You know how Hawaiians hand out those lovely leis filled with sweet smelling flowers the moment you step off a plane or into a lavish Maui hotel? Truth be told, I’ve never actually been so I’ve never experienced it first hand ... but I’ve still heard about it. Seen it on TV, you know. Magnum P.I. and stuff.
Well, I had a similar experience when I landed in LA. Only instead of native island flowers strung together to form a necklace, I was taken immediately to In-N-Out Burger and handed a cardboard box containing some paper napkins, ketchup packets, an "animal style" burger and “healthy” fries. I have nothing against Hawaii and its customs, but the award for best welcome ritual most certainly goes to LA. No contest. While the fries were just a hair short of totally awful, these dudes made a fast food burger that erased any hint of travel fatigue and road weariness. Flowers are nice, but animal style rules.
So that was our welcome. And our journey through LA and Venice only got better.
Thursday morning Laura took us to this coffee spot on Washington and I can’t really remember its name. It’s the only one there. Anyway, I just had coffee, but Meena had her first of several Mexican themed breakfasts. This one was probably the worst one she had, but I’d say she was cool with it. Cool with the nourishment, anyway.
Thursday night we wound up in the Valley at Laura’s parents’ house for some delicious snacks, an amazing dinner and an insightful documentary on BBQ rib culture in America. Mrs. Kaufman got us started with a healthy selection of tapenades and a hunk of cheese that was just incredible. I can’t recall what it was, but it was herbed and packed with flavor. I’m a Wisconsin cheese fan but this one was awfully special …
Mr. and Mrs. Kaufman got dinner fired up on the grill and we were treated to an assortment of baked potatoes, grilled vegetables, flat iron steak and grilled tuna. The tuna got a lovely Italian marinade that injected some serious notes of garlic and balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Lovely. The meat had a bit of a peppery marinade and gave it a really nice bite.
We finished dinner off with a bit of berry pie and vanilla ice cream that was worth every calorie. I know I sound pretty lame saying that but hey … I’m getting older .. I gotta watch it. Anyway, it probably wasn’t good for me but it was one hell of a slice of pie.
Friday morning Meena and I hit this place called Three Cubes or Three Squares or something in Abbot Kinney for brunch. A W E S O M E. I think this might have been one of the best meals we had. Meena had:
- huevos rancheros w/ chiles rellenos
- smoked salmon, fried eggs and bacon
Perfect meal. A few cups of coffee and an hour later and we were ready to explore. Sorry I don’t have photos of this one. I might later (took them with the film camera).
Friday night we hit the lovely Primitivo for a selection of tapas that lived up to the hype Laura had given it prior to our arrival. We had some amazing bacon wrapped dates (MIDWEST STAPLE ALERT!), a super bleu cheesy endive salad, a cured meat plate, kampachi crudo and fried calamari.
I think the dates and the kampachi were the real standouts. Though the bleu cheese endive salad was pretty stellar.
Saturday Laura took us on a tour of Venice that included this place Brickhouse Café or something. We had breakfast. It was OK. I think Meena had something Mexican again. The service was some of the most laughably terrible service I’ve ever had in a restaurant. And Meena lost her scarf there. But the food wasn’t bad.
To make up for it, Laura took us to this place that serves mini-doughnuts. It’s called Zelda’s corner and it’s right off the boardwalk (which wasn’t a boardwalk where we were and I found that incredibly misleading, FYI). Now, I’m not a doughnut fan. Not at all. I actually hate them. I never eat them. But something about the fact that these dudes were hand-making these little bites of fried dough right in the window while you waited drew me in. I only had one. One was all I needed to recognize that if all doughnuts were like this one, I might actually like them.
It was a weird little thing. It was still a little molten from the hot oil bath it had flailed around in just minutes prior. It was coated with cinnamon and sugar. It had elements of everything I hate about doughnuts but for one reason or another, I loved it. Also, I think it was like $3.50 for a dozen. Rad.
Saturday night we hit this joint called Wabi Sabi back in Abbot Kinney for some final night sushi stylings. VERY nice, friends. This place is a winner. We had:
- fried rock shrimp
- miso soup
- spicy tuna rolls
- spicy salmon rolls
- yellowtail and green onion rolls (it’s yellowtail and scallion in NYC baby!)
- some special shrimp roll with all sorts of fancy schmancy stuff on it
The sushi was totally no frills. It wasn’t all packed up with spritzes of sauce and streaks of this and that. Just solid, delicious, FRESH, straight-forward sushi. I like. I like very much.
Sunday morning, our final morning, we hit this joint called the Firehouse. It’s this strange combo of breakfast, lunch and sushi. I guess we were sitting in the breakfast/lunch zone. Sushi was on some other side of this gigantic space. I don’t know. I didn’t go look. I was just told.
Anyway, Meena had this open-faced burrito type thing with all sorts of eggs and onions and cheese and salsa and chicken. It looked positively delicious. Laura and I both had a breakfast burrito with chicken. It was packed with eggs, chicken, sour cream and some salsa verde. Not bad.
The real highlight, oddly enough, of The Firehouse was this chipotle garlic sauce they had on the table. AWESOME stuff. Just a subtle, smoky heat with a punch of garlic on the finish. Stellar. I forgot to ask if it was their blend or something they bought. It was in a squeeze bottle so the origins were shrouded in mystery. I guess I’ll never know. And I guess I’m OK with that.
So as you can plainly see, we had an awesome trip. Great food, great friends, so so weather. Ha! We also had a bunch of wine, some late night Jack In The Box (yuk!) (we were drunk!) (leave me alone!), incredible macaroons from Jin, crap Mexican and a bunch of weird drinks from the Coffee Bean (when in Rome, right?). Thanks so much for taking care of us, Laura!