Lavazza Coffee, #buongiornoamerica

Have you ever set an alarm clock and upon waking were greeted by a handsome Italian man, located in Milan, singing you a good morning song? I can now officially check that off of my list.

I had no idea what to expect when Lavazza, the vibrant coffee company out of Italy, sent me a hand crafted alarm clock, with a specialized app, that would wake me up and connect me with someone on the other side of the planet. And now, much to my surprise and excitement, I see I have landed in this upbeat Lavazza commercial. Maybe I should start sleeping in makeup? Ha! Take a look at this super fun spec and see if you can spot the personalized “Buongiorno Natalie” poster.

Along with my beautiful alarm clock, I was sent a cool new Keurig Single Server Brewer with a variety of Lavazza coffee pods. I have enjoyed trying out all of the flavors, especially over this holiday season; the Classico Roast (pictured above) paired nicely with these dark chocolate covered pretzels that I made with my family. #buongiornoamerica

Night + Market Song, Silverlake

Night + Market Song, located on the busy Eastside strip of Sunset Blvd in Silverlake, is my favorite Thai restaurant in Los Angeles – if not for the คอหมูย่าง pork toro (grilled fatty pig neck) alone. Without a doubt, they are preparing some of the best Thai dishes this city has ever seen, and when it’s flavor bombs you are seeking to drop on that tongue, pull up to this pink splashed establishment and get ready for a total sensory experience. For those who might be intimidated about the spice factor you so often hear about in any conversation about Night + Market, I must report I was unphased by the heat. I should have also prefaced that by saying I was born and raised in the SGV and have Sichuan pepper corns flowing though my blood system;  my friend Ike, who was so kind enough to take me on this delicious dinner was sweating bullets on the other hand. I was quick to dig in and when I raised my head to give the thumbs up, I saw the beads of sweat rolling off his forehead. It was a beautiful culinary moment.

This is the kind of restaurant that I love most, one that is steeped in rich family history, recipes, and flavors. Opened by 32 year-old chef Kris Yenbamroong, who has no formal culinary training, but instead has life-long experience from growing up in a family-owned restaurant, he aims to bring the most authentic Thai food to the people. I am throwing up the emoji pray hands because I’m grateful for it! I loved everything we ordered, let me count the ways. And who could say no to a bright pink wall with a vintage Cindy Crawford gazing deeply into my eyes?

So what did I eat? With any Thai meal, your girl is hot for the chicken larb salad (photo directly below). While everyone was thinking the party was going up with Pad Thai at their local jawn (kinda boring y’all), yung NJ was devouring as much chicken larb as she possibly could. It’s the lime + chile combination that goes after my sweet Mexican American heart every time. The chicken larb at N+M Song was exactly what I hoped it would be – a nice pucker brought on by the lime paired with chili, and a much smoother flavor with the chicken to balance it out. May I suggest this is the perfect summer salad? Sure we are in Fall, but I’m still right. In my dream universe I’d be lime queen, sitting down with a tall glass of Vietnamese soda chanh muối  and a large bowl of chicken larb. What a kingdom that would be! I digress.

Back to that pork neck, the stuff dreams are made of. Salty like bacon and fatty just how your mother likes it, this dish is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had the privilege of eating. Once I took a bite, although knowing many more delicious plates were on their way out, I had fantasized about my entire meal being plates upon plates upon plates of savory pork neck. Not to be neglected was the simple plate of coconut stick rice, which is a glorious vehicle for picking up the other bites. You simply tear off a piece, mold it in your hand, and scoop up whatever delicious snack you have in front of you. Rounding out the rest of our Thai paradise was a generous portion of the Crispy Rice Salad, made with soured pork, raw ginger, onion, peanuts, cilantro, chile. I love spicy and crispy so this was a no brainer. Bright notes in each bite, each one bringing you closer and closer to buying a ticket to Thailand once you leave the restaurant. Last and certainly not least, CURRRRYYYYY. The Khao Soi Gai with chicken was the move, made with curried noodles and topped with fresh cilantro, purple onion, & chili. This was the spiciest of the dishes of the night and a great way to end dinner – after everything was either eaten or boxed up to go, there were still a hint of Thai curry lingering in my mouth.

Night + Market Song, 3322 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Night Market Song chicken larb, Best LA Food Blog

Night + Market Song, Best LA Food Blog

Night + Market Song porkneck, Best LA Food Blog

Night Market Song coconut rice, Best LA Food Blog

Night + Market Song, Best LA Food Blog

Night + Market Song interior, Best LA Food Blog

night + market song curry, Best Food Blog LA

Godiva Summer Fling | Giveaway

Godiva Trufflelata

Do I have any chocolate lovers out there? I am psyched to announce I have teamed up with Godiva in celebration of the launch of their new Truffelata and soft serve. They were so kind to send me a box of their Truffelata Truffles so that I may get a taste of what is to come in their incredibly decadent shake, which I am excited to try next week at their summer fling! They have six luscious flavors and I am currently eyeing their OREO Trufflelata, which is made with white chocolate, OREO cookies, and Godiva Cookie Dough Truffle, topped with fresh whipped cream and crushed OREO. And rumor has it, there is a truffle in every sip!

As a way to show love to all my NJ in LA readers, Godiva has given me 10 x $25 gift cards to give away! Now you can get a taste of all their chocolatey goodness this summer. All you have to do is answer this question below for a chance to win. If you decide to Instagram your sweet treat, tag it with #GODIVAsweeps to be entered to win an even bigger prize.

So tell me, what was your most memorable summer fling? If you are too shy to share, tell me what your favorite thing about summer is.

My 10 Essential Burgers via First We Feast

Eggslut Cheeseburger, L.A. Food Blogyolk topped cheeseburger at Eggslut

I am incredibly happy to share with you my first editorial over on the James Beard Foundation award winning First We Feast.

My journey across our city’s culinary landscape was an amazing one. From the SGV to South L.A., I knocked out burger after burger while meeting some amazing chefs. The burger vibes were strong! It’s my hopes that this burger guide will get people jumping into their cars to explore parts of this city they may have not otherwise. I am very proud to say that 6 out of 10 establishments are minority owned, many of them by families. So many of them made me feel incredibly welcome as they shared their stories.

How many from my list have you been too and where’s your favorite spot to grab a burger?

See all my burger picks here » http://bit.ly/fwfburgers


The Powder Room, Hollywood

It’s not every day I find myself in Hollywood, but when I got word that there was a new bar serving alcohol infused milkshakes I had to see what was up. Enter The Powder Room, a cocktail dream factory with expert mixologist Luke Andes (formerly of Providence) at the head of all creations. With a stellar team that includes award winning mixologists Jayme Mandeville and Nadia Underwood, there was no doubt the cocktails would come correct + delicious. Having just bumped into Kanye West just outside the bar on Cahuenga, I knew I was in for an exciting evening and I couldn’t wait to start sipping on some libations.

The much hyped alcohol infused milkshakes were all I could think about. I took a seat on a white snakeskin stool at the glittery bar and rubbed my hands with anticipation. Out came a Strawberry Fields spiked shake, prepared with Marilyn Monroe strawberry cream vodka, blended with fresh strawberry puree, brandy, shortcake cookies and tapioca pudding. What could be any better than eating a dessert that gives you a buzz? I say eating rather than drinking because this baby was pretty thick, especially being packed with cookies. Even better was the boozy Adam’s Apple, a blended creation of Jack Daniels + fresh apples, caramelized with cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and vanilla ice cream. If you’re looking for an apple pie but in shake form, this is it, and you’ll be turnt! For those who like to live extravagantly, I must mention that Adrian Biggs (La Descarga) created a $500 milkshake with edible gold, Belgian chocolate, and a take-home Swarovski Crystal ring for the menu. I unfortunately did not get to try that, ha.

On the light, refined + creative side, I would highly suggest the Morning Star, my favorite cocktail of the evening. Prepared with Tito’s vodka, house made hibiscus blackberry syrup, grapefruit bitters, fresh squeezed lemon and grapefruit juice, this unique combination whisked me away to summer. It wasn’t too sweet and the flavors were diverse, yet cohesive. The sugar crusted blackberry + basil leaf were just an added bonus! I followed that with The Pink Pussycat, made with Milagro Reposado tequila, Luxardo cherry liquor, Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blanc, fresh squeezed lemon juice and strawberry puree. If you know anything about my lightweight drinking you’ll know that I was feeling loose and already a resident of tipsy town. The Powder Room is that retro chic bar you’ve been waiting for in Hollywood. The vibe is fun, the cocktails superb, and it’s that spot you need when you’re looking for something a bit extra.

The Powder Room, 1606 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

The Powder Room Hollywood, L.A. Food Blog

Powder Room Alcohol Shakes

Powder Room Pink Pussycat, L.A. Food Blog

Powder Room Cocktails

Powder Room Alcohol Shakes, L.A. Cocktail Blog

Gjelina, Venice

Gjelina had long been on my list of places to eat; it’s one of those restaurants in L.A. that you hear everyone talk about and rarely are bad words spoken. When a NY friend was in town, and might I add one of the most interesting men I’ve ever met, I decided this would be the perfect date spot for us. We pulled up for lunch on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and to my surprise, our wait was only about 20 mins, though the restaurant was definitely poppin with a full lunch crowd. We took a seat, handed the menus and my date said the most beautiful words – “please get whatever you’d like, and if I may, I’d like to order us some wine.”

With these magic words spoken and me being in control of our entire lunch, I wanted to take the opportunity to order a variety of dishes, all which made for one of the most stellar lunches of 2013. It didn’t hurt that I also had such great company. From the small plates option on the menu, I selected the Grilled Peaches, Burrata, Arugula, Raddichio, + Prosciutto. Captivating in presentation and delicious with each bite, rarely anything makes me happier than thin slices of cured pork paired with fruit. The burrata was creamy and delicious, making this a great start to a moan-worthy meal. Out next was the Little Gems, Concord Grape, Crispy Prosciutto, + Blue Cheese Salad. Little Gems are some of my favorite lettuce leaves, with the feeling of soft blankets on the tongue, but still bringing an essential crunch. Again, another combination of fruit + prosciutto, both crispy and bursting with flavor.

It was now time to warm up and get a little cozy, and the Braised Pork Meatballs with tomato, parmesan and grilled bread really hit the spot. I passed on most of the bread, though tasty, as we had a pizza on its way, but the meatballs were a welcomed savory addition to the table. Following was a warm plate of Ricotta Gnocchi, prepared with cherry tomato pomodoro, parmesan and green olive oil. The delicate pieces of gnocchi had my hands in the emoji praying position if you know what I mean, each piece practically melting in our mouths. Stepping away from our pork heaven, we ordered a pizza with not one element of meat – a rare move on my part – but once you know that it was drizzled with truffle oil, I need not say more. Hot from the oven, with an exquisitely charred crust, our Mushroom, Fontina, Goat Cheese + Truffle Oil Pizza invigorated our senses with its impeccable fragrance. Thin crust pizza is my absolute favorite, and when each bite offers a diverse selection of flavor notes, I have no choice to completely surrender myself to the pizza gods. The only thing that could make my dining experience any better would be a bewitching dessert, and the universe must have listened, because when a bowl of Passion Fruit Panna Cotta presented itself, I nearly fell out of my seat, the consistency + flavor was that incredible. Hands down one of the best desserts (& meals) I had all year, and one that I have not stopped dreaming about.

Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Gjelina Prosciutto, L.A. Food Blog

Gjelina Little Gems Salad

Gjelina Meatballs, L.A. Food Blog

Gjelina Gnocchi

Gjlelina Pizza, L.A. Food Blog

Gjelina Panna Cotta

Thai Food Fest, Los Angeles

This Fall I had the opportunity to attend L.A.’s first very Thai Food Festival. Like whoa, I couldn’t believe our city hadn’t been hosting these for years! I was especially psyched for this festival because I live for all things bold, bright + flavorful, and in my life, a little spice goes a long way. Hosted by chef Jet Tila and the Thai Trade Center, this afternoon of culinary wonderment was packed with all the delicious Thai food one could eat, Singha Beer, flower offerings and complimentary massages. Sounds like a little piece of paradise, doesn’t it? Here’s hoping there will be another one next year!

Thai Food Fest MB Post, L.A. Food Blog

Thai Food Fest Lukshon, L.A. Food Blog

Thai Food Fest shrimp donuts, L.A. Food Blog

Thai Food Fest

Thai Food Fest Los Angeles, L.A. Food Blog

Thai Food Fest

Thai Food Fest carved fruit

Monkey’s Cafe, Fair View Heights, Los Angeles

This weekend I spent some time with one of my best girlfriends, Whitney Jeffries, learning all about her family’s tradition of baking monkey bread for the holidays. It was a cold + rainy day in View Park (near Baldwin Hills if you are unfamiliar), and nothing sounded better than cozying up in the kitchen with friend baking, and of course, eating some fresh bread out the oven. Watching Whitney, under the tutelage of her mother, was quite the beautiful experience. Seeing each intricate step of the monkey bread making process had me even more eager to try the finished product, and I must say, I was blown away. If you have never experienced the richness of such a bread, do yourself a favor and rectify that sitch asap. Monkey bread is moist and puzzle like, with each piece easily being plucked apart and ready to eat! Not only is it delish, but it’s also fun.

Fortunately for us, the Jeffries’ family has Monkey’s Cafe, their very own monkey bread business, bringing smiles to all who get a taste. They have 3 incredible flavors to choose from: original, lemon, and garlic herb. It’s hard to decide which one is my favorite, though I must admit, the herb had me begging for more. If you love good bread, then you will absolutely love this. Passed down from generations, nothing tastes better than a perfected recipe.

Make your holidays brighter + order a batch at Monkey’s Cafe!

Monkey Bread View Park, L.A. Food Blog

How to make monkey bread

Monkey Bread Whitney Jeffries

Monkey Bread Los Angeles, L.A. Food Blog

Monkey Bread, L.A. Food Blog

Monkeys Cafe MonkeyBread

Tsujita, Sawtelle, Los Angeles

I recently met someone who loves ramen just as much as myself. Our never ending texts dedicated to noodles, broth, and where we can find the next bowl has become a regular thing these days. Having been on numerous ramen adventures in the short time we’ve known each other, I approached my friend Brandon to be a guest contributor (a first) on NJ in LA, not just because he knows his ramen, but because his knowledge of food continues to impress me. Born and raised in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, Brandon is a graduate of the Art Institute with 10 years of professional cooking under his belt, including 4 years in the military, 3 years in fine dining and time spent traveling, researching + further developing his skills in Asia and Europe. His craftsmanship has been seen in the kitchens of the Royal Mail Hotel, one of the most prized restaurants Australia and here in Los Angeles, at Providence, voted the best restaurant of 2013 by Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Times.

Now that L.A. has begun to cool down, it’s our goal to slurp as many noodles as we possibly can and share our detailed account of each bowl, from two different perspectives. It was pouring rain on a rare L.A. afternoon, Brandon and I landed on Sawtelle with nothing but Tsujita on our minds. Neither us equipped with an umbrella, we hit the ground running, trying our best to see amongst drops so large it almost felt torrential. Running in the rain never felt so good, knowing that a hot bowl of goodness was awaiting us. We finally arrived at Tsujita, with a line out the door and around the corner. We waited for about 15 minutes until we were seated at one of the hottest ramen houses in L.A., I have heard of much longer waits but then again our visit was on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Many have called Tsujita the best and friends have proclaimed it life changing. The time had finally come to enjoy my very own pipping hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

Natalie: I ordered the Hakata Nagahama Tonkotsu Ramen, which was decorated nicely with juicy pieces of char siu (bbq pork), ajitama (a seasoned boiled egg), nori (seaweed), green onion, wood ear mushrooms and men-ma (bamboo shoots). Complimentary accoutrements on the table included beni-shoga (pickled red ginger, my absolute fave) and a jar of karashi takana (hot leaf mustard), which we quickly polished off and then asked for a re-up. The first thing I noticed, aside from the incredible fragrance emitting from my bowl, was the almost gelatinous layer that was beginning to form atop my broth. This porky liquid, slowly simmered for 60 hours, is practically a form of liquid lard, so rich you know it has to be good for the heart! I had never tasted a broth of such consistency and with each spoonful, I felt delicious drops of liquid fat roll onto my tongue, coating it with intense flavor. The noodles were thin + straight, as they typically are with tonkotsu, but I prefer my noodles on the curlier side, the standard with shoyo (soy sauce). These particular noodles were most definitely a secondary character to the immaculate broth I could not stop spooning past my lips. The flavored egg, which is my most treasured possession in a bowl of ramen, once popped open, was a beautiful hue of orange-yellow and creamy like custard. Keeping up with all things savory, this bowl included wonderfully chunky slices of pork that made chewing pieces of fat feel like buttery pieces of bubblegum. I haven’t been the same since my trip to Tsujita, a ramen join that just stepped up the game and is well worth the hype.

Tsujita Broth, L.A. Food Blog

Tsujita Ramen, L.A. Food Blog

Brandon Grey ramen feindThis is Brandon slurping noodles at Ramen Jinya, one of our many upcoming posts!

Brandon: Ooey gooey gold best describes Tsujita’s Tsukemen bowl of ramen. The key attribute of this bowl of ramen is, YOU OWN YOUR OWN DESTINY of dunking your own noodles at will. Let’s start off with the broth. Its brown and murky in color, with the viscosity of cold chicken noodle soup. An 1/8 inch of pork fat sits atop of the soup and the pork fragments nestled inside does this bowl no justice by mere appearance. This savory pig juice plays with your senses because it’s enriched with fish undertones. Dried bonito, mackerel, and sardines give this bowl an umami blast to your palate and taste buds.

My noodles were thick and perfectly springy with a texture of fresh cut Udon. They were so good, I inhaled the first serving and quickly asked for another. This time around I enveloped my noodles with this mustard leaf condiment which tasted like a Japanese version of kimchi. Lets just say, “can I get the damn recipe” to this. I heavily contemplated asking for a to-go container to smuggle some of this spicy condiment goodness, as I knew how perfectly it would compliment the ramen I create at home. The slow poached egg, once cracked into, spews out runny molting yolk. It’s quite the addition to the bowl. Other accompaniments are the standard char siu pork, nori, and a lime wedge to marry all the notes in this harmonious symphony of flavors. #flavorsonflavorsonflavors Rain or shine, sleepwalking or awake, make your way down to the west side to experience this LA gem. Just be prepared to have cash on you and an appetite for gelatinous goodness.

Tsujita L.A., 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Tsujita Tsukemen, L.A. Food Blog

Tsujita SpicyMustard