Tag Archives: al fresco

Obika Mozzarella Bar Reviewed! (Los Angeles)

Gentle Reader, since The Practical Cook kitchen is collecting dust right now from lack of use, it seems appropriate to share a great new find from the road. Also, when you have the opportunity to eat Italian food with an Italian after driving to L.A. in a convertible on a beautiful day, you do it and say thank you. That, Gentle Readers, is good practical advice, pun intended.

It doesn't count as a power lunch unless there's something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

It doesn’t count as a power lunch unless there’s something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

I digress. Enter Obika Mozzarella Bar, part of a chain (not in the bad way) of independently operated restaurants worldwide. This was my first trip to Los Angeles, and Obika was the perfect introduction to a power lunch. Fueled by perfect weather, outdoor seating, a bottle of pink champagne (don’t judge, it’s L.A.), and food that was appropriate to the setting, I’m a fan.

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

We started with an appetizer platter that was reminiscent of Barcelona for me, featuring a plain mozzarella, a smoked one, a pesto, a smoky tomato sauce with almonds (the fact that I’m not still there swimming about in this one bears testimony to my self-discipline), and a caponata that was truly outstanding.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

I have texture issues, and too often caponata is mushy. This was not at all, each ingredient stood on its own while playing well with others. Well done. Add bread crisps and a variety of cured meats, and I could have just stopped there. But I did not.

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone?

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone? Yes, we got that to go. Don’t ask.

Next course, pasta. Perfectly cooked, the pasta dishes were well executed. All of the food here features quality ingredients, and it shows. The simpler food is, the better the base ingredients need to be.

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

But let’s rush to the end, shall we? Dessert was a trio of tastes, small but intense, including a tiramisu and a dark chocolate torte. Yes I say.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

The joy of eating outside in a great location watching people, eating great food, in a convivial atmosphere, can not be overstated. The caponata and the smoky tomato dips were standouts for me in a sea of right-sized bites. As you can see from the website, there are multiple locations–check for one near you and let me know what you think.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Until then, thanks to all for your continued support and suggestions. I continue to train for a 5k while on the road, in an attempt to balance my love for food with my whole life. I was struck again at this meal, when you have great food, you don’t have to eat tons of it. Just a little of something great lingers.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

So today’s question, what are your favorite food cities to visit? I have the joy of taking a foodie friend through my town soon. Look for more reviews of NYC, NC, and everything chicken and waffles in between.

Send dinner invites, outdoor cooking challenges, and general mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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On Sunday, Weekly Menus, Birthday Style.

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Weekly Menus, Al Fresco Edition: Week of 6/2/2013

Gentle Readers, summer is a great time to establish some goals. The Practical Cooks Junior have established theirs already, and they are as follows: eat outside as often as possible, take night walks no less than 2 times a week, swim daily, travel often. The Youngest is still convinced she can sell the team on Australia as the big vacation, but alas, that will have to wait.

Outdoor dining for the win!

Outdoor dining for the win!

The last week of school is a Herculean push of activities, many of them popsicle-based. Please note, I checked, and the “fruit-based” had more grams of sugar than the store-brand red/purple/orange pack. Read the labels, and when you can, make your own.

Al fresco requires gear: hat, sunglasses, bug spray, SPF.

Al fresco requires gear: hat, sunglasses, bug spray, SPF.

In the spirit of al fresco dining, with a side of last week of school, here are this week’s menus:

Weekly menus: 6/2/2013

Weekly menus: 6/2/2013

And the Four Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/2/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/2/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Italian!
Crostini and a light lemon sauce on pasta for the win! Carbs can be warm weather friendly, don’t fear them. It’s a great one-pot dish, ideal for transporting outside. If some falls on the ground, toss it to the birds. Goat cheese on crisps is the simplest appetizer in the world, and wow is it good. Damn you Whole Foods Cheesemongers–I’m a sucker for a sample.

Linguine with slightly creamy lemon sauce and asparagus. I wanted to swim in it.

Linguine with slightly creamy lemon sauce and asparagus. I wanted to swim in it.

Monday: Dine Out!
Lots of obligations this week. I’ll be doing some field research though, so stay tuned.

Tuesday: Salad
It’s hot, and I crave lettuce and watermelon. Sometimes at the same time. Tie it together with feta and a white balsamic, some basil in chiffonade form, and you’re in business.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

Wednesday: Pasta with broccoli
A request from TPCs Jr, the key here is to put more broccoli than pasta.

Cheese Rainbow Pasta Toss, Unicorns Not Included

Cheese Rainbow Pasta Toss, Unicorns Not Included

Thursday: Burritos
Another request from my offspring. To dine outside, simply assemble inside, wrap in foil, and transport. Spicy food in hot weather is your friend.

Friday: Frozen Pizza
School is out, time to party! Oh wait, was that my out loud voice?

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We’ll be visiting a new country, I don’t know which one yet. If you have ideas, let us know! Summer is a great time to try new things–without the time pressure, life gets simpler. And dining culturally is an easy way to keep the learning going without being so obvious. When your child names the food she’s eating in French, run with it.

I will admit, I’ve fallen off the CSA and Farmer’s Market bandwagon, strictly because of time. However, outdoor dining is inspiring me to rejoin the flock. Our meals are simple and portable, so fresh ingredients are a must. Help us out with our field research, challenge us to try your favorite ice cream. Post it in the comments box below! There’s plenty of room.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Send patio furniture, insect repellant, and actual feedback to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Up next on Wednesday, Obika Mozzarella Bar Reviewed!

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How to Dine Al Fresco, or Mama Tapas

When February gives you sunshine, eat outside. Though Monday’s meal plan called for breakfast for dinner, waffles al fresco was not thrilling my practical soul. So it was time to punt, tapas style. Thanks to the bits and pieces leftover from Snack Week last week, I was able to cobble together a light repast that could be eaten sans utensils.

Mama Tapas Platter

Mama Tapas Platter

We call this Mama Tapas because it has some internal rhyme and sounds better than random leftovers.

Featured here, left to right, front row first:

  • Broccoli Bouquet with Carrot Stems
  • Kapows (aka Grape Tomatoes, thusly named because of how they explode in your mouth, like a healthy Pop Rock)
  • Hummus
  • Creamy Dill and Lemon Sauce (leftover from Sunday Night Dinner)
  • Pear wedges, plain (found sitting out on my cutting board, remains of a snack)
  • Medjool dates (these are my obsession right now)
  • Pita wedges with Havarti Dill tucked artfully inside
  • Pear in Salami on a Spear (if prosciutto and melon works, why not—reviews were mixed)

Off camera was a basket of lightly toasted pita wedges, to offer a contrast in temperature and texture, and because toasting things freshens them and improves the flavor of older breads. Less than 20 minutes to prepare, the kids were able to play outside while I arranged everything, and they had the joy of discovery when they saw the platter.

Key takeaways (as we say in Corporate America):

  • Keep it simple if you’re eating outside. Nothing is worse than having to run back and forth.
  • Presentation, presentation, presentation. Do it for yourself and anyone else at the table. You will enjoy it more.
  • Let no leftover languish, no matter how small. If you have a full meal planned, consider the tapas as appetizers route. This lighter approach does work better in warmer weather.

How do you dress up your leftovers?

Coming soon, Cooking in Advance: Five Survival Strategies. Till next time Gentle Readers, keep up the good work in the kitchen!

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table, Punt!