Terranea Resort (Rancho Palos Verdes)

I believe I found Heaven, or at least a close measure of it, amidst the rocky cliffs of the Southern California peninsula Rancho Palos Verdes. The motive of our three-day trip was the wedding of Ashley and Jeremy Dowdy, who hired my mother (of Shindigs By Sheril) to plan and coordinate. She executed flawlessly. Though aside from the In-n-Out food truck rehearsal dinner and jaw-dropping wedding (captured by Brandon and Kristen Kidd, both of whom I have a total crush on), my family was free to explore the massive grounds of pools, patios and impressive restaurants at Terranea Resort. image

Kevin, the hotel's acclaimed concierge, learned and remembered every guest's name. You could expect to hear his voice call, "Hey, Sheril!" upon walking out of the lobby elevator.


Happy hour(s) next to the fire pits and succulent bushes became the ritual, especially when cucumber, lime and gin coolers were on the menu. And in the morning, Sea Beans (the resort's cafe) handed over iced coffees and plump blueberry muffins like clockwork. I treated myself to a classic California acai bowl by the Spa pool yesterday morning before leaving.


Our Thursday and Friday dinners, Bashi Japanese and Marsél, respectively, stood out most. Bashi's staff warned us of the large portions; but of course that did not stop the Greensteins. I could have ordered two helpings of the crispy tofu and wild mushrooms with snap peas! The "sizzling steak" had a more impressive presentation than taste, though we didn't regret the order. And the sweet short ribs were sensational. We fell into an eleven-hour food coma (unheard of for my family) following the late dinner.



Marsél, the fanciest of all, was saved for Friday evening. The pricier menu was well worthwhile, as most of the dishes offered local offerings such as Santa Barbara rock prawns (unreal), California jumbo asparagus and bay scallops. The arugula leaves in my burrata and prosciutto salad were from the restaurant's garden, which we passed on our way to the entrance. A crisp glass of Napa Chardonnay carried us from salads to seafood entrées and sides -- my favorite being the skillet-baked Japanese eggplant with ricotta and Thai basil. We couldn't manage to even wrap our head around a dessert menu, but our perky waitress insisted upon bringing dark chocolate truffles on a clam shell for our final bite.

Terranea truly outdid itself. I didn't even mind the morning "June gloom" of smog and marine layers that prevented ocean views; for the views of the surrounding resort landscaping blew us away on their own. Until next time, California.



Welcome to Hungryland


I know I am clearly an advocate, but let’s face it: food blogs are taking over social media entertainment these days. I am lucky enough to have been singled out among the Austin community, but hundreds of thousands of food writers are promoting and publishing all over the globe. Don’t you also find that number overwhelming to conceptualize?

Every concept begins with a pioneer who brings an idea to life, translating principles into action. And for the food blog world, my friends, that pioneer is Lisa Lillien.

Lisa began the Hungry Girl website in 2004 (the year I received my KitchenAid…coincidence?!) before blogs like Caramelized were even dreamt about.  Her humorous and realistic perspective toward healthy eating (without starving yourself) has quickly become the pioneering enterprise for food sites and blogs over the past decade.  Hubbed in Los Angeles, the Hungry Girl headquarters craft healthy recipes, recommend products, publish daily online newsletters, and sell out cookbooks at a faster pace than the Raising Cane’s grand opening in Austin last month (the drive-thru line cut off two lanes of traffic).  Her newsletter has over 1,000,000 online subscribers. Needless to say, Lisa is my idol.

When my family visited LA for the holidays, Lisa and her Nickelodeon-writer-Memphian husband Dan Schneider met us for a memorable pancake feast at CiCi’s before checking out the Hungry Girl headquarters. My Dad snuck his credit card to our waiter before Dan could get to it, quickly ensuing in the realization that Dad “out-Clooneyed” Dan…George Clooney is the only other person who has managed to cover Dan’s meal before. Whoa.

Hungryland personifies Lisa and her team’s energy in every detail, from the iconic diner booth and restaurant signs, to the bright purple couches and crisp white test kitchen with pops of color. The space was open, bright and inventive. I didn’t want to leave!
Below is one of my favorite guilt-free Hungry Girl recipes that I have a feeling you will love, especially for any of you with healthy New Years resolutions.

Makes 6 servings

1/3 cup light whipped butter or light buttery spread (like Brummel & Brown)

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon orange zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup no-sugar-added applesauce

3 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1. Spread butter into a 1/4-inch-thick layer on a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. (If needed, let it come to room temperature so it's easily spreadable.) Freeze until solid, at least 2 1/2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

3. To make the scones, in a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Mix well.

4. Cut frozen butter into very small cubes. Using two forks, quickly and thoroughly mash butter into the flour mixture, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add applesauce, buttermilk, orange juice, and vanilla extract, and stir until uniform. Fold in cranberries.

5. Form dough into a circle on the baking sheet, about 6 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Evenly slice into 6 wedges, but don't separate the wedges.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean, 14-16 minutes. Let cool completely. Once cool, separate wedges, and enjoy! 

courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Trois Mec (LA)

My family of five and our comedic, wine sommelier cousin David walked out of Trois Mec -- the refurbished Raffallo's Pizza in an LA strip mall -- turned to one another, and asked, "What just happened?!"
Yes, it seems that we blacked out during a frenzy of oddly amusing flavor combinations at the hottest top Los Angeles "pop up" from Chef Ludovic Lefebvre. Only the most adventurous foodies could adequately analyze and enjoy the chef's approach, which portrayed culinary talent of the highest degree. To match the menu's rarity, the 24-seater restaurant does not offer reservations like most; rather, you must purchase tickets at least one month in advance for one of two seating times. Pre-paid, might I add...
My family felt like we were undergoing a science experiment on our taste buds. We quickly decided that Trois Mec is not a family dining spot; or at least not a Greenstein family spot. The five of us are unfortunately known for substitutions, kosher dietary restrictions and rarely desiring the same dish. So when we were handed a pre-fixe menu of uncertain ingredient lists during our 6 o'clock seating, we were in for a ride. I highly enjoyed it - a gastronomic affair, if you will.
Once seated, a waiter suggested the wine pairing option of six glasses, all of which hailed from the executive chef's home of France. My heart, which will always miss Paris, felt right at home, too! Yet the attention to plate timing (frankly, to get us out of there by the second seating at 8:45) left me feeling like I was taking shots instead of sipping leisurely. Before I knew it, the next dish would arrive with a third or fourth wine glass to join my pile of half-finished reds and whites.
We were treated to six snacks, beginning with a vinegary buckwheat "popcorn" that confused yet intrigued me. I knew I was in for a culinary adventure! While I will not go into complete detail on every dish (we'd be here for hours), here is the menu from our evening. Notice the deconstructed presentation to highlight each individual ingredient, as listed on the menu.
Raw beef, grilled yogurt, fermented black walnut, caramelized eggplant
Grilled cabbage, smoked almond milk anglaise, bone marrow flan, cured egg (pictured above)
Nantucket bay scallops, tandoori, sesame, cauliflower, citrus (pictured above)
Potato pulp. brown butter, bonito, onion soubis, salers (my favorite, pictured below)
Duck, endive, duck skin pureé, candied orange (least favorite, too full to think!!)
Apple butter, créme de brie, toasted barley, hay (I'd rather apple pie than crumbs that tasted like it)

I highly recommend Trois Mec, simply because you won't get this anywhere else. So grab your seat (ticket), enjoy the ride, and don't worry if you feel like you blacked out afterward, too.

Sugarfina + Lemonade (LA)

Happy New Year, everyone! I could not be more excited for 2014...a year of celebrations and big moves post-college. I hope you will follow my future adventures and endeavors through the blog. But, even more so, I hope you have a fabulous year yourself! I'm gathering my resolutions to share with you soon; my trip to Cambodia on Sunday (ahh!) will absolutely open my eyes to a more worldly perspective on my present environment and future expectations.
My family trip to Los Angeles was wonderful. No celebrity sightings somehow (typical...), but many restaurants to share with you! Below are two top picks for afternoon snack pick-me-ups. Both colorful and sweet, Lemonade and Sugarfina will satisfy your sweet tooth and put you in a trendy, feel-good state of mind almost instantly.


Lemonade's setting on Larchmont (although there are many locations throughout the city) quickly became my favorite strip in Los Angeles. Quaint, colorful and quiet, the street highlights boutiques and bakeries that elevate your mind to pure euphoria, even during a quick stroll. We enjoyed all four lemonade flavors (original, Arnold Palmer, blueberry mint, and cucumber mint), although the cucumber was surprisingly way too strong for my liking. The coconut cake rocked. We also nibbled on a rice krispie treat with peanut butter and chocolate layers, which I successfully mocked during my high school reunion gathering in Memphis last night (recipe to be shared soon!). If you're craving more savory, Lemonade also showcases cafeteria-style salads and sides that a foodie would drool over.


When I read the words "Candy Concierge" in the back left corner of the Beverly Hills Sugarfina, I knew I had stepped in heaven. Not only does Sugarfina create top quality candies with ingredients from around the world, but the creative shapes and packaging make these sweets a take-home treasure. We died over the white chocolate almonds shaped as martini olives, and the martini shaker bonus packaging was unlike anything I had ever seen in the confectionary world. I was impressed. Stop by Sugarfina for a candy or two while walking through Rodeo Drive!