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.
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)
When I think of Pinot Noir, I can’t help but think of the pivotal scene in the 2004 film Sideways as seen below. Paul Giamatti’s performance in this scene epitomizes how romantic one can get when talking about this extraordinary red wine.
Although sipping on a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir is fantastic itself, with National Pinot Noir Day coming up here on Saturday, August 18th, I wanted to try something on the unconventional side with our friends at Winc.
Since Winc’s most popular Pinot Noir, Folly of the Beast, is coined after the famous Moby Dick quote “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth that is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men,” I wanted to play around with the idea of pairing it with one of the tastiest beasts of the sea- lobster!
Pinot Noir cultivates in cooler climates, especially around the west coast, I got inspiration for this Folly of the Beast pairing from my idea of a perfect whale watching barbecue. Note: sand and sea are not required for this pairing.
Some of you out there may be scratching your head, wondering how a Pinot Noir would pair with anything seafood related. Lighter bodied reds, like this Pinot Noir, pair well with grilled fish and crustaceans, due to the smokiness from the barbecue process, which plays with the notes of spice from the oak aging process.
In addition to my instructions for barbecuing lobster, I have also included 2 different butters to either spoon on while you’re cooking, or to keep handy on the side to dip the meat in. Both butters will pair with the Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir as well.
Barbecued Lobster Tail
Purchase lobster tails from any market that follows safety and HACCP regulations. My local butcher butterflies the lobster for me, but if you’re not able to have them do it, cut the shell with a pair of kitchen shears.
Heat barbecue grill to a medium-high heat.
Open the lobster and grill directly onto heat for 5 minutes each, flesh side up. I basted each lobster meat with one of the 2 different butters below.
Remove from heat and pair with roasted potatoes, dipping butters from below and a bottle of Folly of the Beast.
For the butter recipes below, combine specified melted butters with the ingredients and mix. Easy!
Classic Lobster Butter
1 cup of salted butter
2 tbsp of minced garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
Zest of lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Smokey Lobster Butter
1 cup of salted butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped green onion
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Zest of lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
One of the many things we love about this wine club is the mix in selection. Winc offers a variety of higher and lower priced bottles of wine and none of them skim on quality. Lobster may be a pricer crustacean, but a bottle of Folly of the Beast is only $18 through Winc (and between us, that’s less expensive than Whole Foods’ price) so you can keep your backyard barbecue party within your budget.
When it comes to pairing foods with your Winc box, think outside the box!
First off, thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!
Second, 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 hashtag, I found Kyley McGeeney (@missionmichelin), who runs her own blog, Mission Michelin. I checked out her project and was excited for the premise behind it – she ate her way through the entire D.C. Michelin Guide and blogged all about it. Kyley and I discuss the world of blogging and fine dining below.
GOF: How long did it take you to eat through every Michelin Star/Bib Gourmand/Michelin Plate restaurant in DC? How did you prioritize what restaurants you dine at?
MM: A little over a year and a half. I started in December of 2016 and completed my mission in July of 2018. I started with ones I was most excited about (e.g. Rose’s Luxury, Tail Up Goat) as well as radiating out in concentric circles from my office especially for lunch.
GOF: Do you give the restaurants a heads up you’re coming in as a blogger, or do you prefer enominity?
MM: I used to not tell them but eventually starting giving them a heads up. It made it easier to get my chef picture and have them sign my Michelin Guide!
GOF: How do these restaurants/chefs/servers react to you photographing the experience?
MM: Sometimes they’re really supportive: they offer to take pictures of me and my dining companions or I can tell they’ve purposely seated me by a window to have good light for the pics. The only times I’ve ever been told “no” were two different chefs/owners who said food was fair game but they didn’t want to be photographed. Also at Komi, where you can’t photograph the food.
GOF: Was fine dining a part of your up-bringing or did it come to you later in life?
MM: Part of my upbringing. We went out to dinner about six nights a week growing up and for my 10th birthday I asked to have a ladies luncheon. In Ithaca, where I’m from, the fine dining options are more limited but in NYC for college our go-to was The Four Seasons.
GOF: Was it tough to budget this project out?
MM: Honestly budgeting my time was a much bigger issue than money. I’m married with two little kids so it wasn’t an option to go out spontaneously or too many nights a week. Everything was planned weeks in advance. I also mainly eat dinner at 5:30pm to be home for bedtime!
GOF: When are you coming to LA to see if we’re Michelin-worthy?
MM: I’ve actually been to LA in the past year! I LOVE Night + Market Song (haven’t been to the other two yet). Thai cuisine is one of my favorites. Gjusta for breakfast is also my go-to. Cassia and Bestia were also great and I am dying to try Somni!
GOF: Now that you’ve reached your goal, what’s up next for you? Any other new projects?
MM: I’m still continuing with food but without necessarily a list to check off. The point of all of this was ultimately to re-acquaint myself with the DC food scene after moving to the suburbs. Just because I’ve eaten at all the restaurants in the Guide doesn’t mean there aren’t new ones, ones not in the Guide, and repeat visits!
The Old School 5022 Old Hydes Ferry Pike, Nashville, TN 37218 Website and Instagram
As much as I love to travel and explore new things, I can sometimes become a creature of habit. I tend to revisit my favorite local restaurants and cocktail bars that I know won’t disappoint. Imagine my reaction when one of my dearest friends wanted to brunch “outside the city” in Scottsboro, Tennessee.
“Scottsboro, Tennessee. Where is that?”
“It’s only twenty minutes or so outside the city, like Bells-Bend area. I’ve heard there’s a great restaurant out there. Come on, let’s check it out! ”
(Shaking my head) “You seriously want to leave the city for brunch? Ok, but this better be worth it and you’re driving!”
To this day, my friend continues to give me a hard time about this. Especially given the fact that I have gone subsequent times and The Old School is now one of my favorite Nashville establishments.
The Old School is located approximately twenty minutes outside Nashville and I promise, it’s absolutely worth the drive (and that’s coming from a girl who detests driving). Led by executive chef, Kristie Bidwell and Pastry Chef, Danielle Veit, all of the items at The Old School are sourced directly from The Old School farm or purveyors within a 25-mile radius.
While farm to table is one of the most popular trends in the restaurant industry, I assure you, this is not your typical farm to table restaurant. The Old School “is a unique, historic, culinary destination experience.” In addition to the farm and restaurant, The Old School has a lovely event space that is perfect for just about anything. From weddings and flower crown making to goat yoga, they have literally done it all.
The Old School supports local farmers and encourages sustainability through an ever-changing menu that highlights hyper-seasonal fruits and vegetables. Aside from sustainable sourcing, they pride themselves on their environmentally conscious practices as The Old School is a prominent member of the Nashville Food Waste Initiative.
After road-tripping an entire twenty minutes (does that even qualify as a road-trip?), we arrived at our destination. Given the fact that we didn’t have a reservation, we made sure that we were approaching the doors exactly at 10:00 a.m. Escorted to our table, I was in absolute disbelief. Is there such as thing as farmhouse-chic? If so, The Old School would receive top prize. From the sweet bouquets of field flowers, the quaint tables for two and the melodious music from the bluegrass band, everything was just perfect.
Given that The Old School uses such hyper-seasonal ingredients, it’s highly unlikely that brunch dishes will remain the same from week to week. Heck, if a brunch dish is uber-popular on Saturday, there could quite well be small substitutions made on Sunday. It changes THAT much. Heed my advice, if there’s something that you want to try, order it. While there could be a variation of the dish, it’s possible you won’t see it again.
The Old School has a fully stocked bar with several beers on tap as well as classic brunch cocktails. If you only take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s this. ORDER THE BLOODY MARY. It’s bloody BRILLIANT! The bartender uses the seasonal vegetables which range from tomatoes, peppers, onions, you name and then roasts them with various spices to concoct this mix. Once you’ve had this bloody, you won’t want to drink anything else….I don’t.
Pastry Chef Danielle Veit is an absolute mastermind of all things sweet. Before I learned about the Baker’s Basket, I would order small treats like the Goat Cheese Beignets or Cinnamon Roll to snack on throughout the meal. However, after seeing the Baker’s Basket for the first time, I forever changed my ways. This basket is filled with bites both sweet and savory and rest assured you will have a smile on your face. The best part, if you don’t finish you can get a box and enjoy them later.
Take it from this Southern girl, there’s nothing better than The Peach Truck peaches. I have been fortunate to enjoy two dishes created by Chef Bidwell this summer. First, Grilled Peach Truck Peaches with Endive Frisée and secondly the Peach Truck Panzanella. I thoroughly enjoyed both dishes, but if I had to choose a favorite, I’d lean towards the Panzanella. It had these crispy fried red onions that were out of this world. Which dish would you choose?
If you don’t have a penchant for peaches, there are plenty of other items on the menu. The Old School offers several smaller dishes in the event that you went a little too crazy on the Baker’s Basket or perhaps just want a lighter meal.
During my last visit, the server recommended the Marinated Baby Heirloom Carrots. Normally, this is not a dish I would gravitate towards, but with his recommendation, I knew it was worth a try. O.M.G. I was a little surprised that the dish was served cold but I really enjoyed the amazing flavors and freshness of the dish.
If you prefer sweet over savory breakfast dishes, I can’t recommend the Pain Perdu enough. Talk about a little bite of heaven. These pillowy pieces of bread are covered in blackberries and bourbon powdered sugar and topped with Asiago cheese. I was a little perplexed when I saw that flavor combination on the menu, but it was love at first bite.
From brilliant bloody marys, Peach Truck peaches and a Pain Perdu that will leave you speechless, it’s evident why brunch at The Old School is a must. Word on the street is that dinner is just as incredible but for some reason, I’ve only made it for brunch. I totally blame it on the bloodys.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and check out The Old School. It’s sure to become one your Nashville favorites
**GOF Tip: Swing by Opentable and make your reservation today. Brunch fills up quickly. Click here for reservations.**
Westwood Village, known for the UCLA campus and student-friendly restaurants and shopping, is growing its own budding food scene. Although juiceries and fast-casual sandwich shops may come to mind first when thinking of this Westwood neighborhood, this area is lucky to have a new friend in Fellow. This new spot, owned by buddies Philip Camino & Terry Tolba, is in the works to become a full service restaurant. Executive chef Michael Bryant (past restaurants include Churchill and Cliff’s Edge) is currently serving up lunch in its soft open to get locals ready for their full opening.
The space is monumental with its 30 foot ceilings and bar with plenty of seating. It’s the kind of atmosphere you could enjoy with your mom dining at the spring-green booths or with your date at their loungier window seating. I’m also pretty sure the UCLA crowd will appreciate their photobooth, especially once the cocktail list is available.
Chef Bryant’s menu is a seasonal, eclectic mix of both fit-foods and comfort dishes, which I think is perfect for this location. I started with the Avocado Toast. Though I stopped ordering this new classic, due to everyone and their mother posting them on Instagram, I begrudgingly took our server’s recommendation for this staff favorite–and I’m actually glad I did.
First off, the generous amount of avocado on the toast alone makes it worthy of an order. But what separates it from the other picturesque toasts is the spread of green goddess dressing, which bursts an unexpected tarragon flavor note. The everything bagel spice on top is also a great touch, one I practice at home often. Clearly, I was off to a great start.
I decided to taste both gluttonous and healthy items, just to give you all a feel for how the menu is perfectly balanced.
The Rock Shrimp Po’Boy is perfect for those for those looking to let loose at lunch. This soft brioche hoagie is stuffed with dill and Old Bay seasoned rock shrimp, lettuce, pickles and comes with a side of yuzu tartare. Each piece of the rock shrimp is crisp and has a zest from the dill, making the yuzu tartare a perfect tart dip.
The Magnificent Three is a choose-your-own-item option allows you to pick a protein, a salad and a selection from the Delicious Plants. I chose a buttery Pan-Roasted Salmon (perfection), a Tuscan Kale Salad and the Roasted Baby Carrots. The carrots have a kick from a Sriracha-Honey glaze but it doesn’t overwhelm. This option will keep that health-nut pal of yours totally satisfied.
In rare form, my favorite dish was actually one of the Delicious Plants sides. I seldom pick a vegetarian dish over any meat options, but this is one of the exceptions. The Lemon & Dill Cauliflower almost had me licking the plate. These perfectly roasted cauliflower florets sit on a plate smear of velouté sauce with a bbq sumac spice. This item will have me coming back for more and I highly recommend you order this as well!
Whether you’re looking to keep it trim or to #treatyoself, Fellow can accommodate all eaters. With the superb flavors and a special eye to the littlest details from Chef Bryant, I have no doubt this spot will flourish in Westwood. It could also inspire more chef-forward restaurants to set up shop here.
GOF Tip: Be sure to park in the Target lot down the street; parking is 2 hours free with validation from Target.
Thank you so much to Lauren Sheftell for arranging this tasting. All though this meal was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Stand in excessively long lines (ahem, Madrid and Street XO)? Wake up at all hours of the night to secure reservations (how else can I secure some of the most coveted reservations) Fly thousands of miles in search of the prettiest bite?
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I will not let any obstacle get in my way of an epic meal and in fact, I’m guilty of all three.
A couple of weeks ago, I flew to San Francisco to visit my very best friend. This girl has been my ride or die and partner in dine since college. So, it goes without saying that every time I visit, I send her a list of potential eateries that I’d like to check out. Knowing that we won’t knock out a fraction of them, I note which ones are an absolute must. On this last trip, there were only three places that were non-negotiable, Toasty, being one of them.
How does a girl from Nashville come across an avocado toast bar in San Francisco? Well, that’s simple. Instagram. A fellow food blogger highlighted Toasty on their feed and I was awestruck. I had no idea that toast could be so pretty.
After a four hour flight and one heck of an intense parallel parking job, we arrived at Toasty.
Toasty, which opened in October 2017, is the first ever avocado toast bar in San Francisco. Owner Sofia Pinzón, who arrived by way of Medellín, Colombia, decided to turn her love of all things avocado into a business that would attract people from across the globe. Realizing that people eat with their eyes, Pinzón created these masterpieces topped with edible flowers that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost…
Toasty, located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, is staffed by only eight individuals. Seating is rather limited with only bar seating available on the inside and three quaint tables located outside the restaurant facade. If you want to grab a place to perch, I’d recommend going early or during an off time, even though I think Toasty has a line out the door on any given day.
Restraint. The first word that comes to mind when I walked through the doors of Toasty. I wanted one of everything on the menu. Remember, I’ve been stalking this eatery for quite some time and that, paired with a voracious appetite can be quite dangerous. After my partner in dine talked some sense into me, we ordered.
Seeing as we just finished caffeinating, we opted for healthier beverage choices: Beet Root and Turmeric lattes. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never had a Beet Root Latte in my life, but it, like all the toasts, was too pretty to pass up.
After five or ten minutes passed, our collection of toasts arrived at our table. Collection is the appropriate word because our selections literally consumed our table and we had nowhere else to go. Thank goodness we planned accordingly and snagged a table.
My partner in dine and I decided that the Eggy and Prosciutto toasts were a must but alas, my inner child wanted the Unicorn toast as well. Who can say no to colorful cream cheese and sprinkles?
I have to admit, we both paused with hesitation. These toasts were indeed to pretty to eat. But let’s be honest, that only stopped us for a minute. We each started with a slice of a different toast. I started with the Eggy, she started with the Prosciutto. Once we devoured this goodness, we exchanged notes and then wooden cutting boards.
Despite the fact that we ordered the Unicorn toast for photos only, I couldn’t resist nibbling on that colored cream cheese goodness. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as sweet as I anticipated.
For those who aren’t avocado enthusiasts (which I can’t even wrap my head around), Toasty offers açaí bowls and chia pudding.
Toasty’s menu changes every six months or so. Sofia has a few upcoming creations that are sure to be both beautiful and delicious. I may or may not have heard rumblings of beet and hummus toast? Perhaps something with arugula? Without a doubt, you know it will be photo worthy!
If you find yourself in San Francisco and find a place to park, head directly to Toasty for an unforgettable avocado toast experience.
Guess who’s back…back again…Fatboi’s back…tell a friend. It is I, Jess, the ghost of Christmas past, coming to you after a year-long WordPress hiatus. In the past year, I started grad school and have been grinding it out, while Christie’s been managing a sports facility and running 23812947 Spartan races (aroo!). But don’t worry, we’ve been just as committed to the #fatlyfe.
July 14th kicked off restaurant week in New Brunswick, NJ. ‘Til the 28th, the hottest spots are offering discounts on beverages, meals, desserts, and everything in between. From ramen to Ethiopian cuisine, to jam-packed strombolis at Stuff’s, there’s something for everyone. It’s a great excuse to have a fancy date night, dinner and drinks with the girls, or a family outing.
I decided to give Catherine Lombardi a try, after hearing great things about their Italian fare. I easily mapped out my prospects from their $39 three-course menu, prior to even setting foot into the building. I rolled out of bed, changed, and headed to Catherine Lombardi accompanied by my childhood friends (s/o to Marce and Cee, the OG’s). Scoping out the restaurant, I quickly regretted my outfit choice. I looked like a fat baby who got separated from her nanny, in my floral jumpsuit. Wine glasses and fancy linen napkins dotted every table, and everything was RED; the walls, the velvet curtains, the carpet, the upholstery. It was what I imagine entering Christian Grey’s red room of pain would feel like, but not as terrifying.
I dove right into the wine menu (overwhelmed by the number of categories I never knew existed) and zeroed in on my go-to, Pinot Grigio, and ran with it.
For starters, I ordered the Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella. Tomatoes are either a hit or miss for me, but I easily chowed them down, and the house-made mozzarella was divine.
I’m obsessed with anything and everything truffle, so I had to go with the Garganelli with truffle cream, prosciutto, and asparagus as my entrée. The prosciutto was the perfect addition, balancing out the truffle flavor.
Marce opted for the linguine with shrimp scampi. Obviously, I stole a bite, and it was a delicious rendition of the Italian classic.
Cee chose the tortelloni with Parmagiano-Reggiano cream and bolognese sauce. We actually had to google if tortelloni and tortellini are the same and *spoiler alert*, they are. I may have an Italian last name, but I had no idea wtf was going on. You may be looking at this picture thinking, ‘What gives? There are only 6 tortellonis.’ I thought the same thing until I sampled some, and the tortellonis were stuffed with filling, making it a reasonable portion size.
To round out my trifecta, I opted for the mascarpone cheesecake. It was incredibly creamy and tasted flan-like.
Marce selected Mrs. Palmisano’s cookie plate. To our delight, the cookies were melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious. This plate would make any Italian grandmother beam with pride.
Cee went for the mango sorbet. It didn’t knock her socks off, but I was pleased with the refreshing zing.
Not only was the presentation on point, but the food quality really knocked it out of the park. All of the ingredients were incredibly fresh, making for flavorful dishes. It was fun pretending to be bougie for a night, all under the guise of a discounted prix fixe menu.
wineLA, Los Angeles’ top source for wine-centered events and education, held their 4th Annual Stars of Pinot gathering at the luxurious Montage Beverly Hills last week. Over 150 wines were poured for enthusiasts to taste, wine reps were on site to talk about their brands and DJ Richard Blade was also spinning the best in 80’s new wave. This grand tasting also raised funds to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation, a non-profit that supports innovative groundbreaking cancer research.
One might be under the impression that an event like this would be suited for the high rollers at wine auctions, but it was actually much more approachable.
With my general admission ticket (priced at $75) I was provided with a beautiful complimentary pinot wine glass and given access to taste any wine on the floor of my choosing. Plenty of cheeses, breads and Evian water bottles were also included in this ticket.
I believe every event should begin with bubbles and clearly, wineLA does too! Sponsor Champagne Henriot was providing guests with a champagne tasting right at the entrance to start the night on a bubbly note.
I’ve been to some smaller scale tasting events in the past, but this was a different beast. The Montage ballroom sets a tone for ostentatious LA glamour, with its operatic balconies and lavish chandeliers. However, the wine reps were all smiles and very down to earth. It was a fun mix of luxury and comfort.
Although this event wasn’t intended for attendees to make on the spot purchases, the reps were readily available with brochures and info on how to buy their wines. Many of the winemakers are also open minded to touring their vineyards, so keep their contact info on file for when you’re in their valley.
I started the tasting tour with one of the friendliest faces there–Lindy Willingham, representing A to Z Wineworks–who set a high standard for the night. Their ’16 A to Z Essence of Oregon is lighter-bodied with notes of stone fruits, perfect for sipping on in the summertime. Although this was an earlier tasting, it was one of my favorite pours of the evening.
Pinot Noir was the belle of the ball, but many makers also offered samples of their rosé and an occasional chardonnay.
Although I attended this one solo (I was there for this post specifically), I do think it’s more fun to attend with a friend. So if you have a wino partner in crime, bring them out! Luckily I did bump into Chef Derrick Fox (who I have interviewed in the past) and I also got to meet one my favorite DJs on Sirius XM, DJ Richard Blade.
There’s nothing better than discovering wines for 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. We’re looking forward to the upcoming 2018 Bubbles and Rosé Festival, Sat, August 25, 2018, 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Leica Store and Gallery in Los Angeles–keep an eye out on Girls on Food for more information.
Although this general admission ticket was comped by wineLA, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
When I first moved to Irvine back in 2008, Bistango was one of the first restaurants that I went to and really enjoyed. Summer is here and they have weekly live jazz music (in partnership with Saddleback College), every Thursday from 5:30pm-8:30pm on their patio deck. It’s one of those days where you can celebrate, because Friday is happening soon! And a good way to celebrate is by relaxing in their patio, order one of their signature cocktails, sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.
They recently revamped their cocktail menu, and I have to say, it was impressive. They have 9 signature cocktails. The 4 we ordered were Coconut Mojito (RumHaven coconut rum, fresh mint, fresh squeezed lime juice), Ginger Basil Lemonade (Malahat ginger rum, fresh strawberry, fresh basil, splash of lemonade), Jalapeno or Pineapple Mule (Dulce Vida pineapple, jalapeno infused Tequila, fresh lime juice, ginger beer), and the Gin Reviver (Botonist gin, lillet blanc, cointreau, fresh lemon juice).
They also have a food menu that has remained classic over the past few years. They have a bar menu, which starts at 2pm, and a tapas menu, which starts at 4pm. If you have a few friends, you guys can definitely order a lot of things to try and share it among you and your friends. A few of my favorites from their food menu is their Pan Seared Diver Scallops, Prime Beef Sliders, Filet Mignon Flat Bread, and the Crab Cakes! All were very savory and delicious!
It tends to get cooler in the evening on the patio, but if it gets too cold, they do have outdoor heaters that they can turn on. All in all, Bistango is a great place to sit back and relax right before you weekend starts. Be sure to grab a few friends for drinks, Uber if you must, pick your poison, sit back, and enjoy the music. If you drove, they do validate your parking ticket. And if you did drive, limit your alcohol intake. ^_^ Until then, cheers!
Although this meal was comped by Bistango via Shout PR, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Before I moved back to Chicago, I lived in Koreatown in Los Angeles, and loved it! One of the things I knew I’d miss was KBBQ. Since moving back, I’ve been looking for a restaurant to fill that craving and bellyQ definitely satisfied it.
When I sat down at my table, I had the opportunity to look around the restaurant and admired the industrial look paired with greenery and different accents throughout the restaurant. bellyQ, owned by Chef Bill Kim, is located that the end of Randolph St. in the West Loop, and it has been making a big name for itself since 2012- this year it earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction for Inspectors’ favorites for good value!
To start off this tasting, I had the Charlie (named as an homage to Charlie Trotter, who Chef Bill had the opportunity to work for twice at Charlie Trotter’s); bourbon, blackberry drinking vinegar, cocchi, and lemon. This drink paired perfectly with everything I ate. This was my first time sipping on a bourbon cocktail and I couldn’t even tell there was liquor in the drink- that’s a sign of a good cocktail!
The first dish I tried was the Lamb Potsticker, and it was amazing! I love lamb, so having it in a potsticker was perfect for me. This dish has napa, cucumber, onion spiced yogurt, and mama Kim’s dipping sauce. Mama Kim’s dipping sauce paired perfectly with the lamb potsticker, and this is definitely a dish I’ll have to get the next time I go to bellyQ.
The next dish I sampled was the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo.” This is an Asian and Italian fusion dish, and it was amazing. This dish has duck, biang biang noodles, napa cabbage, and cilantro. I would never have thought of transforming these ingredients into a Bolognese, but the way Chef Kim created the mix was perfection.
Shortly after the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo” arrived, so did the Savory Scallion Pancakes. The Scallion Pancake comes with three accompaniments, and they are:
Seasonal Pickles with mixed mushrooms
Hummus with eggplant, black beans, and sesame
BBQ Pork pulled shoulder with hoisin bbq
When eating the scallion pancake you’re supposed to put a little of all of the accompaniments on the piece of pancake. I would never have thought about pairing some of these flavors and ingredients, but they paired beautifully, and I couldn’t stop eating it!
The next dish I tried was the BQ Alfredo, which is another Asian and Italian fusion dish. This dish has rice cakes, wrinkled beans, bok choy, mushrooms, and oregano. Substituting noodles with rice cakes worked incredibly well and I loved all of the vegetables!
The final dish I enjoyed, was the Lemongrass Salmon. This dish has white corn grits, brussels sprouts, and pesto giardiniera. I loved the grits and brussels sprouts- definitely recommend this!
To top off this excellent meal, I had the PB & J dessert and a Vietnamese Coffee. The PB & J has coconut soft serve that’s flavored with vanilla, blueberry compote, and peanut butter. I am a HUGE fan of a classic PB & J, so this dessert paired with coffee was a incredible way to end this tasty meal at bellyQ.
I want to thank Chef Bill Kim and Elizabeth (operations manager) for putting together the perfect meal, and a huge thank you to all of the staff at bellyQ for an amazing dining experience. Also, if you want to try some of Chef Bill’s creations but aren’t in Chicago, make sure to get a copy of his cookbook, Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces– I can’t wait to recreate some of the recipes at home!
Thank you to Kinship for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
One of my favorite things is discovering hidden foodie gems in unexpected neighborhoods, and Arami is one of those gems located in West Town. Arami, a repeat Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded izakaya, offers some of the best sushi that I have ever had.
I loved how natural-feeling all the bamboo decor is. The plants and skylight make the atmosphere create a sense of calm, making the dining experience very relaxed. I definitely want to come back on a sunny day, to experience the skylight and see how it lights up the dining area.
For this tasting, we started off with cocktails, and they were refreshing and delicious. We ordered the St. Dorothy, Shiso Kiri, and Bohemian Grove; I had the Bohemian Grove and I loved how nicely it paired with all of the food we tried.
To start off we enjoyed the Tako Kani Salad, which has octopus, king crab, shrimp, cucumber, yuzu, ponzu, and micro shiso. I am a HUGE fan of ponzu and yuzu, so I loved this dish. It was light but flavorful, and the cucumbers made is very refreshing.
Then we moved onto the Hamachi sashimi, which was divine. I loved the presentation and the buttery fish with a tangy finish.
Next, we had the Zuke Sake Hotate (spicy Hokkaido scallop wrapped with marinated salmon and taro) and Zuke Maguro Kani, which were amazing (spicy Alaskan King Crab wrapped with marinated tuna and taro). Both specialties had the right balance of spice, rice, fish, and garnish. I had never tried a tokubetsu (a specialty nigiri) like these before, but I loved them. I was a little nervous about the level of spiciness, but I was pleasantly surprised that everything balanced the spice out.
While we were enjoying the tokubetsu, we were served the Cornchizu. This has corn, queso fresco, shiso, cilantro, miso garlic sauce, and togarashi. Initially I was really surprised that there was a corn cheese dish on the menu because I had only seen dishes similar to this at Korean restaurants. However, when we asked about the inspiration behind the dish we were told that there’s a Korean restaurant down the street that the staff of Arami enjoys and they like the corn cheese dish, which made perfect sense to me. This dish has a bold blend of flavors, and I would highly recommend it if you like the Korean corn cheese.
The Poke was the next dish we devoured, and it was the most unique take on poke that I have ever had. Immediately, I noticed that the colors were more muted than most poke bowls that I’ve had, but once it started eating it, then I noticed how different the flavors were. The fish had a smokier flavor, but that was balanced out by the onion, seaweed, and cucumber. The Macadamia nuts were a nice touch too.
Once we finished the Poke, we were presented with a beautiful flight of nigiri. We started eating it left to right, which meant eating the Hirame (Japanese flounder), then Aji (horse mackerel), and ending with the Sake (salmon). Each fish had more and more flavor, but I loved the ponzu on the Aji.
Then we moved onto the Pipikaula Steak, which was phenomenal. It consists of koji dry-aged domestic wagyu short rib, shoyu mango, and poi. The short rib was amazing, but I really loved the way the shoyu mango complemented the steak.
After the steak, we had the Unagi Spicy Maguro. Unagi is one of my favorites, so I was excited to try this roll. The spicy tuna wasn’t too spicy and the cucumber, sweet soy, and negi definitely helped balance the flavors and spice levels in the roll. Even though, this has spicy tuna, I still found this roll to be very light and refreshing.
Our final dish was the Hotate-Su, which has Hokkaido scallop, Hawaiian hot pepper water, coconut lime sauce, hearts of palm, Thai basil, and passionfruit. This dish is super light and I loved how all of the different flavors mixed.
I loved all of the dishes that we had at Arami. I love the twists they’ve put on some dishes like Poke and the Korean Corn and Cheese dish. Additionally, I also appreciated that they notate on their menu which items are safe for people who are gluten free/have celiac, shellfish free, vegetarian and vegan, and which items have octopus. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this before at a Japanese restaurant, but I appreciate it because I know that I have a place I can bring friends who have dietary restrictions. If you love sushi and are in Chicago, then I definitely recommend Arami!
Thank you to Isabelli Media Relations for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.