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!
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!
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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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!
For a cute little brunch or lunch spot in Echo Park, you really can't beat Honey Hi. Their focus on nutritional integrity and sustainability really comes through in each fresh and vibrant dish. Just look at those colors! I love that they value collaborations with local farmers and artisans (organic and locally-sourced produce is used whenever possible), and the menu changes with what's available seasonally at the farmers markets. While the entire menu is inherently gluten-free, they believe in "radical inclusivity", meaning it is not vegan, vegetarian, or any one thing in particular. Honey Hi serves organic, humanely-raised animals and eggs from local farms, but you won't find any refined sugars, GMO's, or vegetable oils in any of their dishes. Basically, you can feel really good about eating here, and your body will definitely thank you for nourishing it with such high quality, delicious eats. There's truly something for everyone here, but so far I definitely recommend "that grain bowl" (I die for the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes, za'atar tahini sauce & cashew buckwheat dukkah!), and I know my husband would go nuts for the "lambwich" (with grilled halloumi, turmeric pickled onions & date tamarind chutney). Yum! There are tons of tasty drinks here too- from pitaya smoothies to bone broth to medicinal 'shroom coffee, the options are endless. Don't skip out on the grain-free chocolate chip cookie for the perfect sweet ending!
Kismet was the restaurant I was most looking forward to trying once I knew we were coming to Los Angeles. This all-day café is totally up my alley- the menu reimagines Middle Eastern flavors for modern-day California cuisine- so basically everything I want in a meal. Before relocating to LA, chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson helmed the kitchen at Glasserie in Brooklyn, which is one of my husband's and my absolute favorite spots, so we had pretty high hopes for our meal at Kismet. I can say we thoroughly enjoyed the food, and although there are some similarities to Glasserie in that they both have Middle Eastern influence, Kismet is its own delicious beast. I love their focus on using small, responsible growers, and how much they value creating personal relationships with the farmers and producers. This passion really comes through in the food, as every dish really allowed the ingredients to shine.
My husband and I met another couple for dinner, so we luckily got to try a ton of different things, and honestly it would be hard for me to pick a favorite. The barbari bread by bub & grandmas was nicely doughy and chewy, but got even better when dunked into their super creamy tahini. Kismet creates some really flavorful combinations, like sweet potato with puffed rice and coconut vinaigrette, as well as kabocha squash with peanut and aleppo pepper, and I truly enjoyed all the unique flavors. Scroll through the slideshow to get details on all twelve (!) of our delicious dishes. I'm dying to return for brunch or lunch, as the Turkish-ish breakfast and broccoli toast are absolutely calling my name! The Kismet team also opened a more fast-casual falafel joint called Madcapra, so looks like I'll have to stop by Grand Central Market for lunch too!