Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No. 195: Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop (Beverly Hills, Century City)

Waiting Area Sign
May must be a month of salads for me -- on top of a salad being my most memorable dish in New York, I also had the opportunity to sample some pretty amazing tossed greens here in L.A. at a blogger dinner @ Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop in Century City (they also have a location in Beverly Hills.)

I know, salads usually elicits a yawn -- serving as a half-finished precursor to the actual entreé, or an even worse rep as a healthy/diet food - "healthy" being code for "this isn't what I would be ordering if my love handles/blubber butt/thunder thighs didn't have a say in it."
At Greenleaf, however, these are salads worth ordering on the taste factor alone, if anything - its being healthy is more of a noteworthy afterthought. Hell, these are salads I aspire to making at home if I had the time & energy to prep, cook and combine 8-12 different ingredients. The flavors & textures here are balanced, clean, bright and most of all... satisfying, as opposed to one of those entreé salads that leaves me craving an actual entreé afterwards.

We sampled a few made-to-order & prepared salads that evening, and while they all tasted great--these are my definite faves:
Antioxidant Orchard Salad
Antioxidant Orchard - I know, some people have a 'problem' with fruits in their salad, but I don't so I definitely love this vibrant mix that's abundant with strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples and dried cranberries - along with a dose of crisp celery, crunchy walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and pomegranate vinaigrette. Despite all the components, it's not cloyingly sugary -- if anything, the overall fruitiness balances out the tang and the sweet very well and the salad itself was a myriad of delightful textures, from the snappy crunch of the celery & apples to the juicy burst of the berries to the occasional creamy pungence of the cheese.
Lemongrass Chicken Salad
Lemongrass Chicken - their take on the ubiquitous Asian chicken salad, with mango, grilled pineapple, toasted coconut, agave-glazed cashews, thai chili & thai basil with a lemongrass-lychee dressing. Yes, another fruit-forward salad, but again - it's not that sweet and the fruits binds & mellows out the basil and the chili. I also love the cooling and refreshing tropical dressing that adds a decidedly relaxing summer feel to anything it's drizzled on or tossed in!
Wild Mushroom "Pizza"
Wild Mushroom and Truffle "Pizza" - I'm not a big fan of healthified remakes (i.e. if you crave a pizza, eat some pizza & just do it moderation!) but this lighter variation had me sold on the taste alone, even if I hesitate to put it in comparison with an actual pizza. The whole wheat tortilla 'crust' had a pleasant nutty flavor & chewy texture, and the toppings were a nice contrast between the fresh, peppery arugula, intense parmesan shavings and a bold mushroom spread with just a hint of truffle. Of course, the icing on the cake (or pie, rather) is knowing this whole ~10" dish is approx. 400 calories.
Green Lentils & Beets-Yam-Walnut-Goat Cheese Salads
Green Lentils & Beets-Yam-Walnut-Goat Cheese Deli Salads - I'm a lentil lover, but even those at the table who were ambivalent or wary of the stuff gave high praise for this version, which were nicely cooked to an al dente-ish feel with a deeply nutty and earthy flavor brightened up with some herbs. Likewise, the beets & yam salad tasted as colorful as it looked. A little sweet, a little tang, a little creamy and a little crunchy . . . and mostly festive as it all combined in my mouth!

And for those who like to customize, Greenleaf offers a Counter-like menu option where you can build it as you like it with nearly any combination of greens, toppings, proteins, dressings, etc. as you please. But since all those choices tend to paralyze me with indecisiveness - I think I'll stick to their already solid menu of signature dishes (with maybe a tweak or two.)

Finally, to commemorate their recent 3rd anniversary this week (May 31 to June 4, 2011) they're offering specials all week long - including 50% off the entire beer/wine list and gifts for bringing 2 newbies (to make a 3some) to try Greenleaf. So give it a try (with some friends!) if you have the chance to swing by either of their locations -- hope you'll agree that healthy & tasty aren't mutually exclusive with one of their delicious fare (and if you're like me, inspired to whip up some fancy salads @ home yourself!)

What Do Others Say?
- My two compadres @ this blogger dinner, Savory Hunter & Gourmet Pigs, were both pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of the foods here
- LAist praised chefs/co-owners Jonathan Rollo & Kristi Ritchey's ability to "find ways to move from caloric wastelands to tastier, healthier territory."
- Green LA Girl recommends this for anyone who "Wanna order a damn good organic salad for lunch." Enough said
- LA Weekly got a few pointers about pairing beers & wines with salads from Rollo
- Gayot rightly pointed out that "Greenleaf is not just for the health nut . . . a flatiron steak salad and another one inspired by Buffalo chicken wings make things interesting"

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
Beverly Hills
9671 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 246-0756

Century City
1888 Century Park East
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(424) 239-8700


Friday, May 27, 2011

Fugging the June Bon Appetit Cover

I've been subscribing to bon appétit for years, so it takes a lot for me to look @ a cover and go "Ugh!"
Which is exactly what happened with the June issue--
and since one of my other guilty reading pleasures is "Go Fug Yourself" -- I'll take the opportunity to go "Fug the Cover" on this (hopefully that feature isn't trademarked!)

1. Out of all the talented, creative, innovative chefs (and even food personalities) out there -- Gwyneth? Really?!? (yes, channeling a little Weekend Update here.) While I can appreciate that she's an actress who eats pretty well, she's not really a person I turn to for food and cooking advice. In addition to not being a professional (even seasoned amateur is a lofty label,) she wreaks of snooty privileged pretension - easily reflected by her GOOP writings - and she regularly gets into a guilt complex about eating good food (or worse yet, sabotages the traditional recipe with her swaps.)

2. They had Gwyneth eating spaghetti . . . after their debut re-tooled issue being focused on Italy! How 'bout a little more variety next time? Or should I expect to see Batali scarfing a pizza in the July issue? (2a: also, photoshopped much? Notice the difference between her perfectly even toned face & her freckled décolletage.)

3. Gwyneth is a also poor cover choice because anyone in the news biz should've known that she'd be working it up & down the media circus to promote her book. By the time this landed in my mailbox, I've already heard, read and watched her retelling her life story, philosophy on eating, favorite foods & recipes and yadda yadda a gazillion times.

4. Practically all the cover page teasers are totally predictable . . . which is a serious problem if the point is to pique my curiosity and compel me to flip to see what's inside. I felt like Ms. Cleo as my eyes glazed by all of them: Better-than-ice-cream frozen desserts (semi freddos & granitas), farm-fresh diet (CSAs), even the strawberry shortcake sliders (make a sweet biscuit/scone and stack it with the berries & cream) and the crispiest chicken (pan-roasted).

Having said all that about the cover ... the issue's contents are not that bad. There was an impressive feature on shrimps (the different varieties, various preparations and good dose of delicious-sounding recipes,) a delightfully opinionated manifesto with the rules of summer cooking, and a whimsical and inspiring piece on crostini makeovers. And all of them would've made for more intriguing cover promos.

AND, I'll concede, even some of Ms. Goop's recipes are interesting... but I would've much preferred seeing it as just another feature/profile/lifestyle piece rather than the blatantly in-your-face cover. And yes, I get celeb faces sell & that BA is trying to broaden its appeal (and increase circulation) but I hope it won't be at the expense of alienating its core audience of food enthusiasts... lest it wants to get into the much-parodied & -derided Food Network route.

But for now, I'll still give the mag the benefit of the doubt that they're still tinkering & experimenting with their editorial focus. Hopefully it'll be on better ground by the time my subscription comes up for renewal in a few months.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No. 194: Fresheast (West Hollywood)

As much as I like Tender Greens (and I'm still stoked about its upcoming Pasadena opening), I'm so thrilled that West Hollywood has got another healthful fast-casual option - fresheast. And as an added bonus, they are pretty earth-friendly too, using recyclable & biodegradable serving ware (I'm digging the palm leaf plates!)
Miso-Glazed Chicken w Quinoa
One of my favorite dishes there is the Miso Grilled Chicken; yes, my eyes initially glazed over too when I saw the "miso glaze" on the menu, but this is far from the cloyingly thick & sugary sauce @ most places. It's more delicate and refined, with light notes of umami and just a smidgen of sweetness, which works well on the freshly-grilled Jidori chicken thigh pieces that had a pleasantly light crispy char on the outside with an impeccably juicy and moist interior.

And stir-fried vegetables are worth shouting out for too,as they were perfectly cooked, retaining a delightful snappy crunch and its bright-and-vibrant flavors (unlike so many vegetable sides that are overcooked to a bland, soggy mess.) Also love the option to pick your own starch (and the fluffy, poppity quinoa is worth paying the little extra for.) In short, a well-balanced meal that's wholesome, flavorful, affordable and convenient!

And while the miso grilled chicken is one of my consistent faves there; at a media dinner a few months back I also sampled other tasty-yet-healthy fare, including:
Palak Paneer w Brown Rice
Palak Paneer w Red Lentil Daal and Quinoa - one of the better palak paneers around town, it's aromatic without going overboard on the spices (i.e. you can still taste the spinach!) and the paneer are just fluffy, heavenly cubes of cheesiness.
Goa Shrimp w Brown Rice
Goa Shrimp w Tandoori Roasted Vegetables, Raita Dip and Brown Rice - Sounds spicy, but like other dishes, the spices here are more for the fragrance than tastebud-burning. Again, props to the vegetables that tasted as colorful as they looked.
House Red Wine (Front)
Last but not least, their House "Jolie" Bourdeaux-style blend from Paso Robles, which drinkable on its own but it really works its magic when paired with the bolder & spicier dishes (and single/couple-friendly since it's sold by the half-bottle.) And definitely worth trying during their happy hour everyday from 4 to 7 p.m., when this (and all their other wines & beers) are half off!

And while there are quite a few eateries in town that shows healthy can be tasty too, I definitely love the Asian influences fresheast provides -- which is refreshing change of pace from the standard salads, soups, sandwiches and wraps. And you can count on me to be back again, for the Miso Chicken & the Palak Paneer (and maybe discover something new to fold into the regular rotation!)

What Do Others Say?
- Pleasure Palate also thought that Fresheast "a great addition to the West Hollywood dining scene" for its healthy Asian fare.
- The L.A. Restaurant Examiner said this is a "perfect solution" for those "looking for a way to eat healthy without sacrificing taste."
- ShopEatSleep noted that it "offers well-priced meals with quality ingredients, a great option in an otherwise high-priced part of Los Angeles."
- The Actor's Diet simply "love the entire concept behind Fresheast" from the ingredients, to its eco-consciousness, and its meyer lemon & mango sorbets!
- Green LA Girl titled her post about Fresheast "Pan Asian meals made fast, healthy, and green in WeHo." Enough said.
- EstarLA's post is headlined in a similarly obvious manner "Healthful, Conscientious Pan-Asian at Fresh East Is Actually Delicious"
- Quarry Girl gave it her thumbs up too to its vegan-friendly menu, and "honestly can't wait to return."

8951 Santa Monica Blvd- Suite G1
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 859-9989

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe 27: M. Wells Inspired Five-Greens Salad w Buttermilk Dressing

Of course, when I returned from New York City last week -- all my food enthusiast friends have been grilling me for my favorite bites in the Big Apple. And frankly, I'd be hard-pressed for an answer since I had such a diverse dining experience out there that it's really comparing apples to oranges.

Green Salad @ M. Wells
But one definitely inspiring dish was M. Well's innocuous-sounding 'green salad' -- which I shared with Destination Eats for brunch (along with a heftier Seafood Cobbler & Bacon Hash.) While the hash & the cobbler were decent (though unnecessarily heavy, even for upscaled-diner grub!) the salad definitely stood out, a bright myriad of leafy greens and herbs backed by a delicate-yet-rich creamy-and-tangy buttermilk dressing that subtly complements the assorted greens.

What I loved best about this salad is how every identical-looking forkful surprises me with a different pop of flavor, sometimes it's the peppery bite of the arugula, other times I'll get a hint of the refreshing basil, and then later maybe the oniony chives or the savory dill.

Five-Greens Salad w Buttermilk Dressing
As such, this was one salad I definitely looked forward to recreating for my mac 'n cheesy brunch yesterday. I did not use nearly as many greens as the M. Wells version (and honestly, I'm not even sure what were all the different ones they threw in theirs) but I tried to emulate the general flavor profile with my own Five-Greens Mix, and thanks to Food & Wine, adapted a very similar-tasting buttermilk dressing of my own that's pretty much a slam-dunk for ANY salad.

M. Wells-inspired Five Greens Salad w Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 4-6 as appetizer, or 2-3 as entree

Salad Mix
5 oz. Spinach Leaves
5 oz. Arugula Leaves
12 Stalks of Scallions, Coarsely Chopped
Handful of Basil Leaves
Handful of Dill Sprigs, Coarsely Chopped

Buttermilk Dressing (can be made a day ahead)
6 oz. buttermilk
3 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp. lowfat mayonnaise
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. coarsely cracked pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
Five-Greens Salad Being Tossed
One-Step Direction:
1) Whisk together ingredients of the buttermilk dressing, then toss with the salad mix greens just prior to serving. Enjoy!

M. Wells
21-17 49th Avenue,
Long Island City, NY 11101


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