The Food, by Xander
The food on our 4-day Carnival Cruise to Ensenada was fantastic. There were two dining options: you could eat at a food court or a fancy sit-down restaurant (the food was included in the price of the cruise). First the food court: it included a deli, pizza place, celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s gourmet burgers with toppings bar (I liked the smoky bacon bits and sautéed mushrooms), a taco/burrito stand, an ice cream machine, and a lot more. Also, each of these food places changed over for breakfast.
The sit-down restaurants for breakfast and dinners were my favorite because the food was delicious and our servers were extremely nice. The menu changed every night with delicious fancy foods. My two favorite appetizers were alligator fritters and escargot bourguignon. Yum.
The Activities, by Athena
We went on our first cruise in 2014 so this time we had the chance to check out some of the things we didn’t do the first time. We chose to visit many new activities and spots such as the spa. At the back of this area was the gym; after my mom and I worked out a bit, we went into the sauna and the steam room.
Following dinner the second night, we enjoyed the “Divas” show in the main Dynasty Theater (a sing and dance show). In the show, the performers sang and danced to Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna and more. It was very entertaining. On Thursday night, the first day we got on the cruise ship, we watched the Hasbro game show with volunteers from the audience playing games such as “Operation” onstage. It was fun with the British host/cruise director “Matey.”
When our ship (named the “Imagination”) docked at the port of Ensenada on Saturday morning, we took a shore excursion to “La Bufadora” (The Blowhole). Our tour guide Gilberto led our group on the short walk to the natural geyser; we passed many small Mexican shops offering souvenirs and food and “Gil” gave us each a free drink sticker to the Habana Banana! We watched the geyser, which sprays sea water up from a small cave, shopped a bit and had a delicious lunch at the Habana Banana, where we all shared a platter of soft tacos , shrimp and clams. Shortly after lunch, we made our way back up the line of shops and got back on our tour bus to return to the ship.
On Saturday night, we went to a rock ‘n roll show (held in the same cruise theater as the “Divas” show and featured the same performers) except the songs were rock and we watched from the upper balcony seating. My parents also got to have some alone time in the Serenity adult area in the very back area of the ship with two hot tubs and comfy lounge chairs while me, Xander and Troy were one deck above sliding down the waterslides in the mini-waterpark.
My dad and brothers also saw an ice carving show on the Lido deck where a champion ice-carver transformed a block of ice into an Indian-head ice sculpture in just 15 minutes. We also learned how to make towel animals with Matey (a dog and an elephant). The new activities we got to do were so much fun and I thought it was nice to experience some of the things we missed on our first Carnival cruise.
The creation of Michelin star chef Josiah Citrin (who also owns the landmark Melisse in Santa Monica), Venice’s Charcoal is “centered around fire-based cuisine.” Citrin was inspired by the weekend BBQs that he throws in his own backyard for family and friends so he opened this neighborhood spot in December 2015 (everything is cooked indoors over live fire – with charcoal or in the coals).
Celebrating our big two-oh wedding anniversary on April 4, Irene and I felt like friends of the family from the moment our affable server outlined our ordering options. We chose to go small-plate style and share a few dishes (not unlike the recipe that has made our 20-year marriage a successful partnership: always try new things and share, share, share!)
First out of the gate was a mouth-watering venison tartare with a smoked egg yolk topped with charred parsnips. This dish was served with perfectly grilled slices of sourdough bread to hold a spreadful. Wonderful.
Next up was a trio of umami: roasted brussels sprouts, a Certified Angus Beef hanger steak, and a miso cod. The house-made condiments – a smoked paprika mustard chimichurri, a red wine chipotle sauce, a J-1 steak sauce, and a Basque vinegar – were the perfect dipping choices, while the cod’s flaky meat was infused with just the right amount of smoke.
Smoky drinks of choice were a Fumee Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace bourbon, bitters, smoke) for me and a Venice Mule (Rain vodka, ginger kombucha, smoke, lime) for Irene. Keeping the sharing theme going, we also sipped on an espresso cocktail for dessert called the Night Cap. Great food and drink to mark an even greater occasion.
The kiddies had such a good time on their first visit to Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark they requested a repeat visit over the Fourth of July weekend. So we packed a picnic lunch and made the 45-minute drive from West L.A. to basically play the role of Old MacDonald for a few hours. The following is their account of the outing.
Picking Fruits and Veggies, by Athena
As we walked into the enormous field of fruits and vegetables I was so excited and curious about what I was going to pick, taste and see. Although I’ve been to Underwood Family Farms once before, there would be different kinds of fruits and vegetables because it was a different time of year.
First we picked beets, then we kept walking and saw red lettuce, radishes, bok choy, and some more greens. We saw navel orange trees and avocado trees, but sadly they were not ready yet. The raspberries were in season so we picked a lot of them. I liked how when you are picking your fruits and veggies you can eat as many as you want at the same time. I ate so many raspberries because they were so delicious. Then we came upon the strawberries and ate even more.
After that we picked some peppers, a squash, potatoes, green tomatoes and carrots. I had a lot of fun getting the carrots because you pull them right out of the ground and they are so sweet and tasty. We also picked zucchini. I had so much fun and I loved picking the fresh fruits and vegetables like a farmer.
Farm to Table, by Xander
When we got home, I grabbed the fruits and vegetables that we bought, ran into the house and started washing them. We were planning to make a salad with all the vegetables we picked and added some teriyaki steak strips. We also made fried green tomatoes; I sliced all the vegetables such as carrots, American radishes and French radishes.
My mom and Athena cut the lettuce and grilled the steak while my dad and I made the fried green tomatoes in our little Fry Daddy. The fried green tomatoes were complicated because you had to coat them in egg, then a flour coating, and finally the bread crumbs. Then you put them into the fry cooker and wait 3-4 minutes. We all ate the delicious meal together as a family and we all loved Underwood Family Farms!Animals and a Show, by Troy
Besides fruit picking, there was a small area with animals you can feed and a show we saw with four different animals. My brother, sister and I fed several animals such as chickens, ponies and sheep by putting 25 cents into a machine that gave us food for that type of animal. We weren’t allowed to touch the animals, but we could take pictures of the ostriches, goats, bulls, pigs and more.
“The Animal Show” featured four different trained animals. They did tricks like jump over a pole, spin in a circle and give their trainers high-fives. There was an alpaca, a potbelly pig a baby goat and even the farm family’s dog. The two trainers explained some of their traits and history. We got to pet the dog at the end of the show but not any of the others.
To celebrate Miss A’s performance at her gymnastics meet in Las Vegas last weekend, we hit Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR on the Vegas Strip (the “GR” in the name is chef’s initials that fit conveniently into the word, sans the “e” of course)! GReat BurGRs and even GReater all-around weekend! (See what I did there? Using the word “all-around”
saluting the gymnastic theme of the weekend!)
Stepping out onto the balcony, I surveyed the rectangular main gardens below and thought how awesome it was to be back in Rome. But wait, it was actually Malibu and my first visit to the Getty Villa (*EDITORS NOTE: this was a family outing with the kiddies and their cousins; the real Rome was pre-children!)
Adjacent to the Getty Museum, The Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house in Herculaneum, Italy. The building was constructed in the early 1970s by architects who worked closely with J. Paul Getty to develop the interior and exterior details. Inside on two floors are antiquities collections and changing exhibitions as well as outdoor herb gardens and fountains. The cousins particularly enjoyed the Family Forum room for a little hands-on discovery: role-playing with foam swords, shields and headgear in front of a projection screen, and using dry erase markers to decorate replica urns and bowls.
Also worth noting is the indoor/outdoor Café that serves casual Mediterranean-inspired fare (beer & wine are also available). I was compelled to relay my compliments to the kitchen after lunch: my Villa Burger ($14.95) with crispy onions, Emmental Swiss, sherry gastrique, arugula, roasted garlic & pepper aioli on a Brioche Bun (with a side of shoestring garlic fries) was one of the best gourmet burgers I have ever had.
To reserve a time and arrange for your complimentary tickets, go to http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/index.html (parking is $15).
Paired with a full-service butcher shop where guests can order custom cuts or choose from a variety of grab-n-go fare next door, Belcampo Restaurant features rustic, meat-centric California cuisine and farm-inspired craft cocktails. On this “dating anniversary” occasion, Irene and I shared a grilled beef heart app, a lamb burger, a French dip “éclair” with bone broth jus, and the roasted brussels sprouts – all umami to the max.
The Genwa dinner date was arranged by our good friends who love to “park” themselves at a good Korean BBQ place. Seated at a table with a state-of-the-art, smokeless gas grill set in the middle, we cooked up a selection of thinly sliced cuts of meat, the bulgogi being my personal favorite.
I’ve been to a handful of Korean BBQ spots but never have I seen such an array of the small accompaniments that are placed around the circular grill as here (more than two dozen) – from kimchi (fermented Napa cabbage) to lotus root and Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). The Bibimbap (sizzling rice) was also the best I’ve had thus far. Then there’s a unique touch when the check arrives: lollipops on long sticks for each guest (that we brought home for T, A & X).
Our clan is a good fit for Urban Plates and Lyfe Kitchen – much like the two fast-casual restaurants are well-suited for the health conscious, entrepreneurial residents they serve at The Runway mixed-use complex at Playa Vista.
Ordering, paying, grabbing a table, digging into your savory food, and splitting as soon as you’re done is a great set-up that is growing in appeal for me (there’s also Hop Doddy Burger Bar just a half block down from these two spots that utilizes the same approach). Urban Plates has various stations where you slide your tray cafeteria-style and watch the cook prepare hand-tossed salads, hand-carved sandwiches, flatbreads and other various comfort foods. Like Hop Doddy we’ve been here twice and chose communal high-top tables for our size group, sampling each other’s dinners both times: Moroccan Chicken Braise, Asian Chicken Salad, BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, Margherita Pizzette, mac & cheese and an Urban Kids Plate with grilled steak, one hot or cold side and a chargrilled focaccia.
And it was 10 enthusiastic thumbs up for Lyfe Kitchen, where the food and drink is a bit more organic. Co-owned by Top Chef Masters alum Art Smith (we tried LK for the first time at its Culver City location), my Faye’s Grilled Cheese ranks up there with one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had, with its house-made pimento cheese, thinly sliced tomato, arugula and sprinkled with parmesan (459 calories/620 mg sodium); at six bucks, this was a good value so I went for the sweet potato fries on the side for $2 more. A varied menu features everything from “Shareables” like Spicy Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and an Edamame Hummus Plate to “Handhelds & Sides” like Mahi Fish Tacos and Roasted Brussels & Squash. “Little Lyfers” can choose from a handful of dishes including pancakes and “Unfried Chicken Strips.”
Talk about a place that has it all – inventive food, excellent service, laid-back atmosphere, hip local vibe – Superba Food+Bread (yes I’m about to go there) is superb-a.
We took Irene here for an early breakfast to kick off her festivities-filled Mother’s Day and it was a hit from start to finish: service was spot-on and our server gifted Irene with a house-made bag of granola to mark the special day at the end of the meal.
All of our uniquely-conceived dishes were equally delicious, including a Croque Madame featuring the sunnyside egg set into the top of the bread and boasting a smoked ham, gruyere and tomato bechamel mix, and a “Hangtown Fry” with soft scrambled eggs, mushrooms, onions, bacon, potatoes, chilis and a crispy oyster.
We sat at a corner banquette (the space is divided into indoor/outdoor dining areas separated by a garage door) with an outward view of all the action going on under the high, exposed-beam ceiling; for guests on the go, there’s a baked goods-filled case along the south side of the restaurant where they can quickly choose a baked-on-premises item, grab a cup of coffee and park themselves at communal seating in the front instead of getting table service.
Locals from the neighboring sidestreets must love walking over to this cool spot (there’s also another location at The Point in El Segundo).
Two “tasty,” two very “enterprising” and one just a “hop” skip and a jump away — that definitely sums up a handful of recent dining out experiences for the Lippmans:
Ingo’s Tasty Diner (www.ingostastydiner.com) Our first visit here was for Irene’s birthday with the kiddies and it was so very tasty that we returned a couple of weeks later for a Happy Hour at their bar counter. Seated there, we sipped on a trio of bourbon, gin/cucumber and tequila concoctions and pointed out two accoutrements not normally glimpsed behind the counter of a traditional diner: a rotisserie chicken roaster and Lazy Susan displays with mini bottles of bitters, etc., that the bartenders use for their cocktail recipes. Love the cozy atmosphere and dim lighting; at our birthday-outing booth, we dug into a white fish club sandwich (me), a Paris Texas burger with bacon and cheddar (Xander), tuna tartare (Miss A), “Greek-Town” style thin-shaved leg of lamb (Irene) and chicken noodle soup (Troy, who was dealing with the aftermath of a tooth extraction), all items ranging from $9 to $17.
Enterprise Fish Company (www.enterprisefishco.com) Located between Main and Pacific just north of Rose Ave., this 35+ year-old seafood restaurant is housed in a historic 1917 brick building. We also hit this place twice, each time with the kiddies. On the first visit, we raised $1 oyster shooter toasts to Troy’s 12th birthday among other reduced price happy hour bites. When our check arrived, we were handed a sealed envelope with instructions not to open until we returned for our next visit. Enter the “enterprising” aspect: after finishing our lunch (including a delicious tuna melt, a spicy shrimp po-boy sandwich and hearty Manhattan clam chowder), the manager opened our envelope to reveal the prize – 15% off our check (no such luck on snagging the top cash discount of $100!).
Hopdoddy Burger Bar (www.hopdoddy.com) A burgers and beer spot in the fast-casual style that is so popular these days (order, choose a seat and the food is brought to your table), Hopdoddy satisfies on all levels. The burgers (“from humanely-raised cows, never ever given growth hormones or antibiotics” says the menu) are a very nice quality on egg buns, and the price is right: the men had burgers (my “Classic” with the add-on of a fried egg); the girls split an ahi tuna burger with pickled ginger, sprouts and honey wasabi that was equally solid (there are also lamb, turkey and vegetarian selections), and we all shared a large order of Kennebec fries that spilled out from a paper cone onto a metal mini cookie sheet. Some of us dipped our fries into the BBQ/ketchup called “Sassy Sauce” that came with the burgers (priced from $7 to $12.50). There are also three kinds of dinner salads and a variety of shakes. Irene and I washed our meals down with a beer – my El Segundo Blue House IPA served in a frosty schooner. Gotta go back to try the “Little Larry” – a mini-classic frozen margarita topped with Grand Marnier. This place is a definitely a keeper — and just a short drive south from us in Playa Vista.
By Troy Lippman, 6th Grader
We recently had a cheese tasting day in my French class at the end of our food unit, where we learned some of the basic/common French foods. We tried six cheeses: Comte, Emmental, Bucheron, Roquefort, Brie and Camembert. There were also sides including bread, grapes and apple cider. My personal favorite was the Comte because it was delicious and had a delicate taste. I really enjoyed all of the cheeses except for the Roquefort because it was very smelly and the taste was pungent (we rated all the cheeses on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best).
Overall it was great tasting cheeses I wasn’t familiar with and had lots of fun doing it. I recommend it for all families out there – you will have a lot of fun too! In fact, I had a cheese tasting party with my family on Valentine’s Day because they loved the story I told them about the one in my class and how I had so much fun with it.
Viva la fromage!
Top: The Lippmans’ first-ever “Snackadium” creation for the big game: guacamole field with sour cream yardlines, queso dip & salsa end zones and mini Slim Jim goal posts fashioned together with toothpicks — surrounded by bite-size salami & cheese on a baguette, a trio of veggies and assorted chips (in football-shaped bowls, of course, and raised up with foam building blocks for that stadium seating effect!)…And since most venues seem to have corporate sponsors these days, we made In ‘N Out Burger ours.
Middle: Field view close-up
Bottom: Aerial view from the Goodyear iPhone
Immediately after checking in via tablet at the entrance to MINIUSA’s downtown L.A. HQs and grabbing a smokey whiskey cocktail from Greenbar Craft Distillery (made from hand-pressed organic produce), I knew we were in for a unique gathering introducing the new Clubman series to an invitation-only crowd.
Inside, it was a salute to local craftsmanship; with a jazz ensemble providing a soundtrack at the far end of the space, guests visited a mix of L.A.-based artisans’ exhibits, including Graf + Lantz and Chocovivo. Irene did a chocolate tasting at the latter and had monogrammed leather luggage tags made at the former that she picked up at the end of the event. Meanwhile, I sampled beers from Eagle Rock Brewery and browsed some furniture made from repurposed/reclaimed materials by Fort Goods.
“This is an event about sharing not just what we make but why we make it, about being inspired and passing it on. A Mini isn’t just made, it’s crafted,” said an event promo.
Indeed, the “Mini Reinvented” event was a story about craftsmanship, “not a story told by a brand to its consumers but one told by a community to its members,” as the promo went on to say. “It’s about turning a day of work into a work of art.”
After about an hour of mingling and sampling a variety of circulated hors d’oeuvres, we moved to the showroom, where the Clubman was unveiled. Irene posed a few options-related queries to one of the Mini reps and a few moments later I spotted her looking a little too comfortable behind the wheel of a sporty Mini Cooper convertible.