Hello Avenue Italy!

I recently a wonderful birthday dinner at Avenue Italy.

Located in Rancho Palos Verdes is Avenue Italy; a restaurant offering authentic and delicious Italian cuisine by  Chef Mario Zanetti. Chef Mario was previously Lead Chef for La Stada Restaurant in Los Angeles and now he heads up this wonderful restaurant. Avenue Italy is also the sister restaurant of another favorite South Bay place of mine, Yellow Vase.

Having my birthday dinner here was truly a wonderful experience. The place transports you right into the heart of Italy with its beautiful setup and decor as well as their amazing Italian cuisine.

We started off our meal here with  Caprese e melanzane.

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This starter came with three lovely tomatoes stacked with grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella. It was then topped off with pesto. This simple Italian dish was a perfect first course. The grilled eggplant was nicely grilled and not charred. The spread of pesto was just right and not overwhelming. It gave the right amount of flavor to the dish.

Our second course consisted of the Beet salad

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This salad was one of my favorites of the night. It had mix greens topped with oven roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese. The dressing was a house balsamic vinaigrette. I am a big fan of beets but in many other restaurants, I have noticed beets tend to be large pieces that end up becoming the star of the plate. Here at Avenue Italy, they made their salad so that the beets would mix perfectly with the other ingredients. Small square beets were mixed in with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries and the feta cheese was sprinkled on top. Together these ingredients made of a sweet lovely salad.

For my main course, I chose to get the waiter’s recommendation, Pollo e prosciutto

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It was chicken rollatini with prosciutto and rosemary and vodka sauce. It was served with seasonal vegetables and roasted yukon potatoes. I originally was afraid that the prosciutto may overpower this dish but it did not at all! In fact there was just slight hint of prosciutto and the chicken was main star of the dish. It was tender and perfectly flavored with the rosemary and vodka sauce. I also loved their flavorful roasted yukon potatoes. This was great dish paired with their white chardonnay.

What’s a birthday without a birthday cake or dessert? Our last dish of the night was Avenue Italy’s tiramisu.

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Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert and here they really did this Italian delight justice. The coffee-flavoured Italian dessert was delightfully light. Wonderful flavor of cocoa with just the right hint of liqueur-spiked espresso and sweet mascarpone and whipped cream. This was truly a perfect ending to a wonderful birthday dinner.

Avenue Italy was simply lovely and I loved celebrating here.
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Hello Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Syracuse!

Dinosaurs are often associated with big and bold and thus it just seems appropriate that one of the biggest restaurants as well as one of the boldest in terms of making a name for itself in Syracuse is named Dinosaur Bar-B-Que!

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que first started off in 1983 as an idea among three friends at a motorcycle gathering in Albany, New York. Founder John Stage and his friends wanted to offer good bbq to their fellow bikers and made a mobile concession that they brought to various motorcycle shows, fairs, and festivals throughout the Northeast. Fast forward to 1988, where the mobile concession stand became a full-blown restaurant in downtown Syracuse, New York. Through the years Dinosaur has been making bold waves via being showcased in various magazines and the Food Network. Now Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has eight additional locations: Rochester, New York, Harlem, New York, Troy, New York,Newark, New Jersey, Stamford, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New York, and Buffalo, New York.

Traveling to Syracuse, I knew instantly that I had to try this iconic bbq joint and did not hesitate to go to the original location on one of my nights there. Known for super long waits, I was pleasantly surprised to have no wait when I arrived! (Can we yell success and yay!!) The place was definitely crowded with eager foodies like myself but it didn’t take long for me to start of my savory meal here.

To start off I tried Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s famous Fried Green Tomatoes.

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The Fried Green Tomatoes come in either 3 pieces or 5 pieces and are served with a side cayenne buttermilk ranch. This was the perfect starter to my meal. I loved the juicy green tomato that was fried to golden perfection. The Pecorino Romano cheese on top was a nice touch and the cayenne buttermilk ranch was a great dipping companion.

For my main meal, I decided to try a variety of some of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s best offerings by getting a combo plate.

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My chosen combo plate consisted of St. Louis ribs, chicken wings and bbq brisket with jalapeños along with corn bread, simmered turkey neck collard greens and mashed potatoes. This was one hearty and very fulfilling plate! The St. Louis ribs are dry rubbed and slow smoked and lightly glazed with Dinosaur’s original bbq sauce  It was no surprise to have the meat fall off the St. Louis ribs. Very tender it came off with one flick of my fork. Equal in tenderness was the bbq brisket. The BBQ brisket is also slow-smoked and then hand sliced and flavored with pickled onion & jalapeno relish. It is topped with sliced jalapeno and just has the right amount of spice. The chicken wings were also delightful and had very good flavoring. These chicken wings are spice-rubbed, pit-smoked and grill finished. I loved dipping it with the original BBQ sauce as well as blue cheese dressing. All of the meats went well with the side of collard greens and mashed potatoes.

Dinosaur’s meats are already quite tasty by themselves but if one wants even more flavor; there is a variety of sauces and rubs that you can smother and sprinkle all over.

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Sensuous Slathering is more of their traditional BBQ sauce that has just the right amount of sweet for my palate. The heat starts with the Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce and the Mango Tango Habanero Hot Bar-b-que Sauce. Dare if you can handle the heat with the oh so hot Devil’s Duel Habenro Hot Pepper Sauce. Lastly there is the Cajun Foreplay Spice Rub for a little more heat. (How hot can you go?_ 😉

If it does get a lot hot…have no fear because aside from savory meats, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que also has some sweet treats! They’ve got Chocolate Ice Box Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, Dino Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie.

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The Sweet Potato Pecan Pie was my dessert of choice and I fell in love with at first bite. The sweet potato itself was so soft and practically melted in my mouth. I loved the toppings of pecan pie. Both the sweet potato and pecan were the perfect pair for one another.

Just like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s namesake of dinosaurs, this place definitely is big and bold in terms of their offerings. Their foundation is fresh, homemade and high quality and as they say they “WFDA” or “We Don’t F** Around.” Big and bold indeed. It was one intense and delicious trip here.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Syracuse.

Hello Joey’s Italian Restaurant!

Whenever I travel, I try to find the best eateries that the town has to offer. My Hello Kitty Foodie adventures wouldn’t be complete without it. On my first night in New York; I’m so happy to say that I found what has to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the town of Syracuse.

Joey’s Italian Restaurant is located in Syracuse, New York at Carrier Circle. They’ve been serving up fine Italian American cuisine since 1982 via two restaurants under one roof. Upstairs lies Pronto Joey’s which offers a casual Italian American fare. Downstairs is Joey’s Classic Italian dining that has a more formal fine dining setting.

I had the pleasure of dining at Joey’s Classic Italian and was mesmerized by the beautiful setting the moment I walked in. With its cherry wood furniture, dim lighting and perfectly set tables; the place is intimate and beautiful.

Their menu is equivalent in exquisiteness and filled with an array of fresh made pastas with veal, beef, poultry and seafood. Each of their sauces is handcrafted right in the heart of New York.

Each meal here starts off with a fresh-baked basket of bread that is accompanied with their housemade garlic butter and an olive oil and balsamic dip.

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Joey’s housemade garlic butter is reason enough to go here as it definitely one of the tastiest garlic butters I have ever had. The velvety butter perfectly melts on the warm bread and is quite addicting. It has just the right hint of garlic to it.

Each pasta speciality also comes with Joey’s house salad.

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The house salad is a delightful starter filled with a good variety of vegetables. There are tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, chick peas and mixed greens. Dressing choices include honey mustard, ranch, raspberry vinagrette, balsamic vinagrette, Caesar and parmesan.

Though one can easily get full with the warm bread and crisp salad; one definitely needs to save room for Joey’s homemade pastas. The pasta menu consists of homemade dishes such as lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, fettuccine and lasagna. There is also house specialities.

One such house speciality is the Tortellini Carbonara.

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The Tortellini Carbonara has pork and beef filled pasta with sautéed Italian prosciutto. The sauce consists of asiago cheese, egg and cream. It’s one creamy dish and the tortellini will practically melt in your mouth.

Another house speciality is the Chicken Tetrazini.

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The Chicken Tentrazini has Joey’s housemade noodles topped with a breast of chicken sautéed with mushrooms, roasted red peppers and peas. The sauce is a light cream sauce. The mushrooms, red peppers and peas bring so much flavor along with the tender chicken breast. The light cream sauce is just right. This dish is definitely one of my favorites at Joey’s.

Not only are the pasta dishes homemade, the desserts are as well! The sweets menu is equally is an impressive and consists of favorite Italian sweets like tiramisu and cannoli along side classic desserts; carrot cake, cheesecake, citrus cake and creme brûlée.

It is very had to pass on a good creme brûlée and decided to try Joey’s version.

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Joey’s creme brûlée was indeed a wonderful ending to a wonderful dinner. On the bottom of the soft creme brûlée is rich Bailey’s chocolate. This creme brûlée is finished off with fresh cream and a fresh strawberry. The creme brûlée is silky-smooth. The rich Bailey’s chocolate is a sweet surprise and brings another depth to the dessert.

In my quest to find some of the best eateries in town, I think I succeeded in my first night in New York with the charming Joey’s Italian in Syracuse.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Joey’s Italian.

Hello Howlin Ray’s!

Summer is officially here! With temperatures spiking up to 100 degrees plus around LA, we can definitely say the heat is on. It however has been hot at Chinatown’s Far East Plaza since 2015, thanks to Howlin’ Ray’s!

Howlin’ Ray’s originally started out as food truck by a Silver Lake chef Johnny Zone and then in 2015, Johnny and his wife decided to put up shop at Far East Plaza. The rest as many will say his history…hot history.

Lines can be found snaking through the Far East Plaza for hours. It almost seems like everyone in town wants to get their hands on the Nashville Hot Chicken that Howlin Ray’s is all about. How hot do you want your chicken? The spice ranges from country (no heat) to howling’ (can’t touch this 10++).

Hello Kitty Foodie finally met Howlin’ Ray’s recently and I can say the hype is real!

The chicken comes out fresh from the kitchen from a very happy and eager restaurant crew. Watching the Howlin’ Ray’s crew is amazing. They’ve got the teamwork down and their manager Mario can be seen taking the time to say hello to all the foodies.

Chicken offerings are served with white bread and pickles and one can choose from a quarter bird, half bird, skinny jimmy (boneless chicken breast) and wings.

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The fried chicken is piping hot with the skin super crisp and oh so delicious. The chicken itself is tender and practically melts in your mouth. It’s perfect with the soft white bread and pickles that comes with the chicken. Spice level was just right and it definitely was getting hot the afternoon I tried it. 😉 It’s no surprise folks wait for hours for the crunch, the taste and the mouth watering experience.

Howlin’ Ray’s also offers The Sando; their version of the chicken sandwich.

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In between two butter buns is the crispiest boneless breast that is topped with slaw and lots of comeback sauce. Can one say crunch err love at first bite? The boneless chicken breast in this sandwich is amazing. Crispy texture, tender meat; it’s one that you’ll want to come back for over and over. Speaking of come back; the comeback sauce itself is like is lovely treat to foodies. It’s a mayonnaise based sauce with a slight hint of pepper and brings even more flavor to the already tasty sandwich.

Hello flavor! Hello heat! Hello Kitty Foodie loved Howlin’ Ray’s. It’s no wonder the Far East Plaza is so hot! Howlin’ Rays hot.

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For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Howlin’ Rays.

Hello Island Flavor Cafe!

Summer is in fill swing. Sun’s out and it’s time for some vacation fun. An island vacation would be perfect. Perhaps Hawaii? 😉 If a Hawaiian vacation isn’t in the plans any time soon; have no fear because Island Flavor Cafe in Torrance is here to bring Hawaii to you.

Island Flavor Cafe is a new a cafe offering us the most ono dishes ever. (Ono means delicious in Hawaiian). They have all the (Hawaiian) local favorites such as oxtail soup, spam and loco moco. Their breakfast grinds actually includes not one but three loco mocos (regular, roast pork and chicken katsu). They also have daily specials. Some specials in the past include pork lau lau, hamburger curry and sweet and sour spare ribs.

On the day I visited their special was the Beef Curry Stew.

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The Beef Curry Stew is one tasty Hawaiian treat with tender beef, potatoes, carrots and lots of curry sauce. The curry sauce has a homemade feel and it goes perfect with the white rice.

The main speciality of Island Flavor Cafe however is the Furikake Chicken.

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This dish is unlike any other and I was definitely both intrigued and delighted by it. In this past I have had many food dishes such as fries sprinkled with furikake; the dry Japanese seasoning that has sesame seeds and chopped seaweed. It is only here that I got to see it sprinkled over chicken. Their version of Furikake Chicken is delicious! The chicken itself is perfectly fried to perfection. The fried chicken is topped with a nice sweet glaze and sprinkles of furikake. It’s very flavorful and definitely ono.

Hawaii maybe 2,479 miles away from Los Angeles but the taste of the islands is not. Island Flavor Cafe in Torrance will bring a bit of Hawaii to you along with some ono kine grindz 😉.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp Review on Island Flavor Cafe.

Hello Dave and Buster’s at Del Amo Fashion Center! 

Torrance just said hello to the one place where one can “Eat, Drink, Play and Watch Sports.” Dave and Busters recently opened up at Del Amo Fashion Center!  This new hot spot is one gigantic place full of fun for every one. From classic games to hot new virtual reality games; they have it all! There’s also plenty of big screen tvs where one can watch the latest sports games. (Hmm World Cup, anyone?)

Aside from sports and games; there is also food! A wall at the new Dave and Busters sums it up perfectly! It says “We’re the fun place that’s serious about food.”  Just like like their game offerings, Dave and Busters does not mess around with their food offerings. One of their best deals is there  “BFFs Best Food Friends” offerings.  Through BFFs, Dave and Busters combines some of their popular items like Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and Goldfingers. Crispy hand breaded chicken tenders with house made buffalo ranch sauce plus four sliders with thin slices of grilled Philly ribeye steak and melted cheese along with seasoned French fries await diners at Dave and Busters!

Fun, food and more…. Dave and Busters at Del Amo will be sure to bring smiles to all!

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp review  on Dave and Busters. 

Hello Tocaya Organica at The Point!

Ever since The Point opened up in El Segundo, California; I have been a fan! It truly is a premier destination to shop and dine at.  From Italian pastas at North Italia to burgers at Hopdoddy;  this Hello Kitty Foodie has enjoyed it all.  Adding on to the diverse dining family at The Point is yet another wonderful restaurant; Tocaya Organica.

First founded in Venice in 2016, Tocaya Organica also has locations in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Playa Vista and Century City. This Tocaya Organica at The Point is the sixth Tocaya Organica location.

Tocaya Organica is a modern organic Mexican restaurant that is all about always sustainable, always fresh, always sustainable cuisine. They offer a variety of salads, tacos, bowls and burritos that are made out of the highest quality ingredients paired with bold flavors.

One of the things I enjoyed at Tocaya Organica is the ability to customize your taco, bowl or burrito with your choice of protein or queso. For meats, you have a variety of choices from carne asada to vegan picadillo. Cheese choices range from queso fresco to vegan chipotle jack.

For the bowls, one of their most popular items is the Fajita Del Rey bowl.

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The Fajita Del Rey bowl comes with sautéed poblano peppers, onions, spanish rice, black beans, vegan chipotle cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. I chose to get it with Tocaya Organic’s very special vegan picadillo. This is their own picadillo recipe featuring their house made pea-based protein that has  carrots, zucchini, onions, potatoes & tomatoes. The picadillo was made perfectly. It was soft and tasty and went well with the rice and guacamole. I combined this with the zesty flavors of tapioca, arrowroot & chipotle that came from the Vegan chipotle jack. This bowl full of vegan delights was simply amazing.

The bowls are awesome but so are their tacos too. I highly recommend getting their taco combo plate which gives you a little taste of everything because it comes with your choice of two sides and a drink.

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For the tacos, similar to the bowls; you can choose your protein and queso. I got the Cali Green taco with marinated shredded beef and manchego cheese and the Barrio Style taco with achiote chicken and jalepeno jack. Tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays friends! If you dine at Tocaya Organica; you’ll want them every day! The bold flavors of the tacos are sure to please your palate. Pair these up with some of their amazing sides and you’ll sure to be in heaven. I truly enjoyed by side of tortilla soup that had large chunks of avocado inside along with tomato, roasted bell pepper, vegan mozzarella and crispy tortilla strips. I also had a side of their soft and sweet corn tamale. Tacos plus sides equals happy foodie, happy tummy. Best of all this is all healthy! Healthy, happy eats!

As I mentioned, the taco combination comes with a drink as well. You do not want to miss their great iced teas, aguas frescas and limeades. My favorite is the watermelon but their cucumber mint and strawberry basil are also very refreshing!

Tocaya Organica at The Point is a great place to enjoy customized organic Mexican eats. It’s a wonderful addition to one of the best plazas in El Segundo!

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Tocaya Organica at The Point.