A song may say that it never rains in Southern California, but there was a torrential rainstorm which not only soaked the dry landscape, but also chilled the temperatures enough that I caught a cold 😦 Since I was too sick to make my own chicken soup, I asked my local friends where I could get some and without hesitation, they said Brite Spot. A Mexican spot focused on seafood, for chicken soup?!?!? Yes, it turns out good cooks, cook well no matter what their specialty may be. Knowing I was too sick to eat there, I took my soup to go, but I was very impressed by the assortment of condiments on the tables and counter; when three of the choices are habanero based and all have been used, it’s a good sign!

My to go soup included a very nice baggy of limes, onions, and cilantro, all of which I added to my soup, along with my own garlic habanero sauce.

Their “medium” sized container of soup for $11 held nearly half a chicken, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, corn on the cob, fresh parsley and a clear broth.

A side of rice came with the soup, as well as a choice of tortillas for those who want starch with their soup. I added some of the rice to my soup.

And found there was enough for TWO meals. I also felt much better the next day, so I ate the even more flavorful leftovers for lunch.

Since they are famous for Mexican food, I went back for a lengua loaded taco and at $6 this was not only a full plate, but a full meal loaded with tender succulent morsels and topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.

I will be back for the whole flash fried fish….who wants to join me?

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When a friend, who is a talented chef, recommended going to Pine & Crane, the chances were good that I would enjoy the meal as well as the company 🙂 We arrived around 1:30 pm and savored finding parking nearby, and seats, in this busy popular restaurant.

My bowl of shrimp wonton soup was perfect, from the tender light wontons and vibrant baby bok choy, to the clear delicious broth that tasted as clean as the ingredients used to make the stock. For $9 you get quality, not quantity, so if you want a mammoth bowl of powdered soup base with frozen premade wontons, go somewhere else. I was perfectly satisfied with my portion and my taste buds danced with joy.

My friend was craving the beef roll, and since I had never tried one before, I took a bite of this hoisin spiked roll and realized it was like an Asian version of a burrito for $6.50. It was big enough to share or for one person to eat for a full meal.

My friend also ordered several sides at $3 each, so I could taste more than one thing, and she took all that we didn’t eat home to her husband (he is a lucky man, and he knows it). All four sides were freshly made, flavorful, and used quality ingredients; it was the first time I actually liked wood ear mushrooms! There were plenty of condiments on the table, but we barely added anything to what we ate because everything was so well seasoned and balanced.

It was a good thing we sat down at the communal table because with all our food, we had to spread out our bounty:)

Chan Dara was my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, but sadly the location in West Los Angeles is now gone, and after hearing wonderful things about Jitlada, I took the metro and found my new favorite Thai restaurant.

On my first visit, I ordered the softshell crab with rice noodles and somehow I managed to finish this enormous plate. I kept eating just one more bite until there were no bites left to take home 🙂

They serve BEST oxtail curry I’ve ever eaten in my life! The curry was so fragrant, complex, and layered, that I wanted to drink it after eating the meat and vegetables. The meat was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables were still a bit crunchy, so the combination was truly perfect.

The portion of rice was enough to soak up most of the curry, but seriously, I could have drunk the curry without anything else! The mild heat version is good for those who want to experience the flavors without pain, but I like the medium level for a bit of sweat and burn 🙂

The glass noodles with pork belly may be deceivingly  simple, but the chunks of pork, the raw vegetables, and the flavor of the noodles, make this a great choice to order as a mild dish accompaniment for a spicy curry or just as a dish for pork lovers.

The menu is so extensive, I will just *have* to go back a few more times and sample more:)

I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

My name is Elaine and I am addicted to Armenian food. I wish to remain a very happy addict, so no interventions please 🙂

Monta Factory is a SIX seat place in East Pasadena that will serve you their creations hot or frozen to go so you can make it at home. Think of it like ordering a pizza hot to eat soon or there, but also having the option of taking a frozen one to make yourself at home later. Monta are tiny dumplings made by hand that is a very labor intensive food. Unless you have a grandmother or great grandmother who is dexterous enough and who loves you enough to make a batch for you, your best hope for a taste of this wonderful food is to go to Monta Factory. They are the only place anywhere outside of someone’s home where you can eat these. They tell me people travel from out of state to buy several trays, pack them in ice, then drive or fly home.

The marvelous family here are so warm and welcoming that whether it is your first visit or thousandth, they will treat you with a gentle disposition and broad smile 🙂

The family here makes everything from scratch daily, so they may be the hardest workers in the city. I can’t even imagine the repetitive, laborious, and exacting labor of love this requires every morning as they hand make each tiny piece for the day. I love their spicy version as well as their regular version. As long as you have an oven or toaster oven, any leftovers can easily be reheated in 10 minutes.

I took a large frozen tray for a picnic to go and took a picture of the directions to make sure I followed them correctly:)

This is how they turned out with the yogurt garlic cream poured over the entire tray. An Armenian friend said he was going to get a tray to take home to his elderly parents because it was something he had not eaten in decades.

They only sell a few things on their menu, the Monti (or Monte), that everyone knows about, but also the best Wild Salmon Sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It is made with a special tahini sauce, that was so good I went back twice in one week for it, and the serving was such a generous portion that I ended up with two meals!

I heard a customer order the salmon over salad, so that is what I tried on another day. Depending on how hungry or carb conscious you are, their salmon over a salad is an equally delicious alternative.

Be sure you get a slice of their freshly made (daily) su beoreg. This is a cheesy crispy slice of indulgence that will make you crave another one of the soft interior with a crackling top as soon as you finish your last piece.

Now that I live 37 miles away, I will be making the trip with an ice pack and an insulated sac for a tray or two of their frozen Monte, a few salmon sandwiches, and some slices of the su beoreg so that I will never be more than a few minutes from great Armenian food #addicted 🙂

Tao Thai in Upland is tucked away next to a huge Sprouts Farmers Market, so if you don’t want to shop while hungry, stop in to this tiny place for a quality meal at very affordable prices. You can accent your noodle, rice, soup, salad, or curry with the protein of your choice, including tofu. They give you free crispy egg rolls with a nice veggie filling, but the wrapper was too thick for my taste. I asked for spicy with my rice noodle and shrimp and was very happy with the flavors and heat on my plate. For less than $15 with tax and tip, the quality and quantity were noteworthy.

On a subsequent visit, I chose the chinese broccoli with shrimp, and again chose spicy for my level of heat. The sauce was slightly sweet which balanced out some of the heat from the SEVEN dried peppers at the bottom of the serving dish!

You can always add more spices and condiments from their trays 🙂

Pho Golden Star in Chino serves one of the best bowls of pho I’ve eaten in years. This is their first year, so if you check in on Yelp, they have added a bonus tea and egg roll if you order is over $9, but the bowls are so good and filling, I had no room for either. There is easy parking in the large lot, and the clean, well lit space fills quickly during regular meal times with take out orders and diners, so I’m sure this place has already become a regular spots for locals.

I ordered the brisket, steak, and tendon and spiced it up a bit with some of the tableside chilis. It was hearty and rich without being fatty. I added all the extras on the plate of accompaniments and ended up with a marvelous mix of textures and aromas.

I tried their oxtail soup because I rarely see oxtails on any menu, and after asking the server if I should get the combination or the oxtail, the server immediately said, “Oxtail”. Out came one of the best bowls of broth I’ve tasted in a long time, with tender falling off the bone oxtail, and an unbeatable price of around $10. This bowl is calling me to make the 30+ mile drive again, so next time I may get one order to go 🙂

There is a small altar tucked into the corner of the counter; I may create my own in gratitude for the skills of the woman in the kitchen of this place who made me love pho 🙂

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.

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.

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!

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:)

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