Firecakes Donuts – Chicago

Firecakes - Chicago

The Polar Vortex couldn’t stop me from getting my deep-fried high on while in Chicago this past January. In fact, it may have contributed to my appetite—a full belly means a warm Gastronomer.

The first stop on the Chicago feeding frenzy took The Astronomer, Cousin Jackie, and me to Firecakes Donuts.

Firecakes - Chicago

Opened last spring by Jonathan Fox (President and CEO of 3Sixty Dinning Intelligence and owner of La Madia), Firecakes is a notable player in Chicago’s robust gourmet doughnut scene. The doughnuts made in this teeny 600-square-foot shop use an heirloom recipe that came from Mr. Fox’s wife’s great-grandfather, Billy Hobbs.

After waiting in a painfully cold and winding line at The Doughnut Vault during my last trip to Chicago, it was really great to stroll on in and be served straightaway this evening.

Firecakes - Chicago

For our pre-dinner “snack,” we selected four doughnuts to share.

First up, a light and lovely cake ring dusted with toasted coconut flakes and prettied with coconut cream ($2.49).  This well-balanced creation was my fave pick of the four.

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Faith & Flower – Los Angeles (Downtown)

Faith & Flower - Downtown, Los Angeles

Unless you’ve given up social media for Lent, chances are that you’ve heard a little somethin’ somethin’ about Downtown’s newly opened Faith & Flower.

There’s a great chef in the kitchen (Michael Hung of San Francisco’s La Folie) and a talented bar man too (Michael Lay of Vegas’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie), but what really drew me here was my friend Stephane Bombet, one of the restaurant’s managing partners. This is his first project since parting with Chef Ricardo Zarate‘s Peruvian empire (Mo-Chica, Picca, Paiche, and Blue Tavern).

Faith & Flower - Downtown, Los Angeles

Whereas most of Downtown’s popular spots are minimally appointed and distinctly urban, Faith & Flower feels downright sumptuous, complete with crystal chandeliers, fancy cutlery and chargers, and plush banquettes. To keep the done-up room from feeling formal or stuffy, the energy, music, and service all hit the perfect upbeat yet casual note.

Faith & Flower - Los Angeles (Downtown)

To start, we tried two of Michael Lay’s creations. I chose the intense and smoky “Olvera” ($14) made with Nuestra Soledad mezcal, Cherry Heering, Zirbenz Stone Pine, Royal Combier, housemade orange bitters, and lapsang souchong vapor, while The Astronomer selected the “Angels Flight” ($12) with Denizen rum, yuzu, palm sugar, and kaffir lime leaf.

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{swoon} Chả Giò Tôm Cua at Bến Lạ Restaurant

Ben La - Westminster | Best Cha Gio

While researching Little Saigon’s choicest quan nhau (watering holes) this past weekend, I tasted the very best cha gio I’ve had since living in and traveling throughout Vietnam at Bến Lạ Restaurant.

Stuffed plump with crab, shrimp, and pork, then deep-fried twice for maximum blistering, these rolls induced swoons from everyone at the table. Even when tightly wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dunked with abandon in chili-spiked nuoc cham, the cha gio remained unbeatably crisp, the translucent rice paper wrappers shattering with each bite.

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#IceCreamSocial: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour (plus a few bonuses) – Waterbury, Vermont

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory - Waterbury, Vermont

If my previous post didn’t have you running to the grocery store for a perfect pint, this one certainly will. Or better yet, head to your nearest Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop for a complimentary taste because today is Free Cone Day! Yay! Noon till 8 PM…Go.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory - Waterbury, Vermont

Day 2 of the Ben & Jerry’s press trip was as eventful as the first. After visiting St. Albans Cooperative Creamery where hormone-free milk for the ice creams is exclusively sourced, we headed to the Waterbury plant for a behind-the-scenes look at how each pint is made, swirls, chunks, and all.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory - Waterbury, Vermont

The tour began with a short movie about the history of Ben & Jerry’s. Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield met in 7th grade gym class, took a $5 dollar correspondence course to learn ice-cream making, and renovated an old gas station in Burlington for their first store in 1978! Following the film, we were led up a flight of stairs and onto a platform for an elevated view of the factory floor—no pictures were allowed, unfortunately.

The factory floor, which churns out 110 pints per minute and 160,000 pints per day, was a mesmerizing sight with its complex machinery moving a mile a minute.

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