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Grand Central Market has evolved into a food mecca, with far too many great options to try all in one day, but a friend and I tried to eat our way through the market anyway 🙂

We started off at Belcampo with their $14 lamb burger, made with garam masala aioli, tamarind chutney, mint, cilantro, and red onion on a wonderfully soft bun. I love that all their meats are grass fed and that they have complete control of every aspect of their operation from raising the animals to processing and butchering them. Yes, the prices here are higher than your local chain grocery store, but I prefer to buy less from places with practices I want to promote, than feed the corporate machinery.

We split the medium rare burger and loved the textures and flavors. If we had not planned to try other places in the market, we would have eaten one of these each!

We also shared a plate of the sweet potato fries, seasoned with celery salt, and they were so crisp, salty, and sweet that we fought over the last fries!

Ramen Hood was our next course. It was the only vegan ramen I’ve ever tried, with sunflower seed broth, king oyster mushroom, bean sprouts, scallions, and chili threads, we added a vegan egg for $2 more making the total bowl $12. It was much better than we imagined, with full flavors and the “egg” not only looked like an egg, but the texture was very close to one. A satisfying bowl, but next time I think I would try the spicy version that I saw my neighbors eating at the counter simply because I think some added heat might enhance the flavors even more.

We were pretty full but wanted to try a small bite at Madcapra, made with locally sourced organic ingredients, so we got just the green falafels for $3.50. They were dry and bland on their own, but once we added the dipping sauces, they were good.

Sticky Rice serves organic locally sourced Thai comfort food, like this rice noodle plate with beef that was so big I had to take half of it home! The assortment of condiments was a very nice way to add heat and zing to any dish on their menu.

We ended our eating spree with a walk to the now closed Fabrique for some lattes; I chose the lavender, which was smooth and creamy

and my friend had the rainbow latte, a beautiful ending to a great day of food:)

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I know Paul Martin’s American Grill in El Segundo in the Southwest portion of Los Angeles, but since I’m literally on the other side of town, I went to the Northeast location 🙂 The decor is just as warm and welcoming, like a business casual outfit that feels comfortably chic.

 Their wine selection is well sourced with local and international wines by the glass and bottle.

Their lunch salads are customizable with your choice of free range chicken, grass fed Angus beef, wild pacific shrimp, or Columbia river steelhead salmon. My friend and I both chose the Grill salad, with organic greens, tomato, red onion, grilled avocado, cucumber, radish, sunflower seeds, and a house dressing, but with a different protein. We devoured everything on our plates.

Their Happy Hour goes from 3-7pm and includes grass fed petit steak frites with a glass of wine for only $13!

Or you can order a glass of wine for $6

 and smoked free range chicken for $6.

I usually skip dessert, but I had to taste this Devil’s Food Cake made with three layers of chocolate ganache, accompanied with amarena cherries and fresh whipped cream. The cherries were an excellent counterpoint to the rich chocolate with a slightly bittersweet flavor; if you like coffee with your chocolate ice cream, then you will like the flavor combination on this plate!

After an order of Macallen, we were ready for a nap 🙂

Getting lost is one of the best ways to discover places and since I almost never use GPS, I get lost quite regularly since I don’t know the Eastside of Los Angeles very well, having lived on the Westside for decades; the only times I crossed town was to visit friends or to have a daycation in Pasadena. I had printed out a map (yes one of those paper things) but somehow I still made a wrong turn due to construction detour signs, and I ended up in San Gabriel.

Once I drove past this structure, I immediately pulled over and parked. Turns out it is the Grapevine Arbor, and since there was no event going on, it was open to the public!

 

Beyond the little courtyard at the entrance (with toilets), lies this gate into the garden.

There is a vine covered gazebo

and facilities with water and grills.

 

An antique wine barrel stands to one side,

while palm trees,

a covered shuffleboard space,

and covered walkways stand on the other side.

Part of the San Gabriel Playhouse can be seen from the arbor park,

but walk around for a full frontal view

with the cooling fountain just next door, to the Grapevine Arbor.

Tiles in the sidewalk commemorate the history,

but a walk around the street gives you a taste of the present charm of the city.

The team at Union showcase their talents in a small, discreet location, but their skills have brought people and press in from states and nations far removed from the town once renowned for little old ladies (for younger readers, this clip will explain). The dishes here are definitely old classics, but the flavors are fresh and robust, like Betty White 🙂

One of their signature pastas is the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with san marzano tomatoes, garlic, and fresno chili; simply great ingredients combined with skill and presented in a time honored cylindrical shape.

The fusilli with pork fennel sausage, spigarello, and pecorino-romano, hit all the accented notes of a savory mouthwatering ode to pasta.

There was a vegan in our group who ordered the special of roasted cauliflower that was so well executed that even the non vegans at the table wanted another bite.

As soon as I saw braised octopus, with chickpea  conserva, dukkah, and Meyer lemon yogurt, I knew that it would be my order. It was a tender, aromatic, and a generous portion, so it became my main instead of a starter.

Just as I was drawn to the octopus, another friend wanted the pork meatballs as soon as she saw them on the menu. Made with san marzano tomatoes, caper berries, lardo, and chile, they were juicy flavor bombs.

With stellar reviews from Jonathan Gold at the LA Times, The LA Weekly, and Zagat, I am just adding another voice in the chorus of voices singing the praises for this local gem.

There were many parts to the 626 Night Market, ranging from anime, art, plush toys, and live music.


After all the savory food, it was time for something sweet and cool to end the day:)

 I chose Hawaiian shaved ice, half pineapple, half lilikoi 🙂

 

After all the food and crowds, I wandered over to the Santa Anita Racetrack directly behind the festival.

Time to say goodbye 🙂

 

 

Although I have traveled to about 18 countries, I’ve never been to Asia. 626 Night Market brings a bit of the flavor of the bustling open air food stalls to the US, and like a tourist, I explored for the first time this past week-end. (There will be 3 more week-ends this Summer if you want to go). I took so many pictures, I will be posting a Part 2 tomorrow, but in the meantime, enjoy today’s photo journey 🙂

I went as they opened, so it wasn’t quite a “night” market, but the crowds grew so big by the time I left 2 hours later that I was glad to have missed the long lines I saw later in the evening.

The only downside to going early is that many of the vendors were not set up yet.

I don’t know if they had not yet put up any signage in English or if this it….

A few had displays of their food.

 

Some places gave out samples.

It was fun to watch some of the preparations:)

I decided on grilled squid for my first bite and just as in Asia, none of the cooks spoke English.

The squid on a skewer for $6 was HUGE and delicious with a spicy BBQ sauce!

After walking around all the food stalls twice, I settled on a steamed bun for my next bite.

This was the biggest bun I’ve ever eaten, at least 6″ in diameter and very very hot.

I chose seafood with a side of garlic sauce for $5.50 and it was a very savory filling choice in a pillowy fresh bun with a medium sized shrimp in the center.

Time to get some more cash before continuing my adventure….

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