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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. 

Let’s Get Toasted: Toasty San Francisco

Toasty

2760 Octavia St. San Francisco, CA 94123

Website and Instagram

What would you do for good food?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Brunswick Restaurant Week 2018: Catherine Lombardi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J

Fatboi Tendencies 

The 4th Annual Stars of Pinot Raises Funds (And Plenty Of Glasses) For The T.J. Martell Foundation

wineLA, Los Angeles’ top source for wine-centered events and education, held their 4th Annual Stars of Pinot gathering at the luxurious Montage Beverly Hills last week. Over 150 wines were poured for enthusiasts to taste, wine reps were on site to talk about their brands and DJ Richard Blade was also spinning the best in 80’s new wave. This grand tasting also raised funds to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a non-profit that supports innovative groundbreaking cancer research.

Bouchaine’s ’17 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir

One might be under the impression that an event like this would be suited for the high rollers at wine auctions, but it was actually much more approachable.

With my general admission ticket (priced at $75) I was provided with a beautiful complimentary pinot wine glass and given access to taste any wine on the floor of my choosing. Plenty of cheeses, breads and Evian water bottles were also included in this ticket.

I believe every event should begin with bubbles and clearly, wineLA does too! Sponsor Champagne Henriot was providing guests with a champagne tasting right at the entrance to start the night on a bubbly note.

Let the games begin!

I’ve been to some smaller scale tasting events in the past, but this was a different beast. The Montage ballroom sets a tone for ostentatious LA glamour, with its operatic balconies and lavish chandeliers. However, the wine reps were all smiles and very down to earth. It was a fun mix of luxury and comfort.

Although this event wasn’t intended for attendees to make on the spot purchases, the reps were readily available with brochures and info on how to buy their wines. Many of the winemakers are also open minded to touring their vineyards, so keep their contact info on file for when you’re in their valley.

Ballroom of Montage Beverly Hills

I started the tasting tour with one of the friendliest faces there–Lindy Willingham, representing A to Z Wineworks–who set a high standard for the night. Their ’16 A to Z Essence of Oregon is lighter-bodied with notes of stone fruits, perfect for sipping on in the summertime. Although this was an earlier tasting, it was one of my favorite pours of the evening.

’16 A to Z Essence of Oregon

Pinot Noir was the belle of the ball, but many makers also offered samples of their rosé and an occasional chardonnay.

Other favorite tastes included:

Wrath Wines’ ’15 Pinot Noir – medium bodied and fruity with a little bit of spiciness

Bouchaine’s ’17 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir – very refreshing, perfect for a pool day

Iris Vineyards ’17 Chalice Estate Pinot Noir Rosé – loved the strawberry notes and light minerality

Van Duzar Vineyard’s ’16 Pinot Gris – notes of tropical fruits and a bit creamy

Although I attended this one solo (I was there for this post specifically), I do think it’s more fun to attend with a friend. So if you have a wino partner in crime, bring them out! Luckily I did bump into Chef Derrick Fox (who I have interviewed in the past) and I also got to meet one my favorite DJs on Sirius XM, DJ Richard Blade.

Me with DJ Richard Blade

There’s nothing better than discovering wines for a good cause. Be sure to keep up with wineLA’s upcoming events on their website. In addition to these events, the wineLA program (founded by sommelier Ian Blackburn) also includes wine classes, private dinners and wine travels abroad. We’re looking forward to the upcoming 2018 Bubbles and Rosé Festival, Sat, August 25, 2018, 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Leica Store and Gallery in Los Angeles–keep an eye out on Girls on Food for more information.

Iris Vineyards ’17 Chalice Estate Pinot Noir Rosé

Although this general admission ticket was comped by wineLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Irvine Media Tasting: Jazz En Plein Air at Bistango

When I first moved to Irvine back in 2008, Bistango was one of the first restaurants that I went to and really enjoyed. Summer is here and they have weekly live jazz music (in partnership with Saddleback College), every Thursday from 5:30pm-8:30pm on their patio deck. It’s one of those days where you can celebrate, because Friday is happening soon! And a good way to celebrate is by relaxing in their patio, order one of their signature cocktails, sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.

Bistango
19100 Von Karman Ave #100, Irvine, CA 92612
https://bistango.com/

They recently revamped their cocktail menu, and I have to say, it was impressive. They have 9 signature cocktails. The 4 we ordered were Coconut Mojito (RumHaven coconut rum, fresh mint, fresh squeezed lime juice), Ginger Basil Lemonade (Malahat ginger rum, fresh strawberry, fresh basil, splash of lemonade), Jalapeno or Pineapple Mule (Dulce Vida pineapple, jalapeno infused Tequila, fresh lime juice, ginger beer), and the Gin Reviver (Botonist gin, lillet blanc, cointreau, fresh lemon juice).

They also have a food menu that has remained classic over the past few years. They have a bar menu, which starts at 2pm, and a tapas menu, which starts at 4pm. If you have a few friends, you guys can definitely order a lot of things to try and share it among you and your friends. A few of my favorites from their food menu is their Pan Seared Diver Scallops, Prime Beef Sliders, Filet Mignon Flat Bread, and the Crab Cakes! All were very savory and delicious!

It tends to get cooler in the evening on the patio, but if it gets too cold, they do have outdoor heaters that they can turn on. All in all, Bistango is a great place to sit back and relax right before you weekend starts. Be sure to grab a few friends for drinks, Uber if you must, pick your poison, sit back, and enjoy the music. If you drove, they do validate your parking ticket. And if you did drive, limit your alcohol intake. ^_^ Until then, cheers!

Although this meal was comped by Bistango via Shout PR, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Chicago Media Tasting: bellyQ

Before I moved back to Chicago, I lived in Koreatown in Los Angeles, and loved it! One of the things I knew I’d miss was KBBQ. Since moving back, I’ve been looking for a restaurant to fill that craving and bellyQ definitely satisfied it.

bellyQ
1400 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.bellyqchicago.com/

When I sat down at my table, I had the opportunity to look around the restaurant and admired the industrial look paired with greenery and different accents throughout the restaurant. bellyQ, owned by Chef Bill Kim, is located that the end of Randolph St. in the West Loop, and it has been making a big name for itself since 2012- this year it earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction for Inspectors’ favorites for good value!

To start off this tasting, I had the Charlie (named as an homage to Charlie Trotter, who Chef Bill had the opportunity to work for twice at Charlie Trotter’s); bourbon, blackberry drinking vinegar, cocchi, and lemon. This drink paired perfectly with everything I ate. This was my first time sipping on a bourbon cocktail and I couldn’t even tell there was liquor in the drink- that’s a sign of a good cocktail!

 

The first dish I tried was the Lamb Potsticker, and it was amazing! I love lamb, so having it in a potsticker was perfect for me. This dish has napa, cucumber, onion spiced yogurt, and mama Kim’s dipping sauce. Mama Kim’s dipping sauce paired perfectly with the lamb potsticker, and this is definitely a dish I’ll have to get the next time I go to bellyQ.


The next dish I sampled was the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo.” This is an Asian and Italian fusion dish, and it was amazing. This dish has duck, biang biang noodles, napa cabbage, and cilantro. I would never have thought of transforming these ingredients into a Bolognese, but the way Chef Kim created the mix was perfection.


Shortly after the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo” arrived, so did the Savory Scallion Pancakes. The Scallion Pancake comes with three accompaniments, and they are:

  • Seasonal Pickles with mixed mushrooms
  • Hummus with eggplant, black beans, and sesame
  • BBQ Pork pulled shoulder with hoisin bbq

When eating the scallion pancake you’re supposed to put a little of all of the accompaniments on the piece of pancake. I would never have thought about pairing some of these flavors and ingredients, but they paired beautifully, and I couldn’t stop eating it!

The next dish I tried was the BQ Alfredo, which is another Asian and Italian fusion dish. This dish has rice cakes, wrinkled beans, bok choy, mushrooms, and oregano. Substituting noodles with rice cakes worked incredibly well and I loved all of the vegetables!

The final dish I enjoyed, was the Lemongrass Salmon. This dish has white corn grits, brussels sprouts, and pesto giardiniera. I loved the grits and brussels sprouts- definitely recommend this!

To top off this excellent meal, I had the PB & J dessert and a Vietnamese Coffee. The PB & J has coconut soft serve that’s flavored with vanilla, blueberry compote, and peanut butter. I am a HUGE fan of a classic PB & J, so this dessert paired with coffee was a incredible way to end this tasty meal at bellyQ.

I want to thank Chef Bill Kim and Elizabeth (operations manager) for putting together the perfect meal, and a huge thank you to all of the staff at bellyQ for an amazing dining experience. Also, if you want to try some of Chef Bill’s creations but aren’t in Chicago, make sure to get a copy of his cookbook, Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces– I can’t wait to recreate some of the recipes at home!

Thank you to Kinship for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Chicago Media Tasting: Arami

One of my favorite things is discovering hidden foodie gems in unexpected neighborhoods, and Arami is one of those gems located in West Town. Arami, a repeat Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded izakaya, offers some of the best sushi that I have ever had.

Arami
1829 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.aramichicago.com/

I loved how natural-feeling all the bamboo decor is. The plants and skylight make the atmosphere create a sense of calm, making the dining experience very relaxed. I definitely want to come back on a sunny day, to experience the skylight and see how it lights up the dining area.

For this tasting, we started off with cocktails, and they were refreshing and delicious. We ordered the St. Dorothy, Shiso Kiri, and Bohemian Grove; I had the Bohemian Grove and I loved how nicely it paired with all of the food we tried.

(Left) Shiso Kiri, (Top) St. Dorothy, and (Right) Bohemian Grove

To start off we enjoyed the Tako Kani Salad, which has octopus, king crab, shrimp, cucumber, yuzu, ponzu, and micro shiso. I am a HUGE fan of ponzu and yuzu, so I loved this dish. It was light but flavorful, and the cucumbers made is very refreshing.

Tako Kani Salad

Then we moved onto the Hamachi sashimi, which was divine. I loved the presentation and the buttery fish with a tangy finish.

Hamachi

Next, we had the Zuke Sake Hotate (spicy Hokkaido scallop wrapped with marinated salmon and taro) and Zuke Maguro Kani, which were amazing (spicy Alaskan King Crab wrapped with marinated tuna and taro). Both specialties had the right balance of spice, rice, fish, and garnish. I had never tried a tokubetsu (a specialty nigiri) like these before, but I loved them. I was a little nervous about the level of spiciness, but I was pleasantly surprised that everything balanced the spice out.

Zuke Maguro Kani and Zuke Sake Hotate

While we were enjoying the tokubetsu, we were served the Cornchizu. This has corn, queso fresco, shiso, cilantro, miso garlic sauce, and togarashi. Initially I was really surprised that there was a corn cheese dish on the menu because I had only seen dishes similar to this at Korean restaurants. However, when we asked about the inspiration behind the dish we were told that there’s a Korean restaurant down the street that the staff of Arami enjoys and they like the corn cheese dish, which made perfect sense to me. This dish has a bold blend of flavors, and I would highly recommend it if you like the Korean corn cheese.

Cornchizu

The Poke was the next dish we devoured, and it was the most unique take on poke that I have ever had. Immediately, I noticed that the colors were more muted than most poke bowls that I’ve had, but once it started eating it, then I noticed how different the flavors were. The fish had a smokier flavor, but that was balanced out by the onion, seaweed, and cucumber. The Macadamia nuts were a nice touch too.

Poke

Once we finished the Poke, we were presented with a beautiful flight of nigiri. We started eating it left to right, which meant eating the Hirame (Japanese flounder), then Aji (horse mackerel), and ending with the Sake (salmon). Each fish had more and more flavor, but I loved the ponzu on the Aji.

Then we moved onto the Pipikaula Steak, which was phenomenal. It consists of koji dry-aged domestic wagyu short rib, shoyu mango, and poi. The short rib was amazing, but I really loved the way the shoyu mango complemented the steak.

Pipikaula Steak

After the steak, we had the Unagi Spicy Maguro. Unagi is one of my favorites, so I was excited to try this roll. The spicy tuna wasn’t too spicy and the cucumber, sweet soy, and negi definitely helped balance the flavors and spice levels in the roll. Even though, this has spicy tuna, I still found this roll to be very light and refreshing.

Unagi Spicy Maguro

Our final dish was the Hotate-Su, which has Hokkaido scallop, Hawaiian hot pepper water, coconut lime sauce, hearts of palm, Thai basil, and passionfruit. This dish is super light and I loved how all of the different flavors mixed.

Hotate-Su

I loved all of the dishes that we had at Arami. I love the twists they’ve put on some dishes like Poke and the Korean Corn and Cheese dish. Additionally, I also appreciated that they notate on their menu which items are safe for people who are gluten free/have celiac, shellfish free, vegetarian and vegan, and which items have octopus. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this before at a Japanese restaurant, but I appreciate it because I know that I have a place I can bring friends who have dietary restrictions. If you love sushi and are in Chicago, then I definitely recommend Arami!

Thank you to Isabelli Media Relations for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

West Coast Media Tasting: Summer Solstice Party at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar in Dallas and Orange, CA

Carla: Girls on Food got invited to the super fun Summer Solstice Parties at Lazy Dog’s participating locations last week. So I attended one in Orange, CA and Dawn attended the Dallas one. We were celebrating both the beginning of Summer and the release of their the new Huckleberry Haze IPA house beer (by Golden Road Brewing).

The setup for the event was really cute and had different stations for us to try all the different beers on tap. Tons of beer information was provided to us by their knowledgeable staff who gave great insight into Lazy Dog + Golden Roads awesome approach to beer and food pairings.

Summertime Spread – Image by Carla

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar  
Locations spread throughout California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado
https://www.lazydogrestaurants.com/

CarlaRight of the bat I wanted to try to Huckleberry Haze IPA and I fell immediately in love. Normally I’m a tequila or vodka type of gal (effective and calorie conscious drinks) so a lot can be said when I admit to an immediate infatuation with a beer. Huckleberry is super unique to beers and in this case a labor of love between Chef Gabe Caliendo at Lazy Dog and Head Brewmaster at Golden Road, Victor Novak.
Beer Tower – Image by Carla
For those unfamiliar, Hazy IPA’s are made when the hops are added at the end of the beer making process. In doing so the beer acquires a sweeter taste rather than a hoppy one. Fruit notes also tend to stand out much more with this process and they definitely did in this brew. You can totally taste the berries as well as a tiny hint of strawberry and other tropical flavors.
All the other beers provided were perfectly picked for summer. The Ankle Buster Blonde was pretty tasty and the Stargazer Nitro Stout was a bold choice. I totally recommend the Stargazer to anyone who loves a refreshing iced coffee on a hot summer morning.
Dawn: The new summer menu was something to howl about! One of my favorites was the Street Corn Wheels, perfectly grilled sweet corn on the cob seasoned with lime, garlic, queso blanco, tajin and cilantro.
Street Corn Wheels – Image by Dawn
Carla: Zero guilt was felt as I ate multiple of the new Grilled Artichokes. I was glad to have something so healthy and yummy! Seasoned with lemon and herbs then cooked on the grill these little veggies were incredible with their house made roasted garlic tahini.
Artichoke – Image by Dawn
CarlaThe mini corn dogs were the perfect size to nibble on while trying out the different beers. The Sun Spanked Red Ale contrasts beautifully with the corn batter and Nathan’s all beef hot dog.
Dawn: These babies are not are NOT the cereal-filled mini dogs of your childhood. These are all beef hot dogs dipped in a slightly sweet batter and served up with some IPA mustard and ketchup.
Corndogs – Image by Dawn
Carla: Finally the Chili Peanut Wings really stole the show. The sauce and flavors are rich while tangy and would pair great with either the Howling Hive Hefe or the Ankle Buster Blonde. Fun fact: Hef beers such as Howling Hive Hefe are made with German yeast and from this acquire the taste of banana and cloves. Go ahead and try it, its a super palpable taste.
Dawn: The wings are caramelized in mixture of pineapple juice, fish sauce, lime, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, chili flakes, crushed peanuts and cilantro. Think Kung Pao wings!
Chili Peanut Wings – Image by Dawn
CarlaAll in all, I’m glad Lazy Dog is as ready as I am for summer. Beers, bites and best of all the occasional cutie dog on the patio!
Thank you so much to C Squared PR for inviting the West Coast Girls on Food Team to this tasting. Although all food and beverages were comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.  

Chicago Media Tasting: Baobing By Duck Duck Goat Launch Party

One of my favorite parts of Chicago is the West Loop, because it’s the foodie hub of the city. Chef Stephanie Izard has strategically opened up all of her restaurants there. Every restaurant she’s opened has unique twists on a variety of cuisines that inspire her and Baobing is her latest masterpiece.

Baobing Takeout Window

BaoBing by Duck Duck Goat
857 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
http://duckduckgoatchicago.com/

Baobing is a takeout window located on the Peoria St. side of Duck Duck Goat. Baobing is traditionally Taiwanese shaved ice, which the takeout window has, and it also has options for savory food items.

To start off the tasting, we had the Taiwanese Fried Chicken and the Fried Tofu. The Taiwanese Fried Chicken is delicious, and I love how the pickle relish helps balance the spice in the hot mustard aioli. The Fried Tofu sounds simple, but don’t be fooled. The vinaigrette, chili oil, and scallions give it plenty of flavor and I love the way they mix — this was probably my favorite dish!

Taiwanese Fried Chicken
Fried Tofu

We also tried the Beef and the Crispy Chicken Wraps, which were delectable. They are wrapped in Stephanie’s scallion pancake, a staple at Duck Duck Goat, and they are filled with different herbs. The Crispy Chicken Wrap has the same pickles as the Fried Chicken meal.

Beef Wrap
Crispy Chicken Wrap

Once we finished the savory dishes, then we moved onto the sweet ones. This was what I was most excited for — the Taiwanese-inspired shaved ice. We first tried the Rainbow Mountain which has soft ice cream, mango, blueberry, and cucumber snow ice; it has a great combination of flavors and is very refreshing. Then we moved onto the more savory dessert, the Sesame Sundae, which has a more unique pairing of flavors, but was a perfect balance of sweet and savory — definitely a favorite.

Rainbow Mountain
Sesame Sundae

The Mango Cloud City has a great mixture of fruit and who doesn’t love the flavor of mango in the summer heat?! I also loved that it has dragon fruit. The final shaved ice we had was the Blue Blue Lemon, and they definitely saved the best for last. I enjoyed how balanced the dessert is between the blueberry and lemon flavors- it is an art to accomplish this as seamlessly as Stephanie has. We ended with a savory dessert, the Jian Bing Thing, and it is possibly the most unique dessert I have ever tried. I would never have thought to pair soft ice cream with caramel, cilantro, crepes, wontons, and crunchy chili oil; however, the way this dessert is designed, all of the flavors work.

Mango Cloud City
Blue Blue Lemon
Jian Bing Thing

They open in the late afternoon during the week and mid-morning on the weekends, so you can enjoy great eats on the patio. If you’re looking for some great food in the West Loop at a great price, then I highly recommend Baobing!

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Julianne: I woke up on the morning of Friday, June 8th, 2018 to a slew of text alerts from various friends and family. My heart sank because I just knew something terrible happened. I prolonged turning on the TV or even looking to see what these texts said until I’d fed my daughter and had a cup of coffee, cause sometimes, I preemptively “can’t even.”

The first alert I saw came from the TMZ app announcing that “Anthony Bourdain passed away at age 61” and I instantly hit a state of shock and disbelief. Was this an error in the TMZ app? There’s just no way this was real. After turning on CNN and seeing the news on TV, it all became very real. We lost him.

I watched the shows, followed his Twitter, admired him not only for his culinary genius but also as a male front-runner for the #MeToo movement. I realized he’s the only person I ever ate at restaurants because they made his show. My favorite being Nonna Betta in Rome which has his image all over the restaurant. Appearing on his show helped this business, as I imagined it helped many.

The famous Jerusalem Artichoke from Nonna Betta

This may be one of the first celebrity deaths to hit me hard. Sure, I’ve never actually met him, and I didn’t necessarily cling onto every single thing he ever said about food (especially his infamous thoughts on vegetarians), but he brought a lot of joy to his fans and had helped re-shape how many of us think about food.  

We’re still in a state of mourning here at Girls on Food, with the news of his death. Below, bloggers Sam and Iman remember the original culinary rebel with a cause, Anthony Bourdain.

Sam: Anthony shined a light on the culinary world, exposing it for all its glory; the truth about being a chef, the connections we have with food, of course, a few helpful tips to us aspiring young chefs.

“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go,” Bourdain said, and it’s true now more than ever.

Much like the rest of the culinary world, it still hurts to know he’s gone; it hurts a lot. Finding out he passed away left me with the same empty, numb feeling as I found out when my grandma had passed away. I only met him once, for 30 minutes at most, but it was one of the absolute best 30 minutes of my life, and I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity that so many others did not.

The date was March 18, 2009. Bourdain was doing a presentation in Johnson & Wales University’s Xavier Auditorium. As students were lining up to get a good seat outside, there was one student in particular, while she might have appeared composed outwardly, was panicking internally (in the best way possible) because she was sitting with him backstage, talking to him and interviewing for the college newspaper. 21 year old (back then) Sam was so happy & grateful for those precious minutes, and now, 30-year-old Sam is incredibly grateful and appreciative of those minutes.

Anthony and Sam

We chatted about so much in those 30 minutes; we spoke of the fantastic adventures he’d gone on, the difficulties of being away from his (at the time) young daughter, and of course, the pleasures of sharing a meal with beautiful people. Yes, they’re documented in the articles I wrote about that event, some pictures too, and even an autograph in a book I nervously asked him for. However, they’re permanently engraved in my memory, like my initials in my knives, and I’ll cherish them for the rest of my life. Chef, we’re heartbroken that you’re gone. However, we’ll keep your memory alive and keep you in our hearts as we’re eating, traveling, eating, and sharing. Rest In Peace.

Iman: Like so many others in the world, I was utterly blindsided by the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. I’ve always loved and admired his television series No Reservations, The Layover and Parts Unknown, but I don’t think I realized how much he impacted me until he was gone.

I remember watching No Reservations during early morning appointments when I was 14 – so, I’ve basically been watching him for half of my life. I’ve always wanted to travel and explore the world (my list is endless), and through Anthony’s shows, I was able to explore places I never imagined and got to experience the world during times when I wasn’t even able to leave my bed. I was able to explore the phenomenal and the mundane with his narratives. His honest depiction of the culture and the worlds he was in is what drew me in. He wasn’t there as an expert of the food and culture; instead, he relied on experts native to the respective country to guide and teach him – and all of us. His shows combined history, food, culture, and politics while humanizing the people we got to meet every week on television.

One of my favorite episodes was the Punjab episode on Parts Unknown, where Anthony goes through the province and takes the train to Shimla. This province is where my family is from and where my grandparents grew up before migrating to Pakistan during the Partition of India and Pakistan. While watching with my family, I got to learn a lot about my grandparents and great-grandparents from the stories my parents told me throughout this episode. It was also important to me because he showed how vibrant and unique Punjabis are and that they’re more than our perceived stereotypes – like so many other people around the world.

I’ve also gotten to try a couple of places that Anthony has gone in episodes, such as Cochon in New Orleans. Though it’s known for their pork dishes (Cochon means pork in French), I explored other parts of the menu, such as their delicious short rib, rabbit, and alligator. Thank you, Anthony, for showing us how to travel – by immersing yourself in a country’s culture, experiencing new things with a sense of earnestness, and finding the commonalities between all of us. You will be dearly missed.

Beef Short Rib with Tomato, Squash, Pickled Okra, and Slow Roasted Grits from Cochon

We’d like to extend our condolences to Anthony Bourdain’s family and friends. 

If you’re struggling with thoughts of committing suicide, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

We are currently raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on our Facebook page. 

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

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

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

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

The spread that dreams are made of

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

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

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

Smoked Salmon Tower + Fruit & Flowers

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

Nonna’s Pan Cinnamon Rolls

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

Greens & Grains Bowl

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

Croque Madame
Eggs in Purgatory

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

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

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

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

Bloody Mary
Watermelon Frozé
Honeymoon in Paris

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

Watermelon Frozé anyone?

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

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

MEDIA TASTING: Chaya Venice Gets A Glow Up

I moved to Venice in early 2013 and Chaya became my main stomping ground after waiting tables at The Firehouse across the street. Regularly, I’d sit at the bar alone and enjoy their happy hour specials after a shift. I could only afford one cocktail (a Lychee Martini) and one Spicy Shrimp roll at the time. Want proof? Check out these fun (and low-quality) shots from my personal Instagram page, here, here and here. When I was slumped over at the bar, I’d dream of dining in the actual dining room. I was mostly lured in by the white tablecloths; since I was a child, they had embodied the word “fancy.”

Fast forward to last Monday night: I don’t live in Venice anymore and haven’t made it out to Chaya in ages. I am invited in to check out the newly renovated Chaya Venice for a media tasting and dine not at the bar, but in the proper dining room. With Danielle, my friend and owner of my favorite LA restaurant blog, Follow My Gut, I was excited to indulge in some nostalgia and taste items outside of the happy hour menu.

Chaya Modern Izakaya 
110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291
http://www.thechaya.com/

The original Chaya, a family-owned teahouse called Hikage Chaya, debuted in Kamakura, Japan in the early 1600’s. After centuries of reinventions and expansions into other locations, the Chaya group eventually opened a Venice location, under founding Chef Shigefumi Tachibe in the 90’s. Current Corporate Executive Chef Yukou Kajino and Executive Chef Joji Inoue are now leading the show.

The appearance of this longtime Venice favorite had not been touched but it finally got its LA glow up and the addition of “Modern Izakaya” to its name. Changes include swapping the vibrant red exterior for a light Japanese bamboo fencing, long communal cedar tables in the lounge, and a more intimate main dining room (they swapped 25 seats for a new banquet room). Sadly, my beloved white tablecloth is gone.

The zhoosh up

I’m not sure if the glow up was necessary for me, since the only reason I hadn’t been in so long is due to proximity. I prefer the former 90’s Japanese-meets-French brassiere vibe, even if was a little dated. I think there’s fun in being formal, in eating like a “grown up.” I realize the rest of LA wants all their favorite spots to be “mod upscale-casual” so I suppose they could make everyone else happy with it.

Although I noticed some changes to the Happy Hour menu — doing away with some of their beloved sushi rolls, like the Spicy Shrimp and the Chef’s Choice — I am happy to report they did not get rid of the classics like the Lychee Martini and the Mac & Cheese. They’ve also added nigiri and sashimi to the bar menu, which I don’t recall from my Firehouse days.

A view from the Kaisen Bar

The bar now boasts a larger selection of liquors, including more tequilas and a more developed Japanese whiskey program. Although I’m not indulging in cocktails (I’m breastfeeding, so beer and wine is more my thing) I will note the specialty cocktail list is perfectly updated with drinks for beachy, Westside vibes and not overly trending. At the Kaisen Bar, similar to a Chef’s Counter, guests can dine on a set omakase menu, featuring the freshest sushi and oysters made right in front of them.

Amuse Bouche

The wines are mostly California-based, with a few European options, and are perfect for pairing with the new menu items. Every dinner should begin with bubbles, so that’s how I started mine. The Schlumberger Grüner Veltliner Brut is minerally, high on effervescence and the floral notes work perfect for the Amuse Bouche and Big-Makase, a five-piece nigiri selectionThe Amuse Bouche of the evening (note: off menu item that changes every day) was an ample portion of a potato stuffed with mussels in a Pommery mustard sauce. If this was any indication of how the dinner would start, I knew I was in great hands. 

Big-Makase and the off menu mackerel roll

Based off image above, the nigiri in the Big-Makase is intended to be eaten starting left and working your way right. Each nigiri piece had a different sauce, starting with Maguro with a savory sauce, Hamachi with a buttery, smoky soy sauce, Sake with yuzu pepper sauce, seared Shiro Maguro with a garlic ponzu and Scallop with a plum paste. Danielle and I both agreed that while all of these were great, the Shiro Maguro (aka albacore) was our favorite bite. We tasted another off-the-menu treat, a roll of cured mackerel topped with ginger and shiso leaf. Fans of the pungent shiso leaf would love this one, since there is an ample amount in the rice, so be sure to ask if they’ll make it for you.

Manila Clams

The next course was my favorite new dish of the evening. The Manila Clams are steamed in a green garlic broth and settle upon silky tofu. Be sure they bring a spoon, cause you’ll want to sip up that broth. Pair this one with the St. Urbans-Hof Black Label Nik Weis Estate Old Vines Riesling, since it’s a sweeter, fruity pour. 

Chrysanthemum Salad

There is now a larger selection of salads and vegetables added to the menu. The Chrysanthemum Salad is a meatier options with chewy bits of bacon, enoki mushrooms and bacon vinaigrette. It’s not listed under the salads but the Grilled Octopus is a lighter dish that comes with a filling portion of green papaya salad. If you’re on a date, don’t fear this salad — it’s less garlicky, compared to others, so you can confidently kiss at the end of the night.

Grilled Octopus

The octopus, braised for two hours with lemon and spices, then bincho-grilled, is charred around the edges but still maintains a marshmallow softness. Although I originally thought I’d be pairing a fuller white or even a sake with these two, server Marcel recommended the Banshee Pinot Noir, which was better since it’s a lighter, riper red, a perfect in-between.  

Pork Chop Katsu

The Pork Chop Katsu, served bone in, is crisp with panko on the outside but juicy on the inside. Since it’s a pork chop cut, it is quite thick and topped with a peanut-mole and Japanese mustard. I paired this with Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Syrah. It’s an intense, smoky syrah, perfect for meatier dishes.

Cherry Parfait with an Earl Grey Mochi Ice Cream

I’m not much of a dessert person but the Cherry Parfait, with mascarpone cream and light chunks of brownie was to die for. Ask Danielle, I inhaled it! The Early Grey mochi ice cream on the side was herbal, creamy and melts in your mouth. Make sure to save some of the syrah for this one, especially after it aerates even more.

The new menu is delicious, thoughtful and very modern, to match the new esthetic.

Thanks to Lawrence Moore and Associates for setting up this media tasting.

Although this dining experience was comped by Chaya Venice, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.