Category Archives: Food & Drink

Craft Cocktails + Savory Bites at Maven SF


Monday was Michael’s birthday, so of course a celebratory dinner was in order. After throwing around the usual ideas, we decided to veer a little out of our neighborhood to try out a new place—Maven. 

Located in lower Haight, Maven has a modern look accentuated with a stainless steel open kitchen and a sleek bar. However, this is balanced out by the warm hues of small votive candles placed along polished log communal tables, and large, vibrant green plants growing above the bar (seriously).

Superficially, you might ask yourself: What sets Maven apart from all the other craft cocktail + American fare + industrial looking bars and restaurants?

Well, for starters, Maven pairs its craft cocktails with its menu items! For example, the eponymous Maven Burger, is listed on the menu along with its paired cocktail, the Mr. Wiggles, a bourbon cocktail.

It’s a genius idea that merges the craft cocktail and foodie experiences into one. Although I initially doubted it, Maven manages to do it really well. 


I actually ordered the burger, but was hesitant to order Mr. Wiggles, since bourbon cocktails are typically a little too strong for my weekday drinking. I instead opted to order Summer in the City, a gin cocktail made with stone fruit gin, creme de violette, and riesling. It was served beautifully in a tulip flute, but I immediately regretted not getting the Mr. Wiggles because the Summer in the City ended up tasting a bit too much like lavender bath soap. Luckily, Michael did order the Mr. Wiggles (can anyone say that without chuckling a little?), so I got the chance to sip on it while I ate my burger. The cocktail resembles an Old Fashioned—bourbon, angostura bitters, lemon rind—but ends with a smoother finish and really was a great pairing with the burger, which also had angostura listed as one of its ingredients.

As for Michael’s entree, he ordered the pork chop, which was served along with corn puree, shishito peppers, and loaded potato croquette. I’m personally not a huge fan of pork chop, but I will say that this one was tender and tasted amazing dipped in the spicy mustard sauce that was drizzled beneath it. YUM. 


I caught a few glances at the small bites that the people around us were ordering and am absolutely determined to return just to eat all the appetizers and starters. Just to give you a sense of what’s offered, the small bites include Chilled Strawberry Soup with burrata, Grilled Corn on the Cob topped with miso butter, breadrumbs, parmesan, and Chinatown Duck Sliders.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Thought so.


The one downside is that the servers exude a sophisticated rigidity that could be mistaken for snobbery. This is most likely intentional and adds to the look and feel—it’s just not a personal preference. However, it didn’t ruin the experience. If anything, it gave the atmosphere an air of elegance, even if that meant sacrificing approachability.

Overall, Maven is an attractive place and I can see myself frequenting it for drinks and appetizers. The entrees are bit pricey, but standard for San Francisco dining, and perfect for a birthday celebration. What’s even better, I’ve heard Maven also has a great brunch! Having already had a taste for its drinks and range in menu, my interest is piqued enough to have me wanting to go back for more.



Mango Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Dressing

My favorite kind of dinner is one that can be made quickly without sacrificing flavor or experience.

Being busy shouldn’t mean you have to stop being healthy or thoughtful about what you put on your plate. Yes, sometimes I can’t even think about taking the time to make a meal and I’ll end up tossing a frozen pizza in the oven. And that’s okay. But when I get to make a dinner that is both nourishing and simple – well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m happy to report that this is one of those dinners. In less than 30 minutes you have a healthy, fresh, and filling salad that tastes just as good the next day. vig_quinoa_2

I was actually surprised to find that it was the deep flavor of the cooked onions that really brought this dish together. They paired so well against the combination of sweet, ripe mangos and zesty greens, so definitely don’t skimp out on the onion.

The quinoa is what takes the longest to prep but other than that, it’s a chop here and whisk there, and things are looking good!

Quinoa and Mango Salad
Recipe adapted from Food52

  • cup regular, red (or any other kind of) quinoa, rinsed well in a strainer
  • cups vegetable broth (or other form of broth)
  • 2 mangoes
  • large red onion, halved stem to root and slivered
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut)
  • can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • cups micro greens (I used the Trader Joe’s organic blend)
  • Handful of arugula
  • tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 avocados, halved, pitted and sliced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Lemon Ginger Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Bring quinoa and broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. While it’s cooking I like to add spices (cayenne, paprika, oregano, thyme, etc..) and salt and pepper, to give it some flavor.
  2. Toss onion slivers with 1 tablespoon coconut oil, salt and pepper in a frying pan. Fry until fragrant and they begin to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Pit and dice mangoes (resist from eating them!)
  4. Make the dressing: Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice and then whisk in the ginger, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Assemble the salad: Mix the quinoa, mango, black beans, and cilantro together. Spread the micro greens and arugula on a large plate and layer the quinoa mixture over the greens. Top with the roasted onions and, if you’d like, avocado slices. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and enjoy!


Cooking Lessons with Myself

Cooking’s been a fairly new skill that I’ve been slowly cultivating. My mother is a professional chef and spoiled me growing up, so I didn’t really take the chance to come into my own, culinary-wise, until I was finally living on my own. It’s been a slow process but one that I find real joy in. I’ve always enjoyed the arts and the culinary arts are no different – pairing elements in a way that’s harmonious to the senses, combining colors and flavors, and discovering inspiration for new interpretations on the same piece, in this case recipe.


There are some people who enjoy cooking because it’s rather improvisational in nature. I, however, like taking a methodical approach. I like measurements and intentional placement. It’s therapeutic and stretches my creativity both in how to pair ingredients and how to present a dish in a way that is inspiring to both the eye and palate.

This dish is the first proper meal I’ve made since Michael and I moved to San Francisco. We’ve been here a little over a month now, so the kitchen and apartment as a whole are starting to feel more settled and more like home. During the first couple of weeks of being in the new apartment it was difficult to even imagine cooking. Glassware cluttered the tiny amount of counter space we have and there was really no where to sit down eat. I’d forgotten how overwhelming an unpacked home can be. Luckily, we’re slowly making a home and making good food along the way.


I found these recipes on Food52 – my number one source for cooking inspiration – and they did not disappoint. I’d even go as far in saying that it was the best homecooked meal (I should say it’s the only one) we’ve had in about two months!

I paired this salmon recipe with this potato salad, shredded the salmon and served it on top a bed of arugula. I’m not a huge fan of starchy foods like potatoes, but I cannot get over how good this potato salad was! The recipe calls for roasted walnut oil, which I was hesitant to purchase at first, but after looking up different uses for it and tasting it in this vinaigrette, I’m happy to say I do not regret the purchase one bit.


I love going out and trying new restaurants, but there’s something about making my own meals from scratch that is so fulfilling. My mom cooked (and continues to cook) fresh meals from scratch for our family. It’s a tradition I want to uphold and it’s been a joy getting to share my development as a cook with both Michael, who has the fortune (and sometimes misfortune) of tasting my cooking experiments, and my mother, who takes the more improvisational approach to cooking and who continues to inspire me to carve my own path in the kitchen.

I hope to one day be able to adapt recipes and create my own as I keep learning. Until then, I’ll continue seeking inspiration from those who’ve done this for much longer than I have.

If you’ve got any cooking tips of your own, I’d love to hear them!


Delightful Divisadero Dining at Nopa


“Cooks in the Kitchen” by Thomas Hawk / CC BY 2.0

If there’s a restaurant whose dining experience is more coveted than a glance of Taylor Swift’s belly button, it’s Nopa. Located on Divisadero, its hip factor is established by default, but it’s farm-to-table looks and friendly staff keep it from feeling too pretentious.

Since moving into the neighborhood, my boyfriend and I have been trying to get a seat at Nopa, first at brunch and then at dinner. Unfortunately, both times (even though we got there when they opened) were 2-hour waits and we just couldn’t do it. However, this past Monday, we committed and were able to land a seat at the bar, and I mean a single seat – my boyfriend stood for most of our meal. However, this didn’t ruin the experience. The bartenders were delightful and attentive, and we were just so excited to finally see what Nopa was all about.

I started out the evening with the Summit cocktail, a gin cocktail with grapefruit, while my boyfriend had the Quintessential, another gin cocktail but with Bonal Quinquina. The Summit had an expected tangy kick that was evened out with some honey. As for the Quintessential, we weren’t really sure what to expect, not being acquianted with Bonal Quinquina, but it too was refreshing and sweet without being saccharine.


Summit cocktail on the left and the Quintessential on the right.

Wanting to try everything we decided to order an appetizer, an entree, as well as a small side plate, starting first with the warm goat cheese and berries crostini. The berries were rubbed with olive oil and the goat cheese, served warm in a ramekin, was topped with chives, salt and pepper. It ended up being a pretty substantial amount of goat cheese that by the end of the bread, we still had goat cheese! But no worries, we took the spoon to it…

For our main course we shared the fried duck leg with pinto beans, figs and chorizo, and a small plate of roasted squash with tzatziki.

The roasted squash was presented beautifully, with its deep green skin contrasted with what looked like some kind of pickled vegetable. But it’s flavors were too mild and ended up being overshadowed by everything else.

The duck leg was anything but mild. It was infused with the savory Mexican flavors from the chorizo and pinto beans, which were balanced out with the sweetness of figs. The most surprising part was that I’ve never been too big a fan of pinto beans since I think they lack flavor, but these were so delicious, I had every last spoonful. The duck itself was, as our waiter put it, divine. It was tender and tasted as if its coating was a kind of mole rub, which, as a Mexican-American, I appreciated. However, I do have to say that the figs were the best part of the dish. They paired so well with the rich, earthy flavors of the duck, beans and chorizo, and really brought the entire dish together.

Overall, it was a great dining experience. I recommend going on a weeknight and grabbing a couple of seats at the bar (once they open up), unless you want to wait two hours for a table (you could also make a reservation). During happy hour it feels like a fierce competition trying to snag a seat, but it’s well worth it. The plates are substantial and ultimately fairly priced, and the flavors are wonderfully balanced. I’ve had experiences at restaurants like Nopa that err so much on the side of savory that the dishes end up tasting salty. Luckily, Nopa knows the difference and caters to the palate perfectly.

We didn’t end up getting dessert (we were stuffed!), but I definitely look forward to coming back for brunch or even just a night of cocktails and dessert.

Have you been to Nopa? What were your thoughts?

“Nopa” by Thomas Hawk / CC BY 2.0

Credited Photo Source: Thomas Hawk

Mellow Vibes & Good Wine Served at Benchmark Eatery

I’ve been wanting to go to Benchmark Eatery for a while, but didn’t make the effort. Donned with the typical industrial look of contemporary restaurants along with the large self-serve carafes of water on the tables, it didn’t seem like anything extraordinary or intriguing. However, living in Santa Barbara and being a self-proclaimed foodie, I own an Axxess card. And, since my partner and I are leaving Santa Barbara to move to San Francisco (that’s a whole different blog post), we decided it was time to use our Axxess two-for-one deal at Benchmark.

We stepped in on a Wednesday, so it was fairly empty, which made the open layout feel extra spacious. We were greeted graciously by the hostess and seated immediately in a rustic-looking booth. The ambiance of the place is mellow with warm dim-lights and a farm-table-industrial touch. Next to our booth was a quirky marquee with the Leo Tolstoy quote, “If you want to be happy, be”, which connects back to Benchmark’s initials, B.E.

Benchmark Eatery - The Most Splendid Thing

While we waited for our food, we munched on their battered-and-herbed chickpeas, which are meant to replace bread baskets but are just as addicting. (I’ll definitely be trying to replicate them in my own kitchen!)

I ordered the grilled ahi with butter beans, roasted cherry tomotoes, over a bed of arugula and a garlic white wine soy sauce. It was delightfully savory while also being light yet filling—my favorite kind of meal. I broke all the rules and paired my ahi tuna with a S.B.C’s Etude ‘Lyric’ Pinot Noir. But it was worth it because the rich pinot complimented the flavorful dish very well.

Grilled Ahi & Pinot Noir

Michael, my boyfriend, ordered the pan seared salmon, with potatoes, and greens (zucchini, broccoli and asaparagus). I had a taste of the salmon, and it was good, but not particularly breathtaking. However, the greens were cooked to perfect crispness and are always a solid choice to pair with salmon. For his beverage he went with a Belgian-Style Telegraph Ale and he was into it, to say the least!

It was a lovely meal and I was pleasantly surprised by how filling and flavorful my ahi dish was. Would I go again? Probably not. The main dishes are around $20+ and, other than the ahi I ordered, nothing else seems all that interesting. I would recommend it to a first-timer though. The food is served well, the environment is relaxing and casual, and the experience was overall positive. If given the chance, I’d want to go back mainly to try their Dante’s Inferno cocktail, which is 100% agave blanco tequila, clément mahina coconut liquor, arbol chili, fresh lime, strawberry shrub. YES PLEASE!

Grilled Ahi at Benchmark Eatery

Local – Fourth of July Edition

Happy belated Fourth of July! I hope you enjoyed this past weekend’s festivities. I unfortunately had to work during the day, but come evening time, I was able to fit in a margarita, tacos, and fireworks! So, in the end, I think it was a pretty successful (though mildly hectic) Independence Day.

I started my day off at Good Cup, a local cafe, with a large Americano and the July/August copy of The Atlantic. Good Cup has recently become my go-to coffee spot before work. They always have great music playing and their coffee is well-served. I’ve only had the Americanos (they’re great!) but I hope to try out more of their menu items soon.

Good morning reads @ Good Cup

Work was crazy but I later met up with my boyfriend and family and we all got much-needed margaritas. We then went to La Super-Rica Taqueria (Julia Child’s favorite Mexican restaurant) and it was just what I had been craving. I really recommend the Chile con Queso as well as both the horchata and agua de jamaica. I actually ordered the latter as a dessert, it’s that sweet and refreshing!

La Super Rica has a simple menu loaded with authentic Mexican bites

La Super-Rica has a simple menu loaded with authentic Mexican bites

We tried watching the fireworks but it was so cloudy, so I unfortunately don’t have any obligatory-fourth-of-july-fireworks pictures. Instead, here’s a picture of my evening at the park on Saturday. I needed the rest!

Anyways, I hope you all had a relaxing and festive weekend.

Have a happy Monday!