Los Angeles

morelsoutside.jpgIt seems everywhere we look nowadays, our eyes light upon a charming French style eaterie, usually simple as that is the underpinning of any bistro of repute. I, for one, am glad of this trend especially as so many French chefs are willing to stay true to their roots and serve delightful cuisine. Quite the opposite to the fancy hoo-ha of other chefs around town who keep trying to impress by mixing two, three and sometimes more cuisines for what I call confusion food – and just end up with dishes of unparalleled mediocrity in taste, although presentation might be eye catching.

At one end of town is Morels Bistro which opened quite recently at the Grove, that little piece of Disneyland set next to the Farmers Market. I must say Morels is quite chic, and really does achieve what it sets out to do – afford you the ambiance of a French bistro. I admit getting confused between a bistro and brasserie but I think this restaurant has incorporated the two, downstairs is the bistro and upstairs a brasserie style French steakhouse. Tucked away in the corner by the entrance is a glass cabinet filled with lots of French cheeses and some good ones from specialty farms in England too.

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phoinside.jpg"How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"It's a really obscure number. you wouldn't have heard of it."

Since starting my dance company, my affiliation with hipsters has grown exponentially (and it wasn't exactly non-existent before). So instead of fighting it, I've decided to fully embrace all the customs and habits of this (increasingly less) rarified group of moustache sporting, shower shunning, flannel-wearing, beanstalk-bodied ugly ducklings. To accomplish this, I consult my sister, who, while she is much too beautiful to need to hide behind hipster affectations, is an expert on all things Eastside and off-the-beaten path.

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tavernwinecheese.jpgAs a devoteé of all things wine, I am on the constant lookout for events that allow me to expand my palate without hurting my pocketbook. It's rare to find me at large "Grand Tastings" because I find it difficult even with pouring/spitting to get my $50-$100 worth and still be able to function or remember what I drank. Living in Los Angeles, "bang for the buck" wine-centered evenings are few and far between so when I heard about the Tavern's bi-weekly Wine and Cheese Club, I made a reservation immediately. The Larder, where the tasting takes place, is the casual cafe attached to Tavern, which is Suzanne Goin's latest restaurant venture. Even though I've never been to her reknowned wine bar A.O.C. – it's horrifying I know, I'll get there, I promise – I knew this was going to be good. It's what she does. Plus, four wines paired with cheese and nibbles for $29? There's nothing wrong with that equation. Except the drive, which thankfully for us was against traffic.

The evening is very casual, though there is some "education" about the wine region being featured, the backstory behind each wine and why it was selected, as well as what they hoped to accomplish with each pairing. It was probably 5 minutes of information before each course, leaving you plenty of time to socialize with your dining companions while savoring the pairings. Questions are encouraged, but not necessary to the enjoyment of the evening.

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Albright Outdoor-IndoorLongtime Santa Monica Pier staple, SM Pier Seafood, has officially re-launched as The Albright. After 35 years, the family-owned and operated restaurant has passed down from mother to daughter and has undergone a complete revamp - including an updated menu that reflects the new owner's commitment to using fresh, locally sourced food - and the addition of an extensive craft beer & California wine program. The restaurant is now run by Yunnie Kim Morena, whose parents opened the original location in 1977 upon emigrating to the U.S. from Korea.

The menu’s focus takes a fresh, locally sourced, approach to classic items that one would hope to find on the Pier. The Albright’s culinary program features everything from Spicy Seafood Soup and Kumamoto Oysters to Whole Fried Tilapia and a massive salt-water tank of live lobsters, crabs and prawns, one of the few places on the Westside with this offering. Classic favorites include, Mussels and Fries, Grilled Black Tiger Shrimp Tacos and Corn Dog Bites. Seasonal specials will also be available daily.

In celebration, The Albright will be offering a '77 throwback menu on Thursday, January 16th, to honor prices from 1977 (the year that the original location opened). Items will include:

Live Lobster & Crab: $19.77
Fish&Chips: $4.50
Chowder: $1
Bud Light: $1

The Albright is located at 258 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.Public parking is available on the Pier or in adjacent lots. Additional information is available at www.TheAlbright.com.

centralmarketLocated 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.

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