James Beard Foundation Presents Taste America: Los Angeles Dinner 2017

On Friday, October 6th, 2017, Vibiana, the former 19th century Cathedral turned prominent event space in Downtown Los Angeles, was taken over by the national non-profit culinary arts organization, the James Beard Foundation and the best in the LA culinary scene. Taste America, the foundation’s 5th annual ten-city touring event, celebrated prolific stars of the food scene.

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Cafe Roze: East Nashville’s Cutest New Eatery

I finally made it over to East Nashville to go to Cafe Roze and let me tell you, I was not disappointed! From the outside, the building is unassuming with only a small neon sign alerting you to the restaurant’s presence. Opening the door you immediately feel at ease thanks to soft pastel decor and lovely kitchen smells. We sat at the bar and despite a packed house we were immediately attended to. The menu is the perfect size, with plenty of options without being overwhelming. First, we turned our attention to the drink menu which has an assortment of coffee and teas as well as spritzers, steamers, and cocktails.

Cafe Roze
1115 Porter Rd. Nashville, TN 37206
http://caferoze.com

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Wilbur Mexicana in Toronto

Wilbur Mexicana is where a group of friends can meet for drinks and a taco or even going out on your own for time alone. This is a spot where anyone and everyone is welcomed, while also offering cheap downtown eats with big flavour. Wilbur Mexicana is named after the chemist that discovered the Scoville scale of spicy heat, Wilbur Scoville. They offer an upscale but casual atmosphere serving up fast cheap eats that you would not expect in the downtown core.

Wilbur Mexicana
552 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M3
http://wilburmexicana.com
https://www.instagram.com/wilburmexicana/

Once you enter the restaurant there is a sign up on the menu board that states, “Wilbur first timers, grab a menu at the door”, when you read this, you look to your left and see some menus hanging off the side rack. Once you figure out what you want to indulge in, you simply order and pay at the cash where you give you a numbered placeholder that contains a photo of a cartoon pepper. If you are dining in, just grab a seat at a table to you prefer and sit pretty; if take out, sit comfy on a stool right next to the cash.

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Art + Tapas: Brunch at Palette 22 in Arlington, VA

Brunch is a staple here in the DMV. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, hundreds of residents stumble out into the streets looking for the best brunch cocktail, and a comfort dish to cure their lingering hangover! With so many options to choose from, restaurants work hard to stand out and provide menus and offerings that will leer the mimosa craving patron into their doors.

For the DMV, a good brunch isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. I can make brunch dish at home, but I can’t make an Arepa Eggs Benedict with an art gallery as my backdrop now can I? That’s where Palette 22 steps in.

Palette 22
4053 Campbell ave, Arlington, VA 22206
www.palette22.com


Palette 22 gets the experience of brunch right. It’s a restaurant as well as an art gallery. On any given day, local artists can usually be seen working in the space and almost all of the art shown can be purchased. I loved walking in and checking out some of the pieces while we waited for our table. Though I didn’t buy any, there were a few I put in my mental wish list. 

Photo via opentable.com

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Tasty Takeaways from Music City Food + Wine Festival

The fifth annual Music City Food + Wine Festival was held this past weekend at Bicentennial Park and it did not disappoint. In an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving culinary scene in the Music City, festival programming was expanded to include a Friday Night Grand Taste highlighting more of our local chefs and restaurateurs. One noticeable change this year was the ratio of booze to food. It was overwhelming and for many quite a challenge to remain sober. In 48 hours, I consumed no less than 10,000 calories. Clearly, I was living my best life. With more than 100 vendors at the festival, I had a hard time culling down my list of favorites. So I chose my top tasty takeaways from the festival.

One of my first stops at the Music City Food+Wine is always Barilla Pasta. Chef Yury Krasilovsky always has a spectacular pasta dish featured. It doesn’t hurt that he lives in Chicago and we have a chance to catch up on our favorite new restaurants in the city. This year Barilla brought their A game and one helluva pasta pan! Below you will see Chef Yury preparing Barilla Penne with Tomato “Passata”, Burrata Cheese and Arugula Pistachio Pesto.

Hot chicken…It’s what Nashville is known for, among other things.  Hattie B’s was serving up their delicious hot chicken (and no, it wasn’t too spicy) on top of a pimento cheese grit cake. Of course, no hot chicken bite is complete without a pickle!  Hattie B’s partnered with a local brewery, Bearded Iris, to pair this bite with their Homestyle or Scatterbrained Beer. I found the Homestyle to be a little less hoppy and more to my liking with this bite.

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Thai-Mexican Fine Dining in Acapulco: Zibú

In the middle of one of the most dangerous roads in Acapulco sits one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to Zibú, Thai-Mexican fine cuisine with the most beautiful Caribbean like atmosphere. The mesmerizing views of Acapulco Bay, fantastic service, and delicious food makes going to this place a memorable experience that you’ll want to repeat as much as possible. I’ve been quite a few times myself and even spent New Year’s Eve that at an awesome party. 

Zibú
Avenida Escenica S/N, Fraccionamiento Glomar, Pichilingue, 39887, Acapulco, Guerrero

This last time I went for a romantic date with bae. He had never been before, so I took him by the hand and guided him through the most delicious dishes of Zibú. The entrance of the restaurant is hard to find because the only thing you see, even more so if you go at night, are a few steps, the sign of the restaurant, and the valet. As you take a few steps down, you meet with the hostess under a beautiful palapa, right next to a rustic bonfire. I would suggest making a reservation, they are on Open Table, and they tend to book quickly, they also host events as well, so sometimes half of the restaurant is unavailable. For instance, the time I went, there was a wedding reception. But as a customer, you would never know, the only reason I knew was that my sister was a part of the wedding. As I said before the restaurant has different sections and private rooms that the regular customer would never be aware, once I saw one of their smaller rooms filled with roses and candles for a proposal once, so special.

Anyway back to me! As I was trying to show my boyfriend the best of the best we had quite the big dinner. We started with the amazingly delicious Camarones Sol y Sombra (Sun and Shadow Shrimp), it consists of six grilled shrimp placed on top of a mirror of mango sauce, the sun, and tamarind sauce, the shadow. It was not only delicious but amusing. As you can tell from the picture, it comes with veggies, mashed potatoes, and rice which is mostly carbs and neutral flavored so that they absorb the sauce to give the protein a beautiful complement. It can be sweet or sour or mix both sauces and get the best of both worlds. It’s a very well rounded dish, just delicious.

Camarones Sol y Sombra
Arroz Oriental
We then ordered Arroz Oriental and the Chicken Pad Thai. The rice has a colorful seasoning, ginger butter, and Thai red pepper, also a variety of seafood: shrimp, octopus, calamari, and lobster. If you like paella this is an interesting twist. It was delicious. Next up the chicken pad Thai, personally I love the texture of noodles and these were just perfect, the flavors of this dish were less bitter and more sweet with a hint of spice. Honestly, the food and the service were so good that we were planning on when our next visit should be.
Chicken Pad Thai 
Selva Mextai
As full as we were we could not miss dessert, this is one of those places that you can’t leave with out trying to fill your body with the biggest amount of food you’re capable. After a few minutes, we both agreed on getting the Selva Mextai. The description of the dish leaves out an ingredient on purpose, and even if you ask the waiter what it is, he won’t tell you, he will tell you though that you’ll have to guess after you try it. It was fun, we have no allergies, and we were curious, so we got it without fully knowing what to expect, and I’m glad we did. The coconut ice cream was fantastic, buttery and tasted just like an iced coconut. It did not have a hint of artificial flavors, and the dulce de leche made up for a great companion to eat. The mystery fried vegetable surrounding our dessert, well I can’t tell you, you’ll have to guess once you’re there!

Going Retro at The Smoking Gun in San Diego

This past week I had to opportunity to head into San Diego’s Gaslamp Corner to check out one of it’s newest hot spots, The Smoking Gun! I was excited to see this new twist on a neighborhood bar and restaurant, offering up a southern inspired menu, nostalgic details, and old school games! I was immediately charmed with the details that greeted us, from the menu in an old school folder, to the drinks presented in this favorite childhood toy, and especially by the oldies playing all night long!

The Smoking Gun
555 Market St., San Diego, CA, 92101
www.thesmokinggunsd.com

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Isabel’s Whole Roasted Chicken

There’s something about whole roasted chicken with it’s the perfect balance of herbs, spices and lemony aroma! It makes my heart sing and my tummy rumble with joy. It reminds me of all my favorite things; my mother’s house, fall, cozy nights playing cards with my family! Not only is it delicious, it’s also one of those meals that produce little baby meals all week long.

To me, the best part of roasted chicken is the crispy skin. I realize that might gross some people out, but when it’s cooked correctly, it’s delicious. This roasting method gets a nice crisp outside but keeps the meat nice and juicy on the inside. No dry white meat here! You can really use any combo of spices and herbs you want, but I personally love the combo in this recipe.

Serve your beautiful chicken with your favorite sides and you have a delicious dinner for the whole family. My favorite sides are quinoa or rice, steamed broccolini or roasted veggies, and a side salad!

Isabel’s Whole Roasted Chicken

1 organic, free range whole chicken (Mine was about 4 1/2 Lbs)
Tons of fresh rosemary
Two or three large garlic cloves
Lemon
1/2 white onion (optional)
Pink sea salt
Lemon pepper
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Paprika
Olive oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400F (If your oven runs hot or cold adjust it accordingly).
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel so the skin will get nice a crispy-steam=soggy skin.
The wings will be pointing up when cooking so starting on the bottom season starting with lemon.
After lemon, add olive oil and a good amount of spices.
Flip over and liberally season in the same way.
Stuff the used lemon halves, rosemary, garlic and onion inside the chicken.
Truss the legs of the chicken tightly. (Don’t skip this step!)
Bake covered for 25-30 minutes.
-Tip- be sure that the tin foil or lid doesn’t touch the chicken because when you take it off the skin will come off with it wherever it’s touching.
Baste with juices in the bottom of the pan and season with a little more lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until internal temp is 165F and skin is crispy.
-I like the skin almost burnt, in some places, as you can see in this photo. If you want it a little less intense just turn down the heat a bit or “tent” with tin foil. This method allows the direct heat to be blocked without trapping steam, which will uncrisp the skin.
Let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting to keep the juices from running out which will make your chicken dry. 
Once you’ve cooked a whole chicken the possibilities are endless as far as where to go next. Plain old leftovers, cold chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, and the best part…bone broth! The process of bone broth involves slow cooking the chicken bones in water with spices, herbs, and vegetables. This takes the nutrients from the marrow of the bones and the vegetables and makes an extremely nutritious broth that can be eaten alone or made into any soup that calls for chicken broth. Homemade is always best in my book! It adds such amazing flavor and depth to your soups that you’ll never go back to store bought!

New Eugene Italian Restaurant, Pastini, Takes a Pizza My Heart

There are three things I love most in the entire culinary universe: carbs, cheese, and wine. So when my husband, Jake, and I received an invitation to attend the new Pastini location’s soft open it was a no brainer as to what our response would be. It was ‘yes’ in case you were wondering.

Pastini
325 Oakway Rd, Eugene, OR 97401
http://www.pastini.com/

The Chef’s Board

Pastini Pastarias are strictly unique to Oregon with locations in Portland, Corvallis, and the newest spot opening in Eugene. They specialize in authentic Italian dishes using local, fresh ingredients. This location had a warm and comfortable interior juxtaposed with dark industrial elements influenced by the high ceiling of exposed pipes. The casual atmosphere was reflected in the servers’ uniform. Each wore a company t-shirt in what appeared to be a soft cotton, jeans, and converses in either black or red. Having worked in the food industry for years I can appreciate a business who puts their employees comfort as a priority. The displayed artwork was large yet minimal to keep focus on the true masterpieces, the food.

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Zatar Dallas - Lebanese Food

Lebanese Tapas in Dallas: Zatar

In the not so distant past, a craving for any type of ethnic cuisine besides sushi or Mexican food would typically require a trip to the suburbs. But in the last few years, Dallas-proper has been the lucky recipient of a few establishments that fall outside the realm of New American or Southern cooking–not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Enter Zatar (Lebanese oregano or spice blend), a Lebanese tapas restaurant in Deep Ellum with an attached hookah lounge. The first time we visited, you’d never know that Zatar was then only 4 days old as they operated like a well-oiled machine with Chef Mo Khazem providing the most palate-pleasing food I’ve tasted in a long time. Even more impressive, this is the first restaurant for Lebanese owners and partners in life, C.K. Khoury and Mark Mansour, who modernized a few of the traditional recipes—the beef shawarma flatbread—in order to make their cuisine more accessible to Americans.

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Pop-Up Italian Style: SAOR Project in LA

A trend in the Los Angeles foodie culture is the concept of the pop-up restaurant which offers a limited time dining experience in a temporary space with a specific focus on a particular type of food.

SAOR Project, started by Gianluca Zago and his wife Alessandra Manias, take the pop-up concept and aim to make it more of a permanent fixture, with monthly intimate meals and special dining events celebrating the best of classic Italian cuisine.

SAOR PROJECT
Private Residence, Sherman Oaks
https://www.saorproject.com

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the experience. But the word “experience” definitely sums up the evening. This was one of the most memorable dinners I’ve had in a very long while, and not just because of the excellent food.

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Clucking Around in Lewisville, TX: Prohibition Chicken

Prohibition Chicken is the collaboration of Josh Babb and Sean Clavir (formerly of Musume, The Chop Shop and Chop Shop Live) and Chef Roger Kaplan (Restaurant Innovations). In addition to its great location, they chose Lewisville for the restaurant’s site because it lends itself to the old country vibe they were seeking.

Prohibition Chicken
201 W. Church Street, Lewisville, TX 75057
www.prohibitionchicken.com

The dining room is wonderfully rustic yet chic. The walls are covered in wood and the comfy booths are covered in flour sacks.

Rustic interior with natural lighting. Check out the phone booth door leading to the speakeasy.

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