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.
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.
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 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.
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/.
Even though I was only able to spend about 50 hours in New Orleans, there was just two things on the itinerary: See the sights and stuff my face with Cajun and Creole food. It seemed like every tour or souvenir shopping stop was sandwiched by a stop at Café Du Monde or a bowl of etouffe. If you have a couple days to spend in NOLA and need some recommendations on where to eat, check out a few of the New Orleans restaurants I visited while in town.
Before you make any dinner reservations, ask the locals where they go for a meal. We stayed at the beautiful International House Hotel, located just a few blocks from Bourbon St. and French Quarter, and the staff there offered great insight into where locals eat. Architecturally beautiful with a Beaux-Arts design on the outside and sleek and sexy on the inside, International House was a wonderful hotel to rest our heads after long days of sightseeing.
The boutique hotel offers 117 guest rooms, suites and penthouses and was constantly buzzing with guests and activity. Curated art collections are on rotation within the hotel, but the space itself is something to marvel at. I’m a huge fan of staying at independent, smaller boutique hotels and the impeccable service, artistic appeal and luxury was exactly what I had hoped for.
Grab a seasonal, craft cocktail at Loa inside International House Hotel
Even if you’re not staying at the International House, you must drop by in the evening where you’ll find a candlelit lobby, antique velvet seating and a fabulous bar, Loa, which offers delicious and seasonally-inspired cocktails.
Nationally-recognized “Spirit Handler” Alan Walter is at the helm of Loa who also creates his own cocktail concoctions, syrups and aromatic bitters. The seasonal and signature cocktails list is not to be missed. I ordered a Delilah, a mix of London Dry Gin, Thai basil, pineapple balsamic and elderflower. All of the cocktails are locally inspired and beautifully presented. The mixologists are highly versed so tell them what you like and they can make a great recommendation to suit your tastes.
Order oysters wherever you go
My love for oysters is growing and while I’ve tried a gamut of varieties from the West Coast and Pacific North West, the oysters from Louisiana are unbelievable. Oysters from this region are plump, uber fresh and savory. Even if you’re not a fan of these delicacies, try some baked oysters and it’ll definitely change your perspective.
Some of the best oysters I slurped down came from Acme Oyster House. This oyster institution is packed non-stop so you may have to wait in line, but the hand-shucked oysters are completely worth it. Raw and chargrilled oysters can be ordered by the half or full dozen but you’ll also want to leave some room for an entrée or appetizer.
I ordered the Seafood Etouffe and a side of Fried Crawfish and it was true taste of the south. The etouffe was rich and creamy and the crawfish added a great texture to the meal. The menu is extensive so come with friends so you can try a bit of everything.
Traditional Cajun food is the way to go
Whenever I travel, I always order food that is typical of the area and New Orleans is one of the best places to do just that. One of our first stops in town was to Mother’s Restaurant where we ordered a Shrimp Po-Boy, Famous Ferdi Special and a bowl of Seafood Gumbo. The restaurant is a favorite among locals and is a quick and easy stop.
We also dropped by Remoulade in the heart of Bourbon St. for hurricanes, baked oysters, seafood gumbo, stuffed crab and red beans and rice. The eatery is the casual side of one of the famed New Orleans restaurants, Arnaud’s, so drop by there for a great meal among a low-key atmosphere.
I highly suggest getting dessert while you’re at the restaurant since you can order off the same dessert menu as Arnaud’s. The Strawberries Arnaud is a bowl of fresh strawberries in a marinade of port, red wine, spices and citrus poured over local French vanilla ice cream. Absolutely heavenly.
Beignets for days
If you don’t get an order of beignets while in New Orleans, it’s like you didn’t even make the trip. I’m not ashamed to say that I went to Café Du Monde two days in a row – because they were just that freaking delicious. The fried French doughnut is served hot and the fluffiness of the pillowy dough and mounds of powdered sugar, in addition to a black coffee with chicory, is one of the best ways to start the day. Not to mention, it will give you the caffeine and sugar fuel you need to navigate your way through the city.
Café Du Monde is a great spot for people watching too as it is heavily frequented by tourists and is situated adjacent to Jackson Square. Saxophone players were playing outside both days I visited so I highly recommend taking your time here so you can take in the smells, sights and sounds of NOLA.
Saving the best for last
You’ve probably seen Willie Mae’s Scotch House on TV or heard about this unsuspecting restaurant through the grapevine. Voted Best Fried Chicken in America by Food Network, 2005 James Beard Foundation winner for America’s Classic Restaurant, Southern Region and a number of other impressive accolades, Willie Mae’s is the real deal. We made our way to Willie Mae’s right before heading to the airport as our final NOLA send off.
Fried chicken is an indulgence for me and while I’m not the connoisseur of this American comfort food, Kerry Seaton and the fry cooks are making magic in their kitchen. While Willie Mae has retired, her restaurant is doing everything right. The seasoning is perfect, the crunch of the batter is unlike anything I’ve ever had and the sides worked perfectly. At only about $11 for a plate of chicken and a side, Willie Mae’s is definitely worth the short cab ride to the Treme neighborhood.
With a city rich in culture, history and growth after Katrina, foodies definitely need to make the pilgrimage to New Orleans at least once in their lives. While 50 hours in NOLA is nowhere near enough time to see and eat everything, it definitely allowed me to see just a bit of what the city offers. I’ll be making my return trip soon enough, but until then, I’ll be dreaming of Creole food.
For more information, visit www.NewOrleansCVB.com.
New Orleans Hotel Omni Royal Ranks as a Top 10 Brunch Hotel in US
Is there anything better than exploring a new city until the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping in until noon before heading over to the brunch table? I think not, unless you can say for certain that the restaurant you’re eating at has been selected as one of Gayot’s 2014 list of “Top 10 Brunch Hotels in the U.S.”
The Omni Royal Orleans, based in the heart of the Big Easy, is featured for its lavish Sunday Jazz Brunch. There are a few breakfast choices that you would anticipate from a New Orleans hotel, such as Eggs Benedict and House Smoked Salmon. However, there are a few surprises awaiting you. Guests can sip on turtle soup, dine on pan-fried chicken livers with Creole cream cheese grits, Pontchartrain blue crab and grilled redfish with Andouille sweet potato hash and Croque Royal, made with prime rib debris, goat cheese Béchamel and a pan-fried egg.
Talk about elegance to the highest level.
If you sleep in past the brunch hour, don’t fear; the Zagat-award winning Rib Room restaurant is known for its beef specialties, fowl and seafood prepared on giant French rotisseries and mesquite grills.
The Rib Room is overseen by Chef Michael Gottleib, who said he is inspired daily by the culture and vibrancy of New Orleans.”
“It’s rewarding to deliver that in the food and experience we offer our guests,” said Gottleib.
“It is an honor to be recognized on a list with such highly-esteemed hotels throughout the nation,” said General Manager Dennis Pearse. “The Rib Room truly offers a brunch unique to the city, and we encourage visitors and locals alike to pay the restaurant a visit whether staying at the Omni or elsewhere.”
If you want to see other Top 10 Brunch spots around the country, the list highlights other distinguished hotel brunches such as The Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., Four Seasons Hotel Miami in Miami, Fla. and The Jefferson in Richmond, Va.
The Omni Royal Orleans is a 345-room hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Located on St. Louis at Royal, this New Orleans hotel has received the four-diamond luxury award for the past 31 years. With a $15 million renovation in March 2013, the hotel welcomed modernized guest rooms, 24 new iconic wrought iron balconies and refreshed public spaces. Additional features include a rooftop fitness center, on-site barbershop, rooftop outdoor heated pool and an observation deck with picturesque views of the French Quarter and Mississippi River.
The Omni Royal Orleans is described by the respected restaurant, hotel and travel guide as standing apart from average regional cuisine with its focus on prime rib, adding, “In fact, it’s a true local, from its location on Royal Street in the French Quarter to its Sunday Jazz Brunch featuring Sugar Bear and the Jazz Cats.”
To get additional information or book accommodations, visit omnihotels.com or call 1-800-The-Omni.
We were recently invited to Europa Village in Temecula Wine Valley to get a sneak peek into the winery’s future happenings for this spring and summer. Since opening in April 2011, the winery has worked toward gathering inspiration from Spain, France and Italy for its grapes and physical environment, while also focusing on music and the arts. And this year’s upcoming events surely mirror this combination.
Europa Village combines the aesthetic of Old European charm with high-quality wines you expect to come out of Temecula Valley. From the wine growers to the tour guides, everyone at Europa Village has a passion for the product and is as hospitable as all get up.
During our last visit, we learned about the vineyard’s musical wine dinners where guests can enjoy a memorable meal crafted by Chef Dean Thomas, listen to Singing Waiters, and sip on some perfectly paired wines. Make a reservation for a wine dinner and you’ll be treated to some of the Valley’s most talented singers in genres ranging from opera, jazz and the sounds from Broadway.
The next musical wine dinner, Festival de Cannes, is May 8 so make a reservation soon. The evening will honor the Cannes Film Festival in the form of music, film and food. Go for a gourmet, four-course meal and stay for some excellent musical performances.
Additionally, The Inn at Europa Village is perched just above the vineyards and tasting room. The 10-room bed and breakfast is a perfect destination to accompany an evening in the vineyards. We’ll be staying at the Inn later this month so be on the look-out for our follow-up.
Europa Village also has plans to open two other internationally-different wineries steeped in Italian and Spanish traditions, Vienza and Bolero Cellars, respectively. The two new additions will nicely align with the already-present wine cave and French tasting room, C’est La Vie Wine Chateau. The build-ons promise an Italian deli, event space, and an additional 40 guestrooms.
Along with its musical dinners, the winery also hosts mystery dinners, weekly live music, comedy nights and Shakespeare in the Vines. We heard just a snippet of the live music guests can enjoy during the wine dinners so you’re definitely in for a treat. For more information, visit www.europavillage.com.
Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Taste LA
In my eyes, Los Angeles will always be one of the meccas for progressive, culinary orgasmic, and all-around delicious dining. LA is its own beast when it comes to restaurants and restaurateurs, and nearly every meal, dessert, gourmet grocery store, and food truck has knocked me off of my feet. While LA can be a bit intimidating when it comes to all of the food offerings, one of the best ways to try out different restaurants and meet several locally-based chefs is with an enormous food and wine festival. Thank goodness for Los Angeles Times The TASTE.
Held over Labor Day Weekend within the Paramount Pictures Studios lot, Taste LA attendees will gorge over three days during five different events. Paramount Studios might be the quintessential backdrop for a food and drink festival of this volume. Angelenos and visitors from all over can take part in the unlimited food tastings, wine pairings, cooking and cocktail demos, chef and food editor panels, and more while walking the streets of television show and movie backdrops. How much more Hollywood can you get?
After years of wishing and hoping, Wander Magazine will finally attend the Taste LA 2013. We’re already thinking of ways to prepare our mouths and bellies for the insurmountable amount of delicious food and drink. And this year’s trailer isn’t helping the hunger pains.
Here’s a peak at what’s on the agenda for Taste LA.
Opening Night (Friday Aug. 30 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m.) – Here’s your chance to meet and interact with some of the event’s hosts and acclaimed chefs and mixologists. The ticket will include tastings from local restaurants, cocktail and wine offerings, and live entertainment.
Field to Fork (Saturday Aug. 31 from 11:00 a.m – 3:00 p.m.) – The tastes offered focus on fresh and local ingredients, while focusing on seasonal dishes. Upgrade your ticket and take advantage of the Secret Cellar, which will be stocked with reserve wines, small bites, and one-on-one education in a cozier, intimate setting.
Flavors of L.A. (Saturday Aug. 31 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m.) – Some of the city’s best restaurants will be on hand with delicious tastes throughout the evening, along with the Secret Cellar wine offerings. Guests can also watch cooking and mixology demos, wine seminars, and chef panels.
Labor Day Picnic (Sunday Sept. 1 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.) – What better way to celebrate the three-day weekend than with a block party? The family-friendly event will celebrate the quintessential BBQ and also provide demos, seminars, and panel discussions.
Cocktail Confidential (Sunday Sept. 1 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m.) – You couldn’t possibly think that TASTE LA wouldn’t allocate an entire event around the ever-growing trend of craft cocktails, did you? Local mixologists will take the stage to redefine the standard cocktail, while local restaurants serve up correlating tastes.
Unlimited tastings from LA’s favorite restaurants, wine and cocktail tastings, and chef panel discussions: what could make for a better Labor Day Weekend? Get your tickets today before the price increase on Aug. 29. For tickets and more information on Taste LA, visit http://events.latimes.com/taste/.