I have some breaking news to share with you all. I’m moving to New York City! What does this mean for A La Main, you may ask?
Well, it means a lot of things, good and bad. Bad news first? Here goes.
I will now be nearly 3,000 miles away from my A La Main partner in crime who has become irreplacable in my LA family. I’ll also be 3,000 miles away from Los Angeles, the city I have grown to love after 6 years (and ironically, it probably took about 5 years to start liking it). LA has become my second home and the friends I have here have become my second family. I will miss seeing people wear Ugg boots and North Faces when the temperature drops below 70; I will miss the Brentwood farmers’ market and my long runs along San Vicente to the beach; I will miss being close to the happiest and most magical place on earth (UCLA, not Disneyland, duh); I will miss the long and crazy nights at the Wilshire/Shorebar/Buffalo Club; I will miss First Fridays in Venice; I will miss shopping on Third St with the girls after Zengo brunch; I will miss getting free churros at Churros Calientes from Jacob (just say you know me, NBD); I will miss the ocean view hiking Los Liones in Pacific Palisades; I will miss being labeled as a “West-sider”; I will miss driving through the canyon to a beautiful Malibu sunset…and I will NOT miss the traffic.
That’s a long list of things I’m leaving behind…but there must be good news too!
While it may seem hard (and crazy!) to leave all of this behind, living in NYC is something I’ve wanted to do since the first time my parents brought me there when I was about 10. So here I am, armed and ready to explore (arguably) the most amazing city in the world. Did I mention I will also be eating my way through the city? Well, I will be, which is where A La Main comes into play! We will now officially be a bi-coastal blog; how cool is that?! I am so excited to try new restaurants (and am most excited for French food, one thing the LA food scene lacks) and not only knock the classics off my Bucket List, but find new “hole-in-the-walls” to share with you. But don’t worry, I’ll still be cooking too…as long as I can manage in a tiny NYC kitchen!
While I’m sure my list will continue to grow, I have begun to compile a Bucketlist of restaurants I would like to try, separated into categories, just Manhattan for now. Let’s see if I hit them all! (Good thing there is an Equinox a block from my new apartment…)
Jane, Balthazar, Bagatelle, 230 Fifth, the Butterfly, Friend of a Farmer, Maison Premiere, Tea & Sympathy, Vinegar Factory, Prune, Paradou, Cafe Orlin, Jacob’s Pickles, Alice’s Tea Cup, Beauty & Essex
Fancy Dinners (I call this my “when parents come to visit” list)
Per Se, Bouley, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Momofoku Ko, ABC Kitchen, Gramercy Tavern (Dining Room), Jean-Georges, Le Bernardin, Sushi Nakazawa, Nobu, Boulud
Brasserie Les Halles, La Sirene, Buvette, Co., Forcella, Keste Pizza, Benoit, Beauty & Essex, L’Absinthe, Momofoku Ssam/Noodle Bar, Uncle Boon’s, Red Farm
Minetta Tavern, Shake Shack, The Little Owl, Ngam, The Brindle Room
Dominique Ansel, Levain Bakery, Momofoku Milk Bar, Maialino (Toffee Brioche), Epicerie Boulud, Sullivan St. Bakery, Laduree, Baked by Melissa, Ceci-Cela
Katz, Carnegie, Barney Greengrass, 2nd Avenue Deli
Zabars, Doughnut Plant, Ess-A-Bagel, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Dough, Eataly
At A La Main, we’ve hinted a few times in the past few weeks about Hailey’s impending New York adventure. In preparation for her departure, we’ve been trying to mark off everything on her LA checklist, including Friday movie nights, Saturday wine tastings and Sunday hikes. One of the last items on her checklist — brunch at The Tasting Kitchen.
The quintessential Venice restaurant, The Tasting Kitchen boasts of shareable plates, eclectic cups and plates, and humorous chalk art. As I’d never been, I let Hailey pick our brunch menu.
I really enjoyed that the brunch menu not only catered to traditional “brunchers” with classics like French toast or eggs and bacon, but also appealed to the adventurous palate with dishes like their breakfast burger or savory waffles. The menu also contains a good variety of sweet and savory dishes, perfect for the bruncher (ahem…me!) who can’t decide if they want to satisfy their sweet tooth or savory taste buds.
If you want a good variety of food, I would suggest ordering starting with the Sticky Bun and sharing one or two of the main dishes. I really enjoyed the remastered brunch items like the Short Rib Hash, served with a baked egg and gremolata, though I suspect you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
*If you don’t want to wait 40+ minutes for a table, call ahead and make a reservation.
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA 90291
What to Order:
Appetizer: The Sticky Bun
Main Dishes: Fried Clucks (chicken and waffles) and the Short Rib Hash.
About a month ago, Hailey and I were invited to a virtual potluck by the lovely ladies of The Pig & Quill and So…Let’s Hang Out. One thing that I love about food blogging–besides the food of course–is the foodie community that comes along with it. Since our blog’s inception approximately six months ago, the men and women of the food interweb have “virtually” embraced us with open arms, encouraging words and hours of recipe inspirations. So, of course we were excited to take part in the #soletspigout potluck … and, who doesn’t love a good ole’ fashioned potluck anyways?
Last weekend, I made my own almond milk. I grew up on homemade soymilk and thought, what the heck, I bet almond milk is not that hard to make either. It turns out I actually like the homemade milk better; it’s so much creamier and much better for the green smoothies I’ve been having for breakfast.
But, what to do with the leftovers? Though my mind tends to lean towards the sweet end of the spectrum, I wanted to try for something other than a baked good for once. Thus, I present Almond Pulp Hummus served with Rosemary-Raisin Almond Crackers.
P.S. Remember to check out the #SoLetsPigOut Potluck for some summertime menu inspiration and to check out the awesome giveaways!
Day 1: $225 Potluck Set from Mighty Nest
Day 2: Two (2) $50 Mini Shopping Sprees from iHerb.com
Day 3: Olive Oil Gift Set featuring Award-Winning Olive Oils from California Olive Ranch
Day 4: Sambazon Prize Pack (Smoothie Packs, Wooden Bowl, Recipe Book) AND California Almonds Gift Tote (Snack Almonds, Baking Almonds, Almond Flour + More!)
Almond Pulp Hummus (lightly adapted from My New Roots)
1 ¼ Cups of Dehydrated Almond Pulp (the nut meal leftover after making almond milk)*
1-2 Medium Garlic Cloves
4 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice
6-8 Tbsp. of Water
4 Tbsp. of Organic Tahini
1 Tsp. of Ground Cumin
¼ Tsp. of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to Taste
In a high-powered blender, mince garlic cloves. Add the lemon juice, tahini, cumin, cayenne pepper and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until creamy. Add the dehydrated almond pulp a few tablespoons at a time until everything is fully blended. Add the salt and pepper and the rest of the water one tablespoon at a time until the correct hummus consistency is reached.
*Note: I used dehydrated almond pulp because 1) there’s no way I can consume 7 cups of wet pulp before it would spoil, and 2) I want to use the pulp as a flour substitute for future recipes. You can easily dehydrate your almond pulp by spreading the wet pulp on a baking sheet and cooking it on your oven’s lowest temperature setting (mine goes down to 170 degrees) for 3+ hours. Store in an airtight container until you use it.
**Secondary Note: If you prefer making hummus with wet pulp, adjust how much water you add to the recipe. I’ve found that 2-3 tablespoons should suffice.
Rosemary-Raisin Almond Crackers (baking instructions from Against All Grain)
1 Cup of Dehydrated Almond Pulp
2 ½ Tbsp. of Olive Oil
6-8 Tbsp. of Water
2 ½ Tbsp of Raisins
2 Tbsp of Dry Rosemary
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blend all the dry ingredients together in a high-powered blender. Add one tablespoon at a time of the olive oil and water until fully mixed. The nut dough should be slightly damp to touch. If not, you may need to add more moisture to the dough.
Form the dough into a ball and in between to pieces of parchment, roll the dough till about 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the crackers.* Transfer the parchment onto a baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cracker dough start to brown. Remove from the oven, separate the crackers at the perforated lines, lower the oven’s temperature to 250 degrees and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
*Note: The cracker dough is pretty brittle at this stage, so cut with care.
As Hailey mentioned on Tuesday, we are currently in the midst of one of the most magical times of the year: DineLA! I get as excited for this two-week span of restaurant deals as a kid on Christmas morning. I love everything about it: the anticipation that builds as the restaurant menus are announced, the pre-fixed menus showcasing the best the particular restaurant has to offer and most importantly, the time spent communing and eating with friends. Usually, we try one–max two– restaurants each restaurant week. This year though, with Hailey leaving :(, we splurged and went all out. Needless to say, I can feel my wallet getting thinner as my waistline gets bigger. 😉
Last Friday, the girls and I made our way to Chinois on Main. A Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Chinois boasts of the perfect fusion of Chinese and French cuisine. After reading the reviews (because not only do I like to write about food, I obviously like to read about it too) and hearing Hailey speak about the exceptional service (last time she went, the Puck himself showed up and shook the hand of every restaurant patron) and amazing dishes, I was super pumped to sample the pre-fix menu.
My fellow food readers, sadly Chinois did not live up to my lofty expectations. While the ambience was quaint, the food was delicious and the portion sizes were beyond generous, the service was sub-par at best. Though the host sat us promptly at our table, the service seemed rushed. Once the waiter realized we were ordering from the DineLA menu, I feel like he filed us in the back of his mind, haphazardly taking our order, forgetting to offer us a drink menu let alone water and ignoring the needs of our table until we specifically requested something.
Hailey chalks the poor service up to the busy nature of Restaurant Week. I chalk it up to the fact that we ordered from the Restaurant Week menu. Despite the service or lack thereof aside, the food was divine. I could definitely overlook a stressed waiter for another helping of creme brûlée.
2709 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90405
What to Order:
Drinks: the Provincial Lemonade Cocktail or the Watermelon-infused Cocktail (Again, the drink service was nothing exceptional. The bartender made Hailey’s drink–the Raspberry-infused Cocktail–too strong. We are pretty sure he forgot to add the simple syrup, which probably attests to the rushed atmosphere in the restaurant).
Appetizers: Crab Louie or the Chinois Chicken Salad
Main: Seared Tuna or the Grilled Black Angus Flat Iron Steak
Desserts: Trio of Creme Brûlée with Caramel, Chocolate and Almond or the Warm Chocolate Fondant Cake
So it’s one of our favorite times of year here at A La Main….Dine LA! Dine LA happens twice a year and is the equivalent of Restaurant Week in NYC. It’s where all the participating top restaurants offer 3 course menus and slash their prices. Pure perfection. It’s a great time to try the restaurants you’ve been dying to try but just haven’t found the opportunity to splurge. The timing worked out great for me as I am in the process of saying goodbye to all of my dear friends here in LA (more to come on that later). It’s been a week of dinner upon dinner, and although I feel a little gross after all this eating, it’s been really nice spending time with different friends and making sure I get my LA bucket list covered before I make the cross-country move!
Now here is my only warning about Dine LA…it’s very much hit or miss. I’ve had incredible experiences in the past, and some not-so-great ones. In my opinion restaurants should absolutely keep the quality of food and service the same during Dine LA to give customers a taste of what they can do and lure people back for more. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some restaurants will offer lower quality menu items on their Dine LA prix-fixes, making you never want to come back (ahem Blue Plate Taco…). However, at the Bazaar this was not the case. I’ve eaten at the Bazaar several times before, and it’s one of my favorite restaurants in LA. I can say whole-heartedly that the Bazaar was up to the usual standard during our visit. In fact, the Dine LA menu options were all tapas offered on the regular menu, and the quantity was huge, especially for the price. It was $45 per person, where each person could order 4 tapas to share and a dessert. Delicious, as always, with impeccable service.
What I like about the Bazaar is the molecular gastronomical approach. Almost every dish is something what would be nearly impossible to make at home, so it’s well-worth the splurge. I love how creative the dishes are, and the new twist they put on traditional Spanish tapas. It’s also great going with several people because everything is small and shareable, so it’s a great way to try a variety of different things. The decor is also crazy with odd shaped chairs, crazy monkey portraits…it’s almost like a circus. If you live in LA or are ever visiting, this spot is certainly a MUST.
The SLS Hotel, 465 La Cienega Blvd Beverly Hills, CA 90048
What to Order:
Drink: Passion Fruit Martini, Magic Mojito, Dirty Martini
Tapas: Philly Cheesesteak, Croquetas de Pollo, Wild Mushroom Rice, Sautéed Shrimp, Not Your Everyday Caprese, Ottoman Carrot Fritters
Dessert: Pane con Chocolate (*I’ve only had dessert during Dine LA, so I can’t attest to other desserts on the menu)
The passion fruit martini is unbelievable. Your sip begins with the frothy top and finishes with the sweet and tangy passion fruit flavor that is out of this world. Also not pictured is the Magic Mojito, in which they literally pour the liquid over a heap of cotton candy that melts immediately into the drink. The drinks are expensive, but SO worth it because they are such a fun experience.
This is probably my favorite menu item. With a Dad from Philly, I’m quite familiar with the authentic South Philly cheesesteak. But man, these will blow the real deal out of the water. You bite into the air-filled bread and aged white cheddar explodes into your mouth. The thinly sliced waygu beef on top really finishes off the experience. Unbelievable. The “Hilly” cheesesteak on the right has mushrooms as well inside, instead of beef. Think of it as the vegetarian version.