May 2013 archive

Los Angeles Part 2

Feast your eyes on these pancakes. The Griddle Cafe, as seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, located on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood is known for their huge pancakes. As soon as we walked in we saw the size of these griddle cakes. I have never in my life seen such ginormous pancakes. We sat down and ordered just one pancake for the two of us because truthfully, we wanted to be able to eat again that day. Our choice was the Cinnamon, Banana, Brown Sugar Streusel pancakes. They were huge, fluffy, sweet, and satisfying. The two of us barely made a dent in these, and still left feeling quite stuffed.

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Later that day we were feeling hungry again, so we decided to grab a bite at Toast Bakery Cafe. This restaurant is pretty well known by locals and tourists and is quite a trendy spot. It has been featured on shows such as “The Hills”, “Entourage” and “Rachel Zoe”. Whether you stop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there are plenty of options to choose from. Since it was kind of an off time to eat, Jonty and I just shared a delicious, fresh chicken wrap with a side of fries.

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I do enjoy eating healthy, as hard as it may be to believe. Fresh pressed juice and juice cleanses are all the rage these days, and I have been jonesing to try Pressed Juicery in Los Angeles, which is a trendy hot spot, and celebrity favourite. I was in need of a little refresher, so I chose the “Greens 2” and “Greens 3”. They contained kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, and the Greens 3 had ginger added to it. To be honest, they are not the best tasting things, but they are drinkable and extremely healthy and nutrient dense.

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Dinner time had come around and we decided on the well-known, supposedly amazing, Asian fusion spot called Katsuya. Located in the heart of Hollywood this chic, trendy, bustling restaurant is packed every night. We arrived without a reservation, so we had a drink at the bar while we waited about a half hour for a table.

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At first glance of the menu, we knew we were in for a treat. For appetizers, we ordered the sashimi salad which was mixed greens with a spicy, creamy ponzu dressing, topped with the chef’s selection of assorted sashimi. The freshness of the fish, paired with the raw vegetables was a refreshing start to the meal. The next dish is what Katsuya is most famous for, the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna. After the first bite, it was clear why it is their most sought after dish. Picture white rice, fried to a crispy texture, and topped with a mixture of raw tuna and spicy mayo. The taste was explosive. I could use one of these right about now!

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Wagyu tenderloin was next. Now, I am not exaggerating when I say this, but I can confidently say that it was one of the best steak dishes I have ever had. It was slow roasted and served with soy au jus. The sweetness, juiciness and perfect texture really made this stand out.

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As for rolls, we ordered a yellowtail roll, spider roll, and another Katsuya favourite, the Rock Shrimp Tempura roll. This roll was a spicy tuna roll on crack, since it was topped with rock shrimp tempura tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce. These rolls were out of this world, and some of the best I have ever had.

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After all this eating, it was time for some physical activity. California is known for it’s amazing hiking trails, so we chose the beautiful, quiet Topanga Canyon in Malibu. However, we did need some fuel before this journey. We stopped at a local Manhattan Beach favourite called Uncle Bill’s Pancake house. Our seat on the patio with the ocean as our backdrop and the sun beating down on us could not have been more perfect. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we went all out. We both ordered eggs, mine with hash browns his with fries, which each came with either pancakes, toast or muffins, so between the two of us, we got all three! On top of all this, Jonty ordered a chicken, apple sausage. Our table was barely big enough for all this food. The pancakes were fluffy, the muffins were moist and full of flavour, and the whole meal really hit the spot.

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Along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Malibu is this little fish shop called the Reel Inn. We stopped by and enjoyed a platter of fried goodness on the back patio. Delicious calamari, shrimp, haddock, and french fries filled our bellies.

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Here is some proof that we actually got some exercise (along with a breathtaking view)!

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If you ever go to LA, you must visit Venice. Some really cool restaurants and shops can be found around here. For dinner, we picked Gjelina, based on wonderful reviews and recommendations. The atmosphere is dark, almost industrial, with a trendy vibe. While waiting outside for our table, I spotted the canoodling couple, Adam Brody and Leighton Meester! Anyways, back to the food. We were seated on the gorgeous outdoor patio, furnished with wooden furniture, and vines growing along the walls. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of our pizza, which was topped with mushrooms, goat cheese, fontina cheese and truffle oil. They are all cooked in a wood burning oven and come out a little bit burnt, but regardless it was still enjoyable. Next was the hanger steak with chili, lime, mint and spring onions, which were all grilled and cooked perfectly. Our other choices were salt and pepper frites with romesco (nut and red pepper-based sauce) and a garlic aioli, along with kale which seemed almost BBQ’d, topped with a yogurt, ricotta sauce, shaved fennel, and macadamia nuts. The kale was a little burnt for our liking, but the crunch and nuttiness from the macadamia nuts and the unexpected creaminess from the sauce brought it all together. The fries however were unreal. Thin, crispy and salty, just how I like them.

*sorry, the picture isn’t so great, it was dark outside and I really don’t like using the flash…

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The next day we headed to Santa Monica and decided on Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, since Jonty had always wanted to try it and it was located right on the pier, overlooking the beach. Another fried platter for us (FML!), which included hush puppies, fried fish, shrimp, and french fries.

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After walking along Venice Beach, we were starting to feel a little peckish. We stopped by the take-out window, Schulzies, which is a little bread pudding shop. We chose a small sampler which is three flavours, in which I chose, original, blackberry, and caramel. It was incredibly sweet, amazing, and rich, so the size was perfect for us to share. That being said, next door we came across a sashimi place called Poke Poke. This was an unexpected, yet incredible discovery. We chose spicy tuna on top of brown rice. The fish was so fresh, the sauce was perfect, and the healthy brown rice made us almost lick the bowl clean.

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***Almost done, I promise!

Finally, what has been the topic of conversation, our dreams, and our imagination, finally became reality. It came time to try the one and only Rocoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.

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Jonty and I love chicken and waffles, but have always wanted to try the original, famous hot spot. Naturally, we ordered a ton of food. Fried chicken, waffles, cornbread, mac and cheese, chicken sausage, and french fries. When it all arrived, we dug our faces right in and didn’t look up. We were in actual heaven. The chicken was obviously amazing, juicy and fried to perfection, along with a thin, yet buttery waffle. I love cornbread, and this just tasted so traditional, especially with a spread of butter. The mac and cheese also tasted like it was right out of the south, so creamy and cheesy. This meal was so indulgent and highly anticipated that I literally felt like this was our last meal on Earth. Thankfully it wasn’t (as you will see below)!

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Nate ‘n Al is a deli in Beverly Hills, who is visited quite often by Larry King. Just like any Jewish deli, it is usually packed, serves huge portions, and has very outdated decor. Jonty and I could not decide which meat we wanted, so we got the best of both world’s with the Reuben sandwich, which was piled with corned beef, pastrami, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw. A side of skinny fries, a side of fat fries, and a side of turkey bacon and we were off to the races. This deli did not disappoint, even though we have our fair share of traditional delis in Toronto.

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One last trip to Uncle Bill’s, In N’ Out and Randy’s the morning of our flight and we were off to the airport with two very full, yet satisfied bellies.

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There you have it folks, two long, detailed posts about how we stuffed our faces in my favourite state, and hopefully gave you some ideas if you ever want to travel there!

A Lot of Eating in Los Angeles-part 1

I have a major love affair with the entire state of California. The relaxed, beachy atmosphere just gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I am not exactly a winter person and I dream of the day I can move to LA. That being said, it has been quite a number of years since my recent visit to the West Coast. Also, Jonty had never been, so we decided to take a little vacay. I counted down the days until we left and savoured every moment. With every vacation comes my excitement for food. This trip was no different, as we did plenty of eating.

Right after booking our flight, we knew the first stop would be In N’ Out Burger. I have had it years ago but Jonty had never been so lucky. I was salivating the entire flight just thinking about what was to come in a number of hours. As planned, right from the airport we made our first of many stops at this famous burger joint. I ordered a cheeseburger, while Jonty got a double, with a side of animal fries (topped with their special “spread”, cheese, and fried onions). OH MAN was it delicious!! We inhaled it so quickly and realized that nothing quite compares to an In N’ Out Burger. It just doesn’t.

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The next morning we decided to take a stroll in downtown Manhattan Beach, which is the little beach town we stayed in. Many LA food guides and bloggers that I follow suggested a trendy restaurant called Manhattan Beach Post for brunch, lunch or dinner. We decided to try it out for brunch and was not disappointed. The corned beef hash with egg on top and the caramelized apple french toast with walnuts were incredible. However, the only downside was that the portions were quite small and the prices were a little high. Since we were on vacation and like to try tons of different restaurants, we refrained from ordering more and figured we would eat somewhere else to fill our hunger that remained. While exploring the area, we came across a fast food type restaurant called lemonade. As soon as we walked in, we fell in LOVE. It is a counter/cafeteria style and has plenty of healthy options such as kale salad, cabbage salad, quinoa, among many others. There are also sandwiches, prepared meats, soups, and desserts. The best part of it all is the various flavours of lemonade. Our favourite was the blueberry mint and watermelon rosemary. We also ordered a plate of different salads which was a nice healthy addition to our brunch.

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After a little walking, we felt that it was time for a donut. Now not just any ordinary Dunkin Donut. It is all about Randy’s donuts. You may recognize it from various TV shows or movies. It’s that big donut on top of a building, known as Randy’s Donuts. I have been here as a child, but barely remembered what the donuts tasted like, but I knew they were good based on the amount my parents/everyone who’s been to LA talk about them. We pulled up to this tiny walk-thru and drive-thru window and the smell in the air was pure bliss. As per usual, there was quite the line-up. The donuts are not crazy, unique flavours. They are simple and classic. The best two in my opinion are the plain glazed and the chocolate glazed. On top of those two we got a cinnamon streusel cake donut and a jelly donut for Jonty (I’m not a fan). We immediately ate all 4 donuts before reaching the car. The taste is almost impossible to describe. You just have to try one. They taste so light, not overly sweet, and exactly how a donut should taste. Let’s just say we visited Randy’s four times during our stay and even brought a dozen home to Toronto for our families.

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That night we met up with some cousins of mine who live in LA and they took us to Umami Burger, which I have only heard good things about. We enjoyed the truffle burger which was topped with house-made truffle cheese and drizzled with truffle glaze. The burger was incredibly tasty and moist. The fries were also my favourite type of fry, thin and crispy. Along with plain fries, we ordered truffle fries which were topped with some sort of truffle infused sauce.

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Our next meal happened as a coincidence. A while back, Jonty and I saw an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives where they went to a restaurant called The Boiling Shrimp, which serves shrimp in a plastic bag. We made it our mission to try it one day. As we were driving through Hollywood, we randomly thought of going there but didn’t know where it was located. We pulled over and was about to look it up on our phone, when all of a sudden I turned my head to the left and we were literally right beside it. If that’s not faith then I don’t know what is. The shrimp come steaming hot in a plastic bag with whichever spices you want. We got a mix of a whole bunch, with a side of the Cajun fries. The shrimp were so succulent and tasty. We are thrilled to cross that off our food bucket list!

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The weather in LA started off a little gloomy, so we figured heading to the desert would be just what we needed after our long Toronto winter. The entire drive to Palm Springs was cloudy, and I was starting to get angry!! I was convinced that I was bringing horrible weather with me wherever I went. That was until we literally entered Palm Springs. It was quite surreal actually. We drove from pure grey clouds straight into BLUE SKIES!! It truly felt euphoric, and was the perfect pick-me-up. We spent the afternoon by the pool, with a break for lunch at the one and only, In-N-Out once again.

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For dinner we walked up and down the main street until we found a nice, busy restaurant with a patio called Lulu, so we got a table. The food was alright, but the only dish worth mentioning was the tuna tower which was tuna sashimi layered with avocado with a soy ginger sauce. It tasted extremely fresh and the sauce added a nice sweetness to the dish.

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After doing some research for a brunch/breakfast spot, I came across Cheeky’s which was close to our hotel. I could tell it was going to be a great start to the morning just by how busy this place was. We waited about 20 minutes and then got seated on the wonderful outdoor patio. As if it mattered at this point, I tried to be a little healthy by ordering the kale acai icee which was just kale, acai berries and ice blended. Jonty chose freshly squeezed blood orange juice. As for the food, we shared a few dishes which were, truffle tater tots, salted caramel waffles with apple chips, and a herb rolled omelette with a croissant and side of mixed greens. Each dish was better than the next, I didn’t know where to bite first. We thoroughly enjoyed this breakfast and I kept mentioning all day/trip how much I loved Cheeky’s.

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We headed back to LA and went for dinner with my uncle who lives there. We couldn’t decide on a place, so he suggested we go to a few different restaurants and just have something small at each. Jonty had some obsession with trying Chick-fil-A, so we started our food tour by sharing a fried chicken sandwich with waffle fries. It was a yummy start for our taste buds. Next we headed to the famous Philippe the Original which is known for their french dip sandwiches. Jonty and I shared a double dipped beef dip which was incredibly moist from the au-jus on a soft, white bun with a side of creamy pasta salad. This was by far the best beef dip sandwich I have ever had. It literally melted in my mouth.

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Our next stop was Bottega Louie. The moment we entered this Italian spot I was in awe!! I loooooved it in there. The huge, open space with high ceilings and a very plain, yet chic white interior was buzzing on this Monday evening. A huge display of desserts greeted us as we walked in, which included numerous flavours of French macarons and beignets. There was also prepared foods, as well as coffee and other beverages sold at this front counter space. We were seated and greeted by a friendly waitress and brought an interesting shaped bread, which was perfectly complemented by soft, salty butter. Since this was already stop number three, we opted for just a pizza to share. We couldn’t decide on which one, so we got half of one pizza and half of another which gave us a chance to try some different combinations. One half was topped with fontina cheese, mozzarella, creme fraiche, shittake mushrooms, garlic and Italian parsley, and the other half had ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, roasted garlic, and wild rocket arugula. The soft crust topped with fresh ingredients was the perfect choice. I will most defitnely visit Bottega Louie on my next trip to Los Angeles!

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As a little treat for later, which Jonty and I enjoyed in bed, we brought home one nutella stuffed beignet and a few macarons. I was literally in heaven. The nutella oozed out of the fried doughy goodness. My mouth waters at the thought.

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Our last stop was Canter’s deli to take a look. We were all incredibly stuffed and definetly did not have any room for a huge deli sandwhich. However, there is always room for dessert. Along with my treats from Bottega, we got a little slice of carrot cake, plain cheesecake, and cookies and cream cheesecake to bring back home with us. *Although not the most appetizing photo, I can assure you they tasted juuuusssst fine 🙂

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Stay tuned for the rest of our eats in part 2, coming soon!