It has been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that actually inspired me to write about it. In the period of time from my last write up, I have been fortunate enough to go to a couple Michelin star restaurants, and those did not even inspire me. They were great, but I think I expected it. My experience at the newly opened Saint Martha, stirred something in me that had been dormant for a while. Until now. My husband took me to Saint Martha on a Thursday evening, partly to treat me after having some tough work weeks, and partly to celebrate his birthday. You can find Saint Martha at a little complex in Korea town. Yes, I said Korea town. Frankly, I think it’s the only sign that is in English; that should tip you off! The restaurant is named after the saint of cooks and servers, and after some food and wine you’ll think these people are all saints as well!
Sometimes, a restaurant has a wine list that shines, and a food menu that is just average, or vice versa. Not the case here. Wine and food menus can both stand alone. The food alone was so creative and delicious. Aside from the wonderfully teasing flavors of the amuse bouche, we began with the Santa Barbara Spot Prawn tartare with market melons, burnt orange oil and pink salt. The dish was awesome, and then sommelier Mary Thompson came in with her invisible cape and paired this dish with a 2012 Luis Agustin Cetto Chenin Blanc from Baja. This took it to a whole other level.
We were pretty much Mary’s followers after the first course. We love that the wine menu is so varied and you may never really see the same wine twice. Mary explained to us that she is more of a “wine hunter” than a sommelier. She finds wines that are one of a kind, and very likely to never find again. THAT is passion. Course after course, she continued to pair wines that just blew us away. We have not had moments of sheer food ecstasy where both of us were happy with each course. Our favorite part of this menu is that you can have a taste (about 3 oz), a glass, a “piché” (about 2 glasses), or a bottle. This menu fits ANY budget!
We fell in love with the chef, Nick Ervin, after we enjoyed the steak and oyster tartare with champagne sabayon and bone marrow beignets. We could have just had bone marrow beignets all night and been perfectly happy. They were so soft, and full of flavor. It felt like home.
My moment of submission was when I had the Diver Scallops with field peas, courgettes, and fennel-mussel emulsion paired with a Chateau Haut-Lariveau, Fronsac from Bordeaux, France. I nearly passed out. I have never met a sommelier that paired scallops with red wine… until Mary. I must admit, I was definitely willing to try it but a small part of me was not expecting sheer surrender. It was a superb dish with a perfect pairing.
By now, I want Mary to be my BFF! She’s rad, she be-bops her head to the music, and she has a killer wine list; I also secretly want her to French braid my hair. What more could you possibly want from these awesome #cooksandservers?! As Mary recognized our flavor palate and we shared stories with her from our recent honeymoon trip to Chile and Argentina, she shared some rare finds with us. You know when you have two wine lovers on your hands when we tell you that we planned our wedding based on the South American harvest season just so we could honeymoon during their fall harvest! Mary let us taste the Barons de Rothschild, “Le Dix de Los Vascos’ from Cochagua, Chile. It was truly an amazing wine!
If you love yourself, you will eat dessert. It was only myself and my husband, but I highly suggest dinning with about 4 people so you can try all desserts, and multiple dishes. I think my husband and I will definitely be returning soon, not just for the food, but for the wonderful, eclectic wine list. I really do not think there is another wine restaurant of this caliber, and with this much variety. We only saw one wine from California, and the only other American wines were from Oregon, Texas, and New Mexico. What? The rest are from the world over. If you are anything like my husband and I, you will probably begin to frequent Saint Martha. I just don’t understand how you wouldn’t.
740 S Western Avenue #116
Los Angeles, CA 90005
I haven’t written in over a year. Frankly, I actually forgot I had this avenue of writing. Around the time I stopped writing last (November, 2012), I met my now husband. It’s been an amazing journey, and actually, my initials are no longer MM (hence The M² Line). I feel like the last year and a half I spent further becoming who I was meant to be… and that will be shared in time. I know I began this blog to document my experiences in taking public transportation. For now, I am happy to re-discover my blog and hope to again share my insights, life experiences, and let’s not forget – food & wine!
I received a story that was quite touching; I wanted to share it:
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult.. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’ So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’ Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.’ The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: a rainy day,the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’ I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands.You need to be able to throw something back sometimes. I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
As this new year begins, I like to take time and reflect on the growth of the past year, the experiences, and the wonderful memories.
I’ve always thought myself to be a positive person, but little did I know that my words can affect people on a completely different level. I received a wonderful note from a friend last week, and it made me feel all nice and gooey inside. It was a wonderful line of validation that I needed over the weekend when I was feeling a tad out of sorts for a moment…
I hope you’re doing well! I just saw your facebook status and wondered ‘how is it that she always remains so upbeat?” I mean I don’t think I know a person who’s more upbeat than you. This question has been on my mind ever since we became Facebook friends and I keep taking in your status updates.
It seems like faith is a big part of that. I’ve been growing in my faith ever since I arrived to DC but I can’t say that my faith gives me the same joy and positive outlook that you have. So, I thought I’d finally ask “how are you always so upbeat?”
I know it’s a left-field question but I thought I’d inquire.
(What is that FB status, you ask: “I used to look at people and think how lucky they were to have such amazing lives… Now I’m one of them 🙂
God is great, and I’m so blessed!”)
So to this, I responded with the cliche – Live life to the fullest and do what you love each day. Except, this is not a cliche for me – it’s real. Every day I am truly grateful for the people that surround me, and the opportunity to work in jobs that I truly enjoy. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m pursuing my dreams, and I’ve done the hard work to get me to where I am today. So to you, reader… What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s NOT too late!! If you’re not working in a career you love, why not? Can you look back and say… I have no regrets! Change can be scary, or change can be the best thing that ever happened to you!! Make it happen!
Love & Light
I’ve taken two life-changing seminars this year. One of the things I’ve realized is that I have been avoiding dating because of the fear of getting hurt. I can’t operate based on past results, so I’m choosing to change my outlook and allow myself to love romantically again. I was told by some men that I have a “don’t even think about talking to me”, “Eff OFF!” stamp on my forehead. I’ve worked hard to change that… and I think I finally did it!!
Yesterday on the bus, I was super tired so I passed out on the way home. I get on to the bus at the beginning of its route. It’s an express bus, so it only stops a few times before I get off, and the bus also takes the freeway. Well, on the 2nd stop, about 20 people got on yesterday. Since it was a holiday, the bus was on a different schedule, and also it was a smaller bus than usual. So it was a little packed in the bus. Well, I passed out again. Some random guy was sitting next to me, and I was by the window. So my mouth is hanging open, my head is tilted back, and I’m OUT before the bus even took off again 🙂 Anyways, at the next stop, I woke up, but before I could fall back asleep, the guy next to me asks right away “Did you just get off work?” and I look at him like… seriously dude, I just woke up. I answered “um… oh yeah.” and he said “I could tell because you were REALLY sleeping. You look really tired.” And I just said “yeah” as I tried to be alert, even though I was hoping to fall back asleep. But I also laughed because it was funny that this guy was so honest. Anyways, the guy ended up talking to me and told me he was volunteering at the LA County Fair, and that he’s actually an extra for movies in Hollywood. I pressed the little strip on the wall that tells the bus driver I need to get off. So I see this guy scrambling in his backpack, and he pulls out paper and writes his name and number and says “Here’s my number, call me if you’d like to hang out some time.” I took it, said “oh cool, thanks!” and got off the bus.
It was a nice validation to know that I am approachable and that I think I truly have no “image” programs because I mean… I was passed out, no make-up, and wouldn’t be surprised if I even drooled, yet this guy prompted a conversation. I didn’t once think “oh shoot, I must have looked crap!” I was more flattered and laughing than anything. Stamp is gone! Wohoo!
In the past few months, I’ve changed my outlook on life quite significantly. As a whole, I’ve always been a positive person, but now I feel real happiness. It’s a natural high that has manifested itself in the past months and I know it isn’t going away… ever! The old feng shui ideal states that if you discard old things, you will bring new things into your life. I have always believed this holds true for people as well. I have slowly started to strengthen certain friendships, and slowly started to distance myself from others. It’s a difficult process, but I believe it is best for me in the long run. I’m surrounding myself with people who can use their heart instead of their head. I have taken inventory of my life lessons and what each person has brought to me, and that has prompted my continuous growth as of late.
I originally began this blog to document my experience on the public transportation system in LA and the IE, including my random food & wine detours. Last week, I went to Chicago for a few days and also used their public transportation system. I arrived late Thursday night, so I opted for a cab to my hotel. I was warned not to take the train from O’Hare at midnight… I’m not one to question! The cab driver was quite informative; he shared his knowledge about hot dogs and pizza!! Ha ha!
On Friday morning, I was up early and walked to the bus stop. With a little planning and research before my trip I found out that the No. 2 bus is an express bus that picks up passengers downtown, then heads south on highway 41 and stops at the University of Chicago. I’ve always been a nerd, and always loved walking around university campuses. There is just something about higher learning that puts a goofy smile on my face 🙂
So I started my day, with only a $2.25 fare, south to the University of Chicago. First I came across the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.
The grounds were quite stunning, full of picturesque backdrops and majestic buildings in the forefront.
As a business finance undergrad, I spent most of my time in the Booth School of Business.
The exterior of the building does not give any indication as to how beautiful it is inside. It was very symmetrical, thus aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
The exterior corridors on the top floors were full of study areas that overlook the center forum.
The view from the 1st floor (actually, 2nd because of the basement) was just as stunning – the views up to the glass ceiling made you feel quite small… but not in a bad way. It reminded me of when I was river rafting in Costa Rica in the Pacuare River and came upon still waters and a cascading waterfall. I looked up and there was nothing but a perfect blue sky.
I could have spent all day here, but with a second top tier business school not far off, I headed out once again. I walked through the surrounding neighborhood of the school, and came across the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie house. I didn’t have time to take a tour – maybe next time.
The surrounding neighborhood was full of historic homes, and tree lined streets – gorgeous!
I walked about half a mile to the next bus stop with another $2.25 in hand, and boarded a bus that would take me to the “El train”. When I arrived at the train station, I paid another $2.25 for the train north to Evanston. I hopped on the red line and took the train until it ended its route. Then I transferred on to the purple line to Evanston (Free transfer!). I didn’t realize that there was a baseball game during my transit, and at one point, the train was jam packed with baseball fans rooting for the Cubs or the Yankees!
Everyone finally left at the baseball stadium exit, and I continue on to Evanston. I left the train at the Forest stop, and walked four blocks to Northwestern University.
I spent half of my time at the Kellogg School of Management, and the rest of it I spent walking through the park bordering the lake. I happened to stumble on to campus during the Business school’s graduation day – what a gorgeous day to graduate!!
I met with an admissions person from Kellogg, and walked around the business school. It was great to see flags of many lands; a testament to Kellogg’s diversity.
I continued my walk outside, where the open landscape was incredibly inviting.
It was hard to leave the campus, but due to my dinner plans, I had to depart and head south to downtown Chicago. With another $2.25, I boarded the train south and made it all the way to my hotel.
While my Friday in Chicago was a whirlwind, I felt quite satisfied that I covered a lot of ground for only $9.00 all day. Granted, the trains are not air-conditioned, and the busses were crowded, I found it pretty awesome that their transportation system was reliable and constant. I was on time to my appointments at the universities, and with prior planning, managed to master the trains and buses. I can’t wait to return!!!
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I don’t get to go to Paso Robles as much as I’d like. If I had a choice, I’d be up in the central coast at least once a month. There’s something about the central coast of California that just speaks to my soul and transforms me into a zen-like state. One thing is for sure, when I do have the opportunity to drive up north, I try to make sure I have a fantastic meal at the end of a full day of wine tasting.
I was fortunate enough to go twice within a one month period… I’m just lucky I guess! Ha ha! My first trip was completely planned, but the second was spontaneous! During the first trip, my friend and I rented a small cabin in Cambria, and I KNOW I will return again, it was a great little place. I felt right at home!
My friend and I decided on this trip specifically for our birthdays. We agreed that for the first night, he would choose the restaurant for dinner, and on the second night, I would choose our dinner place. I’ve been up to the Paso Robles/Cambria area multiple times and normally, I enjoy staying in Cambria. This time was no different. Since we would stay in Cambria, I chose a restaurant on Main Street: Black Cat Bistro. The first time I dined at Black Cat Bistro was actually last year. I loved the food so much, I went back a second night in a row during that trip! I thought I should choose Black Cat Bistro for dinner on this trip so that my friend could experience the delight I had already enjoyed.
Since ‘ladies choice’ was Saturday night, I made sure to call the restaurant ahead of time for reservations. They tend to book up on Saturday nights! I specifically asked to be seated at the bar because their sommelier, Jason Judy, works behind the bar most of the time. I had an awesome experience tasting wines and talking about the Paso region last year with Jason, I just had to return! Not to mention, chef Deborah Scarborough also peeks out from the kitchen from time to time. We were seated promptly on arrival and lo and behold Jason greeted us and suggested some wines for us to try.
I was a bit torn on the menu because the last time I had dinner there, I had lamb. This time, it was a toss-up between the filet and the stuffed pheasant. After a quick back and forth with Jason, both my friend and I chose the filet. First, however, we started with the lamb pops! I had to have my lamb!!!
During my encore trip, I had to try the Shrimp and Snow Pea Bruschetta! It caught my eye the first time as it came out of the kitchen and my eyes followed it until it arrived to the lucky guests who finally looked at me probably wondering why I was staring at their food. This untraditional bruschetta included chevre, bacon jam, and mint. It was packed with flavor, yet a very light dish. The shrimp was sprinkled delicately over a bed of snow peas, and as you bit into the flesh of the toasted bread and the creamy cheese you could taste the layers of flavor in this seemingly simple appetizer. I was smitten!
While the Lamb Pops did tempt me to order the Roasted Australian Rack of Lamb, I opted for the filet mignon instead. The filet is served with a celery root creamed spinach, tarragon pesto, red wine demi, all topped with crispy onions. All of this was put over the top with Jason’s wine pairing suggestion. The beef was tender and extremely moist. Sometimes, sauces and reductions are added for moisture but this was a truly moist cut and I enjoyed every bite!
During part deux, I was torn between the Roasted Australian Rack of Lamb and the Apple Stuffed Breast of Pheasant. My vacant, confused, worried stare must have prompted Jason to come to my rescue! I was able to finally choose the pheasant; I’m sure I kept Jason from a table of three (Sorry, Jason!). When the pheasant arrived, it was sitting on top of parsnip puree, with a side of haricot vert, thyme, and some pheasant calvados jus. To my pleasant surprise, each piece of apple stuffed breast was individually wrapped in bacon. I must have done something right in my past life! As soon as I took my first bite, I knew I may possibly not be able to order other dishes in the future (But I’ll spare myself!). This was the best dish I had tried at Black Cat bistro! Thankfully the people next to me were a good two seats away because I’m sure I was quite vocal about how much I loved this dish!
At this point I was wondering how anything can possibly top this… Then dessert came!
I’ve tried a few dessert dishes but these are my favorite two: The Lemon and Chevre Cheesecake and their newest addition, the Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich. The Lemon and Chevre Cheesecake sits on pomegranate molasses and is sprinkled with little buttons of fresh pomegranate. I usually don’t order cheesecake at most restaurants but Jason convinced me and well, after the pheasant – I trust him.
My final venture for my trips was the Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich filled with peppermint ice cream, covered in chocolate sauce, and garnished with peppermint candy pieces. At this point, I traveled to my own planet! The brownie was not dry; it was just perfect and soaked up the melting peppermint ice cream and chocolate sauce. I loved the crunch from the crushed peppermint candy. It was all heavenly!
It’s no wonder Black Cat Bistro has won awards year after year (look at their wall!). With Chef Deborah’s seasonally changing menu, I may have to make special trips just for the new menu items! As her dishes change with the seasons, Jason does an excellent job with the pairings as well. Jason also keeps the wine list up to date with the newest vintners in the Central Coast region as well, such as my recent favorite: Hearst Ranch Winery “Three Sisters” 2008 Cuvee. Not only is the wine list up to date, but Jason is wonderfully resourceful and truly invests time to get to know your palate.
I hope I can return very soon – I know a few new dishes have been added to the menu since my last visit in May, so I hope I can make it out on another spontaneous weekend. Those seem to be when I have the most fun!!
I was able to snag a picture of Chef Deborah and Sommelier Jason during the busiest time of Saturday night. THANK YOU to both and their great team at Black Cat Bistro!
While I’ve been blogging about my experiences in the public transit system, several of my friends have wondered why I haven’t written about food and wine – which they know are my passions. My response has been constant: There are so many wonderful food writers, I’d rather read their reviews myself 🙂 But after consistent requests, I finally gave in and decided to write about some food adventures. I really do have a penchant for the creative art of food and wine pairings and truly admire those talented in that arena. So this, my first detour of social observation writing, is for my friends.
On Sunday April 17th, my friends and I gathered at Royal T for the Magnum Pop Up Tasting Dinner, where chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell once again, wowed with their creative genius. While I missed their first popup in 2010, I did snag a reservation at their pop up in February at Pal Cabron. This new Magnum tasting just blew me away more than two months ago!
The evening began with an Amuse Bouche of cured Thai Snapper sprinkled with Shrimp chips. I really loved the combination of flavors, and it truly was a wonderful sample of the delicacies to come. Not to mention, I LOVE snapper!
Our first course was an Oyster with brown butter and lemon. This was paired with Von Buhl “Brut” Riesling (Bad Durkheim, Germany). Normally, when I eat raw oysters I only sprinkle lemon on them. So this had my name written all over it!! The oyster was not super chewy, nor did it lack substance, it was just right! I wish I had asked what type of oyster it was. My table really enjoyed it.
The second course was the Potato chip soup with a Fried Oyster, paired with a 2008 Batic Pinela (Sempas, Slovenia). WOW is all I could say… The soup was so creamy and perfect with the cucumber accent and the potato chips and fried oyster provided the wonderful texture of the dish. This was my favorite pairing of the night! The combination of the food and wine made this into butter in my mouth; it was just truly an amazing pairing!!
My Fennel Royale was nice, and paired with the 2009 Riviera Ligure di Ponente (Durin, Italy). It was actually a really nice surprise because I expected this course to not be so memorable since I’m not a big fan of Fennel, but it went down smoothly.
The Crispy Tofu was covered in sunflower seeds, topped with cilantro and with a side of marinated vegetables. The dashi emulsion was delicious! All of this was paired with Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest White Ale (Ibaraki, Japan). Now, I’m really not a beer drinker, but this was awesome! I LOVED it! When we all took bites of this dish and tasted the beer, there were several “mmm’s” and “oooooh’s” around.
Equally impressive was the Tuna Rolls with crab, jicama, mango and spicy mayonnaise. This dish was paired with a 2008 Francois Pinon “Silex Noir” Chenin Blanc (Vouvray, France). It was very refreshing and full of great texture. The wine picked up on the spicy mayonnaise and melded the flavors extremely well.
Our sixth course was not only delicious, but visually interesting as well. We had Braised Baby Octopus with Leek Risotto, shaved cashews and Pancetta Vinaigrette – all paired with 2009 Jean Paul-Brun Chardonnay (Beaujolais, France). When I tasted the wine for the dish, it was not particularly full of character, but after a bite of the octopus and leek risotto, it was a perfect match! I loved the creamy risotto which was a complete contrast from the braised baby octopus. I actually think the risotto took the spotlight from the octopus, but still a wonderful dish.
We all enjoyed the Ocean Trout which included peas, mint, oyster mushrooms and lobster jus, all paired with a 2007 G. Rescombes “Villes Vignes” Gamay (Brouilly, France). The trout was cooked to where it was just falling apart inside, oh so decadent! And the oysters brought a sense of earthiness to the dish that just paired wonderfully with the wine. I LOVE mushrooms so this was a favorite of mine!
Finally, into the meat dishes, we enjoyed the Sliders with Grass Fed Beef, potato chips, Bibb lettuce, and chipotle aioli. While it was actually paired with Jukusie Funaguchi Aged Nama (Nigata-Ken, Japan) sake, it was almost as it was paired with wine because of the intensity of the dish. It was like an explosion in your mouth. The slider itself was just a tad over cooked for my taste, but I appreciated the blend of flavors and textures. The sake also added a bit of ‘meatiness’ to the dish and stood up to the strong flavors.
Our last savory dish was a Miso cured Hangar Steak with creamed spinach and shitake mushroom tempura, sesame seeds and ponzu sauce. This dish was complimented with a Grenache: 2007 Eric Texier “Vaison La Romaine” (Cote du Rhone, France). Everything about this dish was just overwhelmingly delicious! Every aspect of it was perfect. The beef was cooked perfectly and offset by the shitake mushroom tempura, and the ponzu sauce was balanced with the creamed spinach. When all of this combined with a sip of wine, it was heaven! I couldn’t imagine a better ending to such a wonderful tasting!
For dessert, we enjoyed a Yuzu Crème Brulee that was topped with poached apricots and kumquats. This final dish was paired with a Cab Franc: D. Delecheneau Domaine La Grange Rose (Loire, France). Truly an amazing end to an amazing night. We loved this so much; some of us had seconds on dessert!
I haven’t attended a tasting where I enjoyed all the food and wine pairings. There is usually a dish that is a bit lack luster, but this Magnum Pop up stood tall and proud. Amazing work by the “cooking gangster” and ” wine pimp.” I hope the next tasting is not far in the future! 🙂
After taking the bus for a few weeks now, I’ve started to notice the regulars. We tend to acknowledge each other with a nod and half grin, but we never say anything to each other. As daily as we see each other, you’d think we would. I have only taken pictures from behind these people. These two men are on my morning commute to the IE. The man in the baseball hat rides a bicycle. He hops on in West Covina, and hops off in Pomona. The other guy is already on the bus when I board in the morning, and he gets off in Pomona as well. Not sure what they do, but I see them almost daily. The baseball hat man looks like he’s in his late 40s, early 50s. The other man, looks like he’s in his 30s and seems to be of East Asian descent.