As I mentioned last week, I recently went on my dream trip to Ireland. I’ve been planning this trip since I was a teenager and let me tell you, it was everything I thought it would be and more. On one of the last full days in Dublin, my mom and I decided to visit the main “must-sees” — Kilmainham Gaol for a short history lesson on the 1916 Easter Rising, the National Museum of Ireland to peek at the bog people, Temple Bar to see this popular nightlife spot and this boxty house.
Boxty is a traditional Irish pancake made mostly of grated and mashed potatoes. It can be cooked in various ways (boiled, on a griddle, fried, etc.) and can be served plain or with a mixture of toppings and stuffings. Basically, boxty is one versatile, fluffy pancake.
Since we only wanted a quick bite to eat so we could continue exploring Dublin, my mom and I decided to order light and share. The portions are more than enough to keep one person full, so sharing two dishes and a bottle of Guinness was super satisfying. And, with dishes between 15-20 euros, I’d consider this a reasonably priced find for Dublin. Note that if you are looking for a breakfast boxty, plan on eating late. Like most other restaurants (and sights) in Ireland, things open late and close even later.
The other weekend, Marta and I decided to try out a new restaurant: Gracias Madre. A few months ago, one of our Lyft drivers recommended it to us, saying that it was some of the best vegan options she’s tried in Los Angeles. And though we are both omnivores (I cannot say no to a steak or Korean BBQ and Marta’s protein of choice is fried chicken), we decided to check the place out.
Gracias Madre is a super busy restaurant located in the heart of West Hollywood, so making a reservation in advance is recommended. Headed by Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert, this restaurant boasts of various Mexican food favorites — all of which are organic, locally grown and farm fresh. And, if fresh ingredients was not reason enough to check this place out, you should definitely come here only to be wowed by the quality of their cheese and dairy substitutions. Really, the totopos con chile with the cashew crema (the vegan version of is queso fresco) is to die for. In fact, I’m pretty sure Marta and I stopped talking for a few minutes to enjoy our appetizer in silence.
And while I thoroughly enjoyed my entree (I ordered one of my childhood favorites: the flautas de camote), I’m going to skip right over to the dessert, which was so darn good! Marta and I ordered the fudge brownie, topped with coconut bacon and an orange cashew whipped cream. How they manage to make the whip so creamy without any dairy still amazes me –a definite must-try.
I really recommend that if you ever have the chance, you must try out this restaurant. Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, Gracias Madre has something on the menu that caters to everyone — even if you just go for appetizers and drinks.
8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to Order: The totopos con chile makes a great appetizer/something to munch on while you sip your cocktails. The tamale and flautas were tasty, but the fudge brownie topped with the orange cashew whip takes the cake (…or in this case, the brownie??)
Oh, alamain readers, I’ve been neglecting you. Just like the boy who promises to call after a date but never does, I teased you with promises of tantalizing stories of the New York food scene but never delivered. I wish I could throw excuses your way such as, “I was testing out new recipes” or “I left my tastebuds in New York City,” but in reality, I’ve just been so darn busy. You don’t have to wait much longer as I am so excited to tell you about our dining experience at Momofuku Ssam Bar. But first…. let me give you the quick “elevator update” of my last few weeks:
- My cousins moved back to the United States after 5+ years living in Korea. Not only did I get to reconnect with my cousin Brandon (the last time I saw him, he was 4), I met my youngest cousin Ryan (2) for the first time.
- Thanks to Hailey’s suggestion, I applied to a Saturday program through UCLA that helps underprivileged high school students with their college applications. It feels nice to be able to give back, though I’ll admit I’m nervous that I’m not certified to give advice… certifiable? Well, that’s another story. 😉
- And, last but not least, Alamain was most recently featured on Buzzfeed for the first time for our Bi Bim Bap post from a while back. Check us out at #16.
With mini-updates out of the way, let’s discuss food. I’ve been eager to try one of the Momofuku restaurants ever since one of my coworkers made the Momofuku Milk Bar Cake for another coworker’s birthday. I was so impressed by layer after layer of crumb and cake that I spent 6+ hours trying to recreate it for Hailey’s birthday a couple years back. It’s still one of the baked goods I’m most proud of to-date. If a cake could look and taste so good, I knew that the brick and mortar restaurants would not disappoint.
Ssam roughly translates to “wrapped” in Korean and refers to the Korean lettuce wrap usually filled with rice, some meat and spices. Despite the name, the restaurant didn’t stick only to Korean traditional dishes and ventured into some interesting Asian-fusion food combinations. If you have a chance to try Ssam Bar, I highly recommend it. Just come early, or expect to wait for over an hour to grab a seat at one of their many communal tables.
207 2nd avenue, New York, NY 10003
What to Order:
Chilled summer beans, spicy pork sausage and rice cakes, bread and butter. steam buns (pork belly!), tempura soft-shell crab and the garlic roasted quail.
Go across the street to Milk Bar and sample the Cereal Milk or Crack Pie soft serve.
The first time I ate at Nobu Malibu was on a family vacation to LA when I was about 14 years old. It was at the old location, in the Cross Creek Shopping Center, a very unassuming, almost shabby looking locale from the outside. But man, I fell in love. The food is, and always has been, impeccable, and even after now living in LA for 6 years, Nobu Malibu remains my favorite LA restaurant.
Now, you may be thinking wow, out of all the unique eateries in LA you would choose Nobu, a restaurant you can find in many other cities throughout the world such as NYC, Tokyo, London and Las Vegas? Well, I am here to argue that Nobu Malibu is quite distinct, and well-worth the trip even if you are visiting from another city that touts a Nobu. Not only are there dishes that are specialties for just Malibu, but the new location, as of a few years ago, is absolutely unbeatable. Nobu moved across the street to one of the finest prime pieces of coastal land in Malibu, and you eat right above the waves. I will also argue that it is by far the best people watching (and celebrity siting) in LA…it is quite an over-the-top Hollywood scene, but it’s fun to watch.
I most recently took my brother here when he was visiting from Minneapolis, as a late birthday present. He’s a big eater like me, and he was in heaven (actually, giddy with joy is a more appropraite term, I take it the Midwest doesn’t have great Asian food). I learned something very interesting on this visit. While I tried to explain a dish to the waiter that I had had 2 weeks before with my parents but didn’t see on the menu, the waiter explained that every dish that has ever been a special is still available, off-menu! This was a total game-changer to learn that nearly half of Nobu’s food is not on the menu…the only caviat is now you have to remember what you order!
22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
What to Order:
Drink: Lychee and Elderflower Martini, Champagne 95, Peruvian Caipirnha
Main: Tuna on Crispy Rice (not on menu), Tiradito, Mini Tacos (Malibu Special, I like the Ribeye), Rock Shrimp, and Softshell Crab Roll
Dessert: Chocolate Harumaki and Bento Box Warm Chocolate Souffle Cake
Tips: Reservations are needed, unless you go to sit at the bar, where you can still order food (although there might be an hour wait at times). If you can’t get a reservation, go on the waitlist. They call you 24 hours before your desired time, but will not leave a message so keep your phone on! I have had very good luck with the waitlist.