Valentine’s Day: Dinner

With Valentine’s day swiftly approaching, I thought I would share some romantic dinner date ideas with you.  I know it’s traditional to have the man plan the date, but let’s face it sometimes he needs a little help.  I admit I can be hard to please, so it’s much easier on my poor boyfriend if I give him at least a few options to choose from.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of dining at these locations, and enjoyed my experience well enough to share them with you.  If you live in Los Angeles you must give these restaurants a try, if not for Valentine’s Day on your next romantic dinner date with your man.

Smoke House

Smoke House

Smoke House

Located in Burbank, California near the Warner Brother’s studio lot, Smoke House might as well be a historic landmark.  Open since 1946, the Smoke House has been a popular destination for producers, celebrities and families alike.  George Clooney loved the restaurant so much he named his production company after it. The exterior of the restaurant looks like a charming old fashioned home, while the interior is cozy and romantic.  Unlike the lighting at your typical chain restaurant, the dim lighting is relaxing (and much more forgiving).  It doesn’t get much more classic than the Smoke House.  During Valentine’s Day the restaurant kicks it up a notch with special seasonal decor and a special menu.  The tables surrounding the fireplace are extra romantic, and can be requested when you make your reservation.  The menu offers traditional steakhouse fare.  You will have your choice of steaks, prime rib, seafood and chicken options, but what the Smoke House is really famous for is their garlic cheese bread.  Diners who sit down to dinner between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on February 14th receive 25% off the Vday menu.  If you would prefer to go for drinks, or are looking for some entertainment, the Smoke House lounge offers live music Thursdays through Saturdays.  You can view the music schedule here.  If you are looking for a great place for Sunday brunch stop by the Smoke House Sundays between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Takami

Takami

Takami

Located in Downtown, Los Angeles Takami holds special significance for me.  It was the place where my boyfriend and I spent our first date.  The views from Takami are spectacular, with large windows overlooking the skyscrapers of Downtown L.A.  Whether you sit inside or outside, you will be able to enjoy the magnificent view.  I prefer to dine here for dinner, because the view is more spectacular at night.  I have to admit I am not a fan of sashimi, but I do enjoy a good roll.  The sushi rolls were delicious, and the portion size was reasonable for the price.  If you’re date isn’t into sushi there are quite a few non-sushi items to enjoy as well.  You can view the menu here. If you’re not hungry, stop by for a cocktail.  The cocktail menu is extensive and unique.  The restaurant is offering a special Valentine’s Day cocktail and desert for patrons spending the occasion with them.  Takami doesn’t come cheap, but it’s no more expensive than any other similar establishment.  The spicy tuna on crispy rice is $14 for example, and sushi rolls will cost you between $6 and $15.

Yamashiro

Yamashiro Hollywood

Yamashiro Hollywood

What can I say about this Palace in the hills.  Yamashiro means “Mountain Palace” in Japanese. It was the dream of the Bernheimer brothers in 1911 to build a hilltop mansion 250 feet above Hollywood Boulevard to house their priceless collection of Asian treasures. Hundreds of skilled craftsmen were brought from the Orient to recreate an exact replica of a palace located in the “Yamashiro” mountains near Kyoto, Japan. This dream became a reality in 1914.” To learn more about the history of this one of a kind restaurant check the history page.  I first came across this restaurant when I was doing a search for my boss.  He wanted to take his girlfriend somewhere romantic, and I found Yamashiro.  I finally ate here with my boyfriend on her 2nd year anniversary.  The restaurant itself is huge, and truly looks like a Japanese palace.  The view from our table was unbelievable with windows facing Downtown L.A., Hollywood, and Century City.  The sparkling lights of the city made the experience magical.  The menu is quite extensive, with plenty of pricey dinner options for the diner less interested in sushi.  We ordered five sushi rolls to start, and the fried chicken bites.  The chicken was delicious, and the breading was unlike any chicken strips I have ever tasted.  The sushi was so large, we couldn’t eat anything else.  The spicy tuna rolls on crispy rice were amazing, and much larger than the portions you get at other well known Japanese restaurants.  Most of the sushi was topped with caviar, but if that’s not your thing you can ask to have it served without it.  My favorite part of the meal was desert.  I am a lover of sweets, and my dessert was amazing.  We ordered the s’mores fudge brownie which consisted of a warm chocolate brownie, topped with toasted marshmallow, and accompanied by a graham cracker and cookie dough ice cream.  It was insanely good.  The restaurant is providing a special Valentine’s Day menu which you can view here, but it doesn’t come cheap at $99 per person.  During the summer the Japanese garden and pool bar are open as well.

The Castaway

Castaway

The Castaway

In the hills of Burbank sits The Castaway.  A hidden gem, the Castaway also features amazing views of the city.  The palm trees on the property combined with the architecture take you back to 1950s Hollywood glamour.  The location is so beautiful that many couples plan to have their weddings here.  I had the opportunity to have Valentine’s Day dinner here once before, oddly enough with my parents and brother.  It wasn’t exactly the most romantic dinner date, but I was still able to enjoy the great food and ambiance.  The menu features prime cuts of steak, seafood, and chicken dishes.  Soups, salads, and pasta dishes are served as well.  Dinner is naturally more costly than lunch, so if you are on a budget you might want to make it to the restaurant during lunch hour.  Steak dishes are between $30 and $38, seafood dishes are between $29 and $49, and pasta is between $17 and $38 for the seafood pasta.  To view their full menu visit here.  If you plan on visiting the restaurant on Valentine’s Day be sure to make a reservation.  The special Vday menu can be viewed here.

Check back with MeeshMe tomorrow for Valentine’s Day dinner ideas for those of you on a budget!

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Meeshiladas

Meeshiladas

Meeshiladas

It’s a cold and rainy day here in LA, and nothing tastes better on a day like today than something hot and cheesy.  I’ve made my meeshiladas for lots of friends and family, and they always notice something different about the filling.  My background is Persian, Italian and Irish so I really have no business making enchiladas.  Except for the fact that these meeshiladas are drenched in enchilada sauce , and come topped with cheese, they are nothing like the Mexican recipe.  They may not be traditional, but my guests enjoy them for what they are, meeshiladas.

To create a “meeshilada” you will need:

1 package corn  or flour tortillas

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can enchilada sauce (or you can make your own)

1 package Mexican Cheese blend, Mozzarella cheese, or Queso Fresco

1 bell pepper

1 onion

1 can black beans

1 jar salsa (hot or mild depending on your preference)

salt, pepper

minced garlic

First you’ll need to prep.  Dice your onion and bell pepper.  Open your can of beans.  Take out your tortillas, and have them ready.  Season your chicken with salt and pepper.  Turn the heat on under your pan, and place a few tablespoons of butter or oil and your minced garlic onto the pan.  Place your seasoned chicken into the pan, and start to cook.  When the chicken has been cooking for five to ten minutes, or starting to get brown, add 1 jar of salsa to the pan.  Let the chicken absorb the salsa.  The chicken should start to become tender, at this point you can use your clean fingers or two forks to start to break apart the chicken.  Add the diced onions, peppers, and black beans.  Cook until the vegetables are soft on the outside, slightly brown.

Preheat your oven to 375.  Poor a bit of enchilada sauce into a lasagna pan.  Take your corn tortillas, and warm them up.  You can do this over the stove or in the microwave.  Heat them for under 30 seconds, just enough to soften them.  You can poor enchilada sauce into a plate or a pan, and lightly coat the tortilla in the sauce.  Fill the tortilla with your cooked mixture, and roll it.  If your unable to keep the tortilla folded on its own, a toothpick will help keep it closed while cooking.  Just remember to remove the toothpicks before you serve.  When you have filled your lasagna pan with your rolled tortillas, top them with more enchilada sauce and Mexican Cheese blend.  Cook in the oven until the cheese is melted, usually no more than 15 minutes.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

What’s Wrong With Me?

How to Avoid too Much Mercury

spicy tuna roll

Spicy Tuna I’ll Miss You

I am a chronic migraine sufferer, so when I had a migraine Friday night an hour after dinner I didn’t think much of it.  My stomach felt a little upset, and my boyfriend wasn’t feeling too great either.  We had just had sushi at Katsuya, and we wondered, “Did we get food poisoning?”  Sushi is tricky, and we all know how easy it is for sushi to go bad, but Katsuya is supposed to be a quality establishment is it not?

When I got home I took an excedrine for my migraine, as I often do and fell asleep.  I had anxiety the next day as well, and another headache.  It’s now going on the fifth day, and I still have a headache, some anxiety, and nausea.  I did research, and discovered I have mercury poisoning.

I have heard of mercury poisoning before, and heard that mercury exists in seafood, but never heard of the effects it can have on your brain.  I figured I would be throwing up, or have symptoms similar to food poisoning.  Never did I imagine it would cause headaches, anxiety, etc.

While I love seafood, the lesson in all of this is to be aware of the amount of mercury you digest.  Mercury searches for fat to intrude.  Since our brains our comprised of fatty tissue, the mercury finds it’s way into our brains affecting our thoughts and emotions.  If you feel like you have mercury poisoning, consult your doctor.

Here is a list of fish and their mercury levels according to about.com:

LOWEST MERCURY

Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings):

  • Anchovies
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Oyster
  • Perch
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
  • Sole
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

MODERATE MERCURY

Eat six servings or fewer per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bass
  • Carp
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Perch
  • Snapper
  • Tuna (Canned Chunk light)

HIGH MERCURY

Eat three servings or less per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Sea Bass
  • Tuna (Canned Albacore, Yellowfin)

HIGHEST MERCURY

Avoid eating (everyone):

  • Marlin
  • Orange Roughy
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Tuna (Ahi)

It’s important to remember that seafood is a healthy alternative to red meat.  There are plenty of nutritional benefits to eating seafood, just remember to eat fish with low levels of mercury.

Skip the Chain Restaurant Game

Cook at home

You Get to Lick the Bowl

Sure cooking at home takes a little more work than driving to the Cheesecake Factory, but the results are worth the effort.

1) Mo Money in Your Pocket.

Eating out gets expensive, and these aren’t the times to be squandering your pennies on a meal you could create at home.  Cooking can become expensive as well, but if you are smart about how you shop, you can definitely save a couple hundred dollars a month.  There are few dishes that a restaurant can make at lower cost by purchasing in bulk, but most meals can be made at home at lower cost.  Certain conveniences like pre-cut vegetables and fruits, and frozen pre-made meals can get pricey, so if you’re on a budget you will get much more for your buck by cutting your own produce.

2) Get Fresh with Me.

You would be surprised to learn how many restaurants use Campbell’s soup, or packaged pre-made sauces.  If you’re going to eat these pre-made items, why would you spend $15 to $20 on a night at an Italian restaurant when you could spend $5 and eat from home.  Those chain restaurants you love get their meals from test kitchens.  A chef prepares the meals in a test kitchen ahead of time, the meals get packaged, frozen and shipped to your chain location where they then proceed to microwave your order.  Doesn’t sound to appealing does it? Not to mention the fact that places like TGIFridays sells these same items at your local grocery store, and you can microwave the dish yourself and skip the tip.  Taking the time to pick out fresh produce, meats, and cheeses will taste so much better on your plate.

3) That has HOW many calories?

Now that it’s pretty standard to display calorie amounts on restaurant menus, life has become pretty depressing.  I find it very difficult to enjoy eating out when I can see that my one dish has more calories than I should be eating in an entire day.  As someone who has lost over 85 pounds, calorie counting became an important part of my life.  From the age of 16 I started researching how many calories are in food items.  I know that a bean and cheese burrito I make at home has less than 300 calories, so why is it up to 900 calories when you eat out? And there is just NO reason why a salad should ever have 1,000 calories.  When you prepare your own meals at home you can cut so many unwanted calories.  Try cooking from home for one month, and see how much weight you lose.

4) Tip Yourself

Tipping has always been an interesting topic for me.  I have a set of tasks I have to accomplish at work every day.  Whether I am friendly and smile all day, or act grumpy, I’m going to get paid the same amount.  If I decide to bring my boss his cup of coffee, or ask if he would like a refill, I’m not going to get paid any more.  As a waiter/waitress you are being paid to serve people drinks and food.  It is in your job description to bring them what they ask for, and check up on them.  That is your job.  The restaurant owner should be paying you an adequate salary for performing your job tasks.  It shouldn’t be up to me to make up the difference for what your boss stiffs you on.  Are you going to pay me extra when you see my ads on Google, because you think I’m not being paid enough for what I do? I don’t think so.  That being said, I always tip around 18%. I know how it feels to struggle, and I’d be embarrassed if I tipped any less than what was standard.  If I’m on a budget I won’t go to a restaurant.  I won’t stiff on the tip, I just won’t go.  If I make my own meal, I get the credit and I can save my tip.

5) The Wait

When I get really hungry I might as well be lost on an alien planet. I know I’m hungry, but I’m lost as to what I want to eat.  I know I need food in me now, but that’s about it.  My patience grows very thin, I feel weak, and I sometimes want to cry.  So dramatic, but it’s true.  When I’m hungry, and I walk into a restaurant where the hostess tells me it’s going to be 30 minutes to an hour for me to be seated, I want to throw my purse at her.  Not only do you have to wait to be seated, you have to wait for the server to get to your table, take your order, get the food prepared, then bring it to you.  In all that time I could have just fixed myself a sandwich at home in under 10 minutes.

Stuffed Me~shells

stuffed shells

Stuffed me~shells

Stuffed shells is a popular Italian dish.  The traditional stuffed shell is pretty simple, and easy to make.  Traditionally restaurants are home cooks, stuff cooked pasta shells with a ricotta (cheese) mixture, top them with marinara sauce, and serve.  Stuffed Me~shells are different.  I recently had the opportunity to serve a true Italian my version of the classic, my boy friend’s father in New Jersey.  He questioned my methods at first, but after tasting them quickly became a fan.  I have had the opportunity to serve these shells to a variety of guests, all who preferred them over the original recipe.  Here is how my recipe differs:

Ingredients:

1 package large pasta shells

1 package lean ground meat

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 bunch fresh spinach

1 small carton ricotta cheese

1 package shredded mozzarella

Parmesan Cheese

1 onion

salt, pepper, garlic salt

1 jar marinara sauce or make your own

Directions:

I always start by boiling the water.  Add salt to the water to add flavor to the pasta.  When the water comes to a boil, throw in the package of shells.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is aldente.  You will be backing the pasta later, so it’s better that the pasta be a little on the firm side.

While the pasta is cooking, empty the package of ground meat to a sauce pan.  You can add a small amount of oil to the ban, so that the meat doesn’t stick.  Season the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic salt or powder.  Chop one white onion, and the bell peppers.  Add the onions and bell peppers to the meat mixture.  Brown. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, add the marinara sauce.  Mix.

Take the bunch of spinach, and remove the leaves from the stems.  Rinse. In a separate pan, throw in the spinach with a bit of salt.  Let cook until the leaves wilt.  Take the spinach and drain.  Mix the spinach with the carton of ricotta cheese, a few handfuls of mozzarella cheese, pepper, and parmesan cheese.

Take a deep baking pan, and layer the bottom with the marinara sauce.  Take a pasta shell and fill it partially with the meet mixture.  Then add half a spoon full of the spinach and cheese mixture. Place the shell into the pan, and repeat.  Once you have finished stuffing all of your shells, top the shells with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.  Set the oven to 325, and let the shells bake.  If you don’t want the top of the shells to get crunchy, put a piece of foil over the top of the pan while baking.

When the cheese has melted on the top your me~shells are ready.  Serve them with garlic bread, caesar salad, and wine.  Enjoy!