New Dishes and Old Favorites This Year at the Grill on the Alley

The Grill on the Alley, with a location in the Westlake Promenade – you know, the restaurant with the wall of fire out front – is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The original location opened in 1984 in Beverly Hills, and now there are Grill restaurants here in Westlake Village, Hollywood, San Jose, Florida, Chicago, and Dallas. To celebrate this milestone, the chefs added some dishes to the time-honored menu of grilled meats, fish, and sides, and on a recent date night my husband and I headed there to try them out.

grill on the alley exterior westlake village

I always like to taste what the restaurant is famous for, so of course we started with server-recommended drinks – nutty brown Atticus IPA on tap for the husband and a cucumber gimlet for me. It was the perfect refreshing start to the meal, and even though I’ve been eating a mostly gluten-free diet for several months (a totally different story), I had to try the giant slab of sourdough bread the menu so descriptively boasted as a signature of the restaurant. It was served with a trio of spreads: The Grill’s classic sweet butter, fresh sundried tomato tapenade and extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper and thyme. This came with a colorful partner – enormous shrimp arranged in a cocktail dish. There were no leftovers.

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I am a big filet mignon fan, so when it was time for the entrees this is what I chose without hesitation. All of the grilled entrees are cooked on the restaurant’s white oak-fired grill. You can even see the stacks of wood just waiting to flavor your meat or fish.

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Our server explained that on the new menu you can choose from seven different sauces for your cuts of steak: Boef Onions with Bordelaise, Béarnaise Sauce, Green Peppercorn Sauce, Truffle Butter, Bleu Cheese Herb Crust, Oscar Style, and Pepper, Bacon, & Onions. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what “Oscar Style” means because the server had me at “truffle butter” and I was done. Toast.

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I was happy to end the meal right then and there but they also brought a trio of sides. There are five sides served for sharing. We chose the Braised Brussels Sprouts, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, and Chipotle Cheddar Cream Corn, because it would just have been gluttony if we had also ordered the Cauliflower Gratin and the Wild Mushroom Risotto. (But we wanted to.)

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Plus the entrees were served with braised broccolini and creamed spinach. Everything was mouth-watering and each bite demanded a pause for savoring. I joked that there’s no need to ever make Thanksgiving dinner again because The Grill is right down the street and I’ll never match or exceed their Brussels sprouts, which are prepared with carrot, onion and bacon hash, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and tossed with roasted pecans.

Are you hungry yet?

Let’s talk about the Center Cut Blackened Ahi Tuna Steak entree, which my husband chose. I was having a food moment of my own, but he actually stopped eating for a second to muse about all the places he’s eaten ahi in his life. It’s his favorite thing to eat. He’s very critical of seafood dishes, because they do not often measure up to the times when he’s gone fishing and basically plucked a fish out of the ocean, cleaned it, and grilled it over a campfire.

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But this dish, he said, was the best ahi he’s ever eaten. I’m not making this up, people. Even though I think of The Grill as a steak place, my husband’s reaction to their epic tuna makes me say that if you’re going to dine here, order the ahi.

I’d hate to disappoint this post by skipping dessert, so we didn’t. We ordered hazelnut creme brûlée, again at the server’s suggestion, and man, am I glad I listened to that guy.

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If your summer is already packed with plans taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and the many outdoor events we can attend in and around our beautiful town, you can multitask by ordering a picnic dinner or lunch from The Grill. You just need to order it 24 hours in advance, and each meal is packed in a reusable insulated tote bag and includes two 30th anniversary plastic commemorative wine glasses, wine opener, mixed nuts, signature sourdough bread and butter, table cloth, napkins, plates and cutlery. The prices are very reasonable starting at $32.95 for a basket of shrimp and crab louie and key lime pie for 2. (Wine is extra.) Here is the full picnic menu.

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Epic tuna, mouth-watering food and cocktails, and an elegant picnic menu just in time for summer. All served up in an elegantly decorated location right around the corner, with cozy booths perfect for date night. We all win!

The Grill on the Alley
Westlake Promenade
120 E. Promenade Way
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
(805) 418-1760
Website

grill dining room

My husband and I received complimentary meals to facilitate this feature.

Mother Nature’s Meat – Hearst Ranch Beef at Local Whole Foods Markets

courtesy of Whole Foods Market

When you bite into a juicy cheeseburger, do you think about the source of the beef?

When the cheese is oozing out of the sandwich and the juice drips down your chin, do you wonder about the health of the cattle that gave you this meat? Or how far the harvested beef had to travel to get to the store where you bought it?

Me neither. I simply enjoy a tasty burger. Or a nice juicy medium-rare steak. I’ve been doing it for years.

And then, like a lot of Americans, I watched Food 101 and I read Fast Food Nation. Blecch, right? Never eating meat again. Until the next time I was on a long road trip and McDonald’s was the only establishment for miles where one could buy a quick bite to eat and keep going. Sigh.

But when I am grocery shopping, I do pay attention to the quality and sources of the foods I buy. I have gone out of my way to visit small markets to buy organic chicken and hormone free beef. I don’t do this all the time (because hello, hate traveling east of Calabasas if it’s not totally necessary) but when I do I always feel better about sinking my teeth into a perfectly grilled steak.

During this season, I can just go to Whole Foods Market in Thousand Oaks, because it is among 18 Southern California locations that will be selling organic antibiotic-free beef from locally raised grass-fed cattle at Hearst Ranch. Yes, the same Hearst as in Hearst Castle. Right up the coast. It’s as fresh, healthful, and eco-friendly as you can get living here in the Conejo Valley.

Photo by Richard Field Levine

Photo by Richard Field Levine (click to visit site)

I sampled ground beef ($9.99/ lb for 7% fat and $7.99/lb for 15% fat) and top sirloin ($13.99/lb). Both were very flavorful, and I discovered that there are a few things to remember when cooking grass-fed beef. From the Hearst Ranch website:

-Grass-fed beef cooks about 30% faster than conventional beef because it is leaner and richer in healthy fats, which melt quicker at a lower temperature than fats in conventional beef.

-Because grass-fed meats cook quickly, marinating them is a good way to add moisture and interesting flavors.

The burgers were juicy and the steak was delicious, but the best part about digging into these meals was that I knew the beef was just better.  And that peace of mind is worth it. Hearst Ranch beef will be sold at 18 SoCal Whole Foods Markets through August 2013.

I received a complimentary sampling of Hearst Ranch beef to facilitate this feature but no further compensation. Yes, as it turns out, I will work for meat.