Monday, December 11, 2017

Mid City Demitasse & Mercado

Coffee roasters usually serve better coffee than those who buy their beans already roasted; that is why I love The Conservatory in Culver City, and Jameson Brown, in Pasadena. Demitasse is now my go to spot on Wilshire mid-city, or Little Tokyo. 

They stock some vegetarian friendly meals like rice stuffed grape leaves, quinoa salads, and flakey with butter pastries, so if you want a snack with your free wifi, you've got sweet and savory choices to either eat on the patio or take to go. I enjoyed the ham and cheese bite I chose to go with my cappuccino; it was tasty and filling enough to tide me over until dinner several hours later.

The menu at Mercado is based on the Mexican roots of chef José, so we started with the tacos pescado for $15, skillet seared white fish, Mexican slaw, avocado salsa, and chile de arbol aioli. Fresh clean flavors, but we found the homemade tortillas disappointing. The pickled vegetables were a welcome surprise, adding zest to the plate.
The enchiladas for $19 made with Mary's free range chicken, Oaxacan mole, Mexican rice, queso fresco, crema fresca, red onions, and sesame seeds was beautifully presented, but we found it lacked enough character or depth of flavor to warrant ordering it again.
Our server said the carnitas for $25 are a crowd favorite and one bite of this tender Salmon Creek pork with guacamole, Yxta salsa brava and cauliflower with escabeche made me want another, and another, and another...This is a HUGE serving that could easily have served two, or you could take half of it home for another meal. 
With a wide selection of drinks and tequila, and a happy hour M-F from 5-7pm, I'm planning to return to try more.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Kimpton Hotel Wilshire

One of my friends was given a stay at the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire, so I went to hang out with her and have lunch on the roof by the pool. The reception / lobby waiting area has a minimalist modern design that was softened with flowers and cushy pillows on the couch.

When my friend arrived, they were having their happy hour in the lounge area on the second floor, so we grabbed some fruit and wine gratis.
The room had nice touches throughout, and in keeping with conserving energy and water, there was a note saying that they only change linens every 3 days unless requested to do it more often.
The bathroom was quite spacious and included a long deep tub that could comfortably accommodate a 6' tall person. Also in keeping with environmentally sound practice, their soap and shampoo dispensers were not one use disposable containers, but larger refillable ones.

As with most modern hotels, there were spare USB and electrical charging ports under the TV.
Since this is Los Angeles, there was a yoga mat in the closet, leopard robes, and healthy snacks in the minibar.

It was an overcast day, but we checked and the pool was warm enough to go into if we had been wearing bathing suits instead of dresses:)
Yes, we are stereotypical Southern California ladies who lunch by the pool, so what else would we order besides the house salad?  One with shrimp, and one with rare ahi tuna, both under $20, served with candied pecans, fresh fruit, avocado, and bits of chevre; beef was an option, as was chicken, if those are your preferred proteins.

Since we were eating salads, we *needed* something hot with our meal, so we also shared a side of fries :)
By the afternoon, the skies had cleared and we got a blue sky view as dessert.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Garni Meat Market

I miss my former butcher shop Lindy & Grundy, but I've found Garni Meat Market, a small family run place in Pasadena that not only sells meat, but will cook it for you for no extra charge! Whole Foods finally started doing this, but Garni has been including this service for years! 
This small family owned and run shop carries quality raw meat and poultry, marinated meats, and sides galore.



This home made recipe of a creamy spinach spread was just one of many delicious options available alongside hummus and olive dips. 
If you want to create your own custom recipe, they have walls and shelves stocked with spices, olives, oils, syrups, flavored waters, rice, beans, and pastas. Everything in the shop is spotlessly clean, well organized, and high quality.




It was much too hot to cook, so I asked them to do it for me:) I loved their spicy chicken wings (hot enough for me, so maybe too hot for people who don't like flames in their mouth) and succulent pork chops. The beef was tender, but next time I will make that myself since my idea of rare really only translates well in Europe. The bread underneath soaked up all the natural juices and even though I said I only wanted enough for two meals, this was enough food to last me for FOUR, and all for under $25, including a pound of the spinach dip!
If you are even close to this neighborhood, stop by with some ice packs and a cooler to take home some of their meat, or just have them cook for you and enjoy a picnic or party at home without any effort! 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Hours

Los Angeles is infamous for its traffic, and sometimes it just is not worth getting on any freeway or surface street until it's a bit less clogged. Notice I said "a bit"...lately it seems there is no "off peak" time anymore, but unless you are masochistic or have the patience of a saint, avoiding anytime between 4-6 pm might save a life (your own if you have high blood pressure). Happy hours are a great invention to get some food and calming liquid into your system. Please don't over indulge and drive drunk, but if you have some time and eat something, one drink might mellow you out for your 2-3 hour commute. I take the metro more  often than I drive, so not only do I get to indulge in adult beverages, but I also watch the cars on the freeway from my perch on the rails :)

I took the metro Expo line to the terminus at Santa Monica and discovered the Independence about a block away. Weekdays from 3-6pm they offer a selection of $5 drinks and bites. I had my first Paloma here and loved it! It was nice and tart and strong enough that even though I was walking, I only had one :)
I couldn't resist the oysters, but I wouldn't choose them again....the lack of expert shucking left bits of shell and they were not the freshest. Neighboring patrons had the mussels and meatballs that smelled wonderful, but I didn't want to ruin my appetite for dinner.
I was out in Claremont and happened to be in time for Bardot's Happy Hour from 3-6pm on weekdays. They have special promos most evenings and Wednesday is Whiskey night with $7 cocktails and delicious $3 bites like crab cake sliders. I had a food issue which was resolved so quickly and professionally that I went back the next week.

The drink and food specials change depending on the day of the week for happy hour, so when I went back it was Martini Monday night; $7 for top shelf brands like Ketel One, Grey Goose, or Bombay Sapphire. I chose a "hot and dirty", basically a dirty martini with a splash of tabasco :)
The $5 tuna tartare was fantastic with a bit of seaweed, guacamole, mango, and micro greens to complement the very fresh and excellent ahi. The crispy fried and salted wonton chips were so good that I defy you to have just one!

I already love Red Herring for brunch, but after trying their happy hour, I also love them for later in the day. Their Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm when you can get wine or cava for $7 and duroc pork belly bacon BLT sliders for $5 on a parker house roll (you get TWO for that price).

 Frida is a popular place for Mexican drinks and bites, but I'd never tried them until recently. They have Happy Hour everyday from 3-7pm, with additional late night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday from 9-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 10-11pm. Well drinks are $5 and margaritas are $6 (add $2 for Cadillac or Agave). I chose the spicy and was very pleasantly surprised by the level of spice :) 

I didn't want to drink on an empty stomach, so I ordered a veggie taco with portobello, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomato for $4. It was just enough to absorb some alcohol without filling me up too much to eat dinner.

When two friends braved the freeways to come see me, we stopped by for a quick drink and bite at Eden on Brand before a show. The space is modern, light, and airy, with the bar as the central focal point underneath a light sculpture.

One of my friends craved mac and cheese so we ordered it off the regular menu for $12. The pasta was a bit dense and thick for the lightly creamy sauce, but she enjoyed the flavors nonetheless.
Besides our drinks being discounted, their shrimp ceviche, with avocado cream, radish, and yuzu, was only $7 instead of $12. We all enjoyed this so much we would have ordered another if we had not been running late to the show. My friends loved their mojito, and when I told the bartender I preferred my paloma less sweet, he adjusted it perfectly :)
I think that happy hour doesn't have to involve alcohol or savory food, and it can be anytime you want something to make you happy! 

Three Twins organic ice cream makes me happy and if you don't live near a location, you can buy their products in many markets nationwide. My cone of mint confetti in a teensy size was the perfect portion for me after a big lunch.
My other friends combined scoops of cardamom, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate to create their own bowl of joy:)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Chinois on Main

I've lived in the Los Angeles area on and off for several decades, so I remember when Chinois opened in 1983. It was nearly impossible to get a reservation, and everyone who was lucky enough to get a seat raved about the food. I have fond memories of the Shanghai lobster with curry sauce, and I know some people who worked with Wolfgang Puck and they were so grateful to be part of the food revolution he created in Los Angeles.

Sustaining quality for over 30 years is a Herculean task, but it should be noted that Hercules is a mythical man. As talented, smart, and good hearted as Wolfgang Puck is, he is human, and with such a global brand and so many operations, it is impossible to maintain excellence on all levels at all times. 

On a recent visit to Chinois with two friends who also enjoyed the place in its heyday, we were sorely disappointed. With only two tables of three occupied during the entire lunch service, we thought that it was a bit odd, but we looked forward to having a semi private dining experience. We all had our favorites (still on the menu) so we split everything, starting with the famous Chinese chicken salad. A very generous portion, but it was surprisingly bland. There was no zing from rice wine vinegar nor any other flavor that stood out.
The catalyst for coming was one friend who craved the warm curried oysters with cucumber sauce and salmon pearls. Normally the portion is 4 but because there were 3 of us we opted for 2 more so we could each eat 2 apiece. The beautiful presentation was mouthwatering, but the oysters were lukewarm, barely crisp and as much as I like oysters, this was not tempting enough for me to eat more than one. Sadly the bed of plain watercress was my favorite part of this dish because at least it had a peppery flavor.
I chose the whole catfish with ginger and ponzu, looking forward to a skillful preparation. The large fish was deep fried for so long and on such a high heat that it was dry, and unfortunately the ponzu sauce could not save the flesh. At least it was crispy unlike the oysters. 
As you can see from the picture, the head was so overdone, there was not any way to tell where the eyes had been.
I appreciated sharing nostalgic memories with friends, but sometimes it is better not to try to relive experiences. We will continue to eat at Puck's other restaurants, but we won't be returning to this one.

Service was professional and my friends made sure they knew it was a birthday celebration, so the meal ended on a sweet note as I made a wish :)