Marisa Cheese!

A new specialty foods shop opened in Lancaster on the 300 block of North Queen Street. Bon Appetit serves coffee, breakfast and lunch. There are plenty of food items to bring home with you as well.

Cheese and cheese items are abundant in the shop, along with spices, specialty cookware, and there is a section near the back with candies and chocolates.

Here’s the first item I purchased:

MARISA CHEESE!

I had to try it of course. I served it thinly shaved on wheat crackers with fresh fig slices. It made a great late night snack one night and I would absolutely get it again to make a nice after dinner cheese plate. It has nutty, salty, sharp flavors that go with all different kinds of crackers and accompaniments.

I have been back to the shop recently for a coffee break. They have good coffee and excellent Chai. The only slight disappointment I encountered was that they were out of soy milk. I’m not holding it against them though, I’ll be back again.

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Vacation Eats – Tar Pits and Hitting the Road

Back to the California trip… It’s about time for a famous eatery stop. So on Wednesday (August 3rd) we had hot dogs for breakfast.

We choose Pink’s Famous Hot Dog Stand on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood. Pinks has dozens of condiments and topping combinations on their famous dogs. The specials are named after famous stars, chefs, TV personalities and landmarks.

I chose the Emeril BAM! Dog. Emeril has a new show called The Originals that featured Pinks on one of the episodes about LA. It airs on the Cooking channel if you’re interested in finding it.

This special dog had cheese, jalapenos, mustard, onions, bacon, and cole slaw. I had to take a lot of the jalapenos off because there were so many they were falling out of the bun. I also am not a huge fan of pickled jalapenos, or bacon for that matter, but the cole slaw pulled me into picking this dog. The combination overall was BAM good, I would get it again!

Janeen got the Pastrami Reuben Dog, not named after any celebrity but I think it was famous all by itself. it was loaded with sauerkraut, pastrami, swiss cheese, and mustard. I tried it and it was a mouthful of meat. there was so much pastrami on it, it was falling all over the place. It was a fine dog.

With our bellies full of hot dogs we drove through Miracle Mile and into the La Brea Tar Pits. I’m kind of a science nerd so I thought this stop was great. The Page Museum held a lot of the fossils they excavated from the tar pits. There are also open sites that they are working on that you could observe.

We drove back across Hollywood into Echo Park to eat a late lunch at The Park restaurant, which the wonderful Erin caters to the lunch time crowd. Janeen and I had an identical lunch today. We both got Lucifer Ale, a nice light Belgian with hints of apple.

The Park has sandwich specials that all looked so good it made it really hard to choose just one. I went with some thing kind of light because I ate the hotdog for breakfast… I enjoyed the avocado and Gruyère sandwich piled high with avocado, Gruyère cheese, tomato, and lettuce. I added crispy onions, as per Erin’s recomendtion and spread some Dijon on the grilled whole wheat sourdough bread.

It was nice light and delicious, perfect after a morning of looking at gas bubble out of pits of black asphalt smelling pits.

So we headed out late that afternoon to drive up the coast. We had one perfect stop as we made our way North. I was reading “taste of Santa Barbara” magazine in the car and telling Janeen about this amazing looking Gelato in Montecito. A little bit later she noticed that we were passing Montecito on the highway and said “wasn’t something in Montecito? oh yea, isn’t the Gelato place there?” So I checked the magazine and yes! So we pulled off the exit and 2 minutes down the road we were stopping at Here’s the Scoop for a Gelato dinner.

This place it definitely worth the stop! They let you try any flavor you want and they make everything with local ingredients. Yes, I realize I keep writing about these places using local, organic ingredients, but I am drawn to that so I am either a sucker for people writing local on everything or I just pick really awesome places… probably a little bit of both. Anyway… The gelato and sorbet are out of this world awesome at this place.

I tasted the lavender lemon flavor which was crisp and refreshing but I ultimately decided on one scoop coconut, one scoop chocolate strawberry in a waffle cone. Janeen got Italian chocolate chip (which tasted like cannoli filling) and espresso in a chocolate waffle cone.  All flavors got my stamp of approval and left me wanting more.

Vacation Eats – Santa Monica and Venice Beach

On our Tuesday (August 2) in California, we headed down to the beach towns. We strolled along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica in the morning to window shop and have brunch. We chose a little french cafe in the middle of the promenade called Monsieur Marcel. We sat outside watching passer-bys. I ordered the Benedict Marcel- poached eggs atop a buttery croissant with smoked ham and Hollandaise sauce.

It was good, a solid take on eggs Benedict, but not the best I have ever had… Janeen asked me where the best eggs Benedict was and I immediately replied two places… The Nodding Head Brewery in Philadelphia (they have sunday brunch with excellent bloody marys) and this little shack (can’t remember the name of it) beside a river in Connectitcut that I stopped at on the way back from cape cod.

Janeen had the souffle french toast. I tried it – it was super-good! It was so good I wished I had gotten in. It was soft, fluffy, buttery and it had a slight citrusy taste to it. French perfection, that’s what I would call it. If you ever find yourself eating brunch in Santa Monica, I highly recommend it.

We checked out the pier and rode the ferris wheel to get a birds eye view of everything.

Then we took a tip from Erin’s friend and went to The Lobster for a large bloody mary with a giant prawn and olive attached to it. It was a good bloody mary, kind of mild but really impressive looking. It was a nice break from the sun and we got some post cards written.

We rented bikes and rode the sandy bike trail down to the complete spectacle that is Venice beach. We locked the bikes by the skate park where skaters were zooming around the concrete learning tricks. The two headed turtle was out in front of the freak show and it seemed all the usual buskers were out.

We stopped into a cafe that was set back a little from the boardwalk. They advertised Peach Chai, which sounded good, so we decided to try it. Not really that great, it was ok but I would def not go there again. Janeen got an iced vanilla latte that was so sweet she didn’t even really drink it. I can not remember the name at all but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

We walked the whole ocean front, headed back to our bikes, and rode back to Santa Monica. On our way out, we knew there was going to be a lot of traffic and it was going to take a long time to get back, so we got a snack. We sampled the frozen yogurt at PinkBerry. It is all fat free and made with ultra fresh ingredients.

We both got waffle cones. I tasted the salted caramel, a great little bite but a bit too rich to eat a whole cone. I went with pomegranate and mango swirl with strawberries in the bottom of the come. Janeen stuck with the strawberries and got chocolate and original side-by-side in her waffle cone. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I know some people love Pinkberry and some people don’t. It is a chain that I usually only see in big cities, I think they have a good business plan. I thought it was tasty, but wait until you read what we had on Wednesday…

We had to rush once we got back to Erin’s place because we were going to her comedy show in Downtown LA and we didn’t have much time. Erin was nice enough to make us dinner. Arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette with little cukes and avocado slices.

She even cut up some pickled cauliflower (from giardiniera) and added slivered almonds. Great salad Erin! We also had pasta with olive sauce that we got at Global Gardens on our wine tasting adventure.

Erin’s comedy show was great! It was at a theater called the Downtown Independent. Finally a place with some Sierra Nevada! Good beer, good laughs. Thank you Erin for a wonderful evening!

Vacation Eats- Silver Lake and Hollywood, CA

Janeen and I made it to California! We came out here to see our really great friend Erin (Hollywood comedy star). We are starting our vacation in Los Angeles. Erin lives in Silver Lake not far from Hollywood,  an awesome part of town.

The first thing we did when we got to LA was hit up a food truck! It was late but we just got off the plane and into Erin’s neighborhood.

This one was called Gus’s Lunch Box. It had standard Mexican food like burritos and tacos. I had the Taco Pastor, which was pork in red sauce. It did not have pineapple, which I was expecting because of how the Mexican place back home makes them.

The tacos hit the spot. I chose the mild sauce because I can’t eat very hot spices anymore… I’m not sure why, but I have developed an allergy to one of the chemicals in hot red peppers. The mild sauce was great though and the corn tortillas were really good.

In the morning, Janeen and I set out on a mini-walking adventure that turned into an all day affair. We walked through Silver Lake and stopped at Local for brunch. As you can see by the menu, it was right up my alley. Everything was fresh and well made.

Even though this menu looks bangin’ and I wanted all of the dishes on it, we chose to eat off the special whole wheat crepe menu.

We ordered the La Razza and a dessert crepe (the one with sweet lemon ricotta) and split them between the two of us.

Here’s the La Razza, cut in half with sour cream, avocado, and some awesome home fries. It also came with a smokey (but not hot) pepper sauce that was really good spread on the home fries.The whole wheat crepes added a new texture that went really well with all of the fillings.

The dessert crepe had lemon ricotta stuffing the crisp whole wheat crepe, topped with cooked fresh strawberries and creme fraiche. Excellent, I still ate a lot of it even though I was a little full from the breakfast crepe.

Sharing the two crepes was a great idea. I was comfortably full after the half of breakfast crepe and stuffed after half the dessert crepe. This place also had excellent iced coffee. They even had soy milk out on the fixins table. I really appreciate this because I always have to ask and usually pay extra for soy milk.

After our excellent brunch, we headed onward to the Silver Lake Farmers Market. Here we found super fresh fruits, veggies, and taste-tested many delightful treats. We got a ginger lime juice to share with cane syrup and found some pretty styling LA hats. Here’s some veggie eye candy from the market…

We started walking down Sunset Blvd. and just kept on going until we hit Hollywood Blvd. We actually walked the whole way to the Chinese Theater. Sightseeing, penny squishing, and stopping for a frozen margarita along the way. We had to call Erin to come pick us up because we had walked 5 miles to get all the way over to the most touristy part of Hollywood. On our way home we stopped at the Griffith Park Observatory for some spectacular views of the city.

After some freshening up it was dinner time! We went to Erin’s favorite place Pho Cafe for Vietnamese.

We shared the #3, spring rolls with shrimp and beef inside and a large Sapporo beer.

I got the Pho Ga #13 – rice noodle soup with free range chicken, ginger sauce, and herbs.

Both dishes are highly recommended. They use really good meat here, the beef and shrimp in the spring rolls and the chicken in the soup were all really good.

After dinner we went to a wine and beer bar. My drink of choice was Russian River Damnation. A smooth Belgian ale with an apple/pear taste to it. Perfect for sipping after a late dinner.