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!


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!


felix trattoria

Pasta, pasta, pasta! I had been told by many a pasta-finatic that if you’re on the hunt for delicious Italian food in Los Angeles, you head straight to Felix Trattoria. Being that it’s in Venice, it’s not the quickest dinner venture for us (not to mention reservations are hard to come by), but when I was planning a recent date night with friends, I made Felix a top priority. Chef Evan Funke’s take on traditional, regional Italian cuisine enriched with local Cali ingredients is nothing short of spectacular. Pasta and bread are the true standouts, and you can even watch them get made right before your eyes! The pizza bianca (with melt-in-your-mouth buffalo mozzarella) and the classic focaccia sfincione are not to be missed. You really can’t go wrong with anything from the handmade pasta menu, which offers various regional specialties from all around Italy. I love an orecchiette, and this one served with sausage, broccoli, peperoncino, and canestrato was delectable down to the last bite! Even the veggies at Felix were memorable: I loved the mint and pesto Siciliano coating the green beans in the fagiolini verdi dish! Also impressive were the branded ice cubes in my negroni- how fancy! Even though we were pretty stuffed by this point, you know I don’t skip dessert. The torta della nonna (a perfectly moist olive oil cake) really hit the spot, and allowed us to finish our meal on a not-too-sweet, but totally satisfied note. Scroll through the slideshow to check out the rest of our meal, and trust me when I say- get there soon! Felix (Latin for “happy” or “lucky”) easily gets my vote for best Italian in LA, and I already cannot wait to return in the new year!


tartine manufactory

San Francisco is such a great food city, but one that I really haven’t gotten the chance to explore all that much. A few months ago when I was spending a night there before heading out to wine country, I made it a top priority to make dinner reservations at Tartine Manufactory. You’ve probably heard of Tartine Bakery before, or at least drooled over their tasty looking baked goods on Instagram, but did you know they also have a chic restaurant in a bright, industrial space in the Mission District? I’d been following them for a while, and practically every dish I see is calling my name. The menu draws from local, seasonal California ingredients, and of course offers some killer pasta and bread. There’s a huge bakery in the restaurant, and I can only imagine how many fresh loaves of sourdough they’re churning out each day (check out all those proofing baskets stacked up below!). It’s worth having a glass of wine at the bar and just watching the entire process unfold. Serious bakers are practically my idols! PS- if you’re looking to get into baking yourself, I highly suggest you start out with the critically acclaimed Tartine Bread book. It’s full of foolproof classics that are sure to satisfy your cravings.

Getting back to our meal, it did not disappoint in the least. We tried a bunch of dishes (as evidenced by scrolling through the slideshow above), and while it would be easy to say the bread was the highlight of the meal, that really wouldn’t do the rest of the food justice. The lamb meatballs were delicately spiced and served with a deliciously creamy, yet earthy fava bean purée. One of my faves was the marinated artichoke with fennel and pistachio- such a unique dish, and a total flavor explosion. The slightly sweet, caramelized fennel paired perfectly with the hearty pistachio spread. Yum! Most people would agree that once you’ve tried homemade pasta it’s hard to go back, and Tartine’s pasta will really do you in. Classically simple, non-fussy, and perfectly al dente! Of course my favorite part of any meal is dessert, so I naturally (greedily?) chose the one that serves 2-4 people! Although it was not my first time devouring the PB&J ice cream pie, it was just as decadently tasty as I remembered. Seriously, the peanut caramel and peanut cookie crust take this treat to another level entirely. Don’t forget to stop by the ice cream counter on your way out for a cone to-go, and definitely take a freshly baked loaf of bread for to enjoy at home! Good news for those in Los Angeles- you don’t have to drive eight hours to enjoy all that Tartine has to offer- a Southern Cali outpost is opening soon!

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loring place

 
 

Loring Place had been on my must-visit list before it even opened, and I’m actually embarrassed how long it took me to get there. Alas, my parents were coming to town, and in my opinion, that’s the best excuse to make a reservation at the new hotspot in town. Chef Dan Kluger, who previously ran the kitchens at the highly successful ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina, branched off on his own to open his own place where seasonal, local, American cuisine shines. Loring Place truly is a celebration of all things local- you’ll find ingredients from New York all over the menu. Kluger has built relationships with many farms and farmers over the years at the Union Square Greenmarket, and it’s so great to see their bounty on offer at the restaurant.

I really enjoyed the wide range of market-driven dishes, just bursting with flavor and creativity. Fruits and veggies at their peak ripeness really stood front and center to me- I love that they’re such a focal part of the menu! The grilled strawberry salad with sungold tomatoes, and carrot-hazelnut romesco with roasted eggplant and pita really impressed, as did the roasted corn with shishitos and basil. The wood-fired grill and oven lend themselves to some freshly baked bread and pizzas (all the grains are milled in-house!), as well as some tender, juicy cuts of meat. The savory duck was perfectly balanced by sweet & tart cherries and crunchy pistachios. We ordered plenty, but obviously still finished with dessert- a trio of deliciousness that I won’t soon forget. A fancy take on a DQ Blizzard?! Yes please! Click through the slideshow for more details on our meal. My husband and I are already planning a return trip specifically for pizza, because we just couldn’t fit it in this time! Too many tempting dishes, which is a great problem to have- well done, Chef!


olmsted

Olmsted has been on my must-try list for some time now, so I was excited when my husband and I finally made it there for my birthday dinner! This Brooklyn hotspot has been getting rave reviews for its seasonal, ingredient- driven menu. They even have their own backyard garden and living wall, which provide produce for the dishes. Chef Greg Baxtrom, who has an impressive list of restaurants on his resume including Per Se and Alinea, partnered with farmer Ian Rothman to create a vegetable-forward restaurant with a strong focus on sustainability. Talk about right up my alley!

The menu draws inspiration from many different types of cuisine, and even has a secret "menu within a menu" called the Yakitori Olmsted. Ask for it for a fun departure from your typical neighborhood restaurant menu! We stuck to some of the classics, and were not disappointed. The duck chakna, while not something I would typically order, was so full of flavor, and the accompanying red lentil naan was like a fluffy pillow of doughy goodness! The rutabaga tagliatelle was a creative take on pasta- the ribbons of rutabaga giving us that perfect al dente bite! The highlight of the meal for me, and something I was looking forward to before we even arrived, was dessert (shocker, I know). At Olmsted, guests can roast their own s'mores, complete with homemade marshmallows and artisan graham crackers, right outside in the backyard. How fun, and something you don't typically see in New York City! My husband, being the wonderful man that he is, had them surprise us with all the desserts on the menu, so in addition to our freshly roasted s'mores, we got to indulge in caramel apple donuts and chocolate mousse as well! Click through the photos to read about the rest of our tasty dishes. Sounds like a dream meal to me!