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


barndiva

If you haven’t gotten to explore the tasty cuisine (and wine, duh) of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, I highly recommend planning a trip. On a recent summer trip to wine country with my family, let’s just say we ate very well. One of the highlights was the super cute Barndiva, housed in none other than a classic barn setting with a beautiful patio out back. This farm to fork restaurant serves modern country cuisine, and everything is extremely fresh and seasonal thanks to their use of the plentiful local produce around. Because of the size of our group, we had a pre-fixe menu, but the options were still delish. I opted for the colorful beet salad to start, which was served with fresh goat cheese, petite lettuces, carrot, radish, raspberry, and lemon vinaigrette. Just look at that plating- it’s practically a work of art! For my entrée, I chose the Alaskan Halibut. The fish was cooked perfectly and was accompanied by sun dried tomato fregola sarda, fava beans, sugar snap peas, gaufrette, and a stinging nettle pistou. Talk about flavors of the season! This truly makes me miss summer and all its bounty. Don’t skip the creative cocktails, or stop by The Somm’s Table for an evening with local winemakers. Maybe even go for a stroll through the garden if you have time- trust me, wherever you end up at Barndiva, you won’t be disappointed!