Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Nonsolovino, München

Our final night in München, we revisited a spot we’d found on our happy hour tour a few nights prior.
AM9Nonsolovino is a quaint little restaurant on a side street, full of happy locals who are regulars there, and run by Carmelo Bongiovanni, a friendly Italian who is on a first name basis with all of his customers and came to have a jovial discussion with us our first night in. We enjoyed the fine wines and conversation so much, we had to return for the food.
AM6The inside is cozy and softly lit, with an extensive wine menu and a simple food menu.
AM5I don’t know wines and will be the first to admit it. I asked our waiter’s recommendation from the list of reds.
AM8This was a winner. Rich and oaky, full of dry tannins and a hint of what I thought to be bourbon. I was a happy girl.
AM10I perused the menu and was prepared to order the gnocchi before they brought in the specials board. Farfalle mit Lads u.Rucola… or something like that. It means farfalle pasta with salmon and deliciousness… or something like that.
AM7 We relaxed, sipped wine and enjoyed the idle chatter of the patrons around us while we patiently awaited our meals. Germany is made for long, relaxed meals. All of Europe is made for long, relaxed meals. If you leave before two hours, you’re rushing. Sit back, relax, take another sip of wine and breathe. And please, phones and technology must be left at home.
AM11My dish – droolworthy. Al dente pasta with fresh arugula, juicy burst tomatoes and delicate pieces of salmon, enveloped in a warm coat of fragrantly herbed olive oil.
AM12Travel buddy #1 – Tender filet of beef with a red wine sauce studded with mushrooms on top of scalloped potatoes.
AM13Travel buddy #2 – Pasta with fresh veggies and rabbit. I’d never had rabbit before, but it seems to me like a slightly chewier combination of chicken and pork. All of the plates were scraped clean.

We lounged for another hour chatting with Carmelo and enjoying the ambiance of the place and topped it off with a glass of limoncello courtesy of our gracious host.
AM14If I’m ever lucky enough to return to München, I will be back here for my first meal in the country. A huge thanks to the entire crew at Nonsolovino for their kindness, delicious foods and brilliant wine selection!

Metzstraße 15, 81667 Munich, Germany

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Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

This morning I enjoyed an early drive through open fields and past crystal lakes with hot air balloons lazily rising through the sky in the distance. Small droplets of rain splattered across my windshield as the flatirons of Boulder slowly came into view and the sun streaked through the cracks in the clouds, casting a warm glow over the waking earth.
Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 2.40.28 PMMy oldest friend, Michelle, and I met at Lucile’s in Boulder for french press coffee, cheesy jalapeno grits and catching up before moseying over to the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.
amThe teahouse is tucked right next to Boulder Creek and was built between 1987-1990 in Tajikistan before being gifted from Dushanbe to Boulder to establish ties as “sister cities”.
am1The interior is open and airy with a burbling fountain in the center, intricate decor on the walls…
am2…and a beautiful ceiling, all tied together with carved wood designs and sheer fabrics on the windows to soften the glow of the sun.
am3It was a sweltering day, so we ordered the Hibiscus Coolers – Hibiscus tea, club soda, mint and citrus.
am4And since we were still pretty stuffed from our cheesy jalapeno grits from breakfast, we split the Tea Smoked Duck Bulgogi – butter lettuce wrapped around rich, smoky duck and topped with crunchy sprouts, bell pepper and sesame soba noodles.
am5We proceeded to drench these in the spicy dipping sauce before shoving our faces. With these wraps, it’s not even worth pretending to be dainty and polite. Ask for extra napkins. You will need them.
am6Dessert featured Warm Chocolate Cinnamon Cake served with avocado ice cream and a cinnamon chile caramel. The cake was light and airy and had the perfect amount of faint spice without being overwhelming and wasn’t overly sweet. The avocado ice cream was rich and heavenly and balanced the spice wonderfully. Plate demolished.

Since I need to finish packing for Europe (Aaaaaaaah!!! I can’t believe I’m actually going!!!) we both headed home with plans for future tea tastings, bee keeping workshops and plenty of other random activities that I can’t wait to embark upon. I got to enjoy another beautiful drive through the back roads and arrived home to a wonderful view.
CloudsIt’s going to be a rainy night!
Clouds 2I wish I had the words to describe how perfect everything is here. And tonight I’m off to another meeting with the Verboten Sisterhood before enjoying some quality family time featuring delicious Thai food. Utter bliss.

I’ll be blogging from Europe when I’m awake in the middle of the nights thanks to jet lag! Any recommendations for spots to visit in Munich, Amsterdam and Scotland are greatly appreciated!


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Tuning Fork

Nineteen days ago, something astronomically amazing and delicious opened up in Studio City.
AM2Tuning Fork is a brand new gastropub located off of Laurel Canyon Blvd and Ventura Place. I was blessed with the opportunity to get in there about a month ago to give a beer education and pairing class to the staff, and was able to make it in to try even more off the menu.
AM3Everything I was able to sample last time was mind-blowing…
AM4Unfortunately Fortunately, I wasn’t allowed to order off the menu. Chef Marc, who is absolutely insane and a complete genius, saw me come in, ran over to me and said, “Don’t touch that menu. I’m making your meal.”
AMYou never argue with Chef Marc.
AM5First out came the Water – flatbread with salmon, housemade horseradish creme fraiche, spiraled cucumber and red onion. I’m not a fan of raw salmon, lox or any other name you can give it, but I could not stop eating this. I can actually say that I am now a fan of raw salmon…on this flatbread…
AM6Duck and goose Foie Gras served with crispy fried onions, cranberry bread, candied almonds, dried grapes, pickled red onion and sour cream and bacon ice cream. Seriously. Combine a piece of everything and prepare to be sent off to another world. Again, I’m not a fan of liver at all, but this dish was mind-boggling and so beautifully presented. At this point, I was getting quite overstuffed… Luckily, I had a friend join me to help finish of the rest that was yet to come.
AM9Our producer from Summer Campbell, Jenny! Luckily, like me, she’s willing to try anything and be told what to eat by a mad/genius chef.
AM7After the Foie Gras came our palate cleanser – pickled melon and cucumber. So simple, yet so unique and utterly delectable.
AM8This was followed by the Lost Sailor – beer battered whitefish, fresh tartar sauce, pickles and pepperoncini all wrapped up in a soft brioche roll. Crisp, light and flaky with nice acidity from the pickles cutting through the creamy tartar sauce. All of this was balanced by a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid thanks to a wonderful pairing suggestion by our waitress.

At this point, I couldn’t fit anymore in.
AM10So Chef Marc brought out the big guns – Death by Chocolate. Rich pieces of fudge studded with raisins and splattered with housemade raspberry sauce, artistically served with a huge steak knife piercing through. This dish is rich and filling without being overly sweet, but the presentation alone makes it worth the order.
ammOur meal was capped with a blend of raspberry syrup and The Bruery’s Mischief Belgian strong pale ale. High carbonation and a dry finish scrubs the palate clean while the light sweetness of the raspberry syrup helps you reminisce the last breath of the Death by Chocolate.

I’ll be back for another forced order by Chef Marc as soon as I possibly can! As for now, Happy Easter to you all! I’m headed to Boston on Monday for training at the Samuel Adams Brewery! Plenty of pictures to come!

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Beer ‘n Wings Night

One evening I was sitting at home after a long day’s work, in desperate want of buffalo wings and a good craft beer to pair with them. I opened my computer, went into Facebook and created the group “Beer ‘n Wings“. Once a week a group of friends and brewery regulars (who are now friends) get together at a new spot and test out the wings and taps, in search of the best in the state. So far we’ve hit up Hooters (twice), the Dugout, Arkaine’s, Brendan’s Irish Pub in Newbury Park, BJ’s in Westlake, Wood Ranch and our latest destination: CUSTOM MELT!!!
amThe owners of Custom Melt, Phil and Thomas, offered to host our latest wings night. Thomas specially prepared out-of-this-world wings drenched in his own creation of sauces. Thomas and Phil, thank you so much for going out of your way for us!
AMImportant things first – chips and cheese and BEER! Firestone Double DBA on tap? Yes. Sweet toffee malts balanced out with rich, earthy oak and topped off with a touch of hop bitterness. 12%ABV. Yes.
AM1First up were the spicy wings. Tender, succulent and a hearty kick of spice at the end. The second – chipotle barbecue wings. Smoky and sweet. The third?
AM2A combination of the spicy sauce with the chipotle barbecue. This was everyone’s favorite and made for a PERFECT pairing with the Double DBA. The ribbons of caramel in the malts complimented the sugar in the sauce and tamed the flame while the oak danced with the smokiness of the chipotle making each bite and sip taste like more. Okey, now I’m hungry again.
am8We had a lovely group of nine craft beer and wing enthusiasts. When people heard that Custom Melt was hooking us up, they raced to sign up. This place is HOT within the people of Moorpark for good reason!
am3Enough pictures, time to eat more.
am4Good job, John. We went through THIRTY POUNDS of wings that night! I’m quite proud of the nine of us accomplishing this grand feat.
am7Of course we had to end with an official dessert. Daniel Irons – Missoura style! Enegren Brewing’s Daniel Irons Oatmeal Stout with a splash of coffee, topped with whipped cream and another dash of rich stout.
am5Delicate aroma with hints of vanilla, robust cocoa and a touch of coffee.
am6This message was approved by Chris Enegren.

Now the question that awaits us all – where do we go first in the new year?

I’m off to Colorado for eleven days of breweries, beer, brewery tours, family, Christmas, beer and breweries! Keep up with my Twitter, Facebook and blog for updates throughout the upcoming week!


Filed under beer pairing, Restaurant Review

Panera Soup

It’s two and a half days into the work week and I’ve spent two of them in walk-in coolers. Nine hours a day in walk-in coolers that are an average temperature of anything between 35-41 degrees. Did I mention it was raining outside, so every time I entered the walk-in I had little droplets of water turn to ice? A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but holy crap it was cold. Needless to say, I was in desperate need of anything that would help me thaw out for lunch.

Enter – free lunch from Panera! I received a gift card from both Panera and the Tastemakers Outreach program to go and check out the new soups on the menu. Although I received a gift card, all opinions are my own, yadda yadda yadda.

Alongside freezing my ass off, I’ve also been graced with a lovely cold. Chicken soup to the rescue!

I ordered the “You Pick 2” combo with the Sierra Turkey sammich and the homestyle chicken noodle soup (apparently low-fat? I didn’t agree to that!).
amI gotta admit, the sammich was a little disappointing. While I absolutely LOVE Panera’s bread, I was hoping that the ratio of meat, onions and field greens would be a little more on par. And now I’m realizing that my normal order there is the delicious and evenly proportioned Asiago Roast Beef sammich… Dagnabit.
am1The soup – this is where it gets delicious. Piping hot, full of soft egg noodles, tender chicken, carrots and onions. I still find it hard to believe that it’s only 80 calories based on how wonderfully comforting it was. I wish I’d gotten a bigger size of this in one of their freshly baked bread bowls. Perhaps the next time I’m stuck in gigantic freezers I’ll do just that – oh wait, that’s tomorrey…
am2A big thanks to Panera and Daily Food Buzz for feeding this cold, hungry girl. I’m very grateful for the short-lived thawing of my insides.

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Blue Dog Beer Tavern

My new job has kept me busier than I ever expected. My new job has also introduced me to new places that serve delicious food and craft beer. Perks! One gem I found this past week – Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks.
Blue Dog is hidden on a side road next to busy Ventura Blvd with an open, free parking lot. In LA, free parking is priceless!
The decor is dedicated to images of beloved puppies – pictures race across the walls and over the ceiling beams.
THE BEER LIST. They have eight taps, all filled with a wonderful variety of craft brews. I hadn’t tried the Cismontane Nopalito de Trigo before, so the manager was kind enough to give me a sip.
A VERY generous sip! This beer was full of wonderful bubblegum aroma spiced with hints of clove. The flavor was full of sweet and tart prickly pear juice which was in very unique balance with the mustiness from the hefeweizen yeast. I’d definitely order a full pour next time!
BURGER LIST. The second most important thing. I had a hard time deciding, but something spicy was needed to pair with that smooth hefeweizen. On recommendation of the bar manager, I went with the Fire Starter.
One of the top ten burgers I’ve had to date. Perfectly seared and topped with crispy onion strings, deep fried jalapenos, pepperjack cheese and honey chipotle sauce. Every bite made beads of sweat break out across my brow. The fries were also out of this world – crispy without being too greasy, piping hot and seasoned perfectly.

I’m VERY thankful to have found this place and will definitely be willing to make the trek out to Sherman Oaks to eat and imbibe every once in a while. The staff, food and beer are all so wonderful, friendly and delicious! After working in beer all day and all week however, I needed a little change.
That oughta do it!
I met up with Barbara, the owner of Magnavino Cellars based out of Oxnard, and got to sample all of these amazing wines. It’s good to keep working your palate through all types of craft. It’s called education, people!

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City Tavern

Thursday night was Enegren Brewing Company’s flight and pint night at City Tavern in Culver City. The EBC crew headed down for an evening of meeting and greeting all the LA folks who stopped in to try their brews.
As the designated brewery photographer, I was dragged along and forced to drink craft brews and eat delicious foods. Bummer.
It was heavenly to get away from the 100+ degree weather we’ve been having up here in Valencia. Culver City was a good twenty degrees cooler with a nice ocean breeze.
The inside is industrial, yet cozy with exposed brick and chalkboards lining the walls and tall skylights that let the sun stream in.
We ordered the Enegren flight first, just for a little quality control.
As with the majority of the time, it passed.
City Tavern has a great selection of both draft beers and bottled beers. A large number of them were local which is always wonderful to see and imbibe upon.
I love being overwhelmed with a beer list!
The food selection isn’t too shabby, either!
We split the bacon and cheddar pretzel with mustard aioli – soft, gooey and overflowing with thick pieces of crispy bacon.
The appetizer special of the day was squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes and tempura fried. These were light and airy and ridiculously fresh and hot. The tangy goat cheese was a perfect balance with the sweet bits of sundried tomato and delicate blossom.
The night flew by with tasters from Cismontane, Lagunitas, Magnolia Brewery and Eagle Rock, to name a few.

For my grand finale beer order of the night I asked Susie, our wonderful server, to surprise me.
This surpassed all of my expectations and then some. A sour paleta, a sour beer and a Sourac made with rye whiskey, sour ale, bitters and simple syrup. Bite, sip, sip. Not a combination that I’d ever ordered or even tried before, but a delicious ending to a long evening!

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Cafe Firenze

When we got back Sunday night after the CBC12, I was definitely in need of a little detox.
…which would have to wait until Monday to begin.
Commander Matt and I headed to Cafe Firenze, an Italian restaurant in Moorpark, for a meeting with the chef Adam and the owner Jacopo, and took along a few gift bottles to share.
We brought them with the intent of letting the chef do a tasting, but somehow the bottle wound up getting opened at a table when they invited us to stay for dinner.
Cafe Firenze is located within a strip mall off of Los Angeles Avenue. Very unassuming from the front, excluding the rich velvet drapes and wine barrels, the inside is spacious and warm with high ceilings, dim lighting and soft cushions in each booth.
The menu is extensive and impossible to choose from, but somehow we managed.
We started off with their appetizer special – swordfish carpaccio with artichoke hearts and greens, drizzled with olive oil. Since we had those three bottles with us, a pairing was in order. The tart and dry Golden Spur Saison balanced out the pickled artichoke hearts and didn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the tender swordfish.
I went for the braised shortribs – Kobe beef that was so tender it fell apart if you looked at it too intensely topped with sauteed mushrooms and resting atop a fragrant cushion of polenta spiked with parmesan cheese and herbs.
Commander Matt went with the other special of the day – medium rare medallions of beef with roasted baby vegetables. Simple, elegant and mouthwateringly delicious. Both of our main courses were paired with Valkyrie California Alt – the sweet maltiness brought out the caramelization of the meat and balanced out the salty bite of parmesan from my polenta.
Adam, the chef, sent out this piece of artwork for our dessert – flourless chocolate cake with housemade vanilla bean gelato on top. Out of this world! We paired this with the Protector IPA, the hop bitterness cutting through the rich chocolate and calming the upfront sweetness.

Next time I’m there – Balsamic martini. Most definitely.

Cafe Firenze
563 West Los Angeles Avenue
Moorpark, California 93021
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am-3pm and 5pm-close


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Scotch Egg!

I finally got to the British pub I said I was going to go to!
Weihenstephaner on tap? Um, yes please!
Nothing like a perfect example of a weissbier to end the day!
That and good company! My cousin Allie joined me at the Rose and Crown for a lovely farewell to the work week. It was well deserved – Allie’s a nurse who has twelve hour shifts at the hospital and I spent three hours of the ten hours total yesterday on my hands and knees scrubbing the crap out of our mash tun. I have a menagerie of beautiful bruises for proof, but I’ll spare you the gore for now.
Keep Calm and Carry On! Chive On!!
This place was packed with regulars – some of which, I’m thrilled to say, had British accents! If a Brit shows up to a British pub, I think that’s a good sign.
I was tempted to try more than a few things from the menu, but since I’d just inhaled almost an entire slice of cake thanks to Wolf Creek’s anniversary special, I stuck to a small appetizer. I’ve been hearing about these for the longest time and finally decided to give it a go.
SCOTCH EGG. Imagine a complete breakfast deep fried, then served in gravy. A Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs, deep fried and smothered with a rich brown gravy. I think this one may have been a little more than “done” and was pretty tough on the outside, but somehow I managed to finish the majority of it. I also managed to finish that Weihenstephaner. Somehow that went down easier.

Tomorrey I’m back to brewery number one – Enegren Brewing Company! All of you waiting to claim your growlers, show up between 11am and 8pm!

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Short Order

Commander Matt and I took an evening trip on Wednesday to Short Order in LA to drop off some delicious Enegren brews for their tap selection.
Short Order is a freaking delicious burger and beverage place located in the Farmers’ Market on 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles, right across from where I used to live! If only it had opened while I’d lived there. Le sigh.
They serve four beers on tap at a time. Enegren’s Golden Spur Saison and Valkyrie California Alt will be up soon, but for this night we picked from the current selection of craft brews.
I got a non-beer-clean mason jar full of Eagle Rock Revolution – an American pale ale full of light caramel maltiness and a heavy dose of hops.
Commander Matt chose Great Divide’s Hades Belgian Strong Pale Ale – the Belgian yeast gives off a fruity aroma, but the finish is shockingly crisp, dry and full of bitter hops. Absolutely loved this one!
The restaurant has a large supply of hard alcohol as well for those of you who prefer a good whiskey at the end of your day. I’m not up to date on these, so enjoy the picture where I have absolutely no input.
Potato wedges with SOUR CREAM AND BACON DIP. How have I never thought of this before? These crispy, buttery potato wedges were mercilessly dunked in the rich ranch and sour cream dip, with extra bits of bacon spooned on top. If everything else here was terrible, I would go back just for these. Fortunately, nothing else was terrible. Everything was amazing.
Matt chose the pork belly burger – basically a luscious thick slab of bacon smothered in cheese, crunchy butter lettuce and a few other things that I could not pronounce or interpret.
I chose Ida’s Old School Burger – medium-rare grass-fed beef, aged cheddar, grilled onions and housemade pickles with a secret sauce on top of a ridiculously soft bun. These burgers are absolutely out of this world, and extremely messy! I ate about half of this before it fell apart on me and was too overwhelmed with the mess to know where to pick it up from. Instead, I polished off the potato wedges and was happy.

It was an uncomfortable drive back, but oh so worth it.

Right now, I’m in Tempe, Arizona and this just happened.
More on that tomorrey once I’m back to healthy and speedy internet connection.


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