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When Americans think of an apéritif, they are likely envisioning a cocktail before dinner. In France the apéro is an afternoon gathering that includes cocktails, food, and friends in a social gathering that easily segues into evening. It’s the French version of happy hour, but it may be at someone’s home, a park, by a canal, or at a bar or bistro.

A few steps from the Place des Vosges is the Royal Turenne whose apéro offers both incredible deals and delightful fresh flavors on a perfect people watching corner. With very efficient servers, a lovely terrace for the rare days when Parisian weather is perfect.

You may choose a light albacore tataki,

 or traditional fish and chips made with haddock,

 or a wok stir fried Asian inspired sautée of chicken and vegetables. Two glasses of wine, coffee, and all three bites during their apéro, came to under 50 Euros.

Another French classic bite is the crêpe, which may also have a completely different connotation than what you may find in the US. Savory crêpes are called galettes and always made with buckwheat flour, whereas actual crêpes are made with flour, egg, milk, and sugar (like cakes). For a quick bite or a full meal at nearly any time of day, you may pick one up at a street vendor or enjoy an inexpensive meal at a crêperie all over France.

Les Embruns serves classic buckwheat galettes with the usual suspects of ham, cheese and egg and is an easy 2 blocks away from the Gare de Lyon, so many people stop by before or after a trip to get a satisfying meal served by very competent staff in a tight but light filled space. They have lunch specials for around 15 Euros, and nearly every item on the meal is not only well executed, but in some cases very very copious!

The biggest salad I have ever seen in Paris (they are famous for them); seriously this herring salad was big enough for a family of four to share!

Dessert was a lemon and sugar crêpe at another crêperie Au Beurre Salé about 2 blocks away.

 With a digestif of calvados 😉

I made meals out of “snacks” throughout the day because between jet lag and my shrunken Californian appetite, I couldn’t handle a large meal most days. Apéros and crêpes were both good ways to socialize, eat, and drink very well nearly any day of the week!

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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.

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 🙂

I may not have posted last week, but I have been eating! Hopefully this week’s post will make up for skipping one 🙂

I took a friend to Kagura in El Segundo for lunch and she loved the calm minimalist decor while enjoying her bountiful lunch gozen. She was amazed by the quality and quantity of her sushi lunch with tempura and mini side dishes that were all contrasting textures and flavors for under $25.

I ordered the miso black cod because it is one of the few items I had not yet tried on their menu, and it was one of the best I’ve ever eaten! The side of sashimi was an added bonus since I got to enjoy both cooked and raw fish for the same meal.

I finally went to happy hour at Kagura, that is every Monday-Thursday from 5-6:30 PM when they offer a menu of drinks, rolls, and appetizers, all for $4 or less! An amazing deal, especially considering the quality of the drinks and food they offer, like this 16 oz draft Sapporo for $3!

The seaweed salad for $4 was much larger than I expected but a bit overdone with the dressing; it was very tasty nonetheless.

They offer several hand rolls for $3.75, including this yellowtail version which was chock full of yellowtail.

This was the negitoro (tuna with green onion) also $3.75.

I love fried smelt; they are the french fries of seafood and I have been known to make and eat an entire plateful (see my Instagram for proof), but to minimize the temptation to overdo it, I ordered them here for $4, and although there were only three, they were big enough to satiate my craving.

I was too tempted by the fried calamari legs to stop eating, so I ordered them for $4, which would have been enough for any normal person (but not a foodie intent on trying everything)! Next time I will order either the smelt or the calamari legs, but not both 🙂

Continuing the Japanese theme, Sushi Roku in Santa Monica ended up being my dinner destination, so I continued the Japanese food theme and I indulged in my favorite Spanish Mackerel sushi while watching as my dining companion ate the standard tempura and tuna rolls, which he remarked were boring compared to what I ordered.

My last plate of the night was the yellowtail with jalapeno and ponzu, which was a very fitting way to end a full day of Japanese food, lightly, purely, and deliciously 🙂

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:)

Tavern has always been one of my favorite places to eat, and it just happened to be the closest place to go for a bite one afternoon. Luckily it was Happy Hour from 3-7pm, and although the Blue room was noisy and packed with 20 somethings, the former market side is now a bar, and it was much quieter, while offering the entire menu.

The lamb meatballs with currant relish, pine nuts and feta for $13 was hearty enough to share, and filling enough to be a small savory meal for a small appetite. I loved the North African influenced spices in this warmly fragrant dish.

The short rib taco with avocado, red onion, aioli, cilantro and scallions for $8, and the curried cauliflower tahini yogurt, cilantro, and poppy seeds for $6, both had very tasty fillings, but in both cases, the tortillas were COLD! We ended up eating the fillings and leaving the cold wrapping on the plate 😦 The pickled carrot and jalapeno on the side were nice additions to perk up the fillings even more.

The Spanish fried chicken with cumin-chili butter and romesco aioli for $13 was my favorite plate of all. It didn’t need the aioli, but a glass of wine was definitely a nice compliment to the hot, crisp, absolutely perfectly flavored bites. If you only order one thing for happy hour or as an appetizer, order this!

My friend wanted dessert, so she ordered the frozen lemon tart, made with Meyer lemon ice cream and honey lime meringue for $13. The presentation with citrus sections and kumquats was dessert art for my eyes.

I got a snickerdoodle to go, filled with a peanut butter filling that was so big and decadent it took me several days to finish it, but I did 🙂

I live near the coastline again, but much further south, so when I am in the vicinity of my old neighborhood, I stop by for some of the local places that are now a trek (24 miles=1+ hour in traffic) from Palos Verdes.

 

The Independence is just a short block away from the beach, and they have a great Happy Hour. This is where I had my first Paloma, and I must say none I’ve had since have even come close to the perfectly balanced tart tequila and grapefruit drink I had here. The Happy hour half off price of $6 made it even better 🙂

I had the oysters, but I would order something else, like the mussels or meatballs at this gastropub next time.

Every so often I crave a great donut….Sidecar is my favorite in Los Angeles, and their gingerbread during the holiday season with powdered sugar stars (which I messed up, sorry) is as beautiful as it is delicious. I’m glad it is seasonal or I might devour one a day (ginger is good for you after all)!

 

The most dangerous donut is their bacon donut, especially when it is warm….I am not responsible if you eat more than one 🙂

Los Angeles is infamous for its traffic, and sometimes it just is not worth getting on any freeway or surface street until it’s a bit less clogged. Notice I said “a bit”…lately it seems there is no “off peak” time anymore, but unless you are masochistic or have the patience of a saint, avoiding anytime between 4-6 pm might save a life (your own if you have high blood pressure). Happy hours are a great invention to get some food and calming liquid into your system. Please don’t over indulge and drive drunk, but if you have some time and eat something, one drink might mellow you out for your 2-3 hour commute. I take the metro more  often than I drive, so not only do I get to indulge in adult beverages, but I also watch the cars on the freeway from my perch on the rails 🙂

I took the metro Expo line to the terminus at Santa Monica and discovered the Independence about a block away. Weekdays from 3-6pm they offer a selection of $5 drinks and bites. I had my first Paloma here and loved it! It was nice and tart and strong enough that even though I was walking, I only had one 🙂

I couldn’t resist the oysters, but I wouldn’t choose them again….the lack of expert shucking left bits of shell and they were not the freshest. Neighboring patrons had the mussels and meatballs that smelled wonderful, but I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for dinner.

I was out in Claremont and happened to be in time for Bardot’s Happy Hour from 3-6pm on weekdays. They have special promos most evenings and Wednesday is Whiskey night with $7 cocktails and delicious $3 bites like crab cake sliders. I had a food issue which was resolved so quickly and professionally that I went back the next week.

The drink and food specials change depending on the day of the week for happy hour, so when I went back it was Martini Monday night; $7 for top shelf brands like Ketel One, Grey Goose, or Bombay Sapphire. I chose a “hot and dirty”, basically a dirty martini with a splash of tabasco 🙂

The $5 tuna tartare was fantastic with a bit of seaweed, guacamole, mango, and micro greens to complement the very fresh and excellent ahi. The crispy fried and salted wonton chips were so good that I defy you to have just one!

I already love Red Herring for brunch, but after trying their happy hour, I also love them for later in the day. Their Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm when you can get wine or cava for $7 and duroc pork belly bacon BLT sliders for $5 on a parker house roll (you get TWO for that price).

Frida is a popular place for Mexican drinks and bites, but I’d never tried them until recently. They have Happy Hour everyday from 3-7pm, with additional late night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday from 9-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 10-11pm. Well drinks are $5 and margaritas are $6 (add $2 for Cadillac or Agave). I chose the spicy and was very pleasantly surprised by the level of spice 🙂 

I didn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, so I ordered a veggie taco with portobello, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomato for $4. It was just enough to absorb some alcohol without filling me up too much to eat dinner.

When two friends braved the freeways to come see me, we stopped by for a quick drink and bite at Eden on Brand before a show. The space is modern, light, and airy, with the bar as the central focal point underneath a light sculpture.

One of my friends craved mac and cheese so we ordered it off the regular menu for $12. The pasta was a bit dense and thick for the lightly creamy sauce, but she enjoyed the flavors nonetheless.

Besides our drinks being discounted, their shrimp ceviche, with avocado cream, radish, and yuzu, was only $7 instead of $12. We all enjoyed this so much we would have ordered another if we had not been running late to the show. My friends loved their mojito, and when I told the bartender I preferred my paloma less sweet, he adjusted it perfectly 🙂

I think that happy hour doesn’t have to involve alcohol or savory food, and it can be anytime you want something to make you happy!

Three Twins organic ice cream makes me happy and if you don’t live near a location, you can buy their products in many markets nationwide. My cone of mint confetti in a teensy size was the perfect portion for me after a big lunch.

My other friends combined scoops of cardamom, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate to create their own bowl of joy:)

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