Fast Casual and Full Service Merge at Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

Fast Casual and Full Service Merge at Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop first opened their doors in Beverly Hills in 2008, offering healthy, affordable menu options in a fast casual setting. Over the past eight years, Greenleaf has opened five locations in Los Angeles and Orange County, expanding beyond the salads offered when they first began. Greenleaf has been a leader in the fast casual movement and as they grow, so does the concept.

Jonathan Rollo, founder of Greenleaf, grew up in Pasadena where his mother, a self-taught cook, would always make simple, clean, fresh meals. Jonathan moved to Nashville, Tennessee for college at Vanderbilt University and then culinary school in Chicago. During his studies and living in the Midwest and Southern United States, Jonathan recognized his love for the Southern California cuisine he was raised on – fresh ingredients and lots of vegetables. After culinary school, Jonathan returned to Los Angeles where he worked for Patina, Pinot Hollywood and later ran the Hollywood Bowl catering. His experience with a fine-dining menu driven restaurant inspired him to do something new, different and unique. When he decided to go out on his own, he wanted to create a place that offered fresh, healthy food with a focus on salads.  

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3 LA Chefs Discuss Maintaining “Authenticity” While Serving Ethnic Cuisine

3 LA Chefs Discuss Maintaining “Authenticity” While Serving Ethnic Cuisine

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

In a city with such ethnic diversity as Los Angeles, Angelenos are somewhat spoiled with their access to a melting pot of cultures, traditions and cuisines. Yet for chefs who relocate from their home countries to work in LA, they often face a number of obstacles in their attempts to preserve tradition, such as contending with diners unfamiliar with their culinary styles or finding it difficult to access certain ingredients crucial to their dishes. As such, for many chefs, maintaining authenticity when cooking the cuisines of their homelands is not an easy task.

Here, three expat LA chefs discuss the challenges they have overcome in bringing their authentic, ethnic cuisine straight to diners’ plates.

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Quality Food and Quality Music Go Hand in Hand at LA's FYF Festival

Quality Food and Quality Music Go Hand in Hand at LA's FYF Festival

By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor

Summer music festivals are known for a variety of things: hot new bands, reunited supergroups, huge crowds, and regret at having not packed sunscreen. The concept of music festival food, however, likely brings to mind feelings of underwhelmed resignation, memories of paying seven dollars for gross pizza or splurging on flavorless pad thai. You're unsurprised if it's mediocre, you're delighted if it's average.

Luckily, the tide may be turning. As the culinary attitudes of the millennials who attend these events in droves evolve and advance, festival organizers have been forced to adapt. Heat-lamp grub and overpriced macro-beers don't cut it for the discerning young music fan, especially as the price of admission for these festivals continues to rise. This scenario provides both a challenge and an opportunity. Forced to up the festival food game, organizers have increasingly looked to their local fast-casual dining community, favoring vendors whose dishes reflect local food trends and inspire a sense of community and locavorism. The result is a festival like Los Angeles's recent FYF Festival, which showcased the city's diverse food and beverage scene and provided a model that festivals nationwide would be wise to follow.

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Sta Rita Hills' Wine and Fire Festival Showcases the Best of Wood Fired Cooking

Sta Rita Hills' Wine and Fire Festival Showcases the Best of Wood Fired Cooking

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

At last weekend's Wine and Fire festival, hosted in Santa Barbara's acclaimed Sta. Rita Hills, local chefs and winemakers gathered to highlight the best of the area's wood fired culinary scene. Already world renowned for the area's Santa Maria style BBQ, the festival also demonstrated the region's wide range in styles and cooking techniques that incorporate an open flame. Sta. Rita Hills winemakers were also present to discuss the variety of local wine pairings that would complement the regional cuisine, demonstrating the principle of what grows together, goes together.  

Hitching Post - Santa Maria Style BBQ at its Finest

Local legend Frank Ostini of Santa Ynez Valley's Hitching Post had perhaps the highest pedigree of the attendees. Taking over for his father at the family's restaurant, the Hitching Post, in 1977, Ostini has been in the kitchen ever since. In 1986, Ostini opened the second Hitching Post location in Buellton, known locally as Hitching Post II, which won over locals with the restaurant's vast array of grilled meats, ranging from beef to poultry to wild game. 

With the restaurant's prominent feature in the wine film Sideways, the Hitching Post became much more than a culinary destination but a tourist one as well. Yet despite the changes over time, Ostini's cooking has remained consistent, serving up classic Santa Maria style BBQ cooked over red oak in a glassed-in pit located right in the restaurant's dining room.

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The Other California – Baja Cuisine Transcends National Borders

The Other California – Baja Cuisine Transcends National Borders

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Mexican cuisine is one of the most sought after styles of cuisine on the West Coast, especially within border states such as California. Yet "Mexican cuisine" is far too broad of a category as Mexico is home to a number of diverse regional culinary styles. 

'Baja Cuisine' is one such style that is found in the Mexican state of Baja California, on the US state of California's southern border. Known best for its ultra-fresh seafood, the state is home to a number of rich culinary traditions that defy national borders with their shared landscape and local ingredients

In addition to its famous seafood scene, Baja California is also home to a vibrant wine industry in the region's Valle de Guadalupe. Established as a wine region by Spanish colonial settlers, the region has recently been undergoing a revolution in terms of wine quality and production thanks to the work of Hugo d'Acosta who began training local vineyard owners on how to make wine, thereby empowering the next generation of Mexican winemakers.

While previously, it was the small beach towns along the coast that have been the major draw for American tourists, the rapidly developing wine region has now become a tourist destination in its own right, attracting visitors from all over eager to explore the burgeoning region. 

And of course, as no great wine region would be complete without several world class restaurants, within the Valle de Guadalupe, several top chefs have begun setting the pace for the emerging culinary hotbed, setting taste trends that transcend national boundaries and attracting diners from both sides of the border.

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