Girls on Food


Take Me, I’m Yours Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh, NC

Recently, food halls have been popping up all over the country. When I heard Raleigh was getting not one, but two, my immediate reaction was “great, a glorified mall food court” because really, when was the last time you felt cool eating at the food court, amiright? But there are a couple huge differences at play here, so put your worries aside!

First, food courts are so often chains and standard fare. Morgan Street Food Hall & Market is, for the most part, neither. Rolled ice cream anyone? Poke bowls, empanadas, and ramen were the first things to catch my eye. Cousins Maine Lobster (the only option I would consider a chain) is slightly more accessible here, and with a lot more seating options! The line is still out the door but with a beer in hand and a bustling crowd, a far cry from the hot food truck rodeo lines you’re usually waiting in! Last time I tried that, I was “red as a lobster” by the time I ordered my Connecticut lobster roll!

Raleigh Rolls rolled ice cream, which is a treat for all! (yeah, I shared with the baby!)

When you first walk into Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll see a bustling crowd and tons of seating options, from picnic tables to couches and arm chairs, and finally, 4 top tables with chairs. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, with a couple bars to frequent as thirst arises. There are 18 dining options, ranging from southern to Mediterranean to Asian; comfort food and hangover food and on to desserts and bubble tea. For our family, this is the perfect place for all of our meals out: we have 2 picky preschoolers who think the margarita pizza at Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas is out of this world (and less than $10, thank you!).

For me, I get the “adventurous” foods I can’t talk the whole family into – ramen and poke bowls, while hubby gets to fill up on empanadas, which he loves! We have an Italian au pair living with us this year, and she has enjoyed working her way through the options Morgan Street has at her disposal. Currently, her heart resides in Raleigh.

I’ve now eaten at Morgan Street 3 times. Hubs and I met a group of friends here one night before an Umphrey’s McGee concert downtown. There were a lot of empanadas and some curry plates, a kick ass looking pizza, a whole lot of beer, and my amazing delicious tuna poke bowl, with fresh tuna on their California bowl (from The Bowls), loaded with amazingness and topped with avocado! It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

So the next weekend, a girlfriend and I met up there, and she got ramen and I went back to The Bowls for round 2 – this time trying their spicy tuna on the Malibu bowl, which has spicy seaweed salad in it. The biggest difference was that the tuna was chopped up instead of chunks, so I would probably go regular tuna in the future.

We also ventured over to the bar, and I tried the Deep River Brewing Company’s (out of Clayton, NC) pumpkin pie porter, which was oh, so good and also very seasonal! It was delicious after a long afternoon of shopping and enjoying the suddenly cooler temps here in NC! Finally (maybe the first finally), we waited in line at Cocoa Forte Desserts for chocolate dipped cheesecake, which we were saving for when we got home, and then I talked my friend into trying out Raleigh Rolls, the rolled ice cream place! It’s a little bit Coldstone Ceamery (you get to choose 3 flavors that go into your ice cream, and then 3 flavors for the toppings) meets a sushi roll (because in the end, they hand you a bowl with 6 rolls of ice cream). So good news – you can sub flavors – I subbed in coffee flavoring for the graham cracker in my s’mores ice cream, and it was! Little man ate way too much but also thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for sharing my ice cream with him, ha! (Verdict on cheesecake – its on a stick, so go ahead and eat it immediately. I waited a few hours to eat mine, and it fell apart really fast. Pretty sure it was user error though).

So the next day, my hubs was still out of town (he went on Phish tour last weekend), and I needed to provide food for my little ones for the 4th day in a row. So…I started thinking about that pizza, and the fact that cow burger has hot dogs. Surely they could find something to eat…

Here’s the deal – I was nervous to bring a 5 year old and a 3 year old and a 5 month old into such a busy place. But…they loved it! My son is begging to go back, my daughter can’t stop talking about the ice cream, and the baby slept thru the thing. We also found an awesome place for our family photos in 2 weeks. So all in all, a great trip. I will send you all day every day to Bella’s pizza – it was incredible, and the kids ate every bite of that pizza. I loved the portion size of the burgers (I got the classic cheeseburger) and I’d heard great things about it, but I would definitely trust your gut on that place. First, the line took F O R E V E R which I’m not really into, and wouldn’t have waited in it but our au pair and I both wanted a burger so we stuck with it. Second, we waited F O R E V E R for our buzzer to ring. Like it took the entire time the pizza cooked to wait in the line and order. Then the kids ate the whole pizza. And I took them back over to Raleigh rolls and waited for someone to turn melted ice cream into frozen ice cream rolls, and then the buzzer sounded as I was paying for them. So the burgers were delicious, great bun to burger ratio, and overall very satisfying, but with so many faster options, I’m not sure I would wait for it again.

Also, pro tip – if you have a picky child who only eats vanilla ice cream (I know, I know, its super weird but what I’m dealing with right now), there is another small ice cream scoop place in the food hall. Don’t waste your $7 on plain vanilla with a tiny sprinkling of rainbow sprinkles. Spend that money on the whole experience and all the toppings, and get Sir Picky something from the cheaper place!

So final verdict – run, don’t walk, to the Morgan Street Food Hall if you’re in Raleigh. Bring an appetite. Check out the unusual places, especially the bowls, the broth, and curry in a hurry, and take the time to wait in line for Raleigh Rolls! I’m looking forward to heading down there again next weekend after the International Festival to try out some new places!

Hip-Hop and Comfort Food in DC: Sakuramen


2441 18th St NW, Washington, DC

If you’re walking too quickly down 18th Street in Adams Morgan, you might pass this nondescript but mind-blowing ramen restaurant. Set in the basement of a rowhouse, Sakuramen’s chill, laid-back vibe is a pleasant contrast to Adams Morgan’s normally bustling (a.k.a. wild) 18th Street scene.

Sakuramen is a small restaurant and decor is minimal. They do not take reservations and there is usually a wait. Don’t be alarmed if you’re hovering over a table where others are eating. Everyone who goes to Sakuramen knows that, because of its size, you’re bound to be up close and personal with your neighbors — but that’s what adds to its charm.


KABOOM Chicken: The REAL KFC in Toronto

KABOOM Chicken
722 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1H2

KABOOM Chicken is one of the newest and hottest Korean street food spots in Toronto! Starting from various food festivals over Summer 2016 to now a brick and mortar shop at a new and upcoming block, KABOOM Chicken is definitely exploding out in the Toronto food scene. They definitely define and bring out the REAL KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) to Toronto.


Turning Japanese at The Food Film Festival in NYC

img_0868I think I’m turning Japanese; I really think so, or at least I did when I attended the Sunday, October 24th evening of the Food & Film Festival titled “Eat Japan.” I had the pleasure of discovering The Food Film Festival last year while rampantly googling-food festivals, NYC. I know you’re sitting in awe of my very elaborate process. I searched in hopes of finding some interesting places to explore and share with Girls on Food. However, finding Food & Film was like finding myself halfway through a Judy Blume novel….it just fit.

After eating my way through BBQ and the food porn party at last year’s festival-“Eat Japan” was the next logical step in this foodie’s adventure toward cinematic grandeur. Ok don’t get excited because I mentioned the word porn, I don’t mean the type of porn you can see on TubeV Big Black Cock which includes sexy brussels escorts or someone similar, I am talking about food porn it’s a new thing, it literally means taking pics of food. Anyway I digress, I was lucky enough to have fellow GOF’er Marcie Andersen come with, and thus the shenanigans ensued.

We’ve expertly crafted the side head tilt while sampling products by Lumpia Shack; Filipino-inspired cuisine. Above we are proudly holding Truffled Mushroom Lumpia. It has a crispy exterior similar to that of a spring roll nicely complimented by the flourish of truffle mayo on the top.

Lumpia Shack
50 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011


Pictured here is their Bistek and Onions Sushi, a playful elevation of a favorite Filipino dish. What I found astonishing about this dish was the mesh quality of the onion creating a different taste profile. I had the chance to chat with the chef, Neil Syham, who explained he pureed the caramelized onions at a high temperature to achieve the incredible consistency.

img_0879Also present was The New York Distilling Company who already had my heart with their aptly named Dorothy Parker American Gin. Men will surely make passes at girls who wear glasses after a few sips of Suntory. Allen Katz, one of their team and one of the nation’s leading experts on distilled spirits and cocktails was on hand to make his signature drink showcasing this Japanese Whiskey.

The New York Distilling Company
79 Richardson Street (between Leonard & Larimer), Brooklyn, NY, 11222

While sipping this smooth concoction, Allen explained that Japanese Whiskey with its lighter taste would sure to be a mainstay in the states over the next twenty years.

img_0884Did I mention that all of this happened in the pre-party? On to films on food! George Motz, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author of Hamburger America, and founder of The Food & Film Festival kicked off the evening as its official master of ceremonies. The festival, now in its tenth year uniquely showcases food, chefs, and all the in between.


The mysterious chef who chooses to go by “Chef Nigo” rose to popularity this past summer when doing a pop-up Ramen Lab in NYC. He chooses not to disclose his identity, wearing this signature mask while he works, so that the diner can focus on the food and not on the chef behind it.

img_0913For the after party, Chef Nigo made a specialty tsukemen not served in any of his eateries. With the gravy broth mentioned in the film This is Tsukemen directed by George Motz, the dish was rich, delicate, and delicious and topped with a succulent cut of pork belly.

The winner of the evening, audience and festival selection alike was “SAKURADA” Zen Chef. It tells the story of the Japanese chef, Mr. Isuzu Sakurada who awoke to cook the best soup and became a 2-starred Michelin Chef in Kyoto. The filmmakers were on hand to accept their awards and no-you’re not hallucinating, one of them dressed in a Pikachu onesie.


Mr. Sakurada has since closed his restaurant and keeps his recipes a secret as is customary in Japan. However, he was kind enough to call an NYC colleague and have them make us a dish. This Nama-Fu Tempura & Sake by Kajitsu was light and flavorful.


And after the films, we feast! Check out some of the food and frivolity from our adventure.

Marcie and I take a moment to pose with food porn star extraordinaire: Larry Caldwell. He’s always on board to offer up an inspired food pairing for a Bud Light Strawberita.


I don’t think I even began to skim the surface of the amount of mochi floating around both before and after. This rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. Upon the first bite, my initial reaction was “oh, this is a Japanese gummi.” One of the films Pounding Mochi with the Fastest Mochi Maker in Japan
Dir. Great Big Story, demonstrates the manpower and ceremony with which Mochi is made.


One of the events sponsors, The Billion Oyster Project geared toward restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor and educating about the restoration of our ecosystem brought along these gorgeous oysters to sample. A bit briny but perfect and shucked on site.


The Food & Film Festival made me laugh, almost cry, and probably gain two pounds and for all of those reasons around the end of October, New Yorkers should keep their eyes peeled for this amazingly edible event. With so many different themes and foods, it will leave you wanting for nothing. Be sure to save your gym membership.

Momosan Ramen and Sake in NYC

It was finally my one day off and Mother Nature decided that NYC should be chilly and gloomy. However, I was determined to make the best of it. I have been wanting to visit this restaurant that opened recently, and this was the perfect day to do it.

Momosan Ramen and Sake
342 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

Momosan Ramen and Sake is Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s latest restaurant concept; a ramen shop “where noodles are front and center,” according to the official Momosan website. However, the menu also offers other tasty appetizers, 20 sake options, three draught and three bottled beers, and choice of either two reds or two whites for wine drinkers.

The anticipation had been building for a while, but it was on some serious overdrive when I crossed the threshold and laid eyes on a familiar figure. “Is that…oh em gee, that’s Morimoto!” I Irish whispered as I grabbed my accompaniment by his arm and nearly knocked him over. The hostess giggled at my ecstatic expression and sat us at the bar.


Chef Morimoto was literally the length of a high five away almost the entire time, watching over his line, cooking, bussing tables, as well as touching tables and rubbing elbows with guests, myself included. At one point I got a bit ditzy and dropped the menu out of my hand. I just went and got it and held on to it, but Chef felt that I needed a fresh one, so he went over to the hostess stand and fished me out a new menu!
A few minutes had passed, and I was able to collect myself and look around the restaurant. The colors are neutral, yet elegant. Pasta decorates the walls of the restaurant as a sort of edible crown molding.

I was flipping through my fresh menu, and my companion and I decided that we should try some of the sake. We each had a glass of the Rihaku, which has notes of coconut and pumpkin. It’s presented in a most unusual manner; the glass is placed inside of a square bowl and then purposely overfilled, letting the extra pour into the square bowl. This is done as a welcoming gesture, letting you know that your presence is appreciated and enjoyed. You’re to drink the contents of the glass first, and then pour the additional liquid into your glass as an “extra” way to say “welcome, thanks for coming by.”

Napa Cabbage
Napa Cabbage

Then the fun began. We ended up trying the Edamame, Pork Gyoza, Sticky Ribs, and the Napa Cabbage, and the Crispy Mimiga (pig ear) appetizers.

Sticky Ribs

The presentation was beautiful, following suit with clean lines and classy yet simple (but by no means basic) plating. It was all so delicious, and so many different flavors and textures were lingering on my palate.

Pork Gyoza
Pork Gyoza

My friend had his fill with the appetizers, but I knew it was just a warm-up for me; I wasn’t leaving without a bowl of ramen. I had a bowl of Tokyo Chicken ramen, which was almost too beautiful to eat. I loved the piece of nori with the restaurant logo (I love the simpler things in life). The rainbow of colors in my bowl was quite visually appealing, and the broth was so rich, it sent my umami sensing taste buds into a sort of tranquil hypnosis. Each sip took me deeper into a semi-dreamlike food coma state.

Tokyo Chicken Ramen

IMG_5706After the meal was over, I fully gathered my composure and asked Chef if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo with me. He did so happily, thanked me for coming in, and warmly shook my hand. Chef Morimoto may be a man of few words, but his presence and atmosphere spoke volumes to me that afternoon, and I can’t wait to go back there soon for another taste of Japan through the eyes of an Iron Chef.
Momosan Ramen and Sake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spotlight on Silverlake Ramen and Kush Sake Bar in Los Angeles

Silverlake Ramen is my go to place for some super tasty ramen. Located in a strip mall the restaurant is humble in presentation but mighty in taste. They simmer their broth for 16 hours, so when it comes to your table it is the creamiest soup you’ve ever had. I always go for the tonkatsu ramen with perfectly crispy pork belly.

Silverlake Ramen
2927 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Regular tonkatsu ramen with pork belly.
Regular tonkatsu ramen with pork belly.

I love heat so I get the spicy one to which they’ve added their house chili paste. They don’t take reservations so expect to wait for a table. My suggestion is heading around the corner for drinks at The Thirsty Crow (happy hour until 8pm!), just make sure someone from your party pops over to make sure you don’t miss your table. Try it with edamame or if you’re really hungry you can get a combo of ramen, any bowl, and salad for only $3.75 more.

Sake and edamame at Kush Sake Bar.

If you don’t want to wait or want ramen with some other tasty morsels head over to their smaller and fancier sister restaurant Kush Sake Bar in Echo Park. They have the same ramen albeit slightly smaller servings.

Kush Sake Bar
1356 Allison Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Spicy tonkatsu ramen with pork belly at Kush.
Spicy tonkatsu ramen with pork belly at Kush.

Stop in early for happy hour beer and food specials or enjoy one of their sakes anytime. The highlight of Kush is their selection of yakitori or bite size skewered morsels. My personal favorites are the brussel sprouts, bacon wrapped scallops, and wagyu beef on a rock salt plate.

Asparagus and bacon wrapped scallops with anchovy sauce.
Asparagus and bacon wrapped scallops with anchovy sauce.
Brissel sprouts with truffle oil.
Brissel sprouts with truffle oil and a selection of dipping sauce and spices.

Also not to be missed are the buns. I never fail to get a pork bun which is one of the most moist and flavorful bites I’ve ever enjoyed.

The Kush pork bun with marinated pork belly, pickled onion, and sesame mayo.
The Kush pork bun with marinated pork belly, pickled onion, and sesame mayo.

Fortunately the weather is starting to cool down and soon it will be perfect ramen weather in Los Angeles. Make sure to head out to Kush or Silverlake Ramen and get your ramen on!

Slurps Up!: Daikaya Izakaya in Washington DC

Ramen is usually associated with college and days with small bank accounts. However, at Daikaya in Washington, DC, you can find an assortment of Sapporo style ramen. Crowded with delicious noodles, vegetables, and meat, the broth bowls are served in heaping portions with a side of chopsticks and a big ladle spoon ready to help you slurp up the soupy goodness.

The flavorful broth and noodles were the stars of the soup. Photo: Sara Maldonado

Daikaya Izakaya
705 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Tucked away in a corner of Chinatown is the small, non-assuming restaurant. When you step inside, you are immediately greeted by a cheery wallpaper print and a friendly hostess. The restaurant has communal tables as well as more private booths making it a versatile location for different types of outings. However, if you are coming with a big group, make sure to arrive at a non-peak hour as the restaurant is popular and you may end up waiting a while for a table.

Daikaya is tucked away behind the Verizon Center in Chinatown. Photo: Sara Maldonado

I ordered the Shio Ramen which features a Chintan stock. The stock is made with chicken, pork bone, seaweed, dried fish, and other ingredients. I didn’t add in any special ingredients as I wanted to taste the dish without any extras. The broth was thicker and featured a more robust flavor than I expected. I was thankful to have the ladle to drink it up.

The noodles were by far my favorite part of the dish. They were hearty and cooked to perfection. They did not skimp on portions either. The soup had more than enough noodles to satisfy even the biggest noodle lover. The full-length noodles were a perfect pair to the stir-fried bean sprouts. The mix of crunchy and soft was delightful. I’m looking forward to visiting again!

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