Girls on Food

Christina

Growing up Italian I am predisposed to enjoy good food and wine. In fact I would probably be excommunicated from the family if I stopped eating any major food group (or just mercilessly ridiculed). Being raised on wine and loud family gatherings it is no surprise I ended up behind a bar. I’ve been bartending for almost 9 years now with my focus being on craft and classic cocktails. I'm honored to be a two time regional finalist for the prestigious Diageo World Class bartending competition and a partner in The Traveling Speakeasy; a company focused on providing cocktails for private events and bar consultations.I’m continually futzing around with new recipes and techniques at home and at work, I look forward to sharing with you my original recipes and favorite bars.

Boxwood on the Roof at The London in West Hollywood

When you’ve got a hankering for rooftop fabulousness and world class bites; get in your car and head over to The London. Do not pass go or collect $200. Valet park, get in the elevator and push the button for the rooftop bar, Boxwood. 

Boxwood on the Roof
1020N. San Vincente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/

Even though my recent dinner at Boxwood on the Roof was haunted by fog that would not burn off, I was kept warm and cozy by heat lamps and the incredible company of my fellow diners. I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be on a clear night! Executive Chef Anthony Keene sent us a number of tasty morsels from his new menu that is largely New American with some fun street food inspiration.

The cocktail list is inspired by English rockers such as The Who. Their coordinating cocktail, “Behind Blue Eyes”, a concoction of fresh blueberry, mint, lime, and vodka. My favorite was the unlikely “Rebel Rebel,” a margarita with a float of Pinot Noir wine on top.

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Ashland Hill in Santa Monica

On the cutest street in Santa Monica sits a narrow restaurant called Ashland Hill. I went to check it out on a rainy Wednesday night. We were offered seating in the intimate bar inside or on the covered back patio; I opted for the patio. The sound of the rain pattering on the cover mixed with laughter and the occasional dog bark made for a truly cozy atmosphere. (Bonus: friendly dogs are allowed on the patio!) Even though we could still see and hear the rain, the backyard was kept warm and bright. Ashland Hill
2807 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405
https://www.ashlandhill.com/

Ashland Hill offers a number of beverage options, but they’re known for their gin and tonic bar. You can choose your own combination from a list of gins around the world and tonics including varieties such as Yuzu, Mediterranean, and Grapefruit. OR you can try one of their Gin and Tonic cocktails as I opted for. The first cocktail up was the Silky Smooth which featured Tru Organic Gin, East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic, Orange Bitters, Aperol, Lime juice, and Kumquats. It tasted like the best grown up candy, the drink’s sweetness being tamed by the bitter of the grapefruit and both brought together by the Aperol.

Christina and the Silky Smooth cocktail.

The second cocktail up was The Wildflower; a concoction of Cutler’s Gin, Fevertree Elderflower Tonic, Grapefruit bitters, and bell pepper juice. The drink was herbal and vegetal. The bell pepper juice gave it a flavor reminiscent of summer gardens. Our server Josh also recommended The Big Lou for diners who might not like big Juniper-y gins but still want to try one of the gin cocktails.

The Wildflower

For dinner we started with the Burrata which was accompanied by jalapeno pea mash, caramelized onion, sugar snap peas, pea leaves, and toasted sourdough. Holy peas Batman! The pea mash was sweet and fresh, although I would have enjoyed a little more kick from the jalapenos. The caramelized onion paired so well with the burrata, I wondered why I had never had this combo before? You might need to get extra bread with this dish; it is a very hearty serving, and the bread went quickly!

Next up was the Crispy Cauliflower and Ceviche. The cauliflower came served with salmoriglio (an Italian dressing made with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and herbs), Parmesan, saffron aioli, pickled vegetables, and espelette (a Basque chili). The crispy texture was perfect, and the drizzle of sauces was just enough to flavor the dish without being overwhelming. I also really enjoyed the pickled veggies, they gave a crisp, vinegary contrast.

The Ceviche was made of marinated seafood, jalapeno, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and crispy tortillas. I loved the crispy tortillas! They were thick, warm, and salty. The ceviche itself was different; the marinade was creamier than what I’ve had before maybe because of the avocado. Again I would have enjoyed a little more kick from the jalapeno!

For a larger plate, we had the Chicken Shawarma, a wrap stuffed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, tahini and served with parmesan fries and cucumber yogurt. I could eat this every day; the lavash wrap was perfectly thin, and crispy on the outside and the chicken was super flavorful. I’m also a sucker for a good French fry and those hit the spot! They also offer this dish with falafel for the vegetarians in your party.

Our final dish was their Market Blueberry Crumble, an oat crumble, whipped white chocolate, and vanilla ice cream. The oat crumble was delicious, and the ice cream they serve is fantastic. The dish comes with a heaping serving of blueberries, almost like a granola cobbler. The piece de resistance, however, was the whipped white chocolate, how do you make that and can I get a gallon of it?!

With the fantastic atmosphere and tasty food, Ashland Hill could be an excellent choice for many outings. Take your dog or your date and stroll the cute Santa Monica street post-dinner. Dining with a picky group? Ashland Hill’s menu denotes which items are gluten free, and they also have a lot of vegetarian options. It would be the ideal restaurant for a mixed group or family since the menu caters to all; the unadventurous will feel safe with a burger or fish and chips while the foodie in your group might like to try the Grilled Octopus or Shishito Mac & Cheese. If you’re all on the same page, I recommend sharing a bunch of plates, everything I tried shared well. The prices are fantastic especially considering the generous portions and quality and the service was prompt and gracious, what more could you want?

(Tea) Party On With Owl’s Brew

At Girls on Food, we love some good food and drink – and we also love featuring the ladies behind that food and drink whenever possible. Enter: Owl’s Brew, tea for cocktails created by Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield. The duo worked in marketing together starting in 2009. Littlefield noticed Ripps’ (a tea sommelier) passion for tea and they started served tea-infused cocktails at high profile events. Ripps started a custom tea blending company Brew Lab in 2011, and finally in 2013 they founded Owl’s Brew together. Since then they have been honored with recognition such as the Specialty Food Association’s 2014 “35 Under 35” awards among food and beverage entrepreneurs, and in 2016 Forbes named Littlefield one of its “30 Under 30” professionals. Last year they released a unique cocktail guide WISE COCKTAILS: A DIY Guide to Crafting Tea-Based Cocktails (Rodale Press), which was top ten in its category on Amazon. Look for them to also revolutionize your beer drinking as they gear up to release Owl’s Brew Radler, the first canned beer and tea!

IMG_0378The Owl’s Brew line currently has 5 different mixers with other seasonal products offered from time to time. We got to taste the 5 classic mixers and highlight a few of our favorite pairings for you! Owl’s Brew recommends mixing 2 parts Brew with 1 part hard spirit, or equal parts if mixing with beer or wine. Order online at on their site and you’ll 15% off when you use promo code GIRLSBREW at checkout! You can also find Owl’s Brew in stores at BevMo!, Total Wine, Nugget Market, The Fresh Market, and Whole Foods.

Owl’s Brew Pink and Black

Flavors of Darjeeling hibiscus tea, strawberry, and lemon.

Tasting Notes: Summery strawberry, lemon, notes of black tea, and cranberry. Sweet and fruity.

Recommended Pairings: whiskey, tequila, white wine, amber ale

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Pink and Black Sangria

Girls on Food loved the Pink and Black and came up with a fun and easy sangria for late summer entertaining! Measurements reflect the option to create a single serving or a pitcher for large parties.

2 oz (24oz) Owl’s Brew Pink and Black

4 oz (1 bottle) Rosé wine (on the drier side)

1oz (6oz) Vodka

1 (8) sliced Strawberries

2 (16) lemon slices

Build ingredients in to a glass or punch bowl, depending on which serving size you’re making. Top with ice and give it a few stirs. Extra credit for letting vodka infuse with strawberries and lemon ahead of time!

Owl’s White and Vine

Flavors of white tea, pomegranate, strawberry, and lemon peel.

Tasting Notes: Sweet, pomegranate forward, hint of lemon.

Recommended Pairings: whiskey, tequila, gin, wheat beer

Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada

Flavors of black tea, coconut, chai spice, and pineapple.

Tasting Notes: Tropical pineapple and green apple, warming chai spice. Very minimal coconut notes.

Recommended Pairings: rum, mezcal, vodka, champagne, stout beer

Owl’s Brew Classic

Flavors of English Breakfast, lemon, lime, and lemon peel.

Tasting Notes: Classic Arnold Palmer, agave, citrus.

Recommended Pairings: whiskey, vodka, gin, IPA beer

Owl’s Brew Wicked Green

Flavors of green tea, habanero, lime, and lemon.

Tasting Notes: Balanced amount of heat, citrus, green tea.

Recommended Pairings: tequila, mezcal, vodka, gin

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Wicked Green was my personal favorite with its perfectly balanced spice that gives you a kick but never overwhelms your palette. The 2 to 1 ratio was a little sweet for me so I’m currently sipping on this mix of 1.5 oz Reposado tequila, 2 oz Wicked Green, and fresh lemon slices!

 

 

 

Poke is the New Black: The Poke Shack in Los Angeles

IMG_9476The Poke Shack
7257 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
http://www.thepokeshack.com

Shops bringing us traditional Hawaiian poke have been sprouting up on (what feels like) a daily basis in Los Angeles. I think the craze can be attributed to the food being perfect for warm weather, fresh, associated with fun flavors and healthy ingredients. Having already been open in Venice for a year and a half The Poke Shack can be considered one of the OGs before the craze took off. Well, lucky for all you mid to east-side city dwellers, they just opened a new spot on Melrose so you can visit this awesome little poke spot without trekking to the Westside.

IMG_9425The prices are fantastic and at their Melrose location, you can choose unlimited toppings for no additional charge. We put together two bowls to enjoy. Bowl one was tuna with crunchy garlic sauce, kimchi, edamame, misugi, seaweed, and jalapeno. Bowl two was tuna with wasabi shoyu, mango, avocado, and jalapeno. Each bowl also comes standard with cucumber, ginger, onions, sesame seeds and red chili flakes. I also had to try their acai bowl for which you can choose your base juice; I chose mango of course! It came topped with granola, fruit, coconut, and a drizzle of honey.

 

In my humble opinion, my avocado topped creation was the best. The fish is fresh and not “fishy”, I loved the play of spice and sweet between the toppings. The servings are hearty and beautifully assembled. IMG_9472   IMG_9473Also of note is the cute little back patio where you can enjoy your poke in the open air. It’s in the back so don’t worry about being bothered by Melrose traffic. They also have the perfect photo opp with some fishy wings and their very own snap chat filters. Perfect little lunch stop while doing some Melrose shopping? We think so!

SIP Awards at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach

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This past weekend I attended the SIP Awards at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. Now in their 8th-year SIP is the largest consumer based spirit (read booze not high school enthusiasm) competition. Over 400, different brands from around the world are entered, and customers taste and judge them in 7 rounds of 5 (or in the case of my table we had an eighth round of 1). Everyone is encouraged to practice restraint when deciding whether or not to drink each entire sample and to get a cab if needed. I believe the event was also offering cab vouchers if needed. However, I decided to go the responsible route as I knew drinking all that alcohol would have killed my taste buds long before the last round.

 

 

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Table 3, my spot for the day!

The Hyatt Regency was a beautiful setting for an afternoon tasting; we were in a covered outdoor setting with warm sun and a light breeze.  Light food was served throughout the event; favorites included some tasty bacon wrapped dates and caramelized onion flatbread. Music was provided by DJ Mike Soltani who did a fantastic job mixing a variety of music to keep the day fun!

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My table tasted vodkas, one cachaca, one aquavit, and reposado tequilas but every spirit possible was represented at the event. The tasting is blind so participants should be sure to check in later to see what their favorites were. Tasting is based on an A-F scale based on Aroma, Taste, and Finish. We were given a tutorial on proper tasting technique using the NEAT tasting glasses that were provided. NEAT glasses are the official glass of the SIP awards and give you a fantastic nose (or aroma) before even sipping at the alcohol it contains. Some tables even tasted cocktail mixers and mixes as well as spirits.

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Careful tasting and grading in progress!

If you’re able to attend next year I highly recommend it! The SIP Awards are held in a beautiful setting with lots of fantastic tastings and small bites, I enjoyed getting to know my table mates, and even came home with a bottle of tequila!DSC05197

Bacon Maple Old Fashioned with Farmer John Applewood Smoked Bacon

Recently Girls on Food was offered a chance to collaborate with Farmer John using their bacon in a recipe. Of course, being more of a cocktailer than a cook I put it in a drink. I’ve always wanted to try a bacon maple Old Fashioned, so I decided to start off with a bacon bourbon.

farmer JohnsHaving never made a bacon flavored liquor, I did a little researching and came across the technique of fat washing. Using the information I gathered I made my first batch of bacon bourbon. I chose Farmer John Applewood Smoked Bacon because I felt it would have the best smokey flavor to transfer to the bourbon.

Bacon Bourbon

4 slices Farmer John Applewood Smoked Bacon

1 cup Bourbon

bacon post 2Cook the bacon. I used a broiler pan so that I could collect the oil without the bacon frying in it. When bacon is done, let the bacon grease cool enough, so that it doesn’t cause burns but not solidified yet. Add all the grease, one piece of bacon cut in 1″ pieces, and bourbon to a jar. Let this sit on the counter until it cools to room temperature and then transfer it to the refrigerator and let it sit for a few days. When I was ready to strain it, I put it in the freezer for about an hour. The first strain got the larger bits of bacon and solidified fat out via a cheesecloth lined colander.

 

 

bacon coffee

But to get as much fat out as possible, I then put it through a paper coffee filter. And voila! Bacon bourbon. The results are a sweet, lightly “bacon-y” bourbon with a mild aftertaste of smoke.

At the suggestion of a friend, I also tried another batch where I added about six pieces of cut up cooked bacon to the mix instead of just the one slice. This batch was much more “bacon-y”, but I found it too weird to drink… It was too much like drinking bacon juice and just a little unsettling feeling. However, if you want to go extreme, try adding a few more slices to the mix!

And of course, the resulting cocktail!

Maple Bacon Cocktail

Maple Bacon Old Fashioned

2 oz Bacon Bourbon

1/4 teaspoon Maple Agave Sweetener

2 dashes Fees Black Walnut Bitters

Orange Peel for Garnish

In a rocks or old fashioned glass add Maple Agave Sweetener (I found this at Trader Joe’s and liked the viscosity better than regular maple syrup), bitters, and bourbon. Add ice to fill 3/4 of the glass or just one large cube if you have it and stir to proper dilution, around 24 times around. Garnish with the orange peel by expressing the oils over the glass and add a piece of bacon if you like!

Columbian-Korean Bites at EsCaLA in K-Town

Recently the Cover app lead me to EsCaLA, a great little restaurant in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. I was intrigued by the restaurant’s mixed influences of Korean and Colombian cuisine and had to try the El Padrino cocktail I saw on their website. The restaurant is in the historic Chapman building and I believe there is valet parking available, although I found a meter nearby.

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A taste of EscaLA’s art, from their website.

EscaLA K-Town
3451 West 6th Street Los Angeles, CA 90020
http://www.escalaktown.com/

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EscaLA at night, looking out from the bar to the fountain and big open air windows.

The restaurant is the brainchild of executive chef Chris Oh and artist/music producer/entrepreneur OG Chino, Korean but grew up partly in Bogota, Colombia. His influence is obvious not only in the food but also in the space. The disco ball, colored lights, and music evoke a Colombian nightclub (who just watched Netflix’s “Narcos”?) but the whimsical art and colorful wall paintings give it an urban street vibe. I loved the open air feel from the big open windows and the fountain that sits just inside the front door. I was greeted quickly when I visited and as I was alone I chose to sit at the bar. The bartender was super friendly and patient with me as there is so much to consider on the menu!

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From their website, EscaLA in the daylight.

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Of course I ordered the El Padrino as I had planned, a cocktail made with Pisco Porton, Passion Fruit & Mora Shrub, Fresh Lemon, Vanilla Extract, Egg White, and Angostura Bitters. Although I have had similar cocktails before I was curious about the shrub used, a sweetened, vinegar-based  syrup. I also wanted to inspect their use of the bitters to create the design on top, I would tell you but then I’d have to… you know.

For dinner I ordered a few smaller items. I had to get one of each Empanada. Colombian corn fried crust with either carne asada, potato, and Colombian spices with ají verde or the K-panada with kimchi and chorizo fried rice with kimchi aioli. Both were fantastic and at only $5 for 2 I highly recommend trying them both. The kimchi aoili was my favorite of the two sauces, especially since it was so easy to dip into.

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Empanada’s with their delicious little fried corn outsides.

I also ordered the Yucca fries which are also available loaded with pulled pork and pico de gallo. I have tried making Yucca fries a few times but these put my work to shame, they’re thick cut and perfectly hot and crispy outside and soft inside.

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The last item I tried was an arepas, a Colombian ground maize flat biscuit that came topped with braised pork belly, tropical salad, and saffron aoili. While it was good, especially the salad and the biscuit, it wasn’t the best pork belly I’ve ever had and it was hard to eat in a way that you’d get a little of each flavor in every bite. Next time I think I will try the chicken arepas instead, the shredded chicken sounds easier to navigate.

IMG_8116At this point I was pretty full, I’m bummed I didn’t bring someone along so that I could try more items off the menu. I am definitely going back to try the Bandeja platter which looked fantastic (and filling!) They do offer lunch, happy hour, and brunch both Saturday and Sunday. The best part is that EsCaLA is pretty darn affordable and the portions are hearty. I can’t wait to return, props to Cover for leading me to EsCaLA!

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

Christina’s Visit to Patron Hacienda in Atotonilco, Mexico

In the small town of Atotonilco outside of Guadalajara, Mexico sits the Patron distillery. The distillery is where they make all of their product and bottle it by hand. I was lucky enough to visit and bring back photos of the tequila making process. Patron uses two different methods to make their final product, one characterized by the traditional tahona; a volcanic stone used to crush the agave. The other process is a more modern roller mill that seperates the agave juice and fibers. No matter which style the agave are destined for they start the same way.

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All the agave have their leaves removed by hand and are baked for 72 hours in large brick ovens.

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All the agave have their leaves removed by hand and are baked for 72 hours in large brick ovens. After the baking they are either crushed slowly with the tahona or they go to the roller mill process.

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IMG_7052The tahona crushed tequila is transferred to the fermentors with both the agave fibers and agave juice while the roller mill only captures and ferments the juice.IMG_7041

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Here in the roller mill process only the juice is fermented. Above both the fibers and juice ferment together.

Both are distilled twice in copper stills and then they are ready to be diluted to 80 proof and aged, blended, or bottled. IMG_7045The flavor difference between the two methods is noticeable. The tahona tequila yields a fruitier tequila with a less noticeable taste of alcohol while the roller mill is bright, citrusy, and burns a bit more on the way down. The regular Patron is a blend of both but I recommend giving Roca Patron a try as it is made from only the tahona tequila and is perfect to sip on. IMG_7056Patron has a variety of aged products from the Reposados and Anejos to the more exclusive extra anejos. IMG_7066They use different barrels to age them including French oak and American Bourbon barrels.

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Some of the wood used for the aging process.
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Trying different combinations of age and wood.

One thing I always admire is a large company doing their best to be responsible. Patron can’t help being a large company but they do their best to be a great part of the community.

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The bottling process is still done by hand.

They have not automated any of the processes but keep everything done by hand thus providing many jobs to the community. They also have their own reverse osmosis plant to reclaim the water used in the tequila process. Solid wastes are turned into compost which prevents yeast from getting into other water sources and killing other ecosystems. They use the compost in their own gardens and donate it to the agave farmers they source from.

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The huge (and smelly) compost area.

I really enjoyed seeing how tequila was made, admittedly even though it’s one of my favorites to drink I didn’t know much about it before. If you like tequila I recommend trying out a tahona processed tequila if you can, maybe start with some Roca Patron?

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Patron’s own vegetable gardens grown with their fertilizer and reclaimed water.

Christina’s Good Eats in Guadalajara, Mexico

Last week I was lucky to attend a whirlwind trip to Guadalajara, Mexico to visit the Patron distillery (more on that in a future post). While there I got to enjoy some great food and cocktails. I wanted to share some of it with you here!

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The tequilas on display at La Tequila in Guadalajara. On the opposite side are more completely different bottles.

La Tequila

This restaurant is aptly named, just look at that panorama of tequilas!

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Blue corn sopes were one of my favorites!
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Howabout I pass? 

We started off with some melted cheeses and molcajetes. The molcajete is the stone bowl resembling a mortar and pestle. These ones came laden with grilled cheese, meat, avocado, and salsa with tortillas on the side of course. There were also ant larvae, worms, and quesadillas with crickets from Oaxaca if you are feeling adventurous! I passed on the creepy-crawlies, though I was feeling optimistic until I actually saw them. My favorite appetizer (other than the cheese) were the blue corn sopes, perfectly crispy on the outside and wonderful flavor.

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Tuna a la Talla, marinated in talla sauce of guajillo, pasilla, and ancho chiles and spices.

My table decided to get a bunch of entrees to share so we got to try a lot of different flavors. My personal favorite was the (huge) pork shank marinated in guajillo and ancho chili sauce. I also enjoyed the slow baked suckling pig in a dried chili and pulque sauce, it was so tender! I enjoyed the Tuna a la Talla and the chicken breast with black mole, but found the Ram Mixote a little greasy and gamey and the Spicy Shrimp in Tamarind Sauce were a bit too sweet for my tastes.

Spicy Shrimp in Tamarind Sauce.
Spicy Shrimp in Tamarind Sauce.
Chicken with black mole.
Chicken with black mole.

Hacienda Patron

The next day we enjoyed a special lunch menu at the Patron distillery. Obviously each course was paired with a Patron cocktail. Unfortunately you will not be able to dine here unless by special invite but maybe my meal will provide some inspiration for your kitchen.

We started off with a panela cheese “salad” and tomato basil soup accompanied by a classic margarita.

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Panela cheese with cucumber, baby corn, and a dried tomato vinaigrette.

Our main course was a fantastic smoked tuna topped with a foam made from avocado and Gran Patron Platinum. I’d like to try making a tequila and avocado sauce at home, I’d probably add a little kick by way of Jalapeno though! This came with my favorite of the cocktails, the Abejorro, a refreshing tequila cocktail with watermelon, honey, and ginger.

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Smoked tuna with avocado and tequila foam. Served with a side of rice and a little bit of beet.
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Abefjorro cocktail; watermelon, ginger, honey with Patron tequila.

For dessert we tried an apple crisp with homemade agave ice cream. The ice cream took me by surprise, the agave has a flavor close to honey yet very distinct. It actually took me a few bites to adjust to the agave flavor but once I did I loved it! I would love to see agave ice cream at my local ice cream shop. This came with Guadalajara cocktail which sounded intriguing with Patron Pietra, grapefruit bitters, pink pepper, and agave nectar but was just too sweet for me.

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Apple crisp with agave ice cream.
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The Guadalajara cocktail.

Cantina La Reforma Uno

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The molcajete we started with. This one has meat, chorizo sausage, cheese, onion, and salsa.

This restaurant is found on the beaten path at the Hilton Guadalajara. We started off with molcajetes again as well as a variety of sopes, quesadillas, and salsas. This time I was brave enough to try the dried cricket quesadilla. The flavor wasn’t an issue but I did find it to be dry and dusty feeling in my mouth.

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Fried quesadilla al pastor.

For dinner I ordered a fried quesadilla al pastor, I loved the homemade tortilla but the cheese seemed a little dry. I also ordered the shrimp aguachile, very similar to ceviche this is one of my favorites and you don’t see it at too many places. Theirs was good and spicy, excatly what I wanted! The winner though was the mummy shrimp, shrimp stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon! Need I say more?

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Aquachile.
Mummy shrimp.
Mummy shrimp.

For dessert we had a trio of cakes; rich chocolate, tres leches, and cheese tart with figs. The chocolate was fantastic but the tres leches was probably my favorite of the three.

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Chocolate cake.
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Cheese tart with figs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tres Leches cake.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food on the trip. I even got outside of my comfort zone by trying the crickets! It was a very quick trip so next time I hope to get out any try some local street food.

Spotlight on Silverlake Ramen and Kush Sake Bar in Los Angeles

Silverlake Ramen is my go to place for some super tasty ramen. Located in a strip mall the restaurant is humble in presentation but mighty in taste. They simmer their broth for 16 hours, so when it comes to your table it is the creamiest soup you’ve ever had. I always go for the tonkatsu ramen with perfectly crispy pork belly.

Silverlake Ramen
2927 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Regular tonkatsu ramen with pork belly.
Regular tonkatsu ramen with pork belly.

I love heat so I get the spicy one to which they’ve added their house chili paste. They don’t take reservations so expect to wait for a table. My suggestion is heading around the corner for drinks at The Thirsty Crow (happy hour until 8pm!), just make sure someone from your party pops over to make sure you don’t miss your table. Try it with edamame or if you’re really hungry you can get a combo of ramen, any bowl, and salad for only $3.75 more.

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Sake and edamame at Kush Sake Bar.

If you don’t want to wait or want ramen with some other tasty morsels head over to their smaller and fancier sister restaurant Kush Sake Bar in Echo Park. They have the same ramen albeit slightly smaller servings.

Kush Sake Bar
1356 Allison Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Spicy tonkatsu ramen with pork belly at Kush.
Spicy tonkatsu ramen with pork belly at Kush.

Stop in early for happy hour beer and food specials or enjoy one of their sakes anytime. The highlight of Kush is their selection of yakitori or bite size skewered morsels. My personal favorites are the brussel sprouts, bacon wrapped scallops, and wagyu beef on a rock salt plate.

Asparagus and bacon wrapped scallops with anchovy sauce.
Asparagus and bacon wrapped scallops with anchovy sauce.
Brissel sprouts with truffle oil.
Brissel sprouts with truffle oil and a selection of dipping sauce and spices.

Also not to be missed are the buns. I never fail to get a pork bun which is one of the most moist and flavorful bites I’ve ever enjoyed.

The Kush pork bun with marinated pork belly, pickled onion, and sesame mayo.
The Kush pork bun with marinated pork belly, pickled onion, and sesame mayo.

Fortunately the weather is starting to cool down and soon it will be perfect ramen weather in Los Angeles. Make sure to head out to Kush or Silverlake Ramen and get your ramen on!

Christina’s Trip to New Orleans

I recently got to visit New Orleans for the second time and of course the food there is something to love… Rich, often fried, and a fantastic drinking companion, the food you can get in New Orleans speaks to the combination of cultures in the area. Here a few of the spots I tried during my trip.

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NOLA Poboys at 908 Bourbon St. in the French Quarter is close to Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop and open late. Just look at that extensive menu! The food was so good that we found ourselves back there for a second round. The etouffe and gumbo were deemed some of the best we tried. They aren’t messing around with portion sizes either, the 16″ poboys are more than enough for 2 people. I didn’t love every poboy that we tried but I will vouch for the “Who Dat” which is fried shrimp or oyster smothered in bisque. You must try  the etouffe, gumbo, and boudin balls (fried sausage and rice balls).

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Chartres House is close to Jackson square at 601 Chartres St. and a nice little spot with options to sit on their upstairs balcony and watch the foot traffic. (New Orleans is fantastic people watching, I recommend hanging out on a few balconies.) We tried the spinach artichoke dip that was served with crispy bowtie pasta instead of chips, an idea I never would have come up with but thoroughly enjoyed. We also had to have a sampler plate with the red beans and rice, jambalaya, and chicken and andouille gumbo each of which were fantastic!

IMG_2841The Original Pierre Masperos at 440 Chartres St. was one of our day drinking pit stops where we tried their Cajun bloody mary. Made with house infused vodka it packed a punch and the bar provided a nice respite from the outside hubub. Our bartender was fantastic, great hospitality here! Take in some history as you enjoy your cocktail as this is also one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter. In it’s early days as a coffee exchange it was the meeting place of men such as Andrew Jackson and Jean and Pierre Lafitte.IMG_2843

Expect to wait for a table at Coop’s Place located at 1109 Decatur St. The fried chicken here is fantastic and also comes with a side of their super tasty jambalaya and coleslaw. The other bonus to Coop’s is if you come here on a slower night (our first visit was a Thursday) you get a lot of local color.

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Cafe Envie and Espresso Bar is part breakfast place and part cafe on the edge of the French Quarter near the Marigny at 1241 Decatur St. You can get your latte, pastries, a full breakfast or just op for this breakfast in a to go cup. Sausage, bacon, hash browns, eggs, and grits all in a convenient Styrofoam cup make for the perfect portable hang over meal.

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My one regret is that we didn’t get back to Napolean House for a second meal. Located at 500 Chartres St. they serve up Pimm’s cups and NOLA food favorites. Their muffaletta was one of the best things I had the entire trip and even beat out some of the other muffaletta I had. The muffaletta sandwich was conceived in New Orleans by Sicilian immigrants and the name comes from the bread of the same name. Our group also gave rave reviews to Napolean House’s red beans and rice and the duck poboy.

This is only a small selection of the fabulous food we tried in New Orleans and an even smaller look at all that is available there. I look forward to trying more places in future trips and traveling further beyond the French Quarter! What is your favorite place in New Orleans that I should try next time?

Los Balcones Del Peru in Hollywood, CA

Recently I tried the Peruvian cuisine of recently remodeled Los Balcones in Hollywood. The family run spot has been in it’s current location for 9 years but they have been bringing Peruvian eats to the area for almost 20 years. They boast a full bar and lots of great options for food and drink. The recent remodel is wonderful, the inside of the restaurant is warm and inviting and I love the succulent garden on the walls outside. Of course I sat at the bar and started with some fantastic cocktails. The first drink I tried was the Tipsy Jalapeno a margarita made with El Jimador tequila, fresh jalapeno, lime juice & rosemary. You can also choose to have it made with pisco, a Peruvian brandy that mixes well and makes a great substitute in tequila cocktails.

Los Balcones Del Peru
1360 Vine Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028
http://losbalconesperu.com

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While I sipped on my drink I enjoyed their sweet potato chips with their aji verde sauce. The aji verde was one of my favorite things, not too spicy and full of flavor!IMG_6217

 

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Of course I had to have a pisco sour, one of the more common pisco cocktails. Like any sour it is shaken with lime, sugar, egg whites, and finished with bitters.

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The last cocktail I tried was the Watermelon Express with watermelon, lime, pineapple and a choice of rum or pisco (I chose pisco).

IMG_6215For my main course I had the lomo saltado which was recommended by a few people. It is sauteed sirloin with tomato, onion, and fries. I was offered rice also but declined since I was already getting pretty full. This dish was so flavorful and super filling! The food here really works well for sharing if you are dining out with a few friends or family.

There is no way on earth I had room left for dessert so I will have to leave that for my next visit. I definitely want to try the picarones, a sweet potato beignet. The service during my visit was fantastic. I enjoyed chatting with the bartender, he had really great recommendations and was very attentive. If you plan on visiting make sure you park next door at the K&L Wines/FedEx lot, they do validate!
Los Balcones Del Peru Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato