Welcome to SmartyGirlFood

Welcome to SmartyGirlFood
Test Kitchen of Renee Marchol

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

3 Cheap Ways to Avoid Summer Cooking in Los Angeles

Maybe this is your kids' last week of school. You might be wondering what are some deals for restaurants and cheap summer meals in Los Angeles.

Summer cooking can be a drag since most Los Angeles apartments do not have air conditioners. Disclosure: I have not been paid to endorse any company, brand, blog, or product. 

During our first August in Los Angeles, our beloved cat got heatstroke and we had to dunk her in a bathtub of cold water to cool her off. Poor kitty!

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Carbtastic Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake
If you aren't opposed to carbs once per month, these three suggestions are cheap delicious meals that we have enjoyed while on a tight graduate student budget:

1. Cafe Crepe of Santa Monica
2. Enzo's of Westwood
3. Wafflechix of Westwood

Cafe Cafe is in the heart of the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade. You will need to trek a distance past enticing and expensive stores including kid-magnet Puzzle Zoo. If you are super hungry parents I suggest taking a route to the crepe bar without walking past the attractive toy store if you are in a hurry.

I have good memories associated with this place because I took my girlfriends to this affordable crepery for one of our women's retreat outings.

How much will the food cost? My chestnut cream crepe with the addition of fresh, sliced strawberries was $8.50. My husband's smoked beef and Emmentaler swiss crepe was $7.50. I recommend that one with mustard.

My husband and I loved the prices of the crepes. You can eat lunch or dinner for about $8 before tax and tip. You are not limited to thin pancakes. You can also order sandwiches, burgers, and breakfast items.

That's a bargain in Los Angeles. It's not 100% casual family dining because it does include a full bar. If you are over 21, you might enjoy the signature alcoholic drink: the Nutella Martini. My husband warns that if you brave that and a sweet crepe, you may feel nauseous. However, having just the hazelnut chocolate drink is enjoyable.

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Lunch Date with Hubby
What does the dining area look like? The wall art includes French burlesque and French ads for designer water and tanning products. If all that skin showing troubles you, you can seat your children facing away from the posters of showgirls.

The lighting is dim and good for dates with your spouse if you choose the black leather, tufted, high-backed booths.

I prefer this to floor to ceiling glass and neon furniture that you see at some bubble tea/crepe cafes. However, the wooden chairs and portable tables are very close together so you are in for a tight squeeze.

What's the advantage in this? You can see your table neighbor's food and decide if you want to order it next time. Does the Parisian hot dog with bechamel sauce smell appealing? Are the fries perfectly seasoned? You will be close enough to the next table to examine this.

It is also a great place to read as a singleton and sip Irish Coffee. However, the cafe can be packed and the wait may take as long as 45 minutes.


Can you beat $2.25 per slice for good pizza? I'd say "no". If you are buying something other than Enzo's it's probably bad pizza for that kind of price.

The spaghetti with sausage is $10.50. The spaghetti sauce is has a pleasant bitterness to it and the sausage meat tastes like it doesn't rely on filler. I choose it because I don't digest cheese well and I think it is flavorful even when I ask for it sans cheese.

The decor is dark with rough -looking stone and white candles in red glass holders. Large photos from the Godfather movie adorn the walls. You'll hear Frank Sinatra every time you visit. I notice most college patrons do take out or order delivery instead of dining in. This was a romantic, dine-in experience without spending more than $20.

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol and Husband on a waffle date at Wafflechix

Prepare for something quite different. I think it's funny that Betty Crocker describes a chicken and waffle sandwich with the adjective, "mantastic".

The first time I bit into a waffle sandwich I thought I tasted bitter playdough. Instead it turned out to be small pickled red onions. It was an unusual flavor I grew to enjoy.

The waffles are soft in the sandwich but the bacon is crisp. I like the fried chicken in the sandwich because their recipe is less salty than fried chicken that you'd find at KFC or Popeye's. I also like the square pendant lamps covered in red cloth with a chicken motif. The waffle sandwich order is about $11 and it can feed two hungry adults. The ambience is restful. The music played includes Beyonce and Etta James.

The place is clean and you don't smell grease. You can also order Morrocan mint tea if you don't feel like overindulging. I recommend the sweet potato fries with ketchup though even if you must give up dessert to save on calories. The chocolate shake sounds ordinary but my husband says that it is delicious.

This is a carbtastic meal so I avoid pairing a sweet drink with a starchy meal. If you are thirsty, try their sweet tea if you choose to order a light meal rather than a "fully-loaded" lunch.

Save Money This Summer and Treat Yourself!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Low Fat Spinach Bolani in Los Angeles

Photo Credit: Leo of  Bolani: East and West Gourmet Afghan Food
Today, April 2nd is such a wonderfully hot Spring day that I am eating raspberry gelatin and almond tofu to cool off after a swim. My thoughts turn to perfect foods for hot weather such as spinach bolani.

On February 9th at 1 P.M. I stumbled upon an old favorite that I haven't seen since 2008 in Walnut Creek, CA. Bolani! My husband and I love spinach bolani. This bread is soft, dense, moist and flaky. It is low fat but shares some of the delightful texture of croissant pastry. I would compare it to a moist pita but worlds more flavorful. Note: I am not paid by companies for any reviews that I do. I stay objective by purchasing products to test.

Photo Credit: Leo of Bolani East & West Gourmet Afghan Food
You'll taste hints of mint and other Afghan spices in the pastry. The blogger for Spice Spoon can tell you more about such spices. Like me, the Blogger Chow Vegan boasts about this delightful bread. In this other blog, a vegetarian talks about the delightful Afghan culture and food for vegetarians.

Photo Credit: Flickr Salted Yoghurt Afghan Drink
It used to be ubiquitous in Farmers' Markets in the Northern California: Lafayette and Walnut Creek area. Then suddenly the vendors disappeared and our favorite Afghan restaurant with the best steamed pumpkin and yogurt drinks closed down. Wouldn't you agree that it's difficult find flavorful foods low in fat? My husband and I love gourmet food but we also expect high fiber and low fat from our meals. That's why we are so fond of spinach bolani.

Photo Credit: Leo of Bolani East & West Gourmet Afghan Food

Thankfully, bolani is here in Westwood on Thursdays at the Farmers' Market. I highly recommend the Bolani sold by Leonardo Zogal. The business is Bolani: East & West Gourmet Afghan Food. Their headquarters is in Baldwin Park on 15023 Ramona Blvd. Each bolani is $6. There are numerous sauces that taste mild, fresh and wonderful if you like eggplant and other vegetable sauces.

Happy Bolani Hunting! I've found my fave bolani supplier!