Girls on Food

Beer

Take Me, I’m Yours Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh, NC

Recently, food halls have been popping up all over the country. When I heard Raleigh was getting not one, but two, my immediate reaction was “great, a glorified mall food court” because really, when was the last time you felt cool eating at the food court, amiright? But there are a couple huge differences at play here, so put your worries aside!

First, food courts are so often chains and standard fare. Morgan Street Food Hall & Market is, for the most part, neither. Rolled ice cream anyone? Poke bowls, empanadas, and ramen were the first things to catch my eye. Cousins Maine Lobster (the only option I would consider a chain) is slightly more accessible here, and with a lot more seating options! The line is still out the door but with a beer in hand and a bustling crowd, a far cry from the hot food truck rodeo lines you’re usually waiting in! Last time I tried that, I was “red as a lobster” by the time I ordered my Connecticut lobster roll!

Raleigh Rolls rolled ice cream, which is a treat for all! (yeah, I shared with the baby!)

When you first walk into Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll see a bustling crowd and tons of seating options, from picnic tables to couches and arm chairs, and finally, 4 top tables with chairs. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, with a couple bars to frequent as thirst arises. There are 18 dining options, ranging from southern to Mediterranean to Asian; comfort food and hangover food and on to desserts and bubble tea. For our family, this is the perfect place for all of our meals out: we have 2 picky preschoolers who think the margarita pizza at Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas is out of this world (and less than $10, thank you!).

For me, I get the “adventurous” foods I can’t talk the whole family into – ramen and poke bowls, while hubby gets to fill up on empanadas, which he loves! We have an Italian au pair living with us this year, and she has enjoyed working her way through the options Morgan Street has at her disposal. Currently, her heart resides in Raleigh.

I’ve now eaten at Morgan Street 3 times. Hubs and I met a group of friends here one night before an Umphrey’s McGee concert downtown. There were a lot of empanadas and some curry plates, a kick ass looking pizza, a whole lot of beer, and my amazing delicious tuna poke bowl, with fresh tuna on their California bowl (from The Bowls), loaded with amazingness and topped with avocado! It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

So the next weekend, a girlfriend and I met up there, and she got ramen and I went back to The Bowls for round 2 – this time trying their spicy tuna on the Malibu bowl, which has spicy seaweed salad in it. The biggest difference was that the tuna was chopped up instead of chunks, so I would probably go regular tuna in the future.

We also ventured over to the bar, and I tried the Deep River Brewing Company’s (out of Clayton, NC) pumpkin pie porter, which was oh, so good and also very seasonal! It was delicious after a long afternoon of shopping and enjoying the suddenly cooler temps here in NC! Finally (maybe the first finally), we waited in line at Cocoa Forte Desserts for chocolate dipped cheesecake, which we were saving for when we got home, and then I talked my friend into trying out Raleigh Rolls, the rolled ice cream place! It’s a little bit Coldstone Ceamery (you get to choose 3 flavors that go into your ice cream, and then 3 flavors for the toppings) meets a sushi roll (because in the end, they hand you a bowl with 6 rolls of ice cream). So good news – you can sub flavors – I subbed in coffee flavoring for the graham cracker in my s’mores ice cream, and it was the.best.thing.ever! Little man ate way too much but also thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for sharing my ice cream with him, ha! (Verdict on cheesecake – its on a stick, so go ahead and eat it immediately. I waited a few hours to eat mine, and it fell apart really fast. Pretty sure it was user error though).

So the next day, my hubs was still out of town (he went on Phish tour last weekend), and I needed to provide food for my little ones for the 4th day in a row. So…I started thinking about that pizza, and the fact that cow burger has hot dogs. Surely they could find something to eat…

Here’s the deal – I was nervous to bring a 5 year old and a 3 year old and a 5 month old into such a busy place. But…they loved it! My son is begging to go back, my daughter can’t stop talking about the ice cream, and the baby slept thru the thing. We also found an awesome place for our family photos in 2 weeks. So all in all, a great trip. I will send you all day every day to Bella’s pizza – it was incredible, and the kids ate every bite of that pizza. I loved the portion size of the burgers (I got the classic cheeseburger) and I’d heard great things about it, but I would definitely trust your gut on that place. First, the line took F O R E V E R which I’m not really into, and wouldn’t have waited in it but our au pair and I both wanted a burger so we stuck with it. Second, we waited F O R E V E R for our buzzer to ring. Like it took the entire time the pizza cooked to wait in the line and order. Then the kids ate the whole pizza. And I took them back over to Raleigh rolls and waited for someone to turn melted ice cream into frozen ice cream rolls, and then the buzzer sounded as I was paying for them. So the burgers were delicious, great bun to burger ratio, and overall very satisfying, but with so many faster options, I’m not sure I would wait for it again.

Also, pro tip – if you have a picky child who only eats vanilla ice cream (I know, I know, its super weird but what I’m dealing with right now), there is another small ice cream scoop place in the food hall. Don’t waste your $7 on plain vanilla with a tiny sprinkling of rainbow sprinkles. Spend that money on the whole experience and all the toppings, and get Sir Picky something from the cheaper place!

So final verdict – run, don’t walk, to the Morgan Street Food Hall if you’re in Raleigh. Bring an appetite. Check out the unusual places, especially the bowls, the broth, and curry in a hurry, and take the time to wait in line for Raleigh Rolls! I’m looking forward to heading down there again next weekend after the International Festival to try out some new places!

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

I’m off to BBB to stock up on more!!!

New Brunswick Restaurant Week 2018: Catherine Lombardi

Guess who’s back…back again…Fatboi’s back…tell a friend. It is I, Jess, the ghost of Christmas past, coming to you after a year-long WordPress hiatus. In the past year, I started grad school and have been grinding it out, while Christie’s been managing a sports facility and running 23812947 Spartan races (aroo!). But don’t worry, we’ve been just as committed to the #fatlyfe.

July 14th kicked off restaurant week in New Brunswick, NJ. ‘Til the 28th, the hottest spots are offering discounts on beverages, meals, desserts, and everything in between. From ramen to Ethiopian cuisine, to jam-packed strombolis at Stuff’s, there’s something for everyone. It’s a great excuse to have a fancy date night, dinner and drinks with the girls, or a family outing.

I decided to give Catherine Lombardi a try, after hearing great things about their Italian fare. I easily mapped out my prospects from their $39 three-course menu, prior to even setting foot into the building. I rolled out of bed, changed, and headed to Catherine Lombardi accompanied by my childhood friends (s/o to Marce and Cee, the OG’s). Scoping out the restaurant, I quickly regretted my outfit choice. I looked like a fat baby who got separated from her nanny, in my floral jumpsuit. Wine glasses and fancy linen napkins dotted every table, and everything was RED; the walls, the velvet curtains, the carpet, the upholstery. It was what I imagine entering Christian Grey’s red room of pain would feel like, but not as terrifying.

I dove right into the wine menu (overwhelmed by the number of categories I never knew existed) and zeroed in on my go-to, Pinot Grigio, and ran with it.

For starters, I ordered the Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella. Tomatoes are either a hit or miss for me, but I easily chowed them down, and the house-made mozzarella was divine. 

I’m obsessed with anything and everything truffle, so I had to go with the Garganelli with truffle cream, prosciutto, and asparagus as my entrée. The prosciutto was the perfect addition, balancing out the truffle flavor.

Marce opted for the linguine with shrimp scampi. Obviously, I stole a bite, and it was a delicious rendition of the Italian classic.

Cee chose the tortelloni with Parmagiano-Reggiano cream and bolognese sauce. We actually had to google if tortelloni and tortellini are the same and *spoiler alert*, they are. I may have an Italian last name, but I had no idea wtf was going on. You may be looking at this picture thinking, ‘What gives? There are only 6 tortellonis.’ I thought the same thing until I sampled some, and the tortellonis were stuffed with filling, making it a reasonable portion size.

To round out my trifecta, I opted for the mascarpone cheesecake. It was incredibly creamy and tasted flan-like.

Marce selected Mrs. Palmisano’s cookie plate. To our delight, the cookies were melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious. This plate would make any Italian grandmother beam with pride. 

Cee went for the mango sorbet. It didn’t knock her socks off, but I was pleased with the refreshing zing. 

Not only was the presentation on point, but the food quality really knocked it out of the park. All of the ingredients were incredibly fresh, making for flavorful dishes. It was fun pretending to be bougie for a night, all under the guise of a discounted prix fixe menu.

J

Fatboi Tendencies 

West Coast Media Tasting: Summer Solstice Party at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar in Dallas and Orange, CA

Carla: Girls on Food got invited to the super fun Summer Solstice Parties at Lazy Dog’s participating locations last week. So I attended one in Orange, CA and Dawn attended the Dallas one. We were celebrating both the beginning of Summer and the release of their the new Huckleberry Haze IPA house beer (by Golden Road Brewing).

The setup for the event was really cute and had different stations for us to try all the different beers on tap. Tons of beer information was provided to us by their knowledgeable staff who gave great insight into Lazy Dog + Golden Roads awesome approach to beer and food pairings.

Summertime Spread – Image by Carla

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar  
Locations spread throughout California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado
https://www.lazydogrestaurants.com/

CarlaRight of the bat I wanted to try to Huckleberry Haze IPA and I fell immediately in love. Normally I’m a tequila or vodka type of gal (effective and calorie conscious drinks) so a lot can be said when I admit to an immediate infatuation with a beer. Huckleberry is super unique to beers and in this case a labor of love between Chef Gabe Caliendo at Lazy Dog and Head Brewmaster at Golden Road, Victor Novak.
Beer Tower – Image by Carla
For those unfamiliar, Hazy IPA’s are made when the hops are added at the end of the beer making process. In doing so the beer acquires a sweeter taste rather than a hoppy one. Fruit notes also tend to stand out much more with this process and they definitely did in this brew. You can totally taste the berries as well as a tiny hint of strawberry and other tropical flavors.
All the other beers provided were perfectly picked for summer. The Ankle Buster Blonde was pretty tasty and the Stargazer Nitro Stout was a bold choice. I totally recommend the Stargazer to anyone who loves a refreshing iced coffee on a hot summer morning.
Dawn: The new summer menu was something to howl about! One of my favorites was the Street Corn Wheels, perfectly grilled sweet corn on the cob seasoned with lime, garlic, queso blanco, tajin and cilantro.
Street Corn Wheels – Image by Dawn
Carla: Zero guilt was felt as I ate multiple of the new Grilled Artichokes. I was glad to have something so healthy and yummy! Seasoned with lemon and herbs then cooked on the grill these little veggies were incredible with their house made roasted garlic tahini.
Artichoke – Image by Dawn
CarlaThe mini corn dogs were the perfect size to nibble on while trying out the different beers. The Sun Spanked Red Ale contrasts beautifully with the corn batter and Nathan’s all beef hot dog.
Dawn: These babies are not are NOT the cereal-filled mini dogs of your childhood. These are all beef hot dogs dipped in a slightly sweet batter and served up with some IPA mustard and ketchup.
Corndogs – Image by Dawn
Carla: Finally the Chili Peanut Wings really stole the show. The sauce and flavors are rich while tangy and would pair great with either the Howling Hive Hefe or the Ankle Buster Blonde. Fun fact: Hef beers such as Howling Hive Hefe are made with German yeast and from this acquire the taste of banana and cloves. Go ahead and try it, its a super palpable taste.
Dawn: The wings are caramelized in mixture of pineapple juice, fish sauce, lime, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, chili flakes, crushed peanuts and cilantro. Think Kung Pao wings!
Chili Peanut Wings – Image by Dawn
CarlaAll in all, I’m glad Lazy Dog is as ready as I am for summer. Beers, bites and best of all the occasional cutie dog on the patio!
Thank you so much to C Squared PR for inviting the West Coast Girls on Food Team to this tasting. Although all food and beverages were comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.  

MEDIA TASTING: The Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village, CA Brings Out The Kid In Us!

Los Angeles, I’ve just found your new go-to summer hangout! If you’re looking for good drinks, good eats, and fun games in a laid back but classy atmosphere, look no further than the Thirsty Merchant in Valley Village.

THE THIRSTY MERCHANT

12430 Riverside Dr
Valley Village, CA 91607
http://www.thethirstymerchant.com

I enjoy watching and playing games as much as the next girl, but I usually avoid my local sports bar because I’m not interested in jockeying for a spot at the pool table with a bunch of annoying bros.

Thank goodness for the Thirsty Merchant. Not only are there plenty of games to choose from (bocce ball, foosball, corn hole, darts—even giant Connect-Four!), but the vibe is warm and inviting with an elegant Victorian-inspired twist. We had a lot of fun playing these bar games, especially darts. It makes me want to buy my own so that I can play with it whenever I want too, (and to improve on my skills that I seemingly don’t have). My friend who has her own dartboard told me that if I was seriously considering getting one, that I should have a look at the reviews from somewhere like 1 Hattrick so that I can get one that I know would be best for me. I will definitely have a look when I get the chance, but for now, I am enjoying my time in this bar. The bar is impressive, and they offer a wide selection of beers, but they also have an excellent wine and cocktail list for those like myself who aren’t into brews.

Hot Lips

Upon arriving, my companion and I settled into a cozy, dimly lit booth and perused the menu. We decided to start off with a couple of spicy drinks to get things going. He ordered a Hot Lips cocktail made with jalapeño infused vodka, mezcal, lime, pineapple juice, and vanilla simple syrup. I ordered a Merchant Mary with Bang Bang Shrimp Cocktail from the “Day Drinks” menu (which, by the way, accompanied a rather appealing weekend brunch menu that I intend to return for).

The Hot Lips definitely did as its name implied- it made my lips tingle with flavor. I know spicy drinks aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy heat, definitely try this drink out. It has a smoky taste on the front end, builds into a zesty jalapeño burn, and softens with the sweet vanilla finish. Delicious!

The Merchant Mary was also a very solid Bloody Mary, though after trying the Hot Lips, it didn’t seem spicy enough for my taste. But the mix is fresh and made in house and had all the right elements – including a refreshing celery flavor that I really enjoyed. Be careful with this one though… it makes for some really easy drinking, and I didn’t realize how strong it was until I finished it. Oh, and did I mention the zesty and meaty shrimp that was the prize at the end of the drink? (Or are you one of those people who eats all the garnishes first? No judgement here!)

For an appetizer we tried the Roasted Shishito Peppers which were UH-MAY-ZING. Who would think such a simple dish could be so delicious? For me, it was all about the perfect char and garlicky vinegar dressing the peppers were dressed with, and the equally mouthwatering truffle aioli that accompanied them. I could have eaten a bucket of these, but I had to save room for the rest of the night.

We also tried a Sonoma Salad before diving into the main course. This salad is a refreshing summer treat made with crisp butter lettuce, roasted corn, candied walnuts, and dried cranberries, tossed with a light champagne vinaigrette and feta cheese crumbles. It would make a great meal on its own with some added protein like chicken or shrimp.

There were a lot of other appealing appetizers that would make for good sharing with a group of friends, such as steak tips and pan-fried dumplings, but we decided to order something more hearty for our main course. After trying the shrimp in the bloody Mary I was tempted to go with the Louisiana Bang Bang Shrimp, but ultimately I decided to go with the Bistro Burger. My companion took a Southern route with the Southern Livin’ fried chicken sandwich.

It was time for a drink refill while we waited for our food and I simply had to try another “day drink” selection, the Frosé (“God’s gift to your mouth” as the menu states.) I have to agree. This is the perfect summer treat. I’m a sucker for frozen drinks, and this one is a delight. If you love rosé, you’ll enjoy its crisp and citrusy flavor. Plus, it’s just plain fun to drink.

My companion got a Hotsy Tosty – another spicy drink, but more fruity and sweet than the Hot Lips. Like the first drink, it’s also made with jalapeño infused vodka, but the difference lies in the fresh strawberries, agave nectar, and fizzy ginger beer. I liked this one even more than the Hot Lips – but I’m partial to sweet and fruity drinks. You can’t go wrong with either choice.

Before long our food arrived. The Bistro Burger was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time. The patty is ground in-house and crusted with pepper, topped with Boursin cheese and shoestring fries.

The burger was bursting with flavor – it had a hint of heat from the pepper tempered with creamy garlic from the cheese. It was as close to the feeling of having a fancy picnic with summer sausage and cheese as you could get in a burger. The shoe string fries were also perfectly crisp and the burger came with an additional side of them as well. I ate the whole thing, which is rare for me when it comes to burgers.

The Chicken Sandwich was equally amazing, but much heavier (as is to be expected with Southern-inspired cooking). The chicken was double-breaded with buttermilk and perfectly crusty on the outside and juicy-tender on the inside. The pimento cheese added a bit of heat, but the dill slaw provided a crunchy and satisfying cooldown.

We were pretty stuffed, but we had to had to try the highly-recommended dessert: the Peanut Butter Pie. Trust me, you’ll want to order this one – it was so rich and delicious with its Oreo crust and creamy peanut butter filling. It even had a couple Reese’s cups as a topper along with crushed peanuts and a dollop of whipped cream. Peanut-butter lovers rejoice!

I was honestly surprised by how good the food was for a place that offers sports and games. Oftentimes at bars like these, the food is an afterthought to the entertainment, but not so at the Thirsty Merchant. Come to watch your team on one of the many screens, or get a group together to share some apps and play a round of bocce ball (or three.) Or come with a date and snuggle into one of the cushy booths and enjoy a romantic cocktail. You can do it all at the Thirsty Merchant, and I for one will be making it one of my hangouts this summer. Connect-Four, anyone?

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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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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Fall Wine Festival at City Winery Nashville

This weekend we were invited to attend the Fall Wine Festival at City Winery Nashville hosted by Nashville Wine Festivals. What a fantastic event! It was everything you need for a party in one place: music, unlimited drinks, food, and plenty of Instagram worthy photo backdrops!

City Winery

City Winery has always been one of my favorite places to go for dinner and a show, but I’ve never really explored the whole building. It’s a huge facility with different bars and places to sit and sip your favorite glass of wine. My new favorite spot is upstairs on the outside patio with a downtown view of Nashville! Not only was the view great, the weather couldn’t have been better – 76 degrees with a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky. On the patio, I enjoyed a Matua Pinot Noir Rośe and my husband sampled a glass of Relax Chardonnay while we enjoyed the flawless day.

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A Whole 30 Days of Adventure With Megan!

If anyone out there has heard of Whole 30, they know it’s gauntlet thrown down at your social life when you decide to take it on. It is mostly paleo, definitely gluten free, and also bears a host of other restrictions because it’s supposed to show you what foods you are allergic to. Did I mention no drinking? YUP. Here’s a more comprehensive understanding of the plan.

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Phil Er Up: National Mechanics, Revolution House and Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar

My DIY Bloody Mary

I have journeyed back to the historical land that is Philadelphia to further explore the city and its many food offerings. First stop was National Mechanics, a spot I hit up last time but while researching the ‘hood discovered that, during brunch, it has its very own DIY Bloody Mary Bar. I mean… how can I not? This eatery is unique, utilizing old wooden church pews for booths and showcasing fun bug collections, mounted bison skulls, and cute displays of plants.

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Craft Beer, Cocktails, and More at the Artisanal LA Spring Market

What better way to spend a beautiful spring Sunday in Downtown Los Angeles than sipping on a craft beer and browsing dozens of local vendors and crafts? Up on the 13th floor of the California Market Center, you can do just that at the Artisanal LA Spring Market! I honestly wasn’t quite sure what the event was going to be like, but I can’t wait for them to host another.The highlight for me, as always, is the booze. They featured three craft breweries as well as two craft spirit producers and a cocktail mixer and not a single one disappointed. Breweries featured Sunday were Brouwerji West, Cellardor Ales, and Three Weavers Brewing. Each was unique in what they brought to the table and the folks representing them were so knowledgeable and friendly. Brouwerji West was tasting their saison, which is naturally fermented in the can (!!!) and oh so tasty. They’ve also jumped in on the haze craze and had a fantastic experimental hazy pale ale. Cellador Ales had two different wine barrel aged beers, which were unique and extremely well done. Their focus on barrel aged beers is a breath of fresh air in what can feel like a market sometimes crowded by typical styles and trends, and they do these beer extremely well. 
Three Weavers brought their fan favorite Expatriate IPA which I had somehow never tried but loved. They also had their beer from the Pink Boots Society’s Big Boots Brew, which is an annual brewing done at breweries across the world to celebrate women in the beer industry. It was a wonderful sampling of different beers that are from right here in Southern California, and really drove home the fact LA has a fantastic beer community.
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