NYC | LE COUCOU

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POIREAUX leeks and hazelnuts

LOBSTER CREPE with tomato sauce

CROQUE MADAME ham and gruyere sandwich, eggs, and béchamel

Irresistible view of the bar. Having a fancy cocktail by yourself while admiring this beauty would be a fantastic way to #treatyoself.

Le Coucou is definitely one of the most highly sought after spot in the city right now. Reservations are pretty hard to get, that even with an awkward 10 PM slot you might still be saying "score!" after hitting the reserve button. With that in mind, I got a reservation for brunch a few weeks in advance (I heard dinner was super pricey so wanted to test it out for brunch first) and we were able to have a nice, cozy brunch on a snowy Saturday afternoon. 

One thing you must get: the pastry basket. Seriously, you will want to come back for this. It comes with pain au chocolat, kouign amann, and a savory piece with cheese (pastries came out warm, so we dug in immediately). It signaled a fantastic start to our brunch. 

For our main, we were recommended to get Poireaux (read 'leeks') with hazelnuts and Croque madame. I thought leeks would have been served at a warmer temperature, but it was stone cold. But it definitely was one-of-a-kind dish that you could not get anywhere else. Croque madame was a brick-thick, yet delicately soft treat to warm us up.

Now on to the lobster. When it came to ordering a conspicuously pricey item on the menu such as lobster, especially during brunch, I was naturally hesitant to go that far. But witnessing succulent chunks of lobster garnished on wheat crepes passing my table at every turn... I was instantly sold and thankfully it did not disappoint. 

LE COUCOU
138 Lafayette Street, New York NY 10013

 

NYC | CARBONE

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"In a breadbasket at Manhattan's Carbone, we discovered the Platonic ideal of garlic bread. With roasted garlic butter made from freshly chopped cloves that are by turns sharp and mellow, heat from red chile flakes, and a bit of funk from parmesan, each crunchy bite of baguette, scattered with parsley and chives and bathed in olive oil, is fiercely flavorful and craveworthy" - Saveur 

BAKED CLAMS three variations: uni and shallot, bacon, and oreganata

SPICY RIGATONI VODKA

Skip the clams and meatballs, but Spicy Rigatoni is a must!

CARBONE
181 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

 

NAPA | ARCHETYPE

LEMON-RICOTTA PANCAKES with blueberry syrup and almond butter

CORNED BEEF SHORTRIB HASH with brussel sprouts, soft onions, and poached eggs

LIBERTY FARM DUCK CONFIT AND BUTTERMILK WAFFLE with sunnyside duck egg, black mission figs, and saba

MAPLE SUGARED DONUT HOLES with butter pecan sauce

I am so lucky to have only been in restaurants that transcend archetype in Napa. Ironically, Archetype is no exception. If you are in St. Helena area, perhaps for winery hopping, and in the mood for classic American brunch, this place is it. 

ARCHETYPE
1429 MAIN STREET, ST. HELENA, CA 94574

 

SF | CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES

BUTTERMILK LEMON LOAF

REBEL WITHIN

When the cronut craze took New York by the storm, I could not handle how far it went (from cronut blackmarket to hiring people to stand in line at 6 AM...? yikes)

Before the insanity died down, I moved to San Francisco. And there was the "Rebel Within"

This definitely defied all logic.

Savory, almost scone-y muffin with gooey egg yolk running down the middle as soon as you slice it in half... it was indeed a rebellious piece of culinary work. Best part? If you're lucky, you don't have to wait in line! But be sure to get to C + W early because Rebel Within will run out around brunch time (or even before). 

CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES
"Pastry-whiz William Werner serves egg-filled muffins, bonbons, coffee & more"
746 VALENCIA STREET, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94110

 

NYC | ROCKET PIG

ROCKET PIG
ROCKET PIG MENU

Whenever I feel like I need a #treatyoself kind of lunch, I walk over to Rocket Pig for its signature Picnic Box that includes Original Rocket Pig Sandwich and sides (pickle, cole slaw, chips, dessert: bacon caramel, and soda). Be prepared to get a little messy, but you will find every bite to be worth it. 

ROCKET PIG SANDWICH

ROCKET PIG SANDWICH smoked spice rubbed pork on ciabatta roll with red onion jam and mustard sauce

ROCKET PIG
463 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10001

 

NAPA | REGUSCI WINERY

My very first winery visit in Napa! 

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We had a 10:30 tasting in the morning- thought it was too early at first, but it was actually very pleasant to start the day with a glass in hand with a beautiful view of the winery.

Where all the magic happens...

TASTING NOTES

2011 REGUSCI ESTATE CABERNET SAUVINON | 93% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Estate Merlot
Sweet spice, briar fruit and toast on the nose pull you towards an expectation of a leaner vintage. And then ,the palate unfolds with tart black currant, anise, a little pencil lead but with more dark berry fruit following right after. The mouth feel is lively, brisk and sharp thanks to the cooler 2011 growing season, but with an abundance of depth and structure.

2013 REGUSCI ESTATE MERLOT | 95% Estate Merlot, 5% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Ah, the Regusci Merlot, it always comes out swinging and the 2013 vintage throws a walloping uppercut. Exhibiting the signature bing cherry and brown sugar aromas you'll remember from grandma's homemade pies, this wine is equally delicious. Dense, earthy flavors of blackberry and black cherry intermingle with complex notes of forest floor, tobacco and chocolate with well-integrated tannins. Holding no punches, this truly is a Cab-drinker's Merlot.  Enjoy now or age five to ten years. 

2013 REGUSCI ESTATE 'THE ELDERS' CABERNET SAUVIGNON | 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Heralded as one of the best vintages in a decade, 2013 delivered us a quintessential Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. With dark, abounding notes of black fruit and hints of fennel and lavender, this wine doesn't tiptoe around its pedigree. on the palate, the bold fruit flavors are coated in vanilla and mocha with a structured tannins and a lingering spice finish. As farmers, we like to say wine is grown, not made. The Elders is the perfect opportunity to experience a wine grown from one of the world's best vineyards. 

2012 REGUSCI ESTATE 'MATRONA' RED BLEND | 50% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Estate Merlot
Our inaugural 2012 vintage combines estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot into a gutsy, wonderful wine full of blueberry and cherry aromas These two varietals harmoniously deliver rich blackberry and raspberry flavors with notes of dark chocolate, cedar coffee bean and bacon fat. Soft on entry, this prideful wine is round on the palate with strong tannic structure. 

2012 REGUSCI ESTATE 'PATRIARCH' RED WINE | 58% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Estate Merlot
The classic 2012 vintage shines through in this incredible wine. Complex with an abundance of dark, dense, concentrated fruit that is deftly supported by layers of cherry, lavender, sage, savory smoked bacon and BBQ spice rub. While still a very young wine, the 2012 Patriarch already shows remarkable depth and elegance, with a soft entry that opens to a powerful and balanced mid-palate and opulent tannins that linger. This vintage will age very well over the next 9-15 years

What an amazing start of the weekend. I miss New York alright, but in these moments I can't help but to love in love with California all over again.

REGUSCI WINERY
5584 SILVERADO TRAIL, NAPA, CA 94558
Monday to Sunday, Open 10 AM to 5 PM
Reservation here

 

PDX | COAVA COFFEE

Silky Smooth Coava Latte, always. It was almost velvety, quality I look forward to in a cup of latte.

Coava Coffee Interior.jpg

Hipster heaven?

Simple, yet powerfully warm. Coava's brewing bar 

"It is a place to experience our craft and hospitality in its purest form. Designed around simplicity, we always offer two selections of hand poured coffee and two selections for espresso based drinks. Our pastries are made locally by Little T American Baker.

You can also be sure to find a large selection of our current coffee offerings for sale and a barista who will gladly help find the one for you. When the weather is nice we have outdoor seating and we always provide free wifi."

COAVA COFFEE | BREW BAR
1300 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214

M - F 6 AM - 6 PM // S - S 8 AM - 6 PM

 

NAPA | BOTTEGA

Quick Apéritif at Bistro Don Giovanni before Bottega! 

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It was almost too beautiful to be true...

Bread & Garlic & Parmesan Spread

ITALIAN GIN & TONIC, eventually moved onto MERRITAGIO

(LEFT) INSALATA DI CAVOLINI DI BRUXELLES Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with whole Meyer lemon dressing, Marcona almonds, sieved egg and Pecorino
(RIGHT) POLPETTE ALLA GRIGLIA Grilled short rib meatballs, Chiarello Family Vineyard Zinfandel conserva, Cipollini agrodolce and sunchoke passata

POLLO ALLA DIAVOLA SUL MATTONE Calabrian marinated chicken, roasted Shishito pepper, cipollini onions

RAVIOLO DI UOVO Potato pasta filled with spinach ricotta, farm yard egg yolk and truffle sage brown butter

MAIALE "SPAGNOLO" ALLA GRIGLIA Grilled acorn fed pork shoulder loin with stone fruit mostarda, parmigiano potato passata, crispy prosciutto

PANNA COTTA DI CAPRA Tender goat's milk panna cotta with basil compressed peach and almond anise biscotti crumbs

When in Yountville (for the first time), gotta hit the classics!

BOTTEGA
6525 WASHINGTON STREET, YOUNTVILLE, CA 94599

 

PDX | CAFE BRODER

FÖRLORADE ÄGG (LOST EGGS) 2 eggs on a bed of sliced ham & spinach, baked under breadcrumbs in a cast iron skillet

ÆBLSKIVER (DANISH PANCAKES) with homemade lemon curd & lingonberry jam

I know where I am going next- Sweden! Those Danish Pancakes were so soft and fluffy that while I was enjoying it I swore to myself that I will make it to Sweden to taste the originals one day. On top of that, Lemon curd and Lingonberry jam excellently complimented these amazeballs with the zing factor. 

CAFE BRODER
2508 SE CLINTON STREET, PORTLAND, OR 97202
NOTE: ONLY OPEN TUESDAY - SUNDAY 9 AM - 3 PM

 

PDX | NONG'S KHAO MAN GAI

When it was becoming evident that Portland would be my next solo trip destination, everyone around me (as if they had been trained to say the exact same phrase) told me "you HAVE to go to Nong's Khao Man Gai for their Chicken and Rice." Right off the bat I wondered if this was some sort of 53rd and 6th Halal situation but I couldn't have been more wrong.

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There is one thing and one thing only they sell here: Khao Man Gai ($8). Here is the breakdown of their ever famous "Chicken and Rice":
- Chicken: Organic free range chicken from Draper Valley poached in the right temperature with salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger
- Rice: Cooked in chicken broth, ginger, garlic, shallots and galangar.
- Sauce: Fermented soybean sauce mixed with garlic, ginger, thai chili. 

I honestly don't know how to do justice on this one- words + photos themselves do not really deliver the true value to this PDX style "chicken and rice."

Because I am a sucker for Jian Bing, which is pretty rare to find, I had to go for it when I passed by Bing Mi!. It was on the softer side than I am used to, but it satisfied by cravings nonetheless.

A few things I realized about Portland and food trucks so far: A) the city is big on it- so much so that they literally make a whole village out of it B) This non-pretentious food sanctuary has so much more to offer than a single 4.5 star review restaurants.  

With that said, spending an afternoon getting lost here is a pretty great idea.

NONG'S KHAO MAN GAI
1003 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205

 

SF | STATE BIRD PROVISIONS

We've got the best seats in the restaurant- seat 98 + 99 where all the actions are at!

'CROQUE MADAME' with duck ham and fiscalini cheddar whole grain pancake

(LEFT) DUCK LIVER MOUSSE with almond biscuits
(RIGHT) GUINEA HEN DUMPLING with aromatic broth

HOG ISLAND OYSTERS with spicy kohlrabi saur kraut and sesame
 

SESAME ENCRUSTED AVOCADO

(LEFT) PORK BELLY with citrus salad
(RIGHT) POTATO FRITTERS with bay shrimp-green garlic ranch

SOURDOUGH, SAURKRAUT, PECORINO AND RICOTTA PANCAKES

TUNA TATAKI with meyer lemon ponzu

(LEFT) GARLIC BREAD with burrata
(RIGHT) GREENS with feta cheese and breadcrumbs

CA STATE BIRD WITH PROVISIONS wolfe ranch quail

(LEFT) HEDGEHOG MUSHROOM TOAST
(RIGHT) PANCETTA-WRAPPED RABBIT POLPETTE with huckleberry and mustard cream

POTATO, SHELLFISH AND PICKLED SEAWEED PORRIDGE

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE with cherries and szechuan pepper cream

GEMNAICHA "ICE CREAM" SANDWICH with cocoa nib macaron and milk chocolate coulis

Here is my must order list:

  • CA State Provision Bird
  • 'Croque Madame'
  • Guinea Hen Dumpling
  • Pork Belly
  • Pancetta-Wrapped Rabbit Polpette
  • Potato Fritters
  • Potato, Shellfish, and Seaweed Porridge

STATE BIRD PROVISION
1529 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

 
 

SF | LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB

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FRIED RICE with bay shrimp, spam, abalone mushrooms

TUNA BELLY MISOYAKI with brussel sprouts, tentsuyu

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liholiho yacht club pork belly 2.jpg

TWICE COOKED PORK BELLY with pineapple, thai basil, fennel

GRILLED SHORTRIB with escargot, bone marrow, mushrooms, leeks, fresh horseradish

BAKED HAWAII with caramelized pineapple ice cream, vanilla chiffon

When it is nearly impossible to get a reservation off of Yelp (seriously, not even OpenTable), you know you are in trouble. But for what it's worth, we made a reservation nearly 3 weeks out to find out why the city is shedding such a heavy spotlight on this new Hawaiian joint that was also dubbed as Tendernob's firebrand by Eater.

Liholiho hype was instantly validated when we started to dig into the Fried Rice. Two additional must haves include Twice Cooked Pork Belly (uber soft pork belly + simmered pineapple = heaven) and Grilled Shortrib (oh so tender and rich as hell). I am pretty determined to try every single item on the menu over the next few months at this point. But as for my next visit, I am craving....

  • TUNA POKE with sesame oil, radish, nori crack
  • ROASTED OCTOPUS with curried raisins, castelvetrano, butterball potatoes
  • WHOLE MAINE LOBSTER with preserved black bean chili sauce, toasted garlic
  • OPAH with chili-honey rub, gigantes, preserved meyer lemon, savoy cabbage, soy brown butter
  • FRIED CORNISH GAME HENwith cashews, tamari glaze, broccoli, flowering kale

or everything else on the menu. It's Liholiho good.

LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB
871 SUTTER STREET, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94109

 
 

NYC | TAKASHI - RAMEN

GLORIOUS BEEF BROTH RAMEN...AT MIDNIGHT, ONLY AT TAKASHI!

You might have heard of Takashi, but have you heard about their midnight ramen?

DID I MENTION WE WENT ALL THE WAY OUT AND GOT OURSELVES A PIECE OF FOIE GRAS?

It's a pretty simple menu: Spicy or Original ramen with wide array of toppings you can add in. We chose foie gras, because that seemed like the oddest combination we can imagine and we were so curious as to how this could actually work.

COME TO ME, AHORA MISMO

And it worked. It worked wonders. 

TAKASHI.jpg

                                                                                            (SOURCE: http://takashinyc.com/ramen)

If you can foresee yourself becoming uber hungry around midnight while craving something fresh and salty, this is how you satisfy your cravings:

  • Call them: 212-414-2929
  • Email them: ramen@takashinyc.com
  • Walk-in: Lucky you, it wasn't possible before but now it is!

TAKASHI
456 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011

 

SF | HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Long story short, I moved to San Francisco.

BAY BRIDGE VIEW FROM THE APARTMENT ON A SUNNY WEEKEND

BAY BRIDGE VIEW FROM THE APARTMENT ON A SUNNY WEEKEND

There is no doubt that my 7 years spent in New York were my most formative, significant years that helped me transition into my so-called adulthood. It's where I found and became the best version of myself - I found love, an incredible group of friends, a career I'm passionate about, and a place to call home. 

Alas, when the opportunity arose for me to hop over to San Francisco, a bucket list destination, I bit the bullet. Or as I like to elegantly put it, said "Fuck it," packed my bags, and headed to the other coast.

 

FANCY CUPPA AT SIGHTGLASS COFFEE

FANCY CUPPA AT SIGHTGLASS COFFEE

BRUNCH AT BRENDA'S FRENCH SOUL FOOD

BRUNCH AT BRENDA'S FRENCH SOUL FOOD

I've yet to uncover my lazy Sunday afternoon coffee spot or my go-to beer haunt. But has been an unequivocal, invetiable beauty in discovering, exploring, and acquainting myself to a new city, especially a city, as beautiful as San Francisco. 

MY NEW FAVORITE SF EATERY- LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB

MY NEW FAVORITE SF EATERY- LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB

So cheers to adventures and discoveries in 2016!

FR | LUBERON + ROUSSILLON

En route to the famous lavender fields in Luberon: Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque.

Olive trees everywhere! Had to pull over multiple times to absorb these picturesque views.

This French Riviera sky over peaceful town in Luberon... priceless

Built in 1148, Senanque Abbey exudes medieval charm surrounded by buzzing (literally, so many bees...) lavender fields. Don't get me wrong, I adored every brick of this monastery but after getting lost in other dirt roads surrounding this beautiful landmark, I can confidently say "skip it here and do your faux-lavender-soul searching somewhere else in Gordes."

Breathtaking view of the village of Gordes. Didn't know I got the lucky shot until I googled it later. 

Now that's the view! 

Next stop: Roussillon.

Ready for a hike? Sentier des Ocres offers two options: 30 min/60 min.

"Situated in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, Roussillon is famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries.

The red, yellow and brown shades of the earth form a striking contrast with the lush green
pinetrees. The vivid blue of the Provençal sky and the exceptional quality of light make this a magical site" - Provence Web

My converse was covered in ochre dust, giving it a bit of golden edge. Wish it will stay so it can remind me of Roussillon for a long time. This was definitely the highlight of our trip!

FR | AVIGNON

Cold cold beer at Palais du Papes.

Pont d'Avignon, also know as Pont Saint-Bénézet.

You are never too old to hop on a carousel and enjoy the 360 view.

Vibrant accents found in a cute little picnic themed restaurant.

Quick bite in A.O.C- the usual: cheese, foie gras, more cheese... oh and more prosciutto.

Can't forget my spéculoos for dessert, even though the store was closing down and all they had were these scrapes in cups. 

Beautiful night sky from Palais du Papes.

One peaceful night in Avignon...

FR | ENTRE VIGNE ET GARRIGUE

entre vigne et garrigue scene

It almost felt like I am at an enchanted palace in a small village called Pujaut. As soon as you step in, it is hard not to be mesmerized by this scenery. 

entre vigne et garrigue restaurant

Even in the world's best restaurants, I sometimes cannot quite handle the creativity they managed to stretch far too thin but this definitely isn't one of those places. I seriously could not handle how each course could blow our minds one bite at a time.

entre vigne et garrigue lavender

Lovely lavender field right behind the pool- could you imagine taking a dive into the pool, come out and be greeted with this view?

entre vigne et garrigue herb

Chefs will come out to a mini herb garden time to time to collect the freshest herbs for the night. 

And here we go-

Apéritif. It's almost poetic here...

caviar, ice cream, toast

caviar, ice cream, toast

cod fritters

cod fritters

tomato gazpachod

tomato gazpachod

Amuse-bouche trio. 

Beets. Goat cheese.

Pan fried duck foie gras. Red tuna. Sesame. 

Monkfish. Apricot. 

Cheese cart. Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from Maitre Pellegrini.

Raspberries and strawberries, marmalade and White Eat Cheese White Tile Sesame Sorbet

Entremet dulcey, caramel ice cream, earl grey tea.

Beautiful night scene at Entre Vigne et Garrigue.

For anyone traveling near Avignon, I strongly recommend you to take a 15 min drive up to this beautiful bed and breakfast in Pujaut. I say this with utmost confidence- it was the best dinner I ever had in this millennium. 

Entre Vigne et Garrigue Mas Saint-Bruno, 600 Route de Saint-Bruno, 30131 Pujaut, France

 

FR | ARLES, NIMES + LES BAUX

I have to confess that until I got there, I had no idea what this little magnificent town called Arles is all about.

Amphitheatre- as seen in van Gogh's Les Arénes. Hopscotching around Roman ruins for your morning workout? Not too shabby. 

Eyes wide open, 

Quick lunch at Delicate and Seine: croque monsieur and a glass of pinot grigio. 

Sublime view en route to Les Baux

When in South of France... Lavender ice cream! 

Château des Baux de Provence. You can climb all the way to the top but be aware of steep stairs.

I want wine.

Fun little stops in the village. Wine, lavender soaps, cheese you got it!

On the other side of the village, you will find Carriéres de Lumiéres. It's a magical experience taking audio visual shows to a whole new level using this cave as its canvas.

"The Carrières du Val d’Enfer quarry was created over the yearsfor extracting and white limestone used in the construction of the Chateau and Les Baux. Large-scale stone production in the Saint-Rémy area forced quarry-workers to change mining techniques using hoists and pits leading to the surface. This, and the need for stone in the construction of the medieval Château and Les Baux, is why quarries were opened in this part of the Alpilles."  - History, Carrieres de Lumieres

 Michel-Ange, Léonard de Vinci, Raphaël. Les géants de la Renaissance.

No time to waste, next stop: Pont-du-gard. Lovely walking path to the aqueduct.

We are so little 

Feel free to get lost in the woods, because it wasn't a choice for us. But hey, 

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Only if you fit into my suitcase, I'd take 3 wheels.

Quite seriously obsessed with the idea of lavender honey. Imagine this: Thick cut milk toast with chunks of melty butter and a whiff of lavender honey... yummay. 

Corner jazz session. Next Stop: Entre Vigne et Garrigue where I had the best dinner as far as I can remember in my life.

FR | ANTIBES + CANNES

I'm in love. I daydreamed about this moment- coastal drive under ever azure sky.

Musée Picasso Antibes- just like Chagall in Nice, Picasso actually resided here and used this beautiful seaside cheateaux as his workshop later donating his pieces to Antibes.

Guitar Montage. 

Can't walk past any local market scene without taking a peek- ooooolives!

Ultimate #treatyoself- lunch at Hôtel Belles Rives!

Pesto pasta with a bottle of Rosé. Uber luxurious, right? Well, we had to literally hold onto every single glass, plate, and cutlery from getting knocked down due to massive winds striking our way. Rosé glasses didn't make it. 

What's for dessert? 

With our bellies full, we made it to Cannes. There were so many festivals being held (Google, Facebook, every name brand you can imagine) that we decided to make this just a pit stop and move on. 

But one last stop at Glacier Vilfeu...