One of the best things about the holidays in LA? You can still enjoy a cone of ice cream. And the Mint Chip Ice Cream at Sweet Rose Creamery puts others to shame, thanks to a small batch method and a flavor that tastes like mint that's pulled straight from the pot.
The salted caramel pecan babka roll at The Sycamore Kitchen is stunning. Toasted pecans are held in place by a thick layer of sticky sugar, which gives the outer layers of the roll a little crunch. The inner layers are soft, with the enticing smell of yeast bread.
Try the Lomo, one of many delicious sandwiches from Marcona on Melrose. First, there are the obvious, large pieces of fatty pulled pork jammed between slices of crusty, toasted ciabatta. Don't overlook the tangy date mustard which is so apt a complement to that pork that you catch yourself nearly wondering aloud whether you've ever really tasted mustard before today. The onions taste lightly pickled, and the nutty manchego cheese brings everything together.
Marcona's Spanish Gyro ($11) presents itself open-faced, a generous amount of spicy lamb merguez resting on top of a tall heap of arugula. Hidden among the leaves are piquillo pepper and cucumber. Sheep's milk yogurt serves as a thin but pleasant binder.
The man behind the bar at The Tasting Kitchen is Justin Pike, whose bartending days began in Boston before moving to Portland, where he worked with Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common, then at clarklewis with Casey Lane (now the chef at The Tasting Kitchen). When The Tasting Kitchen emerged in 2009, Lane called on Pike to shape the bar program, looking for someone with "a Northwest angle," as Pike puts it. "In the Northwest there's a little more experimentation," he says.
The fried chicken sandwich at Son of a Gun towers on the plate, a Jenga-like construction of its various components. The chicken is, for the most part, juicy and tender. The breading gives way to an audible crunch when you bite into the meat, and the seasoning alone is worth savoring.
There are two words common in the Southern California lexicon that you will not hear come out of the mouth of Eric Alperin, lead bartender and proprietor at The Varnish in Los Angeles: organic and seasonal. The reason is not for want of respect for ingredients, as the careful mise en place reveals, but rather a shift in focus from seasonal produce to historical precision.
Believe it or not, Westwood Village around UCLA offers more than chain restaurants. Even without a car, you can find some of the best espresso, pizza, and sandwiches just steps away from campus.
I would take the Grilled Cheese Royale at Curious Palate any day. Skip the limp, pre-sliced squares and substitute cheeses with character. A 4-year Quebec sharp cheddar, nutty Gruyère, and fresh mozzarella are three essential cheeses melted into a harmonious triad between two sturdy slices of grilled wheat bread.
This "playful take" on the Vietnamese sandwich has some familiar components: housemade pickled daikon and carrots and large, fragrant pieces of pork belly. Cucumbers, jalapeno, and cilantro also make an appearance, but the flavor here is less Vietnam and more Los Angeles artisanal.
The Sloppy Giuseppe sheds the ground beef for an abundance of slow roasted lamb shoulder, as deliciously tender as ground beef, only less reminiscent of summer camp. The bun is brioche, which slightly resembles a hamburger bun if you squint but is lighter, flakier, and just the right accompaniment for the lamb. There's also a smear of hummus, but the lamb is the star here.
The lamb French dip with blue cheese at Philippe the Original may not be the trendiest sandwich on the block, but it's one that never gets old. Several thick slices of tender lamb pair well with a generous amount of blue cheese. The entire sandwich is dipped in a rich meat jus before it reaches your plate. Upon first bite, the freshly baked French roll melts away, giving in to the mild cheese and juicy meat.
Langer's Deli in Los Angeles celebrated its 65th Anniversary by giving away free #19 pastrami sandwiches for two days straight. Cured, smoked, steamed, and carved by hand, some call the #19 the best pastrami sandwich around.
The Hot Pastrami is a perfect reminder that a sandwich doesn't need fancy ingredients or a crazy gimmick to stand out. And as you would expect from a place called All About the Bread, the crunchy baguette is the real star.
On a quickly changing stretch of Washington Boulevard, between downtown Culver City and Venice Beach, stands Corner Door. The restaurant, which just opened right nextdoor to neighborhood favorite Waterloo & City, features chef Luke Reyes (formerly of Tasting Kitchen) and cocktail-crafter Beau du Bois (of MB Post). Take a peek at the housemade charcuterie, pickled vegetables, roasted chicken, and more of the new menu.
Though California is blessed with beautiful produce throughout the year, the crowd at the Santa Monica Farmers Market seemed especially excited with spring and summer offerings overlapping. Fava beans and asparagus were plentiful, and there were some early heirloom tomatoes as a harbinger of summer.
Los Angeles is a quilt of communities, each with its own culture. One patch is Mar Vista, a diverse neighborhood spanning less than three square miles on the west side of LA. Here you'll find Earl's Gourmet Grub, the brainchild of Yvonne McDonald and Dean Harada. Earl's began as a popular stall at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market and later evolved into a brick-and-mortar shop, mere steps from the market.
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