Apr
09
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Los Angeles, United States, Universal City on April-9-2018

Karl Strauss Brewing company was a great find in Universal City walk. Up the stairs, not a standard chain, with great food and good options for vegetarians, not to mention a slew of tasty beer options.

Let’s start with the beer. I had the 29th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Saison – aged in Pinot Noir barrel. This was deliciously sour and drinkable. I would have this again and again!

29th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Saison

29th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Saison

Our table shared the chili lime sweet potato fries. These were coated with chili powder and lime, and came with a spicy ranch dipping sauce. My wife is a sweet potato fries snob and she almost left me for these – they were that good. She said they were cooked perfectly, nicely spaced, which was tampered with the dipping sauce.

Chili Lime Sweet Potato Fries

Chili Lime Sweet Potato Fries

As a vegetarian, it was nice to see Crispy Organic Tofu on the menu. This side was coated with a breading and served with an Asian style dipping sauce that I am joyed.

Crispy Organic Tofu

Crispy Organic Tofu

I also had the Black Garlic Fondue do as my main (although it’s a sharing dish). This was tasty, but rich. The olives in it added a unique taste to a fondue style dish, and the accompanying garlic bread for dipping was charred and also delicious.

Black Garlic Fondue

Black Garlic Fondue

Our table also shared beer pretzels which came with a cheddar cheese dip, and a sweet horseradish dip that didn’t mess around in terms of its horseradish spiciness. This was yet another really tasty item.

Beer Pretzels

Beer Pretzels

My wife also had the Grilled Vegetable Salad. This came with locally-grown red oak lettuce, charred acorn squash, broccolini, baby carrots and zucchini, frisee, arugula. It was served with a white balsamic-truffle vinaigrette made with organic California olive oil, shaved pecorino, and toasted almonds. She really loved it, and as a voyeur sitting next to her I can declare that it was beautiful presented and fresh looking.

Grilled Harvest Vegetable Salad

Grilled Harvest Vegetable Salad

If you’re at Universal CityWalk, which is already firmly ON the beaten path, and you want something slightly OFF this beaten path that you’re treading along, unique and tasty foods, and lovely adult beverages, definitely give Carl Strauss Brewing Company a try.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Universal City, CA
1000 Universal Studios Blvd,
Universal City, CA 91608
In Universal City Walk
https://www.karlstrauss.com/


 
Apr
09
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Los Angeles, Pizza, Sherman Oaks, United States on April-9-2018

I’ve been to cheesecake factory and million times, especially at this location before or after the movie. It’s perfectly located to do so, and despite the fact that it’s always super crowded with usually a long wait, there are lots of options for almost every diet including my vegetarian.

This particular trip was Sunday, which means pizza night in my family so after the film we had downstairs confidently knowing that they serve pizza!

Kids Cheese Pizza

Kids Cheese Pizza

I had the margarita pizza which was good enough but the crust was a bit overcooked. Same thing with the similar pizza my kid ordered off the children’s menu. The sauce and cheese were perfect for our tastes but the crust was over done which isn’t great for artisan style pizzas (They were cooked perfectly on top, the right amount of brown spots – so many pizzas come out underdone…we wouldn’t have liked it if it were less cooked on top but the crust was definitely overcooked so maybe they need to adjust their pizza cooking temperature to get the right balance).

Margarita Pizza

Margarita Pizza

Of course you can’t go to cheesecake factory without getting a slice of cheesecake (well you can but really what are you thinking?) We had the mango Key Lime cheesecake at my nine-year-old’s choice, whichI would only describe it as “oh yeah baby”. You can quote me on that.

Mango Key Lime Cheesecake

Mango Key Lime Cheesecake

As I mentioned there is a lot to choose from if you’re a vegetarian from a veggie burger, mushroom, sandwich, pastas, all kinds of sides, and small plates, but one of the stars of The Cheesecake Factory for us is always the bread service which comes with every meal. The sourdough baguette and the brown grains bread they serve are always perfect and super delicious with butter. I could come to The Cheesecake Factory just to eat the free bread. I’m not sure they allow that.

I have no doubt will be back to this location, as there keep seeming to be movies that we want to see playing upstairs at the Arclight Cinemas. And please don’t eat all the bread people, will be hungry.

Cheesecake Factory, Sherman Oaks, CA
15301 Ventura Blvd.
(In the Sherman Oaks Galleria)
Encino, CA 91403
https://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/


 
Mar
20
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in Brunch, California, Coffee, Encino, Los Angeles, United States on March-20-2018

I’ve been to Claudine Artisan Kitchen & Bakeshop a few times since they opened and it’s a bright new spot on the brunch scene in the San Fernando Valley.

I’m typically a hearty egg based meal type of guy for brunch so when I decided to get the Carrot Cake Porridge this time, it really was a leap of faith. And one I’m glad I took…this dish was phenomenal! Just the right amount of sweet with all kinds of ingredients that redefined what breakfast comfort food could be for me. This is a crave worthy dish that will fill you up and that your brain and tongue will be thinking about for years to come.

 

Carrot Cake Porridge

Carrot Cake Porridge

On a previous trip I had Lea’s Lightened Quiche. As a self-confessed francophile, if you’re going to have a vegetarian quiche on the menu, that’s pretty much automatically what I’m going to get. It was a generous size and generally tasty, but perhaps a little bit too salty for my tastes.

The french-fries here are are also done right.

They’ve got various creative coffee drinks (including unique flavors) but the house coffee, for you morning coffee purists, was done absolutely perfectly. Strong and flavorful. Serve it yourself in the drink area across from the order-counter. It really did the job.

They always have plenty of option for vegetarians…daily and unique specials, and one glance through the glass at the baked goods on display will probably have you locking their door behind you as you enter so you can have them all for yourself.

The only downside to the experience is that it’s an order at the counter, seat yourself kind of place…it’s typically crowded, especially on weekends during brunch, and people don’t always observe the “seat yourself after ordering” guideline which can lead to tables being occupied by folks who have their agents in line…I’ve seen a few counter-order restaurants who go the extra mile by having a host assign tables as parties come in or order which would be a helpful, less “fend for yourself” kind of situation.

Claudine Artisan Kitchen & Bakeshop, Encino, CA
16350 Ventura Blvd.
Encino, CA 91436
https://www.claudinela.com/


 
Mar
11
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Los Angeles, Pasadena, United States on March-11-2018

We had our second meal at Plate 38, though to be honest we didn’t remember being there the first time and were only reminded of it thanks to our check-in app. (Apparently we had Mothers Day Brunch here a few years ago.) Not sure why that first experience left our brains but our dinner this time around was fantastic.

We started with the grilled artichoke appetizer which was delicious. The artichoke was nicely charred with a lemon vinaigrette and came with a good dipping sauce. We had it without the parmesan cheese to accommodate a dairy-free eater in our party and it was quite flavorful even without this.

Grilled Artichokes

Grilled Artichokes

My wife had the Baby Gem Lettuce Salad which she also thought was delicious. It was nicely plated and had a nice variety of flavors and textures.

Baby Gem Lettuce Salad

Baby Gem Lettuce Salad

My vegetarian choice was the Grist & Toll Creamy Polenta. This was Super tasty with cheese on top and extra flavor from the tiny olives in it. Honestly this was more flavor than polenta should be allowed to have.

Grist & Toll Creamy Polenta

Grist & Toll Creamy Polenta

I also had the Truffle Mushroom Bisque (a chalkboard special not on the regular menu, and also another vegetarian item.) This had perfect flavor with that extra special taste of the truffle without it being overwhelming (It’s so easy to overdo truffle oil in things.) This was served with little mini crostini style grilled cheese sandwiches with a super-tasty good sharp cheese in them. Yummy on their own and divine dipped in the bisque.

Mushroom Bisque Special

Mushroom Bisque Special

Crostini Cheese Sandwiches that Came with Bisque

Crostini Cheese Sandwiches that Came with Bisque

We were seated on the patio on a cold night which concerned me at first as I’m not a fan of experience the element while dining, but their heaters did the job and I was perfectly comfortable.

We would definitely come back to Plate 38. A lovely gastro-pub / New American spot in the eastern part of Pasadena, without the crowds of Old Town.

Plate 38, Pasadena, CA
2361 E Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
https://plate38.com/


 
Mar
06
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Encino, Faux Meat, Gluten Free, Los Angeles, United States, Veggie Burger on March-6-2018

My family and I have been to Veggie Grill in Encino many times since they opened in 2013. It’s comforting as vegetarians to be able to walk in a restaurant and know we can order anything off the menu and, for the most part, it’s pretty good. We’ve never seen the place crowded so it’s always a fairly quick situation to order at the counter and then receive your food shortly thereafter.

On this particular visit I had the Korean Street Tacos. I LOVE the Tres ‘Fish’ Tacos from the regular menu and, I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to stray away from your favorites when you’re at a restaurant, but I thought I’d give them a try. These definitely won’t land in the category of “my favorites”. Way too much of the “gochujang” sauce was included which made it difficult to enjoy the dish.

Korean Street Tacos with Fries

Korean Street Tacos with Fries

The Tres ‘Fish’ Tacos, however is a delightful dim on corn tortillas with veggie “fish” that gives me the honest to good sensation that I’m eating fish tacos.

My wife had the Beyond Meat Burger, kale style (ie on a bed of kale instead of a bun for you gluten-free folk out there.) You can order any of the burgers with the new “Beyond Burger” patty which has the look, texture, and almost the taste of actual ground beef. It’s pretty darned good when prepared properly and it’s definitely the patty you should go with if you get a “burger” here. (It’s gluten-free as well.)

Beyond Meat Burger Kale Style

Beyond Meat Burger Kale Style

Our 9 year old’s go to is the Chickin’ Nuggets (which are more like strips than nuggets) which he gets with fries (other side choices available) and a dessert (carrot cake or cookies.) He gets very excited when we tell him we’re going to Veggie Grill as he LOVES this meal. The chickin’ strips are pretty good. I’ve enjoyed similar faux-chicken at other places a little more but these aren’t bad at all.

Kids Chicken Nuggets

Kids Chicken Nuggets

I love that they have a seasonal menu which offers new things to try throughout the year and am generally excited that I can get a different, hearty vegetarian meal there every time we go. Sometimes we find the food is prepared with a little bit of a fast-food sensibility…not quite as flavored / seasoned the way it should be, or, like with the Street Tacos, too much of something, whereas some other similar casual vegetarian restaurants have a little more chef’s artistry in what they present and deliver…that having been said we’ll definitely be back.

Veggie Grill, Encino, CA
16542 Ventura Blvd.
Encino, CA 91436
https://www.veggiegrill.com/