Category Archives: Travel

I Like Presents

So at this point in my culinary career, most of my friends know that I love food. This in turn leads to food-related gifts. Right after I started cooking a few years ago my fabulous friend Saskia gave me a dog-themed apron and a football-shaped spatula for my birthday. It should be noted that this caused her to sky-rocket to the top of my list of favorite friends.

My world traveler friends recently brought me back some stellar finds. First up, from Memphis:

The Presley Family Cookbook! Featuring mouth watering recipes such as “cottage cheese and peaches” (in case you’re about to tear your hair out in curiosity, it’s… cottage cheese… mixed with peaches) and “neck bones with dressing.” Thanks, Meagan!

Next up, from Korea:


Green tea Kit Kat! Almost vanilla in flavor with just a hint of mellow green tea flavor. Far superior to the other popular Korean flavor of Kit Kat, Jasmine.

This is a… “rude” shaped egg fryer. I can not wait to move into my new apartment and have friends over for the most inappropriate brunch of their lives.

Thanks for the gifts, kiddies! You guys know me so well.

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Drink up, loves! It’s Friday!

The giant margarita for 2 at Cabo Cantina, Los Angeles, CA

Just a quick Friday reminder that Food E. has gone through a minor change that will spur a whole lotta more major changes. I’m puttin’ some work in, friends. And money. Time and money. So you know it’s gonna be good.

Tell your friends! You can now go directly to LaurenFoodE.com! Bookmark it! Email it! Twitter it! Write it in the sky with smoke! I’m excited, and hell, you should be too.

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Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion

Sometimes I wish I could carry you kids around in my pocket so you could have a real bird’s eye view of my meals. Some are really sad and would make you feel like a chef extraordinaire for frying up a grilled cheese; others would have you drooling. Earlier this summer I went to San Diego and ate the best.Mexican.I.have.ever.tasted. Hoooly mackerel. After a 3 hour drive back from LA, the only words I could utter were, “El Cotixan?” Alas, I did not take any pictures.

What I did take pictures of was an incredible Hawaiian fusion meal enjoyed while overlooking the marina on my last, blissful night in town. Roy’s has locations all across the country but I like to think the one in San Diego is more authentic because of its proximity to Hawaii. And the fact that I ate the meal with a Hawaiian.

Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish Hong Kong with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette

Roy’s Hawiian Fusion Cuisine, San Diego Waterfront, California. The menu at Roy’s combines Asian cuisine with a Hawaiian influence, serving up delicious, warm, homey cuisine. Roy Yamaguchi opened the first restaurant in Honolulu and now has 31 locations all over the country, and the world. I don’t usually cover giant chain restaurants, but this one was worth the write-up.

On the menu:
Wood Grilled Szechwan Spiced Baby Back Pork Ribs with Mongolian BBQ Sauce
Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish Hong Kong with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette
Shellfish Platter
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Shellfish Platter

The Verdict: Oh hello spicy sweet delicious tender juicy beautiful meal. The ribs fell off the bone and were perfect with a sesame seed crunch. The butterfish was reminiscent of Nobu’s black cod, the shellfish platter boasted fat lobster and shrimp, and even the cocktails were rich and delicious. Everything on the table was rich but never heavy, and the view was just spectacular; a cherry on the sundae. By the time the warm made-to-order cake came, you could’ve given me a pillow at the table and I would’ve taken a nap right there, full and happy and already missing sunny California.

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High Rolling

Hazelnut chocolate cakeI’m about to tell you a story of the good life. Or at least the good life according to Lauren E. Last weekend, as I mentioned, I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to visit my fabulous cousin Casey and also attend the Lady Gaga concert (and can I just say… hooooly holy hell. Officially the most impressive concert I’ve ever been to.).

But enough about The Fame Monster herself. The weekend began with true VIP treatment. Casey is wine director at The Capital Grille in Pittsburgh and when I tell you her friends and I got the experience the Steelers get (although apparently, Polomalu rolls in in sweatpants) I am not telling you a lie. Below, a photographic journey.

The incredible meal began with cocktails at the bar, followed by our seating at a primo table next to the open kitchen. The table was already laid with huge cold seafood platters, chock full of crab legs, shrimp, and raw oysters (I don’t have a picture of this because I felt like such a goober pulling out my camera – Casey quickly yelled at me after the first course and told me to take as many pictures as I wanted… heeeey).

The platters continued (keep in mind, we hadn’t even ordered yet… these were just compliments of the chef). Next to the table was trays of poke (raw tuna and seaweed salad, Hawaiian style!) with salted chips that I ate heaps of.

Poke

After the poke came lamb lollipops and scallops wrapped in bacon. The picture I took of this dish was completely blurred, probably because I was so ready to dive into that scallop that was the size of my face.

After the lamb and scallop, the waiter told us he’d allow us a small break. A break? A break before what? Oh, that’s right… we hadn’t ordered dinner yet. That’s right. This was the pre-cursor.

When I was a kid my grandmother always used to say that my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and in 25 years, not much has changed. I ordered the Filet Oscar, a steak filet with crab meat and bernaise sauce, with a side of lobster tail. I bragged to the guy sitting next to me that I was still STARVING and I’d probably eat the whole thing. I took a bite. Two bites. Two and a … half… bites… Done. I was done. “Thought you were gonna eat the whole thing?” the joker asked. (The following afternoon I had a lovely Filet Oscar sandwich). We were also served bowls of mixed mushrooms, green beans, and lobster mac and cheese that was to. die. for.

Filet Oscar

We weren’t done yet, friends. Dessert. “You have to try the coconut cream pie!” someone gushed. So I did. My review? This is probably the dessert they serve in heaven. Just saying.

Panna cotta and coconut cream pie

In addition to the unbelievable food (the so-tender-you-could-cut-it-with-a-fork steak, the buttery lobster, the impeccably fresh tuna, the creamy-dreamy hazelnut chocolate cake), I was afforded a tour of the kitchen. I watched a pastry chef removing panna cotta from the forms. I walked into the giant cooler with the dozens of hunks of aged beef. I shook hands/claws with a live lobster. I know I could never handle the schedule and the work load of a professional chef, but there is something that stirs in me when I’m in a real live working restaurant kitchen like that. I love it. The sounds, the smells, the characters. I could’ve pulled up a chair and watched the choreography for hours.

Thanks for the incredible weekend, Casey! I’ll be back real soon.

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BBQ and Blues

Happy Tuesday, kids! I had a glorious day off from work yesterday so I spent it making omelettes and eating out at an Italian restaurant (more on that tomorrow!). Also, have you noticed that this is the season when oranges show up in your local grocery for mere pennies? It’s like I can’t help but eat 7 a day.

Over the weekend I went to Hartford, Connecticut and dined at my favorite BBQ restaurant in the world, Black Eyed Sally’s BBQ and Blues. Granted, I’ve never had southern BBQ in the south, but someone told me that the owners of Black Eyed Sally’s went to Memphis to perfect their Memphis-style ribs recipe. Let’s just say it’s worth the Amtrak trip.

Black Eyed Sally’s BBQ and Blues 350 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT. Black Eyed Sally’s is a Memphis style BBQ restaurant that features nightly blues music and cajun-inspired dishes. The atmosphere is casual and comfortable, the prices affordable, and the food authentic.

On the menu:
Fried calamari and crawfish tails
Memphis-style ribs with red beans and rice
Pulled pork sandwich with homemade salt and vinegar chips
Cornbread with honey butter

Verdict: So good! So good! So good! Gosh, I love this place. I lived in Connecticut in the summer of 2005 and fell head over heels for this place, so when I went back this weekend I prayed it was the same. And ooooh friends… it did not disappoint. The ribs have a ton of meat that falls right off the bone, with a distinct but not overpowering smoky flavor. The skin was crispy with almost no sauce at all. The calamari and crawfish were also outstanding with a tangy dipping sauce that I could’ve eaten with a spoon (don’t worry, I didn’t… at least not while anyone was watching). Another meal highlight was the cornbread: cakey and moist and sweet and smeared with honey butter… even after the button on my jeans was about to pop I had another piece. It’s a sickness, really.

Hartford might not be the most likely spot for delicious BBQ and jaw-dropping blues music, but trust me, if you ever find yourself in this little New England city, stop into Black Eyed Sally’s. Elvis would approve.

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I’m Going (going) Back (back) to Cali (cali)

As many of you may or may not know, I feel that New York is played out. After living for 6 years in this little bubble where I miss out on little luxuries like driving in cars and walking barefoot through the grass and whatnot, I am pretty sure there are nicer places to spend the next 80 years of my life. I’m gonna go ahead and put Southern California on the top of that list.

Exhibit A: In ‘N Out
Do I really need to explain this? If you’ve never had In ‘N Out… just trust me. Two words: toasted buns.

Exhibit B: Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina
The morning before I went to Rockin’ Baja, The Boyfriend asked, “Do you like surf and turf?” I couldn’t even speak. Didn’t he know me at all? For lunch we got a bucket (yes, a bucket) of carne asada, shrimp, chicken, and lobster with tortilla shells and endless condiments to go with it. And a pitcher of margaritas… the rest of that day is blurry.

Exhibit C: Cousin’s Candy Shop in Old Town San Diego
I was like a kid in a candy store! (see what I did there?) All the candy is $2.80 a pound, and they have every kind of bulk candy you can dream of. I got 2 of everything I had never heard of, and multiples of those I had. Cousin’s makes their own fudge and caramels and I danced through the streets of Old Town (blame the margaritas, the sugar, whatever) eating my candy and basically loving life.

As you can see, I had a really, really nice time in California. In addition to this culinary tour of fats and sweets, I was treated to a homemade Hawaiian feast and then sent home with a loaf of Famous Kona Inn banana bread (thanks, BF’s grandma!).

On the menu:
Famous Kona Inn banana bread
Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
2 cups ripe mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 8 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pans.

Stir together the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In another larger bowl, mix together the shortening, sugar, mashed bananas, and eggs. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir only until the batter is thoroughly blended.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on a rack and let cool completely.

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Guest Post!

Happy hump day, friends! Today we have a special treat. My good friend Meagan Drillinger of Travel Agent magazine recently visited Vienna, and graciously offered up a peek into the culinary aspects of the trip. Since I don’t have any big trips to Vienna coming up (unless someone who loves me is buying me one for Christmas?! Yes?! No…?) I thought I’d pass on this delicious account to you.

I’m a travel writer for a trade publication. Sure, it sounds glamorous but more often than not I find myself stuck at conferences where I don’t really get to experience whatever exotic destination I find myself in. Luckily this last trip to Vienna proved a little more exciting.

I was in town for a short three days attending the first Austria Destination Summit, a trade show for travel agents looking to learn more about the destination. I could bore you with tales from the private Vienna Philharmonic rehearsal, or the nighttime tour of Shoenbrunn Palace (which ended with a lavish banquet overlooking the city)… but I think I’d rather tantalize you with tales from the table.

Welcome cocktail and hors d'oeuvres in Vienna's iconic Ferris Wheel

Night one: Champagne and hors d’oeuvres in Vienna’s iconic Ferris Wheel (the oldest in the world). The Viennese absolutely love their smoked salmon, cheese and ham on bread. And as basic as it sounds, it does the trick. Creamy, salty smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche on a soft slice of baguette? Sold. Then it was wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded and fried fillet of veal) with a squeeze of lemon and a side of scalloped potatoes, with a never-ending glass of crisp, white wine at Wagon 31, the restaurant adjacent to the Ferris Wheel. Did you know Vienna has a booming wine industry? Me neither… but I was not disappointed.

Dessert was loosely translated on our menus as a chocolate-filled dumpling with strawberry sauce. I’m not a girl with a sweet tooth, but man that sounded like a drug that I had to get my hands on. Diabetics: Avert your eyes. Picture a fluffy white cake ball filled with oozing, molten chocolate, crusted in shredded coconut and topped with gooey strawberry sauce.

Night two: A private dinner in the wine cellar of Klosterneuburg Monastery, a Roman Catholic monastery just outside of Vienna on the Danube river. The working monastery is home to not only a cellar chock full of delicious Viennese wine, but it is home to the largest cask of wine in the world (56,000 liters!). Hey, heaven. The monastery capitalizes on this by offering guests the opportunity to literally slide down the barrel. Needless to say, I could not resist after I had sampled a few glasses of the onsite libation.

The author at Klosterneuburg Monastery

Night three: A feast for the senses and a true taste of Vienna. Our hosts rented out Cafe Gloriette, part of Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Habsburg family. It was built in 1775 as a “temple of glory” for Empress Maria Theresia. In 1780 it was transformed into a breakfast room for the Emperor Franz Josef I [Ed. note: can I get a room dedicated solely to breakfast, please?!]. Today it is an elegant restaurant boasting breathtaking views over Vienna. Arriving at night was an experience all its own as the building was set aglow with dramatic lighting. We entered to a quartet playing delicate Mozart (which later erupted into some sort of hypnotic blend of house beats with electric Mozart – odd, but it grew on me. Or maybe that was the wine). In any event I tucked into a Viennese staple: beef broth with soft dumplings, similar to matzoh balls. Following this was flaky cod and saddle of veal, all culminating with my favorite: oh yes, those chocolate-filled dumplings. What a gloriously calorie-filled bookend to an already overindulgent trip.

Despite my waistline’s better judgment, Vienna has not seen the last of me.

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