Sunday Brunch at Nighthawk

At the risk of sounding way too much like a millennial LA hipster,  I love brunch. It’s probably got to be one of the best perks of being out of college and working. There’s always time and money for brunch. Thank the Lawd.

I had major food envy when a good friend of mine posted her brunch photos from Nighthawk : The Breakfast Bar. So I rolled over in bed and demanded that we go the next morning. So we did.

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It was a pretty neat place. The walls were a combination of tiled wallpapers and hand-lettered cocktail names on black chalkboard.

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Nighthawk’s whole gimmick is that they’re equal parts bar and brunch. So you could show up at 11AM or 11PM for cocktails and food. I ordered the Vietnamese Iced Coffee, which as a Vietnamese person I can confirm was definitely not Vietnamese. But it was a sugar sweet coconut milk iced coffee spiked with rum and a stick of cinnamon. Pretty damn refreshing.

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Alan debated for a while between this Nitro brew coffee mixed with Bailey’s and a Michelada that was spiced with nuoc cham and sriracha. Nuoc cham, if you don’t know, is a tangy, lemon fish sauce blend. It sounded exotic, but we weren’t quite hungover enough for that. So Nitro brew it was.

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We do everything family style. Why eat one dish when you can try two? Or three..or four…you get the point. This time around, we got the Drunken French Toast, which was soaked in rum, syrup and caramelized pears, and the Chicken and Biscuits. The french toast was a little on the sweet side for us. Tasty, but not a must-have. The Chicken and Biscuits, on the other hand, were the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had. Ugh. Flaky and buttery and smothered in gravy with just a hint of cayenne.

Starting my Sunday off right, I would say so. Now we’re off to the theaters to see Baby Driver! Hope all your weekends are full of brunch and booze. ❤

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Green Bean Potato Casserole

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Processed with VSCO

Green bean casserole never sounded appetizing to me and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But! After seeing someone make it on the Food Network, I wanted to give a shot. No regrets because this is a super easy, delicious dish and Alan and I ate a whole 9 x 12″ pan of it in one night.

Ingredients

    • 18 oz. Green Beans
    • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes (Scalloped)
    • 10.5 oz. Cream of Mushroom
    • 10.5 oz. Cream of Celery
    • 22 oz. Half & Half
    • Cheese
    • Fried onion strings
    • Panko
    • Bacon bits
    • 4 Tbsp. Butter
    • Flour
    • 5 cloves of garlic (minced)
    • Spices (salt, pepper, cayenne, italian seasoning or other dried herbs)

Steps

  1. Start by melting butter over medium-low heat. Throw in minced garlic. Stir in flour until you’ve got a texture just short of a paste and a nice pale yellow color.
  2. Pour in cream of mushroom, cream of celery, half & half. Add potatoes.
  3. Season to taste. Let simmer until bubbling.
  4. Add green beans then allow it to start bubbling again.
  5. Preheat over to 350. Butter your pan and pour potato/green bean mixture into pan. I like to pour it in layers and sprinkle a little cheese between each one.
  6. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Increase temperature to 400, remove foil cover, bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle on cheese, fried onion strings, bacon bits and panko.
  9. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  10. Eat until fat and happy!

Happy Eating!

Happy in Healdsburg

I’m so behind on posts that I actually had another trip to SF before I even finished blogging about my first one. Here’s the last post about that first trip, I swear! So post wine tasting, Alan planned for us to spend the day exploring downtown Healdsburg. It’s a pretty small city, but the downtown area is packed with food, shops, galleries and novelty shops. Since it was a Sunday, there was actually a flea market in the middle of the town square!

I was on the lookout for a cute throw for my room, something like these ones here. No luck on that front though. There were tons of vendors, but we got there right before it ended. So we had to zip around through all the stalls just to see everything. Definitely didn’t have time to dig and bargain for all the stuff I wanted. We did however walk away with this giant blue sheet metal elephant for Alan. It needs to be sanded down around the edges and there were talks about coating it in a new color or material. I’ll let you know if we ever get around to that.

The bartender at the Coppola Winery recommended we visit SHED if we were big foodies. It turned out to be equal parts grocery store and cafe. Organic produce, charcuterie, cheeses, fresh jams, cooking supplies and more were all laid out in the front of the store. Halfway through, you meet the hostess who’ll seat you in the dining area in the back. Very hip, farm-to-table vibe. We checked out the menu and walked through the store portion, but just weren’t feeling it.

Turned out to be a tapas kind of day. Bravas  is a tapas bar with a very laid-back, Spanish atmosphere.  We ordered a plate of asparagus with brie and tangy orange zest because I’ve got a pretty big soft spot for asparagus. Alan wanted to try the duck meatballs with tomato sofrito and a green olive tapenade. You get a plate of two slider-sized meatball burgers, which were okay. They were a little dry to me and we both agreed they could use a little kick. My favorite of our orders was the octopus with fingerlings, smoked paprika, and olives.

The thicker part was succulent and tender while the thinner end was crispy and a little chewy in the middle. With some fresh lemon and olive oil, mmmm! It was all definitely enough to hold us over until dinner. Then it was time to walk off some of those calories. We went through a few art galleries, stopped into little bookstores and eventually ended up grabbing dessert. So much for burning off the calories, I guess.

Noble Folk  is a desserts shop that serves homemade ice cream, pie and coffee on the side. We split a scoop of almond with cardamom and a scoop of thai tea. Nice, sticky ice cream. The flavors are super aromatic. For any of you from the Westwood area, it was a lot like our local Saffron & Rose Ice Cream. 

After that we decided to just sit and relax in the square where the flea market had been earlier. This was one of my favorite parts of our trip, just talking and seeing Healdsburg. Anything’s fun with good company, right? We ended the night by driving out to Applewood Inn, which you can read all about here!

Thai Temple | Wat Mongkolratanaram

Well that’s a mouthful. I originally wanted to make a post that had everything we did our second day up North. But we honestly did so much in that one day and I wanted to highlight the individual spots that we visited. So I’ll be breaking it up into separate pieces. We had kind of a cranky first day, but this day started off so much better. Our first stop was Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Thai Buddhist temple known for serving brunch on Sundays. Located in Berkeley, it’s a pretty popular place for Cal kids. I’ve never been so jealous of them before. This place was good. Sooooo good.

One of the folks living right next to the temple came all the way out of his house to let us know that we could park in their driveway to grab food. We walked all of ten feet to get to the temple and spent a little bit of time looking at the cool features and snapping photos. People started spilling in, so we hurried inside to grab some goodies before the lines got too long.


Technically, the temple cannot actually sell food. So the whole system is based on donations through proxy vendors. That way the monks themselves never handle physical money. You go up to the vendors and pay them a dollar per coin for however many coins you would like. There’s a poster up that gives suggested donation amounts per food item. Then you take the coins to the monks and trade it for portions of food.

$15 ended up being enough for us to try everything that we wanted. We got green curry, pad thai and the pork green beans. I know it’s not the most appetizing looking picture in the world, but oh man, this was amazing. The pad thai was pretty standard but I loved the curry and the pork green beans. Spicy and delicious!

We also ordered a Thai tea and these little desserts. That was the best thai tea I’ve ever had and it came in a regular-sized fountain drink cup. I wish we had gotten one more to go. The little white round desserts below are Kanom Krok, a cross between coconut pudding and coconut pancakes. Super squishy and creamy and sweet! Alan really liked these. I liked them too, but I preferred the crispy fried taro beside them. So crunchy!

It’s not a fancy establishment by any means. Food is served in to-go boxes and sold outdoors under portable canopies. The seating is all communal in a series of picnic tables, but it has a real community vibe to it. We were both stuffed and completely satisfied. Just goes to show, great food does not have to equal a sad wallet.

Just writing this post has me craving it again. Anyone know of any Thai temples that do a similar thing down here in LA? Please, my stomach will thank you.

Bar Crudo

Bar Crudo. The first of many things we ate up in Northern California, but by far the one I have the most mixed feelings about. I found the place somewhere on a list of places to eat in SF and there tons of reviews raving about the chowder and the happy hour. Chowder and seafood were on my must-do list so I figured we could check them both off at the same time. Our reservations were initially at 7:30 but we got there early enough to get seated for happy hour pricing.

Half a Dozen Mussels. Half a Dozen Oysters.  Oysters, mussels, and a couple other on-the-half-shell options were only $1 each for happy hour. So we got half a dozen of each. The mussels were marinated in herbs and jalapenos, which gave them an interesting kick. Not sure if I would get them again, but it was an interesting try. Oysters were on the small side, I felt, but standard in quality. Some of them are missing up in the photo because I dug straight in before thinking about pictures at all. That’s how hungry we were after the six hour drive.

Seafood Chowder. Oh, this was heavenly. Rich and creamy, but not too heavy. Plenty of seafood and the pops of bacon were so delicious. We got the smaller happy hour size but I honestly wish we had skipped the rest and just gotten a ton more chowder. We even thought about taking some to go. Yuuuuum.

Crudo Sampler for Two. This is where dinner took a turn for me. I did not like the crudo. It was pretty expensive too, but heck, the place was called Bar Crudo. We felt like we should at least sample it. Starting from the top left and going clockwise, here’s what was on the sampler.

Arctic Char Salmon with horseradish creme fraiche, wasabi tobiko and dill. Tobiko is flying fish roe. I felt like all the flavors were overwhelming and they didn’t fit together well. The tobiko was salty but with a bite from the horseradish. Then slight herbiness from the dill.

Scallops with celery root, kumquat and chervil. This was the best one for me. Flavors were subtle enough to taste the scallops and the kumquat was tangy and fresh. I love me some kumquat.

Tombo Tuna with citrus, chili, fennel, black tobiko. This was my least favorite. Textures were all over the place. A graininess from the small tobiko to strips of crunchy fennel. The chili and citrus sauce made the tuna a little too slimy. I couldn’t even finish my half of this one. Sorry Alan.

Butterfish with chorizo oil, fennel and orange. All the toppings on this? Yum. But that slice of butterfish was far from a bite size. The chorizo oil made it super slick and rich. Once you swallowed the oranges, there was nothing to offset the richness and it got to be too much.

In general, the flavors weren’t really crafted to the fish. I felt like the restaurant was trying to make something really trendy and artsy, but totally forgot that food is for eating. So thank you Bar Crudo for my cool instagram pic, but I’m skipping the crudo from now on. Maybe I’m just too used to sushi and its subtle approach to raw fish. Anyways, for our first dining out experience, I was a little disappointed. Should have just stuck to that chowder!

 

Lunch lately…

First thing I do getting home from work every day is make dinner and the leftovers always end up being lunch the next day. So here’s what we’ve been cooking up in the kitchen lately!



Chuck steak with a peppercorn rub, pan-fried with butter and garlic on the cast-iron! Served with cauliflower, spinach and white mac-and-cheese.



Alan made these delicious stuffed mushrooms a couple weeks ago while I was zooming around the house cleaning and studying for the last of my finals. Cream cheese stuffed mushrooms baked with panko and parsley!



My mom used to make cornbread all the time with actual bits of corn inside. Since I had cornmeal and corn I figured why not bake some. We decided to go all out and make some southern styled barbecue chicken with a side of string beans to go with it. Here’s the recipe I used for the cornbread. 



Lastly, mongolian beef and stir-fried chive buds on top of glass noodles. Chive buds are easily one of my favorite vegetables. I could eat these all day.

We’ve also been eating a lot leftovers from my graduation party and chicken thighs thanks to the giant sale Ralph’s had on chicken. Food is a huge deal in our house, but I’m trying to push us to eat a little healthier, buy better ingredients and finally get that gym membership we keep talking about. I’ll keep you posted on the endeavors! What’s in your kitchen lately?

 

 

Applewood Inn

Out in the middle of the woods in Sonoma County, there’s a little Inn and restaurant called Applewood. The cozy, secluded place actually used to be Michelin-ranked a couple years ago. Who knows where that star went but the food was definitely still worthy.


For our starter, we went with Duck Liver Mousse with toasted brioche, poached rhubarb, celery, cocoa and balsamic. Yes, I stole a copy of the menu just to get that all right. Anyway, if you’ve ever had pate, this was a creamier, richer and much much smoother version of that. So buttery and savory, but with little pops of crispy sweetness with the rhubarb and celery. The dish doesn’t seem like much, but it was actually more than enough mousse. We had to get more bread just to finish it.


We decided to skip salad and just get three entrees. The first was this potato gnocchi with octopus, cauliflower, chorizo and pea sprouts. Super soft, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi. I think I’m officially a huge gnocchi fan.


Entree numero dos : a grilled New York strip steak with crispy smashed fingerling potatoes, heirloom broccolini topped with a drizzle of bearnaise. Those potatoes were amazing. We’ve attempted to make them at home with different potatoes and it just wasn’t the same. Gotta get my hands on some fingerlings!


Last entree of the night: the Roasted Lamb Loin! Medium-rare tender, they come out on risotto of farro mixed with maitake mushrooms and minted salsa verde with strips of shaved asparagus on top. Well-cooked, interesting textures, but this lamb loin didn’t blow my mind. Solid end to our entrees.


We were ready to call it a night but somehow this strawberry shortcake was calling out name. Filled strawberries tossed in olive oil and vanilla gelato, it made me wish I had saved a little more space in my tummy.

There are a couple of ways to eat here – the Chef’s Table, Russian River or simply going A La Carte. Chef’s table is a sampling of 6 courses planned by the chef each night. The Russian River is an occasional cheaper option that gives you a specific starter, entree and dessert. A La Carte is, of course, whatever you want. The chef was actually nice enough to let us order some of the special Chef’s table entrees a la carte as well. So it felt like we had the best of both worlds.

This meal took two hours, but it honestly didn’t feel that long at all. Well worth the time and the money. Felt way too spoiled that weekend, but hey, treat yo’ self!