Thomas Keller's Garden + Creamy Barley with Spring Vegetables

In the charming town of Yountville, just north of Napa, is a garden. The garden is at the base of the mountains, with vineyards running up the side and wildflowers springing up in the grass, directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. It has rows of carrots, chives, garlic, fingerling potatoes, rainbow chard, and some empty plots I imagine will soon be planted with tomatoes.

a foodie tour of LAS VEGAS

Last weekend Andrew and I took off for a desert road trip to Las Vegas. We had a lot of memorable meals, and here were a few of our stops:

Yellowtail. On our way to see Mystère at Treasure Island, we wandered through the Bellagio and stopped at Yellowtail for some sushi, at a little place where their signature roll has "strawberry" in the title. Yum. Thinly sliced berries were placed on top of the roll, adding a nice sweetness at the end of your tempura-battered bite. If you're in the mood for something light and perfectly bite-sized, this is your place.

Mesa Grill. I’m a big fan of Bobby Flay and secretly hoped I’d spot him in the kitchen when we dined at Mesa, his restaurant in Caesar’s Palace. Sadly, Bobby was nowhere to be found (except on the back of his cookbook’s being sold at the front), but his Goat Cheese "Queso Fundido" was spectacular. Just try to imagine it in your mouth: four cheeses baked until hot and bubbly, topped with marinated peppers, served with crisp blue corn tortilla chips. We couldn’t stop eating it. (As a side note, Andrew’s pork sandwich was also a home run.)


Burger Bar. Yes, yes, the burgers are good, but what stole the show was dessert — The Chocolate Burger! It combined some of my favorite dessert flavors, and things aren’t what they seem.


Here’s the breakdown:
Bun = Glazed donut
Patty = Flourless Chocolate Cake
Cheese = Passion Fruit
Lettuce = Mint
Tomato = Strawberry

Plus a little whipped cream on the side for good measure. It was really fun to eat!

Casa Don Juan. World’s. Best. Margarita. Ok, maybe I haven’t tried enough to be truly bias, but they were a hit. Blended with the good stuff (Don Julio), let’s just say I would have been in trouble if I had more than one. This place is downtown, off the strip, and less saturated with tourists, making it a worthwhile stop for a relaxing, tequila-filled evening. The live guitarist was also a nice touch.

Emma Jean’s Hollandburger Café. On the way home we pulled off in Victorville to try a dive featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show, Diner’s Drive-In’s and Dive’s. I’ll admit, this was more of a stop for Andrew, who, incidentally, loved his pastrami sandwich. The regulars are really regulars – one woman walked behind the counter to fill up her friend’s coffee cup, and then proceeded to rummage through the small refrigerator for a beer. We had a great view from the counter stools, and laughed to ourselves while we watched everything unfold. I’m not sure if I’d stop here again, but it was fun to try a place we saw on TV.


Sprinkles Cupcakes - Part 2

I recently posted about using Sprinkles mix to make delicious cupcakes in a snap, and this weekend I had the pleasure of being in Los Angeles to experience the sheer bliss that is Sprinkles in Beverly Hills. There was a line out the frosted glass door, but the wait (a mere 10 minutes) was completely worth it.

I should briefly mention that other patrons thought I was from out of state due to my excessive picture taking, but I wasn’t about to leave this off my blog.

I like to think I’m somewhat of a cupcake connoisseur. At my office in Santa Barbara, my department has taken upon itself the task of discovering the best cupcakes in the region. As one of two lead cupcake testers, I’ve tasted my share of treats and found that most cupcakeries/bakeries excel at either frosting or cake, but not both. So when the first bite of my strawberry Sprinkles cupcake entered my mouth, every taste bud rejoiced.

I could easily detect the fresh strawberries used in the frosting, but the flavors were subtle, a nice surprise since it’s incredibly easy to have frosting that’s too sugary. But it doesn’t stop there. The cake underneath was moist and fluffy, making for a perfect bite every time. Married with a glass of cold, skim milk, I was in heaven for about fifteen minutes.

Travel: San Diego


This past weekend we headed to San Diego to visit some friends who hand-picked our culinary stops. Below are a few of the places we visited, along with links in case you'd like to visit yourself.



Bleu Boheme

In the Kensington neighborhood, new restaurant Bleu Boheme presents dishes right out of Julia Child’s cookbook. The menu, written out on a wall-sized chalk board, offers French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq Au Vin served alongside crusty sourdough bread placed on an artisan wood platter.

My Filet Mignon was served on a long plate flanked by sautéed green beans and shallots, and Bleu Boheme's signature fries. The potatoes are cut long and skinny, dusted with flaky sea salt, minced rosemary, and sprinkled with lavender - an intoxicating combination. Dripping candles and classic French music create warm ambiance perfect for a cozy dinner with friends.


San Diego Wine & Culinary Center

Sit outside around a fire pit to warm up on a cool southern California night at this perfect post-dinner wine bar. For $7, a server will bring you three tastings of local, Temecula valley wine, or you can choose a glass of the house wine for $5. Add a cheese platter and relax downtown after a long day.

Petco Park

This was my first professional baseball game in years, and despite the overpriced, sugar covered, and saturated fat-filled offerings, I wasn't about to forgo some classic ballpark food. Two hot dogs and a bottle of water will set you back $15. But don’t forget the enormous snow cones ($4.50) and sweet kettle corn ($5). Have fun watching the game and you’ll forget about the hole in your wallet.