Seafood and serious relaxation at Hotel Paracas, Peru
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
I’m a sucker for a great hotel. Yes, I love the outdoors and I loved roughing it on the Inca Trail. But sometimes a girl’s gotta check into a four-star hotel and lay in the bathtub for a full reset after a strenuous adventure. Our travel group saw so much in Peru. From Rainbow Mountain and Macchu Pichu to city living in Lima, our bodies and minds were exhausted. So when it came time to chilling out on the beach in Paracas for the two days before we all had to head back home, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for a stay at Hotel Paracas.
After a three-hour bus ride from Lima, we landed in Paracas, a small beach town offering all kinds of tours (more on that later), water sports, seafood, and R&R. While the rest of our group checked into a super rad hostel down the street, the girls and I checked into Hotel Paracas. We were still a bit early for our room so we ended up checking out the grounds and grabbing a drink to kill time.
And what a place to kill some time. The grounds were sprawling, the property was quiet, and everywhere you looked, you found a comfy spot to just sit and relax for a bit.
Once we were able to check into our room, I could not have asked for anything better. The room was enormous, my bed was perfect, the rainfall shower head was calling my name, and the patio was just waiting to be sat on. The hotel also offered free use of their kayaks and paddle boards, as well as a 30-minute catamaran ride, weather permitting. Had we had more time at the hotel, we definitely would have hit the water.
We weren’t able to spend too much time in our rooms before we went back to the hostel to meet up with everyone and share a meal and some drinks. Our friends were staying down the road at Kokopelli and their place was so fun. The hostel had its own pool, bar, hammocks, games, dogs, everything. If you’re in town and need a cheap place to stay, this place is it.
Dining at Hotel Paracas
I’m usually weary of hotel breakfasts because they can be so terrible, but the one at Hotel Paracas was stellar. We had our pick from fresh breads, local fruit, eggs, bacon, yogurt, charcuterie, granola, and so much more. There was even a gluten free section and an entire slab of honey comb on the brunch spread. We seriously could not stop eating and we loved every moment of it.
One of the best meals we had in Peru (and quite possibly the best ceviche I’ve had) was from one of the hotel’s restaurants, Chalana. Located just a short walk from the pool, the restaurant sits on the hotel’s boat dock in a beautiful outdoor space. Sans electricity and fuel, the restaurant specializes in cold dishes and uses seafood caught in the bay that day. The menu was small, yet mighty: ceviche, causa, chalacas (Peruvian steamed mussels), and tiraditos (Peruvian-style sashimi). We ordered one of everything.
The dishes were amazing. I’m usually not a mussels person, but Chalana’s were bright and briny. The tiraditos were perfect and I could have licked up the sauce if the girls would have let me. The causas were packed full of flavor. And the ceviche…I’ve never tasted anything so fresh. The colors, the smell of the water, the sunshine…it all worked together to make for a wonderful lunch.
Our stay at Hotel Paracas was perfect and I made sure to make time for a dip in the tub. I just wish we had one more time to lounge around the pool. For more information, visit http://www.hotelparacasresort.com/.
Puff, Pass & Pastry at Cannabis Creative: Integrating cannabis into cooking classes and beyond
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
Work and life has been pretty insane lately. I’ve had to use the critical thinking and logical part of my brain heavily for the last few weeks at work and I’ve found myself mentally exhausted each evening. My workout routine has amped up and I love it, but I’ve found myself looking for more creative hobbies to mellow out my brain and body.
Cannabis has become a huge part in my effort to find the creative side of my brain again. I’ll find an uplifting and creativity-inducing strain and take a long walk in the park, re-organize my room, color, paint, or watch a movie. I’ve always been a creative and imaginative person and cannabis has really helped the functions of the right side of my brain shine through again.
Enter Puff, Pass & Pastry. My love for baking, eating, and weed all in one room? And with like-minded people who also think it’s OK to smoke a little before starting a new creative project?! YES, please.
The Puff, Pass & Pastry event is an off-shoot of Puff, Pass & Paint, a Denver, CO-based company specializing in offering pottery, painting, and culinary classes in a cannabis-friendly environment. Local edibles chef Sallie B of Slim’s Baked Goodies lead us through a 2.5 hour class as we learned the basics of cannabutter and how to integrate medicated oils into everyday cooking.
The class was held at Cannabis Creative in West Oakland at a super rad warehouse in the middle of an emerging neighborhood. Upon walking in, we were greeted by the owners who handed us mimosas, a vape pen presented by Alchemy, and a sweet little joint rolled by one of the lady bosses.
The work room was covered in art from previous Puff, Pass & Paint classes, bright murals, plants, and other adorable accessories. If I had my own creative studio, I’m pretty sure it would be identical to this place. (If you guys make it to the studio, ask about the baby pineapple they’re growing!)
We had some time before class to settle in while all of the students arrived. We sampled all kinds of vape pens and drank mimosas while a FAT joint was passed around. The energy was festive and silly; everyone was in the mood to learn and create.
Chef Sallie told us a bit about her story before diving into the basics of cooking with cannabis. We nibbled on some brunch items she had already prepared before we made our own stuffed French Toast infused with cannabis. The food was awesome, the conversation with everyone at the table was engaging, and I was already thinking about when I’d come again for another class.
Oakland Cannabis Creative and the Puff, Pass folks have definitely helped to shift the way I think about cannabis and its integration into everyday life. I’m still a pretty new smoker, but I’m so happy that the Bay Area is able to offer events like this one.
Chambers eat + drink: Perfect for rainy day dining and nighttime indulging
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
It’s taken me nearly two years, but I think I’ve finally found peace with the amount of rain in SF. Growing up in San Diego, we barely ever got rain. Now that I’ve accepted the fact that SF literally gets flooded every winter, I’ve found ways to embrace it. I recently spent an evening at Chambers eat + drink at the Phoenix Hotel and found that it was a perfect place to enjoy cocktails, a meal, and watch the rain.
Located in the Tenderloin, Chambers has always been one of those spots where the cool kids go for drinks and to be seen. But it’s also a place where you’d see a bunch of suited men sitting around a long table talking shop. And by far, you’re going to see A LOT of woo girls posting up in front of the “Be Amazing” sign at the back bar.
Equally as popular as Chambers is the neighboring Phoenix Hotel, in which it shares patio space. On a SF summer day, you might see guests taking a dip in the pool or lounging outside during a guest DJ set. But during winter, grab a seat by the windows and enjoy the show – both inside and outside of the restaurant. Rows upon rows of vinyl line the walls of Chambers, which would put any local record store to shame, and there are nooks all over the place to cozy up with friends.
We started our meal with a couple cocktails. Start with the Chambers 75, a flute of gin, champagne and elderflower – all of the best things a cocktail could ask for. My man is a whiskey drinker and I always go for gin so the cocktail menu appealed to both of us. Go for the Midnight Rambler with whiskey, scotch “essence,” and rhubarb bitters, or the Harlem Shuffle with lemon-infused gin, lime juice, agave, and a malbec float. Or, you can tell your server what you’re in the mood for and they’ll whip something up for you.
Whether you’re visiting for dinner or just a couple small bites before you continue your night, the food menu is definitely worth checking out. We tried the Brussel Sprout Salad with herbed goat cheese, spiced walnuts, Asian pear, and arugula, which paired nicely with the Confit Octopus served with chorizo, butter beans, and olives. If you’re one for different textures in all of your bites, these starters are perfect. Other options include items like Sizzling Kobe Tri-Tip, Tuna Tartare, and Pan Seared Foie Gras if you feel like indulging.
If you stick around for dinner, the Short Rib and Pork Chop are winners and are both served with complementary vegetables and starches. And to round out the evening, we finished the meal with a Chocolate Pâté served with a matcha whip cream, berries and pistachios. The meal was totally decadent but we didn’t feel weighed down by the meal.
The attention to detail and service at Chambers is striking. Along with the cordial hellos and niceties, our server and her helpers took note of my man’s left handedness and actually paid attention to how they were dropping off utensils or serving cocktails. It’s the little things like this that make for fantastic service.
Homestead in Oakland offers an ever-changing Sunday Supper that’ll blow your mind
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
One of my new favorite things to do while dining out is finding a restaurant that specializes in one dish on their menu. From Mac and Cheese restaurants in SF to an amazing Chicken Rice spot in Portland, when a place does one thing, you can almost guaranteed that it’s near perfection. I recently found a spot off Piedmont that is doing its own thing when it comes to the idea of one dish to perfection. Each week, Homestead in Oakland offers a Sunday Supper where guests sit down for a three-course meal at the whimsy of the chef.
Homestead serves up seasonal items on their ever-changing menu – seriously, the menu changes so quickly that you might need to drop by every few weeks to try it all. Their farm-to-table approach is fancy, minus all of the pretentiousness you’ll experience at other places. Owners Fred and Elizabeth Sassen have some serious culinary guns to show off and you can absolutely see and taste their passion.
Upon entering Homestead, you’ll be greeted with repurposed antique furniture, chillies drying in the windows, and a huge open kitchen where you see, smell and hear everything. The drink menu is sizable and includes French and Italian wines, as well as beers and ciders from across the country.
The Sunday Supper prix fixe menu changes every week and is determined by the season or a specific theme. Homestead also collaborates with wine growers and local beer makers for special collaboration dinners so be on the lookout for special events. The restaurant was celebrating Oktoberfest the night we came by and we couldn’t have picked a better evening.
We started our meal with a Parsnip & Apple Salad and it was freaking delicious. Chicories, pomegranate, walnuts and fiscalini cheddar helped round out the seasonal salad. The main attraction was a Pork Schnitzel, served with herbed spaetzel, house-made sauerkraut, pretzel rolls, and brussel sprouts. The spaetzle was perfectly tender, the pork was incredibly juicy, and the sides all worked together to create a perfect plate. We ended our meal with an amazing Chocolate Cake drizzled with a stout caramel sauce and sprinkled with caramel corn.
We nearly licked our plates clean. The chef must have taken notice because he brought over a second serving when he saw us fumbling and fighting over crumbs. Seriously, the meal and the whole dining experience at Homestead was one of the best I’ve had in the Bay. We’re definitely coming back.
While Homestead doesn’t technically offer just one thing on the menu at all times, the idea of offering one thing each Sunday night to absolute perfection is this restaurant’s strong suit. Homestead takes pride in the dishes it does well, the prevailing ingredients for the season, and it’s amazing attention to service and ambiance. For more information, visit http://homesteadoakland.com.
Oakland restaurants to put on your radar
Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez
As I’ve started spending more time in Oakland, I’ve fallen in love with the people, city views, boutique shopping, hiking, and food. Living and surviving in San Francisco is exhausting – from the commute to our politics – and Oakland and its people really remind me of living in San Diego. As I continue to explore the nooks and crevices of Oakland, here’s a list of some of the Oakland restaurants that are on my radar.
Itani Ramen for Sake, Ramen and Cool Vibes
Since opening its doors in May 2016, Itani Ramen and its owner Kyle Itani, have offered a lively Tokyo-style vibe inside its super hip spot right in the thick of it all on Telegraph Ave. Located just a few steps from the 19th St. BART station, Itani offers Japanese comfort food with casual service.
“We’re offering ramen for everyone,” Kyle told us at a recent press dinner. “People come for familiar flavors and good sake at an affordable price.”
Upon walking into Itani, you’ll be greeted with an open kitchen, old school jams over the sound system and the Japanese symbol for ramen on nearly every wall. For starters, go for any one of the Mini Rice Bowls (the Salmon 3 Way is great) or the Sloppy Stickers, fried pork gyoza drizzled with kewpie mayo, soy sauce, green onions, bonito tuna flakes and pickled ginger. Definitely get an order of the Crispy Pig Ears for your table – I wouldn’t be surprised if those garner a cult following in the couple months.
Unfortunately, I’m not a sake connoisseur but Itani has a sake list that will suit any palate. Carafes of sake and shochu range from $33 to $49, which seems to be the norm for Oakland restaurants. As far as the ramen goes, the Shoyu ramen with ginger chicken, pickled cherry tomatoes and fennel oil was standard, but the Shivering Cold Noodle Salad might be the winner here. Poached chicken is served on a bed of cold noodles with pickled ginger, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, snap peas, corn, and dashi soy dressing would be great on a warm night or paired with some warm sake.
In keeping with the cool Tokyo style, the dessert menu certainly is a curious one. Grab a token from the cashier and use it on the Dessert Vending Machine in the front. You’ll have your pick of Match-flavored Pocky, red bean cakes, or whatever else is rotating that evening.
If you’re looking for a quick bite before a show at The Fox, or need some carbs to soak off some booze while you’re out at about, check out Itani Ramen.
Hutch Bar & Kitchen for Soul Food
Ever since my trip to New Orleans, I’ve had a deeper love for soul food and Southern charm. Upon walking into Hutch Bar & Kitchen, I had a flashback to Nola with just a twinge of Oakland cool. Not to mention an enormous wall lined with 100+ whiskeys.
The menu at Hutch perfectly mingles local ingredients into their Southern menu and their cocktails make for a great way to start a night out. The whiskey list reads like an encyclopedia and the cocktail menu offers some classics. I started our night with a Hutch Sour, the restaurant’s take on a Pisco Sour, before diving into some apps.
Go for the Bacon & Cheddar Grit Croquettes for a taste of the South and some oysters for a taste of our local waters. You’ll find larger plates like Mary’s Fried Chicken served with collards and rice, or Fish & Grits if you’re in the mood for some seafood. The Hunter’s Gumbo and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf were also highly recommended, but we’ll wait to try those on our next visit. Everything was tasty and offered some Southern-inspired tastes.
If you’re in the neighborhood and just want to stop by for a drink, I highly recommend ordering a dessert to complement. The Vanilla Bourbon Bread Pudding is certainly boozy but only in the best way possible and the Hutch Affagato will smack you in the face with its St. George NOLA coffee liqueur. If I lived in this hood, you’d definitely find me at the bar sipping on any of their deliciously sounding nightcaps.
Check out Brunch at Eve’s Waterfront Now before Everyone Else Does
We got wind of Eve’s Waterfront as soon as they opened in September and I absolutely had to check this place out before the hype got the crowds all riled up. Perched on the bay and facing Alameda Island, Eve’s is an awesome hidden gem. The building itself looks unassuming, but the view of the water from inside is so worth the drive.
Growing up near the beach, I never really trusted “waterfront dining” because they usually turned out to be tourist traps with mediocre, overpriced food. But Eve’s finally broke the cycle and is offering some serious mouth-watering fare.
We visited on a rainy morning for brunch and I was caught off guard by the enormity of the space. The main dining room is two levels, the wood-paneled bar could fit dozens of people, and the waterfront decks will be prime real estate when it’s warm out.
Brunch at Eve’s is stellar, especially when you can add a couple of morning cocktails to the gamut. Go for the Eve’s Sunset with infused pineapple vodka, lime and pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur, or my favorite, the Embarcadero 75, with gin, citrus juice, and champagne. The Bloody Mary was also delicious had a slight brininess, which I always love.
We started the solid food part of our meal with the highly recommended Eggnog French Toast drizzled with a citrus curd and espresso maple syrup, which was buttery, eggy and slightly crisped. Order one for the table – it’s so stinking good. The Dagwood Breakfast Club was amazing and I would have finished the whole thing had it not been for the French Toast. Fennel sage sausage, a fried farm egg, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato and aioli are sandwiched between two pieces of sourdough. My brunch mate ordered the Salmon Hash, with Yukon gold potatoes, poached eggs and a béarnaise sauce. Both were heavenly and worth every penny.
Executive Chef Bruce Paton is pulling out the guns at Eve’s and you definitely should add this spot to your foodie list. We didn’t even touch the lunch and dinner menu so trust that we’ll be returning and reporting back.
Get Your Meat Sweats at Galeto
If you’ve been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you know the drill. Grab a plate, head to the salad bar for some carbs and veggies to accompany your main course, and sit back and watch as men yielding massive skewers come by and drop off beautiful cuts of meat. The routine is no different at Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse in Old Oakland.
We visited for dinner one night and tried nearly a dozen different meats, ranging from sirloin and rib eye, to sausage and grilled chicken wrapped in bacon. The wine list is sizable and there are a few Brazilian-inspired cocktails that’ll make a great addition to your meal. And what better a way to settle your belly full of meats than with a Dulce de Leche Crepe or a Belgian Chocolate Petit Gateau?
Thank you to all of the restaurants who invited us into their space! See you all soon!