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Foodie Friday: The All-Day Dine-Around

It all started as a normal enough day. I woke up and decided after I ran a few errands, I would reward myself with French toast. It was a weekday, so I make my way to one of my favorite breakfast places, Sqirl. On a weekend, the line at Sqirl is brutally painful. It makes my eyelashes hurt it’s so bad, but it is completely bearable on a weekday, especially on my day off when I’m in no particular rush. Somehow after Sqirl my day spiraled out of control. By day’s end I had somehow visited 10 separate dining establishments in what I would deem a dine-around of epic proportions. If you aren’t familiar with a dine-around you are certainly missing out. A dine-around is typically a meal in which you have drinks, an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert each at a separate establishment. I have participated in numerous dine-arounds throughout my adult life, however an all day dine-around had yet to occur…until this week. The following is an account of, what I now refer to as, The Best Day Ever.

 

Stop # 1: SQIRL

As I previously mentioned the day began, innocently, with French toast. Often when I’ve done a particularly strenuous task, or in a celebratory mood, I will reward myself, with food of course, from a short list of my favorite dishes from around LA. I received some excellent news while running some work errands, and was thrilled to treat myself to my favorite French toast. The French toast from SQIRL in East Hollywood/Silverlake is pretty much magical. It’s a thick cut custard soaked brioche toast stuffed with a seasonal jam (typically strawberry) and topped with crème fraiche and seasonal jam (this time it was SQIRL’s Seascape Strawberry & Rose Geranium. If I could start my day with SQIRL French toast every day I would be VERY happy. “Today is going to be a good day,” I thought. I was right.

 

Sqirl's heavenly French toast
Sqirl’s heavenly French toast

Stop # 2: Cerveteca

Making my way downtown to meet my sister-in-law, and one of my preferred food friends, I took a quick break at Cerveteca. As the heat outside was creeping slightly higher than the tepid 72 degrees us Angelinos are accustomed to, I clearly needed a respite or I was sure I would die a slow and painful death. A quick stop at Cerveteca provided a refresher in the form of a thirst-quenching Watermelon Agua Fresca. Ahhhh.

 

Stop # 3: Blacktop Coffee

Go here now. Blacktop Coffee was the reason we headed downtown. Originally I planned to have toast for breakfast and lunch and Blacktop Coffee was a destination I was anxious to try. I was certainly not disappointed. We ordered one of the seasonally changing toasts that can be ordered prior to 2pm, the Nectarine and Burrata toast topped with arugula and a balsamic reduction. This toast was one of the most delicious bites I’ve had in a long time. Truly sometimes simple food really is the best food, this toast was a clear testament to that ethos. This toast is what catapulted us into dine-around territory as we were certain we needed to continue chasing the food high we experienced at Blacktop. It has been decided. We shall dine-around!

Blacktop Coffee's Nectarine & Burrata toast
Blacktop Coffee’s Nectarine & Burrata toast

Stop # 4: Badmaash

Badmaash is yet another restaurant that has been on my list for quite some time. Knowing we were in for several more stops that day, we decided to limit our order to Chickpea & Chips (papri chaat,) and two Samosas (traditional and butter chicken.) Unfortunately Badmaash ended up being more disappointing than exciting. The Chickpea & Chips were interesting, flavorful, and thoroughly enjoyable. The Samosas were an overwhelming failure. Eh, on to the next!

Chickpea & Chips at Badmaash
Chickpea & Chips at Badmaash
Samosa
Samosa

Stop # 5: Pok Pok Phat Thai

Finally! We get to try the wholly anticipated and newly opened Pok Pok Phat Thai, a fast casual version of Portland’s famous Pok Pok restaurant. The meal I had at Pok Pok Portland was one of the most memorable I had during my last Portland trip. Needless to say I was ecstatic to try the condensed version that debuted here in LA. Pok Pok Phat Thai focuses primarily on the thai street food, Pad Thai, a popular rice noodle dish. Kuaytiaw Khua Kai is a wide noodle stir-fried chicken, prawns, or duck with cuttlefish, egg, green onions, and chopped lettuce. While Pok Pok Phat Thai wasn’t nearly as life changing as my Portland experience, it was a heartening comfort food experience.

Pok Pok Phat Thai
Pok Pok Phat Thai

Stop # 6: Scoops Chinatown

Wait. What is that I see as I’m eating my Pad Thai noodles? SCOOPS! Scoops is an artisanal gelato shop owned by a super foodie (the owner now writes for Eater.com.) Scoops also happens to serve one of the best flavors of ice cream or ice cream like substances out there, Brown Bread, a vanilla gelato with Grape-Nuts cereal. Remember Grape-Nuts? Yeah, Grape-Nuts, that weird cereal with an even weirder name. Well leave it to the geniuses at Scoops to turn weird cereal into a delightful creamy treat. The Chinatown location apparently wants me to love Scoops even more by serving Bianco Bread, which uses mascarpone ice cream instead of vanilla. Bliss.

BIANCO BREAD at Scoops Chinatown
BIANCO BREAD at Scoops Chinatown

Stop # 7: Escala

Ok so it was inevitable that one out of ten would be a total bust. Escala ended up on my list of places to try as most of the “foodies” I trust have blogged about Escala and it is helmed by chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage. It MUST be good, right?! Um, no, it is not. We walked into one of the ugliest spaces I have ever laid eyes on. No worries, I can deal with ugly as long as the food is decent. We ordered the most crave-worthy sounding item on the menu Fritos Bandito, described as a roasted chili mac ‘n cheese with housemade fritos, cilantro crema and pico de gallo. What arrived at our table was an inedible abomination; beyond overcooked macaroni swimming in a sort of alfredo sauce topped with way too many green onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, and about 5 strips of the tortilla strips that come with every tortilla soup you’ve ever ordered. All this combined tasted like sour cream ‘n onion dip mixed with said alfredo sauce with way too many green onions and cilantro but only after it had been digested and regurgitated by a mama bird back onto a plate and served in a misguided impression that all diners have had their tongues cut out and only eat to feel warm food slide down their gullets. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put something so delicious sounding on a menu and serve me garbage. I will clearly not be pleased.

Gross.
Gross.

Stop # 8: EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

My dining companion had lost all faith in me. I needed redemption and fast. We headed down the street to EMC Seafood & Raw Bar. Already this felt better. We ordered the Hokkaido Scallop Carpaccio with yuzo kosho, ponzu, EVOO, and smoked salt. We also added two mini rolls, the lobster roll and the crab roll to our order…because I have a serious weakness for lobster rolls. The winner of this stop was far and away the crab roll, with tarragon butter and seasalt on a soft buttered brioche bun. Thank you EMC Seafood for making things right.

Looks gross, but it delicious. Crab Roll from EMC Seafood
Looks gross, but it’s delicious. Crab Roll from EMC Seafood

Stop # 9: Beer Belly

Ok, now we are feeling it. All was fine and good before Beer Belly. We were feeling A-Okay, so perhaps leaving the heaviest dish for the end of the night was not the smartest idea. We pressed on because…research. Beer Belly’s menu is a food porn glutton’s paradise. Duck Fat Fries, Jidori Chicken Wings, and every dessert is deep fried. We opted for the Beer Belly Grilled Cheese, described as a quad-deck 4×4 sandwich with cheddar, asiago, gruyere, and goat cheeses melted between 4 pieces of bread stuffed with bacon and topped with a drizzle of maple syrup, because…research. Painful, but SO worth it. No pain, no gain (of 10 lbs?) is the saying?

My camera started to die so  it wouldn't focus, but look at that cheese!!! Beer Belly Grilled Cheese goodness
My camera started to die so it wouldn’t focus, but look at that cheese!!! Beer Belly Grilled Cheese goodness

Stop # 10: HoneyMee

I’ve decided. Instagram lies. I have seen countless photos of deliciously seductive looking ice cream sundaes from people who visited this Koreatown window. Don’t get me wrong. There was ice cream. It was good. Was it special? Not really. Honeymee is similar to IN-N-OUT in that it essentially has 3 things. Honeymee is not similar to IN-N-OUT in that those 3 things are not all that good. We both ordered the Sweetie which seemed to be the most innovative sundae option. The Sweetie is a milk ice cream with a natural honey swirl. Sounds boring? It is. It’s good, but very very boring. Eh, c’est la vie.

meh. at Honeymee.
meh. at Honeymee.

So we ended the day on a neutral note. All in all we had one low in a series of highs and a few “mehs.” I’m ok with that.  Everything can’t be Blacktop Coffee and Sqirl toast because then they wouldn’t be special anymore, and that my friends would be a travesty.

 

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Foodie Friday: Beachside Brunches

Summertime is my favorite time! Ice cream, bbq, watermelon, avocado, popsicles, berries, peaches, so many beautiful delicious things flourish this season! My favorite thing to do in the summer is take a sort of mini staycation to one of LA many beach cities. By mini, I mean spend the day, but that’s not really the point. It FEELS like a vacation, and that’s what’s really important. Granted here in LA it’s pretty much always summer (weather wise), but there is something very calming about spending a leisurely brunch just a few steps from the beach on a lazy July afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite summer morning hangouts.

1
The smoked fish board from Love & Salt

 

New to the brunch scene is Manhattan Beach’s Love & Salt. Love & Salt describes itself as an Italian restaurant with a California soul.  The restaurant itself is a beautifully simplistic modern space that feels beachy without being obvious about it. The space is relaxing enough as it is, but coupled with ample sharing sized portions truly encourages a leisurely experience. The three of us ordered entirely too much food (as usual), but didn’t seem to even dent the list of items we wanted to order.  The meal began with the Smoked Fish Board which is served with 4 separate fish preparations including smoked salmon, trout served 2 ways, and a whitefish spread. The board is served with mini bagels and whipped cream cheese all served on a longboard looking platter.  The board alone was probably more than enough food, but we have abyss like stomachs so we had to add five more menu items to our order. Other favorites included the Crispy Fingerling Potatoes served with a buttermilk aioli, the Duck Egg Pizza with pancetta, panna, potato, rosemary and parmesan, toasted zucchini bread with house made strawberry jam, and the warm cinnamon coffee cake with whipped crème fraiche. We also tried the Ricotta Pancakes, though I would recommend skipping them as the ricotta inside was served a bit too runny for our liking. Manhattan Beach certainly has plenty of terrific brunch and lunch spots including my previous favorite Manhattan Beach Post, along with Fishing With Dynamite, Little Sister, The Stand House, and nearby Abigaile in Hermosa Beach but there was something about Love & Salt that felt like a true getaway.

2
Love & Salt’s Coffee Cake
3
Toasted zucchini bread with housemade strawberry jam from Love & Salt

For a more unique beach day I often spend my mornings at Superba Food + Bread in Venice. While Superba’s 2nd restaurant is very different than the Rose Ave. Snack Bar it’s equally enjoyable. Superba Food + Bread is another airy open space that I would be happy living in a cardboard box on their patio…well this is Venice so maybe let’s say an organic cotton reclaimed wood hand crafted custom tee-pee.  It is nearly impossible to keep the drool from rolling down your chin as you peruse the pastry case (which I encourage you do prior to ordering.)

4
Everything Crossiant at Superba
5
Superba Food + Bread’s Seasonal Hand Pie

 

My favorite item from Superba is the Kouignamann (pronounced queen-ah-mahn) which is a sort of like croissant cake coated in butter and caramelized sugar. Yes it’s as delicious as it sounds. The only problem is it’s only available at 11am and is usually sold out shortly after. The other issue is when I do finally get one, I inhale it far too quickly to take a picture, so you’re just going to have to believe me that it is a thing of beauty. The Everything Croissant is yet another impressive pastry from Superba. The Everything Croissant captures the flavors of the classic everything bagel but combines it with a croissant filled with chunks of cream cheese topped with black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, onion, black pepper, and sea salt. Because I have to pretend I don’t just eat pastries for breakfast I often order the Avocado Toast. While avocado toast is definitely oversaturating the foodisphere, especially in LA, this is one of my favorites because it isn’t just some avocado on toast that I can make at home. This in-house fresh baked toast is covered in pickled fresno chilies, radish sprouts, and cilantro which all add a different level of flavor and interest to the regular old avocado toast. The toasts and pastries are definitely the way to go here, though the egg dishes and pretty solid as well, please skip their grain hotcakes which are healthy-ish pancakes a.k.a not good…you just don’t mess with pancakes people. Other Venice (or Venice ajcent) brunch favorites to enjoy on a sunny beach day include Gjusta, Gjelina, Salt Air, Scopa, Café Buna, and Tasting Kitchen.

 

6
“Paul’s Big Boy Breakfast” at Superba Food + Bread
7
Hangtown Fry at Superba Food + Bread
8
Superba Food + Bread’s Avocado Toast
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Foodie Friday: Viva Las Vegas!

Oh Las Vegas! I have so many feelings about you. As a former resident of Las Vegas, I feel I can speak candidly about the city. Las Vegas and I have a torrid love affair. Well not like a steamy romance with some hot pool boy like you would see in the movies. Las Vegas is more like a one night stand you would have with the Tuesday morning shift stripper who is missing all but 2 of her teeth, and had her great-grandchildren taken away by child services because she brushes her teeth with meth. Las Vegas is horrible, but I am somehow drawn to it for an inexplicable reason. Fine, it can easily be explained for me. Las Vegas has some of the best food in the country. Period. Vegas gets a bad rap in the food world because there are a lot of big names on many of the restaurants’ marquees, but those chef’s don’t actually have all that much to do with their namesake restaurant. I’m not exactly sure why this matters to anyone. Is the food good? Yes. Ok then! Why should I care who made my food? There are some very talented chefs helming the kitchen of many of the restaurants in Vegas, and they get very little recognition because they aren’t Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, or Gordon Ramsey. During my most recent trip to Vegas I stopped by some of the big name restaurants but it was some lesser known spots that really stood out to me.

Hearthstone’s Pancakes with huckleberry compote, sweet ricotta and topped with edible flowers
Hearthstone’s Pancakes with huckleberry compote, sweet ricotta and topped with edible flowers
Heathstone’s French Toast
Heathstone’s French Toast

 

My very first stop after landing in Vegas was Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar at the Red Rock Casino and Resort. After a very confused 5 minutes where multiple servers were looking for the hostess, no one seating us, and rethinking if we were even at the correct host stand, we finally were able to enjoy our experience. Our waitress was certain we ordered too much food for 3 small girls…she underestimated our prowess. Of our extensive order the pancakes and French toast stood out to me the most. The pancakes were shockingly beautiful. So much so that I looked around to see if other people in the restaurant were as impressed with our meal selection as I was. They were not. Despite the lack of shock and wonderment from the fellow diners, I managed to thoroughly enjoy these beauties. The French toast was another showstopper. Apparently flowers are pretty, and if you sprinkle them on things, then those things become pretty! The French Toast at Hearthstone is comprised of a salted caramel sticky bun topped with a pool of icing, blueberry compote, and served with banana syrup. I have to say I absolutely under estimated this place. I knew Hearthstone would be enjoyable, but I didn’t know it would become my new favorite brunch destination in town.

Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding from Yardbird
Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding from Yardbird
Yardbird’s Chicken ‘N Watermelon ‘N Waffles
Yardbird’s Chicken ‘N Watermelon ‘N Waffles

The newly opened Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at the Venetian was far and away the meal I was most looking forward to. I seem to keep missing the openings of the restaurant. I was dating someone who lived in Miami and broke it off mere weeks before the opening of Yardbird’s original location. Yardbird’s second location in Las Vegas then opened about 1 year after I did a 10 year stint in Vegas. Oh magical restaurant, why do you elude me?! Well, I finally caught this mythical unicorn of a restaurant and was very much placated by the experience. Again, this was another dining experience where we ordered far too many dishes, but this time we struggled to finish any one of the items that made it to the table. Yardbird is known for its fried chicken so we decided to order their signature dish the Chicken ’N Watermelon ’N Waffles; five crispy pieces of chicken with honey hot sauce and bourbon syrup, a cheddar cheese waffle, and spicy watermelon. While Yardbird’s offerings are modern interpretations of southern classics, all of the dishes have a familiarity that makes each dish incredibly comforting. While all of our entrees were certainly enjoyable, it was the Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding that came for dessert that really wowed us. A beyond decadent cast iron dish with M&M riddled bread pudding, popcorn ice cream, and caramel popcorn pieces. Being gluttons for punishment we added a second dessert which continued to impress. The Deep Fried Oreos, while similar to the carnie classic food, was intensified by a coating in Rice Krispies, a drizzling of chocolate, and cookies ‘n cream ice cream. Yeah, it was like that. I don’t know how to describe what joy would taste like, but I would assume it is something like these Oreos . Hmm…so I guess I’ll just have to add Yardbird to my list of favorites too.

deepfried
Deep Fried Oreos at Yardbird

My final day brought me downtown to another new spot, Glutton. If Glutton isn’t the most appropriate name for a restaurant considering my habit of eating until I’m sick, and being that it is located in Sin City, I just don’t know what else would be better. Glutton is absolutely a hidden gem, but hidden in plain sight. Glutton is located almost directly across the street from a very popular downtown breakfast place that often has a long line the majority of the weekend. While other saps wait for fairly good food, we were full and happy long before the diners at the other restaurant even sat down. Not only is Glutton great because we didn’t have to wait to eat, but the food is really interesting and far more delicious than anything else for brunch downtown. Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle was by far the best item we ordered; crispy waffle, slightly firm peaches, bourbon caramel sauce, and sweet ricotta whipped cream. A Shrimp Scampi omelette was also a crowd favorite and enveloped garlic spinach, tomatoes, covered in a rich scampi butter. Glutton was a wonderful end to a fantastic trip. Just the knowledge that never again will I wait in line for breakfast downtown was worth the trip alone!

Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle
Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle
Shrimp Scampi Omelette at Glutton
Shrimp Scampi Omelette at Glutton

 

 

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Foodie Friday: Pancakes Are The Best Cakes!

I’m just going to come out and say it. I love, but no, like really LOVE pancakes. I really do. Not like ok, geez, pancakes sure are delicious, or I sure do think they’re swell. No I love them. I would have a torrid love affair with them. I would be very hard pressed to choose between my husband and pancakes. Is that awful? I don’t care! PAN-CAKES. This week let’s skip together hand and hand through beautiful pancake fields while staring at fluffy pancake clouds and dreaming of rice cakes…just kidding, pancakes!

This list is in no particular order. Pancakes are like children, you can’t pick your favorite.

The Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes at John O’Groats

I have a nasty habit of modifying my food orders. I’m that person that chefs probably hate. I find this is a habit that is almost exclusively relegated to breakfast time. My most recent pancake endeavor took me to John O’Groats on Pico. I’ve heard numerous times that John O’Groats has some of the best pancakes in town, possibly even THE best. I certainly had my doubts. Some random hole in the wall place is going to compete with award winning chefs’ versions? Pfft. I am particularly partial to pumpkin pancakes. I am absolutely that person who freaks out about pumpkin everything. I cannot tell you why but it’s true and I feel only moderate shame about it. In order to compare it to one of my favorite (self modified) pumpkin pancakes in town, I added chocolate chips and whipped cream (more on that other place later.) I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by John O’Groats. The service was some of the best I’ve received, especially in a casual diner type setting. The owner Paul Tyler greeted every guest, took my order while the waitress was busy, and checked on me numerous times throughout my meal. Mr. Taylor even suggested I order a single pancake as the rest of my order seemed too advantageous, a suggestion that made me quite happy, but would gross him about $6 less. Aside from the service what really surprised me were the pancakes. A pretty basic looking pancake ended up being thin but fluffy packed with assertive pumpkin flavor and large bursts of added melted chocolate ooze. I was certainly impressed. I don’t know if I can say it’s my favorite but the pancake at John O’Groats will definitely be added to my regular breakfast circuit.

johnogroats

 

The Lemon Blueberry Pancakes at Bouchon Bistro

You know when you wake up some mornings and you just FEEL rich? You think money doesn’t matter, I’m on top of the world, EXCELSIOR! etc, etc. Maybe you are ACTUALLY rich, well good for you. Maybe you just have a fuzzy view of reality. Regardless, when such a moment strikes me I personally tend to pick restaurant with the absolute the fanciest brunch I can think of. I just want to pretend I am one of those liberal elites the news keeps telling me about. I want to eat like a queen! Where does one go when they want to put on their fancy pants? Well, Bouchon, of course. The Los Angeles outpost of award winning Chef Thomas Keller’s Napa, New York, and Vegas restaurants but this time located in Beverly Hills (I told you it was fancy.) The star of my very posh meal was most certainly their version pancakes. Thicker cake-like pancakes are filled with light lemon flavor with fresh blueberries topped with a generous dollop of Chantilly cream. I’m not sure if these tasted so good because I had a money contact high from all of the Richie Riches surrounding me or if they really were some of the best blueberry pancakes I’ve had. No one will ever know. Pinkies up!

Bouchon’s flapjack
Bouchon’s flapjacks

 

The Buttermilk Pancakes at Jon & Vinny’s

Ok yes Jon & Vinny’s is as trendy as they come. They don’t have online reservations, they almost never answer the phone, you CANNOT get a reservation any time before 9pm on a Saturday night…ever, it is seemingly unnecessarily expensive, they have weird fees that are hard to understand (isn’t an 18% service charge in fact a tip? According to the very complicated answer by my waitress, no, no it is not.) Is all this hullabaloo worth a trip to Jon & Vinny’s? Y.E.S. Although, my suggestion would be to make your visit on a weekday for breakfast or lunch. If you do wander in during breakfast hours I wholeheartedly suggest you try the Buttermilk Pancakes. Jon & Vinny’s pancakes are a stack of 5 smaller pancakes topped with strawberries and blueberries, salted butter, and maple syrup. Sounds simple enough, right? Au contraire mon frère! These are no ordinary pancakes. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, punctuated by little pops of salt from the incredibly luxe butter. If you’re a pancake purist I would highly suggest trying these out. They are just different enough to register as special, but classically unfussy.

Jon & Vinny’s hotcake
Jon & Vinny’s hotcakes

Buttermilk Pancakes AND Ricotta-Cornmeal Pancakes at Ledlow

Poor Ledlow. This downtown restaurant was formally a local favorite formerly called Pete’s. Ledlow took over the space with Chef Jose Centro at the helm. Everyone was mad. Except me, who didn’t know about Pete’s, but loved Chef Centro’s other three restaurants, and really didn’t care either way. There is a strange cultural phenomenon that happens in the food-o-sphere where restaurants close, no one can get over it, and then they blame the new restaurant like it was some kind of hostile takeover. Ledlow has changed its name three times in an effort to shed the hate. Despite all of the poo-pooing Ledlow is still able to turn out pretty solid food. They offer multiple pancake options including a buttermilk variety with 3 topping options (I chose the strawberries with cardamom,) as well as a ricotta cornmeal variety with berries, cherry tarragon syrup, and whipped ricotta. You can tell Chef Centro is trying to bring in his innovative flavors, but is still held back by the stigma of the previous diner. I can only hope Chef Centro keeps trying to break away from the expected, and brings more of his exciting voice to the food at Ledlow.

Ledlow’s flapcakes
Ledlow’s flapcakes

 

Ledlow’s Johnny cakes
Ledlow’s Johnny cakes

 

 

‘Tis the Season Pancakes at The Griddle Cafe

The pumpkin pancakes at The Griddle Café have always been my all time favorite pancakes. The Griddle is known for serving a massive 12 inch diameter stack of pancakes. I have known many a capable eater, and have yet to meet someone who can finish a stack comfortably. It’s not listed on the menu, but The Griddle will allow you to order a single pancake…do this. Don’t be brave, you’ll regret it. The Griddle is also known for being incredibly accommodating, and will essentially allow you to modify anything as long as they have it in the kitchen. I learned early on that chocolate chips belong in pumpkin pancakes without question. Allowing me this request made me instantly loyal to The Griddle. The only thing stopping me from eating at here every single day is the unbearable line that forms outside of The Griddle regardless of the day or time. There is no longer a time I can go, and guarantee to be seated within a reasonable span of time. This, however, is a good thing. If The Griddle was easily accessible we would all be in trouble. We would all be subject to the world of fat humans in WALL-E, and while I could certainly use a hovercraft scooter sometimes, I think it’s an accessory better left to the film.

The Griddle’s flat sorta cakey breakfast breads (I ran out of synonyms for pancakes.)
The Griddle’s flat sorta cakey breakfast breads (I ran out of synonyms for pancakes.)

 

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Foodie Friday: The Return of Glorious Food

I’m back lovely GeekGirlWorld readers!!! I’m sure you’ve been wondering “what happened to that one food girl or whatever.” I also bet you’ve been crying yourself to sleep every night hoping I would return. Long lonely nights wishing the sweet words of my stomach adventures would lull you to sleep…no? OK fine, whether you realized I was gone or not isn’t really the point. The point is I’m back!! Why had I forsaken you all? Well me, the food eater extraordinaire, came down with a nasty bout of Strep Throat and was placed on two rounds of antibiotics which resulted in the depletion of my helpful stomach bacteria. Sounds ok, but the result was constant barfing, cramps, and a super sexy distended belly. The fix was 2 full weeks of literally eating only yogurt, chicken broth, Gatorade, GoodBelly, and taking a strong probiotic pill. Wanna lose 5 lbs fast, just kill off all of your stomach bacteria! The plus side was I looked AMAZING, but was it torture…yes, yes it was. I would not wish such a fate on even my worst foe. Luckily I bounced back beautifully and managed to make up for all of my missed meals (and then some.)

Siggi’s yogurt, my savior for 2 weeks. Mmmm active cultures.
Siggi’s yogurt, my savior for 2 weeks. Mmmm active cultures.

I obviously have to talk about the elephant in the room. The previous week held one of our great nation’s most patriotic holidays; National Donut Day! National Donut Day is a celebration of all things we hold dear as Americans: fat, sugar, and freedom (to eat donuts and post the pictures on social media.) While I myself celebrated the holiday with 3 donuts I certainly did not want to write yet another donut post. So how does one celebrate such a beloved holiday without talking about the star of the celebration? By George I’ve got it! Let’s celebrate other things deep fried and sugary morsels together! My absolute favorite of donut like things was the Milk Toast from East Borough in Culver City. East Borough is a restaurant seemingly heavily inspired by the much talked about Portland restaurant Pok Pok. It is hipster, it is Vietnamese-ish but it is absolutely delicious. While East Borough’s decor has definitely upped the hipster factor I enjoyed my meal here almost as much as my meal at Pok Pok last year. The star of this particular meal was the Milk Toast, a sleeper dessert on a verbally recited 3 item dessert menu that consisted of 2 boring things that both were of the snot consistency variety (i.e. flan, panna cotta, crème brulee etc) and the Milk Toast. As I am not a fan of snot, we went for the Milk Toast. After anxiously waiting for my very very slow drip Vietnamese coffee to finish I dug into one of the most enjoyable desserts I’ve ever had. The East Borough Milk Toast consists of 2 deep fried pieces of brioche bread soaked in custard then deep fried, covered in cinnamon and sugar and is served in a pool of thick condensed milk. At the urging of our server we added a side of brown sugar whipped cream, a genius suggestion. While I’ve had versions of Milk Toast before I’ve never tasted one close to this. The result is a churro-donut-french toast-bread pudding hybrid; crispy on the outside, soft and almost gooey on the inside. I ate other things at East Borough that were also delicious, but that didn’t matter. I had some weird for of food induced temporary amnesia after eating this milk toast. Nothing else mattered anymore. Nothing except sweet, sweet milk toast.

“Milk Toast” from East Borough
“Milk Toast” from East Borough
Painfully slow Vietnamese drip thingy at East Borough
Painfully slow Vietnamese drip thingy at East Borough
“Bahn Xeo”a crab, mushroom, bean sprout filled crepe. One of the not Milk Toast things I didn’t eat
“Bahn Xeo”a crab, mushroom, bean sprout filled
crepe. One of the not Milk Toast things I didn’t eat

Here’s a little known fact about me. I used to hate bread pudding. No really, it’s true! Bread pudding is now my absolute favorite dessert. Originally the texture and genral idea of bread pudding completely weirded me out. Mushy milky bread goop. Um no thanks, I’m good. What changed? It all changed when an LA restaurant (that is no longer open) served me and my food gang an order of donut bread pudding. I was not happy. Now I was going to have to pretend I liked this globbity goop and try not to vomit. Terrific. I pinched my nose and dove in. Wait this isn’t a weird gelatinous square with raisins in it (no seriously, that’s still gross, stop doing that.) This was a glorious gooey warm pile of soft donuts holes mixed with a creamy and thick crème brulee type custard, but not overly custardy, more like a light sauce similar to a crème anglaise (if you didn’t know that’s melted a fancy word for ice cream sauce.) This bread pudding was nothing short of magical. Since the restaurant closed I have been searching high and low for a similar bread pudding like experience. I have eaten plenty of awful bread pudding on my quest. Until I found BSweet I was unable to find anything even close. BSweet Dessert Bar is a sugar oasis on Sawtelle Blvd a.k.a the newly designated “Japantown.” BSweet rotates a collection of bread puddings weekly and can include exciting options like Twinkie, cornbread, salted caramel and my drug of choice glazed donut. BSweet also serves other sweet options like the Sluttiest Brownie, an oreo, chocolate chip cookie and s’mores stuffed brownie and the Halo, a warm ice cream stuffed donut. Don’t get distracted though, the thing they do best is certainly the bread pudding. BSweet serves 2 sizes of their bread pudding “Being Good” and “Being Bad” don’t kid yourself, the “Being Bad” serving is infinitely more filling than it apprears. The “Being Good” size is more than two of us could finish. While BSweet’s version of the glazed donut bread pudding is a bit too sweet and a little too dense but by far the closest thing to my original life changing bread pudding experience. Be sure to add a scoop of ice cream on top because…uh,ice cream, duh.

The front of BSWEET on May 4th, yes that is a Star Wars TIE fighter on the roof Photo:mybsweet.com
The front of BSWEET on May 4th, yes
that is a Star Wars TIE fighter on the roof
Photo:mybsweet.com
Prepacket pints of frozen bread pudding to take home and eat later…this is dangerous.
Prepacket pints of frozen bread pudding to take home
and eat later…this is dangerous.
Donut Bread Pudding goodness Photo: @nomchecklist
Donut Bread Pudding goodness
Photo: @nomchecklist
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Foodie Friday: Updated Comfort Classics

Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City

Remember when I said I was going on a diet? Yeah, I don’t either. Did you know April is National Grilled Cheese Month?! Who could possibly go on a diet during National Grilled Cheese?! Well the answer is: certainly not me. My grilled cheese patriotism lead me to Clementine in Century City. Clementine is celebrating my new favorite holiday for the 14th year in a row with a special menu made up of 12 different grilled cheese sandwiches ranging from classic to more gourmet options. We decided to try 2 different sandwiches, the more classic “Parker House Pull-Apart” which was made up of 4 mini homemade parker house rolls stuffed with swiss cheese and sharp cheddar and then grilled, and the more obscure “Violet Beauregarde” a goat cheese grilled cheese with meyer lemon marmalade on organic blueberry bread adorably named after my favorite Lemony Snicket character. We regretted not ordering more sandwiches immediately, but the lunch rush deterred us. I cannot, however, guarantee that I will not attempt to eat my way through more of the menu this weekend. I would highly suggest you make your way to Clementine aka the grilled cheese mecca before the month comes to an end, otherwise you’ll have to wait until next year. If you do visit Clementine, be sure to get a chocolate chip cookie before you leave, only because it is just the most perfect chocolate chip cookie anyone could ever ask for. Actually order 2 and bring me one.

Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City
Grilled cheese goodness at Clementine Century City
That chocolate chip cookie and some other pastries that don’t matter at Clementine Century City
That chocolate chip cookie and some other pastries that don’t matter at Clementine Century City

 Later that night we ended up at the decidedly more high-brow establishment, Redbird, located in Downtown LA. Redbird is the highly anticipated restaurant from chef Neal Fraser located inside the rectory of a converted cathedral from the 1930’s and was a 5 year long work in progress. Needless to say the space is beyond beautiful. Redbird is one of a handful of truly stunning spaces in LA that creates an incredibly unique background to dine in. Graced with the presence of some of my favorite food friends we selected 13 of the most intriguing dishes from the fairly extensive menu. I felt so fortunate that I didn’t have to narrow my selection to just one entrée! The food here is equally as beautiful as the space. Table favorites included the comforting chicken pot pie, sophisticated gnochetti with lobster, and the refreshing creamsicle inspired dessert. Redbird’s upscale version of some nostalgic classics certainly makes LA’s version of fine dining feel soulful. Redbird would be a great selection for a special occasion or a very memorable date night. While I would love to suggest Redbird for a dinner any night of the week, the price point is definitely a hindrance…but then again maybe YOU don’t have to order 13 things.

Everyone’s favorite Pot Pie, plus Shirmp and Grits, and Burrata Salad at Redbird
Everyone’s favorite Pot Pie, plus Shirmp and Grits, and Burrata Salad at Redbird
The artistic presentation of the Strawberry Biscuit dessert at Redbird
The artistic presentation of the Strawberry Biscuit dessert at Redbird

 

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Foodie Friday: Donut Quest

This week my growling stomach took me on a donut quest of epic proportions. Whether you prefer to spell it donut or doughnut, in the end it is still a delicious ball of fried doughy goodness stuffed or topped with more sugary bits, and no one can argue with that.

Strawberry Big Poppa at Donut Bar
Strawberry Big Poppa at Donut Bar
Selection of Donuts at Donut Bar
Selection of Donuts at Donut Bar

I decided to make the most of a mandatory wedding related task taking place in the far away land of Orange County. As the OC (as the kids call it) is not on my usual hit list, I decided to hit my top 3 food destinations while there. Prior to our meeting, I demanded we stop at Fountain Valley’s Donut Bar. While the San Diego Donut Bar location often touts their line that wraps around the block, the Fountain Valley location had just 1 person standing in the way of my donut conquest. After waiting the painful 30 seconds, it was our turn to order. I had intended to only order their famous Big Poppa but when we got to the front of the line I realized my companion had already started making a dozen box…so who am I to argue?! Donut Bar is known for their Big Poppa donut which is a 1lb donut with a full strawberry or chocolate pop-tart stuffed inside. The other options at Donut Bar are seemingly endless. They are known for over the top donuts like the aforementioned Big Poppa and the Homer Simpson, a cartoon like vanilla donut with bright pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles, a replica of the Lard Lad donut featured on the show The Simpsons. The list of crazy donut flavors is seemingly endless, and while we definitely enjoyed trying a smorgasbord of donuts, I wouldn’t say any of the flavors other than the Big Poppa would necessarily be worth making a pilgrimage to the OC. I would, however, highly encourage you to stop by if you are in the immediate area.

Sidecar Doughnuts
Sidecar Doughnuts
Box 1 of 3 to take home at Sidecar Doughnuts
Box 1 of 3 to take home at Sidecar Doughnuts

After letting my donuts settle during our wedding meeting, we decided to try the more famous donut establishment in Orange County, Sidecar Doughnuts. After all, what kind of food lover would I be if I didn’t do a proper comparison between the two donut powerhouses in the area? Our 2nd doughnuts stop (I’m changing up the spelling out of respect,) Sidecar Doughnuts, proved to be a much more sophisticated take on the wacky doughnuts flavor trend. Sidecar has a much more streamlined selection, and offers an artisanal take on the doughnuts. We, yet again, decided to order far too many doughnuts. I clearly did not learn my lesson the 1st time. Favorites from Sidecar included; the Rosemary; a rosemary infused doughnut with rosemary glaze and a fresh rosemary blossom, the Samoa; a pineapple coconut cake doughnut, topped with chocolate, caramel, and toasted coconut, and the Passion Fruit Meringue; topped with passion fruit glaze, passion fruit curd, and toasted meringue. My doughnut eating companion said his favorite was the Green Eggs & Ham filled with a poached egg, Benton’s Ham, and basil hollandaise sauce, though my aversion to ham stopped me from trying it. While Sidecar Doughnuts is definitely more expensive than other doughnut options I would say it is well worth the price. I already know I am going to be in a lot of trouble when Sidecar opens their Santa Monica location later this year.

Front entrance at Churro Borough
Front entrance at Churro Borough
A portion of the line at Churro Borough
A portion of the line at Churro Borough

Back in LA, my final stop was the much anticipated Churro Borough, which opened on Vermont this week. Churro Borough was going through a soft opening, kind of like a dress rehearsal or sorts, so we thought we would swing by and check out the inevitable scene. For those of you that don’t know, Churro Borough was a mobile food vendor that specialized in churro ice cream sandwiches, and was famous for generating record breaking lines wherever they opened up shop. This first brick and mortar location for Churro Borough was no different. We waited 45 minutes for our churro goodness, which was confusing as once inside, the line moved rather quickly. I opted for Churro Fries (small, skinny, crispy and flaky little churro sticks) and a scoop of Brown Butter cookie sorbet, as I have had their ice cream sandwiches many times. I definitely should have stuck to the ice cream sandwich formula, but I enjoyed having a slightly different experience of Churro Borough. This experience was just as positive as all of the others, though I don’t think I’ll be waiting in line another time. I would highly suggest stopping by, but maybe wait until the hype dies down.

Churro Fries and ice cream
Churro Fries and ice cream
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich with Horchata Sherbert
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich with Horchata Sherbert
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Foodie Friday: Adventures in Fried Chicken

Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich

This week, despite being on a “diet,” I ate some form of fried chicken 3 separate times. I decided diets are for squares.

My newest chicken obsession all started with a food truck called Free Range. While the food truck trend has pretty much keeled over and died a slow and painful death here in LA, this truck managed to resuscitate truck dining, for the moment. The main appeal of the Free Range trucks (besides the incredible food) is their set schedule. Following trucks on twitter an hunting them down was only fun for the people who worked at Myspace and out of work writers who didn’t really have anything better to do. For a normal person, sometimes you just wanted to eat and you weren’t willing to hope a truck you liked is still where it was supposed to be and didn’t have a Disneyland-like line. Free Range did what the other trucks should have done. You can check their website or Instagram (be one of the 23k people who current follow them) for operating hours, but they stick to an incredibly predictable schedule that is both convenient and dangerous for the hungry guy or gal on the go.

So why is this truck single handedly bringing back my desire to wait for 15 minutes on a sidewalk for food? Firstly, who doesn’t like fried chicken?! It’s crunchy fried protein! What Free Range does is make the most prefect fried chicken I’ve ever had. Yeah, I said it, and I mean it. It’s perfection. The best thing on the menu is the Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich which is Tempura Fried Free Range Chicken, Fresno Chili Coleslaw, Whole Grain Honey Mustard Sauce on a Toasted Portuguese Bun. I wholeheartedly urge you to add Honey Sriracha sauce to anything you order, but especially this sandwich. Free Range also has a laundry list of other things you can add to your sandwich like bacon, an over easy egg, cheese, avocado, and sausage; essentially if they have it on the truck they will put it on your sandwich. Free Range has other things on the menu (supposedly) from breakfast sandwiches to avocado toast to specials like the strawberry shortcake or beignets, but those things don’t really matter. What matters is this chicken sandwich. You can ADD other things, but if you don’t order this sandwich you’re definitely missing out.

Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich
The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory.
Photo: @freerangela
 The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory Photo: @freerangela
The Original Free Range LA Chicken Sandwich with Honey Sriracha sauce, in all its sandwichy glory
Photo: @freerangela

Free Range can be found Monday-Friday mornings in front of Coffee Commissary on Fairfax Ave. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons they are in Culver City on Motor Ave. Tuesday and Saturday find them in front of Stumptown Coffee on Santa Fe Ave. Downtown. On Sunday mornings they are at the Farmers Market on Melrose Place. For more information visit their website at: http://www.freerangela.com/

*Note: I did not use my own photos because, in most cases, I just gobbled up my food before I remembered to take a photo.

My next fried chicken meal took me all the way to the San Gabriel Valley, land of Asian food. We initially decided to make the 1 ½ hour trek from Santa Monica to Alhambra, in rush hour traffic, on a quest to find a funnel cake ice cream sandwich (I KNOW!)

Unfortunately, the trip was a bust as we pulled up to find the last funnel cake ice cream sandwich being served to the person in front of us. Determined not to have felt like we made the trip for nothing, I opened my trusty Yelp app to see what I may have bookmarked in the area. I had saved a placed called Tokyo Fried Chicken in nearby Monterey Park. While neither of us wanted fried chicken (or really anything that wasn’t a funnel cake ice cream sandwich,) we begrudgingly drove over and waited 15 minutes to be seated. Mind you we were already in quite the mood. We were angry and hungry aka hangry, the worst thing a person can be. We KNEW we were not going to be happy. Then we ate. I cannot express how pleasantly surprised we were by this meal. The concept is basically a southern style fried chicken meal prepared with Japanese flavors. The main portion of the menu is set up for 2, 3, or 4 people and is $13.25 per person. The meal comes with a choice of sides, plus chicken broth rice and house pickled cabbage. Being “hangry”, we ordered a few additional items including the truffle buttered edamame, crispy fried chicken skin, battered potato chips, because we obviously needed more fried things.

Battered Potato Chips, Crispy Chicken Skin, Truffle Buttered Edamame with ponzu and yuzu
Battered Potato Chips, Crispy Chicken Skin, Truffle Buttered Edamame with ponzu and yuzu
chicken-dinner
Chicken Dinner for 2 with chicken broth rice and pickled cabbage, Soy Glazed Yams, Mac and Cheese

We selected the soy glazed yams and upgraded to include the mac and cheese as our sides. Almost everything was a hit! A Home Run! Other sports reference! Though next time, I would probably skip the crispy chicken skin as it was completely unnecessary. We actually had a very difficult time even trying to pick a favorite dish. An early favorite was the battered potato chips, which are essentially flat French fries fried to perfection. When the main dish came out, we were already pretty stuffed. The meal is served with a spicy ponzu and a regular house made ponzu sauce that you can, and should, pour over everything. They also bring you a weird plastic glove so your chicken holding hand doesn’t get greasy, but I think that’s part of the appeal of eating fried chicken, so my glove remained unused. Another favorite was the mac and cheese with nori and rice crackers, which was gooey, rich, and very slightly briny from the nori on top. The chicken itself was coated in a thin smooth coating similar to Japanese karaage, and had a hint of sweetness which was beautifully complemented by the tangy ponzu sauce.

Overall, this was an incredibly satisfying meal. I know I would not have made the trek if I wasn’t lured under the guise of ice cream, but I’m certainly glad I did.

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Foodie Friday: Pop-Up Brunch and Ice Cream

Welcome to the 1st installment of GeekGirl World’s Foodie Friday. Before I get into all of the delicious meals, snacks, and desserts I consumed this week, I would like to establish myself, in your mind, as the food aficionado you should all learn to know and trust.

I am, as anyone who knows me will attest, a food geek. I follow chefs like an obsessive teenage fan girl following One Direction. I spend all of my downtime reading food blogs and making crazy lists of where I want to eat next in any given city; once a list for a city becomes long enough I begin planning my next trip. Everywhere I ever go is food motivated. If some asks me to go to an event or make plans I immediately scope out my best dining options in the area. I once broke up with someone I was dating because he told me a story about a “gluttonous” person who ate dinner and then went to bed thinking about what they are going to have for breakfast. I think about what I’m going to have to breakfast tomorrow at breakfast today…we were never going to last anyway.

My fiancé now is a chef; intelligent design at its finest. He is now one of my many eating partners in crime. I have an entourage I refer to as my “Food Friends.” Most of this elite group of food people were people I met at various food related events or on food related discussion sites. My Foodie Friends were each chosen to be in my “foodie circle” because they have seemingly endless stomachs and a penchant for great food. We are kind of like our own twisted version of the Justice League. Home base is Los Angeles, where most of my Foodie Friends live or travel to often. While I call LA home, I have traveled extensively around the country, and dabbled in food adventures in other parts of the world. Chef has planned our upcoming honeymoon around eating exclusively at Michelin Stared restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t discriminate. I will eat anything that tastes good. It doesn’t have to come on a white table cloth or cost an arm and a leg. My only criterion is that anything I eat that doesn’t bring me joy. I am particularly fond of cheese, carbs, and dessert. I hope my food freak flag as been appropriately flown, and by now you have a good sense of how much I really love to eat.

Enough about me, on to the food! This week as I prepare to get back on my pre-wedding diet (I’m angry about it and I don’t want to talk about it), I tried to capture every defiant meal in all its overindulgent glory.

Elysian Donut - Photo: @dineLA
The overly instagrammed Sticky Oatmeal Donut from Elysian photo: @dineLA

Sunday started with a trip to the Pop-Up brunch at Elysian in Atwater Village. Hosted by Roxana Jullapat (formerly from the restaurant Cook County) and Sonoko Sakai (who runs the website/project Common Grains,) the pop-up runs until April 26th and is a true ode to carbs. The menu is almost exclusively grain based, with the exception of one lonely little salad (that we didn’t order because we aren’t stupid.) While I didn’t find anything to be particularly mind blowing, especially not the overly instagrammed Sticky Oatmeal Donut on the menu, I did thoroughly enjoy this meal. Highlights included the Smoked Trout Toast with herbed cream cheese, red onion, capers, and radish, as well as the Soft-scrambled Eggs on Toast with ricotta, pea tendrils, and oyster mushrooms. The latter was my personal favorite. The eggs were perfectly seasoned, soft and pillowy, the toast was doughy in the middle and crisp on the edges as toast should be. I would highly suggest stopping by if you live even remotely nearby, though I’m not convinced this is necessarily worth a lengthier excursion.

Smoked Trout Toast
Smoked Trout Toast at Elysian
Soft-scrambled eggs on toast at Elysian
Soft-scrambled eggs on toast at Elysian

Not feeling perfectly satisfied from our brunch, we decided to make our way to Jeni’s Spendid Ice Creams in Los Feliz for a post-brunch pick me up. Jeni’s is an incredible artisanal ice cream company based out of Ohio. The Los Feliz location is the 1st location anywhere near the west coast, and as a result has culminated a cult following which lead to massive queues for a week after opening. We decided to check it out right around noon, and found only a small 15-20 person line. The scope of flavors is so overwhelming we found we needed more than the time it took to get through the line to make a decision. I decided to make my own sundae with Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream, peanuts, and hot Honey Butterscotch sauce. My food friend had a scoop of the Yazoo Sue (milk, brown sugar, cayenne, and rosemary mixed nuts,) along with a scoop of the Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate ice cream in a fresh waffle cone. One of the many reasons Jeni’s is so popular is the mix of different and interesting flavor combinations plus the use of only the freshest quality ingredients. I would 100% recommend making a trip to Jeni’s. I literally dream about my next scoop from Jeni’s.

My DIY sundae at Jeni’s
My DIY sundae at Jeni’s
2 scoop cone at Jeni’s
2 scoop cone at Jeni’s

Be sure to join me next week for more food adventures!

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