Restaurant Review: Henry’s Hat

Henry’s Hat is one of the most amazing places in LA, bar none. I have been there many a time, and just always had the best experience on a food and fun level. The actual location  is in Studio City right across from Universal Studios on Cuhenga. You can find it here. This sport is perfect for those that live in the valley, because its not far. Its also great for those in West Hollywood or Hollywood, because with the 101 being right there, its… not far. In fact, I would travel a LONG time to eat here.

Let me explain.

This place has amazing food. This place has amazing cocktails. This place has amazing specials. And this place has board games. Yes, board games.

While you eat dinner, come for brunch, get a drink after work, you are able to play any of these games at the table: Chess, Checkers, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Twister, Boggle, Dominos, Jenga, Connect 4, Rummikub, Taboo, Risk, Battle Ship, Backgammon, Balderdash, Cards, Scattegories, Clue, Battle of the Sexes, Candyland, Uno, and Wii. Yes… any of those games. My personal favorite is to play Jenga. Its so suspenseful, especially with the loud CRASH when the blocks fall.

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Drunken Gummy Worms

If you are like me… holidays get you excited because you get to eat lost of delicious food. They are a total excuse to over indulge! With October 2 days away, I have had Halloween on the brain. Last year, I went to Las Vegas and it just was not what I expected. This year, I think I am going to throw a party again… with delicious food and drinks.

Riding the escalator walkway in the MGM

Last Halloween I wrote a blog post about a drink I call Worm Fifty Worm.

If you haven’t made this… you have to! It is a better more delicious and fun jello shot. Just do it and trust me you will like it.
The first step is to purchase a gummy candy. The most common is Gummy Worms (DO NOT USE SOUR WORMS), but during Halloween you can find Gummy Spiders, Bats, Ghosts, etc… GET CREATIVE!!
Choose your alcohol. I would recommend rum, vodka, 151, or Everclear. They balance out the sweet enough of the worm without being overpowering.
You will need the 3 lbs gummy candy, 1 handle alcohol, a large Tupperware with a top, and cookie sheets. When you have all your supplies ready to go…

Soak a 3 lb bag of gummy candy in 1 handle of alcohol (don’t worry, the worms won’t soak up all the alcohol, but you want to make sure they get completely submerged), inside the Tupperware. Close the top do the alcohol does NOT evaporate.

Soak the candy for at least 5 hours so they swell up (2 or 3 times their size). You can also do this the day before. Depending on the gummy brand, you may need more time.

Next, take the worms and place them on a cookie sheet to dry. The outside of the worm will get dry so they are easier to serve, but the worm will stay fat with an inside full of alcohol soaked candy. Do this an hour or two before you want to serve them.

PS: The alcohol that is leftover, DRINK IT! Totally drinkable and so good. Mmmmmm

That’s it!!Serve them to your friends during the party for a delicious adult treat.

Having this at a party is great in a big bowl for everyone to eat. But, if you are looking for a way to treat your adult friends individually, this can also be a great favor. Just maybe don’t pass these out at work… or do… :)
Gift Idea: Instead of leaving them in a great big bowl to have your friends dig into, get a bunch of little mason jars or snap close jars. You can find them at Ross or other specialty stores. Next fill each jar a little over halfway with gummy worms, gummy bats, gummy pumpkins, gummy eyeballs… whatever gummy treat you found. Next, fill the container almost to the top with whatever alcohol you decided to use. Let this sit for a day, and you should see double sized drunk gummy worms. Add a cool label (I have some awesome name ideas on the original post) and pass them out!
Label example to frighten your friends!
I have a few more tricks up my sleeve for the upcoming Holiday season. I will make sure to keep you posted! Happy Haunting!
My Famous Macaroni and Cheese

My Famous Macaroni and Cheese

I pride myself in a few particular recipes and this is one of them. I would like to think I also have a steady fan base for this, as I have friends request me to make it all the time. In fact, during college we would have nights we dubbed “Macaroni and Cheese Nights” where I would make the mac, and our friend Trisha would bring the BBQ ribs. One of my best friends, Katie, whom I have mentioned, came to my house with Trisha for one of these nights where we meet for the first time.

Katie’s first time having my Mac and Cheese

She told me later on that Trisha had asked her “Hey my friend is having a macaroni and cheese party at her house. Do you want to come?” and right then and there, when she said “YES I want to come” she knew we would be lifelong friends. And we will be.

Trisha, the Mac, and the Ribs
The Macaroni and Cheese crew!

And so, these nights allowed me much practice with the types of cheeses I wanted to use. How much cream. The spice… everything. And to be honest, I still tinker with it all the time. But the basics are there. So for those of you who ask me all the time “How to you make your macaroni and cheese?” well… here it is :)

1 lb normal sized macaroni noodles (do not use mini… they don’t soak up the cheese sauce as well)
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup 2 % milk
3 tbs flour
1 stick butter
6 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
8 ounces Cheddar cheese
8 ounces Gruyere cheese
8 ounces Gouda cheese
1 whole onion
garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste (you can also add crushed garlic if you like)
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp cayenne pepper if you want a spicy kick

Before we begin, I cannot stress this enough! 2 things, heavy whipping cream is NOT the same as half and half. Do not use 1 quart of half and half instead. Trust me on this. Also, if you aren’t going to buy good cheese, then don’t bother making this recipe. There is no point to purchasing cheap cheddar… you might as well make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. This mac and cheese is for the real cheese lover.

White Cheddar, Gruyere, and Gouda. And the shaved Parmesan. All in all, the cheese cost 23 dollars.

To start, get those noodles cooking! Get a large pot, fill it with water. Once it starts boiling, add a little olive oil so the noodles don’t stick, and pour in the pasta. Stir. Watch the noodles; you want to get them JUST underdone, as they are going to bake in the oven a bit longer. After the noodles start cooking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Make sure to keep an eye on them, and drain them once ready.

Next, get a large, shallow pot on the stove on medium high heat. Add the stick of butter. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. You want to make a carmely colored rue that will thicken your sauce. Make sure you stir all the flour into the butter, so you get this light brown buttery paste. You want to make sure the flour is cooked so you don’t end up with a raw flour taste in your dish.

Once the rue has set, add the heaving whipping cream, 2% milk, and half and half. Stir all ingredients together, making sure the rue is fully incorporated into the milk. Stir this on medium heat, until you start to see the mixture boiling. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low. You want to make sure that the sauce starts to thicken. At this time, I like to add about 1tbs garlic powder and pepper. I salt the sauce at the end. It may not need salt because of the salt in the cheese.

Next, dice up your Cheedar and Gouda. Grate the Gruyere. Add them to the cream mixture once it has thickened a bit. You should see the sauce sticking to the sides of the pot and not dripping back down or thinning out. This means its ready for the cheese!

At this point, its a patient waiting game. Watch the mixture, keeping it at a medium low heat, and stirring occasionally. If it starts to boil, turn it down. We do not want the bottom to burn! But the mixture should always remain hot, allowing the cheese to melt.

While you are waiting for the sauce to all meld together, you can slice the onion. Make sure you slice it into rounds, no more than a 1/4 inch thick (I would go even a little smaller).

You can also put your noodles in your baking dish. The dish should we large enough that there is about 1/2 an inch of room at the top once the noodles have been placed inside.

Once the sauce is done, and EVERYTHING is melted inside, taste it to see how the spice level is. If you like lots of pepper, add some more. If you think it needs salt, add a pinch. Right now would be the moment to add the cayenne if you are choosing to put it in. Just make sure you taste and stir the spices in thoroughly. Once you go overboard, there is no turning back. When the sauce is sufficient to your spice level, pour it over the noodles.

Mix the noodles and sauce around so every noodles is coasted, including their hollow centers. Next, take the onions and separate the rounds with your fingers. Sprinkle the onions on the top of the noodles and sauce.

Make sure to get EVERY corner!

The onion adds intense flavor to the cheese dish. Plus, it adds a sweet oniony crispiness on top once this is baked. If you are hesitant, just trust me. It is so good! The next step is to sprinkle the Parmesan cheese shavings all over the top of the dish. This will also melt and give it a crispy, cheesy, bubbly top. YUM!

Once the dish is sufficiently coated, and your oven has preheated to 400 degrees, place it in the oven for 45 minutes. You want to make sure the top is brown and golden and bubbly and cheesy and everything delicious. If you need more time, leave it in there. You WANT this crust!

The only thing left to do is grab a bowl and get to grubbing. Make sure to get some oniony top, some crusty cheese, and some gooey noodles.

NOTE:  This is a lot of macaroni and cheese. BUT this freezes well. Make sure you store it properly, and before you reheat it, add a little milk. I also suggest reheating it in the oven for 20 minutes in an oven safe dish. Microwaving cream based products tends to separate fats and makes something creamy into something oily.

DOUBLE NOTE:   You can also jazz up the leftovers to keep this the gift that keeps on giving. If you want some spice, add some jalapenos. Got a hankering for bacon? Throw it on there! Like I say, tinker with it and find out what you like.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

There is a blogger/ baker of mine I can’t get enough of, Joy the Baker. Everything I have made from her blog has been delicious. I am talking about not one thing didn’t taste good.

Sidenote: Let me talk about the one time I made her Double Chocolate Indoor Smores. Let me repeat… her DOUBLE CHOCOLATE INDOOR SMORES! They took patience, but were one of the best things I have ever eaten. Just take a look!

I like my marshmallows burnt

The recipe for tonight’s dinner party with my friends came from an inspiration I always have from bananas: I don’t like them. In fact, I buy bananas, collect bananas, etc all things bananas and they always wind up doing one thing in my apartment. Rot. So I make banana bread.

I have a recipe from my mother for banana bread that I love. But seeing as I haven’t tried Joy’s Peanut Butter Banana Bread, and I am working out today, I thought I would give it a try.

As I like a little more butter in my bread, this recipe below is an adaptation of Joy’s. Although, by all means try hers. She has never disappointed me.

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (this is usually about 2 or 3 depending on the size)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup, melted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce (keeps it moist)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (if you don’t have allspice, add a dash of nutmeg and cloves)
1/4 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground allspice. In a medium bowl, whisk together  mashed bananas, peanut butter and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs and sugars.  Blend mixture until no sugar lumps remain.
Pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients.  Fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain.  Fold in the chopped nuts as well.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Now as you have notices on mine, there is chocolate?? The oother day, as a thank you for helping him out with something, a client of mine sent me 8, 8oz bags of chocolate from his company in Hawaii… EIGHT BAGS!!!

I love the combination of chocolate with this, so I crumbled some chunks of the Macadamian nut chocolate on top. You can always get creative with your recipes. I made this for a dinner party last night and it was a smashing success. Hanging out with friends, drinking wine, and eating great food is one of my favorite things to do.

*It’s kind of like Where’s Waldo… can you find me?*

Favorite Blogs: Wine Blog

I grew up drinking wine with my family, and a bottle is still at every dinner table. I am a mutt, but in essence my family comes from a European background. I actually had my first glass at 5; it was tiny and watered down.But as a tradition, every year I got older, I got a little more wine and less water.

I wouldn’t call myself a wine expert, but I definitely know a thing or two. A lot of wines that I like happen to be over my price range to enjoy them all the time. Trader Joes has a great wine selection, a lot of which are around 5.99 a bottle. I make it a mission of mine to try something new everytime I am there.

However, if you can spare about 20 bucks, try this blog. My friend Katie’s dad Steve probably spends more time on this blog, and his wine articles for the his local magazine, than he does on his actual job. The reason why I trust what he says is because of the calibur of wines I have had at their house. It usually starts with a “what do you feel like tonight?” and he picks something based on my mood, the meal, ect. And it is ALWAYS delicious. I have on 2 different occasions had the “best wine i’ve ever had” and are still searching for them.

So next time you need a wine selection, let Steve do the hard work. He tries to find wines all under 20 dollars. There are of course some higher wines, but for a good meal, 20 dollars isn’t too much. And it doesn’t hurt that he has the best sense of humor. Steve is really a life guru

You can check out his blog here at The Best of Wines. To contact Steve Stumpf, go to this link.

Weekend Wrap Up

This past weekend was in Vegas and a blast. We didn’t do too much eating, however. One night we went to Il Fornaio for dinner, and it was only oh k. I have had better meals there. But as always, the Minestrone soup is the best I have ever had. Kudos to them for making me like something that doesn’t contain dairy (joke you guys… I love veggies).

Salmon with Pesto, vegetables, and roasted potatoes.
Stracciatella Gelato (soooooo delicious)

 

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Fig Bread Pudding with Balsamic Drizzle

A few weeks ago I posted about my goodies from the Club Culinaire event. I have been dying to try the balsamic and the sugar I got more than anything in that bag. Almost every Sunday night I spend the evening with one of the best families I have ever had the blessing to meet, the Stumpfs. Sundays are always a culinary adventure before we sit down to watch True Blood.

Dinner time
The remains of dinner

This week was a focus on the balsamic. Heirloom tomatoes are in season, so what better way to celebrate the delicious summer bounty than with a fresh Caprese.The balsamic was THICK AND DELICIOUS! It will definitely be on my rebuy list.

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