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!
I think one of the best parts about traveling is discovering little gems of restaurants all around the world. They don't have to be fancy, Michelin-starred spots either- maybe they're off the beaten path, and even better if they aren't your typical tourist trap! My advice: ask a local! My husband and I visited the Azores (specifically São Miguel Island) off the west coast of Portugal last fall, and after relaxing at the beautiful black sand beach of Ribeira Quente, we were on the hunt for some fresh, local grub.
Restaurante Ponta do Garajau came highly recommended to us, but we were warned that we may not be able to get in without a reservation on such short notice. We figured we'd test our luck, and showed up right when they opened, slightly sandy from the beach (and a bit worried we may be underdressed to be honest). Practically all the tables were reserved for reservations, but they were able to squeeze us in at a lovely communal table right in the middle of the outdoor dining space. Ponta do Garajau really fits in perfectly in the cute fisherman's village of Ribeira Quente, filled with rustic decor and an old-fashioned kitchen.
Let's be clear- you come to Ponta do Garajau for the seafood (it's literally just off the beach), and as soon as the food started arriving, we knew we were in the right place. I let my husband choose from the extensive menu (most of which was in Portuguese), and they even give you a "Consumer's Guide to Azorean Seafood" to help you navigate all the different fish available. We tried the octopus salad, smooth Azorean Limpet (clam-like sea snails that arrive sizzling in a grand display), Bluemouth Rockfish, and Black Scabbardfish, as well as ice cream for dessert, of course. Along with some homemade bread, cheese, olives, and wine, it was truly a memorable meal! Everything was fresh and delicious, and simply prepared in a way that allowed the seafood to shine. I cannot recommend Ponta do Garajau enough if you ever find yourself in the Azores!
I'll just come right out and say it- I'm obsessed with Lodge Bread Company. This bakery and café in west LA focuses on whole grain sourdough bread baking, freshly milled flours, and wood-fired pizzas, and truly impresses in all ways, if you ask me. Every day, Lodge Bread churns out some seriously delish and hearty bread, unique pastries, and both Neapolitan & pan pizzas, not to mention some tasty wood-fired veggie dishes as well. It's truly everything I want in a meal- carbs and sweets! I'd been eyeing the (gigantic!) sourdough cinnamon roll ever since I first saw it on Instagram, and finally indulged on my most recent visit. It's not overly sweet, thanks to a lighter, whipped frosting and that hearty whole grain sourdough, but utterly delicious with the perfect amount of cinnamon flavor! Next on my must-try list is the babka!
I've now gotten to try a good variety of things from the menu, and have yet to be disappointed. Upon first entering the bakery, after checking out the bakers handling the dough with such care , you'll find the beautiful array of pastries baked fresh that day. I highly recommend trying a couple (or five). Other than the cinnamon roll, the pine nut blondie and the carrot olive oil cake are to die for! The wood-fired cauliflower with pickled raisins & chermoula is just bursting with flavor, as are the roasted beets with chicories, cara cara oranges, labne & pepitas. You can't come to Lodge without ordering pizza. Trust me, just do it. My pan pizza was thick and chewy, almost like a slightly crusty sourdough focaccia, piled high with roasted veggies. Our sweet pea pie was the perfect seasonal treat, topped with snap peas, pea tendrils, green garlic & ricotta! I'm now drooling again just thinking about this meal, so looks like a return trip is in my very near future!
My husband has been on a serious açaí bowl kick lately, and to be honest, I'm not complaining! They're refreshing, delicious, and packed full of healthy ingredients like açaí (duh!), nuts, seeds, and other fruit! The options are pretty endless, but a good place to start is with some high quality, unsweetened açaí, either puréed and frozen or freeze-dried and powdered. The recipe for our go-to version is listed below, but feel free to play around with your favorite superfoods! We love including chia seeds, matcha powder, coconut flakes, and almond butter for a healthy, yet satisfying treat. While artfully arranging the toppings over your smoothie is not necessary, it sure does make for a pretty darn beautiful breakfast or snack! PS- Make sure you go follow my husband's catering company, Beck & Call, as well as his soon-to-be casual eatery Scratch BK, for more delicious eats!
- 2 packs açaí purée, frozen
- 1 banana, frozen
- 1 cup mixed berries, frozen
- 2 cups milk of choice (we like coconut or almond)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tsp maca powder
- honey or agave nectar, to taste
- toppings: fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, bananas, coconut flakes, granola, almond butter, matcha powder, chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, etc.
Blend everything together in a high-powered blender, like a Vitamix. You're going for a thick smoothie consistency, so that it can be eaten with a spoon. Scatter desired toppings across the bowl. Enjoy! Makes two bowls.
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First off, I want to apologize for the photos in this post. The lighting at Al Fassia is pretty dim at night, but the food couldn't be more delicious! For some of the best traditional Moroccan food in Marrakech, I cannot recommend Al Fassia enough. This place, which is located in Gueliz (new city) as opposed to the medina (old city) where we were staying, came highly recommended by numerous people, and I now totally understand why. We hopped in a taxi one evening and ventured out of the medina in search of some tasty, traditional eats, and couldn't have been more pleased with our meal. After seeing a colorful assortment of small plates on many other tables, we decided to start with the selection of fine salads. This consisted of beets, eggplant, carrots, and tomatoes (among others) prepared in various ways, some fresh and marinated, and others cooked down into a dip or spread. Everything was just bursting with flavor, and was the perfect complement to the freshly baked bread. I loved the beautifully hand-painted plates as well! For our entrées, we both chose chicken tagines, which seemed to be somewhat of a specialty here. Mine came with caramelized pumpkin, while my husbands was topped with caramelized onions and raisins. Both came served in their own sauce from the tagine, with a side of simple cous cous to soak up all that juicy goodness! Glory, my mouth is watering just thinking about it all again now! This was a truly memorable meal in Marrakech, one that I hope I get to experience again in the future!
Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa had been on my must-visit list for a while now. This Los Angeles-based hotspot gets rave reviews from practically everyone for serving super fresh, high-quality sushi, sashimi, and hand rolls. More recently, they've even opened a New York location as well. Sugarfish is known for its authentic and traditional Tokyo-style sushi, while working hard to combine old school values with new school vision. This means the best fish every morning, the rice is served warm, and the seaweed is a bit crisp, making for the swooniest sushi-eating experience of my life! You won't find any "American style" extravagant rolls or fusion dishes here, but rather pure, basic ingredients prepared in the best way.
The menu is quite small and to the point, and while you can choose to order a la carte, I highly recommend one of their Japanese omakase options. My "Trust Me" included a wonderful sampling of the freshest fish, including edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon, yellowtail, snapper, and scallop sushi, plus toro and blue crab hand rolls! Nozawa even makes his own soy and ponzu sauces, which are the perfect complement to the simplicity of the fish. Sugarfish's traditional vibe may not be for everyone (no extra sauce, salt, or rice is given; no avocado, brown rice, or soy paper available etc.), however, I definitely urge you to try it out for the experience alone! With multiple locations in Los Angeles, I'm already planning a return visit soon!