Friday, December 23, 2016

New Year's Eve Menu at Fleming's Steakhouse + Win a $100 Gift Card!

Still looking for New Year's Eve plans? Well, perhaps you will be the lucky winner to a $100 gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse!

Fleming's Steakhouse is offering a special Holiday Menu prix fixe and a New Year's Eve celebration.
The $89 three-course prix fixe meal includes Fleming’s favorites: a choice of the Crab Louie Wedge Salad or lobster bisque, followed by filet mignon paired with Australian lobster tail and Fleming’s signature potatoes.

Fleming’s has also pre-selected the perfect drink pairings to complement the meal including a glass of French 75 Plymouth, JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset Brut Burgundy No 21, or Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne Yellow Label. You can get more details on the holiday menu and reserve a table here.

Don't forget to try your holiday luck and enter to win a $100 gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse below! Good luck and happy holidays! We will select the winner on Dec 27 :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern in Brea

by @btsunoda

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, or better known as JFAT, recently introduced a new brunch menu. I was happy to learn about it and my wife and I recently visited their location in Brea.
JFAT is located next to Whole Foods in the Village at La Floresta mall on Imperial Hwy just east of Kraemer Blvd in Brea. The Village at La Floresta is marketed as the hip spot for retail shopping and dining on the east side of OC.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated and quickly set the mood for Christmas. Garland was wrapped everywhere with ribbon and bows. Christmas trees were fully decked out with shiny glass ornaments.
An impressive lighted display of super premium wines is located near the entrance. Bottles of wine were lined up on the bar and they also had a fair number of craft beers on tap. TV screens were playing live sports, but it didn’t overpower the experience like a sports bar.

The restaurant is large and spacious. It is obviously designed for people to get together and converse over a good meal. In fact while we were there, there was a group of 8 that were enjoying brunch.

Totchos are simply Tater Tots topped with melted cheese and salsa fresca. 
Simply stated, they are nachos made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips. Since I favor tater tots over tortilla chips, I had trouble eating just one bite. 

Knowing that this would be a meat heavy meal, I ordered the Charred Brussels Sprouts. This came with smoked applewood bacon, pinenuts and underneath it was some maple syrup. I scooped downwards in the dish to gather the maple syrup. This was a great combination of flavors and textures and was one of my favorite items that day.

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Malted Ale Waffles was served topped with a thick and creamy thyme gravy and applewood smoked bacon. 
After pouring pure maple syrup on top of it all, I enjoyed the various taste sensations, crunchy, salty, sweet and smoky. I was quite happy with this dish.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Learning About the Wines of Georgia

I recently attended a tasting of wines from Georgia (the country, not the US state) and discovered there was much more I did not know about the world of wine! Traditionally made Georgian wines are unique, and if you've never had wines fermented in a qvevri, these wines would be completely unexpected for you. Most of the wines produced in Georgia are typically home winemakers who have been making wine for decades. There's no terroir codification and commercialization began pretty recently.

Just look at the colors, for instance:
Georgian Wines
Qvevri is an unlined terracotta vessel. They are buried in the ground and is cleaned after each vinification cycle. Since the vessel is unlined, there is air exchange happening through the pores of the terracotta throughout the fermentation. Prior to 2003, there was no commercially produced wine that uses qvevri, but then some producers decided to preserve the tradition.

Our wine tasting was led by Taylor Parsons, the sommelier from Republique in Los Angeles.

The first two wines I tasted were two Rkatsiteli from Niki Antadze. Niki Antadze is a tiny wine producer, with 3 hectares of vineyard in the Manavi, Kakheti regions. The Rkatsiteli is one of the main white grape varietals in Georgia.

Both Rkatsiteli were fermented in qvevri but without and with skin contact. You can see the colors are strikingly unique too.
Georgian Wines

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Revisiting Loretta's Last Call with New Menu Items (Boston, MA)

At the beginning of this year, I wrote about Loretta's Last Call, a Southern restaurant and live music venue near Fenway. They've recently revamped their menu, reimagining some dishes and adding new items on the menu, so I went back to try out some of these menu items!

The hush puppies had been recreated; now they serve Serrano and roasted corn hush puppies with honey cayenne butter ($8)
It's not that spicy but it has a nice kick, especially with the honey cayenne butter!

Another new appetizer was the Crispy pork belly with wild mushroom grit cakes & a cider reduction ($12)
My favorite part was actually the mushroom grit cakes, but the pork belly had a nice sweet glaze to it, as well - I just wish it was crispier considering the name of the dish!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Vegan Donuts Worth Trekking To at Donut Farm

I'm sure you know that I'm not vegan. Not even close! So when I say Donut Farm's vegan donuts are good, I'm actually saying they are good even compared to normal, non-vegan donuts.

Donut Farm, also known as Pepples Donut Farm, started in Northern California, but has since opened a location in Los Angeles. Silverlake, to be exact. The Silverlake shop is small, but there are seats so you can enjoy your donuts with some coffee while admiring the fun bunny mural from street artist Bunnie Reiss!
Donut Farm
Donut Farm's donuts are not only vegan, they are also 100% organic. They have both raised and cake donuts with a variety of interesting flavors and fillings - and did I mention, they were delicious??

One of my favorites was the Philz Coffee glazed donut. Donut Farm also serves coffee (hot and cold brew) so you can double the caffeine.
Donut Farm

Saturday, December 3, 2016

21 Square Bar + Kitchen (Torrance, CA)

by @bstunoda

21 Square, named because the city is approximately 21 square miles, is the latest addition to the Torrance food and beverage landscape. It is located inside the Torrance Marriott Redondo Beach. A lot of attention was placed on creating a cool coastal vibe. I liked the uniqueness of the interior decor - the walls featured the city of Torrance in a creative way. The venue extended outdoors with a beautiful fire pit and adjacent seating.

The “21st Mule” is their version of the ever popular cocktail with Tito’s® vodka, ginger beer and fresh squeezed lime. I enjoyed both the presentation and the taste of “El Dude”. This is their house-made creation of Fugu Horchata vodka and Kahlua.
In addition to the their cocktails, they feature wine and ten beers on tap. They’ve partnered with Absolution Brewing to create their own exclusive brew and that’s only available at 21 Square. It is a smooth ale and probably a great beginner’s entry into craft beer. In fact they make their delicious fish & chips using this very brew!
The LYB (Loosen Your Belt) is a shareable dish consisting of tater tots, capicola, mortadella, salami, sausage, cheddar, mozzarella, chopped scallions and topped with a poached egg. It’s is the perfect item to share with a draft beer.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sint Maarten / Saint Martin (SXM)

Bistrot Caraibes
Le Tastevin
Ti Bouchon
Ocean 82

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

VERTS, a New Fast Casual Mediterranean Grill Opens in Downtown Boston

VERTS started in Austin, Texas about five years ago. In that short period of time, this chain of healthy, fast casual Mediterranean grill has grown to 35 locations around Texas and it has now made its way to Boston as its first non-Texas location.
I recently attended the opening party of the Boston location, in the Financial District, to check out the food that makes this chain so fast-growing.
VERTS is a build-your-own concept, and you can choose between rice bowl, quinoa bowl, pita wrap, or salad.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Shuhari Matcha Serves Green Tea and Japanese Snacks on Abbot Kinney

Tea lovers, and especially matcha lovers, head straight to Shuhari Matcha on Abbot Kinney.

Shuhari serves a selection of green tea as well as savory snacks and green tea-based desserts and drinks, like this The Matcha Sundae ($8.50).
Shuhari Matcha
The sundae is made with matcha ice cream, chocolate sauce, corn flakes, and dried raspberries.

Shuhari Matcha Cafe is an interesting business, as they partly funded by the Cool Japan Fund, a joint public-private fund that promotes Japanese culture.
Shuhari Matcha
On a warm LA day, get one of the yuzu matcha sparkler ($5). This was one of my favorites. Lightly sweet, and the yuzu complements the bitterness of the matcha well. They also have other flavors for the sparkler that I'm looking forward to trying next time.
Shuhari Matcha

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes + $100 Fleming's Steakhouse Giveaway!

Thanksgiving is upon us, and there will be lots and lots turkey to devour. Too much turkey, sometimes. Admit it, you also have leftover turkey and have to figure out what to do with it after the big day. Well, Fleming's Steakhouse has offered some easy recipes in which you can use up your Thanksgiving leftovers!

Scroll below to check out Fleming's Thanksgiving leftover recipes and continue on to enter to win a $100 gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse! After all that hard work cooking, you deserve a night dining out. Or you can skip cooking Thanksgiving dinner altogether and head to Fleming's for a 4-course turkey dinner for $39.95.

Turkey Fried Rice

Ingredients: 4 servings
2 Tbsp. sesame oil 1/2 ea. red pepper, 1/4” dice
1/4 ea. yellow onion 1/4” dice 2 small cloves garlic
2 ea. stalks green onions, 1/4” dice
4-5 oz. left-over turkey 1/2” dice 4 Tbsp. frozen peas, thawed
1 ea. large egg, beaten 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce Pinch black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked white or brown rice

Preparation Instructions:
Heat sesame oil in a wok on high heat. Add red pepper, onion and rice and sauté for 5 minutes and the rice starts to get a bit crispy on the edges.
Add garlic, green onions and diced turkey and cook for 2 minutes.
Add peas and cook for 2 1/2 minutes tossing all well
Make a well in the center of the wok and add the scrambled egg then stir until cooked breaking up into small pieces.
Combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire and black pepper the stir into the rice cooking for 30 seconds.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chilling at Quebec's Ice Hotel, Hotel de Glace

When Sweden's Icehotel opened in 1990, I dreamed of going there. While I haven't had the chance to go to Sweden at all, luckily I can experience an ice hotel in Canada! Hotel de Glace is open every winter in Quebec, giving vacationers the chance to tour, sleep in, drink in, or even get married in this wintry surroundings.
Hotel de Glace
I decided not to stay at Hotel de Glace, but instead to take a tour of the hotel. In the afternoon, all the rooms of the hotel are open for public tours. In the evening, the hotel is closed to the public and overnight guests can sleep in private.
Hotel de Glace
For the day tour-goers, especially families with children, there's an ice slide they can go on (hey, adults are welcome, too).
Hotel de Glace
Each room has a different theme and decor (think ice sculptures) and the price is different as well. This was one of the most expensive suites (which comes with a private hot tub and bathroom)
Hotel de Glace

Friday, November 4, 2016

Being a Tourist in Boston with Go City Card: From Duck Tours to Museums

Traveling can get expensive, that's a fact. Never mind the flight and the hotels, once you get to your destination, it can cost a lot of money to visit the all the attractions you want to see. Thankfully, you can save money with multi-attraction packages like Go City Card from Smart Destinations.

They recently gave A Traveling Life5 Things to Eat, and me a 3-attraction Explorer Pass to try out. It was our chance to do all the touristy Boston stuff that we haven't done!
Our first attraction was the Boston Duck Tour. We got on the tour at the Science Museum.
The bus goes to Boston Common area and continues on to Back Bay to Copley Square.
It then heads back to Cambridge and near the Science Museum and enters the Charles River from there. The best part is getting in the water!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga's PABU Opens in Downtown Boston

PABU Boston at Millennium Tower from Chefs Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga officially opens today, November 1! PABU is located on the second floor of the Millennium Tower in downtown Boston, right by the Downtown Crossing T station. The restaurant will be serving sushi, izakaya-style dishes, robata, hot pot, and plenty of cocktails and sake.
Chef Michael Mina was a fan of Chef Ken Tominaga's original restaurant, Hana, in Sonoma County, which opened more than 2 dozen years ago. They finally partnered for the opening of PABU in San Francisco, and the partnership continues since.

The cold plates section includes the "Happy Spoon Oyster", of which we got a whole tower of during the opening party.


Happy Spoon oyster (uni, ikura, tobiko, ponzu creme fraiche, $9)
Among the hot dishes, you'll find okonomiyaki, chawanmushi, seared foie gras and more. We tried the Chicken karaage (ginger-soy marinade, spicy mayo, $12)
During the party, we also had the lucky chance to see chef Ken Tominaga in action, breaking down a 240-lb blue fin tuna for our consumption (we didn't eat the whole thing, don't worry).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From Lunch to Jazz, Beat Brasserie is a Crowd Please Any Time of Day

Beat Brasserie was already a popular spot in Harvard Square, known for its live jazz music and drinks, accompanied by some great food. But recently, Beat Brasserie also opened its doors for lunch on weekdays, adding another great option for nearby workers and students to grab a bite during the day.
Beat Brasserie
The restaurant is much quieter during weekday lunches than during live jazz sessions, of course, which means it would be good for a working lunch as well.

I recently tried the lunch and started with an appetizer of Fried Rhode Island calamari, vegetable frito misto, green goddess dressing ($13.50)
Beat Brasserie
Instead of the traditional heavy calamari plate, I liked that this was more like a salad.

For lunch entrees they have some overlap with the dinner menu, like the bowls and burgers, but they also have a quiche of the day, tuna nicoise salad, and others. The day I dined there for lunch, they had a rabbit pasta on the menu.
Beat Brasserie
The pasta was delicious and it was a good lighter option for lunch as well.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Event Recap: Taste of the Fenway 2016

Most people, even those not from Boston, would know the name Fenway, but how many really know the Fenway neighbhorhood beyond the baseball stadium? Fenway is actually home to many wonderful restaurants and bars, from the casual to the high end. Recently, the Fenway Community Development Corporation held Taste of the Fenway to showcase the diverse food options the neighborhood has to offer. Here are some of my favorite bites from Taste of the Fenway:

Tuna poke from Hojoko, the fun and hopping izakaya inside The Verb Hotel.
Taste of the Fenway
Top Chef alum Tiffani Faison actually has two restaurants in Fenway, and she brought both to the festival. I love when the chef is personally on hand to cook at these festivals, it shows their dedication!
Taste of the Fenway
She did a Singaporean Street Noodle to showcase her Southeast Asian spot, Tiger Mama.
Taste of the Fenway

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Nickel Mine, West LA's New Neighborhood Social House

by @btsunoda

The Nickel Mine is a brand new bar located in West LA. I hesitate to call it a bar because it is so much more than that. It’s located on Santa Monica Blvd and there is no sign on the building. I guessed I was in the right place because from the outside, I saw a few big screens with the Dodgers playing. Due to the large picture windows, the interior of The Nickel Mine is full of indirect light. The walls are lined with aged brick. Bar height tables and chairs line the center. Regular height seating is available along the windows. On the west side of the bar, they have comfortable couches and chairs. With the bookshelf along the wall, it mimics the appearance of someone’s reading room. I like the fact that they have games (e.g., Connect 4, Zenga) available throughout the bar. Their menu is quite extensive. It’s broken down into grub, brunch, wine, beer, cocktails, whiskey, scotch, bourbon, tequila, mezcal, gin, and rum. Ten draft beers are available. I was surprised to see the Chicken and Waffles were made with a Belgian waffle on the brunch menu.

The Garlic Knots are served with a spicy marinara sauce on the side.
Knowing that I was going to try a few different offerings, I promised myself that I would only eat one. Wrong. There was something about these piping hot garlic knots combined with the marinara sauce that made it so addicting to eat.

IMG_1640The Chicken Caesar Salad was topped with large slices of chicken breast, shaved parmesan and crunchy croutons.

What made the salad surprising was the fact that the romaine lettuce was extremely fresh and crisp. An assortment of wings was served next: Buffalo, Teriyaki and Lemon Garlic. Despite my strong inclination to prefer something other than Buffalo wings, I’d have to say it was my favorite among the three.

Coincidentally, it was National Beer Day. To celebrate, I had samplers of some of their draft beers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lola's Mexican Cuisine (Long Beach, CA)

by @btsunoda

Two friends of mine both suggested that I try Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in Long Beach. Since I highly respect the opinions of both, I was happy when I was invited to this restaurant.
Lola’s Mexican Cuisine is family owned and operated. They acquire organic local meats, sustainable seafood and local produce to prepare quality fresh food. “Modern Mexican Cuisine” is probably the best way to describe their cooking. The interior has a nice mix of different seating: booths, communal tables, and seating by the bar. Bold colors and eclectic Mexican folk art almost make it seem like you are inside of a restaurant in downtown Guadalajara.

Their Mexican Street Corn is an upscale version of elote.
Fresh heirloom corn is removed from the cob, toasted and mixed with crumbled cotija cheese. Garlic aioli is drizzled on the top and chile powder is then applied. It is served in a small cast iron pan and was bubbling when it arrived at my table. Gone was the worry of biting into a corn on the cob only to see corn flying after you bite into it!

While I’ve had many variations of tacos, the “El Trio” taco combo sounded like something I would enjoy.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Thanksgiving and America's Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown in Virginia

I didn't grow up in America, so I only learned about American history after coming to the country in high school, but last Thanksgiving I visited the Greater Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle in Virginia, which consisted of three towns: Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement in America, so it has quite a significant place in history.

When we arrived, we went to visit the Jamestown Settlement. The Jamestown Settlement is a "living history museum" located near but not on the site of the real settlement. Walking through, you start out  at the earliest point of history: with the exhibit on the Powhatan Indians.
You can walk through the houses (the longhouses), and staff members were there preparing traditional foods.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Boston: Dine at a Discount with GoPapaya App

Whether you're a student or someone with a "real job", everyone loves saving money, right?
Well, Bostonians can now have more opportunities to save money while dining out with this new mobile app startup called GoPapaya.

The idea of GoPapaya is like HotelTonight: they work with restaurants to fill tables during the restaurants' down time by offering discounts to customers, usually between 10-30%. On top of that, since they are new and promoting their app, you can sign up with my referral code "pigs10" and they will send you a $10 Amazon gift card after you complete your first reservation!

The restaurant will set a discount on the app in real time, and you'll have 30 minutes to arrive at the restaurant once you make your reservation. When you open the app, it will show you what discounts are available and for how much, sorted by the distance.
Once you reserve the table, they will hold it for 30 minutes. During this hold and when you're checked in, you can't reserve another table unless you cancel the current one. Here's when I made one for lunch at Patty Chen's Dumpling Room in Central Square.
Go Papaya
To use it, you'd turn on your bluetooth, and the app will automatically detect when you get to the restaurant and check you in. You don't need to purchase anything from the app so there's no upfront cost like Groupons.

When I got to Patty Chen's Dumpling Room, I just told them I made a reservation with GoPapaya, and they knew what I was talking about.

Patty Chen
Pork Dumpling "Ramen" at PC Dumpling Room

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fig and Olive (West Hollywood, CA)

by @btsunoda
IMG_1527 West Hollywood is one of LA’s hotspots for new cutting edge restaurants. As a result, I’ve been traveling to the area on a more frequent basis. This time it was to experience Fig and Olive on Melrose Place. Fig and Olive’s menu is largely influenced by its founder, Laurent Halasz, who grew up learning Provençal cuisine. They are probably best known for using exceptional olive oils.

Fig and Olive selected 22 of the finest olive oils and use them as a foundation for all of their their dishes. For them, gourmet olive oil is a central ingredient and it displaces their need for butter.

The interior of Fig and Olive is impressive. They have a huge split-level space with double-high ceilings. Instead of showing off their wine collection, they have an impressive wall display of their olive oils. Other dining areas within the restaurant are available such as their semi-private indoor patio with olive trees and rosemary plants.

Complimentary fresh rosemary focaccia bread was served with three distinctly different virgin olive oils: two were from Spain (Manzanillo and Picual); the other was a Fig Koroneiki from Greece. Of the three, my wife and I both favored the Greek olive oil. The Picual was very earthy and I was extremely surprised at the differences in taste between the three olive oils.

We began with the three crostini starter.
The first was a prosciutto with ricotta, olives, chopped walnuts and topped with a fig. Burrata with a cherry-sized heirloom tomato and pesto was the second one we selected. Of course, I selected the octopus with hummus which was dusted with paprika. All three crostinis were tasty, but I was surprised at how well the octopus paired with the hummus.

A number of dishes were calling my name and I ended up selecting Paella del Mar.

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