The premise was simple: get away for the holiday weekend, visit my friend Valerie and celebrate my birthday. I arrived on Thursday and am staying through Wednesday. It’s been a food tour since I arrived. No surprise there.
Thursday, I had lunch at Sugarfish in Downtown LA. A friend in NYC had recommended it and it lived up to expectations. The menu is pretty much chef’s choice or… chef’s choice and there’s no reason not to put yourself in his hands. The sushi was so fresh it melted like butter on my tongue and the rice prepared in such a way that I felt like every grain was packed with flavor and amplified the fish instead of just “being rice”. The scallops with homemade yuzu sauce brought to mind that scene from when Harry met Sally at Katz’s. Oh yes. The hand rolls were built in such a way that you could really grasp the point of seaweed: a crunch and that distinct sea flavor then warm rice and crab that only made me crave more.
Thursday night we had dinner at Osteria Mamma, a neighborhood place near Valerie’s apartment serving Northern Italian. We enjoyed roasted squid (that we both agreed could’ve used a dash of lemon) but otherwise we both loved the fresh pasta offerings (in my case a Mediterranean style with tomatoes, capers, olives and arugula) and an addictive tiramisu. Of course, the Schiopettino we drank added to the good mood. Coming from NYC you don’t expect much from Italian in LA but Osteria Mamma is a wonderful neighborhood joint and the perfect place for a meal with a friend.
Friday we headed to Santa Monica to do some shopping and had lunch at Sonoma Wine Garden. My skuna bay salmon BLT paired with a Grgrich Chardonnay had me wanting to lick the plate clean. I followed it with a strawberry balsamic sugar cookie ice cream sandwich. Simple food can be the hardest to execute. They nailed it.
Friday night we had dinner at Eveleigh, a farm to table restaurant in West Hollywood. We ate on a covered patio of large wood planks that made you feel like you were dining on the deck of a farmhouse. The food was an outstanding array of shared plates: shisito peppers served with ham dust and smoked garlic aioli; burrata with crushed peas, mint and crispy quinoa; halibut with fiddleheads, fava beans and ramps in vermouth and then finally and ever so simply: made to order doughnuts. There are few things better in life than a delicious meal with just the right amount of attentive and thoughtful service. Eveleigh came through on all counts.
Heading out of town on Saturday we stopped for lunch at La Brea Bakery where we tucked into Tuscan chicken salad sandwiches: chicken, radicchio, napa cabbage, kalamata olives in a vinaigrette on olive bread. I washed mine down with their ginger lemonade while Valerie opted for their hibiscus lemonade and we split a buttery rustic apple tart. Overall it was a hearty but perfect summer day lunch.
Dinner was a backyard pizza party at a friend of Valerie’s in Rancho Cucamonga made using ingredients we’d picked up at Claro’s Italian Market which turned out to be a treasure trove. After pizza and a bottle of Chianti we tackled a Nebbiolo and proceeded to make what I shall hereto name “fused s’mores”: marshmallows stuffed with chocolate chips roasted and eaten without a cracker. I could have sat outside all night.
Today and in anticipation of the days ahead, we threw together a salad and opted to be lazy and chill by the pool with a bottle of Merlot rose from the North Fork of Long Island. Then we moved to her terrace for a feast of cured meats and Valerie’s rendition of patatas bravas accompanied by a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.
Tomorrow we head north towards Paso Robles wine country. That’s if we can ever get back inside the apartment as this genius closed the terrace door that autolocks leaving us stranded* on the terrace as I write.
California dreamin’ if only they’d just omit the traffic and leave me the spare keys.