Back To Greece

Just a quick post to let you know that I’m heading back to Greece soon. It’s been almost 25 years since my last visit, so I’m looking forward to seeing the changes since then.

I’ll be returning to Akrotiri archeological site on Santorini island, and I’m planning (fingers crossed!) to FIT back in the green dress in photo above (from 1993). #LowCarbJo PLUS my personal trainer are both on full throttle!

And again, I’ll be launching a new website in the near future so please follow me on instagram (MyLastBite). I’ll be posting food finds and fun on my instagram stories.

Yamas! That’s cheers in Greek!

#MyLastBiteTravels on instagram



One of my favorite photos I took on a recent visit to Italy. I got up early one morning to photograph the fisherman of Trani (in Apulia) and spent a few minutes obsessing over this pot of flowers near the port.

I’m be busy editing photos and writing for a while, and will also be launching a new website. Please stay tuned!

For more photos of Italy, go to #JoBitesItaly on instagram, or #MyLastBiteTravels (for all my travel snapshots & videos).

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Russ & Daughters NY

“100 years, 4 generations and 1,800,000 pounds of pickled herring” refers to one of my favorite documentaries, The Sturgeon Queens. The film is about the family behind Russ & Daughters, the beloved New York institution. In the early 1900s, Joel Russ got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side.

I don’t want to share too much of the story here, because The Sturgeon Queens really is worth watching. This heartwarming film is directed by Julie Cohen and you can rent or purchase The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes here. Watch the trailer below.

Joel Russ’ great grandchildren, Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Lederman (cousins), took over the business in 2009, and in 2014 (the 100th anniversary) they opened Russ & Daughters Cafe.

Russ and Daughter’s Cafe is such an adored spot for locals and visitors alike. Unless you get there before they open, you’ll (most likely) be waiting quite awhile for a table. I went this past June and again this month (photos below) and it’s so very worth it!

If you’re planning on visiting Russ & Daughters (or the shop nearby), and haven’t seen The Sturgeon Queens, do watch the movie before you go. It will absolutely make you appreciate every bite.

Anthony Bourdain said: “Russ & Daughters occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last—but also the best.”

Getting in line (June 2016). This trip was a “girls trip” with my good friend Jenn. All our NY photos tagged on instagram with #JoJennNY.

On our most recent trip, we got to the cafe an hour before they opened (Sep 2016). Still, we were SECOND in line. This September trip was an early 60th birthday fest for my husband Peter. Jenn joined us for the food-filled celebration. Photos tagged on instagram with #PPP60.

The cafe opened in 2014 but the decor is beautifully retro. The shelves are similar to the originals in the shop (Russ & Daughter’s Appetizers).

On holiday? Taking the day off? Definitely order the cocktails for some epic day drinking. On both my visits I ordered the super, refreshing “Lower East Side” (top right). It’s made with Tanqueray gin, lime, dill and cucumber. Top left is a ginger soda with gin that Jenn ordered (off menu). Hubby Peter ordered the “Breakfast Martini” made with Beefeater gin, jam, lemon juice, egg white, Pernod Absinthe and Angostura Bitters.

Sturgeon eggs & onion w salad, Lox & bagel, Super Heebster (our favorite) with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.

Closeup: Super Heebster Bagel with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.

Going in.

Walking past the cafe kitchen.

Hubby Peter so happy (Sep 2016)!

Jenn with owner Nikki (from our June 2016 visit).

Don’t forget to grab your Hopjes when you get your bill. Bonus: If Becca is your server… it’s your lucky day!

Russ & Daughters Cafe Website

Russ & Daughters Appetizers (Shop)

Russ & Daughters on Twitter

Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Trailer

The Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Website

The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes

All my Russ & Daughters Photos


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Chef Ilan Hall

Peter and I had such a great time in New York last week, and I’ll be posting lots of photos on the blog soon. Our social media hashtag for the trip was #PPP60 and you can check out some photos on my instagram here.

“PPP” is sort of a nickname I have for Peter. Basically, it’s short for “Peter Peter Peter”, so triple P plus 60 for his yearlong (60th) birthday celebration (#PPP60)!

Before we left for New York, I posted a photo of us on our last visit (together) in 2005. I wasn’t sure, but thought the chef in the background was Top Chef (season two winnerIlan Hall. It turns out, it WAS Ilan Hall and he commented on the instagram here.

We ran into Ilan at an event in Brooklyn, and our friend Jenn had the good sense to recreate our original photo — sort of. Eight years later, we’re all a bit wider NOW, but it was so great seeing Ilan again! Follow Ilan on twitter here, and check back soon for more New York fun!


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Roxy Hotel (NY 2016 Part 1)

We didn’t plan on loving the Roxy Hotel when we stayed there in June. My good friend, L.A. Times Deputy Food Editor, Jenn Harris and I were headed to New York for a weekend of feasting with Kate Krader (then restaurant editor of Food and Wine). Kate is now the food editor at Bloomberg News.

After booking flights from Los Angeles and making restaurant reservations (priorities ONE and TWO when I travel), I figured I’d just quickly find us a hotel room online. The problem was that most rooms were sold out, due to the weekend’s NYC Pride celebrations. Thankfully, Kate reached out to a few hotels and helped find a room at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca.

The point of this girls’ weekend, was to meet up with Kate and EAT. Not to shop, go sightseeing or see a hit Broadway show. As food-obsessed writers, Jenn and I made no time in our schedule to be tourists, except maybe touring classic New York eateries like Russ & Daughters and Katz Deli. With only three full days and nights—it had to be all about the food. Except for sleeping and changing clothes, there was certainly no time for lounging around a hotel.

That’s the thing I love about travel — the unanticipated moments that elevate a trip. The Roxy Hotel turned out to be so quirky and charming that we WANTED to hang out there. The former Tribeca Grand (revamped earlier this year and renamed The Roxy) almost felt like a visit to a retro, back lot movie set.

There’s a beautiful lounge, a funky jazz club (photos below) and a 10,000-square-foot central atrium that showcases live music each evening. Almost every hotel room door (there are 8 stories, 201 rooms) opens to a view of the atrium.

During our stay, Jenn and I would stumble in from late night dinner/drinks, bobbing our heads to the live music as we made our way to our floor, then pause for a few minutes to enjoy the show.

I’ve stayed in many New York hotels that were just fine, but none that made me feel such a part of the neighborhood. And isn’t that what we want when we travel — to feel like a local?

If I’m planning an extended trip or traveling with more than one person, I rent from Airbnb, as it’s usually cheaper then getting two hotel rooms. But for a quick weekend in the city, my first choice will definitely be The Roxy.

The Roxy Hotel is located at 2 Avenue of the Americas in Tribeca between Walker and White Streets, steps from SoHo, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Little Italy. Subway stops are nearby and Uber pickups (and drops) were convenient for us. The staff (from doormen to house keeping) were so very friendly and helpful.

And all that sightseeing we didn’t plan on doing? Well, our room (#315 for the record) just happened to have a gorgeous view of the Freedom Tower.

I cannot wait until our 2017 girls’ weekend! Cheers!

The Roxy Hotel Lounge (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).

Looking down into the atrium from our hotel room (Photo by Jo Stougaard).

The Django Club (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).

Our hotel room was similar to this one (Photo courtesy of The Roxy). Check current room rates here. My friend Jenn hit the gym every morning (I did not)! I did, however, grab a coffee every morning near the lobby. Note: there’s also a 99-seat cinema (open to guests and the public).

I loved the neighborhood vibe  (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).

View from our hotel room at the Roxy (Photo by Jo Stougaard).

Roxy Hotel Tribeca
2 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
(212) 519-6600

@TheRoxyHotelNYC twitter

Roxy on Facebook

Check back soon for more NYC 2016, including Le Bernardin,DizengoffMission Chinese, Russ & Daughters Cafe, Emmy Squared, Cosme and MORE.

Photo at top courtesy of the Roxy Hotel.


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Ox & Finch (Glasgow, Scotland)

What a fool. It turns out that I’m a great, big FOOL. Or at least fool for a day (today, April 1st) thanks to the Ox and Finch restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ox & Finch, Glasgow SCOTLANDLate last night (Los Angeles time), the award-winning restaurant totally APRIL-FOOLED me via their twitter feed. I could blame it on the fact that I read the tweet in bed, while drifting off to sleep, or note that my guard was down because it was STILL March 31st here in L.A. (April 1st Scotland time). But the fact is, I fell for the gag and even reposted the details on twitter and Facebook!

The April Fools Day tweet read, “Ox and Finch – Sub Zero. An Antarctic Pop-Up Appearance in July 2016! Click for more info…”

So, I clicked and continued reading on their Facebook page, which stated: “With Danish restaurant, NOMA and acclaimed chef, Heston Blumenthal having already staged pop-ups in Australia, we are delighted to announce challenging plans to raise the bar by hosting a month-long, pop-up restaurant during July 2016 in the British Antarctic Territory, titled: Ox and Finch – Sub Zero.” The post even included an artist rendering of the popup in Antarctica! Check it out here.

What a sucker! And just when I was about to post photos of a lovely meal I had there last September with my father and stepmum. They both loved Ox and Finch as well, and I was so disappointed I didn’t get back for another meal when I visited last month.

Kudos to you Ox and Finch — you fooled me enough to dream about saving up for a trip to Antarctica. Luckily I won’t have to go THAT far, and hopefully I’ll see you on my next visit home to Scotland.

Ox and Finch is located in the fashionable Glasgow neighborhood of Finnieston. Chef/Owner, Jonathan MacDonald opened to rave reviews back in 2014, earning a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand (award for good food at affordable prices). Read more about Chef MacDonald here.

I had been following the restaurant on twitter for a year before trying it out. Last September, on a visit home to Scotland, I secured a reservation (they book up quickly) and treated my parents to a night out. As you’ll see by the photos below, we may have ordered the entire menu! Photo above: Panko Pork with Tamarind and Palm Sugar.

Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Radicchio, Fennel and Pink Grapefruit.

Wild Mushrooms, Duck Egg with LARDO, Croutons, Parsley (Note the glorious LARDO on the right side of the egg).

Rabbit, Ham Hock, Foie Gras and Pistachio Terrine with Gingerbread and Pear.

Buffalo Mozzarella, Fig, Mint, Prosciutto and 8year-aged Balsamic.

Scrabster Hake, Brown Shrimps, Samphire, Lardo, Brown Butter.

Spiced Scallops, Chana Dal, Pickled Cucumber and Yoghurt.

Squid, Prawns, Chorizo, Morcilla with Smoked Paprika on Sourdough.

Beetroot, Green Beans, Toasted Seeds and Barrel-Aged Feta.

Italian Sausage, Potato Gnocchi, Squash, Rosemary and Chili.

Braised Pork Cheeks, Smoked Polenta, Capers and Pine Nuts.

Confit Lamb Shoulder, Rose Harissa, Shredded Salad, Baba Ganoush. No room for dessert!

Interior dining and bar (top photo).

Dining date: 9/15/15

Ox & Finch
Address: 920 Sauchiehall Street
Tel 0141 339 8627

Follow @OxAndFinch on twitter

Ox & Finch Facebook

More photos from September 2015 visit to Scotland

I still suck at selfies, but love this photo with my dad

About GlasgowScotland


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My 50th Birthday Lunch, Edinburgh

My nephew Camron and I are heading to Scotland this week. It’s his first visit to see his grandpa (my dad) and stepmum, who live near Glasgow in Bridge of Weir. Peter will hold down the fort with our two beloved pups, Woody and Ziggy Stardust.

There’s so much I’m excited to share with Camron, who turns 30 in May. The village where our family home sits is absolutely gorgeous, the surroundings almost out of a fairy tale. Of course, besides family time, I’m mostly excited to share my love for Scottish cuisine. It’s not all deep-fried Mars Bars, black pudding and haggis (which I LOVE) — it’s so much more.

During this trip Camron and I will be lunching at The Kitchin in Edinburgh, the Michelin -starred restaurant by Tom Kitchin. I’ve been several times and am always blown away with the chef’s “from nature to plate” concept — the best of Scottish ingredients cooked with French techniques. The restaurant has recently gone through a major remodel, so that will be a fun treat as well.

Two years ago, I spent my 50th birthday at The Kitchin and was so grateful to share it with my parents and hubby Peter. Photos below!

The Kitchin

The Kitchin


I love the bread warmers.

Stepmum Mandy and my husband Peter.

Party time!

My dad.

Cod & Watercress: Seared North Sea Cod Cheeses served with pancetta and a watercress sauce.

Monkfish: Cannelloni of Scrabster monkfish liver served with roasted celery, squid and lobster beurre blanc.

Ballotine of Rabbit from Burnside Farm served with a tarragon dressing, black olive and toasted sourdough.

Fillet of wolffish from Peterhead served with gnocchi, wild garlic and mussels.

Rump of Highland hogget garnished with macaroni and roasted carrot served with lamb tongue and sweetbreads.

Blanquette of Clash Farm pork cheeses served with spring vegetables.

Cheese course or dessert? BOTH! Top: British Cheese Course.
Bottom: Pistachio Souffle w Pistachio Ice Cream.

The best of British cheeses.

More please.

Chef Tom Kitchin and my father, Glenn.

A wonderful 50th birthday in Edinburgh!

Read more about The Kitchin here.

More photos of visits to The Kitchin.

Follow Tom Kitchin on twitter.


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