Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Vegan Beer and Food Festival Even Omnivores Would Love

Yes, not all beers are vegan. Beers and wines are sometimes processed using gelatin or other animal products, thus making it not vegan. However, that doesn’t mean vegans can’t drink beer or wine. Thanks to the “purity law”, most German beers are vegan and these days you can find many craft breweries producing vegan beers. But how do you know which ones? Well, fret not, because the LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival has vetted more than a hundred beers from 40 breweries for you, so you don’t have to worry as you eat and imbibe.

The festival has grown so much that for its 6th year, they will be taking over The Rose Bowl in Pasadena (3 years ago they only had 50 beers line up. See my post from 2012). It will feature beers from big-name breweries such as New Belgium, Anchor, Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, along with smaller and newer establishments including Three Weavers, King Harbor, Ohana, and many more. Your $50 admission includes a souvenir glass and unlimited pours of beer and entry to the festival which will also host live music featuring Jamestown Revival, The White Buffalo, etc. VIP admission will give you early admission and access to a VIP lounge as well as some exclusive pours.

Food is sold separately by the more than 40 vendors that will be there, and even if you’re not vegan, you’ll drool over the lineup. You’ll find pizza from 800 Degrees Pizzeria, macrobiotic vegan cuisine from Shojin and M Café, donuts, cupcakes, ice cream, and whatever your heart may desire (as long as it’s vegan). Look out for popular restaurants and food trucks such as Mudhern Tavern, Mohawk Bend, Sage Vegan Bistro, Real Food Daily, and the Grilled Cheese Truck.

LA Vegan Beer & Food Festival will be at The Rose Bowl on May 16. Tickets can be purchased using this link

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brunch at Michael's Pizzeria (Long Beach, CA)

I've been meaning to try Michael's Pizzeria, but I haven't gone down to South Bay much lately.
I finally made the trek and visited the downtown Long Beach location for weekend brunch, and they had a musician playing guitar outside.

Michael's Pizza
Michael's doesn't just serve pizzas, but they also have a special brunch menu, where you'll find dishes like Cast-iron baked cinnamon rolls with rosemary syrup
Michael's Pizza
The cinnamon rolls are made to order, which means they are piping hot, fresh from the oven! They're mini-sized to make sharing easier and the green color for the rosemary syrup is actually from spinach (so it's healthy, right?). These are definitely great cinnamon rolls.

Cast-iron dishes are a special category at Michael's and include the Caprino e Carciofi (pesto, baby artichokes, potatoes, mozzarella, goat cheese)
Michael's Pizza
I like these baked cast-iron dishes as a fun twist on the typical brunch dishes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Preview: Tacos and Cocktails at UnderFire in Back Bay (Boston, MA)

The aptly named Under Fire is now open below Fire+Ice in their Boston Back Bay location. While Fire+Ice is a family friendly buffet, UnderFire is more of a bar/restaurant serving food a la carte featuring burgers and tacos.

I was invited to the opening celebration so I didn't get to try the full menu but I did try some tacos and sandwiches. Between the two, the tacos are the way to go. They're not all traditional Mexican taco recipes, but instead modernized - Americanized perhaps, but the flavors are good - incorporating ingredients like pesto in the Pollo al Pesto (fire-grilled chicken, sunflower pesto, queso fresco, diced tomato, fresh basil, EVOO, flour tortilla, $11 for 3)


My favorite (of the two tacos) was The Club (Peruvian-style grilled chicken, braised pork belly, cheddar cheese, pico, guacamole, jalapeno garlic aioli, flour tortilla, $12 for 3)

Some of the other tacos like the carnitas use a corn-wheat tortilla instead of white flour tortilla, and I'd be curious to try them!

The cocktails here are fruity and easy to go down, but they start at $8. It's nice not to have to spend $14 on a single drink. Also, for the most part, they're using fresh fruits.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Transforms with Hollywood Location

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop is transforming their look with the new Hollywood location. I still remember the Century City and Beverly Hills locations, a small, fast-casual lunch spot with salads and fresh juice bar. Small, bright, casual. But now, in Hollywood, the restaurant has an outdoor seating area where they also grow some herbs, a gorgeous full bar, a rustic, dimly lit dining room.

Still serving the same organic, healthy food as the other locations, but they've also expanded the menu with more entree-like options and cocktails.

The entrees are "build-your-own" where you can choose a protein and 2 sides. Salmon filet is $16.95 and I chose pomegranate quinoa and baked sweet potato fries as my sides.
The salmon was nicely cooked and the quinoa with almonds and pomegranate was almost like a dessert or a nice breakfast dish. They're healthy and delicious like other Greenleaf offerings I've had before, but definitely heartier than the usual salads.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Forage: A Surprising Fine Dining Gem in Salt Lake City (Utah)

I never knew Salt Lake City to be a fine dining destination, but my last visit to Forage was an eye opener. Chef Bowman Brown's tasting menu at Forage is worthy to be compared to the best tasting menus in New York or other major metropolitan cities, and at a fraction of the price! The food and presentation reminded me a bit of my experience at Willows Inn.

We got the wine pairing and started dinner with a glass of Gruet Brut, followed by the first course:
apple and evergreen

Forage SLC
These tiny, bite-sized apples were filled with chestnut and coated in spruce vinegar. What a surprising dish and so fun to it. To make it even better, it was served with apple cider poured over spruce juniper. Can I have the whole pot?
Forage SLC

Bread with goat's milk butter, both really good (even if it doesn't compare to Willows Inn's chicken drippings to go with bread).
Forage SLC

Potatoes cooked in oak leaves, garlic scapes
Forage SLC

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lobster Roll and More at Neptune Oyster (Boston, MA)

Neptune Oyster is a small seafood restaurant in the North End, and one of the most popular in town. If you don't get there early enough, waits can go up to over an hour! Luckily, we came pretty early and got seated before too long.

Since the place is called Neptune Oyster, we obviously had to start with some oysters. They have one of the bigger selections in town. This time, we tried 4 different oysters from the area: Katama Bay (Edgartown, MA), Thatch Island (Barnstable, MA), Browne's Point (Damariscotta, ME), and Summerside (Bedeque Bay, PEI)

Neptune Oyster

Everything was extremely fresh - I think I liked the Summerside the best from this batch.

Neptune is famous for their lobster roll: Maine Lobster roll, hot with butter ($27)
Neptune Oyster

It's one of the most expensive in the city, but also one of the best. It's served on a buttery brioche bun, and the lobster is soaked in hot butter. It's so rich, the bread gets drenched and the roll becomes messy, but you won't care as you devour it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fast Casual Lebanese at Urban Garden (Los Angeles, CA)

George Abou-Daoud may be famous for his previous enterprises along the lines of gastropub The Bowery or Delancey, but he's started to bring his Middle Eastern heritage into the LA dining scene.

His latest venture is Urban Garden, a fast casual Lebanese spot in Mid-city that boasts free range chicken shawarma, organic chickpeas in the falafel, and more.

As you'd expect from a Lebanse spot, they have hummus, falafel, shawarma, etc.
They have three types of hummus: Traditional hummus, spicy hummus (with spicy pickled peppers), garlic hummus (with thyme roasted garlic). On top of that you can also get a lebneh made with Mediterranean yogurt, topped with French feta cheease and za'atar. There's also babaganoush with sumac.

Urban Garden
Pictured on the wall is Abou-Daoud's mother, who inspired most of the recipes (the baklava with rosewater syrup served here is his mother's recipe). These are the food that Abou-Daoud grew up with, but he's added his own touches.
Urban Garden

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Provence Rosé Luncheon at Bar Boulud in Boston

Rosé. What comes to your mind when you hear about this particular type of wine? Summer? Lawn party? This wine is more than that.

Provence is the largest wine producing region specializing in dry rosé and they rosé very seriously and had even established The Center for Rosé Research in 1999, analyzing more than 1000 wines each year. The center is open to the public for anyone interested in learning more about this wine.
Provence Wine Bar Boulud
Provence extends from Marseille (the birthplace of rosé) to Nice and contains 3 main appellations: Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, and Coteaux Varoix en Provence. It is believed that the earliest wines were originally rosé since the Greeks did not macerate wine with the skin for a long time to give the red color.

US is the largest export market for Provence rosé (even though France still has the highest consumption), yet rosé still has the reputation of being just a summer wine and Provence aims to change that. I recently attended a luncheon at Bar Boulud and tasted many different kind of rosé. The luncheon really showcased the diversity of this pink wine.

We were greeted with a glass of Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence Rosé 2014 ($18.99). This is perhaps the "typical" rosé: bright, crisp, fruity, with citrus notes and a clean short finish. Good to drink on its own yet versatile.

It was followed by Chateau Leoube, Rosé de Leoube 2014 and the first course was served:
Vivaneau Marine aux Agrumes (citrus cured red snapper, heirloom carrots, tapioca, lime, cilantro)

Bar boulud

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blue Lagoon and Lunch at LAVA Restaurant in Iceland

While in Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is a must visit. This vast and popular hot springs is easily accessible with the various bus trips that originate from either Keflavik airport or Reykjavik city.

Blue Lagoon
I booked with Reykjavik Excursions which seems to have one of the more reasonable prices. I went with the tour that includes prepaid admission so we don't have to wait in line to buy a ticket. We still had to wait a bit, but not as long as the others. Also, when you get there, don't get confused with the line in the first small building - that's for people who want to store their luggage! Instead, keep going on the path heading towards the main building.
LAVA Restaurant

Monday, April 13, 2015

Aussie Meat Pies at KO Catering and Pies (South Boston)

Meat pies. Australian meat pies. That's what KO Pies in South Boston is all about and these handmade pies are delicious.

They offer 6 different pies at KO (along with sausage roll, fish and chips, and sandwiches) and there's always a vegetarian option.
KO Pies

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Creamistry: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

by: guest blogger @btsunoda

What? Made to order liquid nitrogen ice cream? Yep. Creamistry is a new and innovative ice cream shop where ice cream is made-to-order from liquid nitrogen before your very eyes!
Ingredients are mixed in front of you and then a blast of liquid nitrogen is applied to the mixture to instantly create ice cream! If you haven’t seen it before, it’s quite the experience, especially for children.
Their ‘Creamologist’ utilizes over 50 premium ingredients to prepare customized handcrafted ice cream, including Straus cream with organic and non-GMO soy options. There are 10 signature flavors to choose from: including vanilla bean with candied bacon, salted caramel, chocolate hazelnut and an array of Asian-inspired flavors such as Thai iced tea, red-bean, matcha green tea and avocado (made from fresh Haas avocados).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ray Garcia Opens BS Taqueria in Downtown LA

It was six years ago that I first had Chef Ray Garcia's braised tongue with tomatillo and breakfast radish, back when he was starting out at FIG. Now, you can have that same amazingly tender tongue on handmade corn tortillas (made with nixtamal) at his newly opened B.S. Taqueria in Downtown LA.

Also not to be missed is the clams and lardo taco, topped with garlic chips.
Surf and turf? The lardo adds a wonderful richness but it's the flavor of the clams that shine through. Add to that the crunchy garlic chips.
There are also three great salsas available on the tables, but these tacos were already so flavorful I found I didn't need to add anything extra.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Club Passim Launches In-House Dining Program (Cambridge, MA)

Club Passim, the long-time folk music venue and nonprofit that’s been supporting the local arts community in Cambridge for many years, have finally launched an in-house food program. They’d been lucky to snag Chef Brandon Arms to head this new kitchen. Until recently, Chef Arms headed the kitchen at Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by the food they are offering. The food wasn’t just “really good for a live music venue”, it was actually really good in its own right. The menu items aren’t just your typical pub/bar fare, but Chef Brandon has created some fun, creative dishes that are rather ambitious for a venue like this.

We started off with some Roasted brussels sprouts, country ham, egg yolk puree, crispy potato ($7)
Club Passim
The brussels sprouts they used were smaller than usual, but a perfect bite size! I've never had them with egg yolk before, but this was a great alternative take on brussels sprouts.

Pork belly bun, asian pickles, jalapeno, cilantro, sweet soy ($5)
Club Passim
This was off-menu, but I really enjoyed the French Onion soup.
Club Passim

Monday, April 6, 2015

Preview: Nantucket Wine Festival (May 13-17, 2015)

In May, wine lovers descend upon the small island of Nantucket for a weekend of great wine events. This year's Nantucket Wine Festival will take place on May 13-17 with over 50 tastings, seminars, and wine dinners.

The wine festival doesn't just focus on Nantucket wines, but yes, Nantucket makes wines. Many of the wine grapes are actually grown in Washington then made into wine in Nantucket, but there is one vineyard on the island that produces commercial wine, Nantucket Vineyard. I tried a couple during their preview event at Bistro du Midi and they were quite nice.

Of course, there will be tons of chefs from Boston participating including Lydia Shire, Tiffani Faison, Michael Scelfo, Tony Maws, and many others.
Here's a sample of the events: Tiffani Faison will be grilling BBQ on the beach while you drink rosé wines from Chateau D'Esclans, Domaine de l'Ile, and Nellcôte.

Or, you can learn to blend your own cuvee with Veuve Clicquot. You can also check out fancy private jets with the hangar party with event sponsor Wheels Up, a private aviation company. There's a white bordeaux and oyster pairing, and a lobster and champagne luncheon. You're in New England after all! And of course, there are grand tasting events on Saturday and Sunday.

Nantucket is located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod and reachable by boat or plane (Cape Air). I've never been but I'm hoping to make a day or weekend and check out some of the wine festival events! Check out the full event listing here and be sure to buy your tickets soon as some of the seminars have started to sell out.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Boozy Brunch at Harlowe (West Hollywood, CA)

1933 Group brings black Old Hollywood glamour with Harlowe. The gorgeous space incorporates fine touches like antique tiles and a sleek wooden bar that takes center stage.

The decor is best appreciated in daylight, and now you can do just that with their brunch hours. The bar program is the main draw here, so naturally brunch will be a boozy brunch with specialty cocktails ($14 each). They had brought in mixologist Dushan Zaric (from NYC's Employees Only) to design the opening cocktail menu and the GM Chris Amirault and other local bartenders are keeping the game up.

Swap your regular cup of joe with Coffee is for Closers (Teeling's Irish whiskey, Stumptown coffee, Chartreuse whipped cream). This take on Irish Coffee is lovely - not too sweet and enhanced by the chartreuse in the whipped cream. For me it was the perfect drink choice to start my morning.

There's a full food menu at Harlowe. When Harlowe opened, Chef Eric Greenspan consulted on the menu, which has since been refined by chef Sam Hoke.

You'll find the usual brunch suspects like Eggs Benedict (brown butter hollandaise, country ham, homemade biscuit, $13). The brown butter is a nice touch that distinguishes it from the typical eggs benedict.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good and Cheap Sushi in Boston! Ebi Sushi (Somerville, MA)

Have you heard me complain about the lack of cheap sushi in Boston yet? Sure, you can get good sushi at O Ya, but I don't really feel like dropping $200+ all the time. I tried a couple other highly rated places that were either not good or pretty good but overpriced - but I kept hearing about Ebi Sushi and finally made it out to Somerville, now that the snow is (mostly gone).

I normally don't order "sushi combo" but I made an exception here and it turned out to be a great deal!

Ebi Sushi
The reason I made an exception was because I was talking to the sushi chef (Jose, whom I later found out was actually one of the owners. Yes, he's not Japanese, but he's got quite a few years of experience behind sushi bars). He told me the specials for the day and I started asking him whether or not I could get this fish in the combo or that fish or this cut. And he said yes to all of them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Public School 818 (Sherman Oaks, CA)

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Every now and then we get nostalgic about school days – the carefree phase in our life, the days we found best friends for life, the naught and nonsense we committed to gain notoriety, and the many times we got caught staring our secret crushes’ (no matter how swift we were). I was lucky to be in the same school from kindergarten through high school, I always thought school was my second home.
And this is what Bob Spivak, President & CEO of Daily Grill, had in mind when he opened the first Public School a few years ago – to relive some of the best days of our life and make Public School your home away from home. 
Whether it’s the menu designed as a composition book, cocktail napkins that look like lined college-rule notebook paper, the desk lamps on dining tables, or the cosine wall mural - Public School definitely elicits that nostalgic memory of a classroom.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of checking out the latest Public School chain in Sherman Oaks. Taking over the former Sisley Italian Kitchen spot at Sepulveda and Ventura, Public School 818 will be a full service restaurant/ bar that delivers “An Education in the Art of Food and Beer”. 
PS Cocktail Yellow
The menu is diversely American with its international influences, seasonal offerings, local flare and current trends. Naturally, drinks selection is pretty eclectic, including 20 – 30 taps of craft beers along with modern cocktails served up with house-made syrups and fresh squeezed juices. For pre-dinner cocktails, I had the Duck Thunder (watermelon, St. Germaine, Aylesbury Duck vodka) and Yellow Smoke (Fresh Pineapple Juice, serrano agave, El Silencio mezcal). Both were refreshing without being overly fruity or sweet.

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