Los Angeles

barhayama.jpgWhat is wrong with me? Why do I drive past intriguing places and keep on driving? Or, why do I keep going to the same places because I know them, they are familiar and safe? My friend, another foodie, Andrea, had made a plan with me last night to try a Japanese restaurant. Then, she kept reading reviews online that scared her straight. This new Japanese usually costs $100 per person. She called me ahead of time to warn me and then told me she really likes this other place on Sawtelle. So now we really have two choices.

When I hopped in her car, she navigated her way around the city in such a way as to end up directly in front of the alternative restaurant and not the original terribly expensive restaurant. I still don’t know whether she did that on purpose, but I was hungry and said, lets just go in there. I had seen it before and it called to me. When she mentioned a place on Sawtelle I just thought it was Hide Sushi and I do already go there all the time.

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beerbellygrilledI'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.

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shirley_temple_sm.jpg Clementine, the great west-side L.A. charcuterie has amazing candies, too...

Ok, so I love Shirley Temple.  Anyone who thinks I’m a sap can eat me.  She was a genius.  There’s never been a child performer who could do what she did.  At the age of 3, she could sing, dance and act. 

When she uh, matured, one of the many things she did was a television show called Shirley Temple’s Storybook. It ran from 1958-1960. She did all the classics and even starred in some of them. 

As young as I was, I was aware of the schism between her matronly plumpness and the tight fitting costumes she squeezed into as she appeared as The Little Mermaid among others.  But, that never diminished my love for her.

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ludosign.jpgAfter watching Ludo Lefebvre on Top Chef Masters I knew I wanted try out his food. Around the same time his episode aired he opened up a “pop-up” restaurant at Bread Bar on 3rd St. On Tuesday night a bunch of my friends and I went. Simply put the meal was amazing. It’s really a mixture of classical french food and molecular gastronomy. Onto the food.

The table that was supposed to be ours decided they wanted to sit and talk for a long time so we had to wait. To make up for this Ludo’s very nice wife brought us out some lobster medallions with daikon & rosemary with a honey-sherry vinaigrette. It was amazing and great indication of things to come. It looked like a scallop and the sauce was very strong and sweet so the lobster was mainly there for texture.

One of the best things about the meal was the butter for the bread. It was a homemade honey and lavander butter.

First came the chorizo soup with cantaloupe and cornichon. It really tastes like the essence of chorizo. It was perfect. When there was only a little left we almost fought over it like junkyard dogs.

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neapolislogoSometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. In the case of the epic, pre-opening meal I got to enjoy at Trattoria Neapolis last week, I just happened to be at home to get the call. Our friends think we eat out all the time, but our "foodie" cred is mere illusion. Yes, we like to eat well when we go out (who wants to get dressed up and fight traffic for a mediocre meal), however, to us the wine/beverage program is just as important and finding places that are impressive on both the food and beverage sides of the menu are rare.

I knew nothing about this new Pasadena eatery before I stepped through the door. I was suitably stuffed and excited when I left. The space is sophisticated, yet inviting, with many different areas to choose from - the bright and airy Garden Room, the cozy booths in the bar area, the semi-private upstairs balcony and my favorite the brick-walled wine room. It's an impressive space with many touches imported from and evoking Italy in a modern way.

It has been a 10-year labor of love for restaurateur Perry Vidalakis who traveled all over the Italy and the United States researching how to blend his love of Italian food and style with the life and style of Southern California. Most of the menu is familiar, yet the execution - by Chef Bryant Wigger - utilizes techniques and local ingredients that put his own fresh spin on the traditional fare.

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