Adventures in Eating: Iron Cactus

Iron Cactus

“When it comes to Dallas restaurants, Iron Cactus has the distinction of being one of the best.  We are located in the heart of Downtown Dallas.  As you enter the first floor the smell of homemade tortillas give the restaurant a truly traditional Mexican feel.”

My Recommendations

1.  Parking:  If you are dining at the Dallas location you may wish to use valet or find a meter.  The downtown area has a lot to offer for dining, entertainment, and shopping.  You may want to take some time to explore the city before or after eating.

2.  This is an expansive restaurant.  Weather permitting you may wish dine on the rooftop patio to enjoy the outdoors and views.  Another good option is dining inside at the front window.  Great for people watching. 

3.  The Chipotle Glazed Salmon is fire grilled salmon finished with Iron Cactus sweet and spicy chipotle glaze.  Topped with black bean corn relish and served with garlic herb broccoli and cilantro lime rice.  

4.  Under their Signature Cocktails I ordered a martini with cucumber vodka, fresh basil, and lemon juice.  Garnished with chili lime salt.  This was a fresh drink to have during the summer, with natural and bright flavor.

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Iron Cactus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Taverna - Dallas Review by Jesse Bluma

Taverna - Dallas

“Taverna is a warm and inviting neighborhood restaurant that offers a truly Italian experience without having to leave Texas. Our Italian chefs strive to create the perfect menu using seasonal ingredients for their surprising entrees.”

Texas may conjure up images of chili, frito pie. and barbeque.  Italian may not be the first cuisine that comes to mind.  I was in Dallas, Texas to see my new nephews (twins) this past week.  While there I had breakfast one day at Taverna.  

My Recommendations

1.  Go for breakfast or brunch.  This is a popular spot for large groups, so be prepared for a wait.

2.  I ordered the Vanilla French Toast served with mascarpone and fresh fruit.  The light and buttery flavor was perfect for a Sunday morning.  The Italian element of this dish comes from the thickened cream, almost butter called mascarpone.  This thickened cream is a traditional cheese from Italy made using cream and an acid such as lemon juice.  

 3.  You may also want to check out the special menu items posted daily.  These include 
various frittatas and omelets.

It appears good service, friendly southern hospitality, and fresh ingredients
are the recipe for success at Taverna.  The Lombardi Family Concepts group owns Taverna, 31, Toulouse, Penne Pomodoro, and Lombardi’s.  Alberto Lombardi is the patriarch of his family and was born in Italy.  Since coming to the United States he has opened many restaurants in Texas, Nevada, and California.

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Taverna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Border Grill: Margaritas and Border Classics Review by Jesse Bluma

Border Grill:  Margaritas and Border Classics

Update:  This Border Grill has closed.

“With a menu of complex authentic dishes based on the home cooking of Oaxaca and the Yucatan, Border Grill takes Mexican food to a whole new level!  Two Top Chef Masters & Too Hot Tamales.  Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are co-chef/owners of the popular, critically acclaimed Border Grill restaurants, serving modern Mexican food.” 

About two years ago I enjoyed taking a cooking class with Mary Sue and Susan. 

Last Saturday I met friends at Border Grill for lunch.  It is always fun taking people to restaurants they have not eaten at before.  The chips and assorted salsas have always been a favorite of mine.  Although, it is best to save room for the delicious food.


My Recommendations

1.  Go for brunch or lunch and enjoy a different menu with lower prices.  Also, it is easier to get a table.  Make a reservation for dinner dining.

2.  Parking:  If you are dining at the Santa Monica location then park in the structure directly across the street.  You can park there all day.  A good idea to use as you can take your time eating and then walk along 4th Street, the Promenade, and Santa Monica Pier.  The downtown location in Los Angeles has a parking structure directly next-door. 

3.  Order the Border Classics composed of chicken panuchos (black bean stuffed tortillas • grilled citrus chickenguacamole • pickled onions), green corn tamales, and plantain empanadas.  The guacamole and citrus of the panuchos adds a great bright and creamy flavor to the dish.  The tamales are neatly packaged pouches of corn, so good.  Rounding out the plate is the plantain empanadas.  These are a nice sweet and savory component.

4.  The Biaco Margarita (tequila blancoagave nectarfresh lime) is the house standard.  Good, although go for the Cucumber JalapeƱo Margarita.  A kick of a drink.

5.  Visit Border Grill’s social media sites for their events, specials, and deals.  As of late you can catch the the weekend brunch:  small plates, mimosas, and Bloodymary’s.

Border Grill Santa Monica is located at 1445 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Border Grill Downtown L.A. is located at 445 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071.

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Border Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Rock & Reilly's Irish Pub Review by Jesse Bluma

Rock & Reilly's Irish Pub

“Rock and Reilly’s invokes the kindred spirits of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, infused with hip Brooklyn-style. Great food, a world-famous selection of whiskey, beer & more. Free Wi-Fi. 17 Flatscreen TVs with full sports packages. Rock & Reilly's, an Irish bar with personality!”

Entertainment and celebrity star power are behind this venue, including Tony DiSanto formerly of MTV,  David Goldberg president of Endemol producing non-scripted, scripted, and digital entertainment, and brothers Geoff and George Stults from 7th Heaven.  Rock and Reilly’s legend has it that Reilly was an Irish boy, his father lost him in a game of poker.  Later the boy grew up, made his way to the United States during the era of prohibition, and delivered whiskey door-to-door.  Hence the Black Eyed Society was formed.  The bar is designed in a prohibition era style, maintains the old brick walls, and the walls display old rock and roll items. 

My Recommendations

 1.  Go during the daytime for a smaller crowd and a bit more quiet.  If you are looking for a night spot, then Rock and Reilly’s gets busy as the day goes on. 

 2.  Parking:  It’s Los Angeles.  If you are not as lucky as me as to have friends in the neighborhood, then you will need to find street parking or a nearby parking lot.  Carpooling at night or dining during the day will make it easier.

3.  I enjoyed a beer flight, a paddle holding a sample variety of beers in small Mason jars.  The Shandygaff flight consists of a bass topped with ginger beer, a Smiddy’s topped with lemonade, an IPA topped with 7-Up and lemonade, and a Cider with Chambord and lemonade.  A good mix on a summer day, although next time I would order The Biting Brasser flight that includes a Bass atop cider, a Guinness atop cider, a Smiddy’s atop cider, and a Kilkenny atop pear cider.  

4.  Check out Rock and Reilly’s weekends with bottomless mimosas and Bloodymary’s.  

5.  Visit their social media to keep up with happy hour specials, food theme nights, and events.  

Rock and Reilly’s is located at 8911 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

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Rock & Reilly's Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Nino's Italian Restaurant Review by Jesse Bluma

Nino's Italian Restaurant

Update:  Nino's has unfortunately closed.

Vincenzo and Inge Cristiano, the founders of Nino’s, embody the immigrant success story.  Vincenzo was born in a province near Naples, Italy.  He met his wife Inge after World War II in Germany.  Post wedding the two traveled to Canada and then on to Bogota, Colombia in the 1950s where they entered the restaurant business.  The two then set their eyes on the United States.  On July 31st, 1958, Nino’s Italian Restaurant was opened.  Nino's became a favorite of locals in Long Beach, Bixby Knolls, and celebrities.  The restaurant was and continues to be a family enterprise.

I have dined at Nino’s since my childhood and last night took some friends.  I can remember the first time going on a recommendation from my aunt.  Last night we enjoyed the updated decor, although the landmark roots remain.  I look forward to seeing the Cristiano family maintain those roots, while always updating and refreshing items.  That is one good key to success.  While dining I noticed Vincenzo and Inge at a nearby table.  Inge came to greet patrons at all the tables.  It was great to see her again and tell her that I have been coming to Nino’s for a long time.       

My Recommendations

 1.  Check Nino’s social media for events and specials.

 2.  Parking:  The lot has ample parking, unless you are dining on a busy night.

3.  Start with the small Antipasto Dinner Salad with chopped romaine, salami, freshly marinated vegetables, and Provolone cheese.  If you are not esurient, you may want to skip the salad and appetizers.  Also, don’t fill up on bread.  

4.  Wine:  My friends and I enjoyed a special wine selection.  Purchase one bottle and get a second bottle for 55¢.  You may want to order a bottle whether there is a wine special or not.  Italian food and wine are the best.  

5.  Eggplant parmigiana served with a side of spaghetti with tomato sauce.  This dish was warm, delicious, and the sauce had a fresh yet rich tomato flavor.  A bounty! 

6.  Consider ordering an additional dish to go.

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Ninos Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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Firework Cupcakes by Jesse Bluma

Firework Cupcakes
Pointe Viven - Jesse Bluma. All rights reserved.

Zoom!  Bang! Crackle, crackle.  The crowd will ooh and ahh these cupcakes at your next birthday party, Independence Day, or anniversary celebration.  Gourmet vanilla cupcakes topped with speckled cinnamon frosting, licorice, and sprinkles.

Click to order.

Gourmet treats by Jesse Bluma at Pointe Viven
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We eat the foods we think we deserve: by Jesse Bluma

We Eat the Foods We Think We Deserve

We eat what we think we deserve.  Our own bad habits, mental and physical health conditions, childhoods, and images we see in media have an impact on our lives.  When we see actors, athletes, and models in media they often are presented looking their best.  Or shall we say computer graphics best.  It is healthy to keep this in mind, rather than contrasting ourselves to images and then reaching for ___________ (whatever the temptation) to momentarily make us feel better.  

The meaning behind Pointe Viven is to live at the highest point, living with a commitment to quality, and liberating our taste in everything.  We get to live on a planet with a spectrum of food choices miles wide.  If we only eat from a small portion of that spectrum from store shelves, are we really living?   Starting each day with a healthy perspective about ourselves, food, and other things enables us to face challenges and be sure in the choices we make.  Over time this mental lifting of weights, making good steps, will go a long way in your ability to have a fit body.  This same concept is true in our relationships, finances, and friendships.  

Eating poorly made foods, fast foods, foods with little nutrients, foods that don’t have great flavor is not liberating, is not an expression of freedom, it is not living.  The metaphor carries over into other life choices we make as well, drugs, certain relationships, overspending, etc.  Each of these has several opportunity costs.  That brings us to the big question.  Why do we do it?  Why do we do the things that we know don’t elevate our lives and the lives of others.  

Working with food and people often I hear a few things.  One is that these things stimulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system.  The brain is fooled to think it (whatever it is) is a good thing.  For example, despite the fact some foods are made with L-Cysteine from feathers, pig bristles, and human hair, people continue to eat these foods.  Re-training the brain to seek higher reasons for eating certain foods is challenging, although doable.  Food is a great gift and when seen as such can be sought for the true benefits:  allergy relief, energy, flavor, improved mind, improved mood, nutrition, romance, satisfaction, improved sleep, and more.  

The values and ideas we hold on the forefront of our minds makes the difference in how we experience life.  Clear, healthy, good ideas bring meaning, enjoyment, and self-respect.  As each new challenge, crisis, or fear enters our heads it requires us to respond and not just react.  Junk food, junk relationships, junk whatever are always easiest to get.  Junk can also taste good or seem good in the moment.  There is so much junk in the world it is challenging to avoid, it seeps into our minds and we see so many others with junk it almost seems acceptable.  Junk food and junk in general may seem or appear inexpensive, affordable, or doable.  When it comes down to it we often fool ourselves and play ignorant.  

We all know the drill:  prioritize our daily lives, simplify the daily schedule, carve out time for physical activity.  In essence stop the self-destruction, make good choices, and stay away from junk.  Easy to write.  Easy to say.  Remember that pesky brain?  Remember the bad day at work?  Remember those fears that creep into the mind?    

Purpose.  Maybe today you don’t need this reminder.  Maybe you never need this reminder.  This is not for you.  Go eat a cookie...a non-junky cookie.  For those of you still reading at this moment each of us was born with a purpose.  Keeping that attitude, living with good self-worth and setting out each day with a plan and making good decisions is doable.  It takes a holistic approach of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  Conquering each day as best you can without indulging on junk.

When we think we are not worthy, when we don’t respect ourselves, when we are fearful it opens doors to bad eating, bad relationships, bad spending, and much more.  Acting from calm, spending time wisely, and protecting what matters in your life is key.  “Balance” is often tossed around as the cure.  I don’t know about you, as for me, I am not an inanimate object.  It’s much easier to place a bunch of weights on a scale and find a balance than to place my life on a scale and balance it out.  A better way to approach life may be a recipe of a mix.  You need a certain amount of olive oil, a certain amount of spice, and a certain amount of broccoli.  When we don’t respect ourselves, when we don’t address our emotions, temptations, and foibles, we hide from our purpose.  When we eat well, when we develop our notions of what tastes good and is good for us, we are truly liberated.

Gourmet treats by Jesse Bluma at Pointe Viven

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Garcia Sports Foundation partnering with Gladway’s Children Centre

Garcia Sports Foundation partnering with Gladway’s Children Centre

I am excited to share with you how the Garcia Sports Foundation is working with others for the children of Kenya.   Recently Max, from GSF, visited with the founder of Gladway’s School.  He reported that the school has five classes and eight teachers.  Gladway’s was started to meet the needs of youth that were not being served by the public schools in Kenya.  Students learn in small rooms, share basic school supplies, and do not have a restroom.  This is why Garcia Sports Foundation is needed to supply mentorship, curriculum, and athletics.  

"Garcia Sport Foundation is a non-profit organization that is allied to FIKISHA Kenya, to reach kids from the slums in Nairobi, Kenya.  Through sports and education, Garcia's Sport Program offers the kids an opportunity to grow intellectually and spiritually, so they can reach out to their community and their families."

Funds for supplies are needed.  
Please visit our facebook page or website to donate 
and stand with the children of Kenya.

Max with the founder of Gladway's School.




Students at Gladway's

Children outside of school


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