Illuminating Stella

Archive of ‘Food & Wine’ category

Happy Birthday Honey!

We celebrated John’s birthday with a mini road trip to Malibu. John wanted to go to one of his favorite spots for a birthday lunch, Malibu Seafood. We dropped Stella off at my Sisters to play with her cousins, so we could turn the afternoon celebration into a date (hooray!). John has loved Malibu Seafood since he scouted out So Cal before moving here years ago. Since then we’ve been countless times. It’s the perfect spot on a sunny afternoon, starting with a scenic drive up the coast thru Santa Monica and Malibu. The restaurant or more like shack is located right off the road with a small parking lot and three tiers of outdoor picnic tables affording perfect ocean views. It’s BYOB, so we brought a few beers to drink with our seafood. We shared steamed mussels, shrimp, an ahi burger, fries and a salad. Everything was yum! Perfect afternoon……Happy Birthday Honey!












Top Bites – Long Beach – Part Two

Okay here goes part two of my Top Bites in our hometown, AKA The LBC. For part one click here.

At Last Cafe– Brick Chicken. We started going to the At Last Cafe a few years ago after hearing good things from several people. It started as a small, neighborhood spot. Since then the restaurant has doubled in size. The food is always great, prices super reasonable and the Chef/Owner always comes by to make sure we are happy. We dined here the night John proposed and have been back for birthdays and our anniversary and just because since.  The brick chicken is just a yummy comfort dish with “smashed” potatoes, gravy and a chicken. We usually get one of the blackboard specials, salad and dessert and bring a nice bottle of wine. Once we learned to just take a cab and not bother trying to look for parking, it’s always a perfect night.

39 Degrees– Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice. I love sushi and almost always get some form of Spicy Tuna, whether a simple roll or part of a fancy roll. 39 Degrees takes it to a new level with this dish, it’s naughty, basically a fried rice cake with spicy tuna on top. I’ve blogged about this before, but it bears repeating, they have a really wallet friendly Happy Hour.

Open Sesame– Fattoush Salad. Open Sesame is a huge 2nd Street destination. In fact they had to open a second location, like three doors down to accommodate the lines. I love the Fattoush Salad, “a Lebanese Peasant Salad”. It’s made with grilled chicken, veggies, pita croutons, herbs like mint and a lemon juice dressing.

Belmont Brewing Company– Cabo San Lucas Salad. My friend Kellie and I go to BBC for this salad frequently. It’s also grilled chicken, avocado, blue cheese, tortilla chips, tomato and a spicy ranch dressing. Always tastes great. Even better with a pint of the brewery’s Strawberry Blonde Ale and a table with an ocean view.

Bagelry and Bistro– Salmon Lox Bagel. While pregnant Lox and Bagel was a huge void in my life. I fantasized about eating a great bagel WITH lox and capers again. The Bagelry is an easy weekend place to stop on the way to run errands. They also have a nice little patio and good high chairs.

Simmzy’s– Shrimp, Citrus and Avocado Salad. I am realizing that I am all about salads. Perhaps I should have made this the Top Ten Salads in Long Beach. Anyway, here is another favorite. Simmzy’s opened on 2nd Street in the past couple years. I first went and had this salad with my parents when I was about eleven months pregnant. Okay one week overdue, but it felt like eleven months. This salad was just great, summery and light. I’ve gone back for it several times. It’s also fun because the tables are super close together and whenever I try to maneuver around them it reminds me of how tight it was that first time :)

Bai Plu and Aki Sushi– Alaska Roll. This roll is scallop, avocado, masago, topped with salmon and the best part…ponzu sauce. I am crazy for ponzu! I love any roll that pairs perfectly with it and this one does. I have also converted John from soy to ponzu sauce. We actually use it in our house homemade dressing.

Supermex– Chili Relleno Burrito. I love chili rellenos and think it’s genius to turn the whole thing into a burrito, like Top Chef genius in my book. I have been going to this place for many, many years. Since well before IN THE YEAR 2000.

Ma N Pa Grocery– Roasted Artichoke. We first stopped in this cute little hidden neighborhood market on a bike ride and were pleased to discover that it’s also a little fresh food deli/restaurant as well. They have roasted garlic lemon artichokes in tinfoil behind the counter. We took a chance and got a couple. They were so great, we’ve been back for them many times. It’s so much easier than boiling your own on a hot summer day. John whips up a yummy dipping sauce for us and voila!

Triple date for Sharla’s Birthday with Mike and Michelle and Sharla and Bob at At Last Cafe before Stella came along, Actually just days before Sharla and Bob’s little Grady came along. It was a really fun night.


Top Bites – Long Beach – Part One

Now that we have a baby and budget, we don’t eat out as much as we used to. This is ultimately good. However, when I get a chance to go out to eat I try to make it count. I have my favorite dishes at some of the local restaurants and I have to admit, I often order the same thing with little deviation. Like I said, when you need to make it count, you want to make sure you will be happy. So here goes my top bites in Long Beach, Part One, in no particular order.

Los Compadres – Enchiladas Divorciadas. One green, one red enchilada, I could never pick a side as both are great. Los Compadres is the best Mexican Restaurant of all time for me. The food is always great and the service outstanding. I also love the Compadres Margarita. This will be my first “real booze” cocktail once I stop nursing. I have limited myself to beer and wine for 14 months on top of ten months of no drinking at all. This girl deserves a perfect Margarita. They make them with desert pear fruit, sweet and sour with a touch of honey. So good!

Thai Gourmet – Pad Kee Mow. My friend’s Kristina and Alana turned me on to this restaurant. They have really great bargains on their lunch specials menu. Alana ordered this dish and I copied her, I think I have ordered it every time since. It’s stirred flat noodles with chili, bell peppers, snow peas, basil leaves, tomatoes with a delicious brown sauce. The other plus to this place is the sweet and sincere wait staff, they really take care of us and actually entertain my daughter so I can eat. Stella adores them too. It’s one restaurant I am totally confident going with just the toddler, because I know I will actually get to eat my food while it’s hot. You really can’t put a price on that!

Coffee Cup Cafe– Huevos Rancheros. It’s the salsa and the sauce, just so good. I must not be the only one because I found this you tube video of the dish. We try to go during the week if possible as the weekend wait is loooong and not baby friendly. They also only take cash. John always gets the Chicken Chili Verde Omelette, also on You Tube :)

555 East American Steakhouse– Sauteed Mushrooms. These mushrooms have some kind of sherry brown butter sauce, just so good. John loves the steaks, I can go either way on steak and don’t get very excited about it, but these mushrooms sing to me. This place is for a special occasion night and we only go once or twice a year. John might tell me in September that this is what he wants for his birthday in January.

Taco Surf– Brandi Salad after Chips and Salsa. This is basically just a great chicken salad with generous avocado and a yummy dressing. The salsa at Taco Surf is the best salsa anywhere in my book. We also love the grilled fish bowl. It’s cheap and easy and we like sitting on the patio.

Georges Greek CafeChicken Gyro Greek Salad. This has been a favorite for ten plus years. The chicken gyro is so good and that combined with a great greek salad and warm, fluffy pita is a perfect meal. We often get one to go and split it as the portions are really generous.

Frosted Cupcakes– Lemon or Strawberry Cupcake. A regular for birthdays and special occasions. Like for instance, I am craving a cupcake. I have never disliked a cupcake from Frosted, but these two flavors are my top picks.

Lord Windsor Roasters– Coffee for Two. Superb cup of coffee. They make the coffee to order here with a pour over bar method. We have also found this to be a great place for a “pop up quickie almost date” when Stella falls asleep on the way home from somewhere, we stop here and have a cup of coffee while she naps in her stroller. Good coffee and a few minutes peace can make you giddy with joy. See.