Monday, August 13, 2007

Aunt Rosa Lee's Mississippi Soul Food

My culinary experience with "Soul Food" is pretty limited. I've had my share of what may (or may not) be considered soul food dishes in the past like fried chicken, collard and mustard greens, macaroni & cheese, hush puppies, but usually at places that refer to themselves as Southern, Cajun or Creole restaurants.

I've never been to an eating establishment where the words "Soul Food" were actually part of the restaurant name until I had dinner at Aunt Rosa Lee's Mississippi Soul Food restaurant awhile back and for some reason, I really had high expectations for a fantastic meal.

The dinner started off with what was either corn bread or corn muffins. Unfortunately, they were more burnt then they should have been. That wasn't a good start.

For my entree, I ordered a mini-dinner plate, which consisted of a meat item and two sides and believe me, mini was a misnomer. There was enough food for two people. I can't imagine how much food the regular dinner plate came with.

My meat of choice was the artery blocking fried pork chop smothered with gravy and for my two accompaniments, I chose the collard greens and macaroni and cheese. When my meal arrived, it was looking and smelling good. I was more than ready to dig in.

I started with the mac and cheese. (sigh) I was hoping for a cheese fest, but this side had a cheese sauce instead that was so thin, I didn't really get any cheesy flavor. The collard greens were underseasoned, but I just added my own salt to taste, so that wasn't a big thing.

As for the pork chop, my first bite of meat and gravy was wonderful, especially that gravy. Yummy! The second bite was just as good, but after a couple more bites, the food just seemed really salty. Perhaps, the salt that was meant for the collard greens hit the pork chop instead? Regardless of why, I certainly wasn't motivated to eat any more of the meat.

In general, I was disappointed with my meal at Aunt Rosa Lee's, but if I were in the neighborhood, I wouldn't mind trying again and only because I really liked that gravy. If it wasn't for the heavy-handed salt shaking, that pork dish would have been awesome from start to finish, so I think there's hope for better things. Also, the fried chicken that a couple of my dining partners had ordered looked and apparently was really tasty, so I wouldn't mind having a go at that as well.

Aunt Rosa Lee's Mississippi Soul Food
2781 S Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 733-8586

Aunt Rosa Lee's Mississippi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bananas - Mexican Beverage Shop - CLOSED

When you walk into Bananas, your eyes immediately go into color over drive. From the bright red, green and orange wooden chairs to the fluffy bright yellow couches in the corner of the room to the multi-colored walls, it feels like several buckets of paint exploded and went every which way. In fact, one of the walls does look like paint splotches were thrown upon it.

Once your peepers adjust and you make it to the counter, you'll be able to order any one of several Mexican beverage specialties that are for sale at Bananas. There's the Diabilito Chilemon which is fresh squeezed lime juice blended with shaved ice, sugar, salt, chamoy and comes with a tamarind stick or the Escamocha, which is fresh
squeezed orange juice poured over a mix of fresh fruits and veggies, including mango, grapes, cucumber and jicama. You can also order any variety of licuados, agua frescas, liquados, etc.

Hungry for something more substantial? Than order a torta and/or soup for a quick bite and if your sweet tooth needs satisfaction, there are desserts and sweets displayed either in the case or in baskets on the counter that will do the trick. If that isn't enough, you can also order fresh fruit baskets as gifts for business or pleasure.

For my first visit there, I tried the Banana Raspado, a shaved ice drink with banana syrup topped with freshly sliced bananas. While I liked the addition of the bananas, the drink was overall too sugary sweet for my taste.

I took home a Mango-on-a-Stick and yes, it really was on a stick as well as the Fruit de Gallo which had a mixture of mango, pineapple, watermelon, jicama and cucumber. Both were topped with either fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice as well as salt & chile and definitely appealed to my love of tart-sour-spicy flavors, especially when they're combined with fresh fruit and veggies.

When I went a second time, I tried the Cucumber Agua Fresca, a combination of cucumber, water and sugar blended all together. Now that was quite refreshing and something I'd definitely get again, especially on a hot summer day. Since I hadn't eaten yet, I decided to try one of their Tortas.

I settled for the Carne Asada Torta that was filled with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado and jalapeno. I've never had a torta before, so I wasn't quite expecting the large roll this sandwich came in, but surprisingly, I ate the whole thing up. Suffice to say, I was pretty hungry.

I wouldn't say that this was the best sandwich I've ever had, but it was filling and other than the carne asada meat itself being a bit chewy, all the ingredients came together to satisfy my palate, especially the jalapenos which added a nice kick. :)

I think that Bananas is a great alternative to all the Jamba Juices out there. You get drink combinations that uses ingredients that aren't as mainstream and flavors that offer something a little more unique. I certainly will be returning and am looking forward to trying more items from their drink menu.

1345 Huntington Drive
Duarte, CA 91010
(626) 359-6309

Friday, August 03, 2007

All'Angelo - CLOSED

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

While I like Italian cuisine, I don’t generally go out of my way to choose it for a restaurant outing, but when I do, the food has to be really outstanding for me to want to return. There’s been a couple that I liked and would go back if I was in the mood, but so far, there’s only been one that has made me a repeat customer for over 3 years. With my recent dinner at All’Angelo, my short list of favorite Italian restaurants definitely increased by one and rightly so.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

Our evening started with our group ordering a record 8 appetizers. Suffice to say that everything was described so deliciously on the menu that the orders couldn't stop coming out of our mouths once our waiter showed up, pen in hand. Of all the appetizers that graced our table, I sampled three of them and Mama Mia, they were absolutely wonderful.

First, there was the Octopus Carpaccio with Tomatoes in Pizzaiola. The presentation alone was very eye-catching with a beautiful geometric pattern of thinly sliced octopus lying delicately across the plate. After taking a bite, I was happily surprised at how tender and moist the meat was. My previous experience with octopus was eating it as part of a Korean casserole and at that time, I found it to be a tasty, but very chewy experience.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

Second, I delighted over the creaminess of the Timbale of Cauliflower with Mascarpone Sauce and I really enjoyed the Grilled Radicchio, which was both slightly bitter, but also had a hint of sweetness from the caramelization that occurred from the grilling.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo "Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

A highlight of the evening was the salumi plate filled with delicious meats freshly cut from their vintage slicing machine displayed proudly next to the bar. By the way, we had to order this off the menu and at $25, it was worth it.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo "Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

For my entrée, I had the Crusted Venison Loin, Wild Mushroom Ragout & Gnocchetti and it was wonderful. The venison was cooked perfectly. It was tender, moist and didn't have a strong gamey taste to it and was complemented by the lovely "woodsy" flavor of the wild mushroom sauce.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

I also had a bite of the Calmaro Stuffed with Shrimp & Eggplant in Tomato Stew. Once you get over the shock of being presented with "stuffed torpedoes", it was quite tasty and thankfully, the squid was prepared just right without any chewiness to the meat in evidence.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

There's always room for dessert and my meal ended with the Caramelized Meyer Lemon & Polenta Pudding with Lemon Sabayon. I've done my share of dessert eating over the years, but this sweet offering is decidedly one of my favorites so far. Its nutty, tart-sweet flavors combined with a textured-creamy consistency really made my taste buds sing and while I never like to order the same thing twice when I re-visit a restaurant, I may have to make an exception in this case.

"Swanky Supper Club" - Dinner at All'Angelo

Overall, the food was absolutely wonderful as was our service, which was both prompt and friendly. Like I said earlier, All'Angelo certainly won me over and is one Italian restaurant that I will be visiting on a more regular basis, or at least, as much as my pocket book will allow.

7166 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 933-9540