The Champion's Table
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Holbox reels in the freshest local seafood with Yucatan flare in Los Angeles, California

The menu items in this post were provided by Holbox but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Chef Gilberto Cetina Jr. is no stranger to the food scene. He has learned his cooking skills while working alongside his father at Chichen Itza for 15 years. In 2010, he took over as chef of Chichen Itza, but he always wanted to focus on his love of seafood. Holbox opened on February 17, 2017 and is a seafood stand that focuses on fresh, local ingredients, bold flavors, and simple preparation. The concept came from memories of spending the summers on the coast of Yucatan, diving for conch and octopus and spearing fish with his cousins. Like most fishermen, they prepared ceviche with the fresh catch. His memories remind me of my family in Hawaii. My great-grandparents owned a fish market and, growing up, my parents taught us about fresh fish – how to know when it is fresh and how to prepare it (raw or cooked).

Holbox is located inside Mercado La Paloma. The stand is bright and reminiscent of a sushi bar. The fresh seafood is on ice and ready to be prepared.

Fresh sea urchin (uni) sits atop ice with spines still moving so you know it is fresh.

The first thing that catches my attention about the fish (Pacific Red Snapper in this case) are the clear, plump eyeballs. This is a clear sign of freshness. If the eyeballs are dried up, sunken, or cloudy, steer clear.

Array of hot sauces to tempt your taste buds.

Here are some menu items to try:

Tacos de Pulpo En Su Tinta ($10) is braised octopus in calamari ink sauce served in handmade tortillas. The octopus had a tender, yet chewy texture. The squid ink added an umami flavor which made me go for another bite and another bite. A little tomato added a touch of sweetness. I LOVE octopus, pulpo, tako! I love it in any language and I love this taco! Rating: 4.9/5

Coktel Mixto ($10 small, $15 large) is made with shrimp, spot prawn, octopus, oyster, avocado, house made sauce, onion, cilantro, and lime. The sauce had a great balance of sweet and spicy. It worked well with the myriad of seafood inside by bringing out the best of each ingredient. The presentation was just beautiful! Rating: 4.8/5

Scallop al Carbon ($12) is wood grilled live diver scallop served in its shell with chile X’catic sauce. The scallop was cooked very lightly so the sweetness of the scallop came through. A raw or lightly cooked/seared scallop will impart a sweetness like crab. Most of the time when a scallop is fully cooked, it will lose this delicate flavor. The chile and citrus flavors were very light and balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the scallop. Perfection in half shell! Rating: 4.9/5

Chiles Rellenos de Pescado ($9) is three spicy yellow chiles stuffed with fish, breaded, fried, and served with homemade mayo and morita sauce. These rellenos are reminiscent of the American “jalapeno popper” but so much better. The crispy exterior contrasted the soft texture of slightly cooked fish inside. Rating: 4.3/5

Halibut Ceviche Tostada ($10, seasonal fish) made with local line caught halibut, onion, cilantro, tomato, salsa roja, and avocado. This halibut was freshly caught from the Channel Islands. Ceviche is Yucatan’s version of Hawaiian poke but instead of using shoyu, Hawaiian salt, and sesame oil, they use citrus juices, salt, onion, and cilantro. The citrus juices “cook” and marinate the fish. The salsa roja added some spicy notes but was balanced by the creamy avocado. The thick, crispy tostada held up to the very last bite. Rating: 4.8/5

You don’t need a passport to try some of the best Yucatan-style seafood. It is just a few freeways away to seafood paradise!


  • 4- Course Seafood Tasting Menu – $40 per guest and available Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call for reservations.

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

For more information:
Inside Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave. #C9
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Reservations: For 4-course seafood tasting menu only
Hours: Monday – closed; Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Dog-friendly: No

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Holbox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ruby’s Diner in Downey debuts table-top ordering technology

The menu items in this post were provided by Ruby’s Diner but the opinions expressed here are my own.

On March 1, 2017, the Promenade at Downey welcomed the newest Ruby’s Diner location. This is a great location for Ruby’s Diner as it gives guests the opportunity to make a day/night of it with shopping galore and a Cinemark theatres conveniently located across the walkway.

This location is also the first to debut their new table-top ordering system where the menu is setup on a tablet with photos, descriptions, and prices of everything on the menu. You can customize your order right on the screen just how you like it. If you are leery on using these tablets, Ruby’s Diner team members are on hand to help you with the ordering system or you can order traditionally with your server.

Ruby’s Diner in Downey also has a huge patio. If you love to eat outside and/or people watch, there is a seat waiting for you.

As always, Ruby’s Diner has their vast array of shake/malt flavors. A Chocolate Malt ($6.29) and Salted Caramel Shake ($5.99) really hit the spot. I love that Ruby’s also includes the steel malt cup on your table so there is no waste.

Fried Calamari ($9.59) is breaded tender calamari strips served with cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and ranch. The outside was golden brown and crisp, reminiscent of the coating on a clam strip. The calamari was tender and very flavorful. A dash of salt was all it needed but the cocktail sauce added a nice tangy, sweet flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

The Ranch Burger ($11.99) is a half-pound USDA Choice beef patty topped with ranch dressing, Swiss cheese, guacamole (during the grand opening event, it was coleslaw), thick-cut bacon, Montreal seasoning, lettuce, tomato, and pickle spear slices. You have a choice of a grilled gourmet RubyBun, artisan wheat bun, or lettuce wrap. The hubby went with the wheat bun. It was a behemoth of a burger that took up most of the plate. If you have a large appetite or don’t mind taking leftovers home, this burger is for you. It had a nice combination of flavors from the juicy beefy patty, smoky bacon, creamy coleslaw, and briny dill pickle. All burgers come with refillable fries too! Rating: 5/5

The Cobb Burger ($12.99 + $1.00 for garlic fries upgrade) is a half-pound USDA Choice beef patty topped with thick-cut bacon, melted bleu cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and sun-dried tomato mayo. This has become my favorite Ruby’s Diner burger since the Bleus Burger unfortunately left the menu. When the hubby and I were dating in the 1990s, the Bleus Burger was my go-to every time we had lunch/dinner at Ruby’s Diner. With The Cobb Burger, it’s the Bleus Burger kicked up a notch with the addition of creamy avocado and smoky bacon. My favorite salad is the Cobb so it was just meant to be. I went with the gourmet RubyBun. I just loved the brioche texture and shiny, golden brown exterior. I also tried the garlic fries upgrade for the first time and just about fell out of my seat. I love their fries and to have melted parmesan and garlic on top of them, just put me in foodie heaven. I think I’ll have to order it this way from now on. Rating: 5/5

Whether you are out for the day shopping or catching a movie, Ruby’s Diner in Downey is a great choice for a good, fun meal.

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

  • Ruby's Diner Family Night - Kids Eat Free on Wednesdays!. Kids 12 years of age and younger will eat for FREE from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Limit one free child's entree per adult entree purchased.)

For more information:
8801 Apollo Way
Downey, CA 90242
Reservations: None, first come, first serve
Hours: Sunday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dog-friendly: Not sure, ask hostess before taking a seat on the patio

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Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown: My Savory and Sweet Recipes

The produce in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

At the end of March, Wisconsin Cheese announced the 2017 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown. Anyone could submit their grilled cheese recipe for a shot at a grand prize of $15,000. I love to create dishes in the kitchen so I submitted two entries this year, one savory and one sweet. I didn’t win, but the hubby and I had fun in the kitchen making and eating these sandwiches. I hope you’ll give them a try!

If you like it spicy and savory, try this recipe:

Mangia Grilled Cheese by Chelsea Madren, OC Food Diva
Makes 2 sandwiches

This grilled cheese will have you speaking Italian! Homemade herbaceous pesto, sun ripened tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage and gooey mozzarella on grilled sourdough will make you exclaim, “Mangia!”

1 cup fresh basil leaves + 12 basil leaves for bread
½ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup Melissa’s pine nuts
¼ cup + 4 tbsp grated Wisconsin parmesan, divided
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Melissa’s minced garlic or 2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp salt
1 lb ground Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage
4 slices of round loaf sourdough bread
4 tbsp softened butter or margarine
½ tsp garlic powder
2 cup shredded Wisconsin mozzarella cheese, divided
2 roma tomatoes, sliced

  1. Make pesto sauce: Place basil, parsley, pine nuts, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Make four thin elongated patties with Italian sausage to fit sourdough bread.
  3. Heat pan to medium heat and fry Italian sausage patties to golden brown on one side. Flip and add a ¼ cup of mozzarella cheese on top of patties. Fry until cheese is melted.  Set aside.
  4. Mix butter/margarine, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder until combined. Spread on one side of sourdough. Press three whole basil leaves into spread until they are secured to bread.
  5. Heat pan to medium heat and grill sourdough bread with parmesan garlic spread side down. Add ¼ cup mozzarella cheese on top of sourdough bread to melt.
  6. Remove grilled sourdough to cutting board. Cool slightly before constructing sandwich.
  7. Starting with one slice of grilled sourdough with melted mozzarella facing up, layer two Italian sausage patties, sliced tomatoes, and pesto sauce. Top with another slice of grilled sourdough with garlic parmesan crust facing up.
  8. Slice in half and serve.

If you like it creamy and sweet, try this recipe:

Fruity Cheese Board Grilled Cheese by Chelsea Madren, OC Food Diva
Makes 2 sandwiches

Grilled cheese sandwiches are normally known to be savory. This grilled cheese is inspired by the fruit and cheese board presented during wine tastings. It is savory enough to eat with as an entrée yet sweet enough to have as dessert. For a more savory experience, try pairing it with a glass of chardonnay. For a sweeter experience, try pairing it with a glass of moscato.

2 tbsp butter
1 green apple, peeled and sliced
½ cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 oz dark rum
2 tbsp softened butter or margarine
4 slices of cinnamon raisin bread
1 wedge Wisconsin brie from large wheel or 1 Wisconsin baby brie, sliced

  1. Make caramelized apples: Heat pan over low heat and melt butter. Add ½ cup brown sugar and stir to melt. Add dark rum and tilt pan slightly to ignite (USE CAUTION). When alcohol is burned off, add apples and stir until apples are coated. Take off heat and set aside.
  2. Mix butter/margarine and 2 tbsp. brown sugar until combined. Spread on one side of each cinnamon raisin bread slice.
  3. Heat pan over low heat and grill cinnamon raisin bread with the brown sugar spread side down. Add 2-3 slices of brie on top of bread to melt.
  4. Remove grilled cinnamon raisin bread to cutting board. Cool slightly before constructing sandwich.
  5. Starting with one slice of grilled cinnamon raisin bread with melted brie facing up, layer a generous helping of caramelized apples. Top with another slice of grilled cinnamon raisin bread with brown sugar crust facing up.
  6. Slice in half and serve.

Let me know if you end up trying one of these recipe by submitting a comment below. See you next time in the Test Kitchen!

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

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