Archive for March, 2011

As Spring Has Sprung, Weekend Strawberry Tours Have Begun.

March 30th, 2011 2 comments

Can you believe the weekend Strawberry Tours have already begun at Tanaka Farms?  Time flies by too fast, but I’m happy to see it again.  We went last year and loved the experience.

OC Fair Culinary Arts Competition: On Your Mark, Get Set, Now Enter.

March 29th, 2011 No comments

You may NOW enter the Culinary Arts Competition happening at the 2011 Orange County Fair.  You have from today until June 1, 2011 to enter online.  Each adult entry is $5, and if under 18 the entry fee is $3 — As a win-win incentive, an OC Fair ticket is provided with each entry.  It pays to enter the contests at the Fair, since it costs a little more to get in.  See you there!

Hampton’s Restaurant At The Four Seasons Hotel In Westlake Village.

March 28th, 2011 No comments

Our Guest Blogger, Bonnie sure knows how to pick the cool places.  She recently stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, where she dined at Hampton’s Restaurant with two long-time friends.  When she returned, she said she had one of the best nights of her life.  Wow!  It was a magical explosion of great food, excellent service, beautiful surroundings, good friends, special tours, lots of drinks, laughs and a million dollar wedding to crash, that made her visit so amazing.  I love nights like that.  She reports about it as follows…

As it turns out, you don’t have to go back east to experience the headiness of the Hampton’s Restaurant. All you have to do is visit its namesake restaurant at the stunning Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California. You won’t be disappointed.

Hampton’s recently introduced two new extravaganzas – on Friday evenings, you can enjoy their “Seafood Sensation” buffet, featuring fresh lobster, chilled crab claws, shrimp and sushi. On Saturday nights, they offer the “Prime Time” buffet, which is what we opted for.

Prior to the food, let me share the setting… The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the hotel, right in front of their fantastic waterfalls. It’s the waterfalls that make this hotel a stand out and luckily for us, we got a “prime” seat with the best view of this delightful, romantic feature.

Once seated, we were immediately introduced to the Hotel’s “Ambassador,” Manager Thomas Humphrey, who graciously treated us to a private tour of the restaurant.

First, we visited the salad buffet. Mind you, this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill salad buffet – it’s all locally grown by long time farmers in the nearby community of Camarillo. Moving on to the manned carving station, this is where they showcase a rotating selection of organic and sustainable meats such as chicken, pork and prime rib, which are roasted,  grilled, barbecued and slow cooked to perfection.

Then we moved into the kitchen “arena,” where the centerpiece attraction is a mind-blowing 2 ½ ton Bonnet Maestro range, custom made in France for the sum of $250,000 – a quarter of a million dollars! And this hotel is home to not just one, but four of them. Do the math, and you will come up with a pretty heavy-duty investment in “ovens.”

Next we toured the pastry station, which is manned by Chef Laufer, and the interactive Chef’s stations for their made-to-order macaroni and cheese and baked potatoes. Incredible! And as if that’s not enough, when we went back and sat down at our table, they brought out three sizzling skillets with our very own filets in them. Dessert followed, and it all amounted to one of the most amazing, interactive meals we have ever had.

P.S. After closing down Hampton’s, we crashed a wedding at the Hotel that must have cost as much as they invested in their ovens!  Check out the cake.

Thanks Bonnie — I wish I’d been there!

What Came First, The Cow Or The Milk? Facebook Came After The Friends.

March 27th, 2011 No comments

Obviously the cow came before the Milk, as I Need Text Company (“INTC”) came before Nibbles of Tidbits.  Freelance Writing Services continue to be available by way of INTC, as Nibbles of Tidbits thrives.  A Nibbles of Tidbits Facebook Page was created to bifurcate our presence there — If you “Like” Nibbles of Tidbits fka “Fan” (A FB name change: It’s less committal, 😉 ), I may Like you too.  I get the change, I’m not a fan of many things, but like a lot.  I’d be more apt to like YOU.  Aside from all that, inquire within regarding professional writing services.

Maggie likes Nibbles of Tidbits.

In contrast to our new-fangled fork on Facebook, the Vintage Milk Truck serves to connect the post title and highlight a historical relationship with Milk.  All are presented to establish capability and experience, with more to be learned at INTC — And to celebrate creative freedom here on Nibbles of Tidbits.  It’s a balanced association, amply liberated for your benefit too.  Though I sometimes resemble Mr. Bill, the words are King.

My Play-Doh face, modeled by Chef Lexi the day all photos were taken.

Luxury Camping: Palm Springs Bound With Lots Of Snacks On Board.

March 25th, 2011 No comments

Boursin Cheese from scratch, Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts, homemade Hummus, Mimosas and more are bound for Palm Springs in a (thankfully) giant, comfortable motorhome for warmer weather and family fun.  The above photo was taken while BBQ’ing Hot Dogs on a previous “camping” trip, if we can call it that, on the cliffs of South Carlsbad.  Enjoy the weekend rain, snow or shine.  Traveling mercies. 🙂

Homemade Flour Tortillas: Conquered With A Bad Recipe.

March 24th, 2011 No comments

I made Flour Tortillas for the first time, but chose the wrong recipe, which seems to have a bad Flour to Vegetable Shortening/Lard ratio.  Not enough Flour (2 1/2 Cups) for the (10 Tbsps) of Shortening noted.  After comparison to other Flour Tortilla recipes, it’s obvious they would turn out too greasy.  I’m not sure how/why the recipe worked so well for the esteemed blogger, because it didn’t work for me, aside from how it may look posted here. 

It was recommended that I use Lard instead of Vegetable Shortening, but after visiting three stores that didn’t carry it, I opted for Crisco.  I don’t think the use of Lard would have improved this recipe, but next time I’ll give it a fair try using less tablespoons.  Although the noted measurements didn’t work well, the ingredients and steps to create future Flour Tortillas are generally the same as posted.

Start with Flour.

Add Baking Powder and Salt.

Add Vegetable Shortening or Lard.

Cut Shortening/Lard into Flour, Baking Powder and Salt combination.

Cut mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Gettin’ there.

Add Hot Water to mixture.

Stir mixture together, then knead Dough until it becomes a cohesive ball that’s less sticky.

Let Dough rest for about an hour, then divide into ping pong size balls and let rest again.

Roll out each between two sheets of plastic to form Flour Tortillas.

Cook each in a dry skillet for about 50 seconds per side.  The recipe notes to cook the Tortillas for 20 – 30 seconds each side, but it wasn’t long enough to obtain the desired brown specks.

Doesn’t the above Tortilla look like a fish?

They look good, but didn’t taste that great.

Our homemade Corn Tortillas turned out better, but we’ll try to make the Flour Tortillas again.

Hooray For Cheese And Sauce: How To Hide Enchilada Imperfections.

March 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Looks good, right?  They do now.  And they tasted good too.  Often times there’s a transitional period when things look a mess, before coming together.  This occurrence is true for many types of creations.  In this instance, it was the Cheese and Sauce that straightened out the look of these imperfect Chicken Enchiladas.  All happened brilliantly in the end.

How to make them — Cut or shred breast meat from a Rotisserie Chicken.

Add Green Onions.

Add Cheese — For ease, I cheated by using pre-grated Jack and Cheddar.

Mix ingredients together and set aside until Tortillas are ready to be filled.

Dip Tortillas in warm Sauce before filling them.  It makes them a little more pliable to roll.  The Sauce used for these Chicken Enchiladas was from El Matador Restaurant.  Got some to go — It’s almost the same price as a canned Sauce, but better tasting.  We recommend buying Enchilada Sauce from a good Mexican restaurant in lieu of canned, if you don’t make your own.

My Mom says I need to fry the Tortillas in Oil for a minute or so to make them even more malleable, but I always try to avoid that step and too often get the same bad result… cracking Tortillas.  She’s right, again.  And since the Tortillas were homemade and thicker than most, the breakage was worse, as shown below.

Cheese and Sauce to the rescue — Hide the Enchilada imperfections.

Now you can’t tell the Tortillas cracked and went off the deep end.

Aside from how they appear underneath, everyone liked how they looked coming to the table.  Their flavor and facade was dialed in with Cheese and Sauce.  Whew, they saved this meal.

Homemade Corn Tortillas: Easier To Make Than You Might Think.

March 21st, 2011 No comments

‘Make Homemade Tortillas’ has been on my To Do List for years.  After tackling Homemade Pasta, it was finally time.  I started with Corn Tortillas, posted here, and then moved on to Flour Tortillas (a little more complicated), which shall be posted soon.  This is the Corn report…

After reviewing several recipes online, I opted to make the one posted on the back of the Maseca Masa bag, which was easy to follow and the Corn Tortillas turned out well.

Only three ingredients went into their creation — Masa, Salt and Water.

Start by combining the Salt and Masa.

Then add Water to the Masa/Salt combination and mix to form a fairly stiff Dough.

Once the Dough is satisfactorily formed, divide into targeted amount of Tortilla balls.

We formed 18 balls to ultimately create 18 Corn Tortillas.

Roll out each Tortilla ball in between plastic sheets — We used the inside of a baggie, which worked well.  The Tortillas are easy to separate from the plastic before hitting the skillet.

Once the Tortillas are formed, each is heated in a dry, medium-hot skillet for approximately 50 seconds per side, then set aside under a towel and/or bowl to keep them warm and soft.

As you can see, the hardest thing was to roll ’em out into perfect circles, which we didn’t do.  We could have used a large Cookie cutter, but opted for the rustic look this first time.

As noted, before opting to make the simple Maseca Masa Corn Tortilla recipe, I collected several others from around the web — And for future reference/use, they are all linked here:  Gourmet Sleuth, All Recipes, In Jennie’s Kitchen, Cooking Mexican Recipes, Simply Recipes, Eating Cleveland and What’s Cooking America.  All their Tortillas look better than ours.  You’ll find everything you need to make good Homemade Corn Tortillas.  Good luck to you!

Happy First Day Of Spring: It’s Time To Plant Food And Save Money.

March 20th, 2011 No comments

Today is the first day of Spring — It’s time to start planting a few things to save on produce.

It’s Almost Time To Enter The Culinary Arts Competition At The OC Fair.

March 19th, 2011 No comments
As Orange County Food Examiner, I reported about new things happening during the Culinary Arts Competition and the Single Day Competitions at the OC Fair this year.  Learn more here.

If You’re Into It: Nibbles Of Tidbits Is FoodBlog On Twitter. You Follow?

March 18th, 2011 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits, Shelly Borrell is on Twitter as FoodBlog — Our last five tweets, so they’re called, are always posted here (below on the right).  FYI: I’m not that into it and frankly think Twitter is a bit overrated, but it does have its benefits.  A presence is necessary to participate in some events/happenings and it comes in handy while traveling to meet up with groups.  The Carrot is poker-faced about the idea, but if you’d like to follow us, see here.

Kiss Me Already: I’m Not Irish, But Eat & Drink Like Many On This Day.

March 17th, 2011 No comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  If you’re looking for a simple Corned Beef recipe, one is linked here.

And I Just Can’t Get Enough, I Just Can’t Get Enough Of StoneFire Grill.

March 15th, 2011 No comments

We’ve previously posted about StoneFire Grill, but each time I go back I’m reminded that it’s so damn tasty — And it’s a great value, the food is high in quality, the ordering/dining process is efficient and comfortable and the service is always friendly.  I just can’t get enough.

We slip and slide as we fall in love and I just can’t seem to get enough of StoneFire Grill.

Cheez-It Wants You To Choose The Cheese: Which Do You Like Best?

March 14th, 2011 2 comments

Cheez-It wants YOU to choose the next Cheez-It flavor.  They recently introduced Baby Swiss and are now looking to add another flavor — Asiago, Colby or Romano.  Which sounds best to you?  We’re still unsure.  Six of us tried ’em all, but couldn’t agree.  Our votes were split between all three.  That’s not very helpful to Kelloggs, but we enjoyed eating them all.

You may still be able to obtain free samples to try the same.  Here’s the link.  Voting ends March 31, 2011.  If you already know which Cheez-It to vote for, you may vote here now.

Homemade Spaetzle: Can I Get Pregnant From This?

March 13th, 2011 2 comments

Have you ever tried Spaetzle?  It’s a German Noodle.  I hadn’t tried, nor made it, but was curious about it, since it’s so easy and quick to make.  And compared to homemade Italian Pasta, Spaetzle seemed a cinch.  So I made it here and I’m not in love.  And I hope I’m not pregnant — Spaetzle’s shapes scare me, and its taste is just okay.  Who makes it the best?

The recipe I used is linked here — Since I’m breaking up with Spaetzle, this post is fleeting.

Add Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg to Flour, then form a well for a Milk and Egg mixture.

Stir Milk and Eggs into the Flour to form a smooth, thick Dough.

The printed (halved) recipe is shown below and linked on the Food Network’s site.

Once the Dough is prepared, it’s pressed through a colander into boiling Water.

And then you end up with whatever happens naturally — Ghosts, sperm, baby octopus, etc.

What do you think they look like?

Cook for about 3 – 4 minutes or until they float to the surface.

Strain the Spaetzle, then fry in Butter until browned and serve with Chives.

The final photos turned out blurry, which is just as well.  There was no romance.  It’s too heavy.  Auf Wiedersehen Spaetzle  — Maybe we’ll meet again in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or Hungary.

Kids In The Kitchen: A Fundraiser & A Frosting That Works Like Cheez Whiz.

March 10th, 2011 No comments

Our resident Chef Lexi of Kids in the Kitchen made and decorated the pictured Cupcakes for a school fundraiser.  She especially liked the ‘Frosting can that works like Cheez Whiz‘ and the adornments picked up at TJ Maxx.  They look awesome and should raise millions.

Homemade Pasta: Check It Off Your List Of Things To Make.

March 8th, 2011 No comments

I’ve had this Pasta Maker for way too many years and it’s not even mine.  Isn’t that terrible?!  And to make it worse, this is my first time using it.  I’ve periodically reminded my friend that I still have it and did intend to use it someday.  Since she hasn’t been ready to use it, my confiscation was overlooked.  Thanks Nora — I’m finally making Pasta.  I’ll try to save you some Fettuccine, Linguine or Spaghetti.  This Marcato Atlas Pasta Maker works really well.

Two cups of Flour, two large Eggs and a little water was used to make all that’s pictured.

Make a well of Flour.

Add the Eggs to the center.

Stir the Eggs before or after adding to the Flour well.

Slowly start to bring the Flour into the Eggs.

Add a little water, enough necessary to arrive at a Dough consistency.

Ta – Dough… My very first Pasta Sheet.

How exciting — It’s easy when you work with a little Pasta Dough at a time.

Making the Pasta Sheet longer and thinner — A little tricky, but fun.

I was very impressed with the quality of this Pasta Maker — It was still shiny too.

I believe Fettuccine is being made, but unsure of Pasta’s subtle name/size variations.

Turning Pasta Sheets into Noodles.

Separating the Noodles.

It’s Fettuccine graffiti in the hood.

And Spaghetti graffiti in the house.

Straightening out our act. 🙂

‘Make Homemade Pasta’ can finally be checked off the list.  Next it’ll be Tortillas.

Boiling Water was awaiting the Spaghetti.

And a pre-made Marinara Sauce was heated and ready.

I boiled the Noodles a couple minutes, drained ’em and added Sauce and shaved Parmesan.

All went so well!  I pre-laid parchment everywhere before starting, which helped.

Noodles ready for future Sauce action — An Ala Limone from Cook’s Illustrated stands by.

Here’s the recipe used to make the above and here’s how to freeze the leftovers.

Nothing Bundt Cakes: So Yummy, You’ll Wish It Didn’t Have A Hole. What?

March 6th, 2011 1 comment

Making its way out from Las Vegas is Nothing Bundt Cakes — They say it’s so yummy you’ll wish it didn’t have a hole.  Wow, provocative.  It and the love of Bundts compelled our visit to their latest franchise that opened in Costa Mesa (off 17th/Santa Ana) this week.

We tried three Bundtlets — Cinnamon Swirl, Carrot and White Chocolate Raspberry.

Free Cake Samples are baked fresh and available daily.

Nothing Bundt Cakes sells a little more than Bundts — The service here was excellent.

They’re open now with Grand ‘O’pening VIP and Charity Events happening this Thursday and Friday — A Ribbon Cutting, Wine, Jazz, Cake, CHOC DAY, face painting and more.

Pick a Bundt — 40 designs and 10 flavors.

Our favorite today was the Cinnamon Swirl.

We’re happy to see Nothing Bundt Cakes in the neighborhood.

Selection, Marination, Heat And Rotation, Not So Distant Gratification.

March 4th, 2011 1 comment

This Chicken was marinated with Olive Oil, Lemon, Rosemary, Thyme, Onion, Garlic, S & P, for a couple days — It was then fit to be tied, cooked and enjoyed for its aroma and flavor.

I haven’t used the Rotisserie much lately, since it has been less expensive to buy the cooked Rotisserie Chicken, which is fine, since it’s done — And seems especially good from Costco.

If otherwise economical, it’s quaint to heat and rotate fresh Chicken at home — It’s effortless and fills the air with home cookin’ goodness that goes particularly well with board games, rain and Mimosas.  To rotisserie or not to rotisserie is the selection, to instant or not so distant gratification.  Next stop is usually Stock.

Marinating Chicken On Tacit Thursday, Inspired By Silent Sunday, et al.

March 3rd, 2011 No comments

Boston Market: Chicken, Soup Or Just Sides, It Always Seems To Satisfy.

March 2nd, 2011 1 comment

I love a trio of Boston Market sides when there’s only time for a quick bite — Glad it’s nearby.