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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!

For me, breakfast always begins with coffee, so I went to Joe for a macchiato to start my morning.

I should have just gotten my caffeine at Donut Plant,

because their cappuccino was the best I had in NYC 🙂

The hand made, natural ingredient donuts were great, from the vanilla yeast,

to the tres leches,

and excellent cinnamon sugar. At about $4 each, they are worth the splurge in both calories and $ 🙂

My friends told me Maison du Macaron had great croissants, as well as macarons,

and other sweets,

but after living in Paris, I found them good, but not great.

I missed real NY bagels ever since I moved to CA decades ago, so I was thrilled to find Brooklyn Bagel, literally next door to my friend’s apartment (she never goes because she prefers croissants)! They have a full deli counter with flavored spreads, sandwiches, soups, and smoked fish.

Yes, they make their bagels on the premises!

The flavored spreads range from scallion and cucumber to smoked salmon and tuna,

but I chose plain cream cheese on an onion bagel,

and enjoyed every wonderfully rich warm bite (they will toast the bagel for you if you ask them). The regular size is easily enough for two, but I “somehow” ate the whole thing 🙂

One of the things I miss most from the US is bacon. Thick cut, chewy, crisp, fatty American bacon is as hard to find in Paris as a Dodo bird (the bacon they sell is either so salty you can’t eat it plain (because it’s meant to flavor a stew), or something akin to Canadian bacon. I went to Trestle for a full American breakfast, with eggs, hashbrowns,  bacon, and toast. I loved that I could get tabasco for my eggs (like finding a Dodo bird egg in France), and that the orange juice was freshly squeezed. It was a $25 breakfast including tax and tip, but for someone who hasn’t had these simple pleasures in years, it was worth the exorbitant price tag.

A brunch breakfast bowl at Cookshop was also pricey at $16 for this plate of kale, spinach, faro wheat berries, feta, hazelnuts, egg, and falafel. It was a hearty bowl but could have used a bit of zing with either spice or acid to perk it up.

A bottle of old Brown Dog Ale was a great accompaniment for $8,

as was the view from the sidewalk patio of the  High Line Hotel.

There are many ways to get around Barcelona, from the old fashioned horse and carriage,

to the modern electric car, but my favorite was simply to walk.

The modes of transportation are the only things that offer both old and new; construction of modern buildings around historical monuments abounds.

Before starting my day, I tried a second cafe

that had the nicest service

with good coffee, excellent freshly squeezed orange juice, and mediocre croissants

but a good apple pastry (according to the person who ate it and let me take a picture).

A few metro stops away, I saw this bakery, which looked fantastic, but there was no way I was going to start my day on the metro without breakfast.

I had a cone of Iberico in La Boqueria from Mas, but I saw that they also have stand alone stores.

Walking can lead to unexpected discoveries, like this shrine near Park Güell,

or these passageways

some leading into courtyards.

As dusk fell, it was time for dinner. Gilda has great reviews in the Gothic Quarter, and since it was a few blocks from where I was staying, I made a reservation through The Fork, which gives diners a discount on two tapas and a main course. The welcome and ambiance are warm, and the artwork is for sale, making it a showcase for artists.

I chose the ham croquetas for one of my tapas and was surprised at how big they were, there was definitely enough to share. As for the croquetas, they used quality ham and I would certainly order these again.

The garlic prawns were my favorite bite of all, lightly cooked and slightly spicy, I wanted to make a meal of them!

The steak and fries were a disappointment after the rock star prawns. I ordered the steak very rare and it came out pink, but not red. It came with a peppercorn sauce, but it lacked flavor and I was glad there was salt and pepper on the table. The Belgians are known for great fries, and they did not disappoint on this plate. Service was a bit hit and miss the night I was there; they had a problem in the kitchen and it affected the wait staff who forgot to bring me a steak knife, added a charge for bottled water I did not order, and neglected my discount from The Fork*. All remedied in the end, but a reminder to always check your bill before paying it. My total with a glass of wine and the discount came to 20 Euros or about $23 for quality food in a nice atmosphere.

The strolling the Ramblas after dinner

I passed the Gran Teatre del Liceu where they were getting ready to open for an evening of Opera.

I was about to turn in for the night when my host invited another house guest and me to a Couchsurfing event at Polaroid Bar, literally next to our place. I’m glad I accepted the invitation because I met people from all over the world, including Latvia, Germany, Italy, France, and of course the US. It was a Couchsurfing event, so we got discounted draft beer, and even though I don’t usually drink beer, it was better than the wine and the sweet mixed drinks, so I had my first beer in years here for the incredible price of 1.50 Euros (less than $2) for a pint!

On another night we went to Juanita Lalà, which had much better wine, and very loud music, but a great patio and enough space for some South Americans to strut their dance moves. We left when the place emptied at 3 AM, and headed to the Placa Reial to go clubbing but all three places we tried to get into were full or had monster lines!

After getting some snacks at the local market, we headed back around 4AM, but we weren’t the only ones out. I felt perfectly safe out that late with other people, but if I had been alone, I would definitely stick to the main streets and take a taxi if I was coming back from or to the Gothic quarter.

*Note : They had a problem with my US credit card, so bring cash or an EU credit card.

Le Flore en L’Ile is one of the first places you’ll see as you walk or drive to Ile St. Louis on the Quai Orléans, and like every place on the island, they serve Berthillon ice cream. If the line to Berthillon is too long, or it’s after 8pm, you can enjoy your cone or cup on this lovely terrace with a view of the Seine. The line on the right was for scoops to go and the line was almost as long as the one at Berthillon.

If you are lucky enough to get a warm sunny day in Paris, take advantage of your treasure and spend some time soaking in the living street theater of life at a café like this one. Since this is a prime location, prices will be higher than places tucked away on a side street, but remember that you can sit all day for the price you pay and some people looked like they had spent the entire afternoon sipping their wine or coffee.

My friend had never been to Paris, so we had to order a quintessential French dish; a ham quiche with salad. She declared it the lightest tastiest quiche she had ever tasted, and loved the simple vinaigrette on the salad. It was a very generous portion and we split it since we just wanted a snack, not dinner.

We came to the island for her to taste Berthillon ice cream, so she got 2 scoops with a caramel sauce, a tuile almond crisp, and whipped cream. This dessert cost 12€ ($16 US), which was more than our quiche, but she declared it was worth every Euro.

Just north of Ile St. Louis is the Marais neighborhood and I decided to introduce her to classic bistro at the Café des MuséesI loved their lamb, but after eating a substantial “snack” earlier, my friend and I both opted for the special fish of the day, a St. Pierre, simply grilled on a plancha, with cauliflower and watercress, served on a bed of tomatoes for 23€ ($28 US). It was a perfect summer dinner, and I drank a lovely generous glass of Chablis for under 6 € ($8 US).

My friend is a dessert lover, so she savored the thick rich chocolate terrine with two sauces for dessert, while I ordered another glass of wine for my dessert. 

Sweet travel tip : a great way spend your first day in Paris is eating at least two desserts upon arrival:)

Sycamore Kitchen is my Mid City alternative to Huckleberry in Santa Monica. Even the fact that the owners are married and she specializes in sweet baked goods and breads while he tends to the savory side of the menu are common themes!

 

Their spectacular salads made me drive to them twice in one week for lunch! Even at 2pm, there was a line, so in less than a year people have already made this a favorite. With an enclosed patio and rustic/industrial interior, you have a choice of atmosphere if you manage to find a seat (there are communal tables which do not get filled as quickly).

 

They offer several specials which seem to be semi-permanent, but on my first foray I ordered the permanent menu choice of a Choinoix Chicken Salad, made with shredded chicken, cabbage, tat soy, apple, almond, puffed rice, carrots, and muddled ginger vinaigrette ($12). It was delightful. The light vinaigrette enhanced rather than drowned the salad. I was impressed by the creative mix of greens, nuts, and puffed rice in what would otherwise be a mundane salad. The portion size was very generous and many people took half their meals to go, but I loved mine so much, I ate every bite:)

 

Another day, another salad, so the next time I came in I ordered the Vietnamese beef salad special for $15. Five spiced flank steak, cabbage, red peppers, chile, cilantro and peanuts in a soy lime vinaigrette made this a taste of a green Vietnam. Even though I HATE cilantro, I still loved this salad (I simply picked out the offending cilantro and left it in my bowl). The five spice was subtle, the beef was tender, the vinaigrette refreshing, and the medley of colors and flavors was exotic and complex. If this is available and you eat red meat, order it!

I can not live on salads alone, so I took advantage of the short rib sandwich special for $13 on another visit. Made with onion stout jam, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and horseradish mayo, this was pure comfort in a sandwich. Served with a side salad of mixed greens, this tender concoction of meat could probably turn a vegetarian into a meat eater (maybe not, but it might at least tempt them).

Since they are a bakery and are as well known for their baked goods as their meals, I had to at least try a few sweet treats. The Lemon Polenta pound cake with blackberries had fewer blackberries than I would have liked, but the fact that there were fresh whole blackberries in this cake was in and of itself a nice surprise. The pound cake had a nice tangy lemon taste and the polenta gave it texture that set it apart from regular flour pound cakes.

The blueberry oat bar is the dessert to order if you want something fruity that is not too sweet. I liked the texture of the bar, and the generous layer of blueberries. If you like oatmeal with blueberries, you will love this dessert. All their baked goods are about $3 and they offer everything from Quinoa bran muffins to Dark Ale Spiced Gingerbread, so you can be as adventurous as your palate demands.

It seems the Hatfields have managed to create a second success; not all that surprising since they have also managed to raise two children 🙂

 

Sycamore Kitchen on Urbanspoon

You can find the Eveleigh hidden behind a wooden fence. This former residence was remodeled into a restaurant, and if you want to find it, you have to keep an eagle eye out. If you blink, you can easily miss the entrance to the restaurant’s valet parking ($6), a few feet East of the big florescent green rotund building.

There are two outdoor spaces, so try to come on a warm sunny day when you can enjoy the trees, grass, and climate of Southern California. Since this was a home, this means that the former owners had the unheard of luxury of a front and back yard on Sunset Boulevard!

The offer decent wines by the glass, but because they also offer signature cocktails, I tried the Poor Carlito, made with Milago tequila, fresh lime, honey, and smoked salt for $12. I enjoyed this salty citrusy take on Margaritas and would have had another if I didn’t need to drive home (it was so smooth I didn’t realize how strong it was until I had finished it).

One of the special sandwiches was a Sloppy Joe, made with pulled pork, pickled red onions, and a creamy horseradish mayonnaise on foccacia for $16. The bread was dense and tasty, but I loved the contrast of the rich pulled pork with the pickled red onions. The portion was so big I ended up eating the filling with a fork after eating some of the bread. This was definitely too “sloppy” and big to eat with your hands. Thankfully, the waiter brought me a steak knife to help me conquer this hearty lunch. The chips were good, but were unevenly salted, so I concentrated on the sandwich.

I thought it was an appropriate way to start off St. Patrick’s Day Week-end by getting the ‘bubble & squeak’, made with corned brisket, fingerling potato hash, kale, scotch egg for $14. I LOVED the scotch egg! For anyone who has never had one, get this dish and you will be hooked on the crispy batter fried egg done to a perfect medium (solid white, running yolk). The corned beef was meltingly tender and flavorful, and the kale and onions added a nice change of texture and flavor to the rich egg and meat. My only critique was that it was very greasy (that is oil you see at the bottom of the photo) so do not order this dish if you are counting your calories.

With a wonderful space, unique cocktails, and great meat dishes, this is a place for anyone who wants a tranquil getaway for a brunch or lunch on Sunset.*

*Since tomorrow is the Los Angeles Marathon, this entire strip of Sunset is towaway starting at 4am March 17, so if you want to eat brunch here, plan to park else where and walk (you CAN walk in Los Angeles, especially since so many others will be running:)

The Eveleigh on Urbanspoon

Tammie’s Corner House Cafe was literally 1 block from the place I rented in Hermosa, so I had to try it for lunch. It is a great breakfast destination since I saw a line of people waiting for a seat on Sunday afternoon when I arrived at the beach (it also helps that it is one block from the sand). The owner and waitress were both very welcoming and friendly and they give the place a personal friendly vibe befitting a casual beach cafe. Several of the other people were regulars, and I met the family at the next table because we wanted to order the same items. The cute flower boxes lining the patio area also added to the nice ambiance.
I chose the grilled chicken salad for $9.95. Tammie explained that they are known for their huge portions and it was a massive plate, nearly 12 inches wide! The vegetables were done with balsamic, but a bit overdone, as was the dressing. The garlic bread was nicely done and gave me something to soak up the extra dressing with as I enjoyed the generous chicken breast pieces. This was a pleasant healthy plate, not very well executed or extraordinary, but for the service, price, and location, it is outstanding. The breakfast items looked much better, with nearby plates of pancakes, eggs & chorizo, and muffins, all enticing me to try breakfast instead of lunch. The service was so nice I am inclined to come back if I can wake up and get here early enough to want breakfast.

Tammie's Corner House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Abigaile has only been in its present location since February and I hope it maintains its presence as a twinkling gastronomic star in a sleepy beach town. it is packed on week-ends, but since it was a weekday, the place was nearly empty. Happy Hour is from 4-7 and their house made infusions, wines, and small plates are all reduced prices. I asked the bartender if the Penelope house infusion was sweet and he said it was the least sweet and he would go lightly on the agave for me, so I tried this house infused serrano chile herradura, fresh grapefruit juice, agave nectar, basil libation for $9 ($11 non happy hour). It was as spicy as advertised, and I’m glad the bartender Justin made it less sweet for me. I would opt for the house Pinot Noir next time, but I’m glad I tried a house specialty drink.
This place might be beer drinker heaven. They actually brew their own beer on the premises and offer five varieties of home made craft beers as well as a full page menu of other beers and ales for true connoisseurs.
Having the brewing equipment onsite makes the entrance to the place stunning.
I’m glad that I asked before ordering several plates because just the salt and pepper prawns with XO pea tendrils and garlic chips ($13 during happy hour $15 other times) was a complete meal for me. It was the best plate I ate during my entire stay at the beach. It was so good that I will make the 15 mile drive from Los Angeles just to come back and eat this dish! There were so many other things I wanted to try on the menu; they have bone marrow, Peruvian Hamachi Tiradito, local forage mushroom polenta, pao de queijo (Brazilian cheesy puffs), 24 hour braised oxtail ragu, and tempura Blue Lake green beans. With a menu like this, I need to invite an entire city of foodies to taste it with me.
P.S. I went back on a Saturday when they have their special porchetta with kale salad and it is definitely worth making a trip to the beach on a Saturday just to eat this unctuous tender meat treat (and yes the skin was the best part)!
Let’s create a Foodie City, where every day is a delicious adventure!

Abigaile and Ocean Bar on Urbanspoon

Zazou, in Redondo Beach, was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the South Bay, and one my first night back, I decided to go with a place I knew, even if it had changed. I chose the 8 hour braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach for $29. It was a beautiful LARGE plate and I looked forward to my first taste, but unfortunately the meat was not as tender as an eight hour braise should have made it. The flavors were good, not outstanding, but a decent blend of reduced beef stock. The fresh spinach saute and potatoes were both fine side dishes and the carrots and onions from the braising liquid added a nice textural component to this dish. This plate was so large, I could only eat half of it! My waitress was so wonderful she laughed when she asked if I wanted dessert, seeing I had left so much of my main course on the plate. I told her no dessert, but a decaf espresso would be great.
The decaf espresso was great, with perfect crema and made with excellent Lavazza beans.

Zazou on Urbanspoon

I went to Paciugo Gelato, in Hermosa Beach, for my dessert since it gave me time to drop off my leftovers and walk off some of my dinner. I love gelato and to have a place in Hermosa that does it well was one of the changes I loved finding in my old hometown. A small cone or cup can hold up to three flavors for under $5, with exotic options like strawberry lavender, wedding cake, and black pepper olive oil, you can chose something new or in my case, two old flavors, like coconut chocolate rum and extra dark chocolate. The perfect way to end a day is with a stroll along the beach and a cone of excellent gelato!

Paciugo Gelato Caffe on Urbanspoon

A new day meant finding a great coffee place to start my day and it looked like Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach was THE place to get something called a “Flat White”. They use 3 shots of espresso and 6 oz of steamed milk (I got soy) for this smooth nonfrothy drink. I loved it. I especially loved the friendly baristas and the fact that they use Caffe Vita beans from Seattle which emphasize Fair Trade and Organic beans. If you frequent the area (or their shop) get a frequent user card and get a free drink after buying nine. The first Tuesday of every month is Ducati night when you can  drink free coffee as you peruse the latest models of this classic Italian motorcycle.

Two Guns Espresso + Coffee on Urbanspoon

After my Flat White at Two Guns Espresso, I really didn’t need anymore espresso, so even though they had organic coffees and teas, I opted for a light but sustaining breakfast, so I went to Planet Earth in Hermosa. I chose their house made granola with soy milk for $5.95. It was delicious, with bits of dried unsulfured apricots, cherries, coconut, and almonds. They have plenty of options for vegans, those who are dairy or gluten sensitive, and anyone who wants their food to be organic, free trade, and home made. The only drawback to the place is that they are so disorganized they had trouble keeping up with orders and ran out of ingredients like bananas for my granola by 10 am. One customer waited 20 minutes for eggs, another waited 10 minutes for a quinoa bowl. Since most people don’t have the luxury of time for breakfast, especially on a weekday, they need to work on their executions and supplies so their mises (preparation of their ingredients for the dishes) are en place (ready). No matter how good their intentions and supplies, they will not survive without better organization.

Planet Earth Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon        More Beach Bites tomorrow 🙂
A superfecta of rarities converged at Joe’s in Venice this Sunday:
1) I woke up early enough to go to brunch
2) I met the family of a friend whose current and past spouses who get along
3) A new moon

Our meal started with delicious brioche bread, walnut bread, and home made strawberry jam. We had to remind ourselves to stop devouring this side so we would have room to eat our meals.

The professional chef in the group, Cathy, ordered the Little Gem Wedge Salad for $6 which was served with pickled shallots, walnut crumble, pancetta with a blue cheese dressing. She generously shared bites of this fresh salad with the table.

We ordered sweet grits for $4 that was delightful. Sweetened with brown sugar and generously buttered, this Southern comfort side dish made me (a Northerner) a grits fan!

We also ordered two orders of the Brioche French Toast with Gravenstein Apples, Golden Raisins Orange Flower Cream for the table. Everyone agreed this was the lightest yet most decadent French Toast we had ever tasted. As someone who usually does not gravitate towards sweets, I was so impressed with this “appetizer” that I actually took TWO bites!

The teenager in our group, Sidra, ordered the Buttermilk Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs, Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Vermont Maple Syrup for $10. For a basic breakfast, the version here was done with better ingredients and a deft hand.

My fellow foodie friend David ordered the Open Faced Porchetta Sandwich, made with Salsa Verde, Fried Egg, Parmesan, Market Salad for $14 which he polished off with a smile.

The artist, Krista, ordered the Green Chili and Turkey Chorizo Breakfast Burrito, made with Ranchero Sauce, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Cilantro for $12 (she took this perfect picture) and enjoyed it.

I ordered the Pacific Stone Crab Hash with soft poached eggs, made with Red & Yellow Peppers, Potatoes, and Rosemary-Mustard Nage for $15. The eggs were so perfectly done the artist of our party wanted to take a picture from her seat at my side to capture their beauty. I should have taken her up on her offer to do that since my shadow detracted from this shot.

Cathy ordered the Grilled Jidori Chicken Breast panzanella salad, white balsamic, tomatoes and zucchini. Although the chicken was moist, it needed a bit more flavor, so she asked for a side of salsa verde which made the dish as tasty as it looks.

Perhaps Sunday’s Superfecta is a sign that the rest of year will be filled with the good food and friends:)

Joe's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

One of the best reasons to travel is to find new places to eat 🙂 Even though I’ve been to Santa Barbara numerous times, there are always new places to try and I was very happy to find Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro within walking distance of my rental, just  behind busy State Street.

I was impressed that this small bakery serves breakfast made with organic cage free, grain fed eggs, and all their salad greens and coffee are also organic. Their breakfast pastries start at only $2.25 and if you want a light breakfast, you can have a bowl of yogurt with homemade jam and granola for only $4.50.

I chose the Renaud breakfast with a pastry, side of fruit (or you may chose juice) and coffee or tea for $6.95). I chose a pain au raisin for my pastry and was delighted to find it was done with real butter, light flaky pastry, and a few sprinkles of salt for a surprisingly nice boost of flavor.

The fresh fruit was a pretty assortment of peach, apricot, cantaloupe, strawberry, and pineapple.The peach could have been riper, but the rest of the fruit was ripe and tasty.

Renaud's Patisserie & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Even with coffee at Renaud’s, I needed an espresso and went to French Press on State Street for my fix. Unfortunately the hype about this place far outweighed both the service and the coffee. The coffee here was much like the vibe….looked good, but tasted terrible. It was actually sour! Service and pastries both fell short of good, making this a place a “do not return” with good options elsewhere.

The French Press on Urbanspoon

A place I will definitely return is Tupelo Junction Cafe. Recommended by a local, and one of those places that made me do a second take when I looked at the menu, this is THE place for a hearty breakfast, lunch, happy hour, or dinner if you love Southern food. I chose the Wild Mushroom, asparagus, black truffle cheese scramble with baby greens and homemade bread and jam for $14. Somehow I managed to finish this gigantic plate!

The atmosphere was casual, the service was hospitable, and the food was exemplary, regardless of whether you preferred something as upscale as the omelette I ordered, or if you wanted just biscuits and sausage gravy (both made in house) for $6. For those who want a sweet breakfast, they have a Waffle Lady’s pumpkin oatmeal waffle with caramelized bananas, candied pecans and real maple syrup for $12 that will give you a sugar high for the day! Water is served in mason jars, and they make all their jams and preserves, so if you love something, you can take a jar home.

Tupelo Junction Cafe on Urbanspoon

Santa Barbara is only one and a half hours away, but spending a few days away makes it feel like it’s a world away from my “normal” life in Los Angeles (especially since I did not have to deal with jet lag:)

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