Girls on Food

Happy Hour

BOOzy Brunch Bunch: Caramel Apple Sangria

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dessertLike any good toddler mom, I head to Pinterest for basically everything party related! Every month or so, I host a “Boozy Brunch Bunch” because well, if you play with kids all day and never see your friends, there is a chance you will lose your sanity. With “Boozy” in the title, I like to have a couple of options available, so thanks to #itsfallyall and Pinterest, I can bring you today’s concoction!

 

This month, I decided to host a BOOzy Brunch Bunch, because of Halloween. Unfortunately, Raleigh got hit way harder than expected by Hurricane Matthew, and my freezer got wiped out, so I didn’t have most of my normal go-to’s, like all the mini muffins I’ve crafted over the years, or the tiny eggos the kids love so much. (I’m seriously not complaining about this; there are towns in North Carolina that people still can not get into their homes, so my freezer is the least of my worries right now). But since I couldn’t just defrost a handful of muffins and throw eggos in the oven, I started to think about my favorite breakfast foods and realized: toasts are so hot right now!

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My favorite restaurant up in Rhode Island is called Persephone’s Kitchen, and the owner, Persephone, has a delightful selection of toasts every morning that I decided to emulate. So for the guests at my home, there were avocado and cayenne pepper sprinkled with goat cheese toast, goat cheese and mini heirloom tomato toast, and the gold standard of Nutella and banana slices on toast! Of course, I provided mimosas and coffee, but I wanted to have a special beverage on hand as well. My sister-in-law and I had thrown a joint birthday party for our new one-year-olds at the beginning of October, and we tried this recipe for the first time then. I just knew it had to make another appearance this fall!

Caramel Apple Sangria

sangria-1This recipe is super easy and takes 5 minutes to put together! Deceptively sweet, so make sure kids don’t accidentally drink it (a valid concern) and make sure your adult friends know they just got sloshed before you let them hop into a car and drive home! It’s the perfect warm fall day beverage, as the sun is shining and you don’t want anything too heavy! Ideal for a southern fall day, for sure!

 

 

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The first step is to cut up 2-3 apples and add them to your pitcher! I started this in a juice jar, and realized I needed something bigger midway through and transferred! Next, add a bottle of your favorite chilled white wine (I used chardonnay), a container of apple cider (I prefer Trader Joe’s  version), and then the coup de grace, is one cup of Smirnoff’s Kissed Caramel Vodka.

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Everyone who has tried this loves it! I’m thrilled for the leftovers to share with my neighborhood tonight as the kids are out Trick – or – Treating!

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Get Cozy With This Easy Spiced Red Sangria Recipe

One of my favorite go-to cocktails is Sangria! You can have it red, you can have it white, you can have it sparkling, and you can have it all…year…long. With Fall finally here and temperatures dropping, a Spiced Red Sangria sounded like the perfect cocktail for the season!

Spiced Red Sangria

As soon as temperatures dropped past 65 degrees here in D.C., I knew it was time to get in the kitchen and do a little recipe testing for a delicious Sangria. I decided to use the tastes and themes of Fall as inspiration and create a Spiced Red Sangria.

This super easy recipe uses Red Table Wine, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Brandy and Triple Sec. The Spiced Rum and Brandy are what make this particular Sangria so comforting (caution: this recipe is strong). A little orange juice and fruits round it out to create a Sangria that will leave you feeling warm & fuzzy all over.
To start, cut up two apples, two oranges, and one small pack of blackberries. Add your fruit to a pitcher.

Then, pour in one 750ml bottle of your favorite red wine (Syrah, Spiced Red SangriaCabernet, and Pinot Noir work well).

Next add 1 1/2 cups spiced rum, 1/2 cup brandy, 1/2 cup triple sec, 1 cup orange juice and mix.

(*Please note: This comes out on the stronger side. Feel free to start with less rum and brandy and work your way up to your desired potency.)

Instead of orange juice, you can also try apple juice to give it a more spiced cider taste.

Once all ingredients are mixed well, chill the Sangria for 4 – 24 hours. When you are ready to enjoy, serve your Sangria over ice. For an extra level of classy, garnish your glass with an apple and orange slice.

Spiced Red Sangria

Sangria is such a versatile drink, and you can really make it your own. Plus, it makes a great pairing for any dish and can be a real standout at your next dinner party.

Sit down, relax and enjoy the cool Fall weather with a glass of delicious Spiced Red Sangria!

The Gallery Westlake: Keeping Us Very Happy in Westlake Village, CA

I’m a big fan of the happy hour concept. My budget is usually stretched pretty thin, so happy hours are the perfect time to get a deal on quality menu items for less money while mingling with a lively after-work crowd.

The Gallery is a hip spot in Westlake Village known for its gourmet New American cuisine and fresh seafood. It serves up a happy hour on weekdays from 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm that’s not only friendly on the wallet, but is also super-delicious.

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The Gallery Westlake
30768 Russell Ranch Road, #C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
http://www.thegallerywestlake.com

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My friend Liz and I arrived right at the start of happy hour and took a seat at the bar, noting the elegant, yet inviting decor. I also couldn’t help but scope out the fabulous looking raw bar nearby. We visited on a Wednesday, but take note—during Thursday night football, happy hour includes .99 cent oysters!

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Once we got settled in, Liz and I intended to make the most of our happy hour(s), so that meant drinks needed to be ordered straight away!

Liz ordered the gorgeous Violet Moon, which is a mix of Fords gin, Crème de Violette, and lemon juice, garnished with a caramelized orange wheel flambéed by the bartender with a torch.

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Her drink was as tasty as it was pretty, with smooth floral flavors leading to a tart finish.

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I decided to go with a good ol’ glass of wine. House wines are only $5 during happy hour, but I decided to upgrade to a Foley Estates Chardonnay which was still five bucks cheaper than the regular price. It was rich and buttery with hints of sweet caramel and toasty oak. It was so good, I could have guzzled several more glasses. (Don’t worry—I didn’t. Well… just a couple!)

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As we sipped, we chatted with The Gallery’s owner, Karim Megji, who showed us some photos on his phone from a local farm. He had just been picking tomatoes a short while ago and told us that many of the things grown at the farm are used in menu items at the restaurant. Always a good mark in my book—nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce!

My appetite was fully whetted, so we tried our first happy hour appetizer, an impressive mound of Champagne Shoe String Pomme Frites.

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They looked intimidating at first, but it’s ridiculous how quickly we devoured these. Made with Bouvet Sparkling wine and topped with lemon and cayenne, they reminded me a lot of my favorite potato chip flavor- salt n’ vinegar. Only, you know, more fancy—but equally as addictive!

Next, we tried the Ahi Tartare Tacos, with fresh and meaty chunks of raw tuna tossed with sesame, chili oil, and sriracha, nestled inside crispy wonton shells and topped with avocado. These were so good, Liz and I were side-eyeing the last taco until we finally agreed to split it.

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duck-egg-rollsNext up, based on Karim’s recommendation, we deviated from the happy hour menu to try a regular appetizer, Duck Eggrolls. (Even better, these were easily shared with two for each of us!)

I often find duck to be a little gamey for my taste, but these were fantastic. Maybe it was the delicious sweet chili sauce the meat was drizzled with, or the crunchy mix of veggies and herbs within, but it tasted tender and delicious and actually reminded me of pulled pork.

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Next, Karim suggested Roasted Bone Marrow, and how could I refuse his advice after he led us to the delicious duck egg rolls? I’d never tried bone marrow before but I was certain that if there was a place to try it, this was it.

When the plate arrived, I couldn’t help but think about how jealous my dogs would be if they could see me. But the question was… would I like it?

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The answer is a big YES. In fact, it might have been my favorite item of the night. Liz described the flavor as the “essence of beef”, and she was right. It was melt-in-your-mouth juicy and meaty and was even better spread on crostini. It was also seasoned really nicely with herbs and hints of jalapeño. If you like the fatty part of meat (i.e pork belly), you will love this. The only downside is that there wasn’t actually as much marrow as it seemed. It was gone far too quickly!

Liz and I were getting pretty full at this point, but we were still feeling meaty after the bone marrow experience, so we tried the short rib tacos to finish out our meal.

short-rib-tacosMade with tender braised short rib mixed with dijon aioli, cabbage, and queso fresco, these were another winner. Like everything else we had tried so far, the meat was tender and nicely seasoned, and the slaw added a nice crunch and a pleasant finish to our meal.

Did I say we were finished?

tania-at-the-galleryWell, not quite. We had to try dessert, obviously.

Apparently Peanut Butter Turnovers are a very popular item at The Gallery, and we could see why. The presentation alone made me forget that I was feeling full and I was eager to dig in!

The pastries were crispy and caramelized on the outside, and fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of warm, oozy, gooey peanut butter-chocolately goodness sandwiched within. The vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries drizzled with caramel were also a welcome addition. This was one of the more unique desserts I’ve had in some time, and I can see why people return to The Gallery for this treat alone!

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I’d say Liz and I had a very happy happy hour at The Gallery. I’d recommend going with friends and splitting several things—it’s definitely worth trying everything on the menu, and the prices are totally reasonable. Next time I’m coming back on a Thursday… those oysters are calling my name!

The Taste of Mexico Returns To LA

The largest all-inclusive Mexican tasting event The Taste of Mexico (TOM) returns on its 6th annual edition to Los Angeles and Girls of Food (GOF) was invited to the exclusive sneak peek event that showcased some of the food vendors that you would be able to try at the food festival.

Be sure to check out their site here.

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The first thing we tried was a sample of Los Javis Mezcal. It is a family owned Mezcaleria from Oaxaca, México that dates 3 generations back. This mezcal is incredibly smooth. It had a lot of flavor and body but it didn’t leave that burning sensation in your throat that you normally get from drinking mezcal.

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They also brought Chapulines (grasshoppers) and Sal de Gusano (salt with maguey worms).

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Then we tried Anepalco’s Baby Corn which is their version of the Mexican street vendor corn. The Baby Corn was smothered in a Chile de Arbol Aioli, topped with Cotija cheese and grind up Chapulines sprinkled on top of it. We’re excited to try their new spot Maestro, in Pasadena, which is coming soon.

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From Caló Provisions we got to see Ted Montoya in action and to try his Pozole. Ted’s take on Pozole has a twist he cooks it with Chicharron Dashi and adds an egg. I really like the egg, it gives an extra layer of complexity to the Pozole.

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Our pal The Choriman was also at the Taste of Mexico sneak peek and he was making Chori Panes. A Chori Pan is a chorizo sandwich. He made his with his Zacateca’s style Red Chorizo, roasted Corn Salad and Salsa Macha.

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We also got to enjoy the delicious pastries from La Monarca Bakery. We had the strawberry cake, the fruit cake, the orejitas cookies and my personal favorite de Guava cake.

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There will be plenty of drinks at the festival some of the ones we loved at the sneak peek were: The I Love Micheladas, Tepaches from Ancho Reyes a Chile Liqueor and Los Javis.

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There will also have aguas frescas vendors like the Agua Lucha guys. They have flavors like: Mandarin, Lemon, Hibiscus and Tamarind. Not only that they donate some of their proceedings to retired Luchadores (wrestlers) in Mexico.

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The 2016 Taste of Mexico will be the best one so far and it will take place under the stars in the beautiful courtyard of the Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum in downtown LA. TOM has invited over 35 restaurants to cater the event and you’ll also be able to sample Tequila, Mezcal, Baja Wines & Spirits. And although the tickets might seem a little bit pricey keep in mind that it is an all you can eat and drink ticket so you only have to worry about what food vendor do you want to try next .The event starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm.

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!

SF Foodie Fest Preview: Eat Drink SF 2016

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Photo by Gamma Nine

I know everyone always claims their hometown food is the best — but when you live where fresh bay water meets sea salt and sand, it’s hard to deny that San Francisco is where it’s at when it comes to fresh produce. Now add the fact that some of our country’s most innovative chefs set up shop all along the peninsula, and us San Fran kids really have something to be proud of. So this year, I’m joining the crowd to celebrate the best of the Bay’s homegrown food, world-class chefs, restaurants, somms, mixologists — and all things to eat and drink in SF — at Eat Drink SF 2016.

Photo by Gamma Nine
Photo by Gamma Nine

About the Eat Drink SF

Each year, Eat Drink SF invites foodies, wine-nerds, culinary enthusiasts, and just plain hungry and thirsty people to meet and greet with top local chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers. The three-day event, running from Thursday, August 26 – 28, will include over 160 restaurants participants who will provide tasty treats, cooking demonstrations, and more.

 

Photo by Gamma Nine
Photo by Gamma Nine

Those looking for a little more to munch on will certainly be able to find it. Participating restaurants include:

1300 on Fillmore, Alembic, Brasserie S&P, Cafe Claude, Cathead’s BBQ, Chiaroscuro, Cross Hatch Eatery, Delfina Pizzeria, Dragon Beaux, E&O Kitchen and Bar, Gaspar Brasserie, Gitane, Hog & Rocks, Humphry Slocombe, Huxley, Konjoe, Lemonade, Luce, Michael Mina, Precita Park Cafe, Roka Akor, Souvla, Spaghetti Bros., SPIN San Francisco, Terzo, The Keystone, The Market, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Tratto, Zero Zero

If you’re interested in learning a few kitchen tips and tricks, you’re certainly going to want to check out the Main Stage where lectures, demonstrations, and Q&A with industry experts will be featured all day. Check out the Events Page for details.

And let’s not forget about us drink enthusiasts! This year, Eat Drink SF will feature over 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries who will provide the events drinks as well as host tastings and seminars. Featured beverages will include:

Bass Note Sangria, Beaujolais Wines, Bodega Norton, Buena Vista Cafe, Ca’ Momi Winery, Carpano Antica Formula, Chateau Gassier, Concannon Vineyard, Fernet Branca, FloWater, Joel Gott Winery, Kikori Whiskey, Korbel California Champagne, Junipero Gin, Mr. Espresso, Provenance Vineyards, Pure Leaf Iced Tea: Tea House Collection, Purity Organics, Robert Mondavi Winery, SIMI Winery, Singani 63, Sipsmith Independent Spirits, San Francisco Brewers Guild, S. PELLEGRINO® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Spirit Works Distillery, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre,Templeton Rye, Teeling Whiskey, The Glenlivet, The Hess Collection, Torres Brandy, Trinchero Napa Valley, Trumer Pils, Tullamore D.E.W, Wente Vineyards, Woodford Reserve, Zaya Rum, and Zodiac Vodka.

Photo by Gamma Nine
Photo by Gamma Nine

And just like the culinary kids, pros in the beverage industry will be hosting several educational seminars throughout the day as well in the San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom. I’m personally excited for Saturday’s Chardonnay: Burgundy, Butter & Beyond with Chris Gaither, AS.

Oh, but I do hope the SF Wine School brings more cute tattoos…

SF Wine School Tats

Join Us!

Hungry for more? Tickets are still available on the Eat Drink SF website. And whether you’re there for just one day or the whole weekend, I guarantee you won’t go thirsty or hungry.

Cheers!


Eat Drink SF is presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association — the local restaurant representative organization and political advocate.

All photos of EDSF are from the 2015 event. Photography © 2015 Marc Fiorito w/ Gamma Nine | All Rights Reserved

barcito: Argentine-Inspired Shared Plates in DTLA

On the corner of 12th & Grand in DTLA sits barcito, an Argentine-inspired restaurant. The interior has a contemporary feel, with the Buenos Aries skyline on the wall and black and white checkered flooring. There is a full bar, a dining room and plenty of communal seating as well.

barcito
403 W. 12th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015
http://barcitola.com

If you follow the LA dining scene, you may recognize the name barcito, but not necessarily for the food.

Owner and General Manager of barcito, Andrea Borgen, has made waves this past April by recently adopting a no tipping policy for his staff. All food and drinks are priced to cover all FOH and BOH staff wages. After working alongside Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group in NYC, she wanted to bring the “hospitality included” workplace to LA. This way customers can focus on the food, ambiance, and their company while dining.

Uh oh. Doesn’t that mean the food is higher priced?

No!

Surprising, huh? I was pleasantly shocked when I read the menu and saw how budget friendly the prices are (especially for DTLA).

It’s tough to get out of the habit of tipping (my server did such a great job, how do I not reward her?) but you just have to remind yourself, they are paid fairly.

Ok, enough with the money talk. Let’s get to the food!

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Since I landed at 5 PM, I was just in time for their recently added Aperitivo Hour (5 pm – 7 pm daily). For $9, your choice of aperitif cocktail, beer with a shot or wine comes with a snack trio. The trio included walnuts, potato chips, and green olives.

For my aperitif cocktail, I chose the Rome with a View, made with Campari, dry vermouth, soda water and lime. I know Campari is not for everyone, but I promise the soda and lime cut out that bitterness.

barcito has a communal gastropub feel to it; the plates are intended to share with others. Since I had nobody to share with, I decided to try 3 of their most popular plates.

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When I think of Argentine fare, I think of steaks so I started with the Steak Tartare, which comes with potato chips to dip. The freshly fried chips are smokey and tangy and pair so well with fillet mignon. The tomato vinaigrette is light and doesn’t take away from the meat.

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Then I got an order of the Provoleta, seared goat cheese, charred lemon and French bread. The goat cheese spreads on the bread for a tasty treat.

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My favorite dish by far was the Cordero, lamb belly medallions with spring onions. I cannot believe I’ve come this far along in my life and foodie journey to have never had lamb belly before this tasting. I’ve had plenty of pork belly but never really thought of lamb. Maybe it’s because we just didn’t eat much lamb growing up? Anyways, the meat on the medallions are crispy with that light grassy flavor, but the rendered fat is so buttery and soft. I could’ve ordered 2 of these plates.

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I couldn’t leave with getting some type of Dulce de Leche dessert, so I got the churros. These are perfectly portioned to share. The churros are so freshly crisp, and the sauce was too die for!

After dessert, I reached into my wallet to leave a tip and had to remind myself not to! Old habits die hard! The food at barcito is great, and it’s budget friendly, especially for DTLA. So if you’re at Staples Center, or you just want to try the lamb belly, make sure to stop in!

Yes Way Jose!: Salt and Vine in Nashville

Salt and Vine is the newest gem added to the Sylvan Heights neighborhood crown. Located in the new H.G. Hill Center on the corner of 40th Avenue and Charlotte, this one will be shining bright!

 Salt and Vine
4001 Charlotte Avenue Nashville, Tennessee 37209
http://www.saltandvinenashville.com

FullSizeRender 8Mattie Jackson, the Nashville native who created this concept, has struck a perfect balance between casual eatery, wine bar, and gourmet marketplace. As you walk in, you notice the darling marketplace where we were greeted by our hostess. Seeing as this is a new Nashville restaurant, of course, there was a wait. We proceeded to the bar to check out the offerings. Salt and Vine offers quite the assortment of beverages. Wines are categorized by crushed, pressed or fortified and then for the non-wine drinker (do those people actually exist??) they have limited cocktail and beer options. Not only does Salt and Vine have a great bar, but they have a charming tasting room. That evening the room was utilized as an extension of the dining room, but Maggie and her team will be offering frequent wine tastings, the first beginning August 3rd.  Get your tickets before they are out of stock!

My dining partner in crime and I had carefully concocted our order while waiting at the bar.  We were ready!  As soon as we were seated, we said “Yes Way, Jose” to our server and she was more than kind to bring out that punchbowl filled with fruity goodness.  A combination of tequila, lemon, and rosé with slices of strawberries floating about, the drink was well balanced and left you wanting more. Think- the PERFECT cocktail for the pool or your next Sunday Funday.

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Seeing as I just got back from Italy, I totally had burrata brain. Check. Clearly, we needed something a little more on the hearty side. I mean for heaven’s sake, we had a punch bowl full of tequila and rosé… We placed an order for the Green Curry Mussels and the Crispy Chicken Thighs.

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First up, the Burrata, grilled corn, peach and basil oil. This dish looked too good to be true.  The vibrant oranges and whites with just a touch of green made for a mouthwatering dish. The saltiness and heartiness of the grilled corn were complimented by the sweetness and fresh qualities of the peach. The basil oil acted as a balancing agent for the dish. Perfection.

FullSizeRender 12Next up: Green Curry Mussels, grilled bread. This was not a dish you would have to muscle your way through, folks. It was a little premature in the evening to have a favorite, but this was it.

The color contrast of the mussels, curry sauce, and grilled bread was flawless, but this dish was all around a winner. There was a delightful balance of curry, cilantro, and coconut milk. Clearly, we consumed all of our mussels leaving this amazing soupy goodness.  In true southern style, we had to ask for extra grilled bread so we could “sop” up the tastiness. Do it- you won’t regret it.

IMG_6718Finally, we concluded the evening with Crispy chicken thighs, farro, blistered tomato, salsa verde. This dish was the perfect juxtaposition. The chicken was so tender that it was falling off the bone, while the farro was the perfect al dente, adding a certain crispiness to the dish.

Salt and Vine brings simple elegance and to the Sylvan Heights neighborhood making wine and food more approachable and less forced. Ladies and gentleman, this place, will be on repeat. Perfect for a quick glass of wine after work or a light dinner, Salt and Vine will leave you thirsty for more.

Let Them Eat Steak: The Capital Grille Opening Week – Raleigh, NC

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The Capital Grille
4242 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609
http://www.thecapitalgrille.com/

cg6“The best steak I’ve had in a decade” was the description a friend used after visiting The Capital Grille earlier in the week. No doubt, when my husband and I arrived we had been excited for days! Not only was the steak incredible, the service, atmosphere, and all the sides complimented it to a tee!

The restaurant was bustling, the hostesses were cheerful, and our waiter was so friendly! We had a table dead center in all the action – the kitchen is open the length of the restaurant; flanked by booths. When you first walk in, the glass wine cellar separates the entrance from the tables. They have over 350 wines, with an in-house sommelier and extensive info on each wine.

CG1bOur server, Scot, was incredible! He immediately greeted us with an iPad in hand – chock full of all the wines, cocktails, desserts…and told us about their signature martini – the Stoli Doli. The Stoli Doli is a delectable beverage created with Stolichnaya Vodka infused with fresh pineapple, chilled and served straight up. He then reviewed the iPad menu with us – this is neat – you can peruse all the wines they have in-house, and when you click on the name, it gives you more details about it. If you order and love one, or are interested in learning more about one, you can just select the “email to me” button, and send yourself the bottle details with a photo of the wine! I know I could have used this in the past, and was excited to scroll through it while at the table.

cg2bAs we were scrolling through the iPad and reviewed the menu, Scot surprised us with two tiny sample glasses of the Stoli Doli pineapple martini. It was a dangerously good drink! Chilled perfectly; the fresh squeezed pineapple juice was the perfect complement to the vodka. Simply delicious! Next, they brought out a bread basket, with a great variety of bread with a pad of freshly salted butter! We ordered two glasses of wine (both cabs; my husband got a full bodied Concha y Toro, and I ordered a lighter Avalon) and we ordered our appetizers. We debated between the Pan-Fried Calamari with Hot Cherry Peppers, the Jumbo Lump Crab Cocktail, and the Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella. When asked his opinion (without offering our debate) Scot immediately suggested the calamari and the prosciutto, so we were happy to oblige! So glad we did!

 

cg7The calamari was perfectly cooked, and the hot cherry peppers added an unusual, but delicious, flavor! It had a little kick, but more noticeable the first bite than subsequent ones! The prosciutto was fantastic. The mozzarella made fresh, in-house, daily, and they wrap it with the prosciutto and then grill it before serving! Add a bit of tomato and basil, and wow! Just Wow! I’ve never had fresher mozzarella; it was so much more flavorful than what I am used to!

 

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Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella

I am not a huge red meat eater, but at a restaurant with an in-house butcher, figured steak was the way to go! My husband loves a NY Strip, and he ordered that, medium, with a Kona coffee rub on top. Scot suggested I try the porterhouse steak, so that is what I ordered, medium-rare, with the Kona coffee rub as well, topped with shallot butter. Come on – there is no way I wasn’t trying that coffee rub, too! Just a quick side comment, for the reader: if you like a “closer to medium medium-rare” order the medium. I love a good rare, medium-rare, so I was thrilled when it came out like that! If you like it more well done, order up!

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These steaks were incredible! The rub was delicious, the steaks tender, and the shallot butter was out of this world good! The menu offers a la carte family style sides (full and half size portions on many), and we ordered the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, and a half order each of the fresh creamed spinach and the soy glazed brussels sprouts with bacon. The sides probably need a paragraph to themselves! 1. All 3 of these sides, while typical, were all different (better) than previous versions I’ve had before. 2. Unlike other steakhouses we’ve been to, the fresh creamed spinach is, well…fresh! They make it in-house with béchamel sauce. I mean, good-ness. It was incredible! 3. I usually don’t order lobster mac ‘n’ cheese because it is too sweet for me. This one was a typical pasta that happened to have huge, delicious, fresh chunks of lobster meat in it. Everything blended so well, but I never got sick of eating it! 4. The soy brussels sprouts. I mean. Oh. My. Gosh. I don’t like Brussel sprouts. We ordered it because I write a food blog, and they’re trendy. But yowza! I liked these! They had been flash fried before cooking, and were so much sweeter than usual sprouts! Add the glaze and the bacon, and run doesn’t walk to making this your extra side!

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Now, I feel like I’m raving, and have written more than I ever do. But I haven’t even gotten to dessert yet! By now, the floor manager, Chris, and the sommelier, Blake, have stopped by our table to welcome us to the restaurant. (The Capital Grille has a few more than 50 restaurants nationwide, and from what I’ve read on various review sites, this is not unusual behavior – this restaurant is known for treating everyone like royalty!) We were directed back to the iPad and flip through the dessert options (there are pictures, so we’re done for!). They have a flourless chocolate espresso cake that looks amazing, their cheesecake has a crème brulee finish, and they even have a healthy option with fruit and yogurt! I am a sucker for ice cream, so chose to go with their handcrafted ice cream dessert: 3 separate scoops of dark chocolate, raspberry sorbet, and caramel ice cream, with two cookies on the side! Phe-nomenal.

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Finished everything off with a decaf cappuccino that was served with some rock candy on the side. Perfect ending to this delicious meal! As we were leaving (with big smiles on our faces), my husband asked if we could make this our new “special occasion” restaurant! Looking forward to many more meals here at The Capital Grille!

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Bewitched by Betwixt Wine

There’s this little corner of San Francisco, off of the 101, that’s a bunch of warehouses. I’ve been here to scout for used sports gear,  to stop by the flea market, and of course to visit the fishmonger. I didn’t realize there were wineries here…

Betwixt Front Door

There are quite a few. In fact, when I came to this part of town to visit Tim and Melissa of Betwixt Wine — who I met during the 2016 Pinot Days — I was surprised to learn they share their little space with several other small, independent wineries (such as August West) as well.

And at this stage of their operation, having only officially been in the winemaking business since 2012, this suits them just fine. It’s an intimate space where they network and swap ideas and inspiration with others in the industry.

Betwixt Barels

About Betwixt Winemaking

Tim Telli, owner and winemaker of Betwixt Wine, gets his grapes from various small lot vineyards along the Northern California coast. He says he lets the grape-growers do what they do best (grow the grapes) because his passion is in the winemaking process — all of which takes place in his downtown SF winery.

Tim’s focus is on, what he calls, “minimalist winemaking,” meaning he takes a hands-off approach when it comes to production. He first puts the grapes through “cold soaking” or “cold maceration” pre-fermentation, which is a natural way to extract color and flavor from grape skins without excess tannins.

cold press tank
Betwixt cold press steel tank

The wine then goes through a gentle pressing process and left in the barrels to ferment until ready to bottle.

The barrel-aging process is an aspect of winemaking that may not be given a lot of thought by the daily consumer. Sure, we may know what it will mean for our palate if a bottle says the wine’s spent time in an oak barrel — we expect a particular scent, flavor, and mouthfeel. But those aromas, tastes, and textures — at least in the case of Tim and Betwixt Wines — is carefully crafted by the winemaker.

2015 Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard -- old French oak barrel
2015 Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard – aged in old French oak barrel

While visiting Tim and his wife Melissa, I had the opportunity to try their 2015 Pinot Noir — in its separate components. We first had the wine from an aged oak barrel which, because of its age, emits very little “oaky-ness.” This Pinot Noir was quite clear, fruit forward (both on the nose and on the palate), and had a sharp acidic bite to it.

We then tasted the Pinot from the new oak

2015 Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard - new French oak barrel
2015 Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard – aged in new French oak barrel
Pressed Wine in Glass
2015 Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard – pressed wine aged in neutral French oak

barrel. Visually, the wine is a much firmer red color; Aromatically, the wine emits a strong scent of fresh cedar or pine wood. The taste was the biggest difference: the mouthfeel was overall softer, rounder, the fruit flavors substantially more mellow, and there was a distinct lack of acidity in comparison to the old barrel batch.

Lastly, we drank from the batch of pressed Pinot Noir. This means, after all, the free-flowing juice from the grapes has been separated, and only the stems and skins are left, Tim gently presses on those remains to squeeze out any residual liquid. As you can imagine, this is where the tannins will come into the final product. I’ve never tasted just the pressed juices of wine before. Although it makes sense logically, I was surprised by how light and cloudy the glass was, and how strong the aroma of “bush” and “weeds” was. On the palate, of course, this was quite dry and tasted very little of fruit.

In its separate parts, we could all taste the potential the 2015 Pinot Noir has. And that’s part of the joy for Tim and Melissa — taste testing and experimenting until a perfect balance is achieved. Once they’ve figured out the right ratio of old oak to new oak to tannin, they can bottle wine they’re happy to drink themselves and, of course, share with others.

Let the blending trials begin!

The Wine: Current Releases2014 Pinot Noir

So what about the wine that’s bottled and ready to drink now? Yes, there’s plenty of those. For me, the most notable is their 2014 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. It truly exemplifies what Betwixt Wine is all about — a hands-off, natural approach to the growth and fermentation process and their artistic endeavor for the ideal balance of flavor. You can taste the grape from the ground up — the earth the vine was grafted in, the juice of the perfectly plump fruit, and just a hint of the salt sea air from that Santa Cruz coastline. You can taste the love in the wine — the time it took to ferment the grapes just the right amount; the decision to add a certain percentage of new oak barrel aged wine; the attention to detail regarding the right amount of tannins to balance the overall taste and texture. Like a chef plating a well-rounded and balanced dish so is this Pinot Noir.

You can read my full review of Betwixt 2014 Pinot Noir, but know I’m not the only one to fall in love with this wine. Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently scored this bottle a highly recommended 92 points. I’ll drink to that!

2014 Grenache BottleThe Wines – New Releases

On the heels of a successful 2013 Grenache from Boer Vineyard, Chalone, Monterey (just recently picked up by the prestigious Frances restaurant in San Francisco), is Betwixt’s 2014 vintage from the same vineyard. This is another great example of Tim’s ability to utilize the best of small lot vineyards and create something truly unique. While many Grenache’s can be heavy and overbearing, Tim’s take on this varietal is quite light and lively, showcasing the ripeness of the fruit alongside the natural minerality of the vineyard’s terrior. This Grenache is quite young but is packed full of flavor — easily enjoyable now yet has the potential to age beautifully for the next several years. I couldn’t help but take a bottle home to share with my family, and write up this glowing review.

Here’s hoping Tim takes Melissa and mine’s advice and enters this wine for an official review.

More Info

Betwixt Wines current line-up includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache, as well as a limited release White Wine Blend. Current releases are available for purchase through their site.

To learn more about Tim, Melissa, and Betwixt Wines, please visit their website. If you’d like to taste their wines in person, they’ll be pouring at SF’s Fig & Thistle on July 26, 2016, from 6:30 until 8 pm (See their events page for details).

Stacy "Betwixt" the winemakers, Tim & Melissa Cheers!
Stacy “Betwixt” the winemakers, Tim & Melissa Cheers!

**Want to have your winery, vineyard, or tasting room featured? Please Contact the Author via her blog BriscoeBites.com**

Any Fin is Possible: Fin in Culver City, CA

One of the best things about the LA scene is the casual approach to dining. Back in my hometown of Sacramento, it was rare for us to dine out. And when we did, we dressed up. I’m talking heels, nylons, and dresses. We felt that if we were going to enjoy fantastic food, we had to dress-to-the-nines to be considered respectable to the restaurant.

Fast forward to today. I’ve made it past the 3-year mark in LA, and I have zero qualms about showing up at a fantastic restaurant like Fin in Culver City in my cute casual clothes.

And alone. Another thing my parents would probably feel strange about. I see solo diners all the time in LA, but I don’t recall ever seeing a table for one growing up.

Enough with my random tidbits.

Fin2I finally checked out Fin, in Culver City. Fin has a lovely interior, and the staff is super friendly, even if you’re alone and in casual clothes.

Fin
12223 W. Washington blvd, Culver City, CA 90066
http://finculvercity.com 

I got there around 5:30 PM, which the perfect time cause you can order items from the happy hour and the main menu.

All the items on the happy hour menu, which includes food & drink, are under $10, which is pretty rare in LA. In fact, all the happy hour drinks are under $7. Westsiders, this should be your new happy hour haven!

Fin1As much as I wanted to stick with happy hour drinks, Justin, my fantastic server, told me about the Basile Night cocktail. Made with Plymouth Gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, and muddled basil it was right up my alley. It’s the perfect balance of a girlie cocktail and a less sweet one, but I’m all about the herbal finish from the basil. So refreshing!

I started with two bite-sized treats.  The Tuna Jalapeño Crispy Rice, and it’s the best on their happy hour menu. First off, their spicy tuna mix is beautiful, as you can from the image. Unlike most places that give you a pre-mixed glob of spicy tuna, you can see the details of scallions and spices they incorporate at Fin. The fried rice square also had a chewy rice center and wasn’t hard throughout, like past experiences I’ve had with this dish. The jalapeño on top adds an extra kick of greatness.

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Tuna Jalapeño Crispy Rice

Fin4The next smaller item I ordered, the Spicy Yellowtail Handroll was a special, but maybe if we all order it and tell them how much we love it, they’ll add it to the menu. The chef’s spicy blend didn’t overwhelm the yellowtail, and the portion size is perfect for an entree pre-game.

Justin told me that the most popular dishes are some of the starters, so I ordered the Citrus Truffle Salmon Sashimi from the cold starters selection and the Seared Beef Carpaccio from the hot starters selection. Best of both temperatures.

Fin8The carpaccio was a large portion, perfect to share with friends. The seared fillet mignon topped with crispy fried shiitake mushrooms and a truffle chive dressing. So delicious.

The salmon sashimi was by far my favorite item at Fin. The salmon sashimi is served with a ponzu sauce, drizzled with a white truffle oil, topped with black truffle shavings and garnished with micro greens. The combination of the flavors of citrus and truffle was to die for, and the fatty salmon soaks it in perfectly. Tip: If you have to take a doggy bag home, the sashimi is even better soaked in the juices overnight. Trust me.

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Citrus Truffle Salmon Sashimi

Fin5One of the perks of being a Girl on Food is sometimes, if I ask very politely, the Chef will allow me to sample a taste of an item. It doesn’t always work out, but Justin sweet talked him into letting me try a taste of the Pumpkin Tempura. The slice pumpkin is lightly battered and fried to crisp, then topped with a magical curry salt. Seriously, if I had more room, I would order two of these! The pumpkin is so soft and sweet, but that curry salt makes this side extra special.

Blushing Geisha
Blushing Geisha

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After all these savory dishes I had a serious sweet tooth… and it was a cheat day… why not a cocktail with dessert? I tried the Blushing Geisha, which is plum wine, Rock Sake, Yuzu juice and a lychee fruit (I’m a sucker for anything with lychee on a stick). I also ordered the Coconut Pineapple Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. What a perfect ending. The frosting on the cake was so creamy and beautiful- what a perfect way to end this!

If you’re on the Westside, be sure to check Fin out, especially for that Happy Hour! 

The Pig in Washington DC: Dinner for Bacon Lovers

The pig

1320 14th St NW
Washington D.C., 20005
http://www.thepigdc.com/


The Pig is located in the Logan Circle area of D.C. amidst a lively nightlife scene, which makes it perfect for date night!

On a gorgeous Friday evening, my husband and I ventured to The Pig for dinner. The decor was casual, with barn wood accents that made it feel cozy and welcoming. They also had outdoor seating which is a plus when you want to enjoy warm D.C. nights.

The menu, as described by its website, “is a celebration of pork and the whole animal.” Indeed it was. They also locally source their ingredients and own a farm in Maryland where they grow their own fruit and produce. If you’re a pork or sausage lover and appreciate small business and locally sourced produce, then this is most certainly a place for you!

A few dishes we enjoyed and that I would recommend were:

Bacon with Soft Shell Crab

The bacon was flavorful and melt in your mouth delicious. The soft shell crab was a fun and surprising pair.

Yes, this is bacon!
Yes, this is bacon!

Sausage stuffed pork belly with berries

I would have never thought to pair berries with pork belly and sausage, but the combination of flavors was fantastic! Sweet and savory at its finest.

Gimme S’more dessert

One word: BOMB! There is something magical about chocolate covered in toasted marshmallow served with a side of smoked vanilla ice cream. This dessert was the icing on the cake to a delicious meal.

In addition to a creative and tasty menu, The Pig also specializes in craft cocktails and has an impressive list of whiskies. During happy hour (at the bar) they offer tasting flights of their 3 “Whiskies of the week” for only $8! Bacon and whiskey? Yes, please!

We had a great experience at The Pig. The freshness and quality of their ingredients, along with their creative menu, attentive service, and charming decor, made our evening there very memorable, and I can’t wait to return.