Monthly Archives: July 2013

[Segovia, Spain] Casares Restaurante

Calle Isabel la Catolica, 1

40001 Segovia, Spain



Segovia is a quaint village, just 30 minutes away from Madrid on the high-speed rail AVE.  It’s a World Heritage site declared by UNESCO, with the Roman Aqueduct and the Alcazar castle being the must-sees.  That being said, what initially attracted us to visit, was the cochinillo or the roasted suckling pig.  The cochinillo, supposedly, is what sets Segovia on the foodie map.  Our time at Segovia was only half a day (our train departed at 2pm), and we were planning to lunch at Jose Maria.  We didn’t realize that Jose Maria doesn’t serve lunch until 1pm, which meant we wouldn’t have enough time to catch our train.  So, off we went to find another alternate restaurant for cochinillo.  We were glad to happen upon Casares.  It’s literally right smack in the middle of the town, right next to Plaza Mayor, a few steps from Jose Maria.


The front of the restaurant


The menu.  We opted for the Menu Traditional Segovia, a 3 course meal, which has the roasted suckling pig for EUR 23.50.  We ordered 2 of the Menu Traditionals for 4 people and the portions were more than enough!


The bread was really crusty.  But once you get past the hard crunchy shell, the inside of the bread was soft.


Salad of Segovian vegetables – this barely had any dressing, but the vegetables were so fresh and full of natural flavor that dressing is not really needed anyway.  I wish we had gotten more of this!  We all loved it.


Castilian garlic soup – we’re not really sure what’s in the soup.  It didn’t taste all that garlicky.  None of us were fond of it.



Each of us got a plate of the cochinillo.  The restaurant was gracious enough to split the 2 menus into 4 portions.  The skin was so crunchy and crispy, while the meat was so juicy and tender.  The cochinillo was succulent, full with pork flavor.  By luck of the draw, I was served with the leg — that was a big hunk of meat!  The potatoes were really yummy; dip them in the au jus.  2 out of the 4 of us thought this was the best meal on our Spain/Europe trip.


Sponge cake typical of Segovia — since we had to catch our train back to Madrid, we did not have time for dessert.  So the restaurant packaged them for us in the to-go containers.  I’m not sure if Segovian sponge cakes are typically THAT sweet, but the one from Casares definitely was way too sweet for any of us.  Next time, I think I’ll play it safe and get the more “safe” desserts.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – DineLA

100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

(310) 652-2827


DineLA restaurant week is always a great time to try out restaurants.  I remember going to Lawry’s a few years back and had a great experience there, but it was pricey.  Their DineLA dinner menu looks awesome this time, and is a great value compared to the normal menu so it gave me even more reason to go back.


Lawry’s can seat up to 500 (yes it’s one big place), but it can get crowded.  So make sure to make a reservation!  Also, I think it’s valet only for parking ($6).  Once you’re in the restaurant, you most likely have to wait  5 – 10 minutes while they seat the parties who’ve arrived ahead of you.  But never fear – in anticipation of hungry diners, Lawry’s has a waiting/welcoming lounge with complimentary meatballs and freshly fried potato chips.


Here’s the dineLA menu:


You get the idea.  So here’s what we ordered:

The Original Spinning Bowl Salad – it is tossed table-side.  Watch as your server drizzles the dressing while the salad bowl spins!  The salad is very fresh and the dressing (kind of like a tangier and lighter version of thousand island) is delicious.


Complimentary bread is freshly baked – crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  The way bread should be!


Yorkshire pudding – it comes with the meal and is great to soak up the au jus from the prime rib.  Mmmm…


2 types of horseradish to accompany the prime rib:  regular horseradish and whipped cream horseradish.  The whipped cream version is a lot milder.  Both are really great with the prime rib!  Btw – horseradish is like wasabi, just not green…


The star of the meal:  prime rib!  The meat cart is rolled to your table, choose the doneness of the meat and the meat is sliced table-side.  Mine was done medium.  Besides the mashed potatoes, you can choose another side (creamed spinach, creamed corn or  buttered peas).  The prime rib is melt-in-the-mouth delicious!  All of the sides were really great as well.


Broiled Nova Scotia lobster tail – the lobster meat was a bit too salty.  Other than that, it was ok.  Prime rib is definitely the winner.


You can choose any dessert from Lawry’s regular dessert menu, as part of the dineLA promotion.  This is the warm chocolate fantasy cake with Haagen-Daz vanilla ice cream.  The cake is warm and oozing of chocolate.  It’s perfectly balanced with the vanilla ice cream.  Rich but not too sweet.  Even though we were so full, we had to make room for this!


NY style cheesecake with brandied cherries. The cheesecake was good but the warm chocolate cake definitely stole the show.


I can’t wait for the next dineLA to go back to Lawry’s!

Manhattan Beach Country Club – Terrace Dining

1330 Park View Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

(310) 546-5656


I had no idea that the Manhattan Beach Country Club was so close by my work place, until one of my bosses happened to mention that she was a member there.  She plays tennis there, and one day suggested that we should go there for lunch.  So off we went!


The Country Club is kinda located in an obscure location, tucked away in the midst of the city.  It’s right by the 24 Hour Fitness on Rosecrans.  I think non-members can dine there, but don’t quote me on that — better call to check.  Many of the parking spots are designated especially for the club members, so beware where you park.  The Terrace Dining overlooks the center tennis courts – it’s entertaining to watch people play.  Terrace Dining is very relaxing, and you don’t feel like you’re in LA anymore.  🙂


This is the regular menu.  There is also an express menu for lunch which we opted for:  3 courses (appetizer, main and dessert) for $19.


Appetizer:  white bean stew with Italian sausage.  Mild flavor but tasty.


Complimentary pretzel bread – fresh and hot from the oven!  The bread was chewy and the crust wasn’t too hard.  Yum!


Pistachio-crusted salmon with a bed of parmesan risotto and grilled brussels sprouts.   The salmon was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The pistachio gave the salmon a nice toasty nutty flavor.  The parmesan risotto was a bit citrusy, so it was a nice balance with the parmesan and not too rich.  Loved the brussels sprouts!


Vanilla bean gelato with a sugar cookie.  Need I say more?  What a nice ending to a great meal!

[Madrid, Spain] Mercado de San Miguel

Plaza de San Miguel, s/n

28005 Madrid, Spain ‎


Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday: 10:00 to 24:00H.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 to 02:00H.


Mercado de San Miguel website (in Spanish):


Trip Advisor reviews:


The Mercado de San Miguel is literally a stone’s throw away from Plaza Mayor.


To call it a market is a misnomer.  This particular mercado is more like a Southeast Asia hawker center to me.  Inside the building houses various vendors which sells numerous different kinds of tapas, alcohol (beers and wines), cheeses, desserts and seafood (fresh and cooked to order).  There are seatings in the center of the market.  The atmosphere is very vibrant and buzzing, as most everyone is standing and chatting, while munching on great food.  I had some of the best tapas here!


The Mercado de San Miguel – yes, it’s one giant glass building!


The pasta stand – some pastas are uncooked so that you can cook them at home.  The pesto lasagna (already cooked) was fantastic!


The oyster stand – only manned by 1 person so service could be slow.  Sadly, by the time I was ready to get oysters, the vendor was on break and nowhere to be seen.


Sardines with cheese on toast


Assorted cheeses


The olive vendor – you’ve guessed it, with all sorts of marinated olives!  There are olives with cheese skewers, olives with sardines skewers, olives with roasted pepper skewers, etc.  Each skewer is EUR 1 to EUR 2 (approx USD $1.30 – $2.60).


Seafood tapas!  Toasts with smoked fish, anchovies and sardines…


The pesto lasagna and arancini (Italian rice ball) from the pasta stand.  The pesto lasagna was full of pesto and really tasty (EUR 2)!  Arancini was a bit cold, but good texture and full of parmesan flavor (EUR 1).


The olive skewers that we got.  So good.  Cheese accompanies the marinated olives really well.


The assorted seafood toasts that we got.  May I just say that they were all delicious!


These were all my favorites!  It was unusual to see the small silver fish in the puff pastry, but it was super yum!  You can actually choose from 6 different infused oils to mix the silver fish, and I think I got the garlic oil.  The smoked salmon on toast was delicious, as was the olive-oil marinated cod (EUR 1 each).  And I don’t need to reiterate how good the olives are  (EUR 1 each)!


Our whole table full of the food!  My rosé went really well with the tapas that we got.  Some of the food to avoid:  the paella (just wasn’t as good as the one we had in Barcelona) and the sliders.  When in Spain, go for the fresh and seasonal foods!

DineLA Restaurant Week starts next Monday!

Menus are up on the website and there are even more restaurants on the list, in this latest round.  This time, it will be a 12-days straight event, including weekends!  That is great news for those of us that can’t travel far during the workweek.  Time to start booking reservations!

[Arcadia] 626 Night Market!

The 626 Night Market will be this weekend at the Santa Anita Park!  There will be over 150+ vendors and food trucks, with entertainment (including Youtube sensation Jason Chen!).  There is an admission charge this time (I’m assuming to cover the venue and the free parking):

ADMISSION: Free Parking
$2 / person 4PM-6PM
$3 / person after 6PM
Free for ages 12 years and younger

And here’s the list of vendors!

[Madrid, Spain] Chocolateria San Gines

Pasadizo de San Gines 5

Madrid, 28013  Spain


This place is literally a block away from Canas y Tapas and minutes from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor


This chocolate and churros institution has been around for more than 100 years!  I’m always amazed at how some restaurants can preserve and survive for generations.  This one has the right recipe:  great churros, rich but not too sweet chocolate, fast service and reasonable prices!


The storefront.  I wonder if it has changed at all since 1894?


Open all day and all night!!!  We noticed that the later it gets, the more crowded it became.


The kitchen area on the main floor.  After you place your order, give your receipt to one of the uniformed wait staff and wait for your order to arrive.


Seating is a little limited on the main floor.  But not to worry, there’s more seating downstairs!


The churro is being made.  It’s an interesting stove!


An order comes with 6 pieces of churros and the cup of dipping chocolate.  Yummy!  Unlike the US version, the churros are not coated with cinnamon sugar.  Since they’re freshly made,  the churros are piping hot and crispy.  The chocolate is rich and creamy, without it being overly sweet.  EUR 3.60 (approx USD $4.70)


Chocolateria San Gines also serves assorted coffees and teas.  The cafe Americano was pretty decent.  EUR 2 (approx USD $2.60)

[Madrid, Spain] Cañas y Tapas

Plaza Celenque, 1,

28013 Madrid, Spain ‎


It’s very close to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, about a 5 minute walk to each


We stumbled upon this tapas restaurant, on our way to Plaza Mayor.  Apparently, it’s a tapas chain that is popular in Spain (with a few outposts in Portugal and France).  Prices were really reasonable and service very friendly.   The restaurant is split into 2 floors:  the main level serves tapas and has a special tapas menu; the downstairs dining room caters to full entrees with a few tapas items (the special pricing from the main level does not apply).  So it depends on whether you’re in for a quick snack or a full meal.  We dined twice in the downstairs dining room.  The wait staff actually speaks quite a lot of English!  And there are English menus available, so ask for one if you can’t understand the Spanish descriptions.  🙂


One of the main level menus.  Yes, a lot of the specials include beer!


One of the English menus from the downstairs dining room.  “Ration” refers to the tapas items, which you can choose between half or full portion sizes.  There are more menu items on the other side of the menu!


Here are some of the notable dishes:

On-the-house starter:  cold potato salad.  It was a bit vinegary but refreshing.


Grilled wild mushrooms with garlic-oil sauce.  The mushrooms are perfectly grilled and seasoned so that they’re juicy and succulent.  You can choose either the half ration or the full ration size.  This is the half ration EUR 5.10 (approx USD $7).


Spanish tortilla – unlike the Mexican/South American version, the Spanish tortilla is more like an omelette which contains layers of potato and onions.  This was huge and I think it was only the half ration! EUR 4.70 (approx USD $6)


Grilled cuttlefish – this was sooo good!  Cuttlefish is squid… you just don’t see the tentacles.  Grilled just right, so that the squid is very tender.  Full ration EUR 10.95 (USD $14)


“Padron” green peppers – loved the simply grilled peppers!  Not spicy at all, these are the perfect snack.  Half portion EUR 5.10  (approx USD $6.60)