After three years in France, my first stop for Mexican food was my old favorite, Cacao (see my previous post here). A GIGANTIC serving of guacamole was conveniently served in a plastic container ready to cover and take home to go. The serving was easily enough for four people and although I didn’t have a ruler with me, I’m guessing it was 6″ in diameter and 2″ deep! The fresh home made chips had a nice spicy sprinkling if you didn’t want one of the two salsas, one spicy, one not.

Lovely touches like rosemary table water set this place apart from the plethora of other Mexican places in Los Angeles.

Mission Fig Mole Poblano with free range airline chicken breast, topped with homemade mole sauce, marcona almonds, and sesame seeds, side of calabacitas, a vegetable mix of zucchini, squash, corn, and tomato for $19.95 is a great choice if you have never had home made mole. The quality of the chicken breast was evident with every moist bite, and the portion was generous enough to feed 2 or one very hungry athlete.

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted my red snapper fish tacos fried or grilled so I got one of each for $3.95 each. The fried version used Alesmith brown beer batter, both topped with crema, cabbage, pico de gallo and salsa, and the grilled version was perfectly grilled. Even after eating both versions, I still would want both because I would have been unable to pick a favorite; it’s like trying to decide if you prefer regular bacon or billionaire’s bacon for your BLT 🙂

During lunch they offer a taco truck special of three tacos with a non alcoholic drink, rice and beans for $9.95. I chose the carne asada and adored the grilled scallions on the side as much as the classic asada.

Their menu encompasses all the classics, a few twists, like sea urchin, duck, and Korean style kalbi. There are several vegetarian options, and people come in just to buy their chips or get orders to go because quality and care are two  of the most important ingredients in any dish. Eagle Rock may be a bit of a trek for most Angelenos, but it’s closer than Mexico 🙂

The predawn close up view of the floats is incredible, but so is seeing the same floats in natural daylight with people on them and the animations running:)

There were lots of horses,

 including the famous Clydesdales,

 who had their own mascot,

 and luxury transportation.

There was plenty of security.

The Goodyear Blimp hovered overhead with several helicopters.

Porta-potties were strategically placed on side streets.

The Red Cross was on hand in case anyone needed CPR.

But I doubt that this dragon will attack those people 🙂

The parade may be over for this year but some slogans ring true all year long:)

At 5 AM this morning I experienced the magical Rose Parade up close for the first time:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few places in Los Angeles embellish their eating establishments with extravagant displays during the Winter holidays like they do in France. Bottega Louie is an exception, with a towering “tree” of macarons, including gold ones, reaching to the ceiling, one of several throughout the restaurant and market, but the grand centerpiece in the dining area can be seen from the pastry counter at the other end of the cavernous space.

I’ve been enthralled by this place ever since my first meals here years ago, so much so I wrote two posts, back to back on it back in 2011. Since my return to the US, I have been wanting to revisit some old favorites, and when friends came into town for the week-end, it was a perfect opportunity to meet for brunch downtown.

After years in France, the macarons looked very bright to me, but I’m sure the intense colors sell well here, where bright intense colors are an enticement.

If you can’t decide what to choose, you can always opt for one of the prepackaged gift boxes of varying sizes (they will ship many of their products if you don’t want to carry it back home).

Some things can’t be shipped and should be eaten fresh, like their viennoiseries and

bread, which are very good even to a bread snob like me. The big baguette is pricey at over $5, but it is huge and it freezes well if you can’t eat it all the same day.

Since I usually came for lunch or late supper, this was the first time I encountered the brunch choices, like this freshly squeezed pineapple juice for $7. They had other choices like melon, carrot, and “green”, if you want something other than the usual fruit and citrus.

Once one of my friends saw the table next to us eating the two eggs with turkey sausage, potatoes, and smoked bacon, she didn’t want to get anything else, and she was very happy that they made her order exactly as she wanted, right down to the “burnt” whole wheat toast for $17.

Another friend and I both ordered the Lobster Hash for $20 with lobster, yukon potatoes, shallots, brussel sprouts, and two poached eggs napped with a smoked paprika hollandaise. I liked how the poached eggs were slightly runny, but she preferred her eggs runnier; I thought that the kitchen did a nice job of “middle ground” eggs in a dining room with over 200 seats. Our server was very attentive and literally followed every request with a smile and “Yes, of course”! Including one for warmed milk with the filtered coffee ($.50 surcharge), and as I mentioned earlier, making sure the wheat toast on the side was “well done”.

When we had all cleaned our plates, I tempted everyone to get an order of beignets ($12) to split; the table next to ours chimed in on my description and echoed that they were indeed wonderful. These are still the best beignets I’ve ever had 🙂 Light and buttery, with the raspberry compote so addictive that my friends were licking it off their fingers and “double dunking”!

No one had room for anything else,

but our eyes feasted on all the pastries as we left 🙂

The American lures of ease and comfort have bred some incredibly wonderful (and horrible) inventions; the convenience of having services and products at the ready has become an expectation, from 24 hour supermarkets to dry cleaning services that guarantee an 1 hour turn around. Just as fishing lures can entice fish to bite, some conveniences make promises that are not executed well or at all. Finding any place that delivers more than promised is a joy, and Nordstrom’s Marketplace Café is one of those joys, found inside the Nordstrom’s at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall.

A friend invited me to experience the gift of a meal courtesy of her Nordstrom’s rewards, so we were treated to anything we desired on the menu except wine (but she used an additional gift certificate to include a nice bottle of a Layer Cake Pinot Noir with our meal). Nothing on their menu is more than $18, and most items are in the $12 range. Our server Shannon had worked at the Arcadia restaurant for 20 years and I highly recommend that you ask for her if you go to this location; she is an absolutely skilled professional and she has great taste. She suggested her favorites on the menu, and we enjoyed them all.

We started with the Korean flavored beef tacos as an appetizer. The beef was surprisingly tender and had enough of the taste of Kalbi that the crunchy pickled vegetables balanced out the sweetness nicely. The side salad of crunchy raw vegetables added a nice light counterpoint. This could easily have been a meal, but because this is the US, we took advantage of the American custom of taking extra food home in doggie bags. By the end of our meal, she had a shopping bag of food to take home for another meal with her husband.

Because we couldn’t decide on which salad to get, Shannon served us half portions of two so that we could share and taste. The half portions were so large they could have been a meal for anyone who has a small appetite. The first salad we tried had apple chips, raw apples, chicken, goat cheese, spiced candied almonds, and organic greens in a champagne vinaigrette. We were both delighted with this salad, especially enjoying the apple chips that added a satisfying crunchy texture, contrasting to the softer components.

The colorful berry and fig salad was less to our liking, mainly because of the vanilla bean vinaigrette. I am not a fan of vanilla beans used in anything other than desserts, and although I understand why a fruit and fig salad could be complemented by this kind of flavor, it was my least favorite dish of everything we tried. It w as impressive that with this salad they also used organic greens.

We split an order of the spicy wild shrimp with angel hair pasta, but it was plenty after the tacos and the salads. I was impressed that they used wild shrimp, that the pasta was actually spicy, and that the pasta was not overcooked! All this for under $16 is a bargain (remember the picture is of a HALF portion).

We also split an order of one of the specials of a short rib noodle dish with vegetables with Asian inspired flavors. The meat was tender and the vegetables were lightly sauteed, retaining their crunch. If we had not already eaten half the menu, we would have finished out half portions, but I could barely eat one bite before surrendering my half portion to the doggie bag.

Since we literally had no room for dessert, we chose cookies, which Shannon heated to give us a “freshly baked” flavor. My friend had literally one bite of her gingerbread cookie before also putting the remainder into our ever expanding doggie bag.

I did not do any better, breaking off just a taste of my oatmeal raisin cookie before including it in her shopping bag sized doggie bag.

A very big “grazie” to my VIP Shopper friend for her invitation, to Shannon for her outstanding service, and to the US for inventing the doggie bag 🙂

Mi Piace has become one of my regular places to meet friends for drinks, a bite, or both in the center of Old Town Pasadena. Its central location, with stress free parking options of a big public parking lot behind the restaurant or valet in front, make it an easy choice. They have daily specials, a happy hour, and a comfortable ambience that is versatile enough for a business meal or event, while also casual enough to go in on the spur of the moment from shopping on Colorado. Prices are moderate, between $15-$25 for most main dishes, less for pasta dishes, and glasses of wine between $9-$18, with bottles beginning at around $40.

One of my friends saw the photo on the drink menu and asked the waitress for “This” pointing to a fruity vodka libation made with fruit purée and garnished with a real flower:) It was a bit sweet for her taste until she stirred it a bit to mix the fruit purée with the other liquids.

They have some vegetarian salads, but some salads, like the Insalata Mediterranea, with salami, turkey, provolone, grilled zucchini, white beans, cucumber, olives, and red onions topped with feta cheese, make for a complete meal on a plate.

Their seafood pasta, with calamari and shrimp, is normally served with spaghetti but I requested angel hair, and added red pepper flakes, making it a personal variation. The serving was big enough for me to take half of it home, and although the sauce was a bit sweet for my taste, but it was done well enough that I looked forward to the leftovers.

Two friends split an order of the full sized pasta Penne all’ Arrabbiata garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in a marinara sauce as a side, so this picture is of HALF of an order.

One of the daily specials was this salmon with mango pineapple salsa, that my friend praised for the freshness of the fish and the bright fruity flavors.

The Piccata di Pollo chicken scaloppini with artichoke hearts in a white wine lemon butter sauce was a classic recipe served in a portion big enough for a large appetite or to take some home for another meal.

Since we had a leisurely late afternoon meal, we had after lunch drinks, of 12 year old Macallan served in beautiful gorgeous crystal before heading off to take naps 🙂

Finding good BBQ in France is like trying to find a great baguette in the US; it’s possible, but rare. Some foods are best in their native land, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some “low and slow” hardwood BBQ.

I’d wanted to try Bludso’s since they opened three years ago in Hollywood, but trying to find the time to drive to Hollywood on one of the nights when they had their beef short ribs was too much of a challenge right before my move. One of the perks of living in LA is that there are several delivery services which will bring you any meal you wish from nearly any restaurant you wish, all for a price. I am NOT recommending the service I used because they advertised a $2.99 delivery, then tacked on an additional $15 of “other” charges AFTER they processed my order, bringing my delivery total to about 30% of my total bill, and that was before my tip for the driver. The price was worth the lesson to either pick up a take-out order myself, or go eat at the restaurant.

I ordered the BBQ Beef Short Ribs, only offered on the Thursday-Monday dinner menu, a half rack of four for $20, and a half rack of the pork ribs for $16. There were two containers of BBQ sauce, one spicy and one mild, and even though I usually like spicy, I combined the two 🙂

with a side of collard greens $8 for a pint,

and a piece of cornbread for $1.75

Even though I had waited until a week-end night just to get the beef short ribs, I preferred the pork ribs. The amount of black pepper rub on the beef ribs overwhelmed the meat. Although tender and smoky, the beef short ribs needed the spicy sweet BBQ sauce to enhance the flavor, but I could (and did) eat the pork ribs without any sauce. They could stand by themselves on texture of the meat (not falling off the bone, but easily taken off with a bite), and the rub and smoke both married to the meat in a happy combination.

I was grateful that the collard greens were not cooked to death, and that they still retained some vibrancy along with their rich pork infused flavor. The cornbread was classically and simply made, instantly perked up with some honey or butter; they provided a container of “honey butter” but I preferred using my own.

I’d like to go back to try the beef brisket and pulled pork, but now that I’m back in the land of BBQ, it will be awhile before I go back to one I’ve already tried when there are so many other choices beckoning with masterful techniques and tantalizing aromas.

There are many options for a meal at CDG, but when one of them is Frenchy’s Bistro, it’s an easy decision. Gilles Epié was given a Michelin star when he was only 22, and was the chef at the famous l’Orangerie in Los Angeles. It was a fitting place to eat before my flight at a restaurant run by a chef with a long history tied to Los Angeles.

As you can see from the menu, prices are very reasonable for a quality meal inside an airport. Set menus promise that you will be served within 30 minutes so you can be sure to make your flight at the gate just a few steps away.

My friend ordered the pasta special which was a filling dish with the cream sauce and cheese. It was not particularly noteworthy, but a good option for vegetarians.

I chose the classic Steak Frites with salad and a glass of wine, all for under $25 USD. The steak was tender and cooked rare as I requested, served with a light red wine sauce, the fries were crisp and hot, and a small green salad with a vinaigrette on the side made for a classic French bistro lunch.

Part of me will always be in Paris, no matter where my physical address may be 🙂

Moving can be a thrilling and exciting experience. Sorting and discarding the old as you prepare for the new possibilities that await is a cathartic process. Moving is also an excruciating experience because transitions are never completely smooth nor simple, especially when moving from one country to another. I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends all over the world because with their help I have been able to retain my sanity through two overseas moves in three years 🙂

As with all moves, once the kitchen is packed, there are certain things that must be modified in order to eat. My wonderful friends and neighbors lent me some silverware and cooking utensils so I could at least make coffee and eat on real plates. Fortunately there were some great options for take out nearby like Happy Nouilles. They serve a mix of Asian food, from sushi to satay, and although they are in a suburb catering to French tastes, their dishes are fresh and have enough Asian sensibility to satisfy my picky palate.

Their garlic shrimp actually tasted like garlic with nice sized fresh shrimp.

The mixed vegetables included authentic Asian ingredients like wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.

The Thai basil beef had a nice aromatic flavor as well as peppers, onions, and real Thai basil.

Even the side dish of noodles included fresh vegetables and had a nice light sauce.

The shrimp shu mai were a bit bland, but in keeping with French taste preferences.

Because my order totaled over 20 Euros ($22 USD), they included some shrimp chips

and a coconut “snowball” mochi dessert that was quite tasty.

While I still had some furniture, I invited some friends over for one last apéro at my place. It was a French version of a potluck. I provided (bought) roast chicken, sand carrots & radishes. One friend made mayonnaise (she whipped it by hand in a bowl) with avocados and shrimp; a neighbor brought some bottles of wine he had helped harvest; and his friend brought

 cheese that was literally made that morning, along with

with three others:)

We ended the evening with a raspberry sorbet; a sweet ending to a bittersweet evening of au revoir.

Finding a favorite restaurant is always a pleasure; the joys of great atmosphere, professional service, and delectable food, combined in one place is as rare as winning the lottery.
La Cantine de Marius is a winning jackpot, with a view of the Chateau from the terrace, efficient, knowledgeable service, and a chef who uses an array of fresh products in beautiful presentations. They could easily charge twice as much for their menu, but in keeping with what makes them remarkable, they keep their prices affordable enough so that you can go frequently enough to know everyone by name; on several occasions the clients had inside jokes with the servers, bantering as friends, breaking the invisible French wall of reserve between client and establishment.
Lunch menus range from 16,50 Euros to 21 Euros ($18-$23 USD), depending on whether you have 2 or 3 courses. Wine is a modest 5 Euros ($6 USD) per glass and delicious whether you choose a white or red.

The interior is as comfortable as the terrace, even more so on hot muggy days or cold chilly nights.

The first course on the lunch menu was a light salad of shrimp and grapefruit in a citrus vinaigrette that was as refreshing to eat at it was to look at on my plate.

Another appetizer was a variation on the same theme, with avocado replacing the grapefruit.

Dinner service began with an amuses bouche, or tempting taste offered for the table. One night it was a creamy velouté of zucchini; even though we were a table of three, they gave us four, and we fought over who got the extra one:)

The fried smelt and calamari appetizer was plenty to share or even make as a course if you are not too hungry. The homemade tarragon mayonnaise was a nice side, even though the appetizer was good with just lemon and salt. At only 8 Euros ($9 USD), it was a bargain for the skilled light touch of the chef and the generous quantity.

 They do slight variations on classics, like this beef tartare with a basil pesto.

One night the special was filet of bar with a side of confit leeks for under 20 Euros ($22 USD) that was as expertly cooked and seasoned as a plate twice the price elsewhere.

Lunch menu portions are a bit smaller, but equally satisfying, with fish like Merlu on a bed of polenta.

We ordered their meringue and fruit dessert along with the chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream for dessert (sorry the pictures did not come out), and they gave us this chestnut tiramisu for dessert, just because three people shouldn’t have to share 2 desserts! All were fine endings to our meal and range from 6-8 Euros each ($7-9 USD).

No meal is complete in France without a café

sipped with a view of a chateau 🙂

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