Girls on Food

Los Angeles

#WineWednesday: Malibu Wines

Welcome to my new weekly column

#WineWednesday!

Here at #WineWednesday, I’ll be sharing my adventures in the world of wine in LA.

10 years ago, I was a server in a small, family-run Italian trattoria in Sacramento called Michelangelo’s. While many Sacramento natives were driving to Napa on the weekends to get their swirl on, I was getting most of my sips on at work, through product tastings. I loved learning about wine this way and didn’t feel left out, even I was missing out on some fun winery tours.

Like Madonna, over the next 10 years my beverage pairing choices were always reinventing themselves: from a classic cocktail phase in Sacramento, to a major craft beer phase in Seattle, and even a cheap liquor and club soda phase when I could barely afford to pay rent in Venice.

Fast forward to July of last year, when I found out I was pregnant, meaning… bye-bye alcohol! I had survived countless media events, a month long trip to Italy, a bachelorette party at Pump in West Hollywood sans alcohol. After the birth of my daughter in April, I waited 6 weeks before my much anticipated glass of wine.

For me wine conjures up so much more than beer and liquor, whether it’s a memory, or even an surprise unexpected flavor. I enjoy allowing wine to open up and breathe, talking about it, comparing flavor notes. I just like it more.

As a new mommy, I usually don’t allow myself to drink more than 1-3 glasses of wine a week (damn you responsibility!) but when I do I make sure I’m experiencing only the very best- and this is my column to showcase that.

This week’s #WineWednesday is a spotlight on one of LA’s most Instagrammable attractions: Malibu Wines.

Malibu Wines
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, California 90265
https://www.malibuwines.com/

When thinking about California vineyards, Malibu may not come to mind right away. But Malibu actually boasts of over 50 independent vineyards. With the foggy coastal climate in the AM and rich soil from the PM heat, it creates a great environment for deeper red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Malibu Wines, a tasting room and picnic area serves up both Semler and Saddlerock wines. Both brands utilize estate-grown grapes from the Saddlerock Ranch across the street.

On the weekends, their picnic area schedule is packed with food truck events, movie screenings, even yoga and mimosa themed events. If you plan to come here with a group for a weekend, I think your best game plan should be to purchase a bottle. But if you want to sit, chill and really focus on a tasting, I recommend taking a departure from all the craziness and pop by for a weekday tasting flight.

The flights of wine are reasonably priced, a light flight for $15, a red flight for $17, 5 wines per flight. This is an easy one to split with a pal.

After going through both whites and red flights, my top 3 wines were the Saddlerock’s Rosé of Grenache 2017 (very fruity, also candy-like), the Sangiovese 2014 (light bodied red but full on tannins) and the Merlot 2016 (expect cherry with lots of spice).

This is such an iconic place to visit. Whether you’re with a friend from out of town or you want to unwind and relax, Malibu Wines is one of those LA spots that never goes out of style.

Although this wine tasting was comped by Malibu Wines, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

GOF Interview: Chef Ria Barbosa Of PCP DTLA

ROW DTLA, what was once known as the LA Terminal Market, is an industrial oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, packed with contemporary retail and dining spots. Among them is one of the latest additions, Paramount Coffee Project, a Sydney-based coffee shop.

PCP DTLA
777 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
https://pcpdtla.com/

This giant location offers the option to grab beverages to go, space for laptop work and a full dining experience. The modern design, with color-pops of gold and bits of street art, PCP fits in perfectly with ROW DTLA.

Chef Ria Barbosa (Sqirl and Go Get Em Tiger) created both Paramount Coffee Project locations (Fairfax and The Row DTLA) breakfast and lunch menus. The menus merge comfort, seasonal, local and cuisine from Ria’s Filipino upbringing all together.

Pork Collar Sandwich – With Brie & Stonefruit on Baguette

I had a moment to sit with Ria to discuss creating recipes, childhood memories and the LA scene.

Me and Ria

GOF: Since Paramount Coffee Project first opened in Sydney, have you spent time in Australia? Did any items from the land-down-under inspire your menu?

RB: I actually have not been to Australia but I’m familiar with Vegemite! I’ve been introduced to a few native ingredients such as wattle seed and saltbush. They’re pretty amazing. I’ve also been introduced to the sausage roll which I’ve already hybridized with a Filipino lumpia filling that’s on the menu.

Sausage Roll

GOF: Have there been any cultural differences working with Australians?

RB: There’s a lot of pronunciations that we jab each other about such as herbs they pronounce the h, they pronounce tomatoes as to‐mah‐toes, and the like. We have a lot of fun talking about food stories.

I’m originally from the Philippines and the food there is still somewhat new to them so it’s nice to be able to introduce it to them and have them taste it. Because they’re so close to Asia there is already a familiarity with Asian influence so it’s nice to vibe and bounce ideas off of each other. I also love to hear about what Asian influenced foods they grew up eating.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

RB: Often times it’s a food memory I’d like to recreate, or something we’ve tasted or heard about that influences what direction we want to take the original towards. How true to origin we’d like to stay closer to or how conceptual we want to take it. It all depends on how our diners receive it of course. For the most part, we’re approaching food from a very familiar and comforting stance but taken up a notch or two. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Corn Fritter – With Peach Pico De Gallo, Fried Egg, Watercress and Creme Fraiche

GOF: What is your favorite childhood meal and have you ever recreated it on one of your menus?

RB: Summers growing up in California meant weekends in Redondo and my parents would take my siblings and I to eat crab by the pier. I was about 9 or 10 and learned how to pick dungeness crab by myself. We’d order a crab each along with a bunch of lemon and steamed rice. I would clean the whole crab myself, storing the picked meat in the shell of the crab, mixing it with the mustard (guts) and fresh lemon juice and eating it over steamed rice. It was a revelation and a very powerful food memory. It was possibly the first time I learned to balance fat and acid. I recreated it while I was the Chef at Sqirl and it actually made it into the cookbook! It was of course, jazzed up a bit. It impressed Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs who had the dish while they were in town.

GOF: What’s one kitchen tool you think deserves more love?

RB: The humble mortar and pestle. Sure the Robot Coupe or the Vitamix can give you super smooth and delicious things but there’s something about the rustic nature of the mortar and pestle and the texture it lends to whatever you’re making in it.

GOF: Is there one food item on Instagram you’d like to see less of?

RB: I’m going to say it… Avocado toast!

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

RB: These are always tough as it always changes, but off the top of my head, current high end would have to be Rustic Canyon. I’m such a fan of Chef Jeremy Fox and crew’s skills. And favorite lower end spot…I’ve been eating a lot of Mariscos Jalisco lately, it’s so good!

GOF: What is your favorite shop at The Row?

RB: Can there be a tie for first? I’ve really been loving the convenience and the selection at Flask and Field for post work activities and I found the tool box of my dreams at High Tide.

GOF: One item on the menu you’re the most proud of?

RB: They’re all kind of like my kids ‐‐ I’m very proud of all of them. But if I had to choose one, it would be the Eggs & Ham. It’s very simple in nature but the wet brining process and getting it to where it is took about two and a half months. It was still a work in progress when we opened and it was good, but there is always a chance to make things better in my opinion. The same goes for everything else on the menu. I’m always thinking of ways to push it and make it better.

Eggs & Ham – With Baguette House Cured Ham & Spicy Sunny Eggs

The quality of ingredients stood out in the Sausage Roll – the roll comes with a small but powerful side of fresh tarragon, parsley, dill and chevril adding a lightness to the meaty and flaky pastry.

If I had to choose, my top 2 favorite dishes were the Corn Fritter – the peach pico de gallo was beautiful and the onions are sweeter, less overwhelming than traditional pico de gallo and the Eggs & Ham – I can see why this is one of Ria’s proudest dishes, cause when you can take something familiar but elevate it with your own personal spin, it’s really something special. The addition of Bub & Grandma’s baguette is also excellent for dipping into the egg and hot sauce.

Dutch Baby – with seasonal fruit (plum) and creme fraiche

Thank you to Prismatics for arranging this interview. Although this tasting was comped by PCP DTLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

My Favorite Sips From wineLA’s 2018 Rosé and Bubbles Festival

wineLA, Los Angeles’ top source for wine-centered events and education, held their 2nd Annual Rosé and Bubbles Festival at the upscale art gallery Leica Store and Gallery in West Hollywood. Unlike their last major event, Stars of Pinot, this was a more intimate event. Over 20 different participating wineries poured for enthusiasts to taste, and through a silent auction, the festival also raised funds to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a non-profit that supports innovative groundbreaking cancer research.

Although rosé wine and white pants seem like a thing of the past, many guests swirled their glasses in Hamptons-esque wardrobe. There was even a rosé themed costume contest, which I sadly didn’t win! 🙁

How did I lose?

With my general admission ticket (priced at $70) I was handed a glass and given access to taste any wine on the floor of my choosing. Plenty of the fabulous catering, provided by Petrossian cheeses, breads and Evian water bottles were also included in this ticket. Also, this fantastic mochi ice cream company, my/mo provided the best mochi ice cream ever, you must try the strawberry and the salted caramel. Sponsor Champagne Henriot, always a favorite of mine, was providing guests with a champagne tasting right at the entrance to start the night on a bubbly note. 

Smoked Salmon and other goodies provided by Petrossian West Hollywood
best. mochi. ever.

My favorite sips from Rosé and Bubbles Festival

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017 –  Although I try to zero in on local, California wineries at events like this, there’s never a bad time to taste a French rosé. This Provencal blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault was my favorite classic bottle and was perfect to sip on with the smoked salmon crostinis being passed around.  

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017

The 50 by 50, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2017 – Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room… yes, Gerald Casale, a founding member of DEVO, is the wine maker. Yes, he was actually there at this event, pouring his wine. Yes, I got totally star-struck and awkward cause that’s what happens to me when I meet my heroes of the 80’s. Since this rosé is made from pinot, it’s delicate but still fruity. I was also happy to see a California rosé represented, as this event didn’t have too many of them. I ordered a bottle and plan to drink it wearing my energy dome!

Barnard Griffin, Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, 2017 – As I was sipping on this, I thought long and hard about when I had ever tasted Rosé of Sangiovese and I realized I probably haven’t. And I’ve been seriously missing out! This is such a bright, juicy rosé with a nice dry finish. I also couldn’t resist the $14 per bottle price point.

Anne Amie Vineyards, Twelve Oaks Estate Rosé of Pinot Gris, Chehalem Mountains, 2017 – This one is perfect for those of you who love a tart, crisp green apple as much as I do! This puckery wine will pair perfectly with seafood and fresh veggies.

Gérard Bertrand, Code Rouge Blanc De Blanc – Sure, the intense red bottling is a bit much and I know their $14 per bottle ’17 Rosé tends to woo everyone over, but you must give this one a chance! This crisp blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac is a littler pricer at $27 per bottle but it’s a beautiful combo- it’s actually one of the two wines I pestered the reps for extra pours on.

Hillersden, Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Upper Wairau Valley, Marlborough, NZ, 2017 – My first time tasting a sparkling sauv blanc! I wasn’t too sure about this one. To be honest, I did think it could be gimicky… but I was totally wrong and purchased a bottle.

Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741, Champagne, 2013 – This was one was put of my price range, sadly but I must say, it’s dry, lots of minerality with a lightly funky nose. If your wallet stretches out further than mine, invest in this one!

There’s nothing better than buying wines in support of a good cause! Be sure to keep up with wineLA’s upcoming events on their website. In addition to these events, the wineLA program (founded by sommelier Ian Blackburn) also includes wine classes, private dinners and wine travels abroad. 

From left: Devon Barnes, Alex Ward, Myself, TinTin Beligan Image provided by TinTin Beligan

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

Get a Free Falafel Pita Sandwich From Falasophy in The Irvine Spectrum Center, Sat 9/8!

We just had to let our readers know that Falasophy, a modern Lebanese street food kitchen, is celebrating their grand opening at the Irvine Spectrum Center, this Saturday, September 8th, and the first 100 people in line get a FREE Falafel Pita Sandwich!

Falasophy started as a food truck in 2014, catering to SoCal under the hashtag #FalafelChariot. Their menu is focused on falafel, hummus and Lebanese street favorites, influenced by Southern California flavors.

Doors open at 11AM, so make sure to get there early! 

Falasophy in the Irvine Spectrum Center – 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

Images provided by 100eats/100inc

#girlsonfood Interviews Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 11.9K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a new column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes. I was in awe of how visually delightful her bakes are! I was also blown away by her level of accomplishments:

I decided we needed to get to know her a little better, since she’s the ultimate Girl on Food! 

GOF: What was the casting process like for GABS?

SC: The casting process was very exciting and an illuminating process! I’ve watched my share of Great British Bake Off and Top Chef and I remember always thinking, there’s NO WAY I could ever get on one of those shows. Haha. It was really fun to see how everything worked and I felt honored to be selected from thousands and thousands of applicants!

The process itself happened over a month or two and involved lots of rounds including a lengthy application, phone interviews, Skype interviews, in-person taste tests of your best sweet, savory and bread recipes. There was even a mini timed baking challenge where we had to bake in a kitchen and talk to cameras to see how we would fair under pressure. It was a demanding process but I’m so glad I did it!

GOF: Did you have any big learning experiences or epiphanies during the filming?

SC: Going on The Great American Baking Show was one of my best decisions in my life. It was also the most stressful and challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s rare that people get the opportunity to challenge themselves in a way where you are 100% reliant on your personal performance and intuition. No one is telling you when to take something out of the oven. You can’t just go online and google “how to fix meringue”. On the show, all the bakers are dealing with ovens, ingredients and an environment that is completely new and unknown and under extreme time constraints and an audience of producers and camera men. Imagine someone standing next to you documenting all of your mistakes! I learned that I’m more capable than I ever thought and really tested my ability to manage my stress in a whole new way.

Before I went on the show, baking was a hobby. Something I did late at night to relive stress and an outlet to allow me to make something special for people I cared about.  When I made it all the way to the finals, I realized that this is more than a hobby and I might actually want to do this for REAL. Since the show ended, I haven’t gone back to my full-time corporate job and have started my own cake & pastry business popping up in cafes across LA, teach cake decorating classes privately and at local cooking schools and found part-time work with pastry teams in Santa Monica bakeries that I’ve admired for years. The show gave me the confidence to propel me into a whole new career that I would not have had the confidence to pursue without it.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

SC: My recipe creation process is driven by seasonality and what I’m in the mood to eat! Sounds simple but my cravings are often so specific, it’s easy to hone and be creative when it’s something I love to eat.

Growing up in Southern California, I’ve been fortunate to have fresh produce and farmer’s markets within a stone throw. I love roaming the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s market, talking to farmers to see what they’re excited about and letting that influence my palate. I also pull from my Chinese heritage and the melting pot of flavors in LA that I grew up eating so my pantry is a mixed bag. It’s not rare that I’ll just go around my kitchen and just start pulling different spices and ingredients, smelling them together to see if I can create something new and delicious.

GOF: What was your favorite childhood meal?

SC: Wow. I don’t know if I could only pick one! My mom was a really great cook and would always make delicious Chinese food every night growing up. My maternal Grandmother opened a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey when she first immigrated to the US in the 70’s. My mom helped her run the restaurant so we always had really good Chinese food at home. If I had to narrow it down, I’d pick her Zha Jiang Mian. (Soybean paste noodles with fresh sliced cucumbers.) Yummm. Now I’m craving it!

GOF: What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering leaving their day job to pursue a job in the culinary arts?

SC: My advice to someone who wants to pursue a career in food, is to go and talk to as many people in the industry as possible! I met with all sorts of friends, acquaintances and even strangers when I first flirted with the idea—A gal who owned a wholesale online cookie business, coffee shop owners, a multi-restaurant/bakery owner, pastry chefs, etc. Listen to their stories, how they got started and what to watch out for. This can also help you figure out what path you want to take. Working in food is not for everyone.. but, I can’t begin to describe how rewarding my journey has been and it continues to fill my heart in ways I never knew “my job” could. If you can, try to stage at a local bakery/restaurant you admire. Baking at home for loved ones vs. baking in a high functioning kitchen is completely different. I’ve gathered some of the most valuable training and learnings from my time working with the pastry teams at Huckleberry and Milo & Olive.

GOF: Do you have one kitchen tool you think is underrated and deserves more love?

SC: The one kitchen tool I cannot live without is my mandolin slicer! I don’t have a fancy knife skills so my mandolin has come in and saved me on many occasions when I’m baking or just cooking dinner! It’s an easy way to make your dish look elevated with perfectly sliced pieces.

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

SC: My favorite high-end spots in are Bavel in DTLA and Felix in Venice. You seriously can’t go wrong with anything on the menu in both places. For lower end, I love Ma’s Chinese Islamic Restaurant in Anaheim. I grew up eating here and they have really great Beef Noodle Soup and scallion pancakes!

GOF: What is it like to organize your time between Huckleberry, M&O, pop-ups and trying to maintain a personal life?

SC: It definitely keeps me on my toes and I would die without my calendar! I’m always bouncing around all over the city and love that I’m always learning and challenging myself in different ways depending on what I’m doing. I love being at Huck & Milo because it keeps me sharp, fast and love all the people I bake with. Pop-ups are a lot of work but I feel so much joy in feeding people and it helps me test what Sugarbear Bakes can become. I love teaching classes because I’m helping people learn something new and giving them an avenue to explore their creativity! Sometimes my personal life does suffer (especially my sleep!) but it’s a small price to pay for really loving what I do. I’m also blessed to have a very supportive and loving husband who helps me keep my sanity.

GOF: What’s the most ambitious/interesting cake you’ve ever baked? Any crazy themes or challenging décor?

SC: One of the most fun and tedious cakes I’ve been asked to make was a pancake cake made completely out of buttercream! Every layer of “pancake” was piped (over 25 layers!) and then I went through and painted every single layer to give it the effect of pancakes. Then it was topped with caramel and a fondant butter slab. It was a smash cake so it was fun to see the photos of the baby smashing into despite all the hours it took to make it. Haha.

The Pancake Cake – Image via Stephanie Chen

Be sure to follow @sugarbearbakes and @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

Citizen In Beverly Hills Has A Dish For Every Type Of Gal Pal

Organizing a girl’s night out, no matter what the celebration is, can end up being stressful. From constant text alerts, to catering to different dietary needs, to considering your friend’s budgets, it’s tough to find a place that can cater to everyone. But after re-discovering Citizen in Beverly Hills, now under Chef Seth Greenburg, I believe this is the perfect spot for a GNO.

Chef Greenburg, an LA native, served as opening Executive Chef at the Dakota Restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel and then went on to work as Executive Chef at The Penthouse in Santa Monica for a number of years.

His menu at Citizen offers a variety of dishes inspired by the diverse LA food scene. The dishes are then paired with both tiki and updated traditional cocktails. Don’t worry, all your friends will find what they are looking for here.

Citizen
184 N Canon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90210
https://www.citizenbeverlyhills.com/

For the Fitspo Obsessed

The Watermelon Salad, a nod to fruit stands of LA, is perfect for your friend who’s Instagramming her fitness journey as we speak. This light salad bursts with fresh flavors from the watermelon, cucumber and tomato but has that chili kick and tart lime that stands are famous for. She can live a little and wash this one down with a glass of ’14 Schramsberg Blanc De Blanc for less calories than a cocktail.

For the #TacoTuesday Devotee

You can’t draw inspiration from LA and not have tacos on the menu! Start with the Albacore Tacos (loved the pineapple kimchi) then move onto the more ample portioned Tacos made with fresh corn tortillas (comes with your choice of 3). My favorite taco was the flat iron steak with cojita cheese and topped with chimichurri. Other options are shrimp with green papaya slaw for a Thai taste or fried chicken with sweet chili for a Chinese flair.

For those of you who are looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, the Blueberry Mint Faux-Jito, with citrus agave and ginger beer is perfect for sipping the night away on the patio.

The Traditionalist

Not every single friend of yours may be as epicurious as you are, so I recommend the more comfort-type options, inspired by classic American cuisine.

The Cheddar Biscuits are buttery, soft and come with a chive butter so fantastic, you might pester the server to take some home.

Chef Greenburg takes it back to the old school with a Halibut in Parchment, and I loved that. A creamy dill butter sauce is poured on top as a part of the presentation. The halibut is tender and thanks to the parchment cooking process, this dish is very aromatic as it arrives. I was reminded of the halibut dinners my mom would cook for me growing up. It would be very rude of me to confirm if this was better than my mother’s… so I’m just going to stop while I’m ahead.

Cocktail-wise I’d recommend the Strawberry Fields cocktail, coined after that classic Beatles jam. It’s a vodka-based cocktail with fresh mint and strawberries.

The Fieri Fanatic

For that friend of yours who can’t turn down a SoCal dive, opt for the Short Rib Fries. The pickled carrots and jalapenos add a fun taco truck flavor to this dish. Be sure to pair it with Babe Rosé With Bubbles for juicy, bubbly fun.

GOF Tip: The Lucky Seven, 7 dishes, for $7 until 7 PM is a great deal and it’s availability is extra generous on Monday nights, 2:30 PM – 10 PM.

The Friend Who’s Still Recovering From Last Night

There’s always one! Since the only cure for alcohol seems to be more alcohol, send her a Detox/Retox. This Tito’s vodka based cocktail has fresh blueberries and chareau aloe, which is an all natural aloe liqueur. And according to boozy folklore, aloe is a great remedy if you’re not feeling 100% after a wild time. She’ll thank you later.

Although this tasting was comped by Citizen, all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.  

Bed Bath & Beyond (Probably) Doesn’t Want You To Know This Wine And Beer Secret

Since 2012, select Bed Bath & Beyond locations have been offering food and drink through their merge with World Market. The merge always seemed a little odd to me (can’t quite put my finger on it) and I’ve spent many years shopping at BBB but not exploring the specialty foods aisle.

Then it randomly dawned on me- since they sell wine and beer in a BBB… why couldn’t I use my coupons on it? I scoured my coupons to see if there were any restrictions listed on alcohol. There has to be a regulation here, right?

Nope.

I was still skeptical, so I even asked the floor sales associate to confirm and I got a green light.

I even asked if customers do this a lot and she replied “nobody ever thinks of it”.

For those of you out there who don’t believe me, I come with a receipt!

Although the wine selection at BBB is pretty accessible with many mainstream selections, it’s a perfect for old standbys and bottles to take to parties. I love La Vieille Ferme Rosé so I made sure to grab a bottle. I have also been seeing Love Noir Pinot Noir pop up on my Instagram, so I decided to try one out. I’m a sucker for a sultry label.

I’m off to BBB to stock up on more!!!

LDH Kitchen The Robata Brings New Elements To Santa Monica

LDH Kitchen The Robata, a new restaurant in Santa Monica, integrates modern technology into the fine dining experience. LDH Kitchen The Robata is a part of LDH restaurant group, known for 14 established restaurant locations in Japan, ranging from shabu-shabu to coffee shops, this is LDH’s first venture into the North American dining scene.

LDH Kitchen The Robata
2518 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
https://www.ldhkitchen-la.com/

Fire Apple Cocktail

The ambiance is based on the idea of projection mapping- a projection technology used to turn objects into a display surface for video projection. Think legit TRON vibes. In the front of the restaurant, there is a display of fire as well as at the bar area. The front of the house, including the bar, represents fire.

The private VIP room is very calming, since it represents water. When you walk in, there is a long turquoise table, with images that resemble fish projected onto it. When you place a glass on the table, ripples of water react to the cool temperature. A plate being set down entertains with fish swimming around it. The wall also projects an underwater world, giving guests legit The Little Mermaid vibes. Additional seating includes a beautiful Omakase bar, that seats about eight people and another private room that can also be opened up for a bigger party.

Executive Chef Makoto and Sous Check Sato

This spot practices robata, the classic Japanese method of cooking meats and vegetables over hot charcoal. Cold appetizers, sushi dishes are also options. Executive Chef Makoto and Sous Chef Sato prepared many different items for the private dining event I attended. There were twelve dishes prepared and three desserts. Items included: the Dome Salad, Sashimi Plate, Salmon Carpaccio, Shishito, Dashimaki-Tamago with Blue Crab Sauce, Corn Kaki-Age, Chicken Nam-ban served with Tartar sauce, Robatayaki (Japanese Charcoal) Kobacha with Butter, Broccoli, Asparagus, Chicken Thigh, Wagyu Sirloin Prepared Sukiyaki Style Topped with Uni, Truffle Takikomi-Gohan served in Japanese Style Clay Pot, Sweet Potato Crème brûlée, Chocolate (Vegan) cake, and Japanese Style Rare Cheese Cake.

Chicken Thigh

My favorite dishes were the Dome Salad, the Salmon Carpaccio, the Robatayaki Vegetables and the Wagyu Sirloin topped with Uni. See the full menu here.

Wagyu Sirloin Prepared Sukiyaki Style Topped with Uni
Sweet Potato Crème brûlée, Chocolate (Vegan) cake, and Japanese Style Rare Cheese Cake

Mixologist Eric Jas made two outstanding cocktails that are showstoppers. The first one he created is called the Fire Apple- Pinot Noir, Apples Juice, and Cinnamon. Then there’s the Water Berry-  Blueberry, Butterfly Sake (one of my faves), Soda Water, Mint spray, Blueberry garnish. Visual bonus: once you add lemon, it turns purple.

Water Berry

LDH is my new favorite restaurant this year, and I think it will be the hottest spot to check out in Santa Monica! Be sure to reserve a table in advanced here.

Myself and Veena Crownholm

Although this tasting was comped by LDH Kitchen The Robata and Creative Director Nelson Diaz, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

My Top 10 Favorite Bites From Stu And The Kids 2018

The fifth annual Stu and the Kids fundraiser showcased some of the best Thailand-inspired bites by over 25 LA restaurants. Held annually, by Stu and the Kids founder Chef Stuart Skversky and Redbird’s Neal and Amy Fraser at Vibiana, this event brings an incredible turnout of food and beverage vendors as well as epicurean guests to help raise funds for the organization.

Stu and the Kids provides scholarships for poor and orphaned Hill Tribe children for continuing their education in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This one fundraiser raised over $106,500 throughout the whole day.

Myself and guest Sara Mayer-Fried

I’m a tough critic on food events and this one did not disappoint!

What makes Stu and the Kids better than most?

  • If you weren’t able to bid on high ticket items, there was also a vending machine for guests to donate what they can (brilliant idea and I hope more fundraisers take note).
  • None of the food/beverage vendors ran out of food and drinks (to my knowledge- and I was there all day)
  • Putt putt golf! The Tourism Authority of Thailand was there and supplied putt putt for prizes. Not to brag, but I got a hole in one my first try!
  • This event is on a hot summer day, Vibiana, a cathedral turned event space, stays cool inside. There was also plenty of shade for the outdoor portion.
Coconut Tapioca by Patina Catering

My top 10 favorite eats from the event are below!

Chef Jet Tila – Grilled Pork Neck with Sticky Rice

Same Same Thai –  Papaya Salad

Tender Greens – Chicken Wings

République – Grilled Shrimp With Thai Curry 

Chichen Itza – Red Curry Mussels

Patina Catering – Ahi Tuna

Redbird – Local Calamari

Ayara Thai – Northern Pork Curry 

Chef Jason Fullilove from Barbara Jean – Thai Fried Pork Belly

Herb + Orchard – Strawberry Thai Basil Rambutan Infused Water Pop

Please follow @stuandthekids on Instagram to keep up with next year’s event!

Come Rosé All Day With Us At wineLA’s Rosé & Bubbles Festival

ATTN: LA Oenophiles!

Are you ready to taste the very best in rosé and bubbles with us at wineLA’s Rosé & Bubbles Festival?

We’ll be at this event and hope you can join us!

BUT FIRST- HOP OVER TO OUR INSTAGRAM BEFORE FRIDAY, AUGUST 17TH FOR A CHANCE TO WIN 2 TICKETS TO WINELA’S ROSE & BUBBLES FESTIVAL! 

I attended my first wineLA event last month for the 4th Annual Stars of Pinot event and now I’m hooked!

When: August 25, 2018

2 PM – 4 PM for the Afternoon Session

7 PM – 9 PM for the Evening Session 

Where: Leica Store & Gallery
8783 Beverly Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048

Ticket Prices: Check out ticket options and buy your ticket here.

BONUS: USE PROMOCODE “ROSE10” TO SAVE $10 OFF 

Tickets are selling quick, so get on it!

Image via wineLA

Both afternoon and evening session tickets include:

  • Unlimited tasting of wines in the beautiful Leica Space. Confirmed reps that’ll be on site to pour include:      Domaines Ott, Scharffenberger, Champgane Henriot, Fleur De L’Amaurigue and many more!
  • Unlimited tastings of appetizers provided by Petrossian West Hollywood.
  • A chance to bid on wine, tours and more luxurious items through a silent auction, benefiting the TJ MARTELL FOUNDATION.
  • Awards given for best dressed male and female to the Rosé Theme- no idea what’s in store for this, but it’ll be fun to see what attendees come up with!

Check out ticket options and buy your ticket here.

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

CHEERS!

Fellow: Westwood’s New Lunchtime Accomplice

Westwood Village, known for the UCLA campus and student-friendly restaurants and shopping, is growing its own budding food scene. Although juiceries and fast-casual sandwich shops may come to mind first when thinking of this Westwood neighborhood, this area is lucky to have a new friend in Fellow. This new spot, owned by buddies Philip Camino & Terry Tolba, is in the works to become a full service restaurant. Executive chef Michael Bryant (past restaurants include Churchill and Cliff’s Edge) is currently serving up lunch in its soft open to get locals ready for their full opening.

Fellow
1071 Glendon Ave, Westwood, CA 90024
https://www.fellow.la/

The space is monumental with its 30 foot ceilings and bar with plenty of seating. It’s the kind of atmosphere you could enjoy with your mom dining at the spring-green booths or with your date at their loungier window seating. I’m also pretty sure the UCLA crowd will appreciate their photobooth, especially once the cocktail list is available.

Chef Bryant’s menu is a seasonal, eclectic mix of both fit-foods and comfort dishes, which I think is perfect for this location. I started with the Avocado Toast. Though I stopped ordering this new classic, due to everyone and their mother posting them on Instagram, I begrudgingly took our server’s recommendation for this staff favorite–and I’m actually glad I did.

Avocado Toast

First off, the generous amount of avocado on the toast alone makes it worthy of an order. But what separates it from the other picturesque toasts is the spread of green goddess dressing, which bursts an unexpected tarragon flavor note. The everything bagel spice on top is also a great touch, one I practice at home often. Clearly, I was off to a great start.

I decided to taste both gluttonous and healthy items, just to give you all a feel for how the menu is perfectly balanced.

The Rock Shrimp Po’Boy is perfect for those for those looking to let loose at lunch. This soft brioche hoagie is stuffed with dill and Old Bay seasoned rock shrimp, lettuce, pickles and comes with a side of yuzu tartare. Each piece of the rock shrimp is crisp and has a zest from the dill, making the yuzu tartare a perfect tart dip.

The Magnificent Three is a choose-your-own-item option allows you to pick a protein, a salad and a selection from the Delicious Plants. I chose a buttery Pan-Roasted Salmon (perfection), a Tuscan Kale Salad and the Roasted Baby Carrots. The carrots have a kick from a Sriracha-Honey glaze but it doesn’t overwhelm. This option will keep that health-nut pal of yours totally satisfied.

In rare form, my favorite dish was actually one of the Delicious Plants sides. I seldom pick a vegetarian dish over any meat options, but this is one of the exceptions. The Lemon & Dill Cauliflower almost had me licking the plate. These perfectly roasted cauliflower florets sit on a plate smear of velouté sauce with a bbq sumac spice. This item will have me coming back for more and I highly recommend you order this as well!

Whether you’re looking to keep it trim or to #treatyoself, Fellow can accommodate all eaters. With the superb flavors and a special eye to the littlest details from Chef Bryant, I have no doubt this spot will flourish in Westwood. It could also inspire more chef-forward restaurants to set up shop here.

GOF Tip: Be sure to park in the Target lot down the street; parking is 2 hours free with validation from Target.

Thank you so much to Lauren Sheftell for arranging this tasting. All though this meal was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

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.