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Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week

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Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week

Comment Palm Springs, California
GreaterPalmSprings.jpg

Last year the Greater Palm Springs tourism board invited me to experience Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week; you may remember watching my culinary adventures via Instagram or Instagram Stories as I ate my way through the desert. Now that this yearly fête is but only a few months away, I thought it was only proper to blog about where I ate as to inspire your next trip to this desert oasis. I travel to eat, don't you?

Palm Springs is still one of my favorite California destinations and with it only being two hours from Los Angeles there's no excuse as to why you shouldn't pack your bag and hit the open road. While in the Greater Palm Springs area, I had the chance to eat in Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. Maybe this is the first time you've heard of these cities–well, there's even more than that! When I'm in the desert, I function on two speeds: 100% chill or explore explore explore. I enjoy seeking out the best esoteric sites, luxurious hotels & spas, and delicious restaurants. I have a folder in my car dedicated to desert maps, facts, and a notebook where I jot down all of my discoveries. Palm Springs is amazing, but there is so much more to see beyond the city limits. I encourage you to drive down an unfamiliar road and see what you may find. And of course, eat as many good meals as you can.

Mark your calendars, Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week returns June 1 - June 18, 2018.

 
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Pinzimini
71333 Dinah Shore Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
760.770.2150
make reservations

Pinzimini is nestled inside Westin Mission Hills, located in Rancho Mirage, and ideal for the quiet set who wants to unplug and enjoy resort life. Whether you order a drink at the bar or indulge in a dinner wine pairing, this restaurant is a great place to kick back and imbibe. I will forever appreciate a hotel restaurant because sometimes you simply don't want to leave the property and I love the idea of living in a plush bath robe. Wine and charcuterie is a must at Pinzimini but for restaurant week you can expect a special prix-fixe menu.

 
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Essence at Two Bunch Palms
67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
760-329-8791
make reservations

Essence at Two Bunch Palms is my favorite restaurant that I had never heard of and haven't stopped thinking about since my first meal there. Chef Jenna Van Loon is a genius simply of the strength of her quinoa pancakes which are prepared to heavenly perfection. I am not exaggerating. This is where you eat when you want to be nourished and unwind. If you're a guest on the property, robes aren't only welcomed at the breakfast table, they're encouraged. Essence's assortment of fresh juices and chilaquiles are stars on the breakfast menu, so make sure to order those. 

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Workshop Kitchen + Bar
800 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
760.459.3451
make reservations

I crowned Workshop Kitchen + Bar my favorite restaurant in Palm Springs after my first time eating there, or should I say first bite?  The brutalist interior is absolute perfection. It's the kind of restaurant design that I have dreamt about, now witnessed come to life. Equally as great is the farm-to-table focused menu and superior cocktail program, slinging both classics and original creations. Make sure to pull up with a little extra cash because you are going to want to order everything on this spectacular menu. read my full review

 
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Koutouki Greek Estiatorio
73675 CA-111, Palm Desert, CA 92260
760.834.8221
make reservations

Family-owned restaurants will forever be my favorite kind of establishments and the charm of Koutouki is something that cannot be bought, it's a vibe that can only be created through love. In addition to impeccable customer service and a welcoming ambiance, their Greek dishes are pure comfort. I could've sat al fresco all day enjoying every dish from their mezze selection: homous, kopanisti, tzatziki, dolmades, grilled octopus, et al. Grilled meats are a great choice from the menu but the lamb chops are a must order. This is my first choice for homestyle Greek food in the desert.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar

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Workshop Kitchen + Bar

Comment Palm Springs, California
  Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs


My favorite restaurant in Palm Springs is Workshop Kitchen + Bar, located in the historic El Paseo Building in Uptown Palm Springs Design District. After decades of eating in the desert, this has become my go-to dinner recommendation without any caveats, as both Workshop's menu and design are absolute perfection; it's the best of Palm Springs. For the lover of Brutalist architecture, the restaurant's interior is a concrete paradise, one that might evoke praise from Le Corbusier if he were alive today. Winner of the 2015 James Beard Award for best restaurant design, Workshop cemented itself–no pun intended–as a proper restaurant destination on the West Coast. Alongside Hueso in Guadalajara and Sketch Bar in London, Workshop holds a top spot on my best restaurant interiors list. And the food, much like the restaurant's aesthetic, is executed with the utmost precision, relying only on a few-hand picked ingredients. A minimalist approach all around.

Helmed by Chef & Owner Michael Beckman, Palm Spring's finest focuses on seasonal foods from local farms, with a menu that is market-driven. Although they offer divine fish and meat options, its their selection of vegetables that are next level good. If you enjoy elevated plant-based dishes, you will be delighted at Workshop, quite possibly even surprised. Their menu is reflective of the Southern California movement over the past decade to serve the highest quality produce and for that I am appreciative. 

 
  Workshop Kitchen + Bar Menu

Workshop Kitchen + Bar Menu

  Hemingway Especial

Hemingway Especial


If you enjoy a finely crafted libation, please take advantage of the impressive cocktail program at Workshop. It's an absolute must whether your prefer classic or original cocktails. I was feeling festive and ordered the Hemingway Special, M-80, and Spring Fling to wet my whistle, three very different cocktails, but all excellent. As tequila and mezcal are my preferred spirits, I was especially taken with the M-80 which combines the two with lime juice, ginger juice, and grapefruit oils. When I drink, I prefer my sips to feel smooth and at Workshop it felt like silk. If you don't imbibe often, I'd recommend you take it slow, as their drinks go down with ease.

I am struck when I witness great precision, as it shows an unwavering dedication to quality. At Workshop I easily gathered that Chef Michael Beckman and his staff are committed to crafting the finest dishes, they're focused, respect the craft and are passionate about their work. Everything that landed on our concrete slab was impressive.

As per usual, I ordered octopus–but this was far different than any octopus that came before it. This was Octopus Carpaccio and I fell in love with the beauty of this chilled plate topped with cauliflower fleurettes, roasted red peppers, lemon, olive oil, piment d'espelette and micro cilantro. I had never seen octopus, a personal favorite, prepared so elegantly. Among the other small plates ordered were Shaved Brussel Sprouts, House-Cured Gravlax Tartine, and Roasted Heirloom Carrots; the carrots were top tier, even rivaling the ones I raved about at FnB in Scottsdale. Their superiority shined through in flavor, having tasted as if they were just pulled from the ground, which is quite the possibility with Workshop's farm-to-table ethos. Tossed with Temecula farm honey, avocado oil, black garlic and petite mustard greens, these sweet little babies are on my must order list.

 
  Spring Fling

Spring Fling

  Workshop Kitchen + Bar Communal Table

Workshop Kitchen + Bar Communal Table

  Must Order: Octopus Carpaccio

Must Order: Octopus Carpaccio


I didn't think anything could surpass the flavor impression made by the carrots and that's when the hearty plate of Romanesco arrived at the table. Accompanied by Temecula Valley Honey, whipped goat cheese, grilled Kishu tangerines, Fresno chili and garlic ferment, this "small" plate boasted strong and unique flavors. The fractal patterns tossed across the plate were gorgeous; the colors chartreuse and orange playing off one another like a work of art. 

To round out our already phenomenal dinner, two large plates made their way to our table–the Farmer's Market Spring Vegetables and an order of the Black Cod. I can say without hesitation that I have never ordered a $45 plate of vegetables and was curious as to why the dish out-priced duck, fish, and steak. Made with fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, hedgehog mushrooms, fava beans + leaves, English peas, kohlrabi, Weiser Farm pee wee potatoes + parsnips, harissa yogurt, and Serrano chili ferment. Had I known how scarce fiddlehead ferns are, I would've understood the price tag. The funny thing is, I've been spoiled with so many extravagant meals, that I've seen the fiddlehead many times without blinking an eye. All I knew is that I love them, because I love a vibrant crunch. Having done my research, which is only proper when trying to expand one's culinary knowledge, I learned that the Fiddlehead Ferns are considered expensive in comparison to other vegetables you might find at the farmers market. They are truly seasonal, so much that you might blink and miss them. The production costs are high as they are wild-harvested, not cultivated, foraged by those mostly in the Northeastern United States. Averaging about $19.99 a pound, these beautiful coils are something special in the world of produce.

Make reservations at Workshop Kitchen + Bar Palm Springs when you desire a thoughtful dinner made with quality ingredients. The ambiance is perfect for an evening with your girls or a romantic desert date. In town solo dolo? Pull up a seat at the communal table and make new friends, or not. Workshop is a vibe, believe that. The food is superb, the design sexy–that's my favorite combination.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 800 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

 
  Farmers Market Spring Vegetables

Farmers Market Spring Vegetables

  Workshop Kitchen + Bar Brutalist Interior

Workshop Kitchen + Bar Brutalist Interior


Executive Chef: Michael Beckman
Chef de Cuisine: Max Becker
Architecture & Design: SOMA

 
  House-Cured Gravlax Tartine

House-Cured Gravlax Tartine

  Black Cod

Black Cod

  Roasted Heirloom Carrots

Roasted Heirloom Carrots

My Trip With Don Julio Tequila

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My Trip With Don Julio Tequila

Comment Guadalajara, Mexico
  Tequila Tasting at Casa Don Julio

Tequila Tasting at Casa Don Julio


Growing up Mexican American in Los Angeles meant that tequila was often part of our familial celebrations. If there was any kind of function, whether it be in a backyard or wedding ceremony, tequila was a standard issue drink. Even on our trips to visit cousins in Tijuana, my family would stop at the grocery store to bring back a couple of bottles of tequila, because the prices and variety in Mexico were always better than in the states. If you're lucky enough to be born into our culture or call us your friends, you know that food & drink are crucial elements in enjoying all that life has to offer when you are Mexican or Mexican American. Even today when I choose to drink, which is a rare occasion, I always select a top-shelf tequila or mezcal. Now having been to Jalisco and back, I come bearing knowledge that has not only elevated my imbibing experience but will undoubtedly improve yours. 

Don Julio Tequila asked me if I'd like to catch a flight to Guadalajara to experience something that only a rare few ever will–taking a tour of their blue agave farms, distillery & factory, and spending time in the home of Don Julio himself. This invite was an actual dream come true as I manifested it merely a month before when conceptualizing the same idea for rapper Jeezy while writing video treatments at Spotify. Although Spotify decided a a trip to Mexico was too difficult to execute, they went with another idea of mine, highlighting Jeezy's car collection on an Atlanta racetrack. Now here I was, living my top-line Jeezy concept and I could actually taste the satisfaction. 

Where to begin when describing one of the best press trips of my life. International at that. I love to learn and expand my knowledge in a variety of fields, and after my journey to Guadalajara, I will never treat tequila the same. To be fully immersed with experts for days at a time, expounding on one particular subject, was incredibly cool and expansive. From multi-course dinners paired with Don Julio cocktails at Alcalde and Hueso, to a Día de los Muertos celebration at Casa Luna, the premium luxury spirit did not stop flowing and I felt great with every glass I sipped. I learned that many have suffered bad tequila moments because they were pounding back subpar liquids, only intended to be mixers. In fact, tequila should be savored slowly, similarly to a nice Scotch or Cognac, not catapulted down your throat like a disgusting spoonful of cough syrup.

 
  Don Julio Tequila Tasting

Don Julio Tequila Tasting

  Mexican Gorditas Made Fresh

Mexican Gorditas Made Fresh


Lunch at Casa Don Julio also known as Hacienda Don Julio was a magical afternoon. Through the rocky terrains of the Highlands we drove to our historic destination. Upon arrival I could hear a mariachi in the distance and got a whiff of grilled meats in the air. My sensory memories were being tapped into on many levels and I couldn't wait to see what was beyond the facade before me. As I walked through Don Julio's front doors, I spotted a beautiful backyard with an entire spread awaiting our group's arrival. A private lunch at la Hacienda was exactly what I needed on this warm day in Jalisco. I took my seat towards the head of the table, close to the mariachi, and began to sip on the most delicious margarita I've drank in my life, Don Julio style. Women were flipping freshly made tortillas and grilling doughy pillows known as gorditas, both topped with generous amounts of butter. As my mouth began to water, the plates began to hit the table, not a beat skipped by the attentive staff ensuring every moment of our trip was flawless. Carne asada, caramelized onions, grilled fish, cecina, and an assortment of chilies were sprawled across the giant dining table . I felt like royalty with this delicious meal blessed before me. It was time to celebrate with another margarita.

After a lunch fit for a queen, we made our way into the house for an special tasting guided by Master Distiller, Enrique de Colsa. Before me sat four varieties of Don Julio: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and 70 Añejo Cristalino, all served in a Champagne flute. Senor Colsa would later inform us that a luxury tequila should always be sipped from either a Champagne flute or Cognac glass (snifter) for optimal satisfaction. Refined, the true Mexican way.

Here's a tequila drinking guide, as learned from a Master Distiller. There's levels to this.
Blanco: Clear, crisp agave aromas blended with hints of citrus. Light, sweet agave flavor. Best for mixed drinks.
Reposado: Straw-like color, incredibly soft & elegant hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, & light cinnamon. Best served neat.
Añejo: Light amber, bright and lightly spiced finish with essence of wild honey. Best served on the rocks.
70 Añejo Cristalino: Clear, smooth in character with highlights of vanilla, honey, & toasted oak. Best served on the rocks.

 
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  Benjamín Chavez, Don Julio Farm Worker

Benjamín Chavez, Don Julio Farm Worker

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I experienced the entire life cycle of tequila, from its birth in the fields of blue agave to its intricate distillation at the Don Julio factory. At La Primavera, located in the Highlands of Jalisco-Los Altos region, Don Julio wanted to create a more nuanced blend of tequila for personal enjoyment and began experimenting with 100% blue agave plants among the rich clay soil and microclimate. He planted blue agaves farther apart than most distilleries, which lead them to grow larger and essentially sweeter. When sliced, the agave is called a "piña" as it resembles a pineapple, beautiful in its shape. Whereas many other distilleries place the entire blue agave plant into the furnace, at Don Julio, each stem is removed by a farmer. By doing so, they are avoiding a betrayal in flavor caused by a waxy film found on the leaves. Quality over everything is something I repeatedly saw while on my tour.

I spent an entire day with Enrique de Colsa, Don Julio's Master Distiller and close friend to Don Julio himself (when he was alive). He is the man responsible for evaluating the subtleties and nuances of each grade of tequila in the portfolio, ensuring that Don Julio remains the best selling in Mexico. Colsa is the reason we have 70 Crystal Añejo, a celebration of Don Julio González’s quest to redefine tequila. Don Julio 70 is twice distilled and aged to perfection for 18 months in American white oak barrels, giving it the rich complexity of a traditional Añejo, and then carefully charcoal filtered to bring back the crisp agave flavor typically found in a Blanco. 

I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention my favorite of the bunch, Don Julio's 1942 Tequila, a commemoration of Don Julio’s 60th anniversary. Using a personal selection of prime agave, Don Julio created this unique batch of tequila aged for at least two and a half years in American white oak barrels. This was the final act of Don Julio González's life, in collaboration with Master Distiller Enrique de Colsa. 1942 is packaged in a elegant elongated bottle designed after the agave leaf and is best appreciated when served in a snifter. While on the trip, I would not stop singing Partynextdoor's ode to1942 but the real tequila heads said if he were really about it, he would've sang about Don Julio's REAL, the most expensive in the collection. Unfortunately, I was not given not one sip of that on my trip but I can report that I got indulge in a brand new variety that has yet to hit the market. 

 
  Blue Agave Piñas at La Primavera Distillery

Blue Agave Piñas at La Primavera Distillery

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  Blue Agave Fields at Casa Don Julio

Blue Agave Fields at Casa Don Julio

  Casa Luna during Día de los Muertos

Casa Luna during Día de los Muertos

  Mariachi at Casa Don Julio

Mariachi at Casa Don Julio

Hueso

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Hueso

Comment Guadalajara, Mexico
  Hueso Restaurant interior design by Ignacio Cadena

Hueso Restaurant interior design by Ignacio Cadena


At the top of my agenda when traveling to any new city, particularly one in Mexico, is a list of the best restaurants to try, both from my personal investigations and recommendations from trusted sources. Although I had done my preliminary research before touching down in the state of Jalisco, it was our local Guadalajara guides who made reservations for almost every meal of ours. After our first night of indulging in a 5-course dinner at Alcalde, I knew I was in the right hands. Our GDL hosts did a superior job and I couldn't wait to see where we'd eat next.

We dined at the absolute best restaurants in Guadalajara, one of which is called Hueso, located in Colonia Lafayette, also known as the Lafayette Design District. I have never enjoyed photographing a restaurant as much as I did Hueso, which I had to pull a couple strings to do so, as the restaurant is only open for dinner and I came through on a weekday morning. I must thank my handsome friend Alex Martínez for his assistance with securing the bag. Hueso was designed by architect Ignacio Cadena, brother of Chef Alfonoso Cadena, head of culinary concepts. When strolling up to the restaurant, tucked away on a busy tree-lined street, you will see a single bone suspended from a chain above the entrance. This is but a first glimpse of the full-picture at Hueso. This 1940's modern building was transformed into a vibrant restaurant displaying10,000 different animal bones on its interior walls. Drawing inspiration from Darwinism, bones (Hueso in Spanish, a-ha!) is the motif at every glance, from the walls, bone-colored floor tiles, and even the menu. The restaurant feels like a piece of art, even down to the business cards; for that reason, paired with the food of course, it's one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in the world. This was one of the best dining experiences of my life and not merely because the Don Julio 1942 was flowing. (personal side note, listen to Partynextdoor's 1942 here)

 
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  Apples drying in the sun, perfect for a Hueso salad

Apples drying in the sun, perfect for a Hueso salad

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Hueso is the coolest designed restaurant I've ever had the privilege of dining in. Large wooden dining tables were custom-designed by the architect, placed in the center of the room, giving the restaurant a communal atmosphere. At night, the tables light up with a singular bulb reminiscent of a candle. It makes the atmosphere incredibly romantic. I felt very sexy as I sipped my speciality Don Julio cocktails and laughed loud with my new friends. I tried to get a copy of the elusive menu from our special dinner but it's been difficult to track down. You cannot even read a menu online but I'm sure that's do in part of the restaurant's commitment to all seasonal, all the time. I'll typically jot down everything I ate, but I was so overcome with this joyous experience, my phone remained tucked away in my purse. I had no need to be on a machine when I was taking in one of life's greatest gifts–good food and conversation. Was this my favorite meal of 2017? Just maybe.

Because I have a memory that rivals some of the best and this night was so memorable, I managed to piece together what came across our table. We began our multi-course dinner with a plate of salmon mouse and toast, an excellent light dish to awaken our appetites. What arrived next was the most insane salad I've ever eaten in my life. It was a bed of greens tossed with the most unlikely of vegetable and fruit pairings: tomatoes, dehydrated apples, beets, and a few other things, I wish I could remember that! I underestimated this salad, I pre-judged it. After a couple bites it had me rethinking every salad I had eaten before it. Why hadn't anyone else put such a plate in front of me before this moment? I shook my head in disbelief. You must order this salad.

Mussels swimming in beef broth, Chuletas de Cerdo (pork chops) and perfectly cooked slices of steak with roasted vegetables & habenero cream were served. I rarely enjoy pork chops but these were other worldly. Have you ever ate something so delicious you're mad at all the other versions that came before it? That was my experience. I didn't think the meal could get any better and then Hueso's steak was placed before me. My goodness, what a perfectly cooked piece of meat with a hearty serving of root vegetables that were packed with immense flavor. Chef Cadena is committed to using only the finest of quality ingredients, sourcing his vegetables, fruit, seafood and poultry from within the Jalisco state. As for the red meat, like my steak, it's sourced from Sonora, an area much further North, known as "the meat capital" of Mexico.

Dessert was delicious but at that point in the meal, I was spent. Only Don Julio could save me now.

 
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  Exterior ceramics made by José Noé Suro

Exterior ceramics made by José Noé Suro


I feel inspired to mention that I am never surprised by the quality of food, decor, service, and taste level while in Mexico. Although I was raised in a country that tried its hardest to make me feel ashamed of being Mexican American–even present day with a "president" who spews lies about my culture–its been my continual trips to this incredible country that screams our greatness as a people.

When gathering more information on Hueso I came across many stories, typically written from an Anglo perspective, that were "surprised" or "shocked" that such an avant-garde space with impeccable food existed in Mexico, much less Guadalajara. That kind of language is a clear indicator of one's racism, whether they are conscious of it or not. I've had to hear this shit about Mexico my entire life and I'm tired of it. Please stop saying Mexico is dangerous. Please stop saying you're surprised to find art, fine dining, and luxurious hotels in this country. You sound dumb and ill-informed. 

For those who love to travel, especially to eat, Hueso should be at the top of your list when in Guadalajara. The restaurant is open until midnight so it's perfect for the nightlife set. Being a guest here is like being part of a work of art, while eating a work of art. It's simultaneously beautiful and cozy, with a warmth that is uniquely Mexican. I cannot wait to return to Guadalajara so that I may eat here again.

Hueso | Calle Efraín González Luna 2061, Obrera, 44140 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico

 
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Hueso_JoseNoeSuro.jpg

Culinary Concept: Alfonso Cadena
Concept: Cadena + Asociados
Architect & Design: Ignacio Cadena
Ceramics: José Noé Suro

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189 by Dominique Ansel

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189 by Dominique Ansel

Comment Los Angeles, California
 Dominique Ansel Cronut Holes
 189 by Dominique Ansel Restaurant

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When you're invited to come kick it with Dominique Ansel at his new restaurant, you don't say no. Although I limit my press previews these days, when I was asked to come eat everything on the 189 by Dominique Ansel menu, I couldn't say yes fast enough. This I had to experience, even if it meant driving to The Grove just one week before Christmas. Did that send a chill down your spine? I managed to quell my anxieties about the insane parking lot and sea of basic bs for a few hours, and in that time I realized that I didn't have to be afraid of The Grove any longer. I was grown and could handle anything. Bless my therapist.

The name Dominique Ansel probably rings a bell and if you're hip to the pastry scene, there's no doubt you're familiar with the man who invented the cronut, not to be confused with the poor facsimile known as the Dou'ssant. If you lived in NYC you were witness to people standing in line to snatch up this croissant-donut hybrid, like it was a Supreme drop. Make not mistake, having only been open for just over a month, you'll find yourself waiting in line in L.A. too, although it moves quite fast and can be praised for its efficiency.

189 by Dominique Ansel is exactly what The Grove needed, it's beautiful and fun, without an air of pretension. If you want to keep it casual, order some pastries at the bakery–cookie shots, classic cronuts, cookies, and toasted marshmallows, to name a few. If you want to step it a notch, walk up stairs to the elevated dining room, where you'll find eager servers and an interesting Blood Mary cart. The giant room floods with natural light and boasts a patio as well, great for lurking all those flooding into The Grove. And boy, do you see a lot. Emoji eyes.

Brunch is served dim sum style , which although is a jovial idea, I am hesitant to say it's executed well. I pause on the co-sign as an image of a large Le Creuset serving tray with various foods placed atop is burned in my brain, with pancake syrup making a river around a delicious avocado burrata salad. Simply put, I do not want my foods touching each other. I'm one of those people who find that disgusting. That's not to say the food wasn't delicious and the experience fun. In fact, I noshed on many solid plates including–Dominque's Kouign Amann, Cronut Holes, Avocado Salad, DIY Lobster Rolls, Cedar Wood Baked Salmon and last but certainly not least, Pancakes served in a cast iron skillet. I'd pass on the fried chicken as the spices didn't hit like I wanted them too, but such is the trend across restaurants in Los Angeles. 

 
 189 by Dominique Ansel Brunch

Each dish is brought to your table and you have the choice of letting it stay or passing it by. You're given a cute menu where you can check off all that you ate, with prices ranging from $4-$10 per item, with the lobster topping the list with a $10 price tag. They offer a superb cocktail menu, with a Milk Punch sparkled with gold flakes that I couldn't recommend enough, served in a classic Champagne coupe, my favorite glass ever. The drinks are sophisticated yet edgy, with a brass bar that would make for a perfect reprieve after an afternoon of shopping.

From food to drinks and great customer service, 189 makes for a delightful brunch experience in L.A. Whether you're looking for the perfect place for a girls brunch, cute date, or familial meet up, the vibe is high. I look forward to returning to try their dinner menu, particularly the steak. Dominique said he'd be returning to NYC in January, but if you're lucky, you just might see him as he splits time between both his cities.

Don't Sleep On Dominique's Kouign Ammann, which is pastry constructed by the gods. Milk Punch for all my sophisticated drinkers.

189 by Dominique Ansel, 189 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90036

 Dominique Ansel and NJ in LA Natalie James
 
 189 by Dominique Ansel Pancakes
 189 by Dominique Ansel Bloody Mary
 189 by Dominique Ansel Lobster Rolls
FnB

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FnB

Comment Scottsdale, Arizona
 FnB Scottsdale Arizona
 

If you would have told me at the top of the year that the best meal I was going to have in 2017 would be in Scottsdale, Arizona, I would have shook my damn head. Good PR in both Los Angeles and New York will have you think that all the top tier meals are found in these two cities, but from my experience traveling across our country, the real gems are found in small cities, particularly ones closest to farms. I didn’t know a single thing about FnB when I walked through the doors. Its appearance was relaxed from the outside and located in a small outdoor mall in Downtown Scottsdale. I was on a press trip exploring the city and was hitting every destination on our itinerary with an open mind and no expectations. 

A long table awaited our arrival inside the warm and cozy space, with lots of natural light falling through the front windows. There were a few tables outside, a few more inside, and a separate bar area for guests looking to partake in some wine and snacks. No neon signs adored the wall, no wall of plants, no subway tiles nor colorful squares laid across the floor–this space was devoid of any of the West Coast / East Coast restaurant trends that have taken over like the plague. In difference, the restaurant was quaint with dark woods, tall ceilings, and white linen table cloths. It was the kind of restaurant you could sense would serve good wines but without one drop of pretension. It was a breathe of fresh air, which I realized was so desperately needed in my culinary adventures.

Because we had dinner reservations, my photography was limited to the plates that landed on the table before darkness fell. Dinners have become particularly special to me as it’s one of the few moments that I can enjoy my food while it’s piping hot. Typically my time is consumed with shooting my meal, but at FnB, I got to sit down and really enjoy myself.  This was also the first time on a press trip where every single person vibed, and not only that, genuinely liked each other. It was truly special to sit down with a group of intelligent grown ass women who loved their wine, food, and weren’t bashful about real talk like money, sex, and maneuvering in this country post-election.

 
 FnB Scottsdale Arizona
 
 FnB Scottsdale Arizona
 

While at FnB, I had the opportunity to indulge in a variety of 11dishes. Incredible, right? Here’s what I ate:
crispy local chickpeas, pigment d’espelette
beets, oranges, strawberries, olives, glacier lettuce, hazelnuts, goat cheese
peruvian chicken spring rolls, pecans, ahi amarillo quark, cilantro
local escarole, puntarelle, treviso radicchio, lulu’s garlic vinaigrette, parmesan
pickled shrimp, fennel, celery, lemon, buttered saltines
spicy grilled summer squash, fish sauce, basil, cashews, crispy onions,
roasted carrots, harissa mayo, avocado, dukka
pink grouper, green olive relish, potatoes, aleppo, fennel, grapefruit
creekstone farms ribeye, tepary bean-tomato relish, bloomsdale spinach
olive oil cake with cardamom ice cream
& some kind of chocolate dessert (I was too turnt by plate 11)

Although most days I abstain from alcohol because it makes me sleepy and is actual poison to the body, I was not going to pass up the wine pairing at FnB. Beverage Director Pavle Milic curated the first Arizona-only wine program, which compliments Chef Charleen Badman menu to the fullest. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, you’ll be in good hands with your server. I should have written down exactly what we drank because it brought out our meal nicely and took no time in loosening the gang up. I bet if I asked Erica from Honestly WTF she’d know, that woman was dropping some major wine knowledge. I would highly recommend the wine pairing, you can look at their wines here and here

The chef and owner of FnB is Charleen Badman, a 2014 and 2015 James Beard nominee for Best Chef of the Southwest. Her menu is seasonal and is based on what’s currently available at the local farmers market. Although the menu serves meat and fish, the vegetables shine the brightest at FnB. Having switched to more of a plant-based diet in 2017 for my overall health & wellness, I couldn’t have been happier with the vegetables I consumed while at dinner. In fact, I ate the BEST CARROTS OF MY LIFE and haven’t stopped thinking about them since returning home from Scottsdale. It's as if these carrots where picked out of the ground that day (quite possibly) and put on my plate, grilled to perfection. I nearly flipped when I saw they were paired with dukka–a personal favorite, but not something you see on a menu every day. Bless you Chef Badman for putting this dish in my life.

As I mentioned, every single dish was something worth talking about, but there was one in particular that had everyone flipping out at the table. Have you ever tried glacier lettuce? I hadn't heard of it prior to my Scottsdale trip. It's not actually lettuce, but rather a succulent, ready for consumption. Glacier lettuce looks like icy velvet and is sensitive to touch; the leaves take the appearance of crystals on your plate, which made me feel glamourous. I appreciate a good crunch and the glacier lettuce was perfection paired with beets and goat cheese. Any time a restaurant can drop a first on me, I'm impressed. This dish is an absolute must. 

FnB | 7125 E 5th Ave #31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

 
 FnB Scottsdale Arizona
Bob's Well Bread Bakery

4 Comments

Bob's Well Bread Bakery

4 Comments Los Alamos, California
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Bread is not the enemy, despite what living in Los Angeles or reading any fashion magazine might tell you. There was a moment I was foolish to believe that wheat and gluten was going to kill me, but then I realized it was actually the herbicide sprayed on wheat that was making me sick. It’s an outrage living in a country that knowingly poisons us through food all in the name of capitalism, especially when it comes to something so classic as bread. It’s for this reason, I have embraced all that a quality loaf of bread can do for my life and I am willing to pay more for that experience.

One of the things I look forward to most when on the road to Los Alamos is sitting down at one of my favorite bakeries in California, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. There’s never a drive up I don’t day dream about sitting down with Bob’s incredibly flakey and delicious almond croissant, which is only available on the weekends. That’s my absolute favorite menu item at Bob’s and if you want to indulge, you better make sure to show up before noon, because they will sell out! I repeat, they will sell out.

I love going to Bob’s because I appreciate the time, love, and effort that goes into making every piece of bread in the shop. His wooden counter and glass case is filled with croissants, baguettes, a variety of loaves, bagels, and English muffins, to name a few. Bob’s Well Bread Bakery is dedicated to hand-made artisanal bread, made with quality ingredients and natural starters. You won’t have to worry about preservatives as the bread is prepared with the simplest of ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast – how it should be, imagine that. The only problem you will face when eating at Bob’s is deciding on what to choose from the menu. Or you can be like me, and drop at least $20 for bread and pastries to take back home.

 
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In addition to glorious racks of bread, stamped with his grandmother's seal, Bob also serves some stellar breakfast options like Bagels & Lox, Beans on Toast, Eggs Benedict, and a delightful “Egg-in-a-Jar” made with purple potato puree topped with gruyere cheese, poached egg, bacon lardons, chives and crème fraiche. I have eaten all of the aforementioned and strongly encourage you to do the same. When’s the last time you had a homemade English Muffin? You can also have that here.

There is no rush at Bob’s Bakery, which is my preferred choice for dining. It’s always a magical moment when I swing open the shop door, see Bob behind the counter, and am welcomed with the warmest hello. When I’m here, people know me by name and I love that. I feel relaxed at Bob’s, I’m chill here. After I place my order, I like to cozy up on the patio with a newspaper, sip on a latte, and breathe in the fresh air. The staff is always friendly, the bread rarely disappoints, and it’s the exact opposite feeling of almost every restaurant in Los Angeles. In essence, it’s near perfection.

Bob's Well Bread Bakery | 550 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440

 
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MatchaBar

1 Comment

MatchaBar

1 Comment Los Angeles, California
 

It feels like every day Los Angeles welcomes the opening of a cute new restaurant. As of late, I have become exhausted and overwhelmed with simply how curated every space in our city has become. This is one of the primary reasons I unfollowed nearly every food or lifestyle Instagrammer – it’s too much for me, it’s not my vibe. One of my best friends recently described this epidemic as “influencers influencing other influencers” and I nearly fell out my chair. She nailed it.

I was hesitant to accept the invite to MatchaBar, especially as I stay grumbling about the changes to the Eastside, once so beautifully Latinx. But I love matcha and I heard Amara Kitchen (a personal favorite of mine from Garvanza, also on my Essential LA list) was serving food in the space, so I went in with my pal Jazper on a weekday morning. I’m glad I made the visit because I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner, meet the team, and try a bunch of dishes off their menu. There was only one true miss on my visit and that was the Baklava Croissant from Gjusta, which photographed so beautifully. It was dry, over-baked, and not impressive. I wasn’t totally surprised, as I’ve continually been underwhelemd with pastries from Gjusta, so my question is this: what are y’all eating there that you love so much? It’s beyond me and considering the prices, I gave up on trying anymore. Please let me know in the comments if you have a recommendation.

MatchaBar is a chill space to start your day and I love that. The cafe is filled with natural light, the vibe relaxed. The staff is warm with their welcome and the drinks comforting. Last year my Chinese herbalist suggested that I begin my mornings by drinking something warm to improve my overall well-being, and the Golden Latte was the perfect match. Made with organic turmeric and ginger, this creation is a healthy cup of liquid that’ll put some positive energy into your step . I felt at ease while sitting on their patio soaking up the sun and sipping on matcha, I was relaxed, despite being on insane Sunset Blvd. There aren’t plugs or wifi passwords at MatchaBar, and I appreciate that tremendously. That means you aren’t dogging screenwriters and freelancers for tables that you’ll probably never get, because they’re camping out for 8 hours, when they should be at the library. This is a cafe where you can come and enjoy yourself, eat and drink something that makes you feel good, then go out into the world and try your best.

 
 
 

As mentioned, I was hyped that Amara Kitchen had expanded their reach from Garvanza to Silver Lake. One of the best paleo-friendly restaurants in Los Angeles, I’ve been eating at Amara for a couple years now. I love their bowls, avocado toast, and freshly made almond milk. They have some pickled sea vegetables that made me lose my mind the first time I tried them! Having become more mindful of what I consume, I am now predominantly seeking food that makes me feel nourished after I’ve eaten it. I was tired of the itis, you feel me? At MatchaBar, Amara is coming strong. I tried their Purple Egg Pot which was perfection, made with homemade pesto, pickled cabbage, pickled onions, roasted potatoes and a poached egg. This was everything I needed in a jar. If you try anything here, eat this. My sweet god! Also delicious was Amara’s granola with Straus Organic Yogurt, served in a pot. I am a sucker for good granola and I’ve stopped apologizing for it. This is my California nature, through and through. You will not be disappointed with theirs.

After starting my morning wrapped in a warm blanket found in latte form, I wanted to be bit more extravagant and ordered the Maple Latte, made with cinnamon, maple syrup and a Himalayan Salt. Only a tad sweeter than the aforementioned, I treated this drink as my “desert drink” to accompany my avocado toast. Nothing on this menu taste like liquid sugar and I need you to know that before pulling up to MatchaBar. They’re not serving the matcha variety you find at Starbucks, this is ceremonial grade matcha, with the intention of making you feel energized. Plant molecules y’all! For all my people who cannot process dairy or prefer nut milks, you will feel blessed with the mylk options here, 6 in total: almond, soy, hemp, macadamia, coconut, and a housemade cashew & almond milk. It’s these kind of accommodations that impress me in 2017.

My Maple Latte paired nicely with the organic Avocado Toast made with mashed avocado on sourdough bread, purple cabbage, pesto, and poached eggs. They also make this dish in a vegan, gluten-free, and dairy free option. The quality of ingredients is apparent and if Amara is making it, the pickled elements are going to be great. You feel better after eating organic food prepared with care, it’s as simple as that. I understand why this culinary pairing works so well, as MatchaBar has the same approach with their drinks. This is about wellness and feeling good. I look forward to returning to try their Sparkling Cucumber-Lime Matcha once it gets a little bit warmer. 

MatchaBar | 3534 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026