Behind The Counter: See’s Candies Opens At Newport Beach Fashion Island

See the video below for a *sweet* look behind the counter at the newest See's location!

See the video below for a *sweet* look behind the counter at the newest See’s location!

Here are a few of my favorite things: Chocolate, I Love Lucy, and behind-the-scenes, hands-on experiences (if you couldn’t tell from my previous posts!).

So, when I got the chance to attend a pre-opening See’s Candies party with fellow blogger friends at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, I jumped at the chance.

I was especially excited to learn that we’d get to go behind the counter and assemble our own boxes of See’s chocolates. The first thing I thought of was the “Job Switching” episode of I Love Lucy when Lucy and Ethel work at a chocolate factory and hilarious shenanigans ensue with the speedy chocolate conveyor belt.

Turns out, that episode was filmed at the historic See’s Candies factory on La Cienega in Los Angeles!

TT Sees Candies Bordeaux

What seems to give See’s chocolates their distinct taste is their chocolate-making process, which remains consistent since the first store opening back in 1921. See’s is one of the remaining few, if not the only one, to still age its chocolate. No wonder they sell over 26 million pounds of chocolate each year!

We learned how to pack the chocolates into our boxes just like the See’s workers are expertly trained to do, and got to take home quite a few goodies as a result! So many, in fact, that it will last me a good week… unless I decide to get chocolate wasted.

TT Sees Candies Pecan

As for flavors, I got the Apple Pie & Pecan Pie seasonal holiday truffles, as well as Butterscotch (for my mom), Maple Walnut, Dark Butterchew, Dark Bordeaux (my all-time See’s favorite!!), Pecan Bud (like a turtle), plus the Peanut Butter Crunch and Strawberry flavors to make a custom creation.

Check out the behind-the-counter video below to find out what it is!

Check out this 1-minute video to go behind the counter with me at the newest See's Candies location!

Check out this 1-minute video and come behind the counter with me at the newest See’s Candies location!

What’s great about going into a See’s Candies store anytime is that you will always be treated to a free sample when you visit. With over 100 sweet varieties at each location, you can visit every day and still never get bored!

Of the multitude of chocolatey choices, See’s has kept the Bon Bon, Maple Walnut Cream, Chocolate Walnut Fudge and Victoria Toffee recipes exactly the same throughout the decades. Sometimes you just can’t change a classic.

Their top five best sellers are the Milk Bordeaux (I personally adore the dark version), the Scotchmallow, the California Brittle, the Pecan Buds and the Almond Buds. Which are your favorites?

...or do you like ALL of them? (photo via Huffington Post)

…or do you like ALL of them? (via Huffington Post)

While we’re going back in time, if you’d like Huell Howser to show you around the See’s factory from back in the day, check out this See’s Candy – California’s Gold episode.

Back to the present: the Fashion Island store just held its grand opening the very next day after I filmed the video above, and is located near Macy’s in Fashion Island at 401 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

I already can’t wait to get back to try some more flavors… and to get another Dark Bordeaux chocolate truffle while I’m at it! See you there ;).

TEMP TT Sees Candies

New Opening Sneak Peek: Ice Cream Lab Comes To Pasadena

Come with me behind the counter for a sneak of Ice Cream Lab's newest location. (Had to represent for the Lakers since today was the season opener!)

VIDEO: Come with me behind the counter for a sneak of Ice Cream Lab’s newest location. (Had to represent for the Lakers since today was the season opener!)

What if your ice cream could be made to order, going from the creamy liquid base to the frozen treat you know and love… in mere seconds?

Look no further, because Ice Cream Lab makes its desserts with liquid nitrogen, freezing your ice cream right before your eyes in a mystical cloud of nitrogen smoke (vapor, if you want to get technical).

What’s even better is that more Southern Californians will get to experience this magical ice cream, because Ice Cream Lab Pasadena opens its doors for its grand opening tomorrow at noon.

The mayor will do the ribbon cutting and they’ll be giving away free ice cream all day. Their ice cream comes in traditional flavors and creative combinations like Salt Lick Crunch, Blue Velvet and Banilla.

A breakdown of each of the three year-round specialty flavors (also shown in the video above):

  • Salt Lick Crunch – Organic vanilla bean ice cream blended with crushed salted pretzels and homemade caramel sauce, topped with sea salt
  • Blue Velvet – Organic vanilla bean ice cream blended with homemade blue velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting
  • Banilla – Organic vanilla bean ice cream blended with organic locally grown bananas, homemade caramel sauce and crushed Nilla wafers
Flavors: Blue Velvet, Strawberry and Salt Lick Crunch

Flavors: Blue Velvet, Strawberry, Salt Lick Crunch

I’ve been to the Beverly Hills location a few times, and uncharacteristically (since I usually love to try different things) I end up getting my ultimate favorite, the Salt Lick Crunch, almost every time. I’ve sometimes snuck spoonfuls of other flavors from my friends before, but it was nice to be able to get a taste of the entire original menu at this private pre-opening tasting they hosted for me!

The strawberry had real pieces of strawberries in it, and you could taste the freshness of each of the flavors. However, my ultimate favorite still stands, as the Salt Lick Crunch is just exceptional! The creamy ice cream studded with crunchy, salty pretzel bits just hits the spot… and that drizzle of oozing caramel over the top doesn’t hurt, either. 😉

I also had the chance to go behind the counter to see up-close how they make their ice cream, and boy is that liquid nitrogen cold… between -346°F and -320.44°F to be exact! You can check out the crazy amounts of liquid nitrogen smoke in action in the 1-minute video above.

Behind the counter liquid nitrogen action

Behind-the-counter liquid nitrogen action

The staff was friendly and warm, and the decor is similar to the larger Beverly Hills location, with quirky graffiti-style murals in icy blue tones. The interior is otherwise sleek and white, fitting well with the molecular gastronomy theme of their product.

What I love most about Ice Cream Lab is that they use locally sourced fresh ingredients that you can see and taste — none of those suspicious-looking artificially flavored and colored bottles spotted at some other liquid nitrogen ice cream spots. They also use kosher ingredients and don’t use any additives. Can’t complain about that!

Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and Cookies & Cream are also on the menu, with vegan options like sorbets and more to come, including a seasonal vegan pumpkin flavor. After a few weeks, the Pasadena location will be serving seasonal flavors too, like the Beverly Hills location now does.

Birthday tip: They give you a free waffle cone on your special day, as well as a free Ice Cream Lab tote bag. Check out the other swag they have in the video above!

The glorious Salt Lick Crunch has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy

The glorious Salt Lick Crunch has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy

The second Ice Cream Lab, opening in Old Town, is located at 16 S. Fair Oaks Ave. Pasadena, CA. You can also check out the Ice Cream Lab website for more information.

Ice Cream Lab also plans to open a third location in Little Tokyo in the near future. The Pasadena grand opening is tomorrow, so get yourself some ice cream… because it’s always ice cream season here in L.A.

New Restaurant Sneak Peek: SoCal Gets Its First Steak ‘N Shake

Get the inside scoop before anyone else on the first Steak 'n Shake to arrive in Cali. Dancing waiters, DIY eggnog-beer floats and more!

Get the inside scoop before anyone else in this video recap of the first Steak ‘n Shake to arrive in Cali. Dancing waiters, DIY eggnog-beer floats and more!

Midwest-to-L.A. transplants — or just about anyone who’s had the privilege of trying Steak ‘n Shake — will be happy to know that you don’t have to drive to Vegas to get your Steakburger and milkshake fix. There’s a new burger joint in town opening tomorrow, and it will mark the long-awaited arrival of the legendary 80-year-old burger chain from the Midwest.

I had the chance to attend the pre-opening party for Steak ‘n Shake earlier tonight, and we got to order anything and everything off their full menu while a DJ spun party tunes loud enough for the waiters and guests to break out into impromptu dance (see video above).

Having been to the Steak ‘n Shake located inside the Las Vegas South Point Hotel & Casino once before and enjoying it, I have to say that this Third Street Promenade location is a great one. It’s sleek and modern (with LED screens and a couple of those fancy billion-choice soda machines), but also retains that nostalgic diner vibe. The servers are friendly and fun-loving, and seem to really enjoy accommodating guests.

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

You can also dine al fresco, as the eatery occupies a prime corner location with patio seating on both sides. It’s a nice view of the Third Street Promenade and the iconic string lights in its trees.

Upon entering, you order at the counter and take a seat, then sit back and wait for them to bring your meal to you. It’s fast-casual, with the right amount of attentive service and do-it-yourself ordering.

We tried the Frisco Melt (my personal favorite!), Signature Steakburger and the Original Double ‘n Cheese. All of them were juicy and tasted fresh, from the vegetables to the bread.

We also tasted the chili cheese fries, parmesan herb and salt & vinegar fries, wine, beer and a cool, creamy seasonal eggnog milkshake. Talk about food coma!

Check it all out here (or in the one-minute video above):

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

The Steak ‘n Shake full menu with pricing, wine selection and beer on tap (click to enlarge)

 

Tanayas Table Steak n Shake Steakburger

The Signature Steakburger with grilled onions and parmesan & herb fries

 

Tanayas Table Steak n Shake Meal

Eggnog seasonal milkshake (it’s a winner!), red wine, Santa Monica Brew Works local beer, chili cheese fries and the Original Double ‘n Cheese burger

 

Tanayas Table Steak n Shake Steakburger inside

Inside the Signature Steakburger

Oh, by the way… the first 100 guests in line will get free Steak ‘n Shake for a year. The only Steak ‘n Shake in California opens its doors for its Grand Opening at 11 a.m. on 10/28 and is located at 1455 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA.

There may be a lot of great burger places in L.A. and even Santa Monica, but Steak ‘n Shake brings a friendly vibe and delicious, hearty yet fresh food in a modern yet nostalgic diner setting. It’s just more proof that all good things eventually come to Cali!

Check out the video above for all the action and stay tuned for a sneak peek at Ice Cream Lab, opening its doors later this week in Pasadena. Cheers!

New Restaurant Sneak Peek: Contemporary Indian Cuisine At Cardamom L.A.

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Here’s the scoop behind the newest Indian restaurant to hit the scene in Mid-City, Cardamom L.A. The restaurant takes residency where India’s Oven long stood. What’s different, you ask, when one Indian restaurant replaces another in the same location?

The answer lies in the contemporary twist on Cardamom’s menu and decor, as the Pani Puris are served in shot glasses, the chef brings experience and cooking techniques from the UK, and the colorful abstract paintings on the wall are even hand-painted by their own team.

Last Wednesday, I was invited to attend a pre-opening media dinner for Cardamom L.A., where I got a taste of the new fare with my friends Karen, Rachael and a number of other fellow food writer & blogger friends. Being an Indian-American girl who could fluently speak their same language, it apparently was a pleasant surprise for the owners.

To be even more festive (it’s not every day I get to attend a food event of my own people!), I even wore an Indian kurti top to dinner :). The hospitality was amazing, and Chef Choudhury warmly invited me to take a peek at the behind the scenes cooking action in the kitchen. Here’s your Desi scoop, in the latest one(ish)-minute Tanaya’s Table episode:

Check out the Pani Puri, Peshwari Naan, Chicken Tikka and more in the video above.

Check out the Pani Puri, Peshwari Naan, Chicken Tikka and more in the video above.

Chef Choudhury takes pride in using the freshest ingredients, never frozen or canned. He travels to India to personally source fresh whole spices, which he brings back to grind in-house. He then uses these freshly ground spices to season each of the 100-plus items on the Cardamom menu. I also learned that the restaurant uses a tandoor oven powered by charcoal instead of the standard gas, resulting in a smokier, richer flavor.

Although I was born in SoCal, being of Indian ethnicity I must explain that contrary to what some may believe, Indian food is not just rich chicken tikka masala and buttery naan. There are so many types of Indian cuisines from numerous regions throughout the subcontinent, including lighter, non-spicy everyday dishes. Cardamom’s extensive menu represents the unique cuisines of many of these parts. Whether you are a vegetarian, meat lover or seafood fan, there’s something for everyone at Cardamom L.A.

My favortites included the presentation of the Pani Puri, as they had the traditional spiced tamarind water in the glass, and the crispy shells sitting atop, stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas (see a demo of how to eat it in the video above). I also loved the Peshwari Naan, served fresh from the tandoor, stuffed with sweet coconut, raisins, dates and nuts. And for spice lovers like myself, Cardamom doesn’t skimp when it comes to their savory fare. They bring the heat, if you want them to.

Cardamom is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and is located at 7233 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038. For more information or reservations, visit cardamomLA.com.

New Restaurant: Murph’s Service Station Exclusive First Look + VIDEO

 

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Get the scoop on Murph’s Service Station before its grand opening on Monday, Sept. 15!

Last night, I had the opportunity to be one of the first to experience Murph’s Service Station, a new restaurant concept from the talented, creative and intriguing Richard DiSisto, founder & principal of the Vantage Restaurant Group. It’s so new, it hasn’t even opened to the public yet! The grand opening is set for Monday, Sept. 15, so check out the exclusive scoop right here before the doors open to this highly anticipated food & drink establishment.

Although he owns a series of other notable restaurants like Tipple & Brine and Tunnel Bar also on Ventura Boulevard, when DiSisto sat down with me at the bar to chat about his newest concept, he insisted, “I don’t like to be called a restaurateur. I identify more as an artist.”

That makes sense, especially once he revealed that he builds the entire concept himself, and lets his creative vision lead him through the process. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like until I enter the space… and I don’t fully ‘get it’ myself until the last screw is in.” He continued, “Actually, I didn’t even ‘get it’ with Murph’s until last night when I came in at 1 a.m. Now I get it. Let the people make it what they want now.”

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

A sneak peek at the bar design.

When I asked him what he’d order first from the bar, he replied without skipping a beat: “Vodka soda,” and smiled. From past successes, DiSisto has found that by focusing on creating an environment that people want to come back to just to hang out, that’s what truly creates a lasting model in this industry. “Ambiance is everything,” he stated.

He went on to explain to me the unique backstory to his concept, as Murph’s is supposed to be a deserted art deco service station from the 1930’s, and that he bought it and restored it to open up in the postwar heyday of the year 1946. What a cool vision, right? Once you go, you’ll get it. It has a great vibe, with super service from bartenders and waitstaff alike.

Our bartender, Victoria, was a true rockstar serving equally strong drinks and entertainment throughout the night. We had planned on moving around more throughout the night, but Victoria and her super cool mohawk kept our booties planted firmly in those seats for a good part of the night!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Check out the names of those cocktails! Pictured: The River Tam.

Speaking of the bar, I loved the names of the drinks, like “The Cake is a Lie” and “Bus to Beelzebub.” The ingredients, all housemade, like their pickles, charcuterie and ice cream, were also unique and well-balanced. The “River Tam” with tequila and habanero syrup was a good one, as was “The Cake is a Lie” (besides just the name!). Try the latter with the pickles. It pairs great.

It’s not a surprise that their cocktails are solid (figuratively, not literally!) since their bar consultant is a chemistry expert. One of their drinks has this unique habanero-cherry hybrid garnish called a “Habcherinio,” and I was OBSESSED with it (see video above). Victoria said they got it in downtown, so I definitely need to go get me some of those when I can’t drive up to Sherman Oaks.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

They use a nose-to-tail no-waste approach, which leads to a mean charcuterie spread.

Tray-served food items included Cheesy Burger sliders with housemade pickles, grilled onions and pimento cheese, as well as bacon lettuce cups, cheese biscuits, deviled eggs, and an amazing buttermilk fried chicken with spicy melon. One of my top bites, however, were the potato puffs and the sea salt-dusted donut holes with Chantilly cream, vanilla, caramel and chocolate sauces!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Cheesy Burger sliders with pimento cheese, grilled onions, housemade pickles on a brioche bun.

Back to those potato puffs, though. They were like light, pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth clouds of mashed potato fried to a gold crisp, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and chives. This is where making friends with the bartender really pays off, folks. Victoria revealed to us that the secret to making them so light and scrumptious is that there’s pâte à choux (the same dough that cream puffs are made of!) mixed right in with the potatoes. What a cool idea! Definitely a must-try when you stop in.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Potato puffs made with a surprisingly cool ingredient!

Another fun fact from Rich DiSisto himself: it took him just seven weeks from conception to opening Murph’s, and six weeks to open Tipple and Brine. Talk about drive! Keep an eye on DiSisto, as he aims to open a new restaurant concept every six months. We can’t wait, Rich!

Murph’s is located where Mad Bull’s Tavern used to be: 14649 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. Check out the video up above, and you’ll know why venturing to the Valley (we drove 100 miles roundtrip!) is so worth it for this new gem. Stay tuned to Tanaya’s Table for more restaurant news and videos. Cheers!