Girls on Food

Los Angeles

For the Belly of the Beast: Fat Dragon in Los Angeles

San Gabriel Valley may have the reputation of being SoCal’s Asian food mecca, but Fat Dragon Kitchen & Tea Bar, which just opened in LA’s Silver Lake, is bringing classic Chinese flavors out west. Owner Allen Wong, of Sticky Rice, opened Fat Dragon which serves traditional Chinese food minus the MSG and only using fresh ingredients. This fast-casual spot is located in the same shopping strip mall as Trois Familia and should be on every LA foodie’s radar.

Fat Dragon 
3500 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
http://fatdragonla.com

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Verdugo West Brewing Co. Brings Craft Beer to the Heart of Burbank

Most craft beer lovers know California to be a hub in the industry, but residents of Los Angeles have often been left scratching their heads wondering where their local breweries were. (Los Angeles has about 50 vs. San Diego which has well over 100!) But, thankfully, more and more are opening in our neck of the woods, and Verdugo West Brewing Co. is one I can’t wait to see more from! Located in Burbank just 10 minutes from downtown, it brings great beer and a fun atmosphere to what can sometimes feel like a sleepy suburb. The folks at Verdugo West Brewing Co. were good enough to invite me to their Grand Opening, and frankly, I can’t wait to go back!

Verdugo West Brewing Co. 
156 West Verdugo Ave, 
Burbank, California

http://www.verdugowestbrewing.com/

The whole staff lines up to prepare to cut the ribbonThe brewery is owned and run by a local restaurant group which is responsible for other spots like Market City Caffe- which is good news because they’ll bring you delicious burritos over from their restaurant for you to enjoy with your beer! Head brewer Chris Walowski has previously worked at both Ohana Brewing and Smog City Brewing, and with a resume like that you know you’re in for a treat. Chris was an absolute delight to chat with as well and shared some stories about the installation of the brewing equipment and his process. Talking with him makes it clear this is truly a labor of love, and it shows in the final product.

Inside the tasting roomFor a brand new brewery, they are already brewing some exciting and complex beers. My absolute favorite at the Grand Opening was the Quarterly IPA, which was just bursting with fresh hop flavor. They also had variants of their What Plane? (oatmeal stout) and Wax Wing (blonde lager). The What Plane? brewed with coffee was perfect on a chilly LA evening and the Wax Wing brewed with ginger was spicy and incredibly food friendly. They also had a few beers that were to be released soon that I can’t wait to try, including two different sours brewed with fruit and a double IPA.

Enjoying my pint of the Quarterly IPAVerdugo West Brewing Co. is a brewery I’ll be keeping my eye on. With Chris at the helm making such fantastic beer and strong leadership, I’ve no doubt we can expect great things from Verdugo West Brewing Co. I’m looking forward to visiting again and craft beer lovers in LA should add it to their list of places to visit.

LA’s Hottest Pop-Up (Literally!): Gastro Garage Pop-Up in Los Angeles

Since launching three years ago, the catering crew of Gastro Garage has been lighting up LA with their signature “Gastro Tanks.” You may recognize these pyromaniacs from their past media appearances, but seeing their live culinary experience blew me away! They now have a pop-up in Los Angeles running every Thursday – Saturday until February 11th, 2017.

Our Gastro Mechanic Jesse in action

What is a “Gastro Tank”? They’re dishes we all know and love deconstructed, then stuffed in a brioche and filled with a nitrous foam (in a variety of flavors depending on your order) then torched with toppings. These foodie reconstructions were all as tasty as the show is fun to watch! The “Gastro Mechanics” (one part Chef, one part Mechanic) put on a very entertaining show and in total welding garb. WARNING: The guys have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and aren’t shy about interacting with guests. They will dish it, and they can take it. So feel free to sass back at them!

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Mussel Fest!: Morels at The Grove in Los Angeles

I haven’t been going to the gym at all lately, but I’ve been getting my dose of mussels in regularly!

I’ve loved mussels my entire life but lately, I’ve been craving them more than usual. They’re easily my favorite shellfish, and I love a good broth sauce to dip bread and/or fries in. I discovered that Morel’s French Steakhouse & Bistro (located at The Grove in LA) has Mussel Fest, an exclusive mussel-filled menu being served now through Feb. 9th (also being served at Market City Caffe in Burbank). I popped in to flex those mussels of mine, and I am only hurting in the best way from this foodie workout!

Morel’s French Steakhouse & Bistro
Located in The Grove, 189 The Grove Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90036
http://morelslv.com

The Mussel Fest menu offers many different mussels from Prince Edward Island (aka PEI mussels). PEIs are grown along the coasts of Prince Edward Island, Canada which is just off the coast of Nova Scotia. These mussels are plump in size and juicy in flavor.

Morels have their own brewery in Burbank (Verdugo West Brewery), so I decided to pair their Wax Wing (4.5%), blonde lager with the Mussel Fest items. This is the perfect “pairs well with all flavors” kind of pint; I highly recommend it.

For those of you who love a classic mussels dish, steamed with white wine, I recommend their Neapolitan Style Mussels. These mussels are steamed with Trebbiano wine, garlic, onion, celery, fresh Roma tomato, red pepper flakes, oregano and lemon juice. It comes with garlic crostini to dip it in. The sauce is fragrant, brothy and delicious with the crostini dipped in.

Neapolitan Style Mussels

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A Winter Solstice Farmer’s Market Feast!

I am thrilled to be sharing my seasonal Farmer’s Market Feast today and how perfect that it just so happens to line up with the winter solstice!

A Farmer’s Market Feast lasts all week-long in my house because all of my food is from the past Sunday’s, Mar Vista Farmer’s Market. Majority of everything I eat is my own home cooking, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Being raised with high values around food and cooking, I don’t let my busy lifestyle get in the way of cooking an excellent meal.

I know this may not be the case for many of you, but I can help you to improve on that. 🙂

My hope is that once you read my simple menus, you will be motivated to grab a few staple ingredients and make it a habit to cook up some versatile, affordable and downright delicious meals for the entire week. The farmer’s market is lit up with beautifully bright orange, red and purple foods. Thanks to nature’s perfect timing, these carotenoid-rich foods appear in winter to nourish and heal our skin and eyes after long days in the summer sun. Below are a few of my favorite winter foods and how I enjoy them in all their glory.

Persimmons: The markets are overflowing with Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons but their season is almost up so get on them soon!

Fufu persimmons can be eaten raw when they are as hard as an apple, but a Hachiya is best when it’s so soft and overripe it practically collapses in your hand.

My favorite ways to eat persimmons are to either make a salad with pomegranate, dill, parsley, chives, shallots, basil and mint with fresh squeezed lime and olive oil or bake them with aromatics like cinnamon, vanilla, star anise and cardamom. When cooked long and slow they develop a flavor of what you would imagine an Indian sweet potato pudding to taste like! There’s nothing like it!

TRY THIS: Cut 4-6 Fuyu persimmons (ask a farmer at the market to help you pick good ones if you’re unsure) into thin half-moon shapes (skin on or off) and place in a greased (with at least 2 tablespoons of coconut oil) heavy roasting pan. Pour in two cans organic coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, a teaspoon of cinnamon extract, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, another heaping tablespoon of coconut oil and one teaspoon of butter (vegans can skip). Roast covered at 375 for easily 45 minutes or until desired consistency. Keep checking in between to baste them with the aromatic liquid. Let cool.

You can use to top biscuits with fresh whipped cream for a persimmon shortcake. You can mix with bread and cream for bread pudding. You can also boost your yogurt or porridge with roasted persimmons. I’ve even tried them in a savory stuffing served with lamb, beef or fatty chicken thighs.

Cooking savory dishes in the winter implies a lot of roasting, braising or making soups, so I always have homemade veggie stock on hand.

TRY THIS: If you eat lots of veggies like I do, then making your own veggie stock should be an easy task because you will have all your veggie end cuts, onion, garlic skins and fresh herbs on hand for your base. From there, all you need is water, a bay leaf or two, peppercorns, salt and a couple of carrots and onion or leek for depth and sweetness. I like to add a little tamari (a thicker, less salty, fermented soy sauce that contains less wheat) or Braag’s Liquid Amino’s. Once everything is in the pot, bring to a soft simmer for 20 minutes, cover and take off the heat. Let cool outside of fridge overnight and then pour in glass jars for up to a week. You can also freeze your stock.

NOTE: Don’t ever use eggplant or potato end-cuts to make stock.

Squash Pumpkin, Acorn, Kabocha, Butternut, Speckled Hound the varieties are endless. They are all easy to cook – roast, steam or sauté and they all taste pretty similar. The differences I find with squash is the texture, Kabocha and Acorn are denser and hearty while others like butternut are wetter and mild in flavor. Personally, I tend to lean toward the hearty squashes, but you find yours!

Squash tastes great with olive oil, salt, lemon, onion, and garlic. You should feel free to incorporate herbs like rosemary and sage to your heartier squashes and having caramelized onions and browned garlic for topping your squash veggie bowl. Also, try aromatics like cinnamon and curry when cooking your lighter squash. No matter what you do, squash is a no-brainer: Clean it, cut it in half, rub it down with olive oil and salt and your spices and put it in a 350 oven covered for 35 minutes.

Squash in Minutes: If all you ever did were roast squash with onions/leeks, garlic, carrots and cooked in some herbs with olive oil you would be a happy camper. With those four foods you have squash soup in seconds (see Stock below), a delicious dinner bowl with smashed roast squash and topped with the other three ingredients and use your quartet of veg to inspire a warm salad or make inexpensive couscous, which will give you meals for days. Top leftovers with a plain omelet and you have a feel-good breakfast

Greens like collards, kale, turnip, mustard, and dandelion are everywhere this season. I like to cook them long and slow with just lemon juice, plum vinegar, sesame oil, salt, chilis, and garlic. I mix them all up, adding the heartier greens like kale and collards first because they take longer to cook. You can add bacon for flavor (which some people love to do) but I prefer mine without because then I taste how delicious the actual greens are! One of my go-to bowls that I make is roasted squash topped with lots of greens, then drizzled with olive oil and a dash of tamari.

Leftovers? Serve greens with two over-easy eggs and a buttered toasted English muffin.

I hope my ideas inspire you to get cooking with farm fresh ingredients. My brand Farmer’s Market Groupie is in a pre-launch period. Stay tuned for our website in January 2017 and if you are in Los Angeles, always feel free to reach out for a farmer’s market tour via my Instagram page – @FMGroupie.

xo

A Hollywood Take on #TacoTuesday

A while back, Girls on Food founder Julianne had the opportunity to visit Trejo’s Tacos Truck and posted an interview with Danny Trejo. I drooled over the taco shots! So when the Hollywood spot opened up, I jumped at the chance to give their new menu a try.

Trejo’s Cantina
1556 N Cahuenga Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028
http://www.trejostacos.com/

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Guacamole

Trejo’s Cantina takes a modern spin on traditional Mexican favorites. I began the night with a delicious guacamole and iced cochata (cold brew coffee and horchata). Packed with flavor, the guacamole featured pistachios, lime, and Serrano chilies, which gave it a tangy kick with a smooth finish.

The cochata was also a winner in my book. I love horchata, so I was interested in trying it with coffee. I wish I had waited to get it for dessert because it went well with the churros but more on that later!

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Cauliflower Taco

I tried several of the tacos including the rainbow cauliflower taco, mixed with corn, cashew cream, pickled onion, and cilantro; this taco offered a range of flavors that I wasn’t expecting in a veggie dish. I don’t usually like cauliflower because it’s sometimes too soft but to my surprise, the cauliflower was firm and full of flavor. I also enjoyed the carnitas with grilled pineapple taco. It was spicy, but the pineapple offered sweetness to balance out the kick.

I also tried several burritos, not offered at the La Brea location and received another surprise. The chicken burrito was delicious. I typically sway toward steak and carnitas when it comes to Mexican food, but this chicken was juicy and flavorful. The beans were also delightfully seasoned and meshed well with the rice. If you’re into spicy food, I would recommend the spicy shrimp burrito. I struggled to get through it because I’m a cry-baby when it comes to spicy foods but if that’s your thing then that’s your dish. The shrimp was super good, but I had some tears swelling up by the end of the plate.

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Churros with cajeta, Mexican chocolate, and strawberry sauces.

Now for the sweet finale – Trejo’s offers three different desserts and I went for the churros. As I mentioned before, the churros go well with the iced cochata. Because the coffee-based beverage has sweet notes and coffee in it, it pairs well with the churros. The churros came with cajeta, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate sauces. I’m usually a chocolate gal, but the strawberry sauce was the real MVP of this dish.

Trejo’s Cantina offers more than good food. The restaurant brand has expanded to serve craft beers to pair with each taco and burrito. Be sure to ask your server for recommendations for beer to pair with your meal. They have tons of beers, including an award-winning dessert beer, to go with each menu item. Just be sure to keep it safe and leave the car keys at home because you’re going to want to check out a wide variety of the craft beers and maybe even finish the night with a spicy margarita! Cheers!

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Cheers!

O + O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar Opens in Santa Monica

O + O Sicilian Kitchen opened two weeks ago, and since I’ve had a craving for pasta, meatballs and all things Italian, I decided I must check this spot out.

O + O Sicilian Kitchen
1705 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
http://oosantamonica.com

The Mistaken
The Mistaken

Right when I walked in, I fell in love with O + O right off the bat, because its atmosphere is the perfect blend of neighborhood haunt meets date night. I love spots that are somewhere in between casual and formal (can’t they all be like that?). My friend Meagan (@caffeineaddictfoodie) and I bellied up to the bar for a night packed with delicious eats and drinks.

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Bar Manager Sam

We lucked out and Sam (@samhatley), the Bar Manager, who created the cocktail menu, was bartending and allowed Meagan and me to pick his brain on the drinks (which we did a lot of). We were able to try a lot of the cocktails (don’t panic, we took Lyft) and here are our favorites:

My Top Cocktail Picks:
1.) La Matcha Vita – Mezcal, Matcha, Mint, Ginger, Lemon. Has a lemony, sweet start and a bold, smokey finish.
2.) The Oakey – Perfecto Mundo Reposado, Cinque, Mandarinetto, Blood Orange Juice. Lots of citrus and smokiness throughout sips.

La Matcha Vita
La Matcha Vita

Meagan’s Top Cocktail Picks:
1.) Sicilian Mule – Vodka, Lime, Ginger, Basil, Blood Orange. Perfect for Moscow Mule lovers, crisp flavor with a ginger kick.
2.) The Mistaken – Cynar, Hibiscus, Prosecco, Blood Orange. Similar to a Negroni, with a dark berry flavor.

Sicilian Mule
Sicilian Mule

The menu is packed with pizzas, pasta, seafood, meat, salad and more. There’s literally something for everyone. After trying many of the items on the menu, prepared by Chef De Cuisine Gianluca Maita, here are our picks for an ideal dinner for 2 (if you’re like us and want to eat everything in sight):

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Crudo of the Day – Hamachi

Crudo of the Day: Our catch of the day was Hamachi. They toss the fish in a red chili, mint, cilantro, pine nut, lemon juice mix and topped it with an olive oil drizzle. It was light and fresh but note – it changes daily, so there could be different batch for you.

Fried Stuffed Olives: These are green olives, stuffed with scamorza cheese, breaded and fried, then served with a side of caper aioli. Once we popped, we couldn’t stop! It’s an ample portion for 2 to split, but we still wanted more!

Fried Stuffed Olives
Fried Stuffed Olives

Anduja Sautee Mussels: I could swim in this broth! The base is made with a spreadable, spicy Italian sausage, which adds a meatier flavor to the mussels. You will want to soak the bread in this sauce and clean the plate.

Steam Mussels
Anduja Sautee Mussels

Chicken and Mushroom Meatballs: I know this isn’t a classic Sicilian dish (purists should order the Classic Meatballs, which are made with ground sirloin) but it was my favorite item of the night. The meatballs are plump and juicy, and the mushroom sauce reminded me of cream of mushroom soup. I also appreciate any dish with thyme- it’s an underrated, subtle herb that I can’t get enough of. It’s a very rich dish, with three medium sized meatballs, perfect for 2 to share.

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Chicken and Mushroom Meatballs

Squid Ink Linguine: This savory pasta dish had clams, squid, prawns, mussels and mixed with cherry tomatoes in a white wine sauce. The sauce is garlic-ey, zesty from lemon and herbal. This is my idea of a perfect comfort meal, Italian style.

Squid Ink Linguiene
Squid Ink Linguine

Cannoli: You can’t go to a Sicilian restaurant and skip cannoli! One order comes with three different creams; vanilla, pistachio, and chocolate. Their fried pastry dough keeps crisp even when stuffed with cream, so it doesn’t lose that anticipated crunch. They’re a must!

Cannoli
Cannoli

SECRET COCKTAIL ALERT!  

Sam made us the perfect coffee dessert cocktail. Meagan, who’s a coffee aficionado, notes that this is the only coffee cocktail she’s ever loved. That’s saying a lot!

HERE’S THE HITCH- it’s not currently on the menu.

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Caffettoso

So, if Sam is bartending, be sure to order a Caffettoso – Espresso, Vodka, Averna, Kailua with a Lemon zest.

As this cocktail is shaken, it creates a creamy foam that gives it a coffee shop taste. The first sip of the Caffettoso cocktail is the only time I’ve ever enjoyed citrus with coffee. It’s the perfect after-dinner cocktail, especially if you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to commit to pastry. Let’s get it on the menu! Be sure to mention you read about it on Girls on Food when you order one.

Meagan and I were beyond full after this, so we didn’t have room to try the pizzas. I kept staring with envy at the man seated next to me who had a pizza all to himself. Next time!

O + O is still a new restaurant, but the food, cocktails, atmosphere and service, lead you think they’ve been around for years. I look forward to making O + O my new go-to for comfort Italian food and watching them grow (even though they’ve set the bar pretty high for themselves already!)

Girls on Food at 26 Beach in Venice, CA

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26 Beach Restaurant 
3100 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
http://www.26beach.com

I have waited way too long to show off my favorite Venice Beach restaurant, 26 Beach. Below are the favorite items from the video:

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The Peach Melba French Toast

The Peach Melba French Toast is hands down my favorite item on the menu. Unlike most traditional french toasts which are made with brioche, this bad boy is made with croissant. It manages to stay crisp even with covered in caramelized peaches, melba sauce and vanilla ice cream.

The Elvis
The Elvis

The Elvis is truly fit for a king! This French Toast is stuffed with Skippy’s peanut butter, blueberry jam and sliced bananas. Requires a glass of milk to wash down!

The Chef Katsu's Original California Roll Hamburger
The Chef Katsu’s Original California Roll Hamburger

I’ve had several of the burgers on 26 Beach menu, but this burger always intimidated me a little. I love burgers and I love sushi but would I love them together? This burger patty is topped with snow crab salad, avocado, sushi ginger, Boston lettuce, tomato, nori and a wasabi-shoyu-mayo.

I took one bite and I was in surf ‘n turf heaven. Lovers of a juicy, dripping burger must try this one. It’s tough to eat on camera cause it’s so huge (that’s what she said) but worth every bite.

I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to feature them here, but we love 26 Beach and can’t wait to come back and eat some more! We’re shooting a lot of video content in cities all over the U.S. so be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

The Gallery Westlake: Keeping Us Very Happy in Westlake Village, CA

I’m a big fan of the happy hour concept. My budget is usually stretched pretty thin, so happy hours are the perfect time to get a deal on quality menu items for less money while mingling with a lively after-work crowd.

The Gallery is a hip spot in Westlake Village known for its gourmet New American cuisine and fresh seafood. It serves up a happy hour on weekdays from 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm that’s not only friendly on the wallet, but is also super-delicious.

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The Gallery Westlake
30768 Russell Ranch Road, #C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
http://www.thegallerywestlake.com

the-gallery-interior

My friend Liz and I arrived right at the start of happy hour and took a seat at the bar, noting the elegant, yet inviting decor. I also couldn’t help but scope out the fabulous looking raw bar nearby. We visited on a Wednesday, but take note—during Thursday night football, happy hour includes .99 cent oysters!

raw-bar

Once we got settled in, Liz and I intended to make the most of our happy hour(s), so that meant drinks needed to be ordered straight away!

Liz ordered the gorgeous Violet Moon, which is a mix of Fords gin, Crème de Violette, and lemon juice, garnished with a caramelized orange wheel flambéed by the bartender with a torch.

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Her drink was as tasty as it was pretty, with smooth floral flavors leading to a tart finish.

violet-moon

I decided to go with a good ol’ glass of wine. House wines are only $5 during happy hour, but I decided to upgrade to a Foley Estates Chardonnay which was still five bucks cheaper than the regular price. It was rich and buttery with hints of sweet caramel and toasty oak. It was so good, I could have guzzled several more glasses. (Don’t worry—I didn’t. Well… just a couple!)

chardonnay

As we sipped, we chatted with The Gallery’s owner, Karim Megji, who showed us some photos on his phone from a local farm. He had just been picking tomatoes a short while ago and told us that many of the things grown at the farm are used in menu items at the restaurant. Always a good mark in my book—nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce!

My appetite was fully whetted, so we tried our first happy hour appetizer, an impressive mound of Champagne Shoe String Pomme Frites.

pomme-frites

They looked intimidating at first, but it’s ridiculous how quickly we devoured these. Made with Bouvet Sparkling wine and topped with lemon and cayenne, they reminded me a lot of my favorite potato chip flavor- salt n’ vinegar. Only, you know, more fancy—but equally as addictive!

Next, we tried the Ahi Tartare Tacos, with fresh and meaty chunks of raw tuna tossed with sesame, chili oil, and sriracha, nestled inside crispy wonton shells and topped with avocado. These were so good, Liz and I were side-eyeing the last taco until we finally agreed to split it.

ahi-tartare-tacos

duck-egg-rollsNext up, based on Karim’s recommendation, we deviated from the happy hour menu to try a regular appetizer, Duck Eggrolls. (Even better, these were easily shared with two for each of us!)

I often find duck to be a little gamey for my taste, but these were fantastic. Maybe it was the delicious sweet chili sauce the meat was drizzled with, or the crunchy mix of veggies and herbs within, but it tasted tender and delicious and actually reminded me of pulled pork.

duck-egg-rolls-interior

Next, Karim suggested Roasted Bone Marrow, and how could I refuse his advice after he led us to the delicious duck egg rolls? I’d never tried bone marrow before but I was certain that if there was a place to try it, this was it.

When the plate arrived, I couldn’t help but think about how jealous my dogs would be if they could see me. But the question was… would I like it?

bone-marrow

The answer is a big YES. In fact, it might have been my favorite item of the night. Liz described the flavor as the “essence of beef”, and she was right. It was melt-in-your-mouth juicy and meaty and was even better spread on crostini. It was also seasoned really nicely with herbs and hints of jalapeño. If you like the fatty part of meat (i.e pork belly), you will love this. The only downside is that there wasn’t actually as much marrow as it seemed. It was gone far too quickly!

Liz and I were getting pretty full at this point, but we were still feeling meaty after the bone marrow experience, so we tried the short rib tacos to finish out our meal.

short-rib-tacosMade with tender braised short rib mixed with dijon aioli, cabbage, and queso fresco, these were another winner. Like everything else we had tried so far, the meat was tender and nicely seasoned, and the slaw added a nice crunch and a pleasant finish to our meal.

Did I say we were finished?

tania-at-the-galleryWell, not quite. We had to try dessert, obviously.

Apparently Peanut Butter Turnovers are a very popular item at The Gallery, and we could see why. The presentation alone made me forget that I was feeling full and I was eager to dig in!

The pastries were crispy and caramelized on the outside, and fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of warm, oozy, gooey peanut butter-chocolately goodness sandwiched within. The vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries drizzled with caramel were also a welcome addition. This was one of the more unique desserts I’ve had in some time, and I can see why people return to The Gallery for this treat alone!

peanut-butter-turnover

I’d say Liz and I had a very happy happy hour at The Gallery. I’d recommend going with friends and splitting several things—it’s definitely worth trying everything on the menu, and the prices are totally reasonable. Next time I’m coming back on a Thursday… those oysters are calling my name!

Une Belle Nuit: Le Petit Paris in Downtown Los Angeles

Friend to Girls on Food, Taylor (yes, THAT Taylor), sent me an Instagram video of penne pasta being cooked in a gigantic cheese wheel. I’ve seen this cooking technique in a video before, but I didn’t realize that LA had a local restaurant that served this dish. Then I looked up the menu for the restaurant, called Le Petit Paris, and decided this needed to happen ASAP.  After I recovered from some slight Instagram-er envy, Taylor and I grabbed fellow blogger Julieta for a girls night out.

Le Petit Paris
418/420 Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
http://lepetitparisla.com

Fanny and David Rolland originally opened Le Petit Paris in Cannes. With Chef Baptiste Grellier and Chef Jeremie Cazes, they expanded into this spacious DTLA location a year ago.

Le Petit Paris is located in the historic El Dorado Building (est. 1913) and, like the food served, the interior is decedent. The dining room alone is ginormous, but there’s a mezzanine level, 2 bars, a gift shop, a grand stair case which leads you to the second level and a large outdoor patio. They even have live jazz on Wednesday nights (see site for details).

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Amuse Bouche

Once seated I was promptly served an amuse bouche. The Chef’s choice for this starter was a crostini with a truffle cream. It was the perfect precursor to an evening of rich french food.

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Les 6 Escargot de Bourgogne En Persillade
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Ceviche De Loup

We started with the Les 6 Escargot de Bourgogne en Persillade (aka escargot), Ceviche de Loup (aka seabass ceviche) and the Foie Gras Poele a la Pomme et Calvados (aka foie gras). The ceviche may not be an ideal starter for French dining, but it was too good to turn down! It was actually nice to start with a lighter dish before the buttery foods. The yuzu sauce that topped the seabass was citrusy and tart. The escargot, substantial in texture but light on my palate, comes in the traditional butter, garlic and parsley sauce. C’est bon!

 

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Foie Gras Poele a la Pomme Et Calvados

Our favorite appetizer was the seared foie gras. The texture of it was so buttery, probably the most silky, melt-in-your-mouth I’ve ever had. It was paired perfectly with the ginger bread and fresh apples it came with. The Calvados flavor added a nice brandy touch without overwhelming the foie gras. It’s a perfect dish for autumn.

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Risotto De Noix de St Jacques Asperges et Truffe
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Les Cheeseburger du Petit Paris

For our entrees we ordered the Les Cheeseburger du Petit Paris Frites Maison (aka cheeseburger with fries)  and the Risotto De Noix de St Jacques Asperges et Truffe (aka risotto with scallops and asparagus).

The cheeseburger is one of the richest I’ve probably ever consumed. It’s definitely a fork and knife burger, not to be eaten with your hands. The tomato confit, comte cheese and bacon also pack it with extra flavor. I’m very tough on risotto dishes, because it’s easy to screw up in the kitchen. This risotto was perfectly cooked through, and all the flavors in this dish played beautifully together.

But the big finale was the Pates Flambees a la Truffe Dans Sa Meule de Parmesan. This tableside pasta is prepared in a large Parmesan cheese wheel. After the cheese is flambeed and melted, the penne is added and then they add fresh black truffle. See video above and subscribe to our channel! This is the dish to come in for — not only is it so much fun to watch but it’s cheesy perfection. You’ll be doing the Truffle Shuffle after one bite.

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Le Souffle Grand Marnier

We ended the evening with Le Souffle Grand Marnier. The souffle was fluffy, lightly eggy and had a liquor bite. Expect this dessert to take about 20 minutes to bake to perfection.

Whether you’re out with your girlfriends, on a date or with parents, Le Petit Paris is a joy. C’est bon!

True Food Kitchen in Pasadena: The Next Great American Chain Restaurant

I’d heard good things about True Food Kitchen from my friends, so I was excited to learn that a new location had opened in downtown Pasadena last month. Naturally, I had to give it a try!

True Food Kitchen
168 West Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105
http://www.truefoodkitchen.com

true-food-kitchen-interior1I brought my vegan friend Sarah along, knowing she’d especially appreciate True Food Kitchen’s mission, which is to provide healthy, yet flavorful food that adheres to the principals of an anti-inflammatory diet with fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients.

I was immediately won over by the hip vibe of the place, including a gorgeous and expansive outdoor patio strung with lights. Sarah and I were seated inside beneath the warm glow of large circular lights suspended overhead.

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The place was really bustling on a Friday night, so if you plan to coming here on a busy evening, I’d recommend making a reservation and being prepared to wait for your food to arrive. Sarah and I were happy to chill with a glass of wine and chat while we waited for our appetizers.

First up was an order of the insanely delicious Edamame Dumplings. I had expected the dumplings to be pan-fried, but these were more like tender pillows of ravioli, bathed in a delicious dashi soy-based broth with white truffle oil, and Asian herbs. The mixture within each dumpling was creamy and herby, and my only regret was there were so few!

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Next, Sarah and I shared a vegan and gluten-free salad, the seasonal Autumn Ingredient Salad. This salad was a vibrant mix of roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white beans, pomegranate arils, and toasted mulberry, dressed with a zesty horseradish vinaigrette. I loved the robust and nutty flavors of this salad, and it really evoked the feeling of autumn with its toasty and colorful presentation.

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For my entree, I ordered another autumnal dish: Pan Roasted Chicken in a rosemary jus with maple glazed squash, cannellini beans, and swiss chard. The chicken was nicely flattened with a crispy skin, and the gravy had a lemony zing, which I really liked. This felt like a healthier version of comfort food, and it didn’t leave me feeling heavy afterwards, which was a definite plus!

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Sarah ordered a vegan Butternut Squash Pizza with smoked onion, organic kale, dried cranberry, and homemade vegan almond ricotta. I tried a slice and, while this wasn’t my favorite dish of the night, it had a nice tart flavor balanced with sweetness from the butternut squash and cheese. I’d actually never tried vegan ricotta until now, and was impressed with how creamy it was.

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True Food Kitchen lived up to its name with its seasonal and fresh ingredients that felt as real and un-tampered with as food should be. The menu changes seasonally, so I’ll definitely be returning to see what future menus offer!

Karaoke And Kimchi Carbonara At La Vue in Koreatown, Los Angeles

Koreatown, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, is one of my favorite locations for food. There are many hidden gems tucked away in strip malls—so tucked away, if you don’t keep your eyes open, you could miss them. However, La Vue—a newer spot on Wilshire that I just discovered—is not one of those places. The space is gigantic, much larger than most restaurants in K-town, and I didn’t know why until I stepped inside.

Not only is La Vue a restaurant serving lunch and dinner, but at night, it becomes a karaoke bar with its own private rooms… but more on that after the food!

La Vue
3855 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
http://cafelavuela.com

La Vue, led by Chef Alex Kim, is an eclectic mix of Italian and French cuisine; some of the dishes incorporate Asian flavors. The menu is heavy on shared plates, seafood and pasta. Right when you walk in from the parking lot, you enter their modern designed patio, featuring lots of plush furniture. It’s comfy but classy at the same time.

I had the pleasure of breaking bread with pals horror film composer Eric Elick and filmmaker/scream queen Jessica Cameron. We realized, by default, we had to order the Sweet Pumpkin Salad. It’s October and since my guests are in the horror scene, we can’t skip eating an iconic holiday symbol.

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If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this salad is right up your alley. The pumpkin is topped with a light green salad with a balsamic dressing, then drizzled in maple syrup and served with pecans. It managed to remind me of eating both a pumpkin pie and fresh salad in one bite.

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We also shared the Grilled Vegetable Medley Caprese, which came on this fun spinning plate.  The veggies are hot off the grill, so they maintain a crunch when they arrive to the table. Like any caprese salad, there’s burrata cheese, fresh basil and tomatoes — and for a kick, grilled garlic.

I’m a tough critic when it comes to carbonara pastas because I love them so much… so when I saw Kimchi Carbonara on their menu, I was a tad skeptical. Why mess with a perfect recipe?

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I was so wrong. La Vue’s Kimchi Carbonara is my new favorite pasta dish in K-town. The pickled kimchi flavors mix beautifully with the eggy, cheesy sauce. Instead of chopped bacon, it comes as a full slice, with a Parmesan crisp as garnish. We killed this dish so quick, we probably should’ve ordered another. The briny kick from the kimchi with the creamy sauce couldn’t last long on our table.

img_3448Mentaiko Pasta, a popular dish in Japan, isn’t commonly found in LA (outside a handful of places), so I was very excited to try it—especially since I was told it’s Chef Kim’s signature dish. I recommend this dish for lovers of seafood. The mentaiko sauce is prepared by seasoning and brining pollock roe, which break apart to form the light pink sauce. Usually either olive oil or butter is blended with the roe, creating a perfect seafood sauce.

Chef Kim gives the sauce a hint of spice from jalapeño, then it’s poured over pasta, garnished with nori, bonito flakes, Parmesan cheese and served with a halved shrimp. Each bite is creamy, savory and oceanic. Of course the Kimchi Carbonara was the favorite but this is a very close second.

img_3262After the carb-load, it was time to get our sweet tooth on. The Black Tea Panna Cotta comes in a deep black bowl ( a trend I’ve seen popping up), which makes it a little trickier to share, but the decadent dessert makes up for it. The black tea flavor is very present in the creamy panna cotta, and is lightly dark and herbal. Then it’s topped with thin, wafer-like cookies, matcha crisps and a sea salt chantilly cream on top.

img_3451The Pavlova at La Vue was topped with berries as well as mango and raspberry sorbetto. This was the table’s favorite dessert. Nothing beats this classic meringue dish topped with icy, fruity sorbettos. This was the perfect way to wrap-up the evening. Now it was time to explore the karaoke rooms.

 

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Like any traditional K-Town spot, the karaoke rooms are private. Located upstairs, the rooms here hold 20 – 30 people and are priced at $60 per hour. There is a special tapas menu for the karaoke rooms, which features lots of sharables like Crab Tartar, Bruschetta and Tuna Poke. There are also more filling dishes like Herb Grilled Beef Sticks, Baby Back Ribs and Chicken Wings.

The rooms have bottle service and I must say, the prices are very reasonable compared to other bottle service clubs in Los Angeles. I don’t want to list the prices, but trust me, this beats any nightclub in Hollywood. Also, the songs and lyrics are updated weekly, so you can sing off key to many different tunes.

They also have these adorable light up tambourines. As you can see here, Jessica couldn’t get enough.

My idea of a perfect night in K-Town with friends would be dinner at La Vue, then transfer to one of their private karaoke rooms. This Girl on Food will be back for more.