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I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

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My name is Elaine and I am addicted to Armenian food. I wish to remain a very happy addict, so no interventions please 🙂

Monta Factory is a SIX seat place in East Pasadena that will serve you their creations hot or frozen to go so you can make it at home. Think of it like ordering a pizza hot to eat soon or there, but also having the option of taking a frozen one to make yourself at home later. Monta are tiny dumplings made by hand that is a very labor intensive food. Unless you have a grandmother or great grandmother who is dexterous enough and who loves you enough to make a batch for you, your best hope for a taste of this wonderful food is to go to Monta Factory. They are the only place anywhere outside of someone’s home where you can eat these. They tell me people travel from out of state to buy several trays, pack them in ice, then drive or fly home.

The marvelous family here are so warm and welcoming that whether it is your first visit or thousandth, they will treat you with a gentle disposition and broad smile 🙂

The family here makes everything from scratch daily, so they may be the hardest workers in the city. I can’t even imagine the repetitive, laborious, and exacting labor of love this requires every morning as they hand make each tiny piece for the day. I love their spicy version as well as their regular version. As long as you have an oven or toaster oven, any leftovers can easily be reheated in 10 minutes.

I took a large frozen tray for a picnic to go and took a picture of the directions to make sure I followed them correctly:)

This is how they turned out with the yogurt garlic cream poured over the entire tray. An Armenian friend said he was going to get a tray to take home to his elderly parents because it was something he had not eaten in decades.

They only sell a few things on their menu, the Monti (or Monte), that everyone knows about, but also the best Wild Salmon Sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It is made with a special tahini sauce, that was so good I went back twice in one week for it, and the serving was such a generous portion that I ended up with two meals!

I heard a customer order the salmon over salad, so that is what I tried on another day. Depending on how hungry or carb conscious you are, their salmon over a salad is an equally delicious alternative.

Be sure you get a slice of their freshly made (daily) su beoreg. This is a cheesy crispy slice of indulgence that will make you crave another one of the soft interior with a crackling top as soon as you finish your last piece.

Now that I live 37 miles away, I will be making the trip with an ice pack and an insulated sac for a tray or two of their frozen Monte, a few salmon sandwiches, and some slices of the su beoreg so that I will never be more than a few minutes from great Armenian food #addicted 🙂

I miss my former butcher shop Lindy & Grundy, but I’ve found Garni Meat Market, a small family run place in Pasadena that not only sells meat, but will cook it for you for no extra charge! Whole Foods finally started doing this, but Garni has been including this service for years!

This small family owned and run shop carries quality raw meat and poultry, marinated meats, and sides galore.

This home made recipe of a creamy spinach spread was just one of many delicious options available alongside hummus and olive dips.

If you want to create your own custom recipe, they have walls and shelves stocked with spices, olives, oils, syrups, flavored waters, rice, beans, and pastas. Everything in the shop is spotlessly clean, well organized, and high quality.

It was much too hot to cook, so I asked them to do it for me:) I loved their spicy chicken wings (hot enough for me, so maybe too hot for people who don’t like flames in their mouth) and succulent pork chops. The beef was tender, but next time I will make that myself since my idea of rare really only translates well in Europe. The bread underneath soaked up all the natural juices and even though I said I only wanted enough for two meals, this was enough food to last me for FOUR, and all for under $25, including a pound of the spinach dip!

If you are even close to this neighborhood, stop by with some ice packs and a cooler to take home some of their meat, or just have them cook for you and enjoy a picnic or party at home without any effort!

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 🙂

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.

The predawn close up view of the floats is incredible, but so is seeing the same floats in natural daylight with people on them and the animations running:)

There were lots of horses,

 including the famous Clydesdales,

 who had their own mascot,

 and luxury transportation.

There was plenty of security.

The Goodyear Blimp hovered overhead with several helicopters.

Porta-potties were strategically placed on side streets.

The Red Cross was on hand in case anyone needed CPR.

But I doubt that this dragon will attack those people 🙂

The parade may be over for this year but some slogans ring true all year long:)

At 5 AM this morning I experienced the magical Rose Parade up close for the first time:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are very few places I will drink coffee in the United States; Urth Cafe and The Conservatory, are my local favorites. I recently discovered Jameson Brown in Pasadena, and after just two visits, it has risen to the top of my favorites list. Like the Conservatory, they roast their own beans, and like Urth Cafe, they offer good pastries and snacks with their coffee. All three of my favorite places offer organic teas and water process decaf for those of us who are sensitive to the pesticides found in most commercial products. There is plenty of easy street parking and a few outdoor tables. Inside, the brick building is bright, open, and inviting, with a couch, a fireplace and WiFi for those who want to stay awhile and work or study. Friday and Saturday nights they have musicians who play for food and coffee, so this can be your local live entertainment spot.

The Mayan Mocha is my favorite beverage here, so much so that I not only drove 20 miles here the day after I first tasted it, but I also took two to go home with me (to be reheated later). Made with Ghiradelli chocolate, cinnamon, and a bit of spicy chipotle chili, this twist on a classic had a nice warmth which is absolutely addictive. The first day I ordered it, it was presented like this:

The next day a different barista made this gorgeous design on my Mayan Mocha:

One of us got the regular latte and even though I preferred my Mayan Mocha, this was an excellent version of the classic coffee drink.

For those who want other unusual variations, they also offered a snowball (made with coconut and white chocolate), and a lavender latte, and even the largest of these inventive drinks is less than $4.50 each! Their special drink this week is an iced latte horchata.

Their chocolate chip cookies were a decent version, not as decadent as Madame Chocolat‘s, but also not as boring as commercially made ones.

The bear claw was am excellent breakfast pastry, with a nice almond paste and streusal interior.

For those wanting less sugary snacks, they also serve bagels and Romanian flatbread, which is similar to a large savory tortilla.

Jameson Brown offers everything you could ask for from a coffee house, quality ingredients, skilled service, a welcoming atmosphere, and that rare ingredient found in all great establishments, a commitment to always doing their best.

Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

I went on a “vacation” only a few miles away from home recently. A friend was house sitting in Pasadena and even though it was only 20 miles away, I felt as if I was hundreds of miles from my life in Los Angeles. I learned that even a small change of environment for a short time can have magically restorative results, especially when paired with good friends and good food.

Mi Piace was always on my list of places to try, but it was also on my list of “have not made it there yet” until this week. In the heart of Old Town Pasadena, it is the quintessential New York Italian restaurant (in California). It’s in a beautiful classic space with high ceilings, patio tables, and white tablecloths, all of which add to the old world charm while maintaining a Californian casual vibe. Since I ate with another former New Yorker (who also took all the pictures since I forgot both my camera and my phone), and a California native, this was the perfect choice for a bit of both worlds.

We started with the cream of corn special soup which had a sweet rich flavor enhanced with a drizzle of truffle oil, a bit of pico de gallo and avocado. Since this soup had no cream, it was actually much lighter than it looked and the combination of textures added a nice contrast to the smooth puree of corn.

I had the spinach salad, made with Michigan tart dried cherries, California goat cheese, fresh strawberries and candied pecans, tossed with an apple cider balsamic dressing. This was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten! The pairing of the goat cheese, strawberries, cherries and pecans was not only inspired and artful, but absolutely delicious. I never would have believed these ingredients would compliment each other as well as they did until I took a bite and finished the entire 12″ plate!

Every one’s favorite dish of the night was the spicy shrimp appetizer, made with garlic, red onion, white wine and chili flakes, served on a bed of fettuccine. This dish was perfectly executed (sorry the pic is fuzzy). So good that we all could not resist taking more bites even after we got our main courses.

Spinach was my theme for the evening, as I segued to the spinach and goat cheese gnocchi in a marinara sauce that was as bright and fresh as the picture suggests. The gnocchi were light and filling, a great choice for vegetarians, it was served with caramelized garlic and roasted ricotta.

The Carbonara was equally well executed, with bits of pancetta and baby peas. A very nice touch was that they use organic egg for this classic dish.

The Spaghetti alla pina brimmed with mussels and clams in a spicy tomato sauce. It was tasty, but not as outstanding as the shrimp appetizer in terms of spiciness and flavor.

Since we went on a Tuesday, we were treated to the Tuesday night special of 25% off a bottle of wine!

Only one of us was able to find room for dessert, a chocolate soup souffle made with Belgian bittersweet chocolate, and served with Chantilly cream and ripe strawberries. I tasted a teeny bit and that alone was enough to send me into a chocolate sugar coma!

All together, with the wine, soft drinks, appetizers, main courses, dessert and a double espresso, the three of us ate for about $55 each. As Arnold would say, “We’ll be back”, and next time I will bring my camera!

Mi Piace on Urbanspoon

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