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The weather in Los Angeles is one of the many reasons people move here from all over the world. Another reason is that they want to be in the movies. Now for everyone who loves the movies and enjoys the weather here, you can watch Oscar winning movies in Hollywood for only $5 (for students and Academy members it’s only $3) at Oscars Outdoors.

This is as close as we get to having our own outdoor projection screening room; the 20 x 40 foot screen is probably bigger than what you could put up, and being able to bring your own food and drinks, makes this a Friday or Saturday night fiesta. All you need to bring is a blanket or lawn chair, get here by sundown, and enjoy Oscar winners like Casablanca (June 15) or classics like The Princess Bride (July 14).

A classic movie, food, drinks & great company….sounds like a recipe for a spectacular summer evening!

When someone like Amelia at Lindy & Grundy recommends a place, I make a mental note; people who make good food, know good food. It’s taken me awhile to get to Cook’s County, mainly because I tend to eat during restauranteur hours, i.e., between 3-5pm, and many restaurants are closed (because that’s when staff members eat). One day I was actually awake and coherent during “normal” lunch hours, so I finally got to try the lunch at Cook’s County and now I will gladly set my alarm so that I can be there in time for a meal!

My friend ordered the grass fed beef burger, brioche bun, grilled onion, white cheddar & aïoli ($13) and enjoyed it very much, saying it ranked in the top percentile of burgers in restaurants.

Of course burgers must have fries, and these were great, lightly salted, crisp and succulent.

I ordered the Idaho trout, lentils, marinated beets & cumin yogurt ($19), which was such a wonderful lunch, that I think I am now addicted.

The sautéed pea tendrils, shallot & lemon ($6) were so delicious that I wanted an order to take home after eating the entire plate for lunch. The greens were fresh, lightly dressed, and absolutely divine! If anyone you know does not like vegetables, this dish could convert them to vegetarians!

The chocolate shortcake, seascape strawberries ($8), was a surprise. The shortcake was actually SOFT and moist, not at all dry and hard as the picture suggests (goes to prove you should never judge anything based on appearance)! The strawberries were sweet and luscious, and the whipped cream was the perfect compliment to this dessert.

I can’t wait to come back for dinner one night when I can get to Cook’s County before they close!

Cooks County on Urbanspoon

Very few places are still in business after one decade, much less NINE, but Musso & Frank’s is one of the rare legends that lives on, weathering wars and trends with equal aplomb. Once you step inside, you may suddenly feel more sophisticated or worldly, but it is the old school service which has elevated your attitude. The red jackets and formal greetings are anachronisms which remind us that decorum should never die.

My friend has been coming here for decades, with “the old guys” who inhabit the booths like godfathers. The fact that I was deemed worthy to enter this sacred space with an old timer flattered me. The food was was like a time machine; it brought me back to the 60’s and like an episode of “Mad Men“, I enjoyed every minute.

My friend started off with the house salad with blue cheese dressing. You may opt for additions to your salad, but like a true old man, my friend had only the greens.

I chose the sand dabs ($23), which I never see on menus anymore. They were perfect, just as Julia Child swooned over in her first trip to France, I swooned over these delicate filets done “comme il faut” (as it should be) with capers, butter and lemon. If anyone you know does not like fish, make them taste this and convert them!

Since this is old world style dining, every entree is served separately, so I ordered braised spinach ($8) with my fish and the side was as lovely and perfectly done as my main course.

Most people who come here order the steak ($33) and they cook it exactly as ordered, meaning, rare is bloody and well is brown. Of course the old timer ordered rare, and of course it was done as ordered. Nearly every table ordered steak, so if you can’t decide what to get, I suggest you go with the odds and order the steak.

The steak fries ($5) were wonderfully crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

As a child, I always like jello ($3.50), but I haven’t seen it on a menu since I was a child, so I had to order it here. Served with fruit, I felt as if I was 5 years old and finished every bite!

I was not the only one to finish my dessert, my friend ordered the sundae ($6.25) and ate every spoonful!

On another night I came and had the special duck a l’orange with a friend who ordered the lobster thermidor. Both dishes were so rich and decadent that the pictures came out fuzzy; I guess even cameras get thrown off balance when transported to another era!
Musso & Frank Grill on Urbanspoon

Having had ribs in Memphis at Central, Corky’s, and Interstate BBQ, it was wonderful to find JR’s BBQ here in Culver City serving great Memphis style dry rub ribs.

This family owned (mom is the J and son is the R) place is warm, friendly, and spotlessly clean, with perfectly cooked meat done over mesquite, white oak and pecan wood. Their secret recipes should be kept in a vault if they aren’t already.

I like the beef ribs dry with just a dab of the hot sauce, which I am happy to say is actually HOT and smoky. The meat is tender, but holds together enough to give it some texture, for those who have tried ribs in Memphis, JR’s is similar to Central BBQ’s style. The quality of the food here makes this place a favorite for fans of Memphis BBQ, and the prices make this place a bargain for big families or groups. For families, the family pack meals serve four people with sides and prices starting at only $24! My half serving was 5 big beef ribs was only $14 and generous enough to feed two hungry people or one starving linebacker.

My friend ordered the pork ribs with a mild sauce, served with beans and cole slaw. I tasted both the tender rich beans, and the crisp cole slaw, and I could have easily made of meal of just the sides.

I had to try the collard greens and I was glad I did because the only rivals to a version this good were from chefs (both from the South) who no longer work in Los Angeles.

It’s a great sign when the details of side dishes like corn muffins are done with a deft light hand.

The piece de resistance was their famous sock-it-to-me cake for $3.75 which was about 7″ long and 4″ wide (for ONE serving). This lightly sweetened streusel cake topped with a thin layer of icing would be a great breakfast pastry as well as a dessert.

Memphis BBQ without a 3.5 hour flight, fantastic sides, and a family who love their clients makes JR’s is a triple winner.

J.R.'S Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Sometimes you have to live in a neighborhood to find the gems hidden behind the fast food chains and drugstores. My friends David & Krista discovered Red Hill as they walked around, and it has become their favorite spot (and it is literally hidden behind a fast food chain and a drugstore). The area is called Red Hill because in the 1950’s many artists and left wing liberals congregated here, and back in those days, they were called “Reds” or Communists. Whatever your political views, your palate will thank-you for a foray into this wonderfully welcoming place which features inventive and market driven plates for very reasonable prices (average $40 per person for 2-3 plates with drinks & gratuity).

The starter plate of house made pickled vegetables and home made butter was a harbinger of great things to come from the open kitchen. All the vegetables, from the red onions to the spicy cauliflower had a slightly different pickling mixture that ranged from spicy to slightly sweet. The home made butter was so good we asked for more of the dense chewy bread so we could finish it.

Krista had the burrata salad with pesto, beet greens and carrots. The burrata was freshly made and the combination worked well as the burrata added a smooth mellowing counterpoint to the spicy greens and strong pesto.

Four of us split two orders of the venison meatballs and all of us loved the flavors of this appetizer even though a few bites had nearly too much red pepper, we all ate like addicts, unable to stop regardless of any pain we experienced. If they would have mixed the red pepper in more evenly or simply used less, we would have been even more addicted.

The only disappointing dish of the evening was the salad with radishes, Marcona almonds and Meyer lemon dressing. It was actually only the vinaigrette which weakened this dish; it was too salty without any complexity and a bit too much acidity.

Everyone loved Krista’s choice of main dish, the pappardelle with pork ragu and goat cheese agnolotti. The light pasta was perfectly done, and the fresh zucchini, peas and pork all contributed their own texture and flavor to this perfect dish. If you order only one thing here, order this dish!

I chose the bone in pork chop which was served with pureed squash and sauteed greens. The flavors of the accompaniments were all perfect, and the presentation was beautiful, but my pork chop was a bit overdone and dry. It was not bad, but it was not great either. David said that when he ordered this dish, his chop had been thicker and less dry, so perhaps I will try this again some other night.

Robin ordered the roasted chicken, which was moist, full of flavor, and served with some of the best collard greens I have ever tasted.

David’s duck with cherries was spectacular, with crisp skin, moist meat, and beautifully tart cherries. If you love duck, order it here, and if you have never tried duck, try it here.

Somehow we managed to find some room for dessert, so we chose to share two of them. The meringue and sorbet with tart cherry sauce was a refreshing way to finish a meal. The meringue was not baked long enough to give structure, so the texture was a bit rubbery, but overall, this very nice.

The favorite of both the dessert connoisseurs was the orange flan with chocolate dipped candied orange peel. It was a thick smooth rendition of a classic with a slight twist.

Whether you want to explore a historically famous neighborhood, visit friends, or simply eat a great meal after a Dodger game, head over to Red Hill and you’ll hit a home run.

Red Hill on Urbanspoon

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