Friday, March 24, 2017

Brunch at Firefly's Romantic Patio (Studio City, Los Angeles, CA)

by Bryan Tsunoda (discovering-la.com)

Firefly has consistently been on the list of Top Romantic Restaurants in LA. I guess I haven’t romanced my wife enough lately because we haven’t been there. I recently attended a media tasting to sample their Sunday brunch offerings.

Customers enter into what appears to be a library lounge setting with couches and a classic bar from the past. Walking past the bar, you enter the bright patio which appears to be outdoors, but is protected from the elements by a translucent covering. 
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Along the wall are Moroccan-style cabanas that can close for privacy.
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Food Network and Cutthroat Kitchen star, chef Perry Pollaci, took over the kitchen last November. He’s a C.I.A. alum and has used his talents in New York City, Paris and Madrid restaurants. More recently he’s worked at Church and State and Kendall’s Brasserie, and has transformed The Royce into a cutting edge wood-fired steakhouse. He also volunteers his time at Slideluck LA which is dedicated to building and strengthening community through food and art. 

If you are the type that enjoys a continental breakfast, you’ll appreciate the variety of fresh baked pastries. Despite how good everything looked, I only tried a couple of them. The raspberry tart was fruit filled, flakey and quite tasty. A few of us were impressed by the sticky bun because it had a crisp exterior and wasn’t overly sweet.
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I sampled both the lobster and veggie scrambles. The eggs had a nice buttery taste and were extremely light and fluffy. 
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Naturally I veered towards the lobster scramble because they were made with truffle butter, tarragon, and topped with caviar. I would definitely order that again.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Get a Taste of Iceland in Boston

For the past couple of years, Iceland Naturally has brought Icelandic culture to Boston with Taste of Iceland. This year, Taste of Iceland is coming back to Boston from March 16-20. The five-day festival brings Nordic cuisine, music, art, film, and literature.

The main draw for me, of course, is the food and drinks. This year, they are bringing in Chef Sigurdur Helgason (a.k.a. Siggi Helga) of  Grillið restaurant to create a four-course Icelandic menu at The Merchant (not to be confused with the MIT mathematician Sigurdur Helgason - not that most of you would). Grillið is located in the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel. This hotel is actually owned by the Icelandic Farmers Association and is also known as Farmers Palace. As you can imagine, the farm-to-table vision is very much alive and well at a place like this.

Siggi also represented Iceland in Bocuse d'Or in 2015. Here, he brought many of the Icelandic ingredients for the 4-day stint in Boston. The first course is a "taste of Icelandic nature", composed of three different bites.

The first: Langoustine with black garlic-herb garden
Taste of Iceland
I look forward to a bite of langoustine each year for the Taste of Iceland event. If you've never had Icelandic langoustine, what are you waiting for?

Second: Forest mushroom in volcanic croquettes
Taste of Iceland
These bites are not only inspired by the flavors in Iceland, but also the landscapes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Boston Cocktail Lovers, Don't Miss Thirst Boston (April 28-30, 2017)

Cocktail enthusiast, bartender, or just like to drink? Whichever one you are, if you enjoy cocktails, then take a look at Thirst Boston, Boston's cocktail festival that is coming on April 28-30! There will be tasting and hands-on seminars, parties, and after-parties that you'd be wise to prepare your liver for. You can now view the schedule and map out your weekend.

First, the parties. There will be two night-time parties filled with cocktails. Saturday night is State Lines. This Thirst Boston tradition brings distillers, brewers, and winemakers from around New England along with bartenders from across the region. There will also be carnival games. Drunken carnie games!
Thirst Boston

Sunday night will be another Thirst Boston tradition, the Blender Bender. Teams of bartenders will be competing to make the best - you guessed it - blended drinks to win a fancy new Vitamix blender.
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This year's twist is that it will be a Gender Bender Blender Bender, so the teams of bartenders will cross-dressing.
Thirst Boston

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Street Art and Brews in Miami's Wynwood Art District

Just a few years ago, Miami's Wynwood was a warehouse district that no one ventures out to. Now, it is one of the hottest destinations in Miami filled with street art and some of the city's best breweries and restaurants.
Wynwood
Conceived by community revitalizer, the late Tony Goldman, in 2009, the idea is to bring great street art onto the walls of Wynwood's windowless warehouse buildings, and then develop the surrounding area. Today, Wynwood Walls is a colorful place that pedestrians, both locals and tourists, all enjoy.
Wynwood
I heard about Wynwood from the bartender at The Abbey (the only brewpub in Miami Beach), who told me Wynwood has a good concentration of Miami's craft breweries. If you are a beer lover, skip the beach and head to Wynwood.
I hopped on an Uber there, but stopping off first to get a different kind of brew at Panther Coffee, one of the best-known coffee shops in the city (and probably the best, as well).
Wynwood
Panther roasts their own coffee on site in small batches. Panther has two blends for the espresso, East Coast and West Coast espresso. I opted for the East Coast espresso since the tasting notes were "very creamy, round chocolate .. notes of sweet black cherry". Those all sounded good to me and resulted in a delicious cappuccino.
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From there, I walked to J. Wakefield Brewing. I fell in love with it as soon as I got to the parking lot. Darth Vader wall!
Wynwood

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

by CHLOE Brings Vegan Comforts to Boston Seaport

by CHLOE, a New York-based casual vegan restaurant, finally opened a location in Boston. The first Boston location is in the Seaport district while a second store in Fenway is on the way. I attended their opening preview, sampling a lot of vegan dishes and desserts. I am surprised to say, I really enjoyed these vegan dishes! And you should all know I'm a carnivore by now.

They have pastas and salads, of course, but also other classic comfort food items that somehow tasted really good even as a vegan version.
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For example, the "mac n cheese". The "cheese" is a sweet potato cashew vegan cheese, and the mac n cheese was topped with crispy shiitake "bacon"
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The Guac Burger is quite popular, and I can see. It's made with a black bean-quinoa-sweet potato patty and topped with corn salsa, guacamole, onion, tortilla strips, chipotle aioli on a whole grain bun. It was very flavorful!
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by CHLOE location in Seaport also has Boston-only specials, like the "lobster roll".

Monday, February 27, 2017

LA Times Food Bowl: A Month-long Festival Around Sustainability, Food Waste, and Hunger

May is going to be a good month for Los Angeles food lovers. The LA Times is launching a month-long food festival in Los Angeles, dubbed the LA Times Food Bowl. The event is inviting restaurants, bars, and other venues all over the city to participate. The festival anticipates to have hundreds of events throughout the city, showcasing LA's culinary diversity while promoting awareness about food waste and hunger.

photo credit: Jennifer Johnson
Some special events have been lined up, featuring international guest chefs Massimo Bottura from Italy, Fergus Hendersom from UK, Magnus Nilsson from Sweden, and Rosio Sanchez from Denmark.
The central event of the Food Bowl will be the Night Market, which will be held on five consecutive nights in Grand Park on May 10-14. The Night Market will feature 50 food booths and themed bars.

Restaurants, bars, hotels, etc are invited to hold a special event at their venue and can register their event for the month-long FOOD BOWL by March 1 via this link.
They can also submit an application to participate at the Night Market via this link.

For the rest of us who are not in the industry, stay tuned for the full event lineup and details on the Night Market!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (West Hollywood, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda of Discovering LA

The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker takes it name from the famous nursery rhyme (the Butcher, The Baker, and the Candlestick Maker in the nursery rhyme Rub-a-dub-dub). They cleverly substitute candlestick maker with cappuccino maker and it works quite well for their concept. They opened a few weeks ago and I recently paid them a visit.
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BBCM is located in the iconic Sunset West Plaza. This is a popular destination visited by the locals due to the chic shops and outdoor cafes. People in the know take advantage of the free parking available behind each business.

The intent behind The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker is one of community. Breakfast was central to their strategy and so they created a bakery as the foundation. Not wanting to be breakfast-only, they designed their menu to incorporate their seasonal farm to table cuisine for lunch and dinner.

The appearance is one of a classy European cafe. 
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The use of marble is extensive; the counter top for the bar is a large block of marble and even the plates are made of marble. The outside is landscaped with beautiful 100 year-old olive trees and there are quite a few tables available for al fresco dining.

The kitchen is led by the duo of Executive Chefs Ren Nisenbaum (formerly of Jaleo, Washington, D.C. and Morimoto and Jean Georges in NYC) and Craig Hopson (formerly of Le Cirque, Picholine and Beautique in NYC) and features seasonal local farm-fresh ingredients.

Consistent with their European bakery foundation, they use the French galette for some of their dishes. I tried two of their galetes: the Beef Short Rib with cherries, arugula and boursin was tasty. The use of cherries blended extremely well with the beef short ribs.  IMG_2855
I especially enjoyed the Galette of Bacalhau. The flavors of mushrooms, jalapeños and a sunny side up egg worked extremely well with the salted dried cod.
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Other highlights from my visit:
Chestnut Pappardelle - The rich taste of duck and mushrooms permeated the pasta noodles and transformed the pasta to a nice savory taste.
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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Easy Car Rental and Road Trip to Napa with Drive Maven

During my recent trip to San Francisco, I got the opportunity to try out Drive Maven, a car-sharing service similar to Zipcar. Maven is General Motors' service, and you can rent GM cars by the hour or day from various locations around the country. For cities where parking is notoriously difficult and expensive like San Francisco, services like Maven is really useful when you need a car just for a day trip.
Drive Maven in Napa
Unlike Zipcar, there's no annual membership fee associated with Maven. Just like Zipcar, gas and insurance are included in the hourly/daily rates. In SF, the cars are parked in various garages throughout the city. To book the car, you can search the map for that city and select the most convenient garage for you.

I picked a garage on Taylor St, and they had new red Chevy Volt! I've been curious about this plug-in hybrid, so I booked it.
Drive Maven in Napa
Drive Maven in Napa

The Volt was $8 per hour - again it includes gas and insurance. Did I mention this VOLT was wifi-equipped? A lot of their cars are loaded with the latest tech, including Apple CarPlay and free unlimited 4G LTE WiFi. You bet I was instagramming using the car's wifi!

Everything is done with the Maven app. When you go to pick up your car, you can just unlock the car with your app using bluetooth. The car will detect that your phone is inside and you can start the car without a key (only when your phone is inside the car). Everything was seamless and easy (minus the tight spaces in SF's parking garages, but what can you do about that?). After that, I was off to Napa!

It was around lunchtime by the time we got to Napa Valley, so we stopped at Oxbow Public Market for lunch. The Public Market has a variety of food offerings, including Hog Island Oyster and Ritual Coffee.
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