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Some places have wonderful views and terrible food, some places have wonderful food and no view. There is a story told of a few places have that unique combination of both wonderful views and wonderful food. Like a unicorn, the existence of the ultimate view and food combination is a mythical fairy tale that I wish to believe is true, so I keep looking for it…

Elephante was rumored to be one of those places. So on one of the many sunny warm Sundays in Southern California, I went with my neighbors, two of whom had been there before and told me that they enjoyed it.

We were one of the few tables with a child, and because we had reservations, we got one of the premiere view tables on the patio overlooking the Pacific. The vibe on a Sunday early afternoon was definitely a see and be seen. Younger crowd (at my age that translates to 20-30’s) all dressed and groomed to the hilt, and everyone had roving eyes to see who had just arrived and who was to be the center of attention. It was a telling sign of the clientele that the private elevator to the top had a security guard who had just kicked out a young woman with a fake ID because he said she had the same name and birthday as the ID of another woman in her group! Ahhh to be that eager to be part of the “in crowd” and to be that careless in trying to pass off a fake ID!

Our view was spectacular!

One of our group is vegetarian, so our choices veered towards the meatless. The brussel sprouts with a mountain of pecorino for $13 was a fresh but not perky salad. The dressing was lemon and white balsamic, but we could taste neither.

 

The fried calamari for $14 with balsamic aioli was perfectly fried and tender, and we appreciated that the tentacles were included in the serving.

The whipped eggplant for $12 had a pleasant smooth texture, but gave none of us any desire to order it again aside from the warm soft puff of bread that came with it to be torn apart for dipping.

 

The mushroom wood-fired pizzas for $20 each were decent with a nice assortment of cremini, maitake, and oyster mushrooms, lemon cream and parmigiano reggiano were decent but not noteworthy.

This is a good choice for a few bites but do not expect the be awed;

that is why there is a view 🙂

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French connections make for great food connections around the world 🙂 My friend’s friend’s daughter (does that make sense?) spent some time living and working in France and came back to the US around the time I left for Paris. We finally met her in the US and she talked about one of her friends who opened up a French Creperie in Westwood, so of course we had to try it out! It turns out that Irina, the owner, is Russian, as is my neighbor and her child so there will be another international introduction shortly! La Table de Sophie is named after Irina’s mother, Sophie, so the place is named in her mother’s honor:)

Irina serves authentic Brittany crepes, using organic buckwheat flour for the savory galettes, and even the flags at the entrance proclaim her allegiance to the origin of the delicious crisp holder of savory delights.

I started off with a cappuccino and the wonderful flavor and texture was a good portend of the food to come.

One of us had the forestière with free range chicken, egg, mushrooms, gruyère, and onions cooked in hard Cider for $21. Sophie obligingly cooked up the egg that is normally sunny side up (au plat in Paris, or mirroir in Brittany) for the American palate.

I chose the Printanière with gruyère, egg, spinach, asparagus, zucchini,sweet peas, and bell pepper for $20. The galette was probably the best I’ve ever eaten, perfectly crisp and the ingredients were so fresh and beautifully presented that I didn’t want to disturb the artwork! It was also a large portion, so I had no room for dessert 😦

They have several items from Farm Shop for sale, so I took a pain au chocolat home to enjoy the next morning 🙂 They were voted the best pain au chocolat for good reasons; flaky layers around valrhona chocolate make for the answer to your dessert or breakfast pastry quest.

I also took home a bar of Bovetti chocolate, just because I loved the design as well as the quality of the chocolate bar!

La table de Sophie has a marvelous gem of a bar adjacent to it and they serve happy hour between 5-7pm, so you can taste a bit of the French tradition of apéro in Los Angeles. La Table de Sophie made me a bit less homesick for France 🙂

I love places that offer Happy Hour Specials everyday, especially ones that last 3 hours everyday! Happy Hour at The Six is from 3-6pm everyday, and their selections range from hearty to healthy with your choice of drinks ranging from $5-8 for both drinks and bites.

The roasted beets come in two colors, served on arugula with fennel, goat cheese, and hazelnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is big enough to share or as a full meal for anyone who loves beets.

The garden salad repeats some of the same ingredients like the goat cheese and fennel, but then adds roasted pine nuts, carrots, radishes, and comes with a Dijon vinaigrette.

Their buffalo cauliflower is surprisingly spicy, with a thick fried coating that made the vegetable appetizer a very hearty choice. You will definitely be needing the ranch dressing to cool down your mouth if you are not a hot spice veteran.

My favorite happy hour bites are the turkey sloppy Joe sliders which come with a fried pickle and are served on mini brioche buns. The portobello mushroom and bell pepper mixed in with the ground turkey add a nice lightness to the sloppy Joe, yet it is definitely comfort food that will satiate a hunger without weighing you down.

Always nice to have an option when traffic at the intersection of the 405 and 10 Freeways becomes a parking lot in the afternoon; better to be sitting at The Six than sitting in your car for 3 hours!

Trying to find a Japanese place to eat that is open in those hours between lunch and dinner is a challenge in every city; Japanese restaurants are one of the few who actually close between service here and worldwide. I did a search for nearby places that were open and luckily found Harajuku Taproom nearby. They have not been open long, but from what I’ve tried, and from what seems to be a steady local clientele, they will have an appreciative audience.

The variety of pickles was a good indication of the rest of the menu at this craft sake and beer place where the emphasis is on quality and uniqueness, e.g., one of the pickles was pickled eggplant!

The miso glazed sirloin steak was tender and one bite told you that they used quality meat.

Their impossible gyoza are house made with a ginger sauce, and they were addictive.

I like miso, so the eggplant with miso glaze was the next choice and a great way to eat your vegetables!

A beautiful way to tempt your taste buds is to order the shiitake with soy and the asparagus with lemon.

We also tried the chicken breast with yuzu pepper, but we at it all before I could snap a picture 🙂 The only misstep of the evening was the tempura ice cream which had to be redone and still came out looking like a sad child’s painting with a coating that wasn’t nearly crisp enough.

The service more than made up for the dessert, with one of our servers, Gregory, having lived 6 years in Japan, he presented each dish with proper pronounciation and traditional manners; something appreciated by everyone whether they speak Japanese or not. 

Make a reservation, or go for happy hour before this neighborhood gem becomes so popular that you will have to wait in line to get inside.

One of the good things about Los Angeles is that there are always good options no matter what time of day or which neighborhood you prefer. Simply driving until you I saw a string of potential eateries on Washington, the original idea was to eat at Hatchet Hall, but it wasn’t open yet, but a few steps away there was a blackboard sign for Detour Bistro advertising happy hour from 3-7pm. It was a good omen to see that there were quite a few customers at 4 pm on a Wednesday. The clientele was a mix of mostly 30 somethings, eating as much as they were drinking, and after perusing the menu and seeing what was arriving at the nearby tables, I wanted to try several bites.

The fish taco can be either seared or fried, and thankfully they use wild yellowtail that was perfectly cooked and nicely complimented by the fresh vegetables on the commercial corn tortilla.

The tempura romanesco was the hit of the evening with a nice crunch, accented with a spread of olive hummus.

The grilled caesar needed more grilling and more anchovies in the dressing, but it had quality parmesan and some nice accents of cherry tomatoes and radishes.

The spicy wings were the nicest surprise of the evening, with enough heat and complexity to entice those who have been bored to tears with the usual treatment of this popular finger food. If you only get one dish here, get this and / or the tempura romanesco and you will be very happy.

For those who wish to drink craft cocktails, they have several originals, as well as the usual full bar and some decent wines, so it is worth making a detour if you are in the area.

Having guests come to visit makes me actually go visit the beautiful beaches in my backyard. Hermosa Beach is 5 miles from where I live and I know some active fit people who walk, bike, or skate along the paved path from Dockweiler Beach to the Pier in Hermosa and back. Decades ago, I used to bike it, but these days I drive it 🙂

Hermosa Beach Pier is completely pedestrian and lined with bars, restaurants, and a few shops.

 Once the sun sets, the lights go on and it begins to look like a movie set:)

Sunset signals time for Happy Hour, and Abigaile is the local brewery and gastropub that is my go to spot in Hermosa. I wrote a blog post about them back in 2012, when I stayed in Hermosa for a staycation, and I’ve been back since, but it was fun to introduce new people to Abigaile. Happy Hour is 5-7pm and we came for the food, but as a warning to beer lovers, they are upgrading their equipment right now, so their selection of brews is limited at the moment.

 Their menu changes often, but if you see French dip on it, order it!

 

 

 The loaded tots with sunnyside egg on top is messy and fun to share.

Mole nachos had a nice depth of flavor that made my meat loving friends think the chicken was beef!

We took a short walk back to the Pier after eating, and got a gorgeous sky send off before we drove away.

Happy Hours are some of my favorite times of the day; in a Venn diagram it is the sweet center spot.

 

I’ve written about a few of my favorite places in previous posts, so today’s post is an addendum of some places where I have gone, but are not on my rotation of frequent visits, either because of location, or selections.

Salt Creek Grille has several locations scattered throughout Southern California, and they feature very comfortable and chic decor, with a varied menu Happy Hour is M-F in the bar and lounge from 4-6:30 pm. Choices range from $6 for chips to this $11 plate of mesquite grilled baby back ribs with cole slaw and Asiago garlic fries. The meat was tender and the BBQ sauce was sweet but not over done, and the fries were nicely done, although I could have done without the sprinkling of asiago.

It was a good deal for the food, but I didn’t care for the Paloma, a beautifully presented drink with a candied grapefruit rind, but so sweet it was like drinking dessert. I would have opted for a martini but they make theirs with Tito’s and it’s not a brand I like. Ah well, I think I will just have wine next time.

Local Kitchen in Torrance is a family friendly sports bar that delivers all that you would expect from a neighborhood place, including huge portions, and a large selection of beers. I love their yardbird salad, so I went in one day during happy hour, which is 3-6 pm everyday at the bar for their wings at $7.50. It was a HUGE portion, definitely enough to share with 2 or 3 people. They have a decent selection of wines, but go for one of their beers on draft here, like the Smog City IPA.

Abigaile in Hermosa serves some of the best bar food in the South Bay, and their happy hour M-F from 5-7 pm is their testing menu for food that may or may not make it to the main menu. The menu changes constantly, but if you see the French dip on their menu, it a worth ordering for the tender meat and rich dipping sauce that is perfectly dunkable with the pretzel bun.

Before dunking,

after dunking 🙂

The Whisper Lounge in the Grove, offers happy hour M-F 3- 6 pm, and all day on Sunday. The calamari was over fried and dry, but the short rib sliders for $8 were so good that we contemplated ordering another plate. Their wine selection has enough depth and quality to make a wine snob (like me) happy, and with happy prices $4 less than regular, my friend and I indulged in 2 glasses each:)

No matter where you are, there is bound to be an option (if not happy hour, maybe go to the gym, yoga studio, or a movie) that is better than sitting in freeway traffic for a few hours, and that alone should make you happy 🙂

Loving food and living in Los Angeles for most of my life, there are a few chefs I have followed as they have moved around town. Some of my favorite places are the ones where a chef left the steady income of a big name brand to open a smaller, more personal, and casual place where they can showcase their talents without anyone reining them inside a certain kind of menu. The risk for doing what they love means their wallets will pay if the gamble with the public palate craps out, but after years and sometimes decades at the helm, hopefully the sixth sense of balancing creativity with cash flow comes as second nature, and they find their groove with their groupies.

Lunetta and Lunetta All Day share a kitchen and the captain at the helm is Raphael Lunetta with some partners who know food. I loved JiRaffe, and I have enjoyed his skills at Broadway Deli and Patina over the years, but Lunetta All Day may be my favorite iteration to date of the mélange of Mediterranean sensibility with Californian cuisine. Even the decor reminds me of the seaside cafés in the South of France, so of course I started with a nice glass of vinho verde for $6 during an afternoon Happy Hour.

There is a small but inviting outdoor patio with a small nook, providing outdoor dining when the temperature permits (which is most days in Southern California).

I came for the octopus tacos $9 for two, and they did not disappoint with tender morsels and good vegetables. Of course I also added hot sauce, and of course, they had three options 🙂

I was invited to an evening tasting of their new summer menu at Lunetta and enjoyed the meatballs for $16 so much that when I came back with a friend for lunch I raved about them, so she ordered them and literally cleaned her plate! This side salad came with the tender meatballs on creamy polenta, so it was a hearty but balanced meal.

I was going to order the grilled fish until I learned that it was salmon…so disappointed that even in California, Americans will eat salmon, but rarely eat any other fish. I understand restaurants can’t stock fish no one orders, so please EVERYONE in the USA, order a fish besides salmon and tuna!!!!! I beg you!!!! Try one that has a head and tail, that is NOT tilapia! Ok tirade over….so instead I ordered the tuna Niçoise which was delightful for $18.50 and came with a salad on the side like the meatballs!  The tuna was seasoned correctly, and I loved the farm egg with the rich yolk, cooked to perfection! I was carrying my French gray salt so I added some to my salad for the extra oomph I love, but I think most people would enjoy it was it was served.

We saved room for dessert and we were eying the table next to us eating the lemon ricotta pancakes (yes for lunch), so we ordered a brownie $3.25 and one pancake $5.25 with blueberry butter and maple syrup as a dessert 🙂

We discovered the brownie had chocolate chunks in it!!!!!Surprise hidden treasure of decadent richness that was just the right amount of sweetness. Spending time with a good friend is always a sweet experience, but sharing a meal together at Lunetta All Day made it a mini vacation to the mediterranean 🙂

Sausal means Willow in old Spanish (before this area became part of the US, this was Alta California, as opposed to Baja California which is still part of Mexico). The old styles of ranch cooking over flames and wood are now used with fresh local ingredients to create the cuisine that epitomizes the best blending of the old and new world sensibilities.

Since The Yelp Elite event, Experience El Segundo, I’ve been wanting to come back and enjoy the small town hospitality and flavors. As fate would have it, I am moving here! I will now be a local in a town that is literally midway between my South Bay friends and my Valley friends! While I was sitting in both Sausal the the local cafe, Blue Butterfly, the people who walked in were ALL greeted by name (none of them were named Norm)! I am very much looking forward to becoming part of this community 🙂

Happy Hour at Sausal is EVERYDAY from 3-6pm and their margarita was one of the tastiest and strongest I’ve ever imbibed for only $6. It was brilliant to serve it with a half salt rim because drinking from the midway point gave me just enough salt!

One of the Happy Hour Specials was the batter fried shrimp taco for $4 that was piled high with crunchy slaw. I had to cut it in half to get a bite into my mouth!

Since I had not eaten lunch, I ordered the chorizo quesadilla for $7, that was big enough to share.

Did I mention, I had not eaten lunch? I also ordered the short rib empanada, perhaps my favorite $4 happy hour bite, filled with tender tasty beef, and surrounded by a perfect crunchy pastry.

My first Happy Hour experience was so good, I had to repeat it a week later, with a beef mole tostada, loaded with so much tender, delectable chunks of shredded beef that every mouthful made me smile:) Even more amazing than the flavor was the quality and quantity of the serving at Happy Hour of only $4.

I could have easily stopped eating after the beef tostada, but I wanted just one more bite, so I chose the wild caught crispy ling cod fish taco off the regular menu for $6.50. Served on a blue corn tortilla, with charred tomato crema, and lots of grape tomatoes, this may be one of be best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten!

For vegetarians or vegans they offer a cauliflower taco $6

The margarita was so strong, that I stopped by Blue Butterfly for an Americano before driving away. I think I’ve found two places where I will become one of the regulars they know by name:)

Does anyone know what this is?

Are any of you fans of the TV series M*A*S*H*? Klinger’s favorite diner Tony Packo’s is famous for this! I was asked all those questions and didn’t know…so I will tell you the answer: a fried dill pickle! It was delicious! Sour, crunchy, salty, and you will definitely want more than one slice! Friends who live in the area near Old Town Torrance know this place well and had almost polished off the entire plate of ale battered fried pickles ($6.95) before I got there! They saved me one just because they love me:)

It was my first fried pickle, my first visit to Red Car Brewery, and my first Impossible Burger, a trifecta of winning experiences!

One of my friends ordered the Cobb Salad ($13.95) with balsamic and no bacon….I don’t share my friend’s palate, but the dish looked fresh. She didn’t care for the balsamic so asked for some ranch which she added to the salad…it didn’t seem to help her opinion of her meal.

Another friend ordered the grilled salmon ($17.95) with fresh vegetables which he demolished with relish.

I have been wanting to try the impossible burger, so when I saw it on the menu I had to order it! It came with coleslaw and either a salad or fries, so I opted for fries.

It was a very decent vegan burger with good taste and honestly with all the other components of the burger, it could have passed for meat. My friends thought the texture was a bit odd but they enjoyed it nonetheless.

I’m sure there will be return visits, but next time I will get there early and grab at least TWO slices of the fried pickle!

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