Even though Sushi Gen is probably my favorite place for fish, their location and popularity requires advance planning. Maki & Sushi is a good Plan B, located in a strip mall with easy parking and easy freeway access. They have the usual combination boxes with teriyaki, tempura, and sushi, but I chose the chirashi, a generous bowl with some upscale ingredients like amaebi, scallop, and unagi. The octopus salad on top was an unusual bonus topping, and because I requested no salmon, my bowl was nearly all white fish. Miso soup came with the meal and for $23 this was a good value. The cuts and presentation were not spectacular, but the service was efficient.

 

Church and State was one of my favorite places to go for French food before I left for France, so I wanted to go back and see if they would be able to maintain their rank on my list. The short answer is, maybe. I chose their salad niçoise with seared yellowtail for $18. The presentation was very nice, and the piping of tapenade around the plate added a nice punctuation to the salad, but as you can see the circles of tuna were tiny morsels for what was supposed to be a main course salad. The vinaigrette and vegetables were top notch (organic). They do have a prix fixe menu at $23 for 3 courses at lunch that is a bargain, but for a la carte considering the other options in town at that price point, I won’t be rushing back.

Fish King is a market, a fishmonger, a cafe, and a family owned and run pillar of the community since the 1950’s. It’s a beautifully clean, neatly organized, and pleasurable place to shop. The fish will be better than at your local chain supermarket, Whole Foods included, but don’t expect any bargains for the quality. Since I was too hungry to cook, I chose to have them prepare my halibut cajun style with a side of vegetables and coleslaw. At a little under $15, this was a big healthy meal, but I was disappointed that a fish cafe overcooked the fish filet and undercooked the vegetables. Even with the large assortment of condiments, I couldn’t fix my plate. I would happily buy fish or sushi from them, but I won’t have them cook anything for me again.

At this point, you may be wondering if I found any good places, but I saved the best for last 🙂 Fanta  Sea Grill is nearly hidden in a complex with a large Rite Aid, and the only reason I saw it at all was because I was going to the drugstore. They are a wholesale seafood importer, so they procure fresh fish at excellent prices, and as they proudly proclaim, they use no butter or msg in their preparations. I chose the garlic shrimp to go, and they not only included a large portion of prawns, but delicious vegetables, rice, and salad with citrus ponzu, all for under $20. The prawns were cooked perfectly, with easy to peel off shells, swimming in a garlic broth that I used over the rice and vegetables for an added savory burst of fun. This was so good, I literally licked my fingers after peeling the shrimp!

Tender Greens only has tuna on their regular menu, but sometimes their daily specials are fish, and one day I lucked out with Artic Char. All their fish is sourced from responsible fisheries, so no worries about healthy sustainable fish on their menu:) I paired the perfectly seared filet on top of quinoa with an arugula salad, making my taste buds dance in happiness.

There are a few general rules to follow when trying to trying to decide if a place will be good:

1) Is there a line when nearby places have none?

2) If it is an ethnic cuisine, are there people of that ethnicity eating there?

3) Has a friend with a discerning palate eaten there and liked it?

Mama Lu’s answered all these questions yes, but aside from one dish out of four, I can not say it was good.

They are known for their dumplings, so we ordered some to test out their signature dish. They were surprisingly bland with a heavily cilantro based filling and even with some doctoring with tableside black vinegar and chili oil, the three of us only ate one and left the rest.

I am still on my quest for great beef chow fun. The presentation made me hopeful, because it was not greasy, but once again it required doctoring with several of the tableside condiments to flavor these noodles. Again we left half food on the plate.

The clear winner of the evening were the pea sprouts sautéed in garlic, which we all loved and which needed no doctoring of any kind! This was the only plate we finished completely.

The clear loser of the evening were the clams in black bean sauce which were cloyingly sweet and which none of us wanted to eat after a few bites. We were amazed at how full the restaurant was and how disappointing the dishes were, especially since two of my friends had eaten there before and enjoyed their previous meal. It may have been a change of chefs that night, but I am not keen to venture for another try with their poor batting average on flavors.

A better choice for Chinese is Phoenix Food Boutique, a small outpost of a small chain, catering mostly to take out customers. Their $7.95 shrimp and pork wonton noodle soup was a hearty bowl with wonderful wontons and fresh bok choy. I found the soup itself lacking in depth of flavor, but the ingredients were tender and tasty enough to merit ordering this bowl.

The $8.50 beef chow fun was big enough for 2 people, and chock full of tender slices of beef, crunchy bean sprouts, and tender spring onions. If it were less greasy, this would have been perfect!

Seoul Sausage has been one of my favorite spots ever since they opened a brick and mortar shop near Sawtelle. I’ve been to their Little Tokyo location before, but this time I brought friends for Happy Hour. Since my friends are adept beer drinkers, our wonderful waiter provided us with tastes of several before we placed our order. We shared the Sausage Party platter and all agreed that the sweet and spicy chicken and the kalbi pork were our favorites,

so we followed up with two full sized sausages of both.

One of my friends ordered the Da Rapokki, pork belly spicy ramen, but didn’t like the lack of liquid, but I loved the spicy noodles and pork belly.

I couldn’t come to Seoul Sausage without making my friends try Korean Fried Chicken aka KFC, which was the hit of the evening 🙂

My desserts are usually fruit or cheese, but there are times when I crave chocolate or cookies. Thankfully I found two places to indulge those cravings when they arise 🙂

Lolli and Pops is like heaven for those with a weakness for sweets; they offer ROOMS full of whatever temptation might entice you to replace your meal with a sugar high. If you don’t have a location near you, they make gift packages and will ship to whomever you wish to bestow some sweetness.

 Some candies are sold by piece or weight.

 You can mix and match flavors while as you fill containers of different sizes.

 Some sweets are packaged for you.

 If you are nostalgic, there is an entire room of vintage candy.

 

 If you crave candy from other countries, they stock a few classic items.

 Classic US candies, from Jelly Belly

 to Pez,

 and Gummy Bears,

 each have their own section (or dedicated room).

 They have their in house brand

 as well as famous names like Vosges,

 and Harry Potter.

After wandering through the store and feeling a bit overwhelmed, I decided I wanted a cookie (or two, or three), so I went into the Eagle Rock Italian Bakery. They are also a grocery store and deli, making sandwiches to go, and selling Italian olive oil, balsamic vinegar, semolina pasta, and more kinds of tomato products than I could count. It’s a small selection compared to Bay Cities in Santa Monica, but the products are all curated for quality.

 

I practiced extraordinary restraint by eating only 2-3 of these light buttery treats a day. It’s going to require super-human resolve to limit my purchase and consumption now that I know how delicious they taste!

When I first moved back to the US, I asked my gluten loving friends where they found their favorite baguettes and croissants. Since I now live on the eastside, making the trek to Bouchon in Beverly Hills on a regular basis was not going to be part of my life. The consensus was that I should try the croissants at Euro Pane in Pasadena. I was in for a shock when I saw how big they were. Easily 8″ long and 3″ wide in the center, they are HUGE by French standards. Since they use real butter, the flavor was good, and it was light and airy on the inside, but I had to “crisp” up the outside by popping it into the oven for a few minutes. This was a very good rendition, but I didn’t salivate and want to run back for another one (the true test of a great viennoiserie is that you want another one).

A very good croissant is at Mr Holmes Bakehouse, famous for their croissant muffin hybrid, the Cruffin, as well as filled donuts.

The Holmes croissant is a butter intense version that some people adore, with a nice flaky exterior and good air pocket interior. I prefer a less butter saturated version, but for those who love butter, this croissant would be very satisfying.

Bread Lounge in DTLA makes a very good croissant, with a light airy center layers, and a crisp outer shell. It’s about twice the size of the ones in France, but normal sized for the US. Slightly buttery and very light interior, but it doesn’t have that delightfully chewy texture that I love.

I found Proof Bakery in Atwater Village on Instagram. If you look at their feed, have some napkins nearby because you will salivate onto your phone 🙂 I got both a regular croissant and an almond, since those are my two favorites. The sizes were normal by French standards and I skipped the pain au chocolat because I’m one of the rare people who doesn’t like their bread with chocolate!

After one bite of the croissant I wanted to go back and get a dozen! It is as close to an excellent Parisian one as I’ve eaten since I’ve been back in the US; flaky crisp exterior and layers of soft buttery interior with just the right amount of toothiness. I ate all the crumbs off my plate:)

The almond was just as authentically made and had a generous filling of almond paste on the inside and outside. This was so good I wanted to save some for later, but I kept eating “just one more bite” until it was gone.

I don’t live on croissants alone, so I also looked for baguettes. A local showed me Nicole’s in South Pasadena, a gourmet shop and cafe. When I saw they had beautiful products and cheeses from France I swooned, and then nearly fainted when I saw the prices were 3-5 times what I paid in France! I picked up one of their baguettes, anticipating a traditional rendition.

I was disappointed beyond words. I could have bought a baguette at a chain supermarket with better crust and texture, not to mention flavor.

Frogs Organic Bakery got rave reviews for their baguette, but by the time I arrived at the South Pasadena Farmers Market, they were already sold out! I settled for a loaf of their sourdough. It was a nice loaf of bread, but it lacked the crackling crisp crust, sour tang, and springy texture that I love. I was so uninspired by this loaf that I didn’t go back for a baguette.

For artisan bread, the loaves at Seed Bakery are made with made with freshly milled organic ingredients, so if your tastes are for denser more robust bread, this is the place to go. You can literally see the difference in the crust and air pockets between the Frog’s Bakery vs. Seed Bakery loaves; buy according to your preference.

Since my favorite baguette before I left was at Bouchon Bakery, and I was in Beverly Hills for a Yelp Event, I stopped by to get one. After three years of eating baguette tradition in France, this was more like a regular baguette.

I was thankful for a decent crust, proper air pockets, and good flavor after the previous shop.

The baguette I got from Bottega Louie was twice as expensive but better in all aspects from crust to interior and much bigger. Since it is so close to two metro stops, this easy and pricey choice is one of my favorite baguettes in Los Angeles.

Bread Lounge is another of my favorites; they not only bake a wonderful baguette, complete with crackling crust and airy interior, but it is about half the cost of the baguette at Bottega Louie. Bread Lounge is in an industrial part of town, so not easy to access with public transportation, but easy to find parking if you are driving. The loaf doesn’t have the toothy chew of the Bottega Louie baguette, but the crust has a nice crunch.

Another favorite is the baguette from Clark Street Bread, available now only at the Grand Central Market in DTLA (and various restaurants around town) until their shop opens in Echo Park. At $3.50, their price is in line with Bread Lounge, and although the crust needed a bit of crisping in the oven, the interior has the chewy texture I like, and the aroma of the loaf belies the quality ingredients used in its formation.

As in many other aspects of life, there are tradeoffs, and happiness lies in finding a balance that works. I’m grateful to have several choices which make me happy. If I could combine the best of all my favorites, I would have the Bread Lounge crust combined with the chewier interior of Bottega Louie, and the flavor of the Clark Street baguette 🙂

A great bagel is nearly as rare as a great baguette, but for NYers looking for a taste of breakfast from home,  Belle’s Bagels is worth both the trek to Highland Park and the early morning journey (they sometimes sell out by noon or earlier on week-ends). Get a container or two of their Sierra Nevada Cream Cheese to complete your order and you will be set until they are open again (Thursday-Sunday).

In my hunt for bread, I found Float in Pasadena. They got rave reviews for their sandwich baguettes so I went for lunch and I agree, they have some of the best bread not for sale individually:) My friend ordered the tuna salad with avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and whole grain mustard. She thought she could only finish half, but it was so good she ate it all.

I ordered the pastrami banh mi with hot pastrami, pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, red onion and cilantro. It was a refreshing take on both a traditional banh mi and a regular pastrami sandwich which I thoroughly enjoyed and would order again any day. They also have floats as the name implies, but after their hearty sandwiches there was no room left in my stomach.

In the foodie mecca of the eastside, aka Eagle Rock, I saw Milkfarm‘s enormous cheese counter and was drawn inside like a moth to flame, or in my case a raclette to a heat source (here’s a video of how raclette is eaten). I saw a customer eating the turkey press and got one for myself:) It was made with turkey, roasted eggplant, roasted shallots, sundried tomatoes, pesto, kale, smoked mozzarella and fontina on multigrain. Even though it wasn’t on a baguette, I was absolutely happy.

Who wouldn’t be happy eating this?!??!?!

They also sell Bread Lounge Baguettes, so if I need a local quick baguette fix, I have a place to go!

If you have been following my blog or Instagram account, then you already know I am an omnivore. I am truly an omnivore in the most literal sense; I love things like fish eyeballs, raw oysters, snails, beef tongue, tripe, duck feet, veal kidneys, and lamb pancreas. Really. Love. Eating. All. That.

When a talented chef is at the helm, I even love sea urchin in pasta, grazie Sal for showing me the light:) The flip side of all the animal I eat is that I also eat and enjoy many vegan and vegetarian dishes. The key for me is the talent of the chef. One of my favorite vegan dishes of all time was the Jerk Salad at Native Foods before it was taken off the menu. I have a few vegetarian and vegan friends, so finding places that serve foods they will eat and that I like is a rare and wonderful experience.

By Chloe is an New York transplant which now has one location here in CA. It is a 100 % vegan cafe, but in light of recent news, the founder has left the brand (or was fired), so we shall see how this all plays out. For now, I can say that I loved everything, from the clean aesthetic and the environmentally thoughtful utensils, to the flavors in every bowl.

The $10.95 Kale Caesar with shitake bacon, avocado, tomatoes, almond parm, maple wheat croutons, and caesar dressing was probably my favorite of all the salads we ordered. The shitake bacon was addictive!

The $11.95 spicy Thai salad with apricot sriracha glazed tempeh, almonds, quinoa, edamame, scallion, and crispy wontons with peanut dressing, had a nice balance of textures.

The $11.95 Quinoa Taco salad with spicy seitan chorizo, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, tomato, tortilla strips, crema, and an agave lime vinaigrette, was filling and fresh.

 They have burgers and fries, and of course vegan condiments for both.

It’s a vegan place so animals are welcome, and they sell doggie treats, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Humane Society 🙂

 Desserts galore, including a few gluten free options.

True Food Kitchen opened in Santa Monica a few years ago (see my previous blog post), and they have been expanding both their menu and locations ever since then. The kale salad was my favorite back then and is still delicious, now offered with protein additions, so I ordered it with shrimp for a total of $14.50

The Seasonal Ingredient Salad was a hearty mix of seasonal vegetables for $14.50 that was so umami rich, that my friends could have easily eaten twice the small serving.

I didn’t expect the brussel sprout pizza with mushrooms to be very good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the yeasty crust and the unusual topping. I am a pizza snob after eating at Bonci, so being pleasantly surprised by anything called pizza here in the US is a rare compliment 🙂

Hmmm now that I’ve eaten such clean vibrant plant based food, I think I want some steak tartare 🙂

My name is Elaine and I am addicted to kitchen supplies.

I don’t really need more dishes, but my excuse for going to Dish Depot was to buy two “plain white plates” so that when I take pictures of food there is a nice neutral background. It was a valid reason for me to check out the place that is like Ali Baba’s cavern for all things porcelain at fantastic prices. There is a reason restaurants come here to stock up and replenish their supplies. While I was shopping a couple of restaurant owners were loading up their SUV with four CASES of dishes. If you only need a few, they will sell you a small quantity, so just bring cash and a good eye for quality underneath the dust and stacks. This is not Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, so don’t expect any kind of order or presentation; keep in mind that the prices are why you are here. If you don’t want to rummage, and prefer your porcelain in pristine condition, don’t come here. If you love finding a steal and don’t mind running your purchase through a dishwasher, you will love it here.

 

 

They also have new and used kitchen equipment, ranging from professional espresso machines to heavy duty safety gloves. Meander and choose at your leisure, then find the small office and pay for your purchase (cash); Sam will ask how you found them and if you are a first time customer he will offer you a gift 🙂

After my haul of two white 12″ heavy porcelain plates and an Italian bar tool, totaling the princely sum of $6, I drove over to the Americana at Brand. I had heard of this mixed residential and shopping center, but had never been. The fake Eiffel Tower made me smile, and the open layout with a grassy fountain area in the center reminded me of the Grove. They even have a track for a trolley (that wasn’t anywhere to be seen).

Nearly all the major brands have stores here, and Nordstrom’s has an upper level outdoor terrace restaurant/bar where I enjoyed the view below along with some calamari.

 After wandering around the entire complex, the only thing I really wanted to buy was this 🙂

 

One of my friends used to live in South Pasadena so she suggested that we meet for lunch at Heirloom Bakery. They have a nice outdoor patio and they are only a few steps from the South Pasadena Metro stop, so it’s a pleasant and easy stop for breakfast or lunch. I chose the turkey panini with fresh spinach and tomato with a schmear of pesto that helped elevate the flavor beyond the ordinary.

My friend chose the quiche of the day and I had a taste so I could write about it. The filling was light but I found the underdone. The fresh tomatoes on the side were a nice touch, but some needed some dressing and a better presentation imho.

My friend ordered the bean salad as a side and this definitely needed some zest and seasoning.

On another evening my friends and I walked over to Communal half a block away from the Farmers’ Market for some craft beers and more food.

They were very generous with allowing us to taste several before making up our minds. I decided on the locally brewed Smog City Amber Ale. We ordered the twice fried Kennebec fries for $5 but they were too starchy for my taste, although my friends liked them.

We also ordered the crispy chicken wings with spicy porter BBQ  sauce and we all enjoyed them $8.

The hit of the evening were the mussels (a special) with a spicy tomato broth and a fabulous garlic toast that was absolutely perfect for either a full meal or for sharing.

Night Market at Grand Park is literally in the middle of Downtown LA, with easy public transportation (Civic Center stop on Red and Purple Metro lines), iconic landmarks, and this week-end, the added bonus of plentiful food options all in one place.

I went with four friends who all love to eat (they wouldn’t be friends otherwise), and we started with Nomad, a NYC transplant that now has not only food, but also a hotel here in Los Angeles.

Menus at many of the trucks were abbreviated for the sake of the festival, but a few signature items remained, and in the case of Nomad, the presentation in color coordinated boxes and shopping bags was a nice touch even though it wasn’t very ecologically minded.

The yellow beets with shaved fennel, chevre, strawberries, and rye crisp was an unusual combination of textures, flavors, and colors. We found this an interesting option for $9, but not sure we would order it again, but we were all glad to have tried it.

There fried fish sandwich with piquillo aioli and cabbage slaw for $11 was enjoyed by everyone, but I would have preferred a higher fish to bread ratio.

We passed the Cousins Lobster truck on the way into the park and one of my friends insisted on trying them, so we got two orders of the lobster tacos for $20 each order of 3.

The bits of Maine lobster were perfect, but the tortillas were terrible, worse than store packaged ones, and even adding a squeeze of lime and tapatio sauce couldn’t save the tiny tacos. We eventually ended up just picking out the lobster bits from underneath the mayonnaise tasting crema.

If you want to drink or enter into the bar areas, you must show ID at the ID booth and get a wristband, so do that when you enter the event (at the booth near the fountain). We got wristbands but once we saw the prices, we opted to leave the event to go get drinks elsewhere (bottled mass produced bottles of beer for $10).

 It looked like everyone was more interested in their social media than the drinks.

 Lots of beautiful art on trucks

 and some had windows so you could see them preparing your food.

 Choices included everything from BBQ cupcakes.

The Super Market section entry with all the most tempting food options was in the VIP section requiring an entry ticket of $10, but we had started at the other end and by the time we finished our two short rib burritos $7, spicy pork tacos $2.50 each, and black jack quesadilla $8 from Kogi, we were satiated.

Dessert was getting a picture with Roy Choi 🙂

Like many people who never see things that are famous in the place where they live, until this year, I had never seen the Rose Parade live, nor gone to the Bradbury building. The first floor is open to the public, so next time you go the Grand Central market, walk across the street and take a look 🙂

The elevators still work!

 

 Even on a cloudy day, the skylights brighten up the center courtyard.

 

So many places to eat in Grand Central Market, so I stopped by La Tostadaria for a light and filling snack; they only take cash unless you buy more than $10 worth of food, so my octopus tostada just put me over the barrier.

As octopus tostadas go, this was the best I’ve ever eaten, with tender marinated octopus and fresh crunchy vegetables on top of a beautifully fresh tortilla. It was marked with two peppers indicating it was spicy, and halfway through eating I started blowing my nose and thanking my stars that I did not add any more of the habernero sauce that was available at the counter! I would gladly order this again, but with a cool fire dousing drink to go along with it….I must remember that here in LA a warning for spicy means business!

I’ve missed my French marchés ever since I’ve moved back to the US 😦 Now that I live on the other side of town, the ones I knew and loved in Santa Monica are too far away for me to go to on a regular basis, but thankfully the South Pasadena Farmers Market is an excellent alternative. The market begins at the Metro stop for South Pasadena, so I saw it on a ride one day and made it a point to go once some friends said it was the best in the area.

There are many food trucks clustered around the road adjacent to the Metro stop, so if you are hungry, you will have plenty of options.

 

 

 

 These tamales contain no lard and are all freshly made by the family behind the counter.

 

 

 

 This sandwich was a specialty from the Gastobus.

 Peruvian plates.

 Crepes, both savory and sweet.

 Ice cream and sorbet in unusual flavors.

 You can also take food to go.

 

 

If you run out of cash (some vendors take credit cards), there is an ATM at the center of the market.

Local and organic produce abound.

 

 

 

 

 

 Flowers may not be edible, but they are pretty 🙂

 Many merchants sell things like vinegars, oil, and honey.

There’s live music as the sun sets.

 

Categories

%d bloggers like this: