SavoryGirl’s Cooking Something Up…Join DolceVita’s Wine Country Safari!

Vineyards

You may have noticed that my posts have been a bit less frequent lately...and for that, I apologize. But I'm working on something super exciting! I'm working on a business idea I've had for a very long time...an exclusive immersive, behind the scenes, all-inclusive experience in wine country. Why am I doing this?  Well...I believe that visiting wine country often feels like going to the zoo: uninspiring winery tours, usually leading to crowded tasting rooms. But I also believe that visiting wine country can be more like embarking on a true, authentic safari: exclusive, private tastings, behind-the-scene, hands-on activities, farm-to-table dining with local chefs and winemakers. So that's the experience I'm building...and as of right now I'm calling it DolceVita Wine Country Safari. 

There are still a lot of details to figure out and one of the steps I'm taking to make progress is to host a prototype weekend in Sonoma (hopefully October 9-11 but we may end up moving it out a bit).  The goal of this weekend is not only to start to build out the idea more fully but to also get live feedback from actual guests.  If you're interested or know others who might be please check out dvwinesafari.com for the full itinerary, pricing guide and instructions on how to join us for the weekend.  It's truly going to be epic, educational and delicious...we have a lot of great things planned! Since it's our first time doing this I'm offering it at a pretty amazing discounted rate so I make sure to fill the spots and get maximum learning...so act fast if you're interested.

I'll keep you all updated on my progress here but I do also have a whole list of really fun new SavoryGirl posts that I'm planning as well. I'm just having to split focus and put a bit more energy into DolceVita at the moment...but stay tuned on both fronts, exciting times ahead!

Eva Longoria’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

So if you ever needed proof that I’m not a food snob, here it is.  This Tortilla Soup recipe is ripped right out of a trashy People magazine that I bought for a flight (it’s my guilty travel pleasure!).  Looked yummy enough despite it’s non-chef celebrity roots so I decided to give it a try and boy am I glad that I did.  That Eva Longoria knows her Tortilla Soup!  I guess this shouldn’t be surprising since it’s her signature dish at her Hollywood restaurant, Beso.  But still, I was surprised at how super yummy and authentic tasting this was...better than many that I’ve had at restaurants which is always satisfying when it’s homemade.

A few adaptations that I made to the recipe below are as follows:
Bánh Xèo…My Favorite Vietnamese Snack

Roll it up, dip it and enjoy!

Before I even got to Vietnam I was super excited about trying bánh xèo...a sizzling savory fried pancake filled with pork, shrimp, herbs, mung beans and sometimes other fun twists depending on the region.  You know that sounds right up SavoryGirl's alley! Not only did I eat a lot of great bánh xèo while traveling through Vietnam but I was lucky enough to actually learn how to make it during my cooking class in Hội An...so lucky for you I'm sharing the recipe here. This recipe serves 4-8 as an appetizer and for some of the harder to find ingredients I would try your local Asian market...none of the ingredients are too rare. Enjoy...sizzle, sizzle!
SavoryGirl’s Cooking School Adventure in Vietnam

Mung beans are added, then excess oil is drained

I love taking cooking classes when I travel...you learn so much about the food culture and usually get to try lots of foods all at once.  This class took that last part to the extreme!  It's Ms. Vy's Cooking Class in Hội An and it's held at the Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School. Honestly, I'd call this more of an eating class than a cooking class and it was pretty amazing. We did actually cook a few things...one being bánh xèo which is one of my favorite dishes I tried during my entire week in Vietnam! Even if you don't get to take the cooking class, I'd strongly encourage checking the restaurant out...everything is delicious and it's truly like you are at a street food fair with a million different options to try, but all cooked right there in the restaurant. Great way to check a lot of foods off your list if you're running out of time on your trip or a bit nervous about street food. Let's get cooking and eating! NoodleMaking First we learned how to make all different types of rice noodles...starting with the rice flour and water paste and cooking it up until it becomes a gummy dough.  Quite the cool and very quick process when you see the pros do it...there's a specific mixing method with two wooden dowels to get it to the right consistency, definitely more of an art than a science which was fun to learn about. Then we got to have a little noodle slice-off to see for ourselves just how difficult it is to hand cut noodles to the exact right thickness as quickly as the women teaching us were doing it.

Hilarity ensued...trust me, we were not good at this! I'm surprised they let us anywhere near a knife for the rest of the class after this experiment.  We also learned how to capture, fold and grab noodles coming out of the machine for thin rice noodles. You'd think since a machine is doing some of the work it would be pretty easy, but definitely a very specific technique here too.  We were much better at this, but takes some focus and real hand-eye coordination to get the little folded packets of noodles just right!
The Bánh Mì to End All Bánh Mì
Our Banh Mis about to get taken down...with beer...at 10:30 in the morning

Wow. Just wow. You know, you have to be careful with expectations when you travel.  Sometimes you build things up so much in your mind and expect the food and ingredients to be so much better than what you've had that you set yourself up for disappointment. I am here to tell you that I fully believe that is impossible to do with this Bánh Mì in Hội An. It. Is. Amazing. But be forewarned...so amazing it may ruing all other Bánh Mì for years to come.
Eating My Way Through Hanoi!

The streets of Hanoi

Oh, Hanoi! Hanoi! How I totally fell in love with this city! Honestly, it was completely unexpected...so much so that Katherine and I were lamenting as we planned out trip about how we were wasting a night in Hanoi because of our Halong Bay boat cruise instead of using that extra night in Saigon or Hội An. What was wrong with us?! Why did all of our friends tell us there was nothing in Hanoi and it would be fine if we skipped it?! I'm here to tell you, don't fall for that...Hanoi is amazing. There is the beautiful mix of French Colonial and Vietnamese architecture, a gorgeous European style promenade around the centrally located Hoàn Kiếm Lake, the air is cooler and less humid, the people are even friendlier and more fun-loving than everywhere else in Vietnam (which I honestly didn't think was possible) and the food is some of the best I had in all of Vietnam.

Oh, the food! This is where it gets tricky.  Since Katherine and I did end up with only one night (16 hours including sleeping time to be exact) in Hanoi as soon as I started researching the food I knew we had a problem on our hands. Too much food and too little time! But Katherine was a trooper and let me drag her all over the city to have not one, but three dinners plus street food plus another spot for dessert. Yeah, I get a little crazy when it comes to experiencing an amazing place through food...but trust me the marathon foodie sprint was worth it! So let's get eating... BunCha First up is the not-to-be-missed Bun Cha! Bun Cha is my new favorite Vietnamese dish that has fatty grilled pork, white rice noodles, herbs, a delectable mixture of pickled garlic and chilis and a slightly sweet dipping sauce. I mean honestly, this pickled garlic and chili component alone had me distracting my fellow diners with my groans of enjoyment as I ate! This was our first dish of the evening...and we knew we had a few more spots to hit after this so we were really trying to restrain ourselves and not eat it all but we just couldn't.  We slurped up every last bit smiling the entire time. The crispy spring rolls too...some of the best I had while in Vietnam.
Eating My Way Through Saigon!

The Streets of Saigon

Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, whatever you call it, this place really took me by surprise! Why? Well I think I had baggage...you know, like the kind you have in relationships? That. From my trip to Thailand over 5 years ago. You see, I kind of hated Bangkok.  I've realized by now that I need to give it another shot but that first time I was miserable. It was so incredibly hot and humid but we didn't have much money so we tried to walk everywhere. The air was filled with dust and the incessant sound of motorbikes gunning for your life felt like it was boring a hole in my skull. So no, I didn't love Bangkok and for whatever reason I kind of assumed Saigon would be pretty similar. But it's not at all! It's much smaller and quieter and slower with more air to breathe.  Still a hectic city, but more like a San Francisco than a New York which suits me just perfectly. So yes, Saigon pleasantly surprised me and started my 1-week whirlwind trip through Vietnam perfectly. The people were fantastic and the food was everything I dreamed it would be and more.

So, about that food...let's get on with my photo culinary journey through Saigon! If you recall, I had a very aggressive foodie itinerary, which you can see here, and while I'm incredibly proud of the damage Katherine and I did there are still lots of local treats on that list that I'll need to check off on my next trip. That being said we did pretty well...sometimes eating upwards of 5 meals in one day! The locals often doubted us as we ordered and we often proved them wrong. Don't let our petite size fool you, Katherine and I are can put it down! Thank God for that because the food in Vietnam is simply incredible...there is no other word for it. Fresh and simple yet complex all at the same time. Some dishes have simply been ruined for me forever back in the States...like banh mi. Oh my, the banh mi was out of this world. But I'm getting ahead of myself, you'll have to read my upcoming Banh Mi post for that!

Let's start our journey here in Saigon...and if this makes you hungry and curious about visiting Vietnam yourself make sure to check out all of my favorite photos from the whole Vietnam trip here as well as my Hanoi post, my An Hoi Cooking Class post and my Banh Mi posts all soon to be published. Happy visual feasting!   FirstBreakfast This was our very first breakfast and meal in Vietnam. It was at a place locals recommended called Quan An Ngon which is super fun because the owner essentially designed it around bringing all the famous street vendor foods together under one roof.  So things you typically can only find in Northern or Central Vietnam you can find here...and for those of you squeamish about eating street food this is a great way to try it all without the risk. So what did our first meal consist of? Clockwise from the top left we have bánh cuốn with Cha Ca dipping sauce, Shredded Pork Skin and Broken Rice & Grilled Pork Breakfast. I wish I knew what that rectangular thing encased in yellow was in that last picture because it was freaking delicious, but try as we might we just couldn't get an answer we could understand. The bánh cuốn was amazing...the rice sheets were so delicate and thin and the vegetarian filling was so flavorful. Then there was the side of pork skin...boiled, not fried yet with such a unique and fabulous texture.  We couldn't get enough of this stuff!
SavoryGirl’s Guided Food Tour of Seoul

SavoryGirl in Seoul



Welcome to the 5th and last post in my South Korea foodie travel series! For a quick recap in case you missed some, the first was my South Korea Foodie Itinerary that I created prior to heading on my trip, then upon return I shared a quick teaser summary with highlights from both my Vietnam and South Korea trip. Then I dove a bit deeper with a post that allowed you to follow me, Eating My Way Through South Korea and finally shared a video of SavoryGirl Exploring the Noryangin Fish Market and eating live baby octopus. This last one highlights a food tour that I took while in Seoul and is honestly one of my favorites in the series...read on and I think you'll see why!

To be perfectly honest, I've never done a food tour before since I fancy myself pretty expert in this space myself (check out all of my foodie itineraries here), but since I was solo in a big city who's culture around food is all around being social and sharing I thought this might be the perfect time to try one out.  And, wow! I honestly might do one of these every time I go to a major new city in the future. What a great experience...not only for the behind the scenes spots and foods you get to experience, but for a glimpse into the true food culture and all of the great insight you get from a local, particularly if you're chatty like me! You even learn how to pronounce things and what proper manners are related to food and alcohol which can be incredibly helpful as you continue your travels throughout the region on your own afterwards. If interested, I did the Korean Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications and would highly recommend it. NakwonMarket Onto the first stop of the food tour...Nakwon Market, which strangely enough I can't find any information on anywhere online. This is not the Nakwon Music Arcade, but instead an underground food and cooking supplies market in the Insadong neighborhood.  It has a great mix of food & house ware markets combined with an abundance of spots to eat, where it appeared lots of business men came after work to enjoy.  Doesn't that handmade tofu look just delicious?! And a foreign market just wouldn't be complete without a shot of some kind of animal head! All ready for our Korean BBQ meal on our tour! Now onto Korean BBQ! This is why the food tour was perfect for me, no way could I order this all by myself! And while I've certainly had it in the States, it was important to me to try it out in Korea and I'm glad I did. It was certainly similar, but so delicious.  And I learned all about how to properly layer and wrap everything and make sure it all fits in one neat bite (did you know that?  I didn't!).  I also didn't know that the different lettuces you get are for different purposes...so there's lettuce for the outer wrapper, but then there are also Perilla leaves which are a bit thicker and more coarse and have a lovely mint/arugula flavor.  So our guide taught us to layer that on top of the lettuce, then smear the doenjang (Korean bean paste) and then layer in the meat  for a perfect bite. So yummy and educational!
VIDEO: SavoryGirl Explores the Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul



It has been much too long since I've posted a new video but I think it was worth the wait...this is a fun one! Not only do you get to follow me through my exploration of the amazing Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul, South Korea but you also get to experience the amazing meal that was made for us right outside of the market with all of the live seafood we just purchased.  Including our first time trying live baby octopus (Sannakji)...that's right, live people!  So that part may not be for the squeamish (minutes 1:50-2:30) but it's a popular delicacy in South Korea and you know I like to eat the way the locals do, particularly if it's something that would be hard to find here in the States.

The tentacles are honestly delicious and we ate every last one from the two baby octopus we bought at the market.  I wish they served octopus sashimi here...so tender and tasty, but I guess the fact that they keep squirming around for almost 45 minutes after getting cut up wouldn't be appealing to most US diners! If you do try this on your own trip to South Korea please make sure to chew well...since the suction cups on the tentacles are still active while you're eating them if you swallow without chewing or don't chew properly they can potentially stick to your throat on the way down and be a bit of a choking hazaard.  We had no problem (although one tentacle did suction to Katherine's lip on it's way into her mouth!) and I don't think it's a big risk if you're not too squeamish and smart about it but definitely don't want to just swallow them down!

Enough talking...enjoy the video and please comment, like and share as you see fit!

#TBT: SavoryGirl on Check Please Bay Area!

CPBAphoto

I don't think I've ever done a #ThrowBackThursday post, but I just had a SavoryGirl throwback experience myself this week so it only seemed fitting! This week I attended the Check, Please! Bay Area 10 Year Anniversary Party and it brought back so many fun memories of when I was on the show back in 2011. So take a little trip down memory lane with me...enjoy the show!

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Reposted from July 6, 2011

Woo, hoo!  The Check, Please! Bay Area Season 6 Opener featuring yours truly aired a bit earlier tonight and if I do say so myself it was a pretty great episode!  As promised, I have posted the link to the episode for those of you who missed it:

Online Season 6 Opener of Check, Please! Bay Area...did you watch?  What did you think?!  Are you going to Saha ASAP?!

Since my post on Tuesday I’ve had quite a few questions about what the Check, Please! Bay Area experience was like...especially after my “I hope I’m not a total fool after all of that wine they fed us in the green room” line!  So here goes, for those of you interested I strongly encourage you go submit an application yourself!