Crust is a boutique gourmet pizza bar in Studio City, CA

The idea was born across the Pacific Ocean in a “land from down under”. In October 2001, Costa Anastasiadis opened the first Crust in Sydney, Australia. There are tons of pizza places in most areas of the world from the big chain pizza stores to the “mom and pop” pizzerias. Costa found a way to blend the two together, yet make pizza a gourmet item with fresh quality ingredients while still using proper pizzeria techniques. The concept spread like wildfire in Australia, opening over 100 stores in Australia in 7 years. In May 2012, Crust made its US debut in the Studio City, CA under the guidance of master franchisee, John de Vries, who will run the franchise growth in North America. The pizza makers all have their different parts to play to make this well-oiled pizza bar machine work efficiently. It’s all open with nothing to hide. You can watch them dress your pizza with artful flair. The restaurant interior is funky and fun just like Studio City with contrasting red, black, and white. This was the perfect place to open the first US location.

White Prosciutto is topped with roasted potato, prosciutto, gorgonzola bleu cheese, and fresh rosemary on a béchamel chardonnay base. Okay, you might be thinking, “potatoes on a pizza?” But it totally works! The potatoes added a nice texture with a baked potato flavor. The gorgonzola punched the flavor out of the park with its zingy pungent flavor. The prosciutto added a luxurious and smoky flavor. The crust was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside like a baguette – no crust left behind here! Thumbs up, way up!

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OC Food Diva

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Sprinkles Ice Cream in Beverly Hills, CA creates a heavenly match of their famous cupcakes and artisan ice cream

Candace and Charles Nelson are known for their delectable Sprinkles Cupcakes. These baked gems evolved from recipes that were developed by Candice’s great grandmother at her San Francisco restaurant during the 1930s. How about using these fabulous cupcakes as a base and adding artisan-made, slow churned ice cream? This concept came to life on May 24, 2012 with Sprinkles Ice Cream. Since the Sprinkles Cupcakes shop is right next door with a “Cupcake ATM” to separate them, cupcakes are always fresh and ice cream comes in daily from a local artisan. The ice cream is made from the finest, local ingredients with no artificial flavors. Sprinkles donates daily leftovers to food banks. 100% of the proceeds from their charitable cupcakes go directly to worthy causes, like children’s hospitals, schools, and Women’s Cancer Research Fund.

A Sprinkles Sandwich consists of a generous scoop of your choice of ice cream, sandwiched between two cupcake tops, (choice of chocolate, vanilla, or red velvet tops). Check the menu board and look for the red dots that indicate which ice cream flavors are available that day. This is a fun and inventive way of having your cake and eating it, too. Such creativity is what makes Sprinkles a standout. We chose milk chocolate cupcake (Belgian dark chocolate cake) tops with Cherry Vanilla (imported morello cherries, simmered in California Pinot Noir, mixed generously throughout pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla ice cream). This just happens to be Charles Nelson’s favorite ice cream flavor. The chocolate cupcake tops were moist and rich in chocolate flavor, just like homemade. The creamy vanilla ice cream lovingly held a vibrant, sweet flavor, with the cherries delivering just the right amount of tartness. It will put some spring in your step. We found it can get deliciously messy to hold and eat. A suggestion would be to ask for a cup to make your eating experience a little easier. You’ll want to savor each bite and not waste a drop of this ice cream dessert. Thumbs up, way up!

Sprinkles Sundae is made with your choice of ice cream and cupcake flavor of the day. The salted caramel ice cream tasted exactly like salted caramel but in a creamy, ice cold form. The ice cream is flavored by caramel, (made in-house and in small batches), then liberally sprinkled with imported fleur de sel crystals. I really can’t get over how creamy these ice creams are. The dark chocolate cupcake (Belgian dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate icing) was moist and rich in the dark chocolate flavor you crave. The frosting was rich and creamy. The chocolate sprinkles, looked like shiny, mini chocolate tiles. What a beautiful touch! Thumbs up, way up!

Red Velvet ice cream served in a Red Velvet cone. The sweet cream was very rich and luscious, covering your taste buds in a creamy, velvet coat. The Red Velvet cupcake (Southern style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting) was moist and had the perfect red velvet flavor you know and love. The pieces of cake were frosted as well, so you won’t miss out on the sweet cream cheese experience. The crispy Red Velvet cone was reminiscent of a pizzelle instead of your run-of-the mill waffle cone. Thumbs up, way up!

That’s not all! Sprinkles also sells fresh baked cookies and brownies. Let’s take a look:

Salted Oatmeal Cornflake is made with roasted rolled oats and cornflakes sprinkled with imported fleur de sel crystals. This is a great, salty-sweet cookie. I liked it a lot because it didn’t contain raisins, common in your ordinary oatmeal cookies. The cornflakes added a slight crunch and that golden corn flavor. The salt on top was a nice touch, just a bit too much for my taste. I ended up dusting off some of the salt. Otherwise, thumbs up!

Snickerdoodle is an old-fashioned, buttery cookie dusted with sweet cinnamon sugar. This was the perfect snickerdoodle with the rich flavor you know and love – cinnamon & sugar goodness with a hint of cream of tartar. The interior was fluffy and moist. Thumbs up!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chip is a creamy, all-natural peanut butter cookie generously studded with semisweet callebaut chocolate chips and crushed pretzel twists. This was a really good combination of salty and sweet. This flavor would work really well in Hawaii. The pretzels added a wonderful crunch and saltiness. I would’ve liked smaller pretzel pieces but I loved the robust peanut butter flavor. The chocolate chips added a creamy sweetness. Thumbs up!

Chocolate Chip is morsels of semisweet callebaut chocolate chips folded into a buttery golden-brown cookie. This is the best chocolate chip cookie ever! It tastes like one your grandma would make. It’s moist and full of homemade goodness – eggs, sugar, butter and chocolate chips. The form is perfect too – a little lumpy and full of homemade love. Thumbs up, way up!

Double Chocolate is a fudgy dark chocolate cookie baked with fine callebaut cocoa powder and chocolate and loaded with chocolate chips. This was like brownie cookie, like a delicious happy accident that Grandma created. Thumbs up, way up!  

Your scoop is waiting for you at Sprinkles Ice Cream!

Upcoming Events:
  • Watch Candace Nelson judge the country’s best cupcake bakers on “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network. Check out the schedule and tune in!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
9631 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday from 10:00am-10:00pm, Thursday-Saturday from 10:00am-11:00pm

2012 Northern California Renaissance Faire opening weekend

On Saturday, September 15, 2012, excited fairgoers waited in anticipation for gates to open at the 2012 Northern California Renaissance Faire. Once the gates opened, music and Elizabethan English was spoken almost entirely. My trusted pirate led me through the crowd of first timers just stunned in amazement by the reenactment of the actors, transporting them to this 15th century English village. The actors were just amazing. We saw a lot of familiar faces from the Renaissance Faire in Southern California.

The layout of the faire was much better than SoCal’s with areas of shade, like Sherwood Forest. When you’re wearing period attire, shade is definitely your best friend. Lots of “fyne” wares were being sold ranging from costumes to incense burners to jewelry. This is a great opportunity for both first timers to start their costume for next year as well as long-time faire goers who want to add to their wardrobe.

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

5-Minute Citrus Chicken Salad

Here's another recipe that I tried from Kraft Foods called 5-Minute Citrus Chicken Salad:

What we did with this one was prepped the spinach and mushrooms, made a roast chicken, and fried up fresh bacon. We stored a each ingredient in their own container in the refrigerator. When it was time to eat, we topped each salad just before eating. This recipe lasted us a week for two people. The prep once method is a winner in our house. For our hot summer weather lately, it's a fast, cool, refreshing dinner.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think of it.


OC Food Diva

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro Pesto

Here's a keeper recipe from Ladies' Home Journal for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro Pesto:

This recipe is a keeper, plus you'll have plenty of leftover pesto to toss with angel hair pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or mix it with ranch dressing to kick it up a notch!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think of it.


OC Food Diva

Salmon Hobo Packs

I tried this recipe called Salmon Hobo Packs from Better Homes and Gardens:

Unfortunately, the sauce is too strong for the salmon and completely overpowers it. You can't tell what kind of fish is under it. Don't get me wrong, the sauce is really good, but not on fish. I think this would work so much better on chicken. Salmon is the type of fish that you want to savor the flavor, not cover it up.

We made some homemade, fresh cut French fries, corn on the cob, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. All in all, it turned out to be a good meal.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.



Engine Co. No. 28 serves up firehouse-inspired American cuisine in Los Angeles, CA

Engine Co. No. 28 was originally built in 1912. At a cost of $60,000, it was the most expensive Los Angeles fire station of its time. Serving the downtown are for over 50 years, the station ended its service in 1969. In 1983, a 5-year preservation and renovation project transformed the rundown building with a beautiful interior and rustic exterior. Engine Co. No. 28 reopened again in 1989, as a restaurant. From the street, you can see the dual archways where fire trucks would race out on a call. The interior has high ceilings and you even see where the fire poles once stood as the large circular cutouts still remain. You even see historical gear and firehouse memorabilia on the walls. Chef Chris Hora is at the culinary reins of this engine company now and dishes out bold, in-your-face food, with a little bit of rock n’ roll. He’s a bold and in-your-face in person as well, reminding me of Tony Bourdain when he was younger. Chef Chris’ culinary palate is spot on, no unnecessary sauces, dips, or salt necessary. Each dish comes out of the kitchen perfectly flavored and seasoned causing your taste buds to be ready and at attention for the next flavor call.

Beet Salad includes baby arugala, aged manchego cheese, and cumin scented honey. This is a market-fresh salad at its best. The arugula was fresh and peppery. The beets were roasted to perfection making them sweet and tender. The cheese added a little salty and slightly creamy flavor to the mix. Pickled sliced onions were a tangy surprise. The cumin honey added a hint of sweetness yet tied all of the ingredients together. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

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Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.