Girls on Food

Lunch

Celebrate Bastille Day at La Madeleine Country French Cafe!

Happy Bastille Day!

What better way to honor this French national holiday, which celebrates the unity of the French people after the storming of the Bastille, then enjoying its rich culture and culinary delicacies!

If you are looking for a place to indulge in French-inspired cuisine or want to feel whisked away to the French countryside today, then La Madeleine Country French Cafe should be on the top of your list.

La Madeleine Country French Cafe

Various Locations
http://www.lamadeleine.com


To celebrate Bastille Day, La Madeleine will be offering a free mini Liberté Tart all day today.

tart2

The Liberté Tart has fresh blueberries, raspberries, and whipped cream, to represent the blue, red and white of the French flag. There is no purchase necessary, just simply request your free tart and enjoy!

However, while you’re there, you shouldn’t just stop at dessert. La Madeleine also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, as well as wine, which is important because French food should always be accompanied with wine, in my humble opinion.

When I visited La Madeleines location in Alexandria, VA, not only was I able to grab my free Liberté tart (they also offered this promo on the 4th of July) but I was also able to try their new French Tartine Trio sandwiches, and of course topped my meal off with a glass of Rosé. I couldn’t pass up on Rosé!

The French Tartine Trio sandwiches are three open-faced sandwiches. One had chicken & goat cheese; another had Roasted Vegetable and the third ham & swiss. They were each baked on herb ciabatta bread and paired with a Cranberry Pecan Salad. Each sandwich was better than the last and perfectly flavored. I remember being slightly bummed when I finished because there was no more left. That could be the fatty in me, but I’m almost positive it was mostly because the dish was excellent!

My husband had the Chicken Friand,  a puff pastry with balsamic chicken and mushroom filling topped with wild mushroom sauce, which was to…die…for. Of course, I couldn’t snap a picture because he eats so fast, but I was able to try it, and it did not disappoint. The pastry melted in your mouth, and the flavors of the balsamic chicken and mushroom sauce combined were out of this world!

The delicious French inspired dishes coupled with the casual countryside decor makes La Madeleine an excellent choice to celebrate today’s holiday.

So, make sure while you’re out celebrating Bastille Day today, that you stop by one of La Madeleines locations for your free Liberté tart and a sure to be filling, relaxing, magnifique breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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.

Victoria’s Sneak Peek of Lemonade in Palo Alto

I arrived for the soft opening of Lemonade in downtown Palo Alto thinking I was going to miss out on the excitement (seeing as though I was arriving at the tail end of the event). To my surprise, there was a line out the door!

Lemonade SF -1-1

Lemonade
151 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
http://lemonadesf.com

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had no background info on this trendy little place and all I can say is WOW. Can I admit that now I’ll be a regular? Or shall we read on?

Lemonade SF -13-13

Upon my arrival, I wandered around to take it all in and snap a few pictures and I truly felt invited. They made me feel comfortable, especially since I was wandering around with a decent sized camera in a packed environment.

Lemonade SF -29-29

After I made my rounds, I jumped in line to test out the food, I was greeted by one of the staff members with instructions and a breakdown of their menu. I was excited to see a fresh brand in a popular downtown district.

Lemonade offers a variety of options for wide range of taste buds.

Lemonade SF -11-11

To help understand what you’re getting yourself into: It’s a assembly line style place, which is great for people on the go and everything was so fresh! In the Marketplace section they off vegan, vegetarian and protein options.

Lemonade SF -9-9 Lemonade SF -28-28Lemonade SF -14-14 Lemonade SF -16-16 Lemonade SF -15-15

They also offer 3 hand tossed to order salads. I had to check out this one for myself of course. I like to call it “Summer Time Salad Sampling for Research Purposes.” It’s a thing.

Lemonade SF -20-20 Lemonade SF -26-26

The little clusters of peanuts and sesame seeds are all I can think about since I left! The cilantro lime vinaigrette dressing was crisp and fresh. To make it perfect, there was no over dressing going on these leaves either! Just balanced, beautiful and delicious down to the last bite! This one was called the Tatsooi & Mizuna Lettuces with Carrots and Sesame Peanuts for future reference. (wink wink)

I’ll give you a little insider information: Their salads did not need additional salt and pepper (they’re seasoning those silky salad dressings perfectly). Salad snobs like myself will appreciate this monumental moment. 

Lemonade SF -23-23Lemonade SF -22-22 Lemonade SF -6-6

They also offer sandwiches and plenty of hot food options. To the point that it’s honestly worth a few visits to even taste half the menu!

The best way to describe my experience: Their menu is creative yet simplistic and equals flavor across every dish.

Lemonade SF -21-21

I asked the friendly staff to choose something fun for me and luckily she apparently knew me well because she went with the Avocado and Cherry Tomato in the Marketplace section. (Two of my favorite things combined). The texture was creamy, but not too rich and really kept the cherry tomatoes as the star of the dish!

Lemonade SF -8-8

For my second tasting she chose Thai Chicken & Green Beans. It’s a cold dish and blasted with flavor. The red chilies brought a warm heat without over powering the the protein. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the green beans made a perfect pair for the chicken.

Lemonade SF -25-25

Did I mention they have more than one option of Lemonade? I was so overwhelmed with all the exciting options that by the time I got to choose my lemonade, I had to ask the friendly staff to choose for me (thank you for that!).

For the record, blood orange is my new favorite thing.

(Clearly I’m loving it!)

Girls On Food Blog

Via @victoriamelshaw Snapchat

Lemonade SF -5-5Lemonade SF -27-27

There’s also outdoor seating and they recycle and care about the environment!

Lemonade SF -12-12Lemonade SF -10-10

So, if you live in the area or happen to be in Palo Alto, find yourself a parking spot and check it out! It’s an incredible place and I can see why they are growing as a company! Happy to have you nearby!

Lemonade SF -3-3Lemonade SF -2-2Lemonade SF -30-30

I’ll be back soon Lemonade! ~Victoria

 

Christina and Julianne’s Brunch at Cuvee in Beverly Hills

Christina and I had a beautiful brunch at Cuvee in Beverly Hills, and I wanted to share that experience with you! If this place looks familiar, it may be because it has been featured on Dancing with the Stars, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Hills.

Cuvee
145 S. Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90048
http://mycuvee.com

 

CuveeBrunch (3 of 27)

CuveeBrunch (22 of 27)One thing I really appreciate about Cuvee is that right when you walk in, not only are you greeted by a lovely hostess, but there is a decent selection of retail bottles of rosé wine to take home! They also had my personal favorite rosé, Whispering Angel, which I made sure to purchase a bottle of before leaving.

CuveeBrunch (25 of 27)

The inside has an adorable shabby chic vibe, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to sit on the patio.

CuveeBrunch (23 of 27)They also have a full deli counter with goodies to take home as well.

CuveeBrunch (6 of 27)

In classic “ladies who brunch” style, we started with a round of mimosas.

CuveeBrunch (14 of 27)

We decided to split the Breakfast Chicken Tamale. Which came with two ample sized chicken tamales and two sunny side up eggs, the Ancho sauce was perfect because it had a light kick that didn’t overwhelm the dish. And of course, I love adding an extra egg yolk to make it even more decadent, so the eggs were a great pairing for me.

CuveeBrunch (13 of 27)

Then we decided to split something sweeter. The Blueberry and Lemon Curd French Toast is considered one of the favorites here and I can taste why! It’s buttery, tart and sweet. So amazing. And the crispiness from the fried edges with the sweetness makes it even more tantalizing. So good.

CuveeBrunch (10 of 27)

In addition to these items they have a full menu featuring more traditional Brunch item but these are our top choices. This is a perfect place for a #sundayfunday Girl’s Brunch! Can’t wait to come back!

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

Top 5 Reasons We LOVE 365 by Whole Foods in Silver Lake, CA

If you subscribe to our new Nom Channel, then you watched our live feed from the opening of 365 by Whole Foods. If you aren’t subscribing to our new Nom Channel, then get on it! Our videos take you on a tour of this fabulous (and more affordable) grocery store.

Libby
GOF blogger Libby at the opening

365 is like Whole Foods’ less pretty, but nicer younger sister. This 28,000 square foot location doesn’t have the same bells and whistles the traditional Whole Foods are known for, but, on the upside, it’s more affordable.

Top 5 Perks of shopping at 365 by Whole Foods in Silver Lake, CA

punch card 365MY 365 REWARDS – Whole Foods would scoff at the idea of a rewards program, but 365 by Whole Foods has one, and it’s gleefully promoted by staff. The My 365 Rewards Program is digital loyalty program where users sign up online to receive deals based on their shopping preferences.

  • “Gimme 10 Deals” provide 10% off products featured on the end caps throughout the store and select items chilled and frozen.
  • Digital “Punch Buddy Cards” offer “buy 10 and get one free” on favorite items.
  • “Yay for You!” offers complement shoppers’ product preferences.
  • Shoppers can sign up online and can use their digital membership card or phone number at checkout.
flash finds
Image by blogger Libby

FLASH FINDS – New and unique products exclusive to 365 by Whole Foods, that are only available for a limited time. Of course, the bummer is that you have to get them while supplies last, but it’s cool that they are teaming up with some of the big names (CoolHaus Ice Cream, Pop Art Popcorn, Momofuku) to bring more affordable options to the public. BONUS! We’ve got a bottle of Ssam Sauce by Momofuku that we’re giving away on our Instagram page! See Ssam Sauce post for details.

by. CHLOE – by. Chloe is a dining space in 365 that opens after Memorial Day. The menu will be vegan signature items from the NYC based acclaimed Chef Chloe Coscarelli of the by. Chloe restaurant in NYC.

teabotteaBot – This is the first teaBot to hit North America and you can watch a demo here. teaBot is a loose leaf, single serve tea making machine. The best part is, you get to customize your serving! As you can see in the video, I prefer my tea moderately hot, so I was able to adjust the temperature. Since I had a blend of 2 teas, I was able to decide that percentage of portion size as well. And it’s only $3 a cup! That’s cheaper than getting tea at a coffee shop. This is a start-up company out of Canada but teaBots will be added to all 365 by Whole Foods locations, and I predict long lines for them, cause it’s so cool!

Allegro Coffee CRAFT BREW BAR – 8 AM – 9 PM, seven days a week, you can have a beer or wine at 365! You know how much we love day drinking and shopping at Girls on Food (back me up on this one ladies!) and what’s better than day drinking and shopping? I vote NOTHING! There is also a happy hour in development, and when we get details on that I will update you!

Head over to our Instagram to ENTER TO WIN A BOTTLE OF SSAM SAUCE BY MOMOFUKU! 

Jillian’s Fully Loaded Vegan Mac n’ Cheeze

Cheesy! Cheesy! Cheesy! I love anything and everything cheesy, and thanks to the miracle of vegan cheese and nutritional yeast, I never have to live without it. #blessed ❤️

In all seriousness, this is a really yummy recipe that is perfect for those comfort food cravings that everyone gets, even gluten-free vegans ? Not only is it free of animal product and tons of over-processed ingredients, it’s kind of healthy and contains wonderful things like turmeric, veggies, and raw cashews. That means it also contains protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. High five!

This dish is great for lunch, parties, or to make a big batch and take to work with you. It’s incredibly filling and satisfying, and easy to reheat. Now that I’ve talked up this creamy, savory bowl of cheesy heaven, read on to see how simple it is to make Fully Loaded Vegan Mac n’ Cheez!

fully loaded vegan mac n' cheez

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1 box of gluten-free macaroni (I used a quinoa based one)
  • favorite sauteed veggies
  • Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble

unnamed-1For the sauce:

  • 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked overnight then drain and rinse
  • nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • ground turmeric
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • non-dairy milk (I like cashew milk)

Super simple instructions:

  1. Cook macaroni according to directions on the box.
  2. Drain and rinse the cashews. Blend with the rest of the sauce ingredients until smooth.
  3. In a pan, saute your favorite veggies (I used mushrooms, broccoli, and kale) in a little bit of olive oil along with Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble. Season if desired.
  4. Put macaroni back into the pot, add the sauce and mix until evenly distributed. Add in the veggies & beefy crumble and stir.

Look how creamy this sauce is! Thanks, raw cashews. You da best ? You can stop there if you want, it’s delicious without the veggies and beef crumbles. You can top it off with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or if you’re super fancy some chopped parsley.

Even though I haven’t tested this recipe on kids, I’m pretty sure they’ll love it. Makes a great main course, but would also be yummy as a side dish. I hope you enjoy this recipe! Cheese it up buttercup ?

Jillian ?

unnamed

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,

IMG_7514

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

mixed meats

or even, my guilty pleasure, liverwurst with pickles;
liverwurst sammy

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.

fave isle

beer

sauce isle

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

White Wolf Cafe & Bar in Orlando, FL

White Wolf Café & Bar
1829 N Orange Ave, Orlando, Fl 32804
http://www.whitewolfcafe.com

FullSizeRender

White Wolf Café & Bar is an eclectic neighborhood restaurant in the Ivanhoe Village District, affectionately referred to as “Ivanhood”. Founded as an antique store, the owner transformed the space into a restaurant twenty-five years ago. Today, White Wolf is still recognized for its unique art and light fixtures, which of course, are all for sale. Even more impressive than the art collection, though, are the creative signature dishes served for brunch, lunch, and dinner every day!

My friend, Katie, and I went to White Wolf for lunch after checking out the funky record and antique stores on Orange Avenue. The restaurant’s namesake is the owner’s late white German Sheppard, so we knew they would be accommodating to Matilda, Katie’s perky little Pomeranian. We sat outside under the lush, hanging flower pots and the waitress brought Matilda a water bowl while we perused the menu.

After a lot of deliberation, I ordered the Moroccan salad, sans chicken. The salad had bananas, raisins, and almonds soaked in a sweet and tangy curry dressing, on top of a crunchy bed of Romaine lettuce. The combination of textures made this salad stand out. I was a little apprehensive about ordering a salad with bananas on it, but they were chilled to the perfect temperature to keep from being soggy or slimy. Who knew bananas tasted so good drenched in honey curry?! The dish came with a side of warm pita bread, which I lapped up the remainder of the dressing.

IMG_5112

Katie, also being a quasi-vegetarian and a self-proclaimed “Black Bean Burger Connoisseur”, ordered the house Black Bean Burger with a side of French fries. Unlike the usual dried out veggie patty, this one was flavorful and thick, without being too mushy. The combination of the hearty black beans and sharp Bleu cheese was delicious! I have to mention that I stole more than a couple of her fries… They were crunchy, perfectly seasoned and served with some garlic mayo and ketchup. I dipped a few in my honey curry dressing and opened a whole new world for my taste buds.

IMG_5109

We felt like regulars, sitting outside with Matilda and our curiosity shop finds. The restaurant is in a great location for people-watching, and you can walk off your food coma around Lake Ivanhoe. White Wolf Café & Bar is a neighborhood spot that is more than welcoming to newcomers, but I wouldn’t mind becoming a regular. You may leave with a new painting, chandelier, or just a to-go box, but you’ll definitely leave satisfied.
White Wolf Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wiener Wednesday at Beer Bar in Downtown Salt Lake City

IMG_1211

Beer Bar is a beer garden style restaurant located in Downtown Salt Lake. It’s unique to Utah with an extensive beer selection and access to the bar next door, Bar-X. Both locations are owned by the same family so step next door where you can pick up specialty cocktails that I promise are some of the best in Utah. Like many restaurants in the SLC, they use locally sourced ingredients to build their menu, which is a beautiful thing. Modern Family star Ty Burrell is a co-owner, and that may have made it cool to go there the first time, but you quickly realize that’s not their selling point.

 

Beer Bar
161 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 8411
http://www.beerbarslc.com

Beer Bar 3
It is the classiest sports bar I’ve ever been to, I’ve never seen such nice Beer Coasters at a beer bar before! I didn’t manage to get a picture of them but they were personized for the bar and gave a really nice touch. They have an insane amount of beers on tap, many of them from local breweries. I started my lunch off with, what else, beer. I’m not the biggest fan of beer but on a warm day, this was the best decision I could have made. I had the Beer X, made at the Bohemian Brewery in Utah. The bartender recommends it for those who drink lite beer and are not usually beer drinkers.

Now to what matters- Wiener Wednesday! The first sausage I had was the Louisiana Hot. It’s a spicy Cajun sausage that I covered in Beer Bar 2
caramelized onions and spicy peppers. I love spicy, and this was spicy. Since they use local products, like buns from Eva’s Bakery, I knew the flavors would melt together in perfect harmony. The perfectly smoked sausage with its crispy outer shell sat in a pillowy bun and it was a beautiful combination. I also ordered a side of double-dipped fries and garlic aioli. While the fries may be some of the best you’ll ever eat, they are not the star. The aioli sauce selection is enough to make you have a full blown panic attack when trying to choose just one. I went with garlic because I am utterly addicted to garlic, and I will never give that up, never. Utahn’s often dip their fries into something call fry sauce, I think it’s a game to see how long until your heart gives out, but that’s for another day. I couldn’t just stop at one sausage.

Beer Bar 1Next up was the Lamb and Herb covered in sauerkraut and chimichurri. This one was by far my favorite. It had such amazing flavor packed into each bite that my taste buds were going crazy in a good way. On this sausage, the perfectly pickled sauerkraut and the perfectly tangy chimichurri, and the hot mustard were all divine.

Beer Bar, in my opinion, is one of the best places to go for a late lunch on weekdays. Service is fast, and they have a pretty unique menu. They have communal dining tables, like something you might encounter in a high school cafeteria for hipsters, in addition to more traditional seating. Again, the classiest sports bar beer garden you’ll ever go to.

Beer Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday Brunch at Riverwalk Cantina in Gaylord Texan Resort

About seven years ago, while pregnant with Haley, I started having the most fantastic, recurring dream.

I’m in a big box store that looks and feels exactly like Costco. The place is massive, with dozens of racks that stretch from wall to wall, ceiling to floor. Each rack has diagonal shelves like you see in a bakery. On each shelf are rows and rows of trays. On each tray, in perfectly lined rows, are hundreds of teeny, tiny, little desserts. Little fruit tarts. Little chocolate cakes. Little apple crisps. Little cream puff pastries.

I’m not ashamed to admit that when I have trouble sleeping, I lie with my eyes closed and visualize my magical little dessert store. This dream is my happy place.

This Easter, my family, took a break from our usual tradition of a low-key Mexican buffet and decided to get all gussied up and have Easter Brunch at Riverwalk Cantina, nestled in the coziest corner of the atrium in The Gaylord Texan Resort.

There, I got to experience my dream in real life, and it was so much better than my imagination could ever conjure up. In my dream-come-true, I got to have all of the little desserts as well as a sampling of some of the best New American cuisine I’ve ever had.

Riverwalk Cantina at The Gaylord Texan Resort
1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051
Riverwalk Cantina on Facebook

The Dorns’ are a buffet loving family, and I consider myself to be a well-qualified connoisseur of the genre. I love a cruise ship buffet, a country club buffet, a cafeteria-style buffet, a well-stocked salad bar I’m all in as long as the food is delicious and well prepared.

Zeb Hartline - Executive Chef Riverwalk Cantina
Zeb Hartline – Executive Chef Riverwalk Cantina

This Easter Buffet was, without a doubt, one of the very best, if not THE best buffet I’ve ever had. I was even able to meet and chat with the Executive Chef, Zeb Hartline and he gave me a personal tour of the whole operation.

Chef Zeb is a brand new Texan, who just moved here a little over a year ago having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando. It seems that Texas suits Chef Zeb just fine. He’s even part of the Texan Smoke Bandits, an award-winning, Gaylord-Sponsored, competitive BBQ team. Chef Zeb brings a classic and refreshing culinary point of view to Dallas.

His Easter buffet menu is a masterpiece. It is creative and ambitious, delicious and totally relatable. I would love to see more Chefs like him in Dallas.

When it was time to make my first plate my head was spinning. Culinary sensory overload was at a ten. Luckily, I had everything all planned out ahead of time.

 

Jan’s Easter Buffet Action Plan

  • Avoid the bread, pastries and breakfast items. I’m sure they’re all wonderful, but I can’t have a Texas shaped waffle taking up precious space in my stomach.
  • Save desert for last so I can have it with coffee.
  • Eat two bites of everything until my Spanx give out.

Right in the heart of the Cantina were three huge caldrons of shrimp, oysters on the half shell, and crab claws over ice. I decided to start there.

Shrimp, oysters and crab claws
Shrimp, oysters, and crab claws, oh my!

I limited myself to two shrimp and two crab claws. If that’s not self-control than I don’t know what is. Then, just past the seafood, lie a table of awesomeness the likes of which, I’ve never imagined. Stretched across a twelve-foot table, piled up in adorable, “please eat me” pieces were eight different kinds of cheese.

Assorted artisan cheeses
Assorted artisan cheeses

Eight perfect little, deliciously stinky, cheesy mountains interspersed with rustic loaves of bread, jars of house made pickles and hills of Texas chorizo, capicola, and prosciutto.

Heaven, y’all. It was cheese HEAVEN.

My plate of amuse bouches.
My plate of amuse bouche.

I took one piece of each cheese and one slice each of the prosciutto and capicola. I stopped at the soup table, got a ladle-full of the lobster bisque and headed to the table for round one. It was almost impossible not to eat and walk, but I restrained myself.

So, you know how sometimes, you bite into a piece of cheese, and it’s so good that you forget how to think for a few minutes?

No? Just me?

Well, that’s absolutely what happened to me when I tried the Red Dragon whole grain cheddar. This cheese was on another level. If Arsenio had tasted this cheese, he would have been furious.

Arsenio wants to know how good the cheese is, well in advance.
Arsenio wants to know how good the cheese is, well in advance.

The shrimp and crab were cooked perfectly. I’m adding cold crab claws to my party appetizer menu.

The lobster bisque was so rich and creamy that I was mysteriously incapable of eating it without closing my eyes. My bowl should have had a bit more lobster in it, but unfortunately, the gentleman in front of me had fished out all the big lobster chunks before I could get to it.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good and nowhere near full. Main course(s) time.

Scallops and Taco Action Stations
Scallops and Taco Action Stations

In the main courses area, the Chef had different action stations set up. At one station chefs were preparing Pan Seared Scallops with sweet corn puree, brussels sprouts with ghost peppered caviar. At another, he had Braised Chicken Tinga and Rock Shrimp Salad Tacos. Familiar foods with an elevated touch made the place feel so much more lively than your standard, Easter Buffet Snoozefest.

Chef Zeb had the basics very well represented. The ham, prime rib and lamb were perfect, and this is not an overstatement. All of it was perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. Perfect sauce pairings. I was beyond impressed.

Oven Roasted Airline Chicken with fingerling potatoes, balsamic, onion, smoked gouda
Oven Roasted Airline Chicken with
fingerling potatoes, balsamic, onion, smoked gouda

Of all the main dishes, the Pan Seared Salmon with farro, fava bean, rainbow chard and the vegetable mole was my favorite; I ate every last bit of it. I’ve never eaten or cooked with fava beans before, and Chef told me of the painstaking process involved in double peeling the beans for close to one thousand diners. Well bless the man’s heart, I sure do appreciate the effort. I can’t wait to incorporate them into my recipes.

Finally, finally, finally, it was desert time. The Executive Pastry Chef at The Riverwalk Cantina is Chef Arthur Surman. This man made my dream a reality.

I almost died when I saw these.
I almost died when I saw these.
Strawberry mouse
Strawberry Mousse

Little mango mousse tarts. Little key lime pie. Little chocolate brownie. Little cream puff. Little chocolate eclair. Next to my wedding day and the birth of my two children, this was the greatest day of my life. I put one of everything on my plate. I got some funny looks from folks on the way back to the table, but I didn’t care. I was about to enjoy 15 different deserts, and my Spanx were holding up beautifully.

IChef Art's Assorted Mini Deserts.
Chef Art’s Assorted Mini Deserts.
Processed with VSCO
Kid’s Buffet

Chef Zeb couldn’t have been kinder, and he is a talent that I will be watching closely from now on. I can’t wait to see how he grows in the future, and I will be back to The Riverwalk Cantina. I also want to thank him for going the extra mile for us parents by setting out a very impressive kids buffet. I appreciated the consideration so much as did my kids, Chloe and Haley.

Also, thanks, Mom and Dad, for deciding to do something different and special with us this year. xoxo

 
Riverwalk Cantina - The Gaylord Texan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Luck of the Irish: Bonnie’s Colcannon

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

I was trying to decide what Irish dish to make.  Luckily, I had a sack of potatoes (like a good Irish girl!), half a cabbage, and an onion.

IMG_2229 (1)

Hmmmm!

colcannon me text

Colcannon, of course!

So, get your green on and try this super easy dish.  The full recipe is at the end of the post.

Simply peel, chop, and boil 1½ lbs of russet potatoes in salted water.

IMG_2231

While that’s cooking, chop 3/4 cup onion and 2 cups green cabbage.

IMG_2235

Saute onions and cabbage in 1½ T butter for 5 minutes.  Add in 1/2 tsp salt.

IMG_2237

When potatoes are easily pierced with a fork – they’re done.  Save about 1 cup of the potato water.

IMG_2240

 

Drain potatoes.  Pour in 2 T melted butter and mash until smooth.  Add in reserved potato water, as needed, to achieve a creamy texture.

IMG_2242

Stir in the cabbage/onion mixture.  Add in another 1/2 tsp salt.

IMG_2246

You’ve now made colcannon!!!

IMG_2276

Slainte!!!

COLCANNON – makes 6 cups

  • 1½ lbs russet potatoes, skinned
  • 3½ T butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 cups green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp salt, divided

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cut peeled potatoes into pieces so they cook faster. Add to boiling water and cook until easily pierced with a fork. Reserve 1 cup of the potato water, then drain potatoes. Return potatoes to the empty pot.

While potatoes are boiling, melt 1½ T of the butter in a saucepan. Add in onions and cabbage, and sauté until softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 T butter and add to the hot, drained potatoes. Mash, using a potato masher or food mill. Pour in the cabbage mixture (heat, if it’s gone cold) and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Add the reserved potato water, as needed, to achieve a creamy texture.

NOTE: Much as I love my food processor, DON’T use it to mash the potatoes – they’ll turn out like paste.

To bring leftover colcannon back to life as leftovers, add a bit of the reserved potato water (or, just plain water or milk if you threw it out) and microwave.

Be sure and check out my blog at VEGETARIAN COOKING FOR CARNIVORES BLOG.

 

Bonnie’s Sweet Potato Soup – Without The Cream!

 

sweet potato soup text

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup WITHOUT the cream? What?  How can this be?

Oh – it be!  Thanks to your handy-dandy blender.

We’ve just finished trudging along Weight-Gain Road – that period between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Parties, Potlucks, and homemade goodie plates! Stop the madness!!! It’s time to prepare ourselves for a guilt-free Valentine’s Day, not to mention swimsuit season.

Soup is one of my favorite diet tricks. Besides warming the cockles of my heart, it fills me up without a lot of calories. Creamy Sweet Potato Soup is one of my favorites.

bonnie & yam soup text

Which brings me back to the blender. (See how I did that?  I returned us seamlessly to the beginning of the blog.) Did you know if you purée soup in a blender it gets creamy, even if there’s no cream in it? It makes you feel like you’re indulging in something decadent.

NOTE: As far as the coconut milk goes, you can use either canned or powdered (See photo below).  Canned is more accessible in my town, but I prefer the powdered, so I just order it online. If you use the canned, you’ll need to decrease the amount of vegetable stock since there’s water in it already. By using the powdered, I can play around with how much coconut goes into the soup. Also, I can make half the recipe and don’t have to worry about what to do with the remaining half. Plus the powder takes up less cupboard space. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter as far as taste is concerned which you choose.

IMG_0989

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The sweet potatoes need to be cubed for faster cooking (about 1″ squares). This is important: no matter how much of a hurry you’re in, DON’T stack the sweet potato slices to cube them. They’re very hard and very slippery. If you do, the top slice is liable to slide under pressure, yielding a nasty cut on your finger. Resist the urge; one slice at a time!

sweet pot slicing

FINAL NOTE (I promise!): I always peel my sweet potatoes.  But, since this soup is blended, you can try not peeling, if you like, to benefit from the nutrients in the skin.

sweet pot peel

SWEET POTATO SOUP – makes 10 cups

  • 9 cups sweet potatoes or yams, peeled & chopped
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1½ tsp dried cumin
  • 1½ tsp dried coriander
  • 1/3 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk powder (or 1  14 oz can)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or 2¼ cups if using canned coconut milk)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • few twists of pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • optional:  toasted pumpkin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot and sauté the onions about 5 minutes – until they begin to brown.

onions sauteing

Add the cumin, coriander, ginger, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Stir for another minute to bring out the flavors.

sweet pot soup spices

Pour in the sweet potatoes, coconut powder, and vegetable stock. If you’d like to make your own stock (which I ALWAYS do), you can find my recipe by clicking on VEGETABLE STOCK. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender – about 20-30 minutes.

sweet pot soup add yams

Let the soup cool down a bit and REMOVE THE BAY LEAF (Notice the caps – this is important!).

sweet pot soup remove bay leaf

Pour into your blender (in batches, if need be) and purée. Serve either hot or cold.

sweet pot soup pureeing

Toasted pumpkin seeds are a tasty topping – and they’re visually appealing.

IMG_9682

Be sure and check out my blog:  VEGETARIAN COOKING FOR CARNIVORES BLOG.