Girls on Food

Event

SIP Awards at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach

DSC05193

 

 

This past weekend I attended the SIP Awards at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. Now in their 8th-year SIP is the largest consumer based spirit (read booze not high school enthusiasm) competition. Over 400, different brands from around the world are entered, and customers taste and judge them in 7 rounds of 5 (or in the case of my table we had an eighth round of 1). Everyone is encouraged to practice restraint when deciding whether or not to drink each entire sample and to get a cab if needed. I believe the event was also offering cab vouchers if needed. However, I decided to go the responsible route as I knew drinking all that alcohol would have killed my taste buds long before the last round.

 

 

DSC05154
Table 3, my spot for the day!

The Hyatt Regency was a beautiful setting for an afternoon tasting; we were in a covered outdoor setting with warm sun and a light breeze.  Light food was served throughout the event; favorites included some tasty bacon wrapped dates and caramelized onion flatbread. Music was provided by DJ Mike Soltani who did a fantastic job mixing a variety of music to keep the day fun!

DSC05191

My table tasted vodkas, one cachaca, one aquavit, and reposado tequilas but every spirit possible was represented at the event. The tasting is blind so participants should be sure to check in later to see what their favorites were. Tasting is based on an A-F scale based on Aroma, Taste, and Finish. We were given a tutorial on proper tasting technique using the NEAT tasting glasses that were provided. NEAT glasses are the official glass of the SIP awards and give you a fantastic nose (or aroma) before even sipping at the alcohol it contains. Some tables even tasted cocktail mixers and mixes as well as spirits.

DSC05173
Careful tasting and grading in progress!

If you’re able to attend next year I highly recommend it! The SIP Awards are held in a beautiful setting with lots of fantastic tastings and small bites, I enjoyed getting to know my table mates, and even came home with a bottle of tequila!DSC05197

Wine & Brew at the Sacramento Zoo 2016

Wine + Brew + Sacramento Zoo = Trifecta of Sacramento FUN!

SacZoo Wine & Brew - giraffe

It’s no small feat to keep this family friendly, animal loving haven open year round. So the Zoo came up with a fabulous idea for a fundraiser, which benefits the animal care and general maintenance of our beloved, local Sacramento Zoo.

Sacramento Zoo
3930 W Land Park Dr, Sacramento, CA 95822
http://www.saczoo.org

Wine And Brew Sac ZooI don’t think the Zoo gets old at any age. But adding adult libations to the mix makes it that much more enticing for those of the adult beverage drinking age. Add in the fact that it is also a fundraiser for said Zoo and you really can’t lose or not attend such an awesome event.

Can we please talk about the line-up real quick? For the early bird price of $45 or the normal, not early person price of $55 you have access to the following:

WineriesBogle Vineyards / Carvalho Family Winery / Helwig Winery / Matchbook Wine Company / McConnell Estates Winery / Mount Aukum Winery / Muddy Boot Wines / Renwood Winery / Sentivo Vineyards and Winery / Shenandoah Vineyards / Sobon Estate / Terra d’Oro Winery / Three Wine Company
Turkovich Family Wines / Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery

IMG_5995Breweries – Bike Dog Brewing Company / Device Brewing Company / Firestone Walker Brewing Co. / Great Basin Brewing Company / Hoppy Brewing Company / Knee Deep Brewing Co. / Lagunitas Brewing Company
Lost Coast Brewery / Napa Smith Brewery / Mendocino Brewing Company / New Helvetia Brewing Co. / Oak Park Brewing Company / Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Sudwerk Brewing Co. / Track 7 Brewing Co. / Two Rivers Cider Company / Yolo Brewing Company

If you are a Zoo member, you also had a slight discount for the early bird price. They didn’t forget about the Designated Drivers either, their cost was only $15 for a fun event, sans the booze.  They had a handful of Coca-Cola options to choose from for everyone, not just the DD’s. They also brought in food trucks to help balance out all the delicious beverages, all of whom donated
10% of their sales to the Zoo.

Sacramento Food Trucks – Drewski’s / La Mex Taqueria / GyroStop / The Sweet Spot

soalsbury steakNothing makes me happier than to see a huge line at an event, especially a fundraiser. Thanks to the Zoo for letting Girls on Food giveaway two tickets to this event. Our girl Rebecca had a great time at the event too. Sadly, I didn’t get to run into her, but from her IG post I know she had as much fun as I did.

As we were dropped off in our faux-Uber, really my little sister, we noticed the crazy long line. Thankfully we hopped into the Will Call line, then breezed in right away. From the moment, we walked into the Zoo all of the staff and volunteers were very kind and helpful.

Wine GlassesThe Zoo should think about selling libations more often, like every day they are open. 😉 As we handed our tickets to the volunteers they directed us to our wine glass pick-up, which was a few short steps away. The lovely volunteers gave us our glasses and then we were off to booze it up. Born and raised in Sac, I know this Zoo fairly well; essentially it is one large loop. Tossing caution and map to the wind, we decided to go toward the Tiger, where plenty of vendors were set up. We had perused the silent auction before we started tasting the adult beverages.

IMG_5990Thankfully the Zoo has so many fun photo ops, really for the kids, but when there aren’t any children, you just do it! There wasn’t one booth we didn’t try. And I can honestly say, every single vendor was sweet, poured generously, and didn’t mind chatting up everyone in line. Seriously, you’d think they were getting paid to hand out gratis drinks. Everyone was in a great mood, and it was a great vibe in the Zoo that night.

Going to the Zoo as a child is full of wanderlust, but add alcohol and it’s adult wanderlust. Admiring the giraffes while sipping on wine was something I’m not sure I’d ever thought I’d do. It was almost as if they knew everyone was enjoying them. Three of them lined up and started galloping together, running if you will. One even stood there, picture perfect for us to snap a pic. The other was just enjoying his dinner.

After a few too many tastes, we decided to grab some food. They grouped the food trucks in two’s. The GryoStop was the closest to us, so we went after it. Greek food is fantastic, so we had no qualms with our option. The other two were on the other side of the Zoo, but we would have been happy with those options too – American or Mexican. J and I decided to split an order of the Loaded Fries and a Beef/Lamb Gyro; it was the best decision we made that day. I’ve never tried this truck, but I’d certainly hunt it out in Sacramento after trying it. The Loaded Fries were amazing, who thought of combining tzatziki sauce with nacho cheese and topping it with feta is a pure culinary genius. No pretentious foodie here, just a girl who loves anything with a burst of flavor. After we had devoured these two delectable Greek goodies, we sent off to tackle the other side of the Zoo.

 IMG_5983 IMG_6008

IMG_6002I can’t even lie; I was stoked to head into the Reptile House with my wine glass. I already love the reptile house, but enjoying a beverage in there was even more exciting for some odd reason. Everyone attending the event was having a great time. We met new friends in there and burst through the doors laughing as we left. We then found the other two food trucks, but the lines were pretty long, and we wanted to try more wine and brew, so we skipped them for more booze. This area is already a picnic area, so it was a great setting for hanging out, eating, and relaxing if you were tired. They were playing music, and it was a great vibe.

We got back on the Zoo ‘loop’ to continue our tasting. The mixture of beer to wine options seemed spaced out well. It also helped that they had plenty of ‘Coca Cola stations’ with bottled water and soda. The bottled water was helpful to rinse out your glass, especially from the beer to wine transition or vice versa. I’m sure the DD population enjoyed those booths as well. Zinfandel was a common denominator with all the wineries here. Seeing as how many of these are local wineries, Zin is their specialty. I think almost every table had a Zin to pour; it isn’t my favorite, but I’m starting to more and more these days.  IMG_5996

The two and a half hours went by so quickly. Even though it was just J and myself, we had a great time. The staff and the attendees made it a great environment. It was worth the ticket cost and I’d encourage everyone to attend next year; you get your monies worth of booze, fun, and animals…all while donating to a great, local cause. If I could suggest one thing, I’d ask them to add two more food trucks. With all that booze flowing, we all were hungry; the lines proved it.

A shout out to the animals for letting us get wild and crazy in their hood for an evening!

IMG_5997

3rd Generation Sake Bar in DTLA

This Westsider loves any excuse to go to DTLA. I love the buildings, the hustle and that irrationally accomplished feeling I get when I find street parking. So when I heard our buddy @dtla_everyday was hosting a lunch at 3rd Generation Sake Bar, I RSVP-ed ASAP.

3rd Generation Sake Bar 
808 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017
http://3rdgenerationusa.com

3rd gen sign3rd Generation Sake Bar has been open over a year now and has gotten the Financial District locals sippin’ on sake and slurpin’ their fantastic noodles. The atmosphere here is casual and calming, hip but not pretentious. This lunch crowd was made up of some of the top Instagrammers in LA, whether they focus on Los Angeles itself, photography or, (of course) food. I had the pleasure of finally meeting @misoo_hungry, who’s as adorable in person as she is in her selfies.

3rd gen martini

I started with a Lychee Shochu Martini. I can never resist a cocktail with Lychee. It brings me right back to my childhood. The Lychee, not the cocktail. They didn’t skip on the serving of this martini, which is always a plus in my book. For those of you who don’t know shochu, it’s similar to sake, but it’s distilled instead of brewed, so it’s kind of like the vodka of Japan. The Shochu used was one of those “so smooth, you can’t taste it” types.

3rd gen rolls

Then I got the Salmon Avocado Hand Roll & Baked Crab Hand Rolls; they were both so fresh and so yummy. I was excited to see a roll with soy wrapping (the white one) since it’s not very common.

3rd gen tuna

Normally the Spicy Tuna Burger is only available on their happy hour menu, but we lucked out and got to try it today. The bun is actually crispy fried rice that holds the ample portion of spicy tuna and avocado together. Don’t let that picture fool you, it was a burger cut in half, so my image is only half the portion. It’s a surprisingly big for a happy hour treat, so I know where I’m going the next time it’s 5 o’clock.

3rd gen ramen

My main entree was the Spicy Miso Tonkosu Ramen. I’m very thankful the chili paste is put on the side so you can adjust how much heat you take. I’m kind of a wuss, so I opted for a smidgen. Although the tonkotsu, soft-boiled egg, and veggies were on point, I felt like the real star of the dish were the noodles. They were the yellow curly kinds, opposed to the straight white noodles commonly found in LA ramen houses. So if you want to expand upon your everyday ramen house, you should start here.

 

Oodles of noodles!
Oodles of noodles!

3rd gen ice cream

I loved the Black Sesame Ice Cream I had for dessert. 2 scoops of creamy, dreamy, nuttiness. The perfect way to end lunch.

Special thanks to Robby of @dtla_everyday for inviting me to lunch and be sure to follow them on IG!

3rd Generation Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stephanie D. & Dawn Take on the Dallas Observer Iron Fork Challenge 2016

Dallas Observer Iron Fork 2016
Centennial Hall at Fair Park, 1001 Washington St., Dallas, TX 75210
http://microapp.dallasobserver.com/ironfork/2016/index.php

dawn and stephDawn: Fellow GOF Stephanie D. and I took part in the Dallas Observer Iron Fork tasting event Wednesday night. We were able to sample a TON of food. I mean a TON. I am still full. The venue was packed with local restaurants and wine, beer and cocktail vendors aiming to please our taste buds with delightful yummies. While we were snacking a DJ was spinning tunes for us to chew to.

They had it all. From BBQ to bundt cakes, salad to stew, crepes to crab cakes…it was all represented. We are each sharing our top 3 bites. The bites that our minds and mouths say, “More, more!”

Stephanie D.: I’m not ashamed to admit; I left Iron Fork barely able to move. Partially because I was wearing ridiculously high heels but mostly, because the food offered up for sampling at this event was so off the chain, I never stopped eating. So many great restaurants were represented and man they came out guns a blazin’.

DawnBack Home BBQ served up a piece of turkey and their Earl’s sausage. The turkey was tender, smoky and juicy. The sausage had a spicy bite. The smoky meats were served over creamy, well-seasoned mashed potatoes. No salt or sauce required. Not that I won’t try some sauce when I visit their restaurant!

dallas observer turkey
Turkey with Earl’s sausage
13052536_10154113049984929_287176247_o
Pulled Pork Slider – Top Golf Dallas

Stephanie D.: One of my top three favorite bites was the very first bite I took and boy howdy, did it set the tone for the deliciousness that would ensue throughout the evening. Have you had the Pulled Pork Slider from Top Golf Dallas? If you haven’t, grab your golf racket, or pucks, or whatever and go immediately.

It’s that good.

This slider had slowly smoked, shredded, BBQ pulled pork, a secret mop sauce, beer slaw (SO delicious) on a freshly toasted sweet yeast roll.

Honey, I’ve never been much of a golfer, but if you’re gonna feed me stuff like this, I might just decide to turn pro.

dallas observer pretzel
Pretzel with beer cheese. To. Die. For.

Dawn: I am a big fan of the pretzel. Sweet or savory – I want it. This plate, from The Common Table, was sublime. It was loaded with Bavarian pretzel bites. They were great on their own: soft and warm. It only got better, because on top of those babies was beer cheese. This cheese was creamy, earthy and tangy. THEN on top of that a sprinkle of herbed parmesan. My oh my. I would have gone back for more (and more), but I was taught as a kid only to take my fair share. Darn it!

South Dallas Foodie
Imagine what my life would be like had I not hung a Louie at the stage and discovered these babies. Scary.

Stephanie D.: I’m a “dessert first” kinda girl, so my primary mission for this little shin-dig was: Find Chocolate. I followed my nose to a gorgeous table that had the most delicious, pure, organic homemade chocolate I have ever tasted.

Chocolate Secrets Chocolatier was in the house with a sampling of their Bonbons, bark and macarons.  They even had full-size handbags and shoes that were hand-made, entirely out of chocolate. When you combine accessories and chocolate, It makes me love you more.

The best bite at this table was hands down the macarons. I was able to sample the Espresso and Popcorn flavors. Oh my God, you guys.  So light and chewy. I’m gonna be breaking their door down for a private tasting very soon. This is next level stuff here. It’s not just chocolate; it’s art.

Yummy, creamy, chocolatey art.

rabbit stew dallas observer
Rabbit stew from LUCK

Dawn: This one, from LUCK, was a surprise. I walked up and saw these yummy, baby biscuits. Then this beautiful, inviting pot of awesomeness. Then the handsome, bearded gentleman said it was rabbit stew. I smiled and took the plate knowing I was NOT going to eat rabbit. No, sir! Then the aroma hit me. That was all she wrote. I couldn’t resist it, and I am so pleased I didn’t. This rabbit stew was incredibly scrumptious. The gravy was thick and savory. I could see carrots, celery, and mushrooms. The meat was tender. Think of it as chicken and dumplings made with rabbit.

South Dallas Foodie
Can’t talk. Food.

Stephanie D.: Of all of the amazing little bite-lets I had at Iron Fork, one stood out so far ahead of the rest.

Well hello there, Back Home BBQ.

This was the last thing I tried and talk about saving the best for last. Man alive, their barbecue is fantastic.

They served me a little basket with a full serving of their Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, a slice of smoked turkey and a nice slab of some of the most amazing brisket I’ve ever tried.

 

 

South Dallas Foodie
I seriously wanted to smuggle some out to take home for a sandwich, but my purse was too tiny.

The mashed potatoes were perfectly smooth and creamy.

The turkey was full of flavor and NOT DRY AT ALL. <– That never happens.

The brisket was beautifully balanced with sweet, savory, salt and smoke.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the next time my family has a barbecue, I might just order some Back Home and take a day off from the kitchen.

xoxo

 

Oscars 2016 Sneak Peak: Wolfgang Puck Catering’s Governors Ball Menu

First off, shame on The Academy for not acknowledging my accomplishments in film. How did I not get nominated for my performance as The Bagel Girl in “Cupid and the Bagel Girl”? Nothing for playing Amusement Park Girl in “Sensored”? Clearly they never saw “When Sally Met Rascal” cause they would’ve fixated on one of my finest roles, Yapping Lady. These Academy voters are clearly out of touch cause I should’ve had an invite by now!

While my dreams of ever being invited to the Oscars is a little far out there, Wolfgang Puck Catering invited me in for a sneak peek of their Oscar night catering. For those of you who may not know, this will be WPC’s 22nd consecutive year catering the Governors Ball celebration. It’s an enormous task, and the average amount of guests at the Oscars are 1,5000. Growing up, I would see post-Oscar party pictures and think “someday I’ll be in a fancy dress at one of those parties.” Ok, so maybe I’m not an actual guest at the party, but this is pretty close. Plus, this is even better than any awards show, because the Oscar I received was edible. If you’re looking for a catering company, WPC may just be out of most of our price ranges, so instead you may want to look for a service such as The Bespoke Chef or likewise caterers, depending on where you live.

The Governors Ball will take place in the Ray Dolby Ballroom on top of the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood immediately after the Oscar telecast (this Sunday, Feb. 28th). I checked in for my media pass at the Loew’s Hotel and got to walk through the ballroom. It looked like such a hush-hush, top secret environment. I felt like my (super sweet and cute) escort was a secret service man to my President Obama. Everything has to be perfect for this party, so being there on the Thursday prior, they were already stressed, but friendly faces. When I walked into the kitchen, WPC was prepping, and it also had a hustle and bustle feel to it. Everyone was hard at work, and I almost felt a little sorry, as if I was in their way. But then I saw their hard work put into the beautiful spread and decided it wouldn’t hurt them to take a bunch of pictures.

Oscar 1
Prepping the Artichoke and Fromage Agnolotti
Oscar 2
The Artichoke and Fromage Agnolotti will be topped with Black Winter Truffles

The spread was fantastic, and all different foods were present, hors d’oeuvres, table platters, an ice bar, hot small plates, cold small plates even a chocolate buffet. You can see a video of it here on our Instagram page @girlsonfoodblog.

The best part of this tour is that Wolfgang Puck himself came out and talked to us. Wolfgang is very approachable, and there was no question he wouldn’t answer. He gave us the lowdown on what 20 + years of catering the Governors Ball have been like and even gave us a cooking demo!

Oscar 6
Wolfgang Puck and his Seafood Bar

After wandering around, I can say that if I were attending this party, I would be very excited for the seafood bar, which will feature fresh King Crab, Scallops, Fanny Bay Oysters, Octopus, and Shrimp. There is also another video here that shows some of the more savory foods, including Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Potato with Black Caviar and Chicken Pot Pie with Black Truffles (a favorite of Barbara Streisand).

Oscar 12
From left: Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Wagyu Shortrib with Cauliflower Purre, Chicken Pot Pie with Black Truffles and Fleur de Sel Breadsticks
Oscar 11
Baked Potato with Black Caviar
Oscar 13
Sushi, Ceviche and Tuna Tartare
Oscar 5
Smoked Salmon Oscar Matzo

Watching Wolfgang cook was quite a treat. He tried out a new item; Emerald Rice topped with seafood, and since I’m a quasi-pescetarian, I’m hoping this dish makes its way onto the catering menu.

Oscar 7

Oscar 8
Emerald Rice with Seafood

It’s an honor just to be nominated… who are we kidding? We want to win! But those who aren’t so lucky don’t walk away empty-handed, they, at least, get a famous WPC 24-karat-solid gold chocolate, Oscar. Not too shabby! They start out the traditional color and then are transformed into the iconic statue with an edible golden spray.

Oscar 3

You can see a video of Exec Chef Tyler Attwell in action coating the Oscars here. His favorite dessert is the Peanut Butter Ring Ding, but as you know, I’m all about that gold. 5,000 of these chocolate Oscars are going to be produced, and it’s the most sought after item.

Oscar 9
The magnificent 24-carat-gold statues

The other desserts include a Macaron Tower, Caramel Oscars Lollipops, and Tiramisu Push Pops.

Oscar 10
Chocolate Buffet
unnamed-1
And the Oscar goes to…

Thank you so much to Wolfgang Puck Catering for inviting me in! I wish I could be at the Governors Ball Party, maybe some day. 🙂

Be sure to watch The Oscars live Sunday, February 28th 7 e/4 p. Also, keep an eye out for the after party, I’m sure you’ll see WPC’s food through out! Happy Oscar Sunday!

Village Voice Holiday Spirits Cruise on the Hudson River, NY

Recently I attended an evening of wine, whiskey, bourbon tasting. The Cooperstown Distillery hosted several cocktail vendors from all over the east coast as we set sailed on the Hudson River…in a rain storm.  Don’t get me wrong, it took away none of the romance or allure, just the necessity of a good hair day.

Cooperstown Distillery
11 Railroad Avenue, Cooperstown, NY 1332
subway2sound@gmail.com

IMG_5177.JPG
Whole Foods was nice enough to offer a delicious sample of sundaes with hard biscotti like cookie paired with ice cream.

Suerte Tequila enchanted us with their fake tattoos.  Spending the day with a Spanish Day of The Dead bunny on my arm-yes, please!  Check that one off the to-do list.


The buffet had no lack of meat, pasta, and inspired carbs to get our stomach prepared for the many tastings of whiskey, bourbon, and other cocktail delights.  I chose some tender beef alongside shredded BBQ chicken and pork buns.

My friend and I had a long chat with the brand ambassador Gavin Harris from The Cooperstown Distillery.  While still toddlers in the distillery business, their whiskey had a nice smooth taste. You can pair a visit to their birthplace by visiting The Omegang Brewing Company also a Cooperstown native.  If you find yourself craving an afternoon of booze and baseball history, you should pay them a visit!

I highly recommend this Village Voice cruise romp next holiday season. You may run into an ugly sweater party or two, but it will be worth it for the generous tastings and informative brand ambassadors

Fantasies In Chocolate: Reno’s Yummiest Annual Event!

The night was anxiously awaited by the folks of Reno. The Reno Gazette-Journal puts on an extravagant, black tie costumed wine tasting and chocolate sampling event called Fantasies in Chocolate, located in the Grand Sierra Casino and Resort. It is THE annual event to attend. The evening was filled with magic, flowing champagne, endless confections, and samplings from the region’s most creative chefs providing uniquely crafted samples of their best work.

IMG_6644This year, I was asked by Reno’s top food and wine extraordinaire, Johnathan L. Wright, to be a part of his judging team at this extravagant event. Johnathan L. Wright is the Food and Drink editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal, and you can find his creative writing at http://www.rgj.com or follow him at @rgjtaste on Instagram or Twitter. Feelings of excitement were an understatement. I was required to sample one of everything at the gala. I kept telling myself only to take a few nibbles from each booth, but that in itself is more challenging than tightrope walking because everything was so incredibly scrumptious.

The judging team consisted of Wright, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Reno’s sweetheart and table linen designer Kate Patay, local celebrity Chef Clint Jolly and myself. It was an incredible mix of judgment with the highest qualifications.

IMG_6578The ballroom was designed with the most extravagant and delicate décor. All the tables were beautifully designed by Creative Coverings, aka, Kate Patay’s classy touch and the Grand Sierra’s fine banquet staff. I felt like Cinderella walking into a palace. For a minute, you forgot you were even in Reno, NV. The theme was Bohemian Circus this year. A long and beautiful red carpet was awaiting the guests amongst the entrance with two ginormous gold elephants.

 

 

IMG_2118There were contortionist’s beautifully sculpting their bodies with every twist and turn imaginable. I do believe I threw my back out just watching her in amazement. There were ringmasters on stilts, and every guest was genuinely beautifully dressed. It was truly magical.

 

 

 

 

Judging started at The Jungle Coffee booth. Please keep in mind that all opinions are those of my own, and may or may not reflect the other judge’s opinions.

The Jungle – The Jungle served us a smooth and sweet chocolate martini made with local Tahoe Blue Vodka and locally roasted Magpie coffee. The martini wasn’t harsh, it didn’t cut through you, it was smooth and a little touch of liquid heaven on your palette. The Tahoe Blue Vodka most definitely contributed to that velvety blend. The Jungle provided the best libation at the event, in my opinion. (I may or may not have had 6!)  

IMG_6581Rounds Bakery – The booth was filled with a circus candy theme and the gentlemen running the booth were dressed to the max with their fine costumes pairing well. They offered the judges a Cotton Candy French macaron, which was extremely creative and out of the box. After speaking to them more about why they chose cotton candy over chocolate, they explained the theme was Bohemian Circus, and we all know you can find big soft spools of cotton candy at the circus. The French macarons were so fluffy and soft, your teeth sunk right into them with a soft crunch. They also had a salted popcorn stuffed macaron that was also an excellent switch. The booth was colorful and fun; it definitely took you into a circus atmosphere.

 IMG_2086Delicious Designs Delicious Designs won Best Sweet Dish for a large booth. They brought a fireball cupcake that was definitely on fire! The cupcake was moist and not overly sweet. It was truly eye candy. Although that won for the category, they had a HIDDEN SECRET GEM tucked over in the corner that I discovered. It pays to be a nosey little piglet. They had, get ready for it; Buffalo Bleu Cheese Cake dusted popcorn. AHHH!!!! I’m sure the folks of China just heard my scream! I grabbed a bag quickly and shared it with my fellow judges at the judges table. We are relished in the popcorn and even did selfies with it on twitter. Want to see how ridiculously excited we were? Check out the @renotastebuds Twitter account or hashtag #fic2015. It’s epically funny.

Cherry Bomb CateringWe awarded Cherry Bomb Catering Co. with the Best Savory Dish for small booths. Again, jumping on the popcorn train, the Cherry Bomb ladies entered a white chocolate popcorn with subtle hints of lavender and lemon zest. You could taste every component in each crunchy bite. The flavors popped, literally in your mouth. Bravo ladies!  

IMG_2129Whole FoodsAs the judging continued, it was so exciting to experience the uniqueness of the local chefs. Whole Foods brought their “A” game with a Mole toast point slathered with cream cheese, daikon radish micro greens and topped with a dehydrated Mole chip. The judges all agreed that the flavor profiles meshed well together enough to give them the award for the Best Savory Dish for Large Booths. That sample was definitely unforgettable in my book.

 

 

Winey MunkiesGetting back on the chocolate train, Winey Munkies gave the judges a generous portion of chocolate merlot ice cream. It was a sweet treat for my taste buds as I love both ice cream and merlot. The ice cream was creamy, and the merlot gave it a delicate punch. The ice cream left you feeling refreshed and ready for the next sampling. Winey Munkies won for Best Sweet Dish, small booths.  

IMG_6583Best decorated small booth this year went to Reno Provisions! They carefully crafted every detail of the Lion Cage and spent their time and energy on providing what we thought was, in fact, an exciting booth that made the guests want to see what they were all about. I also spent the night telling everyone, including the Mayor, Hillary Schieve, how incredible their chocolate chip cookies are. I would put them up against anyone in this entire country and bet money they would make a clean sweep! They are a MUST for their cookies and pastries.

 

 

Last but certainly far from least, the Grand Sierra Resort took our breaths away with their magical and show-stopping display. We presented the Best Decorated Large Booth to the GSR because they had thousands of tiny delicate confections and cake pops filled with rich chocolate ganache to offer amongst a faux contortionist dangling from above their table in beautiful jewels.  

IMG_2125 IMG_2127

By now, you can tell the evening was a total success. There was dancing, music, incredibly tasty food, flowing libations and of course, an outstanding community that made this event the talk of the town.

IMG_2126

Thank you again to Johnathan L. Wright for having me as his guest and judge and thank you to all the new friends I made for making your acquaintance. Fantasies in Chocolate was a night always to remember, and I look forward to what next year’s theme and event will bring.

Orangetheory Fitness: Sunday Funday Can Be a Fitday!

Sunday Funday is a time for so many activities of note. Some of us worship at the altar of fantasy football; others gather around swanky downtown tables for a boozy brunch while I took the time to journey to the magical Mall of Yeah Old Staten Island for The Orangetheory Fitness celebrity breakfast. 
Offering up generous portions of bagels and schmears for free while patrons could hear the mission of Orangetheory currently gearing up to open up a location nearby on Staten Island. Outfitted with licensed personal trainers- Orangetheory offers the client a customized exercise program that provides specialized data to track your progress while working out. It’s like Fit Bit times a gazillion and with real live people touting the trendy logo “Orange Is The New Fit”. However, you won’t be sent to jail for the hardcore training program these ladies will set you on.

I had a chat with local food celeb, Staten Island’s own Frank Bilotti from Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, who told me about the joys of getting yelled at by Gordon Ramsey and explained the origins of his sweet tattoo. Designed personally, it’s the contents of stock, the base of any good meal.

Stand-up comedians Mike Bocchetti and Stacey Prussman, who regularly appear on The Artie Lange Show, were in attendance to bring some comic relief to the event. See above as Stacey tests out their state of the art water rower. Audience members were encouraged to compete row for row in hopes of winning prizes.

The event included raffles, a spirited question and answer session about the new Staten Island location, and cheeky live blogging shenanigans.

Former NY Jet Rob Carpenter was on hand to make the ladies of Orangetheory go wiiiiilllllld and of course, lend his hand to pulling raffle tickets.

If you’re looking for a way to burn calories and feel like a celebrity every day, look no further than the staff at Orangetheory. You’ll get a workout as personalized as a monogrammed L.L. Bean backpack circa 1996 but like…..it will also give you a super hot bod and who doesn’t want that?

The Food And Film Festival Food Porn Party in Brooklyn

The Food Porn Party which took place on Friday, October 23rd might be one of the most lurid, saucy film events this side of the George Washington Bridge. Food porn is not to be confused with adult porn like that which is often watched on websites like http://www.m-porn.xxx, if you go to one of these events expecting that type of porn then you’ll be rather disappointed although well fed. Alternatively, if you find yourself on sexfreehd xxx, you’ll be well entertained, but a little hungry. Choices, choices. After my night of tender stories about meat I had no idea that warm gooey tales of food and family would transition into a brash, cheeky, sassy night to remember. Did I mention there was a live burlesque show and a full service ramen station at the after party?

IMG_4656
Cocolo Ramen. All the way from Berlin where the Japanese noodle soup delights many a foreign palate.

The ramen was in such high demand that you had to present a ticket to get your sample and wait until your number was called. I felt like I was in the fourth grade all over again waiting for my opportunity to visit the “treasure chest” and get a treasure troll eraser topper for good grades. Once our numbers were called, it was worth the wait Perfectly prepared and all the way from Berlin, the noodle soup artisans of Cocolo Ramen will definitely get five Ja Wohl’s from this girl!

IMG_4597
Festival goers hoot it up with the food burlesque gals.
IMG_4652
Food burlesque in action! Half naked hamburger birthing hamburger babies. Four words: a star is born.
IMG_4636
I couldn’t say no to this limited edition Lovecraft Narrangansett. Adore the decor and the taste.

Each night, their open bar serves up different beer and wine. In the spirit of Halloween being right around the corner I simply had to carry this Lovecraft inspired Narrangansett with me. I geeked out a little in a way only a closet sci fi nerd could. OK, let’s be honest, I hide no emotions about the amount of fantasy I read.

IMG_4635
Straight from the fried ice cream station. I’ll admit it, I’m a vanilla kind of girl, but not without delectable coating of oreo deep fried to perfection.
IMG_4606
Ricotta Lemon Ravioli with Pesto by Night Kitchen

Night Kitchen Catering
25 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
http://www.nightkitchencatering.com

This. Ravioli. Is. Amazing. With a light hint of lemon and pesto it makes the perfect bite. Created with a very exciting roller that cuts the perfect square into your fresh pasta by Repast, making tools to make your cooking easier. Roller’s were in the after party where guests could get an up close look at it’s sleek wooden utility.

IMG_4607
Cocolo’s Handmade Gyoza by Chef Yosuke Sumida. Another import from Berlin, this gyoza was sehr gut!
IMG_4608
Pasta with Ratatouille by Night Kitchen. I was finally able to witness an in life demonstration of how to make this iconic dish and not an animated one…..although, I do love a good cartoon rat cooking.
IMG_4609
Chocolate and Onion Tart by Dirt Candy

Dirt Candy
86 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002
http://www.dirtcandynyc.com

I was lucky enough to sit next to some of the spirited chef’s from Dirt Candy before the films began. Not only did I adore their spirit and excitement about their food but the thesis of the restaurant is fantastically inspired. Finding new and innovative ways to make people eat their vegetables, Dirt Candy explores vegetarian and vegan dishes in a new light. Utilizing every part of the the vegetable down to the carrot pulp, these innovative restauranteurs are really onto something and their chocolate onion tart was a perfect example of how they are ready to rock the veggie industry and throw it a curveball. The delicious rich chocolate chart was topped with what tasted like grains of salt but was really caramelized onion specks. It blew my mind! If you’re downtown in the city check them out, but definitely make reservations first….it sounds like this eatery is in high demand.

IMG_4610
Mixed Berry Tart by Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
http://www.birdsblack.com

This bite of their mixed berry tart was a fluffy infusion of pastry and berry. Similar to a rugela, it’s the perfect nosh over coffee or gift for a party.

The Food Porn Party is not complete without a visit from their resident douchebag “Food Porn Star, Larry Caldwell”. He released three hilarious short films conducting a wine like tasting for what some would call…..the champagne of trailer parks. One of my favorite adventures was his erudite analysis of Miami Vice: Coco Nuts. Where do I find this drink? However, fun fact, when googled it is simply described as Malt Liquor. Thank you Food Porn Star, Larry Caldwell….you have truly educated a foodie at a festival.
IMG_4614 IMG_4615 IMG_4616

After two nights of decadent food and film, this Girl on Food is exhausted but wouldn’t trade the experience for five tickets to The Food & Wine Festival (OK, I would be conflicted if it was a Bobby Flay event) but in all seriousness, it is evident that festival creator George Motz loves food and film and has done an amazing job of paying homage to them both. My strainer goes off to you sir!

Dia de los Verdes & Food Day in Long Beach, CA

IMG_4618

This past Saturday, I had the amazing privilege of attending the Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day Celebration in the beautiful Long Beach, CA. Dia de los Verdes and Food Day were actually two separate events held by different organizations that merged their efforts into a collaborative event. In honor of the city of Long Beach participating in Food Day for its second year, Green Long Beach, Squeeze Art Collective, The Growing Experience, and many more organizations, vendors, and community members joined to fill the day with fun, learning, and of course, food!

IMG_4331

Before walking into the event, which was held in the majestic and lovely Growing Experience Urban Farm (pictured below), I knew very little about what “sustainable food” really meant. I came to learn that sustainable food is food that is produced safely and humanely, distributed fairly and effectively and disposed of responsibly.

IMG_4607

IMG_4624

There were so many resources for education about the production and disposal of food and how to be mindful of waste in general. One table that caught my attention was that of Zero Waste LA (dontwastela.org), a new system for waste and recycling that is soon t come to Los Angeles.

IMG_4612

In keeping with the “Dia de Los Muertos” theme, there were also beautiful and creative altars throughout the event. Food Day Long Beach organized the Food Day event aspect:

IMG_4333

One of my favorite parts of the day was the vegetable pickling demonstration. We were shown how to pickle just about anything. The demonstrator just used his favorite vegetables, apple cider vinegar, and Himalayan pink salt. Some jars he said he’d had for 2 or 3 years!

IMG_4626

 

 

Next I watched a cooking demonstration for a creative cauliflower stir fry recipe. The cauliflower was processed to serve as a substitute for rice, then stir fried with mixed veggies, ginger, olive oil and soy sauce. Absolutely delicious

IMG_4627

 

IMG_4335

The vendors present at the Food Day all had one thing in common: they all served vegan dishes and treats exclusively. My first stop was at The Caffeinated Kitchen for the most delicious vegan donuts I’ve ever had. Well, it was actually my first vegan donut but it will most certainly not be my last! I had the pecan praline donut, and it was absolutely delightful. It managed to be cakey (probably because of the fact it was baked rather than fried), yet still very light and fluffy.

IMG_4337

Next, I made my way to Southern Fried Vegan: completely southern vegan food! I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about whether or not a vegan twist would take all the yum out of a traditionally southern meal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The way SFV works if you choose different items to go into a single bowl. I had a combination of jambalaya (made with vegan sausage), collard greens, and fried “chickun”. And had I not spied the “u” spelled in “chickun”, I’m sure I wouldn’t have known the difference.

IMG_4342

 

Later, I stopped by the Falasophy food truck,  a mobile falafel and hummus bar. Filled to the brim. However, I opted for their spicy garlic fries as a snack. They were flavorful and packed a bit of a tangy kick that was right up my alley.

IMG_4603

What was most impressive about Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day was the incredible sense of community I felt there. But then again, has anything in history been known to bring people together more than food?

The 2015 NYC Dumpling Festival: A World of Tastes

Friends, Romans, Dumplingmen, lend me your bowls. On National Dumpling Day, Saturday, September 26th, enthusiasts of the delicious gooey balls of glory gathered at Sarah Roosevelt Park and sojourned from tent to tent in hopes of finding the perfect bite at The 2015 Chef One NYC Dumpling Festival.

IMG_4146

10413327_10100300025648337_7852690023253709995_n
Human Dumplings Break for Babies

Visitors to the event were greeted by a walking Dumpling Mama Mascot who was not shy about the photo ops. See left as she breaks for a little time with the future dumpling eaters of America.

Pedestrians rejoiced as they enjoyed an appetizing array of dumplings from cultures around the world. Admission to the festival is free but for a mere $20 tasting ticket, you can grab goodies from four tents of your choosing and the portions aren’t small.

 

 

IMG_4147

DumplingGo offered up their steamed chicken and basil dumplings. Chef One, the events sponsor showcased their edamame dumpling with a chicken wonton and asian salad slaw.

One hundred percent of all proceeds from ticket sales are being donated to Food Bank for New York City a major hunger relief organization working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs. Since 2004, Chef One a major Brooklyn based food manufacturer has been hosting the festival with it’s infamous Dumpling Eating Contest as a way of paying it forward to members of the community.

IMG_4141
Takeru Kobayashi pounding dumplings for a demonstration!

For those who know me, they know I have an extreme fondness for an occasional eating contest.  Although I didn’t participate this go round I did some stomach exercises silently to myself while watching Takeru Kobayashi doing a 30-second demo of dumpling eating to show future contestants how it’s done.  Note to self Megan, hold dumplings high, to the mouth, and shove.  Rinse and repeat.

 

IMG_4135As always I was accompanied by my homies #squadgoals. The ladies hit up the bubble tea tent to get their tapioca fix and Lincoln made sure to grab an empanada. Jocelyn was actually in from Denver just in time to get her fix! She’ll have to bring all of her secrets back to the Rockies. Rocky Mountain Dumpling high anyone?

 

 

 

 

IMG_4132That green somewhat shapeless blob is the dumpling of my nightmares.  The festival hosts a dumpling cutting ceremony as opposed to the so last year tradition of ribbon cutting.  Chef One has happily obliged creating this monster for that exact use.

IMG_4134I was pleasantly surprised by a beverage they were showcasing. Bruce Cost Gingerale was light and refreshing with passion fruit on the bottom. You could really taste the ginger but it didn’t bite the palate as it’s want to do. I highly recommend this fizzy treat.

I know what you’re saying at this point….but Megan, dumplings make me gag (I do honestly feel for you if you say that) but stranger things have happened. Don’t worry, the dumpling festival has a plethora of activities to entertain the most crotchety dumpling naysayer. There were live cultural performances including these sweet dancing dragons. Raffles, a dumpling making class, and of course the dumpling eating contest! Even if you don’t want to put them in your mouth, watch on in awe as a mere mortal puts one too many in theirs.

No matter where you stand on dumplings, the Dumpling Festival is a joy. There was never a dull moment, or for that matter an empty plate. Next year, take out your tastebud passport and stamp it in honor of the NYC Dumpling Festival.

7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival in Oakland, CA

One of the best things about living in Northern California is no matter which direction you turn there is always something to do. Head north, you can stomp grapes, hike among the redwoods and explore the little tiny towns that connect the dots throughout the upper portion of the state. Look west towards the Pacific Ocean and endless oysters can be feasted upon, whales can be watched until your hearts content and waves can be caught with just a cowardly lion’s thimble full of courage. Look below, towards the south and you can lose yourself amidst the fog as your roam the streets of the city by the bay, cheer on the red and gold at the future home of Superbowl XLIX or chew until your jaw falls off on some of the best saltwater taffy Santa Cruz has to offer. This weekend, however, my compass pointed towards the east. A direction known for Cal Bears, an entire nation who bleed silver and black and a community whose cultural heritage and pride often help to carry them through the most adverse of life circumstances.

DSC00312

I was in Oakland this weekend for the 7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival, a community celebrating one simple thing… GOOD FOOD!! If a state fair, a block party and a street-food festival had a threesome and created a baby from it… Oakland’s Eat Real Food Festival would be its amazingly beautiful and delicious offspring. With an eye on teaching the public how to support local food systems as well as promoting a stronger and healthier community-run organizations and businesses, the Eat Real Food Festival strives to bridge the gap between the average consumer and their local food producers and growers.   Individual food artisans mingled with national sponsors who in turned rubbed elbows with regional farmers and mom and pop businesses as a way of showing their support for one another. With 100% of the proceeds going to support the Food Craft Institute, a non-profit educational institution which supports the entrepreneurship and economic growth of small traditional food businesses, the Real Food Festival allows the community to sample the offerings of up and coming Bay Area businesses. Which really, when you think of it is a win/win situation for everyone.

The Eat Real Food Festival has, thus far, been the biggest food festival I have ever been to. With over seventy-five thousand people attending the event within a three-day period, there were more than a few mouths to feed. Fortunately, the sweet and savory selections did not disappoint. Over 120 food, wine and spirit vendors showed up with the very best of all types of cuisine. Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish, Korean, All-American, Portuguese, Soul Food, Seafood, French, Italian, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… you name it they had it!!! Enough to make your head, or really your stomach explode.

One of the first items I happily indulged on was actually not a meal at all. I am a firm believer in dessert first, therefore I saddled up to the West Coast Style Frozen Custard Truck to try my first ever frozen custard. Half custard, half ice cream and all completely heavily (literally I think that is what heaven tastes like), it left me asking one question: How after 29 years of being on this earth have I never tried frozen custard before. Though there were numerous selections to choose from, including vanilla bean and rich chocolate, it was easy for me to pick a flavor. Being a sucker for anything Thai inspired, I immediately went for the Thai Ice Tea flavor with sweetened condensed milk on top.

DSC00328

With the temperature being over 90 degrees outside, it was no surprise that the creamy treat cooled me down, but even if it was ten below zero I’m sure I would have found myself face deep in the bowl of goodness.

Next up came the paella from San Francisco based catering company ñora. Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish is known for being cooked in a large round, shallow pan, which allows the rice in the Paella to become extra crispy. Along with aiding in the cooking process, this cooking vessel and the chefs who work the Paella in the pan create quite an exciting spectacle for those waiting to try. Fortunately, the taste was worth the wait… it was absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned with saffron and not too hot right off the Paella pan.

DSC00334  Following the Paella, I decided to give my tummy a bit of a break so I wondered over to the entrance to the festival where many of the information booths were located. I learned about the importance of urban farming and sustainable food systems from the fine volunteers at City Slicker Farms, a non-profit organization designed to educate the general public about where their food comes from.

DSC00299

After collecting a complementary package of antique sweet pea flower seeds I quickly made a beeline to the Love A Bee honey stand, where I learned about importance of bees in our ecosystem all while sampled some local varieties of organic honey. I ended my mini farm tour with a visit to some adorable fine feathered friends, baby chicks  DSC00304

brought by Clover Stornetta Farms in Petaluma, where they along with eggs, produce a wide variety of delicious organic dairy products.

DSC00302

My second lunch (my first being the paella) came from Bombzies Asian BBQ. The Vietnamese BBQ chicken, their original recipe had me at first site.

DSC00325

 

Next came giant pickles and marinated vegetable salad from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.

DSC00330

followed by a demonstration from the Chipotle on how to make their signature fresh guacamole with only six fresh ingredients: ripe Hass avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and kosher salt… yes, please!!

DSC00311

It was impossible for me to end my day without grabbing a few things to go for my hungry folks waiting at home. That was actually an easy choice. It was organic modern soul food in the form of a BBQ pork belly sandwich from Keenan’s Kitchen for my dad.

DSC00342

And for my mom, the ultimate mushroom lover, it was wild mushroom and cheese empanadas from the El Porteño, an Argentinian food truck and caterer located out of San Francisco. Empanadas so good, I found myself look up the locations of their food truck for future reference.

DSC00350

Finally, my last stop before departing the Eat Real Food Festival was to glutinously pick up something which I had been thinking about all afternoon. It was to an unpretentious little popcorn stand I stopped by and quickly sampled at the beginning of my day. The popcorn at the POP Mama POP Artisan Popcorn booth is easily the best popcorn I have ever had, and this coming from someone who grew up on classic air popped popcorn all her life. Their organic locally grown corn paired with the delicious flavors they create is out of this world good. Flavors such as Jalapeno Sweet, Parmesan Garlic, Hot Chocolate and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper left this life-long popcorn connoisseur coming back for second and third samples.

 DSC00296

I came back so many times the founder Kathleen Hackett, couldn’t help but laugh as I stuffed yet another sample of the kettle corn in my mouth (nearly choking on it in the process.. thanks to the random bystander for the quick smack on the back) Kathleen, who not only makes a good product and was generous enough to indulge my numerous samples, but was also generous enough to have all of the festivals tips go towards the victims of the valley fire. But in the end it was the popcorn that kept me coming back for more, especially the Snickerdoodle flavor. What was once a childhood cookie memory, had been transformed into the ultimate sweet and salty snack. A snack so good I have no shame in admitting that I ate the entire bag I purchased from the festival for breakfast this morning.

To say the Eat Real Festival treated me well is an understatement. If life was being played out in the novel pages of Charlotte’s Web, I was for the briefest of moments Templeton the rat, the errand boy (or girl) set out to bring back to you messages of up and coming, new and thriving food favorites in the area. I and my stomach are more than happy I followed my compass east this weekend. If I had not done so I would have surely missed out on the veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord of deliciousness.