Feb 28, 2014

Girls' Getaway English High Tea - The Great Room/The Resort at Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill is a five star hotel located in Newport Beach, CA. On top of its nearly panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, Pelican Hill also offers 18 holes Fazio-designed golf course, Forbes Five-Star rating spa, and exquisite dining selections. 

Weeks of hard working has drained out all my energies and the very last bits of my brain juice. It's time for a little girls' getaway, go somewhere pretty, nibble on beautifully crafted food, perhaps with live music playing in the background? And of course lots of chit-chat with the girl friends. 

The afternoon tea/high tea is offered at The Great Room, which is basically the lobby when first stepping into this grandiose resort. 

Our table was near the floor to ceiling windows, where we can enjoy a little bit of California sunshine and a snippet view of the ocean (if we stand up).

Afternoon tea menu -

The tea set basically comes in two selections: Tea Time Renaissance $50 and Luxury Tea $60. The only difference is that the Luxury Tea also includes a glass of sparkling wine. 

Click on the picture to enlarge the view.

To help us undecisive girls, our waitress brought over a wooden box. From there you'll find little bottles with all the tea leaves assortments offered on the menu. You can open up the lid and smell the aroma before making a choice.  

We chose organic green, organic Assam, and vanilla rooibos. 

The weather was nice, so we walked outside and checked out the view before the high tea tiers are served.

View on the left, you can also see a part of the ocean view golf course here. What a life -

View on the right -

Outside patio -

View from the patio area -

Other restaurants here at the Pelican Hill have even better view of the ocean, such as the Italian fare Andrea and California inspired cuisine Pelican Grill. If you don't feel like having girly girly high tea, maybe give these restaurants a try instead. Not sure about the flavors but at least the view is going to be breathtaking.

Our teas are here. The teapot covers help to keep the tea warm. There are also cute little strainers that can be set on top of the tea cups. So the leaves can be filtered through when pouring out the tea -

All sorts of sugar and honey for the tea, if desired -

Our photogenic high tea set -

The first/very top tier comes with savory items, second/middle tier comes with English tea cakes and chef's selection of tea pastries, and the bottom tier comes with freshly baked scones.

Details of the items from the first tier: smoked salmon and black caviar on squaw, cucumber with tomato marmalade on white bread, prosciutto ham and Persian melon balls on white bread, and egg salad with tomato concassé. 

Squaw is a type of bread made with rye and molasses. Tomato concassé basically means diced tomatoes.

Some of the items from the second tier including berries tarts, pistachio pastries, and coffee cakes -

The pistachio one has a strong but pleasant nutty aroma, goes especially well with my organic green tea. 

Also macaroons and lemon cakes -

My favorite is always the scones. The Great Room also did a good job on these buttery scones, on par with the Tea Lounge from Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, and the well known scones from Smith & Hsu in Taiwan -

These scones are served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and berries preserves. 

Our quality girls' time was further enhanced with a harpist playing lovely music in the background -

Final bill for three -

Kind of pricey but to me, it's definitely worth it. Great service, good food, and absolutely elegant and relaxing environment, that's exactly what I needed and couldn't ask for more.

Cindy's rating: 7

Other afternoon tea places in southern California:
New hype in Los Angeles - not cronut knockoffs, but real mille crepes from Lady M
Quality high tea time - Boxwood Cafe at The London by Gordon Ramsay

The Resort at Pelican Hill - The Great Room
22701 South Pelican Hill Road
Newport Coast, CA 92657
(855) 315-8214

*Afternoon tea is only available Friday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to late afternoon

*Reservation for the afternoon tea is highly recommended so the pastry chef can prepare the freshest sweet and savory treats on the day of reservation

*Live music available Thursday through Friday at various time slots; call in for the exact schedule if needed

Feb 23, 2014

Plum Tomatoes and Two Cheeses Blend Tarts Using Puff Pastry Sheet

Soon I'll be off to Taiwan for one or two months. As a result, finishing whatever is left in the fridge becomes my major task in the kitchen. There was an open box of frozen pastry sheet, seems like it has been sitting there for quite some time. Finishing up the whole box at once might be an daunting task, not mentioning the buttery calories hiding in between the flaky (but oh so delicious) layers. 

Good thing I started the fridge cleaning process early on. Let me use one puff pastry sheet for a savory tart recipe first, and finish off the other once I managed to burn off these oh so delicious calories. 

Plum tomatoes and two cheeses blend tarts -

Ingredient (makes two tarts):

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry sheet 
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of Cheddar cheese (I used 4 Cheddar cheese blend)
  • 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 sprig of basil
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper
  • Some Tabasco sauce (optional)


To defrost the frozen puff pastry sheet, I took out one sheet from the box and wrapped in clear foil. The sheet was kept in the fridge section and slowly defrosted overnight. There are alo other defrosting instructions provided on the box. 

Take out the defrosted puff pastry sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent from drying. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Mix the ricotta and Cheddar cheese together. The Cheddar blends I used were sharp Wisconsin, Sharp New York, sharp Vermont, and mild California. Chop the basil leaves for sprinkling over the tarts later on. Beat one egg as an easy egg wash. Slice the tomatoes.

Dust the working surface with some flour if planning to roll out the pastry sheet there. Otherwise it might be easier to just line the baking sheet with parchment paper and work on the sheet instead.

Open up the pastry sheet and press to seal any cracks. You can slightly wet the fingers with water before sealing the cracks if the pastry has dried up. Cut the pastry sheet in half to get two shorter but wider rectangles.

I also cut a short line on the corners so the sides can be folded in easier, but it's not necessary.  

Evenly spread the cheese mix onto the center of the pastry sheets and top with tomato slices. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Fold in the sides, about half inch and press the edges with a fork. Brush the pastry surface with egg wash.

I was looking for beautifully baked edges with the patterns pressed with a fork. However, apparently I was too generous on the amount of cheese used so it overflowed and covered the marks. Well, if you asked me to do it all over again, my love for cheeses might still led me with oozing goodies everywhere, which I assume is not a bad thing.

Into the oven for 20 minutes. Once ready, transfer the tarts to the serving plate/s. Slightly torch the surface for a touch of smoky aroma. Sprinkle some chopped basil and serve with Tabasco sauce if desired. 

The week after, I baked the other pastry sheet with the same amount of cheese blend but without the tomatoes. The shape was different. The two rectangle sheets were folded together creating a pocket. I ran the knife on the top, making a few thin openings to let the air escape during the baking process. 

The tart, or the cheese pocket was finished off with a scoop of cookie crunch gelato and drizzled in dark chocolate sauce. One fine sweet and savory combo.

Feb 16, 2014

Leftover Makeover - Transforming Chicken Stock into Chinese Scallion Noodles (蔥開煨麵)

This Chinese scallion noodles 蔥開煨麵 was adapted from the recipe created by one of Taiwan's famous cooking instructors 李梅仙 (Ms. Li). This lady is like the Asian version of Martha Stewart, teaching how to make awesome Chinese food on TV with her homey and welcoming personalities. 

I went overboard and made the simple Chinese chicken stock from scratch for the noodles. You can always use store bought canned soup instead. If you're not in the mood of preparing the stock and there is no access to Chinese style canned soup, a high quality western style low sodium chicken soup will do the trick.

Ingredients (for two portions)?

Simple Chinese chicken stock - if you're up for it:

  • 1 small Silkie chicken/black bone chicken
  • 2 stalks of scallion
  • 6 garlic cloves

Other ingredients:

  • Some fresh plain noodles enough for two people (thin to medium thickness preferred)
  • 5 cups of chicken stock
  • 6 bak choy
  • 5 stalks of scallion
  • 2 tablespoons of dried shrimps (蝦米)
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of black bean soy sauce or oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine (紹興酒)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of brown sugar


Discard the stems for two scallion stalks, peel the garlic cloves and chop off the ends. Put the chicken into a big pot and add in the scallion stalks along with garlic cloves. Pour in the water till the whole chicken is emerged. The red pot used here is the biggest one I have on hand, but I still tried to fill the water as much as possible in order to cover the chicken.

You can always substitute a small chicken with half large sized bird, which might also be easier to make stock with when no large pot is available.

Bring to a boil then lower to about medium heat to keep the stock simmering. Make sure to scoop out any floating grayish dirty bits during the process. More dirty bits come out when the stock is boiling but won't be too much after lowering the heat. Cook for two hours.

Once the stock is ready, save about 5 cups to make the noodles. The remaining stock can be strained and store in the freezer in few batches or as stock ice cubes. As for the chicken, I tore the meat into pieces and store them in the freezer. The meat can be revamped, such as cheesy bakes or spicy Chinese cold dish made before.

Rinse the dried shrimps and soak in cold water for about 10 minutes. Once slightly puffed up, drain and pat dry the shrimps with kitchen towel. Finely chop the shrimps. 

Chop off the very bottom stems of the bak choy while the leaves are still intact. Blanch the bak choy as a whole. If the bak choy are too big, just tear off a few outer layer leaves and save them for other dishes in the future. Ideally, the bak choy should in one big bite size after blanching.

As for the remaining 5 stalks of scallion, discard the stems and chop some white section into smaller pieces for later use. Chop the remaining green part into about 2 inches in length. Take a pan with some depth or another pot, drizzle about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Add in the scallion strips and sear till semi-burnt. 

Semi-burnt scallion is the key aroma for the noodles. The scallion strips should have somewhat brownish color when they're ready. 

Add in the shrimps and be careful about flying hot oil. The shrimps contain water even after pat drying with kitchen towel, so when they hit the sizzling hot oil, it can get quite dangerous. I usually shield myself with a kitchen towel or with the lid during this step. Sometimes it's just like a battlefield in my kitchen. 

Cook for about one minute then add in the soy sauce, black bean soy sauce or oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, white pepper powder, salt, and sugar. Give it a quick stir then pour in the chicken stock, bring to a boil.

Fresh and thin plain noodles are the best for this recipe because gooey sauce can easily cling onto this type of noodles. If using pasta as a substitute, try to find fresh ones that are still covered in flour. 

Add the noodles to the boiling soup and cook till desired texture. Took about 5 minutes for the noodles I used. The flour on the noodles will make the soup gooey and sticky, that's what we want for this type of Chinese noodles recipe (煨麵).

Transfer the noodles along with the sauce to two bowls. Top with blanched bak choy and some chopped scallion.

The white section from the scallion has a stronger oniony kick compared to the green part. You can always use chopped green section if preferred. 

Simple but very flavorful dish especially the aroma from the semi-burnt scallions. The small amount of Shaoxing wine also adds more depth and you won't even notice any alcohol burns. This can also be a good meal after hangover, nutritious (from the stock), comforting, and easy to eat.

Feb 10, 2014

Quick Review for My dineLA Restaurant Week Jan 20-31 2014 Experience - The Hungry Cat Hollywood

2014 dineLA event falls between January 20th to January 31st. Restaurants will create prix fixe menu specifically for this event, usually ranging from two to three courses at an attractive price. The goals are to draw in more customers for local communities, generate awareness, and hopefully get people to venture to new dishes and new places. This time, I'm trying out The Hungry Cat - Hollywood branch.

My last dineLA experience was a dinner at Chef Tom Colicchio's steak house Craft almost three and a half years ago. Man..I seriously have to get my butt out of this Orange County bubble more often, can't believe how much delicious food I have been missing all these years. 

The Hungry Cat is located in the courtyard of the sunset and vine building. Valet parking is not available. However, there is a public parking structure on the street right behind the restaurant. You can click on the map on the very bottom of this post, where I have marked the parking location with a green dot. 

Outdoor seating was very spacious but might be too cold at night, especially in January (and yes I'm complaining about the unbearable cold weather in southern California). 

Indoor-wise, there are quite a few bar seats on both left and right sides. Few tables in the middle and along the French windows.

It's a seafood based restaurant, hence the name Hungry Cat. You'll also find many cat related decorative items throughout the place.

Sign for ladies' restroom -

Sign for gentleman's restroom - 

Pardon the grainy pictures. They were all taken with iPhone 5 and the lighting was not too helpful at the restaurant. 

Past event poster - 

Look closer and you'll see some cat related souvenirs from Greece, Japan, and other countries on the shelf -

Regular menu, click to enlarge the view - 

A la carte raw bar menu -

Wine menu -

Other drinks -

Restaurant week menu (dinner) -

Some oyster crackers to munch on -

Front: greyhound proper, made with Plymouth gin, grapefruit, candied grapefruit $13. Back: Anchor Brewing Co. California lager $6 -

Here it comes our seafood platter. Not included in the dineLA menu but this is a must when dining at The Hungry Cat -

This was 1 tier platter $47.5 -

There are also 2 tier for $87.5 and "the hungry cat" luscious tiers for $147.5.

The caviar is not included in the seafood platter. The one we have here is 1/2 ounce hackleback for $27 -

Caviar is one of the common fancy ingredients used as a garnish or to boost a slight umami savory taste for other dishes. However, when caviar is savored on its own in larger amount, the taste is similar to ikura (those Japanese orange colored fish roe) but in a much more concentrated and intense way.

And our caviar comes with blintz, or blini, basically a yeast crepe to be consumed with small spoonful of caviar and other condiments -

Sour cream, chives, cooked egg white, cooked egg yolk, and shallots -

Truly an indulgence. The hackleback caviar is slightly sweet and has a nutty aroma in the end. The blini even just by itself are quite flavorful also.

Sauce for the platter - 

All the shellfish that night were very fresh, crisp, and sweet, especially for the large cherrystone clams and oysters. 

It's nice when you have a jar of caviar around..

Small lobster -

I personally prefer their raw items more than the cooked ones such as this lobster and the crab legs. There is no substitution for the items come with the platter. If you would like to try everything then the seafood platter is definitely the way to go. Otherwise it might be wiser to just order from the raw bar. 

On the side note, it can get pretty messy when trying to dig through the cooked seafood. You can tell that I don't have any pictures holding up crab legs or lobsters, both hands were busy working on those shells. As for the oysters and cherrystone clams, they just slide right down the throat quite easily, and I do have many pictures of them, one hand holding up the food, the other stays clean and still able to take pictures.

Restaurant week menu first course: flash seared albacore tuna, beet puree, fried chickpeas, mint, cerignola olives and almonds -

Despite the western ingredients mentioned on the menu, the flavors and seasonings were actually quite Asian-like. Love the crunch from the almonds.

Restaurant week second course: braised mussels, pork belly, green curry, coconut milk, apple, scallion, cilantro -

Iwasn't expecting this plate full of mussels. I mean it's a good surprise, but based on the description, I thought it meant a big chunk of pork belly that comes with just a few mussels on the side.

Instead it was numerous mussels with pork belly strips throughout. I'm not complaining though. 

The sauce was aromatic and not too salty, especially the restaurants I've been to recently tend to overdose on salt when it comes to mussels. This dish could be better if there were some bread or even rice that goes along with the sauce.

Special menu: lobster roll and fries -

I'm more into the lobster roll from Son of a Gun. However, Mr. K thinks The Hungry Cat version is better because the Son of a Gun lobster roll was too buttery and way too salty. I never have a problem with buttery dishes, but I do agree with him on the overly salty food from Son of a Gun. 

Restaurant week menu dessert: Meyer lemon parfait, whipped cream, sugar cookie -

The dessert was quite a disappointment. It was overly sweet (and I can take very sweet treats) that I couldn't even finish half of the parfait. The other half was gone thanks to the help of whipped cream and sugar cookie. 

Final bill -

You can always count on The Hungry Cat for top notch, fresh-off-the-ocean quality seafood. I wouldn't mind coming back with a few friends sharing a seafood platter and maybe a few entrée. Most likely no more dessert from here though. Hopefully next time I'll get to order "the hungry cat" platter and see how grand it is with my own eyes!

Cindy's Rating: 7

The Hungry Cat (Hollywood Branch)
1535 North Vine Street
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 462-2155

Restaurant website: http://thehungrycat.com/hollywood.html
dineLA website: http://www.discoverlosangeles.com/dinela-los-angeles-restaurant-week

*Courtesy of Google Maps (click to enlarge to view)

Red A balloon - The Hungry Cat
Green dot - Public parking structure, enter on Morningside Ct.