hippo

I love discovering tasty, new-to-me places in my (or a close by) neighborhood. Hippo in Highland Park had been on my radar for a while now- multiple friends had raved about it, and I couldn’t help but drool over their Instagram. So when we had good friends in town staying with us recently, I knew just the spot for dinner. Nestled off the busy street, just behind Triple Beam Pizza (another fave!), Hippo’s rustic, Italian-American vibes make it seem very New York to me. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much from the moment we walked in, but once we tasted the food, it truly won me over. The bread basket of housemade focaccia was perfectly crusty and chewy, and I strongly suggest you start with the burrata di bufala (imported from Lazio-Italy!), served with even more delicious, carby goodness. I was a huge fan of the veggie starters- from the cool haricot verts with serrano chili toasted hazelnuts & Frenchie vinaigrette, to the griddled cauliflower with cauliflower “tahini” & walnut raisin caper relish, the flavors were truly unique. Of course, several housemade pastas are on the menu (and worth an order!), including the semolina spaghetti with guanciale, tomato & spicy pickled peppers, as well as the winter squash cappellacci with browned butter, sage & amaretti! Carefully handmade pasta, perfectly cooked to al dente, truly makes all the difference. Be sure to check out the rest of our meal in the slideshow above- there were honestly so many noteworthy dishes! We actually already had plans for ice cream after dinner, so I didn’t get a chance to try Hippo’s desserts- but there’s always next time! Post-baby, I’d like to go back for “Hippo Hour”, their version of happy hour, for some tasty small plates and a cool cocktail as well!


pink's creamery

Now that the weather is finally warming up, and perhaps because I’m eight months pregnant, I could happily eat ice cream every day. The cold and creamy goodness just always hits the spot! So many amazing places come to mind, but one that really stands out is Pink’s Creamery on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. My husband and I visited on a recent trip- our babymoon, actually!- and were blown away by the quality and taste. Pink’s has been slow-churned on Maui since 1932, and serves local-inspired flavors like my husband’s fave, the Kona Mud Pie (Kona coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies and fudge), and Haupia (a classic coconut custard). I was all about the Banana Mac-Nut Brittle- a delicious banana ice cream with roasted macadamia nuts & crunchy bits of brittle! Holy yum! Just thinking about it has my cravings going wild. Guess we’ll have to plan another Hawaiian getaway soon!


triple beam pizza

Triple Beam Pizza, “the place where they weigh the pizza”, is a casual joint in Highland Park serving up classic Roman-style pies. That means you walk in to a mouth-watering view of several slabs of freshly made, thin crust pizza, and show how much you want of each with a simple hand gesture. The guys behind the counter grab the scissors, and cut you just the right amount. Pizza here is weighed by the ounce, so get as much or as little of each kind as your heart desires! I’ve been a few times, and I must say, I truly love this no frills approach. You can also eat it Roman-style (straight from the counter), or get it American-style, so it’s reheated and crisped in the oven for a few minutes. Plus, knowing that Nancy Silverton is the mastermind behind this spot, you know the pizza is going to be totally legit. There’s always a great variety available, from the uniquely delicious acorn squash with honey, to more classic options like margherita or sausage with mushrooms. Yum! The focaccia is also fluffy, chewy, and baked to perfection if you’re wanting a more bready, less cheesy option. I’ve heard they’ll even do a made-to-order vegan pie, so I’ll have to try that out soon as well! Definitely stop by next time you’re in Highland Park!


misi

Where do I even begin with Misi? This South Williamsburg beauty from celebrated chef Missy Robbins focuses on handmade pasta dishes and vegetable antipasti inspired by simple Italian cooking. That’s truly just it. The menu is very straightforward- ten antipasti and ten pasta- but everything is executed with such finesse, that it feels like a luxury dining experience. You may remember Chef Missy Robbins from Lilia, her in North Williamsburg hotspot in a converted auto body shop. She’s back with a bit simpler concept, but doesn’t skimp on taste or flavor. Misi had been on my husband’s and my must-visit list for some time now, but since we've been spending so much time in Los Angeles, we still hadn’t gotten the chance to stop by. Finally, on a recent trip to New York, we decided to walk in early on a Friday evening (risky with no reservation!), and were lucky enough to be greeted by Missy herself! After a private tour of Misi’s beautiful pasta room (check out my Instagram story highlights for more), we were seated at some of the best seats in the house overlooking the open kitchen, and started to devour the menu while watching the sunset over the Williamsburg bridge.

It was hard to narrow it down- so many dishes sounds appealing- but we ended up with three antipasti and three pasta! A nice, light meal for two people, no?! Scroll through the slideshow above for details on each dish, but honestly I’m not sure I could even choose a favorite. The raw fennel & celery salad with parmigiano & walnuts was the perfect light, crunchy complement to the garlicky, grilled runner beans. And as simple as the fettuccine with buffalo butter, parmigiano extra vecchio & black pepper was- wow- it truly blew us away. There’s sometimes nothing better than fresh, simple ingredients done right. Missy even told us that the fettuccine was the first dish created for the menu at Misi, before the restaurant was even open! Definitely a must-order if you’re lucky enough to go. We were both pretty full by that point, but I’m never one to pass on dessert, and once again Misi keeps things nice and simple. There are six housemade gelati available (plus the current off-menu pistachio!), as well as a nice offering of digestivi like grappa & amaro. We went with the super creamy pistachio gelato (loved the chunks of toasted nuts), as well as mint stracciatella gelato, which was smooth and refreshing, with just the right amount of mint infusion. We had such a delicious and memorable meal thanks to Chef Missy Robbins, I truly cannot thank her enough. The passion and care that goes into her food is evidently clear, and as a #chefswife myself, I respect her so much for that! Cheers to plotting our next visit sooner than later!


wishing well shave ice

Ok shave ice, where have you been all my life?! I shouldn’t necessarily say all my life. There was this amazing ‘lil shave ice stand in the Texas Hill Country that my family would frequent during the summertime when I was a kid. But man, I forgot how good that stuff is! I’m not talking about the typical sno-cone you find at your local amusement park or state fair. Those are icy, hard, and way too syrupy. True Hawaiian shave ice is another beast entirely, and I found some of my fave at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Kauai. The ice is shaved so finely thin (go figure!), it’s like the fluffiest snow you’ve ever tasted. No hard crunches to the teeth here! Plus, the typical flavors are made from local, seasonal fruits like coconut, mango & papaya, so they aren’t too crazy sweet. Your shave ice bowl gets topped with fresh fruit for a nice, refreshing finish! Many of Wishing Well’s offerings are even organic as well- pretty awesome if you ask me! Now, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll take advantage of the optional ice cream scoop that gets put at the base of the bowl. Oh my glory, it’s the perfect, creamy complement to the fruity shave ice. But go for the macadamia nut ice cream (a local favorite!) over classic vanilla, and thank me later :) Enjoy!


bavel

baba ganoush // smoked eggplant, charred bell peppers, red walnuts, lemon chili salt, fried pita

One of my most memorable dining experiences of 2018 was at Bavel in Downtown Los Angeles. That may have been partly because it was a celebratory dinner (our wedding anniversary!) with my husband, but in all honesty the food and atmosphere stole the show. Offering a similar chic, downtown vibe to their previous hit, Bestia, chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis truly blew us away with this Middle Eastern gem. Both chefs have family roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, which is evidently clear in their dedication to creating inspired, yet traditional, flavors. I absolutely loved the mix of fresh ingredients and slow cooking techniques, as well as the variety of flatbreads and spreads, veggie-focused small plates, and larger format meat and fish dishes. Carbs with dips are always a highlight for me, and the delicately fried pita served with smoky babaganoush was divine. I’d heard from multiple people that we just HAD to order the slow roasted lamb neck shawarma, and being the dutiful diners we are, that is just what we did. Just wow. The lamb was fork tender and literally melted in your mouth, and I couldn’t stop creating the perfect bite with a bit of lamb, tahini, and pickled veggies all wrapped up in the chewy laffa. By the way, the sommelier was super helpful in guiding us toward a full bodied, yet well-balanced biodynamic wine to pair with dinner. I loved the giant jug it was decanted in too! Never one to skip dessert, even after being extremely full, we went for the roasted fig tart. The baharat spiced semolina crust was super unique and nicely complemented by the brown butter cream. What a sweet treat and perfect ending to a truly memorable meal. Both my husband and I are plotting a return trip soon!

slow roasted lamb neck shawarma // tahini, pickled vegetables, laffa