Monday, December 3, 2018

Where to Eat: Peruvian Sunday Brunches @ Rosaliné, West Hollywood

The Eats: Colorful, tropical brunch bites with a creative, Peruvian twist

The Location: West Hollywood

When to Go: Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Dinner, daily at 6 p.m.

The names behind the scenes: Chef Ricardo Zarate

The 4-1-1: Arrive early to beat the crowd

I’ll be Back…: For the seabass tiradito!

There’s surely no shortage of weekend brunch spots or restaurants serving up South American cuisine here in Los Angeles. But, I’ll dare to go out on a limb and say that there aren’t as many places serving up a Peruvian brunch, right in the heart of the city.

Enter Rosaliné.

Open for slightly over a year now, this airy restaurant on Melrose Ave. serves up twists on classics like French Toast, and also South American favorites including chicharrones, all in a fabulous, relaxed ambiance.

Unassuming on the exterior — a bare, bright white building bears the name “Rosaliné” in neon red lights — the restaurant’s interior reveals a tropical indoor-outdoor oasis. The space is bathed in lush greens, browns and other natural tones. It truly feels like you’re stepping into a casual but luxurious bar in a tropical destination like Miami or Tulum, Mexico.

Rosaliné’s Sunday brunch menu is broken out into three main sections: "Small Bites," or appetizers; "To Share," which are the entrées; and "Abrebocas/Ceviche/Tiraditos," mainly seafood items. There’s also a selection of cocktails and desserts, along with a full bar. During my visit, the bae and I shared three Small Bites, two Abrebocas/Ceviche/Tiraditos and one dessert, and we were beyond satisfyingly full.

Here’s a look at some of the brunch options: 

The Small Bites

Rosaliné has a lovely tropical version of French Toast, accompanied by seasonal berries, crunchy macadamia nuts, dense whipped cream and warm caramelized bananas. As an alternative to traditional syrup, a sweet fig chancaca sauce is served on the side. The actual slices of bread are lightly crunchy on the outside, and warm and gooey on the inside.

I’ve never had anything like the Causa Jar, a vegetarian dish that features four distinct layers of spreads. It starts off with a potato mousse at the bottom of the jar, then avocado gets piled on, followed by an eggplant terrine and then eventually a botija olive aioli. Large chunks of slightly toasted bread come on the side, so you can lather the dips — one by one or all at once — onto each slice. It’s all bursting with so many different colors and rich flavors, and is such a unique way to get your daily dose of veggies.

The Chicken Chicharron is the Peruvian version of fried chicken. It’s a well-portioned serving of bite-sized chicken strips topped with salsa criolla — a fresh medley of onions, tomatoes, lime juice and other ingredients. While the chicken most certainly was tasty, it wasn’t as unique as some of the other dishes we tried. I’d recommend it if you want something on the more filling and less adventurous side when it comes to flavors.

The Abrebocas/Ceviche/Tiraditos

The Seabass Tiradito was by far my favorite of everything I sampled. Thin slices of sashimi style seabass and dollops of pureed pumpkin topped with crunchy slivers of pumpkin sit in the most amazing aji amarillo lime sauce. The fish itself was great — super fresh and tender — but the star here was the tangy sauce. It was so good we started putting it on everything from the bread to the fried chicken, too.

As Avocado Toast is pretty much a brunch staple wherever you go in L.A., Rosaliné’s version is truly one to be reckoned with. In addition to hearty chunks of avocado sitting atop toasted quinoa bread, heaping cuts of spicy tuna in a leche (i.e., milk) sauce have been added into the mix, too. I’d confidently put this avocado toast up there with one of the best that I’ve had in the city.

The Desserts

Rosaliné offers four different desserts, including coffee flan, a Peruvian-style cake called chancay con leche, sorbet and a take on the South American cookies known as alfajores. Pictured below, these two cookies each have a sweet filling — in one option it’s dulce de leche, in the other, it’s mango — that’s wedged between two thin buttery cookies. Both were extremely rich and decadent, and quite wonderful. 

And, the Cocktails

IMHO a brunch wouldn’t be complete without a fabulous libation! The cocktail menu is modest, with only five featured drinks. In addition to the standard mimosa, there’s the classic Peruvian pisco sour, two other pisco-based cocktail and a tequila-based option. As the saying goes, "when in Rome a Peruvian restaurant ...," so I say trying a pisco sour is a must. I also liked the quita calzón (pictured below), a smooth, smoky blend of mezcal, gooseberry, coconut water and lime. 

All in all, Rosaliné’s sultry laidback atmosphere and vibrant brunch menu makes it a noteworthy contender in our city’s very competitive brunch scene. So the next time you’re looking for what feels like an escape from the city, check it out.

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Disclaimer: Courtesy complimentary brunch provided; all opinions are still my own. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Where to Drink: L.A. Libations from Three Centuries @ Here and Now

The Drinks: 19 cocktails, four beer-and-shot pairings, and a variety of beers, ciders and wines that celebrate Los Angeles’ evolution as a city for the past three centuries

The Location: DTLA Arts District

The Vibes: Cozy, gorgeous, historic

Good for: Alone, couples, small groups

When-To-Go: Tuesdays – Saturdays, 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Sundays 2 p.m. – midnight; closed Mondays

The $$ Factor: Cocktails, $12 - $26; Bites, $5 - $16

The Names behind the scenes: Sarah Meade (Westbound); Executive Chef Geo Delgado (Gusto, E.R.B.); and Va'La Hospitality’s Aaron Melendez (Salazar, Normandie Club, The Walker Inn), Damian Diaz (Hotel Figueroa, E.R.B.), and Othon Nolasco (E.R.B.)

The 4-1-1: There’s more than the eye can see! A quaint outdoor patio complete with a fire pit can be accessed through the back doors.

Parking Situation:
Nearby street parking and free onsite parking in a lot off Third Street and S. Santa Fe Ave.

I’ll Be Back…: For the Acapulco Bleu cocktail!

It’s time to add another bar to L.A.’s vibrantly bustling bar scene!

Officially opening in mid-October 2018, Here and Now has made the former Westbound bar space its home. It’s located in One Santa Fe, a massive mixed-use complex, in an up-and-coming part of the DTLA Arts District.

A little bit about the area: right next to the One Santa Fe complex is the Metropolitan Transit Authority rail yard and across from it is an old railroad freight depot building. One Santa Fe has also been built to resemble two parallel trains, when viewed from an aerial perspective.

With the locomotive industry playing such an integral part of the landscape, it should come as no surprise then that Here and Now’s interior has been designed to resemble a train. Dark hues, rich leathers and old-fashioned knick-knacks like padded bar arm rails permeate throughout the space. Eclectic art and unique light fixtures add a mid-century modern touch. Personally, I loooved the décor — there are just so many secluded areas to scoop a seat, including booths in the back and tables-for-two paired with classic wingback chairs.

The bar program intends to show off cocktails that celebrate our beloved city’s evolution during the past three centuries. These are not your run-of-the-mill drinks, but are more like miniature works of art, featuring both simple and also very out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. Diagrams on the menu reveal what type of glass each cocktail arrives in. All in all, 19 cocktails, four beer-and-shot pairings, and a variety of beers, ciders and wines are available.

Of the five cocktails I sampled during a media preview event right before the bar’s official opening, more than anything, many reminded me of a specific season.

For instance, the Arrowhead Trail — featuring five rums, Thai Iced Tea, coconut cream and Angostura bitters — was evocative of the fall. Its thick creaminess and subtle spicy tinge made it feel like autumn in a glass.

The Acapulco Bleu — with Arette Reposado Tequila, Combier Le Bleu (allegedly the world’s first premium blue curaçao), lime and pineapple — took me back to my college days, partying in Tijuana on summer breaks. It was like the fancy, grown-up version of the tropical libation, “Adios, Motherf*cker.”

The San Gabriel is Here and Now’s version of a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. It’s packed with the Brazilian spirit cachaça, the Italian aperitivo Italicus, a California Aloe liqueur called Chareau, and lime and kiwi, which adds delightful fruity sweetness.

I had to pass on the Holy Ghost, even though it was an incredibly smooth blend of Elijah Craig Bourbon, vermouth and the rhubarb Zucco Rabarbaro. As much as I love whiskey, it was literally knocking me right out of my seat. But for anyone who enjoys sipping a nice bourbon, this one may be for you.

Last but not least was In Good Faith, reminiscent of springtime. It’s a light, refreshing mix of Grey Goose vodka, the Italian liquor Amaro Montenegro, the liqueur Allspice Dram, Fuyu persimmons, citrus and vanilla.

But the bar ain’t only slinging cocktails; it’s also offering 12 shareable “Din-Din” dishes that are truly one-of-a-kind.

The Beluga Lentil Dip is topped with pickled onions and queso fresco, accompanied by house potato chips. It’s a hearty, filling fusion of Mexican and South Asian cuisines.

The Pork Belly Fries smother an American classic — fries — with pork belly, caramelized shallots, American cheese and something that was new to me: “Boyle Heights” dressing. This whopping stack of messy, killing-my-diet goodness was nothing like I had ever tasted, but so worth every one of the 90,000 calories that are probably packed into it.

And of course, save room for dessert! Here and Now has one sweet treat: the Zeppole, a fried dough oval mound that’s reminiscent of a beignet and is accompanied by whipped ricotta, seasonal jam and fried sage.

So should you find yourself in the Arts District and looking to grab a drink — and perhaps a few bites — consider Here and Now. The cocktails are fun and impressive, the food unique and tasty, and the ambiance quite enticing.

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Where to Eat: Judging Desserts (Again!) @ The 2018 Gelato Festival America, Santa Barbara

Exciting news: I recently returned as a technical judge at the Gelato Festival America’s stop in Santa Barbara!

As part of the larger European Gelato Festival that’s now in its ninth edition, Gelato Festival America visits various cities throughout the States. Each year, there’s one gelato maker winner in each participating city. All winners from both the European and American festivals between 2017 and 2020 compete in the 2021 Gelato Festival World Masters Final in Italy for the biggest title yet: World Champion.

Similar to last year, the Santa Barbara portion of the festival took place in the same open-air La Cumbre Plaza, over the span of two days (Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 14). Once again, it was actually sorbet — the non-dairy version of gelato — featured in the contest. And, there were three juries: our Technical Jury, the Kids Jury and the Popular Jury, where all festival attendees had a chance to select their favorite flavor. Scores from the juries were tallied and combined, to find the 2018 Santa Barbara stage gelato maker winner. Below are my fellow judges, other travel / food / wine writers, influencers and bloggers (full list here!).

There were a few changes to this year's festival, too. It expanded from four to seven cities. Specifically in Santa Barbara, instead of 10 gelato maker contestants like in 2017, there were only five this time around. And while last year, our technical judging portion was towards the end of the day, this time, it took place before doors officially opened at noon on Saturday, Oct. 13.

In order of appearance, here’s a brief look at the five contestants and their respective flavors:

California Dreamin’ by Noël Knecht (San Clemente, CA)
Noël was a contestant last year, too. She took a similar approach as she did with her 2017 flavor: she sourced her gelato ingredients from a particular region and built a gelato love story from there. For California Dreamin’, she used passion fruit from Santa Paula and the Green Keitt Mango native to the Coachella Valley, topping it all off with a subtle raspberry-rosemary drizzle. She got the balance of sweetness and tartness just right; it was such an invigorating flavor and a perfect creamy texture. During her presentation, Noël also shared that her ultimate goal when creating gelato is to make it in a way that supports our environment and local farmers.

Mike Guerriero’s Blueberry Basil (Montclair, NJ)
Hailing from a family of gelato makers who have ran various Gelotti shops in Jersey for the past 30+ years, Mike paid homage to his state by using a fruit that apparently grows rampantly there: wild blueberries. Mixed in with the blueberries was a little lemon juice to cleanse the palate and pureed basil to cut the overall sweetness. Mike shared that he’s all about “mixing the art with the business” and that you can’t just make a flavor that’s good; it has to be something you can enjoy an entire cup of. This particular flavor definitely checked off both requirements on my end!

Filippo Cianciosi’s La Dolce Vita (Carlsbad, CA)
By far, this was probably the creamiest sorbet and in IMHO, the most unusual flavor. Using local Black Mission figs, Filippo, who moved to the U.S. seven months ago to launch his Gelato Love shop, dedicated the flavor to his grandfather and father. Both were in the gelato business, along with his sister. You could hear the passion rise in his voice as he reminisced about picking figs with his grandfather to bring to his father's shop to make gelato. When I asked him how he was able to create such a smooth texture, he joked, “I want to ask that question to God,” and slyly revealed a secret ingredient: salt. While I wasn’t too fond of the taste — it was a little too savory for me — some of the judges mused that it would pair well with wine.

Savannah G. Lee’s The SoCal Sunrise (Millbrae, CA)
Savannah also has a culinary family background; her parents were chefs. Plus, her travels around the world as an Emirates flight attendant were the inspiration behind all of the international desserts now available at her own shop, Savannah's Gelato Kitchen. Incorporating the juice from 100+ pounds of Valencia California oranges and hand-cut Royal Hawaiian pineapples, The SoCal Sunrise should feel as if you're sipping an orange pineapple mimosa in somewhere like London or Dubai, she explained during her presentation. And she was quick to add that “you’re the happiest when you’re the healthiest,” sharing some of the health benefits of oranges and pineapples. The flavor itself was strongly citrusy, but quite refreshing!

Marilyn Way’s Fresh Passionfruit Lemonade Sorbetto (Calgary, Canada)
Marilyn told us that she was going for a fresh and summery lemonade vibe with the Passionfruit Lemonade Sorbetto. Using Ecuadorian passionfruit, California lemons and lemon lime zest, her team actually made 12 different variations of this flavor, during the research and development stage of this sorbet. This particular rendition at the festival was so popular back at her Fiasco Gelato shop in Calgary, that it’s now been added to the shop's standing menu. This, too, was very refreshing and had a very tart and crisp taste.

My fellow technical judges and I had to give scores for each gelato, based on the following criteria:
  • Presentation (max. 10 points) – how well the gelato maker described his sorbet in 60 seconds
  • Flavor (max. 20 points) – our personal and subjective evaluation of the gelato's taste
  • Structure (max. 10 points) – assessing the gelato's structure such as its softness, creaminess, freshness and permanence of flavor
  • Creativity (max. 10 points) – our personal and subjective evaluation of the specific flavor and ingredient choices
Can you guess who the winners were? 
Without further ado, here they are! 
  • Mike’s Blueberry Basil won the overall first place, a combination of all Technical, Kids and Popular Juries' scores. Second place was Filippo’s La Dolce Vita and third was Savannah’s The SoCal Sunrise. Mike will be off to compete in the 2021 Gelato Festival World Masters Final in Italy!
  • Noël’s California Dreamin' won the Technical Jury prize, based exclusively on our Technical Jury’s favorite flavor.
  • Marilyn’s Fresh Passionfruit Lemonade Sorbetto won the Popular Jury vote, based exclusively on the most popular selection from all attendees who voted.
  • Savannah’s The SoCal Sunrise received the Kids Jury Special Mention certificate.
There were also other mini-contests throughout the event. Marilyn won the “Speed Cup Race by ISA” for filling cups with gelato as perfectly as possible in 30 seconds. Mike continued to rack up the awards; he also took home the Gela-to-go Award for selling the most gelato and the “Stack It High by PreGel” recognition for putting as many scoops of gelato as possible — 22 total — into a cup in 30 seconds.
All in all, I had a great time. I mean, who doesn’t love spending a day sampling some of the most amazing sorbets out there?? I'm looking forward to participating as a judge in future festivals and who knows, maybe I’ll even make it to the 2021 Gelato Festival World Masters Final in Italy!

For more information: