4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Los Angeles”

LA Dreaming (by Carmen)

We are in the cold depths of winter here in NYC. I haven’t had to live through a proper, snowy January since I was six so I was curious and a bit anxious to see how I’d handle it. The weather put up a real challenge complete with polar vortices and plenty of single digit days. Now that it’s the very end of January, I know that if this is some of the worst the city has to offer I will survive the coming years just fine.

Typical LA street - palm trees, low-rise buildings, baking sun, nobody walking.

Typical LA street – palm trees, low-rise buildings, baking sun, nobody walking.

That said, I’m still allowed to indulge in a little California dreaming on such a winter’s day. Specifically, I’m thinking back to my past summer spent in Los Angeles. Nathan and I had just got married in Chicago and for our honeymoon we landed in…my parents spare bedroom. At the wedding, everyone’s favorite question was, “After all your travels, where are you going to honeymoon?” What we really wanted, though, wasn’t a honeymoon but a home base from where we could decide on next steps and start the job hunt. In this regard, LA was a great place to set down our backpacks.

Meatball sliders at Bottega Louie

Meatball sliders at Bottega Louie

The dessert case at Bottega Louie

The dessert case at Bottega Louie

 As a lover of urban environments, I’m always attracted to the high rises and historic areas of downtown LA. In fact, this area is becoming so hip it was mentioned in the NY Times article “52 Places to Go in 2014.” A major favorite of mine in downtown LA is Bottega Louie. Somehow, the restaurant manages to make a crisp white and marble setting feel simultaneously glamorous and laid back. And the food is every bit as good as you hope it will be. I ordered a plate of mini meatball sliders which were juicy and rich. After the meal, the case of exquisite desserts and macarons towards the front of the restaurant beckons with a rainbow of colors and flavor choices.
Early gray pie at The Pie Hole

Early gray pie at The Pie Hole

Downtown LA's Art District

Downtown LA’s Art District

If you resisted the sweets at Bottega Louie (or even if you didn’t) head nearby to The Pie Hole. This hipster cafe is located in the LA Arts District which is full of industrial chic restaurants and stores. They serve a mix of sweet and savory pies each day. I really fell for the earl gray cream pie – it was the perfect base for that delicate bergamot flavor. I’m going to have to recreate that one at home. If I get it right, I’ll post the recipe.

The Hollywood Sign family shot

The Hollywood Sign family shot

Garden at the Getty Museum

Garden at the Getty Museum

We were so lucky to have Nathan’s aunt from Germany join us for our wedding. After Chicago, she swung by California and we joined her for a day of LA sightseeing. The Hollywood sign is always a must see for guests and afterwards we drove to the breathtaking Getty Museum. The grounds and views are just as stunning as the art inside.

Dodger Game

Dodger Game

What American summer is complete without a baseball game? We rounded up friends Joey and Michelle to join us on a warm summer evening at Dodger stadium. We sat among the die-hard fans dressed in cobalt blue…and I was reminded how slow the game is. I’m checking out an LA Galaxy game next time.

Nozomi

Nozomi

During our down time we didn’t venture too far from my parents’ neighborhood, a suburb of LA which happens to have a large Japanese community. We scouted out the best ramen joints, izakaya grills and sushi. In the raw fish department, Nozomi stood out for having incredibly fresh and silky uni, or sea urchin. I still dream about the uni I enjoyed at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo many years ago and this was the closest I’ve found so far.

The chefs

The chefs

Tomatoes galore at the farmers market

Tomatoes galore at the farmers market

A tangle of green onions at the farmers market

A tangle of green onions at the farmers market

When we decided to stay in, we took full advantage of my Dad’s large kitchen. It’s nice to have so many foodies in the family. In some households, discord arises regarding who will have to make dinner. We had the opposite problem – we had to agree on who would get the honor of cooking that night. So we made a menu board before our weekend trips to the farmers market. Oh, my beloved farmers markets. The beautiful California produce is a sight to behold and something I’ll always miss.

Key lime pie at Fishing with Dynamite

Key lime pie at Fishing with Dynamite

As we took turns cooking, we still couldn’t resist LA’s excellent restaurant scene. One of the places we enjoyed was Fishing with Dynamite, a cozy seafood themed restaurant from the same owner as the ever popular Manhattan Beach Post. Each small plate that landed on the table was a hit. And the key lime pie dessert rather speaks for itself.

Father's Office

Father’s Office

Burger at Father's Office

Burger at Father’s Office

Stout ribs at Father's Office

Stout ribs at Father’s Office

Another great find was Father’s Office. This is bar food done right. And that was the surprising thing when my family and I entered – this place really did feel like a bar. We got ID’d on the way in! But the food lived up to its stellar reputation. The burger is incredibly rich, as could be expected when it’s covered in cheese, caramelized onions and bacon, and is best for sharing. We also sampled the pork ribs marinated in stout, then covered in a sweet, spicy honey glaze. I understood why the place was packed.

Pupuseria La Flor Blanca

Pupuseria La Flor Blanca

Pupusas with cabbage slaw

Pupusas with cabbage slaw

While Modern American cuisine is gaining a strong foothold in the city, the ethnic enclaves are what I get most excited about. For example, Pupuseria La Flor Blanca. Nathan had been here a number of years ago and we were excited to discover that it was still around. It’s a simple affair with fake brick walls and formica table tops, but as soon as you enter the door you can hear the slap of the pupusas on the griddle. Our pupusa (a bean and cheese stuffed dough patty) combined with the sour tang of the cabbage slaw was exactly what we were looking for.

Bahn beo at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa

Bahn beo at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa

Half and Half boba with Kathleen

Half and Half boba with Kathleen

We sought out more hole-in-the wall restaurant recommendations from friends and struck gold again. My friend Kathleen joined us for a wonderful Vietnamese lunch at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa in Rosemead. She selected the bahn beo which are steamed rice cakes topped with dried shrimp, green onions and crispy pork skin. They were silky, sweet, salty and took us right back to the markets of Vietnam. Next up was a platter with rice paper, various grilled meats, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, tofu – basically all the ingredients you could want to make your own delicious and fresh spring rolls. Though full after all our food we made it over to Half and Half Tea House for some monster cups of boba. Thanks, Kathleen, for the incredible finds!

Our favorite local bar, which we frequented with our awesome friends Michelle and David

Our favorite local bar, which we frequented with our awesome friends Michelle and David

Indeed, it was wonderful to have friends and family around again. Whether it was catching a baseball game, scarfing down Asian treats, sipping a drink at our favorite beach-side bar during happy hour or sitting down to share a home cooked meal, I’d say our “honeymoon” in LA was just what we needed.

Now share some of the good weather already!

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Lingering in Los Angeles (by Carmen)

The movie LA Story starring Steve Martin really captures Los Angeles for me despite the fact that it came out 20 years ago.  It plays on the stereotypes of Angelenos being self-involved, superficial, apathetic road-ragers, which they can be at times.  At other times, though, there is a charming, laid back, carefree aspect to the city.  Add to this warm sandy beaches and the sunny Mediterranean climate and Los Angeles can really start to look attractive.  I am always going back and forth between love and disdain for LA.  Some of the people I love most live in the LA area, “area” being the key word since the city is so spread out.  On the other hand, I simply don’t want to spend half my life stuck in traffic on the freeway because there aren’t many viable transit options.

Roased chicken and sweet potatoes with bread seal

Decadent brownies

Nathan and I have been using LA as a home base during our time in the US.  And since we’re here we are taking advantage of the good side of LA as much as we can.  Fortunately, that has meant a lot of good food – including home cooked meals! One of my favorites has been Dorie Greenspan’s chicken in the pot recipe which Nathan and I have wanted to make ever since we saw it on the cover of her book. The dough seal on the pot means the chicken steams into juicy, tender perfection.  I also tackled some of David Lebovitz’s desserts including these incredibly fudgy brownies.  I’m happy my dad shares our love of cooking and shared his large kitchen and ample cooking tools with us  : )

Fried chicken and slaw at Manhattan Beach Post

We also had the opportunity to eat out. Manhattan Beach Post falls under the California cuisine category. To me, this means it has unique flavor combinations matched with the right cooking technique to produce food that makes you sit back in pleasure.  The menu is super varied with everything from Vietnamese influenced caramelized pork jowl to mac and cheese. But the common thread is that is all undeniably delicious.  One of my favorite dishes was a simple turkey sausage, mixed with kale and drizzled with maple syrup.  Another similar and equally yummy place is The Sunny Spot in Venice Beach.  Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures but I highly recommend it.

Guisado’s Mural

Guisados tacos

You can’t talk about food in LA without talking about tacos.  And the ones at Guisados are worth talking about.  The variety on the menu left us speechless for a while but we eventually ordered a ceviche tostada and tacos filled with rajas, carnitas, chile verde and chicken.  After so many months in South America, simple, good tacos were just what we needed.

Din Fai Tung dumplings

The Chinese community also makes up a big part of LA so it’s no wonder that it has a branch of the international chain Din Tai Fung Dumpling House.  We came here for the soup dumplings and were not disappointed.  They came steaming hot and filled with savory pork broth.  Now I just have to figure out how to get my hands on one of those dumpling shaped bobble heads they had on the counter.

Decadent Osteria Mozza

On the occasion of my Dad’s birthday we made a special outing to Osteria Mozza, which is owned by a group of chefs including Mario Battali and Nancy Silverton.  The simple clean decor, the smooth service, the sommelier’s smile all indicated we were in for a treat.  There were about 5 different burrata starters! With great difficulty we narrowed it down to one.  I then ordered simple red sauce pasta which had a perfect balance between sweet and acidic.  Nathan’s roast chicken included toast slathered with rich liver pate.  To be honest, you really don’t expect less from a place like Osteria Mozza. But it definitely delivered.

The beautiful California Coast from Palos Verdes

Like LA, these restaurants are all over the map- Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, East LA, Arcadia, and Hollywood.  Try to hit them all and you’ll see what I mean about freeway overload. But if you can at least get yourself to some sand and surf, the road rage will begin to melt away a bit.  

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