Girls on Food

Comfort Food

Vino Bistro: Hollywood’s New Destination For Cicchetti

Family-owned-and-operated Osteria Mamma, continues to serve Larchmont with authentic Italian dishes since 2010. Not that I’m aligning myself with the “authenticity police” but every pasta dish I’ve had at Osteria Mamma has legitimately tasted like the house-made pasta I devoured on my trip to Italy. 

The Osteria Mamma family just opened their latest endeavor, Vino Bistro on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. While Osteria Mamma remains the perfect location for a family-style dinner, Vino Bistro is a perfect precursor for a night out in Hollywood. The spacious location has a metropolitan vibe with brick walls and subway tile. There’s lots of bar seating as well as tables, so you have options. 

Somm Filippo Cortivo has curated a diverse wine list, featuring old world and new world wines. Currently, Vino Bistro offers many wines by the glass but the bottle selection is impressive and includes includes an orange wine for those of you who love this trend. 

Vino Bistro specializes in Cicchetti, which translates to Italian tapas with a menu by Alfonso Reyes, Fabio Di Stasi & Osteria Mamma (who’s matriarch-restaurateur Loredana “Mamma” Cecchinato, sadly passed in December 2015). Although Vino Bistro offers bites from a broad range of Italy, I became familiar with Cicchetti in Venice along the touristy canal pubs. And if I’m being totally honest here, I wasn’t really into them at the time. Although I loved the social aspect of these pubs (and I always enjoy an Aperol Spritz) the fried items that were hyped up didn’t knock my socks off. Fast forward to this week when every bite I had at Vino Bistro brought their own improvements on Venetian-style tapas that align with my taste buds.

​​​​​​​The Taglieri, an Italian-style charcuterie board packed with imported meats and cheeses is a fantastic way to start. Unlike many other LA spots, there are 3 different sizes to choose from, depending on the size of your party. A party of 2 can stick with the small at $12.95 and it’s an ample portion size and you get to choose your own cheeses. 

Taglieri 

Those of you trying to keep it light-ish will appreciate the Melone con Branzino e Salmone. This dish is slices of juicy melon and soft Brie topped with branzino and salmon and topped with a light creamy sauce. Fans of sweet and savory will love this items and again, the portion is large enough to share with a group. Those of you looking to indulge in Venetian classics, I recommend ordering the Frittura di Seppie e Sardine. This shared plate is a mix of fried squid, sardine, zucchini and polenta. If you tasted fried sardines in Venice and wasn’t as hyped up on them as you thought you’d be, order them at Vino Bistro to compare. The batter here is so much lighter which makes for a much more crisp sardine. 

Melone con Branzino e Salmone
Frittura di Seppie e Sardine

My favorite item from the menu is the Carbonara di Calamari. This was a first for me! I eat pasta carbonara typically once a week (I know… it’s a problem), I’m obsessed with it. But I have never heard of anyone attempting to create a carb-free carbonara before so I had to give it a shot and it exceeded my expectations. The calamari is lightly pan fried then tossed in the traditional pancetta and egg mixture, coating the calamari evenly, so it’s not drowning in the mixture. Trust me, you’re going to want to taste this one!  

Carbonara di Calamari

It just wouldn’t be an Osteria Mamma endeavor without pasta, so I had to taste the Gnocchi all’Ossobuco. This veal shank is fall-off-the-bone tender,  and the gnocchis are heavenly little pillows in a chunkier but still brothy mix. 

Gnocchi all’Ossobuco

The desserts will be changing daily, so you may not be able to order the Semifreddo Pistachio, that I inhaled. Which is a shame, because it was so rich, frothy and nutty. I have my fingers crossed for you, that you will be able to taste the greatness of this dessert.   

When in Hollywood you must stop into Vino Bistro for a glass of wine and Cicchetti. There are a couple of great deals currently offered on their Yelp page as well, be sure to take advantage of those https://yelp.to/qTKq/ZmdO5JHBCS while you can! 
​​​​​​​Vino Bistro – 6266 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

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!

Girls on Food’s Shared Plates Event Recap

The Girls on Food inaugural fundraiser with Industrious Century City and some of LA’s finest food and beverage vendors raised over $2,300 for the L.A. Kitchen.

Host Julianne Gabert (Girls on Food) hosted the event on Friday, October 5, 2018 at Industrious Century City. This ticketed event was in affiliation with L.A. Kitchen’s Shared Plates fundraiser, a city-wide weekend of gatherings October 5-7, 2018 to celebrate the power of food in Los Angeles. 100% of all ticket sales and any additional funds raised were donated to L.A. Kitchen.

Despite the L.A. Kitchen’s significant impact and outpouring of support, they have had to acknowledge that their combined philanthropic and earned income has not been able to fully sustain their work and meet the requirements of the loan they took out to build their beautiful facility. This required them to temporarily pause their culinary training and meal distribution programs.

Although they are not going anywhere, this year’s Shared Plates was more important than ever. All money raised through Shared Plates was matched as part of their goal to reach $600K by the end of the year. Although this event raised a total $1,167, through donation matching, this event raised $2,334 total!  

Industrious Century City, a co-working space that also celebrated it’s grand opening 2 night before this event, generously donated the space. Attendees were allowed to explore the upscale Century City offices, which make up the entire 17th floor of the Watt Plaza, freely as they participated in the event.

Attendees participated in a “take one, give one” burrito station, sponsored by Benny Borsakian, the owner of Benny’s Tacos. At this station, guests took half a burrito to eat at the event and donated the other half. Burritos and additional leftovers from this event were delivered to non-profit organization Upward Bound House, and distributed to local food insecure.

Slo Bru Craft Coffee owner Eric Raschka provided guests with bottles of his new decaf cold brew coffee. He also donated his new product, Bru Packs, a line of brew-it-yourself cold brew packs for the raffle.

Lauren Zeiher of the mylk team, supplied guests with servings of their honey, lavender and matcha almond milks. Many guests fell in love with these local plant-based mylks.

Gérard Bertrand brand ambassador Mathias Icard poured the brand’s Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and their 90 point Cap Insula Red Blend into mason jars, which guests were encouraged to take home.

Wolfgang Puck Catering provided hor d’oeuvres including Butternut Squash Tarts with Caramelized Onions and Crispy Sage, Poached Pear Parmesan Crisps as well as an array of desserts like cookies and brownies.

Co-Opportunity Market and Deli, who’s locations include Culver City and Santa Monica, contributed a full crudités plate and a generous $100 gift card for the raffle.

A Chile Mushroom Quinoa Salad was provided by Beaming Century City. This dish was a perfect side for guests keeping it vegan.

The avocado toast station, provided by AvocaToast by Lizzy with bread by Bread Lounge (special thanks to the team at Kitchen Table app for arranging) was one of the most interactive stations. Caterer Lizzy Cooper has a special connection to L.A. Kitchen having volunteered there several times helping them prep food.

Cheeri Cheeri, an artisanal and vegan Filipino ice cream, were scooped by owner Christy Cunanan on site as well, and ended up being the Instagram image hit of the night.

Additional prizes awarded from the raffle included CHAYA Modern Izakaya, Mee And GreetTŪMBI, Osteria Mamma, and Food Stirs.

Stay tuned for information on any upcoming events here at Girls on Food! 

For more information on L.A. Kitchen, visit https://www.lakitchen.org/.

GOF Interviews: Christy Cunanan of Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream

I appreciate any good food but food that delivers a kick of nostalgia is extra tasty to me. The preparation of food with an intention to make you feel sentimental takes more than making food that feels familiar. It has to somehow stimulate your sensory memory using all 5 of your senses, transporting you to a specific place in time. These foods often evoke more emotion out of me, because I usually associate the flavors with something very personal to me.

“Ice cream is a medium that takes people back to something special” according to Christy Cunanan, the creator of Cheeri Cheeri, her vegan and Filipino ice cream brand. The mission of Cheeri Cheeri ice cream is to allow its customers to connect back to something precious in their lives, all the while enjoying their ice cream. What inspired her line of ice cream the most? Time spent with her Lolo and Lola (for those not familiar, that’s Grandpa and Grandma).

Born and raised in Pasadena, Christy remembers when the ice cream man would drive around her neighborhood. “What made it so special was the rushed ritual of hearing the ice cream truck and then that challenge of convincing them to give us money to buy the ice cream. After I’d get my hands on a watermelon pop, I’d realize how much Lola and Lolo just wanted to see us happy. So you just remember these times like this and how special they were. You were never eating alone.”

Christy Cunanan in her Pasadena home

These days, this UCLA alumni works a 9-5 at Disney Animation as a Production Coordinator, builds up her ice cream empire and still makes time to have 4 hour Facetime sessions with Lolo and Lola. She started embarking on her ice cream career with her first pop up in April 2017. In the beginning, her brand wasn’t vegan, but in December of 2017, after her family got hit with diabetes and cancer, she decided to take on a plant-based lifestyle. “Since my family was vegan, my product had to be as well. I have to have this ice cream reflect my family. I’d hate for people to miss out just because they’re vegan. It matters enough to have a line of ice cream knowing it’s on the healthiest side.”

Although many people think of dishes like Ube and Ensaymada when they think of Filipino food, Christy insists it’s not hard to go plant-based in this genre. “Sure, I’ve struggled with capturing butter and cheese, common ingredients in Filipino breads but through trial and error, I achieve what my Lolo and Lola say “time is medicine”. I’ve been able to replicate the identity of many traditional Filipino desserts, so we can all enjoy them.”

Buko Pandan

Her top seller is her Buko Pandan ice cream, but looks can be deceiving with this flavor. This classic dessert tends to be identified with it’s bright green gelatinous chunks. But because Christy keeps everything as natural as possible, she doesn’t do dyes. It’s white, but the flavor is still rich with a beautifully creamy texture.

Calamansi Ice Cream (size small)

My favorite flavor is her Calamansi ice cream. It’s refreshing, tart and velvety all in one. This flavor had had stakes for her to capture perfectly. “My Grandpa planted a Calamansi tree in our backyard, so I felt the extra pressure to get it correct. This is one of the most personal flavors to me” Christy told me.

When I asked Christy about the current Filipino food craze; she shared she’s very supportive of the trend but notes “there’s major ube love happening right now and that’s great, but we want you to explore the full spectrum of our food. A strong sense of identity has to be transferred to every bite.”

What customer melts Christy’s heart the most? “Grandparents! I get a kick out of when older Filipino-Americans taste my ice cream and say ‘I know what this is!'”

Get frozen in time! Christy will be scooping her famous Calamansi Cheeri Cheeri ice cream at the Girls on Food Shared Plates dinner coming up, Friday, October 5th at Industrious Century City. get your tickets here.

GOF Interview With La Feria de los Moles Co-Founder Lourdes Juarez

On Saturday, October 7th 2018, the 11th annual La Feria de los Moles will commence at Grand Park in DTLA. This free event is an LA classic celebrating all things mole, offering live music and mole preparation workshops. Favorite local vendors including Rinconcito Poblano, Carniceria La Flama and Zapotec Cafe will be selling their dishes starting at $10 per plate. One new addition for fans of this event is a “Passage Through the Eras of Mole” an exhibit that will detail the development of mole ingredients during “pre-Hispanic” era and the creation of mole and it’s evolution into specific dishes based on environmental region during “post conquest” era.

La Feria de los Moles Co-founder Lourdes Juarez, who grew up in South Central LA, has a serious excitement for sharing this iconic Oaxacan dish with others. Growing up, Lourdes and learned how to make Mole Poblano, Green and Red Pepian from her mother and these experiences awoken that passion in her. I recently spoke with Lourdes about this event and her mole endeavors- check out my interview with her below!

Lourdes Juarez

GOF: Do you have a standard mole recipe that you always cook for events or do you like to mix it up? LJ: My Mole recipe is fairly standard now, but it must have been more unique before. I feel this way because I recall my mother saying “if your grandmother was alive, oh no, I would be in trouble.” See the thing is that it is very hard to get Ingredients common to Mexico. It is often one or two ingredients, a small variation, that becomes the essence of each family’s recipe.

GOF: How did you start up La Feria de los Moles?
LJ: My husband (co-founder Pedro Ramos) one day said “I want to honor my grand-mother.” Of course she too had a special Mole recipe and I recall that moment because he tells me he saw my face shine like a light bulb in my head was shining through my eyes and skin. The dots all connected with memories of his mother’s Mole, and of course with my parents each coming from Oaxaca and Puebla would tease each other about growing up with the best Mole. The difficulty at first was getting the Moles and the chefs to come from those Mexican states. It was kind of hard to find it on menus here. Now everyone from the smallest to the grandest restaurants have Mole on the menu. If Angelenos still can’t find a Mole they love, they should make plans each year to taste different Moles at La Feria de Los Moles.

GOF: Can you tell me about the process of getting Mole sauce it’s own national holiday in Mexico?
LJ: Oh my gosh. First we had to submit an official request. Then we wait for majority approval. It is a long extensive writing process. It’s like submitting a scientific study on Mole with research and findings, etc. Its very difficult but not impossible, we are indeed excited.

GOF: Can you tell me your top 3 spots for Mole dishes in LA?
LJ: Sorry, but no, not really. That’s just too difficult a question for me because some places just use about 6 ingredients in their Mole while others are far more extravagant with over 40 ingredients and I completely appreciate any and all Moles. If someone loves, cares, and respects the history of Mexican cuisine enough to place Mole on the menu I’m going to be a fan. So I’m just going to take the easy way out of that question and say come down to La Feria de los Moles and find your own favorite.

GOF: Have you ever tried to add something different to Mole, and did that work out?
LJ: Yes, I have always been very interested in exploring and experimenting with different ingredient options. One day I tried honey instead of homemade chocolate, and my mother stop talking to me for over two months! In my family that’s like an eternity and every family member knew I must have done something horrible and when they found out what I did they agreed with my punishment. My lesson learned was go ahead and experiment around the edges, but never mess with the core of our Mole recipe!

GOF: What does mole represent to you?
LJ: Mole represents my roots. The flavor always takes me back to my childhood, which goes back four generations. In my opinion Mole is the epitome of family. Mole brings families together, large and small. When Mole is being served everyone comes over. The table is full, everyone is happy, it’s just the best.

For more information on La Feria de los Moles, click here.

All The Booze And Bites You Missed At Music City Food And Wine

The sixth annual Music City Food and Wine Festival came to a close Sunday, September 16th. Those who were lucky enough to score tickets to the sold-out bash had a chance to sample some of the best bites and booze from across the country. The talent roster was an assortment of celebrity chefs, TV personalities, authors and local Nashville culinary masterminds. From book signings, cocktail throwdowns, chef panels, and a concert headlined by Kings of Leon, this weekend was a celebration of all things that make Nashville “Music City.”

Here were some of my favorites from the weekend festivities!

Ruffino (Website and Instagram)

What girl can resist bubbles and a perfect photo op? Ruffino brought their A game to Music City Food and Wine. Not only did they have this darling champagne cart complete with photo booth capabilities, but they greeted guests on Saturday morning with their own miniature bottle of Prosecco or sparkling rosé. You know what I say, “ Rosé all day!”

Wicked Weed ( Website and Instagram)

Wicked Weed is one of my favorite breweries in Asheville, North Carolina. When I saw their tent on Friday night, I couldn’t think of a better way to beat the heat than with their Uncle Rick’s Pilsner. Given the insane temps and number of beer enthusiasts at the festival, this tent was in high demand.

Black Rabbit (Website and Instagram)

Chefs Trey Cioccia and Chad Kelly knocked it out of the park this year. I might even go as far as to say it was one of my top three food bites of the festival. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming, monochromatic appearance of this bite, it was filled with flavor and the toppings packed a punch. Below you will find a Rabbit Terrine Taco topped with cabbage, onion and mustard sauce. Seriously, is your mouth watering?

Nicky’s Coal Fired (Website and Instagram)

I couldn’t let Music City Food and Wine Festival pass without checking out one of my favorite Nashville establishments, Nicky’s Coal Fired. Not only are they making some incredible pizza and pasta, but the owners, Tony and Caroline Galzin, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Chef Tony served up his legendary Gnocchi Sardi with Bolognese Blanco and Porcini Breadcrumbs. Thank goodness I know Tony pretty well so there was no judgment when I went back for second and thirds… Yes, I have zero shame when it comes to his pasta.

If you are planning a trip to Nashville, this is one of my most recommended restaurants outside of City House.

Belle Meade Bourbon (Website and Instagram)

You can’t officially call yourself a Southerner if you don’t have an affinity for bourbon. While I had a chance to sample their full portfolio at the kick-off party, these gentlemen were serving guests Cold Fashioned, which was the BEST way to stay cool on Saturday. When there are four massive tents filled with bites and booze and you make the conscious effort to seek out the same cocktail on repeat, you know you have a winner!

Funk Seoul Brother (Website and Instagram)

This isn’t your average KFC, ladies and gentlemen. Chef BJ Lofback served one of his highly sought after dishes, Korean Fried Chicken to festival goers on Saturday. This is one of those legendary dishes that you often hear about but rarely have the chance to sample. I’m not going to lie, this dish was worth the sticky fingers.

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (Website and Instagram)

There’s nothing I love more than a good stuffed pepper and when I heard that Chef Ian Shorndon from Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Knoxville was serving up brisket stuffed chili peppers, I had to swing by and check them out. I was fortunate enough to snap a photo right after they were replenished because these guys couldn’t keep up with the demand. A crowd favorite for sure!

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint + Friends (Website and Instagram)

Every year Pitmaster Pat Martin hosts an extraordinary bar-b-que inviting friends from across the country to brave the Tennessee temps and cook over the open coals for the weekend. Dishes and chefs rotate on a frequent basis, so it’s worth making multiple stops. I had a chance to sneak back to the prep area and see where all the magic happened and skip the excessively long lines. It’s hard to pick a favorite from this but I have to say I was at a loss for words after taking one bite of Chef Chris Shepard’s concoction. Chef Shepard is the at the helm of UB Preserv, where he was awarded a James Beard award in 2014. Next time I find myself in Texas, you better believe I’ll be at Underbelly!

Chef Tom Bayless, The Public House

If you have followed along on the blog or caught a glimpse of my Instagram, you know I was ecstatic when I walked into Harvest Night and saw that Chef Tom Bayless was making my all time favorite creation, The Tomato Sandwich. Yes, it may sound like a simplistic Southern dish, but I assure you it is far from that. Imagine three layers of freshly sliced tomatoes, topped with sea salt, sandwiched between a sesame seed bun slathered with charcoal mayonnaise. Is your mouth watering? I know mine is. I exercised no self-control at this tent, it was on repeat.

Chef Jeni Britton Bauer, Jeni’s Ice Cream

I have a sweet tooth like no other. Sometimes I exercise complete restraint while other times I say screw it and enjoy all the things. It goes without saying when “Jeni’s Ice Cream” is mentioned, I get a little weak in the knees. Saturday evening, Chef Jeni Britton Bauer partnered with Hi-Fi cookies and created a Sweet Corn and Blackberry Ice Cream Sandwich. You know Jeni’s Ice Cream, I don’t have to tell you how good it was!

Music City Food and Wine, you are by far one of my favorite weekends in Nashville. My clothes may be a little tighter, my feet a little sore and my liver beyond repair, but you throw one heck of a party. One I will never miss!

If you are interested in attending THE festival of the year, stay tuned to the Music City Food and Wine website (click here) as they will be announcing the dates for the 2019 festival soon!

GOF Interview: Diane Tchen of Kream Kong Ice Cream

Kream Kong Ice Cream, owned by wife/husband team Stephen and Diane Tchen, started driving their truck around OC and LA this summer and got a little extra heat from the 626 Market. I had a chance to sit with owner Diane, to talk about starting a new business, her favorite Hacienda Heights spots and the challenges of owning an ice cream truck.

GOF: What were your favorite ice cream brands and flavors growing up?   

DT: I will have to say Dreyer’s Rocky Road! I also add my own little twist with topping it off with Hot Cheetos. Yes! Hot Cheetos! It is so yummy together! It’s a must try! Another one was sweet cream with extra Oreos from Cold Stone. That was my to go ice cream spot whenever I was out and wanted dessert.

Stephen and Diane Tchen

GOF: What is your background in the restaurant industry?

DT: I have worked as a server and remember that I just enjoyed being around and meeting all kinds of different people. To be honest, I would love to own my own bar/restaurant one day. If things go really great with Kream Kong, opening up a bar restaurant is next on our list! As of right now, I am still working another job while balancing business with Kream Kong. One of us needs to have the financial stability for our family. I do plan to leave my work one day and work side by side with my husband.

GOF: What is the ice cream and/or cookie recipe creation process like for you?

DT: We’ve put in a lot of work prior to getting our truck so it’s been a rough few years.  We’ve probably made dozens of gallons of ice cream before we really felt confident enough in our flavors. I feel bad for all of our family and friends who tested our ice cream in the beginning stages… haha. For the cookies, it was pretty simple. Baking cookies definitely isn’t as challenging as making ice cream. Even though we are up and going, we still test out ice cream and cookies flavors everyday to keep our menu fresh.

GOF: What are some of the challenges of working with as ice cream truck opposed to having a store front?

DT: Being in a very tight and hot space. Even though we’re serving ice cream, it gets very hot in the truck. Another huge challenge is finding the right location. Since we are new to the food truck scene, it’s been tough trying to find locations and parking lots since a most of the locations have permanent residencies. However, I am confident in our concept that once they try it, they’ll have no problem having us back again and again. 

GOF: What are some of your favorite higher end and lower end restaurants in Hacienda Heights?

DT: Hacienda Heights is a very tiny city. My favorite higher end restaurant is called YakiYan. It is like a Gyu-Kaku but with higher quality meat. My lower end restaurants would be any Pho spots or Jazz Cat. I think I can eat pho or hot pot all day everyday!

GOF: Can you tell me one kitchen tool you think is underrated and deserves more love?

DT: This may sound silly but it is the apron! This is our first experience in a fast paced kitchen, let alone the whole food industry so we definitely took a lot of things for granted. We’ve experienced so much during this whole process and still have a lot more to learn. When we first started, our shirts and pants would get so dirty after an event and we now know why everybody wears an apron. It may not be the most fashionable thing but it saves us a lot of laundry loads!

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

DT: I would like to see less of the unicorn/rainbow foods. It has kind of died down now but it was all over my feed a few months ago! It was cool when it first came out, I think the first one I ever saw was the Starbucks unicorn drink. Now everybody is trying to do their own take on it and I just feel like “oh… another one..”.

GOF: Since you’re originally from Hacienda Heights and your truck serves the area, is it important for you to give back community?

DT: Now that we have that opportunity, we are very blessed we can give back to our community. We are in talks with the local little leagues to become one of their sponsors and we hope to get the ball rolling on that soon. We are also going to get in touch with the local children’s hospital. We have a 2 year old son and if you haven’t noticed, we love kids.

GOF: Have any of your friends from childhood surprised you at the truck?

DT: Yes! We are very fortunate that we get so much love and support from all of our family and friends. Even though we get busy, it’s always nice to see a familiar face coming by our truck to show their support. When times get tough, it is times like these that really give us the drive to keep going.

Kream Kong Ice Cream will be driving around LA & Orange County this Fall. To keep with their schedule, follow their Instagram page here.

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. 

#girlsonfood Interviews Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 11.9K 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 new column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes. I was in awe of how visually delightful her bakes are! I was also blown away by her level of accomplishments:

I decided we needed to get to know her a little better, since she’s the ultimate Girl on Food! 

GOF: What was the casting process like for GABS?

SC: The casting process was very exciting and an illuminating process! I’ve watched my share of Great British Bake Off and Top Chef and I remember always thinking, there’s NO WAY I could ever get on one of those shows. Haha. It was really fun to see how everything worked and I felt honored to be selected from thousands and thousands of applicants!

The process itself happened over a month or two and involved lots of rounds including a lengthy application, phone interviews, Skype interviews, in-person taste tests of your best sweet, savory and bread recipes. There was even a mini timed baking challenge where we had to bake in a kitchen and talk to cameras to see how we would fair under pressure. It was a demanding process but I’m so glad I did it!

GOF: Did you have any big learning experiences or epiphanies during the filming?

SC: Going on The Great American Baking Show was one of my best decisions in my life. It was also the most stressful and challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s rare that people get the opportunity to challenge themselves in a way where you are 100% reliant on your personal performance and intuition. No one is telling you when to take something out of the oven. You can’t just go online and google “how to fix meringue”. On the show, all the bakers are dealing with ovens, ingredients and an environment that is completely new and unknown and under extreme time constraints and an audience of producers and camera men. Imagine someone standing next to you documenting all of your mistakes! I learned that I’m more capable than I ever thought and really tested my ability to manage my stress in a whole new way.

Before I went on the show, baking was a hobby. Something I did late at night to relive stress and an outlet to allow me to make something special for people I cared about.  When I made it all the way to the finals, I realized that this is more than a hobby and I might actually want to do this for REAL. Since the show ended, I haven’t gone back to my full-time corporate job and have started my own cake & pastry business popping up in cafes across LA, teach cake decorating classes privately and at local cooking schools and found part-time work with pastry teams in Santa Monica bakeries that I’ve admired for years. The show gave me the confidence to propel me into a whole new career that I would not have had the confidence to pursue without it.

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

SC: My recipe creation process is driven by seasonality and what I’m in the mood to eat! Sounds simple but my cravings are often so specific, it’s easy to hone and be creative when it’s something I love to eat.

Growing up in Southern California, I’ve been fortunate to have fresh produce and farmer’s markets within a stone throw. I love roaming the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s market, talking to farmers to see what they’re excited about and letting that influence my palate. I also pull from my Chinese heritage and the melting pot of flavors in LA that I grew up eating so my pantry is a mixed bag. It’s not rare that I’ll just go around my kitchen and just start pulling different spices and ingredients, smelling them together to see if I can create something new and delicious.

GOF: What was your favorite childhood meal?

SC: Wow. I don’t know if I could only pick one! My mom was a really great cook and would always make delicious Chinese food every night growing up. My maternal Grandmother opened a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey when she first immigrated to the US in the 70’s. My mom helped her run the restaurant so we always had really good Chinese food at home. If I had to narrow it down, I’d pick her Zha Jiang Mian. (Soybean paste noodles with fresh sliced cucumbers.) Yummm. Now I’m craving it!

GOF: What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering leaving their day job to pursue a job in the culinary arts?

SC: My advice to someone who wants to pursue a career in food, is to go and talk to as many people in the industry as possible! I met with all sorts of friends, acquaintances and even strangers when I first flirted with the idea—A gal who owned a wholesale online cookie business, coffee shop owners, a multi-restaurant/bakery owner, pastry chefs, etc. Listen to their stories, how they got started and what to watch out for. This can also help you figure out what path you want to take. Working in food is not for everyone.. but, I can’t begin to describe how rewarding my journey has been and it continues to fill my heart in ways I never knew “my job” could. If you can, try to stage at a local bakery/restaurant you admire. Baking at home for loved ones vs. baking in a high functioning kitchen is completely different. I’ve gathered some of the most valuable training and learnings from my time working with the pastry teams at Huckleberry and Milo & Olive.

GOF: Do you have one kitchen tool you think is underrated and deserves more love?

SC: The one kitchen tool I cannot live without is my mandolin slicer! I don’t have a fancy knife skills so my mandolin has come in and saved me on many occasions when I’m baking or just cooking dinner! It’s an easy way to make your dish look elevated with perfectly sliced pieces.

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

SC: My favorite high-end spots in are Bavel in DTLA and Felix in Venice. You seriously can’t go wrong with anything on the menu in both places. For lower end, I love Ma’s Chinese Islamic Restaurant in Anaheim. I grew up eating here and they have really great Beef Noodle Soup and scallion pancakes!

GOF: What is it like to organize your time between Huckleberry, M&O, pop-ups and trying to maintain a personal life?

SC: It definitely keeps me on my toes and I would die without my calendar! I’m always bouncing around all over the city and love that I’m always learning and challenging myself in different ways depending on what I’m doing. I love being at Huck & Milo because it keeps me sharp, fast and love all the people I bake with. Pop-ups are a lot of work but I feel so much joy in feeding people and it helps me test what Sugarbear Bakes can become. I love teaching classes because I’m helping people learn something new and giving them an avenue to explore their creativity! Sometimes my personal life does suffer (especially my sleep!) but it’s a small price to pay for really loving what I do. I’m also blessed to have a very supportive and loving husband who helps me keep my sanity.

GOF: What’s the most ambitious/interesting cake you’ve ever baked? Any crazy themes or challenging décor?

SC: One of the most fun and tedious cakes I’ve been asked to make was a pancake cake made completely out of buttercream! Every layer of “pancake” was piped (over 25 layers!) and then I went through and painted every single layer to give it the effect of pancakes. Then it was topped with caramel and a fondant butter slab. It was a smash cake so it was fun to see the photos of the baby smashing into despite all the hours it took to make it. Haha.

The Pancake Cake – Image via Stephanie Chen

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

Citizen In Beverly Hills Has A Dish For Every Type Of Gal Pal

Organizing a girl’s night out, no matter what the celebration is, can end up being stressful. From constant text alerts, to catering to different dietary needs, to considering your friend’s budgets, it’s tough to find a place that can cater to everyone. But after re-discovering Citizen in Beverly Hills, now under Chef Seth Greenburg, I believe this is the perfect spot for a GNO.

Chef Greenburg, an LA native, served as opening Executive Chef at the Dakota Restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel and then went on to work as Executive Chef at The Penthouse in Santa Monica for a number of years.

His menu at Citizen offers a variety of dishes inspired by the diverse LA food scene. The dishes are then paired with both tiki and updated traditional cocktails. Don’t worry, all your friends will find what they are looking for here.

Citizen
184 N Canon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90210
https://www.citizenbeverlyhills.com/

For the Fitspo Obsessed

The Watermelon Salad, a nod to fruit stands of LA, is perfect for your friend who’s Instagramming her fitness journey as we speak. This light salad bursts with fresh flavors from the watermelon, cucumber and tomato but has that chili kick and tart lime that stands are famous for. She can live a little and wash this one down with a glass of ’14 Schramsberg Blanc De Blanc for less calories than a cocktail.

For the #TacoTuesday Devotee

You can’t draw inspiration from LA and not have tacos on the menu! Start with the Albacore Tacos (loved the pineapple kimchi) then move onto the more ample portioned Tacos made with fresh corn tortillas (comes with your choice of 3). My favorite taco was the flat iron steak with cojita cheese and topped with chimichurri. Other options are shrimp with green papaya slaw for a Thai taste or fried chicken with sweet chili for a Chinese flair.

For those of you who are looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, the Blueberry Mint Faux-Jito, with citrus agave and ginger beer is perfect for sipping the night away on the patio.

The Traditionalist

Not every single friend of yours may be as epicurious as you are, so I recommend the more comfort-type options, inspired by classic American cuisine.

The Cheddar Biscuits are buttery, soft and come with a chive butter so fantastic, you might pester the server to take some home.

Chef Greenburg takes it back to the old school with a Halibut in Parchment, and I loved that. A creamy dill butter sauce is poured on top as a part of the presentation. The halibut is tender and thanks to the parchment cooking process, this dish is very aromatic as it arrives. I was reminded of the halibut dinners my mom would cook for me growing up. It would be very rude of me to confirm if this was better than my mother’s… so I’m just going to stop while I’m ahead.

Cocktail-wise I’d recommend the Strawberry Fields cocktail, coined after that classic Beatles jam. It’s a vodka-based cocktail with fresh mint and strawberries.

The Fieri Fanatic

For that friend of yours who can’t turn down a SoCal dive, opt for the Short Rib Fries. The pickled carrots and jalapenos add a fun taco truck flavor to this dish. Be sure to pair it with Babe Rosé With Bubbles for juicy, bubbly fun.

GOF Tip: The Lucky Seven, 7 dishes, for $7 until 7 PM is a great deal and it’s availability is extra generous on Monday nights, 2:30 PM – 10 PM.

The Friend Who’s Still Recovering From Last Night

There’s always one! Since the only cure for alcohol seems to be more alcohol, send her a Detox/Retox. This Tito’s vodka based cocktail has fresh blueberries and chareau aloe, which is an all natural aloe liqueur. And according to boozy folklore, aloe is a great remedy if you’re not feeling 100% after a wild time. She’ll thank you later.

Although this tasting was comped by Citizen, all opinions and thoughts 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.**

Fellow: Westwood’s New Lunchtime Accomplice

Westwood Village, known for the UCLA campus and student-friendly restaurants and shopping, is growing its own budding food scene. Although juiceries and fast-casual sandwich shops may come to mind first when thinking of this Westwood neighborhood, this area is lucky to have a new friend in Fellow. This new spot, owned by buddies Philip Camino & Terry Tolba, is in the works to become a full service restaurant. Executive chef Michael Bryant (past restaurants include Churchill and Cliff’s Edge) is currently serving up lunch in its soft open to get locals ready for their full opening.

Fellow
1071 Glendon Ave, Westwood, CA 90024
https://www.fellow.la/

The space is monumental with its 30 foot ceilings and bar with plenty of seating. It’s the kind of atmosphere you could enjoy with your mom dining at the spring-green booths or with your date at their loungier window seating. I’m also pretty sure the UCLA crowd will appreciate their photobooth, especially once the cocktail list is available.

Chef Bryant’s menu is a seasonal, eclectic mix of both fit-foods and comfort dishes, which I think is perfect for this location. I started with the Avocado Toast. Though I stopped ordering this new classic, due to everyone and their mother posting them on Instagram, I begrudgingly took our server’s recommendation for this staff favorite–and I’m actually glad I did.

Avocado Toast

First off, the generous amount of avocado on the toast alone makes it worthy of an order. But what separates it from the other picturesque toasts is the spread of green goddess dressing, which bursts an unexpected tarragon flavor note. The everything bagel spice on top is also a great touch, one I practice at home often. Clearly, I was off to a great start.

I decided to taste both gluttonous and healthy items, just to give you all a feel for how the menu is perfectly balanced.

The Rock Shrimp Po’Boy is perfect for those for those looking to let loose at lunch. This soft brioche hoagie is stuffed with dill and Old Bay seasoned rock shrimp, lettuce, pickles and comes with a side of yuzu tartare. Each piece of the rock shrimp is crisp and has a zest from the dill, making the yuzu tartare a perfect tart dip.

The Magnificent Three is a choose-your-own-item option allows you to pick a protein, a salad and a selection from the Delicious Plants. I chose a buttery Pan-Roasted Salmon (perfection), a Tuscan Kale Salad and the Roasted Baby Carrots. The carrots have a kick from a Sriracha-Honey glaze but it doesn’t overwhelm. This option will keep that health-nut pal of yours totally satisfied.

In rare form, my favorite dish was actually one of the Delicious Plants sides. I seldom pick a vegetarian dish over any meat options, but this is one of the exceptions. The Lemon & Dill Cauliflower almost had me licking the plate. These perfectly roasted cauliflower florets sit on a plate smear of velouté sauce with a bbq sumac spice. This item will have me coming back for more and I highly recommend you order this as well!

Whether you’re looking to keep it trim or to #treatyoself, Fellow can accommodate all eaters. With the superb flavors and a special eye to the littlest details from Chef Bryant, I have no doubt this spot will flourish in Westwood. It could also inspire more chef-forward restaurants to set up shop here.

GOF Tip: Be sure to park in the Target lot down the street; parking is 2 hours free with validation from Target.

Thank you so much to Lauren Sheftell for arranging this tasting. All though this meal was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.