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1. Yesterday I found this article in The New York Times. I love that I have not been here a month and my boy Sam Sifton has already shifted gears to the West Coast with this exciting read. I’m stalking LudoBite’s Twitter feed (@frenchchefwife) for any way I can score a spot at this pop-up restaurant (this is the first I’ve ever heard of it). So far no luck, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
2. I recently discovered The Huffington Post’s L.A. edition as well. And in week two on the job, I find that three of their top 10 sushi restaurants are on the street where I work. How convenient is that?
3. I’m loving Fox’s MasterChef hosted by my chef/scoundrel crush Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich (son of LIdia, WHAT?) and Graham Elliot. Now my roommate and I are hellbent on getting to one of Bastianich’s restaurants. Little does he know that we were neighbors for a few minutes at the bar at Lupa. He sat in my corner during one of Winette and my famous “lush and gush” sessions. Osteria Mozza, here we come.
It’s been almost two and a half weeks since I moved into my new apartment in West Hollywood, far away from the chicken scraps and pigeon droppings that drove me mental on the stoop of my Manhattan apartment bordering Harlem. I don’t miss the ghetto vibe of my neighborhood, though I do miss some of its characters: the men playing dominoes on card tables across the street, the teen moms and their strollers outside Kennedy Fried Chicken (not to be confused with Kentucky Fried Chicken), the old man who fed the pigeons every Sunday, Zac the friendly bodega manager, the heavyset dude with a mustache who coached me on how to unload my garbage in the dumpsters, to name a few.
I’m sure I’ll encounter characters in my new neighborhood, though it may be more challenging because nobody walks here. I took to the sidewalk in search of the Sunday Times at my local Ralph’s (Los Angeles’ Gristedes) and the cars rolling by swerved and braked like they’d had a close encounter with an ET. I will continue to walk when it’s convenient though I will be taking extra care when crossing the sidewalks because the cars and their drivers really aren’t expecting you.
Picking restaurants to try here has been a true test of patience on behalf of my new roommate. In New York I knew exactly where to go and for what. Here I’m flying blind and it’s dicey. I’m putting as much effort into picking restaurants as most people put into buying a car or picking health insurance. I set out three or four L.A. guide books on the floor before I open up a dozen sites online comparing reviews of different spots. I miss Eater’s twitter account and how they would automatically re-tweet dining requests. Eater in Los Angeles does no such thing.
I am excited to expand my dining repertoire here in my new home. Here are a few faves I’ve tried so far:
The Farmer’s Market – it’s awesome to walk around, though I don’t enjoy the traffic on 3rd Ave. or the mob scene rolling into the parking lot. Inside the FM there’s a plethora of dining options. So far we’ve tried Monsieur Marcel’s — a cute French bistro-esque spot in the center of the market. My fave “Brothers and Sisters” star Matthew Rhys was spotted dining here for lunch with about seven friends. We took my mom and brother here when they moved me in and enjoyed friendly service and a nice meal. It wasn’t award-winning French fare a la Balthazar but it was solid.
My roommate had eaten at a Mexican place at the FM and loved it and after several minutes of missed turns and U-turns, we found it. I loved Loteria and thought its Tex-Mex offerings were great until my brother totally trashed the place in favor of his Carmel Mexican joints. What a snob. We specially ordered Loteria for his visit a couple nights ago and when I asked him how it was he gave me an, “Eh, I’ve had better” smile and that was that. My one gripe with the FM is that there are a few bars but not every dining place has alcohol. Loteria, for example, should be serving up mean margaritas, or Tecate or Corona at the very least, but you have to walk to the nearest bar within the FM to get alcohol. Weird.
Tom Bergin’s — MaineMan and I are obsessed with the oldest Irish pub in Los Angeles. I’m going to go enough that I gain a four-leaf clover on the wall if it kills me. They give out “frequency” cards that you get stamped each time you go and with a certain number of stamps you earn your place on the wall. Sign me up. The vibe is great — bar stools go all around the bar in an oblong circle — and I have yet to try something off the menu that I haven’t loved. The tomato salad with blue cheese was surprisingly fresh and delicious, the French fries are the perfect thickness just shy of steak fries, the tuna fish salad sandwich was amazing and forget about the musnuto (a peanut butter mustard) they serve special if you request it. Mmm! Last night the bartender asked where I was from and when I told him I just moved from New York he told me, “Well you’ve found your local bar.” Yes, yes I have.
El Nopal – MaineMan looked up some restaurants one of the first nights I was in town and I fell in love with this little Mexican joint he took me to. It was low-key and casual and I loved our cute older waitress. They serve a potent margarita (in 20-ounce glasses) and a “pregnant” burrito. I ordered the veggie burrito and I think mine was even bigger than MaineMan’s “pregnant” one. We made the mistake of ordering nachos before our main meal. The nachos are a meal in themselves. We needed nothing after them, yet they were some of the best nachos I’ve ever had in my entire life — fully loaded with everything — cheese, beans and veggies. I look forward to going back here.
King’s Road Cafe — I met my boss here for breakfast on Ventura Blvd. and it was solid. I just discovered they have a few locations as my roommate tried to take me to one this morning, but when I saw the name I shouted, “I’ve already eaten there! Or at least at the other one on Ventura.” We turned around and sought out a new place on Beverly Blvd.
Cracked Egg Cafe — MaineMan and I went camping in Kernville, Calif., and I fell in love with the area. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive northeast of Los Angeles. Once you hit Bakersfield it’s a long, windy beautiful road through the mountains and following the Kern River. I caught my first trout without a guide, which was a huge thrill, and we discovered a great camping spot close to the city. Cracked Egg is the place to eat in Kernville. MaineMan tried the tri-tip sandwich (more like a cheesesteak sandwich) and I had a wonderful tuna fish sandwich that I could eat every day. Not to mention the staff was extremely chatty.
Amalfi Ristorante –My roommate had been with her family and she recommended it for dinner. MaineMan and I hit it up and we were pleasantly surprised by its Italian fare. The eggplant rigatoni was fabulous and MaineMan tried the burger which he thought was one of the BEST he’d had in the city. Our server was super cool. I’m shocked by how friendly the restaurant and retail staffs are here in L.A. I expected to be intimidated by both and they have been nothing but engaging and amiable and I end up having long conversations everywhere I go. Even the cashier at Whole Foods last night stopped me in my Virginia T-shirt. “Are you FROM Virginia?” he asked. “No, but I went to school there, does that count?” “Hell, yeah,” he said.
Groundwork Coffee — I met a potential hire for coffee in this joint on N. Cauhenga and I loved the space. It reminded me of a coffee joint I’d find in Brooklyn, though probably three times the size.
Capriotti’s – I wouldn’t normally write about a deli, but I was blown away by this sandwich place by my office. I have stayed away from fake meat and cheese after reading a great quote in The New York Magazine. It was something along the lines of, “Eat the real stuff or don’t eat it at all.” I was in a pickle because my boss took me to lunch and the sandwich place we walked into had NO veggie options except with the veggie meats. I ordered the veggie turkey cole holding my breath and it was one of my favorite sandwiches ever. It had the fake turkey with cole slaw and I couldn’t stop eating it. But beware the “half” is the size of a Subway foot-long.
It took me a while, but I’ve finally gotten a handle on where I’m taking Mona’s Apple. I hope you like the result. There’s still lots of catching up to do on my adventures cross-country and in Los Angeles, but I figured this was a good start.
I still can’t quite decide what to make of this new city I’m calling home. It was traumatizing simply changing my city to Los Angeles on Facebook. I love being with MaineMan and my new roommate (nickname still TBD), but my first week was rough. I start work tomorrow and I am both excited and apprehensive — I was just getting used to living a life of leisure.
The photo above is of one of my favorite meals so far here in L.A. We live right near the Farmer’s Market and my roommate discovered the fabulous Mexican spot Loteria. It took us a while to find, but it was well worth all the wrong turns. I ordered two different lunches in the span of 15 minutes it was that good.
It’s time for bed as I mentally prepare for my first day of work tomorrow with a new company and I must bring my A-game.