Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food and Drink in LaLa Land

Have you all be feeling neglected lately? I do apologize, truly. I have a few excuses but they aren't particularly compelling ones (nothing the average blogger doesn't overcome on a regular basis) so let's just stipulate that my regret is sincere and I won't let it happen again (anytime soon at least). Is that OK?

On to happier things. L.A. for instance. As much as I adore New York, I do love my long weekends in Los Angeles. Something about the sun, the low humidity, the hills, beaches and the blue sky just make me feel joyful and relaxed, even in the midst of that legendary traffic.

view from a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Primo on Sunset

Paul was finishing up an epic charity bicycle trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles this past weekend, so I thought I would fly out to welcome the conquering hero as he made his way into West L.A. I figured after raising an impressive sum for AIDS research and having riden over 500 miles on his own steam, my dearly beloved deserved a big hug at the end.

After an all too brief detour to Orange Country for some family time and a massive meal with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and various partners, I was headed to Santa Monica to meet up with Paul & Co. who, quads still burning, were parked in a sports bar on the 3rd Street Promenade bemoaning England's performance in its inaugural world cup game. At least the English contingent of the group was. The Americans were not so despondent.

Post-game, the riders completed the last three miles of their long journey, and then bikes and gear were loaded into my massive rental car (I must admit I'm sort of missing my obnoxiously big white Ford Flex now that I'm home) and we decamped to the Grafton for showers and relaxation.

For Andy and Laia this translated to pool time and for Paul and I it translated to mani/pedis at Polish, where the lovely owner Mariko, as always, took excellent care of us.  I was feeling so at one with L.A. that I went with sparkly aqua blue polish on my toes.

Then it was on to the food and drink, which, as it was my favorite part of the weekend (or any weekend), is the real point of this post.

Meal #1

Saturday evening was dedicated to exploring the recently opened Soho House West Hollywood. Set on the top two floors of an office building on Sunset, the views were undeniable,

photo via here

the outdoor olive grove was positively inspired,

photo via here

the crowd was buzzing (but in a pleasingly decorous manner), the photo booth and adjacent hallway lined with the product of the booth was loads of fun and the drinks were, appropriately, free flowing.

Appetizers were tasty, dessert was gorgeous and the entrees...well the entrees were better than at the Soho House in New York. But really, food isn't exactly the point of this place now is it? So the entrees could be forgiven.

The place had quite an airy yet at the same time intimate feel, I suppose because it is not so massive as some of the other locations are. And because the space was rather open you felt present in all of the spaces, not as though you were missing out on some secret good time in a room hidden away.

photo via here

And the art's not bad either.  This Harland Miller piece caught my eye immediately on the way in.

photo via Remodelista

The print may be a bit small to read here, but the book title reads "This Is Where Its Fuckin At", and the subtitle reads "Least It Used To Be".  Given the vitriol Soho House can draw for its trendiness, I found the message hilarious, and quite pleasantly self-deprecating.  More of Miller's works in this series can be found here.  I have to admit I'm tempted by more than a few of them... 

Meal #2 (aka my favorite)

The restaurant Gjelina seemed to be nearly screaming at me through the blogosphere design they say, great food, nice vibe...with a friend that Paul and I wanted to catch up with who lived in Venice mere minutes from the place, brunch there almost seemed like destiny.

Expecting a massive wait, you could have knocked us over with a feather when they seated us immediately. Recovering from my shock, I looked around and realized that the blogosphere had indeed been correct. Cool design?

Check.  Especially that big marble block of a sink.  So industrial-luxe.

Great food? Absolutely.

If they put this much effort into their cappucinos you can imagine how good the eggs were (the pizzas also looked incredible...I had serious food envy of the neighboring table). And I have to admit that although I often order breakfast meat sides, I am disappointed by them 80% of the time.  However, I'm still dreaming of Gjelina's bacon and sausage four days later.

But perhaps what I loved most about the food was that though it was all undeniably flavor packed, I did not feel even close to comatose after eating. For brunch this is highly unusual, which is why I often take a pass on the ritual.  But were I a resident of any neighborhood in the vicinity of Gjelina, I assure you I would be quite the faithful brunch goer.

Meal #3

I've raved before about Suzanne Goin's cookbook Sunday Supper At Lucques.  It has been my go to for impressive dinner party dishes ever since I got it.  So you can imagine how excited I was by the prospect of attending an actual sunday supper at Lucques.

Walking into the place was a bit like entering a rustic European farmhouse, but newer (as everything in L.A. invariably is).  It seemed comfortable and unpretentious, and I felt confident that our sunday supper experience would be a pleasing one.

Stress of any sort was minimized by the well priced prix fixe menu, a version of which graces the table each and every Sunday.  And when asked for an appropriate wine pairing for my entree, the waitress gave one definitive recommendation.  I loved the lack of equivocation.

I found the food good in that simple, clean, locavore way.  It wasn't transcendent, but not all food is meant to be.  It was quality, pure and simple.  And any cuisine-related lulls in the meal were quite effectively erased by the presence of Michelle Obama, who is apparently continuing her national tour of farm-to-table restaurants, and her daughters two tables away from us.  As is so often the case, she was far more beautiful than television had led me to believe she would be.

To give the place a truly fair shot, I would love to return one day and order off of the full menu, hopefully with the first lady in tow.  I imagine both the food and the conversation would be of quite a high caliber.


Mlle Paradis said...

that's l.a. baby! walk right in: CHILL!!!!!! too bad about that england goalie.

Jane said...

Wow. you do what I do. namely go to a place and eat in all the 'happening' restaurants I must say Lucques looks the best. I do love that marble basin though. Lucky lucky you. And good on the Cyclist, I am impressed with the dedication and charity.

Sneaky Magpie said...

Your trip sounds lovely, I must bookmark those restaurants, they sound absolutely divine!

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Wait. Paul biked from SF to LA? And I thought driving it was an accomplishment. And having dinner with the First Lady (sort of)--how cool is that? Fun post, Laura.

mise said...

That Harland Miller stuff is so appealing. If he had a service where you composed your own book title and he painted the very expensive cover for you, we'd all be there like a shot.

Ashley said...

Wait, wait... Michelle Obama was a Lucques with you!? Insane!

Millie said...

Wonderful post Laura - with quality writing & reviewing like this, you are excused for your posting tardiness!
Millie ^_^

French Fancy said...

I am glad you are back - this was a great post and just renewed my desire to live in the States. Now as for Soho House in your neck of the woods - I'm sure the London enterprise is a club for members only. You lucky things having not just one in NY you can go to but LA also.

As for Michelle Obama there -did everyone keep looking round to stare at her?

Laura in Paris said...

I've been so many times to Djelina, but when I go, I only go to the back patio. Otherwsie it is so incredibly noisy!!!! Unbearable.

Angie Muresan said...

That was so very sweet of you, Laura! Los Angeles does have some great restaurants, but it's the sunshine and the beaches that I love.

So cool about seeing Michelle Obama and her daughters in person.

Laura [What I Like] said...

Mlle Paradis - Yes, I've heard him described as a "turnip" more than once in recent days.

Jane - Yes, thank god for the internet, otherwise I would have no hope of finding "happening" spots while traveling. I am quite impressed with my cyclist as well!

Sneaky Magpie - Yes, you must visit!

Terry B - I know, I was surprised he was standing at the end.

mise- Such a brilliant idea! You ought to manage Mr. Miller.

Ashley - I know, it was quite an unexpected surprise.

Millie - Awww, thanks!

French Fancy - It's the same folks as the one in London. So funny how different all of the locations are...I kind of love that old townhouse in London I have to admit. People were pretty cool about the Obamas, although that could have had something to do with the raft of secret service she had surrounding her!

Laura in Paris - We were fortunate to go on a day that was pretty quiet...but I couldn't agree more about how awful loud restaurants are!

Angie Muresan - Agreed, the outdoors is really what L.A.'s all about isn't it?

Blog Widget by LinkWithin