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Food on Tap from a Food Truck

December 5, 2017
Food on Tap from a Food Truck | A recap of the Food on Tap event at Pita Kabob in Visalia, CA

We’d been living in the Central Valley for weeks before we finally stepped into the beer garden. How had we not known this place was here? Succulents, rustic reclaimed wood and antique farm pieces for plant holders, and outdoor seating.

Then, the beer list. The beer list!

Faction, Fieldwork, and so many others. Breweries we used to spend our time at in the Bay and travel to around the state. 

Not to sound too dramatic, but this feeling fell over me as if to say – wow, we might fit in here after all. Walking into Pita Kabob‘s downtown gastropub that day was the most settling experience I’d had since we’d moved from the Bay to the Valley. 

Not just great food and a killer craft beer list, but people who appreciated great food and killer craft beer. I find it important to surround myself with both. 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. 

Continue Reading…

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos

July 16, 2014

 

Las Vegas | fakefoodfree.com
Las Vegas — you either love it or hate it. After about 11 years of traveling there, I’ve given up on arguing with anyone in the hate it category. I just enjoy the fact that we love it. We take it in small doses. I only want to be there a couple nights at a time, but I still want to be there.

Knowing that I’m not anything close to a high roller, everyone always asks — what do you do?

First, we walk.

As touristy as it is, I love the Bellagio fountains and the botanical garden. I like to see what gorgeous flower arrangements the Aria and Palazzo have on display. We’ve seen the majority of the Cirque de Soleil shows on the strip. This time we went downtown to the new Smith Center to see The Book of Mormon. We’ve also taken a drive around the area on the trips that we’ve rented a car. Then we each sit down at our favorite machines — an animated bonus slot for me — and spend barely $20 in a night while drinking a few (free) cocktails.

 

It’s always a nice break from my day to day reality. Yes, you have to deal with lots of tourists, but you get to do it while carrying around a beer to help ease the frustration.

 

This trip we booked Spirit airlines for the first time. We took the extra charges for overhead baggage as a challenge and each packed a shoulder bag for the weekend that fit snugly under the seat.

 

That meant no camera, but it turns out that we had some really great food and food experiences this visit. So I committed to taking the best iPhone photos I could manage to ensure I could share the highlights of our food and drink adventures.

 

The good thing about coming from the Bay Area is that we arrive by 7:30 am, so after checking in, we went straight to breakfast. Like most tourists, we’ve visited Serendipity 3 for the frozen hot chocolate. This time we learned that you can have a very pleasant, calm and delicious breakfast there before 9:30 am.

 

The menu said that the Fried Eggs Benedict was two poached eggs that had been rolled in cornmeal and fried (I know!) on top of biscuits and Canadian bacon with hollandaise AND sausage gravy. It sounds so heavy, right? But you are probably thinking of a loaded diner version, like I was, and not this.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos | fakefoodfree.com
 Yeah, I had to order it and I am so glad I did. The flavors were beautifully balanced and now I have a new project – fried poached eggs.

 

Oh and I love their coffee, too. They add cinnamon and nutmeg!

 

We’re big on dropping in the ABC store or a drugstore for an inexpensive beer and we were pleased to find some craft options this trip. Namely, Oskar Blues that we just visited in Colorado a few weeks ago.

 

Earl of Sandwich in Planet Hollywood is our go-to place for cheap eats and they are open 24 hours. As a result, I had my favorite sandwich for breakfast on our second morning — the Holiday Turkey. Yes, everything is on there that you are thinking — turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy. But like my meal at Serendipity 3, it’s well done. Just a little of everything so it’s not too filling or a big mess. Okay, it looks like a big mess, but it’s so good!

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We swung in Grand Lux Cafe in the Palazzo for a light lunch. This is usually a safe bet for good food and their portions are massive so we always split something. We went for the Asian Nachos and they were so much better than I was expecting! Fried wontons with chicken in a peanut sauce. I already have the wheels turning in my head for a version with homemade wontons.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We have yet to have a bad meal or bad service at Mon AmiGabi in Paris. Both are always excellent, which keeps us coming back when we want a high quality, mid-priced meal (for the Strip). I’m not a huge fan that they like to serve grain-fed beef as I prefer grass-fed, but the food is always delicious. One of my long time favorites is this warm brie with honey, black pepper, roasted garlic cloves and hazelnuts.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
Now on to one of our most fun and memorable meals in Vegas. I always go on about how great blogging is for introducing me to outstanding people, and it’s happened again with Tracey of Salty Sweet Life. We met online and ended up taking Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s photography course in Orange County in May where we met in person.

 

She and her husband live in Las Vegas so we met up with them for drinks, dinner and dessert. They took us to the The Lady Sylvia for drinks and while I didn’t snap any photos, trust me, this is one cool bar. It has a relaxing lounge-slash-library feel and we both had delicious beer cocktails. I had the The Dapper Don with Hendricks Gin and Ballast Point IPA.

Dinner was at Lotus of Siam. This is one place off the Strip that we had actually been to before. It was five years ago and before I had such a strong interest in Thai food and before we’d traveled to Thailand. That was long before I’d heard about the Northern Thai menu from both Tracey and by watching the Vegas episode of Parts Unknown.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We ordered a selection of Northern Thai treats and every bite was delicious. My favorite was the Sai Oua (pork sausage) — nice and spicy and packed with the flavor of Kaffir Lime.

 

When our hosts told us they were going to take us to a new place for dessert, I thought okay, cool, we’ll grab frozen yogurt or something.

 

Um, not quite. Wow, were we in for an experience.

 

We headed to Sweets Raku. A dessert bar with the creations of Japanese dessert artist, Mio Ogasawara. We were greeted with the option of a prix fixe menu or ordering ala carte, all printed on an edible menu of rice paper and a candy ring. We were later given a raspberry sauce for dipping the menu.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
Needless to say, we did the prix fixe. The first course was pre-set, a refreshing pineapple sorbet with white wine jelly.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
For the second course, Tracey and I chose the Carib. A coconut panna cotta that included so much good stuff that I won’t be able to remember it all. Here’s what I do recall — cantaloupe sorbet, kiwi and a brûléed banana slice. A white chocolate disk was set on top of the glass and just before serving a warm mango sauce was poured through it to melt it. Outstanding.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
My husband had the Stella (strawberry tiramisu), a mix of fresh strawberries and cream over cake. We also had a great seat for the action to watch its intricate construction before serving.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos

 

The final course was a cream puff with our choice of cream and fruit sauce. I chose vanilla with black currant. The puff was served with two gelled cube, one of which was passion fruit, my favorite.

 

As you would expect, it was an unforgettable experience and more proof to support my argument — visit Las Vegas. Stay on the Strip and get off the Strip. There is good stuff to be found just about everywhere.

 

Photography Tips, Wine Pairings and Dining in Seattle – International Food Bloggers Conference

September 24, 2013

It was the reason I registered for the conference in the first place. A session with the well known Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the New York Times.

In preparation for this big weekend, I caught some of the session he taught on Food Photography for CreativeLive a month or so ago. Inspired is an understatement. The one thing that stuck with me from the online session was when he said (and I paraphrase) – when the door of opportunity cracks open, you don’t peak inside, you kick the door down.

I feel like since we’ve moved to California, I have been kicking down every door that has cracked open for me, and I have my eyes open for more. It was a phrase, an attitude, a piece of advice that had perfect timing for me.

Andrew didn’t disappoint in the live sessions this past weekend. The simplicity of his set-ups and shoots would surprise anyone who has seen some of his intriguing photos that grace pages of the web and print. It also helps that his photography style is spot on with what I aspire for mine to be. The dark shadows, the light flow, the moodiness. Those are the types of photos that draw and keep my extended attention, and also the types of photos I want to more consistently create.

After a hilarious cooking demo with Chef John and Chefs from Blue C Sushi, Andrew shared photo after photo of some of his favorite shots and the stories behind them. A few things I learned:

  • He almost never uses artificial light.
  • Salt glazed pottery does not reflect light.
  • Southwestern light is “absolutely the best” light for food photography.
  • Trade props for credit on your blog. In other words, help spread the word for people who make props that would work well in your photos by mentioning them in your post or on your homepage in exchange for a waved rental fee or a free dish.
  • Use Pinterest boards to collect photos and use them to shop for pottery/plates to recreate the style. (I’ve used this to collect styling ideas, but I’d never thought about using it as a shopping list when I’m looking for the actual props to get the same scene.)
  • Capturing a good photo is about being at the right place at the right time.

Because of such a large group, only a few were randomly selected to get up and photograph food during the session. Later they brought some plates over to the natural light by the window and a few of us decided to sneak over and take our own pictures.

After the food photography sessions, I attended the food and wine pairing session with Chateau Ste. Michelle winery and Culinary Director, John Sarich.

A few interesting tips I learned:

  • Salt water seafood and strong tannin wines do not pair well.
  • Raw fruit and wine do not pair well. The fruit pulls out the acid flavors of the wine.
  • New world reds that are more “jammy” are better with fish.
  • New world reds also pair better with balsamic vinegars and soy sauce.
  • White wine is best served at 54 to 55 degrees F, except Riesling and sparkling white wines which can be served at 40 degrees.
  • Reds should be served at cellar temperature, 64 degrees F, not 73 degrees F (room temperature).
  • Good wine is 20% where you are at, 20% who you are with and 60% the wine itself.
Our tasting plate – duck liver pate, prosciutto, apple tart, smoked salmon, tuna tartar and  fresh apple.

Later that evening, Urbanspoon split all 320 attendees into small groups and we each dined at different restaurants throughout Seattle. It was a really cool concept and each of our restaurants were a surprise until a few hours before. (Eating styles were taken into consideration.)

Our dinner was at Luc, a lovely French-American restaurant. We were served 4 courses, including chicken liver pâté with berry gelée and an amazing Cassoulet made with local white beans, duck confit, sausage and braised lamb (sorry, my photo didn’t turn out due to the lighting). The duck was perfectly cooked, not too dry and the flavor of the beans was rich and comforting.

I also got to try Bavarois with Huckleberry. It was described as the French version of a Bavarian cream. It had a rich flavor while also being rather light and airy. The sweet berry topping rounded out the flavor of the dessert nicely.

Another outstanding day.

Disclosure: I was required to write 3 posts about my experiences at IFBC in order to receive a discounted registration fee. This is email 2 of 3. The weekend involved many free products and foods from companies and restaurants that I may or may not write about. Thoughts are my own. I am not required to write about these foods or companies and will receive no compensation for doing so. 

Peanut Pie from Pie by Ken Haedrich

July 18, 2013
 

 
I love food discoveries. Those times when you learn about a food which you never knew existed. A unique food or recipe that hails from a specific area or a local restaurant. It reminds me why I love food culture. It is also the reason why I branch out of the whole grain, raw sugar, fresh vegetable pattern to feature a little tradition and food history.

I had one of these food discoveries a few weeks ago. It was one that also just happened to align with my renewed love for peanuts.

I was flipping through a review copy of the cookbook Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich when I stumbled upon, Like Virginia Diner’s Peanut Pie. Peanut pie? I’d never heard of such a thing.

This cookbook is full of new-to-me recipes. Page after page of everything pie. And I’m no pie novice. I’m not an expert at making them, but my mom is. As a result, I’ve had my fair share of slices. Growing up we were a pie family — from-scratch chocolate pie and butterscotch pie, the most amazing pumpkin pie in the world (my grandmother’s), grape pie, raisin pie (although I wasn’t a fan of this one), gooseberry, strawberry-rhubarb, cherry, apple, pecan, coconut cream. You get the idea.

So finding new pies that impress me isn’t an easy task, but this cookbook accomplished it. There are combinations that I could never dream up like Coffee-Hazelnut Custard Pie, Orange Pie with Pistachio Crumb Crust and Pear and Jalapeno Jelly Pie. Many have an interesting story attached, a region that made them popular or a unique ingredient. Cream, silk, crumble,  flaky, lattice — whatever the pie style, there is a recipe for it in here.

Now this isn’t a picture cookbook, although there are a few pretty photos gathered in the center as examples. It is a pie resource book. The one you turn to when you are curious about a traditional pie or you want something new to wow your guests.

Such as Peanut Pie.

If you are like me, your first thought when you hear peanut pie is peanut butter. Peanut as a dessert always equals peanut butter, right? I have since learned the answer to that is no.

This pie resembles pecan, but it’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on what was different until I was polishing off the last bite of crust. Good thing, or I might have needed a second slice.

Pecans are naturally sweet, making pecan pie a super sweet dessert. I do like it, but it’s the kind of sweet you only want around the holidays, and for me, one slice is enough. In peanut pie, the peanuts provide a more savory flavor that balances the sweetness. The peanuts stay crunchy, the crust flaky — it’s pretty much everything I ever wanted in a pie. To the point that I’ve vowed to make it instead of pecan for the holidays.

I could hear your shrieks of horror from here. Trust me, though. This pie is pretty special.

And if your cookbook shelf is aching for a pie resource. Look no further.

Like Virginia Diner’s Peanut Pie

Recipe © 2013 by Ken Haedrich and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press

From the book:
I had been hearing that a restaurant called the Virginia Diner, in Wakefield, Virginia, made the best peanut pie around, so I contacted one of the owners, who was quick to point out that the diner’s peanut pie is indeed deliciously world famous. She described it as “like a pecan pie, only better,” and, of course, she said, it is always made with great homegrown Virginia peanuts.

Having learned that there’s an inverse relationship between the level of self-hoopla and one’s chances of securing a recipe, I held my breath when I finally got around to asking her whether she would be willing to share the recipe with me and my readers. Alas, she would not, but she was kind enough to direct me to a Web site, www.aboutpeanuts.com, which has a recipe for peanut pie that is “pretty similar.” Would she care to enumerate the differences? “Sorry.” Turns out the recipe at that Web site, reprinted here with permission, is so good that I’ve forgiven the Virginia Diner for not sharing theirs. This pie is superlative: a golden layer of roasted peanuts on top of a soft and yummy filling. I always serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and Warm Mocha Sauce (see cookbook).

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients
1 recipe Basic Flaky Pie Pastry, Single Crust (see below), refrigerated
FILLING:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped salted dry-roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
  2. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 91/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge so it is even with the rim. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes, then partially prebake and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together just until frothy. Whisk in the corn syrup, butter, salt, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the peanuts. Slowly pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Using a fork, gently rake the peanuts to distribute them evenly.
  4. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Continue to bake until the filling is set and does not move in waves, about 20 minutes. To check, give the pie a quick nudge.
  5. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool thoroughly. Serve at room temperature, or cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Recipe for Success
Be sure not to use unroasted peanuts here. The roasting really brings out the nut flavor. By the same token, do not use honey-roasted or other sweetened nuts or the pie may be too sweet.

Basic Flaky Pie Pastry

This pie pastry is used frequently throughout this collection because it yields such excellent results. I sometimes call it a half-and-half pastry, referring to the equal amounts of vegetable shortening and butter—the former for flakiness, the latter for flavor. It can be made in a food processor if you have a large-capacity machine. But I’ll repeat my usual advice, which is to make it by hand or with an electric mixer if you don’t. Both methods are quite easy. If you could have only one pastry to work with, this would probably be it.

Makes a single or double crust for a 9-inch standard pie or 9 ½-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients
For a single crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces*
1/4 cup cold water

For a double crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

To make in a food processor: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut it in. Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture again. Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the dough starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl. Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingers. If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the pastry and work it in with your fingertips.

To make by hand: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of small peas. Add the shortening and continue to cut until all of the fat is cut into small pieces. Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water, 11/2 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. Dough made by hand often needs a bit more water. If necessary, add water 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time until the pastry can be packed.

To make with an electric mixer: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, tossing it with the flour. With the mixer on low speed, blend the butter into the flour until you have what looks like coarse, damp meal, with both large and small clumps. Add the shortening and repeat. Turning the mixer on and off, add half of the water. Mix briefly on low speed. Add the remaining water, mixing slowly until the dough starts to form large clumps. If you’re using a stand mixer, stop periodically to stir the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Do not overmix.

Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re making a double crust, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

*Just a note. I don’t use vegetable shortening in my baking so I used all butter in this crust and it turned out great.

*************************

If you are interested in perfecting your pie making skills, I just recently learned about Ken’s The Pie Academy. It is such a great resource with tools, tutorials and recipes focused on pie making. Be sure to check it out!

Disclosure: I received this cookbook for review purposes from the Harvard Common Press. I was not required to write about it and received no compensation for doing so.

Hog Island Oyster Farm – Marshall, California

February 26, 2013

I was just about to post an Instagram photo when I noticed two little words at the top of my phone.

No Service.

Not only-one-bar, or the dreaded E, but no service. Zip, zero.

Wait a second. We moved from rural Kentucky to California, right? And you are telling me we don’t have service here.

We were headed to Marshall, California. A small community in Marin County, tucked inside the Tomales Bay. After some twists and turns, carefully passing an entire Tour de France of cyclers, and smiling back at enough happy dairy cows to supply my morning coffee for years, we reached our destination – Hog Island Oyster Farm.

It turns out you don’t need cell service. You don’t need anything at all in this patch of paradise except oysters, lemon, butter, hot sauce and maybe some wine.

A visit to Hog Island was among the many tips we received when we announced – we’re moving to the East Bay. I was introduced to their oysters a few years ago when I visited San Francisco, but this, this is different.

This is the farm. This is rural California in all its glory. And as my husband and I said to each other a few minutes after we arrived – this is why you live here.

 

There are two options for diners at Hog Island. You can order raw oysters shucked for you at The Boat along with bread, cheese and wine or beer, and take a seat at one of the shared picnic tables (first come, first served).

Your other option is to reserve one of the (5, I think) picnic tables many weeks in advance. With my husband’s birthday in mind, I made a reservation for the end of February back in early January. Here you have a grill and a table to yourself. You bring along your picnic and grilling gear, extra eats, and wine or beer.

Oysters can be purchased near the entrance. You shuck them yourself, and then eat the delicious suckers raw or toss them on the grill. They provide shucking gear, lemon, hot sauce, freshly grated horseradish and Hog Wash (rice vinegar, shallot, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.) I’ll add that you are free to order anything from The Boat as well including oysters already shucked for you.

My tip – reserve a picnic table and get the early time slot.

We arrived at 10:30 and were among the first guests there on a Saturday morning. The tranquility of the area set the stage for our entire day. It was absolutely amazing.After soaking it all in, we headed over to buy our oysters.

I’ve never been a huge raw oyster fan. That was before I had a Hog Island oyster straight out of the tank, shucked for me. It tasted like the bay – light, salty, and refreshing. We ordered the Atlantics to eat raw, and the small oysters to put on the grill.

Two things I learned during our trip – 1) I cannot shuck an oyster to save my life, and 2) I love grilled oysters!

Fortunately, my husband was up for the challenge of shucking them all. And a challenge it was. It takes a lot of strength and just the right angle, something I couldn’t master in 3 hours.

If one were to shuck an oyster correctly (from what I understand), you would place oyster cup side down and insert the tip of the shucking knife into the pointed end at the hinge. Once the ligament pops, you slide the knife in along the inside of the top, flat shell and pop it off. Slide the knife under the meat to release it from the shell and remove any pieces of shell that might have broken off.

After gathering a few tips from the staff, we topped our open oysters with a little butter and placed them on the heated charcoal grill. Once the edges of the oyster began to brown we took them off with tongs, topped them with hot sauce and lemon juice, and ate them with a fork. Raw oysters are good, but the grilled are now my favorite.

After filling ourselves with oysters and sourdough bread, we were left with enough time to watch the water (my very favorite pastime), and take in what was around us. The area got crowded by lunchtime, but it was much less so than I was expecting. I’m sure it would be different in the summer. I’m also sure we will find out personally because we will be back a few more times this year. It may be the only time I actually look forward to seeing the words – No Service.

Where to Eat in 2013

January 13, 2013

Hello from California!

The move has been made and I’m working on getting comfortable in my new kitchen. I’m excited to start this new year in a new place and to see where my experiences take me and the blog.

I have to be honest. I can already feel things shifting a bit. I still want to cook with all the amazing ingredients that are now available to me, but I’m also in a place where there is some pretty amazing food (and drink) being made by others.

This year, along with recipes you are probably going to find more places dine and events to attend. I also hope to put the focus back on the global aspect of my blog. I have so much more to learn about the cuisines of other countries and it’s time to start trying more in my own kitchen.

Considering we’re already halfway through January, I really don’t want to look back and recap last year. But in 2012 I took part in 2 cross-country road trips, a trip to Toronto, a visit to New York City, a trip to Vegas, a day in Sonoma and Napa Valley and New Years Eve in Santa Barbara. Not to mention our explorations of Kentucky.

So, yeah. I have a few food recommendations for you.

So let’s not look back at the best eats of last year, but let’s look at it as where you need to eat and drink in 2013! These are my picks so start planning your road trip


Kansas City, KS – Oklahoma Joe’s 

We moved my husband out to California last September. That was road trip #1, to the north via I-80. What an amazing drive! I want to do it again already.


We didn’t have our food planned out, but left it to tips from friends and popular TV shows along the way. First up, Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City. It turns out Anthony Bourdain kind of likes the place too.

I like barbecue, but I’m not all crazy for it. And I don’t understand all the allegiances to different types. I like all of them for different reasons. But, oh my goodness. This food was amazing! My husband and I are still talking about it months later. The meat, the sauce, the hour-long line, the restaurant-in-a-gas-station atmosphere. It was one of the best meals I had all year.

My favorite was the burnt ends sandwich, and the beans were as perfect as they can get. Slightly meaty, loaded with barbecue flavor. I’m usually not a fan of ribs, but I’d order them again in a second. 



Salt Lake City, UT – Red Iguana 
 

We had no plan when we got to Salt Lake, but after checking out the FoodNetwork app we found the Red Iguana which had been on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It’s described as pre-Hispanic Mexican, and the big draw? 7 kinds of moles. 


I got the Mole Verde. This wasn’t your classic, chocolately mole, but it was delicious. The chicken was so tender and the sauce was full of spicy flavor. My husband got the Mole Negro and this is what I think of when I think of mole –  rich, dark, slightly spicy sauce. It was my favorite. 

Toronto, Canada – Steam Whistle 

In July last year, I made my first trip to Canada. It’s hard to believe I hadn’t been before! And yes, I know. Everyone is telling me that I need to see more places, but I LOVED Toronto. One of our favorite things was the local beer, Steam Whistle. We did the brewery tour, and the bar just happened to be one of the most affordable places to grab a beer so we hung out for a while and enjoyed it. 

New York City – Momofuku Noodle Bar

I traveled to New York City in October for the first time since I was in high school. Needless to say, a lot has changed. Mainly that I now have a deep appreciation for good food. I recapped the trip last year, but a round up on where to eat in 2013 wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Momofuku Noodle Bar. It was the first place I went when I got to the city, and I’m already planning to take my husband back this year. 

The corn ramen was the special on my visit and it didn’t disappoint. The blackboard lists the farms where a majority of the food is sourced, and with a huge bar for seating it is perfect for dining alone if you are traveling on business like I was.  

Sonoma, CA – The Girl and The Fig

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we took our first trip to California wine country. Knowing we would be in Sonoma around lunch time, we did what every food-lover does. We ate at The Girl and The Fig. We made reservations for lunch, as you should too because although the restaurant was only half full when we arrived, every table was taken by the time we left. 


We started with a cheese plate and that was good, but the best part of it was the dried fig cake made in house. It was delicious with the cheese. 


I had a simple lunch of a tasty grilled cheese, but for me my husband’s meal was the best. The pork belly sandwich with a slightly sweet apple slaw. 


Stanford, KY – Bluebird Cafe


If you think a small-town, rural restaurant can’t compete with food-cities around the U.S., I encourage you to go to Bluebird. On a downtown street that barely has one stoplight, this place will amaze you. With locally sourced ingredients and a creative menu that would rival any restaurant in the big city, Bluebird serves Kentucky favorites with a twist. 

Our first couple visits were for breakfast where I enjoyed the breakfast fries with smoked gouda sauce. We finally made it for lunch just before we moved – a fried green tomato BLT on a whole wheat sorghum bun. Yes, yum.


Santa Barbara, CA – East Beach Grill

We stayed in Santa Barbara on our final leg of the official move which also happened to be New Years Eve. (This time we took I-40 through the southern US.) Other than the wonderful ocean views, we experienced very little of what this awesome town has to offer. But we did manage to have pancakes on New Years morning. The East Beach Grill was close to our hotel, dog friendly and rumor had it they offered some amazing wheat germ pancakes. The rumors were true. I had a stack of blueberry and my husband a stack of strawberry while we relaxed outside with the pugs and enjoyed the view of the ocean. 

Oakland, CA Bocanova

There will be many more Oakland favorites to come, but I definitely found a place I love with only a few days of being here. Bocanova in Jack London Square has unique cocktails and one fine happy hour. One of my favorite appetizers is the Dungeness Crab Deviled Eggs with Chipotle Aioli.  

That about sums it up. Hopefully I’ve shared enough to keep you busy. And full. Recipes will resume soon, but for now I’ll leave you with one of my favorite offerings at our Farmer’s Market. Gorgeous greens with edible flowers. Happy New Year!

P.S. I was having some trouble with formatting on this post. The names of the cities and restaurants are links that will take you to the restaurant website.

Food Favorites in New York City

October 21, 2012


The best thing about a growing interest in food is how it changes your travel. There are many places I went before I cared about food and culture, and now when I return it is a much different experience. A much more fulfilling and cultural experience, I might add.
This was definitely the case when I traveled to New York City in early October. I was headed there for a business conference and decided to go up the weekend beforehand to do some exploring. Since I saw all the major monuments and attractions on my first visit, this left me plenty of time to seek out some interesting foods tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the city. 
Most of the places I visited aren’t off the beaten path. Some are pretty well known. But you definitely have to venture outside the tourist pockets to find them. 
I have a lot of food to share so instead of lengthy explanations for each, I’m limiting myself to 3 phrases or sentences to describe the atmosphere and the food. So here you go. Short and sweet, but oh my goodness was it all delicious!
Momofuku Noodle Bar (my favorite meal).
I had this on the agenda from the day I booked the trip. I ordered the daily special – Corn Ramen with pork shoulder, poached egg and bok choy. 
Corn Ramen
 
Atmosphere: Packed but seated quickly. Excellent for single diners. Friendly staff.
Many of the ingredients come from area farms listed on the black board.

Lots of bar seating and shared tables and Momofuku Noodle Bar
Food:   Still dreaming about it. Corn as fresh as that from my Dad’s garden. Perfect balance of broth, meats, veg and noodles.
Pure Thai Cookhouse
This was an unplanned visit, and I found the restaurant through Yelp. I ordered the Ratchaburi Crab & Pork with the handmade egg noodles as a soup. (Sorry. iPhone photos only on this one.)
All the good restaurants feel like a walk-in closet. 
Atmosphere:  Quaint and packed full. Be pushy to put in your name (lots of people are waiting for takeout). Incredibly helpful, friendly staff.
Food:  Amazing handmade egg noodles. So many great dishes coming out of the kitchen including mine. Love that they went to the trouble of labeling the tap water. 
 
Chom Chom
I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow food blogger Michelle of Taste As You Go and she planned a lunch for us here – my first Korean food experience aside from BBQ. I ordered the Bibimbap with Bulgogi. 
Atmosphere: A quiet corporate lunch spot. Friendly staff. Much more relaxing than other spots I visited on the trip.
Vegetable sides that came along with soup and another fresh vegetable appetizer.

Food:  The bulgogi (marinated beef) had outstanding flavor. Loved the spicy vegetables served with it including kimchi. So much food (unexpected for the moderate price).
Bibimbap with Bulgogi
Halal Guys Street Cart
Okay, this one needs a little explanation. On Saturday evening I walked down to Times Square and on my way back I noticed one particular food cart with a line wrapped around the block. Intrigued, I checked out Yelp and learned about the Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th . Sunday night I went back and got in line myself. I ordered the combo (chicken and lamb) platter with rice. Oh, and it’s only $6!

Atmosphere: Well, it’s a food cart. Get there early, the line forms quickly (the website says they open at 7:00 pm, but I got there about 10 minutes early and they were serving). They have other locations, but the original feels more lively!

Lamb, chicken, rice, pita and lettuce served with white sauce and hot sauce on the side.
 Food: Flavorful gyro meat with pita – you can’t go wrong. The white sauce everyone describes as tzatziki tasted more like ranch dressing to me. Truth to the hot sauce being HOT, and I love spicy food.
Doughnut Plant
I had to try this place for the history and the unique flavors. I went to the location in the Chelsea Hotel, and I selected the seasonal yeast nut doughnut –  Orange Blossom Cashew.
Atmosphere: A little tight, but crowd is constantly moving. Staff was a bit disorganized, but eh, it’s a doughnut shop. Limited seating at this location.
There was a lot of construction outside. Fortunately I found this sign!
Food: Oh my goodness that was a good doughnut – slight orange flavor with the sweetness of cashews, light and airy. Highly recommended for an afternoon snack. Coffee was delicious as well.
Bouchon Bakery
Yes, it is packed with tourists, but if you live in a place where access to a real macaron is limited, you must go. I managed to squeeze in between the breakfast and lunch rush, about 11:00 am on a Sunday, and there was barely a line. I ordered the Pistachio Macaron.
Atmosphere: Peaceful when I was there. Shoulder to shoulder when I walked by at breakfast. Friendly staff.
 
Food:  The macaron was like eating a cloud. A sweet, slightly nutty cloud with a barely crisp lining. If you can describe a dessert as heavenly, this would be it.
Momofuku Milk Bar
I went to the Midtown location, and I can now tell from the website that my impressions had a lot to do with that specific location. For those big fans out there, you probably won’t like my opinion. I thought it was a bit overrated (I know. I know. It’s just me.) Maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe the cost. Overall, I felt like things were fairly priced at all the places I visited. The ice cream was good, but wow it was expensive for the little serving size. Not that I needed more, just comparing it to other treats with similar ingredient quality and draw that I had on this trip. I ordered the Kaffir Lime-Caramel ice cream.
Atmosphere: Dark. Small. Staff was, um, adequate, not overly friendly.
Food: The flavor of the ice cream was as unique as it sounds – I liked it. I do wish I could have tried the cereal milk ice cream too. Others bought cookies, maybe that is what I should have gone for.
Japadog
I had to check this place out after seeing it on No Reservations. I ordered the Terimayo Dog with grilled onions, teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed, and the Wasabi Fries. 
Atmosphere: Warm, lots of cooking going on. Friendly, helpful staff. Not a bad place to sit for a quick lunch.
Food: Loved the onions and the teriyaki on the hot dog. The bun was fresh and didn’t seem to be your standard packaged variety. A little too salty for me (both the dog and fries), but definitely worth trying.
TKettle
Unfortunately, no pictures from this one. I stepped in out of the rain and it was a little too hectic to get out the camera. But I will say this was the best bubble milk tea I have ever had. Seriously. I ordered the cold almond tea and it was the perfect balance of tea flavor and sweetness. I actually felt sad when my cup was empty!

I also had the pleasure of seeing this organization at work.

I’ve read about them and the wonderful things they do to feed the hungry numerous times . They were collecting day old bread and bagels from a shop when I walked by.

This trip had me wanting to return to NYC soon. I know I only scratched the surface with my food-finds. What are some of your favorite NYC eats? 
I searched lots of sources for this trip, but I have to give a shout out to The Real Bohemian and Near Afar for all the great food tips!

Kentucky Road Trip: Natural Bridge State Park and Red River Rockhouse

September 22, 2012
 
During the summer of 2012, my husband and I made it a point to visit a few places around central Kentucky that were new to us, or that we have put off year after year. One place I reviewed a few weeks ago, The Bluebird, is a wonderful restaurant serving local foods in the small town of Stanford, Kentucky.
Our next stop included food, but some activity too. Kentucky is pretty well-known in the world of rock climbing for Red River Gorge, an area located in south eastern Kentucky, only about 45 minutes from Lexington. Nearby is Natural Bridge State Park, surrounded by Daniel Boone National Forest. For those of us who aren’t rock climbers, this may be a better fit. 
Walk up to the Natural Bridge
 
The natural bridge is just that – a natural sandstone bridge that arches  65 ft above the ground. The area is beautiful, and a nice place to spend the day hiking especially in late summer or early autumn. 
View of the bridge

 

Walking across the Natural Bridge

View from on top of the Natural Bridge
After a day of activity, you’ll likely be hungry. Until recently, pickings were limited. You could eat the traditional Kentucky buffet at the resort park, or there is always Miguel’s, the pizza place very popular among rock climbers. 
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of a new place that opened up in the area. In fact, they are celebrating their one-year anniversary this weekend. I had promised to visit soon, so we knew what our lunch would be on this trip. 

The Red River Rockhouse is a cool little burger joint that has the charm of a quaint coffee shop. They source their meats from local farms, and they offer plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. And because they are located just across the county line, they also serve beer. 

 

 

 
Now, I have to be completely honest. If you are not a rock climber, you will be an outsider. That’s not to say that everyone isn’t incredibly friendly. They are. But you will likely get a few stares as you pull up to the parking lot. That is something I wasn’t expecting the first time I went to the other eating option in the area, Miguel’s. Rockhouse did seem to be a little more diverse with more locals as well as traveling climbers, but there is no doubt that I have – I’m not a climber – written all over me. But hey, when good food is involved, I step out of my comfort zone. 
We got there early so they needed to change the breakfast menu over to lunch, but we were still able to get a burger. A good burger too, with grass-fed beef from a Clark County farm. Unlike just about everyone I know, I don’t like thick burgers. I like thin, griddle style burgers that have crispy edges. It’s difficult to get a grass-fed burger like this, but if you like them too, then the Rockhouse is the place for you.
We left happy, full, and exhausted. (I think my exhaustion had a little bit to do with my 2 hour adrenaline rush due to my fear of snakes, but that is a story for another time. The burger got my mind off of it.) 
If you find yourself enjoying some of Kentucky’s gorgeous parks soon, be sure to seek out the Rockhouse. Oh, and a tip for finding it – just keep driving. The sign will jump out at you at the last minute, and you’ll have to turn around and go back. But that’s part of the fun in driving in rural Kentucky. Enjoy! 
Red River Rockhouse
4000 KY Route 11
Campton, KY 41301
http://redriverrockhouse.com/
Find them on Facebook

Kentucky Road Trip: The Bluebird in Stanford, KY

July 24, 2012

 

When we moved to rural Kentucky many of our friends thought we were crazy. Why would we move ourselves 40 minutes outside of the city; 40 minutes away from convenience and access?
 
Lexington is wonderful, but we’d spent our time there. And after moving back from Brazil, honestly, I had changed. I didn’t care so much about things like going to Target once a week, or having easy access to take out.
 
Fortunately, looking back there is no way I would change our decision. Of course, there is our garden, and the silence of the weekend morning, but more importantly we have explored a side of Kentucky that we never would have otherwise.
 
 And we have found some amazing things along the way.
 
 
 
Our most recent exploration? The Bluebird in Stanford, KY.
 
A small cafe serving gourmet food made with local ingredients such as pastured eggs and meats? A cozy, modern breakfast and lunch spot on a quaint small-town main street that uses the modern technology of an iPhone to take your order and an iPad to check out?
 
Yes, and yes.
 
 
 
I was blown away by the Bluebird. I don’t mean to say the food I have enjoyed in smaller towns isn’t tasty, but I wasn’t expecting such an outstanding experience from quality of the food, to creativity of the menu, to friendliness of the staff.
 
It’s less than an hour drive from where we live, and we set out for breakfast a few weekends ago after our Saturday morning run. I had checked out the menu online so I already knew what I was getting – the Breakfast Fries.
 
 
 
Brilliant, right? I mean, home fries are breakfast food, why not take the potato in the form of a French fry and cover it with all kinds of breakfast goodies. And they did just that with bacon, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, scallions, eggs and smoked Gouda sauce. It tasted every bit as good as it sounds. 
 
 
 
We split that, and my husband ordered a biscuit with gravy. It’s standard around here, although this version was anything but, with a light, fluffy homemade biscuit and savory sausage gravy. 
 
 
 
Thanks to the Bluebird I also discovered a new (to me) small batch, hand-roasted coffee in Kentucky – Baxter’s Coffee in Somerset, KY. You know I’m a bit of a coffee snob, and I am always surprised how delicious a locally roasted coffee can be. We enjoyed it so much my husband picked up a bag on his most recent visit. (Yes, he’s already been back!)
 
 
 
If you find yourself traveling through the Bluegrass state, put the small town of Stanford and the Bluebird on your agenda. It surpassed our former favorites even among the delicious foods in Lexington. My thanks to Chef Bill Hawkins for bringing wonderful locally sourced food to unexpected places.  
 
 

 

 
Bluebird
202 W. Main Street
Stanford, KY. 40484
Mon-Sat 7am-4pm
Facebook
 

Kentucky Maple Syrup

March 10, 2012

 My interest in maple syrup started in my high school anthropology class when we watched a lengthy, black and white, film documentary about maple syrup production in the northeast U.S. I’m not sure why I thought the production was reserved only to that area and Canada. We have plenty of maple trees around. 
Apparently people here have been thinking the same thing. Over the past few years, Kentucky maple syrup has been stocking shelves of local food markets right next to sorghum and honey.
This morning we headed out the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a historic attraction in nearby Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  What is a tourist attraction today was a site where the Shaker community once lived. Roads and buildings have been preserved and turned into education centers, shops, and museums. 
Animals are kept on site and represent specialty breeds owned by the Shakers. Milking Shorthorn Cattle are one example, and we were told this trip that with over 300 head, the Shakers once owned the largest herd in the US.
There is an inn on site as well as a restaurant, and that is the reason we made the visit this weekend. The special Maple Syrup Breakfast to be exact. We were able to dine on a breakfast buffet of pancakes, cornmeal cakes, bacon, sausage, and fried apples. Served alongside was maple syrup made on site. After breakfast, it was time to learn about the syrup making process.
Trees were tapped all along the paths within the village. According to our guide, sugar maples and black maples make the best syrup, and those were the trees we saw strapped with buckets. 
I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. This means that the sap is about 3-5% sugar. Weather plays a role in yield and in sugar content. Ideal temperature is 40 F degree days and 20 F degree nights, and we haven’t had many of those in Kentucky this winter. 

We were able to watch the process in the wood burning evaporator. The sap goes into the top metal box, and is drained through the spout.

Then it is boiled, and boiled, and boiled until liquid is evaporated and the sugar syrup remains. 
I still hope to see the process in person in the northeast someday, but for now I’m content with adding maple syrup to my list of local foods.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes using Kentucky maple syrup.

Wheat Berry Salad with Fresh Cranberries and Orange Maple Dressing

Banana Bourbon Scones with Walnuts

Bourbon Sweet Potato Waffles with Maple Cinnamon Butter

Butternut, Flax and Walnut Bread

Cranberry Pumpkin Granola

Sweet Potato Date Bars