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#WineWednesday: Malibu Wines

Welcome to my new weekly column

#WineWednesday!

Here at #WineWednesday, I’ll be sharing my adventures in the world of wine in LA.

10 years ago, I was a server in a small, family-run Italian trattoria in Sacramento called Michelangelo’s. While many Sacramento natives were driving to Napa on the weekends to get their swirl on, I was getting most of my sips on at work, through product tastings. I loved learning about wine this way and didn’t feel left out, even I was missing out on some fun winery tours.

Like Madonna, over the next 10 years my beverage pairing choices were always reinventing themselves: from a classic cocktail phase in Sacramento, to a major craft beer phase in Seattle, and even a cheap liquor and club soda phase when I could barely afford to pay rent in Venice.

Fast forward to July of last year, when I found out I was pregnant, meaning… bye-bye alcohol! I had survived countless media events, a month long trip to Italy, a bachelorette party at Pump in West Hollywood sans alcohol. After the birth of my daughter in April, I waited 6 weeks before my much anticipated glass of wine.

For me wine conjures up so much more than beer and liquor, whether it’s a memory, or even an surprise unexpected flavor. I enjoy allowing wine to open up and breathe, talking about it, comparing flavor notes. I just like it more.

As a new mommy, I usually don’t allow myself to drink more than 1-3 glasses of wine a week (damn you responsibility!) but when I do I make sure I’m experiencing only the very best- and this is my column to showcase that.

This week’s #WineWednesday is a spotlight on one of LA’s most Instagrammable attractions: Malibu Wines.

Malibu Wines
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, California 90265
https://www.malibuwines.com/

When thinking about California vineyards, Malibu may not come to mind right away. But Malibu actually boasts of over 50 independent vineyards. With the foggy coastal climate in the AM and rich soil from the PM heat, it creates a great environment for deeper red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Malibu Wines, a tasting room and picnic area serves up both Semler and Saddlerock wines. Both brands utilize estate-grown grapes from the Saddlerock Ranch across the street.

On the weekends, their picnic area schedule is packed with food truck events, movie screenings, even yoga and mimosa themed events. If you plan to come here with a group for a weekend, I think your best game plan should be to purchase a bottle. But if you want to sit, chill and really focus on a tasting, I recommend taking a departure from all the craziness and pop by for a weekday tasting flight.

The flights of wine are reasonably priced, a light flight for $15, a red flight for $17, 5 wines per flight. This is an easy one to split with a pal.

After going through both whites and red flights, my top 3 wines were the Saddlerock’s Rosé of Grenache 2017 (very fruity, also candy-like), the Sangiovese 2014 (light bodied red but full on tannins) and the Merlot 2016 (expect cherry with lots of spice).

This is such an iconic place to visit. Whether you’re with a friend from out of town or you want to unwind and relax, Malibu Wines is one of those LA spots that never goes out of style.

Although this wine tasting was comped by Malibu Wines, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

GOF Interview: Chef Ria Barbosa Of PCP DTLA

ROW DTLA, what was once known as the LA Terminal Market, is an industrial oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, packed with contemporary retail and dining spots. Among them is one of the latest additions, Paramount Coffee Project, a Sydney-based coffee shop.

PCP DTLA
777 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
https://pcpdtla.com/

This giant location offers the option to grab beverages to go, space for laptop work and a full dining experience. The modern design, with color-pops of gold and bits of street art, PCP fits in perfectly with ROW DTLA.

Chef Ria Barbosa (Sqirl and Go Get Em Tiger) created both Paramount Coffee Project locations (Fairfax and The Row DTLA) breakfast and lunch menus. The menus merge comfort, seasonal, local and cuisine from Ria’s Filipino upbringing all together.

Pork Collar Sandwich – With Brie & Stonefruit on Baguette

I had a moment to sit with Ria to discuss creating recipes, childhood memories and the LA scene.

Me and Ria

GOF: Since Paramount Coffee Project first opened in Sydney, have you spent time in Australia? Did any items from the land-down-under inspire your menu?

RB: I actually have not been to Australia but I’m familiar with Vegemite! I’ve been introduced to a few native ingredients such as wattle seed and saltbush. They’re pretty amazing. I’ve also been introduced to the sausage roll which I’ve already hybridized with a Filipino lumpia filling that’s on the menu.

Sausage Roll

GOF: Have there been any cultural differences working with Australians?

RB: There’s a lot of pronunciations that we jab each other about such as herbs they pronounce the h, they pronounce tomatoes as to‐mah‐toes, and the like. We have a lot of fun talking about food stories.

I’m originally from the Philippines and the food there is still somewhat new to them so it’s nice to be able to introduce it to them and have them taste it. Because they’re so close to Asia there is already a familiarity with Asian influence so it’s nice to vibe and bounce ideas off of each other. I also love to hear about what Asian influenced foods they grew up eating.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

RB: Often times it’s a food memory I’d like to recreate, or something we’ve tasted or heard about that influences what direction we want to take the original towards. How true to origin we’d like to stay closer to or how conceptual we want to take it. It all depends on how our diners receive it of course. For the most part, we’re approaching food from a very familiar and comforting stance but taken up a notch or two. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Corn Fritter – With Peach Pico De Gallo, Fried Egg, Watercress and Creme Fraiche

GOF: What is your favorite childhood meal and have you ever recreated it on one of your menus?

RB: Summers growing up in California meant weekends in Redondo and my parents would take my siblings and I to eat crab by the pier. I was about 9 or 10 and learned how to pick dungeness crab by myself. We’d order a crab each along with a bunch of lemon and steamed rice. I would clean the whole crab myself, storing the picked meat in the shell of the crab, mixing it with the mustard (guts) and fresh lemon juice and eating it over steamed rice. It was a revelation and a very powerful food memory. It was possibly the first time I learned to balance fat and acid. I recreated it while I was the Chef at Sqirl and it actually made it into the cookbook! It was of course, jazzed up a bit. It impressed Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs who had the dish while they were in town.

GOF: What’s one kitchen tool you think deserves more love?

RB: The humble mortar and pestle. Sure the Robot Coupe or the Vitamix can give you super smooth and delicious things but there’s something about the rustic nature of the mortar and pestle and the texture it lends to whatever you’re making in it.

GOF: Is there one food item on Instagram you’d like to see less of?

RB: I’m going to say it… Avocado toast!

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

RB: These are always tough as it always changes, but off the top of my head, current high end would have to be Rustic Canyon. I’m such a fan of Chef Jeremy Fox and crew’s skills. And favorite lower end spot…I’ve been eating a lot of Mariscos Jalisco lately, it’s so good!

GOF: What is your favorite shop at The Row?

RB: Can there be a tie for first? I’ve really been loving the convenience and the selection at Flask and Field for post work activities and I found the tool box of my dreams at High Tide.

GOF: One item on the menu you’re the most proud of?

RB: They’re all kind of like my kids ‐‐ I’m very proud of all of them. But if I had to choose one, it would be the Eggs & Ham. It’s very simple in nature but the wet brining process and getting it to where it is took about two and a half months. It was still a work in progress when we opened and it was good, but there is always a chance to make things better in my opinion. The same goes for everything else on the menu. I’m always thinking of ways to push it and make it better.

Eggs & Ham – With Baguette House Cured Ham & Spicy Sunny Eggs

The quality of ingredients stood out in the Sausage Roll – the roll comes with a small but powerful side of fresh tarragon, parsley, dill and chevril adding a lightness to the meaty and flaky pastry.

If I had to choose, my top 2 favorite dishes were the Corn Fritter – the peach pico de gallo was beautiful and the onions are sweeter, less overwhelming than traditional pico de gallo and the Eggs & Ham – I can see why this is one of Ria’s proudest dishes, cause when you can take something familiar but elevate it with your own personal spin, it’s really something special. The addition of Bub & Grandma’s baguette is also excellent for dipping into the egg and hot sauce.

Dutch Baby – with seasonal fruit (plum) and creme fraiche

Thank you to Prismatics for arranging this interview. Although this tasting was comped by PCP DTLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

My Favorite Sips From wineLA’s 2018 Rosé and Bubbles Festival

wineLA, Los Angeles’ top source for wine-centered events and education, held their 2nd Annual Rosé and Bubbles Festival at the upscale art gallery Leica Store and Gallery in West Hollywood. Unlike their last major event, Stars of Pinot, this was a more intimate event. Over 20 different participating wineries poured for enthusiasts to taste, and through a silent auction, the festival also raised funds to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a non-profit that supports innovative groundbreaking cancer research.

Although rosé wine and white pants seem like a thing of the past, many guests swirled their glasses in Hamptons-esque wardrobe. There was even a rosé themed costume contest, which I sadly didn’t win! 🙁

How did I lose?

With my general admission ticket (priced at $70) I was handed a glass and given access to taste any wine on the floor of my choosing. Plenty of the fabulous catering, provided by Petrossian cheeses, breads and Evian water bottles were also included in this ticket. Also, this fantastic mochi ice cream company, my/mo provided the best mochi ice cream ever, you must try the strawberry and the salted caramel. Sponsor Champagne Henriot, always a favorite of mine, was providing guests with a champagne tasting right at the entrance to start the night on a bubbly note. 

Smoked Salmon and other goodies provided by Petrossian West Hollywood
best. mochi. ever.

My favorite sips from Rosé and Bubbles Festival

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017 –  Although I try to zero in on local, California wineries at events like this, there’s never a bad time to taste a French rosé. This Provencal blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault was my favorite classic bottle and was perfect to sip on with the smoked salmon crostinis being passed around.  

Château La Coste Rosé, Provence, 2017

The 50 by 50, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2017 – Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room… yes, Gerald Casale, a founding member of DEVO, is the wine maker. Yes, he was actually there at this event, pouring his wine. Yes, I got totally star-struck and awkward cause that’s what happens to me when I meet my heroes of the 80’s. Since this rosé is made from pinot, it’s delicate but still fruity. I was also happy to see a California rosé represented, as this event didn’t have too many of them. I ordered a bottle and plan to drink it wearing my energy dome!

Barnard Griffin, Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, 2017 – As I was sipping on this, I thought long and hard about when I had ever tasted Rosé of Sangiovese and I realized I probably haven’t. And I’ve been seriously missing out! This is such a bright, juicy rosé with a nice dry finish. I also couldn’t resist the $14 per bottle price point.

Anne Amie Vineyards, Twelve Oaks Estate Rosé of Pinot Gris, Chehalem Mountains, 2017 – This one is perfect for those of you who love a tart, crisp green apple as much as I do! This puckery wine will pair perfectly with seafood and fresh veggies.

Gérard Bertrand, Code Rouge Blanc De Blanc – Sure, the intense red bottling is a bit much and I know their $14 per bottle ’17 Rosé tends to woo everyone over, but you must give this one a chance! This crisp blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac is a littler pricer at $27 per bottle but it’s a beautiful combo- it’s actually one of the two wines I pestered the reps for extra pours on.

Hillersden, Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Upper Wairau Valley, Marlborough, NZ, 2017 – My first time tasting a sparkling sauv blanc! I wasn’t too sure about this one. To be honest, I did think it could be gimicky… but I was totally wrong and purchased a bottle.

Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741, Champagne, 2013 – This was one was put of my price range, sadly but I must say, it’s dry, lots of minerality with a lightly funky nose. If your wallet stretches out further than mine, invest in this one!

There’s nothing better than buying wines in support of a good cause! Be sure to keep up with wineLA’s upcoming events on their website. In addition to these events, the wineLA program (founded by sommelier Ian Blackburn) also includes wine classes, private dinners and wine travels abroad. 

From left: Devon Barnes, Alex Ward, Myself, TinTin Beligan Image provided by TinTin Beligan

Although this general admission ticket was comped by wineLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Get a Free Falafel Pita Sandwich From Falasophy in The Irvine Spectrum Center, Sat 9/8!

We just had to let our readers know that Falasophy, a modern Lebanese street food kitchen, is celebrating their grand opening at the Irvine Spectrum Center, this Saturday, September 8th, and the first 100 people in line get a FREE Falafel Pita Sandwich!

Falasophy started as a food truck in 2014, catering to SoCal under the hashtag #FalafelChariot. Their menu is focused on falafel, hummus and Lebanese street favorites, influenced by Southern California flavors.

Doors open at 11AM, so make sure to get there early! 

Falasophy in the Irvine Spectrum Center – 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

Images provided by 100eats/100inc

#girlsonfood Interviews Kat Peterson of @kmlpeterson

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 12K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Kat Peterson of @kmlpeterson. With her incredible photography skills and impeccable taste in food, I had to pick her brain on food photography! I have a feeling we’re going to see more of her images on more professional sites soon. 

GOF: When did you start your Instagram page?

KP: I first started Instagram back in June of 2015 when I got my first smartphone. I was really late to the technology game!

GOF: Why food + craft beer?

KP: Around the same time (2015), I went to my first taproom and feel in love with the craft beer culture. While I don’t post as many photos of beer as I once did, it’s still something I really enjoy. As far as food goes, it became a way for me to connect with other people when I was going through a difficult time in my life and in a sense, reinventing myself. Having group dinners with friends and exploring new restaurants was my way of practicing connection, relationship, and friendships.

GOF: What camera do you usually shoot on?

KP: I use a Canon 6D. I started with a borrowed Nikon about two years ago and then switched to a borrowed Canon Rebel before finally purchasing my own camera back in December. It’s been a big learning curve with the new camera and sometimes I feel like I haven’t even tapped into half of what it’s capable of. So LOTS of practice!

Fried Potato Hash from Hai Hai

GOF: What do you think separates the Minneapolis food scene from others?

KP: I don’t have any personal knowledge on other cities around the US but as far as the Twin Cities go, I see a lot of connection and collaboration between restaurants and people. The chefs are approachable and responsive to curiosity about the industry and although we have chefs that are probably considered local celebrities, they are still down to earth and seem to love interacting with guests in their restaurants.

GOF: Are there any St Paul/Minneapolis feuds?

KP: Ha, definitely! Until a few years ago, Minneapolis was the hot spot for dining and there weren’t a ton of great places in St Paul. The St Paul dining scene has since exploded and there are now so many restaurants worth crossing the river for.

GOF: Was being a “foodie” always a part of your life or did it come later?

KP: I’ve always had a love for food and remember trying to cook my way through my Mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook one summer. But I didn’t realize how crucial food had become or how pivotal Instagram has been in changing my life until this past summer.

GOF: Is there one item of food you’d like to see less of on Instagram?

KP: Not really. Even though “food porn” isn’t my style of photography…the drippy, gooey, 5,000 calorie meals… I still like to look at it! A photography trend that I’d love to see end is the over saturation and sharpening of images. If it doesn’t look like food anymore, I don’t want to eat it.

GOF: Do you prefer cocktails, craft beer or wine with a meal?

KP: That depends on the meal! In general I’d say that I prefer beer but I’ve had a lot of fun trying new wines. I’ve discovered that I’m definitely a fan of Cabernet . I’ve also been practicing cocktail photography, which is probably the most challenging thing for me to photograph.

GOF: Do you give restaurants a heads up you’re coming in or do you prefer anonymity?

KP: I get this question a lot and it bothers me to think that there are actually people that inform a restaurant that they are coming in. I’m not a celebrity or a food critic and I don’t want a dish that isn’t available to the general public so there’s no reason for me to contact them. With the exception of events, all the food on my feed is available at the restaurant for anyone to enjoy and I want to showcase the same dish that they would be served.

GOF: What’s one of the coolest experiences that’s come from your food photography?

KP: Last Fall the Arizona office of tourism invited me out and took me around the state to various restaurants, farms, and breweries. It was so awesome! I learned so much about agritourism, met some amazing people, and of course, ate a lot of food! This has led to other opportunities and I just recently shared this experience on Ready & Roam.

Be sure to follow @kmlpeterson and @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

#girlsonfood Interviews Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 11.9K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a new column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Stephanie Chen of @sugarbearbakes. I was in awe of how visually delightful her bakes are! I was also blown away by her level of accomplishments:

I decided we needed to get to know her a little better, since she’s the ultimate Girl on Food! 

GOF: What was the casting process like for GABS?

SC: The casting process was very exciting and an illuminating process! I’ve watched my share of Great British Bake Off and Top Chef and I remember always thinking, there’s NO WAY I could ever get on one of those shows. Haha. It was really fun to see how everything worked and I felt honored to be selected from thousands and thousands of applicants!

The process itself happened over a month or two and involved lots of rounds including a lengthy application, phone interviews, Skype interviews, in-person taste tests of your best sweet, savory and bread recipes. There was even a mini timed baking challenge where we had to bake in a kitchen and talk to cameras to see how we would fair under pressure. It was a demanding process but I’m so glad I did it!

GOF: Did you have any big learning experiences or epiphanies during the filming?

SC: Going on The Great American Baking Show was one of my best decisions in my life. It was also the most stressful and challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s rare that people get the opportunity to challenge themselves in a way where you are 100% reliant on your personal performance and intuition. No one is telling you when to take something out of the oven. You can’t just go online and google “how to fix meringue”. On the show, all the bakers are dealing with ovens, ingredients and an environment that is completely new and unknown and under extreme time constraints and an audience of producers and camera men. Imagine someone standing next to you documenting all of your mistakes! I learned that I’m more capable than I ever thought and really tested my ability to manage my stress in a whole new way.

Before I went on the show, baking was a hobby. Something I did late at night to relive stress and an outlet to allow me to make something special for people I cared about.  When I made it all the way to the finals, I realized that this is more than a hobby and I might actually want to do this for REAL. Since the show ended, I haven’t gone back to my full-time corporate job and have started my own cake & pastry business popping up in cafes across LA, teach cake decorating classes privately and at local cooking schools and found part-time work with pastry teams in Santa Monica bakeries that I’ve admired for years. The show gave me the confidence to propel me into a whole new career that I would not have had the confidence to pursue without it.

GOF: What is the recipe creation process like for you?

SC: My recipe creation process is driven by seasonality and what I’m in the mood to eat! Sounds simple but my cravings are often so specific, it’s easy to hone and be creative when it’s something I love to eat.

Growing up in Southern California, I’ve been fortunate to have fresh produce and farmer’s markets within a stone throw. I love roaming the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s market, talking to farmers to see what they’re excited about and letting that influence my palate. I also pull from my Chinese heritage and the melting pot of flavors in LA that I grew up eating so my pantry is a mixed bag. It’s not rare that I’ll just go around my kitchen and just start pulling different spices and ingredients, smelling them together to see if I can create something new and delicious.

GOF: What was your favorite childhood meal?

SC: Wow. I don’t know if I could only pick one! My mom was a really great cook and would always make delicious Chinese food every night growing up. My maternal Grandmother opened a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey when she first immigrated to the US in the 70’s. My mom helped her run the restaurant so we always had really good Chinese food at home. If I had to narrow it down, I’d pick her Zha Jiang Mian. (Soybean paste noodles with fresh sliced cucumbers.) Yummm. Now I’m craving it!

GOF: What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering leaving their day job to pursue a job in the culinary arts?

SC: My advice to someone who wants to pursue a career in food, is to go and talk to as many people in the industry as possible! I met with all sorts of friends, acquaintances and even strangers when I first flirted with the idea—A gal who owned a wholesale online cookie business, coffee shop owners, a multi-restaurant/bakery owner, pastry chefs, etc. Listen to their stories, how they got started and what to watch out for. This can also help you figure out what path you want to take. Working in food is not for everyone.. but, I can’t begin to describe how rewarding my journey has been and it continues to fill my heart in ways I never knew “my job” could. If you can, try to stage at a local bakery/restaurant you admire. Baking at home for loved ones vs. baking in a high functioning kitchen is completely different. I’ve gathered some of the most valuable training and learnings from my time working with the pastry teams at Huckleberry and Milo & Olive.

GOF: Do you have one kitchen tool you think is underrated and deserves more love?

SC: The one kitchen tool I cannot live without is my mandolin slicer! I don’t have a fancy knife skills so my mandolin has come in and saved me on many occasions when I’m baking or just cooking dinner! It’s an easy way to make your dish look elevated with perfectly sliced pieces.

GOF: Favorite LA high end spot and favorite lower end spot?

SC: My favorite high-end spots in are Bavel in DTLA and Felix in Venice. You seriously can’t go wrong with anything on the menu in both places. For lower end, I love Ma’s Chinese Islamic Restaurant in Anaheim. I grew up eating here and they have really great Beef Noodle Soup and scallion pancakes!

GOF: What is it like to organize your time between Huckleberry, M&O, pop-ups and trying to maintain a personal life?

SC: It definitely keeps me on my toes and I would die without my calendar! I’m always bouncing around all over the city and love that I’m always learning and challenging myself in different ways depending on what I’m doing. I love being at Huck & Milo because it keeps me sharp, fast and love all the people I bake with. Pop-ups are a lot of work but I feel so much joy in feeding people and it helps me test what Sugarbear Bakes can become. I love teaching classes because I’m helping people learn something new and giving them an avenue to explore their creativity! Sometimes my personal life does suffer (especially my sleep!) but it’s a small price to pay for really loving what I do. I’m also blessed to have a very supportive and loving husband who helps me keep my sanity.

GOF: What’s the most ambitious/interesting cake you’ve ever baked? Any crazy themes or challenging décor?

SC: One of the most fun and tedious cakes I’ve been asked to make was a pancake cake made completely out of buttercream! Every layer of “pancake” was piped (over 25 layers!) and then I went through and painted every single layer to give it the effect of pancakes. Then it was topped with caramel and a fondant butter slab. It was a smash cake so it was fun to see the photos of the baby smashing into despite all the hours it took to make it. Haha.

The Pancake Cake – Image via Stephanie Chen

Be sure to follow @sugarbearbakes and @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

Citizen In Beverly Hills Has A Dish For Every Type Of Gal Pal

Organizing a girl’s night out, no matter what the celebration is, can end up being stressful. From constant text alerts, to catering to different dietary needs, to considering your friend’s budgets, it’s tough to find a place that can cater to everyone. But after re-discovering Citizen in Beverly Hills, now under Chef Seth Greenburg, I believe this is the perfect spot for a GNO.

Chef Greenburg, an LA native, served as opening Executive Chef at the Dakota Restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel and then went on to work as Executive Chef at The Penthouse in Santa Monica for a number of years.

His menu at Citizen offers a variety of dishes inspired by the diverse LA food scene. The dishes are then paired with both tiki and updated traditional cocktails. Don’t worry, all your friends will find what they are looking for here.

Citizen
184 N Canon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90210
https://www.citizenbeverlyhills.com/

For the Fitspo Obsessed

The Watermelon Salad, a nod to fruit stands of LA, is perfect for your friend who’s Instagramming her fitness journey as we speak. This light salad bursts with fresh flavors from the watermelon, cucumber and tomato but has that chili kick and tart lime that stands are famous for. She can live a little and wash this one down with a glass of ’14 Schramsberg Blanc De Blanc for less calories than a cocktail.

For the #TacoTuesday Devotee

You can’t draw inspiration from LA and not have tacos on the menu! Start with the Albacore Tacos (loved the pineapple kimchi) then move onto the more ample portioned Tacos made with fresh corn tortillas (comes with your choice of 3). My favorite taco was the flat iron steak with cojita cheese and topped with chimichurri. Other options are shrimp with green papaya slaw for a Thai taste or fried chicken with sweet chili for a Chinese flair.

For those of you who are looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, the Blueberry Mint Faux-Jito, with citrus agave and ginger beer is perfect for sipping the night away on the patio.

The Traditionalist

Not every single friend of yours may be as epicurious as you are, so I recommend the more comfort-type options, inspired by classic American cuisine.

The Cheddar Biscuits are buttery, soft and come with a chive butter so fantastic, you might pester the server to take some home.

Chef Greenburg takes it back to the old school with a Halibut in Parchment, and I loved that. A creamy dill butter sauce is poured on top as a part of the presentation. The halibut is tender and thanks to the parchment cooking process, this dish is very aromatic as it arrives. I was reminded of the halibut dinners my mom would cook for me growing up. It would be very rude of me to confirm if this was better than my mother’s… so I’m just going to stop while I’m ahead.

Cocktail-wise I’d recommend the Strawberry Fields cocktail, coined after that classic Beatles jam. It’s a vodka-based cocktail with fresh mint and strawberries.

The Fieri Fanatic

For that friend of yours who can’t turn down a SoCal dive, opt for the Short Rib Fries. The pickled carrots and jalapenos add a fun taco truck flavor to this dish. Be sure to pair it with Babe Rosé With Bubbles for juicy, bubbly fun.

GOF Tip: The Lucky Seven, 7 dishes, for $7 until 7 PM is a great deal and it’s availability is extra generous on Monday nights, 2:30 PM – 10 PM.

The Friend Who’s Still Recovering From Last Night

There’s always one! Since the only cure for alcohol seems to be more alcohol, send her a Detox/Retox. This Tito’s vodka based cocktail has fresh blueberries and chareau aloe, which is an all natural aloe liqueur. And according to boozy folklore, aloe is a great remedy if you’re not feeling 100% after a wild time. She’ll thank you later.

Although this tasting was comped by Citizen, all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.  

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

I’m off to BBB to stock up on more!!!

Staying At The St. Jane Hotel And Dining At Free Rein In Chicago

My annual summer trip to Chicago was met with a big first for me – it would be the first trip with my 4-month-old daughter Marie! Usually, on my trips, I freely roam the city, restaurant to restaurant doing whatever I please… those days are over.

Now that we’re traveling as a family, I have a lot to consider when looking for a hotel. I wanted to make sure my stay was comfortable for baby Marie, charming to the eye for my husband and food-centric for myself. I was a little nervous about staying at a boutique hotel because I wasn’t sure how baby friendly it would be. Many boutiques I’ve stayed in, tend to be a smaller in bedroom size, with more sophisticated furnishings – great for adults but I need to consider the little one.

We decided to book a junior suite at the St. Jane Hotel, which opened in July, and it delivered on all 3 counts.

This boutique hotel is located in the 37-story Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929. The outside maintains an art deco flair with its black granite and gold accents and the moment you walk in, it feels half Great Gatsby half Lana Del Rey – Jazz age meets hipster chic.

Carbide and Carbon Building
Baby Marie loves the art deco style!

The Premiere Junior Suite is a bit of splurge, but it’s so perfectly spacious that it’s worth it or a family vacation. The astonishing views of the city, a roomy shower (that also has a beautiful city view!) and a big comfy bed are worth the upgrade. Bonus: the toiletries are products by Mason Margiela’s ‘Replica’ Jazz Club line, my all time favorite perfume!

A view from our room at night

St. Jane Hotel’s key restaurant is Free Rein, a modern French brasserie led by chef Aaron Lirette, who obtained a Michelin star for GreenRiver. Free Rein serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a coffee shop, full bar and provides the hotel room service. Here’s how I savored the hotel with an ultimate epicurean stay.

I started the bright and early at their café, which is separated from the main dining room. The coffee is provided by Chicago fan-favorite Dark Matter and pastries by fellow Michelin star collector, pastry chef Evan Sheridan of Sixteen.

The Ham and Cheese Croissant, although not shaped in the classic crescent style, the Ham and Raclette is still flaky, buttery and I loved the addition of mustard on top. I loved my Dark Matter lattes every morning too, but with the time changes and general baby exhaustion, I did fuel up on their Nitro Cold Brews as well.

Ham and Raclette Croissant
Latte

Later on, Chicago Girls on Food blogger Hilary met up with me for lunch, where I was able to get a little break from the family and do what I love to do the most – explore a new restaurant. Highlights from this lunch included:

Sweet Corn Soup– corn, scallion, and coconut

I always love a presentation of soup pouring! 

Kanpachi Crudo– English peas, heart of palm, citrus, caviar 

Soft Shell Crab BLT– Bacon, gem lettuce, Old Bay aioli

Saffron Spaghetti – tomato, fine herbs, parmesan

I loved all of Chef Lirette’s artful takes on American classics for lunch. If I had to choose tops spots, my number 1 was definitely the Soft Shell Crab BLT. This succulent sandwich is paired perfectly with the crispy Old Bay seasoned fries. The Kanpachi Crudo is a close second, it felt like a spot-on execution of “summer on a plate”. For lunch, I recommend washing it all down with a glass of Virtue’s Rosé Cider, it’s crisp, lightly floral but pairs perfectly with any of the dishes above.

Virtue Rosé Cider

For dinner, the lights dim down and it feels a little fancier at Free Rein. The menu expands out to a number of new options, including large format items, intended for sharing.

I started with a glass of Clos des Papes “Le Petit Vin d’Avril” a rich, Rhône blend to pair with decadent dishes. The absolute favorite item was the Foie Gras Tourchon with black truffle, Marcona almonds, cherry compote and summer berries. This item will be available on the Fall menu, so make sure you pop in there soon!

Foie Gras Tourchon

My other favorites included the Tomato Salad, with black garlic, cucumber and sourdough and the large format Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye with chanterelle mushrooms, potato puree, and beef jus.

Tomato Salad
Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye

Staying in a very touristy part of town and relying on the hotel to have extraordinary food sets a bar very high and sometimes isn’t realistic, but Free Rein and the St. Jane Hotel exceeded my expectations.

GOF Tip: The room service menu offers some items from the Free Rein menu – go for the Smoked Whitefish Toast. Since I was watching Marie, it’s nice to have an easy-to-eat but still gourmet meal around!

Baby Marie admiring the gold elevator doors

Although the lunch portion was provided by Free Rein, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

#girlsonfood Interviews Jeanne of @jeanne.eatsworld

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 11.7K uses on Instagram! 

Thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

I have been looking through all the images and saw that there were so many bloggers/photographers/influencers that I wanted to get to know a little better. So, I created a new column where I interview the folks behind some of most the interesting pages.

Through the uses of our hashtag, I found Jeanne of @jeanne.eatsworld. Jeanne was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and moved to Minneapolis at the age of 15 years ago. She works a 9-5 desk job at American Express Global Business Travel and based off her Instagram feed, she savors every minute of her travels. Whether it’s a shot of cup of coffee to go or a shot of her traveling, the world through her eyes looks pretty incredible!

GOF: When did you start your Instagram page?
JH: I started my IG page about 4 years ago mixing between my love for food, for travel and just life in general in Minneapolis. I started to focus on food around 2016. I still post about travel but mostly food.

Jeanne

GOF: Favorite food city, outside of Minneapolis?
JH: My fave food cities are New York and Seoul. I travel to NYC about 1 or 2 times a year to eat. They have so many options that I am not able to find in Minneapolis.

GOF: What’s tougher to get in Minneapolis?
JH: I love Oysters but they are pretty expensive here. Between $3-4.50 each so whenever I can find $1 oysters I am there! At The Mermaid Inn in NYC they offer $1 oysters for Happy Hour.

Happy Hour oysters from The Mermaid Inn photo by @Jeanne.eatsworld

GOF: Was being a “foodie” always a part of your life or did it come later?
JH: I always love to eat and even before IG I was already taking pictures of my food- especially when on vacation. Being raised in Indonesia, I was exposed to many different varieties of food. I’d eat anything from street food, like frog legs, all the way to finer Michelin Star restaurants. So I guess it is always been a part of me and now thanks to Instagram I am able to showcase that.

GOF: I notice a lot of espresso and teas on your feed, what’s your all time favorite caffeinated beverage?
JH: My fave caffeinated beverage will be any kind of latte but I do love a good Matcha latte.

GOF: Do you give restaurants a heads up you’re coming in or do you prefer anonymity?
JH: No. I don’t give them a heads up. I usually just come and eat anonymously and review it based on my personal experience.

GOF: What’s one of the coolest experiences that’s come from your food photography?
JH: I love meeting other foodies who have had the same passion for food and photography but most importantly become real life friends with them. I also do get invited to some restaurant openings and events.

GOF: What’s the furthest you’ve traveled for food?
JH: I did travel to Singapore earlier this year because I want to try the best durian and my friends called me crazy!

Be sure to follow @jeanne.eatsworld and @girlsonfoodblog and use that hashtag #girlsonfood to be featured someday! 

LDH Kitchen The Robata Brings New Elements To Santa Monica

LDH Kitchen The Robata, a new restaurant in Santa Monica, integrates modern technology into the fine dining experience. LDH Kitchen The Robata is a part of LDH restaurant group, known for 14 established restaurant locations in Japan, ranging from shabu-shabu to coffee shops, this is LDH’s first venture into the North American dining scene.

LDH Kitchen The Robata
2518 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
https://www.ldhkitchen-la.com/

Fire Apple Cocktail

The ambiance is based on the idea of projection mapping- a projection technology used to turn objects into a display surface for video projection. Think legit TRON vibes. In the front of the restaurant, there is a display of fire as well as at the bar area. The front of the house, including the bar, represents fire.

The private VIP room is very calming, since it represents water. When you walk in, there is a long turquoise table, with images that resemble fish projected onto it. When you place a glass on the table, ripples of water react to the cool temperature. A plate being set down entertains with fish swimming around it. The wall also projects an underwater world, giving guests legit The Little Mermaid vibes. Additional seating includes a beautiful Omakase bar, that seats about eight people and another private room that can also be opened up for a bigger party.

Executive Chef Makoto and Sous Check Sato

This spot practices robata, the classic Japanese method of cooking meats and vegetables over hot charcoal. Cold appetizers, sushi dishes are also options. Executive Chef Makoto and Sous Chef Sato prepared many different items for the private dining event I attended. There were twelve dishes prepared and three desserts. Items included: the Dome Salad, Sashimi Plate, Salmon Carpaccio, Shishito, Dashimaki-Tamago with Blue Crab Sauce, Corn Kaki-Age, Chicken Nam-ban served with Tartar sauce, Robatayaki (Japanese Charcoal) Kobacha with Butter, Broccoli, Asparagus, Chicken Thigh, Wagyu Sirloin Prepared Sukiyaki Style Topped with Uni, Truffle Takikomi-Gohan served in Japanese Style Clay Pot, Sweet Potato Crème brûlée, Chocolate (Vegan) cake, and Japanese Style Rare Cheese Cake.

Chicken Thigh

My favorite dishes were the Dome Salad, the Salmon Carpaccio, the Robatayaki Vegetables and the Wagyu Sirloin topped with Uni. See the full menu here.

Wagyu Sirloin Prepared Sukiyaki Style Topped with Uni
Sweet Potato Crème brûlée, Chocolate (Vegan) cake, and Japanese Style Rare Cheese Cake

Mixologist Eric Jas made two outstanding cocktails that are showstoppers. The first one he created is called the Fire Apple- Pinot Noir, Apples Juice, and Cinnamon. Then there’s the Water Berry-  Blueberry, Butterfly Sake (one of my faves), Soda Water, Mint spray, Blueberry garnish. Visual bonus: once you add lemon, it turns purple.

Water Berry

LDH is my new favorite restaurant this year, and I think it will be the hottest spot to check out in Santa Monica! Be sure to reserve a table in advanced here.

Myself and Veena Crownholm

Although this tasting was comped by LDH Kitchen The Robata and Creative Director Nelson Diaz, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

My Top 10 Favorite Bites From Stu And The Kids 2018

The fifth annual Stu and the Kids fundraiser showcased some of the best Thailand-inspired bites by over 25 LA restaurants. Held annually, by Stu and the Kids founder Chef Stuart Skversky and Redbird’s Neal and Amy Fraser at Vibiana, this event brings an incredible turnout of food and beverage vendors as well as epicurean guests to help raise funds for the organization.

Stu and the Kids provides scholarships for poor and orphaned Hill Tribe children for continuing their education in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This one fundraiser raised over $106,500 throughout the whole day.

Myself and guest Sara Mayer-Fried

I’m a tough critic on food events and this one did not disappoint!

What makes Stu and the Kids better than most?

  • If you weren’t able to bid on high ticket items, there was also a vending machine for guests to donate what they can (brilliant idea and I hope more fundraisers take note).
  • None of the food/beverage vendors ran out of food and drinks (to my knowledge- and I was there all day)
  • Putt putt golf! The Tourism Authority of Thailand was there and supplied putt putt for prizes. Not to brag, but I got a hole in one my first try!
  • This event is on a hot summer day, Vibiana, a cathedral turned event space, stays cool inside. There was also plenty of shade for the outdoor portion.
Coconut Tapioca by Patina Catering

My top 10 favorite eats from the event are below!

Chef Jet Tila – Grilled Pork Neck with Sticky Rice

Same Same Thai –  Papaya Salad

Tender Greens – Chicken Wings

République – Grilled Shrimp With Thai Curry 

Chichen Itza – Red Curry Mussels

Patina Catering – Ahi Tuna

Redbird – Local Calamari

Ayara Thai – Northern Pork Curry 

Chef Jason Fullilove from Barbara Jean – Thai Fried Pork Belly

Herb + Orchard – Strawberry Thai Basil Rambutan Infused Water Pop

Please follow @stuandthekids on Instagram to keep up with next year’s event!