Fiona Bakery was a cute little cafe in West Hollywood serving up seasonal dishes and baked goods that truly allow California’s bounty to shine. I say was, because unfortunately I just got word that they closed their doors for good this past Sunday! Such sad news, to be honest. But with crazy high rent costs and never-ending competition, the restaurant industry is a super difficult place to find success. Ever since I first spotted their sesame butter toast on Instagram, I knew I had to check it out. So when I stopped by for lunch with a good friend recently, the aforementioned bread was obviously ordered. I’m pretty much obsessed with anything involving sesame or tahini, and this did not disappoint. I loved the sweet and savory vibes going on- the sea salt honey was the perfect complement to the creamy sesame butters and chewy, yet fluffy brioche! After ogling over the beautifully impressive pastry case (and vowing to return to try more items soon), we decided to balance things out with a couple of their fresh salads. I loved the Vietnamese-meets-Cali-influenced menu- both the shredded cabbage & chicken salad and little gem salad were bright and flavorful. The menu also featured rice noodle salads and savory sweet potato pancakes- not to mention classic banh mi sandwiches that my husband absolutely adores! Those cookies stacked high in the pastry case (and the carrot cake!) continue to call my name to this day as well. Although I’m super bummed Fiona has since closed its doors, I remain hopeful the team will open another spot soon!
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!
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!
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!
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!
My love for casual, but consistently tasty breakfast and lunch spots is no secret. When we started spending more time in Los Angeles, one of my top priorities was to find a few neighborhood spots at which we could become regulars. These places need to be warm and inviting with a nice atmosphere, the food not too fussy, brew great coffee, and even better if they bake delicious pastries in house. I’d heard several people rave about Go Gem ‘Em Tiger, and once my husband and I stopped by one morning, we realized why. After scouring the menu and narrowing down our breakfast choices (no easy feat!), we snagged a table outside in the sun and sipped our coffees (they roast and sell their own beans!). I highly recommend getting yours made with their housemade almond macadamia milk! Yum! You’ll find some classics on the menu, like homemade granola and a breakfast sandwich, but we went for some of GGET’s more unique offerings. My husband loves a hash, and was all about his Spanish chorizo hash with eggs, potato, and aioli (he only wished it was bigger!). I went for the chickpea frittata, served with seasonal veggies and pickled beets! The only thing missing was hot sauce. We also shared a side of the roasted cauliflower salad, which was served cold and visible in their ready-made section, among many other tasty looking sides. Go Get ‘Em Tiger is the perfect spot for an easy, but enjoyable breakfast or lunch with friends, but also works for a quick coffee and pastry to go. I love getting to sit outside, catching the breeze and soaking up the sun. Lucky for me, they recently opened another location in my new neighborhood- I cannot wait to stop by soon!