Hip and Happening in the Foodie World

*This was supposed to have gone live last week. I am so sorry for the delay! I thought that I posted, but there it was in drafts. I am also sorry that I don’t have the hotel review for you yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to best share the information in the blog’s new format. See y’all next week for SURE!*

Hi all!

Here are the latest pieces I have written during my first week at the new gig – seaweed that tastes like bacon!? Whaaaa?

http://mashable.com/2015/07/16/twin-peaks-restaurant-london/ – a “Twin Peaks” themed pop-up  in merry olde London Town?! Yes, please!

http://mashable.com/2015/07/18/famous-tv-food/ – because you know that the first scene of every “The Big Bang Theory” episode has you reaching for your takeout menu drawer.

http://mashable.com/2015/07/15/seaweed-bacon/ – there is now a seaweed that tastes like BACON?! What’s next, mushrooms that taste like foie?!

Fritos and Foie Gras: The Evolution

Hi there, hungry internet friends.

Before I scare you (yeah, I flatter myself), let me assuage your fears – I am not going anywhere! Fritos and Foie Gras is here to STAY!

However, it, like so many living, breathing entities, must evolve in order to survive.

I’m ecstatic to announce that I have accepted a position at Mashable. I’m going to be working on all things food and really couldn’t be more thrilled. This is basically a dream job for me.

That means, of course, that lots of my food-oriented work will have to be focused there instead of here.

Here you are going to find a lot more hotel and travel reviews, NYC-centric events, and – of course – all of the links to my work on Mashable.

After a one week hiatus, you can count on 2-3 days of posting from me – definitely Monday and Friday.

This is an exciting step for my career and I have to thank all of you for helping me get here. When I started this blog 5 years and 5 days ago (exactly!), I only had a vague idea of what I wanted it to embody. I just knew that I loved everything about food and that I wanted to share that with like-minded people. I didn’t know how to get the word out. I didn’t know how I would ever find you or how you would find me. But the love of cheese, foreign potato chips, and heirloom tomatoes is strong, man. People found this blog and became more than mere page views or commenters – they became a meaningful component of my life. Some became dear personal friends. Some became professional colleagues. Some traveled with coast to coast with me and some have corresponded with me for ages to debate the merits of East Coast vs. West Coast egg rolls. Many  accompanied me to epic dining experiences and a few even danced at my wedding and allowed me to dance at theirs. You have been my inspiration, my cheerleaders, and oftentimes my proofreaders. You have read my opinions and brought my family’s favorite recipes into your homes. You have a huge part of my  heart – you ARE a huge part of my heart.  You have, quite simply, defined my purpose: I want to connect people through that fundamental need that we all have to share, to connect, and to break bread.

See you on Monday, 7/20 with a new hotel review.

And thank you so much for this chapter of Fritos and Foie Gras…here’s to the next one!

The Back Room at One57 – Foie Gras for Breakfast?!

The title just says it all, doesn’t it?

I’ll quickly set the scene so I can get you to the good stuff without too much delay.

20150510_092116 The Back Room at One57 is the NYC Park Hyatt’s flagship restaurant. It’s modern and elegant with a cool, open exterior that feels upscale but not cold.  20150510_092123 Details like these sweet flowers and a huge display of fruit in the middle of the room keep the space from being too antiseptic. There are a fair amount of hotel guests eating here but I think that it will be popular with NYC dwellers too.

20150510_094117 Shakshuka with baked egg, merguez, and ciabatta

Excellent. Well spiced and fragrant with harissa and cinnamon-scented merguez. The eggs are ideally baked so the yolks are still runny and the only thing that you need is some more ciabatta to soak up that delicious sauce.

20150510_094137 Fruit plate

Not your standard melon and green strawberries. Sweet lychee, plump and taut blackberries, beautifully supremed grapefruit – this is worth ordering. Especially because you need something to lighten up your main dish.
20150510_094124 Seared foie gras with poached egg, creamy mushrooms, and black truffle butter
20150510_094322 Take that in for a minute. That’s fat atop umami atop buttery atop creamy. That’s thickly seared and salted foie melting into buttery egg yolk and some of the best mushrooms I have recently enjoyed. The truffle is subtle – it doesn’t overwhelm the foie, it accentuates it. If it isn’t for the tangle of vinegary greens, you might just have a heart attack then and there.  20150510_094653 What a way to go.

The Back Room at One57 is officially the most decadent breakfast spot in the city. It’s pricey but the service is great, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is impressive. Sure, you need a Lipitor and a nap at 9 am if you dine here, but it’s SO worth it. 

Sessanta – Fabulous Tongue Sliders with a few Service Issues

July 4th is a fantastic day to stay in the city. Everyone else has vacated to the Hamptons, the weather isn’t usually too humid, and – best of all – the restaurants you want to visit have plenty of reservations available.

For our holiday weekend, we chose Sessanta.

20150704_183918 This 1970s throwback restaurant from Mercer Street Hospitality has been getting a ton of buzz for its Sicilian style menu and though it can be hard to get a reservation most nights, it was wide open on July 4.  20150704_184257 Sardinia 75 with kirsch, lemon, kiwi, and prosecco

That’s my cocktail in the foreground, made by an excellent and friendly mixologist. It’s sweet and tart with a little fizz. An ideal aperitif. My husband got that Seraphim with bourbon and smoked cinnamon in the background. Also excellent – the cocktails and the bar itself are highly recommended.

20150704_194506 Foccacia

The bread service is unique and well portioned. No overflowing bread basket here. Just one small, dense, buttery square of foccacia per person. It’s topped with a bright, tangy tomato sauce. Not revelatory, but quite tasty.

20150704_194854 Tongue slider with lemon oil

Standout of the night – major winner. This is like the cheesesteak of your dreams, minus the cheese. The tongue actually melts in your mouth with a gentle beefy flavor that is bolstered by a touch of bright lemon oil. There are some thinly diced onions – not at all too strong – and a buttery, pliant brioche bun. Trust me – this is the sandwich that will bring you back to the restaurant.  20150704_202244 Veal Marsala with mushrooms and capers

A juicy, fruity take on veal Marsala. The wine sauce is tangier than most and to great effect – the veal is tender and the mushrooms are juicy. This is a great dish for someone who likes piquant flavors or a mushroom lover – those shrooms are the standout. 20150704_202258 Big eye tuna ragu with chiles

I love this spicy, briny pasta – what a winner! Make no mistake, it’s on the fishy side of things – you have to love seafood to enjoy this. However, if you are a major seafood lover, this is pasta for the ages. The pasta itself is al dented and thick – it absorbs the rich tomatoey sauce, laden with spicy chiles and hunks of soft, tender tuna. It’s fantastic and highly recommended.

However, I don’t know how fast I will be running back here. It’s inconvenient to where I live, a little pricey, and the service was really poor. I am talking argumentative servers, wrong dishes right and left, and almost an hour in between appetizers and entrees. Plus forgotten dishes that were then put on the bill for us to take care of. To his credit, the general manager handled everything splendidly when we let him know about our dissatisfying meal. I don’t hold it against the restaurant because of his swift and appropriate action, but I’m not aching to run back either.

Let me know what you think if you head there – just don’t miss those cocktails or fabulous tongue sliders.

What I’m Cooking Lately

I have been doing quite a bit of cooking lately, but haven’t posted the recipes because, well…I’ve already posted them! Here’s what’s on my roster in the coming weeks:

Corn and tomato bread salad

This is the perfect picnic salad. You can make it ahead of time, it feeds a huge crowd, it’s inexpensive, and it’s SO DELICIOUS. Sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, and toasted bread soaking up all of that tangy vinaigrette. It’s sort of amazing and entirely summer. 

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Easy slow cooker pulled pork

Until I can grill chicken on my NYC terrace (haha…right), this pulled pork will have to do. Luckily, it’s really easy to make and incredibly delicious. Juicy, savory, sweet, and perfect piled atop potato rolls. 

Lazy poached salmon

Salmon this time of year (Copper River or Sockeye) is too good to cover up with a heavily flavored sauce or spice rub. Simply poach it in this simple white wine broth until the outside is opaque and the interior is velvety and pink. Serve it with tartar sauce and boiled potatoes for the perfect brunch dish. 

Gazpacho

I’ve already made this several times and man, it never disappoints. Spicy, refreshing, and so light that you actually feel virtuous eating it. I even made it once without the lengthy freezing process and it was almost as good as the long way of doing things. 

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No recipe crumble

The stone fruit is amazing right now, as are the blackberries and raspberries. Go crazy and leave the measurements at home. If you’re really scandalous, add some white chocolate chips to the crumble. Your thighs may not thank me, but your tastebuds will. 

The Best Chocolate Croissant of My Life and Other Eats

This was a damned good eating weekend.

Excessive? I don’t know if I would go THAT far…after all, celebrating America’s independence is about eating and doing what you want when you want.
20150702_130108 Maman

This casual French bakery/cafe was recommended by the delightful Katie Quinn and it lives up to expectations. Small but with a comfortable dining section in the back, this is perfect for a light lunch and a fluffy, moist chocolate chip macadamia cookie. The salads are filling but light – the zucchini noodles with pesto, the summer squash salad with feta, and the farro salad are all winners. And – I repeat – don’t miss that cookie. ‘ 20150703_204218 Magnolia cupcakes

Not that they are so great, but if you don’t lifehack cupcakes, you are sooooo missing out. Finally you can enjoy the perfect amount of frosting with every bite of cake. It’s a little messier, but isn’t everything in life that’s great a little messier? 20150705_094313 Maison Kayser

Simply put, the best chocolate croissant of my life. Sorry, Paris. This plie au chocolat (flat croissant with custard and chocolate) is dynamite. The genius is several layers deep. Firstly, the croissant dough is wonderfully crisp and airy, with no heavy doughiness – this offsets the rich filling. Secondly, the filling is complex – rich but not goopy custard baked until it’s pretty firm is interspersed with deeply chocolaty chips. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the filling goes all of the way through. None of that “tiny stick of chocolate in the middle of a huge croissant pillow” that most pain au chocolat offers. This is dispersed evenly from bow to stern and it’s a sugary, fantastic treat. Great for breakfast, for dessert, or for a snack any day of the week.

Hitting the Road for July 4!

The title says it all!

See ya Monday morning for some delicious eats!

The Best Room Service Foods

I love room service. One of my earliest foodie memories is my dad teaching me that if you stay in the Disneyland Hotel once a year, you can pick up the phone and 20 minutes later, fresh Mickey Mouse pancakes will come to your door. You can eat them in your bathrobe with warm maple syrup and watch cartoons on the tv while you think about the awesome vacation day ahead of you.

Obviously, I was hooked.

However, not all food does well in room service. Soups universally arrive cold and gloopy. Cold cut sandwiches are usually flaccid and unpleasant. And for PETE’S SAKE, room service pizza should be served only to prisoners on death row.

If you wanna order room service like a champ no matter if you are at the Holiday Inn or the Ritz, here’s what you order:

Club sandwich

The room service gold standard. These toasted, multilayered sandwiches are made for hotel room service. They are great when made with plain ole turkey and iceberg lettuce. They are sublime when served with house roasted turkey and homemade garlic aioli. They are great with french fries, potato chips, or any other number of side dishes. Great warm or cold Perfect for a hangover breakfast or a midnight snack. Club sandwiches are always divine, but hey are the best when order them in your hotel bathrobe.

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Caesar salad

My favorite salad of all time, and it’s ideal to order for room service. It is ready relatively quickly, is light enough to eat before going to sleep, and has a similar flavor profile worldwide – you know what you’re getting. You can often supplement it with salmon or chicken for an extra hit of protein, and if you need a side dish that isn’t fried, this is always the way to go.

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Burger and fries

Old faithful. Gotta love it. The burger is always better at a fancier hotel but I have had some damned good room service burgers at lower end establishments. There’s just nothing like meat, bread, and a pile of fried potatoes. Sure it’s better when the beef is locally sourced, the bread is brioche, and the fries are covered with Parmesan and truffle oil, but I’m not picky when it’s late and I’m jet lagged – are you? I always order extra condiments because I love tiny jars of mayonnaise and ketchup. If you don’t, I’m not sure that we should be friends.

Ice cream

Cake can be dry. Cookies can be as hard as hockey pucks. Ya know what always delivers? Ice cream. As long as it arrives in a semi-frozen state, I’m good. Whipped cream? Sure! Nuts? Love ‘em! But I’m happy with a dish of plain chocolate ice cream if I need something sweet and you will be too. If your work is footing the bill, take a Snickers from the minibar and break it up over the ice cream for a mini sundae. You’re welcome.

Pasta (if it’s a great hotel)

Yes, this one has a caveat. I have had some truly wretched room service spaghetti – cold, gummy, weirdly sauced with bits of red peppers and worse.

However.

The best bowl of pasta I have ever had in my life was in my room in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. It arrived al dente, piping hot, and tossed in the most beautifully bright, complex, garlicky, savory tomato sauce. Served with aged Parmigiano Reggiano and warm foccacia. And I have had a few incredible bowls of spaghetti Bolognese since then at similarly high-end hotels. If you’re splashing out in a great hotel, hit up the pasta section of the menu and you are unlikely to be disappointed.

Guest Post: Panda Express Innovation Kitchen and Tea Bar

You’re all in for a massive treat today. My friend Justin, who used to write one of my favorite food blogs of all time, has shared a recent experience of his for my blog. All I can say is…come back to the interwebs, Justin. We need more good photos. We need more burger mashups. And I can say with confidence that we ALL need more orange chicken burritos: 
For a few years after my parents were first married but before I came along, they would go to parties in the Pasadena area where Chinese food was served. A young man named Andrew would show up with all the ingredients and get to work in the kitchen cooking up dinner. He had just opened up a restaurant on Foothill Blvd called Panda Inn.When my mom tells the stories, she makes it sound like she was in the kitchen helping Andrew out, maybe suggesting recipes or showing him egg roll-making tips. My dad’s memory of the parties is far more boring but much more realistic: “I don’t think Andrew even knew my name.”In 1983, Andrew came up with the idea to sell his food in quick-serve format in the Glendale Galleria. He called it Panda Express. Today, Panda Express has 1700 restaurants all over the country, in malls, airports, baseball stadiums and shopping centers.

Also today, Andrew is estimated by Forbes to be worth more than three billion dollars. That’s billion with a B. Needless to say, Andrew no longer shows up and cooks at the kind of parties my parents attend.

In an obvious play to establish a new Panda model comparable to the massive success of Chipotle, a new restaurant opened a few months ago called Panda Express Innovation Kitchen and Tea Bar. In an homage to the first Panda Inn, it’s just a few blocks down the street on Foothill. It also happens to be just four blocks from the house in which I grew up.

But I didn’t plan to visit, because here’s the thing: I am not a fan of Panda Express. I just don’t think it’s that good. Sure, it tastes okay… but so do most things if you put the amount of sugar and salt on them that Panda uses. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least six independent Chinese restaurants in Pasadena that I think are much better.

But there is one occasion for which Panda Express always hits the spot with me: A hangover. I was back in Pasadena for the Summer Solstice, visiting with some old friends, and I drank way too much. The next day I awoke with my worst hangover in years. I headed to Panda.

You can choose to get your food in a salad, in a bowl, or in a wrap (basically a scallion tortilla). I opted for the wrap. Just like at every other Panda, you select whatever you want. Except with a lot more options.
First up, I asked for lettuce, carrots and scallions.
Then orange chicken.
And Beijing beef.
And slaw, pickled cucumbers, and crispy shallots.
So how was it?
Well, it’s Panda Express. Almost every medium-size city has at least a couple Chinese joints better than Panda, but something about the orange chicken is oddly comforting. Maybe it’s a throwback to those days when my high school used to bring it in for lunch, or maybe it’s just the fact that the sugar and salt always seems to alleviate my hangover, however briefly.
I do have to say that the egg rolls with the spicy sambal sauce is a winning combination. All Panda Express locations across the country would do well to start serving this.
But as for the name “Innovation Kitchen”? I guess if throwing their ingredients into a salad or a tortilla is innovative, the name kinda makes sense. But overall it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be.
There is, however, one thing about the place that I DO think is pretty cool:
In the back of the house is a tea and dessert bar, with some comfortable, oversized chairs and flatscreen TVs showing sports. I had an iced black tea that was delicious and a strawberry mochi that was awful.
Like I wrote earlier, I don’t really expect this format of Panda Express to take off. I could see them trying it out in a few other locations around the country, but I don’t think Chipotle needs to start worrying about losing market share.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back… well, until my next wicked hangover. So probably this coming weekend.

Summer Lovin – These Treats Will Do Nothing For Your Bikini Body

But they sure do taste great!

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Barcibo Enoteca

This is such a gem, hidden in plain sight. It’s right on Broadway with a tiny but comfortable summer patio and serves delicious Italian small plates with a great selection of wines by the glass. It’s a little more expensive than it should be, but happy hour includes all glasses of wine and beer and the food isn’t good, it’s great (not the stodgy veal meatball, but everything else). The burrata crostini is especially memorable. The cheese isn’t so wet that it soaks the bread, but retains enough creaminess to put your heart into shock. It’s layered with garlicky pesto and a single juicy, perfectly roasted tomato. A fantastic accompaniment for a glass of semi-dry prosecco.

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Dough Loco

After my girl Sarah told me how amazing this place was, I had to check it out. Hot damn, she was right – this place is on point! Though the prize for best yeast doughnut still belongs to Doughnut Plant, these donuts are legit, especially the incredibly tender crumbed, light cake doughnuts. The best ones are the ones where light and bright countered heavy and fried. The Creamsicle and blood orange doughnuts are especially memorable with thick, sugary, citrus-shocked glaze.

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The City Bakery

A damned good chocolate chip cookie. Thin but still chewy and gooey on the inside – warm when I ate it. The cookie’s genius lays in its size – it’s large enough to be a small breakfast but small enough to be a large dessert. Love it.