Saba: Saving the Best for Last in New Orleans

I’m frequently asked my opinion on where to eat in the Bay Area. When friends travel to places that I’ve traveled, they tend to ask me for recommendations on where to eat as well. I’m happy to give advice. I recently returned from New Orleans and I have a new favorite spot that I’m excited to share. They don’t serve gumbo, jambalaya, or fried chicken.

Saba is a new Israeli restaurant from Chef Alon Shaya. I ate at his restaurant Shaya on my previous trip to New Orleans in 2016 and loved it. Since then, Chef Shaya has disassociated himself from the restaurant and opened Saba this past May. Saba is located on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans.  

I was in New Orleans for the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). While IFBC had evening food events, I decided to wait until the conference ended to have my last dinner in New Orleans at Saba. I didn’t have a reservation, so I arrived early in hopes of grabbing a seat at the bar. When eating alone, I find the bar is a great place to be situated.  

I shared the bar with a local named Frenchie. He lives in the neighborhood and I could tell right away that he was a regular as he seemed to know all the staff. After I placed my food order, my bartender Kyle introduced me to a Croatian white wine to complement my food. I found it light and crisp with some floral notes. 

I decided to forego the small plates and get an order of hummus and pita bread. There were five selections of hummus to choose from – tahini, blue crab, charred poblano, Brussels sprouts, and lamb. Kyle convinced me to get the blue crab hummus which comes with wood roasted corn, lemon butter, and mint and I was so glad he did. I spread the warm wood fired pita bread into what I thought was the perfect alchemy of flavors. It was love at first bite.  

I also got the grilled octopus which was prepared with shawarma spices and tomatoes. The octopus had a very nice char which enhanced the flavor.  

Frenchie was kind enough to offer me some of the grape leaves with lamb, rice, and zhoug labneh. I thought Saba’s version of dolma was excellent and one of the best I’ve ever had.  Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a pic.

I saved room for coffee and dessert. I was intrigued by the halvah latte so I went ahead and ordered it. I found the combination of halvah and coffee are harmonious together and the halvah acts as the perfect natural sweetener. This creative beverage has me wanting to make my own halvah syrup.  My dessert was called glakotbourko. The semolina and feta custard is baked in phyllo dough and topped with rose flavored melon. It was delicious.  
So when someone asks me where they should eat while they are in New Orleans, I will tell them that without a doubt they must go to Saba.

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Cochon in NOLA: Worthy of a Repeat

I arrived in New Orleans on Thursday to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). The last time I attended this conference was three years ago when it was held in Seattle. This is my fourth trip to New Orleans and I had a few new spots to try, but the one restaurant that I was putting on repeat was Cochon. Cochon is a Cajun restaurant with a focus on fresh and local ingredients.


During a break in the IFBC, I took a leisurely lunch and headed over to Cochon. Technically, I was on vacation, so I started with a glass of rosé at the bar.  This was a 2016 Izadi Rioja Rosé from Spain. It had floral and fruit notes that I found refreshing for the humidity in New Orleans. 

I totally forgot about the homemade buns that Cochon serves, but as soon as they were placed in front of me, the sight evoked a pleasant memory. As I pulled apart the fresh soft buns, steam was released. I spread some butter on the bun, which melted quickly and they disappeared almost as quickly. Eating these really made me appreciate fresh homemade bread and how much better it is than store bought.


I ordered the chicken and andouille gumbo. As I consumed each spoonful, I was reminded that I was indeed in New Orleans. I welcomed the intense smokey flavor which I found comforting.
When I was looking at the side dishes, the twice baked stuffed potato was calling my name. The potato was reassembled with a mixture of spices, green onions, and cheese. The cracked black pepper gave it a good kick.  
I normally don’t have dessert at lunch, but again I was on vacation. I ordered the raspberry mint sorbet which was served with a cute Cochon mascot shaped cookie. I never have thought of raspberry and mint as a flavor match, but it worked and served well as a palette cleanser to end my meal. 
I was happy I made another visit to Cochon and can continue to recommend it as a place to dine when visiting New Orleans.

Three Notable Dishes in New York City

My trip last month to the East Coast ended with a weekend in New York City. Food was my focus and I ended up dining by myself a lot of the time. I was excited to try Miznon, an International restaurant serving Israeli street food located in Chelsea Market. This is the only location in the United States and they just opened this year so I felt lucky to have the opportunity to eat here. The other Miznon locations are in Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, and Melbourne.

Miznon is known for their pita stuffed with fresh and seasonally inspired ingredients. I ordered pita with rib eye minute steak with tahini, tomato salsa, and pickles. I was in heaven as it was pure harmony, one bite after another. If I still lived in New York City, this would be a regular stop for me.

I have yet to travel to Japan, but this meal is one I would suspect would be a traditional one and why I think I would love traveling through Japan. I enjoyed brunch at Bessou on Bleecker Street. I ordered the Japanese breakfast set which came with sea bass, veggies, assorted pickles, a cold poached egg in soy, miso soup, and rice. It was fun to have a variety of food especially when I was eating by myself. I enjoyed the lightness and simplicity of my meal. Sitting at the bar, I watched a lot of food come out of the kitchen and next time I might go with steak and eggs or bananas foster pancakes!
After almost a week away from home, I was craving Chinese food. One place I had bookmarked was King’s Kitchen in Chinatown. I had lunch with my cousins who live a few blocks away. I ordered clay pot rice with preserved meats, which is a dish that always brings me comfort. It came with the usual Chinese bacon and Chinese sausage, but had the addition of taro which was nice. But honestly, you always find the best part at the bottom of the clay pot, the extra crispy rice.
I would say it wasn’t a bad way to spend a weekend!

When in Philly, Eat at Zahav

Last month I traveled to Philadelphia for a couple of days and I ate some amazing food. The most noteworthy was dinner at Zahav, a modern Israeli restaurant from Chef Michael Solomonov. I had made my reservation weeks in advance, but the earliest time I could get was 9:30pm. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad on my first evening there since I would still be adjusting from West Coast time.

We were a party of three which I thought was the perfect number of people to share plates with. We ordered the tasting menu which allowed us to try almost everything on the menu. The restaurant is known for their laffa bread and hummus. It was my first time trying laffa bread, which is a middle eastern bread cooked in a wood fire taboon oven. To me it was crisper and had a lot more character than pita bread. The hummus at Zahav was out of this world. It was creamy and nutty with an abundance of flavor.

Our meal came with six vegetable salads and felt like an Israeli version of banchan. They were all really good and similarly when I eat Korean food, it’s fun to have a variety to pick on.
We each got to choose two small plates so that ended up being six different ones for us to share. I’ll share my top three mezze plates. I really enjoyed the quinoa salad with fresh peas. I loved the textures and the herbs.
Cauliflower has become one of the most popular vegetables and the fried variety at Zahav should not be missed.
I was excited about the haloumi as soon as I saw it on the menu. The combination of crispiness and saltiness of the cheese puts me in a happy state.
We each got to choose a main plate which are all grilled over coals. They were all amazing as well. We ordered the lamb, the hanger steak, and the Branzino.
The desserts were creative and quite exotic. We ordered the coconut cream konafi, the chocolate olive oil cake, and the malabi custard which had orange, walnut, and saffron.
This meal at Zahav was all around amazing and an experience for the palette.  I can’t wait for my next trip to Philly!

Weekend in Yosemite

I just returned from a weekend in Yosemite National Park, a crown jewel of California. Just a four hour drive from the Bay Area, it’s another reason I love where I live.  On Thursday, my friend and I both entered the lottery to get a permit to hike Half Dome on Saturday. At midnight, I received an email indicating that I won a permit. We left Oakland before sunrise on Friday morning to head to Yosemite. We wanted to ensure we would miss traffic and be able to get in a good hike before dinner at the Majestic Hotel, formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel.
At the visitor center, we got a recommendation to hike Upper Yosemite Falls to help us get acclimated to the elevation before we set off to conquer Half Dome the next morning.
It was a pretty intense hike to get to the beautiful Yosemite Falls. We got back barely with enough time to check in to the Half Dome Village tents and make our dinner reservation.

It was actually my friend’s birthday so I treated her to dinner at the Majestic Hotel. She started her meal with the soup of the day which was a salmon and bacon chowder. The bacon infused the soup quite well and gave it a smokey flavor.
I had the Caesar salad which was probably the best prepared dish of the evening. I loved the addition of boiled egg, croutons, and anchovies to the romaine lettuce. The salad was perfectly dressed as well.
My friend ordered the prime rib which came with mashed potatoes, corn polenta, and green beans. The meat was a bit tough and came with a gelatinous gravy. We both agreed it would’ve been better with an au jus. However, the corn polenta was delicious, creamy and fluffy providing a custard like texture.
I ordered the rack of lamb. This lamb was roasted with a garlic crust. The flavor was great but was not cooked to my liking. I asked for medium rare, but it came out almost medium well.
I was disappointed in the meal compared to my last visit at the Ahwahnee several years ago.
With an early start the next morning, my friend and I got set on the trails for Half Dome at 5:30am. We reached Vernal Falls within a short time after, which was an awesome site to see.

 After about six and a half hours of treacherous hiking and climbing, we finally made it to the base of Half Dome. Already fatigue, I put on my gloves to endure the steel cable climb. It actually was a lot easier than I expected. But while climbing we began to hear thunderstorms and feel some sprinkles. My friend was encouraging me to just hurry up and get it done, so we trekked up a little further. Other hikers ahead of us began to get nervous and started making their descent. We finally agreed to play it safe and climb down as well. We expected a storm that was going to be worse than the night before that included a hailstorm. Hurrying down the granite dome without a proper break to avoid the forecasted storm, I wore myself out by the time we reached Half Dome Village. I have never endured such a rigorous and physical activity. I felt like my feet were going to break at any moment.

When we got back to Half Dome Village, we were ready for dinner at Pizza Patio. We ordered the Tressider pizza which had pepperoni, sausage, bell pepper, mushrooms, olives, and tomato. The hand tossed pizza was perfect after such a long day. The pizza reminded me of Round Table Pizza, but better. I had three slices. The dough had a nice thick and chewy texture and the ingredients tasted very fresh. I would say I preferred the pizza dinner over the previous night’s dinner at The Majestic Hotel.

We slept well the second night in the tents. I’m surprised I was able to walk today, although my thighs and calves are a bit sore when I walk up or down stairs. Although I didn’t quite make it all the way to the top of the dome, I feel very accomplished. I know in my heart that if weather permitted, we would have made it to the granite peak. Nonetheless, it was an awesome experience and I can check it off my bucket list.
P.S.  I forgot to mention that we also encountered a baby bear on the hike to Half Dome!

My Bo 7 Mon Experience

Beef Seven Ways or Bo 7 Mon is a traditional Vietnamese tasting menu of beef. I’ve seen it available at a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area, but have never been inclined to try it. Don’t get me wrong, I love beef, but seven dishes of beef seems like overkill.

While on my recent visit to Seattle to run another half marathon, I was in search of somewhere to have a delicious post race meal. My friend and I were thinking steak. I started my internet research and ran across Seven Beef. This Steak Shop is focused on grass fed, dry aged, Washington grown beef. They also have a wood fire oven to cook up their meat. My favorite cut is rib eye, but for some reason I became drawn to the beef seven ways. After running a second half marathon in two weeks, I would deserve seven servings of beef. I made our reservations for last Sunday.

After a celebratory glass of sparkling wine at our hotel, we took Lyft to Seven Beef located in the Central District. We were happy to be seated on a corner where we both had bench seating, but it felt a little removed from the rest of the diners. It was located facing the bar which didn’t have much activity on this evening.

In lieu of getting a traditional American steak, my friend and I confirmed we would have the Bo 7 Mon. The Goi Bo came out first. It is a beef salad with pickles, fresh lettuce and herbs, and a fish sauce vinaigrette. It was a great start. I loved the mix of fresh vegetables and protein.
The second serving of beef was the Bo Nhung Dam, which is a Vietnamese style carpaccio. The beef is thinly sliced and cooked in a vinegar sauce. I thought it was light and tasty.
The third course included three different types of house ground sausages. It was plated with fresh lettuce and herbs, rice noodles, pickled vegetables, and fresh pineapple. The sausages are meant to be wrapped and enjoyed with all of these goodies. Each sausage was prepared a little differently. The Bo Mo Chai is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat, garlic, and five spice wrapped in caul fat and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo La Lot is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat and jicama, wrapped in wild betel leaves and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo Nuong Sa is a grilled house ground beef sausage with pork fat on a lemongrass skewer. All of them were pretty awesome, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the Bo La Lot. I really enjoyed the crispy charred betal leaf.
The final course of beef included Bo Cha Dum, a steamed beef meatball that includes pork fat, woodear mushrooms, and glass noodles and Chao Bo, beef congee with mung beans, green onions, and cilantro. The serving also came with freshly prepared shrimp chips. The congee was a little plain, but once I added the meatball into the congee, it provided me with the right amount of flavor and comfort.
I was thoroughly impressed by the Bo 7 Mon. I am glad I got to experience this meal in an upscale restaurant. I highly recommend the Bo 7 Mon experience. And if you happen to be in Seattle, try it at Seven Beef.