Bianca: After our adventures in San Francisco we headed down to Los Angeles. Being in Hollywood for close to two weeks we decided to stay in our own self-contained accommodation. We found a beautiful 1918 ‘Audrey Hepburn’ inspired Bungalow in the Hollywood Hills, a 5-10 minute walk to both Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard. We had a car for 5 days, which made the trips further out of Hollywood to Disneyland, Laguna and Newport Beach much easier.
A pre requisite to any trip to the West coast is a pilgrimage to ‘In N Out Burger’. It was pretty much agreed upon that our first meal in LA would be burgers from the west coast fast food chain. After the 15 minute walk and having the bright yellow and red signage meet us we were beyond excited. I had the single ‘Cheeseburger’ and Alex ordered the ‘Double Double’, I loved the addition of raw onions. My only regret was not ordering the burger ‘Animal style’ with the extra sauce and getting the chips cooked well done. They were quite dull and would have been much better with a few extra minutes in the fryer. Ill know for next time.
A visit to Los Angeles isn’t complete without going to the famous ‘Farmers Markets’ – lunch here comprised of a chicken kebab from ‘Moishe’s Restaurant’ and Alex got a Margherita pizza. I won’t lie up until this point, almost four weeks into this trip I had a whine or two about the lack of quality donuts….that had been eaten. Not for lack of availability! I remember vaguely a family holiday in 2003, having made a stop at the Farmers Market – visiting ‘Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts’, I recall vividly these donuts being among the best I have ever eaten. I knew without a doubt I’d be getting a donut. Wanting to enjoy but also not wanting to go overboard Alex and I shared the ‘Chocolate Caramel Nut’ with sprinkles of hazelnut pieces. By a number of happy accidents we made two more stops over the two weeks to the Farmers market where we also tried the ‘Glazed donut’ and the ‘Chocolate frosted’ and the penultimate of the donut world the ‘Cinnamon Roll’, honestly the Cinnamon roll should be encased or bronzed. With each bite the sugary dough would disintegrate and melt into a sugary mess. Behind the Famers Market’s is ‘The Grove’ a shopping boulevard comprising of various retail shops, restaurants, cafes, a movie theatre and a fully functional free trolley that makes trips from one end to the other.
Being a fan of Gordon Ramsey I set out to dine at one of his restaurants while in the states. ‘Fat Cow’ (which closed in late March) was one that stuck out to me, being of course a major sucker for a burger. The usual duo shared the ‘Fat Cow Cheeseburger’ and ‘Onion Rings’, while the burger didn’t blow me away it was tasty and hit the spot – the onion rings were crispy and didn’t leave that sickly oily feeling in your mouth which can sometimes happen with fried foods.
After a peaceful mid-morning drive to Venice Beach then onto Malibu we set out for lunch at ‘Geoffrey’s Malibu’. Overlooking the ocean, Geoffrey’s offers breath taking ocean views in a very upscale environment. It was also our first experience with valet parking, which we found a hilariously entertaining experience. The scene was something from an episode of ‘The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’. Tables of women discussing of course, other women, their husbands and decorating their houses..not that we were listening or anything. To share we had the ‘Philadelphia Cheesesteak with Fries’ and the ‘Chicken Piccata’ – With sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes and a lemon caper butter sauce. Both were the standard restaurant fair, slightly disappointed given the prices and reputation of the establishment. Pleasant but not fabulous.
Alex was set on visiting ‘Urth Caffe’ mainly to go celebrity spotting, we saw none! But later that day whilst shopping a few minutes down the road in ‘Rag & Bone’ we saw ‘Game of Throne’s Lena Heady, I was way too embarrassed to go up to her though. Urth Caffe are known for their slightly healthier fair, they also make their own blends of premium coffee and source hand selected fine teas. I wasn’t particularly hungry that day so Alex and I shared the classic ‘New Yorker Sandwich’ – A classic Reuben sandwich with pastrami, Russian dressing, braised green cabbage, Swiss cheese on thick slices of marble bread. This was one of the best Reuben’s I have eaten, the marble bread was particularly interesting and tasty. With generous slices of sliced Pastrami.
Same story regarding ‘The Ivy’ I was aware that this was a haven for B and C grade celebrities to be seen and have their photos taken. It’s not unusual to have paparazzi line the streets to get a shot of the celeb’s lurking within or sitting on the outside veranda. We visited mid-week for dinner and it was virtually deserted, there were more waiters in suits running around then customers to serve. So they tended to congregate on the front veranda not far from where we were sitting, it made things a little uncomfortable. I had heard mostly negative things about the Ivy, generally it was a place to be seen, not exactly known for their great food. Alex had ‘India’s Hamburger’ – Ground Grass Fed Beef, Smoked Applewood Bacon, Brie, crispy Basil on a homemade sun-dried tomato brioche bun served with French Fries and Garlic Basil Mayonnaise. This was sort of the Honey Boo Boo child of the burger land, showy, loud and ultimately no substance, it didn’t leave much of an impression. Certainly not for the $26 price tag. To further my Mexican eating quest I had the ‘Chicken Enchilada’s – With Mexican Rice & Beans. Sadly it was very unsatisfying, the best Mexican on my trip was a Burrito the size of my head from Disneyland. Trust me, it was a surprise to me as well.
‘Umami Burgers’ with their identifying U brand on their burgers ‘crown’ were the best burgers we had in the USA. A big call? Yes but It isn’t even a question. Umami means a ‘savoury’ taste along with the other five basic tastes – sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Mainly a West coast chain, they have a handful of locations on the East coast. A better choice than both Shake Shack and In N Out Burger. The first time we visited Umami Burgers I shared the ‘Truffle Burger’ – A house ground hand formed patty infused with the Umami Master Sauce, with housemade truffle cheese and a truffle glaze. An in your face flavour profile that stimulated literally every sense. To go with the burger we shared a single serve of ‘Sweet Potato Fries’, with a whole tray of condiments. Our second visit, knowing how good the burgers were I opted for my own. Alex, wanting to re-live the heights of our first visit had the ‘Truffle Burger’ again. I had the ‘Umami Burger’ – Beef Patty, parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roast tomato, caramelised onions and house ketchup. Another delicious burger, whether the parmesan crisp added anything was questionable, I would have preferred a slice of Cheddar or even American cheese in its place. For a little something on the side we had a serving of the ‘Truffle Fries’ which were Crispy and Crunchy – everything a decent Fry should be.
Some other random wanderings brought us to ‘The Hollywood Markets’, mainly fresh food stalls, where I had a rather disappointing Chicken Burrito with Red and Green Mole. ‘IHOP’ a chain family restaurant known for their pancakes, they also serve a wide variety of Breakfast, lunch and dinner options. We made a pit stop on our way to Laguna Beach, really, just so we could say we had been. Alex had the ‘Original Buttermilk Pancakes’, feeling a little under the weather that day I just had a nibble or two of Alex’s. With a tray of various syrups on the table, we had a bit of fun trying the pancakes with the 3 or 4 on the table. The best being the classic Maple Syrup. Making the short trek via bus to Los Feliz one morning (before every single shop in the neighbourhood opened by the way) we made a beeline for ‘House of Pies’, my weakness for Peanut Butter pretty much sealed the deal. Alex and I shared a ginormous slice of the ‘Peanut Butter Cream Pie’ – incredibly rich and a little sickly, not even my undying love for the spread could save this heavy gluggy mess. I actually don’t know how people could eat this for breakfast!
To celebrate our last night in Los Angeles, the group decided to make it a special one. We dolled up in our fanciest clothes, those being the one’s we were left with after two boxes being shipped back to the land of OZ and headed to ‘Chateau Marmont’. A haven for celebrities and the upper crust of the LA scene, it definitely made for some interesting people watching. We were embarrassingly told by the waiter that photographs weren’t permitted in the restaurant, then casually let slip that she was going to ‘get some menus’ and left us to take a few quick photo’s so we could settle in. To start, we each had an ‘Arrancini of Black Truffle with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan’. A delicious crispy morsel filled with oozing cheese and rich soft rice. My main was the ‘Thyme Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower Potato Gratin’. I was pleasantly surprised with this dish, I was expecting an on the bone piece of Chicken with some plain old Cauliflower but what was brought to me was a tasty crispy piece of crumbed chicken breast, delicately balanced and moist. The cauliflower was the best thing about the meal and I don’t really care for it. Alex had the ‘Chateau Burger with Fries’ – feedback about the burger… “The chips were nice…” Boys!! To finish the meal we shared two desserts between the four of us, details are a little hazy here. I remember a Peanut Buttery mouse and a serve of pillowy Apple Beignets. Their strict photo rule hindered my ‘Photo of every meal endeavour’. Big name places do have the hype and luckily for us Chateau Marmont lived up to it. We even saw a famous face or two.
We’ll leave you with what we could, a photo of the menu!
There was a relatively thriving health movement in Los Angeles, not that we partook. But it’s easy to see that those living in LA can straddle the line between making healthier choices then citizens in other states we visited. There were a wider variety of healthier take-away options, we came across our favourite new chain supermarket ‘Trader Joes’ as well as the weekly famers markets.
After saying our farewells to Audrey and LA we made our way to ‘NAWLINS’.
Bianca and Alex