Girls on Food

Michelin Star

Reasons to Love Antibes France + L’Arazur

The French Riviera is known for beautiful beaches, sunshine, and luxurious, over-the-top experiences. Instead of indulging at one of the well-known hot spots like Cannes, Nice, Monaco, or St. Tropez, I opt for the low-key, classic European vibe of Antibes. Antibes is located between Cannes and Nice. It’s 30 minutes by car from the Nice airport and easily accessible by train.

Antibes has the beautiful beaches the French Riviera is known for and the Mediterranean’s famous ultra-blue water to go with it. But, instead of Lamborghini lined streets filled with high-end boutiques and 5-star resorts, Antibes maintains the charm of an old world city.

The Old Town neighborhood of Antibes has everything I want in a French town: gorgeous old buildings, classic architecture, a renowned daily market, a fantastic weekly antiques and flea market (Thursdays!), a 14th century chateau style castle turned world class art museum (Picasso!), picture-perfect mazes of backstreets, corner cafes for sipping espressos in the morning and cocktails at night, and loads of traditional bakeries (almond croissants!).

Almond croissants aside, I haven’t even scratched the surface of Antibes’s culinary scene! It is France after all! The Riviera’s warm climate and seaside geography inform the flavorful and diverse regional cuisine full of fresh, local produce and seafood. Sure, there is amazing cheese – (Its still France!), but fewer dishes are drowned in cream or filled with pork lardons. The Riviera showcases a lighter side of French cuisine!   A culinary haven for vegetable and seafood loving foodies like me – especially when prepared with the precision and expertise of the area’s best chefs!

The husband and I habitually end our trips to Europe with a few days in Antibes. After a few weeks of being on the go and exploring new cities, I’m might not be ready to go home, but I am starting to crave a hint of familiarity.  Antibes is a beautiful, relaxing, and charming final chapter to a trip. It has the perfect blend of everything we love – sunny weather, fabulous beach, cool architecture, great art, interesting history, scenic drives, and of course, amazing food.

Since Antibes has become a recurring theme in our travel repertoire, I keep my pulse on the town’s restaurant and chef buzz. So when we arrived, I had two things on my culinary agenda: 1. Find the best Almond Croissant (Boulangerie Veziano) and 2. Figure out why L’Arazur is the spot on every who’s-who in the food world’s radar.

When the duo behind L’Arazur’s resumes include a combined nine Michelin starred restaurants, the hype is high and the expectations are even higher. Located a hop away from the center of Old Town and by pure coincidence, a block from our AirBNB flat, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine at L’Arazur.

L’Arazur

8, rue des Palmiers

06600 Antibes

On an unassuming corner of a tiny side street, L’Arazur’s location is equal parts charming and understated. The restaurant opens at seven for dinner. For most of the day, the modest signage, a glass case containing the menu and a few of the restaurant’s accolades make the exterior no more remarkable than any quaint establishment in an old French alleyway. This becomes even more true when factoring in the roll down metal door covered in graffiti.

At seven o’clock, when the doors of this back-alley establishment open and the service starts, nothing about what follows is typical. The oh-so-thoughtfully planned tasting menu with a mind-blowing amuse bouche, intuitive service, and perfectly timed courses are remarkable. There is a reason its on critics’ radars and rumors about a star are circling. L’Arazur’s dishes are a true tour d’ force.

We ordered the five-course plus dessert tasting menu. Their tasting menu has gotten lots of attention. So I went into the meal with a mixture of heightened expectations and skepticism. I was disarmed of my skepticism quickly.

L’Arazur’s execution of both the food and timing is among the best, and I can’t recommend their tasting menu highly enough! The menu showcases a perfect balance of lighter dishes followed by richer ones and bright acidity followed by decadence, accompanied by an almost eerily attentive level of service. Each course left me itching for the next, not out of hunger, but out of shear delight! Every plate was as tantalizing as the one before. Bites displayed a myriad of creative techniques and artistic presentation.

With a masterful blend of familiar and unfamiliar elements, L’Arazur sheds a fresh perspective on seasonal, local ingredients without alienating diners with avante garde techniques or inaccessible flavor profiles.

STARTER: Parmesan crisp with herb infused cream, & sushi-style cucumber roll with cashew crème. Accompanied by a not-too-sweet, bright, citrus Aperatif.

WINE: Saint Peray, La Beylesse. A mineral forward white. Recommended as a complement to the tasting menu by our server.

COURSE 1: An amuse bouche of whipped sweet potato foam & raw halibut. Served with black bread infused with orange.

COURSE 2: Snapper Ceviche with sea beans, pineapple, & radish.

COURSE 3: Blue lobster, mushrooms, black bread crust, parsley emulsion with a rich buttery bisque.

COURSE 4: Poached turbot with cockles, smoke emulsion, & chard. Served over a bed of pureed celery root with flowers.

COURSE 5: Roasted pigeon with glaze, roasted vegetables, & fresh herbs.

PALATE CLEANSER: Lime sorbet with cucumber sugar.

DESSERT: Chocolate Mousse with kalamansi citrus sorbet, orange blossom sponge cake, & candied seeds & grains.

POST MEAL SWEET: Madeleines with Mirabelle Jelly Candies (and we ordered espresso).

I soaked up every morsel of L’Arazur’s expertly crafted dining experience. The wine pairing was perfect. I really wanted to pick a favorite course and rave about it. But, I can’t choose just one! The amuse bouche is a memorable stand-out. The turbot was so perfectly and uniquely prepared! And, the rich, flavorful complexities of the lobster were phenomenal. Their chocolate mousse ruined me for all other chocolate mousse. My chocolate loving palate wants to be mad about it but can’t be.

The bottom line? L’Arazur deserves every ounce of buzz, the hype, and a star of its own. I can’t wait to return.

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

My annual summer trip to Chicago was met with a big first for me – it would be the first trip with my 4-month-old daughter Marie! Usually, on my trips, I freely roam the city, restaurant to restaurant doing whatever I please. There was one time I went with all my girlfriends and we had a blast! We got mini bus rental chicago so we didn’t have to worry about keeping together on public transport and it made everything a lot easier… those days are over.

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

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

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

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

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

A view from our room at night

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

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

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

Ham and Raclette Croissant
Latte

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

Sweet Corn Soup– corn, scallion, and coconut

I always love a presentation of soup pouring!

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

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

Saffron Spaghetti – tomato, fine herbs, parmesan

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

Virtue Rosé Cider

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

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

Foie Gras Tourchon

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

Tomato Salad
Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye

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

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

Baby Marie admiring the gold elevator doors

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

#girlsonfood Interviews Kyley McGeeney of Mission Michelin

Our hashtag #girlsonfood has over 11.6K uses on Instagram! 

First off, thank you so much to our readers for using this tag!

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

Through the hashtag, I found Kyley McGeeney (@missionmichelin), who runs her own blog, Mission Michelin. I checked out her project and was excited for the premise behind it – she ate her way through the entire D.C. Michelin Guide and blogged all about it. Kyley and I discuss the world of blogging and fine dining below.

GOF: How long did it take you to eat through every Michelin Star/Bib Gourmand/Michelin Plate restaurant in DC?  How did you prioritize what restaurants you dine at? 

MM: A little over a year and a half. I started in December of 2016 and completed my mission in July of 2018. I started with ones I was most excited about (e.g. Rose’s Luxury, Tail Up Goat) as well as radiating out in concentric circles from my office especially for lunch.

Kyley McGeeney

GOF: Do you give the restaurants a heads up you’re coming in as a blogger, or do you prefer enominity?

MM: I used to not tell them but eventually starting giving them a heads up. It made it easier to get my chef picture and have them sign my Michelin Guide!

GOF: How do these restaurants/chefs/servers react to you photographing the experience? 

MM: Sometimes they’re really supportive: they offer to take pictures of me and my dining companions or I can tell they’ve purposely seated me by a window to have good light for the pics. The only times I’ve ever been told “no” were two different chefs/owners who said food was fair game but they didn’t want to be photographed. Also at Komi, where you can’t photograph the food.

Jamón Ibérico from Del Mar

GOF: What DC Michelin spots are in your top 3?

MM: This is tough! minibar is my number one and I always joke there are about 17 places tied for second. I really like Rose’s Luxury, Pineapple & Pearls, Himitsu, Thip Khao–there are so many more! Two that are too new to be in the guide but I really love are Del Mar and Bresca.

GOF: Was fine dining a part of your up-bringing or did it come to you later in life? 

MM: Part of my upbringing. We went out to dinner about six nights a week growing up and for my 10th birthday I asked to have a ladies luncheon. In Ithaca, where I’m from, the fine dining options are more limited but in NYC for college our go-to was The Four Seasons.

GOF: Was it tough to budget this project out? 

MM: Honestly budgeting my time was a much bigger issue than money. I’m married with two little kids so it wasn’t an option to go out spontaneously or too many nights a week. Everything was planned weeks in advance. I also mainly eat dinner at 5:30pm to be home for bedtime!

@missionmichelin in Portugal with Chef Jose Avillez

GOF: When are you coming to LA to see if we’re Michelin-worthy?

MM: I’ve actually been to LA in the past year! I LOVE Night + Market Song (haven’t been to the other two yet). Thai cuisine is one of my favorites. Gjusta for breakfast is also my go-to. Cassia and Bestia were also great and I am dying to try Somni!

GOF: Now that you’ve reached your goal, what’s up next for you? Any other new projects?

MM: I’m still continuing with food but without necessarily a list to check off. The point of all of this was ultimately to re-acquaint myself with the DC food scene after moving to the suburbs. Just because I’ve eaten at all the restaurants in the Guide doesn’t mean there aren’t new ones, ones not in the Guide, and repeat visits!

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

Chicago Media Tasting: bellyQ

Before I moved back to Chicago, I lived in Koreatown in Los Angeles, and loved it! One of the things I knew I’d miss was KBBQ. Since moving back, I’ve been looking for a restaurant to fill that craving and bellyQ definitely satisfied it.

bellyQ
1400 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.bellyqchicago.com/

When I sat down at my table, I had the opportunity to look around the restaurant and admired the industrial look paired with greenery and different accents throughout the restaurant. bellyQ, owned by Chef Bill Kim, is located that the end of Randolph St. in the West Loop, and it has been making a big name for itself since 2012- this year it earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction for Inspectors’ favorites for good value!

To start off this tasting, I had the Charlie (named as an homage to Charlie Trotter, who Chef Bill had the opportunity to work for twice at Charlie Trotter’s); bourbon, blackberry drinking vinegar, cocchi, and lemon. This drink paired perfectly with everything I ate. This was my first time sipping on a bourbon cocktail and I couldn’t even tell there was liquor in the drink- that’s a sign of a good cocktail!

 

The first dish I tried was the Lamb Potsticker, and it was amazing! I love lamb, so having it in a potsticker was perfect for me. This dish has napa, cucumber, onion spiced yogurt, and mama Kim’s dipping sauce. Mama Kim’s dipping sauce paired perfectly with the lamb potsticker, and this is definitely a dish I’ll have to get the next time I go to bellyQ.


The next dish I sampled was the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo.” This is an Asian and Italian fusion dish, and it was amazing. This dish has duck, biang biang noodles, napa cabbage, and cilantro. I would never have thought of transforming these ingredients into a Bolognese, but the way Chef Kim created the mix was perfection.


Shortly after the Tea Smoked Duck “Bolo” arrived, so did the Savory Scallion Pancakes. The Scallion Pancake comes with three accompaniments, and they are:

  • Seasonal Pickles with mixed mushrooms
  • Hummus with eggplant, black beans, and sesame
  • BBQ Pork pulled shoulder with hoisin bbq

When eating the scallion pancake you’re supposed to put a little of all of the accompaniments on the piece of pancake. I would never have thought about pairing some of these flavors and ingredients, but they paired beautifully, and I couldn’t stop eating it!

The next dish I tried was the BQ Alfredo, which is another Asian and Italian fusion dish. This dish has rice cakes, wrinkled beans, bok choy, mushrooms, and oregano. Substituting noodles with rice cakes worked incredibly well and I loved all of the vegetables!

The final dish I enjoyed, was the Lemongrass Salmon. This dish has white corn grits, brussels sprouts, and pesto giardiniera. I loved the grits and brussels sprouts- definitely recommend this!

To top off this excellent meal, I had the PB & J dessert and a Vietnamese Coffee. The PB & J has coconut soft serve that’s flavored with vanilla, blueberry compote, and peanut butter. I am a HUGE fan of a classic PB & J, so this dessert paired with coffee was a incredible way to end this tasty meal at bellyQ.

I want to thank Chef Bill Kim and Elizabeth (operations manager) for putting together the perfect meal, and a huge thank you to all of the staff at bellyQ for an amazing dining experience. Also, if you want to try some of Chef Bill’s creations but aren’t in Chicago, make sure to get a copy of his cookbook, Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces– I can’t wait to recreate some of the recipes at home!

Thank you to Kinship for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Chicago Media Tasting: Arami

One of my favorite things is discovering hidden foodie gems in unexpected neighborhoods, and Arami is one of those gems located in West Town. Arami, a repeat Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded izakaya, offers some of the best sushi that I have ever had.

Arami
1829 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.aramichicago.com/

I loved how natural-feeling all the bamboo decor is. The plants and skylight make the atmosphere create a sense of calm, making the dining experience very relaxed. I definitely want to come back on a sunny day, to experience the skylight and see how it lights up the dining area.

For this tasting, we started off with cocktails, and they were refreshing and delicious. We ordered the St. Dorothy, Shiso Kiri, and Bohemian Grove; I had the Bohemian Grove and I loved how nicely it paired with all of the food we tried.

(Left) Shiso Kiri, (Top) St. Dorothy, and (Right) Bohemian Grove

To start off we enjoyed the Tako Kani Salad, which has octopus, king crab, shrimp, cucumber, yuzu, ponzu, and micro shiso. I am a HUGE fan of ponzu and yuzu, so I loved this dish. It was light but flavorful, and the cucumbers made is very refreshing.

Tako Kani Salad

Then we moved onto the Hamachi sashimi, which was divine. I loved the presentation and the buttery fish with a tangy finish.

Hamachi

Next, we had the Zuke Sake Hotate (spicy Hokkaido scallop wrapped with marinated salmon and taro) and Zuke Maguro Kani, which were amazing (spicy Alaskan King Crab wrapped with marinated tuna and taro). Both specialties had the right balance of spice, rice, fish, and garnish. I had never tried a tokubetsu (a specialty nigiri) like these before, but I loved them. I was a little nervous about the level of spiciness, but I was pleasantly surprised that everything balanced the spice out.

Zuke Maguro Kani and Zuke Sake Hotate

While we were enjoying the tokubetsu, we were served the Cornchizu. This has corn, queso fresco, shiso, cilantro, miso garlic sauce, and togarashi. Initially I was really surprised that there was a corn cheese dish on the menu because I had only seen dishes similar to this at Korean restaurants. However, when we asked about the inspiration behind the dish we were told that there’s a Korean restaurant down the street that the staff of Arami enjoys and they like the corn cheese dish, which made perfect sense to me. This dish has a bold blend of flavors, and I would highly recommend it if you like the Korean corn cheese.

Cornchizu

The Poke was the next dish we devoured, and it was the most unique take on poke that I have ever had. Immediately, I noticed that the colors were more muted than most poke bowls that I’ve had, but once it started eating it, then I noticed how different the flavors were. The fish had a smokier flavor, but that was balanced out by the onion, seaweed, and cucumber. The Macadamia nuts were a nice touch too.

Poke

Once we finished the Poke, we were presented with a beautiful flight of nigiri. We started eating it left to right, which meant eating the Hirame (Japanese flounder), then Aji (horse mackerel), and ending with the Sake (salmon). Each fish had more and more flavor, but I loved the ponzu on the Aji.

Then we moved onto the Pipikaula Steak, which was phenomenal. It consists of koji dry-aged domestic wagyu short rib, shoyu mango, and poi. The short rib was amazing, but I really loved the way the shoyu mango complemented the steak.

Pipikaula Steak

After the steak, we had the Unagi Spicy Maguro. Unagi is one of my favorites, so I was excited to try this roll. The spicy tuna wasn’t too spicy and the cucumber, sweet soy, and negi definitely helped balance the flavors and spice levels in the roll. Even though, this has spicy tuna, I still found this roll to be very light and refreshing.

Unagi Spicy Maguro

Our final dish was the Hotate-Su, which has Hokkaido scallop, Hawaiian hot pepper water, coconut lime sauce, hearts of palm, Thai basil, and passionfruit. This dish is super light and I loved how all of the different flavors mixed.

Hotate-Su

I loved all of the dishes that we had at Arami. I love the twists they’ve put on some dishes like Poke and the Korean Corn and Cheese dish. Additionally, I also appreciated that they notate on their menu which items are safe for people who are gluten free/have celiac, shellfish free, vegetarian and vegan, and which items have octopus. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this before at a Japanese restaurant, but I appreciate it because I know that I have a place I can bring friends who have dietary restrictions. If you love sushi and are in Chicago, then I definitely recommend Arami!

Thank you to Isabelli Media Relations for setting up this tasting. Although this dinner was comped, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Chicago Media Tasting: Baobing By Duck Duck Goat Launch Party

One of my favorite parts of Chicago is the West Loop, because it’s the foodie hub of the city. Chef Stephanie Izard has strategically opened up all of her restaurants there. Every restaurant she’s opened has unique twists on a variety of cuisines that inspire her and Baobing is her latest masterpiece.

Baobing Takeout Window

BaoBing by Duck Duck Goat
857 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
http://duckduckgoatchicago.com/

Baobing is a takeout window located on the Peoria St. side of Duck Duck Goat. Baobing is traditionally Taiwanese shaved ice, which the takeout window has, and it also has options for savory food items.

To start off the tasting, we had the Taiwanese Fried Chicken and the Fried Tofu. The Taiwanese Fried Chicken is delicious, and I love how the pickle relish helps balance the spice in the hot mustard aioli. The Fried Tofu sounds simple, but don’t be fooled. The vinaigrette, chili oil, and scallions give it plenty of flavor and I love the way they mix — this was probably my favorite dish!

Taiwanese Fried Chicken
Fried Tofu

We also tried the Beef and the Crispy Chicken Wraps, which were delectable. They are wrapped in Stephanie’s scallion pancake, a staple at Duck Duck Goat, and they are filled with different herbs. The Crispy Chicken Wrap has the same pickles as the Fried Chicken meal.

Beef Wrap
Crispy Chicken Wrap

Once we finished the savory dishes, then we moved onto the sweet ones. This was what I was most excited for — the Taiwanese-inspired shaved ice. We first tried the Rainbow Mountain which has soft ice cream, mango, blueberry, and cucumber snow ice; it has a great combination of flavors and is very refreshing. Then we moved onto the more savory dessert, the Sesame Sundae, which has a more unique pairing of flavors, but was a perfect balance of sweet and savory — definitely a favorite.

Rainbow Mountain
Sesame Sundae

The Mango Cloud City has a great mixture of fruit and who doesn’t love the flavor of mango in the summer heat?! I also loved that it has dragon fruit. The final shaved ice we had was the Blue Blue Lemon, and they definitely saved the best for last. I enjoyed how balanced the dessert is between the blueberry and lemon flavors- it is an art to accomplish this as seamlessly as Stephanie has. We ended with a savory dessert, the Jian Bing Thing, and it is possibly the most unique dessert I have ever tried. I would never have thought to pair soft ice cream with caramel, cilantro, crepes, wontons, and crunchy chili oil; however, the way this dessert is designed, all of the flavors work.

Mango Cloud City
Blue Blue Lemon
Jian Bing Thing

They open in the late afternoon during the week and mid-morning on the weekends, so you can enjoy great eats on the patio. If you’re looking for some great food in the West Loop at a great price, then I highly recommend Baobing!

Powerhouse Chefs Demonstrate Their Best Bites at Taste of Yountville

It might have rained a bit in Yountville last weekend, but that didn’t put a damper on the 25th annual Taste of Yountville festivities! Our weekend of food and wine kicked off with a demo by Chef Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat, Chicago), who shared her recipes for shrimp toast (paired with a beer cocktail) and chocolate peanut butter Cheez-It® s’mores.

Chef Stephanie Izard
Cheez-It S’more

Fun fact – did you know she actually had a Cheez-It® wedding cake? Yes, she’s THAT into them… and after tasting those s’mores, I think I am too! Chef Izard melts together butter, chocolate and peanut butter and pours that over Cheez-Its® before adding a mix of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, tossing to ensure each cracker is evenly coated. All that’s left to do is toast your marshmallow and get to sandwiching! The salty-sweet combo is to die for, and tastes almost like a Butterfinger bar. Chef Izard’s shrimp toast, topped with pickled Fresno chiles, was delicious – especially paired with a cocktail that incorporated the chile pickling liquid.

Shrimp Toast with Pickled Fresno Chiles, Pickled Red Onion, Preserved Lemon Aioli

We braved a quick run in the rain to make our way over to the V Marketplace Pavilion, where dozens of restaurants and wineries were showcasing their wares. After sampling some small bites, including ahi tuna poke from Celadon and black cod with pickled kumquat and meyer lemon aioli from Robert Mondavi Winery, we headed over to the Lynx-sponsored stage to watch Frank Bonanno teach us how to make ricotta.

Ahi Tuna Poke – Celadon
Black Cod with Meyer Lemon Kosho Aioli, Pickled Kumquat, Radish & Cress Salad – Robert Mondavi Winery
Frank Bonanno making ricotta

He started by combining a half-gallon of whole milk, 1 cup cream, and 1 cup buttermilk in a saucepan. After bringing it up to about 180 degrees, he added cider vinegar. As soon as he added the acid the mixture began to curdle, and after a few minutes of sitting in a fine-mesh strainer, the ricotta was ready! Spread on crostini, the ricotta was perfectly creamy with a delightful tang from the buttermilk. It might be a simple hors d’oeuvre, but it’s a showstopper!

Next up was the last event of the day: Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank on how to make the perfect steak. You better believe I was taking notes! His tips started with buying the thickest cut of steak you can, emphasizing one big steak for sharing rather than a few smaller, thinner steaks. The benefit to a thicker steak is that there’s more room to nail the internal temperature, more time to get a great sear on the outside before the inside overcooks, and more room to get that delicious crust on every side of the steak. He got his pan ripping hot and seared the steak all over before letting it rest for a few minutes. As a general rule, he lets meat rest half as long as he cooked it. Then, the steak went into the oven to finish cooking. When it hit the perfect medium-rare he was looking for, he rested it again and, right before serving, tossed it in the pan one more time to get the outside super crisp. But the most important trick of all? Rest your meat on its side, not on the top or bottom, to get the most even distribution of juices.

The perfect steak – and no, that’s not hyperbole.

One bite of this steak, which was served alongside cheesy tapioca pearls, and I was in heaven. The steak was paired with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from Eleven Eleven wines. Chef Frank noted that he drinks cab every day – and we should too! That’s some advice I can definitely get behind.

Day two started off beautiful, without a single cloud in the sky. We started off the day learning the secrets behind Lisa Dahl’s incredible “Hipster Burger” (spoiler alert: lentils and quinoa provide heft, toasted walnuts add texture, and serrano chili oil is the ticket to great flavor). She also shared her tips for making the perfect kale salad: thinly shredding kale, then tossing it with a Greek-influenced vinaigrette before adding Caesar dressing. Thanks to the acid in the vinaigrette, the fibers in the kale soften and break down – the days of massaging kale are over!

Lisa Dahl’s gorgeous “Hipster Burger”

One of the most interesting presentations was an unlikely pairing – raw seafood and Pinot Noir. Featuring a flight of Twomey Pinot Noir, the dishes included Hamachi crudo with kumquat and avocado, tuna sashimi with cherry and red wine-steeped hibiscus, and a raw oyster topped with smoked soy sauce and toasted hazelnut. The takeaways from this presentation? Step outside of the box when it comes to pairings. Note how different ingredients change your perception of wine. Save money on garnishes by buying better main ingredients. Most importantly, take the time to learn about what you’re drinking and eating. Much like wine, food is heavily influenced by where it comes from.

From left to right: Chris Nishiwaki, contributor, Wine & Spirits Magazine; David Varley, Michael Mina Restaurant Group; Brady Lowe, founder, Cochon 555; Ian Leggat, director of marketing and public relations, Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey Cellars
Clockwise from top left: tuna sashimi, hamachi crudo, oyster

After a long weekend of food and wine – tough life, I know – it was time to head home. I’m already counting down the days until next year, but until then you can find me perfecting steak, drinking red wine with sashimi, and coming up with more Cheez It®-inspired desserts. Cheers!


A portion of the proceeds from this event benefited the families of those lost in the tragic shooting at The Pathway Home earlier this month. For more information and details on contributing to the fund, click here

Lauren’s Last Bite Takes Over London

There’s no need to dread turning 35 if you do it with an epic trip to London. Turn up!! Turn up!! If you read any of my previous posts, you will recall I was living in Puerto Rico. I have since relocated back to Washington D.C. I love to travel as often as I can, but I am frugal. I would much rather spend my hard-earned moolah on food and cocktails! It is cheaper to book a flight out of NYC to London, which gave me the opportunity to try the ‘Purple Amethyst Latte’ at The End in Brooklyn. This vegan latte was a berry-infused, antioxidant rich, mood lifting drink with ube and a touch of lavender honey! This coffee shop offers a couple of energizing drinks as alternatives to coffee at their “Plant Alchemy Bar”. They are also famous for their ‘Unicorn Latte’.

Upon landing in London, a city known for its abundance of Michelin starred restaurants, I didn’t know which one to choose. Luckily there were a few near my hotel. Speaking of which, the hotel we stayed in was absolutely gorgeous. There are some fabulous hotels in mayfair, so I would definitely recommend taking a look around online before booking to find the perfect place for you to stay. Another plus about London’s bevy of Michelin starred restaurants is that most of them are open for lunch and offer a prix fixe option that won’t blow your food budget. Unfortunately, I have a food budget AND a drink budget. My drink budget has been known to be loftier than my food budget. I chose the Typing Room’. It was modern, sleek, yet still approachable. I ‘day-dressed up’, but other diners were more casually dressed. The food was stellar and the open kitchen gave way to a wonderful show. It was raining (duh, I was in London) and I ate a little heavier than usual for lunch. Venison, braised cabbage two ways with yogurt and demi-glace. The venison was so tender that no knife was needed.

Venison Medallions, Cabbage 2 ways, Spiced Yogurt and Demi Glace

Blown away by the service, food and the experience at Typing Room, I couldn’t leave London without checking another Michelin starred restaurant off my list. I love some fusion and StreetXO was highly recommended. This was a Spanish/Asian fusion. Ok, I can dig it. No surprise I started with a celebratory drink. They had me at vodka, St. Germain and that big a** glass. StreetXO has a variety of tasting menus, but being alone I was able to order a la carte. YAY!!! I had the “club” sandwich. Being a former Boricua, I couldn’t resist a croquette. These were a perfect mix of Spanish/Asian fusion: kimchi, raw salmon, trout roe, Lapsang Souchong tea, and sheep’s milk. These were perfect from the first dribble-down-your-chin-I-don’t-care-I-am-in-public bite. It was THAT good. The menu looked so good. I want to go back with more people and devour the entire menu…twice! Most of the clientele were Spaniards. I loved this, because you know if natives are eating there it is legit. This also let me know how far my Spanish has regressed since living in Puerto Rico.

“Club Sandwich” from StreetXO
Croquettes with kimchi, trout roe

I fell for the hype and went to the ICEBAR in London. It is exactly what you imagine…a bar with everything made of ice: the bar, the glassware, the seats, EVERYTHING. I’m guessing it’s an improbability that they ever run out of ice. At the door you are greeted with ski jackets to keep you insulated in the constant brisk -5 Celsius temperature. It’s as cold as it sounds and your jacket comes with gloves attached. BRRRRRRR. I’m having cold flashbacks. It was a cool spot (literally and figuratively). The bar is sponsored by ABSOLUT and each year the inside has a different theme. When I visited it was a zoo them. Gorillas, zebras and tigers, oh my! I’ll be honest, I was a bit too cold to take it all in. Even the cute bartender with the sexy, South African accent couldn’t coax me into staying. Look me up when you have a job in a temperate climate.

treacle tart

As always, I will conclude with my last bite. I will go back to London for the ‘treacle tart’ from Boxcar Butcher and Grill. From my understanding, treacle is term for molasses, but is also slang for sweetheart. This tart had a sweet/salty combo from a dusting of caramel corn. All I can say is, “WTF?” Where’s the Food?

Cute Bartender @Icebar in London

A Taste of Napa at The One and Only Palmilla Resort in San José del Cabo

The One and Only Palmilla resort in San José del Cabo, located in the southernmost tip of Mexico on the Baja Peninsula, is as close to paradise as you can get. This exclusive ocean side resort provides butler service, immaculate and lush resort grounds and ocean views so stunning that during the winter months you can see whales and dolphins from the comfort of your room! It’s so exclusive that it’s not abnormal to find yourself in the company of celebrities and boasts two restaurants by Michelin rated-chef Jean George Vongerichten and a third by Chef Larbi Darouch who apprenticed with the legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin beginning at age 13. The only thing that would make this experience even better would be to bring in a three Michelin star-rated chef from Napa for a pop-up dinner.

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Renzell: The Perfect App For Fine Dining Lovers

The world of foodie apps is like the wild west right now. Developers are striving to become the next big thing, but few apps offer anything unique to stand out from just being a local restaurant directory. I thought I had seen it all with these apps, until GOF blogger Marcie told me to check out an app called Renzell and it has since become my go-to restaurant directory app.

Cocktail from Redbird in LA, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Why Renzell?

It’s for those with impeccable taste –  What separates Renzell out from the other apps is a restaurant directory that is specifically hand-picked by Renzell staff of fine dining establishments in major metropolitan cities. This app isn’t here to help you find a new coffee shop, it’s to help you find the perfect special occasion spot. Think Marea in NYC, Redbird in LA and Alinea in Chicago.

Be undercover –  Members can rate restaurants anonymously through their surveys, which are scored based off overall numbers, no long write-ups required. Their surveys are broken down into categories like ambiance, service, food and cocktails. What I love about this so much is that it’s not public what scores users gave, so I can quietly and candidly score spots. See full list of restaurants here.

Prove it – There is also more accountability in the scores than other review apps. Members are encouraged to show proof of dining by providing a receipt from their visit. This makes me feel better when I read the scores, cause it’s lessening the likelihood of fake reviews.

Get rewarded! – The more you survey and/or provide proof of receipt, the more goodies you can get! Recent rewards include Starbucks gift cards, SoulCycle classes, a month of free Spotify premium and so much more.

With membership benefits, secure anonymity and consistent app functionality, I will consider myself a “lifer” Renzell member.

  • Featured image – Strozzapreti from Marea in New York, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Belle Vie is Serving up the Fanciest, Frenchiest Mac and Cheese in Los Angeles!

Last week, French bistro Belle Vie opened it’s doors in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Being a Westsider myself, I can confirm that we are a little bit lacking in French restaurants (unless you counting the endless supply of Le Pain Quotidiens around) so I was beyond thrilled to try a this new neighborhood spot.

Belle Vie 
11916 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
http://www.bellevierestaurant.com/ 

The team behind Belle Vie, Owner Vincent Samarco and Head Chef Cedric Nicolas‘ (who met when working together at Michelin-plated restaurant Le Trianon) aim was to provide locals with classic French comfort food with hints of California flavors: mission accomplished.

My inner Fracophile was geeking out right when I walked in, because the design, decor and the littlest details are spot on Parisian. French restaurants may have a reputation for serving up smaller portions, but at Belle Vie the portions are more generous. This spot is perfect to bring a friend and share a few plates.

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Macy’s Culinary Council Brings Timothy Hollingsworth to Walnut Creek

BAY AREA FOODIES!

Are you ready to spend an afternoon in foodie heaven with former French Laundry Chef de Cuisine and current owner of Otium in LA, Timothy Hollingsworth? Myself (and the rest of Girls on Food) are so excited to join one of our favorite chefs for a special cooking demonstration at Macy’s Walnut Creek, in Walnut Creek, CA, where he will be sharing a few of his favorite recipes.

When: Sunday, August 27 at 1pm

Where: Macy’s Walnut Creek, Home Department, 3rd Floor, 1301 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Price: FREE! RSVP here to ensure a spot and receive a $10 Macy’s gift card when you check in! 

Before the demonstration I’ll be roaming Macy’s latest in cookware and gadgets for my kitchen. I’m thinking with that $10 Macy’s gift card, I could stock up on some early Halloween kitchen goodies.

Also, with any purchase of $35 or more in the Home department, you will receive a special gift and a chance to meet Chef Timothy for a photo opp! I’m ready for my close-up!

Oh my gosh I can’t wait! Like many Bay Area locals, I’ve been dreaming of dining at French Laundry, so to have him cook for us personally will be such a treat! When Julianne attended his recent Culinary Council demo in LA, I was watching the Girls on Food Instagram stories salivating over his cooking!

Culinary Council is a collection of spectacularly talented chefs, pastry chefs, and food professionals that travel throughout the country and hold various tastings and demonstrations in Macy’s all over the U.S. Check with your local Macy’s to see if any are happening near you!

I’ll be live on my Instagram feed with stories, so be sure you’re following me!

 

 

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.