You are what you eat.  If this is true, alas I would a fried chicken/beef rib/donut, wrapped in bundle of al dente noodles.  With room to spare, I'm sure there's spinach in there somewhere.

So imagine the pitter patter of my heart, when "what's on the menu" includes, yes you guessed it, fried chicken, noodles and of course my favorite version of donut, the simple, fluffy, lovable Beignet.

This past Sunday, I was invited to a tasting dinner, where Local Habit was serving up some new menu items and sharing the new changes to come, which also includes a big remodel.

The news of the night?  Chef Nick Brune is back, and plans to further the New Orleans soul and Creole flavors into the restaurant and menu.

Everything we tried, were really a taste of things to come.  Chef Nick mentioned that all of it is still a discovery and refinement in progress.  With each tasting, was a delivery of intention, technical composition, ingredients and thoughts of where they're looking to improve.

Vignettes
- despite being a breading person, more than a batter person, that fried chicken made me a believer in batter.  It was on the salty side, but damn was it good.

- being a fly on the wall in the kitchen, watching the chef, sous chef and staff work the kitchen and hearing the dynamic and conversations between everyone, was my favorite part of the evening.

- I wanted to love the gumbo/ramen noodle dish, the pork was of course amazing, but the noodles didn't have that bounciness that I love in noodles.  It had the texture of brown rice pasta, still good, but not ramen like.

- that pizza dough.  wow.

The best part.
Let's start by stating, I'm not a dessert person, I'm don't get cravings for cake or chocolate, and I dislike glazed donuts.  If anything, I'm more of a croissant person.

So, the Beignets.. well let's just say, I'm thankful that the people we made friends with, at the table, were incredibly full by the end of the evening... because I ate 4......

and saved one for the next morning. 

THANK YOU to Chef Nick, Amanda and the Local Habit crew for the invitation to a wonderful evening and letting me hang out in the kitchen :) 




The other night while editing, Bruno Mars came on my Pandora, and as his lyrics expressed admiration, adoration and astonishment towards a beauty and love like no other, I found myself lost in an array of daydreams.

Not of Ryan Gosling or walks on the beach, but of the unforgettable eating experiences I've had throughout 2014, some of my favorites being in Hillcrest.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to "Taste n' Tinis", a neighborhood event, where restaurants and local businesses, open up their doors to serve up tiny bites and/or specialty cocktails.

While most places were just handing out random shots of some unknown colored vodka drink, some of the businesses really offered up a top notch experience.  The Buffalo Public house, seated each guest, and took the time to plate and prepare each dish.  Luna Grill, which in truth I never thought about stopping by until this night, served up a complete tasting (protein, carb, vegetable), and even gave out coupons for your next visit. (Their Mediterranean salad was really good).

It was a bummer that some places like Local Habit and Salt and Cleaver, began turning people away and ending the event a couple hours before it was supposed to be over.  (though they were overwhelmingly busy that evening).

What I truly enjoyed most about that evening was that it was an occasion to just walk all through Hillcrest, visit businesses that I may not usually stop into, meet different people, see the bright lights and just take in the festivities.

So.. Happy New Year!  I know it's 2015, and that the holidays were sooo a couple weeks ago, but my tree is still up, I still get doses of that tingly feeling and before another month passes, here's a last little little bit of holiday tinsel.








 

 

Two of my beloved eating partners and I decided to close out my birthday festivities by finally dining at this restaurant that we've been reading and hearing so much about.

The hype is real, the food is fantastic and the people and atmosphere are incredibly friendly and cool.

Take the pretension out of fine dining,  keep the expected presentation and food quality and their creativity and taste go beyond it all.

Here are 10 things I loved about my experience at Juniper and Ivy 

10. The location.  This time we walked but often times the idea of driving through Little Italy and parking, on a weekend, brings stress sweats out of me.  I love that it's located further north on Kettner, where parking is easier to find, and there isn't a cluster of other things going on. 

9. People are nice.  I once tried to make a reservation at Le Bernadin in NYC, a few weeks in advance, and was laughed and told "umm let's try 3months out." Since then, I've always started taking note at how restaurants handle extremely busy bookings.

Juniper and Ivy were pretty busy and booked up, the staff on the phone and in person were so friendly and helpful.

8. The Oysters! Oysters are oysters, I mean Kumomotos are my favorite, but as long as they're clean and fresh, they're going to be good.  They completely reinvented the oyster experience,  the tomatillo and beautiful pearls of horse radish, completely took me away with the flavors. 

7. Creativity.  We all compare dishes to any alike we've had before, and each dish that came out, even if the ingredients were the standard familiars, had a unique flare that made it a different experience to enjoy.  

6. Food knowledge.  The server and the chef were excited to share knowledge on what was in each dish, where the food was sourced from and why they chose those ingredients.  

5. Sharing.  The quantity on each plate was perfect for us to get a taste or two of everything.  

4. The Fish (Cod).  I could have listed all 10 things based on this fish alone, but if there was one entree I'd recommend, this would be it.  Since it was my birthday, I got to eat the head, and the eyes/cheeks were heavenly :D Perfectly cooked!

3. The plating.  I loved that the plating contributed to the eating experience, almost like a suggested order of operations in enjoying flavors.  It wasn't just a few sprigs of stuff and smear of puree, most of what was plated, was to be eaten in addition to being aesthetically enticing. 

2. The open kitchen.  I loved seeing the varying dishes come out, as it was what inspired many of our ordering decisions. 

1. The conversations.  The atmosphere just set the stage for a great evening.  We laughed, toasted, at times stared at each other in awe, when a flavor was mind blowing, and the staff would engage, contribute and laugh with us.  

As I walked out that night, I made a reservation for this Weds.  It was that good. <3 nbsp="" p="">







Let me preface this all by saying, a good Xiao Long Bao aka soup dumpling aka heavenly deliciousness, should in fact have soupy goodness in it. If it doesn't, and you don't see that liquid goodness through the skin, when they bring it out in the steamer, then you're just eating a glorified bun shaped dumpling.

But don't feel bad, I don't, because sometimes a glimmer of goodness is better than none at all.

Harold and Kumar were on to something, with their journey in search of White Castle, because good food is worth going the distance for.

It was an early Saturday evening in Huntington beach, when we decided that since there was too much traffic to make it back to San Diego in time to watch a fight, that we may as well endure traffic up north and seek out these magical Xiao Long Baos that we had a couple years back.

I won't wait in line or drive 15min for a free movie, but for amazing food, I'm almost always game to go the distance.

An hour later, we find ourselves at the exact plaza, standing at the location of what was the exact store front, except everything looks off. The menu, the look of the place, the lack of patrons and even the name.

After a few text messages, digging around, looking across the street and asking store owners, the original place were were looking for was just a few doors down, renovated and renamed. Once inside, the smells, the menu and the woman hand making the dumplings for each order, became wonderfully familiar.

The soup dumplings we ordered: traditional pork, pork and crab (my favorite) and fermented duck egg (equally amazing).

Also ordered: Green onion pancakes, pig stomach salad, fried dumplings and a bean paste/chilli oil noodle bowl.

How would I describe everything? Well.... Gregg Wallace said it best "That's banging on the door of divine, that is."

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since the restaurant has moved and been renamed, a lot of the online directories and info are a bit inaccurate.  So here's a link to the google maps of the plaza in which the restaurant is located (first floor)