Girls on Food

Travel

Powerhouse Chefs Demonstrate Their Best Bites at Taste of Yountville

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

Chef Stephanie Izard
Cheez-It S’more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Dahl’s gorgeous “Hipster Burger”

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

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

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


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

Montreal, Mon Amour!

As the middle of winter consumes us, dreaming of somewhere warm is the most typical thought that crosses our minds. Punta Cana, Brazil, Mexico…to name a few. For me, I am a proud, winter-loving Canadian… who has barely seen Canada. I’ve travelled to Central America, I’ve road tripped and flown throughout U.S.A. numerous times, yet I haven’t traveled my way through Canada. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to take my husband to somewhere he has never been before, the home of the poutine, Montreal, Quebec.

Now, I’ve been to Montreal before for a day trip but did not get to experience the culture nor the amazing cuisine. We packed our bags and set off for a 5 and a half road trip to Montreal. We had no plans, zero bookings and just wanted to roll with the punches.

After settling in, we decided to wonder around our little neighbourhood near the hotel. Since our French is “Je ne c’est quoi” (literally means I do not know what) we wanted to try something a little familiar to us.

Our first stop: Bier Markt Montréal
1221 Rene-Levesque Blvd W Montreal,QC

I absolutely love the Bier Markt. I’ve been many times before but never in Montreal. It is traditionally a place that sells a ginormous variety of beers. From pints, to bottles, sample trays, cocktails, champagne, wine, literally everything. The only thing I’ve ever consumed here is beer, because that is what they are known for. This particular trip, we decided to order some snacks to go along with our sampler tray of beer. I never even knew we could order food let alone have a great selection to choose from. We decided to go with a shareable board of seafood and cheese. Just typing this, I’m already missing that board. Our three choices were fresh mozzarella, tuna poke and grilled calamari. It was paired with fresh bread, pickles and a raspberry compote. Spectacular and overwhelming perfect is the only way for me to describe the food, the ambiance and the general vibe of this establishment. We loved it so much, we ended up going back the next night for a little night cap.

The next morning we decided to hunt down the perfect poutine. But since it was 10 am, we decided cheese curds and French fries were more of an afternoon treat.

As we were walking looking for a coffee shop, we found a little spot called: Paris Cafe
1333 Saint-Catherine St. W Montreal,QC

It turned out to be a quaint little restaurant serving crepes! The menu was in French but Nutella is a universal word in any language. I indulged in a London Fog latte and an incredible Nutella Banana Crepe that they prepare right on display as you enter the cafe. It was extremely decadent and the best latte I’ve ever had. This two story restaurant was packed but not busy as everything was made so quickly and devoured within minutes. It was a lovely spot to start our day off right.

Montreal is known for its beauty and art. On the side of buildings, you could see paintings of the late Leonard Cohen throughout the city. A beautiful tribute to a great Canadian artist in his home town. The architecture and museums were extraordinary. Some of the best I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you looked, there was beauty.

After touring the city, our quest for the perfect Poutine had peeked. As a vegetarian, I haven’t come across many poutines that I was able to enjoy. Most poutines I’ve come across had a beef base. I was concerned but determined I could find something just right.

That is when we stumbled upon: Ye Olde Orchard Pub
1189 Rue de la Montagne Montreal, QC

We were instantly greeted by a gentleman wearing a kilt. Typical old pub setting. What I thought would be a tiny pub was actually fairly large with dim lighting and stone walls. I eyeballed the menu and found the poutine section. There it was…my gateway poutine into the poutine world. Vegetarian Curry Poutine. It was a trifecta of my three favourite foods merging together in one dish. The curry actually just tasted like a spicy gravy. The cheese curds, although I hate the word curd, they were delicious. I had found euphoria in a pile of French fries. And I was in love.

This trip was filled with so much delicious food, we have barely eaten since we’ve returned home. Montreal really does feel like you’re in a different world. The cuisine, the culture, the people….its hard to describe but definitely somewhere everyone needs to go. Even in the winter, it was magical and felt like the perfect weekend getaway.

Until next time, Au Revoir, Montreal!

Lauren’s Last Bite Takes Over London

There’s no need to dread turning 35 if you do it with an epic trip to London. Turn up!! Turn up!! If you read any of my previous posts, you will recall I was living in Puerto Rico. I have since relocated back to Washington D.C. I love to travel as often as I can, but I am frugal. I would much rather spend my hard-earned moolah on food and cocktails! It is cheaper to book a flight out of NYC to London, which gave me the opportunity to try the ‘Purple Amethyst Latte’ at The End in Brooklyn. This vegan latte was a berry-infused, antioxidant rich, mood lifting drink with ube and a touch of lavender honey! This coffee shop offers a couple of energizing drinks as alternatives to coffee at their “Plant Alchemy Bar”. They are also famous for their ‘Unicorn Latte’.

Upon landing in London, a city known for its abundance of Michelin starred restaurants, I didn’t know which one to choose.  Luckily there were a few near my hotel. Another plus about London’s bevy of Michelin starred restaurants is that most of them are open for lunch and offer a prix fixe option that won’t blow your food budget. Unfortunately, I have a food budget AND a drink budget. My drink budget has been known to be loftier than my food budget. I chose the Typing Room’. It was modern, sleek, yet still approachable. I ‘day-dressed up’, but other diners were more casually dressed.  The food was stellar and the open kitchen gave way to a wonderful show. It was raining (duh, I was in London) and I ate a little heavier than usual for lunch. Venison, braised cabbage two ways with yogurt and demi-glace. The venison was so tender that no knife was needed.

Venison Medallions, Cabbage 2 ways, Spiced Yogurt and Demi Glace

Blown away by the service, food and the experience at Typing Room, I couldn’t leave London without checking another Michelin starred restaurant off my list. I love some fusion and StreetXO was highly recommended. This was a Spanish/Asian fusion. Ok, I can dig it. No surprise I started with a celebratory drink. They had me at vodka, St. Germain and that big a** glass. StreetXO has a variety of tasting menus, but being alone I was able to order a la carte. YAY!!! I had the “club” sandwich. Being a former Boricua, I couldn’t resist a croquette. These were a perfect mix of Spanish/Asian fusion: kimchi, raw salmon, trout roe, Lapsang Souchong tea, and sheep’s milk. These were perfect from the first dribble-down-your-chin-I-don’t-care-I-am-in-public bite. It was THAT good. The menu looked so good. I want to go back with more people and devour the entire menu…twice!  Most of the clientele were Spaniards. I loved this, because you know if natives are eating there it is legit. This also let me know how far my Spanish has regressed since living in Puerto Rico. 

“Club Sandwich” from StreetXO
Croquettes with kimchi, trout roe

I fell for the hype and went to the ICEBAR in London. It is exactly what you imagine…a bar with everything made of ice: the bar, the glassware, the seats, EVERYTHING. I’m guessing it’s an improbability that they ever run out of ice.  At the door you are greeted with ski jackets to keep you insulated in the constant brisk -5 Celsius temperature. It’s as cold as it sounds and your jacket comes with gloves attached. BRRRRRRR. I’m having cold flashbacks. It was a cool spot (literally and figuratively). The bar is sponsored by ABSOLUT and each year the inside has a different theme. When I visited it was a zoo them. Gorillas, zebras and tigers, oh my! I’ll be honest, I was a bit too cold to take it all in. Even the cute bartender with the sexy, South African accent couldn’t coax me into staying. Look me up when you have a job in a temperate climate.

treacle tart

As always, I will conclude with my last bite. I will go back to London for the ‘treacle tart’ from Boxcar Butcher and Grill. From my understanding, treacle is term for molasses, but is also slang for sweetheart. This tart had a sweet/salty combo from a dusting of caramel corn. All I can say is, “WTF?” Where’s the Food?

Cute Bartender @Icebar in London

A Taste of Napa at The One and Only Palmilla Resort in San José del Cabo

The One and Only Palmilla resort in San José del Cabo, located in the southernmost tip of Mexico on the Baja Peninsula, is as close to paradise as you can get. This exclusive ocean side resort provides butler service, immaculate and lush resort grounds and ocean views so stunning that during the winter months you can see whales and dolphins from the comfort of your room! It’s so exclusive that it’s not abnormal to find yourself in the company of celebrities and boasts two restaurants by Michelin rated-chef Jean George Vongerichten and a third by Chef Larbi Darouch who apprenticed with the legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin beginning at age 13. The only thing that would make this experience even better would be to bring in a three Michelin star-rated chef from Napa for a pop-up dinner.

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A Mexico City Classic: San Ángel Inn

Since 1325, Mexico City has been a marvelous place full of so many surprises. One of the delightful sites are the hacienda like restaurants, right in the middle of this crazy busy metropolis.

One that has been around for a couple centuries is the forever classic San Ángel Inn. Located in the beautiful and traditional neighborhood of San Angel this restaurant not only allows one to believe you’re away from a big city but also delights with its delicious food, perfect service, mesmerizing decor and beautiful music.

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Megan’s Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Tour

Now that 2018 has sprung upon us like a vast beacon of hope; I have some time to sit and reflect upon the trip I enjoyed over the holidays. A journey filled with contemplation, history, a Christmas Town and, of course, booze.

On our way to Colonial Williamsburg, we made sure to make a stop off at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria. Open since 1770 and frequented by such rock stars as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson-it’s a beautiful and genteel experience. Surrounded by candlelight and antique art, you are escorted back in time.

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The Bountiful Sunday Brunch at Habana in Irvine, CA

Habana, a beloved restaurant among locals to Costa Mesa for over 20 years, just opened a new location in Irvine. This lavish new spot opened its doors to the public a couple months ago and after scoping out the images of the design on Google, I couldn’t turn down an invite to taste their brunch.

Executive Chef Alex Moreno tells me that this has been a 3-year long project to get the second location running, but good things come to those who wait!

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Renzell: The Perfect App For Fine Dining Lovers

The world of foodie apps is like the wild west right now. Developers are striving to become the next big thing, but few apps offer anything unique to stand out from just being a local restaurant directory. I thought I had seen it all with these apps, until GOF blogger Marcie told me to check out an app called Renzell and it has since become my go-to restaurant directory app.

Cocktail from Redbird in LA, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Why Renzell?

It’s for those with impeccable taste –  What separates Renzell out from the other apps is a restaurant directory that is specifically hand-picked by Renzell staff of fine dining establishments in major metropolitan cities. This app isn’t here to help you find a new coffee shop, it’s to help you find the perfect special occasion spot. Think Marea in NYC, Redbird in LA and Alinea in Chicago.

Be undercover –  Members can rate restaurants anonymously through their surveys, which are scored based off overall numbers, no long write-ups required. Their surveys are broken down into categories like ambiance, service, food and cocktails. What I love about this so much is that it’s not public what scores users gave, so I can quietly and candidly score spots. See full list of restaurants here.

Prove it – There is also more accountability in the scores than other review apps. Members are encouraged to show proof of dining by providing a receipt from their visit. This makes me feel better when I read the scores, cause it’s lessening the likelihood of fake reviews.

Get rewarded! – The more you survey and/or provide proof of receipt, the more goodies you can get! Recent rewards include Starbucks gift cards, SoulCycle classes, a month of free Spotify premium and so much more.

With membership benefits, secure anonymity and consistent app functionality, I will consider myself a “lifer” Renzell member.

  • Featured image – Strozzapreti from Marea in New York, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Cristina’s Mayan Riviera Tour

Last month my boyfriend and I went on a tour of the Mayan Riviera. We flew to Cancun, rented a car and explored as much as possible in one week. We visited Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Xel-Ha, Tulum, Coba, Chichen Itza and Valladolid. We even managed to squeeze in one night in Bacalar enjoying one of the most beautiful lakes in the world: La Laguna de Siete Colores. We explored many cenotes, attended Cirque du Soleil and went scuba diving where we discovered a couple of turtles.

The love of this part of the world has drawn many people to leave everything behind and open shop in Mexico. You will find numerous diverse and delicious restaurants. Even smaller towns like Puerto Morelos where we dined on delicious guacamole and ceviche on the beautiful beach of Playa Moroma.

One of the first places that really caught my attention was Mar-Bella Fishmarket. The entrance looks like a 7-Eleven, not kidding. As you climb up a tiny, metal stairs you find yourself in a spacious, wooden restaurant with an amazing view. In the market you can choose from fresh fish, lobster, shrimp…whatever you’re in the mood for. They will prepare and cook to your specifications. Quite magical! One tip: make friends with your waiter; he will be a lifesaver as you navigate the market.

Marbella Fishmarket
Carretera Cancun Puerto Juarez,
Sam km 2
Cancun, Quintana Roo

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Sing to Us Paolo: A Look Back at the Fatbois in Rome

No, this isn’t a review of the classic that is The Lizzy McGuire Movie, but a look back on some adventures the Fatbois have taken over the past few months. We were lucky enough to spend three days in Rome, taking in all of the beautiful sights and even better food. I was lucky enough to make it back to Italy a month later with my mom in celebration of her birthday (s/o to Jan) where I’m pretty sure I was more gelato than human at some points during our trip. Here’s a look at some of our amazing trip to Italy!

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Christina’s Food Crawl: Philly Style

One of my favorite ways to travel is to eat my way through the city or aka create a food craw. Food crawling is exactly what I do each time I’m in Philadelphia. With the variety and volume of restaurants, you can go to Philly and have a completely different culinary experience every time.

Choose your own adventure or follow the path I took below:

 

My first stop is always Jim’s South St.  The cheesesteak debate is heated and personal but Jim’s wins for me. That art deco store front calls my name from across the street. The chewy bread, the piping hot meat and the Whiz. You gotta get the Whiz!

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Join Julianne at The James Beard Foundation’s Fifth Annual Taste America!

 * Image – Avocado Tartine from Redbird
Calling all LA food-lovers! On Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, the James Beard Foundation will touch down on the West Coast for the Fifth Annual Taste America, the Foundation’s culinary tour through some of the country’s most exciting food cities. The festivities will begin at Vibiana and will celebrate Los Angeles’ food culture with esteemed local chefs and one national all-star, Barbara Lynch of Boston’s Gruppo, who will create a multi-course collaborative dinner with fellow James Beard Award winner Michael Cimarusti of Providence and Connie and Ted’s in Los Angeles, pastry chef Shannon Swindle of Craft Los Angeles, and host chef Neal Fraser of Redbird in Los Angeles.

But before getting seated for dinner, guests will snack on an amazing lineup of bites from some of the finest local chefs, including Amanda Chapman and Johnny Ray Zone of Howlin Ray’s in Los Angeles, Evan Funke of Felix in Venice, Justin Hilbert of Maude in Beverly Hills, Sara Kramer of Kismet in Los Angeles, and David Schlosser of Shibumiin Los Angeles.

This event will celebrate LA’s culinary arts scene and raise money for the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Scholarship Fund during a silent auction and an exciting live auction.

Want to get dapper and celebrate with us? Tickets are still on sale here.