Girls on Food

Christine Beligan

I was born in the Philippines and came to live in Los Angeles with my family when I was 3 years old. I grew up mostly eating Filipino Food, Asian Cuisines, and some American comfort foods. I remember us hosting so many parties when I was kid because my Mom was a well known cook amongst our family and friends. Plus, she is from a province in the Philippines called Tarlac and they are known to be great cooks. I started learning how to cook Filipino food in my 20’s, and creating my own versions of adobo, pancit, lumpia, turon, and pineapple chicken. Then I started to create dishes in my mind and cook from there. It wasn’t until my teens that I developed a palate for Italian cuisine, which is my favorite. I began to taste any Italian restaurant that was recommended to me. In the last few years, I have developed a love of going out to dine, and trying new places. It keeps it interesting. I met fellow foodies in the last year who have helped me to develop my palate. I would have never tried Octopus on my own, but there is this one restaurant that turned me on to Grilled Spanish Octopus, Citizen Kitchen by Chef Zach Geerson. I think by attending his wine pairing dinners that I have gone to, it has helped me to enjoy wonderful flavors that I may not have thought would go together. It’s those types of dining experiences that made me hunger for more. It has created this passion inside me to be more bold and daring to accept what is not the norm. With that said I am looking forward to future encounters with Chefs that will blow my mind with their work of art and vision.

Media Tasting: La Fête In West Hollywood

IB Hospitality Founder and Restaurateur Rohan Talwar, the team behind West Hollywood favorite Norah, introduced the neighborhood to an inventive extension, a cocktail bar called La Fête. This intimate addition to Norah is perfect for a French cocktail before or after your dinner.

La Fête
8277 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046
https://www.lafetelosangeles.com/

The cocktail menu, by Bar Director Dave Kupchinsky, brings a beautiful blend of France and California to his beverages. Instagammers, make sure you have your cell phone handy for their flower wall. I predict it’ll be on everyone’s feed soon!

But first, let me take a selfie! The Floral Wall is too perfect.

The first drink I had was the La Julep, a more Parisian take on a classic Mint Julep. Instead of mint, this vibrant, crushed ice cocktail is mixed with dry vermouth, Cherry Eau de Vie, house made raspberry thyme cordial, Salers Aperitif, and verjus. It’s light, not overly sweet from the Cherry Eau de Vie. It’s so easy-to-drink that you’ll probably crave another right after one sip.

La Julep

The La Daiq cocktail is very tart, but this is the perfect cocktail for those of you who love sour cocktails (personally, I prefer the sweeter ones). It reminded me of a Lemon Drop in a coupe cocktail glass. It consists of Rhum JM, Plantation 3 Star Rum, Calvados, Kaffir Lime Cordial, and lime. Perfect for fans of the pucker!

The bar was lively, packed with LA’s most prominent influencers in the foodie/cocktail scene. It was so much fun to watching Kupchinsky shake up two libations; La Spritz and La Frappé.

These two drinks are gorgeous, but I preferred the La Spritz, with Litlet Rose, Rhubarb-Sage Gastrique, Tonic and Cava. The La Frappé, with absinthe, dry vermouth, homemade matcha coconut crème, pineapple, and fresh orange juice is sort of like a licoricey Daiquiri. Those of you with a taste for a French-Polynesian sip would love it. 

The show-stopper of the evening for me (see video above) was the La Side Piece, which includes Bache Gabrielsen Cognac, Cointreau and Lemon Verbena. The Cognac isn’t so strong when mixed with these ingredients, since the lemon defuses the flavor. It makes for a lovely slow-sipping drink.

La Tuxedo, which is a part of their Martini Service, is for those who love a more stiff drink. This powerful concoction has Sipsmith, VJOP Gin, La Quintinye Dry Vermouth, Maraschino, Absinthe, and Orange Bitters. It also comes with a side car for extra pours and a side of house marinated Kalamata, Picholine and Castelvetrano olives.

La Tuxedo

My final drink for the night with the Pastis Special #1, a mix of Pastis, Strawberry Cordial, and soda. I am usually not a big fan of licorice, but since that pungent flavor was toned down with Strawberry Cordial and soda.

Pastis Special #1

Check out La Fête bartender Taemur in the video below! There’s no shortage of entertainment here from the speed-shaking bartenders.

Thank you to Lawrence Moore and Associates for inviting us to this tasting!

Media Tasting: TŪMBI Craft Indian Kitchen in Santa Monica

There’s a new restaurant, blending authentic Indian and haute dishes located in the heart of Santa Monica, that opened a month and a half ago called TŪMBI, owned by RJ Singh and menu by Chef Ali Imran Mookhi. With a modern-industrial interior, designed by Architect Sat Garg, the main room intimately seats about 42 guests and there is a private room that seats 14. This is the perfect location for the Westside of Los Angeles, because on a sunny day, you can also sit on the patio and enjoy some lasi, wine, beers, and craft beers.

TŪMBI
115 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica CA 90401
https://tumbibar.com/

Singh has been in the hospitality industry most of his life, but after traveling all over India, tasting foods from every avenue from street food to 5-star restaurants, he created the Tantra in Silver Lake and India’s Oven, and is the owns SIRTAJ Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Me and my Pani Puri

I tasted 6 categories from the menu- Start, Street, Tandoor, Dosa, Pot, and Sides. The Pani Puri comes in a shot glass, which is a fun way to enjoy this street dish. It’s a puff pastry, with mung bean, chickpea, and shallots with tamarind-mint water in the shot glass. To enjoy this, remove the puff pastry from the shot glass and pour the liquid into the puff pastry. Then swirl it around pop the whole juicy, spicy pastry into your mouth.

Heirloom Tomato & Caramelized Pineapple

Our next dish reminded me of an Indian version of caprese. The Heirloom Tomato & Caramelized Pineapple has turmeric yogurt, crispy shallots, and mustard oil. Since it’s so light, this is a great dish to have for those who want to watch their figure.

The Roasted Beet Soup had my favorite style of presentation. A heather blue bowl is dressed with shallots, curry leaf, and garlic. Next, they pour over the orange malai-yogurt, which is blood red and is striking in color. Although this was “mild” in spiciness, but for me it was still a bit too spicy. However, the plating made it worth a try.

The Butter Chicken is my favorite dish here, I took one bite and I was in heaven. It is juicy, tender, and flavorful. The Chef Ali uses juicy boneless leg meat and pairs it with a butter tomato curry. One bite and my eyes lit up because it literally touched my soul. This is when I knew I needed to come back in, I think it’s going to be their most popular dish.

The second dish that I would recommend is the Bihari Smoked Kabob. When Chef Ali walked over with the wood platter and glass cover, I sensed a meaty, spicy fragrance would emerge. You can see the smoke hovering over the butchers beef kabob and as he lifts the cover it swirls around over the meat.

The Super Size Paper Dosa is a rice & lentil crepe and served with sambar, coconut and tomato chutney. You can eat it with or without the dipping sauces- it is just as tasty plain. This definitely gets a lot of attention with their customers because of its massive size.

Other fantastic dishes I sampled include: Goan Prawn Masala, Delhi Khumb Korma, Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi and Dal Bhukara. So come on in and check out this ultra chic and innovative Indian restaurant, and delve into Chef Ali’s wonderful dishes, the food is unequivocally divine. Thank you so much to Kim Koury of Spin PR for the invite.

Brunch at Firefly in Studio City

Imagine sitting on the patio on a beautiful sunny day. You feel relaxed and calm as you stare into the gleaming fire pit and admire your surroundings. You notice the colorful orange drapes along the concrete column with vines sprawling across the arches. You can smell the aroma of a variety of enticing scents coming from the main brunch room; bacon, omelets, brisket and smoked salmon.

Firefly
11720 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
http://www.fireflystudiocity.com/

Central Fireplace

Firefly launched their buffet brunch about a month and a half ago and starts from 10 am-3 pm. It’s $38 per person and also include a small glass of Wycliff Champagne, something nice to cleanse your palate before you begin your journey into the main library room. My mind races thinking “where shall I begin?” Do I start with the omelet station first or the Turkey and Brisket or do I cut down to the middle? You have to have a game plan if you know you are eating at a buffet and I made sure to wear the correct attire (stretchy pants). For my first plate, I started out with the meats. There was brisket with chimichurri sauce, charcuterie servings, smoked salmon, and cheeses. To counterbalance the meats, I added some cauliflower curry, rambutan, beets drizzled with goat cheese, ceviche, and avocado toast. I wanted to make sure that I could finish my first plate while savoring the delectable flavors.

Charcuterie
Mini Ceviche

Surprisingly, I finished everything and was ready to go for round two. It was time to engage in seafood and pastries. I really loved the ceviche and noticed it was all gone. They were served finely diced in small clear cups, which is definitely not your normal ceviche size, but if you want more, just let your server know like I did. Fatimah, my server, was so sweet to bring me more. The smoked salmon here was the best I have had since my trip to Alaska in 2010 as it wasn’t as salty like most I have tried in Los Angeles. Now onto the pastries and customizing my own yogurt. I think that is a great idea to have these clear cups with yogurt and you can add raspberries, blueberries, and oats.

Customized Yogurt

Be sure to check out this new brunch and see for yourself!

A Preview of the New Menu at Crossings In South Pasadena

When I think of Pasadena and what it is known for, I immediately picture the Rose Bowl, Huntington Library, Norton Simon Museum and JPL. Pasadena has a lot of history, and that’s what makes the city so great. I used to live in South Pasadena and have long admired the architect and design. Crossings, located in the Edwards and Faw building on Missions Street, has been around since 1908. That’s 110 years that it has withstood the test of time, very impressive. At a private dinner to preview the menu this week, I was told that this two-story restaurant (with a split level wine cellar!) was once a bottling company. It’s no wonder the restaurant boasts a classic chic and elegant 1940’s style!

Crossings
1010 Missions Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030
http://crossings-restaurant.com/ 

 

Several other food bloggers and I were initially brought to the first-floor bar to try a few of their cocktails. I decided on the Paradise Lost—a concoction of Tito’s Vodka, fresh pear puree, Giffard’s Elderflower, and lime—as I tend to gravitate more toward the sweet and fruity drinks. This definitely made me feel like I was somewhere tropical. I also tried Ichabod’s Muse, which consists of BuffaloTrade Bourbon, pumpkin puree, lemon, honey, and cinnamon and the sweet, bold flavor tasted quite pleasant. Jessie, our mixologist, certainly knows how to craft the perfect cocktail!

Paradise Lost
Ichabod’s Muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kumamoto Oysters

After we drank our cocktails, we headed to the second floor where we sat at a table of 9 food bloggers including myself. I already had a notion of what dishes to expect, but Chef Malone Jr. surprised us with an amuse bouche which just so happened to be my favorite type of oysters. These Kumamoto oysters were served with finger lime, mignonette foam, and mint—an excellent start to dinner. Paired with Henri Maire Cremant from Jura. 🇫🇷

Hamachi Verde

Next up was the Hamachi Verde. It was so soft and tender and as one slice laid upon my palate, my mouth became filled with a heavenly sensation. Chef Malone used snap agua chile, kaffir lime, cucumber, and serrano and that gave it a lovely flavor as can be verified with all those who feasted upon it. Paired with 2015 Keunts Bas Pino Blanc from Alsace 🇩🇪

Roasted Sunchokes

Then we had the Roasted Sunchokes. If you’re not familiar with sunchokes, they are the root of a sunflower, native to Eastern North America. Apparently, if you eat too many it will help cleanse your system very thoroughly. The chef roasted the sunchokes and used an orange glaze and habanero sauce to caramelize these roots. This gave it an amazing texture and is very addicting after every bite. I grew even more excited, because I knew the next two dishes were going to be the best! Paired with 2015 Armand Kabinett Riesling from Pfalz 🇩🇪

Hamachi Collar

Bright with sunflower petals and cured blood orange skins, paired with a side of pibil, creme fraiche and a plate of Fresno chili and tortillas was the most colorful Hamachi Collar I have ever seen. The well-prepared meat easily came off the collarbone and paired perfectly with the tortillas and Fresno chili for a pretty fancy taco. Paired with 2015 Stolpman La Cuadrilla Grenache/Syrah/Sangiovese from Santa Ynez-Ballard Canyon AVA, CA 🇺🇸

Wagyu Navel

Now for my favorite dish of the night, Wagyu Navel. I was so curious about the ash, charcoal potatoes, soubise, and burnt leek in this dish. It was phenomenal! I savored every bite and took my time enjoying the flavors resonating in my mouth. I mentioned to Chef Malone that I hope it stays on the menu. Paired with 2013 Ramírez de la Piscina Crianza Tempranillo from Rioja 🇪🇸

Pot de Creme

We were nearing the end and our last and final tasting came before us as Pot de Creme. It was well done with the puffed rice and saltiness mixed in the horchata foam over the ancho chili and espresso. Some were ready to steal the plates of those who were taking their time eating their dessert.

Over the course of the evening, I learned that Chef Malone moved from Boston to California to ski when he was just 18 years old. Though he learned about cooking from his father, he was a pro skier for a bit before he found his passion for cooking—which he now shares with us! I loved this updated take on classic American steakhouse cuisine and I know the Crossings regulars will welcome it too!

The Bountiful Sunday Brunch at Habana in Irvine, CA

Habana, a beloved restaurant among locals to Costa Mesa for over 20 years, just opened a new location in Irvine. This lavish new spot opened its doors to the public a couple months ago and after scoping out the images of the design on Google, I couldn’t turn down an invite to taste their brunch.

Executive Chef Alex Moreno tells me that this has been a 3-year long project to get the second location running, but good things come to those who wait!

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Burger City Grill in Torrance, CA

Do you ever wonder where the word burger derived? I decided to look it up and sure enough Hamburg, Germany is the home of the first hamburger, made from a Hamburg steak (this blend consists of three muscles: chest, shoulder, and back). German immigrants in New York brought the steak into restaurants, then it naturally took a turn during the Industrial Revolution and became more Americanized. It was served first to industrial workers as a “steak” from a food cart. Workers found it hard to eat while standing so this unknown innovator decided to put the meat between two slices of bread. How ingenious, right?

My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard…

Growing up burgers have always been revered as America’s favorite food. I grew up first with Mc Donald’s, In-N-Out, Carl’s Junior, Jack In The Box, Burger King and Fat Burger. I thought those were the best back then. Then over the years Umami, Fuddruckers, Five Guys, Smashburger, Steak N’ Shake and Shake Shack emerged and elevated the burger game.

Now there’s a new player in Southern California that has been around for seven years, Burger City Grill. I went to their newest location in Torrance, which has been open since January 2017. What’s great about this fast food restaurant is that you have the choice to build your own Hamburger or to choose from the preset menu. Always good to keep options open.

 

Burger City Grill
3605 Artesia Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504
http://burgercitygrill.com/

After a carnivorous trip to Texas, I laid off meat for a week to be sure I would really savor the burgers here. So, when I took that first bite of that juicy burger, it was extra special.

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Doma Kitchen in Marina Del Rey

Although the Westside of LA has plenty of restaurants to choose from, there is a lack in restaurants not owned by corporate chains. I was craving some serious comfort food with that “made from scratch” taste. When I read about Doma Kitchen, I knew it be a great spot to check out, cause “doma” translates into “home” in Slavic. I decided to drop by and taste their take on Eastern European and Central Asian inspired dishes.

Doma Kitchen
4325 Glencoe Ave #8, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
http://www.domakitchen.com/

Owner Angelika Corrente and her little Doma baby

What I love about the space is that it has a duality in character, it has a rustic and a modern feel. The main room gives off a casual vibe with small tables and one raised communal table. In the second room, you feel like you’re in someone’s home.

I am so glad to have met the owner Angelika Corrente because you get to understand the reason and creation of how and why Doma came to be. Chef Kristina Miksyte is a Lithuanian native who supplies Doma Kitchen with all their fantastic dishes.

 

 

Chicken Pelmont Soup

I was there at lunchtime and you can choose from either the brunch menu or the regular menu during that time. If you want to try the best dumpling soup (that I now crave constantly!) order the Chicken Pelmont Soup. These ground chicken dumplings are in a delightful, savory broth topped with fresh dill. It’s the type of soup that makes you just want to drink the soup from the bowl and forget the spoon!

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Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in Santa Monica

When I hear the word “tavern”, my mind takes me back to a bar scene from the TV Show, Cheers. Picture a dimly-lit, confined space with bar stools that make you slouch and not much else to look at. While there’s certainly a time and a place for divey spots like this, there’s also a time and a place to step it up a notch.

Case in point: recently opened Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, a modern neighborhood restaurant. The spacious, extended patio overlooks the Loews Hotel, JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot and Santa Monica Pier. I checked out JFAT on Ocean Avenue’s Day at the Races earlier in May and tasted the Southwestern Dip and Mint Julep. This time around I tasted a lot more.

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern 
1733 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401
http://j-fat.com/locations/santa-monica/ 

Spicy Ahi Poke

Poke is a personal favorite of mine. I have flashbacks of being in Oahu and walking along the beach. The addition of papaya to this Spicy Ahi Poke added more island flair to this appetizer. After one bite I found myself compulsively searching airfare prices to Hawaii.

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Ocean Avenue’s Day At The Races

Ocean Avenue’s Day At The Races, was a culinary walking tour jam-packed with food, drinks and entertainment. Select Santa Monica restaurants, located within walking distance, such as Del Frisco’s, Red O, O+O Sicilian Kitchen and Bar, Chez Jay, Jimmy’s Famous Tavern, and Herringbone and also the Loews Hotel come together and celebrate the Kentucky Derby. Proceeds went to the Surfrider Foundation, which is an organization that is dear to me.

Ahi Tacos by Del Frisco’s

Surfrider Foundation helps protect our beaches and to keep our waters clean. I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with three core volunteers Summer, Josh and Graham from the West Los Angeles Malibu Chapter. My son has participated in beach clean ups before for Dock Weiler (#proudmomma!) so I was happy for him to meet others who are noble in their care for beaches as well.

We were given a card that mapped out all 7 places we needed to visit and had to have checked off on our list. Once you complete the card, you have the opportunity to bring it back to the main booth at Del Frisco’s and be entered in a drawing to win a night stay at The Shore Hotel. Who wouldn’t want to win staying at a cool, chic and hip hotel right on Ocean Avenue?

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Ocean Avenue’s Day at the Races: Celebrating The Kentucky Derby and Raising Funds for the Surfrider Foundation

How can you not get excited for a culinary crawl that celebrates the Kentucky Derby and raises funds for the Surfrider Foundation? I know I am!

Restaurants and hotels along Santa Monica’s premier oceanfront street come together for Ocean Avenue’s Day at the Races, a culinary walking tour to celebrate the Kentucky Derby and raise funds for the Surfrider Foundation on Saturday, May 6, from 12-5 p.m.

Come out and support by purchasing a ticket for $40 here (a portion on all ticket sales will benefit Surfrider Foundation).

This crawl will begin at Del Frisco’s Grille with their signature Ahi Tuna Tacos and a complimentary Mint Julep courtesy of American Born. Then we’ll trot along for food and drink tastings at each of the participating locations and watch the race at 3:34 p.m.

Food offerings include classic Sicilian meatballs at O+O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar. Julianne recently checked out this new-ish spot and I’m excited to try all the Sicilian goodness myself! Then we’ll race off to try Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales at Red O, Oysters Rockefeller at Herringbone, Chicken and Beef Empanadas at Shore Hotel and more. 

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Venice Art Crawl Presents Music Connects Us: Photography & Art Show

The Venice Art Crawl, a music fundraiser organized by an all-volunteer non-profit organization that is part of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, took place outside of Venice for the first time. Now in its seventh year, the art crawl has moved to Runway at Playa Vista, not too far from the beach. The 3800 square foot installation space is connected to Hal’s Bar & Grill, which used to be located in Abbott Kinney. Funds raised will go to preserving the arts of Venice and keeping it alive within the community. Over 70 artists had their work displayed, and DJs Arabian Prince and Betty Nguyen spun their jams in the background.

The moment I walked into the Runway at Playa Vista, I naturally gravitated to Neely Shearer, an author and curator who was welcoming to guests. She showed me the ropes around this event. I saw several pieces of art displayed I found interesting. Local and international artists, in addition to street artists, were represented. 

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