Thursday, July 12, 2012

LA's the Place (to eat)

Earlier this summer I explored Los Angeles, with a focus on food. My host and I ate mostly outside, puncturing our afternoons with iced coffee and pastries. What follows is a highlight reel of the bites of Los Angeles, with an eye towards the unique, the summery, and the fun.

The Sweet:
I’m a firm believer in multiple dessert days during vacation months. Los Angeles, land of yoga and coconut water, also has a sweet tooth.

Grab ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery in Brentwood. They’re known for salted caramel, but you can get salt as a topping on any flavor. The blueberry muffin flavor that I tried was excellent and unusual. The crumbly muffin and blueberry bits fit nicely into an ice cream.

Most cakes are a little dull, a little dry, and rely heavily on icing. Not so at Sweet Lady Jane bakery on Melrose (they also have a Santa Monica location). This bakery is open late and serves HUGE slices of cake, from vegan berry to cappuccino cheesecake. We tried red velvet and chocolate almond mocha, and could not stop raving about the moist cakes and their flavorful frostings. These cakes are decadent, but not too sweet. Bonus: We were there near closing, so they offered us some free day-old bread and croissants. Breakfast the next morning was excellent!

Short Cake Bakery at the Original Farmer's Market
This relatively new stand came recommended from The Amateur Gourmet, so we had to check it out. The decor is adorable and there are lots of sweet food and drink options. We had a peanut butter bar that was good, but not revelatory. I'd try something different next time (we came late in the day so choices were limited).

Cool Haus Ice Cream Sandwiches
This food truck (which exists in multiple cities) was at the Yamashiro Farmer's Market, a wonderful summer Thursday confluence of food trucks, farm stands, live music, and views of the Hollywood Hills. There are even shuttles to take you to the top! Coincidentally, I went on the same day as Philly's Night Market and it was a great substitute. At Cool Haus you design your own ice cream sandwich with their array of cookies and ice creams. We tried chocolate chip sea salt cookies with red velvet ice cream! So decadent, and so good.

Fruit grows better in a warm climate.  California nectarines, cherries, and strawberries are sweet and juicy, begging to freshen a hot afternoon. Farmers markets proliferate widely, and Mexican food back east just can’t compare.

The Savory:
In-N-OutOne of the first things I ate in LA was In-N-Out. This West Coast Burger Stand deserves all the press it receives. The burgers are so fresh and the animal style toppings (a special sauce and pickles) are delicious. I don't eat red meat often but I had no regrets about my animal style cheeseburger. I didn't even mind eating it at 11 AM.

CubeMy first dinner in LA was at Cube, a restaurant that bases its ever changing menu on different regions of Italy. I was there for Umbria and had a lovely dinner. They greet each diner with a special cheese pairing presented on a cute chalkboard. Also, their onion rings were amazing (they served them with a special spicy ketchup).

Loteria Grill at the Original Farmer's Market
Loteria Grill was some of the best Mexican food I've ever had. They have a menu that goes way beyond tacos and burritos. I ordered chilequiles, a Mexican breakfast dish that consists of layered tortilla strips, eggs, and various sauces. I first tried the dish in rural Mexico over 6 years ago and it's something I could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Lasagna Cupcakes from Heirloom LA. Heirloom LA had a truck at the Yamashiro Farmer's Market and everyone was talking about their lasagna cupcakes. They had lots of flavors (the person in front of us on line got the last heirloom tomato) and the size was perfect. We had the roasted vegetable one and it was, aside from the cute presentation, very good lasagna.

Los Angeles may be the cleanse capital of the world but it's also a diverse place full of great food, creative chefs, and some of the best desserts I've had in a while. Maybe a good slice of cake is just the ticket to enduring Los Angeles' crazy traffic!

For more LA suggestions, check out our foursquare list of suggestions. We have ideas for New York and DC too.

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