Girls on Food

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Disney Eats: Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen

The happiest place on earth has gotten a little bit happier. Adventureland in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, is the place to go if you are jonesing for a Dole Whip, but what if you need more sustenance for your 14-hour death march theme park day? Look no further than Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen.

Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
1180 Seven Seas Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Disney World Dining

I was spending the day at the Magic Kingdom with two friends, and we had a few criteria for lunch: A/C, semi-quiet, vegetarian options, A/C, reserved seating, IG worthy, and A/C. Jungle Skipper Canteen met all these requirements, and I was even able to make a reservation using the same app now used to schedule fast passes. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

Having arinterior RWrived a few minutes before our reservation, we sat in a cute entryway with a water cooler…and A/C. Once our table was available, we were in the “mess-hall” room, which was large, but very quiet, and uncrowded, such a nice reprieve from the afternoon sun, and crowds of people.

We stuck with water, but the menu offered some fun drink choices, including Coca-Cola® selections from Brazil and Thailand, a large selection of teas, a punch made with a mango puree, and a frozen apple slush topped with green apple boba.

Ambasha Bread
Ambasha Bread

The restaurant is an extension of Disney’s Jungle Adventure Cruise ride, and eclectic menu choices reflect flavors found in South America, Asia, and Africa. Our culinary adventure began with complimentary Ethiopian ambasha bread, served with a fenugreek-infused honey. We ordered the Falls Family Falafel ($8.50), which was served with a flavorful white bean dip, and tomato-cucumber garnish.

 

House-made Arepas
House-made Arepas

I also ordered the house-made arepas ($9.50), which was my favorite thing from the whole meal. The arepas were a little denser than I am used to, but were a delicious base for the flavorful shredded beef, while the tostones (twice-fried plantains) were perfect with the not-too-spicy black beans. If you are only ordering one appetizer, I would recommend this one!

For entrees, my meat-eating friend chose the “A Lot at Steak” salad ($19), which was huge and loaded with tender slices of grilled steak, she barely left a dent in it by the end of the meal. My vegetarian friend went with the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew ($17) which smelled so good, we all had a bite or two. Cauliflower, potatoes, and a variety of other veggies were smothered in a delicious house-made curry, and served with fluffy coconut rice, and hot naan bread. I selected an appetizer as my entrée, the Shiriki Noodle Salad ($11); chilled rice noodles, loaded with edamame, micro-greens, red pepper, cucumber, green mango, and tossed in a sweet chili sauce—very refreshing!

The dessert choices (all $8) sounded fantastic, but all three of us were stuffed (we may or may not have had Dole Whips before lunch #perksofadulthood). I was especially interested in Bertha’s Banh Bong Lan Cake – vanilla chiffon cake, soaked in lemon grass-ginger syrup, with mango-lime sorbet, but that will have to wait for my next visit.

The only low-point of our dining experience was having to exit back out into the oppressive Florida-in-July heat, but we quickly remedied that with our next stop, the air-conditioned Enchanted Tiki Room…and maybe another Dole Whip.

Skip the crowded fast-food eatery lines, and reserve a table at the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen!

Brunching in the Windy City: Cochon Volant Brasserie

Cochon VolantChicago is one of my all time favorite cities to visit; the city offers so many different activities and great places to eat.

When I go to Chicago, you can find me hopping from place to place stuffing my face. A friend’s wedding brought me to Chicago a few weeks ago, and you’d better believe once I got that invite I was restaurant planning.
A Saturday pre-wedding brunch was on my list, and our place of choice was Cochon Volant Brasserie. Cochon Volant is a French bakery, brasserie, and bar in the loop. The menu features a number of French specialties.

Cochon Volant Brasserie
100 W Monroe St, Chicago, IL, 60603
http://www.cochonvolantchicago.com/

 

 

We were seated outside among the flowers and watched the city wake up around us. It’s one of my favorite parts about traveling; sitting at a restaurant and taking in the sights and sounds of a new city.

My go to brunch cocktail is a Bloody Mary.  I always ask for mine spicy; I just cannot have it any other way. The server brought our drinks and warned me that they might have gone a bit overboard with spice level… but I thought they were perfect, just the kick I was looking for!

Cochon Bloody Mary

For my entrée, I had to have the Cochon Benedict Reserve. Eggs Benedict rules my brunch world, and I can hardly stray from ordering it.

Eggs Benedict

The Cochon Benedict Reserve is precisely how Eggs Benedict should be. This hollandaise was perfect, the eggs were perfect, I’m wondering how many times I can use perfect to describe this dish. ….

My dining partner had the Croque Madame.

Cochon Madam

At first, it came without the egg however that was quickly remedied.

Madam with Egg

Just look at the beautiful pile of ham and cheese. It is a comfort, love and the necessary cure for a Friday night. I couldn’t stop dipping into the aioli… Beware of your aioli when dining with me 🙂

Next time you’re in Chicago check out Cochon Volant. I need to go back for the dinner menu!

Caribbean Queen: Lauren’s Favorite Local Cocktails

Salud! I could never imagine that I would pack up everything, sell my car and move almost 2,000 miles, trading seasons for endless summer, but I did, and I’m happy. Really happy. Moving from “the most powerful city in the world” aka Washington D.C. to San Juan, Puerto Rico has been a game changer.  The best part was rediscovering a different love for food and especially cocktails. It’s always five o’ clock in my book, and I’ve spent the better part of two years tasting the best Puerto Rico has to offer, and these are my favorites.

Rum rules this island with locals drinking Don Q and Ron del Barrilito. Ron del Barrilito is a smaller family operation with a distillery located in the suburbs of San Juan. The day I visited the distillery, the labels were being applied by hand, this rum is aged with a whiskey feel.

ss My favorite rum cocktail on the island is the Santurce Swizzle created to celebrate Puerto Rican Mardi Gras. The Santurce Swizzle utilizes two types of Don Q (Blanco and Anejo), local organic honey, passion fruit, St. Germain and tiki bitters. After the first sip, I almost cried tears of joy. A touch sweet, a touch sour, and just perfect. Michael Norat, Mr. World Class Puerto Rico 2015 of Santaella created this cocktail. (FYI a ‘swizzle’ historically is a rum drink stirred to a chill with the swizzle stick and garnished with an allspice branch)

upside downMy next find utilizes my favorite fruit on the island, the pineapple. If you, find yourself on the Island, do yourself a favor and try a fresh pineapple, you’ll thank me later. The Upside Down combines Don Julio Tequila, roasted pineapple with vanilla bean syrup, a habanero shrub and maraschino and pecan reduction.

The Upside Down is like a “grown and sexy” pineapple upside down cake. It’s a little fruity with a touch of spice. I could sip these at the beach all day. This cocktail was courtesy of Krystal Cobian of the Condado Vanderbilt.

santruce swizzle

One of the more unusual cocktails I’ve had on the island was the Que Mamey all because of one ingredient, zapote, aka “mamey”. You can only find this fruit in parts of South America or the Caribbean. It’s soft, velvety in texture and has the most unusual flavor. It’s been an acquired taste for me, but because of this cocktail, I became a believer.

The Que Mamey mixes the Zapote with bourbon, mint, and lime. Fresh and delicious and a little hint of pear from the Zapote. You can find the Que Mamey at La Coctelera, a new bar on Calle Loiza, as their featured drink. Local and seasonal is always best when making drinks and this Caribbean living provides some amazing ingredients and lets me meet creative people. The island life has been great, Salud!

Sipping in Santa Cruz: Bonny Doon Vineyard

On the heels of the Rhone Rangers Seminar and Grande Tasting, I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the man Wine Spectator Magazine has dubbed “The Original Rhone Ranger” — Randall Grahm, owner, and president of Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Original Rhone Ranger 2

Randall has a passion for wines that reflect the time and place from whence they came — vins de terrior — and believes that truly beautiful land will produce truly excellent wines. It is this passion that made Randall fall in love with Old World French Rhones that hail from the bounteous vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. It is this love that makes Randall feel a responsibility as a New World winemaker to produce equally fruitful vineyards and delicately complex wines that speak of his California terrior.

wine bottles 1

So has he done it? Has he created that perfect vin de California? Randall admits after over 40 years as Bonny Doon’s owner and operator he has more questions now than he did when he started. He’s always experimenting with different grapes, vineyard locations, and — most importantly — the constant care and health of the actual land, the soil. A true scientist and philosopher, Randall’s always looking to learn from his last growth how to improve the next.

Bonny Doon LineUp 2

2015 Vin Gris: A light and lively Rosé that can be found at almost any local grocer.
015 Vin Gris: A light and lively Rosé that can be found at almost any local grocer.

That’s not to say that Randall isn’t happy with all that he’s achieved. Tasting a full line-up of Bonny Doon’s current releases, it’s amazing the broad spectrum of flavor profiles found in California Rhone varietals. There are those that are easy on the palate, produced for mass appeal, and daily drinking. Many of these come from vineyards with average conditions and farming techniques that are “more hands on,” manufactured.

Then there are those with a depth and complexity that give the drinker pause to think. These are the wines produced from grapes that were exposed to ideal conditions, left to enjoy those conditions and truly absorbed the essence of the land. These are the wines that tell a story of time and place.

LipSmacker

2015 Picpoul

This wine, Randall believes, best exemplifies what it means to grow a happy grape — a grape in a region with a climate where it can truly flourish. The Bonny Doon Picpoul vineyards sits among the cooling comfort of Carmel Valley sea breezes. The nose on this wine is like a breath of fresh sea salt air, with a strong undercurrent of acidity. Take that undercurrent seriously, because this wine is not for the faint-of-tongued. Picpoul, literally translated, means “lip stinger,” and you’ll know why when sipping on this wine. Sure, there are wonderful stone fruit and wildflower notes with just a slight hint of bitterness that rounds out the overall palate — but it’s the wine’s natural acidity (as Randall says, “no acidification was doon“) that creates interest here. It tickles the tongue from start to finish leaving a lingering sting, as the name implies.

Vintage: 2015 Varietal: 100% picpoul Appellation: Arroyo Seco 12.2% ABV

Nero d'Avola

2015 Bianco di Nero d’Avola

Nero d’Avola, a Sicilian red grape varietal that traditionally yields red wine, in this case, was used to create a unique white wine. The somewhat amusing detail about this particular bottle is that the Tracy vineyard where the grapes were grown was one that didn’t foresee a lot of natural success. So everything from the farming to the winemaking process was quite hands-on.

The red Nero d’Avolo grapes were pressed without skin contact, resulting in a mellow yellow wine that emits a very prominent citrus perfume (like a pomelo or grapefruit). On the tongue, however, the wine still maintains red wine-esque qualities including spice notes, plum flavors, and even a hint of tannins. A truly unique wine that celebrates the unexpected — both in terrior and taste.

Vintage: 2015; Varietal: 100% nero d’avola; Appellation: Tracy Hills; 13.5%ABV

Grenache Cuvee

2014 Cuvee “R” Grenache
Sometimes it’s nature’s imperfections that lend itself to beautiful produce. Such is the case with this particular Grenache. The Bonny Doon team kept a hands-off approach when it came to the vineyard, which during this time meant letting certain viruses affect the grape-growing process — to an extent. An experiment that went quite right.

 

They kept this hands-off approach during the fermentation process as well, aging the wine in glass with lees, and implementing an oxidative winemaking process. Put together, this was all quite risky.

 

But because the Doon team let Mother Nature do her thing, the flavors of this wine are naturally well balanced. There are mixed aromas of citrus, nuts, and red fruits. On the palate, the wine is extremely open and airy, smooth from start to finish. This is the kind of wine to pair with a delicate cuisine, so as not to overpower the subtle, natural complexity of the wine.

 

Vintage: 2014 Varietal: 100% grenache Appellation: Monterey County 14.5% ABV

Le Cigare Blanc 20112011 Cigare Blanc Reserve
cloudy glass
It’s hard to photograph, but this wine was quite cloudy.

This is by far my personal favorite of Bonny Doon’s current releases because, to me, it is the most complex. This Grenache Blanc-Roussanne blend has been bottled without filtration, so is quite cloudy in the glass. The grapes again come from the hills of Arroyo Seco in Carmel Valley and gives off that ocean air on the nose. So without even taking a sip, in sight and smell alone, this wine is speaking of its terrior.

The flavor profile of this wine is other-worldly. Amidst classic stone fruits and a hint of honey, there’s an overlying essence of umami — that illustrious fifth sense of taste — that provides a bit of bitter and a bit of spice. Then there’s the minerality that speaks quietly in the background, just enough to keep things calm and cool on the tongue. The lingering finish leaves soft, peppery, herbal notes on the palate.

This is one of those wines that makes the mind as well as the mouth work — what is that smell; what is that taste; where did this wine come from; where is it going; what’s the story?

Vintage: 2011 Varietal: 62% grenache blanc, 38% roussanne Appellation:Arroyo Seco 12.5% ABV
The Story of Bonny Doon’s Flagship/Starship Wine

House-CVB10C_label_300dpi

The wine at Bonny Doon isn’t all about business, but a bit of wit and whimsy as well. Their flagship (aka starship) wine, Le Cigare Volant, is an homage to French wine folklore.

In 1954 the village council of Chateauneuf-du-Pape truly believed that flying saucers (or literally translated, “flying cigars”), were hovering over their vineyards. The primary concern was that these aliens would land their spacecraft and ruin the vineyards. So, to this day, there is an ordinance that states that any of these “flying cigars” found on the land shall “be removed directly to the pound.”

This stellar achievement is celebrated all over the tasting room — from bottle caps to wall decor.

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Invading one wine at a time
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boîte à cigares
IMG_1288
Of course, there’s a steampunk statue

Whether simple or complex in its nature, each wine tells a story. And if you’re local or in the area, listen to a few stories at Bonny Doon, where the Old World and New World collide, creating a world of its own. Cheers.

Bonny Doon Front Door

For more information about Bonny Doon, their Tasting Room, social events, and to purchase their available wines, please visit their website.

**Want to have your winery, vineyard, or tasting room featured? Please Contact the Author via her blog BriscoeBites.com**

Julianne’s Top 5 Honolulu, Hawaii Favorites

Aloha, foodies!

I just got back from my trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and I think it’s safe to say… I need to go on a juice cleanse. The food was so delicious; I couldn’t help but savor every moment! Below are my top 5 favorite foods from my trip:

Honorable Mentions:

Germaine’s Luau
Reservation required: http://germainesluau.com

IMG_8492I think everyone should attend one luau in their lifetime. Since this was my 12-year-old niece Sydney’s first trip to the island, we felt we had to take her to one. Germaine’s Luau honors Hawaiian traditions very well.

Cons: It’s packed with tourists, and you sit at communal tables (which means forced conversations with strangers).  It requires a rush hour bus ride where your participation is encouraged by the escort (again, forced conversations with strangers) and I can’t say the food was up to par with restaurants featured below.

They also insist you try poi. I’d never decline the chance to try traditional island eats, out of respect… but yikes. I can’t even. Poi is basically a goopy gravy made from the stem of a taro plant. It’s cold and weird and even when you mix it with other foods, it’s just one big NOPE. The most bizarre thing is that I’ve had taro several times in desserts, so how can something so right as a dessert, taste so wrong as poi?

Pros: The live show entertainment was awesome! It’s hula dancing, and they bring out fire dancers! Sydney even went up on stage to dance with them! There’s beautiful live music, the host of the show is great and our escort, Georgie, was very entertaining on the ride over. She made getting through rush hour traffic much more pleasant.

The Kalua pork was cooked in the traditional imu, which an underground style oven. There is something very special about seeing the roasted pig raised from underground. Traditional Kalua pork is not sold commercially in any other state except Hawaii, so I made sure to savor every bite of it.

M. Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712
http://matsumotoshaveice.com

I’ve had a lot of bad shave ice in my life. They were just too syrupy, too sweet, too messy, it was never really my thing. I’ll be honest with you foodies; I didn’t even want to order anything when we got here.

IMG_8493Holy cow, I would’ve missed out on the best shave ice ever. I’m convinced it’s the best shave ice ever because I’ve never seen it prepared this way (note: I’m from California and part Filipino. Sorry, no one around me ever got this right).

I got the lychee flavor with a coconut cream. Mind blowing. The lychee flavor tasted refreshing and not artificial (although it may be). The syrup pour size was the right amount and didn’t overkill those last ice bites. But the coconut cream added a milky richness to it that I haven’t experienced with shave ice.

 

To view a video of shave ice in the making, click here.

5.) Island Vintage Coffee
2301 Kalakaua Avenue #C215 Honolulu, HI 96815
https://islandvintagecoffee.com/

IMG_7651Despite having such a lackluster experience with the taro based terror, poi, earlier, I heard rave reviews about the Island Taro coffee-free blended drink. Now, I’m a black coffee kind of gal. I’m not really one for sweets (I especially hate Starbucks Frappuccinos) so I wasn’t sure I’d be into it.

I was so wrong. I’m convinced this drink is made from the Hawaiian gods and delivered to us by hula dancing angels. It tastes like exactly like cake batter. Like an addictive cake batter that you can just drink down. I didn’t feel dehydrated or gross after it either. It’s just absolute heaven in a cup. It’s a must-try, and they have multiple locations, see website.

4.) Sweet E’s Cafe
1006 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

When I think of Hawaiian food, for some reason I recollect Adam Sandler trying to woo Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates. Remembering this scene made me crave pancakes, French Toast, and SPAM. Sweet E’s was recommended to me by a few locals, and when I saw owner Ethel Mathews graced the cover of Hawaii Business Magazine, I knew I had to drop in for a bite. I’m all about supporting #girlpower.

sweet eThat bite ended up with me ordering a full meal and a pancake on the side. And was a lovely overestimation of hunger it was! My mom and Sydney and I just ended up chowing down on each other’s plates, cause everything was so good!

I feel like this image reeks “This is why you’re fat”, but here’s what we had starting from the bottom left:

Blueberries and cream cheese French toast, side of Canadian bacon, side of banana pancake, Portuguese sausage, Everyday Breakfast with Kalua Pork and Kalua Pork Benedict.

Sweet E2

The Kalua Pork Benedict was my favorite item. The eggs were poached to a runny perfection, and the hollandaise sauce had the right amount of lemony tang to pair with the shredded pork. The blueberries and cream cheese French toast was also creamy, dreamy and sweet.

You can view video food porn of this dish by clicking here.

3.) Koko Head Cafe
1145 C 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
http://kokoheadcafe.com

IMG_8491This island style brunch spot is another recommendation from to me by friends. And it just so happens to be another female-ran business, the owner is TV personality and Chef Lee Anne Wong.

Warning: The cocktail I got was a special, so it may or may not be available. Sorry readers, I hate doing that, but I cannot turn down a Coconut Margarita. I’m a big fan of Pina Coladas (and getting caught in the rain), so if I see coconut as the main ingredient in a cocktail, I’m all over it. I especially loved the toasted coconut rim.

IMG_8490

Oh boy. Cornflake French Toast. Topped with bacon and a Frosted Flakes gelato. I had to. It just sounded so ridiculous, and it was ridiculously delicious. The Cornflakes on the outside of the French Toast as crispy and buttery. And the bacon adds a savory bite to it. I think it should be mandatory to have gelato melting on top of all French Toasts from now on. This has risen the bar for French Toast so high; I don’t know if I can go back to anything else now.

You can see video food porn of Koko Head Cafe by clicking here.

2.) The Pig and The Lady
83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96815
http://thepigandthelady.com

When you’re in Honolulu, you have to walk down Chinatown; the stretch features many restaurants, galleries, and shops.

Golden PigThe Pig and the Lady is owned by Honolulu-born chef Andrew Le, a James Beard Foundation Rising of the Year Semifinalist. His influence for The Pig and the Lady comes from his mother’s Vietnamese heritage. And, fun fact, she is the Lady reference in the title. I’m a big fan of Vietnamese food, so I was very excited for this lunch.

But first, drinks! I ordered the Golden Pig, herbs, lemon and sparkling rosé. I’m a sucker for anything with rosé so, of course, this was my choice, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Pate

We started with the Vietnamese pate chaud, a flaky, croissant-like puff pastry stuffed with savory pate. This French-Vietnamese treat is a perfect start to the meal.

pho french dip

My entree choice was the Pho French Dip, beef brisket roasted for 12 hours, glazed with P&L BBQ sauce, Thai basil chimichurri, charred bean sprouts, and onions and a load of cilantro. Every item in this sandwich contributes its unique flavor, and it’s not overwhelming in any way. The flavors play together beautifully. The pho broth on the side is meaty with a light essence of herb. This is one of those dishes I’ll never forget!

Click here to see more food from The Pig and the Lady here.

1.) Mahina & Sun’s
412 Lewer’s St, Honolulu, HI 96815
http://surfjack.com

M&S5

Mahina & Sun’s, well-known Honolulu local Ed Kenney’s fourth restaurant, is fresh to the Honolulu scene. It’s located in the recently opened Surfjack Hotel, which is close to Waikiki Beach.

M&S
Mr. Pink

Surfjack Hotel has this kitch, vintage-inspired feel to it and I will for sure be booking a room there on my next trip. I feel in love with the pool that reads “wish you were here” on the flooring. That cute, mid-century-hip look extends into the restaurant as well.

Everything was phenomenal. That starts with my first cocktail, the Mr. Pink. Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin, Lillet, Yellow Chartreuse, Dry Curacao, lemon, egg white and rose flower water. It’s tart but has a mellow creaminess to it from the egg whites foam. I could sip on this and sit by the pool all day long.

M&S2
Shinsato pork pate

The first snack was a Shinsato pork pate, which was whipped to perfection. The dip-ready sides were pickled veggies, buttered and toasted sweet bread and a (so delish) mango mostarda, which is like candied fruit with a mustard syrup. Mostarda may sound a little odd to some of our foodie readers, but you have to try it. I just wish the portion was a little bigger.

M&S3
I’m known for getting pizza in whatever part of the world I’m in. I’d order pizza in Pakistan if I ever went. So although Hawaii isn’t quite known for perfecting pizza, we ordered a great one here. The Naked Pig Pizza is a thin crust pizza topped with Naked Cow cheese (fun fact: the only dairy farm in O’ahu),  bacon and maui onion. This results in a light but lovely pizza. We also tried the Sweet Land Farm chèvre beignets, which have a borderline doughy hush puppy consistency to them, so don’t expect a light NOLA style beignet.

M&S4My favorite dish was the Grilled He’e (aka octopus) & watercress salad, with ricotta, potato, green olive, and dill. The flavors together work perfectly, and it’s also a beautiful dish to gaze upon.

The dessert menu looked amazing, but I ended the dinner with The Lavender Rub, a cocktail with Tullamore Dew, Amaro Montenegro, Lustau East India Sherry, Femet and lavender bitters. There’s no better way to end the night than with a strong, floral cocktail- and this hit the spot!

I loved the use of local ingredients and unexpected flavors. I know it’s new to the Waikiki scene, but I highly recommend trying Mahina & Sun’s out!

You can watch a little video on dinner at Mahina & Sun’s here.

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Soups for the Summer: Chilled Strawberry Basil

balsamsFor a few years in a row, Christmas break was spent with my extended family at the Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch, NH. We would spend the week skiing by day, and enjoying the resort by night. This place is amazing – kind of a cruise ship on dry land, with huge breakfasts, formal dinners, and various activities in the evening – karaoke, movies, the best arcade room ever, and tons of other fun activities (take the memories with a grain of salt – I was probably 14 the last time we were there). The town’s claim to fame is that the first primaries every election year are held in Dixville Notch. It’s a beautiful little New England city, and this resort is gorgeous! (from what I can tell, the Balsams resort is in the process of revamping, and I am hoping they reopen to the public soon!  I can’t wait to take my family there!).

http://flicksart.blogspot.com/2011/01/winter-at-balsams.html

strawberry soup 3As I mentioned, after a long day of skiing, and a relaxed lunch in the ski lodge, everyone would come back to the resort and get ready for a formal dinner. Men had to wear sports jackets, and the women had to be dressed up. Upon being seated, servers would push carts around with various options for appetizers, dinners, and desserts. To a little kid, this place was glamorous and indulgent, and one of my favorite appetizers every year was a chilled strawberry soup. It was so fancy and unexpected; refreshing after a long day spent bundled up on the slopes!

Every once in a while, I’ve thought back to that unusual soup, but it wasn’t until I was at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago that everything aligned! So, I’ll have to thank the kind cashier that insisted I take home an extra, giant box of organic strawberries…for comparison purposes! He swore up and down the bigger berries were sweeter than the smaller (he was right!). To me, it just meant we had way more strawberries than we could eat before they all went bad! Luckily, my brother-in-law and one of his kids were in town, so we invited a big group over for dinner. Nothing like experimenting when you have ten people over for dinner! I’m not going to lie – I was nervous about this one! But the feedback was incredible! A couple of foodies over and everyone loved it!

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My toddler loves to help out in the kitchen, and this is a great recipe for a little kid. I wanted something a bit more grown-up than what I remembered (which was basically a strawberry milkshake), so I went searching on Pinterest, and found a Chilled Strawberry Basil soup recipe. As usual, this is slightly tweaked, but here goes:

Chilled Strawberry Basil

Ingredients:

  • Blender/food processor
  • 4 cups rinsed and prepped strawberries (tops cut off)
  • 2 cups strawberry greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (and 1 lemon wedge thrown in for sweetness)
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend.
  • Chill or serve immediately.

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I topped this with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprig of basil, and a slice of strawberry. We served the soup as an appetizer before my husband pulled some teriyaki marinated pork tenderloin and bell peppers off the grill! Perfect accompaniment on a warm summer night! And don’t forget the perfect dessert for any grill night – s’mores! Hope you enjoy this cold soup on a summer night soon!

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Part 2 of Julianne’s Trip to Tulum and Akumal Bay, Mexico

Akumal Bay
Akumal Bay

I recently brought you Chamico’s in Tulum, and now I’m going to unleash all my favorite foodie experiences on you! Below are a couple of my top picks for what to snack on when in Tulum and Akumal Bay, Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Lolha Restaurant and Snack Bar
Carretera Puerto Juarez Tulum Akumal Km. 104, Akumal, 77737 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 984 875 9012 (no website)

lo-ha beach
Crowded day at the beach
Lo-Ha Chips and Salsa
Lolha Chips and Salsa

Lolha is located right on the beach, next to resorts and has chairs you can rent on the sand; I’m sure people assume this is a “tourist trap.” And that’s such an unfair assumption. Yes, it’s always packed and has a rushed feel which is tough for people want to relax, but I had great food here. We came here twice, once for lunch and once to rent beach chairs from them and chill. Then, of course, lunch followed the beach lounging.

 

 

lo ha octopus
Guajillo Octopus

The first dish I had here was the Guajillo Octopus, which was octopus sautéed with guajillo chile and garlic over a bed of rice. Sliced avocado and lime come on the side. The octopus was tender, and the spices with it were perfect. The dish also was a perfect portion and didn’t leave me with any feelings of guilt.

lo ha aguaverde

On our next visit, I decided to take a more chill approach to my meal and try the Agua Verde, which is a cold mix of shrimp, cucumbers, red onions and avocado with a cilantro based sauce; it was perfectly refreshing!

Flan
Flan

I couldn’t say no to a slice of flan, which was custardy perfection.

This is a perfect “no shirt, no shoes, no problem” kind of place. You’re right on the beach with fantastic food. There’s literally zero downsides.

 

 

 

tulum beach w temple
Temple on the beach at the Tulum Ruins

Oscar & Lalo 
Carretera Federal #307, Playa del Carmen – Tulum, Km. 241 Tulum, Qroo. C.P. 77780
http://oscarandlalo.com

tres lechesAnother highlight for me was having my first legit Tres Leches cake in Mexico. It was a goal of mine to find this amazing cake while I was in town.

I fell in love with Tres Leches when I was working at a Mexican restaurant in NorCal, but, without disclosing the name of the restaurant, they had it all wrong.

Oscar & Lalo’s Tres Leches has the perfect sponginess and isn’t soggy, like what I used to think tasted really good. The frosting is also not too sweet; it’s more just buttery. The food and drinks here are amazing but because this changed my perception on what I thought of Tres Leches cake, so it’s a well-deserved a shout-out.

mayan temple
Temple in Tulum

More from Akumal Bay and Tulum are coming soon! Be sure to follow us on IG & Twitter @girlsonfoodblog!

Chamico’s in Tulum, Mexico

I recently took a vacation to Akumal, Quintana, Mexico with my boyfriend and his family. This was hands down one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Akumal is located south of Cancun but north of Tulum, which put us beautifully in between the tourist attractions, without being right in them.

casa amistad
Casa Amistad Backyard

We had the pleasure of staying at Casa Amistad, a spacious house with an ocean side front. The ocean was a little further away from us, due to the Winter season, but if you stayed in the Summer, the ocean would land right at your feet. If you ever have the opportunity to stay there, I highly recommend it. There are loads of places that you can stay though, so you won’t be stuck finding somewhere. If you are still unsure about where to stay then why don’t you check out these beautiful homes for rent in Tulum?

This vacation included experiences like zip lining, checking out Mayan temples, a rain forest tour and even getting a pedicure from fish but the best experience I had on this trip was dining at a Chamico’s.

Chamico’s was recommended by a local who said we’d love it cause this is where the locals actually eat. A lot of the food we on this trip was good but many restaurants were also crowded, had slower service and filled with smoking Euros. Not my bag. My boyfriend told me not to write Chamico’s up. Not because he didn’t love it – but because he loved it so much he’d hate to see it become a “tourist trap.” While I understand where he’s coming from, I just can’t resist sharing this hidden gem with our readers.

Chamico’s
Unnamed road, located in Soliman Bay, Tulum, Mexico

Chamco’s can be a little confusing to find, the best way to get there is to take Soliman Bay Road, go past all the hotels on this street and look for the beachside fish shack. I hope that helps!

Chamicos beach

Chamicos ShackThis little hut is on the beach and is surrounded by their casual fold-up seating on the beach and plenty of hammocks if you’d like to nibble in one. Be sure to get there earlier in the day, I recommend between 11 AM – 1 PM, so you don’t struggle to get seating. The view of a secluded beach is breathtaking and so different than the other more populated spots in Tulum. The combination of the sun, sand and breeze with your meal adds an extra element of relaxation that is hard to recreate anywhere else.

 

chamicos quesWe started with an order of cheese quesadillas. It may have seemed like a little silly to order since it was so simple, since we were at a place known for its seafood, which is in fact fished out of the bay daily by the owner, Chamico, But we were just craving some cheese on this day. Am I really defending why I ordered a quesadilla? Is that what the foodie scene has brought me to? WHATEVER.

 

chimicos ceviche

Ceviche. This is the reason you come to Chamico’s! It was the best ceviche I’ve ever eaten and to have a little lobster added to it made it heavenly. The fish was so fresh; I assume Chamico reeled it in right before we arrived. Combined with lots of lime, Pico de gallo and buttery avocado, it makes for the most mouthwatering dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time. I also devoured those crispy corn tortilla chips; the ceviche juices made them extra special.

Another factor that makes this spot so unique is you can watch your food being cooked. Not that I totally hovered over staff (maybe just a little) but I was able to see them fry our whole fish, and you can see that video here. If only all restaurants allowed us to see what’s going on in the kitchen…

chamicos fish

This fish was fried to a crisp, golden perfection. Like the ceviche, the fish was right-out-the-bay fresh and served piping hot off the frying pan. I have never experienced this level of tenderness with fish before, especially after it’s been fried. The flavor was so delicate, not fishy, and the skin was crispy but perfectly salted. This is just one of those rare, amazing eats; you just have to experience it for yourself.

chamicos beach

Our tummies were full so instead that of driving around, we just stayed on the beach, even after Chamico’s closed. Watching the sunset on the bay was one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done. I know my guy didn’t want me to share this experience online, but I wouldn’t feel right about that. I think everyone should go out of their way to experience this. It’s worth sleeping a couple of nights on the couch if he’s reading. 😉

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @girlsonfoodblog

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tapas with a Twist: Mosquito Tapas in Barcelona, Spain

Mosquito Tapas
C. Carders 46 · Barcelona
Mosquitotapas.com

I recently returned from my “bucket list” trip to Spain, and all I can do is reminisce… and attempt to control my mouth from watering. When I think back on all of the foods we tried, I cannot help but miss the tapas. Tapas are part of the culture in Spain and a way to look into the heart of the country. Most of my afternoons on this trip were spent at a bar, ordering a round and receiving tapas with that round.

Shrimp DumplingsAs delicious as they are, one night we were craving something different. Our Airbnb host, a self-proclaimed foodie himself recommended that we try Mosquito, an Asian tapas bar that was serving up the flavors of Vietnam, China and Korea right in the heart of Barcelona. Dumplings are the focus of Mosquito but not their only option. We ordered the shrimp and the pork dumplings.

pork dumplings

They were the perfect little bites. The dough was delicate with the shrimp combined into a subtle than all of a sudden flavor bomb in your mouth. Can you tell the shrimp were my favorite?

Next, we had the pork ribs, which were fall off the bone tender. The green onion added a nice flavor in contrast to the semi-sweet and salty meat.

Ribs

Crispy DuckWhile this place may be known for their dumplings, the crispy duck was the star. The crispy duck was just that; crispy skin with tender meat oozing with flavor. If I remember correctly we finished this plate first and debated ordering another and another. If you leave without this dish, I will shed tears for you.

Mosquito RestaurantShould you find yourself in Barcelona, Mosquito is a must try! Look for the green and head on into to a different kind of tapas.

Best Carnitas in Mexico City

IMG_5946Growing up in Mexico City I was always surrounded by amazing food and even more amazing tacos. But when it comes to tacos there were always some legends: who was the best? Who did this or that style better? I always heard about this joint that made the best carnitas in town: El Rincón Tarasco. The first time I visited the place I was a teenager and I fell in love with it. So for good all times I decided to go back and treat myself to some tacos.

 

El Rincón Tarasco
Av. José Martí 142
Col. Escandón
11800 México, D.F.
http://rincontarasco.mx

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The place is exactly the same as I remembered it. It hasn’t changed one bit. Somehow El Rincón Tarasco has found the way to stay old school in the most extraordinary way. The food is precious and it’s one of those places that closes when the food is gone. The restaurant itself looks a little bit sketchy but don’t be discouraged you are in for a treat at this  little hole-in-the wall with a huge reputation.

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To begin my meal I had the taco dorado de sesos, that is the pork brain taco. I know some people may feel intimidated by the word brain but there is nothing to fear. The brains are perfectly cocked with epazote, tomatoes and onions and it tastes smokey, creamy and flavorful. This taco is deep fried at el Ricón Tarasco and I particularly love this because it adds that extra layer of crunchiness to the taco.

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For my main meal I had the carnitas tacos. The carnitas at el Rincón are made Michoacán Style and they are its signature dish. The carnitas are pork that has been braised and slow cooked for hours. When it is ready the meat is so soft that it melts like butter in your mouth. The carnitas taco is a big hardy taco , you can easily make two tacos out of it and the carnitas portion is very generous. It is soft, salty, piggy and so tasty.

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For my dessert I had the taco de Costilla (the rib taco). Yes, that was my dessert because the rib tacos are super special. This is an item that you can only get if you show up early enough since it’s one of the first items to ran out. The ribs are perfectly braised. You know crunchy on the outside but perfectly soft and juicy in the inside. They have a smokey flavor and the meat is so soft that it falls of the bone.  It is absolutely delicious and a most try if they have it available.

I was so happy to see that this place continues to be legendary. The staff was so friendly and accommodating and  the food was exactly as I remembered it: humble and just plain good, without a doubt it still has the best carnitas in town….

Good Morning Baltimore!

Good morning Baltimore!  Every day is indeed like an open door of delicious food fantasticalness.  I found myself in this Harbor town for Play Big Apple/Baltimore Social Skeeball National Championships where teams from Baltimore, NYC, Charleston, Denver and more gather to remarkably throw wooden balls with as much gusto and pride as three cups deep of Bud Light will command.  We may not have won the belt of greatness, but we did have a chance to have some bonafide tried and true crabs and isn’t that what going to Maryland is all about?

Our first day we wandered Baltimore Harbor, a compact alley of restaurant options and a MASSIVE Barnes & Nobles.  We decided to grab a drink outside at Phillips.

Phillips Seafood
601 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
http://www.phillipsseafood.com/locations-and-menus/baltimore

Megan and Caitlin w: dranks

My skeeball teammate Caitlin and I attempt to control our wild hair while enjoying a mid-afternoon libation in the eighty degrees Baltimore heat.  She opted for the Sangria while I sampled The Baltimore Pale Ale.  A light and crisp local brew my taste buds were tingling.  The crab deck is an outdoor seating area that if it weren’t for the wind would have been the perfect way to spend our early evening.

Baltimore Ship

After some afternoon exploring bookended by poetically staring at elaborate ships, we traveled to the Skeeball opening night event at Mother’s Bar & Grille conveniently located right near the Airbnb where we stayed.

Mother’s Grille
1113 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230
http://www.mothersgrille.com/federal-hill/

I wasn’t daring enough to attempt “The Heart Attack”, the beer battered burger stuffed with cheddar cheese and deep fried that was featured on Man vs. Food, but I did pick at their Iggi’s nachos and cajun honey buffacue wings a good two nights in a row.  Let’s be honest; I was mostly at Mother’s for The Skeeball Nationals but the back room is spacious and the perfect compliment to cue inspirational sports music…..somewhat important sporting events.  This is most of the crew climbing out of a Greyhound around roughly 3 pm and realizing that the heavy NYC rainboots are already making your ankles sweat in the unexpected sun of Baltimore.

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With a name like Skeeracha, bold green headbands are necessary.

As a team, we unitedly decided that we had to have the authentic Baltimore crabs experience.  So, we googled hard and found an eatery in the trendy hood of Fells Point or as our uber driver so expertly explained to us “where the party at.”  We went with Captain James, which was quaintly in a boat.  The nautical decor got us all in the mood to get crabs.  And that indeed we did.

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Captain James
2121 Aliceanna St, Baltimore, MD 21231
captainjameslanding.com

IMG_7242We started with Maryland crabs and LOTS of them.  Let’s be real; we do have a team of eight.  The waiter brought out mallets, a bucket, and spread out the paper on the table.  It was time to partake in one of the delicacies of the city and after an elaborate explanation of how to crack open the crab and scrape the lungs off (never eat the lungs) it was time to dig in.  As you can see, crabs are more photogenic than the Olsen twins.

crabs

As for my main course, my seafood frenzy continued as I received my broiled seafood platter.  Fresh fish, gulf shrimp, mini crab cakes, crab legs, and an imperial stuffed oyster it was a veritable feast.  One of my teammates ordered the seafood alfredo and RAVED about it.  Just look at the succulent shrimp, scallops, and lobster tossed in an irresistible alfredo sauce.  Being the athletes we were, carbo loading was an absolute necessity.

broiled seafood platterSeafood Alfredocrab alfredo

The unexpected delight was the crab seafood chowder.  Very similar to a New England Clam Chowder with a cream base, it gets two claws up.  After quickly losing in the first round to two native Baltimore teams we shrugged the sigh of champions and partied on.  Before we left Majestic Baltimore, we couldn’t go without taking in one of its most impressive sights: The National Aquarium.  It was spectacular, and I took pause to don my most exciting, dramatic underwater sea pose between two liquid pillars.  That B.F.A. in acting really pays off a solid….third of the time.

National Aquarium
501 E. Pratt StreetBaltimore, MD 21202
http://www.aqua.org/

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After an aquatic day of wonder, we loaded back into The Greyhound foggily shutting our eyes and took the four-hour journey back to our native NYC.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Danny managed to carry a Domino’s Pizza not consumed from the night before around on our final day.  He even swindled the bag check man at the aquarium to store the pie while he wandered around staring at fish.  At the bus depot, he turned a profit when two young women offered to buy half of it for four dollars.  If Danny can manage to smuggle day old pizza back to NYC, anything is possible in this world.

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I recommend Baltimore for a weekend trip.  Compact, historical, and fishy it’s a delight!  There’s always room in anyone’s schedule to take countless hypnotic pictures of jellyfish, if you’re lucky and can shove past a crowd you may even get to pet one. #lifegoals