laurenb's Profile

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Gourmet lunch for 1 by Penn Station

On my way to family in Jersey (sigh) I will have 36 hours in NYC and on my last few moments would love to have a gourmet lunch by Penn Station. I would like something nice but not too nice cause I will have a small suit case. (For dinner the night before I'll be at Convivio.)

I don't know that area, suggestions are much appreciated. Or perhaps I should forgo the location and just go to Pastis, Balthazar's or Gramercy.

Thanks for the help!

Jan 31, 2009
laurenb in Manhattan

What's the best way to do a Bouley restaurant?

Obviously the best way is unlimited at the main dining room but could someone please give me a crash course on the different dining rooms and value. I would be find to spend $50 -70 per person total tip and booze but let me know if you think it is better to step it up a bit and what your impression is. A bit about me - I'm a concierge in Los Angeles, originally from SF so I live for this! Thanks so much in advance!

Jan 30, 2009
laurenb in Manhattan

Best tacos on west side?

Tacos Por Favor on Olympic at 14 I think. Great everything. Take out or eat in. Very casual but delish. And I know that they use fresh ingredients.

Nov 30, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

In Photos: Opening Night at Michael Mina's XIV, or, Kevin Tries to Order EVERYTHING ON THE MENU

I had 11 courses and thought this is one of my best meals to date - including my recent 7 years living in SF. No doubt XIV is the best food in LA though I am not sure if everyone will think of it this way.

I wish the pear in the tuna tartare stood out more but it was the best use of chili in tartare; many have attempted it and not succeeded.
The chestnut truffle puree with the lobster was amazing to me. Nutty taste with the bold aroma of the truffle. Thick as well to hold up to those large chunks of potato and lobster.
I agree with the consistency of the hen! It was a completely different texture. Maybe sous vide preparation?
You will have to go back and try the artichoke with cavatelli pasta with truffle and pecorino cheese. The pasta artichoke were both al dente and bold.
I have to say, I loved the huckleberry with the venison and wouldn't have liked the dish without it.
Hands down though, the most impressive dish was the mimolette. All the the fromage are unreal! So innovative. Sadly my companions aren't as big of nerds as I when it comes to food but I would have insisted on at least 2 more courses of cheese after seeing what they were doing with it. I may return just for that.
I enjoyed the passion fruit curd. I would never order it but when everything combined in one bite, it tasted like nothing i have never had before and that is very exciting to me. The Bitter sweet chocolate and the mozaarella ice cream was a very sad way to finish for me though.

Everyone reading this must go [if it is in your financial means]!

Oct 18, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Best Lobster in LA area?

A little masked for its pure new england flavor but I just ate at Crustacean in Beverly Hills which is French Vietnamese Fushion and had several excellent lobster dishes.

Oct 15, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

gastropubs in westside?

Library Ale House on Main Street in Santa Monica/ Venice. Sorry I haven't been to give any feedback but it is the kind of place you are looking for. Also, in this month's Gourmet mag they feature the beer sommlier at Rustic Canyon on Wilshire around 14th area. It is more upscale and certainly not gastropub but several very high end small production beers to check out .

Oct 05, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Do Chowhounders eat on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica?

Is it just me or are there few places for a foodie to hit in Santa Monica? I am looking for something in the $20 entree price range - $40 ish per person tax tip and a drink. Something with a nice ambiance like Boa, Tengu, or Ainsette. But are these places poor quality in exchange for location? Bar Pinxot is a gem. I know of Musha and have so so feelings for it. Where do the SaMo locals go that are tired of Urth and or World Cafe (and obviously no CPK or PF Chang!) ? West of Lincoln streching from Montana all the way south to Venice. Thanks!

Sep 18, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

French Restaurant in Hollywood?

I had a frisee salad with poached egg and lardons. Braised Beef for entree and chocolate tart for dessert. I think that is French Bistro.

Yes it is expensive so I apologize for the oversight on the cirsumstances. But the nightclub Social as well as neighboring Boulevard 3 that dilutes the corner doesn't have a sole OVER 30.

The restaurant isn't packed these days but the food is good, the location is right for most people, and the decor is beautiful. I wouldn't let it get to you that it isn't full every night.

Sep 18, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

French Restaurant in Hollywood?

Citrus at Social Hollywood is exactly that. Social Hollywood is a club so that is the "fun" part I would say but Citrus is a completely separate section as part of an enormous building which I think is an old historic athletic club or something.

Citrus is a well known restaurant group by Michele Richard who got his start here in LA about 20 years ago in WeHo. He then moved to Wash DC and got big there but is back in LA now with a very stylish yet very true French restaurant. Because of his bi-costal restaurants no he isn't the master in the kitchen at all times. But his staff is handling the place wonderfully. Classic French Bistro fare in an upscale style with Californian influences. The room is very classic with modern updates. Romantic yet young and trendy because of the club next door. All in all I would say it is an excellent pairing of a evening.

Sep 18, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

CHEAP drinks in santa monica?? help!!

Tengu has an early and a late happy hour. They serve sushi so while it might not be the very cheapest place you do get quite a deal. Same said for Wilshire the restaurant on 24th and Wilshire - they have a good early happy hour.

Sep 03, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Quiet but trendy and good food for foodie grandma's birthday

I don't think that Fogo de Chao is very trendy, the food certainly isn't cutting edge but rather traditional.

Whist would be good on a Su-Wed night but other nights it gets very popular and loud. Likewise for the Penthouse but even when it isn't as crowded as the weekends, they can have loud trendy music playing.

I would suggest Ortolan which is quite expensive but very much a new trendy restaurant. For some reason it isn't packed every night. I send guests there last Saturday and it was empty at 7:00 pm. Another Chowhounder reviewed it last week with a detailed review and photos. I wouldn't hold it against them that they aren't that busy.

Sep 03, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Where to eat West Hollywood first night of honeymoon?

To clarify, the bar and restaurant at the "Chateau Marmont" hotel are very different from "Bar Marmont" which is also a bar and restaurant. They are they same owners but Bar Marmont is much more casual and youthful. It is next door to the hotel but more situated on Sunset itself. It is a dark Parisian Bistro decor, candle lit with warmly rustic colored walls. Music is playing and sometimes loud enough to dance to but no one really dances; just me when I am tipsy :). They won't be playing any current pop or rap hits but there might be a sampling of some songs you know. The food is French bistro so burger, mussles, fries, stews. A much more approachable evening when comparaed to the Chateau which may be more formal than what you are looking for. Always make a reservation when going even if just for dessert and drinks. They seem to prefer it over a walk in.

Aug 31, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Bars in Malibu/SaMo/Beachside

A bit of a nicer option but certainly a fun crowd The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel. Many people are opposed because it changed from a casual hang out spot into a beautiful decor and design bar, lounge and restaurant. So it isn't quite beachy being that it is the 20th story of the hotel and on 2nd street rather than say PCH but I am a big fan of it.

Aug 29, 2008
laurenb in Los Angeles Area

Asia de Cuba - Review

I love Tom. He was our waiter and did just about everything you need from a waiter. He told us honestly what to get and what not to get which is so helpful at a place like this with such an enormous menu. He was like a cross between Bill Mahr's honesty and Steve Martin's charm. Gotta love that.

We ate...
Thai Beef Salad - Carpaccio of beef, citrus dressing on arugula and other mixed greens with those crunchy Asian chips, orange wedges, and avocad chunks. Dressing had a good heat contrast of that red rooster sauce. Went very well with the spicy Zinfandel I was drinking.
Tuna Tartare - dead on as far as Asian style tartare goes. Deliciously smooth, a medium to large size dice of the tuna and the right balance of salt.
Cuban BBQ Chicken - I don't normally order chicken but of the entrees we were interested in, Tom said this was the best option. I very much liked it. Chicken was perfectly cooked, tender, juicy. Chunks of a mango salsa were refreshing. And tamarind sauce on the chicken had a bit of a spicy kick. This was a rather sweet dish but I like that so if you are sweet sensitive then I would not recommend it. The dish also came with a Thai sticky rice in a banana leaf. Good texture but it smelled and tasted like tea! This wasn't bad but not exactly favorable.
Side of Chinese Long Beans with Chicharones - The typical soy glaze on the beans and perfectly crispy pork. Loved it.
Side of Lobster-Boniato mash - Boniato is a kind of sweet potato. Incredibly decadent with lots of cream and butter. What is not to love? The perfect amount of seasoning too and a few sprigs of Italian parsley for color. This dish was huge especially for a side. I would have preferred it to be smaller but with the same amount of lobster so that you can have some of the meat with every bite.
Carrot Cake with Pineapple cream cheese frosting - Oh my god. 'Nuff said. I was very skeptical about the pineapple but it was a very faint amount and was either unnoticed or just blended well.

Closing arguments - They say that for two people you should order two appetizer, one entree and one side. Listen to them! We had two apps, one entree, two sides and dessert and I have enough food left over to feed an army. Really listen to them. What seems like a very expensive, even over priced restaurant will come out rather affordable if you restrain on ordering. No comment on the SoCal Arizona exports that flock here ....The Asian Cuban fusion really impressed me and I know I will crave this food and return soon.

Mar 01, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Epic Roasthouse, SF- Report

Epic. Roasthouse, not much in the name, in fact I hate the name. It is not up to date with the rest of the place which is amazing. The exposed kitchen and marble chef's table. The grand leather chairs, the perfect white linen and my favorite stemware. The industrial unfinished concrete look at the ceiling is rather warming, a nice touch to the room. To put it this way, I would go even if it didn't have one of the best views you can get in the city.

The food.... 3 kinds of sea salt on the table are delicious but of the breads offered you really don't need the bread. There is a sourdough and a cornbread and something else but I think salt like that is best with a more bland Italian batard. Nonetheless I love salt so I was happy with it. By the way, the cornbread in shape of madeline are amazing.

Oysters, Salad's, sides and many meat options makes the menu rather typical for a steakhouse which the place most certainly is. Our salad's were delicious and we ate every last bite. For entrees we had the salmon with fennel - I didn't actually get a bit I was so focused on my meat but she loved it. I had the pork chop with a molasses and or coffee sauce and several other ingredients - so many other that they meshed well together and all just tasted good. I would have liked the ingredients to sand out a little more though. Our other friend had the petit fillet which was rather large and just simple on the plate. Delicious though. Sides were amazing, green beans perfect and oriccetta mac and cheese to die for.

Desserts were out of control but I was in such a deep coma by then that I can't talk much about it. All I can say is get the cookies and milk - Tahitian vanilla milk that is.

Miscellaneous comments about the place - the bar upstairs is great. Beautiful, large, dark wood with copper accents, a place that you would really love to hang out in for a few hours. Also has a large outside deck to make the view of the water even better and an opening to spy on the diners below.

Service was extremely attentive in a friendly relaxed way. The managers there seemed they really cared about the execution of the evening. The food didn't knock my socks off but I would eat it any day of the week with no problem. I think that is the beauty of the place though it is great for any occasion at all, even if that occasion is being hungry on a Tuesday night. Great job Mr. Kuleto's, keep 'em coming.

Feb 02, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Waffle truck at Civic Center Farmers Market?

Did anyone else see this on Daily Candy http://www.dailycandy.com/san_francisco/ about the Belgian Waffle's at Wednesday's farmers market? Just wondering if you think they are as amazing as this review says they are .... or worth the calories?? Eating dinner tomorrow at Epic Roasthouse, don't want to make my arteries hate me too much in one day :)

Jan 22, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Girl's Night Out in SF - A challenge

for parties of 8 they make you do a 4 or 5 (I forget) set menu around $45 per person without booz! I thought that was incredibly expensive though I do love the place.

Jan 12, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Looking for good eateries in the Castro area

I too think La Med is terrible at all locations. I'd much rather eat Costco Spaikopita than go there.

How is Catch??? I send many guests there but haven't been in a while. Seafood on Market at Castro

Jan 12, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Sourdough near Union Square

There is a Boudin Bakery at Macy's both in the basement and just at the entrance. The one at street level is on O'Farrell between Powell and Stockton.

And FYI to all the gourmands reading this. I loooooove good bread, the best possible, and would consider myself a rather gourmet palate and I think their fresh loafs of sourdough are excellent. I live just off Union Square and this is where I go to get a sandwich.

Jan 12, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Conduit on Valencia, SF: Anyone been?

I wouldn't say portions are tiny and I am a big eater! we did 3 courses each and split a 4th pasta.

Jan 12, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Girl's Night Out in SF - A challenge

I don't think Foreign Cinema would be within price range and parking isn't great but they do have valet. The setting and theme and food will suit your group however.

Range would be very difficult to park and IMO it isn't worth a long trek for.

Scott Howard has very well priced food ($12-$14) but small plates geared toward ordering 4 courses which gets you in the end on price. Great decor, large enough for you ladies to have some fun in as well and a few good large tables. They offer valet parking which I don't think is more than $10.

Restaurant LuLu is a bit more traditional but also good for large group and not so bad on the parking (and very convenient for East Bayers)

Jan 11, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Conduit Review (SF)

Conduit.....hmmmm.....how should I begin? I can still taste the tender squab I'm too distracted.....except for the pear tart, and the warmth from the fireplace. It was a great night.

I digress.
Conduit...what does it really mean? Sorry to say I didn't know until asking and it means pipes or something. That is certainly true of the restaurant. Thousands of pipes small and large streaming in opposing directions - up down left right. Shiny, dull, red, silver it showed a true consistent style. I loved it decor so much. The epitomy of trendy industrial in the way that I like. But the room still has a cozy feel to it. A fireplace keeps the room warm as does the black wood tables throughout. The kitchen is completely exposed and lines the rear of the restaurant so not only can you see your food cooking but they can see your expressions as you eat. The staff everywhere makes it feel friendly too.

The bar is on the side of the room with several seats there and some diners as well. There is also another bar style seating at the kitchen much like A16 but a little larger. Plus, my favorite stemware that made it very elegant. A good upgrade decision.

So that should give you a clear idea of the place, now the food. They really know their way around a California menu. It is a small menu but I didn't think it needed much more, I couldn't decide what to get. All the ingredients were appealing as well as the main protein. We had...drumm roll please.....

To start - Beet Salad with citrus vinigrette and shavel fennel which was softened and had less of a harsh bite (a technique that the waiter described). Scallop's - 2 beautiful large and seared to perfection. Nuff said.

Because their was so much to choose from we decided to split a mid course and then have one entree and one appetizer as an entree. The mid course was oxtail and marscapone suffed homemade ravioli in a carmelized onion/ reduced oxtail stock with gruyere cheese crisp on top. Beautiful presentation. The pasta was to die for, thick, al dente enough to still really taste the pasta and still have the taste of the meat inside. This was my favorite dish of the day as hard as it is to pick one. The "sauce" that is was on was hardly a sauce and more just what happends if you completely reduce down the oxtail stock into cippolini onions. (also known as heaven). The crisp added its pungent salty cheese flavor, but also a nice texture addition.

Then for the entree we had the squab (appetizer) and duck. Both were similar but different too. Each were cooked to perfection, rare but not too rare as someone else reviewed, and kept the best texture. The duck was in a richer sauce than the squab and rich parsnip puree with sauteed chestnuts and chantrell mushrooms. The squab was accompanied by a farrow risotto and trumpet mushrooms. Delish! cooked to perfection. Nuff said.

Dessert......thank you lord for having cheese on the menu! I had a large slice of outstanding basque sheep's milk hard cheese with quince paste. We also wen't for something sweet - the pear tart. I am not a dessert person and much more love my cheese but like Uncle Jesse would have said "have mercy". The tart was not flaky tasteless tart but a chewy dense hazelnut dough with pear slices a top. Creme Fraiche on the side fo hit the other taste buds.

This is shaping up to be too long a review but if I may just add that is is not too trendy or over trying. They impressed me and I am not easily impressed. Prices are not too high at all! My goodness, entrees around the low $20's and some great wines for $40, glass of prosecco to start just $6! They said the website should be up soon. Also have a fun private room for 14. Just go soon and thank me later.

Jan 09, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco on the Semi-Cheap

I think Allegro would be a bit out of price range like some above mentioned. They also push you to have several course.

Firenze is like Ideale but I think tastier, yet same price range.

I also think Slanted Door could be out of price range because of how many course you have it unlimited. Drinks are also rather expensive.

Jan 07, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Funky Crab?

i just posted a topic about a week ago saying how I was scared of these kinds of crab and always get mine at Whole Foods. $6-8 per pound, much more expensive than anywhere else but i have always loved it and it is much more convenient to my apartment.

Jan 07, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco on the Semi-Cheap

My favorite Italian resatuarnt is Firenze by Night. The service and ristorante feel of the place will impress them. The food is perfect Italian and homemade with lots of options. It is not trendy or new; has actually been around for 20 years but would perfectly fit your budget; could probably afford 3 courses and not the cheapest bottle on the menu.

Jan 07, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland: Piedmont Ave. recommendations?

Since you said you lived there before I thought I would bring up Little Shin Shin. I grew up in Piedmont and it has and always will be a favorite of mine.Shin Shin special Prawns, Mu Shu Pork and Kung Pao Beef are by far the best chinese dishes I have had.

Jan 07, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Pesce Review - Polk Street/ Russian Hill SF

Finally went to Pesce on Polk and Green and maybe like most of you have past it several times. Looks nice, cute, friendly, and has a good menu. So I went with 2 friends on a particularly raining Friday night to find is almost empty at 9pm.

The place was as nice looking as it appeared from the outside. Great dark wood accents but there were spotlights that were way to bright and directed straight onto our table. So we inquired if there was a dimmer and got the lights adjusted. Not a problem.

Then it is time to choose wines. 5-8 Italian wines and I don't really care for italian wines. We try three and don't like any of them so we switch to cocktails. They have a large cocktail list but I stick to my usual order.

What we ordered: Grilled shrimp with canellini beans and rosemary, Dungeness crab risotto cake w/ a litle mixed greens, Seared tuna in tomato putanesca sauce, merlot braised lamb shank on bone.

The crab risotto and shrimp came out waaaaaay to quicky. They were only slightly warm but after not liking the wine or the lighting we didn't really want to complain much more. The shrimp was okay once I added salt to it and you could hardly taste the rosemary. 3 shrimp and maybe a dozen little white beans for $10 didn't thrill me. The risotto cake was delicious but only had a very faint taste of crab with no herbs but who wouldn't love fried pasta?

The lamb shank was tasty.....can't really say much. It didn't knock my socks off. I think it was a little too acidic in an unbalanced way because I do love acidity. The meat was perfectly tender falling off the bone though. The tuna dish was a little more cooked than seared but I think that is how it was supposed to be. The puttanesca sauce was traditional and delicious but very similar to how I cook it at home so it didn't impress me. Plus the tuna flavor was completely lost in it.

Dessert - we had a layered ice cream brownie sundae. Not impressive but cured the sweet after dinner chocolate craving.

The plates are very small and so for the price not a very affordable restaurant, and yet very casual dishes. There were daily specials which I like the idea of, and my martini was only $6, another plus.

In all, I would not go back but I do not regret going. It would be a perfect date spot as most of that area is, but only if your date was going to be able to impress you more than the food. As for reccomending it, only as a last option or if you are as curious as I was.

Jan 06, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF ~ cute yummy bakery in Union Sq?

I think Cafe De La Presse should be re-mentioned as it is just 1 block away from your hotel and a very french restaurant. I don't care for their dinners or some lunch items but tea and croissants are good.

For a fun bakery/ breakfast experience go on Saturday to the Ferry Building about 15-20 minutes from your hotel. It is great people watching and great casual food. I want to mention in my opinion I hate Mettie Patisserie a dessert shop inside the building. I haven't liked anything from there.

Have fun!

Jan 06, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

SF - Cigar Bar & Grill silently ringing Chowhound bells?

I've been a few times, mainly late in the evenings as a bar-bar. They do not have televisions. I've never had the food. Often times after 9pm there is a cover charge (?!?!?!) of around $5-10. This alone make me actually upset. It's not a SF thing to have cover charge especially considering the following. Yes there is a live band featuring some kind of Spanish/ Flamenco music. But it isn't anything that makes you want to dance. I rarely see people dance and those that are are more stumbling than dancing. Then in between sets which is rather frequent there is absolutly no music! So sometimes they have a line of people to wait to get in, then pay, and then no music at all. Very few people are smoking cigars (which I can handle) and mainly are smoking cigaretts (which I can't handle).

That may have been a negative rant but I don't think this place is anything too special. However the food sounds tempting, or maybe I just haven't have a cuban sandwich in a long time! Happy hour would be good, but certainly not late night hanging and dining. You'd be much better off at Boquadillo's a block away.

Jan 06, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area

Any thoughts about Winter Wineland - January 19 & 20, 2008

Thanks for the input. And it sounds like they are tagging the des. driver so you can't even get a sip in. The only reason I mention this and question the food is because I would end up being the driver.

Jan 01, 2008
laurenb in San Francisco Bay Area