Girls on Food

Los Angeles

Chinese Food on the Third Floor: Chang’an Restaurant in San Gabriel, CA

Chang’an Restuarant
227 W. Valley Blvd. Suite 358, San Gabriel, CA 91776
http://www.restaurantchangan.com

I didn’t know what to expect.  Driving up to the three-story outdoor mall on Valley Boulevard, I almost missed this elegant spot located on the top floor.  After I parked my car and walked to the elevator, I wondered what I would experience.  Cashew chicken? Broccoli beef?

As the doors opened, and I turned the corner to see a lovely restaurant and got excited.

As I walked in, it was such a well-decorated room with lots of space.  There were long tables for groups, a huge bar, and an outdoor patio.  It looked like a great place to hang out with a group of friends.

IMG_0659I sat down to look over the menu, which was extensive and creative.  None of the run of the mill Americanized Chinese dishes I was expecting.  It was more like a Spanish tapas menu with Chinese inspired dishes and flavors.  There were starters, rice dishes, mains, even a grilled skewer section, not to mention a huge beer and wine list and some interesting cocktails. I started there.  I wanted something light and refreshing, and the staff told me about the Pearfection.  What arrived was a mojito-like drink with sweet pear flavors, mint, and citrus.  It was a great afternoon drink to get me started.

 

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Before the food arrived, I was brought three small dishes.  One was a simply sliced cucumber, another was rice jelly with a spicy sauce, and the last was soup boiled peanuts with small pieces of carrot and celery.  They told us that for every table, there is always a small offering before the meal but that those varied, I didn’t think I would like them, but they were all so tasty! The variety of textures and flavors got my taste buds ready.

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The first dish I received was the Sautéed Eggplant.  It had been suggested by my server and was a dish I would have typically passed up.  So glad I didn’t.  There were pieces of super soft eggplant and some that were firmer, lots of shrimp and bell peppers.  It was perfectly seasoned with a flavorful sauce and had pine nuts as a textural component.  Not only was the taste amazing and totally different for me, but his presentation was phenomenal.  It looked like a work of art on my plate.

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Next up, the Pork Ribs, they were perfectly glazed and served on a leaf, I didn’t even want to touch them because it was so perfect.  But when I finally took a bite, the sauce was a bit spicy and a bit sweet, a perfect balance to the meat.

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The Salty Egg Rice was next.  There were small pieces of pumpkin and huge plump shrimp.  The serving was huge! I’ll be enjoying the leftovers for a few days!

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Finally, the most beautiful of the bunch, the Prawn Tempura, arrived.  The black plate was the perfect backdrop to the two gigantic prawns fried in a mayo sauce and spun in crispy tempura, the plate was so decadent, I almost felt guilty eating the whole thing myself.

After I was done eating, I was so impressed that I looked over the menus again and made mental notes as to what dishes I wanted to try when I come back, because I will be coming back.  With a group of friends, probably for dinner to enjoy drinks on the patio and try a bunch of really delicious tapas style Chinese food.

Bacon Bash Challenge: Julianne Tests Recipes From Whole Foods Market

According to a recent Business Insiders article, Millennials are dining out more than Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers. I am becoming the total product of my generation as I have been super lazy about cooking my own meals.

I find every excuse in the book to not cook, whether it’s the fact that I would be dining alone, it’s too hot, or simply, I CAN’T EVEN.

When our friends at Whole Foods asked me to participate in their Bacon Bash Challenge, I was in a  slight panic. I’m so rusty when it comes to my cooking skills and what if I do something stupid?

Then they told me that I would be using recipes from their site. So most of the stress vanished!

I decided the time has come for me to roll up my sleeves and get back into the kitchen where I belong! (Of course, I mean, where I choose to be… #modernfeministproblems)
There are nearly 4,000 recipes on the Whole Foods website. Plenty of these recipes incorporated bacon. I settled on making the Collard Greens and Bacon English Muffins.

Collard Greens and Bacon English Muffin 

by Whole Foods

Serves 4 (perfect for making breakfasts in advanced)

Ingredients:
  • 8 pieces bacon (I went with Black Forest Bacon)
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens (about 1/2 pound), ribs removed, leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 whole wheat English muffins, split and toasted
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Method:
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until just crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Carefully discard all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat and then return the skillet to medium-high heat.
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Add bell peppers and cook, stirring often until golden brown and just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add collard greens and cook, tossing often until just wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes more.
image3Spread yogurt onto English muffins and then pile with greens and bacon slices.
This recipe is so tasty, easy and it totally inspired me to get back in the kitchen! Thanks, Whole Foods! 
bacon bash

Deep in the Heart of NoHo: El Tejano

el tejano signI made it into El Tejano, which just opened up in the North Hollywood Arts District. I know El Tejano translates into “The Texan” in Spanish, but my background with Tex-Mex isn’t extensive. I’ve (sadly) never been to the Lone Star State. So I’m not coming from the perspective of a Yellow Rose From Texas, just a SoCal girl who loves food. Cause that’s what we’re all about here.

 

El Tejano
11122 W Magnolia Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91601
http://eltejanotexmex.com

The interior design of El Tejano is festive and welcoming; it definitely brings to mind what I imagine a summer in Texas is like. Right when you enter through the large patio the party gets started! There is an outdoor bar with plenty of seating. And to your right, there’s outdoor bean bag games, giant Connect Four and even a pillory for pictures.

el tejano bar

Those bright colors transferred into the dining room; this would be such a fun place to get your local girl gang together at for food and drinks.

el tejano interiror

I died when I saw this wall of cowboy hats and sombreros. So cute!

el tejano palomaI bellied up to the bar ready to wet my whistle with one of my favorite cocktails, the Paloma; grapefruit-infused tequila, soda, lime, agave and grapefruit bitters. I love my cocktails a little bit tart, so this was perfect for me.

el tejano michelada

If you’re coming in with a guest, I recommend the Michelada. This bloody mary (beer instead of vodka) comes with Imperial Cerveza beer and the mix but look at that portion! It’s perfect for two people to share. At $7, that’s tough to beat.

Heads up: There isn’t table service here, you do have to order at the bar, and then you are given a number for your table. Let’s eat!

I wanted to try the fun appetizers I associate Tex-Mex with so I ordered the Queso Fundido, Nachos, and Frito Pie.

el tejano nachos

As you can see, this portion of Nachos is gigantic! There’s plenty to share with friends. The chips are covered in melted a Tejano cheese blend, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, and tomatoes. You have your choice of meat to add if you want to add it. I want with the carnitas, which was obviously an awesome choice!

el tejano queso fundito

For my cheese monger readers, the Queso Fundido is made up of all your food porn fantasies (see my video here). The gooey cheese is piping hot and fresh off the skillet with poblano peppers, onions and I added chorizo on top. It comes with a side of flour tortillas to soak up all those juices. It’s like Tex-Mex fondue!

el tejano frito pie

Their Frito Pie is a huge step up from my Dad’s growing up (sorry dad!). The Fritos came topped with ground beef, cheddar cheese, sour cream and Pico de Gallo. I love the difference in temperatures with the cooked beef and chill spreads.

el tejano churros

After all these savory treats, I had a serious sweet tooth, so I decided to try their Churros, which came with both caramel and chocolate. They’re fresh out the fryer, crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside and topped with cinnamon and sugar. You can view my churro dipping porn here.

 

 

If you’re ever in North Hollywood, slap on your cowboy boots and get in there!

For the Love of Summer: Cherry Pineapple Turnovers

Chrystal here and it’s my first recipe on Girls on Food! I just want to start by sharing a recipe perfect for summer. Since pineapples and cherries are superb this time of the year, I thought I’d turn them into some beautiful turnovers. I love these pastries because they’re simple and great if you’re busy traveling and need a quick breakfast, spending a day at the beach or just want something to satisfy that sweet tooth. These turnovers are also fun to bake with your friends!

Cherry Pineapple Turnovers

Recipe makes about 1 dozen large turnovers

Preheat oven to 350º

For the dough:

1 package store bought pastry sheets

1 egg with a TBL of water for egg wash

For the filling:

½ Pineapple

1 cup cherries

1 TBL unsalted butter

½ cup light brown sugar

1 TBL orange juice

1 TBL Cornstarch

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

The first step is to make the filling then let cool.

Here’s how to make the filling: Wash, rinse, and cut your fruit into small pieces think ¼ inch to ½ inch size. Set those aside and gather the rest of your ingredients.

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Start by heating a small sauce pot and melting a tablespoon of butter on a med/low heat. Once melted, add your sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and all your fruit.

Using a spatula mix all the ingredients so that the sugar is coating the fruit and all the spices meld together.

Whisk your cornstarch with orange juice in a small bowl (this will make your filling thick). Once the ingredients are mixed and have been on heat for a couple of minutes, the sugar and the juice from the fruit combined should make a soupy like a compote, this is when you can add that orange juice and cornstarch mixture.

Once you add that, again continue to stir for a couple more minutes, and you will see the fruit and all its juices become thick, it might look a little like jam. As soon as this occurs, turn off the heat and transfer into another bowl to chill. Place in fridge until the turnovers are ready to be assembled.

To assemble you will need a few more things:

A rolling pin

A flat board or work surface

Flour for dusting

A pastry brush for egg wash

A fork to close seams on turnovers

Sheet trays and parchment or aluminum foil for baking

Cooking spray or baking spray

Preheated oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you have everything, a preheated oven, fruit filling and egg wash (whisk an egg with some water in a small bowl, this is to close the turnovers).

Now let’s get started, I use the Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets, which come two to a box.  Flour your work surface and then place one of those sheets on top. With a floured rolling pin, slowly apply pressure to the dough by rolling back and forth until it becomes a wider rectangle on all sides. Roll until you have a half inch wider on all sides, then cut your dough in half, then in thirds so that you have six even squares.

Spoon your filling in the middle of each square; one generous spoonful should be fine.

Next, using a pastry brush, brush egg wash on all sides of each square, then take the bottom left corner of each square and pull the dough over to the right corner forming a triangle. Do this to all six squares. Then take a fork, flour it, and press that fork along all sides of each triangle creating a closed seam and a lovely design.

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Place each triangle on a sprayed baking sheet. Clean your surface a bit then do the same steps with the other sheet of dough. Once all the turnovers are on the baking sheets, egg wash them and make a couple of tiny slits on the surface to let some steam out while baking. Bake for 20-25 min till they have a nice golden brown color. Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Big Bangin’ Taste at Big Catch Seafood in West Covina, CA

You had me at “Secret Cajun Sauce”…

Big Catch Seafood
112 Plaza Dr, Suite 1465, West Covina, CA 91790
http://thebigcatchseafood.com

When we visited Big Catch Seafood, it seems they were slightly understaffed and not expecting a small last minute crowd at 8:30 considering they close at 9 pm. Our host Jeremy was wearing a couple of hats that day, General Manager and Chef. One of his cooks was out due to a new baby arrival (Congrats btw), and Jeremy was covering the kitchen for him. Our waiter, Michael, asked if we wanted to order off the menu or let Jeremy pick for us. My guest ordered the crawfish plate, and I simply ordered… “Surprise me with anything garlicky and spicy please!”

We busied ourselves watching videos on how to properly eat crawfish. About the points, they got to “Twist the head off and suck out the juices” I was incredibly thankful that he ordered the crawfish, and I was pretty sure I was getting something else.

I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but once in a while, I do miss the taste of certain beverages, like a delicious Mojito. Lucky me, they make a super refreshing mojito lemonade there!

image For sides, we had sweet potato fries and a jambalaya fried rice! I’m not a big fan of sweet potato fries, but these were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft inside with the perfect mixture of sweet and salty.

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The crawfish presentation alone had me anxious to try them. The beautiful bright color of the crawfish offset by the yellow of the corn on the cob made me excited and festive! Here’s a little secret, though, food turns me on! I’m that girl that wants to giggle and clap when my food comes out if it looks this way! For my entrée “Chef” Jeremy prepared me a humongous, gorgeous plate of crab legs with hidden pieces of corn on the cob and huge chunks of potato. All covered and swimming in a secret Cajun sauce!

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Here’s another secret, I am a sauce/condiment queen. Dipping, dunking, and just altogether pampering my food in any luxurious complementary go-along is just heaven for me!
With that said this dish couldn’t have made me happier. Don’t get me wrong crab legs alone are an indulgence. Armed with my bib and cracker, I went to work. I’m not exactly sure what was in the “secret “sauce, but I’ll tell you this… I’m not sure that a tennis shoe wouldn’t be quite enjoyable covered in it!
Well, my dinner date was busy twisting and sucking (yeah I had to), I got to reap the rewards of his work. I’m not sure that I’ve ever tasted crawfish before. It’s a little firmer than shrimp, but similar in taste, and has a beautiful red color. I most definitely see the appeal of big crawfish boil parties!
And here’s another little plus, in case you are a westsider, there is a location in Brentwood on Wilshire Blvd.
You better believe I am hitting that one up soon! However, I will leave you with this, one of my favorite things about eating out is experiencing excellent customer service, and that is exactly what we got! So, even though West Covina isn’t in my backyard, I will be making a trip to visit Jeremy and Michael again for sure!

Julianne’s Favorites From The Wellesbourne in West LA

Fun Fact: All the paintings, decorations, mirrors and event the front door were shipped from England.
Fun Fact: All the paintings, decorations, mirrors and event the front door were shipped from England.

Over the past six years, The Wellesbourne has been serving West LA the best in classic handcraft cocktails. What I’ve always loved about The Wellesbourne is that you can savor an old-fashioned drink in a bar that has the feel of Mad Men, but without that Betty Draper stuffiness. The lighting is dim and dark (brutal for us foodies on Instagram) but it’s fun to take your focus off the phone and place it in the company you’re with.

This old-school, library inspired lounge has plenty of space for big groups to kick back after work. Plus, there are foosball and shuffleboard tables for fun.

The Wellesbourne 
10929 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
http://thewellesbourne.com

When I got the word that they just started dinner service (5 PM – 11 PM), with a menu from Chef Parker Shaw (formerly of Flores and Sons) I couldn’t resist stopping in to check it out. I got to talk to Chef Parker, and he told me that the menu was inspired by the liquors they currently serve and that the idea is to pair cocktails with food to elevate the flavors together. 

IMG_9811For my drink, I decided on my old standby a Rob Roy, scotch, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. This oaky but smooth cocktail paired well with my savory bites. A Rob Roy is one of those cocktails that’s tough for bars to get right (probably since it’s such an “old man” drink by most LA bar standards) but The Wellesbourne nails it. They’re knowledgeable and well-trained in the art of craft cocktails.

IMG_9810My gal pal Kathy went with an Old Fashioned, Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey, Bitters, and Sugar. Her Old Fashioned also came with a fun presentation; the server flamed the citrus peel for us. So much fun to watch.

Now onto my favorite shared plates-

Stuffed Veal Meatball 

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The stuffed veal meatball was my favorite item on the new menu! This big, flavorful meatball filled with a foie gras mousse, confit bacon and parmesan and regianno cheeses. Then it’s topped with carrot top pesto and a light amount of greens, shaved fennel and pickled tomatoes surround the meatball. Unlike your traditional meatball with tomato sauce (or gravy if you’re from the mid-west) this meatball is surrounded by veggies. Sounds different, huh? Trust me on this one the veggies flavors play very well with the meatiness.

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Sticky Cognac and Orange Marmalade Chicken Wings

The wings are sweet, crispy, sticky but worth the clean up!  The portion size is also perfect for sharing.

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes

IMG_9813These fried smashed fingerling potatoes have a drizzle of spicy remoulade, garnished with fresh rosemary. Then they added sliced dill pickles. I realize this may sound odd to some readers, but I am a dill pickles fanatic! I can eat dill pickles anytime wth any dish. Another filling shared plate, big enough for leftovers.

 

 

 

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Other great dishes include the Whiskey Cured Pork Belly (top) and the Raspberry Cider Glazed Pork Ribs (bottom).

unnamedFor dessert, we ordered a round of The Kensington Court Special, Absolute Vodka, apricot liqueur, passionfruit, lime and orange juice. Nothing wrong with a liquid dessert!

There is also a great happy hour here that includes food and drink under $10.

Hopefully, I’ll see you around here sometime, we can play fooseball and trow back a few together!

dineLA Sneak Peek: The Federal Bar in North Hollywood

As a NoHo-ian. A NoHo-er. Ok, as someone who lives in NoHo, I was stoked to hear that The Federal Bar will be participating in dineLA (7/18-7/31). I’ve frequented their sick brunch deal before but never hung around for lunch or dinner.

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The Federal Bar
5303 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601
nh.thefederalbar.com


Side bar: No matter what LA hood you reside, you must try their brunch. Entrees and bottomless mimosas for two will run you 30 bucks. The Federal is close to 101 and 170 exit or if you want to save some gas – it’s walking distance to the North Hollywood stations for the Metro Orange Line and Red Line.

beerBut I digress. Breakfast isn’t the only thing they do well. They’ll be offering both a special weekday prix fixe lunch and daily dinner menus with some of their signature dishes for the annual dineL.A. Restaurant Week. You don’t need a ticket to go, but reservations are recommended.

It’s $20 a person for the two-course lunch which includes soda, iced tea or coffee. Dinner is gonna run $29 per person and includes one of their draft beers.

Beer lovers rejoice because you have a great selection. I opted for the lighter of the bunch, a Craftsman 1903. Wanna try some more brews from their extensive menu? Come early for their daily happy hour from 3-6pm. $2 off beer, $3 house wine and $3-7 cocktails.

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Front Bar

For appetizers, you get a choice of the smoked wings, quinoa & kale or the house bacon mac & cheese. I opted for the latter because bacon and cheese! It did not disappoint. Made with their house made bacon, a three cheese sauce and shell pasta with a panko crust. It was a little spicy. A little crunchy. And a whole lot of cheesy bacon goodness.

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House Bacon Mac & Cheese

burger on streetEntrees included a grilled veggie bowl, red sangria poached white fish, beef short rib or their MCO Burger (MOO-CLUCK-OINK). What is that MCO you ask? Well, just a little piece of meat heaven. They have a beef patty with bacon, lettuce and tomato and a sunny side up egg.

I almost didn’t want to eat it, because it looked so lovely. But clearly, I did. This is served with either fries or brussels sprouts and since I really wanted to carb it up – I opted for the fries.

 

This was my favorite tied with the short rib because I’m a true carnivore. But the vegetarians and pescatarians at the table thoroughly enjoyed the veggie bowl and fish options.

short rib
Short Ribs

For dessert, they have a warm rocky road skillet with vanilla bean sauce or a caramel budino with almond biscotti.

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Rocky Road Skillet

This was a complete tie for me. Go with a friend and each get one. Variety is the spice of life! In fact, share everything because it was just that good.

A Dog Day Afternoon at The Lincoln in Venice, CA

If there’s one thing I love as much as food, it’s dogs! So when I heard that The Lincoln, a craft cocktail bar in Venice, was hosting “A Dog Day Afternoon” to benefit No-Kill LA (an initiative of the Best Friends Animal Society), I knew I had to be there!

The Lincoln
2536 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

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The Lincoln is a industrial-chic bar that fits right in with Venice’s gritty and eclectic vibe. It evokes the style of a 40’s auto-shop with vintage decorative touches and repurposed materials such as barstools made from car-jacks, and glass from a Sherman tank factory. When I arrived at the brick, open-air patio with sunlight filtering through wooden beams, it was bustling with a lively mix of people and their canine companions.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Patio

I brought my dogs, Max and Oliver, along for the experience, and they were happy to mingle with some of the other pups as I perused the special drink menu for the event. I did treat them a lot on this trip, especially when it came to the food. I know a lot of people with pets do like to do that, but I think it may be time to try switching to natural dog food. This would be in their best interest in all honesty and I can always treat them once in a while!

There were even dog food reviews in the forms of pamflets as well as free samples for your dog too! I was talking to someone there and they were telling me about the fantastic new dog playpen DogProductPicker.com research on dog playpens has found that having the right playpen for a dog can reduce damage to your furniture and lawn, so I’m told. How interesting!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Menu

Being a wine lover, I had to try the Rose Wine Flight right off the bat! For $12, the pours are generous, and it was a treat to sample the different flavors of rose from various regions.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Wine-Flight

The first, a Grenache/ Cinsault blend from the Famile Sumeire winery in Provence, France, had a bright berry flavor with hints of spice balanced with a subtle minerality.

The second glass, a Grenache/ Syrah “Funk Zone” blend from Santa Barbara was my favorite. Crisp and dry, it was a mellow wine, perfect for a Sunday afternoon; that offered flavors of honeysuckle and strawberry with notes of citrus.

The third wine was also a hit; a Chenin Noir by Domaine Brazilier of Loire, Franc. This was the most complex tasting, and it boasted a strong, almost cidery vibe, with flavors of ripe melon, lemon zest, and pepper.

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Any of these wines would have paired perfectly with seafood or a summery strawberry salad, and I may have to hunt down a bottle or two to keep at home. The Lincoln doesn’t serve food, but for this particular event they had 100% beef hot dogs available for free, and I helped myself to one only to earn jealous glances from Max and Oliver.

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Luckily for them, The Lincoln provided free doggy treats and fresh water for all the visiting pups to enjoy. (I can also say that the rose flight pairs quite nicely with a good, old-fashioned hot dog!)

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog-Treats

I was also tempted by the cocktails offered on the special menu, so I tried a “Bark at the Moon”, made with gin, amaretto, mandarin, lemon, and egg. This cocktail was deliciously citrusy, creamy, smooth and totally refreshing. The whipped egg whites on top offered a light and foamy touch – it was like drinking a lemon meringue pie!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Cocktail

I would have tried more cocktails if I didn’t have to make the drive back to Pasadena, so I worked off my buzz by wandering the patio, saying hello to some of the other dogs and their owners. There’s no better ice-breaker than a dog, and I found that everyone at The Lincoln was friendly and eager to chat. I loved the neighborly vibe of this bar, and I only wish I lived closer so I could become a regular.

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I also made sure to visit the NKLA booth at the back of the patio. Every donation made that day was pledged to be matched by The Lincoln, so I was happy to contribute $20 to the cause, and pick up a t-shirt as well. For those that don’t know, No-Kill LA is a fantastic organization whose mission is to serve as a model for how the rest of the nation’s animal shelters can become no-kill. Since their launch in 2012, NKLA has reduced the amount of animals killed in Los Angeles shelters by 66%, thanks to a variety of programs including spay/neuter clinics, pet adoptions, and fostering. They aim to make Los Angeles a no-kill city by 2017, which is great news for pet lovers everywhere.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-NKLA

NKLA also brought along Sabrina, a three-year-old Terrier and Pitbull mix with a goofy personality, who was up for adoption. If I didn’t already have two dogs (both of whom are rescues), I would have been tempted to bring Sabrina home with me! She was such a sweetheart, and I hope that she finds her forever home soon.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Sabrina

Dogs are always welcome on the patio of The Lincoln, but I was glad to learn that “A Dog Day Afternoon” will likely be a monthly event where local dog-lovers can gather to support an excellent cause while enjoying delicious craft cocktails in one of Los Angeles’ hippest neighborhoods. It was well worth the trek for me, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Tania

Ilcha Korean BBQ: Baller Buffet in LA

Very little things in the dining world excite me more than the opportunity to pick and choose what I want on my plate. Nothing makes me happier than slowly deciding what flavors I feel like toying with and having the option to indulge myself in as little or as much as I please.

Ilcha Korean BBQ
3377 W Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019
http://ilchabbq.com/

This place is only two months in and I predict will be a happening spot for years to come!

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Let me start by saying that they have a great parking lot with a valet. For this part of town, this is a huge plus.

Putting the buffet right at the entrance is a bold move! The cleanliness and beautiful display were the first things that I noticed.

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imageAlthough they offer some items a la carte, we chose the all you can eat Korean bbq and buffet. The prices are reasonable considering it is ALL YOU CAN EAT. You can also pay a little more for a larger portion of unique meat selections like Kobe tartare and Kobe tongue! The buffet also has traditional Korean options like kimchi and spicy rice cakes.

The decor of Ilcha is hip, clean and is has an interactive atmosphere. I love cooking, so the Korean style BBQ is enticing to me. Just an FYI for those of you who don’t like to cook your food dining out: the servers are more than happy to do that part for you coming by often to flip the meats!

imageOur waiter River was on hand constantly. On his suggestion, we started with the Bulgogi and prime filet mignon. The Bulgogi was left to boil in its juices on the grill in a cute little brass pot; we slowly ate it throughout dinner. Although I don’t prefer sweeter meat, this has the perfect hint of sweetness that complimented the light slices of meat. Our filet crisped up nicely on the grill and was excellent dipped in sesame oil and salt.

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For our second round of ordering, we had the lobster. The lobster, served in a tin foil container, cooked on the grill and again our excellent server River came to finish it off for us by flaming the outside to perfection!

Before we headed to the buffet for dessert, I had to try the shrimp scampi. It was also served in a tin foil container in the grill and was scrumptious in its buttery garlic yumminess!

 

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Here’s one of my favorite parts… Self-serve! Oh, my! Vanilla and chocolate sauce or chocolate with caramel sauce… Um, both, please!

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There was also melon, chocolate covered strawberries, mini creme brûlée, red bean squares and the most delicious almond cookies!

I’ll be back for sure with more friends and a taste for adventure… Because there’s small intestine and pork neck I need to try!

 

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.

Fin3
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.

Fin7
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

Fin6

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 Luggage Room Pizzeria in Pasadena

Who doesn’t love a good slice of pizza? I know I do. The problem is, it’s so hard to find a pie that combines the right ratio of toppings, cheese, and crust. Too often when I eat pizza, I find myself wishing there was more or less of one ingredient or the other. Luckily, I’ve discovered a pizzeria in my hood that strikes the perfect balance between all the necessary pizza elements, and does so with unique combinations of fresh farmer’s market ingredients!

The Luggage Room Pizzeria
260 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105
http://www.theluggageroom.com

The-Luggage-Room-Pizzeria-PatioThe Luggage Room is a charming spot in the heart of Old Town Pasadena right next to the Gold Line Del Mar station. In fact, true to its name, the restaurant’s building was once the station’s luggage room back in 1934. Today, the interior still retains that classic feel but has been updated with sparkling chandeliers, bright red walls, and modern art. I was there for lunch, so I chose to take advantage of the summer sunshine and sit outside on the bustling patio, which overlooks Pasadena’s Central Park.

To start things off, I ordered a refreshing summer cocktail by the name of “Ingo’s Greyhound”: a mix of Ford’s gin, fresh grapefruit, lemon, and mint served over crushed ice. It was crisp and delicious – just right for a hot summer’s day!

Ingos-Greyhound-Cocktail

I also tried a “Mind the Gap”, made with Ayelesbury Duck vodka, fresh cucumber, serrano peppers, and cardamom. This drink was smooth with a nice kick of spice on the tail end. Both cocktails reminded me of fresh-squeezed juice from a farmer’s stand. Can a cocktail taste healthy? Because these did!

Mind-the-Gap-Cocktail

For an appetizer, I was going to order a salad… until I spotted “Cafe Deviled Eggs” on the menu. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg, and these appetizers brought over from next door’s La Grande Orange Cafe did not disappoint! Each egg was generously piled with fluffy filling, but with a light enough texture that I wasn’t left feeling full before my pizza arrived. I enjoyed the smoky paprika flavor, mixed with a dash of chives. A sprinkling of crisp bacon on top added a nice, salty crunch to each bite.

Cafe-Deviled-Eggs

Onto the best part – the pizzas! I was simply blown away. The Luggage Room boasts a vast selection, and it is hard to narrow down my choices, so I ended up trying three different pies. The first was a special brunch pizza called “Love U Brooklyn.” It’s only available on Saturdays and Sundays from noon till 3 pm and features The Luggage Room’s signature crust topped with smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, and red onion with herbs and lemon zest. I have never tried a salmon pizza before, but I’m definitely sold on the idea now. The blend of all the ingredients was perfect – the cream cheese was not too overpowering, and it provided the perfect base for the buttery flavor of the salmon, while the crisp red onions, bright lemon, and briny capers added just the right amount of pop to each slice.Love-U-Brooklyn-Pizza

Next, I tried “The Padre”, which my friendly server recommended. This one featured prosciutto di San Daniele, dates, blue cheese, all topped with a heaping serving of fresh arugula. I enjoyed the sharp flavor of the cheese tempered by the sweet dates and zesty greens. The salty prosciutto and fresh shaved parmesan on top rounded out the flavor nicely.

The-Padre-Pizza

And can we just talk about the amazing crust for a minute?

Whenever I eat pizza, I’m one of those people who tends to leave a pile of discarded crusts on my plate. This is usually because I operate under the belief that crust takes up precious real-estate in my belly. Too often, the crust is bland or dry, and I’d much rather eat the part of the pizza that has, you know, all the stuff on it.  Well, this was not the case at The Luggage Room. I can safely say that their amazing crust deserves as much praise as their toppings, and I ate every last crumb.

Their dough is made in-house using a genuine live starter and is free of extra fats and hidden ingredients. After cooking in their wood-burning oven (with olive wood for added flavor), the crust comes out fluffy on the inside, and crisp on the outside, with a nice wood-burned sear on the edges.

The Padre’s crust had an extra glaze of rosemary-infused olive oil that brought out that springy sourdough flavor.

The-Luggage-Room-Pizzas

Now, If you’re gluten free and can’t try The Luggage Room’s traditional crust, fear not, for they also offer a gluten-free option, also made fresh each day. For my last dish, I tried their vegan pizza, “The Dalai Lama”, which comes with the gluten free crust, and is brimming with seasonal veggies. This pizza was simply beautiful to look at- what a riot of color!

The-Dalai-Lama-Pizza

I love food that tastes as vibrant as it looks, and this pizza was no exception. It featured a lively combination of cashew cheese, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, yellow peppers, kale, and brussels sprouts. All the veggies were fresh and bursting with flavor, and the gluten-free crust was crispy and nicely seasoned. Vegans and non-vegans alike will certainly enjoy this light and healthy palate-pleaser.

The-Dalai-Lama-closeup

Alas, I was too full to sample The Luggage Room’s desserts, which were an assortment of gelato, red velvet cake, key lime pie, and chocolate pave. However, I did help myself to one of their complimentary French sea salt and chocolate chip cookies on my way out. They were freshly baked and thin with a chewy center, and the sweet and salty combo was the perfect cap to my meal.

tania-with-french-sea-salt-chocolate-chip-cookie

I’m confident I’ll become a regular at The Luggage Room Pizzeria, especially since I’m lucky enough to live so close to it, but its convenient location to the Metro station means that anyone across L.A can quickly hop over for a satisfying meal in a beautiful, historic setting.

Hungrily Awaiting This Weekend’s LA Food Fest

Hey Foodies,

One of the coolest things about living in Los Angeles is that there’s always an event with lots of eats happening. I LOVE a good food festival and LA Food Fest, 7/8-7/10 at Exposition Park, has me pumped with excitement for this coming weekend! Here are the top reasons why you should check out LA Food Fest this weekend (get your ticket here):

la food fest map
LA Food Fest map

The chef hosted an opening party – On Friday, 7/8, at 7 PM,  the LA Food Fest kicks off with an intimate long table dinner (informal of course, this is LA) in their Rose Garden Pop Up Restaurant.

This multi-course, family style dinner will include meals prepped by popular local chefs Chris Oh, Nguyen Tran and Johnny Ray Zone. What female foodie in their right mind could resist a dinner with such cute chefs? (insert heart-eyed Emoji here)

There will also be plenty of beer and wine selections to pair with the dinner. Tickets to this event are $150, but you will still have access to Saturday and Sunday’s festivities. #worthit

birdies 6
Our friends from Birdies will be there! Pictured: Lemon Thyme Pistachio & Spicy Birdie w/ fried egg

Over 100 + food and beverage vendors – Saturday, 7/9 and Sunday, 7/10, LA Food Fest will pack  Exposition Park full with all its various goodies. Be sure to wear your “eating dress”!

The vendors I’m looking forward to tasting are:

Cento Pasta Bar
Waffle Jack
Ceviche Stop
Fritzi Dog
Pirozhski Truck
The New York Pig– 2016 James Beard Foundation Nominee for Outstanding Restaurant (NYC based)
Barcito
Free Range LA
Vendors are being added daily, for a complete list check our the LA Food Fest list here.

You can attend LA Food Fest on a budget – Tickets start as low as $15 to get in, and all the vendors are guaranteed to have one $5 food item available (while supplies last). So if you only have $40 to spare, you can still leave satisfied.

If you have more to spend, you should check out the Golden Hour option, which is $69. At this price, attendees receive two hours of all-inclusive sampling before the main action starts.

Amazebowls, who we've reviewed before, will be there as well!
Amazebowls, who we’ve reviewed before, will be there as well! Pictured: Coconut bowl

This family-friendly festival also features charity partner Peace4Kids’ Mobile Village Kitchen. The live culinary stage featuring chef demos, live podcasts, sneak peeks at summer movies Sausage Party and Lights Out. There will also be an Artisanal LA Farm Shop featuring more than 30 unique made LA-based vendors, a Bocce, Beer and Chill Zone. And live music, sets from KCRW DJs Anne Litt and PRI’s Betto Arcos, and a Kids Zone presented by Barnsdall Art Park. What more could you ask for?

I think it’s safe to say the LA Food Fest is an event not to be missed! I’ll see you there Saturday, and a video will be coming soon! – Julianne