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

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

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

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

Or you can order a glass of wine for $6

 and smoked free range chicken for $6.

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

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

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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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