Girls on Food

Brunch

Take Me, I’m Yours Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh, NC

Recently, food halls have been popping up all over the country. When I heard Raleigh was getting not one, but two, my immediate reaction was “great, a glorified mall food court” because really, when was the last time you felt cool eating at the food court, amiright? But there are a couple huge differences at play here, so put your worries aside!

First, food courts are so often chains and standard fare. Morgan Street Food Hall & Market is, for the most part, neither. Rolled ice cream anyone? Poke bowls, empanadas, and ramen were the first things to catch my eye. Cousins Maine Lobster (the only option I would consider a chain) is slightly more accessible here, and with a lot more seating options! The line is still out the door but with a beer in hand and a bustling crowd, a far cry from the hot food truck rodeo lines you’re usually waiting in! Last time I tried that, I was “red as a lobster” by the time I ordered my Connecticut lobster roll!

Raleigh Rolls rolled ice cream, which is a treat for all! (yeah, I shared with the baby!)

When you first walk into Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll see a bustling crowd and tons of seating options, from picnic tables to couches and arm chairs, and finally, 4 top tables with chairs. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, with a couple bars to frequent as thirst arises. There are 18 dining options, ranging from southern to Mediterranean to Asian; comfort food and hangover food and on to desserts and bubble tea. For our family, this is the perfect place for all of our meals out: we have 2 picky preschoolers who think the margarita pizza at Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas is out of this world (and less than $10, thank you!).

For me, I get the “adventurous” foods I can’t talk the whole family into – ramen and poke bowls, while hubby gets to fill up on empanadas, which he loves! We have an Italian au pair living with us this year, and she has enjoyed working her way through the options Morgan Street has at her disposal. Currently, her heart resides in Raleigh.

I’ve now eaten at Morgan Street 3 times. Hubs and I met a group of friends here one night before an Umphrey’s McGee concert downtown. There were a lot of empanadas and some curry plates, a kick ass looking pizza, a whole lot of beer, and my amazing delicious tuna poke bowl, with fresh tuna on their California bowl (from The Bowls), loaded with amazingness and topped with avocado! It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

So the next weekend, a girlfriend and I met up there, and she got ramen and I went back to The Bowls for round 2 – this time trying their spicy tuna on the Malibu bowl, which has spicy seaweed salad in it. The biggest difference was that the tuna was chopped up instead of chunks, so I would probably go regular tuna in the future.

We also ventured over to the bar, and I tried the Deep River Brewing Company’s (out of Clayton, NC) pumpkin pie porter, which was oh, so good and also very seasonal! It was delicious after a long afternoon of shopping and enjoying the suddenly cooler temps here in NC! Finally (maybe the first finally), we waited in line at Cocoa Forte Desserts for chocolate dipped cheesecake, which we were saving for when we got home, and then I talked my friend into trying out Raleigh Rolls, the rolled ice cream place! It’s a little bit Coldstone Ceamery (you get to choose 3 flavors that go into your ice cream, and then 3 flavors for the toppings) meets a sushi roll (because in the end, they hand you a bowl with 6 rolls of ice cream). So good news – you can sub flavors – I subbed in coffee flavoring for the graham cracker in my s’mores ice cream, and it was the.best.thing.ever! Little man ate way too much but also thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for sharing my ice cream with him, ha! (Verdict on cheesecake – its on a stick, so go ahead and eat it immediately. I waited a few hours to eat mine, and it fell apart really fast. Pretty sure it was user error though).

So the next day, my hubs was still out of town (he went on Phish tour last weekend), and I needed to provide food for my little ones for the 4th day in a row. So…I started thinking about that pizza, and the fact that cow burger has hot dogs. Surely they could find something to eat…

Here’s the deal – I was nervous to bring a 5 year old and a 3 year old and a 5 month old into such a busy place. But…they loved it! My son is begging to go back, my daughter can’t stop talking about the ice cream, and the baby slept thru the thing. We also found an awesome place for our family photos in 2 weeks. So all in all, a great trip. I will send you all day every day to Bella’s pizza – it was incredible, and the kids ate every bite of that pizza. I loved the portion size of the burgers (I got the classic cheeseburger) and I’d heard great things about it, but I would definitely trust your gut on that place. First, the line took F O R E V E R which I’m not really into, and wouldn’t have waited in it but our au pair and I both wanted a burger so we stuck with it. Second, we waited F O R E V E R for our buzzer to ring. Like it took the entire time the pizza cooked to wait in the line and order. Then the kids ate the whole pizza. And I took them back over to Raleigh rolls and waited for someone to turn melted ice cream into frozen ice cream rolls, and then the buzzer sounded as I was paying for them. So the burgers were delicious, great bun to burger ratio, and overall very satisfying, but with so many faster options, I’m not sure I would wait for it again.

Also, pro tip – if you have a picky child who only eats vanilla ice cream (I know, I know, its super weird but what I’m dealing with right now), there is another small ice cream scoop place in the food hall. Don’t waste your $7 on plain vanilla with a tiny sprinkling of rainbow sprinkles. Spend that money on the whole experience and all the toppings, and get Sir Picky something from the cheaper place!

So final verdict – run, don’t walk, to the Morgan Street Food Hall if you’re in Raleigh. Bring an appetite. Check out the unusual places, especially the bowls, the broth, and curry in a hurry, and take the time to wait in line for Raleigh Rolls! I’m looking forward to heading down there again next weekend after the International Festival to try out some new places!

Belcampo Santa Monica Serves Up One Of The Meatiest Brunches In LA

Since 2015, Belcampo has supplied Santa Monica locals with classic Californian farm-to-table dishes and a local butcher shop. With a recent remodeling, Belcampo is looking fully refreshed and ready to cater to the Westside brunch crowd.

Belcampo Santa Monica
1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
https://belcampo.com/restaurant/santamonica/

Belcampo practices Regenerative Farming, meaning their approach is holistic, rejecting pesticides, artificial fertilizers and aims to enhance ecosystem services. All of the meats and eggs served are organic, grass fed, from their farm in Yreka, California, near the Shasta River. They raise their animals on their own farm, operate a USDA-inspected and Animal Welfare Approved processing facility, and sell their meat in their own restaurants and butcher shops.

The colorful bar brings instant feel good vibes when you arrive. There’s an ample selection of cocktails and creative non-alcoholic beverages too.

Looks are very deceiving with their Bloody Mary (I recommend celery infused vodka). As you can see, it’s not that canned tomato juice base, it’s actually a clarified tomato juice, giving it a thinner appearance, but it’s just as flavorful and more refreshing than a traditional BM.

The Santa Monica Egg Cream is their dreamiest, creamiest beverage. Although it’s called an egg cream, there’s actually no eggs, the foam is made with coconut cream for a rich texture. This beverage will make you feel like you’re drinking a Pina Colada and want to get caught in the rain.

The Classic Beef Tartare is a must-order item. Start by dipping grilled bread into the egg yolk custard, then top with minced beef sirloin and greens. If you’re dining solo, I recommend making this your biggest priority.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the Pancakes, which happen to be gluten-free, will be right up your alley. Topped with a citrus jam, strawberry butter and fresh fruit, these cakes are so fluffy and are perfect to pair with any meatier dish.  

For those of you on the Keto diet, Belcampo has you covered. The Keto Breakfast Bowl packed, with bacon, 2 fried Belcampo farm eggs, kale, avocado, tomato is dressed with pistachio dressing. It’s high fat, low carb but it’s a larger bowl to keep you full.

Other fantastic items include their BLT and their Greek Yogurt. The butcher shop at the front entrance also serves up fresh bone broths for those of you looking for additional protein power.

#girlsonfood Interviews Morgan Riddle of @thehungrybroker

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 12.3K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Morgan Riddle of @thehungrybroker. What struck me the most about her Instagram feed is all the drool-worthy pics of food and NYC images that also capture the city! Below, we talk about making the move to the Big Apple, working in real estate and more!

GOF: What prompted the move from Minneapolis to NYC?

MR: I actually moved to New York for college. Minneapolis is a big city but after living there for 18 years it started to feel a bit small and NYC had been a dream of mine since I was a little girl!

GOF: I see you’re a coffee addict! What’s your favorite kind of coffee beverage and any favorite cafes in the city?

MR: Total coffee addict. I’ve actually tried to quit a few times but grabbing an iced coffee in the morning on the way to work is just such a ritual into my daily routine now that my whole day feels off if I don’t stop for a cup! And if I’m running late or something my office has nitro cold brew on tap which is too hard to pass up. My favorite coffee shops I’ve discovered are Irving Farm in Greenwich Village or Puerto Rico Importing Co who wholesales to a ton of places in the city, but they also have a cute little coffee bar at the back of the shop!

Morgan Riddle

GOF: Do you have any favorite foodie discoveries from working as an NYC Real Estate Agent?

MR: I’m always grabbing food on the go while running to showings or going to meet clients. My exclusive listings are primarily in Soho and Nolita, so I have my go-to’s there. Salud on Thompson St in Soho is an adorable little latin smoothie and salad shop that I go to at least once a week!

GOF: Sweets or savories?

MR: Savory all the way! I’ve never had a huge sweet tooth and always find my biggest cravings to be carbs like pizza or bagels (good thing I live in NYC). I live a block away from an Artichoke Pizza and Space Market which has some of the best bagels in the city.

GOF: What has been your favorite NYC museum exhibit so far?

MR: “The Dinner Party” at the Brooklyn Museum! The Brooklyn Museum hosts the only feminist art exhibit in the nation. This piece by Judy Chicago is a massive ceremonial dinner set up with 31 plates, each one representing a different woman in history. All of the plates are individually designed to represent each woman. There are also a lot of small fantastically thought out details in the exhibit (such as the table placement is in a triangle to represent equality).

GOF: Was being a “foodie” always a part of your life or did it come later?

MR: Food has always has been a part of my life. My mom hates cooking, she has one meal she makes where she basically takes whatever vegetables are in the fridge, throws it in a pot and calls it “chili.” I’d say we ate out 5-6 times/ week growing up when I was with her and luckily Minneapolis has an AMAZING food scene. On the other hand, my dad is an incredible cook and has an entire bookshelf in the kitchen of cookbooks and Alton Brown on the TV 24/7 so I learned a lot about tasting from him.

French Toast from Daisy Green

GOF: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to make the leap to NYC?  

MR: Network! Success in this city is so much about who you know which is why it’s hard sometimes for people coming from out of town. The plus side of the city is its SO easy to meet people if you get yourself out there, the amount of free events in the city where you can network and make friends is endless.

GOF: Any advice for readers that might be looking for properties in NYC?

MR: Do your research and work with someone who is reliable. The market in NYC maneuvers in very different ways than other places and for those who are renting I know the idea of finding your “first NYC apartment” is totally terrifying! Work with someone who you trust knows the neighborhoods and market well.

GOF: If there’s one thing a client can do to make you very happy as a real estate agent, what would that be?

MR: Be communicative about what you want! It definitely makes it hard for me to find something perfect for someone if they’re still unsure about their priorities when finding a place. Last week I had a client send me a bullet pointed list of exactly what she NEEDED in an apartment and was like “everything else I don’t care about I just need these things” and I was like… amazing. I love you.

Be sure to follow @thehungrybroker and @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

GOF Interview: Chef Ria Barbosa Of PCP DTLA

ROW DTLA, what was once known as the LA Terminal Market, is an industrial oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, packed with contemporary retail and dining spots. Among them is one of the latest additions, Paramount Coffee Project, a Sydney-based coffee shop.

PCP DTLA
777 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
https://pcpdtla.com/

This giant location offers the option to grab beverages to go, space for laptop work and a full dining experience. The modern design, with color-pops of gold and bits of street art, PCP fits in perfectly with ROW DTLA.

Chef Ria Barbosa (Sqirl and Go Get Em Tiger) created both Paramount Coffee Project locations (Fairfax and The Row DTLA) breakfast and lunch menus. The menus merge comfort, seasonal, local and cuisine from Ria’s Filipino upbringing all together.

Pork Collar Sandwich – With Brie & Stonefruit on Baguette

I had a moment to sit with Ria to discuss creating recipes, childhood memories and the LA scene.

Me and Ria

GOF: Since Paramount Coffee Project first opened in Sydney, have you spent time in Australia? Did any items from the land-down-under inspire your menu?

RB: I actually have not been to Australia but I’m familiar with Vegemite! I’ve been introduced to a few native ingredients such as wattle seed and saltbush. They’re pretty amazing. I’ve also been introduced to the sausage roll which I’ve already hybridized with a Filipino lumpia filling that’s on the menu.

Sausage Roll

GOF: Have there been any cultural differences working with Australians?

RB: There’s a lot of pronunciations that we jab each other about such as herbs they pronounce the h, they pronounce tomatoes as to‐mah‐toes, and the like. We have a lot of fun talking about food stories.

I’m originally from the Philippines and the food there is still somewhat new to them so it’s nice to be able to introduce it to them and have them taste it. Because they’re so close to Asia there is already a familiarity with Asian influence so it’s nice to vibe and bounce ideas off of each other. I also love to hear about what Asian influenced foods they grew up eating.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

RB: Often times it’s a food memory I’d like to recreate, or something we’ve tasted or heard about that influences what direction we want to take the original towards. How true to origin we’d like to stay closer to or how conceptual we want to take it. It all depends on how our diners receive it of course. For the most part, we’re approaching food from a very familiar and comforting stance but taken up a notch or two. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Corn Fritter – With Peach Pico De Gallo, Fried Egg, Watercress and Creme Fraiche

GOF: What is your favorite childhood meal and have you ever recreated it on one of your menus?

RB: Summers growing up in California meant weekends in Redondo and my parents would take my siblings and I to eat crab by the pier. I was about 9 or 10 and learned how to pick dungeness crab by myself. We’d order a crab each along with a bunch of lemon and steamed rice. I would clean the whole crab myself, storing the picked meat in the shell of the crab, mixing it with the mustard (guts) and fresh lemon juice and eating it over steamed rice. It was a revelation and a very powerful food memory. It was possibly the first time I learned to balance fat and acid. I recreated it while I was the Chef at Sqirl and it actually made it into the cookbook! It was of course, jazzed up a bit. It impressed Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs who had the dish while they were in town.

GOF: What’s one kitchen tool you think deserves more love?

RB: The humble mortar and pestle. Sure the Robot Coupe or the Vitamix can give you super smooth and delicious things but there’s something about the rustic nature of the mortar and pestle and the texture it lends to whatever you’re making in it.

GOF: Is there one food item on Instagram you’d like to see less of?

RB: I’m going to say it… Avocado toast!

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

RB: These are always tough as it always changes, but off the top of my head, current high end would have to be Rustic Canyon. I’m such a fan of Chef Jeremy Fox and crew’s skills. And favorite lower end spot…I’ve been eating a lot of Mariscos Jalisco lately, it’s so good!

GOF: What is your favorite shop at The Row?

RB: Can there be a tie for first? I’ve really been loving the convenience and the selection at Flask and Field for post work activities and I found the tool box of my dreams at High Tide.

GOF: One item on the menu you’re the most proud of?

RB: They’re all kind of like my kids ‐‐ I’m very proud of all of them. But if I had to choose one, it would be the Eggs & Ham. It’s very simple in nature but the wet brining process and getting it to where it is took about two and a half months. It was still a work in progress when we opened and it was good, but there is always a chance to make things better in my opinion. The same goes for everything else on the menu. I’m always thinking of ways to push it and make it better.

Eggs & Ham – With Baguette House Cured Ham & Spicy Sunny Eggs

The quality of ingredients stood out in the Sausage Roll – the roll comes with a small but powerful side of fresh tarragon, parsley, dill and chevril adding a lightness to the meaty and flaky pastry.

If I had to choose, my top 2 favorite dishes were the Corn Fritter – the peach pico de gallo was beautiful and the onions are sweeter, less overwhelming than traditional pico de gallo and the Eggs & Ham – I can see why this is one of Ria’s proudest dishes, cause when you can take something familiar but elevate it with your own personal spin, it’s really something special. The addition of Bub & Grandma’s baguette is also excellent for dipping into the egg and hot sauce.

Dutch Baby – with seasonal fruit (plum) and creme fraiche

Thank you to Prismatics for arranging this interview. Although this tasting was comped by PCP DTLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Staying At The St. Jane Hotel And Dining At Free Rein In Chicago

My annual summer trip to Chicago was met with a big first for me – it would be the first trip with my 4-month-old daughter Marie! Usually, on my trips, I freely roam the city, restaurant to restaurant doing whatever I please… those days are over.

Now that we’re traveling as a family, I have a lot to consider when looking for a hotel. I wanted to make sure my stay was comfortable for baby Marie, charming to the eye for my husband and food-centric for myself. I was a little nervous about staying at a boutique hotel because I wasn’t sure how baby friendly it would be. Many boutiques I’ve stayed in, tend to be a smaller in bedroom size, with more sophisticated furnishings – great for adults but I need to consider the little one.

We decided to book a junior suite at the St. Jane Hotel, which opened in July, and it delivered on all 3 counts.

This boutique hotel is located in the 37-story Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929. The outside maintains an art deco flair with its black granite and gold accents and the moment you walk in, it feels half Great Gatsby half Lana Del Rey – Jazz age meets hipster chic.

Carbide and Carbon Building
Baby Marie loves the art deco style!

The Premiere Junior Suite is a bit of splurge, but it’s so perfectly spacious that it’s worth it or a family vacation. The astonishing views of the city, a roomy shower (that also has a beautiful city view!) and a big comfy bed are worth the upgrade. Bonus: the toiletries are products by Mason Margiela’s ‘Replica’ Jazz Club line, my all time favorite perfume!

A view from our room at night

St. Jane Hotel’s key restaurant is Free Rein, a modern French brasserie led by chef Aaron Lirette, who obtained a Michelin star for GreenRiver. Free Rein serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a coffee shop, full bar and provides the hotel room service. Here’s how I savored the hotel with an ultimate epicurean stay.

I started the bright and early at their café, which is separated from the main dining room. The coffee is provided by Chicago fan-favorite Dark Matter and pastries by fellow Michelin star collector, pastry chef Evan Sheridan of Sixteen.

The Ham and Cheese Croissant, although not shaped in the classic crescent style, the Ham and Raclette is still flaky, buttery and I loved the addition of mustard on top. I loved my Dark Matter lattes every morning too, but with the time changes and general baby exhaustion, I did fuel up on their Nitro Cold Brews as well.

Ham and Raclette Croissant
Latte

Later on, Chicago Girls on Food blogger Hilary met up with me for lunch, where I was able to get a little break from the family and do what I love to do the most – explore a new restaurant. Highlights from this lunch included:

Sweet Corn Soup– corn, scallion, and coconut

I always love a presentation of soup pouring! 

Kanpachi Crudo– English peas, heart of palm, citrus, caviar 

Soft Shell Crab BLT– Bacon, gem lettuce, Old Bay aioli

Saffron Spaghetti – tomato, fine herbs, parmesan

I loved all of Chef Lirette’s artful takes on American classics for lunch. If I had to choose tops spots, my number 1 was definitely the Soft Shell Crab BLT. This succulent sandwich is paired perfectly with the crispy Old Bay seasoned fries. The Kanpachi Crudo is a close second, it felt like a spot-on execution of “summer on a plate”. For lunch, I recommend washing it all down with a glass of Virtue’s Rosé Cider, it’s crisp, lightly floral but pairs perfectly with any of the dishes above.

Virtue Rosé Cider

For dinner, the lights dim down and it feels a little fancier at Free Rein. The menu expands out to a number of new options, including large format items, intended for sharing.

I started with a glass of Clos des Papes “Le Petit Vin d’Avril” a rich, Rhône blend to pair with decadent dishes. The absolute favorite item was the Foie Gras Tourchon with black truffle, Marcona almonds, cherry compote and summer berries. This item will be available on the Fall menu, so make sure you pop in there soon!

Foie Gras Tourchon

My other favorites included the Tomato Salad, with black garlic, cucumber and sourdough and the large format Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye with chanterelle mushrooms, potato puree, and beef jus.

Tomato Salad
Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye

Staying in a very touristy part of town and relying on the hotel to have extraordinary food sets a bar very high and sometimes isn’t realistic, but Free Rein and the St. Jane Hotel exceeded my expectations.

GOF Tip: The room service menu offers some items from the Free Rein menu – go for the Smoked Whitefish Toast. Since I was watching Marie, it’s nice to have an easy-to-eat but still gourmet meal around!

Baby Marie admiring the gold elevator doors

Although the lunch portion was provided by Free Rein, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Brunch Is In Session At The Old School in Nashville

The Old School
5022 Old Hydes Ferry Pike, Nashville, TN 37218
Website and Instagram

As much as I love to travel and explore new things, I can sometimes become a creature of habit. I tend to revisit my favorite local restaurants and cocktail bars that I know won’t disappoint. Imagine my reaction when one of my dearest friends wanted to brunch “outside the city” in Scottsboro, Tennessee.

“Scottsboro, Tennessee. Where is that?”

“It’s only twenty minutes or so outside the city, like Bells-Bend area. I’ve heard there’s a great restaurant out there. Come on, let’s check it out! ”

(Shaking my head) “You seriously want to leave the city for brunch? Ok, but this better be worth it and you’re driving!”

To this day, my friend continues to give me a hard time about this. Especially given the fact that I have gone subsequent times and The Old School is now one of my favorite Nashville establishments.

The Old School is located approximately twenty minutes outside Nashville and I promise, it’s absolutely worth the drive (and that’s coming from a girl who detests driving). Led by executive chef, Kristie Bidwell and Pastry Chef, Danielle Veit, all of the items at The Old School are sourced directly from The Old School farm or purveyors within a 25-mile radius.

While farm to table is one of the most popular trends in the restaurant industry, I assure you, this is not your typical farm to table restaurant. The Old School “is a unique, historic, culinary destination experience.”  In addition to the farm and restaurant, The Old School has a lovely event space that is perfect for just about anything. From weddings and flower crown making to goat yoga, they have literally done it all.

The Old School supports local farmers and encourages sustainability through an ever-changing menu that highlights hyper-seasonal fruits and vegetables. Aside from sustainable sourcing, they pride themselves on their environmentally conscious practices as The Old School is a prominent member of the Nashville Food Waste Initiative.

After road-tripping an entire twenty minutes (does that even qualify as a road-trip?), we arrived at our destination. Given the fact that we didn’t have a reservation, we made sure that we were approaching the doors exactly at 10:00 a.m. Escorted to our table, I was in absolute disbelief. Is there such as thing as farmhouse-chic? If so, The Old School would receive top prize.  From the sweet bouquets of field flowers, the quaint tables for two and the melodious music from the bluegrass band, everything was just perfect.

Bloody Mary

Given that The Old School uses such hyper-seasonal ingredients, it’s highly unlikely that brunch dishes will remain the same from week to week.  Heck, if a brunch dish is uber-popular on Saturday, there could quite well be small substitutions made on Sunday. It changes THAT much. Heed my advice, if there’s something that you want to try, order it. While there could be a variation of the dish, it’s possible you won’t see it again.

The Old School has a fully stocked bar with several beers on tap as well as classic brunch cocktails. If you only take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s this. ORDER THE BLOODY MARY. It’s bloody BRILLIANT! The bartender uses the seasonal vegetables which range from tomatoes, peppers, onions, you name and then roasts them with various spices to concoct this mix. Once you’ve had this bloody, you won’t want to drink anything else….I don’t.

Goat Cheese Beignets

Pastry Chef Danielle Veit is an absolute mastermind of all things sweet. Before I learned about the Baker’s Basket, I would order small treats like the Goat Cheese Beignets or Cinnamon Roll to snack on throughout the meal. However, after seeing the Baker’s Basket for the first time, I forever changed my ways. This basket is filled with bites both sweet and savory and rest assured you will have a smile on your face. The best part, if you don’t finish you can get a box and enjoy them later.

Baker’s Basket

Take it from this Southern girl, there’s nothing better than The Peach Truck peaches. I have been fortunate to enjoy two dishes created by Chef Bidwell this summer. First, Grilled Peach Truck Peaches with Endive Frisée and secondly the Peach Truck Panzanella. I thoroughly enjoyed both dishes, but if I had to choose a favorite, I’d lean towards the Panzanella. It had these crispy fried red onions that were out of this world. Which dish would you choose?

Grilled Peach Truck Peaches with Endive Frisée
Peach Truck Panzanella

If you don’t have a penchant for peaches, there are plenty of other items on the menu. The Old School offers several smaller dishes in the event that you went a little too crazy on the Baker’s Basket or perhaps just want a lighter meal.

During my last visit, the server recommended the Marinated Baby Heirloom Carrots. Normally, this is not a dish I would gravitate towards, but with his recommendation, I knew it was worth a try. O.M.G. I was a little surprised that the dish was served cold but I really enjoyed the amazing flavors and freshness of the dish.

Marinated Baby Heirloom Carrots

If you prefer sweet over savory breakfast dishes, I can’t recommend the Pain Perdu enough. Talk about a little bite of heaven. These pillowy pieces of bread are covered in blackberries and bourbon powdered sugar and topped with Asiago cheese. I was a little perplexed when I saw that flavor combination on the menu, but it was love at first bite.

Pain Perdu

From brilliant bloody marys, Peach Truck peaches and a Pain Perdu that will leave you speechless, it’s evident why brunch at The Old School is a must. Word on the street is that dinner is just as incredible but for some reason, I’ve only made it for brunch. I totally blame it on the bloodys.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and check out The Old School. It’s sure to become one your Nashville favorites

**GOF Tip: Swing by Opentable and make your reservation today. Brunch fills up quickly. Click here for reservations.**

Let’s Get Toasted: Toasty San Francisco

Toasty

2760 Octavia St. San Francisco, CA 94123

Website and Instagram

What would you do for good food?

Stand in excessively long lines (ahem, Madrid and Street XO)? Wake up at all hours of the night to secure reservations (how else can I secure some of the most coveted reservations) Fly thousands of miles in search of the prettiest bite?

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I will not let any obstacle get in my way of an epic meal and in fact, I’m guilty of all three.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to San Francisco to visit my very best friend. This girl has been my ride or die and partner in dine since college. So, it goes without saying that every time I visit, I send her a list of potential eateries that I’d like to check out. Knowing that we won’t knock out a fraction of them, I note which ones are an absolute must. On this last trip, there were only three places that were non-negotiable, Toasty, being one of them.

How does a girl from Nashville come across an avocado toast bar in San Francisco? Well, that’s simple. Instagram. A fellow food blogger highlighted Toasty on their feed and I was awestruck. I had no idea that toast could be so pretty.

After a four hour flight and one heck of an intense parallel parking job, we arrived at Toasty.

Toasty, which opened in October 2017, is the first ever avocado toast bar in San Francisco. Owner Sofia Pinzón, who arrived by way of Medellín, Colombia, decided to turn her love of all things avocado into a business that would attract people from across the globe. Realizing that people eat with their eyes, Pinzón created these masterpieces topped with edible flowers that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost…

Toasty, located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, is staffed by only eight individuals.  Seating is rather limited with only bar seating available on the inside and three quaint tables located outside the restaurant facade. If you want to grab a place to perch, I’d recommend going early or during an off time, even though I think Toasty has a line out the door on any given day.

Restraint. The first word that comes to mind when I walked through the doors of Toasty. I wanted one of everything on the menu. Remember, I’ve been stalking this eatery for quite some time and that, paired with a voracious appetite can be quite dangerous. After my partner in dine talked some sense into me, we ordered.

Seeing as we just finished caffeinating, we opted for healthier beverage choices: Beet Root and Turmeric lattes. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never had a Beet Root Latte in my life, but it, like all the toasts, was too pretty to pass up.

After five or ten minutes passed, our collection of toasts arrived at our table. Collection is the appropriate word because our selections literally consumed our table and we had nowhere else to go. Thank goodness we planned accordingly and snagged a table.

My partner in dine and I decided that the Eggy and Prosciutto toasts were a must but alas, my inner child wanted the Unicorn toast as well.  Who can say no to colorful cream cheese and sprinkles?

I have to admit, we both paused with hesitation. These toasts were indeed to pretty to eat. But let’s be honest, that only stopped us for a minute. We each started with a slice of a different toast. I started with the Eggy, she started with the Prosciutto. Once we devoured this goodness, we exchanged notes and then wooden cutting boards.

Despite the fact that we ordered the Unicorn toast for photos only, I couldn’t resist nibbling on that colored cream cheese goodness. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as sweet as I anticipated.

For those who aren’t avocado enthusiasts (which I can’t even wrap my head around), Toasty offers açaí bowls and chia pudding.

Toasty’s menu changes every six months or so. Sofia has a few upcoming creations that are sure to be both beautiful and delicious. I may or may not have heard rumblings of beet and hummus toast? Perhaps something with arugula? Without a doubt, you know it will be photo worthy!

If you find yourself in San Francisco and find a place to park, head directly to Toasty for an unforgettable avocado toast experience.

New Brunswick Restaurant Week 2018: Catherine Lombardi

Guess who’s back…back again…Fatboi’s back…tell a friend. It is I, Jess, the ghost of Christmas past, coming to you after a year-long WordPress hiatus. In the past year, I started grad school and have been grinding it out, while Christie’s been managing a sports facility and running 23812947 Spartan races (aroo!). But don’t worry, we’ve been just as committed to the #fatlyfe.

July 14th kicked off restaurant week in New Brunswick, NJ. ‘Til the 28th, the hottest spots are offering discounts on beverages, meals, desserts, and everything in between. From ramen to Ethiopian cuisine, to jam-packed strombolis at Stuff’s, there’s something for everyone. It’s a great excuse to have a fancy date night, dinner and drinks with the girls, or a family outing.

I decided to give Catherine Lombardi a try, after hearing great things about their Italian fare. I easily mapped out my prospects from their $39 three-course menu, prior to even setting foot into the building. I rolled out of bed, changed, and headed to Catherine Lombardi accompanied by my childhood friends (s/o to Marce and Cee, the OG’s). Scoping out the restaurant, I quickly regretted my outfit choice. I looked like a fat baby who got separated from her nanny, in my floral jumpsuit. Wine glasses and fancy linen napkins dotted every table, and everything was RED; the walls, the velvet curtains, the carpet, the upholstery. It was what I imagine entering Christian Grey’s red room of pain would feel like, but not as terrifying.

I dove right into the wine menu (overwhelmed by the number of categories I never knew existed) and zeroed in on my go-to, Pinot Grigio, and ran with it.

For starters, I ordered the Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella. Tomatoes are either a hit or miss for me, but I easily chowed them down, and the house-made mozzarella was divine. 

I’m obsessed with anything and everything truffle, so I had to go with the Garganelli with truffle cream, prosciutto, and asparagus as my entrée. The prosciutto was the perfect addition, balancing out the truffle flavor.

Marce opted for the linguine with shrimp scampi. Obviously, I stole a bite, and it was a delicious rendition of the Italian classic.

Cee chose the tortelloni with Parmagiano-Reggiano cream and bolognese sauce. We actually had to google if tortelloni and tortellini are the same and *spoiler alert*, they are. I may have an Italian last name, but I had no idea wtf was going on. You may be looking at this picture thinking, ‘What gives? There are only 6 tortellonis.’ I thought the same thing until I sampled some, and the tortellonis were stuffed with filling, making it a reasonable portion size.

To round out my trifecta, I opted for the mascarpone cheesecake. It was incredibly creamy and tasted flan-like.

Marce selected Mrs. Palmisano’s cookie plate. To our delight, the cookies were melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious. This plate would make any Italian grandmother beam with pride. 

Cee went for the mango sorbet. It didn’t knock her socks off, but I was pleased with the refreshing zing. 

Not only was the presentation on point, but the food quality really knocked it out of the park. All of the ingredients were incredibly fresh, making for flavorful dishes. It was fun pretending to be bougie for a night, all under the guise of a discounted prix fixe menu.

J

Fatboi Tendencies 

MEDIA TASTING: New Brunch Menu at Del Frisco’s Grille is Picture Perfect

Earlier this week I journeyed out to the faraway land known as the Westside and visited Del Frisco’s Grille at its ocean front Santa Monica location. A completely revamped brunch menu was awaiting and OMG- everyone needs to visit and experience the brunch that Instagram dreams are made of. Perhaps Chef Steven Quinn knew his new menu would be so aesthetically pleasing or maybe this gorgeous spread is just like those girls that are naturally pretty with full brows first thing in the morning. Regardless, the food is amazing and photographs better than Beyoncé.

Del Frisco’s Grille
1551 Ocean Ave, Suite 105, Santa Monica, CA 90401
https://delfriscosgrille.com/

To start of this exclusive tasting, fellow media influencers and myself were guided to the patio where the most magnificent spread awaited. Voila!

The spread that dreams are made of

Lions and Tigers and Bears right??? Actually its more like egg yolks and cocktails and greens! Inspiration for the new menu came from around the globe and incorporates food trends that we all want to indulge in. From Brooklyn inspired dishes to a nod to our California love of things gluten-free Chef Quinn really brought it all together beautifully for our enjoyment. I genuinely had sensory overload!

As we all mingled a bit, we were given the first cocktail to sip. The colorful Fruit & Flowers- Tito’s Vodka, St. Germain, blueberry, grapefruit and lime flavors make this a perfect light cocktail for the hot summer days we have coming our way. Plus is has a cute rock candy garnish for fun!

While very pretty, I wasn’t expecting anything too spectacular from the Smoked Salmon Tower. Unbeknownst to me, Del Frisco’s take on the classic lox bagel was a heavy hitter. Chef Quinn informed us all the fish was flown in straight from Boston from Foley Fish. ( yasss, that’s fresh AND fancy).  This smoked salmon was top-notch and took the bagel to the next level. The presentation for the tower is awesome with red onions, cucumber, tomatoes and capers but there’s two different kinds of cream cheeses provided which complimented the salmon exquisitely. One was a creamy plain spread and the other a unique “Everything” caper spread. Being the wise foodie that I am, I went half and half on the spreads since I couldn’t get full on the first menu item!

Smoked Salmon Tower + Fruit & Flowers

Nonna’s Pan Cinnamon Rolls were brought out and there were collective jaw drops around the table.  The bourbon espresso caramel sauce smelled like heaven and for an instant I had a clear image of the Italian grandmother who loved me dearly and baked this to comfort my bad decisions from the weekend. The toasted pecans sprinkled on top gave a great crunch and added protein to the dish!

Nonna’s Pan Cinnamon Rolls

For those admirable individuals who take the healthy route even during brunch you’re in for a treat. The Greens & Grains Bowl is the answer to your fit meal dreams. A cage free egg is awaiting for you to get the perfect boomerang of it being cut. Get that yoke ooze! Quinoa, charred broccoli, edamame, dried cranberries, roasted almonds, baby spinach and BEETS all drizzled with a sweet basil dressing are the rest of the elements in this awesome gluten free dish.

Greens & Grains Bowl

Chef Quinn has two other gluten-free options on the brunch menu: the incredibly photogenic Croque Madame and the delicious Eggs in Purgatory with their avocado flatbread side.

Croque Madame
Eggs in Purgatory

My fave dish was a tie between the Greens & Grains Bowl and the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. Lemon curd, blueberry compote and fresh berries are the perfect summery brunch item to enjoy in the patio while people watching in Santa Monica. It’s on Ocean and Colorado right in front of the pier! 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Del Frisco’s Grille quickly established itself as a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike and I can totally see why. Not only is their food incredible, the cocktails are so intricate and thought out that they deserve a whole post on their own! As any pro-bruncher knows, brunch is only as good as the booziness involved.

Even though I couldn’t partake in the meat dishes offered (I’m a pescatarian) the void was filled with cocktails! If mimosas or their signature Bloody Mary with Horseradish Wheatley isn’t up your alley there’s good kick in the  Crack Coffee. With its Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum, chai tea syrup and Chameleon Nitro Cold Brew, you’re bound to wake up with this bevy. If you need some romance The Honeymoon in Paris will take you away to Providence in summer especially with its super cute sprig of lavender! Finally the crowd favorite at the event was the Watermelon Frozé! Rosé but better because you get a small serving of fruit, hooray! Mom would totally be proud.

Bloody Mary
Watermelon Frozé
Honeymoon in Paris

I’m super excited to hit up the Westside again for brunch. With the semi-new Expo Line Station a block away, there’s no need for a DD! Totally recommend it for all those who don’t want to worry about being stuck in traffic while in a food coma. Also, Del Frisco’s Grille is having a special 16 oz. 45-day Dry Aged Strip for the deserving fathers out there this upcoming Father’s Day ( yes, that’s tomorrow, Sunday 6/17). Fun fact, Del Frisco’s Grille is the cooler sibling of the widely praised  Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, so they know a thing or two about cooking meat.

Watermelon Frozé anyone?

Summer is here and so shall beach day brunches at one of California’s most iconic beaches. A million thanks to all who made this event possible and for everyone at Del Frisco who flew out from Dallas to spoil us with their new offerings. Chef Shawn Quinn really elevated the brunch game with such photogenic offerings. This place is ultimate #brunchgoals!

Thank you so much to Spin PR for arranging this media tasting. Although this tasting was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

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!

The Best Ricotta Pancakes in LA: Brunch at Odys + Penelope

Last year, while scrolling around on the Renzell app, I discovered the high ranking spot Odys + Penelope, a modern-American Churrasco in the La Brea area of Los Angeles. Girl on Food Cristina and #plusonebae Devon joined me for a fantastic dinner packed with fresh grilled meats and cocktails. When I was recently invited in to taste their brunch offerings, I knew if it was just close to being up to par with the dinner menu, I’d be in hog heaven… but did it come close?

Odys + Penelope
127 S La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Like The Mighty, which I recently stopped into for dinner, O + P (mysteriously named after Greek mythology characters) is also owned by culinary husband/wife team Quinn and Karen Hatfield. This power couple definitely knows how to build a solid spot with great food, consistent service and a busy customer base in LA, which is not easy.

I’m also never one to ever notice really famous people, but just like at The Mighty, I noticed some familiar faces, including one key cast member of The Big Bang Theory. So I do recommend bringing a pal or family member who geeks out over that sort of thing. Bazinga.

Frisee Salad

While the dinner menu focuses on Brazilian Churrasco style meat main dishes, the brunch here is a little more of a North American-meets-South American melting pot.

Chicken Adobo Fried Rice

For the mains, I decided to start with Chicken Adobo Fried Rice—with my mom being half Filipino and all, I’d feel wrong not tasting this dish of adobo-marinated chicken lightly fried with soft poached eggs, radish salad and a mild sambal hollandaise. This isn’t quite the chicken adobo that I remember from my childhood, but is a tasty, lighter take on it. I’m used to a more vinegar heavy adobo chicken, but the flavor is played safely here for the more mainstream LA crowd, which may be a smart move on their end. The Frisee Salad, with grilled salmon, warm fingerling potatoes, avocado and potatoes is like a California take on a nicoise salad, minus the mercury content of tuna and a sunny-side-up egg instead of hard boiled.

Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes with Pudwill Farms Blueberries

My favorite item was the Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes with Pudwill Farms Blueberries. I know ricotta pancakes are trending in the LA brunch scene, but I haven’t been this blown away with them before. O + P also manages to get the same lightly griddled pancake that my dad made me. They’re beautifully crisp on the outside but maintain a soft fluffiness on the inside. Savory from the salted butter, fruity from the blueberries, these are the best I’ve had in town. The side of maple syrup is only optional, it doesn’t necessarily need it.

To answer my question from earlier: yes, O + P’s brunch program is 100% on par with their dinner. I will be returning to Odys + Penelope for those pancakes and other brunchy items soon. I can’t wait to see what other programs they come up with!

Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene: French Toast, Biscuits, and Vegan? Oh my!

Morning Glory on a snowy weekend morning.

On the brisk snowy mornings of the Pacific Northwest there is nothing that warms the soul more than a big, hearty, and savory breakfast. Being a vegetarian, though, it can be difficult to find such a meal to exclude bacon, sausage and eggs without ultimately settling for a mediocre bowl of oatmeal. Luckily, there is a place in Eugene, Oregon that offers delicious and wholesome breakfast and lunch options that also checks off all the boxes of a mostly vegan diet.

Morning Glory is a small breakfast and lunch café that presents a bohemian atmosphere and vegan/ vegetarian dishes proudly made from scratch and local fresh ingredients. It is the oldest vegetarian restaurants in Eugene. Due to this reputation it is a very popular spot, especially on a weekend morning, so keep that in mind before you visit and expect to wait. Thankfully, this wait will be worth it.

Morning Glory
450 Williamette Street, Eugene, OR 

http://morninggloryeugene.squarespace.com/

The Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

The dish that I highly recommend is their Vegan Biscuits and Gravy. This was the first thing I ordered during my first visit to Eugene and I can not confirm nor deny that it may have been an influence on my decision to move here from California. Biscuits and Gravy is a breakfast meal that I often crave but can not enjoy due to the gravy being traditionally made with sausage. At Morning Glory, however, they make their gravy with a mushroom base, seasoned heavily with dill, and when it coats the warm and fluffy biscuits it is a great vegan alternative that keeps me coming back. This is a menu item I order every time but on this most recent visit I wanted to change it up and try one of their sweeter options, the Vegan French Toast.

The foundation of their French Toast is the thick slices of cinnamon-raisin walnut bread. Instead of an egg batter they use a cinnamon nutmeg mixture. The toast is then served along with a blueberry-apple compote, organic maple syrup, and vegan butter.

The Vegan French Toast at Morning Glory

I’ll be honest, their interpretation of the French Toast into a vegan substitute is not as successful as their other savory dishes. The flavors where there, especially in the sweet fluffy texture of the bread that includes the crunchy surprise of the walnuts. Even the thick blueberry-apple compote was a nice fruity compliment for the toast. However, that moist and creamy element that is synonymous with French Toast was lacking due to the bread not being soaked in some kind of a diary and egg mixture. This plate was still delicious but, for me, it wasn’t entirely convincing as a French Toast.

Although a vegetarian restaurant, Morning Glory is still satisfying for the carnivore’s palette. Their food is so good that the average American eater is willing to forgo meat for at least one meal. My Husband was accompanying me this morning and he is a self-proclaimed eater of the meats. He ordered the Biscuits and Gravy for himself but because he loves me, and because he knew I was going to ask anyways, he allowed me to finish his plate. Ladies, find yourself a man who is willing to share his biscuits with you, and then take that man to Morning Glory.

Me, seconds before inhaling the plate in front of me.