Girls on Food

Los Angeles

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. 

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? 

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!

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.

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!

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!

A Preview of the New Menu at Crossings In South Pasadena

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

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

 

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

Paradise Lost
Ichabod’s Muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kumamoto Oysters

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

Hamachi Verde

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

Roasted Sunchokes

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

Hamachi Collar

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

Wagyu Navel

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

Pot de Creme

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

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

The Best Ricotta Pancakes in LA: Brunch at Odys + Penelope

Last year, while scrolling around on the Renzell app, I discovered the high ranking spot Odys + Penelope, a modern-American Churrasco in the La Brea area of Los Angeles. Girl on Food Cristina and #plusonebae Devon joined me for a fantastic dinner packed with fresh grilled meats and cocktails. When I was recently invited in to taste their brunch offerings, I knew if it was just close to being up to par with the dinner menu, I’d be in hog heaven… but did it come close?

Odys + Penelope
127 S La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Like The Mighty, which I recently stopped into for dinner, O + P (mysteriously named after Greek mythology characters) is also owned by culinary husband/wife team Quinn and Karen Hatfield. This power couple definitely knows how to build a solid spot with great food, consistent service and a busy customer base in LA, which is not easy.

I’m also never one to ever notice really famous people, but just like at The Mighty, I noticed some familiar faces, including one key cast member of The Big Bang Theory. So I do recommend bringing a pal or family member who geeks out over that sort of thing. Bazinga.

Frisee Salad

While the dinner menu focuses on Brazilian Churrasco style meat main dishes, the brunch here is a little more of a North American-meets-South American melting pot.

Chicken Adobo Fried Rice

For the mains, I decided to start with Chicken Adobo Fried Rice—with my mom being half Filipino and all, I’d feel wrong not tasting this dish of adobo-marinated chicken lightly fried with soft poached eggs, radish salad and a mild sambal hollandaise. This isn’t quite the chicken adobo that I remember from my childhood, but is a tasty, lighter take on it. I’m used to a more vinegar heavy adobo chicken, but the flavor is played safely here for the more mainstream LA crowd, which may be a smart move on their end. The Frisee Salad, with grilled salmon, warm fingerling potatoes, avocado and potatoes is like a California take on a nicoise salad, minus the mercury content of tuna and a sunny-side-up egg instead of hard boiled.

Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes with Pudwill Farms Blueberries

My favorite item was the Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes with Pudwill Farms Blueberries. I know ricotta pancakes are trending in the LA brunch scene, but I haven’t been this blown away with them before. O + P also manages to get the same lightly griddled pancake that my dad made me. They’re beautifully crisp on the outside but maintain a soft fluffiness on the inside. Savory from the salted butter, fruity from the blueberries, these are the best I’ve had in town. The side of maple syrup is only optional, it doesn’t necessarily need it.

To answer my question from earlier: yes, O + P’s brunch program is 100% on par with their dinner. I will be returning to Odys + Penelope for those pancakes and other brunchy items soon. I can’t wait to see what other programs they come up with!

Party Ideas for the Best Galentine’s Day Ever!

Happy Galentine’s Day from Girls on Food!

Welcome to our first official Galentine’s Day Party Guide 2018! Although it’s not technically an official holiday, we at Girls on Food can’t help but indulge in this very special day to celebrate our favorite ladies!

With Galentine’s Day approaching us on Tuesday, February 13th, and Valentine’s Day following the next day, we wanted to provide you with a few of our favorite party items and ideas to help you plan the ultimate Galentine’s Day celebration- the kind Leslie Knope would be impressed with.

There are many exclusive promo codes and deals in this party guide, so you can try many of these products at discounted prices! Be sure to keep an eye for them and any notes on expiration dates.

First: Send an American Greetings e-card to get your girl-squad pumped

The party invites have already gone out, your guest list is set and it’s the morning of Tuesday, February 13th. What better way to get your friends pumped for the party that night by sending them an American Greetings e-card?

Forget sappy, snail mail greeting cards of the past, American Greetings has an array of options that will make your galpals chuckle. Our favorites are the Smooth Hamster and the Michael Bolton e-cards.

The best part of American Greetings e-cards is that they have a monthly membership option, and you can send unlimited e-cards, no matter what the occasion is. It covers all your bases, letting someone special know you’re thinking about them and in a way that’s so much easier, creative and doesn’t leave an ecological footprint.

Use this link to receive a FREE 7-Day Trial Subscription at AmericanGreetings.com!

Then: Plan The Party

A better version of the little black book from 27 Dresses, the Panda Planner is a necessity for having a stress-free life and a perfectly organized Galentine’s dinner party. Combine that with a Maria Shireen bracelet to dress up your hair ties and a modern Snowe candle for ambiance and you’re in perfect party-planning mode! Want your own? Use the code MSxGOF for 15% off qualified bracelets, and GOFPANDA for 10% off your own planner, February 2nd through March 2nd!

Get That Kitchen Organized

Take a trip to your happy place, the Container Store, to get your home extra organized! We recommend customizing your drawer organizer (or using their starter kit) to avoid any embarrassment when your dinner guests go through your drawers for an extra piece of silverware. Go one step further by installing drawer liners that repel dirt and water, prevent sliding and add an extra layer to the design! I used the InterDesign Linus drawer organizer starter kit to organize my Littledeer wooden utensils, Centellino wine decanter, Chemex handles, chambray cocktail napkins, and Pottery Barn copper handled flatware.

You’ll need oven mitts that match your sassy attitude and are still functional when handling that hot stuff. Blue Q’s Oven Mitts are super-insulated 100% cotton and a percentage of their sales are donated to hunger relief programs throughout the world. Elevate your kitchen accessory game even further by pairing a Le Creuset Cerise Red Signature Saucepan with Littledeer’s Hand-Made Heart Paddle for love in the kitchen, and you’re ready to begin cooking!

Prepare Your Floral Arrangements

As can be assumed for any Galentine’s/Valentine’s Day event, flowers are a MUST! The Flower Chef by Carly Cylinder is a modern guide to do-it-yourself floral arrangements. With plenty of imagery and easy to follow instructions, you’ll be a pro florist just in time!

Set The Table

Here are some of the basics for setting a table:

  1. Place utensils in order of use, from the outside in (salad forks are left of dinner forks, and spoons are to the right of dinner knifes)
  2. Forks go on the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right
  3. Only include utensils that are needed based on the menu you’re serving (if you’re not serving soup, don’t put out the soup spoon).

My favorite themed flatware, that can also be used throughout the year, is the copper handled flatware set from Pottery Barn, which enhances your Galentine’s Day dinner with the handcrafted copper-plated stainless steel. Linen Hemstitch embroidered placements are far more practical than paper lace hearts, and are versatile for formal and casual occasions alike. My favorite ceramic salad and dinner plates are from the Costa Nova Riviera Collection They are safe for the dishwasher, freezer, microwave, and oven! In addition to the impressive craftsmanship, they’re great for everyday use, being that they’re extremely durable, chip-resistant, and thermal-shock resistant.

Host a Bake-Off

One fun way to bond in the kitchen with your girlfriends is to have a bake off! Foodstirs modern baking (Sarah Michelle Gellar is a co-founder) delivers non-perishable, organic dry ingredients, all natural decorations, and chemical-free dyes to make tasty treats. Their Baker’s Club is a bi-monthly subscription that features fun kits like the Sweetheart Brownies (seen in image). You can also purchase fun individual baking kits such as Rainbow Cake Pops and Out of This World Donuts. Making these brownies was so easy and I cannot wait to try their other kits! These kits are also very fun to inspire little ones to get in the kitchen. Use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off your first purchase on their site.

 A Stranger Galentine’s

For those of you who cannot get enough of this throwback thriller, why not enter the Upside Down for a theme? Stranger Things inspired costumes, Christmas lights and a round of D & D are musts for this idea. For sweet baked treats, we recommend picking up a copy of Stranger Fillings by the Muffin Brothers (a parody cookbook) for inspiration. We couldn’t resist testing out the book with a banana-blonde wig version of Eleven’s Eggo’s. WARNING: According to a study conducted by Hawkins National Laboratory, the more advanced recipes such as the Demogorgonzola Tartlets, Friends Don’t Li(m)e Pie and The Upside Down Cake could leave guests with telekinetic powers. Collectible figurines by Funko are also fun and are perfect for any fan-girl still mourning the loss of Barb.

Vino Vixens

You’re going to need all of the essentials for a wine-centric night:
1) For aerating and chilling your whites and roses to the perfect temperature, the icicle-looking Corkcicle Air is inserted directly into the bottle after being in the freezer for 90 minutes. Use the code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off products on the Corkcicle site, now through March 31st!
2) To avoid the guesswork for your wine purchasing, order from Winc to have 4 bottles shipped to your doorstep based on the flavor profiles you know you love. For a limited time only, use the code GIRLSONFOOD for $25.00 off your first order of Winc!
3) The online store Wine Enthusiast carries all of the best wine glassware lines, including Zafferano and Fusion. The Zafferano Red Wine Glasses are uniquely shaped and remarkably lightweight and perfectly suited for bold and aged reds with the narrow opening of the mouth maximizing aroma and a generous bowl promotes oxidation for the wines to breathe. The handblown crystal Fusion Air Wine Glasses are also exceptionally lightweight with a large bowl, while also being dishwasher safe and remarkably break-resistant (if you break it, they’ll replace it for free up with a 10-year guarantee)!
4) To help guests keep track of their wine glass, the uniquely shaped Palm City wine charms are both fun and functional, with fun themed designs such as Beachy and Wine Lovers! Use code GIRLSONFOOD for free shipping and 15% off your entire Palm City order, now through March 2nd!
5) To avoid wasting any time opening a bottle of wine, the Original Rabbit Corkscrew pulls a cork in 3 seconds and then automatically releases the cork making it the most efficient opener in your collection!

Brew Up Some Fun! 

You’re about to start enjoying your craft beers and carbonated beverages in a whole new way. Become a bartender wherever you go. Unlike traditional growlers, the pressurized GrowlerWerks uKeg uses a CO2 canister to keep your beers fresh for up to two weeks after your first pour. Pro tip: Make sure to have your 33 Bottles of Beer tasting book handy for notes on the contents of each uKeg! For your own copper plated keg, use code uGIRLSONFOOD for free shipping via U.S. Ground; expires at midnight on March 2nd.

Tea Time

Being realistic, following the wine you’re going to want to wind down with a nice cup of tea and honey. One of my personal favorites is the Blackberry Sage by the Republic of Tea, which pairs perfectly with the elegantly packaged healing Manuka Honey from Kiwi Importer (raw honey made from bees that feed on the Manuka tree). Note, if you create an account with Kiwi Importer, you receive $5 off your first purchase!

Cool Beans

With dessert (or with clean up the morning after) you’re going to want to serve delicious, quality coffee. And now that specialty coffee shops ship their beans nationwide, you can pre-order your single origin just in time for your event! I personally love Ritual Coffee, based in San Francisco, for their bright red packaging and seasonal beans that make for perfect drip coffee in a Chemex.

Time For Desserts 

Treat your gals to sweets on themed Galentine’s Day dessert plates by Nicole Miller Home, sold exclusively at T.J.Maxx. Don’t forget to elevate your candy game and have a few of your favorite Sugarfina boxes on hand for snacking! After all, Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day are times to indulge; with delicious and unique flavors such as “Cheers To Us” Champagne Bears and “Love You a Bunch” But First, Rosé Roses, who could resist?

An Option For The Health-Nut

We all have that one gal-pal who insists on following her diet throughout Valentine’s Day. While we may not have the same willpower as she does, we can try to let her clean-eating influence us a little. Serving an array of Siren Snacks at your party will keep her happy and allows you to indulge in a tasty guilt-free treat. These plant-based protein bites (12 grams per serving) are dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free and soy-free and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners. This is also a girl-powered company, founded by sisters Elizabeth and Abigail Giannuzzi from San Francisco. There’s plenty of variety in flavors with Dark Chocolate Brownie, Cookie Dough and Snickerdoodle, but our favorite flavor is the Lemon Poppyseed; a sweet and zesty break from the traditional protein bars. Use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off your first purchase on their site.

Keeping It Clean

If you’re hosting a party, you must be sure guests have the option to use hand sanitizers before digging into their favorite finger foods, but don’t you hate it when those ugly anti-bac bottles are on the table? Enter: OLIKA 2-in-1 hand sanitizers. These adorable little “Birdies” keep your mitts clean with a hand sanitizing spray that is a push spray at top half of the bird and hands wipes at the base of the bird. Use promo code: GIRLSONFOOD for 10% off OLIKA purchase ($15 minimum) on their site.

Got a friend with a major sweet tooth? Be sure to check out Double D’s Truffles & Treats for an assortment of handmade chocolates. Ten dollars will get you a 15 piece gift-wrapped box and you get to customize the flavors in the box. Plus – this chocolatier, is able to create flavors by request and have them shipped to your door.

A “Happy Ending” 😉 

Have you checked out Sugary Charm’s Kama Sutra Collection? Known for their more PG-rated cookie cutters, they have recently expanded into a naughtier line of cookie cutters. Unlike standard metal cookie cutters, these are made with food safe materials (PLA- a biodegradable, plant-based plastic, FDA-approved) and, even better, they imprint the dough perfectly. Check out their site for options and use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 25% off your Kama Sutra cookie cutters purchase.

Start your free trial now!

This post is sponsored by American Greetings on behalf of PepperJam Networks; all opinions expressed are our own. 

Dinner in DTLA: The Mighty

The intersection of 2nd and Main in Downtown Los Angeles is becoming quite the foodie stretch with The Edison, Badmaash, Redbird and now, The Mighty.

From the moment you walk in, it’s tough to not acknowledge that owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield (Odys + Penelope, The Sycamore Kitchen) have one of the most Instagram-able restaurants in LA. The tiles are so cute, it’s impossible to keep your phone down when you’re here, but I had to focus on the food and stop taking pictures of my feet…eventually.

I have this thing with floors…

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Interview with Chef Derrick Fox on His “Dinner on Ice” Pop-Up at ICE Santa Monica

Dinner on Ice—a pop-up dinner (presented by Capital One Cafe) featuring five-courses from MasterChef Finalist Chef Derrick Fox, cocktail pairings, ice skating and more—will take place at ICE at Santa Monica on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

A limited number of tickets are available for $100 in advance, and all inclusive of skate rental fee, dinner and open bar. Guests are encouraged to dress in cozy winter attire.

Buy tickets via Feastly here. Want to get 20% off the event? Enter promo code GIRLSONFOOD at checkout! 

This dinner offers a preview of Chef Derrick’s delicious and visually impressive dishes, which will be available at his new residency at Ma’Kai Santa Monica later this month. 

Deconstructed Watermelon Salad with Citrus Compressed Watermelon, Shaved Cucumber, Goat Cheese Mousse, Toasted Pepitas, & Leek Vinaigrette – to be served at Dinner on Ice

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LA Hot Dog Stand Sumo Dog Begins Chef Collaboration Series

Sumo Dog, an Asian-inspired hot dog stand in Los Angeles, kicked off a series of chef collaborations this week. Each collaboration is scheduled to rotate every 2 weeks.

Sumo Dog 
516 South Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90020

First up is a collaboration between Chef/Owner Jeffrey Lunak and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo  (owners of LA favorites Jon & Vinnys, Animal, and Son of a Gun) which is currently available until December 22nd.

The Jon & Vinny starts with a grilled American wagyu all beef dog, then topped with chow-chow relish, pimento cheese spread, spicy Jewish mustard and green onion, for a mix of New York deli and Southern potluck flavors.

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