The Four Seasons Food Truck is back!

Food Trucks, or roach coaches as they were fondly known, have been indispensable American dining venues for years.
With no food ratings back in the day, they were staples next to offices, construction sites, and college dorms. One of my early food memory is of my mother warning me against their foods as she was convinced the hygiene would be lacking or worse.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -hotel
In an incredible reversal of fortune, the last few years have dramatically improved the industry and food trucks are now synonymous with clean, budget-friendly and even gourmet dining.
The factors leading to this were the ongoing recession, chefs being laid off and diners wanting affordable and quality food on-the-go. Chefs started providing their cuisine out of these mobile kitchens, advertising their daily location on places like Facebook and Twitter.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -parking
Nowadays, you will find elementary school kids along with high-ranking managers and partygoers patronizing these vendors!
In the major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, some dedicated fans will drive across town daily to a Food Truck just to get their favorite edible fix.


It, therefore, came as no surprise when the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel announced that it was joining the fad, rolling out its own Food Truck.
Last year it drove around California, Arizona and New Mexico for two months, stopping at eight of their properties, serving dishes with produce from local farms, and contributing to the ‘Chefs to End Hunger’ charity.

After reading the press release, we decided it was time to take the proverbial plunge and finally eat off a food truck!


The Four Seasons Food Truck jeff
We caught up with the Truck when it came to Los Angeles from Northern California after driving down the West coast. Out of all the LA slated locations, we chose to go to the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village as there was plenty of parking and less traffic at lunchtime.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -dining area
As we pulled up, we were thrilled to discover that they were just opening and setting makeshift tables in the front of the hotel which meant people could sit down if they desired instead of standing and eating their food.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -menu

My son with autism was fascinated with the Californian-Canadian Fusion menu while I waited excitedly in the short line to sample food truck food for the very first time in my life.

The menu included three types of burgers: a  Mac Cheeseburger,  Veggie Burger, and the more popular Billy Burger while the Braised beef short rib tacos garnished with Salsa Verde and Jicama slaw represented Southern California’s cuisine.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -poutine
Since the Truck’s visit coincided with the traditional Oktoberfest the Enegren Beer Brat garnished with blonde ale mustard and sauerkraut in a pretzel bun was added to the menu.

The sides offered were a strawberry and kale salsa with Manchego cheese, shallots, cactus, and a tarragon yogurt ranch dressing, and a Tater Tot Poutine, a nod to the chain’s heritage which are cheddar cheese curds, generously topped with cilantro, and house bacon gravy.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -food
For dessert, the Truck menu offered what they called a BOB-bag, which was a bag of mini beignets dipped in cinnamon sugar powder and the drink choices were waters, sodas, coffee or  Hadrishi iced tea.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -taco
We opted to split an excellent melt in the mouth beef taco, a sweet and flavorful Billy Burger with CAB beef, bacon, gruyere and arugula in a brioche and a bag of beignets that were unfortunately on the dry side. The highlight of our truck meal was the sinfully addictive Poutine which we regretted not having the insight to order a second portion to bring home!


The Four Seasons Food Truck -burger
Overall, we loved the quality food and the unique truck experience, and we were very much looking forward to a repeat visit this coming year.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -jeff eating

We were a bit disappointed to learn that the program is indeed continuing this year but will switch to traveling from Boston to Miami instead. The good news is that our friends on the East Coast will get a chance to enjoy the delicious street food.

The Truck is scheduled to stop in nine cities between September 15 and November offering local specialties like crab cake sandwiches and pit beef tacos.

If you are interested in sampling the food, and I highly recommend that you do, follow the Four Seasons Truck’s hashtag on Twitter to discover the specific daily locations, or check the truck’s website for additional information.

The ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour


It is no secret that my son with autism has two favorite past times: movies and food.
So when I found the deal for the Hollywood Sites and Bites Tour with Trish, I hurried to book it for his birthday.

Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour stairs

The Tour

Our six-person tour started at the iconic Roosevelt Hotel that was built in 1927 and according to our guide, Trish hosted the first ever Oscars in its Blossom Room.
She told us how the late Marilyn Monroe had her first ad gig at the pool at the age of eighteen and that the hotel even has a suite named after her.
We looked around the hotel lobby to discover where scenes of ‘Catch me if you can ’ were filmed, and our son got quite the kick out of hopping up and down the very same staircase Shirley Temple practiced her dance moves on.

As we crossed the street, we stopped by the newly renovated TCL Theater for a glance at the sidewalk in front covered in celebrity hand and footprint before making our first stop at ‘Crumbs’ the famous cupcake store to enjoy a mini cupcake.

Fortified by the sugar rush, we continued to our next stop, the Dolby Theater, of Academy Awards fame with its outstanding Babylon Court based on Griffiths’  famous movie ‘Intolerance’.
I have to admit I had passed by the theater on numerous occasions but never actually stopped to see what was inside.
Trish filled us in on informational tidbits we found interesting: the nominee staircase was built to resemble a woman’s silhouette while the rotunda is supposed to look like a camera lens (I still didn’t see it after staring at it for five minutes, but never mind).

While the rest of our group got a good gawk at the iconic Hollywood sign as seen from the second story balcony my son (the Wizard of Oz aficionado) traced the movie quotes on the court’s bottom.
By then everyone in the group was tired from the walking in the hot LA sun and thrilled to be escorted to the well-chilled minivan waiting to take us to our next destination.
Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour theater
Having been on many tours before I was impressed that Trish’s took the time to explain where the van exit doors and seat belts were while her driver AJ handed out cold bottled water.

After driving down Hollywood Boulevard (caught a glimpse of Capitol records and Raleigh Studios ), we stopped at Grub restaurant located on Melrose Boulevard.
We got to try their tomato bisque soup and crack bacon quesadillas (both excellent) along with their homemade berry lemonade (a bit too sweet for me.)

In less than 20 minutes we were out the door and on the way to Mozza2Go where we were treated to a slice of Mario Batali’s thick crust pizza (choice of Margherita or Garlic–Oil).
The pizza was top notch but a bit hard to enjoy while standing up especially for my special needs son.

With the third spot down we raced to the fourth up on Sunset Boulevard where we stopped to sample Greenblatt’s Deli’s pastrami sandwich accompanied by the obligatory coleslaw and pickle spears.
My son looked distraught, as he abhors pastrami.
Here again, I was impressed with Trish’s professionalism and autism awareness when she immediately suggested substituting Jeff’s sandwich portion for a potato pancake complete with sour cream & applesauce!Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour grub

We were all starting to move a bit slower from the excess of calories we had just ingested and debating whether we still had any place left for dessert when we reached our next spot –John Kelly Chocolates.
Here, the owner took us for a quick tour of is the facility to showed us how his chocolates were made and treated us to slices of their famous truffle fudge.

Our last stop, almost four hours later, was Mashti Malone the friendliest and most sample generous of all the venues we visited.
Jeff asked to try most of the Middle Eastern flavors displayed, and the girls serving were only too happy to oblige. He enjoyed their ice cream so much we ended up ordering two full sized cones to eat there as well as and two containers of cucumber ice cream for home.

All in all, we both had a good time!

Between Trish’s entertaining stories and the introduction we got to food venues we hadn’t known about before the tour, it was a fun way to spend a summer morning and bond with each other.


Autism travel tips

Bear in mind, though the actual tour doesn’t involve much walking, it can include some periods of standing and it can get hot in LA especially during the summer

If your child is a picky eater or on a special diet, you should contact Trish in advance and hear her suggestions since she is quite flexible and accommodating to special needs clients.

Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream, Hollywood

We were first introduced to Mashti Malone’s ice cream in Hollywood during a gourmet tour of Hollywood last September.
I have to say we’ve found it hard to stay away ever since!
The ice cream shop is run by two brothers from Iran and serves classic flavors as well as more unique ones like Rosewater Sorbet and Cucumber Ice cream that are a refreshing, less sweet contrast to some other commercial brand tastes like Ben&Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood entrance

Who is Mashti Malone?

The rather small and plain shop tucked away in a nondescript mini-mall in Hollywood, Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream at 1525 North La Brea Avenue, owes its moniker to the fact that the owner Mashti, did not have enough money to remove the previous owner’s name Malone, and just added his own to the existing sign .
The name adds to the novelty and the sparse 1960’s style décor doesn’t seem to deter clients who focus on the icy treats that are on offer.


A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood parking

The venue

The day we last visited we lucked out and pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We enjoyed the full attention of the friendly staff that let us sample multiple flavors before deciding on the one we wanted to buy.
Since this place is popular with the locals during the late afternoons and evenings, visiting during the day is better especially for families with kids that don’t wish to wait long in line.
I was told that Mashti’s tends to get busy in the evenings when people wander there from nearby Hollywood eateries to get dessert after dinner.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood tastes
The Masti ice cream

Mashti’s offers an impressive assortment of ice creams and sorbets that according to their website contains no preservatives, eggs, refined sugar, corn syrup, trans fats or artificial colors or flavoring.
Of course, for less gastronomically adventurous clients there are the usual chocolate, vanilla, and fruit sorbets to choose from, but Mashti’s forte is their Middle Eastern selection.
They feature unique flavors like Saffron Rosewater, Ginger Rosewater, Orange Blossom, Lavender, Ice Tea and  Cucumber. There is Green Tea, Lavender, Turkish coffee and more.
All the samples we tasted were creamy, not too icy and what was best is that they are not overly sweet but rich in texture, quite unlike American commercial brand ice creams.
It is a cultural experience in Persian desserts.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood noodles
Our son, Jeff, enjoyed the Saffron Rosewater made with creamy distilled rose water blended with pistachios and herbal snow (Faloodeh).
He had a blast customizing his ice cream with a generous portion of the lemon or raspberry/ pomegranate syrup they put out on the entrance table.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood sauces
I settled on a “Mashti” – a scoop of ice cream between two wafer discs. It was a very generous portion and relatively reasonably priced for such a delicious summer treat.
Since last summer, we have meant to venture back into Hollywood for more, but the occasion has proved elusive.

We were about to despair when we discovered that some selections of Mashti’s ice cream are now available in more than 200 restaurants and whole food stores in and around the LA area!!
What a treat!

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood scoop
Autism travel tips

Avoid peak hours so your child can get multiple samples and have time to choose the tastes he/she likes most without pressure.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood boxes

Thanksgiving Extravaganza Dining at 150 Central Park


Thanksgiving Extravaganza Dining at 150 Central Park pin

One of the highlights of our Cruise aboard ‘Allure of the Seas‘ was attending the Thanksgiving dinner at the ship’s elegant  150 Central Park.This specialty restaurant is located mid-ship on Deck 8 and is the centerpiece of the Allure of the Seas Central Park neighborhood.


The restaurant

150 Central Park is decorated in lovely muted neutral tones which create both an intimate and elegant dining experience for passengers. It is open daily for dinner and features two rotating, six courses, seasonal menus designed by Chef Molly Brandt. Chef Brandt is the esteemed winner of the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge.

Her specialty is blending textures and spices from around the world. Like other specialty dining venues on cruises ships, there is a surcharge to experience this high-end dining experience. Reservations are strongly recommended, particularly during holiday cruises or if you would prefer to dine at an earlier seating.


Though a Prix-fix menu at $45 per person surcharge was a bit pricey, we decided to splurge since we were celebrating Thanksgiving. A lovely offering of favorite American staples with innovative twists provided us and fellow diners with a chance to sample new and exciting blends of textures and tastes .

The decor

The venue’s décor was a modern spin on old-fashioned elegance. Velvet and plush carpeting in hues of green and gold provided a posh atmosphere for discerning diners.The oval tables with a light gold tablecloths were set in white bone china with a thick gold trim and topped off with the cruise line’s glass stemware.



The menu was printed in gold lettering and was a great memento to take home.
From the minute we were seated for dinner, we were enchanted by the unique container of salts from around the world that accompanied the freshly baked rolls. There were six types of salts, and we loved them all except the red one from Hawaii that we thought smelled a bit like rotten eggs.


Our server explained each dish to us at length and recommended a choice of several wines with dinner. The assortment of wines was not included in the price of dinner.

The food selection

Our dinner choices included the Chile-spiked crab salad, smoked mayonnaise, pickled chorizo, crispy capers, celery caviar, olive oil tuile as well as the Camembert and Lager Soup which we found to be a bit salty. The Camembert Soup garnished with spiced caramel popcorn with cayenne pepper, crisp bacon, and arugula might be a problem for vegetarians.

Thanksgiving Extravaganza Dining at 150 Central Park salts


The warm appetizers consisted of Cornbread gnocchi with brown butter, butternut scotch squash, wilted mustard greens, hazelnuts, and hen of the woods mushrooms. Olive oil poached sea bass with sumac-pistachio crust, cauliflower thyme couscous, and pomegranate molasses gastrique which was very subtle were also enjoyed specialties.



As the main course, one could choose from either apple cider marinated veal tenderloin-buttermilk spaetzle, brussels sprout slaw, ginger beer glazed apple and root vegetables, violet mustard veal jus or roasted Harris Ranch beef tenderloin seared broccoli florets with steak sauce spiked cherry tomatoes, onion tempura, and Caesar sauce hollandaise sauce.



Dessert was a bit of a disappointment for all of us except our son who happens to love pudding of any sort.
There was a sticky toffee pudding with star anise creme fraiche ice cream, and cinnamon cotton candy. Completing the excellent meal was a plate of Cheeses along with specialty coffees.


Our favorites

We had two dishes that we found outstanding. The veal was excellently prepared in its jus and the sumac poached sea pass with a very subtle hint of tartness was tasty.


Overall, dining at 150 Central Park made for a memorable Thanksgiving experience involving all the senses. We enjoyed the attentive service, upscale atmosphere, and the innovative seasonal cuisine the restaurant is so famous for offering.

Autism Travel Tips

The restaurant is an elegant fine dining venue for teens and adults only. Parents should only bring kids that can sit quietly through a  long dining experienc .

The venue did require casual-formal dressing but accepted our son in a polo shirt and slacks.


Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?


This week we got to visit the newest addition to L A’s restaurant scene – The Magic Restroom Cafe.
Modeled after  Taiwan’s Modern Toilet restaurant chain, the owner, Yo-Li, decided to open the first toilet-themed eatery in the US.Unlike some readers’ remarks on social media who expressed disgust with the idea of mixing potty and food; my son with autism thought it was ‘ totally cool’ when I asked him to tag along and check the venue out.

The drive

The restaurant is located in a suburb shopping mall in the City of Industry, about 25 miles from downtown, away from the major tourist attractions. So, unless you happen to be in the immediate neighborhood, travelers can expect a bit of a drive getting there.
In the hour or so it took us to get there, Jeff got the chance to sharpen his map reading and navigation skills on the busy L.A freeways.


Magic Restroom Cafe:Outdoor Shopping Area



Magic Restroom Cafe:Entrance 2 Cool Cafe



The decor

As the name suggested; the central theme of the eatery was restrooms, so we weren’t expecting to be surprised by the decor but still curious to see how it was all put together.
The first thing visitors see as they enter four commodes on the side and four urinals in front -all with their respective plungers making it an ideal area for antsy kids to play in.
The restaurant’s interior decor can be described as minimalistic and edgy with vibrantly colored walls, showerheads in place of pictures and ample seating on latrines and benches.
In our case, after trying to sit with the lid up and then down  Jeff decided he preferred it up as it felt more ‘authentic.’

Magic Restroom Cafe:Bathroom Drawings

Magic Restroom Cafe:Jeffrey Sees Around Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

The food

The menu (not on toilet paper like we envisioned) includes an array of Taiwanese-Chinese appetizers and entrees like fried tofu and mango katsu fish. However, the restaurant’s real highlights are the gargantuan desserts and assortment of green and black lattes.
My son decided to skip lunch altogether and ordered a magic rainbow ice cream after seeing one served at a nearby table. Staying true to the restaurant’s theme all food items are served in super cute porcelain dishes resembling either western (chair) or Asian (squat) commodes.



Magic Restroom Cafe:Real Cool Bathroom Signs


Magic Restroom Cafe:Restraunt Cool Decor


Biggest disappointment

They don’t sell the commode dishes as souvenirs-Jeff who was eager to add to his vast collection of tchotchkes did ask the staff repeatedly.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Rows Of ToiletsIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

Magic Restroom Cafe:Seats & TableIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

In case, you were wondering

Yes, we did stop to use their facilities before heading back for the long drive on the freeway.I’m happy to report they were clean and had nothing unusual about them except the eco-friendly murals advising the patrons to save toilet paper and water.


Magic Restroom Cafe:Dessert In The Toilet


Magic Restroom Cafe:Is That Fried Rice In The Toilet?


Autism Travel Tips:

The restaurant has padded bench seating for those who find sitting on the commode uncomfortable.
Most tables are pretty close to each other so should you and your family require a more private setting ask your server for a separate table.
Parents to antsy kids should bring electronics as there is free Wi-Fi.We didn’t see any coloring pages or crayons available.
If your kid doesn’t like spicy food make sure you mention that to your server when you place your order.
For picky eaters spaghetti and chicken wings are an option offered.
No Gluten free options available at this time.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Flushing The Meal Down! Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?
Magic Restroom Cafe:Fried Food In The CanIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

Introduction to Kurdish Cuisine at Niroj Restaurant

Have you ever felt like taking a break from your current career and starting over?
That’s what Niroj’s owner Luqman Barwari did. After a lifelong career as a scientist, he decided he would open the restaurant he’s been dreaming of, for years. Barawi’s concept was to offer Kurdish food in a home-like atmosphere -and Niroj in Agoura Hills  (New Beginnings in the Kurdish language) does just that.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant decor


I have to admit we knew almost nothing about Kurdish cooking before visiting Naroj. After traveling to several countries in the Middle East we had become acquainted with most Levantine dishes, so we were curious to compare the Kurdish food to the Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisines.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant table


We chose to dine in what the owner describes as the traditional Kurdish room on the left side of the restaurant. Original Kurdish paintings adorn the deep brushed tan walls. Turkish rugs cover the floor, and the custom-made benches make you feel like you should ‘kick back’ and relax. The food is served on the low brass tray tables and like in most Middle Eastern restaurants you are welcome to eat with your hands though silverware is supplied. The restaurant also has a larger hall decorated with kilims, old-fashioned champagne racks and brass teapots that can accommodate larger-sized parties.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant room

The menu is quite extensive and includes multiple crowd-pleasing cold and hot appetizers. At the owner’s recommendation, we opted to try two mezze platters along with and a cup of Dhew (a typical Kurdish drink made of thinned Labane and cucumbers on ice.)

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant labanee
The food

Our cold platter contained some of our favorite items like Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), Humus (garbanzo bean dip), Babaganoush, (roasted eggplant dip) and Tabbouleh (cracked wheat salad).We were introduced to two new delicious surprises-Hesandin (roasted red peppers, carrots, and walnut dip) and Heyderi (a form of Hesandin mixed with yogurt and feta cheese.)

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant cold platter

The hot appetizer platter provided an assortment of cigar-shaped Boreks (phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese), Falafel ( fried garbanzo bean ball), Kutilk ( cooked ground beef and cracked wheat ball ) and skewered Kurdish sausage. We voted two favorites here: the deep fried  Boreks that were crisp but not greasy and the flavorful falafel balls with chopped celery that gave them additional texture.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant h breadot food

Next, we had the Lahmajun, which is a type of Kurdish pizza –a combination of finely ground lamb and beef with chopped chili peppers, tomatoes, onions and herbs baked on traditional flat bread. By the time the restaurant’s famous Riha Kebab (grilled spicy lamb and beef kebab) arrived, we were pretty stuffed but still found the kebab impossible to resist.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant

Don’t leave without dessert

The owner insisted we should try his home-made Kunefe -oven baked fresh mozzarella wedged between two layers of crispy thinly shredded phyllo dough laced with homemade syrup and topped with ground pistachio. And he was right. The dessert perfectly portioned in its traditional bowl, is an absolute must- have to complete your meal at Niroj.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant dessert

Autism travel tips

If your kid is noise sensitive, you  ask for a table in the back of the large room or the Kurdish themed room.
The restaurant provides children’ portions and can accommodate special diets if notified in advance.
Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant lamp

 Have you ever had Kurdish food? If so, what dish did you like best?





Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant Jaffa, Israel

The saying goes that when you are a tourist but want to eat like a local you ask a cab driver where they go for lunch. And that’s exactly what I did last month when I was visiting Tel Aviv. He recommended a spot that I had not seen in any of my travel guide books or hotel concierge recommendations called Guetta in Jaffa.
Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel RESTAURANT

The story behind it

While driving there, he told me the place is a successful of mother-son collaboration. The story was the son had tried to launch a French and then Italian restaurant in that same location unsuccessfully before mom Leah suggested they open a Tripolitanian home style one based on her ‘secret recipes’. It turns out mom was right! Word spread fast about the tasty food and excellent service at Guetta‘s, and people started coming.

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel SEATING

The Atmosphere

Located a few blocks east of the Clock Tower in Jaffa, The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is the long counter displaying all the fresh homemade salads the place offers. Right behind it, you get a glimpse of the ’kitchen’ large old fashioned pots containing the food on today’s menu sitting warm on the stove top. ‘We are not your run of the mill restaurant with multiple page menus’ explains the owner ’ we offer a limited selection of dishes since everything is made from scratch .’

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel POTS

The ambiance is casual and non-assuming: basic wooden bistro chairs with paper covered tables with a few family heirloom old photographs hanging on the wall. “Patrons come here for the food” the owner confides in me “you’ll find out-; It is quite addictive.'”


Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel RICE
After my sampler lunch accompanied by loads of Chirashi (totally addictive) Raffi the owner, makes me an offer I can’t refuse. No, it isn’t dessert ( a semolina pickled dates cake drizzled with honey and rose water) but a  tour of the kitchen area for my visual and olfactory  Grande Finale.

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel DESSERT

But it is all about the food!

Two large pans on the stove immediately attract my attention: one with Bastils  (fried mashed potato and meat patty ) that smell so inviting I’m tempted to pick one right off the pan.The second is filled with  Mafrums ( ground meat pastries )that is being fried fresh to order.

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel STEW
His helper, Hamoudy lifts the lid off the stuffed cabbage pot, and I notice it’s already about three-quarters empty.’ We run out of those fast especially with the takeout crowd’ explains the owner.’ We continue to the next pot filled with a tangy smell vegetable soup made from Colorado, Celery, and Carrots.


Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel SOUP
But, it is the restaurant’s Tbechas (mix of meats, vegetables, and oats stewed for several hours and then served with fluffy couscous that most patrons can’t get enough of. The restaurant offers   Belkamun(cumin, tomato and bean stew), BelKara (chickpeas and pumpkin) and Belsalk Tbechas (beans and green beets).

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel ENTREES

We turn to the counter displaying some colorful salad choices as Rafi points out the specialty salads: Massier (Libyan pickles.) Chirashi (mashed spicy mashed pumpkin), Pepper Chum (spicy peppers), and his prized pickled lemons that take over a year to reach the correct texture and taste.

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel SALADS
Before leaving, I glance at their interesting Arak (anise-flavored alcoholic drink) collection that includes Vanilla, Cinnamon, and Bubble Gum flavors and finish off my chilled glass of refreshing almond water.


Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel OUZO

The restaurant is kosher, very kid friendly (yes, they have fried chicken schnitzels) with budget-friendly prices.Those not familiar with Libyan specialties should try the restaurant’s  sampler tasting menu for two that includes a variety of salads and spreads, choice of fish Hreime or stuffed vegetables as an appetizer, Mafroum and steamed couscous with three stews of your choice for 127 NIS.  (Equivalent to 40 US dollars)

Sampling Tripolitanian Cuisine at Guetta restaurant in Jaffa,Israel MENU
Autism travel tips


It is better to arrive after the lunch crowd around 2 pm or before 6 pm for a quieter atmosphere and a more personal service.The restaurant provides take-out service so you can enjoy the food at your hotel or one of the many nearby parks for a picnic.If your child is a picky eater, ask Rafi to prepare a plate of simple spaghetti or chicken pieces.



Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California

We celebrated our son’s birthday at Scarpetta Beverly Hills last week. It was our first time trying out the restaurant mini-chain with locations in New York, Miami, Washington and Las Vegas.
The brunch usually priced at sixty-eight dollars was discounted down to thirty-nine plus 20% service charge with a local deals coupon.
The usual non-alcoholic breakfast drinks like coffee, iced tea, grapefruit and orange juices were included with the brunch package.  They also offered bottomless margaritas or mimosas for an additional 22$ per person.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California seats

Reservations for the restaurant  (located inside the Montage  Hotel on Canon Drive ) were not difficult to procure, and we were happy to be told that casual attire (including shorts) was acceptable for brunch time. since our son with autism loathes wearing long pants

We parked in the public parking next to the Montage Hotel but valet parking at the hotel for an additional $8 can be an option when the parking lot is full, or you are in a rush. When we arrived, there was no wait to be seated, and the Maitre D’  was made aware of our request for a quiet table seated us in the main dining area away from the guitarist playing , as our son with autism is quite noise sensitive

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California kitchen


The decor

The decor of the restaurant was minimalist -open space dining areas with large windows that supply adequate natural light. The wooden tables were set with individual placemats and no tablecloths were placed with enough space to move about without feeling too crowded. There were two main seating areas accompanied with a heated outdoor courtyard area.

For temperature-sensitive diners, I  recommend the bottom or top floor away from the entrance or musician’s post.The Sunday buffet layout was set in the restaurant’s kitchen space, so you almost felt like you are in someone’s home instead of in a commercial kitchen. Equally unique was the fact there was a separate room for desserts which looked like a family’s  dining room.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California shrimp


The Food

The buffet layout was organized by sections which made it easier for our autistic son to be able to find everything quickly. As you entered on your left, the salad stations included a mixed salad with truffle vinaigrette, zucchini with corn, marinated mushrooms,  pearl onion, cauliflower and last (my personal favorite)  quinoa.

The pasta dishes were the most anticipated by my family members given Scarpetta’s reputation. And they did not disappoint! I had the spaghetti was al dente perfect accompanied by classic tomato and basil sauce.  The agnolotti according to my husband was equivalent in quality to ones he sampled in southern Italian eateries. The neighboring carving station had porchetta with a mustard seed vinaigrette as well as a leg of lamb served with a minted salsa.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California breads

On the right, various artisan loaves of bread like  Ciabatta, Rosemary Focaccia, and Stromboli along with pastries were artistically displayed. The signature croissants were indeed excellent and my husband, and I felt guilty about taking a bite and leaving the rest on the plate. I would have liked to have tasted some other bread, but there were no cutting tools, so I assumed their primary purpose was display! There were several types of thinly sliced meats that did not leave any lasting impression.

As you move further down, you reach the Seafood station which included shrimp,  yellow tail crude and smoked salmon with fennel and oranges. My son was quite disappointed to be told there were no oysters or crab claws that day, especially since the reviews he had read on Yelp all mentioned that.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California meat
For the less adventurous kids, still attached to traditional fast food ‘staples, a small kid section featuring Mac’n’cheese, sliders, with the usual chicken tenders and fries combo was available.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California rice

The different dessert Hall displayed an appetizing assortment of little pleasures like their famous salted caramel Budino, fruit tarts, tea cakes, creme-brulee filled spoons, pannacotta cup-letters, pistachio chocolate cannolis and freshly fried beignets.

My favorites were the French orange macaroons that melted in your mouth.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California desserts

Next to the bar area on the other side of the dining room, ‘The Beverly Hills Cheese Store’ showcased their best-selling cheeses and crackers. Both our kids loved the Pecorino, sharp blue cheese. Chevre and Gouda coupled with the apples and grapes.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California cheese

Besides the spacious buffet layout, brunch patrons were encouraged to try anything off the regular breakfast menu (included in the price) like polenta waffles, Nutella-Ricotta cheese French Toast, and the quintessential eggs either poached or Benedict style. I was pleasantly surprised by the savory polenta waffle (that did not taste like polenta at all) coupled with compote fruit and their mascarpone butter.
My son had two helpings of their egg Benedict and would have asked for a third had I not stepped in and stopped him.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California open kitchen

The Service

The service was impeccable, which helped us enjoy our celebration to the fullest. Our designated server brought our coffees and accommodated our autistic gourmand with a house special hot chocolate with double foam.

He checked on us multiple times during our lunch supplying additional silverware pieces and napkins we needed. Even more appreciated was his gesture to bring me a to-go cup for my remaining coffee after the bill had already been paid.


5 Reasons to Take your Child with Autism to Bubba Gumps

Bubba Gumps is a seafood restaurant chain that was inspired by the 1994 film Forrest Gump..Based in Houston, Texas, it currently operates twenty-nine  US  and twelve international locations. Our first introduction to the chain was in Miami but have dined in their Charleston, Chicago, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Galveston as well as all their  Southern California locations. If you have never been in one of their restaurants you probably wonder why we would go back instead of trying new places; so here are our top five reasons you should take your kid with autism to a Bubba Gumps’ venue near you.

 No Judgment!

The restaurant is one of the least judgemental environment you’ll  find in the food business, after all, this place’s theme is that being’special’ is not only ok but totally cool! So far, every location we’ve dined at, the staff was not only super polite and patient with our son but took the time to chat with him and make him feel welcome.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant table sign


Lots of Paper Towels available

As parents to a special needs son, we’ve had our share of unintentional table spills and messy dining scenes over the years. Generally, patrons would need to flag down a staff member to ask for help with the clean up or, at least, provide the table with additional napkins. But not at a Bubba Gump’s restaurant! Here, the tables are pre-prepared for spills with handy paper towels one can just reach out and grab immediately.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant spills


 Extensive menu selections

Our son, like many other kids on the autism spectrum, is somewhat of a choosy eater. At Bubba Gump’s, there’s a budget friendly extensive menu available with a lot of different choices.Furthermore, the portions are quite generous, so our son gets to take home part of his favorite po’boy sandwich dish and enjoy it the next day.


Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant food


Get your kid excited about healthy choices

We couldn’t get our son to taste any fruit smoothies for years -until we set foot in one of the restaurants and he saw it offered drinks in a light-up cups.Nowadays, he not only loves dining there but orders his favorite the mango-pineapple, as soon as we are seated.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant drinks

Fun while waiting for a table

Many food venues can get crowded and busy during the regular lunch and dinner hours. For us, since waiting was difficult for our son we used to walk away and look for an alternative. The only exception so far has been Bubba Gump’s restaurants that have stores too. Walking through the shop, checking out the different trinkets seems to be work well for our son that  loves looking at the all the various items. For kids that don’t like shopping as much, there’s always the option to gawk at the different license plates used as the restaurant decor or take a selfie next to the two statues (one of Forrest on the bench and the other of Forrest standing with his suitcase) right by the entrance.


Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant entrance

Have you taken your kid with autism to ‘Bubba Gumps’ -how did you like it?

Dining at Gordon Ramsey’s Maze, London

One of our family’s favorite things to do when traveling around the world is discovering and sampling new foods and locales. Over the years, we have created our own short list of ‘the best ‘, as well as less nice lists of the worst of and never again counterparts.However, what started as an educational attempt on our part to expose our kids to cultural diversity took a life of its own in today’s world bombarded by chef reality TV and demonstration cooking shows.

When the boys grew older, they started insisting on compiling their restaurant bucket list; like Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons in Savannah or Emeril in NOLA. Since as our autistic son eloquently put it; if they have a TV show they must have cooked something good in their lifetime. So, it seemed quite natural, on our latest visit to London, to focus on ‘Hell’s kitchen’s maestro himself, Gordon Ramsey.

We chose to stay at the centrally located converted Victorian townhouse, Grosvenor Square Marriott, not for it’s well-appointed and quiet family rooms, but because of the hotel’s Ramsey owned restaurants, the Michelin-starred Maze started in 2005, and the more relaxed Maze Grill launched in 2008.

The restaurant

After sampling and thoroughly enjoying the Maze Grill’s different steaks along with freshly made salads and pasta, we decided it was time to upgrade and dine in the hotel’s main restaurant Maze.We made a reservation for a laid back late Sunday afternoon lunch when we were told there would be fewer patrons present.Upon arrival, we were allocated ample time to admire the modern looking leather and wood decor as the restaurant had effectively lost our reservation even after I showed the manager, the hostess’ handwritten confirmation card, clearly stating our reservation date and time. With that finally sorted out, I still had to have a lengthy unpleasant ‘chat’ with him to reiterate multiple times the medical reasons why my special needs son could not abide by the restaurant’s required attire.

Upon arrival, we were allocated ample time to admire the modern looking leather and wood decor as the restaurant had effectively lost our reservation even after I showed the manager, the hostess’ handwritten confirmation card, clearly stating our reservation date and time. With that finally sorted out, I still had to have a lengthy unpleasant ‘chat’ with him to reiterate multiple times the medical reasons why my special needs son could not abide by the restaurant’s required attire.

Once seated, it took another half hour to place the orders, and when one of us asked about a particular ingredient in a specific dish, the server just muttered she’ll be back soon and vanished for an unspecified period. Matters did not improve any during our meal, as orders were confused, served out of sync and the staff did a poor job verbally presenting the dishes that did arrive at our table.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London APPETIZER


Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London salad

Luckily we were seated in proximity to the large glass enclosed kitchen and managed to entertain ourselves by watching the kitchen staff turn the different miniature plates into detailed edible works of art.
The dishes we sampled, four each were adequately prepared, except my duck dish that felt like it had drowned in a bucket of salt.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London entree

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London meat dish

By the time, I did manage to flag down our elusive server and complain, my family members had already completed their dessert and left.
A redone duck was eventually brought back to my table with no attempt at an apology for the lack of quality or extra wait.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London dessert

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London ice cream

Naturally, the staff’s rude behavior affected and impacted our meal, but whether that was connected or not in any way to my pre-lunch encounter with the manager, we’ll never know.
Maze is clearly not the place to come hungry and leave happy with their bite-size portions and sporadic service, but more of a see and be seen the type of hyped place.

Nevertheless, Jeff, when asked, was glad to have been able to scratch it off his bucket list.
His only noteworthy comment about the experience was, ’ Ramsey must have needed staff hired fast for this restaurant and did not train them as well as he does to his subordinates on TV’, a thought I concur with. His recommendation as well as mine, for a good meal, do try Maze’s more unassuming sibling -The Maze Grill.

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