Girls on Food

Travel

Highway 395’s Taco Tuesday: Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, CA

Recently I had two jobs back to back – one in North Lake Tahoe, and one in Los Angeles. I commute between Northern and Southern California fairly often, but I had never before had the chance to drive on Highway 395 to do so – a drive I had heard was quite beautiful. I wasn’t disappointed. Lakes, mountains, lush greenery, several weather changes, and then the Mojave Desert kept me quite entertained on my seven-hour drive. I didn’t have time to stop at every little place that caught my eye, of which there were many, so I wanted to find a place to at least sit and enjoy lunch somewhere interesting before continuing on my way. For that, trusty Yelp came in handy. As I was approaching Mono Lake a few places popped up that looked promising. Being short on time I opted for Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, a place that boasted outdoor seating, a view of Mono Lake, and a Mobil Station. Perfect.

Whoa Nellie Deli Mono Lake, Lee Vining, CA

Whoa Nellie Deli 
22 Vista Point Rd.
Lee Vining, CA 93541
760-647-1088
http://whoanelliedeli.com

Whoa Nellie Deli Mono Lake Lee ViningWhen I got there I realized that I had indeed stumbled upon a travelers oasis. The restaurant is located just off the freeway, yet manages to have a large outdoor picnic area with green grass, flowers, and lovely views. Inside Whoa Nellie Deli there was both a convenience store and a restaurant. The convenience store had a wide array of drinks to choose from, including beer, wine, and self serve coffee, which you can pay for as you order your food at the restaurant. I opted for a Bundaberg Ginger Beer, one of my favorites. It has a little kick but isn’t too spicy. The menu above the counter at the restaurant listed café style drinks, smoothies, salads, as well as a good selection of entrees – definitely enough options to satisfy any traveler. I ordered up the two fish tacos with beans and waited for my number to be called.

Photo Aug 01, 6 06 29 PMAll the employees at Whoa Nellie’s were super nice. The bus boy made a couple jokes with me while I waited for my order, the chef’s smiled, and the manager skirted about cleaning up and making sure everyone was doing okay. It was a very nice energy to encounter after being on the road for hours.

 

 

 

Photo Aug 01, 6 11 31 PMMy tacos were ready in about 5-10 minutes – so I wouldn’t say it qualified as fast food, but definitely a quicker option than going to a sit down and order restaurant. My plate of food was literally daunting. For $12 I got enough food for two people to easily split. The fish tacos were big! Time to wander outside and eat! It was sprinkling a bit outside, and while there was ample covered seating I opted to go out to the lawn tables instead. It was just too pretty to not sit right dab in front of that view.

 

The fish tacos plate comes with two different kinds of tacos – one with shredded lettuce and cabbage slaw with a ginger cream sauce, and the other with sweet fresh mango salsa. Both tacos were crisp and had fresh ingredients. I absolutely loved the mango taco. The fruit chunks were so big and delicious. I honestly think they put an entire mango on that one taco. You won’t catch me arguing with that! The beans were also very good – savory and topped with a little cheese and cream sauce.

Photo Aug 01, 6 23 14 PMBy the end of my meal I was stuffed and happy. I couldn’t have asked for anything more for a quick break on my drive. I look forward to stopping into Whoa Nellie Deli again when I can make another trip up that way to simply do some sight seeing!

 

Taqueria El Califa in Mexico City

When it comes to tacos in Mexico City everybody has their favorite spot; funny enough, most of us share the same feeling. Just ask anyone -and I mean anyone- where to find the best tacos and they will direct you to my personal favorite: Taquería El Califa.

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IMG_5730Taquería El Califa 
Altata # 22
06100 México, D.F.
elcalifa.com.mx

The place is located in the heart of La Condesa, one of the oldest and also trendiest neighborhoods in Mexico City. It has been there for over 20 years redefining the traditional concept of what a taquería should be. What sets El Califa apart from any other taco joint is that it specializes in serving full filet tacos with handmade tortillas. I’ve been coming here for the last 15 years. It used to be a small colorful restaurant that was always crowded. Although the crowds have not changed, a few years ago they expanded and renovated the place into a more vibrant and modern atmosphere. The only façade that remains from the old days is a memento of what was and what continues to be amazing tacos.

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We started our meal with the chicharron de queso. They fry Manchego and Chihuahua cheese on the grill and then roll it into the ultimate cheese wave. Once you’ve had it you can’t stop eating it. It is like the best chip you have ever had: cheesy, crispy and crunchy. This is a must-try appetizer.IMG_6148
Another famous appetizer is the jugo de carne. This is a beef broth/soup that has been cooked for hours. It has all the goodness of the beef. It is thick, strong and has a complex almost caramelized flavor. Specially made for all the beef lovers. Squeeze a lemon wedge and drink it up. It will make your belly happy, I promise.

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After that, we had tacos al pastor. The pork is lustily marinated in their secret sauce and then cooked over a vertical trompo (charcoal grill) until they are ready. Al pastor tacos are my favorite tacos and the ones at Califa are sublime, no exaggeration here.

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The bistec taco was what followed. Grilled tender flank steak on top of a fresh homemade tortilla. The steak is thin and cooked to perfection. Simplicity at its best!

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Then came the taco de costilla con queso. They add cheese on top of the rib taco and do a light burn on the cheese creating this cheesy crust on top of it. I like to eat this taco with freshly grilled green cactus. The costilla taco con queso is soft, fatty and tasty almost like having queso fundido on your taco.

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For our last taco we had the taco de gaona campechano con queso. Let me explain this taco since it has more moving parts than your average taco. The gaona is Califa’s signature cut. It is a high quality steak that is so soft it melts in your mouth. The term campechano means “with a little bit of everything” and the “everything” at El Califa is blood sausage, crispy pork chicharron and chile morita salsa. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a taco that measures up to this one. It is the king of all tacos.

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For dessert we had the pastel tres leches. A traditional old school Mexican cake that takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen when she used to bake it for us. It is made with three kinds of milk: whole, evaporated and sweetened condensed milk. It is covered with dulce de leche icing. It is decadent. Prepare yourself for sugar shock that’s  #totallyworthit.

What makes El Califa’s tacos so good? It is all about the ingredients. They use high quality cuts of meat and local produce. They also make their own cheese, salsas and handmade tortillas. El Califa has an amazing and professional staff of taqueros, cooks and waiters that make sure that the customer experience is like no other. El Califa is a Mexico City food landmark. Everybody knows it, everybody loves it and they all aspire to be like El Califa.

#TravelTuesday: Adventures in Israel!

Shalom!

After exploring the beautiful country of Israel for 10 days on my recent birthright trip, I come home with two major takeaways to share with you.

Israel

#1. Gummies

Israel knows how to make gummies. Forget everything you know about candy, these are on a whole new level. Every shuk you visit has booth after booth full of overflowing bins of gummies, and the best part is most of them just let you put on gloves and grab!

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We were obviously not that excited
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Moving on.

#2. Falafel.

I have never been a big falafel person, I also had never really been big on hummus. Israel has righted both of these wrongs while simultaneously ruining them both for me at home. I made it my personal mission to find the best falafel in Israel, and let me tell you, I succeeded. A couple of falafel guidelines: you never want to get falafel from a place that has it ready you want it popped straight out of the fryer and into your pita, and yes, you want ALL of the toppings,  trust me. Also, the best way to go is with laffa instead of pita, although I alternated, laffa guarantees you a perfect falafel to salad ratio in every bite which is pretty crucial.

The best falafel in Israel is very likely at Ram Bam Falafel in Tel Avv.

I honestly don’t have a picture of the food because I shoved it into my face in about 3 seconds flat, but this man is a genius.

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We were led here by our fearless leader, Gooey, after demanding he take us to the best falafel in Israel, and it did not disappoint. Hidden inside of a shuk, and tucked away into a corner, this was a spot that could easily have passed us by. The falafel itself barely even had time to touch a bowl before landing in my pita, and it was layered to perfection, equal distribution of falafel  and toppings in every single bite and the best choice of sauces.  Coming in second place is Falafel Bar in Jerusalem, mostly due to the fact that they have four flavors, FOUR! The spicy falafel was absolutely everything, they let you try every flavor if you ask nicely, and they made us a gigantic fresh batch of all of them. I was pretty sure I was going to turn into a falafel by the end of the trip, and it wouldn’t have been the worst thing, because I would have been delicious.

Hiking on day 1, blissfully unaware of my impending falafel binge.

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If you do make it to Israel and happen to find yourself in Jerusalem, proceed directly to Marzipan bakery, purchase as much rugalach as possible and eat it all. It will change your life and make your dreams come true.

Marzipan on the left, Mahane Yehuda Shuk in Jerusalem on the right.

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Apart from all of my delicious foodie findings, I fell in love with the country and all of it’s people and I plan on heading back very soon.

Maybe I will see you there!

It’s Greek To Me: The Famous Greek Kitchen

I found myself in Greenwich, Connecticut a couple of weeks ago and I did what any self-respecting person who has to travel on I-95 would do: Stop at an excellent Greek eatery before getting back on the highway. I may be biased because of my unhealthy relationship with hummus, however, Famous Greek Kitchen skirts the perfect line of elevating the cuisine without making it too far away from what we love about a street meat cart decked in lamb and falafel.

Famous Greek Kitchen 

10 North Water Street

Greenwich, CT 06830

203-531-6887

http://famousgreekkitchen.com

 

We started with the special: avocado hummus. It was a creamy smooth texture with a tangy twist.

I opted for the tri-combination.  Including gyro, falafel, and chicken or pork souvlaki.  I was in heaven.  The greek salad was tremendously fresh, and the falafel was crisp.  I even found a coveted jalapeño on my plate.  There was a day when I used to eat jalapeño peppers straight out of a cup and yet somehow, I can’t even handle mildly spicy wings.  I may as well save myself the time and sign up for AARP now while I reach for the Tums.

At our table we also had not one, but two orders of perfectly cooked lamb.  The plating is tremendously elegant.

If you ever find yourself stuck in traffic that won’t move on I-95 and you see the exit for Greenwich take a much needed detour to Famous Greek Kitchen.  If you’re not committed to a long drive, they also have an extensive wine list. You may find yourself Greeking out over it.

Famous Greek Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Meat us in New Orleans: Cochon Butcher

Butcher 2

Prior to my trip to New Orleans, I was excited for one thing and one thing only: the food. I’m a big fan of gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. However, what I found is that New Orleans has a large array of other items as well. Located in the Warehouse District is a very well known restaurant called Cochon, which specializes in pork dishes.

Its lesser known but equally delicious counterpart is Butcher. Located just around the corner from Cochon, Butcher serves up fast sandwiches and sausage dishes. It also offers an array of cured meats for sale.

Cochon Butcher

970 Tchoupitoulas St

New Orleans, LA 70130

cochonbutcher.com

During my visit, I tried the Cajun Pork Dog on a pretzel bun. The dish consisted of a pork sausage, chili, cabbage, spicy mustard and pickles.

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The Cajun Dog on a pretzel bun at Butcher. Photo: Sara Maldonado

The sausage itself was incredible. It was very juicy and had a great overall taste. It did not contain many spices but instead acted as the anchor for the dish.

While the sausage grounded the dish, the true flavor player was the chili and mustard. The mustard gave the dog the kick it needed to set it apart from a regular sausage. The cabbage was very mild in flavor, which helped give each bite a smooth finish.

I actually loved the pickles but found them to be extraneous in the dish. They had great flavor on their own but didn’t add anything to the dog that it didn’t already have. The pickles paired with the mustard were too overpowering and actually took away from the dish so I chose to just put them on the side.

My favorite part about the dish was the pretzel bun. It was soft and buttery. It wasn’t too greasy and helped pull in all the flavors together. Overall, I really enjoyed my first culinary experience in the Big Easy.
Cochon Butcher Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On The Road: Catskill Mountain Foodie High

Memorial Day Weekend: American Flags, cheap beer, BBQ’s. and truncated
weekends away with family and friends.  I journeyed to the vacation destination of my youth.  Nestled near the town of Catskill is The Baliwick Discovery Zoo, a place I highly recommend for animal lovers with a hankering to hand carrots to capuchins and camels.   I worked up an appetite feeding this big guy way too many of my farm fresh carrots.
Megan meets Camel, Megan feeds camel, carrot goooooood
Baliwick Ranch and Discovery Zoo
118 Castle Road
Catskill, NY 12414
(518) 678-5665
As you can see, I make the camels work for it.  Obviously, nothing spells stretching your arm repeatedly over a dirt moat like some good old fashioned greasy pizza.  Luckily, I didn’t have to drive very far to find the perfect place.  Just down the road a bit is Angela’s Pizzeria and Brewery.
The out-side of Angela’s
Angela’s Pizzeria & Brewery
4545 NY Route 32
Catskill, NY 12414
(518) 678-9275
I remember this destination as The Pioneer Pancake House back in the late eighties, early nineties.   After missing my annual jaunt a few years running I was pleasantly surprised to visit this restaurant and find the unique and interesting transition from pancake palace to Italian hot spot, to hybrid pizzeria brewery.  The menu is extensive and full of palatable choices.
To split we ordered a massive calzone and pizza with the full intention that leftovers would abound and we couldn’t have been more right.  With five different fillings, it was tight between The Godfather Calzone brimming with ricotta, ham, salami, pepperoni and mozzarella and The Calzone De La Casa with ricotta, roasted garlic, sausage, spinach and mozzarella. We ended up going with the latter. The large version of this dish was half the size of a small table top.
Calzone the size of half a pizza
Their specialty pizza featuring such fetching items as The Garlic Knot Pie and The Bambino, loaded with meatballs, extra cheese made it harder to choose than agreeing to the right finalist for the third season of American Idol.  We settled on The C.B.R. with grilled chicken, bacon ranch dressing and Mozzarella.  It. Was. Delicious.  If anything, the only thing wrong with Angela’s Pizzeria & Brewery is that it isn’t closer to NYC, so I can call them on Friday and have them deliver to me.  Actually, given my recent decision to train for a half marathon maybe I don’t want that.
 However, their Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company travels to beer festivals closer to home.  They had three of their beers available on tap which all had an excellent rich flavor
that paired nicely with the pizza.  I requested the most popular which was the Kiskatom Brown Ale.  Inspired by the local Native American Mohican word for hickory nut, or Kiskatom it’s a dark brown ale with a hint of nuttiness and chocolate malt.  I followed it with The Mamma Mia Maibock which suggests the name comes from the fact that after a
couple of these beverages you’ll coo “mama mia”……due to the high alcohol content after a couple of these you may cry “a cab, a cab, my kingdom for a cab”.  All joking aside, I think The Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company has a very bright future and if you happen upon a
local beer festival and see their name stop by and try it out.  You won’t be disappointed.  Better yet, if you’re looking for a quiet off road destination consider visiting The Catskill region and making a pit stop.  Their growlers of The Rip Van Winkle will leave you growling for more.
Take It To Go

 

On the second day, I traveled down to the land of peace, love, and floor length bohemian dresses.  Woodstock has become a destination for city folk and upstate locals alike.  I chose to sample two of their foodtractions.  For brunch we stopped at Oriole 9, a quaint packed little joint featuring farm to table entrees brimming with rich bold flavors.

 

The out-side of Oriole 9
Oriole 9
17 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
12498
(845) 679-5763
Upon entering, it features three massive chalkboards that give the diners the option to answer the question, before I die….  My favorite response was the person who wanted the iPhone 5C, they obviously didn’t place enough faith in their longevity.

 

I opted for The Italian Breakfast which was two eggs, any style, garlic toast, sofrito sauce served with a side salad.  It had a twinge of spice and obeyed the mission statement of the restaurant by all being very fresh.

Oriole 9’s Italian Breakfast
As a side, I couldn’t help myself from sampling the falafel.  I’m a sucker for Mediterranean cuisine.  A plate of olives and hummus will keep me happy for days.  The falafel was crisp with a nice dab of tziki.
falafel
The coffee mugs were like something out of a Friend’s episode.  Massive and inviting, there is an extensive selection of brews to choose from.  I was very tempted to delve into the Affogato, espresso and home made vanilla ice-cream but as I looked at my watch which was still very much before 12pm reason set in and instead ordered Cafe con Panna: espresso with homemade whip cream.
Cafe con Panna: delicioso!!
After peering up at the daily board of specials I noted they had a rhubarb pie, I asked after it and the waitress immediately suggested instead their homemade dutch apple.  When in Rome, I had to say yes. The dutch apple pie was served with a scoop of their fresh vanilla ice-cream so I guess I surrendered to early morning ice-cream temptation after all.
Dutch apple pie with homemade vanilla ice-cream
After letting my stomach rest for all of two hours.  I happened upon a Food Network celebrity right in the midst of my vacation paradise.  Could I ask for anything more?
A groovy cupcake establishment
Peace, Love, & Cupcakes
 54F Tinker Street
PO Box 594
Woodstock, NY 12498
(845) 247-3687
I decided to take some of her Food Network award winning old fashioned chocolate cake with yummy rich chocolate frosting and yet another award winning delicacy, The Hippie Chipper Sandwich Cookie.    Two cookies with a creamy peanut butter pretzel truffle filling.  It was rich and delightful.  It’s the kind of cookie that you split with a friend.  The next time you’re looking for a little peace, love, and flavor for days stop by this adorable bakery right off the man street in Woodstock.
One of my final food pit stops came at a diner right out of a Coca Cola ad.  Betty’s Place is as traditional as Sunday night dinner, and when you’re looking for cuisine slapped right off the griddle and onto your hot plate look no further.
So quaint, your grandma might come out that door any minute

 

Betty’s Place

1122 Main Street

Leeds, NY 12451

(518) 943-1266

 

Burger Challenge!!!
No off the road upstate eatery is complete without a drumroll please!  Eating challenge!!  After consuming fifteen chili taco’s in an hour at Taco King in West Hempstead, NY I have my eyes set on other ways to lovingly torture my tonsils.  Total disclosure, I have competed and indeed won myself a t-shirt and a place on the Betty’s Big Mouth Burger hall of fame.  However, they recently moved all the old Polaroids into a photo album and there’s always room for improvement.  If you’re looking for a food challenge and an afternoon of feeling like you have a burger baby in your belly try this.  You’ll have the t-shirt to prove your prowess and a place on their wall of fame.
Maple Walnut Pancakes
Betty’s specializes in their breakfasts and it’s nothing short of good down home diner cooking at it’s finest.  I suggest you try their delicious maple walnut pancakes.  The portions are big so if you stop here  plan to eat very little the rest of the day or have space for the to go bag in the backseat.
Traditional Hungry Man

This summer, whether you need a daycation or a few days of R&R take a break and visit The Catksills.  With a plethora of lazy activities as well as dishes to brag to your friends about it’s worth the two hour car ride.  Just don’t leave your growler of Rip Van Winkle brew behind, you’ll be wanting that when you get back to the chaos of home.

Happy 2nd Anniversary Funky Buddha Brewery!

Funky Buddha Brewery
1201 NE 38th Street
Oakland Park, FL 33334
954-440-0046
Happy anniversary Funky Buddha Brewery!
The warehouse brewery located in Oakland Park, Florida celebrated its second year with an old-school block party style bash. The festivities included an all-day street festival complete with bands, food trucks, and, of course, beer.  This extravaganza featured Funky Buddha’s everyday drafts as well as dozens of limited and special release beers. There were several food trucks on hand and while I did not sample every cuisine, I did treat myself to a unique craft beer, an amazing entree and a cool dessert. Just beyond the festival gates, I was immediately greeted by one of the more unique food concepts I have ever seen. Ever heard of cake pops? Well, local eatery Cutie Pie Pops put a spin on that concept and with pie pops. Yes. Pies on a stick. They were offering cherry, apple and a few other varieties.
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Cute Pie Pops
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Since this was my first time at Funky Buddha, I wanted to make sure I sampled a beer that was unique to the location. I read through the extensive beer list and choose a beer that would mix my love of breakfast with my love of dark ale. Drumroll please….
I had the French Toast Double Brown Ale and it was amazing. I love Ambers and Dark Ales, but I usually choose the lighter varieties like Hefeweizen or Golden Ale. It’s hot in this Florida sun and dark beer reminds of fall days in the Midwest. I guess that’s why I took it back to my Midwestern roots and choose something bold. The French Toast Double Brown Ale delivered. It had a cinnamon-like taste on first sip that spiked into a taste similar to a Red Ale before settling into the full-bodied bitterness of a Brown Ale. With this beer, Funky Buddha Brewery definitely earned a fan in me.
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I made my way to the food trucks after finishing my beer. There were several that offered numerous types of cuisines. There was gourmet pizza made in a food truck with a full-service brick oven, standard American cuisine of hot dogs and fries and so much more.
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There were a lot of great choices but I settled on the food truck located all the way at the end of the festival. No matter where I go, I am determined to find the hidden gem. Rolling Chefs of the Palm Beaches offered a simple but interesting menu. I decided on the ahi tuna salad with chipotle raspberry dressing. I have never had ahi tuna, ever, and I have to say the Rolling Chefs of the Palm Beaches made it so well, I feel like I’ve been missing out on biggest thing since bread. It was so good I started doing on-the-spot promotion, sending people to their food truck.
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They have several other food trucks located around the city and you can “like” their Facebook page for more information on where they will be this summer. You can follow them on the Food Truck Finder USA app as well.
By the time I finished my salad it was seriously smoking hot outside and I wanted to cool down with something light, refreshing and fruity. Enter Pop Lab. They specialize in making delicious all natural, handcrafted ice pops.

 

Check out the photo I created
I had the strawberry lemonade pop and it did just the trick to cool me down. It was less of a popsicle and more flavored ice, which is why I enjoyed it so much. This pop had a subtle lemon flavor, but was heavier on the strawberry taste. And just look at those chunks of fresh strawberries tucked inside. Believe me, it tasted as good as it looks.
Funky Buddha Brewery put one on heck of a festival and I’m glad I could make it out. If you are a serious beer lover and ever find yourself in the Fort Lauderdale area, be sure to check them out. You won’t be disappointed!

Drinking My Way Through Portland…

I finally made it to Portland! Once my bucket list for this culinary mecca became too ridiculous to ignore I called my sister and the next thing I know we’re sipping champagne waiting for our flight. Armed with an extensive list of places to enjoy thirty exquisite meals should we please on our three-day jaunt, we were prepared to eat well. (And, we did.) It was the cocktails that took us by surprise.
Of course they were great, but it was the sheer abundance that blew us away. There is a vegan, gluten-free bakery with a cocktail menu. Let that sink in for a second because it took us a beat to fully grasp it when we wandered in… A VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE BAKERY WITH A BAR. Half the restaurants in Sacramento are only licensed for beer and wine! Impressive Portland.Below is a collection of my favorite sips in a city I can’t wait to taste again… 

The Last Word
Aviation Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse, Lime Juice
@ Brasserie Montmartre
This is a prohibition-era cocktail, usually made with green chartreuse, and it’s fantastic. It’s not for everyone though. (My sister hated it.) If you’re not a gin fan, this is not the drink that will win you over. It is herbaceous. And strong. But still a little sweet and very interesting. Bronx Cocktail, you’ve now been demoted to number two on my list.
New Horizons
Bulleit, Canton Ginger, Cucumber, Fresh Citrus,  Ginger
@ Departure
In general, I’m not big on bourbon. I tend to like it better in dessert than a glass but cucumber and ginger can be pretty convincing. This one is incredibly refreshing and the best part: it’s served on a rooftop patio with an incredible view of the city, alongside killer happy hour bites.
Bottle Rocket
Gin, Lime, Apricot Liqueur, Soda, Lime Peel
@ Clyde Common
Attention fellow Gin & Tonic fans: Immediately stock your home bar with apricot liqueur and make the switch. That is all.
Bitter Spring
Aperol, Lillet, Grapefruit, Celery Bitters, Sparkling Wine, Orange Twist
@ Olympic Provisions
If you love mimosas, stay away from this. It will ruin them for you. Aperol, Lillet, Grapefruit Juice? Yes. Celery Bitters?? YES!
I can’t move on without mentioning two things: 1) Brunch here was simple and legendary. I had the sudden urge to move here with every bite. 2) The other drink in the picture is a tequila cocktail, that my sister ordered for breakfast. I was proud.
Tom Kat Sour
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Aperol, KASK Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Mint
@ KASK
This is a terrible photo but I had to include it in the list because it was taken at the best bar in Portland! Granted, I’ve only tried three days worth of bars there but I’m near positive this would be confirmed by locals.
Water Lily 
Aviation Gin, Cointreau, Rothman and Winter Creme de Violette, Lemon Juice
@ Petunia’s Pies & Pastries
And now we’ve arrived at the infamous vegan, gluten-free establishment with a full line of dessert cocktails… This one is definitely dessert, very sweet. Normally this wouldn’t be my cup of tea but just look how cute it is! The bakery is adorable too, don’t let the vegan part deter you.
Passionfruit Berliner Weisse in Coconut Water Sorbet
a ribbon of marmalade made from passionfruit and
Breakside Brewery’s “Passionfruit Berliner Weisse,” in a coconut water sorbet

@ Salt & Straw
Since this blog is technically about food I feel the need to include at least one thing you can nosh on. Of course, in true Portland style even the ice cream celebrates the hard stuff…
This was one of SIX beer-infused flavors! We stood in a line that ran down the block, sweating, doubting it would be as good as everyone says but, like you may have guessed, we were wrong. And in case you’re thinking I got lucky with the one flavor I ordered, I should admit that I sampled eight others in line. (Don’t judge.) They were all amazing and obviously this place knows how to churn out a profit by the look of the lines but the most impressive thing to me was to see a love for beer so strong on both sides of the counter that over a third of the menu was dedicated to it. You’ve got your priorities in line Portland. I like your style.

The Catbird Seat

The Catbird Seat 
1711 Division Street
Nashville, TN
thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
Your adventure begins thirty days out at midnight, when they open up the reservations online. Yes, you should wait up for this. The thirty-two seat restaurant fills up fast! Once you book all you need to do is show up a month later, prepared to be swept away by three hours of fabulous food, drink and five-star treatment by some of the best chefs on the planet.
The menu is ever-changing so your experience will be different but here’s a peek at the kinds of delights that await you from the night I was sittin’ pretty in The Catbird Seat…
Savory “Oreo”
porcini mushroom cookie with parmesan cream filling

For me, it was love at first sight. This grew stronger with the first bite. Apparently I’m a sucker for clever, delicious takes on popular snack foods because I fell hard for you right away with this one Catbird. And it just got better from there.

Left: Scallop Cone (parmesan cream, roe, chive)
Middle: Jelly Roll (jalapeno jelly, cream cheese)
Right: Hot Chicken (crispy hot chicken skin with Wonder Bread purée)

Picture a scallop, in every form you’ve ever eaten one. Now, picture turning it into a waffle cone. Insane, yes? And incredible. As was the whimsical jelly roll and their version of the Nashville favorite “hot chicken.”

Heart of Palm Salad
coconut, pineapple, habanero, nasturtium
  
Pairing: Joel Falmet Brut Rose – Champagne, France
Sake Cocktail
TY KU, gin, ginger, lemon

As you enjoy the last of your champagne a new cocktail promptly arrives to accompany the rich dish below. My favorite sip of the evening.

Monkfish Liver
steel head roe, spring onion, ponzu, cucumber, avocado
   
Shrimp & Onion
truffle, celery, crispy potato, lemon, tarragon

Pairing: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Podium,” Garofoli 2009
Grilled Chicken
red pepper, broccoli, oyster mushroom, pea purée

Pairing: Penner-Ash Pinot Noir 2010 – Willamette, OR

This was a crowd favorite. The chicken was deboned and pressed together mixing the white and dark meat so you get a bit of both.

Veal Tender
swiss chard, potato, oyster cream agnolotti, parsley, lemon 

Pairing: Le Grand Bouqueteau Reserve Chinon 2009 – France

I know the veal is supposed to be the star of the show here but the oyster cream agnolotti with lemon dots completely upstage it. Two of the most memorable bites of the evening.

Hudson Red
mustard seeds, fried shallots, cornichon, honey vinegar, 
beer & pretzel mustard
   
Pairing: Shneider Weisse, Hopfen-Weisse – Germany

This was the most stunning cheese dish I’ve had in quite some time. It’s a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that is incredibly rich, elevated by all of the flavors on top.

Coconut
Coconut – Inside
milk chocolate ice cream, coconut, eucalyptus crisp,
sweet plantain, tangerine
Egg
bacon, maple, thyme, custard 
Bourbon
pineapple gelee, vanilla cake, cherry crisp, 
charred oak ice cream, bourbon beads
   
Pairing for Desserts: Royal Tokaji 2008 in a glass soaked with
Black Maple Hill Bourbon

The entire night I couldn’t help but feel that this restaurant just completely gets me, as if they had me in mind when designing the menu. This feeling grew stronger at the tail end of the dinner, when they served cheese followed by three courses of dessert.

The filling in the coconut, unexpected and refreshing. The bacon in the egg, paper thin and delicate. The bourbon beads, a playful surprise. And wine in a bourbon-soaked glass? Genius.
Sweet “Oreo”
chocolate cookie with espresso cream
Oh, and before you go they end the meal as cleverly as they began it – with a parting Oreo, this time sweet.

Prison Food: Alcatraz

A short break from my standard post, for something a little darker…
After a far too long stint on my bucket list, I finally made
it out to The Rock! It was just as you might imagine, equal parts fascinating
and disturbing. We did the audio tour with voices of prisoners and guards
leading you with sound effects of prison life as you move through the space, which I highly recommend. Morbid stories of solitary confinement, escape and murder were offset a tiny bit, at
least in my mind, by some surprising tidbits about the kitchen!
Apparently, this place that locked up some of the worst criminals in the country served them up some of the best food in the entire prison system! The guards quickly learned that with mealtime being the most dangerous scenario – convicts all together wielding silverware and bad food being the number one reason to riot – they better serve to please. They hit all the major food groups in their dinners: soup, veggies, a starch, meat, AND they didn’t skimp on dessert! They also set this food rule, which I love: Take all you want, eat all you take.
Knife Lock Box: Complete with outlines of each to quickly determine if any are missing… Chills.
Equipment: What the prisoners used to cook for their fellow inmates, supervised.
This of course made me think about one of my all time favorite ways to peek inside a person’s soul, the admittedly dark question: What’s your death row meal? It may seem like a simple question of favorites, but it’s much more complex. If you were faced with one last chance to enjoy the simple pleasures this world has to offer, what is the one dish that would make your daunting fate a little more acceptable? Is it the best thing you’ve ever tried or something mom used to make you as a child? Something that shocked you or something that comforts you? Something you can’t live without or something you’ve always wanted to try?
I’ve shared mine here before: a perfect Quiche Lorraine. I saw Anthony Bourdain share his at a talk in Santa Rosa: bone marrow on toast.
Now you’ve had a peek into both of our souls. Share yours?

My SF Day: Ferry Building, Central Kitchen & Alton Brown

I spent Saturday in San Francisco basically geeking out about all things food – revisiting some favorites at the Ferry Building, trying out a new restaurant, and listening to Alton Brown wax poetic about endothermic reactions!


Ferry Building

ferrybuildingmarketplace.comMy first stop was at one of my favorite places in the city,
the Ferry Building. It’s packed with wonderful shops and restaurants and you
can’t beat the view. Some highlights include Cowgirl Creamery (cowgirlcreamery.com)
for incredible cheese and Boccalone (boccalone.com) for incredible meats! I’m a big fan of their “Salumi Cones.” Genius.

 

Don’t fill up before you hit Hog Island Oyster Co. though. (hogislandoysters.com) There’s usually a line to be seated but it’s definitely
worth it and they’ll serve you champagne while you wait!  The oysters are fantastic. If you know
someone who is on the fence about them this is the perfect place to go and these two are the perfect varieties to order…
 
Kusshi
Deep Bay, British Columbia
The larger oysters at the top, these are very mild.
Sand Isle Kumamoto
Humboldt Bay, CA
The smaller oysters at the bottom, these are mild as well
but taste almost creamy. My favorite.
A bonus: They serve delicious sweet rustic bread from
Acme Bread Company (acmebread.com), which is also in the Ferry Building.
adorable recipe-wrapped candle

Central Kitchen

3000 20th St
San Francisco, CA
This is a new restaurant from the owners of the popular Flour +
Water (still on my to-taste list). It’s tucked away just down the street from F + W behind Salumeria, their fabulous delicatessen. I fell in love with it in the first five
minutes based solely on the simple but creative décor in the indoor/outdoor space and our charming,
enthusiastic server. 

I love the large format “tile” bolted to the back wall.
The back of a stucco building becomes modern bench seating.

We ordered quite a bit of food but here are the highlights…

 

crispy trotter with chopped clams & tonnato
This was my first time trying pig’s feet! It tasted like pig face to me, which is delicious. I’m pretty sure these are a staple on the menu, they just swap out the accompaniments. It’s a great way to start your meal – tender, flavorful pork deep fried with cream sauce and fried capers. Plus, you’ll feel better knowing that you opened with something adventurous.
chicken liver mousse with fig mostarda & spiced wine 

 

 If you’re only going to order one starter, make it this one. It’s beautiful and you won’t be able to part with it until the jar is scraped clean.
Confession: I kept eating it between courses and when the toasted bread ran out I put it on the homemade oat caraway rolls they serve to start. If we didn’t have to get to the theatre I probably would have kept it around for the dessert course. It’s that good.
Last Stop – Castro Theatre…


An Evening with Alton Brown
Presented by Bay Area Science Festival (Now through November 4th!)
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one to be
honest, but I was very excited about it. Turns out there were hand-drawn slides, experiments, and laugh out loud moments that even
Alton didn’t see coming. (I’m pretty sure he was as entertained by San Francisco as we were by him.) Here’s what I learned…
– There’s no such thing as cold.
– Alton’s position on organic vs. conventional produce: Buy
local above all else.
– The secret to killer spare ribs: Sous vide for 72 hours and
finish them off with a blowtorch!
– Bow ties are cool.

 

A Treat Amongst the Trees. The Maiden Publick House, Big Sur, Ca.

My Husband and I found ourselves in Big Sur, enjoying a mini vacation, which is a rare moment in our lives. While our plan was to camp and cook, and drink wine on the beach, we found ourselves just steps away from a cozy little pub.  Who can resist a beer mid-day in the sun amongst the trees?

While the bar was quaint and cozy, the beer list was far from lacking.  With a tap selection of California micro classics from Speakeasy to Port Brewing, to great imports like Paulaner and Unibroue, I had a hard time making a decision.  On top of the great draught list, was an incredible Belgian bottle selection, which always brings a smile to my face.
The Staff was incredibly warm, and I felt right at home.  I was feeling the “end-of-summer blues” so I ordered a Twilight, an american blonde ale brewed by Deschutes Brewery.  Just off the highway, The Maiden is surrounded by Redwoods, so we had to take advantage and sit on the patio.

The Twilight was easy drinking, soft citrus notes, and caramel flavors, with great persistent bubbles.  I love this kind of beer when it’s warm, and it didn’t disappoint.  Without fail, my husband orders a Rodenbach Grand Cru (I can’t blame him, I do consider this to be the beer I would hope to have if I found myself on a deserted island).

And without fail, I generously helped myself to his beer (thank god he’s patient with me).  Really, I cannot express enough how it always satisfies, no matter what the time, the weather, or the occasion.  Cheers to great beer in Big Sur. And a big thank you to The Maiden, and mother nature itself.

If you find yourself on the coast in Big Sur check out The Maiden Publick House which is located on Highway 1, at The Village Center Shops.