it. I was disappointed … However, the place was so cute, trendy, and inviting, that I would give it another shot. Hopefully my next visit will be more fulfilling!

Le Saint Amour

Posted in French on February 3rd, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

January 30, 2011 at Le Saint Amour in Culver City, CA

dineLA part II
Surrounded by neighborhood boutiques and cafes, this inviting little French Bistro had alot to offer. High vaulted white ceilings, white table cloths, bright lighting and French painting screamed classic Parisian style. Our party of 4 was seated at one of the many very crammed tables along the wall; you could easily eavesdrop on surrounding conversations as you wait to be served. Needless to say the place had just enough energy and buzz about it to provide an enjoyable experience. So far so good.

Wine: bottle of French Rosé. Light. Crisp. Medium-sweet. So good, we had to order a second bottle.

Food: the authentic French menu was a bit overwhelming. It had everything between French onion soup to Escargots to Duck Confit to Beef Bourguigno. Luckily dineLA menu limited me to only 9 choices.

Appetizers: Endive Salad was fresh, light and crunchy tossed with Champagne vinaigrette and candied walnuts. Nice start to the meal. Terrine de Foie Gras was served on a toasted brioche with a side of green salad. The Foie Gras, served with touch of jam was just excellent. Both dishes were delicious and full of flavor.

Main Course: While we each had ordered our own main course, I will only discuss the two dishes I enjoyed the most. Jarret de Porc – braised, slow-cooked pork served with butternut squash and pepper sauce. YUM is all I can say. The pork was cooked so tender, falling off the bone, melting in your mouth. Had it not been for the overly sweet butternut squash, the dish would have been a perfection.

Beef Bourguignon (also called Beef Burgundy) is a traditional French stew with beef cheeks braised in red wine, flavored with garlic, carrots, onions, mushrooms and gnochi. The waiter raved and raved about this dish, yet something about it was just not right. Sure the dish came in a large, hearty portion, but I found the beef to be a bit too fattening and the broth a bit too runny and the gnochi (the one ingredient I was so excited about) a bit too dry.

Overall: Wether it was the great company or the two bottles of wine or the chocolate dessert, our evening was a great success. I must, however, talk about the awfully slow service. Not only was the staff very casually dressed, which in fact took away from the overall appearance of the restaurant, but to flag down a staff member was almost impossible. Of course I understand that dining at an authentic French restaurant comes with the authentic French service, but waiting almost an hour for appetizers is just plain ridiculous. All I can say is that we were very close to walking out … fortunately, we stayed to try the deliciousness of this French kitchen.


RH in WeHo

Posted in French on January 28th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

January 26, 2011 @ RH in West Hollywood, CA – a group of 4 of us came here for dineLA.

Located on the lower level of Andaz Hotel, RH is a hip, sophisticated restaurant with a warm vibe of a chic, modern lounge. We were seated inside a round booth cushioned with decorative pillows overlooking a beautiful, large, open kitchen.  Oh how I would love a kitchen like that inside my house! And the glass showcase of wine bottles! Marvelous!

After our surprisingly casually-dressed waiter explained our menus, a plate of assorted veggies (radishes, carrots, cherry tomatoes) served with a side of ranch dressing, followed by slices of warm bread and butter. Honestly, the veggies were dry, bland and not extremely appetizing. We did enjoy the bread while we waited.

$40 bottle of Pinot Grigio and on to the food:

Appetizers:  I decided to order the Roasted Holt Farm Beet Salad. The colors of the salad were wonderful. Dark red beets, pink beets (at first they appeared to be tomatoes), fresh radish and light vinaigrette. I love beets; however, I wanted the salad to taste as great as it looked … I did manage to taste the other two appetizers on the menu. Both the Mussels and the Foie Gras left me craving more of the much needed authentic French taste.  Main Course: Field Mushroom Risotto with Black Truffle Sauce. Just hearing risotto and truffle sauce in the same sentence makes me salivate. I couldn’t wait to try this dish. Came topped with Parmesan cheese and arugula, the risotto hit the spot. Every bite accentuated the mix of truffle and cheese – pure genius! I also had the pleasure to taste the Perigord Cassoulet. More of a hearty dish – duck confit, pork sausage, pork belly, bean stew – yet so simple and elegant in presentation. I’m usually very picky when it comes to eating beans, but this stew of white beans was fantastic. Duck confit was falling off the bone, tender and juicy, which the sausage and pork belly giving the dish enough fat to satisfy all cravings. Wonderful, wonderful dish. I want the bean recipe!  Dessert: While usually my favorite part of the meal, the Chocolate Pie & Frozen Praline Bar fell just a bit short of my standards bar. It was ok. It was not awful, but it just wasn’t great. The presentation was simple and so was the chocolate mousse placed in a thin pie crust.

Market City Caffe Review

Posted in Italian on January 24th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Market City Caffe Burbank
164 E. Palm Avenue
Burbank, CA 91502

Perfect after-shopping-date-night restaurant located on the busy street of Burbank. Upon arrival at the Market City, we were greeted with fresh, warm, ready-to-eat, foot-long bread sticks in a glass. What a great way to start the meal I thought, as I snapped pictures of this unique presentation. .

Overwhelmed with the menu choices, we sat on the patio, pondering. Our waiter was friendly, making several suggestions as he poured the wine. We decided to share a salad and a lamb ragout pasta dish.

The weather outside was perfect … and the food … did not disappoint. So caught up in conversation, slowly sipping a glass of Riesling, the food arrived almost too fast. The pasta was cooked perfectly. Lamb was juicy and tender. The portions were a good size, and I was glad we ordered to share [unlikely I would've finished the entire dish on my own].

Tomodachi Sushi

Posted in Sushi on January 23rd, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Tomodachi Sushi
10975 Weyburn Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. We had just finished hiking Temescal Canyon and wanted to reward ourselves. Reward without feeling a whole day of hard work and dedication has been wasted on empty calories. We wanted something fresh, healthy, melt-in-your mouth, nothing other than fresh fish. Within half an hour, we found ourselves driving down Wilshire Blvd, just east of the 405 to a small little town of Westwood. I, personally love the Westwood community, influenced by the surrounding University of the Bruins and the not-too-far-away beach cities.

Walking up to Tomodachi Sushi, we were a bit comprehensive [aside from the single person eating quietly by the window, the restaurant was empty]. I guess the time was neither lunch nor dinner. However, after being seated on wooden couches with soft cushions, we were delighted to discover it was happy hour time at the sushi joint [half off on many participating items].

Few shots of hot sake, 3 orders of albacore and 2 spicy tuna hand rolls later, we were stuffed. The portions of albacore were fresh, succulent and very generous. Sure, the miso soup was not perfect. It was sweet, oily and just tasted awful. But who came for the soup? Overall, the experience at this casual, friendly little place was great. The waitress was attentive, polite and quite pleasant. As we chatted and nibbled on our side order of edamame, the restaurant began to fill up rather quickly with new hungry patrons.

Corner Bakery

Posted in Salads & Sandwiches on January 18th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

I am a fan of big salads.

January 18, 2011

It was one of those days. I was craving a big salad and decided to stop at Corner Bakery for lunch. It has been at least a few years since my last visit. After reviewing all the options on their menu, I decided to go with the Santa Fe Chicken Salad. Visually the salad is very appealing: roasted chicken, fresh corn and pico de gallo salsa, iceberg and lettuce romaine, tossed with ranch dressing and topped off with cheddar cheese. I added avocado, some fresh black pepper, and a little bit of hot sauce for some spice. I, personally, love Santa Fe salads and was slightly disappointed at what the Corner Bakery had to offer. I understand their version of the salad is on the healthier side and maybe that is exactly what was missing … some fat. Their menu said the salad would come with a side of a fresh roll; however, they forgot to put one in my carry out bag. Could have been the missing touch.

Having tried several other versions of this salad in the past, I would definitely give a few suggestions for improvement. Just from the name, we can assume the salad comes from South Western background, which to me means bold, spicy flavors. Unfortunately Corner Bakery salad was lacking those flavors. Some of the changed I would implement are adding some jalapeño into the pico de gallo for that extra kick. Also, I usually prefer this salad tossed with thousand island instead of the ranch dressing. I find ranch to be kind of bland. Finally I would garnish the salad with fresh scallions and a side of sour cream … just because you can’t go wrong with sour cream mixed with salsa!

Pirozhki (Пирожки)

Posted in Recipes on January 16th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

… recipe coming soon …

Apple Pie (Шарлотка)

Posted in Desserts on January 15th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment
Light, tender, and so delicate. Serve at your next tea party!
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2-3 big apples
  • 1 tbs of semolina porridge or bread crumbs
Make the batter by mixing the eggs in a large bowl. Beat with mixer as much as possible. Slowly add the sugar and then gradually add in the flour and baking soda. Mix very well (at least 5-7 minutes). Mixture should become creamy. Peel the apples and slice in small chunks. Butter up the bottom and sides of the baking pan. Sprinkle with semolina porridge or bread crumbs over the bottom of the pan to create a crust. Lay the apples in the pan. Pour dough evenly over the apples and place in preheated oven 350° F for 30-40 minutes.

Check with toothpick for readiness of the pie. Enjoy!

Passion for Food!

Posted in Food Thoughts on January 14th, 2011 by Yelena – Be the first to comment

Many of us are passionate about food: farmers, vegetarians, butchers, chefs, dietitians, critics. My passion for food mainly comes from eating … I can’t help it. I like to eat. Growing up in the Former Soviet Union, we didn’t always have an abundance of food. Frankly speaking, we survived eating potatoes and noodles. As you can imagine my I enjoyed eating for the mere fact that I didn’t get enough of it. Nevertheless, during special occasions, the Russian parents were able to create a delicious display of the Eastern European kitchen. If you are familiar with the Russian cooking, you know we love potatoes, mayo, pickled everything, and of course anything fried. It’s surprising how that country doesn’t have more obesity issues. I suppose affordability had something to do with it.

My first food journey took me to Wisconsin at the age of 12. Known for their cheese and beer, Wisconsin introduced me to aisles and aisles of food at the supermarket. All of a sudden we were eating hot dogs and corn on the cob … and the amounts of ice cream I consumed is unthinkable. Even our dog was getting the royal feast every night. It is at that time when I started to develop a real understanding for food. Because after a while, when you are no longer hungry, you start to really appreciate it. Although Wisconsin did not offer much variety, as it was mostly consumed by chain restaurants and fast food joins, I was fortunate enough to have had the ability to work side-by-side with some self-taught chefs. And might I add, those chefs made sure to spoil me with delicious off-the-menu items.

My real passion for food did not occur until much later; probably after my mom moved away and I no longer had the pleasure of a home-cooked meal, but most likely after I discovered the diversity of food when I moved to California. Los Angeles quickly introduced me to just how far authenticity, creativity and deliciousness can be showcased through food. I fell in love – with eating.