I've always liked the idea of a neighborhood restaurant. In a perfect world, we all would have one: a warm, dimly lit café around the corner; a bistro just a stumble down the block; a spot up the street where you could always get a table. We all would have a restaurant where we truly belonged—like the bar in Cheers, only without the kooky customers.
In this perfect world, the maître d' would greet you with a kiss on the cheek. The server would set down your usual drink before you'd even taken a seat. The menu would open like an old, familiar novel, the one you've read a half dozen times but never seem to tire of. You could eat and drink and carouse as though you were at your own kitchen table—but at the end of the evening, you could tumble into bed without washing a single dish. When I die, I've decided, I don't want to go to heaven. I want to go to my neighborhood restaurant.
-Molly Wizenberg; excerpt from her September article in Bon Appetit
Day Four: Le Petit Greek
Amen Molly. After living on the fringe of cute neighborhoods for the last ten years, I have finally landed in a lovely area of town that has a bustling little main street full of cafes, boutiques, ice cream parlors, and a terrific yoga studio. I feel like I've arrived. I live in the cute.
Perhaps my favorite thing about living in such cuteness is my own neighborhood place, Le Petit Greek. The Ideal Husband and I happened upon it the day that we moved in and haven't stop going back since. It's that perfect mix of a relaxed atmosphere that is always 3/4 full but you never have to wait for a table and the food is honest and fresh. The restaurant is family owned, and supported by the most gentle and friendly staff I've ever come upon - led by their charming maitre d' Mario. It's the perfect neighborhood place and the evenings I spend on the outdoor patio eating spanikopita, Ionian salads, and freshly baked pita make it all worthwhile.
It's Friday and half past 5 where I live, so let's call an end to the working week and go for an end of summer supper to usher in the first signs of fall. Can you believe it's time for a jacket again?
Serious excitement and anticipation preceded our evening at the newly opened, Palate. It was to be a double celebration housewarming and birthday dinner for two very special friends, who also happen to be family. Palate is hot off the press with a glowing rave from the L.A. Times which described a carefully edited menu of simple dishes done to a perfect T. Palate also boasts a sister wine merchant and cheese shop where where you can indulge in small plate tastings while browsing a gastronomic library full of foodie books. Heaven.
I confess that I had pre-ordered in my head, which I am prone to do, but was delighted when our group opted for the full-on shared experience and so we ordered half the menu. From the porkfolio to the truffle risotto to the vegetable papillote to the impulse-buy rabbit, it was beautifully conceived, executed, and presented. Thoroughly well done in all aspects.
Except one. We had the oddest service. Left relatively unattended, patronized by the sommelier who kept calling us "kids", and an unbelievable moment when an entire bottle of water was spilled onto my lap... Without a big to do about the whole service bit, I'd say that the confluence of odd service dynamics could have soured the evening if not for the genuine delight and conversation of our company.
Let's chalk the weirdness up to an-off night and say this: The food is excellent. The ambiance is excellent. The whole gig is exactly the kind of well-conceived dining experience and culinary intention that I root for in a restaurant, but somehow I know I won't be back. Too many restaurants out there to look back, except to check if my pants are dry yet.
Say hello to my new go-to L.A. restaurant. BLD is a perfect candidate for the "place you go to most" with a user-friendly and yet inspiring menu complemented by a nice wine list, a gorgeous cheese plate, and seriously good coffee. Fresh decor and truly alluring lighting make you want to linger over cappuccino and solve the world's problems. So we did.
For me, the standout was the evening's special heirloom tomato salad with insanely good burrata. (I told you it was burrata week in Los Angeles.) For my date, the Banana Cream Pie with brownie crust made him put his head on the table in disbelief. The spot-on dessert menu lingered with us so much that we brought a visiting friend back two nights later and left in a blissful coma of Three Layer Yellow Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, Blueberry-Nectarine Crisp, and good old Chocolate Chip Cookies with milk. Don't worry, we shared.
In short, BLD goes on the short list. Food Glorious Food
As a newcomer in the City of Angels and self-respecting food lover, I have decided not to eat at the same restaurant twice until I have an understanding of the culinary landscape in this town. Armed with a willing dinner partner, a slew of brilliant guides and recommendations from the local food blogging community - I'm on it.
I think we've made some real progress this week as the past seven days have been chock full of visiting friends, special occasion dinners, and a Saturday night date with the Ideal Husband. Hence, there's been A LOT of food. I'll give you the run down in the next couple days - let's call it A Week in the Life of My Mouth.
The warm bustle and bursts of laughter from neighboring tables made me feel instantly at home at La Buca. Tucked in among who knows what on east Melrose, the exposed brick, unfussy decor and interesting multi-level space make this little osteria seem like it's own world. Among a group of friends, we sampled a decent amount of the menu. Here's the report:
Everyone but me loved the duck prosciutto with burrata. (By the way, it must be burrata week in Los Angeles because every single restaurant is hawking burrata specials.) We tasted two of the pizzas, both of which were successful with crispy crusts and well balanced flavors. The pesto ravioli and pink vodka gnocchi were a little run of the mill and though the Fungolata salad was lovely, it made me realize just how good Mario Batali does it over at Mozza.
Yes, the atmosphere is more cravable than the food, but worth it for that "good-to-be-with-friends-St. Elmos Fire" feeling. I'll go back.
And The Ideal Husband sat next to Kevin from the Backstreet Boys. Food Glorious Food
Everything Nice, the second novel by favorite author, Ellen Shanman, has arrived as the perfect book to get your brain out of summer beach mode and back to the real reading of the Must Have fall short list.
Smart, textured, and poignantly stinging - the novel is right on point to bring about the next evolution in sophisticated romantic comedy fiction with really good female driven storytelling. More so- the story seems ripe for movie plucking. Somewhere between Sex and the City and the forthcoming The Women, Everything Nice is exactly what people who hate the words "chick lit" and "chick flick" are looking for. If you haven't picked it up yet - go get it. Or order it here.Must Haves
Something very good is happening this summer. Something smart. Something versatile. And something that is universally flattering to women...the maxi. If you don't recognize the name, don't feel bad (it's dumb)- most of us know this item of clothing as an update on the very user- friendly hostess gown or caftan. The caftan is a chic woman's answer to the little girl's sundress. Quite sexy in its ease and silhouette, the maxi has found its way back into our hearts as we realize that it takes us to brunch, on to an afternoon of shopping, and somehow gussies itself up for dinner with a pair of flat goddess sandals and a little clutch. With the summer's best headed for the August sale racks, keep an eye out for this updated classic. I predict it's not going away anytime soon. I Heart Fashion