Girls on Food

Dessert

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill in Raleigh, NC

Happy #nationaltacoday!

The first time I stumbled onto Salt & Lime Cabo Grill, it was with my sister in law and her then 3-year-old. It was a beautiful, unusually cool North Carolina summer day, and we comfortably sat outside in the patio area with our two toddlers, eating salads and drinking margaritas. It was awesome (and surprisingly relaxing)!

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill
6006 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609
http://saltandlimecabo.com/index.html

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Fast forward a year later, and this restaurant has become a staple for our Friday Family Date Nights! It’s so much fun to get the four of us together for a no-pressure meal. Over chips and salsa, we laze our way into the weekend. Over the course of the meal, our almost-toddler daughter nabs her way through the fruit at the top of my white wine sangria, and our 3-year-old son eats chips and salsa non-stop for about 45 minutes. Insane. The GM always stops by to play with the baby, and every single wait staff we’ve had has been both incredibly accommodating and extremely welcoming to our chaotic family. On several occasions, they have even squeezed us into a table that is reserved in 45 minutes, allowing us to get in and out and home before bedtime. As far as I am concerned, Salt & Lime has the best customer service in town!

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Salt & Lime is a Baja-inspired restaurant serving everything from taco plates to fresh salads to delicious looking burritos and plated entrees. Everything is prepared fresh daily, which would be my only caveat with this restaurant. On one occasion the salsa was way too spicy for us, which ruined our son’s “dinner” – but one in twenty times is a blip; hardly an issue! They have a pretty extensive menu with several types of salsa and guacamole – one day I’m going to try that fire roasted tomato with goat cheese guacamole; it sounds amazing! I regularly order their Avocado-Tomato Salad with House-Spiced Salmon added. It’s one of my favorite things on the menu, so fresh, and the salmon is just perfect!

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Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a taco kick! This is our new go-to when our parents are in town, so it’s fun to order 3 or 4 taco plates and swap out tacos. My husband always goes for the BBQ Mahi taco plate – he loves it! My current favorite is the Bangkok Shrimp – they are sticky and sweet and a little bit spicy! My only albeit is that it is fried shrimp, but a little cheat every once in a while is good for the soul! (I’m sure they would grill it if you asked, as a whole, the restaurant seems very keen to please). The Jamaican Jerk tacos are also on point, but a tad too spicy for me! The last time I took the whole fam, my brother, a vegetarian, ordered the spicy gazpacho and the Baja nachos and was very impressed. I was pleased, to say the least, as he is quite the world traveler; Paris being the newest town he can call home. My sister and mom split the Quesadilla Grande, and we all shared around the table. Everyone was full and happy when we called it a night!

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They are constantly adding to the menu, and so there is always something new to try whenever you go! I’m excited – we are heading there Friday night to celebrate my babe Margaret’s first birthday! We rarely get dessert when we head out on the town, but you can bet I’m getting my girl something sweet to celebrate the big UNO!

Piece of the Middle East (in Seattle): Anar and Mamnoon Street

A couple of days ago, my friend and co-worker, Quinn and I had a great idea to indulge in our pun obsessions and decided to try a little piece of the Middle East (Get it?  Piece?  Middle East?).  Essentially doing a food crawl and sampling everything at a local Middle Eastern restaurant and its vegetarian sister restaurant next door.

Mamnoon Street
2020 6th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.mamnoonstreet.com

screenshot-2016-09-11-13-32-44The same people own both Mamnoon Street and Anar, Racha and Wassef Haroun.  They also own another restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, also called Mamnoon, but there you can sit down and enjoy cocktails with your food.

The Haroun’s came to the Pacific Northwest to work in the tech industry.  They decided to plant roots here and brought a bit of their Syrian/Lebanese heritage with them into the restaurant scene.  They have found their place amongst the foodies and have expanded their availability and visibility by opening up two more locations in the Amazon campus in downtown Seattle.

Our first stop during our food crawl was Mammon Street.  We opted to sit outside in the wind, as opposed to dining inside like a rational people would.  However, sitting outside when it’s NOT raining in Seattle is a treat one can enjoy when the opportunity arises.

img_1686I ordered both the lamb and chicken shawarma.  I had every intention of eating just a little bit of both to give a fair review, but as soon as I started to bite down into the lamb, I couldn’t stop.  I began to feel full right away, and I wasn’t even a 1/4 of the way finished with it.  So I knew that trying the chicken shawarma would have to wait until later, but it eventually went into the eager hands of my Uber driver later that afternoon.

Quinn wasn’t as ambitious as I was (since I suffer from eyes bigger than stomach syndrome), so he ordered a kefta arayess aka sandwich with a side of halloumi cheese.

img_1687Of course, there was no waiting to take a pic for this guy.  He’s all about business and just started noshing.  I was able to snag a little bite of the kefta arayess and was struck by the perfect balance of seasoning in the ground beef and the saltiness of the halloumi.

Eventually, Quinn gave up and decided he was full while I still wanted to go to Anar.

 

 

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Anar
2040 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
http://anar.life

img_1692Anar is right around the corner from Mamnoon Street.  The vibe inside looks like a typical juice bar with the display of fresh veggies.  I’ve been there before, and I die for their iced Turkish coffees.  But what I’m really all about is their lentil and brown rice dish called Mujadara.

Topped with pickled turnips and Greek yogurt, this dish is also extra filling.  I knew that I would be eating this for leftovers during the week because it might not look like a lot of food, but it’s a lot of food.  I did manage to take a few bites, but honestly I could have exploded at that point.

img_1693Also, I couldn’t leave without getting the chia seed pudding topped with apricot jam for the road.  Again, this is something to be enjoyed when you have room in your stomach.

The price points for both Mamnoon Street and Anar are relatively reasonable, and you get a huge bang for your buck.  I don’t recommend driving to their location because parking is awful in this part of downtown Seattle. If you are in the area and are looking for a better option than Thai food or a sub sandwich, either one of these fantastic places will be a welcome change for your taste buds!

Getting Chocolate Wasted at the Dallas Chocolate Festival

Dallas Chocolate Festival
Addison Conference Center
15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001
http://dallaschocolate.org/

dallas chocolate festival, just eat it up, dessert, dallas, foodieThe Dallas Chocolate Festival was everything I thought it would be and more. This year marks the 7th year of the festival. They kicked off the festival on Friday night with a first-ever movie night. They screened the documentary Bean to Bar: A Film About Artisan Chocolate and it was an excellent way to segue into the festival. I considered myself having a better-than-average knowledge of chocolate, but this film proved I was a novice. Let’s just say I was schooled. The film takes you on a journey from the pollination of the cocoa flower to the completion of the final chocolate product. Artisan chocolate has a vernacular of its own. I was introduced to new terms such as conching and winnowing but discovered new associations for other terms. One example being fermentation. Did you know that cocoa beans go through a fermentation process? It is truly an amazing process. Chocolate artisans are passionate about what they do. They are chocolate pioneers in a sense forging into a new era of chocolate changing it for the better. They accomplish their goal through better quality chocolate and better quality relationships with the farmers. It was a treat to listen to the Q&A session with the film’s producer, Bob Ridgely, Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate) and Rob Anderson (Fresco Chocolate). Oh yes, I almost forgot. Did I mention all the sweet and savory treats we got to sample before and after the film? What a great night!fullsizerender_1Bright and early on Saturday morning I headed over to the DCF. I was handed a box for all my goodies, and I opened the door and entered heaven. The room was bustling with over 40 chocolate makers, chocolatiers, candy makers, bakers, and chefs. I took a chocolate tour of the world. I tried it all! I was provided with a chocolate sample checklist. While I meandered about sampling, each vendor would check their name off my list. Very orderly! I love checking off a list…especially if it involves food! img_7517Tickets are sold with a scheduled entrance time. This was an ingenious idea. It allowed for staggered entry rather than a mad rush. I never felt rushed nor did I have to wait too long in any one place. I was able to visit with the different artisans and learn more about their particular specialties. While browsing, sampling and chinwagging the mistress of ceremonies, Madame Cocoa, was conducting interviews with the various vendors which were broadcast on a big screen. Nice touch.

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Freshly dipped sandwich cookies and pretzels from Whole Foods.
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Kate Weiser Chocolate’s sweet potato chocolates.
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Yelibelly’s wonders.
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Matcha chocolates from Fera Wyn’s.

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Wackym’s Kitchen was there with all of their wonderful flavors.

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Chocolate chip cinnamon rolls from RoRo’s Baking Company.

In addition to all the artisans, DCF held workshops on Saturday. I was able to attend two of them. The first was Unlocking Chocolate’s Many Flavors with Roasting and Conching by Rob Anderson of Fresco Chocolate. Rob explained the differences in roasting and conching and how they affect the depth and flavor of chocolate. We were able to taste and compare chocolates with the same percentage of cacao but roasted or conched for different lengths of time.
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The second workshop was Chocolate Coming Attractions with Tessa Halstead (Chocolaterie Tessa), Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate), Ben Rasmussen (Potomac Chocolate), Carla Barboto (Pacari Chocolate) and Pam Eudaric-Amiri (Chocolate Secrets). I learned about the evolution of chocolate and how this craft has evolved and the why they are so passionate about buying from a particular grower with high standards to produce the best chocolate possible.img_7536

I left with a box of yummy goodness. This is what made it home…the rest was eaten.
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What I learned:
Chocolate melts at a temperature of around 93 degrees. The universe designed it to melt in your mouth.
Chocolate is an appetite suppressant.
Dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.
Chocolate prevents tooth decay.
Chocolate was originally consumed in liquid form, not solid.
White chocolate is not white, and it is not chocolate. It is sweetened cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is what gives chocolate its creaminess. Most non-artisanal chocolate makers use wax.
I love people who love food.
I will NOT miss next year’s festival. Head over to Dallas Chocolate and sign up for the chocolate updates, so you don’t either!

A Whole Lot of Love: The Pie Hole in DTLA Arts District

The Romans conceived the first known pie recipe, and it was a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie. Then pies began to appear in the early 12th century, but mostly meat pies. Fruit and sweet pies are thought to be first made in the 1500’s. In fact, the English claim to have served the first cherry pie to Queen Elizabeth I.

Fast forward to the English settlers coming to America. Fruit and sweet pies make their way over. And as you would expect from this melting pot of a country, we took it and decided that pie was an American treat.

I have no business ever being a history teacher.

Today, I’m going to take to take you into one hole you’ll never want to get out of – The Pie Hole in DTLA Arts District!

IMG_1381Whenever my friends from outside of LA are coming to town, The Pie Hole is always at the top of my “must-eat” list for them. Consistency with a brand I love is so important to me, and The Pie Hole nails it every time.

I’m a gigantic fan of their Maple Custard, Earl Grey Tea, and Mexican Hot Chocolate, but for this post, I decided to try other favorites, and a couple of the savory pies as well.

The Pie Hole
714 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013
http://thepieholela.com

IMG_1383Upon this visit, I got to chit-chat with owner Lindsay Hollister. Lindsay runs The Pie Hole with her husband, Matthew Heffner. Their inspiration for opening their shop was inspired by the amazing pies Matthew’s mother, Becky Grasley, baked for them. Right after Lindsay took a bite of her mother-in-law’s apple pie, it inspired her to pursue owning a pie shop.  For a while, it seemed like a pipe dream, until 2010 when they got their first investor.

After lucking out on a Craigslist search for space in DTLA Arts District, they opened in 2011. At that time this area was on the gritty side, but they decided to take a leap of faith on the space. To this day, The Pie Hole is there, and it’s become an LA favorite for myself and many others.

What separates them from many other businesses is that a lot of thought goes into all of the ingredients. They do not compromise on quality, and you can taste it in the pie and their coffee.

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You can’t have a slice without coffee. The Pie Hole offers a light, medium and dark brew. I went with the medium and to quote Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) “A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee!”

IMG_1390The coffee is roasted locally in small batches to keep the quality in check. Lindsay makes sure only to use beans that are fair-trade and organic. She also stressed to me how she only works with certain farms to make sure employees are fairly treated with fair wages. This is why it’s so nice to go outside of a major brand!

Another fun fact about the beans they use is that all three blends can be used as espresso beans, it’s all in how to grind it.

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IMG_1385I started off with two savory pies. I went for the Chicken ‘N Cornbread and the Mac ‘n’ Cheese. The Chicken ‘N Cornbread reminds me of an improved chicken pot pie, which even in LA heat, I will crave. The crust texture is crisp, flakey and buttery and dense in the places you want it to be. There is a brothy chicken gravy with the chicken and bell peppers. So comforting. So delicious.

The Mac ‘N’ Cheese pie is so good; I think it should be featured on the Food Network! This pie is packed with mac ‘n cheese as the filling, and the top crust is dusted with herbed bread crumbs. It may feel silly to eat noodles in your pie, but trust me, it’s worth the treadmill session.

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IMG_1389I cannot believe I hadn’t tried the Salted Caramel Pecan before. It’s without a doubt, the best pecan pie I’ve ever had. The consistency of the filling was perfect, and the flavor is salty and sweet. I did get this one a la mode, and it was just beautiful.

I also ordered the Cereal Killer Cheesecake. This cheesecake had Fruity Pebbles cereal in the filling and topped with Corn Flakes. That cream cheese filling has the perfect amount of sweetness to it. The graham cracker crust is thinner than many cheesecakes I’ve had in the past, but was great. It allows the filling to shine.

The Pie Hole has expanded into three other locations in the Southern California area. Future locations will include the Westside (October 2016), and Lindsay hopes to open in the Valley. She is also expanding the business to Japan. The menu won’t have the exact items, to keep up with what is local and in season. A Matcha Green Tea pie will be an absolute must for them though.

The Pie Hole is bringing the love of pie and coffee to Southern California locals. We’re very excited to see how they grow. I have a feeling the options for expansion are infinite for these pies.

Shanlli at the Sweetery in Toronto

What’s cooler than an ice cream cone on a summer’s day? A ton of sweets, treats AND ice cream! Welcome to the Sweetery Toronto, Toronto’s one and only solely confectionary festival. This festival is their second time around and with the help from the City of Toronto, they hosted a FREE festival out on David Pecaut Square located right next to the Roy Thomson Hall.

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Guests are allowed to interact and take photos with this Sweetery Installation.

With over 25 vendors and food trucks, there was more than enough sweets and treats for the day. The event is held over a two-day period, August 20-21, right in the downtown core.

Treats created by George Brown Pastry Chefs
Treats created by George Brown Pastry Chefs

This year they collaborated with the George Brown College’s Chef School. The sweets and treats created by the Post Graduate Pastry program students were part of their final grade and the profits obtained are used to help elevate their costs for their semester learning in France.

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Left: Crumble Mountain Right: Rainbow Giant – From Cool Beans (https://www.instagram.com/coolbeansto/)

We got to sample multiple different treats from coffee based creations to artisan marshmallows, to matcha everything! Cool Beans has a refreshing new take on the cold brew.

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Left to Right: raspberry lemonade crush, pina colada paradise, sassy sangria, merry mojito – From I LOVE PUFFY LOVE (http://www.ilovepuffylove.com; https://www.instagram.com/ilovepuffylove/)

Want fancy and unique marshmallows? Well, I LOVE PUFFY LOVE have you covered with these crazy creations; I loved the pina colada paradise!

 

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Matcha Chiffon Cake & Matcha Soft Serve – From Matcha Tea & Desserts (http://www.matchateadessert.ca; https://www.instagram.com/matchateadessert/)

One of this summer’s craze in Toronto is Matcha everything. Matcha Tea & Desserts provide matcha soft serve that tastes very matcha like and their cake is just so light and match filled!

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Clockwise: Asian themed animal macarons (Maple Lap Chong, Duck Egg Custard, Rare Tofu cheesecake), matcha chestnut cake (the same cake that Veronica created on the show!), HK milk tea crepe cake, matcha rare cheesecake

As a wonderful bonus, we got an opportunity to try some goodies created by Masterchef Canada Season 2 Top 5, Christopher Siu, Masterchef Canada Season 3 Finalist, Ernie Chow, and Masterchef Canada Season 3 Top 4, Veronica Cham. Christopher Siu also sells custom cakes and treats through his company, Daan Go.

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A wide variety of cookies from red velvet, to fudge, to pistachio! – From Golden Crumb Biscuit (http://goldencrumbbiscuit.com/, https://www.instagram.com/goldencrumbbiscuit/)

Oh, and of course, we cannot forget the simple treats in life, cookies, and pies. The pistachio cookie from Golden Crumb Bakery (along with others) was super soft and delicious!

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Italian waffle cookie with gelato – From Carla’s Cookie Bar (http://www.carlacookiebox.com/, https://www.instagram.com/carlacookiebox/)

While the fresh cookie and gelato from Carla’s Cookie Box were perfect during that hot weekend

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Butter pecan pie – From Andrea’s Bakery (http://andreasbakery635.com/, https://www.instagram.com/andreasbakery/)

Now, we cannot forget the tarts and pies from Andrea’s Bakery.  The pies had the perfect balance of sweet and flaky.

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Pictured is a guest partaking in an activity. These are activity tents where guests compete for sweet rewards while donating money to Second Harvest.

Once you’ve had your share of sweet treats, guests are welcome to compete in their various activity tents. Guests play to win prizes with their payment for the activity donated to Second Harvest, “the largest food rescue program in Canada.” Not only do guests benefit from the prizes and fun but they are also giving back to the community.

There were a lot more other vendors that I was not able to capture, but this is just the beginning for Sweetery Toronto. Be sure to follow them to stay up to date for their next event in 2017!

Instagram: @sweeterytoronto Facebook: Sweetery Toronto Websitehttp://www.sweeterytoronto.com/ Hashtag: #SweeteryToronto

Dallas Chocolate Festival 2016 Media Preview Night

Dallas Chocolate Festival
Addison Conference Centre
15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001
http://dallaschocolate.org/dallas-chocolate-festival-saturday-event-2016/

dallas chocolate festivalMark your calendars because you are not going to want to miss this. Saturday, September 10 is the main event of the Dallas Chocolate Festival. The festival includes over 30 chocolate makers, chocolatiers and other masters of confection. Don’t just stop there. This year they are kicking off the festival with a movie night. They will be showing Bean to Bar: A Film About Artisan Chocolate. After the screening, there will be a Q & A session with the producer and stars of the film. Why not make it a home run and gets your hands sticky in some chocolate-making classes. Oh yes, you know you want to. You would be a fool not to!

I was lucky enough to attend The Dallas Chocolate Festival’s media preview night at Whole Foods Wednesday night. I was able to meet some wonderful chocolatiers and treat-makers and sink my teeth into some out-of-this-world goodies.

jalapeno, chocolate, dr. sue's, dallas chocolate festivalMy first stop was Dr. Sue’s Chocolate. Get this. Dr. Sue is a REAL doctor! Yep, you read it right. The real deal. In her fight against obesity, Dr. Sue has funneled her talents into making chocolates that taste great and have healthy benefits. Now that’s a prescription I would refill. I sampled the Rosemary Olive Oil Meltaway made with locally-sourced olive oil from the Grapevine Olive Oil Company. The layers of flavors are subtle but unmistakeable. It was a tasty bite. Next up was the Texas Mendiant. Think of it as a meltaway with treasures! This dark chocolate is topped with candied jalapeño peppers, pecans, applewood smoked sea salt and coriander. I swear Texans can figure out a way to put a  jalapeño in anything! And this bite is the perfect place for one. Not only was it crazy good…it is good for you.
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Next up was Isabelly’s Chocolates and Sweet Treats. Isabelle Albert uses chocolate as a medium to creatively express herself. I sampled her Turtle Bar. Composed of a creamy filling of caramel in between two layers of chocolate with pecans. There is an excellent ratio of chocolate to caramel. Then I spied what appeared to be a chocolate covered pepper. Could it be? Were my eyes deceiving me? There it was in all its glory: Chile de Arbol dipped in chocolate. Not a piece, not a slice, but an entire chile. It was sweet, smooth, chewy with a bite. Nice job!chile de arbol, isabelly's, dallas chocolate festival

praline bar, chocolate, dallas chocolate festivalEileen’s Pralines was up next. These are not the traditional pralines. I like a traditional praline, but these babies are substantial in size and taste. One bite and you can taste the 30 years of experience in them. I sampled both the chocolate and the coffee praline bars. I would describe the bars as graham crackers with all the praline ingredients drizzled and layered on top. They were scrumptious, but the coffee was awesome.  The coffee beans were toned down with the brown sugar, pecans, and butter. Oh, that butter. You can taste it in every bite. Real butter. The only thing I needed was a cup of ice cold milk.

Next up on the menu was Wackym’s Kitchen. Since 2008, Wackym’s has been mixing and baking up some not so ordinary cookies, but on tonight’s menu was the seasonal Hatch Chocolate Chip. Tis’ the season for some chiles! Flavored with a combination of red and green Hatch chiles in this chocolate chip cookie, the heat of the chiles subtly hides behind the sweetness of the chocolate which segues into a nice kick of heat. Wow is all I can say.hatch chile, chocolate chip, cookie, wackym's, dallas chocolate festival, whole foods IMG_7131

As I moved along on in my chocolate journey, I met a dietician, a belly dancer, and chocolatier, yes all in one. Yelibellly‘s artisan chocolates are works of art but not for long. They are too good. I tried the habanero chile infused bon-bon. Yeli takes the time to use an immersion blender to ensure the pepper is smooth and creamy. This creaminess solidifies the union of sweet and heat. Decadent and lovely. habanero, yelibelly, chocolate, dallas chocolate festivalIMG_7118

pot de creme. haute sweets , chocolate, dallas chocolate festivalLast but not least was Haute Sweets Patisserie and their pot de creme. Chef Gianni Santin’s live demo was informative and fun. The pot de creme was the best way to end the night. I was light and dreamy.

Aren’t you hungry now? Have a craving for chocolate? You can have all these sweet treats and many, many more at the Dallas Chocolate Festival 2016, September 9-11 at the Addison Convention Centre. I am going to sweeten the deal a little more! Use promo code “chocolategirl” for $5 off either Friday’s movie night or Saturday’s festival night. Buy your tickets here. See you there. I better start fasting!

Capizzi in Staten Island, NY: Fantastic Italian Fare

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Capizzi
4126 Hyland Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10308
http://capizzipizza.com

This week we were lucky enough to be invited to a tasting at Capizzi, a stylish and charming Italian Restaurant located in Staten Island, New York. Upon our arrival, our gracious host, Stephanie, met us and took excellent care of us during our visit. The entryway to the restaurant boasts an extensive wine bar, brick oven, as well as an authentic deli counter with fresh cheese and meats on display.

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imageTo wet our palettes, we each started off with a refreshing glass of Peach sangria. For our first antipasto, Stephanie arranged a beautiful plate of meats, cheeses, olives, walnuts, grapes, and honey. This combination of savory and sweet was the perfect introduction to what Capizzi has to offer.

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Our next dish was pleasing to both the eye and the palette, topped with a gorgeous decorative flower. The Insalata di Granchio consists of fresh crabmeat, cucumbers, with long, crispy croutons in a spicy aioli. The crab meat was tender and smothered in a generous helping of aioli sauce. The crunch of the croutons also added a nice variation in texture.

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The first of four pasta dishes was the Ravioli all’Astice; homemade half-moon ravioli filled with fresh lobster meat, mascarpone, ricotta, and parmesan in a pink champagne sauce. The pink champagne sauce was the perfect complement to the lobster, and easily became Christie’s favorite.

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What would a true Italian dinner be without a plate of gnocchi? The Gnocchi Sorrentino, handmade gnocchi baked with tomato sauce and cheese, topped with parmesan, was creamy, velvety, and cooked to perfection.

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This beauty right here is the Pasta Burrata baked casarecce with truffle oil, cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, and bread crumbs. The burrata melts in your mouth and almost had Jess in tears of joy, which is a pretty solid indication that this dish is a must-have.

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For all the seafood lovers, we highly recommend the Risotto di Mare; pan roasted shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari tossed over seafood risotto. The freshness of the seafood and the bold flavors of the sauce are tough to beat.

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At the last minute, we sprang for the Sweet and Spicy Calamari; fried calamari sautéed with pignoli nuts, raisins, and hot cherry peppers in a sweet and spicy sauce. The calamari has a great texture, and the sweet and spicy sauce is both tangy and delicious.

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With the buttons of our pants ready to pop off, it’s only right that we ordered two desserts. First up was the Tiramisu, the classic Italian dessert made up of soft, spongy lady fingers soaked in coffee. This rendition is light and airy; what we imagine what it would feel like to be eating a cloud. The coffee taste shines through impeccably.

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The final dish in our epic tasting was the Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée. We loved this unexpected twist on the traditional dessert. The top layer of the crème brûlée is crisp, similar to toffee, dusted with a layer of powdered sugar. The peanut butter flavor is subtle, yet smooth, and the strawberries add a delightful sweetness to it.

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Before parting ways with Capizzi, our latest gem of a find, we had to sample the white and red sangrias for good measure. With a hint of sweetness in each, the sangrias worked to refresh without overwhelming.

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It is evident in the service, preparation, ingredients, and presentation that Capizzi operates with the utmost passion and pride. What began within owner Joe Calcagno’s family has been extended to bring high-quality Italian cuisine to Manhattan and Staten Island. To rightfully express our feelings towards this establishment, we honor Capizzi with our newest, rarest rating: The Fatboi’s Seal of Approval. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, we highly recommend you pop in for a visit and cross it off of your Food Bucket List! Special thank you to Joe and Stephanie for having us, until next time!

C & J

http://capizzipizza.com/

Guilt Free Snacks: Perfect for our Gluten-Free Friends!

Guilt Free Snacks is a New York City based company which has thoughtfully created a line of snacks that are not only gluten-free, but are all natural. In addition, they pride themselves on having less fat, sodium and sugar than other gluten free snacks image1 (23)available. I recently had the opportunity to try many of the snacks Guilt Free has to offer and I was impressed by both the taste and quality of the products.

Guilt Free Snacks offers cookies, brownies, trail mix and granola to go. The cookies currently come in two flavors – chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. When snacking on the cookies, I found the flavor to be impeccable and the texture to be much more “cookie-like” than so many gluten free cookies I’ve tried. The base of the oatmeal raisin cookie is oats and rice flour. The cookie was moist and crumbled just a bit which was fantastic! The chocolate chip cookie was a bit lighter to eat, and the chocolate chips were spread out perfectly throughout the cookie adding a little extra sweetness which made it the perfect companion to a glass of coconut milk.

When I was on the go, I turned to Guilt Free Snacks Granola to Go and Trail Mix bar. The trail mix bar proved to be the perfect snack to pack for a small Los Angeles hike. The bar contains oats, raisins, crispy rice, chia and pumpkin seeds. The bar is seasoned with very natural undertones of cinnamon and vanilla. The bar is satisfying and kept my energy up on the second part of my hike.

The granola from Guilt Free comes in a small resealable pouch which mimage1 (24)ade it handy for a snack I didn’t have to eat all at once. I found that I preferred to eat the granola little bits at a time. The blend of oats, coconut flakes, raisins, crispy rice, cranberries and pumpkin seeds is perfect to snack on throughout the day.

My favorite of all the Guilt Free Snacks I tried was the chocolate brownie. The brownie square was soft and chewy. The chocolate flavor was perfect and I discovered the aftertaste was a chocolate/vanilla mixture I’d never had from a brownie before. It was surprising that this brownie was not only gluten free but also guilt free – it will definitely become a regular sweet treat for me!

Guilt Free Snacks is an incredible option for those seeking gluten free or more healthy approaches to snacking. The products can be found around NYC but also ordered online.

The 2016 (Dessert) Olympics (LA)

I just returned from the self-proclaimed LA Dessert Olympics and like any good Olympian, these restaurants have trained hard. They have practiced their skills, made the recipe stick and perfected their form. I came prepared with a list of competitors. The torch is lit. Let the games begin. (Cue Olympic theme music.)

Bronze Medal: Coconut Meltaway

Malibu Kitchen and Gourmet Country Market
3900 Cross Creek Road, Suite 3, Malibu, CA 90265

malibu, california, dessert, foodie, coconut bar

The Coconut Meltaway was blissful. I like a lot of bang for my buck and this thing was huge – I swear it weighed a pound. Obviously home-made, its flavors covered every taste bud on my tongue. The bottom layer was the old school graham cracker and butter crust like your grandmother made. On top of that was ooey gooey condensed milk. Then came the good stuff. It was loaded with pecans, chocolate AND butterscotch chips and coconut shavings. I was able to get a chewy corner piece which made it even better.  malibu, california, coconut meltaway, foodie, dessert, homemade

Silver Medal: Blackberry Pavlova
Huckleberry Cafe
1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 9401
http://www.huckleberrycafe.com/

santa monica, california, huckleberry cafe

Ever had a pavlova? Well, you need to. Soon. The Blackberry Pavlova was light and lovely. It was composed of a delicate meringue shell made from egg whites and sugar and then baked until firm. Inside this cup of goodness was a smooth, perfectly tart lemon cream. I loved that they cut the blackberries in half. It made for a perfect ratio of tart to sweet. blackberry, pavlova, huckleberry cafe, santa monica, california, dessert, foodie

Gold Medal: Paradise Pavlova
Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel
9641 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90210
https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/restaurant-bars/the-polo-lounge/

beverly hills hotel, beverly hills, polo lounge, nomad, foodie, los angeles, california

The Paradise Pavlova was hands down, bar none the BEST dessert I have EVER put in my mouth. So, track with me here. This was NOT your run-of-the-mill pavlova. This was like the Mona Lisa of pavlovas. Here is where it gets a bit hard to describe. The ingredients differ a bit from the menu description and the waiters were unable to (or wouldn’t) explain it to me. The pavlova was deconstructed. Rather than one large meringue piece; it was small pieces assembled around a softer meringue center. In the center of the of soft meringue were smashed bananas. All this was on a smear of mango passion with a side of lime sherbet. Okay, stop right here and mull that over. I’ll wait….. Okay, when you think about each taste individually it doesn’t work: the bananas are too sweet and soft, the pavlova too light and muted, the mango too fruity and the lime sherbet too sour. BUT together it is indulgent and decadent in the best possible way. See what I mean? No wonder the waiters wouldn’t give me any details. They would probably suffer severe consequences. It was that good. When I order it again I will not share it. lime sorbet, mango, pavlova, banana financier, beverly hills hotel, beverly hills, los angeles, california

Honestly, I did not have a bad meal in L.A. Well, except I didn’t like the kidney beans in the halo halo. Who does that? Sorry, I digress. I covered a lot of territory in the few days I visited. I ate in great places with great people and saw great things. Add these to your “bites to try ” list. I can’t wait for my next trip!

 

The Harry Potter Bridal Shower of Every Witch’s Dreams

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. My family members are big Harry Potter fans. My cousin, who is getting married this year, is a big Harry Potter fan – so much so that she got her fiancé into Harry Potter as well. Christmas is always so easy – harry potter gifts ideas – done. So naturally, when it came time to throw her a bridal shower, we had to make it Harry Potter themed! However, there’s a fine line between making it kiddish and/or Halloween-ish, so we needed to age and class up Harry Potter. That was an interesting task. After weeks of internet research, e-mail chains, and WhatsApp chats, we somehow got it all together! If you are a fan of Harry Potter but don’t have a bridal party to plan, then you might be interested in checking out something like this Harry Potter Airbnb. This could be a nice way to spend your weekend if you want to get away for a bit. However, if you do have a bridal party to plan for then keep on reading. Don’t forget that you need to make sure that the bride has everything else sorted before her big day. The bridal party is something that suould happen once she’s found the perfect location, the perfect dress. If you are struggling to find the perfect dress then it might be worthwhile checking out this Winnie Couture Atlanta location. Once everything is sorted, then you can plan the bridal party and give the bride something to look forward to and enjoy!

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The bride mentioned that she wanted long tables – like those rustic, communal long tables where everyone sits and has a meal. She also wanted it outside. While their backyard would’ve made an amazing Forbidden Forest, we out here in 100+ degree Fresno heat, so no one was about to do to that (heh). Instead, we brought the tables inside to recreate a smaller Great Hall and had four total – one for each house! Most of the things we purchased – either on sale at Michael’s or at the dollar store – but the tables, chairs, napkins, and water goblets were rented.

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The chocolate frogs resting on top of each table setting were completely homemade! These were part of our favors for our guests. My sister and I (she did a lot of the work to be honest) configured a template for our Cricut, which cut them all out, but then we had to sit there and fold every single box (as did the rest of the planning squad). So many little tabs to glue and tape in! I found a template for a chocolate frog card that matched the ones you can buy at the park, and inserted the bride onto it. I also wrote a fun little bio on the back, which combined attributes of her favorite characters! For the actual frog, I simply purchased a frog mold from Amazon, bought Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Milk Chocolate, melted them down into the mold and cooled them. It’s so simple to make – and they tasted incredible.

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Onto everyone’s favorite part: the food. We divided the Great Hall into two separate sections. You saw the first part, with the Great Hall tables. This is the actual Great Hall feast, which greeted our guests right when they entered! The dining room had a ton of space for our plentiful spread and a great chandelier, too. The “Muggle to Mrs.” burlap banner was purchased on Etsy.

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Since it was lunch time, we wanted to keep our food light and easy for our guests. Most of our food was homemade, with the exception of the salads (though that awesome kale salad was a mix we had to put together!). We had deviled “dragon” eggs, and two types of tea sandwiches (cucumber/mint and chicken salad). Each of our menu items had a fun Harry Potter related name too – such as Severus Snape’s Shepherd’s Pie!

IMG_2707 What’s British food without shepherd’s pie? We had to class it up, of course. One of our friends made a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with the biscuit, the filling, and sauce one on top of the other. Oh, and rosemary for garnish, because we’re just fancy like that.

The hand pies – better known as Cornish Pasties in the U.K. – were my specialty. After we all had them at 3the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, we knew we had to serve them at the bridal shower. We made a mushroom-spinach-feta one for our vegetarian guests and a jerk chicken flavor. Pasties are incredibly easy – all you need it pie dough, cut them into circles, fill them with your ingredients of choice, and bake them! The possibility are endless – both sweet and savory. Our drinks (besides Gillywater, a.k.a. regular, refreshing H2O) were Amortentia (pink lemonade) and – you guessed it – Butterbeer! I have made other recipes in the past, but the foam still was not to my liking after having multiple drinks at the parks. I think our mix of heavy cream and marshmallow cream on top of good quality cream soda was the best imitation yet! Our guests could choose whichever they liked and sip on them in mason jars with little house flags.

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I know, you were wondering where the dessert was. Don’t worry, I gotchu. We all enjoy sweets (probably the bride’s fiancé the most – but he was, unfortunately, not in attendance), and our bride liked the idea of a dessert bar instead of a cake. And so, we fulfilled that request. We set up our Honeydukes in the breakfast nook of the kitchen, conveniently located next to the Great Hall tables. There was something for everyone – from cupcakes to cookies to butterscotch pudding!

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These gorgeous cookies deserved a picture on their own! Fresno bake, Gracie Bakes, did a brilliant job of executing our requests. After perusing through everyone’s party planner, Pinterest, we simply had too many ideas for cookies! The top were Weasley sweaters, with the bride and groom’s first initials, respectively. They’re both Ravenclaws, so they should’ve been blue, but I guess the purple and gold works alright since they’re from Southern California, heh. We also wanted the sorting hat and broomsticks, which were so cute! The bottom left cookies said “She’s Found a Catch” and “He’s Found a Keeper,” which are Quidditch related! And then there are Amortentia love potions next to it. They were honestly too cute to eat. Even if I did take one of each, later on. >:)

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You didn’t think I forgot about the cupcakes, did you? They deserved a giant picture on their own, too. Fresno baker Bell Kitchen did an AMAZING job on these! We requested house scarves, house crests,and Platform 9 ¾ signs. She totally delivered. And to my surprise, there were several different flavors! There was vanilla funfetti, red velvet, chocolate, and lemon raspberry. Each of them had a delicious filling as well. Again, these were so pretty that it was almost difficult to eat. Almost. They were amazingly delicious.

CIMG1749One of our games was for guests to try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and guess the flavor. Well, I purchased the beans, so I got a little mean and made almost all of them the ugly flavors! There was earwax, dirt, Tobasco, and rotten egg, among the flavors. When I was explaining to the employees at the Bertie Bott’s store in Gilroy what our plan was, they got a kick out of it. It was priceless watching everyone’s disgusted reactions and the answers afterwards! CIMG1755

Is it even a party without a photobooth? We had a simple background with glasses, snitches, and thunderbolts. We purchased a set of photobooth props from Etsy that were bridal shower and Harry potter themed. But, I also had a bunch of Harry Potter stuff lying around my house, so we had real wands, scarves, and glasses that our guests could wear. I also brought Ron’s Weasley sweater that was incorporated into our decor.

Overall, our guests had a brilliant time at the shower! From the decor to the food to our party games, everyone was in awe of the attention of detail. Most of all, our bride to be was in love with the bridal shower! She couldn’t get enough of all of the decor and our favors. 🙂 I think we can call this a success! Mischief managed, indeed.

Stuffed, Sweet or Savory: Beverly Hills Beignets

It wasn’t too often, but I remember my mom frying up beignets for me, or as I liked to call them, “snowy mountains.” Ah, beignets. I would never dare try to recreate that magic in my kitchen. I figured I’d either fly her down to make them for me, or I’d have to hop on a plane to New Orleans to experience them ever again.

Fast forward to today: Among the high-end shopping on Santa Monica Blvd. is the recently opened Beverly Hills Beignet. This huggable, French-inspired, café has the traditional beignets and some unexpected flavors as well. I’m so happy to save money on flights!

Beverly Hills Beignets
9527 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
http://bhbeignets.com

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Front: The Parisian Back: The Country Life

IMG_0735I started out with The Parisian, a beignet stuffed with smoked ham, gruyere cheese, and a tangy Dijon vinaigrette dipping sauce. The melted cheese is gooey in the center, as it should be and these savory beignets remind me more of a fritter since they are so packed. This beignet is certainly a different take on the beignet for me since I have never had it stuffed.

 

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Then I moved onto The Country Life, two pieces of beignet filled with maple-glazed bacon that comes with a maple bourbon dipping sauce. I do love being able to taste that bourbon in the sauce, the maple doesn’t overwhelm the flavor. Out of the savories, I’d say this was my top pick!

I also love that the savory beignets are more of a “grab and go”. You won’t have to worry about powders and sugars all over your fingers.

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Clockwise: The Sour Patch, The Bittersweet, and The Traditional

I knew for sure I’d want to try the sweets as well. For the sweet, I recommend trying The Mix & Match, to get all different versions on a dessert beignet. I got The Traditional (powdered sugar) and The Bittersweet (crunchy sugar with a chocolate ganache dipping sauce).

My absolute favorite was my 3rd sweet beignet, The Sour Patch, a beignet rolled in a tart sugar with a lemon curd dipping sauce. The Sour Patch beignet is already tart, but that lemon curd sauce adds an extra pucker. If you like Lemonheads or Sour Patch Kids, I’m sure that will be your favorite beignet.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing paparazzi shots of celebrities with beignets soon enough since these flavors are so yummy and shopping friendly. They also told me that they have a secret menu that varies daily, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you should try it out.

Taking a Class with Verlocal: Revenge Pies in San Francisco

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Revenge Pies, could you think of a more spectacular name.

I was introduced to the owner/creator/baker extraordinaire, Elizabeth Simon after Verlocal invited me to take a local class.

Verlocal is this incredible website that connects you to people and classes in your area. They have classes all over the country like San Francisco, Miami, Boston and much more. The classes also range from food and drink making to language, to arts and crafts. For me, a social anxious human being, I wouldn’t call a community center to find classes. Verlocal offers a fast, easy way to look for something you’re interested in. Plus, it tells you how many may be in your class. The pie baking class had a range of 1-4 people, and I ended up being the only one, but it is good to know in advance what kind of attention you’ll be receiving in the class.

On to Revenge Pies creator herself, Elizabeth. A quick summary is that she is one talented, funny, incredible lady. She’s a Rock N’ Roll promoter turned self-taught pie goddess. She currently resides at The Residence Bar in San Francisco which in itself fits her so perfectly. It’s the coolest Victorian style bar with this old-world feel. Bonus: at 4:00 pm on Sundays they have Karaoke!

Elizabeth bakes in their commercial kitchen, but also creates some savory small plate dishes as well. Do you want some of her pies? Well, she does have a website from which you can order a pie, but she also serves different monthly/seasonal pies at the bar as well. (I had her blueberry tart and her smore’s tart. YUM!)

So… why Revenge Pies? Well, as the story goes she baked a pie for a boy she liked. However, something happened to the point where he never received the pie he didn’t show up or left her hanging, and so she ended up eating half the pie herself. Well, she had extra pie dough, so she made a small one, cut out a middle finger from the dough and baked it on top. Elizabeth then delivered it to the door stop of said boy. What could be better than giving someone something so delicious that they will never enjoy again? Elizabeth is a girl after my own heart!

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The class itself was phenomenal. I had this entire kitchen space to myself, all the ingredients lined up for me and a great instructor to help guide me through the steps.

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I made an apple pie with a vodka infused crust and a key lime tart. Both of which were scrumptious, if I do say so myself.
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The cool thing about this class is that you made these incredible pies, but maybe you want to save it and share with your family when you get home. Don’t fear; Elizabeth has this covered. With the two big pies, we made we also made mini versions that we enjoyed immediately afterwards.
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(Look at the cute little baby pie!)

What did I enjoy most about the whole experience? Could it be the quick, easy way to find classes? Could it have been because it was only a hop, skip, and jump from where I lived? Could it be the overall learning experience? Or maybe, just maybe, the awesome delicious pie I got to take home?
It was all of these things equally that created an experience I’ll never forget and plus I now know where I’m going to grab all my pies from here on out.

As Verlocal says, “Every moment counts, pick your city and find new experiences close to you”!

XOXO