Passing it Over on Passover

Located at the Westlake Village Inn, Mediterraneo is a Southern European spot perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner. You'll feel like you're in Tuscany with all of the beautiful wrought iron and cobblestone walkways. The restaurant has recently undergone a transformation, and I must say, it's gorgeous inside! We were seated immediately in a comfy off-white leather semi circle booth with beautiful views of a private lake and gorgeous greenery. We started with the Bloody Marys with tomato juice, vodka, and assorted sauces. We were so excited with all of the green olives that came with it too! We enjoyed the Eggs Benedict with two poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and hollandaise all served atop an English muffin. Two people had that and loved it! We also had the Smoked Salmon Plate with capers, red onion, tomatoes, cream cheese and a bagel. That dish was beautifully served and entirely devoured! The Cobb Salad was wonderful as well. Served with grilled chicken, blue cheese, tomato, avocado, egg, bacon, and romaine, with a red wine vinaigrette; it was outstanding. The dressing is one I will yearn for, and wish that secretly, I could steal the recipe! If that doesn't happen, I'll have to return! And I will! We're already planning to have dinner here! Mediterraneo 32037 Agoura Road, Westlake Village (818) 889-9105

Tonight we decided to explore sushi in our own backyard. After a stellar recommendation from the lady sitting next to me at my nail salon, we went to Kanpai for dinner. It's a tiny sushi bar tucked in between several mediocre restaurants right on Lincoln and 83rd Street. Okay, I've said it...the best sushi in town (or in my town anyway) is right in Westchester! This is an authentic sushi bar complete with friendly greetings the minute you enter. We loved the seafood and mixed vegetable tempura. It was crunchy and light with great flavor.  The teriyaki chicken that we ordered was delicious too. Some of the other amazing sushi dishes included spicy tuna rolls, shrimp tempura rolls with crunch, and creamy blue crab rolls. Everything was fresh and delicious and service was outstanding! Make sure you have a reservation as this place is packed!

Kanpai Japanese Sushi Bar 8325 Lincoln Blvd. Westchester (310)338-7223 Hours: Monday-Friday: 11:30am-1am, Sat-Sun: 12pm-1am 

When does a mother feel proud? Well there are many occasions that fill that bill, but Passover dinner tonight was surely one of my top 10. Now anyone who knows me understands that I am a good cook. Well, maybe a little better than good. I realized last night that I may have just passed down that cooking gene to my eldest daughter, Carly.

If you know Carly, then for sure you are aware that she is the be-all, end-all of fashion and beauty advice. This kid has been collecting clothes and shoes since she was 2 years old. Now I must admit that her tastes have changed from Shoe Bee Doo patent leather party shoes to Christian Louboutin stilettos but her sense of style and taste remain forever unchanged. This was the kid who at 2, ate caviar and loved it. Now, a married woman (for almost 3 years) my 27-year-old daughter prepared last night's passover seder for 8, like nobody's business!

The first course, Homemade Chicken Matza Ball Soup blew me away! I make a mean bowl of this "jewish penicillan," but this kid definitely one, or two or three-upped me. The broth was deliciously flavorful ("Mom, you have to roast the chicken first, after it's been seasoned. Then throw the carcass into the broth!") and full of chicken in perfect bite-sized pieces. Matza balls were light and fluffy and everyove clamoured for more. Next we had a perfectly cooked Broccoli tossed with olive oil and parmesan. Garlic mashed potatoes that are possibly the best I've ever tasted, followed. Rich and creamy with hints of Boursin and garlic, melted in my mouth. The piece de resistance was the Roast Chicken. The crispy skin led to succulent meat underneath that had been basted with butter and olive oil, and stuffed with lemon and onion. The chicken was huge, but we polished it off. For dessert, my small contribution was chocolate covered toffee matza. The dinner was beautiful and heart-felt and enjoyed by all. I know where I'm going for all of my holiday dinners from now on!

 

There comes a time in life when you just have to say, "It doesn't get any better than this." I experienced that time today at Daynes Chicago Beef and Dawg in Thousand Oaks. My daughter Carly (who always has the most impeccable taste) told my mom and I that the three of us had to have lunch here. So we did. And her taste remains held in my highest esteem. Located on Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Skyline Drive, there's parking in front or in the back. Walk in and you'll be greeted by friendly waitstaff and if you're lucky, the charming Dayn If you're in the mood try some Chicago Stuffed or Deep Dish Pizza. Try one of the specials like the Arlington (9" $19 or 12" $24) with Italian sausage and red pepper or make your own (9" $15.95 or 12" $19.50) Add veggie or meat toppings such as tomato, red onion, roasted red pepper, meatball, chicken, and many more for $1.75-$3.75. The Dawgs are where it's at. We love the Chili Dawg ($5.25) with House chili, mustard, and onions. Betcha can't eat just one! Da Tuna Grinder ($8.25/$11.25) was chock-full of albacore, thinly sliced kosher pickles, and red onions. It was all topped off with American and mozzarella cheese. It's also one of the best tuna melts I've eaten! Chili cheese fries (2.95) are smothered in cheese and tons of homemade chili. But the real star of the show were the Garlic Fries. ($3.25)These, my dear readers, are the absolute best in the city, mabe in the world! I can't stop thinking about them! You can't go here without ordering them! The fries are crispy, salty, and garlicky, which is just the way I'd make 'em. But I can't, so I won't. That's why Dayne's is my new best friend. I can't say enough about this place. Kids will love it and adults won't be able to get enough! Try it tonight! Dayne's 2951 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Thousand Oaks (805) 371-8889 Hours: Mon: 10:30am-3:30pm Tues/Wed/Thur: 10:30-8pm Fri/Sa 10:30 am-9pm Sun:11:00am-8pm www.dayneschicagobeef.com

If you're a fan of Eric Greenspan like I am, you'll be thrilled to have dinner at his new digs, Mare, on 5th and Santa Monica. The restaurant has a very beautiful Mediterranean look, replacing JiRaffe as a new hot spot! The cocktail and wine list is impressive and the dinner menu promises some delightful surprises. We enjoyed the Arugula Salad ($12) with red onion, cherry tomatoes, dates and capers. Dressing was light and refreshing. We devoured the Crudo of Tuna ($17) with pickled strawberries, red onion, arugula, pink peppercorn, and saffron. Salt Roasted Potatoes ($9) were dressed in an aioli sauce and went perfectly with the Skirt Steak ($19). We loved the sea urchin butter and the chimichurri too! We also enjoyed the Branzino (which they will filet for you, just ask) with fig pomegranate glaze. The Shellfish is a make-it-yourself project. We had shrimp, but you can choose from black mussels or clams too. You choose your own broth (leek and white wine, tomato fennel, pistou {garlic, basil, and olive oil}, spicy sausage romesco, or vadouvan {indian curry blend with garlic and shallots} curry and green apple). The pistou was wonderful. A dish of perfectly cooked pasta accompanies the shrimp' so does a soft-boiled egg. Break the egg into the pasta for a rich sort of carbonara. Oh, did I mention the bread? Sourdough loaf gets a total make over as its covered with all kinds of seeds. We had a few loaves! For a romantic evening without pretension try Mare. Get in while you can! Mare 502 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica (310) 917-6671. Open for dinner Mon-Sun 5pm-11pm. Be sure to check hours as this is the time for the Melrose location.

Recommended Dishes: Potatoes, branzino, shellfish, skirt steak, arugula salad, tuna crudo.

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