The world of foodie apps is like the wild west right now. Developers are striving to become the next big thing, but few apps offer anything unique to stand out from just being a local restaurant directory. I thought I had seen it all with these apps, until GOF blogger Marcie told me to check out an app called Renzell and it has since become my go-to restaurant directory app.
It’s for those with impeccable taste – What separates Renzell out from the other apps is a restaurant directory that is specifically hand-picked by Renzell staff of fine dining establishments in major metropolitan cities. This app isn’t here to help you find a new coffee shop, it’s to help you find the perfect special occasion spot. Think Marea in NYC, Redbird in LA and Alinea in Chicago.
Be undercover – Members can rate restaurants anonymously through their surveys, which are scored based off overall numbers, no long write-ups required. Their surveys are broken down into categories like ambiance, service, food and cocktails. What I love about this so much is that it’s not public what scores users gave, so I can quietly and candidly score spots. See full list of restaurants here.
Prove it – There is also more accountability in the scores than other review apps. Members are encouraged to show proof of dining by providing a receipt from their visit. This makes me feel better when I read the scores, cause it’s lessening the likelihood of fake reviews.
Get rewarded! – The more you survey and/or provide proof of receipt, the more goodies you can get! Recent rewards include Starbucks gift cards, SoulCycle classes, a month of free Spotify premium and so much more.
With membership benefits, secure anonymity and consistent app functionality, I will consider myself a “lifer” Renzell member.
Featured image – Strozzapreti from Marea in New York, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell
Whenever I’m in NYC and dining out, I always order a glass of Wölffer Estate’s Rosé and/or my absolute favorite, the No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider. It’s very common to find in NYC restaurants and bars. I’ve always wanted it to come over to the West Coast though!
While Californians still can’t purchase Wölffer Estate wines in their own state, we do have time to shop for new clothes at Co-Owner Joey Wölffer’s pop-up, The Road We Travel at Platform LA. Joey curates a Hamptons-meets-boho collection from an array of her favorite luxe designers.
If we can’t sip on a glass of Wölffer Estate Rosé in LA, we can at least dress like we do! I had a moment to chat with Joey about this pop-up among other things.
JG: How will this pop-up be different from your Sag Harbor and Nantucket locations?
JW: My ascetic is always the same. But LA is sophisticated and glamorous, so for this pop-up, I added a little sparkle to my boho ascetic. I haven’t been able to showcase here, so I’m very excited for that. When Platform reached out to me, I thought “to be amongst these other brands is so great.”
The type of businesses I love to feature on Girls on Food is family-owned businesses where the food is so tasty, that they’ve earned an opportunity to expand and are on the brink of something bigger. Pasta Sisters in Los Angeles embodies just that- their dine-in deli and pasta shop is growing into a second, and much larger, location in Culver City this coming Fall.
While I eagerly await their future 90 seat Culver City location to open in the Helms Bakery (it’ll be walking distance from me!) I decided to stop into their main shop on W. Pico Blvd. and try the famous spaghetti dishes I’ve been reading so much about over the past two years.
Their current location, in an unassuming strip mall, is small, but it gets packed! I came in on a weekday around 4 pm, all the tables were full, and there was a line for the to-go food. As I was taking images of the interior, a regular customer of theirs was curious to know what I was photographing. I told her about the write-up, and she let me know that Pasta Sisters supplies their pasta to a nearby school on Fridays for their lunches. This may have been the first time I was impressed with a restaurant for doing good before I tasted just how good the food was.
Editor note: This tour is not open to the public, this was a private tour
In the Fall of 2013, I moved from Venice to Brentwood (fun fact: very close to the Nicole Simpson house). I absolutely loved wandering around San Vicente Blvd. Four years later, the long and winding street continues to be packed with restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, pilates studios- it’s all upscale, but not in a flashy way.
I discovered The Larder at Tavern one day on a whim, in a gutterpunk top and sweats. I was just looking for a cheap cup of coffee. Little did I know I was wandering into what would become a regular spot for me and maintains a lot of respect from this foodie.
The Larder at Tavern is attached to a low-key but still beautiful restaurant Tavern. The Larder is even more casual serving coffee beverages, breads, deli foods, salads, sandwiches, desserts and more. I ate there a lot and everything was always phenomenal but the bread always stood out to me.
The Larder’s breads and pastries are supplied from Larder Baking Co which is owned by Chef Suzanne Goin (James Beard award winner) and restauranteur Caroline Styne (James Beard nominated). Since 2008, Nathan Dakdouk has been serving as Master Baker and supplying baked goods to Goin and Styne’s other spots Lucques, AOC and Tavern as well.
Whether or not your high school experience was your glory days or you were an outcast, it’s tough to not appreciate Public School’s “stroll-down-memory lane” theme. Everything, from the happy hour called “Recess”, to the Mead composition notebook-inspired menu design, the times tables wall decor in the bar, is all reminiscent of your average American high school.
Is Public School a chain-restaurant? Considering it’s owned by Grill Concepts (Daily Grill and The Grill On The Alley) with physical headquarters in Woodland Hills, CA and they have 4 different restaurants with over 30 locations, I think it’s safe to place Public School in this category.
One of the best things about the LA scene is the casual approach to dining. Back in my hometown of Sacramento, it was rare for us to dine out. And when we did, we dressed up. I’m talking heels, nylons, and dresses. We felt that if we were going to enjoy fantastic food, we had to dress-to-the-nines to be considered respectable to the restaurant.
Fast forward to today. I’ve made it past the 3-year mark in LA, and I have zero qualms about showing up at a fantastic restaurant like Fin in Culver City in my cute casual clothes.
And alone. Another thing my parents would probably feel strange about. I see solo diners all the time in LA, but I don’t recall ever seeing a table for one growing up.
Enough with my random tidbits.
I finally checked out Fin, in Culver City. Fin has a lovely interior, and the staff is super friendly, even if you’re alone and in casual clothes.
I got there around 5:30 PM, which the perfect time cause you can order items from the happy hour and the main menu.
All the items on the happy hour menu, which includes food & drink, are under $10, which is pretty rare in LA. In fact, all the happy hour drinks are under $7. Westsiders, this should be your new happy hour haven!
As much as I wanted to stick with happy hour drinks, Justin, my fantastic server, told me about the Basile Night cocktail. Made with Plymouth Gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, and muddled basil it was right up my alley. It’s the perfect balance of a girlie cocktail and a less sweet one, but I’m all about the herbal finish from the basil. So refreshing!
I started with two bite-sized treats. The Tuna Jalapeño Crispy Rice, and it’s the best on their happy hour menu. First off, their spicy tuna mix is beautiful, as you can from the image. Unlike most places that give you a pre-mixed glob of spicy tuna, you can see the details of scallions and spices they incorporate at Fin. The fried rice square also had a chewy rice center and wasn’t hard throughout, like past experiences I’ve had with this dish. The jalapeño on top adds an extra kick of greatness.
The next smaller item I ordered, the Spicy Yellowtail Handroll was a special, but maybe if we all order it and tell them how much we love it, they’ll add it to the menu. The chef’s spicy blend didn’t overwhelm the yellowtail, and the portion size is perfect for an entree pre-game.
Justin told me that the most popular dishes are some of the starters, so I ordered the Citrus Truffle Salmon Sashimi from the cold starters selection and the Seared Beef Carpaccio from the hot starters selection. Best of both temperatures.
The carpaccio was a large portion, perfect to share with friends. The seared fillet mignon topped with crispy fried shiitake mushrooms and a truffle chive dressing. So delicious.
The salmon sashimi was by far my favorite item at Fin. The salmon sashimi is served with a ponzu sauce, drizzled with a white truffle oil, topped with black truffle shavings and garnished with micro greens. The combination of the flavors of citrus and truffle was to die for, and the fatty salmon soaks it in perfectly. Tip: If you have to take a doggy bag home, the sashimi is even better soaked in the juices overnight. Trust me.
One of the perks of being a Girl on Food is sometimes, if I ask very politely, the Chef will allow me to sample a taste of an item. It doesn’t always work out, but Justin sweet talked him into letting me try a taste of the Pumpkin Tempura. The slice pumpkin is lightly battered and fried to crisp, then topped with a magical curry salt. Seriously, if I had more room, I would order two of these! The pumpkin is so soft and sweet, but that curry salt makes this side extra special.
After all these savory dishes I had a serious sweet tooth… and it was a cheat day… why not a cocktail with dessert? I tried the Blushing Geisha, which is plum wine, Rock Sake, Yuzu juice and a lychee fruit (I’m a sucker for anything with lychee on a stick). I also ordered the Coconut Pineapple Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. What a perfect ending. The frosting on the cake was so creamy and beautiful- what a perfect way to end this!
If you’re on the Westside, be sure to check Fin out, especially for that Happy Hour!
To the surprise of some of you I truly and madly love vegetables. It almost feels funny to say it out loud; I know you guys don’t picture me as the kind of girl that eats her greens but because my favorite plant-based restaurant is celebrating their first year I wanted to share with all of you this little piece of healthy heaven.
Make Out is located in a 1920s building in the heart of Culver City. The place is modern chic and what I like the most is that it has a very inviting café vibe. It has an array of big tables and -be warned- once you hit the couch you will not want to leave. The menu is full of healthy nutritious food mostly vegan and raw, and you will be able to enjoy juices, smoothies and/or a full meal. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t matter what you eat either way you will be doing your body a favor.
To start my meal, I ordered the Kombucha. It was fizzy, refreshing and came in a bunch of flavors I had pineapple. And the special of the day: the Nachos Fiesta. The Nachos were made with blue corn tortillas, vegan cheese and pico de gallo. I think that they should add the Nachos permanently on the menu because they were so tasty.
After that, I wanted to try some of the soups. And because I’m a good Mexican, the first soup I tried was the bean soup. Let me tell you it was so comforting; there is nothing like having freshly made bean soup when it’s cold in LA. Then I had the Squash soup. It had crunchy pepitas on top, and it was so incredibly creamy that it is hard to believe that it was dairy-free.
From the small plates section on the menu, I decided to have the Spicy Carrot Roll made with nori better known as seaweed, jalapeño “cream cheese”, cucumber and avocado. What an inspiring take on sushi! It was soft on the outside and crunchy on the inside. The plate was not only beautiful, but the roll tasted splendid.
I proceeded to try the flatbreads. I went with the Pizza flatbread that has Sundried Marinara, Pistachio Pesto, and Macadamia Ricotta. I’m telling you that Ricotta tasted like the real deal!! Followed by the Fennel flatbread. This one has baba ganoush, mint, lemon, and capers. Both of the flatbreads were delicious, but I was particularly taken with the Fennel flatbread. I I have never had a flatbread like that, it was good simple ingredients in a very innovative way.
To end my meal I wanted to try the Kelp bowls. So what is this Kelp thing? It is a kind of brown seaweed that is super high in nutrients. Best of all it is fat-free and gluten-free. Kelp is typically referred as noodles although they don’t taste or feel like pasta. I love them, so I tried the Almond Kelp bowl that comes with kelp noodles, carrot, lime, ginger and spicy Almond. As soon as I tasted it, the first thought that crossed my mind was Pad Thai. It tasted like the healthy version of that. Then I had the Pepper Kelp Bowl. It has black pepper, olive crumb, and snap peas. I had not had this one before, and it was delicious. It tasted like the best Alfredo pasta (minus all the fat and carbs) that you’ve ever had; it was creamy, complex and so savory. I was so impressed with this bowl.
I was super lucky because I got to try the new desserts that are coming soon to the menu thank you Make Out. First, I had the Raw Cheesecake Fudge. This little beauty is dipped in raw cacao. And it tastes just like it sounds: amazing. And then I had the Coconut Chocolate Hazelnut Mouse. Creamy, chocolaty, nutty…it was gorgeous. I can only describe it by how I felt and I was invaded by deep sadness when I had the last scoop. I just didn’t want it to end.
As you can see, I completely pigged out at Make Out. To be honest, there is not a thing on the menu that isn’t exciting. The food is healthy, flavorful and very creative. Best of all you are doing something good for your body every time you eat like this. I am so happy that Make Out is celebrating its anniversary I wish them many successful and healthy years!
I’d like to say I’m introducing you to one of Culver City’s little-hidden secrets. However, nothing about this man is little. He’s got a big personality, and his chorizo has an even bigger taste! Take it from me; I fancy myself a sausage/chorizo fan (you might say fanatic)!
While apartment hunting a little over a year ago, I discovered one of my new favorite spots, Del Rey Deli Co.! This little gem of a deli deserves its own blog post, so I’ll leave that for another time.
But while there, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they cure their meats and also serve chorizo made by the Chori man himself … Who was cheffin’ it up behind the counter.
As usually happens with me and food, I formed a quick obsession. I follow him on Instagram @thechoriman … And I love watching his successes! A year later The Chori-Man (Humberto Raygoza) is making it on his own. You can find him every Saturday at “The Wall” farmers market in Downtown LA 9 am to 2 pm. Here he can be found making his chorizo into tacos and burritos. In fact, his green chorizo burritos scored him a place in the top 10 list of the best burritos in L.A. on L.A. Taco.
Find him there and tell him Alia sent you! He also delivers to a handful of local restaurants and you can special order from him with a minimum order of 5 lbs.
Onto the meat!
The chorizo comes in 5 varieties and can be custom ordered made with chicken or soyrizo. I opted for the Mexican Zacatecano Red because it’s spicy… and so am I. The Chori-Man insisted I also try the Tolucan Green Chorizo, also a Mexican variety. It’s kind of like the Red’s-not-so-hot brother, but as you get to know him you love him for his solid and reliable taste. You can purchase the chorizo in a traditional sausage casing or one pound bags. I chose the Red and Green because I had a few ideas in mind, including egg dishes. Yes, I was already thinking about breakfast before I had even made dinner…
Chorizo day 1: Eggs are another food obsession of mine, and I was anxious to try the green chorizo with my other love. One of my favorite easy to make treats is eggs made in a muffin pan. Usually, I make a turkey bacon basket or a cup out of prosciutto. But you know what I heard, “Chorizo is the new bacon.” These little babes are so easy to make, and the presentation is always excellent. Partnered up with avocado, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, garlic and cayenne salad, I was in heaven. Not wanting to neglect my new love, I made cups out of both the green and red chorizo.
The little souffle cups are made by simply scrambling the eggs and adding a little salt and pepper, and they pop up just perfectly. My little-baked ones are simply that, just a cracked egg in the cup and baked at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Chorizo day 2: Anyone who knows me knows how much restraint I am practicing writing this post and only making minimal dirty jokes! If you don’t know me yet, I will just say I should come with a warning!
So… I may have had balls on my mind! I’m a huge fan of meatballs and was excited to try out chorizo balls, as I was sure these would be my new favorite. Usually, I would bake them, however, on Chori’s suggestion, I fried them in a little extra virgin olive oil, so I could save the juices and saute some zucchini in it. WHOA!!! While my zucchini was sauteing, I slow cooked black beans with quartered cherry tomatoes, diced scallions, garlic, and cilantro.
Once plated I laid down a bed of the zucchini, a ladle of the black beans, topped with chorizo balls and sprinkled with cubed avocado! This dish was AMAZEBALLS!!! All puns are fully intended…
So, let me tell you this chorizo, is hot! Spicy in all the right ways, but not so much that you can’t taste all the wonderful flavors. It complimented but didn’t overpower! Here’s the other beautiful thing, it was light. Not so dense that you wanted to play billiards with the leftover balls, a common problem I find with regular meatballs. In fact, there were no leftovers at all!
To sum up this experience…
No matter how you shape it The Chori-Man’s chorizo will not only meat your expectations, but exceed them! (I know… I know)