Los Angeles

milologo.jpgHuckleberry, Sweet Rose Creamery and Rustic Canyon touched a foodie sweet spot with locals in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. Husband and wife co-owners, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan proved again and again that they understood what the upscale community wanted: farmers market fresh food served in casually artful settings.

Mid-range pricing means they can afford to use high quality ingredients and indulge their flair for visually engaging food. Walk past Huckleberry's bakery display and you'll be hard pressed not to take a photograph. The scones and muffins are gorgeous.

Their forte is creating exceptionally well-prepared comfort food.

That is definitely the focus of their newest restaurant and bakery, Milo & Olive located at 2723 Wilshire Blvd. at Harvard on the eastern edge of Santa Monica and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7am-11pm.

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Suzanne Goin, the uber-talented celebrity chef of Lucques and A.O.C. Wine Bar fame, was rumored to be the front runner for the 2005 James Beard Chef-of-the-Year award, and as far as I was concerned, she could just skip the swim suit competition and pick up her gold toque and tongs. Because praise the lord and pass the friggin’ salt cod, if food could cure cancer, it would be this food. May The God of Good Eatin’ please keep Suzanne Goin’s hands hale, hearty, and forever heating up the small plates. 
   
sign.jpg Having earlier experienced both the exquisite pleasure and excruciating pain that comes from washing down four or five pounds of Chicken Liver pate with fifteen dollar glasses of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape, I was careful to prepare my sensitive digestive tract by fasting for practically an entire half-day on Fiji Natural Artisan water, plus a supplemental half-inch rind of smoked salami that I discovered under a plastic tankard of Barefoot Contessa Moussaka that I accidentally made five weeks ago in a bizarre attack of culinary industry. As a note, I have a firm policy of never throwing away any left-over that originally took more than sixty minutes to prepare,  unless it starts to stink worse than my daughter’s feet did after two weeks at Catalina Camp, where filth is a fashion statement. 

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ice-cream-cones.jpg Despite the fact I have parents who eat ice cream almost every day (if they could have it at every meal, they would), until recently I thought I could live happily without ever lifting a dessert spoon again.

I know what you’re thinking. Quelle horreur! C’est impossible! I tell you it’s true. When I gave up my 2-liter a day Coca-Cola habit  in college in an effort to regain a good night's sleep (caffeine is not my friend), I found, after a few months, I no longer craved sugar. As my tastes matured, I discovered the savory complexity of wine and eating dessert no longer interested me. Since ice cream was never one of my favorites, I didn’t miss it.

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barlologo.jpgBreakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Especially a hot one. Sometimes cereal or a muffin is all I have time for, but those are mere sustenance. They don't make getting out of bed worthwhile. I love  breakfast so much, I've cultivated my cooking talents in that direction. I make a mean breakfast burrito, kick-ass chilaquiles and, when I have more time, a frightfully-good frittata. You can keep the pancakes, waffles and French toast. Savory is where it's at.

So it's rare when we actually go out to breakfast in our hometown. Long lines and high costs ($10+ for eggs and $3 for mediocre coffee?) generally keep us at home. Recently though we had the need to be over on the Westside in the AM, so I went on the search for a place that would trump what I could make in my own kitchen. No chains, no fancy brunch, just hearty, interesting food.

I found it at the Hotel Erwin's Barlo Kitchen. What made me choose this unknown establishment over all the others? Well, it was pretty simple – I wanted to try everything on the menu.

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greenspans1Greenspans 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.

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