Perfection in Brooklyn: The Blanca/Roberta’s Experience

The juxtaposition of Blanca & Roberta's

Oh, Brooklyn...you've won me over within one corner block in Bushwick alone. I rarely write restaurant reviews but this place made me so happy in my soul that I had to share it with all of you. Blanca and Roberta's are sister restaurants run by the same chef with vastly different vibes. The juxtaposition between the two (and the foodie internet radio station sandwiched in between!) is absolutely irresistible...read on for a photo journey through my experience at both a 2 star Michelin restaurant and an amazing hipster pizzeria. Be forewarned, this is going to get you revved up and hungry for your next trip to Brooklyn...

Eating My Way Through Maui!
 

Maui Foodie Map

SavoryGirl is heading to Maui for Christmas...and that means an opportunity to eat my way around the island! I've never been to this island so I'm pretty excited to explore, but honestly the two times I went to Oahu I wasn't super impressed.  So to prepare I reached into my network of friends who both frequent Maui and have family who live there and know how to eat like locals.  Meaning I'm feeling pretty confident of my picks although there are way too many of them for even SavoryGirl to get through in one trip.  You know me though, I'll certainly do my best!  Luckily my boyfriend is as big of a foodie as I am and will need no convincing to jump in our convertible to drive along gorgeous scenic views just for the chance to try some delicious food. Click on my map above and you'll see the whole legend of spots that we'll be checking out. If you click on each locale you'll see a ton of information pasted into each one so you don't need to go research it separately. We're doing a luau at our hotel for our Christmas Dinner which should be a fun twist on tradition (which let's be honest holiday traditions are hard for me to change or give up...but I figure once I throw on a bikini I'll all of a sudden be ok with it!).   Of course, if I'm missing any must-eat spots (beyond a few I know of that I couldn't add to the map due to unreliable locations...see below) please do let me know! A few more not on the map:
  • Yellow "BBQ Grill Island Style" hut near mile marker 35
  • Gogi Food Truck
  • Like Poke Truck at the Saturday Swap Meet
  • Foodie spots on the Road to Hana...see separate map below for those
Now, of course we are going to do more than just eat.  We have a plane tour scheduled to take us over Maui and the active volcano on the Big Island, we're scuba/snorkeling, hiking, beach bumming and doing the sunrise on top of Haleakala then tackling the Road to Hana on the same day.  That last one is an ambitious undertaking...but if you're interested I've provided the map I created (with foodie stops specific to that route) below.  Do your research before deciding to take this on though, we're being a bit crazy doing both in the same day!
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!
#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!
Happy in My Soul: My First Farm to Table Dinner

Bloomfield Farms Inaugural Farm to Table Dinner

A little over six months ago I had the opportunity to cross an item off my bucket list and go to my first truly Farm to Table dinner. This experience was so amazing that it re-ignited a long time dream of mine and spurred me into action. Hence my last post about some changes ahead, so it only seemed appropriate that I tell you about this experience as my first post of the new SavoryGirl. The dinner was hosted at Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma, CA on a gorgeous summer evening in July.  It was the first one they've ever done, organized by a farm friend, sommelier and restauranteur David Lynch of St. Vincent Tavern and Wine Merchant here in San Francisco. So a few friends and I met at St. Vincent on a Sunday afternoon, piled into a chartered bus and sipped rose as we rode up to Petaluma with the sun starting to set over the hills of wine country. That gorgeous view out the window of the bus was enough to make me nostalgic for the summer I spent in Napa during my MBA internship and I found myself in an amazing mood as I stepped off the bus 90 minutes later.

Aesthetic

As we began to walk around Bloomfield Farms my mood skyrocketed...breathing in the fresh air, taking in the views and playing bocce while sipping wine with the very people who grew the grapes and made the wine from three vineyards all within miles of Bloomfield Farms. This all reminded me of an idea I had for a business years ago but had buried deep while I built my life and career here in San Francisco. As I though about this idea again while enjoying the wine and having fun with my friends I found myself saying over and over again that this experience was making me "happy in my soul".  And this was all before the food!

Namu Gaji – My New Favorite Restaurant

Uni

Wow.  Have I found a jewel here in this great food city of ours! Now, to be clear, I haven't really "found" it...Namu Gaji has been in existence for quite a while but somehow I've never been and I feel like you just don't hear about it all that often anymore.  But this place - Blows. Me. Away.  It's one of those places that makes me stop, pause and moan a little after the first bite of each dish. So much so that the staff notices and pays me lots of extra attention because they can tell just how much I'm enjoying their food.  And who doesn't love that kind of patron?! Did all of this melodrama and attention annoy my date?  Probably. But it was a bad date right from the start so I turned my focus to the food...which in turn helped the sous chef turn his attention to me since we were sitting with him at the Chef's Bar.  Way to turn a bad date into a fabulous experience!

Namu Gaji is family run by three brothers and they source many of their ingredients from their own Namu farm.  They classify themselves as New Korean American cuisine.  On their site they refer to themselves as "humble, innovative and personal" and I couldn't agree more  For a slightly more expensive restaurant that serves up some of the most beautiful platings I've seen it is also extremely unpretentious, warm and welcoming.  Even on my first visit I felt comfortable enough on a busy Saturday night to hold up staff for extended chats like they were old friends.  That is rare to find in this city that isn't exactly known for it's service. The people working here truly enjoy their craft and are in this business to bring pleasure to others through their food...so much so that I got a surprise freebie, special dish made for me on both visits simply because they could see my raw appreciation of their work.  I'm not saying to expect that, but wow.  Making me feel that they love me as much as I love them?  Good move and amazing customer service.

Now, I'm going to walk you through each dish...and there are a lot of them! But that's because I've been waxing on so much about this place that my friend decided to bring me back for a belated birthday dinner about a week after my first dinner here. And even still I'm missing a few dishes (like the delish real Korean taco they have at happy hour and the amuse bouche from each visit) that we forgot to snap pictures of before devouring!

So first up...the photo that starts this blog post. Uni. Buckwheat lavash, kumquat, mustard seed, egg white, pistou and of course, uni. This is the dish that made the sous chef and I buddies.  Why?  Because after my first bite and food orgasm sounds, I stopped and said, "Wow.  THIS is sex on a plate."  And I continued to repeat that to every staff member who asked how I liked it.  Little did I know the sous chef responsible for this dish, Mark Zawiski, was right in front of me and overheard this lavish compliment.  This works out in my favor later!

OysterThis next dish is Oyster.  Oysters with uni and panko breadcrumbs.  I got this on my second visit...but only because they had temporarily taken my Uni dish off the menu.  What?!  That's the dish I couldn't stop talking about! I teased the chef..."Wait, I call it sex on a plate and you take it OFF the menu?  I think you should have renamed it on the menu!"  He loved that and apologized and said it would be back on the menu tomorrow.  I pouted as big as I could and ordered the oyster dish since it at least had some uni in it.  While this was nowhere near as good as the true Uni dish, it was delightful and would be divine on a good first date.  Some of the oysters were a bit too big so they overtook the delicate uni flavor but on the ones where the ratio was right it was delicious.

But wait!  As I'm pouting about Uni being off the menu that crafty sous chef Zawiski is sneaking around right in front of me and making it up special for Katherine and I.  Imagine my delight and surprise when it gets brought over to us! Seriously, this is only my second visit here and I feel like a regular and special guest all at the same time. That's hard to pull off and so rare.  Man I love this Uni dish and Katherine did too!