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!
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!
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!