Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia

A couple weeks ago I was invited by America’s Best Racing to spend an afternoon of drinking, eating and gambling at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia. Having grown up just a few miles away and spending Easter Sunday on the infield grass eating a picnic lunch as a child, I jumped at the chance of revisiting the place where I had built fond memories of placing bets with my grandfather, watching my Dad go nuts over a horse and running around with my mother and sister just for fun. I knew things were going to be different this time around being that I am now of legal age, but I decided to still keep it in the family and asked my Father to be my date.

After taking a tour of the track, we settled in the Club House were I hit the open bar and ordered a brewski. Getting turnt up while hanging with your Dad is quite the scene on a weekday afternoon. I quickly became hungry and after taking a look at the newly developed dining area, there was no doubt I was going to order a delicious prime rib sandwich. Just look at the color and fat ends of that piece of meat! I was practically foaming at the mouth. Topped with pickles, mayonaise and mustard, this sandwich is all I needed to accompany my cold beer – I felt like a real player at the track. AMR was not only kind enough to treat me to booze and food, but happily placed $50 in my hands to give the gambling a go! This is where my Dad’s knowledge became crucial, as he broke down each race, betting tactics and feeling out the vibes of the horse. Steve James knew what was up because as I kept losing – basing my choices on names that sounded like rap songs – he kept cashing in!

I was really surprised with how much fun I had just chilling at the race track, time just flew by. Made me think of the crazy time my friends and I could have hitting the bar and then screaming at the top of our lungs as our horses crossed the finished line. Really looking forward to revisiting Santa Anita when the Breeder’s Cup comes to town November 1 – 2. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Santa Anita Race Track, 285 W Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007

Santa Anita Race Track Food

Santa Anita Race Track Beer

Santa Anita Race Track

Santa Anita Race Track Breeders Cup

Santa Anita Race Track Betting

Santa Anita Interior Design

Bucato, Culver City

Bucato is one of those L.A. restaurants that is on everyone’s tongue and despite how delicious the food is, the first thing I usually hear about this cozy Culver City spot is “did you know there is a strict no photography policy?” That is not what I would want to be known for as a restaurant, but you cannot deny the fact that Bucato has taken a staunch stance against photos – unless that is, you smile kindly and your server is sweet enough to say “I’ll pretend you’re not doing that.” Kinda defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it? I digress, on to the meal, all shot with my iPhone.

When there is much hype behind a new restaurant you want everything you eat to taste like it was delivered from the heavens. That was not entirely the case at Bucato, and it’s probably unfair to expect that, but my dinner had some major moments in addition to serving up two of my favorite dishes this year – that’s saying a lot! The menu is broken down into 6 different elements: Pane, Spuntini, Pasta Fatta A Mano, Fattoria, Mare and Campo. The show stoppers were without question the Figs with burrata, basil + mostco cotto and the Squash Blossoms with sheep’s milk ricotta and mint. Ironically it was someone’s Instagram photo of the fig dish that got me to Bucato and it tasted even better than it looked, if you can believe that. Perfectly ripened figs paired with my favorite kind of cheese, this was so delicious that I could have ate a few more bowls of this and been happy. Everyone I have sent to Bucato since my meal have been given strict instructions to order this dish. Being that they offer a seasonal menu (love that) you better go now before figs can no longer be found and you’ll have to cry into your glass of wine. Also worthy of your tears are the gently fried squash blossoms. Growing up Mexicana, squash blossoms made their way on to my plate regularly, especially since we were growing them in the backyard! It is such a pleasure to see them on menus and being executed with such mastery, especially these, which offered the most perfect crunch while squirting soft cheese into my mouth. It would be criminal not to order these at Bucato.

Also on our table for dinner were the Heirloom Tomatoes Panzella, stracciatella, and the Batard with goat’s milk butter + ash salt. The Heirloom Tomatoes were solid, packed with that perfect summer flavor and vibrant with each bite. The Batard was the major miss at the meal, for both myself and my date, so much that we both had a bite and abandoned the plate. The bread was chewy, reminiscent of the fatal error of microwaving bread – seemed really out of place among the other incredible dishes we were noshing on. Having heard so much about Bucato’s hand cut pasta, I was prepared to have my socks knocked off but unfortunately that was not the case. Our Tortelloni Romagnoli with San Marzano, butter and parmigiano was delicate, but lacked the flavor we both assumed would come from the three flavors accompanying it. The pasta itself called for appreciation, but the flavor palate was surprisingly dull. A bummer to say the least. Thankfully things were about to be elevated once again when the meats began to arrive at our table.

Our dinner came to an end with the Lamb T-Bone, Confit Duck Leg with chanterelles, roasted corn + wild huckleberries and Porchetta Truck. Yes, we ordered all 3! The sun had already set so I couldn’t quite capture the Porchetta Truck like I had hope but rest assured it was tasty. The lamb stole the savory show for me, being incredibly tender and moist. I barely had to chew my lamb because it melted in my mouth, one of the best feelings while eating no doubt. My date and I were both in agreement that the duck had a perfect skin, crunchy with each bite, and the meat was as tender as we had hoped. The only complaint was that for $21, there could be a little more on the plate. Desserts were ordered and enjoyed, but it was far too dark to capture their beauty. If you have room for sweets – I mean, c’mon – I suggest you go with the donuts, which arrive hot in a paper bag. It’s a perfect end to what should be a great meal.

Bucato, 3280 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA. 90034

Bucato Figs & Burrata

Bucato Fried Squash Blossom

Bucato Culver City

Bucato Heirloom Tomatoes

Bucato Hand Cut Pasta

Bucato Duck Leg

Bucato Lamb T-Bone

La Sandia, Santa Monica

I recently found myself over on the Westside again, this time to eat Mexican food at La Sandia, Santa Monica. As a fourth generation Mexican American in L.A. I must admit that I don’t typically seek out Mexican restaurants because nothing is better than home cooking – UNLESS WE ARE TALKING ABOUT TACOS! But I have been making a conscious effort to spread my Mexican wings and it’s proven to be a good look. Mexican cuisine is so diverse it would be foolish of me to simply rely on the tastes of home; regional cooking has most schooled my ass. Lunch at La Sandia was lovely, the decor was beautiful, the weather was a dream and much of the meal was bursting with flavor.

After taking a look at the extensive menu developed by Chef Richard Sandoval, I had my eyes on many plates and cocktails –  I was impressed to hear the bar has over 200 fine tequilas on hand. I was invited to celebrate La Sandia’s Chile Relleno Festival, so that was a must and in the end, one of the dishes that impressed me the most. I ordered up a Coconut Mojito made with Malibu red, mint, lime, citrus juices and a chile ancho-coconut rim, because why not enjoy a cocktail on a weekday afternoon? The cocktail was perfect and brought much needed refreshment. Up first was Queso Fundido with Chorizo, one of my favorite things to order because you can never go wrong with hot melted cheese. This cast iron gooey delight tasted as good as it looked. My only qualm was that it arrived with flour tortillas and that is a no-no in my book that’s how but our incredibly sweet server happily brought me come corn tortillas and then I was great.

Out next was the Shrimp and Avocado Salad, prepared with an avocado stuffed with sautéed citrus adobo shrimp, corn relish, cilantro pesto and chipotle aioli. Nothing was more exciting at lunch than opening up a beautiful avocado only to find it stuffed with flavorful shrimp. A tiny food piñata on my salad if you will. I would have preferred another type of lettuce but the flavors were so bright that my focus quickly changed to appreciating the avocado. So what about that chile relleno and why haven’t I been eating them more often? Sandoval took a fresh spin on this dish, which is typically a stuffed and battered poblano pepper. His reinvention came in the form of the Chile Picadillo Relleno, two pasilla chiles stuffed with chorizo, bacon, pork and mashed plantain, pipian sauce, crema fresca paired with refried black beans and rice. The savory pork combination was only further experienced though the smokiness of the chili. Both flavors elevated one another and each bite was bold, as I like my food to be.

Never did I think I was going to be praising peach ice cream at a Mexican restaurant over churros, but it came highly recommended by our knowledgeable server and really killed it! Summer peaches in ice cream form is a beautiful thing that should not be turned down.

La Sandia, 395 Santa Monica Pl #305, Santa Monica, CA 90401

La Sandia Queso Fresco, L.A. Food Blog

La Sandia Santa Monica

La Sandia Shrimp Salad

La Sandia Cocktails, L.A. Cocktail Blog

lasandia_chilerelleno

La Sandia Desserts

La Sandia Churros

Patina “Toasts Ten Years”, Downtown Los Angeles

When you are invited to a private lunch at Patina, you don’t say no. This would be my first time enjoying a full dining experience at the downtown L.A. staple and having previewed some of their small bites at a LA Food & Wine Fest party the previous week, I was beyond psyched to see what the talented Executive Chef Charles Olalia would serve up. May I also mention how handsome he is? Our meal was a preview of Patina “Toasts Ten Years”, a one-night-only 10 Year Tastings Menu, featuring a collection of dishes available at $10 each, appropriately slated for October 10th.

Upon arrival I was handed a large glass of wine and escorted to my seat which was politely pulled out for me. Before our amuse bouche hit the table, one of our servers fluffed my napkin and placed it on my lap. I had anticipated attentive service and at Patina they pull out all the stops. Our special lunch menu was laid on our plates, 5 courses total, and I tried to contain myself because each dish sounded incredible – spoiler alert – they were. Our amouse was a fresh Paradise Cove Oyster topped with domestic caviar, paired with a scallop laid in between two very crisp potato chips. This set the bar high for everything else that would proceed it.

Our first course came in the form of a Big Eye Tuna Tower with soya onion, avocado, oven dried tomato and yuzu granité. Hands down the highlight of the afternoon, this creation was not only beautiful, but the tuna was absolutely perfect. I knew the moment I sliced my knife into the fish that it was going to taste like butter in my mouth. Course two also came from the sea, Santa Barbara to be exact, with SB Spot Prawns with carrot mousse and celery vinaigrette – a crisp bite, gone in the blink of an eye. I began rubbing my hands together for course three, Butternut Squash Risotto with jamon iberico, fontina, and sage. Al dente, savory and rich, risotto is one of my favorite things to eat, especially if it is bursting with vibrant flavors as this bowl was, only to be taken to the next level with thin slices of pork atop the rice.

Moving forward to course four, Atlantic Black Bass with bacon crisp, artichoke, and barigoule jus. I am 100% certain that people who don’t like seafood (that was me until age 24) never really had it prepared correctly. My love for fish grows exponentially and not mad that the added bonus are the health benefits. The bass was oh so tender, absorbed its sauce evenly, and the skin was so crispy I wanted to cry with joy after each crunch in my mouth. A meal like this could only end in a dessert that would not only astonish the eye, but the palate as well. We concluded our lunch with a Green Apple and Coconut Battera, with French meringue. For me, no description could truly convey the uniqueness of this creation. Most of the green apple was icy with a crisp bottom, scattered with freeze dried coconut sticks – I had never tasted anything like it. The edible flower was a much appreciated accoutrement that ended our meal oh so sweetly.

Patina, 141 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Patina Toasts Ten, Big Eye Tuna Tower

Patina Toasts Ten Years, Oysters

Patina Toasts Ten Prawns

Patina Toasts Ten Risotto

Patina Toasts Ten Years, Bass

Patina Toasts Ten, Dessert

A Tribe Called Quest + Big Boi, H2O Music Festival

When Univisión reached out to me to roll VIP at their H2O Music Festival with hip hop acts A Tribe Called Quest and Big Boi on the bill, ya girl didn’t even have to think twice. Having peeped my Instagram and seeing that I was a Latina living in L.A. with a serious love for rap music, the festival picked up what I was putting down and in the end, I had one of my best summer moments at H2O.

H2O Fest was held near Chinatown at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. I arrived having no idea what to expect, as this was my first Latina/o inspired music fest, despite being a Mexican American in L.A. I came for the rap music, but I must say, I unabashedly got turnt with DJ Chuckie on the 1s and 2s and wait for it, Pitbull. That man can seriously perform and in silk clothes no less! My festival highlights were no doubt watching Big Boi perform in a gnarly leg brace, with all my favorite Outkast hits on deck in addition to his solo jams. I even had an opportunity to say hi backstage and he was gracious enough to take a photo with me, even with the apparent discomfort of his leg. The photo is too much, so hit me up via email if you’re dying to see it.

A Tribe Called Quest, what more else is there to say? They are my favorite hip hop group of all time and I doubt that is ever going to change. Standing directly in front of the charismatic Q-Tip while he rapped was such a rare moment. Only the stage came between him and my camera, I was filled with an unreal excitement. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad are true performers, bums me out that Q-Tip said this was their very last show. Then again, the Abstract has said that many times before. True or False? There was an actual moment where I began crying during Electric Relaxation because I was so happy.

For my up close + personal video footage, peep my Instagram here (ATCQ) + here (Big Boi)

H2OFestival ATCQ

H2OFest ATribeCalledQuest

H2OFest BigBoi

The Juice, Atwater Village

The Juice, located in Atwater Village, is the best fresh pressed juice bar in L.A. As an Angeleno, I am confident in making that claim, as I’ve had my fair share of fresh pressed juices. This Atwater gem offers fresh, raw, organic, pressed juices and smoothies, with prices (mostly $8) beating the competition. Having just returned from vacation, and most definitely eating like I had no care in the world, I think it’s time I revisit The Juice for some crucial nutrients necessary to get my body feeling right. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on about cleansing any time soon, but I must attest that I am an avid juicer at home and drinking my vitamins gives me so much energy!

So why The Juice? Their blends are vibrant and bold, with none of them difficult to drink or tasting like the grass from your front lawn. The juices are real, and they’re enjoyable. I had the pleasure of being sent home with 6 different bottles and each one packed their very own unique flavor, many of which surprised me by how much I loved the fruit + vegetable combinations. So much, I am now craving them! The #12 made with red cabbage, apple and lemon was one of my favorites, especially since I had no clue red cabbage could taste so good. The #1, made with carrot and coconut also topped my unexpected faves. My absolute go-to at The Juice is the almond milk, made with freshly pressed almonds, dates, vanilla, water and sea salt. It has to be one of the most delicious things I have ever drank and would be a great substitute for any dessert. Seriously, this needs to go on everyone’s “must” list immediately.

Anything with ginger holds a special place in my heart, so when I was offered a shot made with ginger, lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup – a different take on the Master Cleanse flavor – I couldn’t say no. That tiny cup gave me the afternoon zing I so desperately needed. Last, but certainly not least, the smoothies. Combine any of the fresh pressed juices with vegan ice cream (made in house) and I promise you’ll never be the same. The Juice is perfect for summer but you’ll soon join the army of juice fanatics who will need these healthy and delish bottles all year round. A big thank you to the cheerful and beautiful co-owner Elizabeth Halpern (pictured) for inviting me in to experience The Juice. Her vibe and juice is a great addition to one of my favorite L.A. neighborhoods.

The Juice, 3145 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90039

The Juice Atwater Village

The Juice Atwater Village

The Juice Atwater Village
How cool is it that their  juice case is a standard sushi case?

The Juice Elizabeth Halpern

The Juice vegan ice cream

The Juice

The Juice Atwater Village

The Juice smoothies

The Juice ginger shot

The Juice Geoff Mcfetridge

Alpha Dominche Steampunk at LAMILL Coffee, Silverlake

I was recently invited to LAMILL Coffee Boutique – one of my favorite spots in L.A. for all things coffee – to experience an exciting demo of the new Alpha Dominche Steampunk. This unique coffee brewer is unlike anything I have ever seen and it took a visit to the beautiful Silverlake staple to see how every inch of it worked to fully grasp its genius. With the capacity to brew four times the coffee than any other machine on the market, watching this beauty at work was quite the show. The Steampunk is a first of its kind in the industry, with the capabilities of offering flavor profiles similar to those produced from French press to pour-over, all in one beautiful American made machine. Watch this baby in action in my very own NJ in LA Instagram video. You’ll be in awe.

Along with my samplings of LAMILL’s brews: Black Onyx, Black Velvet, and Brazil Samambaia Peaberry, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the company’s experts and talk all things coffee. I had never met anyone so passionate about the little bean (which is actually a seed) and left feeling inspired to refine my palette. My inspiring coffee encounter was made extra sweet with a plate of delicious treats that would give anyone something to write home about. I let my guide do the choosing and his selection of brownies, lavender biscuits and sea salt chocolate chip cookies made for a perfect afternoon. The Steampunk is a great addition to L.A. coffee!

LAMILL Coffee Boutique, 1636 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Alphadominche Steampunk at LAMILL

LAMILL Coffee Silverlake

Tasty Noodle House, San Gabriel

I was born and raised in the SGV, that’s the San Gabriel Valley if you didn’t know. I have called San Gabriel and Alhambra home for most of my life as I’m a fourth generation Mexican American Angeleno/Gabrielino. The SGV is a culinary Mecca and I’m always trying to encourage people to drive just 10 miles East of DTLA to eat out here! My hard-working immigrant community is rich with culinary delights from Mexico, China and Vietnam. Bánh mì was sold at my high school food fairs (SGHS, go Matadors!) just to give you an idea of the culture I was immersed in. I mention all of this because I noticed my blog was lacking in food from the place I love most, home.

San Gabriel is 60% Asian American, and I consider that to be an important thread in my upbringing. I live in between Valley Blvd and Las Tunas and when it is time to grub all I usually need is $10 in my pocket. My mother asked me to chose a spot with either pork or fish dishes, so we made our way up the street to Tasty Noodle House, a spot I had been eyeing near Golden Deli for a minute. Luckily for her, the menu boasted both options and much more. We cozied up in a booth, thankfully beating the major rush, and began to survey our options. Funny enough, we didn’t order anything with noodles, but what we did choose made for a beautiful spread. We started with the scallion pancake, as it’s hard to go wrong with fried crispy goodness on any occasion. After a long look at the menu we decided our main plates would include Szechuan style eggplant, steamed pork dumplings and pan fried pork + jellyfish with vegetables.

I love everything Szechuan because I live for spicy and was pleased with the bold flavors found in the sauce in which the eggplant was submerged. Though not as hot as I usually enjoy (I should’ve told them to go extra hot), the bite of heat with a hint of sweet danced nicely on my tongue. Dumplings are a no brainer for my family and I at any seating, and was pleased with these pork filled treats, that were substantial in size, but didn’t feel heavy. The pièce de résistance was the jellyfish, as it was the first time I had ever tried that sea creature. This is one of the reasons I love my mom, ever since I was a kid, she has been ordering dishes not considered the standard. Seems it has rubbed off, in which I am grateful. When the colorful plate reached the table, I couldn’t even figure out which parts where the jellyfish and when I took my first bite I was surprised that it was crunchy, when I anticipated it to be smooth, dare I even say slimy - I was totally wrong! It absorbed the flavors of the pork, vegetables and sauce and rounded out our dinner rather nicely.

Tasty Noodle House, 827 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA. 91776

Tasty Noodle House Szechuan Eggplant

Tasty Noodle House San Gabriel

Tasty Noodle House Scallion Pancake

Tasty Noodle House Dumplings

Tasty Noodle House Jellyfish

Top Round Roast Beef, Los Angeles

Last week I was invited to Top Round Roast Beef to enjoy an afternoon filled with sandwiches, curly fries and frozen custard. To say I left with a food coma would be an understatement. Roast beef has rarely called my name, but then again, it’s one of those sandwiches whose popularity is typically outside of L.A., am I right? Lucky for us, when that shaved beef craving hits, there’s a fun spot on the corner of Olympic/La Brea serving up hot sandwiches. Upon arrival at this vibrant roast beef stand, I noticed the bright pops of color, throwback decor and friendly vibe that was going around. I took to the menu and was pleased with it’s simplicity while remaining varied. My selection included the Black and Blue, Bar-B-Que, Dirty Fries and a Frozen Custard ice cream cone with sprinkles for dessert.

The Black and Blue roast beef sandwich was hands down my favorite and I had the chance to taste a few. Topped with black pepper, blue cheese, and caramelized onions on a sesame seed bun, this hearty sandwich is a savory spin on the classic. An order of Dirty Fries was a must for the table, offering homemade Idaho potatoes, curled and fried in 100% beef fat, topped with gravy, provel cheese, caramelized onions and Round sauce. A boat of fries is probably best shared but most definitely not to be missed. Dessert is killing it at Top Round, with a choices ranging from frozen custard with a zillion toppings, to concretes (like a Blizzard), malts, shakes and floats with over 127 soda flavors to choose from. This spot is a sweet tooth’s dream!

Top Round Roast Beef, 1000 S La Brea Ave Los Angeles, CA 90019

Top Round Ice Cream Bar

Top Round Roast Beef

Top Round Roast Beef Sandwich

Top Round French Fries

Top Round Ice Cream

Frozen Custard Ice Cream

Dead Chefs at The Residency, UMAMIcatessen, Downtown L.A.

I had the privilege of being invited to try Chef Micah Wexler’s “Dead Chefs” series at The Residency, located within UMAMIcatessen in Downtown L.A. As part of this series, each chef develops a menu with a historical culinary figure in mind. At my tasting we were graced with the inspiration of Maestro Martino di Como, known as the legendary “Prince of Cooks” in Italy. Our 5 course meal was absolutely incredible and I highly recommend you reserve a seat for this experiential meal which changes on the weekly.

We started with the Sgombri con Zucchini e Finocchi: mackerel, summer squash, wild fennel sauce. The freshness of the fish, paired with crisp vegetables and dill was a beautiful start to the meal. The flavors were so bright that I found myself wanting to lick the plate to savor every ounce of the dish. On to course 2, Zanzarelli con Fava e Zafferano: bread soup, fava bean, and saffron. Though it was difficult to capture the glory of this soup with a photo, I must attest the fragrance was rich and the broth felt hearty while maintaining a lightness when consumed. The snap of the fava bean in my mouth was a pleasant surprise when I was fortunate enough to find one in my spoon. I’d love to learn how to make this soup in my very own kitchen! Course 3, Tagliarini Genovese: fresh pasta, arugula, mozarella, parmigiano was bold, made with argula pesto rather than the usual basil. The pasta was legit, but I found myself wanting to add salt to my bowl to cut the bitterness of the arugula. It was certainly beautiful to play with but had me wanting just a little something else.

The pièce de résistance was undoubtedly Maialino da Latte Arrosto: roasted suckling pig, garlic, herbs, offal sauce. This bad boy made us squeal with delight (pun intended) when he was delivered to the carving station. Micah was proud to pose with the pig and we all eagerly awaited our very first bite of the perfectly cooked white meat. The flavor was on point, the meat moist and the crispy outer layer of skin is what dreams are made of. I had a chance to choose some extra pig parts and I went straight for the crispy ears – an absolute delight! To conclude this glorious experience they brought out course 5, dessert. Crostata di Madorle: almond tarte, date, coffee. I was almost beyond stuffed at this point but not too much to enjoy a few bites of this delectable sweet treat topped with crème fraîche.

UMAMIcatessen, 852 Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Dead Chef's at The Residency Roasted suckling pig

The Residency at UMAMIcatessen

Dead Chef's at UMAMIcatessen

The Residency at UMAMIcatessen

Chef Micah Wexler

The Residency at UMAMIcatessen

UMAMIcatessen dessert