"The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken." ~ Maya Angelou

In the heart of Hillcrest, right after the sun has set, you can start to hear the flickers and pulses of the neon lights turn on and feel a different energy flowing through the neighborhood.

Whatever your night is calling for, a romantic stroll, an indulgence in delectable tastes, a night you want to toast to and never remember, a place to find mr/mrs right now, dinner and a film for one, or in my case... comfort in fried chicken and a cozy conversation with friends, this neighborhood will open its arms and welcome you in.

Crest Cafe with it's South Beach Miami'esque flare,  elephant mural and vibrant neon sign, has been iconically lighting up Robinson ave, for as long as I can remember.

My good friend Amanda invited a group of us out one night, to her event at Crest Cafe, to catch up,
have a couple drinks and try a bunch of things on the menu, while getting to know the owners and the history behind the long rooted neighborhood restaurant.

The food is familiar, the portions are hearty, the prices are great and there is an abundant variety of almost anything imaginable.  But even now, weeks later, though the other tastes were good, I have trouble painting a picture of anything else but that fried chicken (which also came with waffles, more on that in a second).

Like how the restaurant so vibrantly stands out against many of the other surrounding buildings that come up and go over time, this fried chicken was unexpectedly delightful.  I'm usually not a fan of boneless style chicken, but the crispiness, sweet flavor and texture of the meat was quite good.

While always good with butter and syrup, the waffles felt like a novelty pairing to the chicken, as opposed to being a standalone item, that I would order individually.  If you're looking for the Belgian style, deep square, light crispy outside and fluffy inside waffle, this isn't it.  But if you're into something that's better than eating your chicken with a biscuit, this definitely is that.

While the menu has healthy alternatives, as a few of the friends were looking for, it's very apparent that the steamed veggie and salad concoctions satisfy more so the sustenance aspect of eating, and not necessarily the comfort or enjoyment side.

I always feel the answer to most food predicaments lies in a pan with more butter, but I also understand that's not everyone's kinda thing :P

Crest Cafe is like that friend you don't often think of or see, but on that late working night, or catching up, they're there like a warm hug.

It's almost like tradition, that once December with its holiday dressings are in sight, we begin to marvel in astonishment at how hastily the year has come and gone.  This year, oddly and splendidly feels a little different.  Maybe it's the modest alcohol consumption, in comparison to years past, that's allowing for a better recollection of 2015's adventures, but this year's pace, though busy, felt steady :P

I spent a month, early in the year, visiting family and friends through Canada, starting in Edmonton, then to Calgary and then to Vancouver.  Since I'm headed back there for the holidays, for this Throwback Thursday, in absolutely no particular order, I wanted to share highlights from some of new places that we ate at.

Cafe Bicyclette  - adorable place to catch up with a friend, or read while enjoying coffee and a croissant.
RGE RD - the people are awesome, I loved the variety in meats and they make great drinks.
Won Jung Gak- Not new, but absolutely one of my favorites in Edmonton.  Get the Jajangmyeon noodles and nothing else :P

Mercato - this place has everything! But the carbonara pasta (i'm a simple person) and espresso were perfect for lunch.  GET THE DONUT in the deli section!!!
500 Cucina - definitely a new favorite!!! They make an awesome Bloody Mary.
L'Epicerie - not new, but I LOVE this place.. I usually spend hours here eating the pate, foie gras, and many other goodies.  I've written about it before here "http://www.thedailychow.com/2015/05/hello-again-lepicierie.html"
Mango Shiva - Go here during a weekday off hour and sit by the window.  I really enjoyed eating here alone, having a variety of their small plates and a beer.
Charcut Roast House - the bison with chimichurri is so good.  Pricey place though and only a couple star dishes.  I did however enjoy their house made Mortadella.

Bao Down - I don't care if the food snobs scoff at me for putting this down. The "2 world's collide" bun and their beignets are the bees knees!
Guu Garlic Izakaya  - Really REALLY great food and I love that they had Monkfish liver.
Salmon n' Bannock - this place is so cozy and lovely, the people are so warm and the food really is simply delicious.
The Flying Pig - bone marrow!!!!
Cuchillo - very cool decor, the pork belly was my favorite thing there

A big thank you to everyone who took the time to come out and noms with me ♥ For those of you that know me, you know that my stomach isn't just a way into my heart, it practically is my heart!

It's off to NYC and I have butterflies of joy, as I love that city in the winter and during the holidays, then it's to Canada to see snow and ketchup chips.

"You don't need a silver fork to eat good food" ~Paul Prudhomme

The stage..Catalina OP... the people, a group of talented chefs, sponsors, volunteers and food lovers, coming together for a night of awesome eats, for great causes.

From the handful of events this year, Collaboration Kitchen has donated $17,500 to San Diego charities.

What makes this event so great is, not only do you get to taste creative and phenomenal food creations, but you also get a live demonstration and recipes to help you recreate them at home.

On this special night, the featured chefs were, Logan Mitchell of Cellar Door, Christina Ng of Whole Foods Market Del Mar and Quinn Wilson of Balanced and Bright Traditional Foods.

What was cooked up:
Asian inspired Nicoise salad (that tuna!!)
Steamed clams in bone broth
Opah fish taco with mole
Grilled Baha shrimp with white bean succotash and Logan's amazeball chimichurri
Seared and chilled scallops with marinated vegetable ribbons
Salted Caramel Uni Profiteroles

Curds and Wine also provided delicious drink pairings, my favorite being the hard apple cider (and I'm not even a cider person).

The final treat was that everyone got to take home a bit of the beautiful decorative produce provided by Specialty Produce.

I love that Collaboration Kitchen is just about a good time and sharing tasty food, no fancy plating or silverware, no pretention surrounding ingredients and you get to see all the work that goes into making the event happen, through the open back kitchen. Following the demonstrations and after the event, you also get to talk to the chefs, pick their brains and get cooking advice on their recipes.

Be sure to follow them on facebook to see when their next event is.  Tickets always sell fast.


Click the link to read about the previous event