Blog

Bottlerock’s Best Bites 2019

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend Bottlerock Music Festival, which is held every May in Napa Valley. The festival features a plethora of amazing musical artists, a bounty of incredible wines (it is Napa after all!) and most importantly, an abundance of overwhelmingly delicious food, served up by some of Napa’s most talented. There were over 80 restaurants, food trucks, & vendors in attendance, serving up delicious festival eats, elevated to match the Napa Valley crowd. With so many options you were really able to acquire whatever you were craving whether that be a classic burger, some delicious tacos, or even Paella. There was something to please every palate.

I started the weekend like any good foodie & did my research. I looked into the food that was to be at the festival & mapped out all the spots I wanted to hit over the course of the weekend. Some of the places I was most excited for: Bling Bling Dumpling (my go to at any festival is Bling Bling), Gerard’s Paella, Ad Hoc (I can’t pass up a chance to eat Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken), Johnny Doughnuts, Izzy’s Cheesesteaks & Itani Ramen.

Turns out I wasn’t able to eat ALL the food at the festival so I had to make some tough decisions over the course of three days. Luckily I did pretty well & ate some incredible food. Here are my favorites of the weekend!

Day 1:

IMG_9830

Celadon

Kobe Beef Corn Dog & Fries:

This corn dog was unlike any other corn dog I’ve ever had. It was a classic corn dog with the volume turned way up with the use of Kobe Beef in the hot dog. The beef had such a deep, rich, meaty flavor. The breading had just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect crunch. Paired with crispy, salty French fries, Celadon produced the perfect festival meal!

IMG_9836

The Farmer’s Wife

Tuna Melt

This tuna melt was my first meal of the festival & it really set the standard for the level of quality I was going to expect. It was the perfect tuna melt. The tuna was so moist but not soggy & had great flavor & crunch from red onion & celery. The bread was a really great locally made sourdough that was toasted perfectly which resulted in a great crunch when biting into it, & it also had great stability for such a hefty sandwich. The Farmer’s Wife really knows how to make a solid sandwich!

IMG_9872

Taqueria Rosita

Steak Burrito

This burrito kept it simple. Rice, beans, cheese & perfectly tender steak. It was served with fresh made chips, a bright tomato salsa & everyone’s favorite, guac. This burrito may have been simple but it was done just right, made with great ingredients & it was just what I needed to munch on while watching my idol, Iron Chef Morimoto, at the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage!

Day 2:

IMG_9932

Shawarma Point

Beef & Lamb Gyro

I’m a total sucker for shawarma & gyros. Whenever I see them on a menu I can’t help myself so I was really excited to hear a place called ‘Shawarma Point’ was making an appearance at the festival. I ordered the beef & lamb gyro which came loaded on pita bread & topped with lettuce & tomato. Off to the side were a few DIY sauces you could add to your gyro. I opted for the classic white sauce of course. After my first bite, I knew I made the right choice stopping by Shawarma Point. The pita was warm & fluffy with the perfect amount of chew. The meat was seasoned perfectly & was so juicy. The veggies were crisp & fresh which was the perfect balance to offset all the warm, meaty goodness inside the pita. And the white sauce was refreshing & creamy, the perfect topping for such a great gyro. This was one of the meals I had this weekend that I couldn’t stop thinking about!

IMG_9939

Johnny Doughnuts

Vanilla Old Fashion & Maple Old Fashion

The smell of these doughnuts alone was enough to drive customers into the line. These doughnuts were being served out of an adorable & updated van, alone side some fresh, made to order coffee! I tried the vanilla old fashion & the maple old fashion. These doughnuts were huge! Almost the size of two regular doughnuts, but you won’t see me complaining about that. These doughnuts were unbelievably fresh, they had such great flavor & the glaze was to die for. Doughnuts can be so simple but when they’re made well, with good quality ingredients, by people who love what they do, you get something really special.

IMG_9975
Tres Truck

Beef Birria Taco

This taco was just what I needed to end my day on a great note. It was two small corn tortillas overflowing with tender beef birria, that was so juicy I needed several napkins, topped with pickled red onion, arugula & queso fresco. The meat was so tender & flavorful it tasted like it had been cooking for DAYS. The pickled onion & arugula gave the taco a great fresh bite to cut through all the richness of the meat & the queso gave the taco the perfect salty bite. It was a simple taco executed perfectly! What else could you want out of a taco?

IMG_9956

Ristorante Allegria

Chicken Parmesan Sandwich & Garlic Fries

All weekend I was seeing people walking around with big plates of some kind of sandwich accompanied by a mound of garlic fries. I knew I had to get to the bottom of this. I finally figured out these plates were coming from Ristorante Allegria & the sandwich was a chicken parm. My fiancé is a sucker for chicken parm sandwiches so naturally we had to get ourselves one & see what the hype was about. It was delicious! The bread was soft, the chicken was juicy & there was just the right amount of marinara & pesto to flavor the sandwich, without drowning it & making a mess on the plate. It was executed very well for a grab & go meal. The fries though, the fries were the real kicker. It was a mound of perfectly crispy French fries loaded with fresh garlic, parsley & parmesan. Do I even need to go on?

IMG_9970

Gerard’s Paella

Classic Spanish Paella

I’ll start by saying I will try to not get carried away here. I grew up eating paella & I’ve had some really amazing paella in my life both locally, and when I was fortunate enough to visit Spain a few years back. I know, I’m very blessed to have eaten this much Paella. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish filled with seafood, chicken, meat & veggies. It is a pretty complex dish that even calling it a ‘rice dish’ seems unfair. It’s truly an art, making Paella. Traditionally, it’s made using a very specific process of cooking & arranging the ingredients & it’s made in a large Paella Pan (accurately named) that’s similar to a very large cast iron. The Paella pan is designed to give the food great color & flavor, but its size is because Paella is usually served as quite a show because of the way its arranged. This version, which was served in a take away container, was not short on authenticity or flavor. I’ll admit this now, I had this Paella twice over the course of three days because it was so unbelievable. Behind the pickup window of Gerard’s was a sea of large Paella pans cooking away this delicious chow. That was the first moment I knew this was going to be good. I also had seen people walking around the entire first day of the festival holding these containers overflowing with beautifully colored rice, chicken, seafood & veggies. When my Paella was handed to me it was still steaming from being served fresh off the Paella pan, but that didn’t stop me from digging in immediately. At first glance I noticed the color of the rice. It was a beautifully deep orange color, most likely a result of saffron (classic Paella spice). I also noticed several large pieces of chicken & shrimp. I was excited about this one. I took my first bite & was overwhelmed. The flavor was so deep & so intense. This really was festival food, elevated. This was some of the best Paella I had ever eaten. The rice was cooked perfectly, there were parts of the rice with really crispy browned bits from where the rice sat on the pan, the shrimp was tender & the chicken was juicy. The second I finished the bowl I wanted more. It was so good I passed up trying something new the following day just so I could have this Paella one more time.

Day 3:

IMG_0016

Itani Ramen

Chicken Ramen

On the third day it was raining for a majority of the morning so when I arrived at the festival, dressed in my windbreaker & boots, a hot bowl of ramen sounded incredible. The noodles were so chewy & the broth had so much depth of flavor it was borderline creamy. I don’t know how they make their broth but they’re doing something RIGHT over there! It was such a great bowl of ramen I forgot for a second that I was at a music festival in the pouring rain.

IMG_0015

Itani Ramen

Spicy Katsu Sandwich

I normally wouldn’t order two items from the same restaurant because my goal is to try as many spots as possible. But, when there is a spicy chicken Katsu sandwich on the menu, I literally cannot say no. I’m glad I broke my rule because this sandwich was WORTH IT! I don’t even know where to begin. The bread was so tender & soft, making it very easy to bite into. Some sandwiches come on rolls or buns that are too hard you feel like you’re destroying the roof of your mouth (you allllll know what I’m talking about). This bread was perfectly soft but held up well to all the amazingness inside. The slaw was super crunchy which paired well with the creamy, spicy sauce & soft bread. The best part? The chicken obviously. The chicken was so tender on the inside but perfectly crispy on the outside, it had great balance. There were parts of the chicken that were extra crispy & other parts that were meatier. It was truly a perfect sandwich. One of the best things I ate the entire weekend, I contemplated going back.

IMG_0027

John’s Juice

Watermelon Juice

You really can’t beat fresh watermelon juice served to you inside of a watermelon. This juice was the best refreshment & palate cleanser after a day full of eating. It was really enjoyable to have something so light & refreshing to cut through all the fatty foods I had been eating all weekend!

IMG_0033

Izzy’s Cheesesteaks

Classic Cheesesteak

I am a sucker for cheesesteaks. They’re probably my favorite food & I haven’t even been to Philly yet to have a REAL one. Meat & cheese inside of bread is just the pinnacle of deliciousness & a well-made cheesesteak is one of the best meals out there. When doing my research, I found there were going to be two cheesesteak spots at the festival so I wanted to make my choice wisely. The first day I decided to try a different cheesesteak because their description said they used Amoroso Rolls which is a classic cheesesteak roll. I couldn’t pass up authenticity, right? What I failed to notice was that they were making their cheesesteaks with shaved roast beef rather than a more classic ribeye steak. The sandwich was definitely lacking in flavor. The meat didn’t taste like it had been seasoned well & the cheese sauce was a little flat. There weren’t any veggies to give a nice crunch to the sandwich either. The bread was okay, it wasn’t warmed enough so when I went to eat it, it started to crumble & fall apart. Overall I felt disappointed & knew I chose the wrong cheesesteak spot. The next day I knew I had to fill my cheesesteak craving so I headed to Izzy’s after doing a deep dive into their Instagram & seeing how delicious their sandwiches looked. Let me tell you, this was a good cheesesteak. Izzy’s really knows what they’re doing! The bread was so soft & help up beautifully to all the yummy meaty cheesiness inside. The meat was so flavorful, so tender with just the right amount of crispy bits from direct contact with the flattop. The cheese was sooooo gooey & melty it became one with the sandwich. This baby was also loaded with delicious onions as well as sweet & spicy peppers that gave it a nice kick and bite of acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meat & cheese. Basically, this cheesesteak was the bomb.

Here are some other non-food pictures to really show you why this festival should be your new favorite summer party

If you liked this, check out my reviews from Life is Beautiful 2018

Recipes

Smashed Chickpea & Broccoli Tacos w/ Lemon Tahini Spread

When the new year started I knew I wanted to enact a new tradition in the kitchen. I was also trying to eat less meat so Meatless Monday’s seemed like the perfect choice. At first it was very daunting, the thought of having to come up with a new meatless recipe every single week, but I was excited for the challenge.

These tacos were my first ever Meatless Monday recipe and I was so happy they turned out as incredible as they did. It was scary after all, trying something new. The delicious taste and full feeling in my tummy after eating these tacos was telling me I’d be okay.

When trying to come up with this recipe I first focused on the main ingredient. What was going to be my ‘meat substitute’ for this dish? I also knew I wanted to do tacos because they’re an easy way to try out new ingredients and combinations.

I have always loved chickpeas and I find them really filling so I decided to make them the base of the taco. I knew I wanted to add a fresh component to add contrast so I thought riced broccoli and avocado would be really yummy. Then I just had to figure out how to season the chickpeas and some kind of saucy or creamy element and I was done! My first Meatless Monday recipe, done! This was very exciting for me. The best part? This wasn’t just a meatless dish, but it was also vegan! What an exciting way to start a new tradition!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: about 8 tacos

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 6-8 tortilla (depending on size)
  • 1 avocado, sliced

Directions:

  1. Put broccoli florets into a food processor & pulse until broccoli becomes finely chopped up, set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine drained chickpeas with 1 tablespoon of oil, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. In a small bowl, combine tahini & lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. In a medium sauté pan heat remaining oil on medium heat. Add onions and sauté until onions are soft & starting to brown. Add the smashed garlic clove and stir around until fragrant.
  5. Add seasoned chickpeas to the pan and cook until heated through and slightly browned.
  6. When chickpeas become soft take a potato masher (or fork) and smash about half of the chickpeas.
  7. Add shredded carrots to the pan with the chickpeas & cook until they become soft.
  8. Heat your tortillas and spread some of the tahini onto the bottom of the tortilla.
  9. Next, lay on the chickpea & carrot mixture.
  10. Top each taco with broccoli, sliced avocado & more of the tahini mixture.
  11. Enjoy!

IMG_1637

Recipes

Weeknight Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have always been a special treat for me because the best fish tacos always come from the seafood stands near the beach. They were never something I really thought to make for myself. That is until I stumbled upon battered halibut in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s.

I quickly grabbed a box and tossed it in my cart. I couldn’t wait to taste them to see if they tasted anything like fried fish from one of the previously mentioned seafood stands.

Boy were they good! Fresh out of the oven they had an unmistakable crispiness that rivaled any ‘freshly fried’ piece of fish I’d had before. I knew they would be perfect for fish tacos, paired with a creamy white sauce and topped with a fresh slaw. I hope you guys enjoy these tacos as much as I did!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2

1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lime juice, divided
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 box battered Halibut (Trader Joe’s)
4 flour or corn tortillas*
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/3 cup grated carrot

 

Preheat the oven according to package directions.

Combine sour cream, 3 tablespoons of lime juice, cilantro, salt & pepper in a bowl. Mix until smooth & check the consistency. If you like your sauce thinner, add the milk. Then store in the fridge until ready to use.

In a medium bowl, combine the shredded cabbage and grated carrot. Cover with remaining lime juice & toss to coat. Set aside.

Cook the fish according to package directions.

When the fish comes out of the oven toss in the tortillas (carefully) & warm them until they are pliable.

Once the tortillas are ready, spoon some of the sauce on them and top with a few pieces of fish, some cabbage & carrots, then dollop more sauce on top if you please (trust me, you please).

I served my tacos with a rosemary & olive oil quinoa blend made by Near East.

*Corn tortillas are more traditional for this dish but I usually have flour tortillas on hand so thats what I generally use.