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Margaret Santa Monica's Profile

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2015 Sicily food report: Ragusa, Siracusa, Palermo, Monreale, Cefalu

My daughter was working on a Stanford archeological dive this summer (Marzamema Shipwreck Project, look it up, fascinating!) and I picked her up last week. Despite the blazing heat, we had a lovely four days together. Note that she is a veg & i am a pesce, so we were always looking for veg friendly options.

Ragusa: We had a memorable cafe granita con pane, across from the cathedral. (Daughter's friend said to look for wine gelato, but this eluded us - if you find it let us know!) Old city not to be missed, btw.

Siracusa: Another vote for Oinos, popular here. No problem getting in, nothing too adventurous - pasta norma, spaghetti with clams, grigliata, all good in a fabulous outdoor setting. All the fish looked pretty great, but again, Siracusa is so lovely that everything you eat gets ten points for context. Amazing gelato around every corner, btw.

Palermo: Discovered the chowhound slow food rec Osteria Ballaro, had an amazing lunch in an airy, modern room, and happily it was right around the block from the Borsa hotel, where we were staying. July in palermo = blazing heat! Simple pasta, grilled veg, high quality oil, all good. Dinner that night was also just around the block, at the Antica Foccacceria San Francesco, where you can eat looking up at the church. Spaghetti w/ pistacho pesto & gambaretti was good; she had an eggplant dish she seemed to like. Tried to eat a salad but bad idea. Since we were mostly in Palermo to see the Capella Palatina (as opposed to florence, where we are there to see the food!) we were relieved when the meals went well enough to keep going happily onward. IE, lower bar!

Monreale: Serious gelato, serious pasticceria, both well-used by us, in the cathedral square. Best cathedral visit, btw -- don't skip monreale.

Cefalu: Cefalu is underwhelming (or was, to us) unless you've never been to a European beach town - in which case you will love it. We had a drink by the cathedral, enjoyed walking around the town, but we were very happy to drive up into the mountains, where we ate at the Relais, 20 mins away. We also stayed there and would recommend it highly. It's gotten a bad food rep but seems to have taken the criticism to heart; my pesto "Trapanese" - almond, basil, garlic, tomato - was one of the best things I ate in Sicily.

All told, not a bad jaunt! XO M

Jul 22, 2015
Margaret Santa Monica in Italy

Need Six Trastevere Meals for Writers in Hiding

Funny to see this thread now - the books got finished, and I've been back since then - additional thoughts -

Paris Restaurant had great fritti in a lively spot.
A family member did have a lovely if quiet meal at Antica Pesa.
I still like Antico Arco every time I go.
And I've still never made it to Glass. :)

Jul 16, 2015
Margaret Santa Monica in Italy

Puglia July Trip Thoughts???

I like the Masseria Montelauro outside of Otranto, limited menu but all very delicious, plus a decent house wine. And everything about the place is beautiful.

I like Diavolicchio outside of town for lunch, sometimes dinner. Rustic. Amazing.

I like Gelato Naturale in the middle of Otranto for pistachio gelato, but the more than that the rosemary fennel gelato at the pasticceria at the end of the boulevard with all the cafes that overlooks the beach. I forget the name. Have not forgotten the cookies.

Drink all the cheap white verdeca you can and my fave red was the Cantele Fanoi. I wish you could get that in the US.

Have fun.

Jul 16, 2015
Margaret Santa Monica in Italy

where is n/naka's michelin star?

duly noted. similarly, my love of dtf is best expressed in the hours of traffic i spend on the 10 trying to get there. sometimes roc will do...!

Yuzu Ramen in Tokyo / Tofu in Kyoto [split from LA]

yuzu ramen at afuri in tokyo near harujuku
very cheap. you buy a ticket from the machine on the wall and hand it to the guy. if you don't speak japanese get someone to help you.

tofu in kyoto, you can't go wrong, from a high end kaiseki like kikunoi or kichisen (both reserve way out) to the nishiki street market. also love the casual (and not tofu but soba) place by the bridge at arashimaya near kyoto - i think it's called yoshimura.

Nov 18, 2013
Margaret Santa Monica in Japan

where is n/naka's michelin star?

you know I randomly ended up at a DTF in Tokyo and I honestly thought it was worse than ROC. no way I'd say that about the DTF in Hong Kong or even Arcadia...

where is n/naka's michelin star?

This fascinates me. I do business in 52 countries and pay rent in three of the US cities you mentioned. I'm telling you, I eat better here than anywhere, except maybe Tokyo. I admit, there are things I love more than my LA food life, everywhere I go: I love the street food in Kuala Lumpur better. I love the dumplings in Hong Kong better. I love the green curry in Northern Thailand better. I love yuzu ramen in Tokyo better, and tofu that's the texture of mascarpone in Kyoto better. I love pasta i cece in Puglia better. I love some restaurants in Charleston, SC better. But I also eat better, day in and out, in LA, than when I am anywhere else. Maybe it's because I have to work harder to access Asian food in Paris and Chicago and London even and the part of NYC we are in? And that is what interests me most?

Hong Kong foodie visiting for 1 day to eat: Where do I take her?

Yes, we haven't been to Seoul together. We mostly have eaten Korean together in NYC...

Maison Giraud! I had forgotten. And close. Thank you.

Will look into Babita. I do feel like Mexican has appear at least once in the day.

Haven't been to Father's Office in years but have loved that burger well, in my past.

Red Medicine I keep hearing so will look it up...!

where is n/naka's michelin star?

In what other city can you walk down two city blocks and get din tai fung level xlb, legit pho, serious ramen, decent sushi, fresh lotus root and daikon, good matcha, koreatown level soon tofu, japanese curry and soul sausage fried chicken? With taco and grilled cheese trucks sometimes parked by the curb? Certainly not Paris or NYC. Not Hong Kong or Singapore. Maybe Tokyo?

I know we're casual and I love that. I'm just tired of reading about San Fran's newest Michelin kaiseki spot...

Whatever. Do I sound bitter? Maybe I'm bitter!

where is n/naka's michelin star?

the other city i recall Michelin pulling the plug on

Hong Kong foodie visiting for 1 day to eat: Where do I take her?

Wow, Russian. That's a thought.

I was thinking a stop at Seoul Sausage would be representative of LA at the moment. Or Kogi, seeing as she hasn't been here in 20 years.

Trois Mec? Another thought.

where is n/naka's michelin star?

right. because we are las vegas.

Hong Kong foodie visiting for 1 day to eat: Where do I take her?

Literally, my Korean college roommate & I eaten our way through Japan, HK, Maine & NYC together this year. We've compared notes on KL, Singapore, the Philippines & Thailand. Now she has a one day layover in LA this Dec, and I've been tasked with showing her the highlights. She worked in a French resto in HK previously. Help!

The notes:
-- I live in Santa Monica, so we probably will work west to east.
-- Think we need to hit Sawtelle at some point because I talk about it so much, and because I've never come across a street with so many different kinds of Asian food before, even in Asia. But maybe that's a snack?
-- Traffic is a bitch and this is a weekday.
-- Baco Mercat? That's still on my brain from a good recent lunch. But is it The One?

Thanks, hounds!

where is n/naka's michelin star?

I'm serious. I went to n/naka with 7 ppl for a kaiseki dinner last night and I honestly think it was better than when we ate at Kikunoi last month in Kyoto, Michelin star not withstanding. 2 Vegans, 5 regular meals, and the "regular" eaters kept stealing off the vegan plates, it was all so good. When does that ever happen? It couldn't just be the yuzu sake clouding my judgement, could it...

So, I gotta ask: where is the Michelin star for N/Naka?

Where to eat Cacio e Pepe in Manhattan

+3 maialino. and that's where i go right after rome.

Baco Mercat - June 2013

FYI, in case anyone reads this thread later, the cauliflower is off the menu as a solo side but now plays a role in a patas bravas dish. The okra and squash were gone as well. Still, our lunch this week was intense. My friends had fried anchovies and the original baco. I had the lava fritter (I'm the veg of the group) and we split pickled veg - insane pickled grapes - the AMAZING roasted romanesco, and the double mushroom coca. Best lunch of the year.

vegan thanksgiving take out in LA area for 2013

Some all-vegan restaurants use "meat" words to describe their substitute meat dishes. I agree, it's confusing!

What to eat in Charleston

You have to eat dessert in Charleston. Sometimes you have to eat it with lunch, too...

vegan thanksgiving take out in LA area for 2013

You're right! Native Foods does have a holiday menu - at least, pie, gravy and a "Wellington." Will investigate, thanks for the tip!

vegan thanksgiving take out in LA area for 2013

Yes, I've been trying to find any "holiday menus" at traditional vegan spots but have had no luck thus far...!

vegan thanksgiving take out in LA area for 2013

This is amazing. Thanks so much. You make is sound easy. I do have a good butternut coconut milk soup... but I too dread the tofurky!

What to eat in Charleston

yes my friends in town really like Butcher and Bee

What to eat in Charleston

I also love Grocery, with a great bar menu too. I go to Fig and Circa every time I'm in town. I love Hominy Grill at lunch, though lots of folks like breakfast there with the Big Nasty biscuit w/ red eye gravy. Charleston is all about the shrimp and grits and the she crab soup. I personally like all the veggie casserole sides. Okra everything. Fried everything! This is the south! Everyone I was with at Husk raved about pork cheek and pig's ears, but I'm a mostly vegan (well, in Charleston there is bacon in every veg so you just have to squint and not look too closet) so can't help you there. Have fun.

vegan thanksgiving take out in LA area for 2013

any ideas? college kid is bringing her norwegian boyfriend home and wants a "traditional" meal, but half of us don't eat meat, and a third of us are vegan. am we going to have to cook this thing? i can't find a restaurant with even an adaptable veg menu. any help appreciated!

vegetarian just back from tokyo and kyoto craving everything


vegetarian just back from tokyo and kyoto craving everything

Thanks for this! Any thoughts on shoyu yuzu ramen broth? Just had it at Afuri near Shinjuki station and wanted to die of the greatness...

vegetarian just back from tokyo and kyoto craving everything

yuzu ramen? Yuzu everything? with small wedges of japanese citrus that looked like limes but had a tangerine taste?

tempura shiso leaf?

soba with amazing veg

creative things done with tofu skin and tofu

where do I find it in LA?

Had show-stopping vegetarian set meals in Kyoto, at Kikunoi. Deserved all those three michelin stars.

Since then, have been looking for this level of experimentalism and flavor in US japanese food but feel frustrated.

Any advice? I live in Santa Monica. tis!

Chowhound LA's Top 10 New Restaurants for 2012

Went to Plan Check today - based on this article - with someone who has a tree nut allergy. We asked the waitress if the veggie burger had nuts in it. She went to check with the chef, then came back and said no. One bite later, my friend's throat was closing and face was turning red. As she's crying and my husband is running down the street looking frantically for benadryl, the waitress comes back and says "Whoops I heard wrong there are nuts in it." We're calling the doctor and pulling the car around, and they're saying, "Hey, lunch is on us, don't worry about the bill." As if we could stay to eat lunch. As if that was a favor. She's been really sick all day - throwing up and swolling - but is thankfully not in the hospital. Still. As my friend said, Plan Check needs to Check on their Nut Plan! The food looked great, though. It's just the deadly service I feel I have to mention...

Visiting LA for a week, staying in Silverlake, totally clueless about the city

Definitely Bay Cities for the Godmother / deli in general, Tacos Por Favor for hard shell tacos, Huckleberry for breakfast - homemade donut, fried egg sandwich or green eggs and ham - and Sweet Rose for the salted caramel small batch ice cream.

Visiting LA for a week, staying in Silverlake, totally clueless about the city

I know! That's the first thing I thought when I looked up the menu online. Do they say it with a straight face? It's like that old Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley...!