My Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is what you make of it. Whether you are single or in a relationship, you can enjoy February 14th, instead of dreading it. Some of my best Valentine’s Days were spent with my best girl friends. Now that I’m in the right relationship, the special holiday provides us with a way to show each other how much we appreciate having one another.

This year we spent the night having dinner at the Smoke House in Burbank, then watching Robo Cop of all things. A romantic movie? Not necessarily, but fun nonetheless. We watched the remake of the 80’s classic at the MGN Five Star Cinema in Glendale. The new luxury theater is one of our favorite spots, due in part to the reclining chairs, and clear picture quality. Wait staff also serve both drinks and food. I will warn that the food isn’t exactly up to par with theaters like Ipic, but the menu beats out AMC dine in theaters.

Looking to give MGN Five Star Cinemas a try? Click here to search movie times, and/or purchase your tickets.

Here are some pictures from my Valentine’s Day 2014

Here at Meeshme.com we hope that you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day, and want to hear from you. Let us know how you spent your Valentine’s Day below.

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Squid Ink Pasta

Food & Nostalgia 

 

squid ink pastaA relationship with a grandparent is very unique. They’re allowed to impart life lessons, without having to carry all of the burden or responsibilities of a parent, unless of course you were raised by your grandparent.  Both of my parents worked full time during my younger years, so my grandmother took on full parental responsibilities. As a result we have a very close relationship. I spent many summers living with her, sharing a room, and stories. She was my roommate, my best friend, my inspiration, my mom, and my grandma. She was stern with me growing up, but I am who I am today for fear of ever disappointing her.  Parents, want to know how you can get your kids to refrain from drugs and alcohol? Guilt! My grandmother has friends EVERYWHERE!! I never behaved badly, for fear of her ever finding out, and tarnishing how she thought of me.  While kids picked on me at school for being over weight, my grandmother always made me feel special, to her I was always #1.  She is a great cook, and it is because of her that I love to cook so much. Every time I cook, I think of her and our summers together.

My boyfriend often speaks of his grandfather, who sadly passed away a few years ago.  While his grandfather was a tough Italian man, my boyfriend’s fondest memories of him were made in the kitchen.  He loved his Italian cooking, and advice about food.  To take my boyfriend back to that special time, I prepared a dish his grandfather was known for, squid ink pasta.  While he used a squid ink sauce, I used fresh squid ink pasta.  The squid ink gives the pasta it’s dark color and unique shine.  This dish is simple to make, because most of the work has already been done for you.  I found the squid ink pasta at my local Italian market, Marios in Glendale, CA.  Many Italian markets carry specialty pastas with unique flavors.  The squid ink gives the pasta a seafood flavor, so you do not need to add much to the dish.  I added good quality olive oil, graded parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and capers.  I topped the dish with fresh parmiginao-reggiano and plated with prossciutto.  I surprised him when he got home, and he was taken back immediately to times with his grandfather.

Ingredients:

Parmigiano-reginao

Graded parmesan

Jarred capers

Squid ink pasta

Red Pepper Flakes

Olive Oil

Instructions:

Boil water. Add salt, and a drizzle of olive oil to boiling water.  Add pasta, and cook for 8 minutes or until pasta is aldente (has a bite to it)

Drain pasta. Add back to pot. Add olive oil, red pepper flakes, graded parmesan, and mix.

Add pasta to dish. Top with capers, and graded parmigiano.

Enjoy!

Food means many different things to different people, but for most it’s comforting.  Food can work as a time machine, taking you back to a time with loved ones.  I hope you enjoy this dish with your loved ones.

What’s For Dinner? Simple & Fresh Flavors

Flavors From Your Past

Italian SandwichGrowing up in Glendale, California there was no shortage of Persian and Armenian markets.  It was convenient for me to get everything I needed to make the Persian dishes I grew up on.  For my boyfriend it’s been a little harder to find that taste of home.  He grew up on the East Coast with an Italian deli always in close proximity.  He went to college in Boston, where he could grab his Italian favorites.  Living in L.A. was an adjustment, but with the opening of Jersey Mike’s and Rita’s Italian Ice he felt a little more at home.

Anyone who cooks dinner multiple nights a week will tell you that it’s easy to run out of ideas.  Coming up with a new menu plan for the week can become challenging after a while.  I look for inspiration every where.  If we go out to dinner, and enjoy a meal I will attempt to recreate it at home.  While attempting to plan this week’s meals I looked for inspiration from my boyfriend’s time in Boston.  Many times he spoke of this amazing sandwich he loved from the East End of Boston.  The sandwich sounded simple, and easy enough to make.  To make this sandwich more than ordinary it would take fresh ingredients.  Fortunately I know of an Italian Deli in Glendale.  Mario’s offers many Italian imports, serving everything from fresh bread to gnocchi and homemade marinara.  I was able to pick up everything I needed, plus some extra pastas for just $20.

Follow the simple instructions below to make a light and easy meal.  This sandwich travels well too, making it the perfect meal for a lunch in the park or office.

031What you’ll need:

Fresh French Bread
Fresh Mozzarella
Organic Basil
Organic Tomato
Prosciutto sliced
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt
Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

Preparation:032

Make sure to rinse all your produce and pat try with a paper or clean hand towel
Slice tomato into thin slices
Cut bread loaf in half
Slice Mozzarella
Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over your tomato slices, mozzarella slices, basil, and the inside of the bread slices.
Sprinkle pepper over the mozzarella and tomato.
Sprinkle garlic salt over the tomatoes.
Stack your sandwich any way you like, piling up your ingredients.
Slice and serve! It’s that easy.

Enjoy 🙂

For more simple recipes visit the Feed Me portion of the Meeshme.com website.

Happy Dining XOXO

Pork Chops & Pasta? It Happened

pork chops and pasta

What’s for Dinner?

Sometimes you have to force someone to take a chance, even if it’s just to experiment with food.  We can get so set in our ways when it comes to what we eat.  Visiting the same restaurants, ordering the same dishes, cooking the same meal night after night.  We grow up on certain types of food depending on our cultural backgrounds, then grow up and find other types of foods intimidating.  While the foods you grew up on were amazing, you’ll miss out on some great meals If you never try new things.

My boyfriend’s sister was kind enough to send us a giant package of meat from Omaha steaks for his birthday.  Among the amazing steaks were a few pork chops.  I knew my boyfriend would love them, despite his hate of pork. My mission would be to cook the pork chops in a way where he couldn’t deny their amazing flavor.

I chose to apply my fail-safe marinade to the pork chops, and fix a side of pasta to go with them.  The recipe for these bomb.com pork chops is below.

Ingredients:

Pork Chops (Amount depends on who you’re cooking for. My boyfriend was able to eat 3 in one meal)

Pasta (I used regular spaghetti noodles, you can use any type of noodle you prefer)

Marinade:

Balsamic Vinegar

2 tablespoon Oregano

1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes

1 tablespoon Pepper

1 tablespoon Garlic Salt

Olive Oil

Pre-Cooking Instructions:

The night before I coated the pork chops in olive oil.  Take a tablespoon of olive oil and rub it into the meat.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl: garlic salt, oregano, red pepper flakes, and pepper.

Sprinkle the mixture over the pork chops and pat down compacting the dry ingredients.

put the pork chops into a plastic Ziplock bag, and add the balsamic vinegar.

Put into the refrigerator, and let sit over night.

Cooking Instructions:

Heat your oven to 200 F

Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a sauce pan, and add your pork chops

Place the pork chops into the oven without a lid.

Let cook for 10 minutes then flip the pork chops, and let them cook for another 10 minutes

Take the pan out of the oven and put it on the stove top over high heat.

Cook the pork chops on either side for 1 to five minutes depending how brown you want the outside.

Take a piece of aluminum foil and loosely tent the pan letting the pork sit for 10 minutes

This will save the pork juices, preventing drying.

pork chops in pan

Pasta:

Boil Water

Add salt and teaspoon of olive oil

Add pasta when water comes to a boil

Cook aldente and drain

Remove pork chops from the cooking pan

Do not clean the pan.

Place pan over medium heat, and add pasta.

Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and tablespoon of olive oil

Mix the pasta with the drippings from the pork chops

Cook for five minutes or until mixed.

Plate with pork chops and serve!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe.  Come visit us here at Meeshme.com again soon!

Valentine’s Day: Done Disney

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Anyone who has known me for even about five minutes, knows that I love Disneyland.  My very first birthday was celebrated there, and pretty much every year since.  My mom has worked for Disney for the past 17 years, and my boyfriend now works there as well.  Maybe it’s the fact that I never want to let go of my inner child, or that my love of big ball gowns makes me resentful that I wasn’t born a Disney Princess, but I always feel happy when I spend a day in or around the parks.

All my time spent at the parks have made me somewhat of an expert.  It’s no secret that many girls love Disneyland, many men however dread walking past that turnstile.  That being said, Disneyland is truly a romantic place.  It’s the reason why so many girls want to be taken there on a date.  Why not treat your girlfriend to a Valentine’s Day at the park? If you work on during the week, you can always celebrate a weekend before or after.  Can’t pay the hefty admission ticket price? No worries, Downtown Disney offers plenty of romantic dining experiences, and parking is free for five hours with validation.

So without further ado, here are some romantic dinner options Disney style:

The Blue Bayou

Blue bayou

The Blue Bayou

Ever taken a boat ride on the Pirates of the Carribbean? Then you have seen the Blue Bayou.  Yes, it’s that restaurant you can see from your boat before you take that first drop.  I had seen this restaurant over and over again for years, and always wanted to try it.  I just never got around to it.  I mentioned this to my boyfriend when we were first dating, and on my birthday he took me there.  I was so surprised, and excited.  The restaurant is much more magical than it appears from the ride.  The dining area is designed to look as though you are eating outside in the bayou region of Louisiana.  The entrance and waiting area are set in the facade of a New Orleans home.  When you walk past the doors into the “patio” you see what looks like outdoor dining.  The trees, twinkling lights, and bayou backdrop truly transport you to Louisiana.  Our table was positioned close to the water, but don’t worry you can’t even see the Disneyland tourists floating by on their boats.  The food was delicious.  They serve traditional Louisiana fare with choices of Jambalya, gumbo, and more.  See the full menu here.  As we finished our dinner my boyfriend said I love you for the first time.  He later referred the restaurant to his friend who purposed to his girl friend there.  The Blue Bayou is a truly a place for romance.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

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Jazz Kitchen

If you like the sound of a Louisiana inspired dinner date, but can’t afford to splurge on theme park tickets, then visit Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.  While I’ve never been on a date here, I have dined here with a close friend of mine.  The restaurant is beautifully designed with lots of attention to detail.  The fountain in the center of the dinning room ads a dramatic touch to the scenery.  The food and portion size are great, and the beignets  are to die for.  View the full menu here.  If you’re on a budget, you can visit the quick pick up location next door.  They offer many Louisiana favorites, and you can pick up a bag of the delicious beignets with powdered sugar.  Take your bag to go, and snack with your loved one as you walk down the strip and take a look at the shops.

Carthay Circle

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Carthay Circle

Located near the entrance of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, Carthay Circle is one of the newest additions to the theme park.  The restaurant depicts the same theater Walt Disney premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all those years ago.  The original theater is now gone, and the restaurant pays tribute to the movie that started the animation studio.  The restaurant is an ode to old Hollywood glamour, and the architecture is similar to the Spanish style reminiscent of that time.  The bar located on the first floor of the restaurant serves delicious cocktails as you wait to be seated.  The dining room itself is glorious.  The menu is varied with many California inspired dishes, and a few Asian inspired as well. To view the full menu visit here.  The ambiance is very romantic, and will impress any date.

Napa Rose

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Napa rose

Located inside Disney’s California Adventure Hotel, Napa Rose is a romantic dinner destination.  Entrance to this restaurant does not require an admission ticket.  The menu was created by the same Chef responsible for the menu at Carthay Circle.  Napa Rose has received several accolades since it’s opening in 2002.  The ambiance is very contemporary, but the dim lighting ads a touch of romance.  The wine selection is quite extensive, so wine connoisseurs take note.  With thick cut steaks, and fresh fish to choose from, you can’t lose at this modern restaurant.  To view the full menu visit here.

Other downtown Disney options include: The House of Blues, Catal Restaurant, and Naples.

Disney romance on a budget: Flo’s V8 Cafe. Great views of the Car’s Land Canyon.

No matter where you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, I hope it’s a magical one.

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!

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!