Tagged Bachelorette party ideas

Le Colonial in SF offers French Vietnamese dishes under beautiful design

Le Colonial's outdoor patio
The beautiful outdoor space at Le Colonial.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I’ll go out for a bowl or Phó or some spring rolls at least once every couple of weeks – especially since I live in a SF neighborhood that offers some serious Asian cuisine. That number goes up even higher when Karl the Fog starts rearing his ugly head, making for super chilly nights. There’s something so comforting about a big bowl of soup, or some Vietnamese-spiced noodle and rice dishes. However, when looking to step up my Vietnamese-food game, I got introduced to Le Colonial, an amazing, hidden spot for fancy French Vietnamese dishes.

Located near downtown SF and open for more than 15 years, Le Colonial is where you should go when looking for a romantic spot for a date, or to impress your colleagues and business partners. Fancy some authentic Vietnamese dishes with a touch of French flair? This place is perfect.

Le Colonial's Bright Eyes cocktail
Le Colonial’s Bright Eyes cocktail

Take in the fresh air and pull up a seat outside within the lush courtyard, or find a spot in the main dining room, or sneak away upstairs and find a seat in one of the many nooks at the Lounge for live music and people watching. The wine and specialty cocktail list is enormous. I’m a sucker for “healthy” cocktails and the Bright Eyes was calling my name: Boudier Saffron Gin, aperol, carrot juice, orange bitters, and muddled carrots.

Le Colonial's Appetizer Platter
Le Colonial’s Appetizer Platter

The beautiful Appetizer Platter from Le Colonial from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

We started our meal by ordering the Appetizer Tasting Platter, which came with an assortment of Vegetable Spring Rolls; Crispy Rolls with crab, shrimp and chicken; Baby Back Pork Ribs glazed with hoisin and passion fruit sauces; Coconut Crusted Mini Crab Cakes; and Ahi Tuna Tartare. This platter is perfect if you can’t decide between a few different starters.

Le Colonial's famous shaken beef
Le Colonial’s famous shaken beef.
The Brussel Sprouts at Le Colonial
The Brussel Sprouts at Le Colonial are ridiculously addicting.

Le Colonial is known for its Bo Luc Lac, or Shaken Beef, and it’s pretty clear why. Filet mignon is cubed and is wok-seared in a sweet and savory soy sauce before served on a bed of watercress with pickled red onion, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and crispy lotus chips. This dish is stunning and you’ll love tearing into it to get the perfect bite. I highly recommend you order a bowl of their Coconut Rice and their Crispy Sweet Chili-Glazed Brussel Sprouts. Those dishes alone are well worth the trip to Le Colonial.

You’ll find some standard Vietnamese dishes on the menu, like Chicken Pho and Roasted Lemongrass Chicken, along with French-inspired cuisine like Steak Au Poivre Vert and French Seabass. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, soup, or beautiful pieces of meat, there’s something for everyone. Save room for dessert because you’ll find items like the Le Colonial Banana Roties, caramelized bananas on baked cassava cake and Orange & Lime Crepes Cake.

Outside of Le Colonial
Outside of Le Colonial

For some of us, taking a break from their local Vietnamese mom and spot to try out “fancier” interpretations of traditional rice and noodle dishes offer perspective into the country’s tastes. The combination of the ingredients may be exactly the same, but the presentation, service, and ambiance makes for a world of change. For more information, on Le Colonial, visit http://www.lecolonialsf.com/.


Brunch at the Dorian is where you need to be on the weekends

The bar at Dorian SF
I mean, have you ever seen such a beauty of a bar before?

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez 

Brunch is  a big deal in San Francisco. Denizens love to wake up early, grab a coffee, and stand in line at any one of the hip brunch spots in the City. But for someone like me who likes to take it easy on Sundays and who refuses to wait more than 20 minutes or so for a meal, brunch can be a bit tricky. I first heard about the Dorian in the Marina a couple months ago and once I got word about their new brunch service, I knew I had to finally pay a visit.

I’m a savory eater when I go out for brunch. While the thought of a stack of fluffy pancakes or waffles topped with syrup and berries sounds appealing for most, I like my morning starches topped with meat, veggies and gooey cheese. Thankfully, the brunch menu at the Dorian caters to both sides of the spectrum.

Dorian SF interior
Behind the curtains at the Dorian

My girlfriend and I visited the Dorian, which is located in the heart of Chestnut Street, on a busy morning. The restaurant was once inhabited by bottomless-mimosa fueled restaurant and bar, Circa. And while I wasn’t privy to Circa in its heyday, I can safely say that the Dorian is a stunner of a place today. Think Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler designs mingled with a West Hollywood whiskey bar and you’ve got an idea of the space. And apparently there’s a photo booth, which wasn’t operating during my visit. But I’ll definitely be coming back to leave my mark.

Don’t think about it and just order them.

We started our meal with some coffees because we both needed to be productive that day. But trust that the Bloody Marys and mimosas were calling my name. The Dorian has a serious whiskey list – we’re talking dozens upon dozens – so make sure you drop by if you’re a bourbon, whiskey or rye aficionado. I definitely recommend ditching the sugar in your coffee and making up for it with an order of Cinnamon Sticky Buns. The sprinkling of banana, hazelnut and bourbon caramel sauce will be a nice jump start to your day.

Dorian's Shrimp & Crab Cake Sliders
Dorian’s Shrimp & Crab Cake Sliders


The dishes at the Dorian are designed to share and that’s exactly what we did. The Shrimp & Crab Cake Sliders were rich and buttery and the Dorian Burger, with bacon jam, white cheddar and caramelized onion, will instantly cure your hangover. Also, go for the Truffle Fries. It appears that I’ve become quite the French fry connoisseur lately and these ones go toe-to-toe with some of my faves in the City.

Other menu items include oysters, a shellfish tower, deviled eggs, salads, scrambles, hashes, souffléd French toast, and so much more. The brunch menu is tight but there’s definitely something on there to satisfy every taste bud.

Brunch and San Francisco goes together like bacon and eggs; waffles and maple syrup, burgers and fries. Do yourself a favor and go indulge at the Dorian. For more information, visit www.doriansf.com.

Calistoga and Saint Helena: Sun, local food and wine at your fingertips

VGS Chateau Potelle.
The starting lineup at VGS Chateau Potelle.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

After more than five months in the City, I’m starting to finally feel like I have a handle of the neighborhoods, my commute and my watering holes. But like any other restless traveler, I’m constantly looking elsewhere to explore. After my first trip to Napa Valley a couple months ago, I was long overdue for some wine tasting, farm-to-table eating and legit wine country sun. Thankfully a trip to Calistoga was just what the doctor ordered.

Read more

Downtown Las Vegas: Where to stay and play

Downtown Vegas
Get off the Strip and check out all that Downtown Vegas has to offer.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Las Vegas and I have a solid understanding: We’re good with seeing each other only once every few years. From the squashed streets, gambling that I never knew how much I loved and “inventive” ways to spend my time and money, I thought I reached max Vegas capacity in my late 20s. However, after a recent visit to Downtown Las Vegas, my interest in Sin City has since blossomed into a full blown love affair.

The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas.
The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas. Photo credit: Emily Wilson

My last trip to Vegas was more than three or four years ago and I was craving the desert heat since moving to San Francisco. I knew that I wanted a weekend in Vegas with excitement, bright lights, music and a young crowd so Downtown won me over. The Oasis at Gold Spike , Downtown’s newest boutique hotel, graciously invited me to check out their digs. Read more

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Jane Butel Cooking School offers Mexican and Southwestern Cooking Cuisine Courses

by Andrea Verdin

Have you ever gone into a fantastic Mexican cuisine or Southwestern style restaurant and thought to yourself, “I’d love to make this meal for myself every day”? Foodies who love to cook might rush into their home kitchens and immediately try to replicate the dish, perfecting the meal to their own preferences. If you are interested in a complete week or weekend of learning how to make delectable meals from a renowned expert, then you may want to head to Corrales, New Mexico to the Jane Butel cooking school, housed in the beautiful kitchen of renowned teacher Jane Butel.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas by Jane Butel are just one plate guests will learn to make, as well as enjoy.
Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas by Jane Butel are just one plate guests will learn to make, as well as enjoy.

In 1983, Butel began her first weeklong, full participation class in a leased Bed and Breakfast Inn in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Now, 32 successful years later, Butel is teaching these highly rated classes in her kitchen.

Each class is full hands-on participation and is preceded by a review of the history of the major ingredients as well as hints and tips for success with the recipes as well as “important to know” culinary techniques such as knife selection and use, sauce making, tips for baking, meat cookery and more.

Butel makes it clear that local ingredients are what inspire her cooking. There aren’t any inaccessible products used with this cooking school. The ingredients are all clearly explained by Butel, who prides herself on her clear, easy to follow instruction.

“I like to mix in a lot of fun with knife techniques, and learning which type of flour is appropriate for what recipes for cookies, cakes and bread,” said Butel.


Unlike some cooking demonstration courses, the Jane Butel cooking school offers full participation in her beautiful professional kitchen, so there’s no guesswork. Because of the casual atmosphere and environment offered by Butel, this is an ideal place to learn with your best friends, spouse on an anniversary, coworkers on a business retreat, or even your ladies whilst on a bachelorette getaway.

However, don’t think that you’ll be lounging about while food is prepared; you’ll be doing some intense and delicious meals. For example, on one weekend, guests can be prepared to make such items as corn tortillas, wheat tortillas, red chile beef enchiladas (rolled and Santa Fe style), green chile chicken enchiladas, baja shrimp tacos with nine day cole slaw, spicy fried chicken strips with creamy salsa verde, and sopaipillas.

This is definitely not a course for those trying to watch their waistlines, but definitely an exciting way to learn a completely new style and technique for cooking. However, this should not scare away anyone who has never cooked before, and has always wanted to learn the culinary art.

At the Jane Butel cooking school, it is not uncommon to have experts fly in to learn from Butel. She loves having both well versed chefs and home cooks in her home, but for her, there is little better than having a student discover the joy of cooking.

“I had a man come in and he didn’t even know how to use his knife because his wife had been the one to do all of the cooking at home,” explained Butel. “By the end of his trip, he was asking other people if he could help them with their chopping. He picked me up and told me it had been the best week of his life.I love seeing the light of new learning in my students.”

Chiles en Nogada
Chiles en Nogada

Upcoming weekend courses will be offered on May 15-17, 2015July 17-19, 2015September 18-20, 2015October 10-12, 2015, and November 14-16, 2015. A weeklong course will be offered August 16-21, 2015.

Class size is limited and early reservations are recommended. For more information on cost, recipes, menus and classes offered by the Jane Butel Cooking School, shoot her over an email, call 505.243.2622 or go to her website.