Girls on Food

Dinner

Reasons to Love Antibes France + L’Arazur

The French Riviera is known for beautiful beaches, sunshine, and luxurious, over-the-top experiences. Instead of indulging at one of the well-known hot spots like Cannes, Nice, Monaco, or St. Tropez, I opt for the low-key, classic European vibe of Antibes. Antibes is located between Cannes and Nice. It’s 30 minutes by car from the Nice airport and easily accessible by train.

Antibes has the beautiful beaches the French Riviera is known for and the Mediterranean’s famous ultra-blue water to go with it. But, instead of Lamborghini lined streets filled with high-end boutiques and 5-star resorts, Antibes maintains the charm of an old world city.

The Old Town neighborhood of Antibes has everything I want in a French town: gorgeous old buildings, classic architecture, a renowned daily market, a fantastic weekly antiques and flea market (Thursdays!), a 14th century chateau style castle turned world class art museum (Picasso!), picture-perfect mazes of backstreets, corner cafes for sipping espressos in the morning and cocktails at night, and loads of traditional bakeries (almond croissants!).

Almond croissants aside, I haven’t even scratched the surface of Antibes’s culinary scene! It is France after all! The Riviera’s warm climate and seaside geography inform the flavorful and diverse regional cuisine full of fresh, local produce and seafood. Sure, there is amazing cheese – (Its still France!), but fewer dishes are drowned in cream or filled with pork lardons. The Riviera showcases a lighter side of French cuisine!   A culinary haven for vegetable and seafood loving foodies like me – especially when prepared with the precision and expertise of the area’s best chefs!

The husband and I habitually end our trips to Europe with a few days in Antibes. After a few weeks of being on the go and exploring new cities, I’m might not be ready to go home, but I am starting to crave a hint of familiarity.  Antibes is a beautiful, relaxing, and charming final chapter to a trip. It has the perfect blend of everything we love – sunny weather, fabulous beach, cool architecture, great art, interesting history, scenic drives, and of course, amazing food.

Since Antibes has become a recurring theme in our travel repertoire, I keep my pulse on the town’s restaurant and chef buzz. So when we arrived, I had two things on my culinary agenda: 1. Find the best Almond Croissant (Boulangerie Veziano) and 2. Figure out why L’Arazur is the spot on every who’s-who in the food world’s radar.

When the duo behind L’Arazur’s resumes include a combined nine Michelin starred restaurants, the hype is high and the expectations are even higher. Located a hop away from the center of Old Town and by pure coincidence, a block from our AirBNB flat, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine at L’Arazur.

L’Arazur

8, rue des Palmiers

06600 Antibes

On an unassuming corner of a tiny side street, L’Arazur’s location is equal parts charming and understated. The restaurant opens at seven for dinner. For most of the day, the modest signage, a glass case containing the menu and a few of the restaurant’s accolades make the exterior no more remarkable than any quaint establishment in an old French alleyway. This becomes even more true when factoring in the roll down metal door covered in graffiti.

At seven o’clock, when the doors of this back-alley establishment open and the service starts, nothing about what follows is typical. The oh-so-thoughtfully planned tasting menu with a mind-blowing amuse bouche, intuitive service, and perfectly timed courses are remarkable. There is a reason its on critics’ radars and rumors about a star are circling. L’Arazur’s dishes are a true tour d’ force.

We ordered the five-course plus dessert tasting menu. Their tasting menu has gotten lots of attention. So I went into the meal with a mixture of heightened expectations and skepticism. I was disarmed of my skepticism quickly.

L’Arazur’s execution of both the food and timing is among the best, and I can’t recommend their tasting menu highly enough! The menu showcases a perfect balance of lighter dishes followed by richer ones and bright acidity followed by decadence, accompanied by an almost eerily attentive level of service. Each course left me itching for the next, not out of hunger, but out of shear delight! Every plate was as tantalizing as the one before. Bites displayed a myriad of creative techniques and artistic presentation.

With a masterful blend of familiar and unfamiliar elements, L’Arazur sheds a fresh perspective on seasonal, local ingredients without alienating diners with avante garde techniques or inaccessible flavor profiles.

STARTER: Parmesan crisp with herb infused cream, & sushi-style cucumber roll with cashew crème. Accompanied by a not-too-sweet, bright, citrus Aperatif.

WINE: Saint Peray, La Beylesse. A mineral forward white. Recommended as a complement to the tasting menu by our server.

COURSE 1: An amuse bouche of whipped sweet potato foam & raw halibut. Served with black bread infused with orange.

COURSE 2: Snapper Ceviche with sea beans, pineapple, & radish.

COURSE 3: Blue lobster, mushrooms, black bread crust, parsley emulsion with a rich buttery bisque.

COURSE 4: Poached turbot with cockles, smoke emulsion, & chard. Served over a bed of pureed celery root with flowers.

COURSE 5: Roasted pigeon with glaze, roasted vegetables, & fresh herbs.

PALATE CLEANSER: Lime sorbet with cucumber sugar.

DESSERT: Chocolate Mousse with kalamansi citrus sorbet, orange blossom sponge cake, & candied seeds & grains.

POST MEAL SWEET: Madeleines with Mirabelle Jelly Candies (and we ordered espresso).

I soaked up every morsel of L’Arazur’s expertly crafted dining experience. The wine pairing was perfect. I really wanted to pick a favorite course and rave about it. But, I can’t choose just one! The amuse bouche is a memorable stand-out. The turbot was so perfectly and uniquely prepared! And, the rich, flavorful complexities of the lobster were phenomenal. Their chocolate mousse ruined me for all other chocolate mousse. My chocolate loving palate wants to be mad about it but can’t be.

The bottom line? L’Arazur deserves every ounce of buzz, the hype, and a star of its own. I can’t wait to return.

Winc’s Folly Of The Beast Pinot Noir Paired With Barbecued Lobster Tail

When I think of Pinot Noir, I can’t help but think of the pivotal scene in the 2004 film Sideways as seen below. Paul Giamatti’s performance in this scene epitomizes how romantic one can get when talking about this extraordinary red wine.

Although sipping on a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir is fantastic itself, with National Pinot Noir Day coming up here on Saturday, August 18th, I wanted to try something on the unconventional side with our friends at Winc.

Since Winc’s most popular Pinot Noir, Folly of the Beast, is coined after the famous Moby Dick quote “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth that is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men,” I wanted to play around with the idea of pairing it with one of the tastiest beasts of the sea- lobster!

Pinot Noir cultivates in cooler climates, especially around the west coast, I got inspiration for this Folly of the Beast pairing from my idea of a perfect whale watching barbecue. Note: sand and sea are not required for this pairing.

Take $25 off of your first purchase with Winc courtesy of Girls on Food.

Some of you out there may be scratching your head, wondering how a Pinot Noir would pair with anything seafood related. Lighter bodied reds, like this Pinot Noir, pair well with grilled fish and crustaceans, due to the smokiness from the barbecue process, which plays with the notes of spice from the oak aging process.

In addition to my instructions for barbecuing lobster, I have also included 2 different butters to either spoon on while you’re cooking, or to keep handy on the side to dip the meat in. Both butters will pair with the Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir as well.

Barbecued Lobster Tail

  1. Purchase lobster tails from any market that follows safety and HACCP regulations. My local butcher butterflies the lobster for me, but if you’re not able to have them do it, cut the shell with a pair of kitchen shears.
  2. Heat barbecue grill to a medium-high heat.
  3. Open the lobster and grill directly onto heat for 5 minutes each, flesh side up. I basted each lobster meat with one of the 2 different butters below.
  4. Remove from heat and pair with roasted potatoes, dipping butters from below and a bottle of Folly of the Beast.

For the butter recipes below, combine specified melted butters with the ingredients and mix. Easy!

Classic Lobster Butter

1 cup of salted butter

2 tbsp of minced garlic

2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley

Zest of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

 Smokey Lobster Butter

1 cup of salted butter

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 tbsp canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 tbsp of minced garlic

1 tbsp finely chopped green onion

1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

Zest of lime

Salt and Pepper to taste

One of the many things we love about this wine club is the mix in selection. Winc offers a variety of higher and lower priced bottles of wine and none of them skim on quality. Lobster may be a pricer crustacean, but a bottle of Folly of the Beast is only $18 through Winc (and between us, that’s less expensive than Whole Foods’ price) so you can keep your backyard barbecue party within your budget.

When it comes to pairing foods with your Winc box, think outside the box!

Take $25 off of your first purchase with Winc courtesy of Girls on Food.

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 

What Are Some Of The Trendiest Foods Of 2018?

It can be amazing to see how much trends drive the food industry. But it’s something you might want to think about the next time you order a pork belly taco or whip up a kale smoothie! Food trends can come about for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s effective advertising, sometimes it’s a renewed focus on the health of a certain ingredient, and sometimes a type of food just becomes inexplicably linked to pop culture. It can feel quite random, and in some cases silly, but it’s also a lot of fun for us foodies!

These are some of the trendiest foods we’ve been noticing in 2018.

Popped Chips

If you haven’t tried popped (or puffed) chips, frankly, you’re missing out. Said to be “never fried, never baked” but rather just “popped,” the brand that took this idea mainstream, Popchips, has become something of a tasty sensation. But it’s also led to imitations that deal with ingredients well beyond potatoes. Check out your nearest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, for instance, and you may find some popped or puffed veggie chips (which pretty much just taste like delicious, airy Ruffles). It’s a fun snack trend that may well be here to stay!

Alternative Pastas

With more and more people looking to minimize carbs in their diets, pasta is a bit of a no-no for many of us, at least on a regular basis. So, naturally, the food industry as a collective whole has begun to produce seemingly innumerable pasta alternatives. There’s gluten-free pasta, quinoa pasta, zucchini pasta, parsnip and sweet potato noodles, and the list surely goes on and on. Basically, it’s become clear that you can make noodles out of just about anything, and a lot of the options are better for a low-carb diet than good old-fashioned pasta.

Dim Sum

Dim sum might be the most blatantly trendy item on this list. Restaurants serving these Asian small dishes are popping up seemingly all over the place, in big cities and small towns alike. A Canadian online arcade features a dim sum game among its slot machine collection. (The game simply involves different kinds of dim sum as slot reel icons.) It’s probably a matter of time before a dim sum food truck makes it big on Shark Tank, a la Cousins’ Maine Lobster. With all this said, we’re not complaining. Good dim sum is absolutely delicious, and makes for a great lighter meal.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a little bit different, but deserve a mention here. One article declaring that mushrooms have emerged from underground spoke to how this trend goes well beyond dining. Mushrooms are trendy in pretty much every way imaginable. They’re being infused in food and drink more frequently, as well as being used in beauty products. For that matter, even “magic” mushrooms are being studied and used more to treat certain mental conditions!

Flavored Sparkling Water

Okay, so sparkling water isn’t food, but it can be every bit as satisfying. And suffice it to say we finally seem to have reached a point at which flavored sparkling water is starting to chip away at soda empires. Brands like La Croix and Spindrift are suddenly all over the place, offering light, healthy, and tasty alternatives to sugary sodas. Additionally, alcoholic versions of these drinks are being produced as well by other companies. “Spiked seltzer” is one of the bigger trends in beverages, and serves as a pleasant low-calorie alternative to liquor or beer.

Hamming It Up At The Haam in Toronto

The Haam is the place to dine if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try unique mashups. Situated in the Entertainment District of Toronto, the vibes here are cool and homey while still pumping out the beats for a meal right before you hit the streets. In Korean, “haam” means to add more, additional to make the best (hence the plus symbol in their logo); they definitely add that extra oomph to make their dish the best that it can be. Keep in mind, that The Haam does love to experiment with different dishes and techniques, so they will be having a rotating menu and these dishes may or may not be available; which does make it even more exciting to visit!

The Haam
342 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1R7
https://www.instagram.com/thehaamtoronto/

Seabass: gochojang, cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, fish skin

The mixture of the balsamic vinaigrette and gochugang (Korean red chilli paste) gives you a nice combo of sweet and spicy that complement the clean seabass crudo. Grab a complete bite of the sauced up seabass with the refreshing cucumber, and crunchy fried fish skin; it’ll hit all the taste buds and provide all different textures that will leave you satisfied.

Scallop: ikura, red onion, yam, avocado, shallot

This scallop plate is super refreshing with a light and citrusy dressing. The fried shallots provide a bit of crunch, the ikura (salmon roe) gives a little bursts of flavour and saltiness and the yam smear ties the entire dish together with a bit of sweetness.

Macbokki: gochujang, cauliflower, smoked cheddar, provolone, gruyere, za’atar

The Macbokki, is probably my favourite item we had. This is a tteokbokkif (Korean rice cake) version of mac and chesse but gochujang style. So creamy with the just right amount of spice (from the gochujang), not too rich with all the cheeses but there is a slight sweetness that just rounds out the dish. To top off the dish are the huge taro chips that are just so much fun to eat with.

Fried Chicken: curry, sambal, mint

Now, who doesn’t love fried chicken?! For those that are a bit uncertain of the dishes above, this one will soothe your soul. Hearing of the combination of the three sauces may sound strange but amazingly enough the three combined create a symphony of sweet, minty and spicy. Alternatively, all three sauces are just as magnificent on their own! Also cannot forget about the super crunchy chicken that is perfectly friend and is straight up KFC (Korean Fried Chicken).

Holy Crab!: Soft shell crab, scallop, shrimp, squid

This rice dish simply reminds me of a seafood paella. My most favourite seafood paella that I had had a sweetness to it that just combined the seafood along with the rice in a way that I just wanted to keep on eating it; this dish plays that exact same role. There’s just a sweetness that just makes you want to keep eating until every last grain is complete. To help balance the sweetness is the fried soft shell crab that provided a bit of saltiness and that crunch factor that is needed in all rice dishes.

Aburi Chirashi: uni, tuna, salmon, shiso, ikura, garlic mayo, truffle

To wrap up our entire meals is the final touch of the Aburi Chirashi. A traditional chirashi consists of sushi rice and fresh raw fish. This dish consists of a bed of the sushi rice with fresh uni, tuna and salmon laid at top of the rice, topped with garlic mayo and torched to perfection (aburi). Aburi (torched sushi) is a very popular style here in Toronto and this dish is definitely a unique and different take on it. The torching provides a melt in your mouth feel that just with every bite you feel like you are eating something so decadent and it feels so wrong but tastes so good.

The Haam makes you feel like you’re at home and your mom/dad decides to come up with an experimental meal to wow you; except, that The Haam does wow you every time without fault. They have only been open for a bit over a month now and I can tell you that you can expect some fairly unique (and even daring) dishes coming out of this little spot. I cannot wait to see what other creations they have in store!

DaiLo Brings Chinese with Filipino Flavors to Toronto

DaiLo means ‘big brother’ in Cantonese and DaiLo pays tribute to this in the sense that their dishes pay tribute to traditional Chinese dishes but with a modern update. You may be familiar with DaiLo as their Chef de Cuisine, Chef Dennis Tay, was on Top Chef Canada and Top Chef Canada All Stars! If you have never watched Top Chef Canada, then you must know that DaiLo ranks 18 in the 2017 Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants!  Even prior to all of this, I had heard many beautiful things about this spot and was super excited to go!

DaiLo
503 College St, Toronto, ON M6J 2J3
http://dailoto.com/

Crispy Octopus Tacos (2pc)

We started out our meal with their Octopus Tacos and Hakka Brown Wontons. These tacos were prepared with super tender fried octopus, red braised pork belly, sambal aioli, jicama shell. Tender pieces of octopus and melt in your mouth pork belly wrapped in a paper thin jicama shell, provide a great combination of texture. While throwing in the slightly spicy but creamy sambal aioli, helps balance out the flavours and adds that extra oomph.

Hakka Brown Wontons (pork & shrimp)

 

While their Hakka Brown Wontons were a play on traditional pork and shrimp wontons. These wontons were covered in their house xo sauce and toasted sesame oil; every bite was wonderfully coated in the sauce that when you would pop in a wonton, it would just explode with flavour.

 

 

Special: Steamed European Sea Bass

The first entree we ordered was a special of the day, their Steamed European Sea Bass. This is another traditional dish that even Filipinos dine on as well! It is one of my favourite ways of consuming fish! Traditionally, steamed fish has a sauce mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil; this steamed fish is in a soy sauce glaze with boiled sesame oil poured over. When they poured the sesame oil table side, you just get such a beautiful scent of sesame oil and hear the sizzle as the oil hits the fish and garnishes. The sea bass was super tender that the meat pulled away so easily and would melt in your mouth. The soy sauce glaze and sesame oil add a bit of sweetness and a nuttiness to the otherwise simple, clean flavours of the sea bass.

Olliffe’s 90 Day Dry Aged Rib Eye (12oz)

Next is definitely a pleaser, their 90 Day Dry Aged Rib Eye. This beautiful cut of meat is from a local butcher shop, Olliffe’s, that source their meat from local farmers within Ontario, Saskatchewan and PEI. This rib eye was is presented along side bok choy, radish, pickled mushroom and black bean bagna cauda. The rib eye, itself, was super tender and melted in your mouth with every bite. Having a bite of the rib eye along with the savoury black bean bagna cauda could prove to be too rich, which why the pickled mushrooms and radish are there to help cut the richness and help balance the dish.

Truffle Fried Rice

Of course, a staple in Asian cuisine is the rice! You must have rice with your meal in order for it to be complete! Welcome the Truffle Fried Rice. This fried rice consists of black truffle, egg, carrots, edamame, puffed rice and a side of xo sauce. I definitely wish there was more xo sauce of this plate of deliciousness! This dish starts off to taste like your usual fried rice, until you get little crispy bites of the puffed rice, the earthiness of the black truffle and top off the bite with the flavour packed xo sauce. So addicting, so good; has the most difficult time trying to not devour the entire plate myself.

Dessert: Their take on a Filipino treat called Champorado

I know I said that your meal is not complete without rice, but let’s be real, even though the rice would complete my meal I always have room for dessert! This dessert is a play on a Filipino dish called, Champorado. Now this dish is traditionally a rice chocolate pudding and is typically eaten for breakfast but can definitely be consumed any time of the day. DaiLo’s take on champorado consists of chocolate pudding, cocoa crispies, chocolate polvoron (Filipino shortbread), white rabbit candy ice cream and salted caramel. This is a chocolate lovers dream while combining all good sweet things of my childhood. This dessert does get a tad bit sweet but consuming some of the polvoron helped to balance out the sweetness. Maybe textures were at play and provides a very pleasing experience while indulging on your sweet tooth.

I highly recommend DaiLo, not only for it’s Asian flavours and French twist but also because it is a local restaurant that is doing it big

A Preview of the New Menu at Crossings In South Pasadena

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

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

 

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

Paradise Lost
Ichabod’s Muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kumamoto Oysters

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

Hamachi Verde

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

Roasted Sunchokes

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

Hamachi Collar

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

Wagyu Navel

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

Pot de Creme

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

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

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

Whole roasting a fish intimidated me for a long time. Clean out the insides? No thanks. It sounded a little too chef-y.  Far beyond my capabilities. Or, so I told myself.

But, a few years back, I was craving a dish my family made for years.  So, I decided if my Nonni can do it, so can I.  Now whole-roasting is one of my absolute favorite ways to prepare multiple types of fish!  Overcoming kitchen fears is the best!

If you are new to whole roasting fish, branzino (also, called Mediterranean sea bass) is a great place to start! It’s small in size and has a wonderful flaky white flesh! Due to prevalence on restaurant menus and increasing popularity, its easy to find at fish markets and specialty grocers year-round – regardless of where you live!

Branzino are native to Mediterranean waters although most of what’s available in North America is farmed off the coast of Greece. Nonetheless, this fish and method of preparation are extremely popular throughout the Mediterranean region – including where my family is from in Sicily! Using a simple salt crust technique to lock in the moisture, we can roast a moist, tender, flaky, and flavorful result every time!  Gorgeous, healthy, flavorful, and roasts to perfection in only 20 minutes; what’s not to love?

Lets get started!  The video shows the step-by-step method, and the full recipe is listed below!

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

35 minutes, 2 servings per fish

For the Branzino:

1 – 1.5 lb. whole branzino (per 2 persons)*

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ sliced small lemon

½ small shallot, thinly sliced

2 fresh mint sprigs

kitchen twine

parchment lined baking sheet

For salt crust:

2 large egg whites

~ 1 lb. kosher salt

For serving:

2 tbsp. balsamic reduction**

1 tbsp. + drizzle high quality extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tsp.)

2 tbsp. freshly chopped mint leaves

juice from ½ lemon, divided

zest from ½ lemon

freshly cracked black pepper

½ tsp. plus more for seasoning

pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Roasted Asparagus:

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

½ lb. asparagus spears, ends trimmed

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

mint leaves for garnish

*At most seafood markets and specialty grocers, you can request that they gut the fish for you. Just make sure that they leave the tail and head alone! The fish must remain whole to lock in moisture!

**To make balsamic reduction, place ¼ c. balsamic vinegar on stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium, swirling every minute or so, continue to simmer for 4-5 more minutes until balsamic has reduced by about half (this will yield 2 tbsp.). Immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside. This can be done up to 2 days ahead if desired. Store in an airtight container if making ahead.

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

If your fish has not already been gutted: make an incision from the belly side beginning just below the head and continuing to the tail end. Remove all guts and organs. Rinse inside and outside of the fish clean.

Once your fish has been gutted, season the inside of cleaned branzino with salt.  Arrange slices of lemon, sprigs of mint, and thin slices of shallots inside each fish.  Secure by wrapping fish with kitchen twine. (This step can be completed up to 2 hours ahead if wrapped and refrigerated.)

On a separate rimmed baking sheet, place trimmed asparagus, 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. kosher salt, minced garlic cloves, and the small sliced shallot. Toss to coat asparagus. Set aside.

To make the paste for the salt crust, use a fork to combine about 1 lb. of salt with enough egg white to form a paste in a bowl.  For me, this was 2 large egg whites.  Spread a thin layer of the salt paste on the parchment paper lining the prepared baking sheet. You only need to cover the surface area where the fish will lay. This should use about 1/2 of the salt paste. Then place fish on top of salt paste layer and arrange remaining salt paste over the top of the fish in a thin layer. You want to cover the entire surface area of fish because the paste forms the crust that locks in both flavor and moisture.

Transfer both baking sheets to the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.  Roast fish on top rack and asparagus on bottom rack. After 20 minutes, remove fish from oven! Give asparagus a turn and roast 5 minutes longer.

Allow fish to rest for 4-5 minutes before removing the salt crust.  Use your hands and dull knife to peel away the salt crust.  It should come off very easily and often in large sections.  Discard salt crust.

Remove asparagus form the oven.

Remove the twine and try to remove as many additional bits of the salt crust as possible from the fish. Work carefully so that the fish doesn’t completely fall apart.

Transfer branzino onto the baking sheet with the asparagus. Working with one side at a time, make an incision down the spine of the fish and near the fish’s tail, so that the skin can easily be peeled and rolled away from the meat. Roll the skin away until you reach the fin/gill region. The fish’s skin worked hard to lock in the fish’s moisture and flavor in the oven. The combination of the steamed flesh and the skin’s contact with the salt paste will make it very easily peel off of the fish’s tender flaky tasty flesh. Carefully flip the fish over and repeat this step on the other side.

On a 1 – 1.5 lb. fish, the meat from one side of the fish is about one serving.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, pinch of kosher salt and Himalayan pink salt, chopped mint leaves, lemon zest, and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with roasted asparagus and crispy shallots. Garnish with slice of lemon and a few mint leaves.

Enjoy!

XO,

Maria


Don’t forget to share your recipe photos on Instagram by tagging @girlsonfoodblog and @almostproperly. We love seeing what you make!

 

Supra: Georgian Cuisine in D.C.

The last time I was in D.C. (2012), I spent the summer there, and while I ate a lot of good food that time, the food scene in the District has changed considerably – in a good way. Since I was in town for a wedding, I made sure to hit up restaurants and museums while I was there for the weekend. The scene is lit – the food is on another level. Thankfully I have a cousin who lives there and she recommended we try out Georgian cuisine – a first for any of us.

Supra
1205 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
https://www.supradc.com/

Supra opened a month before I got there, and it’s Washington D.C.’s first Georgian restaurant. The owners, Jonathan and Laura Helms, have a deep appreciation for Georgian cuisine, having traveled and lived in Russia and Georgia throughout their career and even dined at the now executive chef’s restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia. Executive Chef Malkhaz Maisashvili, former chef of the Embassy of Georgia, wanted to introduce D.C. to the cuisine’s stews and soup dumplings, among other things while also putting a modern twist on the cuisine.

Supra – the name, that is – means both a Georgian traditional tablecloth as well as an abundant Georgian feast. When you enter the restaurant, there are unique interior touches that pay homage to the culture, but it’s also a modern fine dining space. Luckily, Supra takes reservations (a rarity in San Francisco) so we walked right in and made our way to our table. The chef was walking around and also taking orders, so we asked for recommendations – and he suggested to try the imported Georgian sodas. Happy I tried them, but not really my thing, stick with your usual beverage of choice.

Georgian cuisine has a lot of similarities to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, so it’s something I’m very familiar with. Supra is family style and small plates, so we ordered small plates from the “hot” section. I mean, it was December, so it was cold. We started off with the Elarji, cornmeal and cheese croquettes with almond sauce and red ajika. Ajika is a spicy dip; it reminds me of spicy chutneys that are often found in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, especially Afghan food. The croquettes were delicious and the cheese was nice and stringy. We also ordered Kale Moshushuli, which was sautéed kale, garlic and svanuri salt. I thought this would have more unique flavor, but it ended up being a standard sautéed kale.

Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian dish that is essentially cheese-filled bread. Supra offers several variations, ones filled with vegetables, eggs, and meat. It immediately caught my eye, not only because it’s bread (I love carbs), but because of the “puri” part in the word. In Pakistani cuisine, puris are a flaky, quickly deep fried bread, so if it had any similarity then I was sold. We ordered the Pkhlovani, which has spinach and cheese. It’s much thicker than paper thin puris, but it’s packed with cheese and spinach. I would liken it to a calzone, and Georgians actually prefer Khachapuri to pizza.

And this is the reason we came – Khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings. I know soup dumplings are extremely popular Chinese cuisine (xiaolongbao), so it was cool to see the Asian influence in Georgian food. This was my first time having any type of soup dumpling, so I was very excited. It comes out on a tray with a small cup of water with a lemon and a pepper grinder. To eat (according to our waiter), you dip your hands into the water bowl to wet your fingers, hold the soup dumpling by the top and carefully bite in. Then you slurp the broth and meat inside! I’m not totally sure if this is the “correct” way to eat it, but we did it. The table across from us was watching us to see how we did it – maybe we were just making fools of ourselves… haha. Either way, the broth had a hearty beefy flavor and very comforting on a cold day. And it’s also addicting.

And finally, we ordered two kebabs – the Chicken, marinated in sour cream and served with alike and tkemali, and Lamb, marinated in yogurt with alike and tkemali. Tkemali is a sour plum sauce. The lamb was delicious and cooked perfectly but the chicken was just okay. We didn’t order any larger plates since we had so many things on our table.

Supra is definitely worth checking out. It’s fun to try a new and underexposed cuisine, and I always enjoy seeing the commonalities and influences from other cultures!

Chainsmoker Urban Smoked Meats in Toronto

Chainsmoker is Toronto’s newest smokehouse offering straight up real smoked meats with a chill atmosphere. They have just opened a few days again and I am hooked! They are still working out what works for them, so I am definitely planning on dropping by here and there to see what new thing has been added. Now, I do not know much about interior design but I do know that the furniture used and the mix-match of furniture really does set the mood as a place where you can relax, eat with your hands and just feel at home.

Chainsmoker
The Spread

Not only do they serve up amazing smoked meats but they also serve delicious sides to complete your meal. We opted for the classic roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (yes, that is steamed rice in the bottom corner but the vegetables look yummier).

Sides: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Roasted Cauliflower

I have always been a huge fan of roasted vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts and cauliflower! The crispier the better! Chainsmoker makes their roasted vegetables very simply by roasting and seasoned with their house spices. The Brussels sprouts are well roasted that they are still a bit soft in the inside but there is a nice crunch to the exterior. While the cauliflower is a bit soft in the stalks but the little flowers are like crunchy little nuggets. Throughout our meal, I would continue to pick on these even after I was super full from the meats.

Side: Jalapeno Cornbread

Two words, JALAPENO CORNBREAD. LOVE. You have no idea how much I truly did enjoy this; so much so that I would continue to lovingly whisper “I love cornbread” after every other sentence while I was chatting with my boyfriend. It is such a struggle to find some legit “crunchy on the outside, soft and moist in the instead and actually taste like corn” cornbread in this city. I wish I just bought them out but the funds were running low by the end of the day! Although Chainsmoker specialize in their smoked meats, I just love cornbread so much that I would definitely come by solely to buy cornbread. (No shame)

Smoked Wings

Enough of the sides, I should probably get to some actual meat. We had a few options but will mention two via photos for you. First up, is their smoked wings. These bad boys are smoked up to 1 hour which give them just enough smoke without overpowering. Drench these guys in their BBQ sauce that is offered at the table and you got yourself some smoky BBQ wings.

Braised Beef Ribs

Next up are their Braised Beef Ribs! These are like dinosaur ribs! They are so moist, so meaty and just one rib is enough! The meat was fall off the bone tender and melt in your mouth good. Would definitely come back to have a rib and pack one for lunch the next day.

Look at the size of this rib!
Citrus Custard Pie on Oreo Crust

Now, what’s a great meal without a sweet treat to wrap it up? Chainsmoker is still in the process of finalizing their current dessert of a citrus custard pie on Oreo crust but we were lucky enough to get a taste! The citrus custard is sweet but tart and has an overall creamy light texture while the top is bruleed to add that extra bit of sweetness to balance the tart. To balance out the sweet and tart, the chocolately Oreo crust adds that extra richness to smooth all the flavours out.

Chainsmoker Urban Smoked Meats has just warmed up and we hear that there will be other great options coming our way! Be sure to follow and check them on Instagram and Facebook to be up to date and see what they have in store.

Montreal, Mon Amour!

As the middle of winter consumes us, dreaming of somewhere warm is the most typical thought that crosses our minds. Punta Cana, Brazil, Mexico…to name a few. For me, I am a proud, winter-loving Canadian… who has barely seen Canada. I’ve travelled to Central America, I’ve road tripped and flown throughout U.S.A. numerous times, yet I haven’t traveled my way through Canada. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to take my husband to somewhere he has never been before, the home of the poutine, Montreal, Quebec.

Now, I’ve been to Montreal before for a day trip but did not get to experience the culture nor the amazing cuisine. We packed our bags and set off for a 5 and a half road trip to Montreal. We had no plans, zero bookings and just wanted to roll with the punches.

After settling in, we decided to wonder around our little neighbourhood near the hotel. Since our French is “Je ne c’est quoi” (literally means I do not know what) we wanted to try something a little familiar to us.

Our first stop: Bier Markt Montréal
1221 Rene-Levesque Blvd W Montreal,QC

I absolutely love the Bier Markt. I’ve been many times before but never in Montreal. It is traditionally a place that sells a ginormous variety of beers. From pints, to bottles, sample trays, cocktails, champagne, wine, literally everything. The only thing I’ve ever consumed here is beer, because that is what they are known for. This particular trip, we decided to order some snacks to go along with our sampler tray of beer. I never even knew we could order food let alone have a great selection to choose from. We decided to go with a shareable board of seafood and cheese. Just typing this, I’m already missing that board. Our three choices were fresh mozzarella, tuna poke and grilled calamari. It was paired with fresh bread, pickles and a raspberry compote. Spectacular and overwhelming perfect is the only way for me to describe the food, the ambiance and the general vibe of this establishment. We loved it so much, we ended up going back the next night for a little night cap.

The next morning we decided to hunt down the perfect poutine. But since it was 10 am, we decided cheese curds and French fries were more of an afternoon treat.

As we were walking looking for a coffee shop, we found a little spot called: Paris Cafe
1333 Saint-Catherine St. W Montreal,QC

It turned out to be a quaint little restaurant serving crepes! The menu was in French but Nutella is a universal word in any language. I indulged in a London Fog latte and an incredible Nutella Banana Crepe that they prepare right on display as you enter the cafe. It was extremely decadent and the best latte I’ve ever had. This two story restaurant was packed but not busy as everything was made so quickly and devoured within minutes. It was a lovely spot to start our day off right.

Montreal is known for its beauty and art. On the side of buildings, you could see paintings of the late Leonard Cohen throughout the city. A beautiful tribute to a great Canadian artist in his home town. The architecture and museums were extraordinary. Some of the best I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you looked, there was beauty.

After touring the city, our quest for the perfect Poutine had peeked. As a vegetarian, I haven’t come across many poutines that I was able to enjoy. Most poutines I’ve come across had a beef base. I was concerned but determined I could find something just right.

That is when we stumbled upon: Ye Olde Orchard Pub
1189 Rue de la Montagne Montreal, QC

We were instantly greeted by a gentleman wearing a kilt. Typical old pub setting. What I thought would be a tiny pub was actually fairly large with dim lighting and stone walls. I eyeballed the menu and found the poutine section. There it was…my gateway poutine into the poutine world. Vegetarian Curry Poutine. It was a trifecta of my three favourite foods merging together in one dish. The curry actually just tasted like a spicy gravy. The cheese curds, although I hate the word curd, they were delicious. I had found euphoria in a pile of French fries. And I was in love.

This trip was filled with so much delicious food, we have barely eaten since we’ve returned home. Montreal really does feel like you’re in a different world. The cuisine, the culture, the people….its hard to describe but definitely somewhere everyone needs to go. Even in the winter, it was magical and felt like the perfect weekend getaway.

Until next time, Au Revoir, Montreal!

Lauren’s Last Bite Takes Over London

There’s no need to dread turning 35 if you do it with an epic trip to London. Turn up!! Turn up!! If you read any of my previous posts, you will recall I was living in Puerto Rico. I have since relocated back to Washington D.C. I love to travel as often as I can, but I am frugal. I would much rather spend my hard-earned moolah on food and cocktails! It is cheaper to book a flight out of NYC to London, which gave me the opportunity to try the ‘Purple Amethyst Latte’ at The End in Brooklyn. This vegan latte was a berry-infused, antioxidant rich, mood lifting drink with ube and a touch of lavender honey! This coffee shop offers a couple of energizing drinks as alternatives to coffee at their “Plant Alchemy Bar”. They are also famous for their ‘Unicorn Latte’.

Upon landing in London, a city known for its abundance of Michelin starred restaurants, I didn’t know which one to choose.  Luckily there were a few near my hotel. Another plus about London’s bevy of Michelin starred restaurants is that most of them are open for lunch and offer a prix fixe option that won’t blow your food budget. Unfortunately, I have a food budget AND a drink budget. My drink budget has been known to be loftier than my food budget. I chose the Typing Room’. It was modern, sleek, yet still approachable. I ‘day-dressed up’, but other diners were more casually dressed.  The food was stellar and the open kitchen gave way to a wonderful show. It was raining (duh, I was in London) and I ate a little heavier than usual for lunch. Venison, braised cabbage two ways with yogurt and demi-glace. The venison was so tender that no knife was needed.

Venison Medallions, Cabbage 2 ways, Spiced Yogurt and Demi Glace

Blown away by the service, food and the experience at Typing Room, I couldn’t leave London without checking another Michelin starred restaurant off my list. I love some fusion and StreetXO was highly recommended. This was a Spanish/Asian fusion. Ok, I can dig it. No surprise I started with a celebratory drink. They had me at vodka, St. Germain and that big a** glass. StreetXO has a variety of tasting menus, but being alone I was able to order a la carte. YAY!!! I had the “club” sandwich. Being a former Boricua, I couldn’t resist a croquette. These were a perfect mix of Spanish/Asian fusion: kimchi, raw salmon, trout roe, Lapsang Souchong tea, and sheep’s milk. These were perfect from the first dribble-down-your-chin-I-don’t-care-I-am-in-public bite. It was THAT good. The menu looked so good. I want to go back with more people and devour the entire menu…twice!  Most of the clientele were Spaniards. I loved this, because you know if natives are eating there it is legit. This also let me know how far my Spanish has regressed since living in Puerto Rico. 

“Club Sandwich” from StreetXO
Croquettes with kimchi, trout roe

I fell for the hype and went to the ICEBAR in London. It is exactly what you imagine…a bar with everything made of ice: the bar, the glassware, the seats, EVERYTHING. I’m guessing it’s an improbability that they ever run out of ice.  At the door you are greeted with ski jackets to keep you insulated in the constant brisk -5 Celsius temperature. It’s as cold as it sounds and your jacket comes with gloves attached. BRRRRRRR. I’m having cold flashbacks. It was a cool spot (literally and figuratively). The bar is sponsored by ABSOLUT and each year the inside has a different theme. When I visited it was a zoo them. Gorillas, zebras and tigers, oh my! I’ll be honest, I was a bit too cold to take it all in. Even the cute bartender with the sexy, South African accent couldn’t coax me into staying. Look me up when you have a job in a temperate climate.

treacle tart

As always, I will conclude with my last bite. I will go back to London for the ‘treacle tart’ from Boxcar Butcher and Grill. From my understanding, treacle is term for molasses, but is also slang for sweetheart. This tart had a sweet/salty combo from a dusting of caramel corn. All I can say is, “WTF?” Where’s the Food?

Cute Bartender @Icebar in London