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MEDIA TASTING: The Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village, CA Brings Out The Kid In Us!

Los Angeles, I’ve just found your new go-to summer hangout! If you’re looking for good drinks, good eats, and fun games in a laid back but classy atmosphere, look no further than the Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village.

THE THIRSTY MERCHANT 

12430 Riverside Dr
Valley Village, CA 91607
http://www.thethirstymerchant.com

I enjoy watching and playing games as much as the next girl, but I usually avoid my local sports bar because I’m not interested in jockeying for a spot at the pool table with a bunch of annoying bros.

Thank goodness for the Thirsty Merchant. Not only are there plenty of games to choose from (bocce ball, foosball, corn hole, darts—even giant Connect-Four!), but the vibe is warm and inviting with an elegant Victorian-inspired twist. The bar is impressive, and they offer a wide selection of beers, but they also have an excellent wine and cocktail list for those like myself who aren’t into brews.

Hot Lips

Upon arriving, my companion and I settled into a cozy, dimly lit booth and perused the menu. We decided to start off with a couple of spicy drinks to get things going. He ordered a Hot Lips cocktail made with jalapeño infused vodka, mezcal, lime, pineapple juice, and vanilla simple syrup. I ordered a Merchant Mary with Bang Bang Shrimp Cocktail from the “Day Drinks” menu (which, by the way, accompanied a rather appealing weekend brunch menu that I intend to return for).

The Hot Lips definitely did as its name implied- it made my lips tingle with flavor. I know spicy drinks aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy heat, definitely try this drink out. It has a smoky taste on the front end, builds into a zesty jalapeño burn, and softens with the sweet vanilla finish. Delicious!

The Merchant Mary was also a very solid Bloody Mary, though after trying the Hot Lips, it didn’t seem spicy enough for my taste. But the mix is fresh and made in house and had all the right elements – including a refreshing celery flavor that I really enjoyed. Be careful with this one though… it makes for some really easy drinking, and I didn’t realize how strong it was until I finished it. Oh, and did I mention the zesty and meaty shrimp that was the prize at the end of the drink? (Or are you one of those people who eats all the garnishes first? No judgement here!)  

For an appetizer we tried the Roasted Shishito Peppers which were UH-MAY-ZING. Who would think such a simple dish could be so delicious? For me, it was all about the perfect char and garlicky vinegar dressing the peppers were dressed with, and the equally mouthwatering truffle aioli that accompanied them. I could have eaten a bucket of these, but I had to save room for the rest of the night. 

We also tried a Sonoma Salad before diving into the main course. This salad is a refreshing summer treat made with crisp butter lettuce, roasted corn, candied walnuts, and dried cranberries, tossed with a light champagne vinaigrette and feta cheese crumbles. It would make a great meal on its own with some added protein like chicken or shrimp. 

There were a lot of other appealing appetizers that would make for good sharing with a group of friends, such as steak tips and pan-fried dumplings, but we decided to order something more hearty for our main course. After trying the shrimp in the bloody Mary I was tempted to go with the Louisiana Bang Bang Shrimp, but ultimately I decided to go with the Bistro Burger. My companion took a Southern route with the Southern Livin’ fried chicken sandwich.

It was time for a drink refill while we waited for our food and I simply had to try another “day drink” selection, the Frosé (“God’s gift to your mouth” as the menu states.) I have to agree. This is the perfect summer treat. I’m a sucker for frozen drinks, and this one is a delight. If you love rosé, you’ll enjoy its crisp and citrusy flavor. Plus, it’s just plain fun to drink.  

My companion got a Hotsy Tosty – another spicy drink, but more fruity and sweet than the Hot Lips. Like the first drink, it’s also made with jalapeño infused vodka, but the difference lies in the fresh strawberries, agave nectar, and fizzy ginger beer. I liked this one even more than the Hot Lips – but I’m partial to sweet and fruity drinks. You can’t go wrong with either choice. 

Before long our food arrived. The Bistro Burger was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time. The patty is ground in-house and crusted with pepper, topped with Boursin cheese and shoestring fries.

The burger was bursting with flavor – it had a hint of heat from the pepper tempered with creamy garlic from the cheese. It was as close to the feeling of having a fancy picnic with summer sausage and cheese as you could get in a burger. The shoe string fries were also perfectly crisp and the burger came with an additional side of them as well. I ate the whole thing, which is rare for me when it comes to burgers.

The Chicken Sandwich was equally amazing, but much heavier (as is to be expected with Southern-inspired cooking). The chicken was double-breaded with buttermilk and perfectly crusty on the outside and juicy-tender on the inside. The pimento cheese added a bit of heat, but the dill slaw provided a crunchy and satisfying cooldown.  

We were pretty stuffed, but we had to had to try the highly-recommended dessert: the Peanut Butter Pie. Trust me, you’ll want to order this one – it was so rich and delicious with its Oreo crust and creamy peanut butter filling. It even had a couple Reese’s cups as a topper along with crushed peanuts and a dollop of whipped cream. Peanut-butter lovers rejoice! 

I was honestly surprised by how good the food was for a place that offers sports and games. Oftentimes at bars like these, the food is an afterthought to the entertainment, but not so at the Thirsty Merchant. Come to watch your team on one of the many screens, or get a group together to share some apps and play a round of bocce ball (or three.) Or come with a date and snuggle into one of the cushy booths and enjoy a romantic cocktail. You can do it all at the Thirsty Merchant, and I for one will be making it one of my hangouts this summer. Connect-Four, anyone? 

Happy National Rosé Day – The Unofficial Beginning of Summer

Cheers with Summer Water!
Here are some answers to your questions about our favorite beverages, just in time for National Rosé Day this Saturday, June 9th! 
To add to the celebration, you can have your wine delivered directly to your door with $25 off your first purchase from Winc, and as an added bonus, when you build a 4-bottle box you receive complimentary shipping!
 
Work / Wine Doormat by 2BooeeHome
Which cheese plate items do you pair with rosé?
I love pairing rosé with milder goat cheeses (the creamy Goat Milk Brie and Aged Goat’s Milk Gouda Cheese from Trader Joe’s work perfectly) and fresh summer fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, strawberries, and raspberries. My go-to cheese plates essentials are the Trader Joe’s savory-sweet Fig & Olive Crisps and crisp green grapes.
My Summer Cheese Plate!
What wine glasses do you use for rosé?
For walks (or dances) on the beach, I love my stainless steel Stemless Wine Cups from Corkcicle because they keep the wine chilled for hours on the go. Because of the triple insulation, your hand won’t warm the wine, and it will stay the perfect temperature for up to 9 hours by the pool, on the beach, or at a picnic – even in the direct sun. You can also use all-purpose wine glasses, or you can invest in rosé specific glasses, which have a flared rim to direct the wine to the top of the tongue while the moderate width emphasizes the fruity aspects.
 Rosé All Day shirt by The Giftable Goodies and Stemless Wine Cups from Corkcicle
What non-food items pair best with rosé?
When drinking rosé I like to bring out my Marble and Rose Gold Hexagonal Coasters by LuKa Marble Designs that perfectly complement the color while keeping the perspiration from my chilled rosé off the table. The most appropriate top to wear when celebrating your love of rosé is, of course, the Rosé All Day shirt by The Giftable Goodies on Etsy, as the peach color perfectly complements the pink in your glass.  
Marble and Rose Gold Hexagonal Coasters by LuKa Marble Designs

Remember when we asked our readers what questions they have about rosé on our Instagram?

Winc Wine Director, Brooke Matthias, answers below!

Why is Rosé pink? – @damesnackerton
Where red wines ferment on the skin of red grapes, pink wine happens when the winemaker removes the juice from the red grape skins when he or she feels the wine has achieved the perfect color. Any red wine grape can be used to make rosé!

Why are rosés different in color, and does this have anything to do with taste? – @tintin_beligan
When picking out a bottle of rosé, I always look for one that is lighter in color and lower in alcohol. A deeper color tends to mean that a rosé is richer in body and has more sweetness, and I tend to prefer rosé that is dry, lean and higher in acid.

Yes Way Rosé Round Beach Towel

Why is there such an increase in rosé interest over spring & summer? – @olivedoesthecity
Rosé is synonymous with a summer state of mind, which makes it perfect for summertime activities whether you’re imbibing while barbecuing, lounging by the pool or sipping by the beach. The grapes for Summer Water were picked early in the season to achieve a natural acidity that’s ideal for summer drinking, and nothing pairs better with warm weather than a refreshing and chilled glass of rosé.

What is dry Provencal rośe, and is it really the best? – @thetaylordayne
Provence, located in the South of France, is the largest rosé-producing area in the world and consistently delivers dry and crisp rosés that are easy to love. Most are blends made from Rhone varietals, including Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Provencal rosés, like Sauvetage, have a reputation for being delicious – but many other rosés, like those made right here in California, can be just as tasty!

What is the best rośe to make frośe with this summer? – @belynnburruel
It’s not summertime without frosé! When choosing a rosé, I look for rosés with lots of flavor and tart red fruit characters. I personally love using our Funk Zone Rosé or Ruza. Both are dry rosé wines, but once the other ingredients are added, it creates the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.

Is rośe similar to white in the sense that it pairs well with fish and seafood, or are there other pairings more specific to rose alone? – @sassandcollegeclass
Rosé is a very food-friendly wine! Since it spends more time on the skins, it has a wider variety of food pairing options available ranging from poultry to sushi, but Summer-friendly fare like shellfish, ceviche, and salads pair swimmingly.

Does rosé always have to be served chilled? @heart_written_words
I definitely recommend it. To fully appreciate the crisp acidity of white wines and rosés you’ll want the bottles to be chilled before you enjoy them!  You can also use the Corkcicle Air+ stainless steel icicle to aerate and chill your wine with every pour.  Pop the Air+ in the freezer a few hours before you plan on enjoying your rosé, empty a few sips from the bottle before inserting the icicle, and pour-through the Air+ directly into your glass! 

Chill as you pour with the Corkcicle Air+

Editor in Chief Julianne’s Top 3 Rosés

Summer Water Rosé, 2017 – This California-based rosé is sweet but dry and very light. One sip and you’ll taste the notes of strawberry and grapefruit. It’s a fantastic wine to sip on its own or pair it with savory dishes. I’ve even paired it with a tuna tartare in the past and it played very well together.

Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières “Gris de Gris” Rosé 2016This is my favorite classic French rosé on the market! It’s perfectly fresh, floral, fruity and with a finish of minerality, so it covers all bases. I have paired it with many different dishes, but my favorite pairing is the classic Thai noodle dish, pad see ew with chicken.

Luc Belaire Rosé – This is the rosé that gets the party started, just ask Rick Ross! Next to Whispering Angel, this is one of those bottles the ladies will instantly recognize and gravitate to. The black bottle with pink lettering is also chic AF for a nighttime affair. It’s bubbly, has a strong floral nose and a sweet strawberry body.

Be sure to follow our Instagram stories on Saturday, June 9th for more #NationalRoséDay fun! 

Media Tasting: La Fête In West Hollywood

IB Hospitality Founder and Restaurateur Rohan Talwar, the team behind West Hollywood favorite Norah, introduced the neighborhood to an inventive extension, a cocktail bar called La Fête. This intimate addition to Norah is perfect for a French cocktail before or after your dinner.

La Fête
8277 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046
https://www.lafetelosangeles.com/

The cocktail menu, by Bar Director Dave Kupchinsky, brings a beautiful blend of France and California to his beverages. Instagammers, make sure you have your cell phone handy for their flower wall. I predict it’ll be on everyone’s feed soon!

But first, let me take a selfie! The Floral Wall is too perfect.

The first drink I had was the La Julep, a more Parisian take on a classic Mint Julep. Instead of mint, this vibrant, crushed ice cocktail is mixed with dry vermouth, Cherry Eau de Vie, house made raspberry thyme cordial, Salers Aperitif, and verjus. It’s light, not overly sweet from the Cherry Eau de Vie. It’s so easy-to-drink that you’ll probably crave another right after one sip.

La Julep

The La Daiq cocktail is very tart, but this is the perfect cocktail for those of you who love sour cocktails (personally, I prefer the sweeter ones). It reminded me of a Lemon Drop in a coupe cocktail glass. It consists of Rhum JM, Plantation 3 Star Rum, Calvados, Kaffir Lime Cordial, and lime. Perfect for fans of the pucker!

The bar was lively, packed with LA’s most prominent influencers in the foodie/cocktail scene. It was so much fun to watching Kupchinsky shake up two libations; La Spritz and La Frappé.

These two drinks are gorgeous, but I preferred the La Spritz, with Litlet Rose, Rhubarb-Sage Gastrique, Tonic and Cava. The La Frappé, with absinthe, dry vermouth, homemade matcha coconut crème, pineapple, and fresh orange juice is sort of like a licoricey Daiquiri. Those of you with a taste for a French-Polynesian sip would love it. 

The show-stopper of the evening for me (see video above) was the La Side Piece, which includes Bache Gabrielsen Cognac, Cointreau and Lemon Verbena. The Cognac isn’t so strong when mixed with these ingredients, since the lemon defuses the flavor. It makes for a lovely slow-sipping drink.

La Tuxedo, which is a part of their Martini Service, is for those who love a more stiff drink. This powerful concoction has Sipsmith, VJOP Gin, La Quintinye Dry Vermouth, Maraschino, Absinthe, and Orange Bitters. It also comes with a side car for extra pours and a side of house marinated Kalamata, Picholine and Castelvetrano olives.

La Tuxedo

My final drink for the night with the Pastis Special #1, a mix of Pastis, Strawberry Cordial, and soda. I am usually not a big fan of licorice, but since that pungent flavor was toned down with Strawberry Cordial and soda.

Pastis Special #1

Check out La Fête bartender Taemur in the video below! There’s no shortage of entertainment here from the speed-shaking bartenders.

Thank you to Lawrence Moore and Associates for inviting us to this tasting!

Check Out Chef Stuart O’Keeffe at Macy’s Herald Square, Presented by Macy’s Culinary Council

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

ATTN: NYC FOODIES!

Are you ready to fire up that grill and learn how to cook tasty summertime recipes with- Chef Stuart O’Keeffe?

Image courtesy of Macy’s Culinary Council

Our friends at Macy’s Culinary Council are hosting a live cooking demonstration at Macy’s Herald Square, in NYC.

Chef Stuart will be on hand, teaching you how to recreate his favorite comfort foods at home with admission of a $25 ticket (purchase here), you will get a seat at the demo (with plenty of bites along the way!), a $20 Macy’s gift card, a Govino wine glass and copy of his cookbook The Quick Six Fix! Plus, if you stick around, he will be signing copies in the home department.

BUT FIRST! HOP OVER TO OUR INSTAGRAM BEFORE MONDAY, JUNE 4TH AT NOON PST, TO ENTER TO WIN 2 FREE TICKETS TO THIS EVENT! 

When: Thursday, June 14th, 6 PM 

Where: Macy’s Herald Square, 

151 West 34th Street

DeGustibus Cooking School, 8th Fl

New York, NY 10001

Purchase admission and RSVP here to ensure a spot.

Tickets are selling quick, so get on it!

I can’t wait to see you there! I’m so excited for this event because

  1. Stuart is ADORABLE!
  2. I’ve been wanting to cook at home more and his recipes are not just easy, but they’re perfect comfort foods.
  3. Macy’s Culinary Council hooks it up at their demos with fantastic bites. Nobody leaves their events hungry!

Running late to the party? Don’t panic! Pop by after to the home department and with any purchase of $15 or more you’ll still be able to meet Stuart and receive a signed copy of The Quick Six Fix!  

Be sure to follow along with us @girlsonfoodblog, where I’ll be posting live stories from this demo!

CHEERS!

Culinary Council is a collection of spectacularly talented chefs, pastry chefs, and food professionals that travel throughout the country and hold various tastings and demonstrations in Macy’s all over the U.S. Check with your local Macy’s to see if any are happening near you!

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Image courtesy of Macy’s Culinary Council. 


A Chef’s Perspective: CUT New York at Taste of Tribeca

CUT New York, Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first Manhattan restaurant, fired up the outdoor grill again this year for the Taste of Tribeca, lower Manhattan’s food festival that supports arts and enrichment programs at public schools. CUT’s menu highlights various cuts of the finest beef from regions across the globe, as well as local seafood and an extensive international wine list with over 800 wines.

Please credit: Shintaro Ueyama / Taste of Tribeca

This year, the team from CUT–Raymond Weber and Zairah Molina, a husband and wife duo who are executive chef and pastry chef, respectively– served grilled bone-in sirloin with Argentinian chimichurri. I sat down with the team to get their take on the event, their culinary dreams, and why they love food so much.

Girls on Food: Why did you decide to participate in this event?

Raymond: We at CUT really love being part of the downtown neighborhood–there is such a sense of community and we want to do our part to support it. We love the neighborhood’s history, and how quickly it is becoming both a residential and an emerging culinary destination.

Zairah: Taste of TriBeCa is such a fun event, and supports a great cause! We’re excited to come back for our second year. 

GOF: What is your favorite thing to eat that isn’t yours?

Zairah: Fried Chicken from Momofuku Ko

GOF: If you could go anywhere in the world for a culinary experience, where would you go and why?

Raymond: Peru. The food scene is vibrant and energized, the produce is amazingly fresh and great to create with. 

Please credit: Shintaro Ueyama / Taste of Tribeca

GOF: Where do you get your menu inspiration?

Zairah: At CUT NY, the menu is an adaptation of Wolfgang Puck classics combined with East Coast produce, seafood and meats.

GOF: Why do you love being a chef in NYC?

Raymond: NYC is full of all levels of restaurants from casual dining to omakase to long-standing institutions of fine dining–it has an energy to it unlike any other city. The constant change and competition of the culinary scene, combined with the challenge to be relevant, is what I love most about being a chef here.

Be sure to follow Taste of Tribeca’s social media pages and keep up with them for next year!

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!

Media Tasting: TŪMBI Craft Indian Kitchen in Santa Monica

There’s a new restaurant, blending authentic Indian and haute dishes located in the heart of Santa Monica, that opened a month and a half ago called TŪMBI, owned by RJ Singh and menu by Chef Ali Imran Mookhi. With a modern-industrial interior, designed by Architect Sat Garg, the main room intimately seats about 42 guests and there is a private room that seats 14. This is the perfect location for the Westside of Los Angeles, because on a sunny day, you can also sit on the patio and enjoy some lasi, wine, beers, and craft beers.

TŪMBI
115 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica CA 90401
https://tumbibar.com/

Singh has been in the hospitality industry most of his life, but after traveling all over India, tasting foods from every avenue from street food to 5-star restaurants, he created the Tantra in Silver Lake and India’s Oven, and is the owns SIRTAJ Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Me and my Pani Puri

I tasted 6 categories from the menu- Start, Street, Tandoor, Dosa, Pot, and Sides. The Pani Puri comes in a shot glass, which is a fun way to enjoy this street dish. It’s a puff pastry, with mung bean, chickpea, and shallots with tamarind-mint water in the shot glass. To enjoy this, remove the puff pastry from the shot glass and pour the liquid into the puff pastry. Then swirl it around pop the whole juicy, spicy pastry into your mouth.

Heirloom Tomato & Caramelized Pineapple

Our next dish reminded me of an Indian version of caprese. The Heirloom Tomato & Caramelized Pineapple has turmeric yogurt, crispy shallots, and mustard oil. Since it’s so light, this is a great dish to have for those who want to watch their figure.

The Roasted Beet Soup had my favorite style of presentation. A heather blue bowl is dressed with shallots, curry leaf, and garlic. Next, they pour over the orange malai-yogurt, which is blood red and is striking in color. Although this was “mild” in spiciness, but for me it was still a bit too spicy. However, the plating made it worth a try.

The Butter Chicken is my favorite dish here, I took one bite and I was in heaven. It is juicy, tender, and flavorful. The Chef Ali uses juicy boneless leg meat and pairs it with a butter tomato curry. One bite and my eyes lit up because it literally touched my soul. This is when I knew I needed to come back in, I think it’s going to be their most popular dish.

The second dish that I would recommend is the Bihari Smoked Kabob. When Chef Ali walked over with the wood platter and glass cover, I sensed a meaty, spicy fragrance would emerge. You can see the smoke hovering over the butchers beef kabob and as he lifts the cover it swirls around over the meat.

The Super Size Paper Dosa is a rice & lentil crepe and served with sambar, coconut and tomato chutney. You can eat it with or without the dipping sauces- it is just as tasty plain. This definitely gets a lot of attention with their customers because of its massive size.

Other fantastic dishes I sampled include: Goan Prawn Masala, Delhi Khumb Korma, Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi and Dal Bhukara. So come on in and check out this ultra chic and innovative Indian restaurant, and delve into Chef Ali’s wonderful dishes, the food is unequivocally divine. Thank you so much to Kim Koury of Spin PR for the invite.

Between the Buns Slides into Home Plate with Their Inaugural Slider Event

Last Saturday the Dallas Observer and Whole Foods held the first annual Between the Buns – Slider EventThirty of Dallas’ hot spots were busy cooking some of their most tempting treats for the taking. Seriously, there really isn’t a better biteful than a slider and a great vehicle to pretty much get anything into your mouth! 

Between the Buns
Dallas Farmers Market
920 S. Harwood St.
Dallas, TX 75201

There were sliders for every taste and eater. Here are some of the best bites of the day….

Hutchins BBQ – Pulled Pork
If there is one thing Hutchins knows how to do it is BBQ and this slider was no exception. Sauce-laden and juicy to the last bite with a nice crunch from the coleslaw.

Full Circle Tavern – The Italian Stallion
The Italian seasoning was spot on and the peppers added a little bite. Mamma Mia!

Arepa – BBQ Jackfruit Arepa
Shout out to all my vegan and gluten-free foodies! This fluffy corn cake was stuffed full of seasoned jackfruit and jicama slaw. A great change from beef or pork.

Snuffer’s – Bacon Cheddar Slider
Man, I love a poppy seed bun! his baby was filled nicely with a beef patty smothered in Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and bacon.

Dot’s Hop House – Club Schmitz Burger
Dot’s Hop House pays homage to a Dallas legend with their namesake burger. Two patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and housemade pickles. Club Schmitz would be proud.

Easy Slider – The Mini Mac
Move over golden arches there is new burger in town that has you beat. This double-decker has two angus beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles and special sauce. It is small in stature, but mighty in taste.

The Dapper Doughnut – Strawberry Bella Mini Doughnut
After all that savory goodness it was time for something sweet. Warm and yummy, this mini doughnut was just what I needed to finish off the bevy of burgers.

The inaugural Between the Buns is in the books! Clear your calendars for next year’s event.

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

Powerhouse Chefs Demonstrate Their Best Bites at Taste of Yountville

It might have rained a bit in Yountville last weekend, but that didn’t put a damper on the 25th annual Taste of Yountville festivities! Our weekend of food and wine kicked off with a demo by Chef Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat, Chicago), who shared her recipes for shrimp toast (paired with a beer cocktail) and chocolate peanut butter Cheez-It® s’mores.

Chef Stephanie Izard
Cheez-It S’more

Fun fact – did you know she actually had a Cheez-It® wedding cake? Yes, she’s THAT into them… and after tasting those s’mores, I think I am too! Chef Izard melts together butter, chocolate and peanut butter and pours that over Cheez-Its® before adding a mix of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, tossing to ensure each cracker is evenly coated. All that’s left to do is toast your marshmallow and get to sandwiching! The salty-sweet combo is to die for, and tastes almost like a Butterfinger bar. Chef Izard’s shrimp toast, topped with pickled Fresno chiles, was delicious – especially paired with a cocktail that incorporated the chile pickling liquid.

Shrimp Toast with Pickled Fresno Chiles, Pickled Red Onion, Preserved Lemon Aioli

We braved a quick run in the rain to make our way over to the V Marketplace Pavilion, where dozens of restaurants and wineries were showcasing their wares. After sampling some small bites, including ahi tuna poke from Celadon and black cod with pickled kumquat and meyer lemon aioli from Robert Mondavi Winery, we headed over to the Lynx-sponsored stage to watch Frank Bonanno teach us how to make ricotta.

Ahi Tuna Poke – Celadon
Black Cod with Meyer Lemon Kosho Aioli, Pickled Kumquat, Radish & Cress Salad – Robert Mondavi Winery
Frank Bonanno making ricotta

He started by combining a half-gallon of whole milk, 1 cup cream, and 1 cup buttermilk in a saucepan. After bringing it up to about 180 degrees, he added cider vinegar. As soon as he added the acid the mixture began to curdle, and after a few minutes of sitting in a fine-mesh strainer, the ricotta was ready! Spread on crostini, the ricotta was perfectly creamy with a delightful tang from the buttermilk. It might be a simple hors d’oeuvre, but it’s a showstopper!

Next up was the last event of the day: Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank on how to make the perfect steak. You better believe I was taking notes! His tips started with buying the thickest cut of steak you can, emphasizing one big steak for sharing rather than a few smaller, thinner steaks. The benefit to a thicker steak is that there’s more room to nail the internal temperature, more time to get a great sear on the outside before the inside overcooks, and more room to get that delicious crust on every side of the steak. He got his pan ripping hot and seared the steak all over before letting it rest for a few minutes. As a general rule, he lets meat rest half as long as he cooked it. Then, the steak went into the oven to finish cooking. When it hit the perfect medium-rare he was looking for, he rested it again and, right before serving, tossed it in the pan one more time to get the outside super crisp. But the most important trick of all? Rest your meat on its side, not on the top or bottom, to get the most even distribution of juices.

The perfect steak – and no, that’s not hyperbole.

One bite of this steak, which was served alongside cheesy tapioca pearls, and I was in heaven. The steak was paired with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from Eleven Eleven wines. Chef Frank noted that he drinks cab every day – and we should too! That’s some advice I can definitely get behind.

Day two started off beautiful, without a single cloud in the sky. We started off the day learning the secrets behind Lisa Dahl’s incredible “Hipster Burger” (spoiler alert: lentils and quinoa provide heft, toasted walnuts add texture, and serrano chili oil is the ticket to great flavor). She also shared her tips for making the perfect kale salad: thinly shredding kale, then tossing it with a Greek-influenced vinaigrette before adding Caesar dressing. Thanks to the acid in the vinaigrette, the fibers in the kale soften and break down – the days of massaging kale are over!

Lisa Dahl’s gorgeous “Hipster Burger”

One of the most interesting presentations was an unlikely pairing – raw seafood and Pinot Noir. Featuring a flight of Twomey Pinot Noir, the dishes included Hamachi crudo with kumquat and avocado, tuna sashimi with cherry and red wine-steeped hibiscus, and a raw oyster topped with smoked soy sauce and toasted hazelnut. The takeaways from this presentation? Step outside of the box when it comes to pairings. Note how different ingredients change your perception of wine. Save money on garnishes by buying better main ingredients. Most importantly, take the time to learn about what you’re drinking and eating. Much like wine, food is heavily influenced by where it comes from.

From left to right: Chris Nishiwaki, contributor, Wine & Spirits Magazine; David Varley, Michael Mina Restaurant Group; Brady Lowe, founder, Cochon 555; Ian Leggat, director of marketing and public relations, Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey Cellars
Clockwise from top left: tuna sashimi, hamachi crudo, oyster

After a long weekend of food and wine – tough life, I know – it was time to head home. I’m already counting down the days until next year, but until then you can find me perfecting steak, drinking red wine with sashimi, and coming up with more Cheez It®-inspired desserts. Cheers!


A portion of the proceeds from this event benefited the families of those lost in the tragic shooting at The Pathway Home earlier this month. For more information and details on contributing to the fund, click here

Los Angeles Mom-To-Be: Julianne’s Top Pregnancy Picks

I’m officially 39 weeks down and I’m ready to pop!

Prepping for the birth of my first baby (it’s a girl!) was already pretty stressful but I wanted to share some of my discoveries that made my LA pregnancy relatively smooth.

BEST BABY PREP AND EDUCATION

Even after I read What to Expect While You’re Expecting, I still felt so overwhelmed about my upcoming birthing process. Like many others, I tend to learn better by having a teacher go through everything with me. I won’t mention the name of my health insurance provider, but after taking one of their complimentary workshops, which consisted of watching a dated promotional video with a nurse who just seemed “over it,” I decided I needed to find something more welcoming.

Photo by Morgan Pansing

I heard about Loom, a childbirth education center, from a friend of mine, who even after her childbirth still takes development classes there. After touring the minimalist (but still warm and welcoming) center in the Mid-Wilshire part of LA, I instantly felt so much more comfortable here.

I have taken both the Prepped and Accelerated classes and the Infant Feeding Basics class. What I like about these classes is that the instructors teach in a way that’s approachable, there’s no such thing as a “stupid question” and you’re encouraged to share what you’re going through. The sharing is is building the growing parent community there.

From taking these classes I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I’m so much more prepped for the big push!

Use promo code GOFXLOOM10 to deduct 10% from the cost of any class or service, valid until 5/16/18

BEST ONLINE MATERNITY SAVE AND SPLURGE 

Ingrid & Isabel, my favorite maternity clothing, has 2 different lines available. The line that I would consider a “splurge” is available at select boutiques (like Mom’s The Word, in the Beverly Grove area) and the “less expensive” but still super stylish line is available at Target. I stocked up on items from both and had plenty of chic but comfortable options.

My favorite items are in the image above
Cozy Wrap
Active Legging with Crossover Panel

BEST BABY SHOWER LOCATION

So here’s the thing—I did not plan my baby shower—it was a total surprise! I don’t have much to compare baby shower locations to, but I can note that this beats any baby shower at a house. This surprise party planned was by my mom, my best friend Marcie and #plusonebae and they nailed it with the location at The Culver Hotel. I’m a regular here, so I was stunned that they were able to keep it so secretive!

The party was held in The Studio, a part of the Parisian Room, which is elegant and perfect for a smaller gathering. The food and beverages were served buffet style with bottomless mimosas for everyone (except me!). The brunch service was prompt and attentive, and our server was kind enough to take many pictures of the whole gang together without

BEST FOOD DELIVERY SERVICE 

I decided to test out a couple of delivery box services and my favorite so far has been one of the leading services, Blue Apron. Meal prep boxes are great for busy weeknight meals, especially when it’s just me at home cooking for one. It’s also a great way to shake up your cooking routine, cause as much as I love being in the kitchen, I suffered from “pregnancy brain” during all of this! I just wanted to pick something up and eat it rather have to come up with a menu—but with Blue Apron, that’s taken care of for you!

Whole Grain Pasta & Beef Bolognese with Romaine Salad (relax, that’s just juice to the left)

My favorite meal that I cooked from this box was the Whole Grain Pasta and Beef Bolognese. The serving size says 2, but it was much more ample than that.

I realized from testing Blue Apron during pregnancy that my husband and I will be using this delivery system when I’m nursing, cause I’m positive I will need a break from coming up with my own recipes!

 Blue Apron- Get $40 Off Your First 2 Boxes! *sponsored

BEST SWEET TOOTH CURBER

I picked up my first batch of Bare Snacks at my local Target and fell in love with all the different flavors! These treats are oven-baked when the fruits are at their ripest, bringing out the best flavors. They’re also non-gmo and B-corp certified. My favorite fruit chips were the Chocolate Coconut Chips, made with unsweetened coco powder and sweetened with coconut nectar. The Granny Smith Apple Chips were also tart perfection.

BEST ITEM I HAD NO CLUE I NEEDED

I learned (from my Prepped and Accelerated class at Loom) that it helps during labor to utilize a balance ball. Upon a run to T.J. Maxx, I got lucky and found a Gaiam Balance Ball Chair and I’ve been straightening my core and pelvic floor while running Girls on Food during the day.

Image via Amazon

It’s very easy to start slouching during pregnancy, since you’re carrying so much more weight than usual and I would say that this helped prevent my posture from getting too slouchy. I also didn’t struggle with my back as much as other moms have complained to me about.

BEST FACE OIL

I wish I could give my baby girl the credit for my glow, but I should actually credit Josie Maran’s Argan Moonstone Drops Makeup Priming and Highlighting Oil. I started using face oils when I noticed my usually dewy skin was getting a bit dry (common in pregnancy).

Image via Sephora

Not only is the lemongrass fragrance lightweight and doesn’t clash with my other perfumes, the holographic glow didn’t break me out at all! My skin texture has improved a lot since I started using this oil, and I plan to continue use after pregnancy.

BEST “SOFT COCKTAILS”

Peter Piper

First off, major props to Nomad Hotel for not calling them “mocktails”! LA’s latest renovated historical landmark (love the art deco) has a fantastic array of soft cocktails in addition to their fantastic bites. There are 6 different soft cocktail options and my favorite was the Peter Piper, with pineapple, lime, black pepper, passionfruit and white balsamic vinegar. It was everything I’d imagine a pregnancy craving cocktail would be, due to the tartness of it. So if you have a mom-to-be in your life, you must take her here!

 Be sure to follow Girls on Food on Instagram @girlsonfoodblog

Brunch at Firefly in Studio City

Imagine sitting on the patio on a beautiful sunny day. You feel relaxed and calm as you stare into the gleaming fire pit and admire your surroundings. You notice the colorful orange drapes along the concrete column with vines sprawling across the arches. You can smell the aroma of a variety of enticing scents coming from the main brunch room; bacon, omelets, brisket and smoked salmon.

Firefly
11720 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
http://www.fireflystudiocity.com/

Central Fireplace

Firefly launched their buffet brunch about a month and a half ago and starts from 10 am-3 pm. It’s $38 per person and also include a small glass of Wycliff Champagne, something nice to cleanse your palate before you begin your journey into the main library room. My mind races thinking “where shall I begin?” Do I start with the omelet station first or the Turkey and Brisket or do I cut down to the middle? You have to have a game plan if you know you are eating at a buffet and I made sure to wear the correct attire (stretchy pants). For my first plate, I started out with the meats. There was brisket with chimichurri sauce, charcuterie servings, smoked salmon, and cheeses. To counterbalance the meats, I added some cauliflower curry, rambutan, beets drizzled with goat cheese, ceviche, and avocado toast. I wanted to make sure that I could finish my first plate while savoring the delectable flavors.

Charcuterie
Mini Ceviche

Surprisingly, I finished everything and was ready to go for round two. It was time to engage in seafood and pastries. I really loved the ceviche and noticed it was all gone. They were served finely diced in small clear cups, which is definitely not your normal ceviche size, but if you want more, just let your server know like I did. Fatimah, my server, was so sweet to bring me more. The smoked salmon here was the best I have had since my trip to Alaska in 2010 as it wasn’t as salty like most I have tried in Los Angeles. Now onto the pastries and customizing my own yogurt. I think that is a great idea to have these clear cups with yogurt and you can add raspberries, blueberries, and oats.

Customized Yogurt

Be sure to check out this new brunch and see for yourself!