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Loving life (and food) in LA

1 Oct

Before getting married last month, I wanted to have one final trip as an unmarried woman with my sister. We have always been travelling partners and I truly love exploring new places with her. We always seem to have the best time, regardless of where we end up. Months ago, I had jokingly mentioned that I would love to visit Disneyland for my stagette and my sis ran with this idea and bought me a ticket to Los Angeles as a gift – what a sister!!

For this Greedy Guts, the highlight of any good trip involves trying new restaurants. As time was limited (only 2.5 days) research and bookings had to be done prior to leaving for LA. Thankfully, I thrive on this sort of stuff and had us booked into Pizzeria Mozza, one of the most talked about restaurants in LA, as soon as we had booked our flights! Pizzeria Mozza is a restaurant owned by celebrity chef, Mario Batali, (along with Nancy Silverton and Joseph Bastianich) and the name says all you need to know about the menu – pizza. But not just any old pizza. The wood-fired oven churns out rustic pizza with a chewy, flame-licked base and understated toppings that will blow your mind with their simplicity. You will have a difficult task ahead of you trying to choose from the 20 different types of pizza and a varied selection of traditional antipasti but I don’t think you can choose wrong. We tried three different types of pizza and all were impressive. Most of the pizzas are around the $15-$16 mark and you will need to reserve in advance as the small space fills up quickly.

One of the most exciting food finds on our jaunt to LA was the newly opened Magnolia Bakery. We literally turned the car around when we happened to come across it whilst driving. Magnolia Bakery is famous in its home-town of New York for their painfully cute, pastel-coloured cupcakes and old-fashioned baked goods made daily from scratch. The bakery has now opened its doors on the West Coast and takes you back in time with their retro 1950’s décor and daily baking. Vintage display counters are stacked with dessert delicacies such as cupcakes, brownies, cookies, lemon squares and apple crisps. Rows of frosted cakes, perched high on their stands, tease from above. On my many visits to Magnolia Bakery in New York, I was unable to justify ordering anything but the cupcakes and I was unable to resist once again. It’s almost as though I am hypnotized by the prettiness of the cupcakes. The simple vanilla cakes topped with generous swirls of soft butter-cream frosting and a scattering of sprinkles always make me giddy with excitement. Couple this with a trip to Disneyland and my sister had one excited Greedy Guts on her hands!

Joan’s on Third was one of those food places that made my head want to explode because every which way I turned, my eyes were greeted with beautiful, seductive food. Joan’s is a family run gourmet market meets café/catering company that is stylishly decorated in a modern French Farmhouse kind of way. The charming deli displays an abundance of gourmet foods such as cheeses, olives, meats, freshly-baked pastries, salads and sandwiches. In the café, the menus aren’t breaking any new ground. The lunch menu is made up of sandwiches (and lots of them), salads and soups, and the brunch menu is also modest; granola, breakfast sandwiches, a soft boiled egg with toast…hardly anything we haven’t seen before. But honestly, I don’t care! What captivated me most about Joan’s was how much joy it bought me to see all of that glorious food on display. I was in culinary heaven and culinary hell – surrounded by enticing food but hindered by having only one (limited) stomach.

The hip Toast Bakery Café, located just down the street from Joan’s, was another welcomed spot for brunch. Big, hearty servings of breakfast were what this busy café specializes in. Inside, Toast felt a lot like a bustling diner whilst outside there was a perfect people-watching patio (try saying that three times fast!) on sunny 3rd Avenue. The menu is large. Very large. I had no idea that there were so many breakfast choices available! The scramblettes – which is your choice of either an omlette or scrambled eggs with different fillings, are a hearty, satisfying option. I was impressed that they had a lot of vegetarian scramblette options, such as The 3rd Street (spinach, Swiss and feta cheese, mushrooms and onions), and The Portobello (Portobello mushrooms, mild jalapenos, cheddar, mozzarella, green onion topped with sliced avocado). Their griddle delivers gratification to those with a morning sweet tooth, with four different types of waffles (Belgian, multigrain, strawberry-banana and banana-caramel), four types of French Toast (classic, berry, coffee cake crusted and stuffed) and five types of pancakes (buttermilk, tri-berry, cinnamon-walnut, banana chocolate chip or multi-grain). Phew! That’s not all: breakfast wraps, grilled croissant sandwiches, burritos and huevos rancheros, amongst many other breakfast items, also feature on the menu. Oh, did I mention that the menu is large?

Bottega Louie, in downtown LA, is a restaurant/bar/patisserie/food market amalgamation. Normally I’d be skeptical of a place that wears so many hats but I was pleasantly surprised, so much so that I visited twice. Although it is set in an extremely large space with high-ceilings, Bottega Louie somehow manages to avoid being devoid of personality. With an open space and crisp white walls, the restaurant oozes an elegant charm. The same menu is used at both lunch and dinner and it has a heavy lean towards pizza and pasta. This, along with a decent amount of chicken, meat and seafood dishes and a LOT of small plates, makes the menu extensive. Although the food is anything but innovative, the quality of the food was good and the service was prompt and precise. Breakfast and brunch can also be had, as can a quick pit-stop to the waist-expanding patisserie – another feast for the eyes. Next to pristine cupcakes and pastries so beautiful that I want to cry, a display of macarons, in a rainbow of pink, purple, yellow and orange, fill the patisserie cabinets. It takes will-power not to order everything. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the downtown area.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the food scene in LA. Sure, food-wise it was no Portland, New York, San Francisco, or our very own Vancouver, but I did manage to come across some interesting foodie spots and to me that made it a very successful trip! Plus, Disneyland was AWESOME!