Reviews, Travel

Tacos & Pie in LA: Crystal was Right

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Ever since our first trip to Los Angeles in 2010, there are two restaurants that our friend Crystal recommended that we try.

For whatever reason we just weren’t able to work these two food unicorns (foodicorns?) into our trip.

Finally, after about six years and five trips, we decide that we would not leave LA until we made it out to these two must-visits. With a 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature (check out our car Q&A here) loaner courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda ready to transport us to food heaven, we were ready to ride in style and hunger. But mostly hunger.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

Ready for tacos.

We should have listened to Crystal sooner, because these two restaurants will go down as places that we will force other people to try and that we will write about in letters to our grandchildren…or in a blog to strangers.

ALRIGHT ALREADY! WHAT ARE THE RESTAURANTS?!

The first foodicorn:  Guisados

For those who don’t speak Spanish, guisados translates to “stew” and oh, boy does Guisados stew! They stew all the stew.

They stew so hard.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Tender stewed meats and vegetables on fresh-made corn tortillas… What more can you possibly ask for? One thing I’d ask for is a mini taco sampler so I could try a bunch of tacos at once.

Guess what? They got that, too.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Pleasing to carnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians alike this is one taco party everyone is invited to. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your dog–I don’t think they let dogs inside due to health code regs, but if you have any leftovers–wait, what am I saying? There shall not be any leftovers! In fact, you probably won’t order enough the first go around, which will force you to do the walk of under-ordering shame back up to the register.

Embrace the shame, because it dissipates with each bite.

The deep flavor and succulent fillings will have you waking up at night in cold sweats wondering why you can’t get tacos like this back home.

And not stopping by a Guisados is no longer a valid excuse because they have five locations around Los Angeles including The OG in Boyle Heights, Echo Park, Downtown LA (or DTLA if you’re cool), West Hollywood, and Burbank.

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The second foodicorn:  The Pie Hole

It all started with a t-shirt.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

In a not-so-subtle way of hinting that we should probably eat at The Pie Hole, Crystal sent me one of their t-shirts.

Not only was it a constant reminder of the pie that needed to eventually be consumed, but it was an amazingly soft and durable shirt. It’s a t-shirt MVP year after year. First ballot t-shirt hall of famer.

If the pie was half as awesome as the shirt, expectations would be met.

Instead expectations were destroyed.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

The turkey pot pie was so comforting that it felt like a warm labradoodle sleeping next to you on a couch. Thanksgiving came early this year and in the best form: Pie.

That crust, though. So buttery, flaky, and the perfect thickness. I’d love to eat my way out of a sleeping bag made of that crust.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Tina’s breakfast veggie hand pie was also so delicious you’ll wish humans had bigger hands (to inflate the average size of hands, which would then in-turn increase the size of hand pies).

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

I should’ve channeled the dark side and ordered a slice of EVERYTHING, but I found some restraint in my back pocket and we shared a slice of Earl Grey Tea Pie. A unique pie for sure, with a subtle flavor of earl grey tea, crunchy pistachios, creamy filling and…oh…that….CRUST.

Much like Guisados, it took us so long to visit The Pie Hole that they now four locations around Los Angeles, one in Orange County, and one in freaking Tokyo! So, if you’re in DTLA, Pasadena, Hollywood, or Glendale grab a slice and open your pie hole.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Moral of the Story:  When a friend demands that you eat at specific places in the city in which they live, listen to him or her. Think of all the tacos and pie slices we could have eaten if we had heeded Crystal‘s advice? Roughly forty tacos and ten slices of pie (based on ten tacos and two pie slices per trip).

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Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided a vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own.

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Travel

Roads Worth Driving: Vint Hill Road

Location:  Prince William County, VA
Length:  9 miles

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided a 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo to test drive for a week (check out our car review). Vint Hill Road was a perfect match for the sporty, yet economical sedan. Much like the well-balance car, Vint Hill Road offers fun driver-friendly twists and turns, a calming rural atmosphere, and plenty of worth wile pit stops for food, drinks, and dogs.

Although the suggestions below aren’t the only places to stop, they’re the only ones we’ve checked out personally. If you’re feeling like wine we’ve heard good things about Vint Hill Craft Winery, and Covert Cafe has a solid following on Yelp.

Pit Stops

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters (thequeensbean.com)

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters | getinmymouf.com

There’s nothing better than a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. Grab a latte to-go to boost your brain before a turbo-charged drive along Linton Hall Road. This coffee house just opened during the summer, so you can feel even better about supporting a new small business, run by friendly locals.

Old Bust Head Brewery (oldbusthead.com)

Old Bust Head | getinmymouf.com
Tucked away, just off the road, this is the definition of a destination brewery. You’d probably never find this place by accident, but chances are good you’ve seen the beer around Northern VA at groceries stores, restaurants, and Total Wine locations. I’m partial to the Graffiti House West Coast-Style IPA, but you can’t go wrong with any of their fine brews.

Vint Hill Dog Park (vinthilldogpark.org)

Vint Hill Dog Park | getinmymouf.com

This pit stop is for all the dogs out there. As the largest dog park in the area, it’s a well-maintained pup park with tons of shade, lots of seating for two-legged animals, and plenty of canine friends. It can get pretty packed on the weekends, so come early to beat the crowds of dogs.

Yankee Farms (yankeyfarms.com)

Yankey Farms Strawberry Picking | getinmymouf.com

No matter the season, Yankee Farms has you covered. From fresh strawberries in the summer, to pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the fall, this farm brings out the kid in any adult. We left with a full basket of strawberries over the summer and can’t wait to check out the fall veggies!

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Did we leave out any of your favorite spots on Linton Hall Road? Let us know in the comments!

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Reviews, Travel

Enjoy Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles, but I know there are a lot of people out there who have either had bad experiences, or just have zero desire to spend any precious vacation time in La La land.

There’s actually so much to do and so many ways to experience L.A. that, after a few trips, I think I’ve finally figured out how to experience the city in way that can even change the minds of nonbelievers:

Choose Your Location Wisely

Los Angeles covers a wide geographic area, so when planning a trip, try and stay in a location central to most of the things you want to check out. Otherwise, you’ll be spending A LOT of time in traffic.

For my last trip I stayed in this Airbnb guest house, located in Silver Lake. The location had a ton of perks including easy street parking (rare for L.A.), it was central to an infinite number of food options (I’ll touch on that later), and because it’s a residential neighborhood, the atmosphere is much calmer than staying in a hotel in Hollywood.

Silver Lake | getinmymouf.com

Such a calm street. I could totally live here.

If you’re a runner, staying near the Silver Lake Reservoir gives you an easy jogging path to start or end your day. As an added bonus, there’s a dog park nearby, so how can you run past dogs and not have great day? Oh, it is a reservoir, but don’t expect to see any water…

Keep Your Wheels Small

You’ll be doing a lot of street parking (you do know how to parallel park, right?), so make it easy on yourself and rent or borrow a car that’s on the smaller side. Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, I was hooked up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer for the week (check out our car review here). The Lancer was nice because it was nimble enough to get around easily, yet wasn’t so small that I felt cramped.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Ridesharing is Your Friend

Although you’ll have to drive most of the time, it’s nice to occasionally not have to get behind the wheel. As much bad press as Uber and Lyft get, I still have yet to have any experience that is anywhere close to as awful as nearly every taxi ride I’ve had.

I also highly recommend using uberPOOL or Lyft Line to share your ride with a stranger. Sounds a little weird at first, but your ride costs will be cut in half AND you might meet some cool people. Thanks to sharing a ride one night, I got some sweet restaurant recommendations from two locals (shout out to Christine & Nick!). Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to their top pick, a new Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays, but I can guarantee I’ll be back soon…

Eat as Much as Possible

If you’re not eating well in L.A., then you’re doing something horribly wrong. I ate so well that it was almost painful (I didn’t wake up hungry once during the trip). There are hundreds of must-eat lists, celebrity chef restaurants, and local-filled dive joints to discover, but here are a few of my favorite bites:

The Fairfax breakfast sandwich from Eggslut (Downtown in Grand Central Market) – Almost custard-like scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar cheese, Sriracha mayo, caramelized onions, on the world’s softest brioche bun. And of course I added bacon. Easily the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

eggslut LA | getinmymouf.com

Good brews and great burgers from Stout (Hollywood) – Their signature Stout Burger did not disappoint and was topped with blue cheese, Emi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. And with over 30 beers on tap and 4 0z pours, you can sample nearly all of them in one night (thanks to Uber and Lyft). The staff is super friendly as well, and will happily share some celebrity sighting stories (everyone apparently has an Andy Dick encounter) and most of the waiters will even let you read their screenplay. Kidding, I actually didn’t meet any writers, but I did meet a stunt man, stand-up comic, improv performer, and a DJ.

Stout Burger - LA | getinmymouf.com

World class dim sum at Din Tai Fung (Glendale) – Din Tai Fung is a popular international restaurant with only six locations in the U.S. (all on the west coast). Man those soup dumplings…You think you’ve had dumplings, but you just don’t even know! Go with a group and order everything on the menu.

Din Tai Fung Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Cheap eats at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Glendale) – Porto’s is one of those places where–no matter how much you order–you always feel like your bill is way too low. This bakery has it ALL. Literally anything you could possibly want. My favorites were the fried potato balls filled with cheese or meat. And dessert…good luck picking one item.

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Everything at Republique (Hancock Park) – With such huge range in flavors drawing inspiration from around the world, you will definitely find something that hits any craving you have. They cure their own meats. They bake their own pastries. They even have a daily house-made soda special. My Cuban sandwich was perfect and the Tangerine Vanilla Soda was like a liquid creamsicle on steroids. DO indulge in something sweet; my jam-filled bomboloni (basically a filled doughnut…also on steroids) was so good I cried a little.

Republique LA | getinmymouf.com

Indulging in ice cream at Salt & Straw (Larchmont) – Check out these insane flavors. Bet you’re craving ice cream now. I went with two of their staples:  Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts (chocolate-dipped caramel-coated pecans). Ice cream nirvana was immediately achieved.

Salt & Straw LA | getinmymouf.com

A delicious marriage of French, Mexican, and California cuisine at Trois Familia (Silver Lake) – As my final meal in L.A., I enjoyed breakfast of a real champion: Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho. I had tears streaming down my face as I took the last bites.

Trois Familia | getinmymouf.com

Take a Hike

With as much eating as you should be doing, you might want to hike off some calories.  Luckily, there are tons of trails to check out like Runyon Canyon, the Griffith Observatory hike, and of course the famed Hollywood Sign hike.

Echo Mountain LA | getinmymouf.com

Thanks to my L.A. hiking buddy (and cousin) Stephanie, I was directed to my new favorite spot:  Echo Mountain. It’s was a reasonable 30-minute drive from Silver Lake and wasn’t very crowded (although it was a weekday). The hike itself is a moderate five-mile round-trip adventure that rewards hikers with scenic views and the ruins of “White City,” a former resort at the top of the mountain. Bring water and sunblock, ’cause you’ll be in a lot of sun.

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Still not convinced? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to go back for more ‘research’ to try and make a better argument…

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Reviews, Travel

Clifton Café – Clifton, VA

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

What do my Mom and my dog have in common?

They both love Clifton Café.

My mom always talks about The Magic Pan and how magical (GET IT?!) the crêpes were. Sadly, there haven’t been very many restaurants that serve crêpes around here (a few are starting to pop up now and I’m sure finding crêpes in DC would be easy, but getting my mom to go to DC would not be).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe

Luckily for us, we discovered Clifton Café, a crêperie in historic Clifton, VA that helps close that gap on those crêpe cravings. Crêpe options range from the savory Dan’s Barbarian Beef (roast beef, Havarti, onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, and Dijonnaise) to sweet favorites filled with Nutella, bananas, and fresh berries. You can also enjoy sandwiches, salads, wine and beer–and since coffee is a perfect match for crêpes–an extensive latte menu. My sweet tooth always leads me to their Crème Brûlée Latte.

It’s also a great place for  Mother’s Day Brunch and is quickly becoming a new tradition for us. This year, the brunch consisted of a three course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. For our first course, we all enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Caprese–I personally find it hard to turn down any appetizers with burrata.

For our second course, the table was filled with a Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe (roasted corn, red pepper and herb fricassee, sautéed chorizo, tomatoes, and gouda cheese), Salmon di Oliva Crêpe (Norwegian smoked salmon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, olive medley, and sautéed spinach with a lemon-basil sauce), and the BBQ Beef Brisket Crêpe (slow cooked BBQ beef brisket over mashed potatoes).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Salmon di Oliva Crêpe

To end the meal we all came back together and chose the same dessert, the Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe (with lemon curd, powdered sugar and whipped cream). Needless to say, my mom was in crêpe heaven.

Photo May 08, 11 55 17 AM

Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe

Enough about my mom. The dog-friendly patio is spacious enough to accommodate  75 pounds of fluffy labradoodle. I wish more places had patios, and of the few that do, I wish they had more room for big canines. The hostess and servers not only welcomed Cooper for lunch, they almost didn’t want him to leave. If he goes missing, I know the first place we’ll look…

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia | getinmymouf.com

So, if you’re looking for a quaint lunch spot to take your momma to, or if you’d simply like to enjoy some sunshine with your pup, Clifton Café is a perfect choice.

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Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to test drive for a week (click here for our car review). The epic panoramic sunroof made it the perfect SUV to take for a drive on the scenic and winding roads of Clifton, VA to one of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

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Events, Travel

Events DC Presents: Embassy Chef Challenge

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge

Photo Credit:  Don Tanguilig

What:  Embassy Chef Challenge
When
:  May 25, 2016 | 6:30 PM
Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Cost:  $65
More Info:  eventsdcembassychefchallenge.com

Want to take a culinary tour around the world, but don’t quite have the million frequent flyer miles that it would take to get you there? Luckily, Events DC has partnered with Cultural Tourism DC (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) to satisfy your mouth’s craving for world domination.

In its eighth year, Embassy Chef Challenge features 19 global culinary representatives from South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, along with a solid showing from the Caribbean nations. Chefs compete for not only the Judge’s Prize (awarded by local chefs and food writers), but also the coveted People’s Choice Award based on attendee votes.

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Here’s an amusebouche (in list form) of what you might taste at the event:

  • Filipino Bringhe  (savory seafood paella made with sticky rice and coconut milk)
  • Rum-Infused “Painkiller” Cocktail from the British Virgin Islands
  • Guatemalan Gazpacho del Enchilada
  • Bacon-Wrapped Duck Pâté from the Czech Republic
  • Uzbek Plov (hearty lamb and rice pilaf)
  • Ghanaian Black-Eyed Pea and Shrimp Fritters.
  • Arabic Coffee from Qatar

As you taste the world, you’ll also be surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere with live music and plenty of dancing. It’s sure to be a fun–and delicious–celebration of diversity and global cultures!

And seriously, it’s not like you have anything better to do on a Wednesday night, right?

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

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