a/k/a An American Bistro

I really wanted to like the new a/k/a Bistro in Pasadena, because the building has sat empty for over two years when Gordon Biersch closed their doors.  It’s next to the Gold Cinemas and Il Fornino.  Also, it’s the same owner of Bistro 45  over on Mentor.

Unfortunately, even though it is pretty enough to be a dinner hot spot, the menu lends itself to more of a lunch eating place. Granted it’s bar food, however many establishments in Hollywood are creating magical and innovative bar food dishes. It lacked the zip to want us to run back for more.

The Caprese salad was pretty, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Our friend, Mitch, ordered the a/k/a/ Rueben sandwich that arrived with a tower of steak fries and a thin Rueben sandwich that lacked a lot of meat.

My roasted game hen salad arrived looking like a ladies lunch chicken salad. It was tasty with bulgar, avocado, cucumber, dried fruit with a balsamic lemon vinegar.

However, it isn’t worthy enough to be on a dinner menu. The pasta special lacked clams and only had two small mussels, while the pan seared Scottish salmon was a smaller portion to be listed under “Large Plates.”

For dessert the upside down blueberry tart lacked the tart appearance and was more of a cake and the butterscotch pot du creme was too sweet and didn’t offer enough salt to produce that WOW experience.  I did like the two housemade macaroons.

As we left around 9:15 there were only a handful of patrons dining inside and a few more out on the front patio.  For a Saturday night, I was expecting a larger crowd.  Maybe they need to get the word out that they are open. Or maybe they have and restaurant goers are going somewhere else in Pasadena. 

With food service at the Gold Cinemas, they can’t rely on the movie going crowd to come for a bite to eat before or after the show.  I urge the chef to keep his menu for the lunch crowd and to revamp his menu to appeal for a dinner crowd.  

Food – 2

Price – 2

Service – 3

Ambiance – 3

41 Hugus Alley, One Colorado Plaza (626)564-8111

Celebrity Chef Richard Ruskell

Yesterday I attended a baking class at the Montage Beverly Hills with the “Best Cake Artist in America,” Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell.

Chef Ruskell hosts an intimate baking class on the last Wednesday of every month.  It’s an ideal class for people who say “I can’t do desserts” or “I don’t have time to bake.” YES YOU DO!

Yesterday, we learned how to make Ice Box cookies.  While sipping hot coffee and tea in the Montage Beverly Hills kitchen, we sat at a granite counter top to watch Chef Ruskell whip up Chocolate Chip cookies and Petit Beurre (a little bit of butter) cookies.

We sampled each and received the recipes to take home and prepare them for our families.  The beauty of these cookies is that you can make them, freeze them for up to a month and then take them out to bake for 7-10 minutes.  There is no prep time once you have made a batch.

Sure you can buy store-bought cookies in the refrigerator section, slice them and bake.  However they do not taste at all like Ruskell’s cookies and have you ever looked at the ingredients on the package of those cookies? Yuck, they are filled with preservatives and chemicals.  Ruskell’s Petit Beurre has 5 fresh ingredients: Flour, Almond Flour, Powdered Sugar, Unsalted Butter and Vanilla.  THAT’S IT!

Chef Ruskell grew up in Minnesota and studied Theatre Arts.  He grew tired of sleeping on the floor on a foam mattress in New York City and went to the French Culinary Institute. He is passionate about baking , because it allows him to display his artistic side.

With his latest win on Food Network’s Last Cake Standing, Ruskell was awarded the $100,000 grand prize ast the Best Cake Artist in America.  His cakes are available for the public to purchase for birthday parties, corporate and entertainment events.  Ruskell bakes the opening night cake at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. 

His monthly baking classes aren’t a master class, but a fun class to take away the fear of baking and have fun.

Montage Beverly Hills – 225 N. Canon Dr. Call (310)860-7983.

Free at Office Depot

COMPUTER VIRUS

YIKES! My teenage daughter went on my computer and downloaded a FREE music video. Now my computer won’t open any files. It’s all messed up. I’m so SAD.

I panicked. Then I remembered that Office Depot has a Free computer PC check up. They assess a computer’s performance and security. I drove to the nearest Office Depot in La Crescenta and handed my computer over to Mak and Jose.
As Jose hooked my computer up to the diagnostic scan machine, he said “uh, yep you have a virus.” I knew that. Jose was confident that he could fix it, and get my computer running faster and make her less vulnerable to other virus and spyware attacks.

It would cost $169 to get her up and running smoothly again. At first when I heard that number I balked. Then I thought, well if I took the dog to the vet or one of the girls to their doctor, it would cost that much, so I signed some forms and handed it over to Mak and Jose with the promise that they would be gentle with have it back in 24 hours.

Jose was true to his word and fixed my computer in less than 24 hours. It runs faster, is healthy and virus-free.
Now the consequence for my daughter using my computer….She felt so bad she came up with her own punishment – She gave me $50 to help with the cost of the repair and an IOU to babysit her sister and work around the house for 20 hours. This Sat. night she will be babysitting and the next two weekends she will be staying home.

Free at Pottery Barn

While out in Palm Desert, we walked into a Pottery Barn to look for decorating ideas for our new home. I noticed a sign offering one of their design consultants to come to your home for free and share their expertise on what would make our house sparkle and shine.

I called my local Pottery Barn in Pasadena and spoke with Mary.  We set up an initial consultation in her store. I was told to bring pictures of the rooms I need some advice in decorating.  We spent over one hour talking about my house, colors, furniture and decor needs, while she took copious notes.

Mary will be coming over next week to measure and see my house. All of the items she suggests will be Pottery Barn items, but hey, I’ve always liked their showrooms. They have a Santa Barbara, Ojai feel to them.

To arrange for a free consultation with a Pottery Barn Design Studio Specialists in any of our stores, in your home or over the phone, go to http://www.potterybarn.com/pages/design.html?cm_type=fnav.

Punta Mita – St. Regis Resort

 I’m so excited that my St. Regis Punta Mita article is finally published in the first issue of SoCal Family magazine (May 2011).

I arrived to the resort over one-year ago and discovered one of the most beautiful places on earth and my new favorite vacation destinations.

I dined at the resort’s signature restaurant, Carolina, named after the mother of Colonel John Jacob Astor, founder of the St. Regis hotel in New York. Outside on the terrace, staff members brought out sophisticated telescopes for guests to view the craters of the moon and other planets. Since the resort is located at the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands, the temperature is comfortable and cool year round with the gentle sea breezes.

Instead of following others to one of the outside bars for an after dinner drink, I strolled back to my casita, grabbed the down comforter and soft goose feather pillows off my bed and slept outside . My terrace had a queen size day bed. Sleeping under the stars and listening to the kissing sounds of the geckos lulled me to sleep.

It was a pinch me moment that I will never forget.

The So Cal Mom

I’m a California girl. Born and raised in the Golden State.

After graduating from UCLA, I lived in Malibu and fell in love with the surf, sand and warm sunshine.

Welcome to my California lifestyle. My daily blog will reveal some quintessential opportunities available in Southern California.

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