Girls on Food

Los Angeles

Hanging with The Chori-Man in Culver City

I’d like to say I’m introducing you to one of Culver City’s little-hidden secrets. However, nothing about this man is little. He’s got a big personality, and his chorizo has an even bigger taste! Take it from me; I fancy myself a sausage/chorizo fan (you might say fanatic)!

While apartment hunting a little over a year ago, I discovered one of my new favorite spots, Del Rey Deli Co.! This little gem of a deli deserves its own blog post, so I’ll leave that for another time.

But while there, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they cure their meats and also serve chorizo made by the Chori man himself … Who was cheffin’ it up behind the counter.

Chori (his nickname) can be contacted by email at raygozachorizo@gmail.com or by phone at (424)239-4486.

chori manAs usually happens with me and food, I formed a quick obsession. I follow him on Instagram @thechoriman … And I love watching his successes! A year later The Chori-Man (Humberto Raygoza) is making it on his own. You can find him every Saturday at “The Wall” farmers market in Downtown LA 9 am to 2 pm. Here he can be found making his chorizo into tacos and burritos. In fact, his green chorizo burritos scored him a place in the top 10 list of the best burritos in L.A. on L.A. Taco.

Find him there and tell him Alia sent you! He also delivers to a handful of local restaurants and you can special order from him with a minimum order of 5 lbs.

Onto the meat!

The chorizo comes in 5 varieties and can be custom ordered made with chicken or soyrizo. I opted for the Mexican Zacatecano Red because it’s spicy… and so am I. The Chori-Man insisted I also try the Tolucan Green Chorizo, also a Mexican variety. It’s kind of like the Red’s-not-so-hot brother, but as you get to know him you love him for his solid and reliable taste. You can purchase the chorizo in a traditional sausage casing or one pound bags. I chose the Red and Green because I had a few ideas in mind, including egg dishes. Yes, I was already thinking about breakfast before I had even made dinner…

IMG_1356Chorizo day 1: Eggs are another food obsession of mine, and I was anxious to try the green chorizo with my other love. One of my favorite easy to make treats is eggs made in a muffin pan. Usually, I make a turkey bacon basket or a cup out of prosciutto. But you know what I heard, “Chorizo is the new bacon.” These little babes are so easy to make, and the presentation is always excellent. Partnered up with avocado, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, garlic and cayenne salad, I was in heaven. Not wanting to neglect my new love, I made cups out of both the green and red chorizo.

IMG_1358The little souffle cups are made by simply scrambling the eggs and adding a little salt and pepper, and they pop up just perfectly. My little-baked ones are simply that, just a cracked egg in the cup and baked at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

 

 

 

Chorizo day 2: Anyone who knows me knows how much restraint I am practicing writing this post and only making minimal dirty jokes! If you don’t know me yet, I will just say I should come with a warning!

IMG_1271So… I may have had balls on my mind! I’m a huge fan of meatballs and was excited to try out chorizo balls, as I was sure these would be my new favorite. Usually, I would bake them, however, on Chori’s suggestion, I fried them in a little extra virgin olive oil, so I could save the juices and saute some zucchini in it. WHOA!!! While my zucchini was sauteing, I slow cooked black beans with quartered cherry tomatoes, diced scallions, garlic, and cilantro.

Once plated I laid down a bed of the zucchini, a ladle of the black beans, topped with chorizo balls and sprinkled with cubed avocado! This dish was AMAZEBALLS!!! All puns are fully intended…

So, let me tell you this chorizo, is hot! Spicy in all the right ways, but not so much that you can’t taste all the wonderful flavors. It complimented but didn’t overpower! Here’s the other beautiful thing, it was light. Not so dense that you wanted to play billiards with the leftover balls, a common problem I find with regular meatballs. In fact, there were no leftovers at all!

To sum up this experience…
No matter how you shape it The Chori-Man’s chorizo will not only meat your expectations, but exceed them! (I know… I know)

3rd Generation Sake Bar in DTLA

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

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

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

3rd gen martini

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

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

3rd gen tuna

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

3rd gen ramen

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

 

Oodles of noodles!
Oodles of noodles!

3rd gen ice cream

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

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

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

Summer sipping at Whole Foods: The Eight Bar in DTLA

Whole Foods/The Eight Bar
788 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/downtownlosangeles

Did you know the Whole Foods in Downtown Los Angeles has an excellent bar and restaurant called The Eight Bar? I certainly didn’t, but they were kind enough to invite me signto come by and check them out. I didn’t think I’d like a bar in a grocery store so much, but I was impressed all around with my experience. The staff was very kind and knowledgeable, and I was very excited with both their wine and beer lists. They have various food specials throughout the week, but Mondays they feature oysters so I got treated to a summer wine flights paired with oysters served two ways.

With summer right around the corner, I was thrilled to do a flight of my two favorite warm weather (and day drinking!) wines- rosé and sparkling wine. All of the wines can be purchased at your local Whole Foods, so if you’re into bright, tasty rosés or some superb bubbly, I recommend any of these bottles.

wineThe tasting list included (left to right), Presto Prosecco (in adorable single serve cans!),  the Summer Water Rosé (Santa Barbara County), Domaine de la Solitude Rose (Côtes du Rhone), Col Veterra Prosecco, and the Gaston Chiquet Brut Champagne. I honestly don’t think I could pick a favorite out of the lineup as they were all super tasty. The Domaine de la Solitude rosé was right up my alley with some great berry flavors and a subtle dry minerality. The champagne was also excellent, and a great alternative to Veuve Clicquot or Möet. Plus how cute is that can of prosecco? Perfect for a day at the beach, camping, poolside, or anytime you want just one glass of the bubbly (instead of the whole bottle).

oystersIn addition to some great wines, the folks at The Eight Bar were kind enough to let my try their oysters prepared two ways, which was the perfect compliment to these refreshing summer wines. All their oysters are steamed in a beer bath and then prepared in several ways. The first were more traditional oysters, complete with house-made cocktail sauce. The others were cooked with St. Germaine and dry white vermouth and a cream sauce. I had never had fresh oysters prepared in a such a rich and decadent way before, so the latter was definitely a treat!

myfaceI’d had never thought there’d be such a neat bar at a Whole Foods, but The Eight Bar in Downtown LA is a delightful hidden gem. The food and wine were both great, but more importantly, the staff was knowledgeable and friendly, which, in my opinion, really elevates a bar from good to great. So make sure you pay these guys a visit if you’re in the area, and if not, don’t fret – you can always grab a bottle of rosé for your lazy afternoons at your local Whole Foods.

On the way to Idyllwild – George’s Market in Calimesa, CA

George’s Market
1023 Calimesa Blvd.
Calimesa, CA
909-795-5320

My boyfriend likes road trips. The thing is, he only gets one or two days off at a time, so we are always on the lookout for road trip destinations that aren’t too far from home. One of the spots we like to visit is a sleeping mountain town called Idyllwild. It’s tiny, it’s cute, and it’s only a two-hour drive from LA.

Part of the fun of a road trip is the discovery of hidden gems. The problem is that I’m a food snob, and I have an app that helps me locate local restaurants, so I know what I’m getting into. Luckily, my trusty app got me into George’s Market.

This spot was a must on our way to the mountain getaway, and not only because of the amazing sandwiches served on homemade rye for under five bucks. Whether it’s the Black Forest Ham Sandwich, heated with extra mustard,

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or the more exciting (and frankly more flavorful) Mixed Lunchmeat and Cheese,

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or even, my guilty pleasure, liverwurst with pickles;
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These sandwiches are simple, delicious and affordable. And you saw that glass of German beer in the background? $3.50. No joke.

But, the sandwiches aren’t even the best part. The best part are the hard to find German noodles, sauces, candy and meats that George’s Market supplies. When I saw that they sold the impossible to find barley shaped egg noodles that we used to use in the family recipe of Hungarian sour soup, I squealed like a little girl. Not to mention the giant jars of sauerkraut juice, unique German mustards and my favorite – and extremely hard to find – beer…Speigl Radler Grapefruit.

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George’s Market is now a permanent stop on our frequent Idyllwild getaways. And every time we walk through those sliding doors and see the lovely ladies behind the counter, we know we’re going to have a great lunch and plenty of supplies for me to make my family recipes at home.
George's Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Drive By That Caught My Eye – Ayda Ethiopian Restaurant in Loma Linda, CA

Ayda Ethiopian Restaurant
24940 Redlands Blvd.
Loma Linda, CA
909-799-6700

I was driving home from a two-day stint in Idyllwild with my boyfriend and his teenage daughter, we were tired, we were cranky, and we were starving. After doing some searching on my phone, we got off the 10 freeway to grab a bite. As we were on our way to the location I had found, we drove by a strip mall that had a very simple business front that made me sit up at attention and say, “Guys, change of plans. We are totally eating there.”

Outside

For those not in the know, Ethiopian food is fantastic. If it hadn’t been for a good friend who enlightened me a few years ago, I, too, would still be in the dark. But I have seen the light, honey, and nothing is brighter than Ethiopian cuisine.

Ethiopian food is a sensory experience. The food is served on a platter of a special bread called injera. It looks like a circular ACE bandage and tastes like a fluffy sourdough. The stewed vegetables and meats are placed on top of a piece of this amazing bread along with a few extra pieces and it’s on. Rip off a piece of bread and scoop up some perfection.

Being that I was relatively well acquainted with this style of food, I decided to order the Vegetarian Delight.  It consisted of two types of lentils, collard greens, cabbage, green beans, fresh salad, tomato marinated injera, potato salad, split peas and a hard boiled egg set right in the middle of some flavorful sauce.

Vegetarian Delight
Each with seasoned differently, each had a different texture, and each made me want to cry it was so good. Even my very picky teenage homegirl was stuffing her face. In no time, the three of us were stuffed, but without that nasty heaviness that some meals cause. I felt good, sated, happy.

clean

It’s been a few weeks since we have last ventured into the cute little spot, and I have yet to try the traditional Ethiopian coffee that has it’s own small area at the front of the restaurant.

Coffee set up

I’m so happy this little spot caught my eye. And I promise I will return.

Cannoli at Palermo Ristorante Italiano in Los Angeles

Last Saturday was spent with the bros I’ve known since second grade on a hiking trip in the woods. After all that dude time, encountering dragons, or ruffians, I had a craving for one thing: Cannoli. Walking around Loz Feliz, I noticed a girl in the pastry shop, Palermo, making a cannoli for me.

Palermo

Palermo Ristorante Italiano
1858 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
http://palermorestaurant.net

Palermo is a longtime, Los Feliz favorite, serving up the best (and large portions) in Italian pasta dishes, pizzas and much more. It’s always busy there and I love the family-owned feel to it. Even if it’s your first time there, they make you feel like you’re their favorite regular. I had a serious sweet tooth so instead of the dining room, I sat in the cafe, which is called Cafe Presto. I’m not going to be that person alone in the dining room hogging up a booth for one dessert item. People who do that are jerks.

I’m going to be frank with you, the service here was on point. I was greeted right away by a kind server who had a fire in her eyes and a big, fat cannoli to shove in my mouth. I thought I ordered just one cannoli but she brought out a ton on one platter. What a pleasant surprise!

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NOMNOMNOM! These cannoli are YUM-OH! The shells are perfectly crisp, and the soft vanilla cream explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. I could eat a billion of these.

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The fun really kicked in when my buddy Rivers joined in on the cannoli action. This night went from “awesome” to “bomb.com.”

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At the end of the day, Palermo cannoli will have you shouting THANK GOD!
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Eagle Rock Brewing’s Women’s Beer Forum is Where All the Cool Ladies Are

Every craft beer loving girl out there can relate – you’re at a bar, and you spot a delicious IPA on their tap list. You excitedly approach the bar, ready to order your delicious beverage of choice. You tell the bartender your order, and he looks at you and goes, “Are you sure? That’s a really hoppy beer.”

Eagle Rock Brewery 
3056 Roswell Street, Los Angeles, CA 90065
http://eaglerockbrewery.com

eaglerock

Sadly, this is a familiar scene to those of us ladies who like our beer. But never fear, we are banding together to create girl power beer clubs. The folks at Eagle Rock Brewing have been hosting the Women’s Beer Forum for four years. Each month they host a ladies’ only event that spotlights different local breweries, women in the industry, and spectacular beer and food pairings.

I visited their Women’s Beer Forum while they were hosting Arts District Brewing and it was such a fun night! Arts District Brewing is a brand new LA based brewery putting out some fantastic beers, and their head brewer is a lady brewer to boot! We got to try some brand new experimental beers, as well as, some tried and true favorites. Plus, stick around after for a tasting flight of Eagle Rock Brewing’s very own beers, you won’t be disappointed!

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The head brewer from Arts District Brewing pouring some beer!

Overall, I was very impressed with all five of the Arts District Brewing beers we tried that night, The Traction IPA and Puerto Rico Porter were both fantastic beers, and we also got to try several new brews. Their head brewer clearly knows what she’s doing.  She has worked with Pizza Port Brewing among others and has several awards under her belt. We stuck around afterwards and tried a few of Eagle Rock Brewing’s beers, which were also fantastic.

It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by such amazing women who both loved beer but were also working so hard in the craft beer industry. There is much to be learned and lots of wonderful women to meet at the beer forum. So if you want to hang out with your fellow beer loving ladies, make sure you get on their mailing list so you can visit.
Eagle Rock Brewery Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tacos with an Asian Twist: Rakken Tacos in Commerce, CA

Are you in the mood for some yummy food? Let’s taco ’bout it!

Guys, I love puns just as much as I love food. I just had to get that out of the way. Ok! Now let’s begin.

Rakken Tacos is a very unassuming restaurant in the middle of a strip mall in Commerce. I admit, I had no idea how far Commerce was when I volunteered to go to a tasting here. But let me tell you, it was worth the drive.

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Rakken Tacos
 2444 South Atlantic Boulevard, Commerce, CA 90040
http://www.rakkentacos.com

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Black Rose Tea

The décor is so cute. A large chalkboard with the menu items is the first thing you see when you walk in. There are beautifully stained wood trim, counter tops, and tableschalkboard As I approached the counter top, I was overwhelmed at what to try, so Ken, the owner, recommended that I have a little of everything. I did not argue. First, he encouraged me to try one of their teas, they are native to the east coast and are shipped in just for Rakken. They will soon have an exclusive west coast list of teas. I tried the black rose flavor. They are unsweetened, so it’s perfect for those who don’t want sugar overload. And there are no calories. Trust me; you’ll want to save that for the food.

After taking my order, Ken insisted I try the homemade jerky. His mother makes it especially for the restaurant. How cute is that? And it’s just as delicious. Not too tough and seasoned just right. I decided to look around while I waited for my order. A beautiful mural caught my eye at the other end of Rakken.

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Rakken’s custom mural

 

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Garlic Crab Fries

The rest of the walls were left simple, with the exception of the taco joint’s clever slogan on the adjoining wall that says, “Play hard. Eat harder.” Now for the food! First up, was the crab fries. Oh man, I could have easily filled up on these bad boys, but I showed restraint. Definitely a dish worth sharing.

I tried four different tacos. The Rakken al pastor taco, their namesake, had grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork, sriracha mayo, onions and shiso leaves. The Pho taco had flank steak simmered in pho broth, onions, basil leaves with a hoisin-sriracha drizzle. Buttery shrimp taco had, you guessed it, buttery garlic shrimp with lemon and purple pickled onions. And lastly, but certainly not least, was the yuzu carne asada taco with marinated steak, Japanese citrus sauce, onions and shiso leaves.

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From left, clockwise: Al Pastor, Pho, Shrimp, Yuzu

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say the Pho tacos were mine. It was such an interesting take on a taco and just the right amount of crunch. But, a close second was the butter shrimp taco. For dessert, I chose the Oreo churro with Vietnamese coffee drizzle. This is the stuff of angels. Rakken is a hip place and an easy drive from the east side of LA. I recommend making stopping here on your way to the casino, before a trip to the outlets, or just anytime you are hungry for a little something different.

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Pho Taco
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Oreo Churro

 

Ashley Visits Taco Spot in Los Angeles, CA

tacospot2Taco Spot in Eagle Rock, CA is one of my favorite taco places in Los Angeles. A little over a year ago I came across Taco Spot on Groupon. The Groupon was good for 2 visits, which was just enough to get me hooked! Taco Spot is located on Colorado Blvd. in the heart of Eagle Rock. The restaurant is often filled with families, young couples from the neighborhoods and obvious regulars. Taco spot offers a variety of amazing Mexican food from taco plates, to carne asada fries and so much in between. Taco spot is gluten free, vegetarian and budget friendly.

Taco Spot
Address: 2006 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041
http://www.tacospot.com

On Tuesday’s, I often head to Taco Spot for my Taco Tuesday fix. While I’ve tried every taco they offer my favorite plate is the 2 potato taco entree which included rice, beans and chips. The tacos come in hard shell corn tortillas, are packed with fresh potatoes, lettuce, cheese and sour cream on top. The restaurant also homes a great fresh salsa bar which offers fresh cilantro, minced onion and a fantastic selection of salsas providing an array of salsa combinations to compliment the already delicious food.

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Taco Spot feels like a very small town restaurant. The staff is friendly and the service is exceptional.  I definitely recommend this place if you are looking to grab some tacos, check out a new Mexican restaurant or if you are out exploring Eagle Rock.
Taco Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Columbian-Korean Bites at EsCaLA in K-Town

Recently the Cover app lead me to EsCaLA, a great little restaurant in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. I was intrigued by the restaurant’s mixed influences of Korean and Colombian cuisine and had to try the El Padrino cocktail I saw on their website. The restaurant is in the historic Chapman building and I believe there is valet parking available, although I found a meter nearby.

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A taste of EscaLA’s art, from their website.

EscaLA K-Town
3451 West 6th Street Los Angeles, CA 90020
http://www.escalaktown.com/

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EscaLA at night, looking out from the bar to the fountain and big open air windows.

The restaurant is the brainchild of executive chef Chris Oh and artist/music producer/entrepreneur OG Chino, Korean but grew up partly in Bogota, Colombia. His influence is obvious not only in the food but also in the space. The disco ball, colored lights, and music evoke a Colombian nightclub (who just watched Netflix’s “Narcos”?) but the whimsical art and colorful wall paintings give it an urban street vibe. I loved the open air feel from the big open windows and the fountain that sits just inside the front door. I was greeted quickly when I visited and as I was alone I chose to sit at the bar. The bartender was super friendly and patient with me as there is so much to consider on the menu!

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From their website, EscaLA in the daylight.

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Of course I ordered the El Padrino as I had planned, a cocktail made with Pisco Porton, Passion Fruit & Mora Shrub, Fresh Lemon, Vanilla Extract, Egg White, and Angostura Bitters. Although I have had similar cocktails before I was curious about the shrub used, a sweetened, vinegar-based  syrup. I also wanted to inspect their use of the bitters to create the design on top, I would tell you but then I’d have to… you know.

For dinner I ordered a few smaller items. I had to get one of each Empanada. Colombian corn fried crust with either carne asada, potato, and Colombian spices with ají verde or the K-panada with kimchi and chorizo fried rice with kimchi aioli. Both were fantastic and at only $5 for 2 I highly recommend trying them both. The kimchi aoili was my favorite of the two sauces, especially since it was so easy to dip into.

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Empanada’s with their delicious little fried corn outsides.

I also ordered the Yucca fries which are also available loaded with pulled pork and pico de gallo. I have tried making Yucca fries a few times but these put my work to shame, they’re thick cut and perfectly hot and crispy outside and soft inside.

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The last item I tried was an arepas, a Colombian ground maize flat biscuit that came topped with braised pork belly, tropical salad, and saffron aoili. While it was good, especially the salad and the biscuit, it wasn’t the best pork belly I’ve ever had and it was hard to eat in a way that you’d get a little of each flavor in every bite. Next time I think I will try the chicken arepas instead, the shredded chicken sounds easier to navigate.

IMG_8116At this point I was pretty full, I’m bummed I didn’t bring someone along so that I could try more items off the menu. I am definitely going back to try the Bandeja platter which looked fantastic (and filling!) They do offer lunch, happy hour, and brunch both Saturday and Sunday. The best part is that EsCaLA is pretty darn affordable and the portions are hearty. I can’t wait to return, props to Cover for leading me to EsCaLA!

Escala Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Delectable Darlings: Nichelle’s French Macaron Small Biz

Oh, French macarons, how I love thee. Glorious little confections of meringue and cream. An amalgam of wonderful textures in a wee little cookie. It’s not hard to fall in love with them…unless you’re me. I’m about to say something that may shock a lot of people: I didn’t love my first French macaron. I actually, didn’t even really like it.

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Gossip Girls need food too…

Eek! I know, I know. How could I say such a thing? I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t get why Blair Waldorf went nuts over those cute little French confections. I was told my heart would skip a beat at first bite. I felt lied to, betrayed. To be fair, I even tried a few more from different places and they grew on me a little but I still felt a little ambivalent towards them. I really, really wanted to love them. They are just too pretty! So I set out to make myself love them and that meant making them myself. Little did I know, they would consume my life for the next 3 years.

I read a lot about making them before I even attempted it. I Googled the term “French macaron” probably 137 times. I was terrified. How could this sweet little cookie be so intimidating? I just had to find out. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of the French macaron. There are mentions of it in texts dating back to the early 1600’s but the exact creation is debatable. We know for sure that when the cookie was first created, it was just a single almond meringue shell. It wasn’t until the 1800’s or 1900’s that 2 shells were sandwiched together with a sweet filling becoming what we now recognize as the French macaron.
I collected all of the ingredients and tools I needed to make my very first batch of French macarons. I waited until the weather was perfect. I put on some dreamy music and went to work. My first attempt wasn’t exactly disastrous. I started with Martha Stewarts recipe. She couldn’t possibly sway me in the wrong direction. I mean, she’s Martha. They turned out surprisingly well. Every single shell on my baking sheet was cracked but they all had those ruffly little edges. I stuck them together with some pumpkin spice buttercream and threw them in the fridge. I could hardly sleep that night thinking about all of the mistakes I made and what I would do different.
The next day, I tasted my wonderful creations. Not half bad! They tasted like pumpkin spice the texture was exactly what I expected; crunchy outside, soft, yet chewy inside and a creamy center. I realized that maybe I didn’t like the macarons I had in the past because they weren’t this fresh. With the flavor down, I needed to go back to work on the appearance. After Googling for half the morning on how to fix cracked shells, I went back to work on my next batch. I tapped the tray on the counter to release the air bubbles and lowered my oven temp. This batch looked absolutely perfect! I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of myself. I couldn’t believe I made such a beautiful little creation.
After refrigerating them for a day, I bit in. At that moment I felt empty inside…just like that damned little cookie. It was hollow. How could this be? I did everything the internet said to do and still, I failed.
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Top to bottom: Red Velvet, Cotton Candy and Bubble Gum
This went on for some time. I made adjustments, tried again, failed miserably. Made more adjustments, tried again, failed marginally. Made adjustments yet again, bought new equipment, tried again, got better. I quit for a few months but couldn’t help thinking about all of the things I could have done differently. I dreamed about making French macarons. Sometimes they were pleasant and sometimes they were nightmares. Every chance I had, I spent Googling “French macaron troubleshooting”. I just had to figure it out.
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From Left: Mimosa, Salted Caramel and Chocolate

After a brief hiatus, I went back to work. As soon as the first batch cooled, I held my breath and cracked a shell in half. It was full. I cracked another. Again, perfect. I cracked another and another until I found that every single shell on my baking sheet had baked perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. Had I seriously solved the mystery of my hollow French macarons? I had to find out for sure so I baked yet another tray, replicating my previous process. I broke every shell in half and found that, again, they were perfect too! I was so happy, I may have cried. I sank down to the kitchen floor in complete disbelief. Not only had I solved my problem but I just destroyed a great deal of perfect French macarons. What was I thinking?

From that point on, I had containers of perfect little cookies filling my refrigerator. I couldn’t eat that many and I couldn’t stop making them so I took them to family gatherings, parties and my husband’s office. Everyone loved them. They started to ask me to make them for baby showers, birthday parties and gifts. I finally had a reason to make them besides my obsession with making them perfect.
That was when I realized that I loved them. I loved those little cookies that were once such a burden on me. At that point, I felt like I knew everything there was to know about French macarons, their insides, their outsides, what made them tick.
Macarons
DelectableThen I made another revelation. How could I fund my hobby, continue to bring joy to even more people and make them fall in love with these marvelous little cookies? That’s when I started Delectable. I made a business out of my obsession. It took me a year to perfect the macaron and now I’ve been in business for nearly 2 years. These cookies have consumed my life for close to 3 years. I’ve had a few hiccups along the way but with my extensive practice in making them, I’ve been able to make the proper adjustments to fix them. Making a business out of something I love has truly been an amazing process. Watching the joy on my customers faces when they bite into one of my colorful creations has been incredible. Maybe I’ll have my own little macaron shop one day but for now I set up shop twice a week at my local farmers markets, including the Anaheim Farmer’s Market Thursday’s 11 am – 4 pm and the Cypress Farmer’s Market Sunday’s 10 am – 2 pm. We also ship all across the USA for orders placed on my website.
You can follow Delectable Bakehouse on Facebook and in Instagram @delectablebakehouse

The Traveling Speakeasy: LA’s Coolest Bar Takeover

Over the past few years, pop-up concepts in the food world have been picking up steam. Our very own Blogger and Bartender Christina Russo alongside Bartender Mark Moehle created The Traveling Speakeasy to bring craft cocktails into LA pop-up scene. I recently had the pleasure of checking out their first bar takeover at Pedaler’s Fork in Calabasas, CA.

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The Traveling Speakeasy creators Mark and Christina taking over Pedaler’s Fork.

First off, Pedaler’s Fork is a conceptually a unique restaurant to take over. In addition to being a restaurant with a full bar, they also have a coffee shop, bike shop, and a large outdoor area perfect for live music. When The Traveling Speakeasy takes over, they offer their own personal cocktail menu in addition to the restaurants drink and food menu. The regulars of Pedaler’s Fork get to try something new and a customer like me, who’s never been there, is exposed to both menus. I see the concept of a bar takeover being a fun way for a restaurant/bar to get new customers.

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Pretty Polly serving up an atmospheric folk rock.

The Traveling Speakeasy takeover on this night was teamed up with Kilbeggan Irish Whiskeys, so many of Kilbeggan Whiskeys were incorporated into their original cocktails. There was a fantastic acoustic, female led band, Pretty Polly, playing on the patio and there was a brand ambassador for Kilbeggan sampling all their Irish Whiskeys. Can this night get any cooler? See video here.

I’m a bit of lightweight when it comes to whiskeys, so I stuck with small tastes (I’m sure my Irish relatives are rolling in their graves). My favorite was their 2 Gingers Whiskey, and not just cause of my strawberry locks. 2 Ginger whiskey is very smooth, has that malty taste I expect from Irish Whiskey but has a slight sweetness. I could tell it would be great in a cocktail (I need mixers… I’m a total chick drinker). The Traveling Speakeasy then put that theory to the test, and I tried their O’Reilly’s Remedy.

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Christina and Mark concocting a liquor “caviar” for The O’Reilly’s Remedy.

The O’Reilly’s Remedy is 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Traveling Speakeasy’s own organic ginger black pepper honey syrup, fresh lemon and topped with Connemara caviar. I couldn’t resist a unique take on the classic Penicillin cocktail and was super intrigued by the idea of a whiskey caviar. As you can see above the Connemara is made into little gelatinous-like circular shapes, and that is the topping. It definitely met my girlie cocktail loving expectations, and I loved the smokiness from the black pepper honey syrup.

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The final product.

Pedalers forkI parked at the bar, ordered Hand Cut Kennebec Truffle Fries (with garlic aioli instead of ketchup) and got to know The Traveling Speakeasy a little better. It started as an idea of Mark and Christina’s when they were working together in a certain -ahem- nameless restaurant. This brainchild grew into a vision of cocktails and the culture surrounding them, without forgetting what bartending is all about; the customers. These two and their staff, make everyone feel welcome kick back and learn more about craft cocktails. They send out a very positive energy, not that stereotypical “LA Bartender and too cool to talk to you” vibe.

Mark TRSPMark comes from Louisville, Kentucky, the heart of bourbon country. After starting in the cocktail scene as a bartender at Giardina’s restaurant in Greenwood, MS, he worked his way up into management, implementing craft cocktails into Giardina’s. Some cocktails were so popular; they are still being served at the restaurant today. He then worked his way into the world of bar consulting. Now that he is in the LA market, you can find him creating cocktails at Pedaler’s Fork and also with The Traveling Speakeasy. Mark told me “seeing a trend of cocktail driven bars with zero personality, other then the libations makes us want to shake it up. The Traveling Speakeasy is about reinventing the modern bar experience, bringing back the old school neighborhood bartender who has a quick wit and tongue and marrying it with cocktails that innovate and push the envelope.”
TRSP1We all know Christina (two-time regional finalist for Diageo World Class, btw) cause she blogs with GOF but upon this visit, I learned how tough it is for a bartender coming from a corporate chain to get her foot in the door with a San Francisco craft cocktail bar. Chains do teach you organization and efficiency, which has certainly paid off, but it took her years of training with the best bartenders in SF before she could even work in a nicer bar. She and I are on common ground with the somewhat lacking LA scene. There are fantastic cocktails being created here, but a lot of the bartenders are lacking that in that personality that keeps you coming back to them. I can totally see Christina owning her bar some day and having innovative drinks and a rad staff. And I will be at this bar. Drinking. Maybe heavily…

The Traveling Speakeasy is available for bar takeovers, private events, consultations and looks to create their own products for bartenders by bartenders. Keep up with them on their Facebook page or their Instagram for their next event.

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Special thanks to photographer James Roddy for providing amazing images of this night!