FYI: Thanksgiving Is 90 Days Away

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It may be hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is a mere 90 days away from today. That’s right: time is a-flying, and before you know it, Turkey Day will be upon you, and you’ll be standing in your kitchen thinking to yourself “What the HELL am I going to make?” Okay, you probably won’t be saying that since Thanksgiving menus are pretty obvious, but just in case you want to spice it up this year, I’m proud to announce that my friends and I have been road-testing a few recipes.

You see, while the rest of America has been enjoying salads and corn on the cob this summer, my crew has hosted not one, but two Thanksgivings, both of which have landed on miserably hot 100°+ days. I’ll admit it was odd roasting a giant turkey breast while heat vapors outside on the street threatened to melt any slow-walking pedestrian, but we made it work.

After the jump, check out pics from our Friendsgiving meals. Hopefully they’ll provide some inspiration as we head into the final Turkey Day stretch…

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BANTER BLENDER #98: Forty-Five Minutes of “Barefoot Contessa” Chat

Calling all “Barefoot Contessa” fans. This week’s “Banter Blender” is devoted 100% to Ina Garten — from her recipes to her friends and everything in between. Ben Mandelker (bsideblog.com) and Andrea Nawalanic hash it all out as they share their favorite meals, their fondest memories, and some of their most honest criticisms about the Food Network superstar.

Along the way, there’s also stern criticism of Food Network’s current direction and also talk of Sandra Lee and The Pioneer Woman.

If you watch Food Network or simply have a passing interest in Ina Garten, this episode is for you. Be sure to use GOOD headphones. How fun is that?

And remember to use the promo code 199banter at checkout with GoDaddy.com to get a new .com for just $1.99! Some limitations apply. See website for details.

Please like us! facebook.com/banterblender

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LA Times ‘The Taste’ Returns — Swankier Than Ever

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Hey, remember that opening scene from Saving Private Ryan? Of course you do. Don’t act like you don’t. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you remember the scene. It’s that iconic sequence of death and artillery as Spielberg re-creates the D-Day Landing in Normandy. Bombs go off, body parts go flying, and we’re more or less stuck in an assault on the senses that’s so gripping and real that we can’t help but just go somewhere quiet and pass out.

Well, imagine swapping out the soldiers with croissants and the bombs with French toast, and then you might be able to understand what it was like to attend the LA Times ‘The Taste’ preview event earlier this evening. If you’re still confused about what the heck I’m talking about, let me explain: this Labor Day weekend, The Los Angeles Times is once again hosting a food celebration of Southern California cuisine titled “The Taste,” and in an effort to stoke the fires of curiosity, the newspaper invited various food writers and similarly lauded members of society to sample some of the goods that will be on display. One might call this a taste of the Taste (you can steal that for next year, Los Angeles Times).

Anyway, a major event at this food festival will be a Sunday Brunch co-hosted by Thomas Keller (yes, THE Thomas Keller), and so what better way to tease The Taste than by bandying about some of the brunch items we might encounter during said event?

Pictures of the [super delicious] carb-fest after the jump…

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THINGS I ATE: New Mexican Cuisine at Jeffrey Saad’s La Ventura

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For years and years, I have been an avid fan of Food Network Star — going all the way back to its genial, awkward first season which saw two party planner guys take home the inaugural crown. Since then, we’ve witnessed many dubious winners claim the big prize (ahem, Big Daddy’s House) while more deserving runners-up go home empty-handed. Well, sort of empty handed. Some near-misses have found success with Food Network despite premature ejection from their star path. Kelsey Nixon and Adam Gertler have had post-Food Network Star runs, and so has Jeffrey Saad, whose season five loss was parlayed into hosting gigs for Spice Smuggler and later United Tastes of America.

Saad, it should be noted, also helms his very own restaurant, La Ventura, here in Los Angeles, and last week, I was invited to a media-comped dinner at the establishment. FINALLY — I would be able to sample the cooking of a Food Network star. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I could just traipse over to any of Guy Fieri’s dining establishments, but I do like to maintain a certain level of dignity.) …… (Full disclosure, I’m typing this unshowered in my underwear.)

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THINGS I ATE: Brunch Foods at Sonny’s Hideaway

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Brunch. It’s more than just a portmanteau. It’s a way of life. And in Los Angeles, I’m always on the lookout for new brunch options. There simply are not enough in this town, and any time a decent place pops up, it’s only a matter of time before it’s saddled with a 45 minute wait.

Nevertheless, when I was invited to a media-comped brunch at Sonny’s Hideaway this past week, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to go. Perhaps I’d have a new destination to add to my ever expanding brunch list.

Did the restaurant deliver the goods? Pics and commentary after the jump…

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The Only Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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This past weekend, my friend Sly celebrated a birthday, and in her honor, I baked Ina Garten’s impeccable Carrot and Pineapple Cake. It was actually the second time in three weeks that I’ve made the recipe for a birthday, which is significant only because the first time around, I couldn’t help but feel like Ina’s cream cheese frosting was a little… off.

Avid readers of this blog know that I think Ina Garten is basically flawless, but here’s the hardcore truth: the Barefoot Contessa cream cheese frosting veers way too closely into buttercream territory. In fact, it’s barely tangy at all. There, I SAID IT.

Nevertheless, as I prepared to bake Sly’s very own carrot cake, I wanted to learn from Ina’s missteps. I was determined to create a batch of cream cheese frosting that was tangy and amazing and decadent enough to be worthy of Sly.

I’m happy to report that I not only achieved this, but I actually knocked it out of the park. This was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made, and Sly herself even proclaimed it was the best she’d tasted. There’s no great science to it, but with a variety of cream cheese frosting recipes online, I think it’s important that someone drive a flag into the ground and declare that the Internet search is over: THIS is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you’ll ever need.

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THINGS I ATE: Steak Frites at L’Assiette

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A few weeks ago, Los Angeles endured a brutal heat wave with temperatures reaching 100 degrees or more. It was the sort of weather that left me listless and sweating; although, to be fair, most temperatures leave me listless and sweating. When the heat goes up, most people gravitate towards light fare — salads, cold soups, shellfish — but as luck would have it, I had a media-comped meal scheduled at L’Assiette Steak Frites, a new restaurant on Melrose Avenue that serves one thing and one thing only: steak frites. Hence, the name. I can’t say a heavy meal of meat and potatoes was exactly what I was in the mood for during that steamy period of Los Angeles weather, but I am a proud soldier of the blogosphere. I will brave the difficulties of this job for you, the dear reader, even if it means I must eat cold weather food IN WARM WEATHER.

You’re welcome, people. Please, no applause. Stay in your seats. An ovation is not necessary! Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: Soft Pizza At Settebello

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Once again, I’m on a health kick: low carb, high protein, reduced fat. So naturally I wound up at a pizza place. To be fair, I was invited for a media-comped lunch at Settebello, the regional pizza chain that boasts pies that are VPN certified. What’s VPN, you ask? Well, it has nothing to do with Virtual Private Networks. VPN, when it comes to pizza, stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana — which basically means that the ingredients, the ovens, and the processes are up to Naples’ approval. It’s like being kosher for pizza.

Well, who am I to deny pizza, let alone CERTIFIED pizza? So off I trekked to Settebello on Cinco De Mayo (I enjoy playing against type on international holidays). Pictures of the pizza party after the jump…

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WEDNESDAY NIGHT SUPPER CLUB: Irish Potluck Edition

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Exciting news: not only is today the birthday of Kathy Ireland, but it’s also the launch date of a new feature on this blog: Wednesday Night Supper Club. One part Adventures in Domesticity and one part Things I Ate, the Wednesday Night Supper Club will detail the latest meals of my Wednesday night dining crew, also known as — you guessed it — the Wednesday Night Supper Club.

A little bit of backstory: Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: Pizza, Cannoli, and Other Decadent Things at DeSano Pizza Bakery

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With the Super Bowl marking the end of football season two weeks ago, I made a pledge to eat healthy for a month and forgo all those carby, fatty meals that had littered my January and February. Dare I say it — I even declared that I would try paleo. Yes, paleo: that utterly annoying eat-like-a-caveman diet that everyone seems to do and love/hate. This was going to be the newer, Stone Age-ier Ben, and with any luck, I might even develop the early tracings of an ab or two.

Naturally, none of this happened.

That’s probably a good thing because otherwise I would have had to have declined the invitation for a media-comped lunch at the newly opened DeSano Pizza Bakery in East Hollywood. With pizza, calzones, gelato, and cannoli on the menu, I can assure you that this burgeoning eatery is not the destination for dieters hoping to embrace their inner Australopithecus. (And whoa, “Australopithecus” wasn’t flagged by spell check. But cannoli was. I don’t understand this world).

After the jump, check out pics of lunch at DeSano Pizza Bakery.

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