Bread. I love it, especially when it’s well made. But I freely admit that I try to avoid it. I’m of a certain age and weight when the dangers of too much free carb styling can take a toll. But how hard is that to do now? It’s really hard with all the neighborhood bakeries opening all over town. Yesterday I checked out Bread Lounge in DTLA. Tucked away on the southeast corner of 7th and Santa Fe the location is an indication of just how much DTLA is thriving.
I walked in on a Friday during late lunchtime and it was filled with people dining in and taking out. If you park in the back and walk through to the front the first display you see is packed with all manner of packaged sables, biscotti and other little nibbles.
The production area is on display to your right and there is bread everywhere from large boules and batards to skinny crusty baguettes and a good selection of whole grain and white sturdy sandwich breads. And of course there are the small coffee cakes and viennoiserie that we’ve come to expect.
Located on Broadway and Hill between 2nd and 3rd, The Grand Central Market reflects the changes sweeping over Downtown Los Angeles. Long before farmers markets appeared all over LA, the Grand Central Market provided the Downtown community with fresh food at affordable prices.
The shoppers who filled the aisles, bought fresh produce, fruit, fish, meat and poultry. Freshly made tortillas traveled down a conveyer belt where they were stacked in plastic bags and sold still warm in the open-air tortilla factory that once stretched along the southern wall close to Broadway.
The Market specialized in health products, fresh fruit juices, herbal teas and homeopathic remedies from around the world. And where there are shoppers, they will be places to eat. Dozens of stalls sold Mexican tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, whole lobsters, plates of fried fish and shrimp in the shell. Anyone who needed an old-school Chinese-American food fix could eat at China Cafe and Broadway Express.
Greenspans is tiny and sandwiched (no pun intended) in between a bar and some tacky Melrose clothing store on the old Tommy Tang strip of Melrose, where Evan Kleiman opened Angeli Cafe all those years ago. Back then all of the good actors in town could be found in Milton Katselas’s Mon and Wed night class at the Zepher Theater just across the street, and Chianti was down the block serving up perfect stracciatella soup. That stretch was something back in its day. (Pardon the walk back 30 years).
Well, seasoned chef Eric Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese is going to bring that block back. It’s good. It’s real good.
My friend Sandy emailed me last week. “Just came back from a place that’s right up your alley”. My friend Sandy is a woman in the know and she certainly knows what alleys I frequent.
She’s also very discriminating and not prone to false alarms or wasting anyone’s time, so my interest was piqued. When I heard the name, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, I was more than curious, I was out the door. Not being a lady who lunches, my friend Sandy was a bit surprised, and I hope delighted, that I emailed her straight back asking for a lunch date.
RivaBella Ristorante is in West Hollywood on the border of Beverly Hills and within sight of the Sunset Strip. From the outside, RivaBella has the look of an expensive fine dining restaurant. Walk inside and the friendly bar men will offer you a cocktail or a glass of premium wine, then you'll enter a dining room with rustic wooden tables, brick walls and a massive hearth. The spacious restaurant has the feel of an upscale country inn.
RivaBella balances elegance with casual dining. On the evening we had dinner, some diners were dressed in business suits while others wore shorts and colorful sport shirts. A retractable ceiling opens to the sky. Natural light floods into the room through floor to ceiling windows. At night, candles on the tables and strings of white lights give the room a romantic, festive aura. You'll experience the restaurant's theatrical side when you enter the dining room and pass the DJ who is working through a play list of pop songs. Order the mushroom risotto and the waiter brings a cart to the table heavily laden with a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel large enough to fit on a Mini-Cooper.
It has been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that actually inspired me to write about it. In the period of time from my last write up, I have been fortunate enough to go to a couple Michelin star restaurants, and those did not inspire me. They were great, but I think I expected it. My experience at the newly opened Saint Martha, stirred something in me that had been dormant for a while. Until now. My husband took me to Saint Martha on a Thursday evening, partly to treat me after having some tough work weeks, and partly to celebrate his birthday.
You can find Saint Martha at a little complex in Koreatown. Yes, I said Koreatown. Frankly, I think it’s the only sign that is in English; that should tip you off! The restaurant is named after the saint of cooks and servers, and after some food and wine you’ll think these people are all saints as well!
Sometimes, a restaurant has a wine list that shines, and a food menu that is just average, or vice versa. Not the case here. Wine and food menus can both stand on their own. The food alone was so creative and delicious.
Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows this is a great city to enjoy ethnic food. It is easy to eat affordably priced meals at any number of national and regional restaurants including those that serve Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Brazilian, Thai, Jewish, Korean, Vietnamese, Armenian, Persian, Peruvian, Guatemalan, Ethiopian and Indian dishes.
Living near the beach, I don't come into town as often as I would like. To meet a friend close to where he lives meant we needed to find a restaurant near the 10 Freeway at the Crenshaw Boulevard exit.
Not knowing where to go, I turned to Bobby Rock, who knows the area well. He had suggestions. They all sounded good. We wanted a light meal, so we figured we'd try La Cevicheria (3809 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019, (323) 732-1253).
As I parked in front of the restaurant, my friend called to say he would be late. A car issue, easily solved in ten to fifteen minutes. Ok, no problem. That gave me time to explore the area.
On this very hot day I can’t stop thinking about the strawberry milkshake I inhaled for dessert at Pono Burger a couple weeks back. Strawberry was all time childhood ice cream fave flavor.
But somehow I abandoned it in adulthood in favor of the “more interesting” salted caramel, brown bread, you know the drill. But seeing those frosty glasses brimming with pink creaminess being carried across the room seduced me. I wish I had one right now.
Strawberry is Back!
I’ve passed the quonset hut at the corner of Broadway and 9th many times, wondering what it was but never stopped in. How lame! Turns out it’s Pono Burger and as treat we ladies of Good Food went for Pono’s first anniversary dinner to meet Chef Makani.
I'm pretty sure LA is the only place that it can be hard to find a restaurant marked by a gigantic neon sign. That's because in a city that's made up of a string of strip malls, neon signs are easy to overlook. And this one is tucked behind the parking lot of an unassuming boba place. It reads 'park' above an arrow pointing one way and 'drink' above an arrow pointing the other way, towards Beer Belly.
Aptly named since (refreshingly for LA) there's not one remotely dietetic thing on the menu. Even the broccoli rabe is drenched in burrata, and don't get me started on the duck fat French fries. Or do, because they're the perfect combination of crispy and greasy.
And the grilled cheese might just be the best I've ever had.
There’s a new cake in town. Actually, it’s a whole boutique full of cake and it’s here to stay! Lady M, the glorious cake boutique with three locations in New York City opened in LA last August, quietly without much fanfare but with a line out the door. It seems word spread fast among cake connoisseurs.
Coming upon it by accident while taking my daughter, in from NYC, to AOC for lunch, my daughter informed me that although I was at the wrong valet parking spot for AOC, I might be at the right parking spot after all.
“Parking for AOC is half a block up, Mom, but if the Lady M on that valet sign is the same as the one in NY, we’re skipping lunch and going straight to dessert.”
“Hmmm , that good?”
“Seriously ridiculous.” (Her highest compliment).
Since we’re both over 21, I figured we we’re old enough to go straight to the good stuff.
Certain foods cause people to become rhapsodic. Proust had his madeleines. I have pho ga. At Pho Vinh Ky, the large bowl of chicken soup and rice noodles arrives with a plate of fresh herbs and vegetables and a small bowl of dipping sauce.
Traditionally, the herbs and vegetables are added to the broth. Rau ram, ngo gai, bean sprouts, mint, Thai basil, purple perilla, a lime wedge and thick slices of serrano peppers add brightness to the flavors. I love the dipping sauce, nuoc cham gung, a mix of lime juice, dried pepper flakes, finely chopped fresh ginger and fish sauce. Everyone has their own way to eat pho. Mine is to eat the noodles first. Each spoonful flavored by the pungent, hot, salty dipping sauce.
If you haven't eaten Vietnamese food, you have missed out on one of the great Asian cuisines. Known primarily for their noodle soups, plates of barbecued meats piled high on mounds of broken rice or served in a bowl with vermicelli noodles and stir fries spiced with lemon grass, Vietnamese food has spread into the wider culinary community because of the popularity of pho (hot beef and chicken soups with noodles) and banh mi (crusty baguettes with spicy meats and pickled vegetables). With several large Vietnamese communities around the country, we are lucky to live close to Little Saigon in Orange County.