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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review of Flavorful Shortcuts To Indian/Pakistani Cooking by Farhana Sahibzada

Farhana Sahibzada was once a frustrated cook after moving to the United States many years ago. She and her husband longed for those Indian/Pakistani dishes from their home, but did not have the means or right ingredients to make them. Over the years, Farhana has simplified the cooking process and with the wide availability of ingredients that can be sourced along with technological advances in kitchen tools, Indian/Pakistani cuisine is a snap. With Farhana’s work as a home cook, chef, restaurant/catering owner, and culinary instructor, her knowledge can now be your knowledge with recipes from her cookbook, Flavorful Shortcuts To Indian/Pakistani Cooking. She starts with a brief profile and history of some spices used in Pakistani/Indian cooking like saffron, garam masala, and turmeric powder. She goes on to talk about the health benefits of herbs and spices. With her years of experience, she shares short cuts and tips that she has learned in her cooking process along with time saving kitchen tools.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Melissa’s culinary team and Farhana who prepared the following dishes with the utmost care and expertise.

In the “Indian/Pakistani Street Foods and Snacks!” chapter, Samosas are a popular street food in India and Pakistan. Like other cuisines, samosas are pockets of goodness contained in a crispy crust or shell like wontons or egg rolls in Chinese cuisine. Farhana’s version is vegan but I’ve also seen versions with lamb, chicken, and even cheese in other cuisines like Kenyan. It’s a portable street food and can be eaten on the go. These are great for parties and potlucks. Rating: 5/5

The Traditional Fruit Chaat is a beautiful way to share the bountiful world of produce. In California, we are lucky to be able to grow and readily source beautiful fresh fruits like mangoes, apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, guava, papaya, and oranges. It is just sweet enough with a tropical fruit salad look and feel to it. This would be great for brunch or served at a potluck. Rating: 5/5

In the “Chutneys, Raitas and Other Condiments” chapter, Mint Chutney one of the most popular condiments for daily meals. You will also see this on the table at many Indian/Pakistani restaurants. It has a minty, sweet, and a tad spicy flavor that lends itself well to pretty much anything from fresh vegetables, naan, samosas, rice, etc. I just love mint chutney so much! Rating: 5/5

Cucumber Raita is also a great condiment used for summer meals due to the cooling effect of the yogurt for the body, especially for the hot and humid summers in India and Pakistan. This refreshing condiment is reminiscent of a chunky tzatziki. It is great for dipping vegetables and naan, but would also do well to tame the spiciness of an entrée while adding flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

In the “Vegetable Dishes the Indian/Pakistani Way” chapter, Aloo Gajjar Mattar is made with potatoes, carrots, and peas that are cooked in mild spices and herbs with onions and tomatoes. It has a hearty enough flavor to eat on its own for a vegan diet or even paired as a side dish to a chicken entrée. Rating: 4/5

In the “From the Grill” chapter, Ground Beef Seekh Kabobs are a snap to make. This is a dish seen in many cuisines (like kefta and kofta) utilizing different spices with different meats (chicken, beef, and/or lamb) and grilled to juicy perfection. It is like a meatball or hamburger served in a “hot dog” shape. The outside has the lovely charred flavor from the grill while the interior is juicy and tender with herbaceous flavor. This is one of my favorite items to order in Mediterranean cuisine. I hardly ever see it on Indian restaurant menus and would love to see it more often. Rating: 4.5/5

In the “Indian/Pakistani Desserts” chapter, Kulfi is an Indian/Pakistani version of ice cream with a nutty richness with flavors of saffron and cardamom. Topped with seasonal berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, it is the perfect ending to any meal. Rating: 5/5

Flavorful Shortcuts To Indian/Pakistani Cooking is a great resource to add to your kitchen collection!

For more information:
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Skillet Desserts well built at STACKED in Huntington Beach, California

For a limited time this fall, STACKED is featuring an array of Skillet Desserts that are only available at the Huntington Beach location. The Skillet Desserts are available in seven new craveable flavors: Butter Cake, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Peanut Butter Brownie, Double Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Chunk Brownie, Salted Caramel Brownie, and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip. These desserts are baked fresh to order and arrive tableside warm and ooey-gooey. Just like the rest of the menu, you can “stack” them up with a variety of toppings like ice cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and more.

Here are some tasty skillet dessert combination to stack:

Chocolate Chunk Brownie ($8.70 as stacked) is topped with double fudge brownie ice cream, toasted coconut, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, peanut butter sauce, and whipped cream. This is a rich and heavy dessert, yet decadent. The brownie itself is not too dense and hot and gooey right out of the oven. The peanut butter flavor from the sauce and Reese’s pairs nicely with the uber chocolate flavors. Peanut butter plus chocolate equals onolicious! This is definitely a dessert for the chocoholic in your life, like my hubby! Rating: 5/5

Butter Cake ($10.55 as stacked) is topped with strawberry ice cream, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, almonds, and whipped cream. The butter cake reminds me of pound cake in texture and holds up to any topping you pile on it. It has a neutral taste so you can go to any “flavortown” you please from fruit to chocolate. I personally loved it with the berries. Their natural sweetness and tanginess bring out the vanilla in the cake. As the strawberry ice cream starts to melt, it turns into a sauce that lends more moisture to the cake. I would really love to see this option on the permanent menu!!! Rating: 5/5

Pumpkin Bread Pudding ($7.75 as stacked) is topped with banana, strawberries, strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, almonds, and whipped cream. If you are a pumpkin lover like I am, you’ll love this bread pudding. It has a nice pumpkin pie flavor from the nutmeg and cinnamon. I went a little overboard on the toppings and would keep it more minimal next time with more neutral flavors; maybe with just the caramel sauce, almonds, and whipped cream. Rating: 4.5/5

If you plan to eat dinner, save room for some of these yummy desserts. You can also just stop by and stack up desserts and sip on coffee with friends and family.

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

For more information:
7490 Edinger Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Hours: Sunday through Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Parking: Free in shopping center lot

STACKED: Food Well Built Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, October 23, 2016

“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To” San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino with the opening of Rock & Brews

Dave and Dell’s love of rock & roll and merchandising started back in 1967 at an emerging rock emporium called Winterland in San Francisco. The Rolling Stones were set to perform and Dell saw an opportunity to merchandise around this concert. With a collection of psychedelic t-shirts with the Winterland marquee on the front with the Rolling Stones stenciled on the marquee, they sold hundreds of t-shirts. After this success, they formed Winterland Productions and began the merchandising business in the music industry. Dave met Peter Morton, founder of Hard Rock Café, who wanted to see if they could get some guitars and other rock memorabilia for his restaurants and in exchange bought millions of t-shirts from Dave and Dell. This sparked the dream of one day owning their own rock & roll restaurant and selling- t-shirts. In 2010, Dave, Dell, and Michael Zislis (restaurateur/hotelier extraordinaire) got together at a KISS concert. After the concert, they enjoyed a cold beer and hung out with their longtime friends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, front men of KISS. Dave said, “What’s better than rock and brews?” This group of talented, creative, and business-savvy men brainstormed and Rock & Brews was born.


Rock & Brews opened its newest location at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA. It is also their first casino location. The restaurant is situated in its own wing of the casino. The glow of the Rock & Brews red-letter marquee draws you in and “serving those who rock”! Growing up with KISS and being a total headbanger since high school, I was just so excited be invited to this special preview.

The interior is 5,500-square feet and seats 225 guests. The restaurant also includes state-of-the-art Technomedia special effects and LED light panels that extend from floor to ceiling inside and outside the restaurant. As a graphic designer, I appreciate the design. There is a wooden wall structure that reminds me of being inside a jukebox with records stacked upright and also alludes to the fluid motion of sounds waves.

At our media preview, the amazing sound system was tested by a 50’s Tribute Band featuring Brandon Bennett. These guys are fantastic! It’s like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley were brought together for one night. They sounded exactly like them! A “Ring Of Fire” excited the guests with “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” in their “Blue Suede Shoes”. As Elvis would say, “Thank you! Thank you very much!”

It’s time to “Lick It Up” with some tasty menu items:

Pineapple Mojito ($12) is made with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Pineapple Rum, fresh pineapple, pineapple juice, sugar cane, lime, and mint. I love mojitos and this one hit the pineapple spot. The mint and pineapple pair well together. It is a very refreshing cocktail! Rating: 5/5

A great “Opening Act” is the Giant Soft Authentic Bavarian Pretzel ($11.95) served with spicy-sweet mustard and bier cheese. It is definitely a show stopper when it comes out of the kitchen and makes its way across the dining floor to your table. I am a slut for pretzels and just had to have one! The exterior is glossy, caramel brown, and sprinkled with salt. The interior is soft and chewy just like a good pretzel should be. I am not a big mustard fan but I loved the spicy mustard with the pretzel. The bier cheese is also quite tasty! (Das bier käse ist sere gut! All of those years of taking German in high school and college finally paid off. LOL!) Rating: 5/5

Sweet & Spicy Asian Signature Wings ($13.95) are served with ranch dressing, celery, and carrots. OMG! These wings are amazing! They have the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The exterior is crispy and really holds up to the sauce. This is a great appetizer for sharing, but beware, you’ll be fighting for the last wing. Rating: 5/5

Gastropub Crafter Burger ($13.95) is topped with double melted Swiss, sunny-side up egg, bacon, caramelized onions, baby greens, tomato, and garlic aioli atop a sesame brioche bun. You also have a choice of natural fries, house potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw as your side. I love sunny-side up eggs on almost anything, but I really LOVE them on burgers. There is just something so sexy about a sunny-side egg yolk bursting as you take your first bite. It will make your eyes roll back in your head as foodgasm occurs! The burger patty itself is made with a great grind of meat making it beefy and juicy to the beholder. The play of sweet, salty, and smoky come into the play with the bacon and onions. Rating: 5/5

Fire Grilled BBQ Tri Tip Steak Platter ($17.95) is served with natural fries, grilled vegetables, onion rings, and spicy sweet BBQ sauce. It is a well-portioned entrée with ample slices of tri tip. I love the grilled skewer of vegetables. The BBQ sauce was just a little too sweet for me. As a certified BBQ judge, I simply do not like sweetness on beef, whether it is tri tip, brisket, or ribs. I ended up taking this home and made the leftovers into a tri tip veggie cheese fries the next day. Rating: 4/5

Our encore was “Purple Rain” Drops ($7.95) which are six chocolate filled French donuts drizzled with raspberry sauce, and served with whipped cream for dipping. This is a great idea but I think the chocolate needs to be sweeter or the donuts should be sugar coated after being fried. The donut tastes more like pizza dough so it needs a stronger counteraction to the dough flavor. Maybe even having the raspberry sauce as a dip instead of the whipped cream. These drops need a “bathing in the purple rain”. Rating: 4/5

I hope you enjoyed this first look at the new Rock & Brews at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. Make it a day trip to check out the restaurant and take in the sights, sounds, and maybe Lady Luck will be on your side at this amazing casino.

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

777 San Manuel Blvd.
Highland, CA 92346
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., Friday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Parking: Free parking structure
Rock & Brews Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato