Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Lazy Ladies Luncheon

I have a friend who truly exemplifies the word "gracious." When I recently threw a small birthday luncheon for her, she gushed repeatedly, "I can't believe all of the effort you made."

Of course, she's the type who would be appreciative if I ordered Domino's pizza and mixed up a pitcher of instant tea.

"I didn't go to that much effort," I protested, and I wasn't being modest. Here's proof that you can host a lazy luncheon and still make your guests feel pampered.

Lazy Appetizer: The pesto torta, which we enjoyed al fresco with a couple bottles of bubbly, is pretty enough to look like you labored, but easy enough to assemble in less than five minutes. If you're feeling too lazy to slice your own baguette, have the bakery department at Von's Market do it for you.

Lazy Table Setting: Use what you have. In my case, that meant backyard citrus for the center pieces and personalized grapefruit as the place setting. The gold napkins, purchased from Motif in Pasadena, pulled the look together.

Not a Lazy Salad: This Winter Delight Salad is not exactly lazy, but the combination of slightly bitter arugula, sweet sliced pears, sour Granny Smith apples, sweet and salty candied pecans and pungent blue cheese is worth the effort.

Lazier Option: Save time slicing fruit and candying pecans. Toss the greens with dried cranberries, slivered almonds and feta cheese. Still beautiful and delicious at a fraction of the effort. But, no matter how lazy you're feeling, please don't use a bottled dressing. Take two minutes and shake up your own balsamic vinaigrette - olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Lazy Entree: It doesn't get easier or more delicious than this. I called Euro Pane and ordered their vegetarian quiche with a potato crust. They even sliced the pie for me and threw in a half dozen crusty currant rolls.

Lazier Option: Ask one of your guests to pick up the quiche for you.

Lazy Dessert: Add some bling to your table with shimmering oranges and pomegranate seeds. Make it special with a splash of Galliano liquor.

Lazier Option: While you're at Euro Pane, pick up some of Sumie's famous lemon bars.

So, go ahead and take the kudos for a lovely luncheon. Only you and I know how easy (and lazy) it really was.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Will Brent's Deli be Around Forever?

I first sank my teeth into one of Brent's Deli's Reuben sandwiches about ten years ago.

I loved it, but I never went back. After all, Brent's is on the other side of the universe in Northridge. (I think I regard the San Fernando Valley in the same way that many Westsiders view the San Gabriel Valley: a long way to drive for a non-destination.)

And I figured that crowded and popular delis like Brent's would be around forever. In spite of my Reuben infatuation, I was in no hurry to return.

But that was before my "restaurants might kick the bucket before we do" epiphany. So when my deli-loving friend suggested Brent's as a "half-way" location for a lunch meeting, I bit.

I circled around the mini-mall parking lot five times before snagging a space. At 11:30 am, Brent's was already crowded.

The bustling deli was filled with families: elderly mothers breaking rye bread with middle-aged sons; grandmothers, mothers and toddlers sharing a table and chocolate cake; doting dads spoon feeding cabbage soup to adoring daughters. Brent's, like a treasured family brisket recipe, is passed from generation to generation.

And as I once again sunk my teeth into the Black Pastrami Reuben Sandwich, I could see why. The thick layers of succulent pastrami, melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing between grilled rye live up to the menu's promise: the sandwich melts in your mouth.

I don't think I'll wait another ten years to return.

Brent's Delicatessan and Restaurant
19565 Parthenia St.
Northridge CA 91324
Open daily 6am to 9pm