Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Smoke House - Burbank CA

The Smoke House
4420 W. Lakeside Drive  
Burbank, Ca. 91505

Established in 1946, the Smokehouse has been around a long time and is a reminder of days past. In some ways it reminds me of the Brown Derby, a chain of restaurants that were once a Mecca for all things Hollywood. They faded into history in the 1980’s.  Inside of the Smokehouse are similar framed photos of famous actors and Tinsel Town elite who are rumored to have dined there.  Costumed actors have frequented the restaurant eschewing the studio cafeteria’s offerings. The restaurant’s web site gives a bit more history and a list of films and TV productions filmed in and around the restaurant. A YouTube video history, with the tag line, “Where every diner is treated like a star,” can be found here.

The restaurant is located across the boulevard from the Warner Brother Studios and conveniently for us just around the block from my children’s Great Uncle’s Sark’s home.  We arrived a bit late. It had been a long drive to get there for a mini-family reunion. After riding in the car for several hours it was decided all eight of us would walk the short distance to The Smoke House for our late evening reservations.

I think we would all agree that a popular and long established restaurant should treat all of its customers in a gracious manner. That would, of course, include the obvious such as prompt and courteous service, adequate seating, well prepared food and certainly not making changes in customers’ food orders without first consulting them. Or, to quote a line from their video, “Where every diner is treated like a star.”  A short list but all of the items are important in providing for dining pleasure. We arrived at The Smoke House in good time for our reservation, were greeted warmly and shown quickly to our table. From that point on our expectations were largely unfulfilled.

Since we were in “Movieland,” for lack of a better term, let me set the stage. The restaurant in addition to the standard menu was featuring a special menu to celebrate their 1946 opening. All the selected items on the menu were $19.46 and those included the house salad. They also had a special; bottled wine at a greatly reduced price with an entree order. I would surmise that they prepared large quantities of the special menu items to serve quickly. Perhaps not unlike buffets featuring the display food all the while having a menu featuring foods not offered in the buffet.

This was our starting point; our group of eight elected to walk the short distance for our late evening reservations.  We were seated quickly although we were very cramped at our semi round booth with a small two person table added at the end.  The restaurant had a special menu to celebrate their 1946 opening. All the selected items on this menu were $19.46 and included the house salad. They also had a special on bottled wine at a greatly reduced price with an entree order.

Sadly since our group was so cramped I was not able to take photos of the other items ordered from the menu, only myself and my two sons, so this critique is not in its entirety.  I ordered the Chicken Piccata with mashed potatoes and asparagus ($19.46), one son ordered the same but with a stuffed potato ($19.46).  My other son ordered off the regular menu, the Filet Mignon and Lobster with pilaf and asparagus ($64.95).

Those who ordered from the special menu got their salads, if you ordered from the regular menu the salad was an additional cost.  My salad was way over dressed, swimming would actually be the term I would use.  I ate from around the edges; it was a typical dinner salad, nondescript.  My Chicken Piccata arrived with small French Green Beans in place of the asparagus, nothing was said about the replacement until the waiter was questioned, and he looked puzzled and simply stated “They must have run out of the asparagus.”  The Piccata was as it should be tangy from the lemon caper sauce, the mushrooms were cooked thru but not mushy, it was a good dish.  I did not get any butter for my mashed potatoes, which I overlooked.  The son who ordered the stuffed potato stated it was dry and the texture not to his liking.

I am going out on a limb here but since our service was the last of the evening, I think perhaps the stuffed potato was sitting way too long to be served.  You know that feeling of lateness when the wait staff are busily stacking chairs, rolling the tables and basically clearing all decks. The server with the task of filling the water glasses did his best. However, since we were so cramped his overreach to fill the glasses usually resulted in some splashing.  But he kept them filled.

The son who ordered the Filet Mignon and Lobster got a spectacular tail and a very nice filet cooked to his specifications.  He got the best dish of our group and even generously shared some of the filet with his cousin.  My brother in law ordered two orders of The Smokehouse’s “World Famous” garlic bread ($6.95 per order).  French bread cut into 1” slices and slathered with their own garlic/cheese concoction.  It was okay, but not to my particular taste, it reminded me of the packaged cheese you get in the macaroni box.  But as I said my taste but the others seemed to like it very much.

So in conclusion I would say the food was good and prepared well, but it was not spectacular or over the top, with the exception of my sons Lobster and Filet dish.  I will jump to a conclusion here and say that the items we ordered from the special menu were the last of the evening to go out from the kitchen and it showed.   Towards the end of our meal we had a hard time getting our servers attention, as I said the entire staff was busy tearing down tables and chairs and getting ready to close service.  But in retrospect our group although shoulder to shoulder had a wonderful time just being together.  It was an experience for us, a first time eating at the Smokehouse.  Would I go again….perhaps but if we all went as a group I would make sure we did not get the excuse of this was all they had to sit us in, since somebody else was having a birthday party in the large dining room.


Saturday, November 03, 2018

The Rose - Salt Lake City, UT

The Rose
235 S. 400W
Salt Lake City, UT 84010
Monday-Friday 7am-6pm
Saturday & Sunday 8am-6pm
Food served until 4:00PM

Parking is confusing, posted signs state 2-hour parking and by permit only; however you are apparently allowed to park while in the Rose Cafe or the other adjacent stores.   Access is above sidewalk level via stairs, I did not see any type of handicap access.  The interior is basic cafeteria style tables and chairs, mostly two per table, a couple of 4 seat tables and one 8 seat table.   The music is loud but you can still carry on a conversation, you order at the counter and they will bring your order to your table.  The Rose seems to be a coffee, meeting, computer café. They have stacks of board games in the front of the store for you to use.

The menu is limited.  We chose to go around 10AM for a light brunch. We found hey already had sold out the Frittatas.  As an alternative, we all selected the Smashed Avocado Tartine at $7.50, which consists of avocado, olive oil, black pepper served on five seed toasted bread with a lightly dressed winter green salad.

We waited around 15 minutes for our order and then he only brought us two of the three orders. We could see our other plate sitting on the service counter.  My son had to go up and ask the cashier for our order. He did receive a rather embarrassed apology.

The bread was awesome, lightly toasted and about ¾-inch thick and thickly crusted with seeds and all crowned with a generous layer of lightly smashed and seasoned avocado.  Well worth the wait.

They have the usual type of coffee house selections as well as sweet pastries and muffins.  Brunch is served until 4pm and lunch starts at 11am until 4pm.

Would I go back? Probably not; but that is not because of the food. I am just a bit uncomfortable with the atmosphere, a tad bit too young for my liking.  I was positively impressed with the food and  I will certainly try to replicate their bread and Avocado Tartine for a luscious meal at home..



Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hedary's Mediterranean Restaurant

Hedary’s Mediterranean Restaurant

 7365 W. Sahara Unit K
Las Vegas, NV. 89117
(702) 873-9041

Monday – Thursday 11am-9pm
Friday & Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday 12pm-8pm
Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3-6pm 

$3, $4 & $5 drinks and food

Hedary’s offers the casual diner a nice selection of Middle Eastern fare stemming from Lebanese influence.  You get generous portions with selections from the dinner menu that will satisfy the bigger eaters.  Luncheon selections offer a slightly lighter fare..  You can enjoy wine, beer or freshly made Sangria with your meal. They also offer a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages including Tamarind, Mango and Guava Nectars, Leban Eran (a salty yogurt drink), Acqua Panna Spring Water and San Pelligrino Sparkling Water. You also have a choice of American or Lebanese coffee.  Soft drinks come with free refill.

 The interior is roomy with table chair seating. Al fresco dining is an option.  The vegetables are displayed in a cooler with a glass front offering the diner an idea of just how fresh the ingredients are.  The service staff are very friendly and the service was fast and the food cooked to perfection.


We started our meal with the Happy Hour Feta Cheese and Olives ($4.00); you get two generous portions of delicious feta cheese with black olives, slices of cucumber and tomato. Included is a basket of freshly baked pita bread to accompany your meal.


An order of their Lamb Chops ($24.95) served with fries and lightly grilled vegetables served      with their red sauce.  You get six chops, all good sized and done to order.


Our next order was the Hummus Ma-Lah ( ($16.50) A hummus dip topped with your choice of    beef, lamb, chicken gyro or ground sirloin and onion dip.  This dish had the beef strips topped with slivered red onion and parsley.  The meat sits atop a ring of hummus, pickled red turnips, sliced cucumber and hot peppers.


Our final dish was the Falafel Plate ($14.50) You get 10 nice sized Falafels which were cooked    to a  golden crisp brown on the outside, yet remained moist on the inside.  It is served with chunks of tomato, cucumber and lettuce and a small bowl of hummus and a yogurt and garlic dipping sauce.

All of the food was cooked to order, extremely delicious and the portions were very generous.  My only criticism was the amount of garlic in the hummus (but then it said that if you like garlic you’ll love hummus), other than that shear perfection and worthy of a future visit to explore other menu options.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Greek-Style Moussaka - Meal On A Dime

Greek-Style Moussaka 
 Meal On A Dime - by Pattie Sue Knapp

 Moussaka is an eggplant (sometimes potato-based) dish, sometimes a vegetarian dish it can often be made with lamb or ground meat. It is, in its traditional form, found in the cuisines in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Balkans. Many local and regional variations can be expected. I have read where the root word for the dish, musakhan, literally means, “something that is heated.” Today the dish is most closely associated with Greek cuisine mainly due to a famous early 20th Century Greek chef, Nikolaos Tselementes. Perhaps overly fond of French cooking styles, he adapted the local moussaka by adding the French Béchamel sauce. Variations of his adaptation are what we most frequently see today.

As a mother raising three children I often ran into the age old problem; how to provide a good meal and use whatever I had on hand.  While it’s fun to peruse cookbooks all too often you find yourself short of the required ingredients. Big name chefs and sponsored programs call for the finest and costliest ingredients. While it is true that to make an exact copy of a particular dish you have to follow the recipe, it is also true that you can consider a recipe simply as a starting point to be amended as needed considering the cost of the ingredients and what foods you have on hand or growing in the garden. That concept is what I call my “meals on a dime.”
To that end, I offer two recipes for moussaka; the first a generic recipe that follows so many in cookbooks and on the internet. The second is my latest endeavor using home grown vegetables and with most of the other items from my pantry shelves. Sometimes it is fun to experiment. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand, cheddar cheese or even pepper jack; you can substitute sausage for the beef or a combination.  Why not use leftover spaghetti sauce in place of the white sauce? After all, it’s your dish and you are the cook and no one should tell you otherwise. The ingredients for both versions are listed for comparison but the preparation instructions are the same.
The full recipe can be seen in the Janis Gardens Cookbook

Ingredients: Generic Recipe
  • 3 eggplants (peeled, cut into ½-inch lengthwise slices, 3 medium or 2 large)
  • Salt (for seasoning and for eggplants) and cracked pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (fresh or dried)
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/3 cup red wine - optional
  • 4 cups milk
  • ½ cup butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • Salt to taste (for white sauce)
  • 1 ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg for topping
  • ½ teaspoon herbs (I generally use basil, mint and tarragon)
  Ingredients: Meal On a Dime Version
  • 1 large eggplant (peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds)
  • Salt (for seasoning and eggplants) and cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon herbs of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine - optional
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • Salt to taste for sauce
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a jar)
  • Nutmeg for topping to your taste
    •   Salt the eggplant and put on towels to absorb the liquid for about ½ hour, then pat dry and add olive oil to skillet and bring up to heat.  Fry eggplant quickly until lightly browned on both sides, remove from heat and put on towels to catch any residual grease.

    Wipe out the skillet and add the butter, when melted add the ground beef and onions and garlic.  Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir mixture until meat is cooked through, then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, herb mixture and parsley, stir to combine.  Add the tomato sauce and wine*, stir and simmer for about ½ hour.  Remove from the heat and when cooled add the beaten egg*, stir to combine.

      Bring milk up to a hard simmer (do not boil) while melting butter in a skillet.  When melted add the flour mixing with a whisk to combine; then slowly add the milk while whisking to avoid lumps.  Continue whisking until mixture thickens to desired consistency. You can add salt to taste if desired.

    Spray a 9- x 13-inch (or use  7- x 11-inch) pan with nonstick cooking spray and place a layer of eggplant on the bottom, layer the meat on top then add 1 third of the cheese* over the meat and layer with remaining eggplant.  Cover with another 1 third of the cheese and top with the white sauce. Spread sauce evenly over the eggplant and cover with remaining cheese and top with nutmeg.

     Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for approximately 1 hour or until nicely browned on top. Remove and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.

  • * I also use a generous tablespoon of Greek yogurt in place of the egg.
  • * You can omit the wine.
  • * You can substitute or combine fresh or grated Parmesan along with mozzarella or jack cheese (I use whatever I have on hand) Above all, enjoy your meal on a dime.
  • The full recipe can be seen in the Janis Gardens Cookbook

  • Saturday, January 13, 2018


    4.2 ounce can

    Servings: 1

    389 calories    Calories from fat 193
    In my childhood my parents often prepared dishes featuring cod fish. In those days long gone by, the fisherman would hand process their daily catch and preserve the fish in salt. It was way too early for the smaller fishing boats to feature refrigerated fish holds. As a result, the salted cod fish came to the market in little wooden boxes.  As you can imagine, cooking with salt cod is dramatically different than cooking with fresh or frozen codfish.
    I have many old family recipes calling for salt cod. I have made the required changes and prepared them with frozen cod. They are good but they seem to lack a “certain something,” the slightly different, more energetic taste that you get from real salt cod; the taste that I remember from family meals back when.
    (From The CityCook, Inc. - Why would we eat salt cod when we can have fresh fish? The answer is flavor. When white fish is saturated with salt and dried, amino acids and other chemical changes occur in the fish. This produces a chewier texture and milder, almost sweet, yet still fishy taste than its fresh counterpart.)
     Some years ago I had the urge to prepare foods for my children that were like the meals that I had as a child. Finding salt cod was not impossible but it was not easy either. Alas, for the most part those little wooden boxes are almost a thing of the ancient past. Atlantic Canada, Scandinavia and Portugal are sources of salt cod. Unless you just happen to live next door to a rare over the counter sales emporium, you have to buy online and pay a premium for shipping the vacuumed-sealed bags of dried and salted cod.

    A little searching finally located a California company that is reasonable in price and doesn’t gouge for shipping.  On occasion I do buy some salt cod and make bacalhau the old-fashioned way. While I was making my last salt cod order I came across a listing for these small, single-serving cans of codfish. They were not too expensive; about $3.98 a can. Shipping charges were for the order so I added a couple of cans just to see what they are like; a bit of cod without the hassle of making a large portion.

    The codfish is packed in oil with traces of onion.  The fish has been lightly smoked and the skin is intact.

    Although the can says a single serving I found the product rich and ½ of the filet made two open faced sandwiches. It has a delicate smoked taste and no trace of salt or brine, once the filet is spread on the bread the texture resembles that of smoked herring or sardines from a can. Care must be taken as the filet does contain some bones.

     I enjoyed the meal of BACALHAU A PORTUGUESA.  Whenever I reorder some salt cod I will also order a couple more cans of this fish to keep on the shelf to satisfy an unexpected craving. I suspect, if you like good quality fish, you will too.