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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review of Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails by Vianney Rodriguez & Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Award-winning food bloggers, Vianney Rodriguez of and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack of have teamed up for Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails. Yvette and Vianney are both known for their Mexican and Latin-fusion recipes and use of ingredients readily available in local stores and farmers’ markets. Latin Twist takes you on a cocktail tour of 18 Latin American countries and Spain. The recipes dive into the historical aspects of each country’s special ingredients along with Vianney and Yvette’s personal twist for their special creations.

Melissa’s culinary team prepared the “mocktails” below with the utmost care and expertise.

In the Cuba chapter, Berry Mojito is my favorite Cuban cocktail. This one is made with mint, blackberries, raspberries, strawberry, lime juice, sugar, ice, white rum, and club soda. The reddish purple hue is beautiful. The sweet and tangy flavor from the berries and lime pair deliciously with the rum for a smooth and fun drink. Rating: 5/5

Pineapple Daiquiri is also in the Cuba chapter. Like they say in the book, “Daiquiris are available in virtually any flavor these days,” and they are right. This one is made with pineapple, sugar, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, ice, and rum. Pineapple is a great flavor for a drink with its sun-ripened sweetness and tropical feel. But it can also get a bit fibrous when mixing the whole fruit into a drink. Using very ripe pineapples is the best choice for this drink as the fibers will break down better in a high-powered blender or NutriBullet. Rating: 4/5

In the Brazil chapter, Passion Fruit Caipirinha is one of my favorite Brazilian drinks. This one is made with limes, sugar, passion fruit, pineapple juice, and cachaça. The flavor is very tropical. Growing up with Hawaiian taste buds, there is nothing quite like passion fruit (lilikoi) in a drink or even a dessert. Even though this drink is Brazilian, it always reminds me of home. Rating: 5/5

In the Chile chapter, Ponche a la Romana is a festive Chilean drink to usher in the New Year. This one is made with pineapple, pineapple juice, and champagne (or sparkling wine). This is a pineapple forward drink with sweetness and tropical feel. I can definitely see serving this at a party in a large punch bowl. I would also float some pineapple sorbet for a creamy touch. Rating 4.5/5

If you enjoy sipping, shaking, mixing, and entertaining, Latin Twist is a must for the home bar.

For more information:
Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails
Available on

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce’s website or call +1.800.588.0151.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Luna Grill serves up fresh Mediterranean cuisine in Cerritos, California

Located in the Cerritos Plaza between Pier 76 and The Habit is Luna Grill. It was founded in 2004 with locations throughout Southern California and the Dallas metropolitan area in Texas. The cuisine is authentic Mediterranean with dishes like kabob plates and appetizers including hummus and falafel. Luna Grill is REAL (stands for Real, Epicurean, Agricultural, and Leadership) certified, meaning they work in conjunction with the US Healthful Food Council to promote healthier eating, sustainable sourcing, provide dining options to the public, and to make these options the norm. Luna Grill also uses only non-GMO project verified oils to prepare all of your meals from French fries to chicken kabobs. Salmon, lamb, and rice are non-GMO items as well.

They created the “Luxe Casual” concept which is a cross between fast casual and full service sit-down restaurant. When you enter, the interior has a Mediterranean, Moroccan feel to it from the decorative red chairs to the Moroccan decorative cut-out light shades. It also has a modern feel with the reclaimed wood paneled dividers and brick wall. You order at the counter and your food is brought to your table. The food presentation is as beautiful as if eating in a table service restaurant.

Appetizer Sampler Platter ($10) includes four rounds of falafel, four stuffed grape leaves (dolmas), Israeli couscous medley, hummus, and pita bread that serves 3 to 4 people. It is a great representation of Mediterranean items whether you’re a newbie to Mediterranean cuisine or an avid fan. The spicy hummus has just the right amount of kick without being overly spicy. The couscous medley is flavorful and refreshing. The dolmas have an authentic flavor with the tangy grapes leaves and the tender rice inside. The falafels seem a bit too starchy for my taste but are flavorful and have a nice crispy outside. Rating: 4.5/5

Lamb Tenderloin Kabob ($13.50) is tender pieces of marinated grass-fed lamb served with house salad, basmati rice, pita bread, cucumber-yogurt dip, and your choice of carrots or grilled tomato garnish. The lamb is tender and herbaceous with no detectable gaminess. The basmati rice is also very flavorful. The carrots are tender without being mushy. The salad is a nice addition but could use more dressing. Rating: 4.2/5

Cornish Hen on the Bone ($13.50) is marinated pieces of tender Cornish hen skewered, grilled to perfection, and served with house salad, basmati rice, pita bread, cucumber-yogurt dip, and your choice of carrots or grilled tomato garnish. It is a whole hen cut into wings, breasts, thighs, and drumsticks. The Cornish hen is quite tender and juicy. The flavor profile is similar to tandoori chicken with lemon notes and the chargrill gives it a rich smoky flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

Mini Baklava ($1.50) and Mini Chocolate Nut Roll ($1.50) are some small dessert choices to end your meal with. They are mini, 2-3 bites a piece. The baklava is not too sweet with a sticky texture and buttery flavor. Rating: 3.3/5 The nut roll is light and airy with a nutty chocolate flavor. Rating: 4/5

If you’re looking for beautifully-plated healthy food, make Luna Grill your next stop!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Sustainable Practices: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
11261 183rd St
Cerritos, CA 90703
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking: Free center parking lot

Luna Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 19, 2016

Benten Bowl serves up Japanese bento-style cuisine in Los Angeles, California

While living in Japan, Kazumi Tsuji worked as a make-up artist. But what better place to move for that vocation than Los Angeles, the capital of the motion picture business. But Kazumi has always been interested in food. If she had not gone the make-up artist route, she would probably be a chef. I think food is just engrained in the Japanese culture and in our DNA. After the move to Los Angeles, she started making “ebisu roll” (rolled cake), began teaching locals how to make them, and started catering for weddings and parties. But she wanted to open a restaurant. What better way to try out her concept that using a food truck! Benten Bowl was born.

All bowls have your choice of white or brown rice, rice noodle, or lettuce. You also have your choice of sauces – sesame soy or spicy mayo ponzu. The bowls are a good sized portion for a filling meal.

Lemon Chicken Bowl ($10) is made with very well-trimmed grilled chicken thigh meat mixed in original lemon sauce and topped with cilantro and crispy onion. This dish is both gluten and soy free. The chicken is very juicy and tender. The lemon sauce is light. But it is the sesame soy sauce gives this dish that umami flavor. This is great atop rice noodles. Rating: 5/5

Salmon Poke Bowl ($12) is made with sashimi-grade salmon marinated in original sauce with sweet onion and scallion. This is Japanese-style poke with sliced salmon marinated in ponzu. The acidity in the ponzu almost sears the outside sort of like lomi salmon. The flavor is refreshing and great atop rice. Rating: 5/5

Grilled Salmon Poke Bowl ($12) is made with tender grilled salmon topped with cilantro and crispy onion. The salmon is grilled to perfection with a rich buttery flavor. The flavors combine nicely with brown rice. This is great for folks who do not like raw fish but would love to try the flavors in poke. Rating: 5/5

Kids Teriyaki Chicken and Rice Plate ($7.50) is made with rice topped with chicken teriyaki and cherry tomato. The chicken is tender and has a light teriyaki sauce that is not too sweet. Just the right amount of protein to rice for kiddies and even adults. Rating: 4.5/5

Strong Brewed Coffee Jelly with Himalayan Salt ($3) is a wonderful dessert. Since I’m from Hawaii, sweet and salty are perfect for snacking and dessert. Rating: 5/5

Try Benten Bowl and make sure to wish them a happy 1st anniversary!

Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Los Angeles, CA