Browsing Tag

comfort food

Food, Lifestyle, Travel

Outerlands, San Francisco

May 20, 2015

My mom and I each had a list of things we had to do together during my week-long visit to California. Towards the top of her list was eating at the must-try hipster restaurant in SF, Outerlands. Mom first heard about Outerlands on one of her favourite TV shows Check, Please! Bay Area, and has been wanting to go ever since. Before I knew it, we were headed to Sunset, a quiet area on the far West side of SF, which I’m not familiar with at all, in hopes of bagging a table at Outerlands for lunch.

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We didn’t have time for a wild walk on the long beach about 5 blocks from Outerlands, making this spot a post-surf destination. My Bay Area buddies all knew about Outerlands and had tried to get a table for the famous weekend brunch, but gave up when they saw a line circling around the block. On a grey Monday afternoon, we managed to walk right in and sat at an outside table – as we had Bogart the pug in tow!

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We almost walked right by Outerlands, as it blends in well on the corner of this unassuming neighbourhood. But go inside, and you’ll instantly feel a welcoming vibe from the friendly staff. The waitress who showed us to our table had a GI Jane meets Gwen Stefani platinum bleached shaved hairstyle, and I immediately knew everyone who works here is achingly cool. I would describe the restaurant decor as deceptively simple, trendy and comfortable. There is no dress code here and the more tattoos you have, the better.

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As we had Bogart the pug with us, we joined the other dining dogs under the hot heat lamps outside and mulled over the somewhat limited but delicious lunch menu – soup, salads and stylish sandwiches.

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In an attempt to try as much as we could off the menu, we split everything starting with the cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich with a side of vegetable broth soup ($12). The soup was a simple but healthy mixture of cannellini bean, kale, mirepoix and shallots. This dish wasn’t especially memorable for me, but the home-made perfectly toasted bread was out of this world. Outerlands makes all their bread in house, so you can tempt your tastebuds with the nice lingering smell of fresh out of the oven bread. Don’t come here if you’re not a carb lover or are attempting the Atkins diet because Outerland’s bread is a MUST.

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Then a little piece of heaven on a plate was served. Behold the cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich brushed with garlic oil ($6.50), which was the perfected melt-in-mouth crusty classic. You have the option to add avocado, bacon and fried eggs to this toasted sandwich, but we thought the original version was absolute bliss on an overcast Monday afternoon.

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A grilled cheese sounds simple, but this was the grown up and sophisticated version. Bogart drooled and jumped up and down optimistically begging for a taste.IMG_4614

At this stage we were starting to feel a bit full and suddenly somewhat guilty about not walking along the local beach to work up a bigger appetite and justify what was about to arrive at our table. Luckily we were sharing! As you can see the open faced bacon and egg sandwich with bok choy, caramelized onion, almonds and mushrooms ($14) is not for the faint hearted.

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Mom and I agreed that this would be the perfect post-hangover dish. I can only imagine how amazing the brunch must be here. We managed to easily find room to polish off this runny melt-in-mouth egg sandwich, which was packed with flavour and crisp bacon. Outerlands prides themselves with sourcing produce from local organic farmers and you can really taste the difference –  the small side of fresh greens tasted as if they were picked that morning.

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As we hoovered up the plate, Bogart became increasingly concerned that he wasn’t going to get a taste of the bacon – his favourite – woof!

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If you’re used to heading downtown in San Francisco, going to the Sunset district seems quite a trek. Definitely worth it, especially if you time it right and can grab a table at Outerlands along with a trip to the local beach. Considering the standard of food is so good here – and we didn’t even sample the extensive California wine list or the creative cocktails (!) – Outerlands truly delivers without putting much strain on your credit card. A very different experience and a restaurant I’m pleased to have checked off our must-try list while in town.

www.outerlandssf.com | @Outerlandssf

Food, Lifestyle

California Chicken Tortilla Soup

May 15, 2015

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London has some of the best restaurants with food from all over the world, but as a California native, I’ve found that good Mexican grub is hard to come by. It’s one of the first things I have to eat when I go back to Cali – apart from the obligatory In-N-Out Burger of course. In times when good tex Mex is hard to find, I turn to Pinterest for foodspiration, where I stumbled across this delicious home-made Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. It is super easy to make with inexpensive ingredients and will impress the pants off your friends. If you’re craving a dose of healthy Mexican comfort food then I can’t recommend this dish more highly!

I tweaked the recipe slightly and included a few extra toppings I usually add to a burrito to make this soup really burst with flavour. So without further ado, here are the ingredients you will need for California Chicken Tortilla Soup. Prep time, 20 minutes. Cooking time, 4-6 hours with a slow cooker. Serves up to 6.

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3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-size pieces

2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup

1 cup salsa

2 cups frozen or fresh corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed. Pinto  or kidney beans make a great substitute! 

1½ cups water

1 teaspoon ground cumin

A handful of diced coriander

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Optional ‘Cali’ style toppings (recommended!): 

sour cream or crème fraîche

diced tomatoes

spring onions

cilantro

1 diced avocado

chilies

tortilla strips

I chose the recent Bank Holiday weekend to make this dish for the first time with my new slow cooker from my bestie Boo, which is a truly life changing kitchen gadget. I was worried about leaving a mini hot oven ‘on’ at home while being out of the house for a few hours, but it turns out you really cannot screw up or burn the house down with a crock pot. Hoorah! So, start with lining your slow cooker with a light layer of olive oil or butter and cut your chicken breasts into small bite size pieces. I use kitchen scissors but use whatever you find easiest. Place the chopped chicken at the bottom of your slow cooker.
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In a separate mixing bowl, add two cans of cream of chicken soup – I’m sure you can make this yourself if you want to be super organic/domestic goddess, but I just used store bought pre-made soup for ease.

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Followed by one cup of fresh salsa. If you like a bit of ‘kick’ then feel free to sprinkle some fresh chilies in here as well.

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Now add one can of drained black beans to the mixture. IMG_4353

Your mixing bowl should suddenly be looking like the colours of the rainbow…IMG_4355Add 1 1/2 cups of water on top and give the mixture a good stir.

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Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of ground cumin on top followed by a handful of freshly diced cilantro and give the bowl one last final stir.

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Pour the soupy mixture on top of the chicken breast pieces and set your slow cooker as follows: 6 hours on low temperature or 4 hours on high. That is honestly all you have to do – I couldn’t believe it! In a few hours your kitchen will be smelling wonderful!

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Now for the final touch – the toppings. Let the soup cool for a few minutes and then add the grated cheese evenly throughout, so it slowly melts.

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Dice up the tomatoes, spring onions, and an avocado and have a pot of sour cream or crème fraîche at the ready. Add the tomatoes and spring onions to the soup.
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Using a ladle or soup spoon, fill your bowl with soup and make sure you take a good whiff – the smell of Chicken Tortilla Soup is truly out of this world! IMG_4414

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Last but not least, add some diced avocado, a good scoop of crème fraîche or sour cream and sprinkle tortilla strips and a bit more diced cilantro on top. Your soup is ready to be admired and devoured – bon appétit!
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