One restaurant opening I was pretty bummed to miss while in LA was Dez, a fast-casual Middle Eastern spot in Nolita. Specializing in vegetable mezes, chef-crafted salads, bowls, and pita sandwiches, plus a a seasonal soft serve as well as housemade baked goods, this place is basically my ideal restaurant. Not to mention it was opened by one of my fave people to follow on Instagram, and fellow Brooklynite, @EdenEats (go follow her if you don't already- trust). No surprise then, that I put Dez at the top of my priority list on a recent trip to New York. I brought along my favorite eating partner, my husband Derek, and we had the perfect Middle Eastern lunch feast in the dez. I'm a huge fan of their bright and colorful mezes, vegetable-focused small plates best enjoyed with their freshly baked pita. The heavenly mix of flavors and textures did not disappoint- from the fire roasted cauliflower with crispy capers and currant chimichurri, to the honey and harissa roasted carrots with dukkah, I don't think I could pick a favorite if I tried! Derek throughly enjoyed his shawarma burger, complete with its giant shard of crispy eggplant sticking out the top! We were somehow too full for dessert (who even am I?), but I def need to get back to try their soft serve and baked goods soon. And brunch too? Sign me up!
When you're tired of the same 'ol thing, and really craving something outside the box, I highly suggest you head to Trois Familia. This French-Mexican fusion spot comes from Chef Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo, and is part of the highly acclaimed Trois Mec/Petit Trois family, so you know going in that it's got a lot to live up to. Just browsing through the photos above will show you how colorful and creative the dishes are, and I can attest that everything is just as flavorful and decadent as it looks. Some items on the menu may sound a little out there- beet tartare tostada? Parisian gnocchi? hashbrown chilaquiles?- and I wouldn't fault you for questioning if they'll work. Chef Ludo does what he does best, however, and blends the flavors and techniques of Mexican and French cuisines seamlessly. Each dish offers the comforts of what you'd expect, plus a surprising flair to make it something entirely different. The beet (not beef!) tartare tostada was a personal fave- the crunchy tostada was complemented perfectly from the fresh lime and avocado crema. Also, how much does it look like real beef tartare?! The mussels Marinière were packed full of garlic, white wine, and herbs, and the grilled bread was perfect for soaking up every last drop of sauce. Don't miss their signature tres leches birthday cake for dessert!
Happy Birthday! A classic birthday cake is one of those recipes any good baker should have up his or her sleeve, to whip up whenever an occasion so presents itself. Over the spring and summer months, it seems like there are hundreds of birthdays being celebrated amongst my family and friends, and this cake is a tried and true winner. While this one in particular is a vanilla cake with raspberry filling and a Swiss meringue buttercream, you can customize it in various ways based on your heart's desire: make a chocolate frosting, switch up the filling, add nuts- you get the idea! I highly recommend checking out my wedding cake post for more specific details and instructions on baking, assembling, and decorating the perfect (or close enough!) layer cake! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)
Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake with Raspberry Compote Filling & Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 4 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed & softened
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups fresh raspberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- fresh raspberries, for serving
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the parchment as well. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the base of a stand mixer fit with whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, beating well and scraping down the bowl to ensure they are fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, then mix in buttermilk until just combined. Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point. Add flour mixture until just incorporated, careful not to over-mix. Pour batter evenly among cake pans, and bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then completely on a cooling rack.
To prepare raspberry compote, cook raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a small saucepan until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until the compote is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (this can be made a week ahead of time). Makes 1 cup.
While cakes are baking, make the buttercream. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a bowl over a double boiler until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into the stand mixer (make sure it's clean & dry!) fit with paddle attachment and whip until it turns white glossy. Add the vanilla, then the butter and continue to whip until buttercream comes together. This may take a good 10-15 minutes, so don't worry if things look curdled or soupy at the start!
Once cakes have cooled, you may level and assemble them, adding filling between the two layers. Spread buttercream evenly around the outside, creating a pattern if desired, and finish with toppings if you choose! You may also make this a 3-layer cake by baking in 6" round cake pans, just make sure you adjust baking time accordingly. Check out my wedding cake post for more assembly and cake decorating instructions. Enjoy!
Ever since my trip to Australia a couple years ago, I've been loving all things Aussie- the food, in particular (case in point: The Boathouse, Two Hands, The Farm at Byron Bay, and Top Shop Byron Bay)! I'm all about healthy, flavorful, and simply-prepared food that really lets the fresh ingredients shine, and Great White Venice embodies just that. The Australian owners brought the chill vibes of Oz, mixed it with that coastal-Californian flair, and created the perfect neighborhood café in Venice right by the beach! You'll find the usual suspects like avocado toast. a brekkie sandwich, and hearty grain bowl, but I highly suggest trying one of Great White's more unique offerings, like the beautiful blue smoothie bowl with passionfruit, e3 live blue algae, and chia seeds! My husband raved about his corn fritter, which looked more like a crab cake than a fried fritter, and came topped with a poached egg, avocado salsa, and grilled halloumi! Acclaimed Aussie coffee brand Vittoria is served here, so rest assured you'll find a Flat White just like you would in Sydney. I personally loved that they offered a seasonal kombucha on-tap as well! Stop by after your morning surf session, or before you hit the beach for some afternoon sun- either way you won't be disappointed. Grab a seat out front in the open-air patio for some great people watching and soak up that salty ocean breeze!
Oh my, Botanica Market & Restaurant. Where to even start?! One of my new neighborhood spots since being in LA has been this gem of a place, and it honestly couldn't be more up my alley if it tried! Seasonal vegetables, homemade baked goods, refreshing cocktails, natural wines... the list goes on and on. While the restaurant isn't vegetarian by any means, they emphasize vegetables, fruits, and grains, creating delicious, balanced, and fulfilling dishes that would satisfy anyone. I love their belief that healthy cooking doesn't have to be boring, but rather vibrant, creative, and super satisfying! You'll find tons of color and flavor on the menu at Botanica, along with a touch of Middle Eastern flair. I have yet to be disappointed in anything I've tried, and I love tasting new things each time I visit. The morning mezze offers a rotating mix of things like roasted squash hummus, roasted beet-apple radish salad with dukkah, a 6-minute egg with salsa verde, olives, and that wonderfully chewy Bub & Grandma's bread! Heaven! Most recently I got the smoked beet tartine, with fromage blanc, pickled onions & smoked beets on Bub & Grandma's bread with arugula, herbs, pistachios & puffed wild rice! So many delicious textures and flavors, and so much more exciting than a simple salad. Botanica is the perfect spot for grabbing a quick cup of coffee and pastry in the front market, as well as for a wonderfully relaxed meal on the foliage-filled back patio. Making a reservation for dinner is next on my agenda, and soon! Trust me, this is not a place to skip on your next trip to Los Angeles!
I'm all about a new ice cream shop opening in my neighborhood, especially in the summertime! I'd been excited to try Republic of Booza ever since I first saw the signage go up a block from my apartment (dangerously close??) in Brooklyn. While you may assume Republic of Booza serves good 'ol classic ice cream, the decadent, frozen treat here is technically called booza! What the heck is booza? I had the same question. The 'original' ice cream, known for its elastic texture and resistance to melting, was developed about 500 years ago in the eastern pocket of the Mediterranean, and is super common in Lebanon and Turkey. This denser, slightly chewier cousin to ice cream gets its texture thanks to two key ingredients: sahlab, or ground orchid root, and mastic, a resin found in the bark of a tree exclusive to the Greek isles. The result is a truly creamy, flavor-packed dessert, with zero air pockets to be found. The owners like to think of it as "gelato on steroids", and I couldn't agree more. Republic of Booza offers traditional Middle Eastern flavors, like qashta (candied cream) and tahini mint chip, as well as American classics likes salted oreo and chocolate, and even some globally inspired takes like horchata de chufa and red miso! I highly recommend stopping by the Williamsburg store, and trying it out for yourself. Just look how pumped my husband is in the above photo- like a kid in a candy store ;) You may even get lucky enough to watch the spectacle of the booza being made, which involves the confectioner crushing the booza with a three foot wooden pestle and then stretching it with his or her hands! You don't see that at many other ice cream parlors!