Girls on Food

Los Angeles

The Taste of Mexico Returns To LA

The largest all-inclusive Mexican tasting event The Taste of Mexico (TOM) returns on its 6th annual edition to Los Angeles and Girls of Food (GOF) was invited to the exclusive sneak peek event that showcased some of the food vendors that you would be able to try at the food festival.

Be sure to check out their site here.

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The first thing we tried was a sample of Los Javis Mezcal. It is a family owned Mezcaleria from Oaxaca, México that dates 3 generations back. This mezcal is incredibly smooth. It had a lot of flavor and body but it didn’t leave that burning sensation in your throat that you normally get from drinking mezcal.

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They also brought Chapulines (grasshoppers) and Sal de Gusano (salt with maguey worms).

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Then we tried Anepalco’s Baby Corn which is their version of the Mexican street vendor corn. The Baby Corn was smothered in a Chile de Arbol Aioli, topped with Cotija cheese and grind up Chapulines sprinkled on top of it. We’re excited to try their new spot Maestro, in Pasadena, which is coming soon.

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From Caló Provisions we got to see Ted Montoya in action and to try his Pozole. Ted’s take on Pozole has a twist he cooks it with Chicharron Dashi and adds an egg. I really like the egg, it gives an extra layer of complexity to the Pozole.

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Our pal The Choriman was also at the Taste of Mexico sneak peek and he was making Chori Panes. A Chori Pan is a chorizo sandwich. He made his with his Zacateca’s style Red Chorizo, roasted Corn Salad and Salsa Macha.

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We also got to enjoy the delicious pastries from La Monarca Bakery. We had the strawberry cake, the fruit cake, the orejitas cookies and my personal favorite de Guava cake.

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There will be plenty of drinks at the festival some of the ones we loved at the sneak peek were: The I Love Micheladas, Tepaches from Ancho Reyes a Chile Liqueor and Los Javis.

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There will also have aguas frescas vendors like the Agua Lucha guys. They have flavors like: Mandarin, Lemon, Hibiscus and Tamarind. Not only that they donate some of their proceedings to retired Luchadores (wrestlers) in Mexico.

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The 2016 Taste of Mexico will be the best one so far and it will take place under the stars in the beautiful courtyard of the Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum in downtown LA. TOM has invited over 35 restaurants to cater the event and you’ll also be able to sample Tequila, Mezcal, Baja Wines & Spirits. And although the tickets might seem a little bit pricey keep in mind that it is an all you can eat and drink ticket so you only have to worry about what food vendor do you want to try next .The event starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm.

EASTSIIIIIIDE! – EastSide Food Festival Represents!

 

Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival
Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival

On a perfect LA Sunday, I was lucky enough to make it down to the 3rd Annual EastSide Food Festival in Silver Lake at Mack Sennett Studios. I arrived a little after 4 pm when the happy hour began, so I would be able to do as much damage to my waistline as possible before too many of my fellow Eastsiders arrived.

The crowd was stylish and relaxed as I plowed my way from one amazing vendor to the next, sampling everything from juices to noodles to oysters – Oh my!

The set up was well conceived – a small scattering of vendors outside with plenty of boxed water and tables to stand around and hobnob with other foodies. Inside the small, stylish studio was where the booze, lounges, and VIP area (with air conditioning!) were set up.  All around were hip locals and so much amazing food that my head was spinning.

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I tried some new spots and was pleasantly surprised.  Whether it was Challah Hub and their variety of flavored vegan challah, the fabulous chorizo nachos from El Condor, or even the surprisingly simple yet delicious queso from Homestate, just the first few bites I tried were so great, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried any of these spots before.

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To cool off after running around trying all these spots from the outdoor section, I walked over to farmer’s market regulars Todo Verde for some sweet Aguas Frescas.

One sweet surprise was the newly developed Frankie Lucy Bakeshop coming soon to Silverlake has a kick butt lady running the show, and some fantastic custards serving up traditional Asian flavors. The purple potato custard was a must have!

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Before exploring inside, I had to try to offerings of lobster from Knuckle and Claw and find my crustacean bliss.

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The potato tacos from the Mexican/French brunch spot, Trois Familia were cute, crisp and quite delish.

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The vegan tempeh chili with cornbread from Kitchen Mouse was as tasty as it was dainty.

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Winsome featured two fabulous cocktails for those who wanted a buzz with their food. Their “Prickly in Pink” cocktail featuring Opuntia was sweet and light and “The Forgotten Edge” featuring Wilder Gin was damn near the best martini-like cocktail I’ve ever had.

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The hawker of the delicious and legendary Starry Kitchen Balls made everyone laugh with his reverent demands to put his “balls” in our mouths while wearing a banana suit.

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The raw fish lover in me was well satisfied by the crudo from Kettle Black. With all that amazing-ness, it was hard to narrow down my top picks for the event, but after plenty of sampling and satisfied moaning, I finally decided on my top five offerings:

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No surprise to me, based on my multiple jaunts to Grand Central Market, Sticky Rice’s Green Curry Noodles were one of my favorites of the day.  Prepared fresh to order, the flavors were perfectly balanced and the multiple textures were a treat. fullsizerender_11

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Out of nowhere, the Crispy Rice with Spicy Pork from Same Same completely captivated my taste buds.  Hands down the most interesting, and spicy, sample of the day for me.

fullsizerender_19The Green Lentil Salad from Little Beast was light and refreshing with complex flavors.

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El Cochinito brought the rich flavor of Lechon Asado and represented the amazing flavor of Cuban food well.

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Finally, my favorite was a three-way tie between the three dessert spots that all got repeat visits from me – what can I say, I have a sweet tooth!  The ice cream artistry of Jeni’s Ice Cream featured their Brambleberry Crisp.

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Icy Rush Co. was well represented by Laura Flores, the CEO who brought with her an amazing variety of mini pops – the Sangria and Mexican Chocolate being my favorites.

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And finally, the most surprising favorite of the day was some Lord Jones which is a company that creates and delivers cannabis-infused products to those who enjoy or require THC in their daily lives.  Though I don’t partake myself, I was able to sample some of their medicine free wares – namely the gum drops and the dark chocolate covered sea salt caramels. They were fantastic without any additions, but I’m sure those who partake in edibles will enjoy the tastiness even more.  

All in all, this was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon on the eastside of Los Angeles, getting to know the local businesses better and adding some spots on my “must try” list.  The fact that the event benefited People Assisting the Homeless made it even better, proving that LA people not only care about great food but also about helping others.

Come See “City of Gold” With Us!

city-of-gold-posterJoin us for the screening of the documentary film City of Gold, this coming Sunday, October 2nd, 5 PM, at The Wiltern ( 3790 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010). This documentary centers around Los Angeles Times food critic (and our permanent #mancrushmonday) Jonathan Gold.

Purchase tickets here. All ages, full bar. GA Movie Tickets start at $12 + service fee.

 

VIP UPGRADES and FOOD TICKETS are available at checkout or by calling 213.531.0588.

There will also be tasting after the screening, cause how can you watch a movie about a food critic and not be starving after? Food tickets can be purchased in advance at checkout and will be available night of the event. Partial proceeds benefit Food Forward.

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Director Laura Gabbert

We’re excited to support this film, directed by Laura Gabbert (I’m a Gabert, lol) cause we love supporting women in film as well.

WE’LL BE THERE! Please be on the lookout for us. Let’s celebrate the LA food culture and eat together.

 

See you Sunday! 

#tacotuesday!: Acapulco Restaurant in Downey, CA

When I had the opportunity to head down to Downey to check out Acapulco Restaurant’s new and improved menu, I jumped at the chance—and not just because they’re located across the street from my beloved Dunkin’ Donuts!

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Acapulco Restaurant
9021 Firestone Blvd., Downey, CA 90241

I grew up eating authentic Mexican food cooked by my mom, and as a result, I’m a little spoiled when it comes to South-of-the-Border cuisine. I’m generally not a fan of Americanized or Tex-Mex style platters which are usually lacking in flavor and spice and overflowing with filler (mushy beans, rice, and iceberg lettuce—UGH!). I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect at Acapulco. At the very least, I was hoping for a good margarita. Well, not only did I get one of the tastiest margaritas I’ve had in a long time, but I was simply blown away by their new menu. So much so, that I wish I lived closer to Downey so I could eat there more often. Right now, the new menu is only available at the Downey location, but I’m hoping that it will eventually be added to the other locations as well.

Walking in, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw their display of their new Poke Tacos, with fresh cubes of raw ahi tuna nestled in crunchy chipotle flour shells, and drizzled with wasabi-guacamole, topped with arugula and cheese. Yum!

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The next thing I knew, I had a drink in my hand—the Acapulco Sunset. This is my dream drink. It’s fruity, it’s spicy, and for me, it’s so nostalgic. It’s their version of the Mangonada or Chamango, which is a classic Mexican fruit drink made from mangos, lime, and chamoy (a chili-spiced condiment made from pickled fruit) often sold out of carts or fruit stands in Mexico.

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The Acapulco Sunset is even garnished with a traditional tamarind candy straw and this adult version kicks it up a notch with the addition of Cuervo Silver tequila and triple-sec.

¡Salud!

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Next up was a sample of the Ceviche Rojo, which was tasty mix of mahi mahi and shrimp, mixed with chunks of pineapple, guacamole tartar sauce, and a zesty mango relish. The shrimp was so meaty, for a second I thought it was lobster. Three bites in and I was already fantasizing about digging into a massive bowl of this with a bag of chips on the side.

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My daydreams were interrupted as the next dish arrived- a wonderful seafood pozole. Comfort food at its finest, and perfect for autumn! It was brimming with seafood: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, and mahi mahi, all mingling with crunchy cabbage and radishes in a creamy, limey broth that packed a nice amount of heat.

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Next up was the seriously awesome carne asada. The platter is nothing short of a feast with an 8oz grilled skirt steak, cheese enchilada, a cheese-stuffed chile, Yucatan-style charro beans (with a stick of bacon!), and corn on the cob.

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This was no average corn on the cob—it was Mexican-style elote slathered in smoky, peppery goodness with a tantalizing mix of Peruvian chiles, black pepper, lime, mayonnaise, and chili piquin, topped off with crumbled bacon bits. Sooo good!

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The steak was also fantastic. Very tender and juicy and seasoned nicely with garlic, Anaheim chiles, and salsa de molcajete. I’d definitely return just for this dish alone.

The good times kept on rolling with a new drink to try: the Moonlight Melt, so named because the mix is added to a generous puff of blue cotton candy which instantly melts into a sweet and colorful concoction made with Cazadores Blanco and orange juice. If you’re like me and enjoy sugary drinks with the flair of tableside preparation, this one is for you!

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The next dish was another winner: Tropical Tacos al Pastor. Like the other dishes before it, this was the vision of executive chef Enrique Tayun and a real delight to eat.

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The carnitas are made from juicy pork that has been marinated for 24 hours in a mixture of chiles, spices, and pineapple juice. True to its name, the meat was bursting with tropical flavor, and I really enjoyed the small, street-style tacos they were served in.

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The best part was a very thin slice of grilled pineapple at the base of each tortilla that added even more juicy flavor to the mix.

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By now the sun was setting and being on the patio afforded the best view. The restaurant has not only revamped its menu but its interior as well, and I really dug the sophisticated island vibe of the place, especially once the fire-wall around the perimeter was lit. Talk about mood lighting!

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After all this food and drink, I began to feel like I really was on vacation, but it wasn’t over yet! The next dish to be served was a fantastic Tropical Salmon. I have to admit that salmon isn’t my favorite fish in the world, but the way they prepared this dish may have converted me. This had more of a fusion feel as it was served with sautéed bok choy in addition to other veggies. The fish itself was meltingly tender and flaky, seared in a garlic butter sauce and glazed with a sweet roasted pineapple and ginger salsa. The tangy sauce really complimented the rich flavor of the fish well, and I began to rethink my position on salmon altogether.

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Surprise! It was time for another drink. This was the margarita I mentioned earlier—a coconut margarita, to be precise. I’m actually shocked at how much I enjoyed this because coconut, like salmon, just isn’t my thing. But this was clearly a day of challenging my preconceived notions about things I normally don’t like and, holy moly, this drink was so good! Made from Sauza Blue Reposado, Cruzan Coconut Rum, coconut cream, lime juice, and topped with fresh coconut shavings, I felt like I was instantly transported to the beach. It was another sweet drink, and very smooth. This would make a great dessert cocktail.

coconut-margaritaSpeaking of dessert, I was pretty full at this point, but I could not resist digging into the final dish: Fruta Bionica. A delicate, honeyed basket made from pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts and sesame seeds held a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mangoes, bananas, apples, blueberries, raspberries, and creamy roasted walnuts, sailing on a plate of strawberry drizzle.

fruta-bionicaIt was just the way I like my desserts to be: fruity, light, and leaving me wanting more.

Chef Tayun and his colleagues did an amazing job with this new menu, and I really think they managed to elevate what would be a predictable dish in any other restaurant with unique and surprising flavors all inspired by real Mexican cooking.

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Even if you don’t live near Downey, it’s worth the drive to try some of these new items and share a drink with some friends on the beautiful patio as you watch the sun go down. Who would have thought you’d find a real slice of Acapulco in Downey?

T&L Pollos: Family-Owned Fast Casual in Whittier, CA

T&L Pollos
6518 Greenleaf Ave.  Whittier, CA  90601
http://www.tlpollos.com

For about ten years, I lived in Whittier.  When I first moved there, the food options were pretty limited, but I’m happy to report that over the years, the choices for great food has increased, not only with the more upscale spots but also with great smaller places. Fast food efficiency, but with big flavors and lots of heart.  T&L Pollos is one of those great new places in Whittier that has just that.

Hidden away in the back of a newer outdoor mall center, the sign will point the way to a great place to grab a beer and some damn good Mexican style food.

T&L is no frills.  But the variety, price, and speed make it a great option for lunch, or to try something from the very impressive beer selection and hang out while watching the game.

chicken-plateThe menu is simple but has lots of different combinations for anyone who wants good food – a lot of it.  The first dish we tried was the #3 Rotisserie Chicken with a side of rice and a salad.  The salad and rice were pretty standard, but the chicken was the real star, the skin was so tasty, and the meat was moist and delicious. The addition of grilled onions and jalepeno made it special.  I decided to grab a corn tortilla and make an impromptu taco and was very happy.

Next on deck was the Carne Asada plate with pinto beans and rice.  Again, the meat was the best part!  Lots of times, places use cheap, thin pieces of asada and over cook it – not T&L.  The meat was thick and juicy and was marinated in a citrus-based sauce. I could taste the notes of lime and spices.  This plate will be ordered again when my inner carnivore is looking to be satisfied!

carne-asada-plateHowever, the last dish I tried, guaranteed that I’d be sending a few friends over to T&L Pollos soon. The taco plate combo with two sides.  I ordered the seasoned fries and potato salad – which was a lot of starch for me.  But the flavors were good, and I appreciated how much I got for the price.  And the tacos – Lordy!  Three hard-shelled chicken tacos stuffed with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole? I’m in heaven.  I gobbled those things down even though I was already full because finding hard shell tacos this good shouldn’t be wasted.

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I was delighted to find out from the cashier – who was friendly and helpful – that the tacos were on special every Tuesday.  Hard or soft chicken tacos only one dollar all day.  So basically, I could sit down to half a dozen chicken tacos and a beer for under $15 and pretty much die a happy, stuffed, woman.

If you’re looking for some casual cooking, done right, check out T&L Tacos next time you’re in Whittier.  I know I’ll be back some Tuesday in the future for sure!

A Whole Lot of Love: The Pie Hole in DTLA Arts District

The Romans conceived the first known pie recipe, and it was a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie. Then pies began to appear in the early 12th century, but mostly meat pies. Fruit and sweet pies are thought to be first made in the 1500’s. In fact, the English claim to have served the first cherry pie to Queen Elizabeth I.

Fast forward to the English settlers coming to America. Fruit and sweet pies make their way over. And as you would expect from this melting pot of a country, we took it and decided that pie was an American treat.

I have no business ever being a history teacher.

Today, I’m going to take to take you into one hole you’ll never want to get out of – The Pie Hole in DTLA Arts District!

IMG_1381Whenever my friends from outside of LA are coming to town, The Pie Hole is always at the top of my “must-eat” list for them. Consistency with a brand I love is so important to me, and The Pie Hole nails it every time.

I’m a gigantic fan of their Maple Custard, Earl Grey Tea, and Mexican Hot Chocolate, but for this post, I decided to try other favorites, and a couple of the savory pies as well.

The Pie Hole
714 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013
http://thepieholela.com

IMG_1383Upon this visit, I got to chit-chat with owner Lindsay Hollister. Lindsay runs The Pie Hole with her husband, Matthew Heffner. Their inspiration for opening their shop was inspired by the amazing pies Matthew’s mother, Becky Grasley, baked for them. Right after Lindsay took a bite of her mother-in-law’s apple pie, it inspired her to pursue owning a pie shop.  For a while, it seemed like a pipe dream, until 2010 when they got their first investor.

After lucking out on a Craigslist search for space in DTLA Arts District, they opened in 2011. At that time this area was on the gritty side, but they decided to take a leap of faith on the space. To this day, The Pie Hole is there, and it’s become an LA favorite for myself and many others.

What separates them from many other businesses is that a lot of thought goes into all of the ingredients. They do not compromise on quality, and you can taste it in the pie and their coffee.

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You can’t have a slice without coffee. The Pie Hole offers a light, medium and dark brew. I went with the medium and to quote Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) “A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee!”

IMG_1390The coffee is roasted locally in small batches to keep the quality in check. Lindsay makes sure only to use beans that are fair-trade and organic. She also stressed to me how she only works with certain farms to make sure employees are fairly treated with fair wages. This is why it’s so nice to go outside of a major brand!

Another fun fact about the beans they use is that all three blends can be used as espresso beans, it’s all in how to grind it.

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IMG_1385I started off with two savory pies. I went for the Chicken ‘N Cornbread and the Mac ‘n’ Cheese. The Chicken ‘N Cornbread reminds me of an improved chicken pot pie, which even in LA heat, I will crave. The crust texture is crisp, flakey and buttery and dense in the places you want it to be. There is a brothy chicken gravy with the chicken and bell peppers. So comforting. So delicious.

The Mac ‘N’ Cheese pie is so good; I think it should be featured on the Food Network! This pie is packed with mac ‘n cheese as the filling, and the top crust is dusted with herbed bread crumbs. It may feel silly to eat noodles in your pie, but trust me, it’s worth the treadmill session.

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IMG_1389I cannot believe I hadn’t tried the Salted Caramel Pecan before. It’s without a doubt, the best pecan pie I’ve ever had. The consistency of the filling was perfect, and the flavor is salty and sweet. I did get this one a la mode, and it was just beautiful.

I also ordered the Cereal Killer Cheesecake. This cheesecake had Fruity Pebbles cereal in the filling and topped with Corn Flakes. That cream cheese filling has the perfect amount of sweetness to it. The graham cracker crust is thinner than many cheesecakes I’ve had in the past, but was great. It allows the filling to shine.

The Pie Hole has expanded into three other locations in the Southern California area. Future locations will include the Westside (October 2016), and Lindsay hopes to open in the Valley. She is also expanding the business to Japan. The menu won’t have the exact items, to keep up with what is local and in season. A Matcha Green Tea pie will be an absolute must for them though.

The Pie Hole is bringing the love of pie and coffee to Southern California locals. We’re very excited to see how they grow. I have a feeling the options for expansion are infinite for these pies.

Eastsiders, Grab Your Forks! The EastSide Food Fest is Here!

I have always been a proud LA Eastsider and a foodie. That’s why I am so excited to be able to attend an event that allows me to celebrate both!

Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival
Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival

The 3rd Annual EastSide Food Festival will be taking place on Sunday, October 2nd in Silver Lake at Mack Sennett Studios (1215 Bates Ave, LA, CA) from 5 PM – 8 PM (with a happy hour starting at 4 PM). The list of vendors – which is still growing – has some of my local favorites and some who are new to the scene that I’ve been eager to try.

In addition to serving Eastside with the best food, it also benefits People Assisting the Homeless.

 

Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival
Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival
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Sticky Rice’s “Crying Tiger Beef” is so good; it makes me want to cry.

I can personally vouch for Eastside haunts like Sticky Rice, Ohana Poke Co., and Button Mash as purveyors of some delicious culinary treats that take traditional foods and add something special and innovative. And Jeni’s Ice Cream, a recent addition to the Eastside scene by way of Ohio, has flavor combinations that make their ice cream something unique to behold!

 

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The Buttonmash Eggrolls are amazing! I have them in the past and look forward to seeing them again.

Ohana Poke

Ohana Poke Co. adds those wasabi peas to give an extra punch of flavor!

And although I’m excited to visit some favorites, what I’m especially looking forward to is trying some of the spots I haven’t been able to visit yet. The Starry Kitchen has been on my list for a while, Knuckle and Claw is a vendor I will be checking out, and Homestate, with their Tex-Mex – a hard find in Los Angeles, better watch out, because I’ll be there ready to eat it all!

Please check out their site for pricing and ticket options. I’ll see you there!

Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival
Image courtesy of EastSide Food Festival

The Top Tomato: Market City Caffe in Burbank

I love tomatoes. On top of being delicious, they are packed with antioxidants. Any food that tastes just as yummy as it is healthy is a winner in my book, and Market City Caffe agrees. They have a new, seasonal menu starring this tasty treat. I was lucky enough to sample a few items off the menu.

Market City Caffe
164 E Palm Ave, Burbank, CA 91502
IG/Twitter: @marketcitycaffe
http://www.facebook.com/MarketCityCaffeCA/

A lovely hostess and Sean, the general manager, greeted me as soon as I walked into this adorable restaurant located in the heart of downtown Burbank (pro tip: there is ample parking at the garages in Burbank town center). As soon as I sat, fresh breadsticks and olive oil were presented. I was starving and comfort carbs were just what I needed.

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Fresh breadsticks

There are a couple pizzas on the menu, but I opted for the organic truffle mushroom and heirloom pizzetta. The pesto heirloom tomatoes were the stars of this show. I could have easily housed the entire thing, but I was trying to save room for what was to come.

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Organic Truffle Mushroom and Heirloom Pizzetta

The crispy fried sardine was on top of a bed of red and yellow tomatoes and delicious spongy bread. It definitely opened my mind to how good a sardine could be.

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Crispy Fried Local Sardine

The quinoa and grilled yellow tail tuna salad was definitely one of my favorite dishes. It was so light and fresh, perfect for these hot valley days. Topped off with a beautiful watermelon radish, it was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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Quinoa and Grilled Yellow Tail Tuna Salad

The bucatini is every pasta lovers dream. You’re served a healthy portion of a thick spaghetti-like noodle topped with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil,  toasted bread crumbs, and two cheeses (mozzarella and smoked aged ricotta cheese). It sort of reminded me of a noodle shaped gnocchi. I really had to hold back from polishing off the entire plate.

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Bucatini

The last item I tried was the grilled pacific yellow tail tuna. It’s served over roasted sweet corn, seared tomato relish, daikon sprouts and cucumber and jicama. This was a total win for me. The combination of the fish and the sweet corn and tomato relish won me over.

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Grilled Pacific Yellow Tail Tuna

Don’t forget to ask about beer pairings for each dish when you go. I was walked through each one and had just the right combinations for each dish.

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Slice of Pizzetta with El Sugundo “Station No. 1” Red Ale

Market City Caffe definitely proves that tomatoes deserve the spotlight with their carefully thought out special menu.

Mediterranean in SoCal: Luna Grill in La Cañada Flintridge, CA

Until recently, Southern Californians would have to drive to San Diego or Orange County to enjoy a meal at Luna Grill, which offers quality, fresh Mediterranean cuisine in a casual yet contemporary setting. Fortunately for Los Angelenos, a new location has recently opened in La Cañada Flintridge, so I decided to check it out.

Walking in, I could see how it was cross between fast casual dining, and a full-service dining experience. The decor was warm and inviting with cozy booths and modern decorative touches, but food is ordered at the counter. After choosing my items and taking a seat,  I was pleased to have my food soon brought to me upon elegant tableware.

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Their menu features a wide array of choices, from their signature kabobs to gourmet salads to wraps and burgers. They boast non-GMO ingredients that are locally and responsibly sourced without added growth hormones and free-range meat options, which is always a huge plus with me. (They also offer craft beer and wine selections – another plus in my book!)

It was difficult to narrow down my choices so I decided to try an appetizer, main dish, and a dessert. First off, I went with the appetizer sampler platter which includes falafel, a couscous medley, and hummus with pita bread. Usually it includes stuffed grape leaves, but unfortunately they were out when I visited. Must be a popular item!

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The falafel had a great crunch and was drizzled with a zesty taihini sauce, and the couscous medley was also refreshing and light with chopped onions, peppers, cucumber, and parsley. I’m a sucker for hummus, and theirs did not disappoint, though I do wish I had opted to try the spicy hummus option. Next time!

Next, I enjoyed my main dish, which was the Bistro Filet Beef Kabob. The beef was tender and wonderfully seasoned, and the accompanying bell-pepper and onion slices were nicely charred. The basmati rice and side salad were a welcome addition to the plate, as was the cucumber-yogurt dip. Each plate also comes with the option of a carrot or grilled tomato garnish. I went with the tomato, which was popping with juicy flavor.

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Lastly, I tried a couple of their desserts: a mini chocolate nut roll and a mini baklava. (I love mini desserts because it means you can try more things!) The nut roll was delicious and reminded me of a gourmet candy bar, but my favorite was the baklava which was perfectly flaky with a sweet pistachio filling. I only wish I had room to eat more than one… le sigh.

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I’m glad to have Luna Grill close by where I can pop in for a quick Mediterranean meal with quality ingredients, and I hear there are plans to open even more locations in L.A, so keep your eyes peeled, Angelenos!

The 2016 (Dessert) Olympics (LA)

I just returned from the self-proclaimed LA Dessert Olympics and like any good Olympian, these restaurants have trained hard. They have practiced their skills, made the recipe stick and perfected their form. I came prepared with a list of competitors. The torch is lit. Let the games begin. (Cue Olympic theme music.)

Bronze Medal: Coconut Meltaway

Malibu Kitchen and Gourmet Country Market
3900 Cross Creek Road, Suite 3, Malibu, CA 90265

malibu, california, dessert, foodie, coconut bar

The Coconut Meltaway was blissful. I like a lot of bang for my buck and this thing was huge – I swear it weighed a pound. Obviously home-made, its flavors covered every taste bud on my tongue. The bottom layer was the old school graham cracker and butter crust like your grandmother made. On top of that was ooey gooey condensed milk. Then came the good stuff. It was loaded with pecans, chocolate AND butterscotch chips and coconut shavings. I was able to get a chewy corner piece which made it even better.  malibu, california, coconut meltaway, foodie, dessert, homemade

Silver Medal: Blackberry Pavlova
Huckleberry Cafe
1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 9401
http://www.huckleberrycafe.com/

santa monica, california, huckleberry cafe

Ever had a pavlova? Well, you need to. Soon. The Blackberry Pavlova was light and lovely. It was composed of a delicate meringue shell made from egg whites and sugar and then baked until firm. Inside this cup of goodness was a smooth, perfectly tart lemon cream. I loved that they cut the blackberries in half. It made for a perfect ratio of tart to sweet. blackberry, pavlova, huckleberry cafe, santa monica, california, dessert, foodie

Gold Medal: Paradise Pavlova
Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel
9641 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90210
https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/restaurant-bars/the-polo-lounge/

beverly hills hotel, beverly hills, polo lounge, nomad, foodie, los angeles, california

The Paradise Pavlova was hands down, bar none the BEST dessert I have EVER put in my mouth. So, track with me here. This was NOT your run-of-the-mill pavlova. This was like the Mona Lisa of pavlovas. Here is where it gets a bit hard to describe. The ingredients differ a bit from the menu description and the waiters were unable to (or wouldn’t) explain it to me. The pavlova was deconstructed. Rather than one large meringue piece; it was small pieces assembled around a softer meringue center. In the center of the of soft meringue were smashed bananas. All this was on a smear of mango passion with a side of lime sherbet. Okay, stop right here and mull that over. I’ll wait….. Okay, when you think about each taste individually it doesn’t work: the bananas are too sweet and soft, the pavlova too light and muted, the mango too fruity and the lime sherbet too sour. BUT together it is indulgent and decadent in the best possible way. See what I mean? No wonder the waiters wouldn’t give me any details. They would probably suffer severe consequences. It was that good. When I order it again I will not share it. lime sorbet, mango, pavlova, banana financier, beverly hills hotel, beverly hills, los angeles, california

Honestly, I did not have a bad meal in L.A. Well, except I didn’t like the kidney beans in the halo halo. Who does that? Sorry, I digress. I covered a lot of territory in the few days I visited. I ate in great places with great people and saw great things. Add these to your “bites to try ” list. I can’t wait for my next trip!

 

The Heat Is On!: Yup Dduk in Los Angeles

Prior to creating Girls on Food, I wanted to create a blog called Girl v. Man v. Food. The blog would center around myself participating in food challenges a la Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. For a long time I’ve been fascinated with food challenges. Sure, I much prefer sitting down, taking my time and savoring every morsel of a dish, as a food blogger should. But I am so curious what it’s like to have to push gastronomic abilities for a cheering audience. My buddy Taylor actually competed in the 2015 Silver Lake Pizza Eater competition (and won!) and I was green with envy.

Fast forward to last week – I receive a message on Facebook from a female (whom I have no mutual friends in common with) to come into Yup Dduk in K-Town, Los Angeles for a spicy food challenge. I mean, how could I say no to an invite from a stranger on Facebook?

Confession time – I’m a wuss when it comes to spicy foods. I do ok with Mexican-based heat, but when it comes to Korean heat, my experience is pretty limited. One time, I ate a Thai chile in a bowl of Tom Yum soup and my tongue was sent into flames. I had the server bring me a pitcher of water (I ended up needing 2), I also had to order rice and a side of ice cream. That heat wouldn’t even disappear for a whole 30 minutes. So… did I have any business accepting this food challenge?

I felt like I needed a friend with a great sense of humor to get me through this so I took my comedienne pal Rachel along for the ride. Cause if you can’t laugh at yourself pre-emitively failing a foodie challenge, what can you laugh at?  Insert the nervous looking emoticon here.

Yup Dduk
3603 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
https://www.orderspoon.com/yupddukla

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Yup Dduk is located inside of a K-Town strip mall (valet is only $2!). It’s exterior comes off unassuming, you would probably think it’s another quaint Korean restaurant. There’s an adorable smiling chili pepper in their sign. Cute. Then, I realized the chili pepper in the logo isn’t just smiling, he’s profusely sweating. And the sweat is red… Does this mean he’s sweating blood? Oh no. What did I agree to?

The atmosphere inside is very youthful (hashtags on the wall are so Millennial) , there’s upbeat K-Pop playing and if you’re not in the mood for table service, you can dine fast casual style at the cash register. The servers are so welcoming and they thoroughly explain what the #KTownSpicyChallenge is all about.

Yup Dduk specializes in ddukbokki bowl, which are chewy, gnocchi-like rice cakes. The ddukbokki is smothered with a gochujang chili sauce and you can add toppings. You have a choice of mild, original or the spicy challenge. First, there are other great items I want you to explore with me before the scalding main event.

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Rachel is a vegetarian and Yup Dduk was accommodating to that (yay!). We started with a side order of Rice Balls. They were covered in minced nori pieces. The perfect prep food for the stomach before we got crazy.

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The Deep Fried Spam (left), for me, is what fantasies are made of. Foodies, without irony, I adore Spam. So to have it battered and deep fried was pure heaven for me. The Deep Fried Spam here is crispy, meaty, salty heaven. For our vegetarian friends, the Cellophane Noodles (right) are great, they’re boiled, wrapped in nori then fried to a crisp.

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For fun, I tried to try the Jumbo Tuna Mayo Rice Ball. It’s along the lines of a tuna musubi, topped with shredded nori, opposed to wrapped. It may seem very simple, but it for sure came in handy once my #KTownChallenge bowl arrived.

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Just before the challenge, I got hit with a pretty tough curveball. They brought us their Original Chicken Feet, which are fried but not battered. I’m always up to try something new, and I’m part Filipino, so it may be strange to my overseas relatives that I’ve never tried this traditional dish before. But, it’s just never happened for me, so here’s my chance!

I feel so lame reporting this, but it was covered in an “original” amount of chili sauce. I could barely handle this. I did get a taste of that gelatinous flavor, but I’m so weak, I couldn’t handle the heat from the gochujang chili. Take a note – order this “mild” not original.

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Upon arrival, if you let the server know you’re taking part in the #KTownSpicyChallenge, you are provided with a little prep for it. We were given probiotic smoothies to protect our stomach lining. That’s… a great sign?

The smoothie shot provided was a sweet treat but I am all about that YoCool Peach probiotic! Peaches are perfect for the summer and it’s packed with live and active cultures!

 

 

IMG_0749Ok foodies, here’s the event we’ve all been waiting for! And they even made the mozzarella cheese into a heart. Cause we’re girls!

This is the Yup Dduk, the Original Spicy Rice Cake and I went with the #KTownSpicyChallenge level of heat. This was vegetarian but you can order it with fried fish patties if you wanted to.

At only $18, this is an ample portion that could satisfy up to 4 people. If you were to order this bowl alone, you could potentially have leftovers for days. I recommend ordering it at a mild level, so you can really enjoy the chewy cakes and the flavors in there. But order the #KTownSpicyChallenge if you think you can handle that heat. 😉

As you can see, it’s covered in that hot chili sauce and ready to set your tongue aflame. One bite and I was defeated. My very first food challenge slipped away from me so quickly. Luckily, I had that Jumbo Tuna Rice Ball as a friend to help cool me down, along with water.

So readers: I failed. Horribly. After one bite. But that’s ok. Cause this next dish rocked my socks.

IMG_0750This is the Army Stew. I even posted a video of the #noodleporn on our Instagram page, if you want to see sexiness in action. It’s a lot more mild than the Yup Dduk, it’s also more jam-packed with flavors – there’s sausage, tofu, Spam, onions, American cheese and rice cakes. Aside from the kimchi, it does remind me of the Jollibee Spaghetti, the sauce is a lot more sweet and savory than hot. And at $22 it can feed an army (see what I did there?). I loved it and will be back for it.

Even though the #KTownSpicyChallenge is their most known dish, Yup Dduk has other worthy foods that makes them a new favorite in the area.  If you’re ever in the Koreatown part of LA, be sure to stop in!

Stuffed, Sweet or Savory: Beverly Hills Beignets

It wasn’t too often, but I remember my mom frying up beignets for me, or as I liked to call them, “snowy mountains.” Ah, beignets. I would never dare try to recreate that magic in my kitchen. I figured I’d either fly her down to make them for me, or I’d have to hop on a plane to New Orleans to experience them ever again.

Fast forward to today: Among the high-end shopping on Santa Monica Blvd. is the recently opened Beverly Hills Beignet. This huggable, French-inspired, café has the traditional beignets and some unexpected flavors as well. I’m so happy to save money on flights!

Beverly Hills Beignets
9527 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
http://bhbeignets.com

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Front: The Parisian Back: The Country Life

IMG_0735I started out with The Parisian, a beignet stuffed with smoked ham, gruyere cheese, and a tangy Dijon vinaigrette dipping sauce. The melted cheese is gooey in the center, as it should be and these savory beignets remind me more of a fritter since they are so packed. This beignet is certainly a different take on the beignet for me since I have never had it stuffed.

 

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Then I moved onto The Country Life, two pieces of beignet filled with maple-glazed bacon that comes with a maple bourbon dipping sauce. I do love being able to taste that bourbon in the sauce, the maple doesn’t overwhelm the flavor. Out of the savories, I’d say this was my top pick!

I also love that the savory beignets are more of a “grab and go”. You won’t have to worry about powders and sugars all over your fingers.

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Clockwise: The Sour Patch, The Bittersweet, and The Traditional

I knew for sure I’d want to try the sweets as well. For the sweet, I recommend trying The Mix & Match, to get all different versions on a dessert beignet. I got The Traditional (powdered sugar) and The Bittersweet (crunchy sugar with a chocolate ganache dipping sauce).

My absolute favorite was my 3rd sweet beignet, The Sour Patch, a beignet rolled in a tart sugar with a lemon curd dipping sauce. The Sour Patch beignet is already tart, but that lemon curd sauce adds an extra pucker. If you like Lemonheads or Sour Patch Kids, I’m sure that will be your favorite beignet.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing paparazzi shots of celebrities with beignets soon enough since these flavors are so yummy and shopping friendly. They also told me that they have a secret menu that varies daily, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you should try it out.