Vanilla Bake Shop, Los Angeles

Vanilla Bake Shop

I really wish there were enough hours in a day to get everything I wanted done. Between work and travels, I just haven't had the time to share all of the other great meals I have had in San Diego and L.A.

I'm back in Ottawa but am leaving for Germany tomorrow, so I'll leave you with this post before I head off to the land of brats and beer. I'm meeting a friend in Nuremburg for a few days so it should be fun. There's a really cool restaurant that I want to eat at, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'll be sure to share if I do get to eat there.

My second and last breakfast while in L.A. was at a wonderful cupcake shop called Vanilla Bake Shop. Funny thing is that I don't really like eating cupcakes, I just like buying them. The Vanilla Bake Shop cupcakes were so beautifully decorated that I couldn't resist taking actually I take that back, six home with me. They reminded me of little, adorable orphan puppies looking for a home.

Vanilla Bake Shop Cupcakes

What's great is that Vanilla sells their cupcakes in miniature sizes. They call them cupcake babies, and you can easily eat a cupcake with little or no guilt, or do as I did, buy a bunch of cupcake babies to sample. The cupcakes were tiny and could be eaten in 2 bites. If you really wanted, you'd probably be able to stuff the entire cupcake in your mouth!

Aside from the beautiful presentation, their cupcakes were moist and tasty. I'm not one for a lot of icing, but I find it's required to make a good lookin' cupcake.

Here's a run down of the flavors I bought. Don't mind some of the photos. The icing on some of them got ruined from the packaging, and I basically devoured them as soon as I bought them so the photos are somewhat half assed.

We were in L.A. the same weekend as the Academy Awards, so it was only natural that we bought an Oscars cupcake.

We got to check out the Kodak Theatre and see how they prepared for the big night. It was kind of neat being in L.A. knowing that all these celebrities were in the same city, and probably not far from where we were staying in Beverly Hills.

Oscars 2009

The Oscar's cupcake was a chocolate cake with a big, gold candy star on top.

Oscars Cupcake

The Vanilla Bean cupcake was the most aesthetically pleasing to me. I loved the layered colors of pink and white, and the use of the sprinkles and the candy bead created different textures at each layer. This cupcake was a creamy vanilla bean cake with a Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean frosting.

Vanilla Bean Cupcake

The next cupcake was the Southern red velvet cupcake. I've never understood the excitement over red velvet cake. People, it's just food coloring! Nonetheless, I ordered it because it is one of their most popular cupcakes, and because CK kept telling me to order it...I know, I succumbed to food pressure!

I've always wondered, is it the 'red color' that tastes good, or the combination of the cake and the sweet cream cheese frosting together? If it is the red that tastes good, how can a color taste good? These are the things I ponder over.

It's hard to see the red cake in this photo, and I probably should have taken a photo after my first bite to show the inside, but really, how can a girl think straight when she's hungry!?

Southern Red Velvet Cupcake

This was my favorite tasting cupcake: the bittersweet dark chocolate cupcake. I loved the sprinkles, and the lack of frosting. It was a dark chocolate cake with a small amount of bittersweet chocolate frosting, and wonderful little chocolate sprinkles.

Bittersweet Dark Chocolate Cupcake

I thought the mint chocolate cupcake was for sure going to be my favorite. I love mint and chocolate together, but this one disappointed me. It's one of those things where you have such high expectations that you end up getting disappointed because your expectations weren't met. The only mint part was the icing, and since I don't like icing, there wasn't much mint for me to enjoy. This was a dark chocolate cake with a creamy white mint frosting and semi sweet Callebaut chocolate chips

Mint Chocolate Cupcake

My favorite cake of all time is strawberry shortcake, so when I saw a strawberries & cream cupcake, I made that connection, and picked it out right away. This was a vanilla bean cake with fresh whip cream and strawberries.

Strawberries and Cream Cupcake

The verdict? thumbs up. Not only do their cupcakes look great, but they taste great too. Cupcake babies are not the only things they sell. They do offer regular size cupcakes, and other great desserts such as tiramisu and banana pudding. Some of their desserts do come in miniature size that are served in plastic shot glasses.

I'll be sure to share the rest of my California meals and recipes as soon as I can.

Tschüss und bis bald!

Vanilla Bake Shop
512 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, California, USA
Telephone: 310-458-6644

Cupcake Menu

Vanilla Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Little Gordon: Gordon Ramsey's Mini Me

This little boy may look sweet and innocent, but he is in fact a vulgar, potty mouthed, British a**hole!

While taking a break from my writings about my weekend in L.A., I came across these promotional videos on You Tube. It is a character called Little Gordon, Gordon Ramsay's twin but 40 years younger! These videos are hilarious, and were created by a restaurant recruiting firm to promote jobs in the hospitality industry. My favorite video is the second one where Little Gordon is out to dinner with his parents for their anniversary dinner.

Little Gordon - Part 1, Making Lunch with Mom

Little Gordon - Part 2 , Anniversary Dinner with Parents

Little Gordon - Part 3 , School cafeteria lunch

When Gordon Ramsay saw these videos, he tracked down the little boy, flew him and his family to L.A., and signed Little Gordon to appear on his shows, Hell's Kitchen USA, and the F-Word. More information can be found in this article.
Not a bad career start for a 9-year old.

Carney's Restaurant, Los Angeles


I couldn't help but be charmed by Carney's Restaurant. Who wouldn't want to eat a burger in a train car on the Sunset strip in LA?

Carney's is a casual family owned fast food restaurant that serves burgers and hot dogs in a 1920's Amtrack passenger car. Their menu is more extensive than that, but people mainly come here for their dogs, burgers, and chili.

Carney's 2

Their hot dogs have won awards, and there's a sign in the restaurant that says they won the title for "best hot dogs in LA 2007".

With all the hype about their hot dogs, I couldn't help but stop in for a quick bite.

I ordered the New Yorker hot dog. A dog with sauerkraut and messin' around! Their buns were SUPER soft, and their dogs were juicy with a tight casing. The hot dog tasted good and it was also super cheap...BONUS.

Carney's New Yorker Hot Dog

CK ordered an old fashioned hamburger. He didn't mind it but it definitely didn't fill him up. I was too busy enjoying my hot dog, and never got a chance to try his burger.

Carney's Hamburger

If you want good, cheap fast food that is not your usual chain like McDonald's, Carney's is a good bet.

Carney's Restaurant
8351 W Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, California, USA
Telephone: 323-654-8300


Carney's on Urbanspoon

Paulette Macarons, Los Angeles

Paulette Macarons

I have to confess, my breakfasts weren't exactly the healthiest on this trip. While I tried to feel bad about it, I just didn't care. How can you when there are so many amazing bakeries available? This past weekend, I ditched the whole wholesome breakfast idea, and packed my body with sugar and sweet goodies instead.

My breakfast Saturday morning was at Paulette Macarons.
My first experience with a macaron was awful. The cafe I was at sold me stale macarons that had possibly been sitting on the shelf for weeks. There was hardly any flavor, and the meringue part was hard as a rock. I had nothing to compare it to, so based on that experience, I hated macarons. Perplexed as to why people always raved about them, I decided these cute little desserts deserved a second chance.

Boy, am I ever glad I tried them again! The moment I bit into a Paulette Macaron, I instantly and fully understood why people are in love with these wonderful, little Parisian treats. Once you break into the hard meringue shell, you get this delightful sandwich of creamy goodness wedged in between a soft, chewy meringue.

Sicilian Pistachio Macaron

Sweet Wedding Almond Macaron

I purchased a bag of 6, and wished I had gotten more. They are about $19/dozen, and trust me, it is worth the money!

Macarons 3

This store was like a beautifully painted canvas, where the macarons served as the artist's paint. It was a colorful macaron wonderland in there. I wanted to slowly absorb everything the store had to offer before diving into my order.


Starting with the purple macaron and moving clockwise, here are the flavors I had: violet cassis, sweet wedding almond, coconut, Sicilian pistachio, Jasmine tea, and Colombian coffee.

Macarons 2

Every macaron tasted exactly like what they were supposed to, and were bursting with flavor.

Below is my short personal rating. Since everyone has their own tastes, you'll have to discover these for yourselves.

Violet cassis: 4/5, a nice floral taste.
Sweet wedding almond: 5/5, I love almonds, so this rocked!
Coconut: 3/5, A strong coconut taste, almost a little too strong.
Sicilian pistachio: 3/5, nice flavor. It was very green.
Jasmine tea: 4/5, nice subtle flavors with a hint of floral taste.
Colombian coffee: 2/5, I love coffee but I just didn't feel the vibes.

If you can't make it L.A. but are in the Bay area, Paulette Macarons also has a store in San Francisco on Hayes Street.

Paulette Macarons
9466 Charleville Boulevard at Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California, USA
Telephone: 310-275-0023

Macaron Flavors

Paulette Macarons on Urbanspoon

Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles

Osteria Mozza

Iron Chef America is the reason I became addicted to The Food Network. I remember watching an Iron Chef America marathon into the late wee hours of the night. I kept telling myself that as soon as they revealed the next secret ingredient, I would go to bed. Of course, I wasn't satisfied with just knowing what the secret ingredient was, so I would wait until the first commercial, then it became the second commercial, then until the dishes were plated, and get the idea. Before I knew it, the next episode was just about to start, and the cycle would start all over again.

CK and I took an AWESOME trip to L.A. this weekend, and we managed to get reservations at Iron Chef Mario Batali's Italian restaurant, Osteria Mozza. I didn't choose this restaurant because of Mario Batali, but because they offered a mozzarella bar. I had read about a few opening up in NYC, and have been meaning to try one ever since.

The service at Osteria Mozza was excellent. Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and was eager to impart her knowledge to us. We arrived 35 minutes late for our reservation due to L.A. traffic, and the hostess was kind enough to squeeze us in.

Our meal began with a complimentary small dish that consisted of crostini topped with ricotta, black olive tapenade, and basil. This was extremely flavorful, and it helped settle our hunger.

Crostini with Ricotta

CK and I ordered a few dishes and shared them all.

The mozzarella bar offers a selection of mozzarella that ranges from burrata (mozzarella with cream in the middle) to bufala mozzarella (water buffalo mozzarella) to burricotti (mozzarella with ricotta in the middle).

We sampled two mozzarella dishes. The first was the burrata with leeks vinaigrette, and mustard breadcrumbs. The cheese was chewy on the outside and creamy and soft on the inside. The crispy breadcrumbs with the soft cheese created a very interesting texture. We found the mustard just a tad overpowering in this dish.

Burrata with Leeks Vinaigrette and Mustard Breadcrumbs

The second was the bufala mozzarella with shell beans, oven dried tomatoes & basil pesto. This was an amazingly smooth and soft cheese. We preferred this over the burrata as it had a much fresher taste. The mozzarella is best eaten with a smudge of pesto. Eating it with the tomatoes or beans will mask the taste of the sweet mozzarella.

Bufala Mozzarella Beans, Pesto, and Roasted Tomatoes

Our antipasti was the grilled octopus with potatoes, celery, and lemon. The grilled octopus was charred nicely on the surface, and was tender on the inside. The texture of their octopus is different from what you would expect. They tenderize their octopus by braising it in olive oil and chilies before grilling it. This created a neat, melt in your mouth texture.

Grilled Octopus with Celery and Lemon

I wanted to try the calf's brain pasta, but CK just couldn't stomach the idea. In the end, we compromised on the tagliatelle with oxtail ragù with grated pecorino on top. The oxtail ragu was delicious and the pecorino added extra saltiness to the dish.

Tagliatelle and Oxtail Ragu

Our last dish was the grilled leg of lamb with insalata di fregola sarda, mint & yogurt. The lamb was prepared medium rare, and the mint and yogurt was a perfect pairing.

Grilled Leg of Lamb

Our meal ended with a cornetto alla mandorla. It was a refreshing dessert that was an almond croissant served with yogurt gelato, sauteed blood oranges and clementines. This was a simple dessert, but it was amazingly tasty. CK wasn't in the mood for dessert but ended up eating half of mine. The yogurt gelato had a nice sour flavor, and the oranges and clementines had a warm, sweet, syrupy coating.

Cornetto Alla Mandorla

I highly recommend this place. All the dishes were executed well, and the mozzarella bar added a unique experience.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, California, USA
Telephone: 323-297-0100


Osteria Mozza on Urbanspoon

The Mission, San Diego

The Mission, San Diego

I love discovering neighborhood cafes and restaurants, especially if the ambiance is charming and the food is good.

CK and I wanted a quick lunch where we didn't have to travel far, so we ventured around the corner to The Mission in Mission Beach for lunch. Although The Mission is better known for it's all day breakfast menu, we both decided to try something from their lunch menu. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.

If you're into eclectic, healthy, fresh ingredients, with an international flare, then this place is for you. Besides the vegetarian thing, the food here reminded me a lot of my meal at Naam in Vancouver.

I've been very curious about tamales lately. I've never tried one before, but the word just screams 'FUN' to me. I've also been stumbling upon tamales in blogs, and TV shows I've read and seen recently. On top of that, my friend J holds an annual tamale making party that he raves about.

A Mexican tamale is typically steam-cooked corn dough wrapped in a corn husk. You do not eat the corn husk, it is strictly used for steaming or cooking. Tamales can be plain or stuffed with meats and cheeses.

My lunch was the vegetarian tamale with roasted salsa verde. Salsa verde is a tangy salsa made up of tomatillos, jalapeños, and white onions. The tamales were served with black beans, rice, and salad on the side.

Vegetarian Tamale 2

Although the tamales were not stuffed with anything, they were packed with a lot of flavor. The corn dough produced a wonderful sweet taste.

Vegetarian tamale with salsa verde

I also had a mocha with my meal.

Mocha at The Mission

CK ordered the Indo Chine Double Happiness Bowl. This was a DELICIOUS dish that was full of flavor. The presentation was also colorful and fun. I definitely had food envy, and ate a good amount of CK's food. The Happiness Bowl is grilled brown rice with zucchini squash, sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, topped with a choice of two meats, and lightly drizzled with a peanut sauce. CK chose beef and shrimp for his meats.

Indo Chine Double Happiness Bowl

The Mission
3795 Mission Boulevard
San Diego, California, USA
Telephone: 858-488-9060


Mission Cafe on Urbanspoon

Corvette Diner, San Diego

Corvette Diner

Whether or not you like the food here, this is a FUN place to eat! Corvette Diner is a 50's style diner that will take you back in time. They've got the 50's thing down to a tee. Not only is the restaurant covered with 50's decoration, but the waiters wear their hair greased back, and the waitresses are in poodle skirts with retro hairstyles.

Eating here was like a scene in a movie. EVERYONE was genuinely having fun. The staff was bopping to the old school music, and there was a DJ in a booth taking song requests, announcing birthdays, and playing games with the customers. At one point, the wait staff all got up to do "The Roach Dance" for everyone. All the customers were clapping along, and everyone was smiling. When the Chicken Polka song came on, a train of kids were travelling across the restaurant dancing. It was surreal.

When we were seated, we were greeted by a handful of straws being thrown at us. This made me laugh.

When I saw deep fried spicy pickles on the menu, I HAD to try it. I had never had it before, but always heard good things about it. These pickles were lip smackin good!

Deep Fried Spicy Pickles

When you break through the crispy batter, a scrumptious crunchy, sour pickle coated with a whole lot of spiciness is revealed. This was served with a ranch dipping sauce.

Deep Fried Spicy Pickle Revealed

We couldn't go to a diner and not order shakes. I chose the Elvis shake and CK had the coffee shake. The Elvis shake was banana, peanut butter, and marshmallow all shook up. Every sip had me making a fish face, and I got chunks of peanuts and banana every time.

Elvis Shake and Coffee Shake

My main meal was the buffalo blues burger, which had a spicy buffalo sauce, crumbles of blue cheese, lettuce, tomato & onion. This was ok. I could hardly taste the spicy buffalo sauce, and was a little disappointed by that. Because of the lack of sauce, I found the blue cheese and onion a little too over powering.

Buffalo Blues Burger

Buffalo Blues Burger 2

CK ordered the HOH BURGER: lettuce, tomato, chipotle sauce, mozzarella cheese, fried onion, and fried jalepeno. He found the burger a little dry, and the meat not flavored enough.

HOH Burger

The ending to our meal was similar to our greeting. Instead of straws being thrown at us, it was Bazooka bubble gum.

Bazooka Joe

The food here is mediocre. However, I do recommend that you check out this place for its entertainment value. This is also a super kid-friendly place.

3946 5th Avenue
San Diego, California, USA
Telephone: 619-542-1476

Vosges Haut-Chocolat: Black Pearl Bar and Red Fire Bar

Vosges Red Fire Bar and Black Pearl Bar

While wandering through Whole Foods Market in Hillcrest, San Diego, I came across this wonderful wall of chocolates that resembled a complete set of exotic, rare, collectible books waiting to be discovered.

It was so enticing that I had to pick some up to try. What I'm referring to are the exotic candy bars made by Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Vosges has marketed themselves as a high end exotic chocolate retailer. The bulk of their boutiques are in Chicago, where the founder Katrina Markoff is from, and Markoff personally chooses each spice and flower that go into Vosges chocolates.

Vosges chocolates are not just chocolates. They take you on a journey around the world through their use of rare herbs, fruits, and spices. Vosges Haut-Chocolat has also partnered with different companies to create inspiring sets such as yoga + chocolate, cheese + chocolate, and beer + chocolate.

My exotic choices were the Red Fire Bar and Black Pearl Bar.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

The Black Pearl Bar is dark chocolate infused with wasabi, ginger, and black sesame seeds. I have to warn you, this is not a chocolate bursting with flavor so don't gobble these down and expect to taste everything it encompasses. Instead, the flavors are very subtle and delicate. You need to take small bites, and savor the flavors. Besides the crispy black sesame seeds, the other flavors were so subtle, I would have missed it if I didn't concentrate as hard as I did :-)

The Vosges tasting notes describe the flavors well, "Commence with the taste of ginger, followed by earth cacao notes, mellow wasabi reminiscent of coriander and finish with black sesame seeds, rich in nutty texture".

Vosges Black Pearl Bar

The Red Fire Bar was a different experience. I tasted the flavors instantly, and enjoyed this one much more. It contains Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies, and Ceylon cinnamon.
Here are the tasting notes "Taste the sweet cacao, fruity and acidic with spice rounding out the finish. Feel how the chillies warm you after each bite".

Vosges Red Fire Bar

These Vosges exotic chocolate bars are gluten free, dairy free, and vegan friendly.