It’s Thanksgiving every day at simplethings

simplethings, an adorable little sandwich and pie shop, is located at 8310 W. 3rd Street in Beverly Hills. With casual outdoor and indoor seating, simplethings is a great place to meet for lunch. The pies range from traditional flavors such as peach and pumpkin to the eclectic, banana/coffee and french silk. Since I typically don’t have dessert at lunch, I did not get a chance to try one of the pies, but they looked delicious.

simplethings will always be my favorite sandwich shop in LA. I was first introduced to this place when I interned at a public relations firm just a few blocks away. One day I was sent to pick up the office lunch order from simplethings and order something for myself… don’t mind if I do! The Thanksgiving sandwich caught my eye and I’ve loved the little shop since.

There’s simply no sandwich like this anywhere else. The flavors bring back all the memories and tastes of Thanksgiving I experience at home with my mother’s cooking. In my family, our after Thanksgiving tradition is to combine leftovers on a plate or in a sandwich. The simplethings sandwich is just that – a combination of roast turkey, cranberry chutney, jalapeno cornbread stuffing and sage gravy all on a michetti roll. The sweet and fresh cranberry chutney works magically with the mild spice of the jalapeno cornbread stuffing. The tender turkey and sage gravy make the sandwich comfort food. The sandwich is well worth the price – just over $10.00

For Thanksgiving all year round, try simplethings.

Simplethings Sandwich & Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Cha Cha Chicken

Cha Cha Chicken is located at 1906 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica,  just a stones throw from the beach. You’ll order your meal at a counter (the staff is super friendly and ready to answer your questions), then choose a seat. The atmosphere is casual with an outdoor and indoor seating space. The decorations are colorful and eclectic, and the restaurant has an overall relaxed feel. I would imagine this place is an excellent space to hang out after a long day at the beach.
Some friends, Andrew and Aditya, accompanied me on this food adventure and in the end, they were totally in love with this place, as was I. First, we made sure to try the juices. We ordered each type of juice: Mango-Guava, Watermelon, Cantaloupe and fresh squeezed Lemonade. All were crisp and fresh with no taste of artificial sweeteners. The juices are also textured but not too pulpy.


In order to have a well-rounded dining experience, we split various plates. Each entree comes with two side orders, so we made sure to order a variety. The sweet potatoes complemented the meal nicely, but we hit the jackpot with the fried plantains, which had a perfect texture (not too firm, not overcooked) and added the perfect amount of sweet to the multitude of other flavors in the meal.

The coconut fried chicken ($11.50 for 1/2 lb) was tender and moist. The combination of coconut flavored batter and sweet mango dipping sauce gave a tropical twist to the fried chicken.


The jerk chicken enchiladas were covered lightly with a sweet spicy mango pineapple jerk sauce. The shredded chicken was tender and infused with the flavor of the sauce.


The ropa vieja consisted of smoky, spicy shredded steak with vegetables in a red garlic onion sauce. I was glad to have the other plates to accompany the ropa vieja, because the flavor is spicy, bold and overwhelming on its own.

Considering the generous portion size and quality of the food, the prices at Cha Cha Chicken are a complete steal. The bold, colorful flavors and dining experience makes the drive out to Santa Monica totally worth it. I will definitely return.
Cha Cha Chicken on Urbanspoon

Cafe Corsa

Hello! As something different, this is a guest post by a friend, Abe, a physics student at USC. Enjoy.

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Ceci n’est pas une blog post.

As a burgeoning physicist and writer, I’ve come to appreciate coffee quite a bit – not so much as a biological stimulant, but as an indispensable part of engaging conversations, a precursor to “writerly” urges, and an essential component of solving problems.

A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems

– Paul Erdos

And since working in the same apartment every day becomes drab pretty quickly, finding places which offer good coffee and aren’t incredibly noisy helps the creative process. This is, regrettably, not an easy combination to find around USC or even Downtown Los Angeles for that matter.  Most places with decent coffee tend to get quite crowded and aren’t conducive to any form of productive work or pleasant conversations.

Café Corsa, however, is precisely the kind of place that made coffee houses popular with scholars and artists in the early 18th century. Devoid of any unnecessary embellishments, it eschews the spirit of pretension that seems to have crept into the “coffee culture.”

It is a small, barely noticeable establishment tucked away at the far end of a strip mall on Figueroa and this lack of visibility is its only flaw. The decor is simple and focused around a marvelous not-so-little coffee machine sitting on a counter top – the Clover Coffee Machine. (Here’s a nice video demonstrating why this contraption is helping the case of brewed coffee over espresso – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntbVGGMu_Ac)

We ordered the El Salvadorian (Intelligentsia) and the Panama (a local roaster in Palos Verdes), which were $3 each for 12 oz cups.
The coffee was served in whimsical red and white cups with a Ducati logo and we enjoyed it thoroughly in the comfortable wooden chairs.

The El Salvadorian was a nice medium roast and wouldn’t have required any cream or sugar but for its acidity. The Panama, while also a medium roast, was stronger, smoother, and had been brewed perfectly to avoid the burnt flavour that is usually associated with strong coffee. As my first cup of the day I would have rather had a darker roast, but either of these would be good with some cinnamon biscuits in the afternoon.

The Barista is friendly and knows his coffee. He enjoys trying different origins and blends and though he primarily serves Intelligentsia coffee, he is not averse to experimenting and playing with the Clover’s multiple settings. The place is quiet and even has a little nook with just a chair and a table for those who wish to work or enjoy their coffee in private.

It’s definitely one of the better coffee shops in Los Angeles – probably since it focuses on getting the coffee right and doesn’t try to accessorize it.

Cafe Corsa on Urbanspoon

Cupcakes for a Cause

I want to let you all know about a beautiful organization based in NYC that is hosting a benefit event in LA. If you’re in LA and like cupcakes, music, art and giving back to the community, you should check it out!

The SoHo Project (Sisters Offering Hope to Others) is an organization that raises funds and awareness for non-profits through events, social media campaigns and partnerships with local artists and celebrities. The founding sisters, Lindsay Scheel and Kimberly Scheel, create opportunities for artists in LA and NYC to use their artistic gifts to give back to the community.

At the end of August, SoHo Project will host an event benefiting the organization Catalina’s Gift, which supports and assists families affected by pediatric cancer. The event will include the premiere of the special edition red velvet cupcake named after Catalina, a young girl who defeated cancer. In addition, there will be raffle prizes, good food, a DJ and art for sale by local artist Matthew Woodford.

For event information, check out the flyer below:

King Ranch Chicken

I grew up eating King Ranch Chicken, my personal favorite of all my mother’s recipes. The casserole is named after the famous King Ranch in south Texas and is also rumored to have originated there. King Ranch Chicken is comfort food at its best… at least for a Texan who loves spice and a little flavor of Mexico.

Ingredients:
olive oil
1 chopped Green Pepper
1 chopped Onion
10 oz. Mushroom soup
10 oz. Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Rotel tomato
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breasts
12 Corn Tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheese

Cooking Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Saute the pepper and onion in the olive oil. Add soups, tomato, and chicken that’s been shredded in a food processor.
3. In a 9 x 13 pan, make two layers of the tortillas torn into bite size pieces, soup mixture, and cheese.
4. Bake 40 minutes at 325 degrees.

The mushroom and cream of chicken soup give a creamy, comfort food flavor and consistency while the Rotel tomato amps it up with a jolt of spice. Shake up your dinner routine and try King Ranch Chicken! It’s got my Native Texan Seal of Approval!

Room Service (NYC)

Words that come to mind when I think of Room Service? hip, sparkly, sassy and delicious.

Room Service provided one of the most pleasant dining experiences I’ve had. The restaurant, located in Hell’s Kitchen, is beautifully decorated with a modern Victorian theme complete with a huge, glistening chandelier propped in the center as the focus of the restaurant. Our waiter was extremely nice and, despite the restaurant being in complete rush hour, constantly checked on our table.

The first thing that excited me about the Room Service menu were the sheer number of mojito flavors! Some that I can remember include coconut, basil/ginger and mango. My sister and I split the pomegranate mojito, which was plenty for two ladies! There’s no way I could have tackled it by myself. The pomegranate flavoring wasn’t too sweet and the alcohol wasn’t too strong. The healthy amount of mint made the drink crisp and fresh tasting. It wasn’t one of those drinks that makes you cringe after the first sip.
The coconut milk soup was colorful, creamy and fresh. The chicken wasn’t as tender as I’d hoped, but the tangy and spicy chili and lime juice enforced a flavor pop! The broth had a distinct chicken flavor, while the Pongsri coconut milk soup’s coconut flavor overrode the chicken flavor (the combination I enjoyed the most).

My sister Marie ordered the Pad Thai, which had the perfect amount of sauce and just the right amount of sweet. To be perfectly honest, I only had one bite! However, Marie and all Yelp users agree… it’s the best Pad Thai in NYC!

I was a little disappointed that Room Service did not offer a yellow curry, but I was happy to try the red curry which was SPICY… man was that chili paste loud and proud. The vegetables were full of fresh flavor and hadn’t fully surrendered their crispiness to the wet soup. The chicken was tender and the sauce was creamy and spicy.

To conclude, I have a strange suggestion. Make sure to take a trip to the restrooms at Room Service because they are exquisite. A huge mirror leans against the wall, the lighting is low and sexy and it’s just really a sight to behold. Props, Room Service. I’ll return to you next time I’m in NYC.
Room Service on Urbanspoon

Pongsri (NYC)

Just like Los Angeles, I love that NYC has endless options when it comes to ethnic food. I love seeing restaurants scattered about, but it’s always an enriching experience to go to an ethnic food “hub” – such as LA’s Little Ethiopia, Little India, Koreatown and many others. I wanted to find a random restaurant in New York’s Chinatown, so I searched yelp for Thai food because I was in the mood for yellow curry. At random, I chose Pongsri near Columbus Park.
The atmosphere was quiet and simplistic, with a pleasant waitstaff. You’ll have no shortage of options, as their menu is extensive. The must-have at Pongsri is the coconut milk soup, listed under soups as Tom Kha Gai. Especially on a cold or rainy day, this soup is to die for. The sweet coconut flavor mixed with the fresh vegetables and tender chicken was simply delicious. Also, the hint of lime juice added a faint sour to the sweet… an excellent flavor combination.

The fried spring rolls were not overly greasy, which I appreciated. The appetizer was good, but no different than any traditional egg roll or fried spring roll.

Pongsri’s yellow curry was tasty, but not memorable. No complaints on the vegetables and chicken, but I like curry sauces a bit creamier. Normally I am pretty tolerant of spice, but with this curry I had to take sips of water between each bite.

For the coconut milk soup, I am glad to have stumbled upon Pongsri. I have since tried coconut soup and nothing has compared to Pongsri’s recipe!
Pongsri Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Raga Indian Restaurant (NYC)

After my jog through Central Park, I set out to find a cheap Indian lunch. Using my yelp app, I found Raga Indian Restaurant in Midtown, a cute little place on the second floor of a cool strip of restaurants full of hustle and bustle at lunch hour.

The atmosphere was peaceful and quiet, and the gentlemen working there were helpful and extremely nice. The lunch combo was just under $8, a steal considering you get one chicken dish, two vegetable dishes, rice and naan. The spice level was medium, and of the whole combo, the chicken was definitely the best… the meat was tender, the sauce creamy and flavorful. The regular lunch buffet is just $10.95, what a steal!

I’ve been to a lot of Indian restaurants, so I’ll say Raga is good, but not special. The lunch special price makes the place an attractive option, and I would definitely recommend it as a cheap, tasty lunch option. The plates on the tables of the restaurant patrons looked delicious, so I would love to give this place another try for dinner next time I’m in NYC.

Raga Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Indian Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is, by far, my favorite Indian dish. I order it pretty much anytime I go to an Indian restaurant… so I’ve spent a lot of money on Butter Chicken! I wanted to make the classic dish (just as good as it’s served at the restaurants) at home to save money. The result was amazing… it’s hard to believe I made something so delicious in my very own kitchen! I pulled the recipe from allrecipes.com, but changed a few things to make it not as fattening. Note: the cow ghee, garam masala and ginger garlic paste can be purchased at any Indian food store

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cow ghee
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions from allrecipes.com:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a the sauce, and simmer on low for about 30-40 minutes until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink. Serve with rice or naan.

I swear by this recipe. Make it and impress your friends. It’s the best dish I’ve ever made! Now hopefully I’ll get to go to India and taste some authentic butter chicken!