DDD #81 – Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni in Vodka Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back


Click the image above to watch the video.

A long, long time ago, I had a boyfriend.  And that boyfriend had – egads! – ex-girlfriends.  One of these ex-girlfriends was (and remains) a famous actress.  A beautiful, famous actress.  She had been reaching out to him to “reconnect.”  My boyfriend at the time announced that he would be having dinner with this ex at some point in the future.  I informed him that I would be attending this dinner myself.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “Nothing’s going on,” he explained.  “She just wants to get together.  We are friends.”  I explained that, as his live-in girlfriend, his friends should be my friends, too, and asked that if everything was so innocent, why couldn’t he just invite her over to our home for dinner.

It took a bit but I won this debate.  The invitation was extended & then the pressure was on.  ME.  On me because I had to cook the damned dinner – a dinner to impress this chick.  I wanted to impress her with both my culinary skills & with the level of our domesticity.  It was a passive-aggressive counter-attack to what I sensed were not entirely innocent intentions on her part.

This was pre-internet and pre-40 million cooking shows – so I had only my trusty collection of cookbooks to consult for ideas.  After hours of deliberating – I ended up making two dishes I had never made before – always very dangerous if making a good impression is your top priority.  I made a two-color soup much like this one (this one here is not my creation):

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Photo borrowed from HERE.

And I made an eggplant timbale as shown here in this blog.  As fate would have it, my dinner was a huge success & the ex-girlfriend was smart & funny & charming & the two of us were quickly gabbing like old friends, nearly cutting my boyfriend from the conversation completely.

And – for the record, ladies (and gents) – this ex-girlfriend never “reached out” to “touch base” again – to either me or my boyfriend.  So – my instincts had been correct.  She had been perhaps interested in rekindling more than just old times.  But – to her credit – once she met me, she was forever respectful and was never again a threat to our domestic bliss.

So – if you ever need to impress someone or scare off some interested interloper from meddling with your love life – serve them this whopper of a dish.  It is far easier to make than folks guess and it tastes delicious – and it is classier than a slap fight & hair pulling.

Also – as an aside, I bought this fucking gigantic can (I know canned tomatoes are bad but sometimes you gotta bend rules) of tomato sauce for $2.69.  That is practically free!  It makes 12 cups of whatever the Hell sauce you are making.  I made arrabbiata (surprise, surprise) and I froze 8 cups of it & used 4 cups of it to make the vodka sauce in this recipe.

Vodka Sauce – large quantity

INGREDIENTS

2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 small onion – diced

1/2 cup vodka (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves – chopped

1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup chopped basil

1 cup peas – optional

S&P to taste

For a pink sauce (optional) – 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil & saute the onion until soft.  Add garlic for one minute then add the vodka.  Cook on high a minute & then add the other ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 30 minutes or more.  For a pink sauce – add 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese.

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Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni & Vodka Sauce

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE TIMBALE:

1 pound rigatoni (or other pasta) – cooked & drained

8 oz vegan mozzarella

4 large eggplants

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/8 cup vegan Parmesan

Chopped tomato or chopped fresh parsley or basil – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Slice the eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.  You can go the long way or the other way – creating round disks.  (OPTIONAL – Place in colanders or on paper towels & sprinkle with salt on both sides.  Let the eggplants drain for about 30 minutes.  This not only helps remove moisture from the eggplant but also minimizes bitterness. I skipped this step.)

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You can either rub olive oil into your eggplant before grilling or you can dip them in an Italian salad dressing – really just to lubricate them so they do not stick to the grilling surface & tear apart.  Grill (a grill pan works, too) the eggplant until they get nice grill marks on one side, turn them & repeat.  Remove & set aside.

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Cook the rigatoni according to the box directions.  Err on the side of under-cooking – as they will cook more in the oven.  Drain the rigatoni & mix in a bowl with cheeses & 2 or more cups of vodka sauce.  Add more sauce if you like a really wet pasta.  You will have extra vodka sauce that you can use to add as a garnish to the finished slices of timbale or to use in another recipe.  It might be nice to have extra sauce for the timbale when you are in the leftovers phase.

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ASSEMBLY-

Grease a spring form pan & then put some bread crumbs & vegan Parmesan inside.  Swirl the pan to coat all the surfaces.  Throw any unstuck bread crumbs/cheese away.

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Line the inside of the pan with grilled eggplant.  You can either do as I did or, if you have circular disks, fan them on the bottom of the pan & then stick some, overlapping, up on the sides.  However you do it – try to cover every part of the pan with eggplant.  Pour the pasta & vodka sauce & cheese mix in – layering in extra cheese, if you fancy.  Top with any remaining eggplant slices.

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Cover the timbale in foil & place some heavy dishes on top & put in the fridge to compress for about 15 minutes.

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Then – bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Let rest, unmolested, for at least 15 minutes and then put a serving dish on top of the timbale, flip the whole thing over & then very carefully – remove the spring form pan.

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Garnish with either grated Parmesan or extra vodka sauce.

DDD #65 – Vegan “Tree of Life” Cabbage Cake or Stuffed Cabbage Tower

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back


To watch the video, click the image above.

I had cabbage & I had a desire for some old school comfort food.  I was Googling around looking for inspiration & saw this thing of beauty by Proud Italian Cook:

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Both my friend, Rose, and I were blown away & both swore to make it immediately.  And we both did.  I think she stuck with the original recipe but I had to make it vegan & make it before work – including going to the store to buy a different kind of cabbage – Savoy cabbage – so I could get that pretty lace effect – so I had quite a task ahead.  My cabbage, ultimately, was not quite as vascular as the one Proud Italian Cook used & my oven heats unevenly – so I did not get quite the forest effect they did & I browned one side.  No matter!  This was easy to make & is really delicious & quite the show stopper!

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I would have just used two bags of the Beyond Meat rather than add tofu but I only had one bag.  I used frozen tofu that I thawed & then squeezed the water out.  It gives the tofu a spongy-texture that resembles ground beef more than raw tofu does.  It also has the added benefit of removing lots of the moisture.

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I also added maitake mushrooms (seen above) and 2 grilled zucchini – simply because I had them.  You could fill your cake with whatever traditional filling you would use for cabbage rolls or use this recipe or tweak this recipe.  I used Rao’s sauce for ease & because it is the best jarred sauce on the market.  You can use your own favorite – homemade or from a jar.  Whatever you decide – I promise you will be delighted with this unexpected & regal reinvention of the humble stuffed cabbage roll.

Vegan “Tree of Life” Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

Serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)

INGREDIENTS

1 large head of Savoy (or other green) cabbage

2+ TBS olive oil

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or 18 oz or more and skip the tofu below)

1 lb tofu – frozen, thawed, water squeezed out & crumbled

1 onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 celery stalk – chopped

1/2 to 1 lb mushrooms – chopped (optional)

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

1-3 tsp fresh thyme (or oregano) – less if you use dried

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used brown basmati)

S&P to taste

24 oz of your favorite red sauce

1 cup or so of Grated vegan Parmesan – optional

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Core the bottom of the cabbage (leaving it in tact) & place in a deep pot cored-side down.  Add 2-3 inches of water & bring to a boil – covered – for 5 minutes.  Plunge into cold water & when it is cool enough to handle – carefully peel the leaves away & place on paper towels to dry.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan & then cook the onions, celery and mushrooms (if using) until soft (my photos do not reflect the proper order & it doesn’t really matter).  Add the beef, tofu, and garlic, thyme, parsley rice & 1 cup marinara.  Blend well.  Season with S&P.

Grease a deep, round casserole or souffle-type dish & then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around.  Layer in some beef mixture (maybe 1/2 inch) & top with another layer of cabbage.  Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling.  Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and a sprinkling of about half your cheese (if you are using vegan or real cheese) all over.  The cheese can be eliminated completely with little impact on this recipe.

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Bake for about 40 minutes.  Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the casserole dish, then carefully flip it over.  Top with more warmed marinara & some of your cheese.  Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.

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Vegan Crab Cake Po’ Boy with Avocado, Purple Coleslaw on a Homemade Pistolette Roll

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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See that gorgeous slaw?   My recipe for it is HERE.  It takes ten minutes & can be made even a day or two in advance.  I used just a hint of Just Mayo in it.  If you are curious about vegan mayonnaise – there is a great article about how the various brands fared against each other & against egg mayo – HERE.

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Because I am trying to spend as little money as possible on groceries & I needed a roll for my Po’ Boy – I had to make my own bread!  I used Deep South Dish’s recipe found HERE for Pistolette Sandwich Rolls.  There were several steps but none were difficult.  Plus – the whole house smelled like freshly baked bread – a WONDERFUL thing anytime but especially in colder weather.  Here are some photos of my process:

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I put a little dish of water in the oven while they baked & they came out golden & crusty on the outside & soft in the middle.  They would make amazing dinner rolls or as an accompaniment to cheese like – maybe – my Vegan Spicy Jalapeno Cilantro Cashew Nut Cheese – seen just above.  That is a raw cheese and can be made in minutes.

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Vegan Crab Cake Po’ Boy with Avocado

Serves one

INGREDIENTS

As many Gardein Crabless Cakes as you desire – fried or baked (I fried mine in a little olive oil)

The roll of your choice

Avocado slices

Lettuce

Coleslaw

Sliced radishes (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

Assemble your Po’ Boy!  It is just that simple.  Some bread, a bit of lettuce, a few avocado and/or radish slices, your crabless cakes & some slaw!  BOOM!  Enjoy!

I initially assembled the sandwich with the crab cakes whole but mashing them up made the Po’ Boy easier to eat & more appetizing to look at.  It looks like crab!

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Vegan Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

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BathingandthesinglegirlCover

vromans back

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I had cabbage & I had a desire for some old school comfort food.  I was Googling around looking for inspiration & saw this thing of beauty by Proud Italian Cook:

unmolded-cabbage-1

sauced-cab-sliced

Both my friend, Rose, and I were blown away & both swore to make it immediately.  And we both did.  I think she stuck with the original recipe but I had to make it vegan & make it before work – including going to the store to buy a different kind of cabbage – Savoy cabbage – so I could get that pretty lace effect – so I had quite a task ahead.  My cabbage, ultimately, was not quite as vascular as the one Proud Italian Cook used & my oven heats unevenly – so I did not get quite the forest effect they did & I browned one side.  No matter!  This was easy to make & is really delicious & quite the show stopper!

I used:

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I would have just used two bags of the Beyond Meat rather than add tofu but I only had one bag.  I used frozen tofu that I thawed & then squeezed the water out.  It gives the tofu a spongy-texture that resembles ground beef more than raw tofu does.  It also has the added benefit of removing lots of the moisture.

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I also added maitake mushrooms (seen above) and 2 grilled zucchini – simply because I had them.  You could fill your cake with whatever traditional filling you would use for cabbage rolls or use this recipe or tweak this recipe.  I used Rao’s sauce for ease & because it is the best jarred sauce on the market.  You can use your own favorite – homemade or from a jar.  Whatever you decide – I promise you will be delighted with this unexpected & regal reinvention of the humble stuffed cabbage roll.

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Vegan Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

Serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)

INGREDIENTS

1 head of Savoy (or other green) cabbage

2+ TBS olive oil

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or 18 oz or more and skip the tofu below)

1 lb tofu – frozen, thawed, water squeezed out & crumbled

1 onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 celery stalk – chopped

2 zucchini – grilled & diced (optional – both the grilling of the zucchini & the zucchini themselves)

1/2 lb mushrooms – chopped (optional)

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

1-3 tsp fresh thyme (or oregano) – less if you use dried

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used brown) – or more if you eliminated the zucchini & mushrooms

S&P to taste

24 oz of your favorite red sauce

1 cup or so of Grated Parmesan (vegan – or not, if you are not vegan) – optional

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Core the bottom of the cabbage (leaving it in tact) & place in a deep pot cored-side down.  Add 2-3 inches of water & bring to a boil – covered – for 5 minutes.  Plunge into cold water & when it is cool enough to handle – carefully peel the leaves away & place on paper towels to dry.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan & then cook the onions, celery and mushrooms (if using) until soft (my photos do not reflect the proper order & it doesn’t really matter).  Add the beef, tofu, zucchini (if using) and garlic, thyme, parsley rice & 1 cup marinara.  Blend well.  Season with S&P.

Grease a deep, round casserole or souffle-type dish & then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around.  Layer in some beef mixture (maybe 1/2 inch) & top with another layer of cabbage.  Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling.  Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and a sprinkling of about half your cheese (if you are using vegan or real cheese) all over.  The cheese can be eliminated completely with little impact on this recipe.

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Bake for about 40 minutes.  Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the casserole dish, then carefully flip it over.  Top with more warmed marinara & some of your cheese.  Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.

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Spicy Chili Chocolate Cake & Fine Dining in Montecito, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

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OK – I will apologize up front for the lame photos of the chili chocolate cake.  I hope the photos of my Montecito trip make up for it a tiny bit.

This chili chocolate cake is just stupid easy & really dense – like a flourless cake – despite the fact that it is flour-based.  I stole the recipe from Bake-aholic.com (their version & photo below)

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and just used my Fireball frosting from the Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes I made the same day I made this cake.

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My cake seemed far more dense than their appears but it was rather yummy.

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Here is their recipe for

Chili & Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you know I never plan ahead…1 T of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup…add milk to the 1 cup mark.  let sit 5 minutes to curdle)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup hot hot water

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 13″x9″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, sugar, soda, cinnamon and cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp cayenne…you can adjust when the batter is all combined). Add in oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Stir gently. Add hot water. Pour into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4-6 T milk

Beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, add vanilla and cinnamon. Add milk and beat until you attain your desired consistency (I generally start with 4 T [1/4 cup] then add 1 T at a time).  Frost cooled cake. (This frosting is also delicious on graham crackers.)

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This weekend marked my second anniversary with the badass, Miles Miller.  I had an available dog sitter so we took the opportunity & escaped for a night to Montecito.  Montecito is the wealthy town just south of Santa Barbara.  I used to go there all the time & have a few favorite spots but I hadn’t been in over a decade – so – returning to those old favorite haunts had a distinct element of risk.  Not every restaurant can maintain its quality for twenty years.  Since I chose the destinations – all the responsibility was on my shoulders and I was a bit nervous.  But one place I was fairly certain would have maintained its allure is the Four Seasons Biltmore up there on the beach.  Unable to afford to actually stay there – I decided we could certainly afford to lunch there – so that was our first stop.

We sauntered into the hotel around noon & went to their restaurant there – Bella Vista.

“Are you joining us for brunch?”

I looked at Miles who shrugged and then answered, “I don’t see why not.”

But I could see why not.  I am not a brunch fan & I am especially not a brunch buffet fan.  Omelette bars & tables of pastries are of no interest to me – not to mention that most buffets are excessively littered with meat options.  Not only am I not a meat eater but, recently, I decided to stop eating seafood (because of the radiation they are finding in it from Fukishima – read HERE).  WTF else is there on a buffet for me?

But, we committed & I decided to make the best of it.  The bottomless champagne promised to take the edge off whatever disappointment lay ahead for me.  And look how pretty the joynt is.

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I tried to console myself with the thought that a high end buffet would, at least, have lots of options that would please my nearly purely carnivorous boyfriend.  I sipped champagne.  I looked around.  I thought, “This does not suck.”  Because it didn’t – no matter what I ended up eating.  And look at how cute Miles is!

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Then I wandered into the buffet room.  It was truly a wonderland of options.  The Biltmore does not fuck around & this buffet proved to be the finest I had ever seen.  Sure, there was bacon & sausage & homemade hash & rare lamb chops & prime rib & steak salad & chicken salad and, really, every meat option you can imagine and there was a wall lined with every variety of sweet thing on Earth.  There was the requisite omelette bar & the bagels & lox & all the other things you might expect.  Initially, I loaded a pile of mashed potatoes on my plate, still determined to go vegetarian – until I lifted the lid on the shrimp & grits.  Oh fuck.  I adore grits & radiation cancer or not – I was going to have some of that shrimpy goodness.  As I spooned a bit on my plate – I spied huge hunks of lobster in the grits, too.  It was about then that I apparently went into some kind of seafood-frenzy black-out.  Photos of my first plate reveal these selections:

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Mashed potatoes, seafood grits, CAVIAR (I could live on caviar) with all the traditional accoutrements, two oysters & a shrimp.

My return to the buffet resulted in this selection:

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That, if you cannot tell, is a small selection of sushi, a tiny piece of smoked salmon, oysters, a shrimp & a SCANDALOUS portion of caviar that, as you might observe, I tried to obscure beneath the little bowl of soy sauce & wasabi.  There are eight blini there so that gives you some idea of the greed I exhibited.  I could have just stood there at the buffet & smeared it all over my face as I scraped the entire quantity offered into my mouth with a cupped palm – whilst growling at anybody unwise enough to approach me.  But that seemed rather classless so I just took about an entire ounce of the black gold and the desired extras (egg & creme fraiche etc) and rejoined Miles at our table & grunted, “This does NOT SUCK” repeatedly as I swilled the free-flowing champagne & licked caviar from my fingers.

Sometimes I’m not safe in public.  God bless Miles for loving me.

Properly sated – we braced for the bill.  Miles guessed the cost would be high & guessed $50 each.  I feared it would be closer to $125 each.  Or more.  After all – there was BOTTOMLESS CAVIAR & the champagne was not sweet & gross and it, too, was bottomless.  I think Miles threw up in his mouth a bit when the bill turned out to be just under $200 with tip but I knew we had dodged a bullet.  And I still had caviar running down my chin like a goatee – so I was good with it all.

So – I dragged him across the street to the beach.  Here is a peek at that loveliness.

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So – we checked into the hotel – the Montecito Inn – and clicked on the fireplace.

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Ah, romance.  A bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub & a stint watching Crib’s Most Expensive Homes & it was time to get back to the eating & drinking.

A single cocktail next door at Lucky’s

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and it was time to go to one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – Pane e Vino.  The pressure was kind of off me by the time we got there because lunch had been such a success but I still sweated it out a bit until Miles declared his bolognese with spinach noodles to be delightful.  He hadn’t been as pleased with a similar dish the night before at LA’s Bottega Louie – so I really was worried.  My homemade pasta with mushrooms was insane.  Hard to photograph but not hard to shovel into my face.

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The ride back & forth, by the way, was provided by the AWESOME Uber service.  Uber is a car service that you summon with an app on your phone.  You simply provide a credit card to them when you sign up & all the fees & tips etc are handled that way.  No cash.  And the drivers (for UberX – the least expensive of their three car options) drive their own car.  Cheaper & easier than a taxi service & you can request a fare estimate before pulling the trigger & calling for an Uber pick up.  I recommend it VERY highly.  And here is a little discount for your first ride.

Use my Uber promo code, 4hmyy, and get $10 off your first Uber ride.

Before we went to bed, I received this pathetic image of my two sons – huddled in despair because of my absence.  They can really work up a pity party when they are motivated.  Silly kids.

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The next day before we headed home to reunited with the doggies – we stopped at Cava in Montecito.  It was a gorgeous day & we sat outside on the patio.  We nibbled on chips & salsa.

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Miles ordered a beer & fajitas.

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I got a huge portion of guacamole, a Bloody Mary & (back on the seafood wagon) – the chile relleno.

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All were delicious though the chile relleno, as you can see, was served as almost a soup.  I have never seen it served that way before but it was very tasty.

And that, as they say, was that.

Try both the Chili Chocolate cake & try Montecito when you can.  And save up for that GD brunch buffet.  You could not possibly regret it!

If Los Angeles is your destination – the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills has a great dining spot, too.  Culina!  Check out my CRAZY experience there – HERE.