So far 2012 has been bringing me a lot of fun and food, with some sporadic travel mixed in. Ringing in the new year on the other side of the country, I spent the first week of January visiting friends in Los Angeles, California. Unlike my first visit to LA, which only included a three-day stint at Coachella, this time I spent five days there, relaxing and taking in a lot more of the cities varying neighborhoods. Shacking up at my friends beach house, we spent most of our time in Malibu.
Not a bad way to wake up, huh?
Neptune’s Net: Our first food stop brought us to famed fish shack Neptune’s Net where we got our fill of fresh sea food. Located along the PCH highway in Malibu, overlooking the ocean, it’s notorious for being a local favorite to beach bums and celebs alike. The massive crowding and traffic cop signaling cars out front would be indicative of its popularity. Aside from an overwhelmingly long list of restaurant offerings, they also have a full-on fish market where they’ll cook anything you see swimming in the large tanks lining the counter. They’ve also got a beer fridge big enough to rival the one at your liquor store, stocked with all kinds of stuff I never knew existed, like 22 oz Bud Light Limes.While there we noshed on (clockwise from left) shrimp, crab cake sandwich, onion rings, clam chowder, and fish tacos served with avocado, lime and tomato salsa. Of course they claim the clam chowder is World famous New England style, which is apparently the case of every Clam Chowder. Can you remember the last time you saw clam chowder listed somewhere that didn’t claim it was famous? Who’s dishing out these awards anyway? How can every clam chowder be famous and what’s the criteria? I want to know! I’d say it was good, but not famous. I loved the onion rings but probably could have passed on the tacos. We all know Dorado’s has made me a total taco snob and no challenger has fared the same since. In my opinion, the food was definitely satisfying but nothing special. If I learned anything during my lunch there it’s that people are more impressed by the name and come for the great people watching, it’s certainly not for the quick service or the exceptionally good seafood, but def worth a visit.
Veggie Grill: Our next notable food venture brought us to Veggie Grill in Santa Monica. It’s no secret we love veggies. We love them almost as much as we love cheese, and hey, when you’re eating some of the stuff that we do you have to balance it out with some greens if you want to survive. Ya dig? Craving a light lunch the next afternoon, we made our way over to this vegan oasis. To be frank, the place is amazing. So good even your biggest meat-lovers will enjoy it. I am personally not a fan of fake meat; I’d rather stick to the real stuff. I mean whats the point of not eating meat if you’re just going to eat a somewhat sketchy mediocre tasting version of it — beats me. But, in the case of the Veggie Grill, I loved their protein-rich chillin’ chicken which comes in a number of dishes. Like the Grillin Chickin’ Wrap…Which also included avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto, and chipotle ranch served in a wheat wrap. It also comes on top of the Thai Chickin’ Salad made with romaine, red & green cabbage, roasted corn salsa, green onion, mandarin oranges, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and wontons, with spicy Thai dressing (below).I split both of these dishes with a friend and they were exactly what I’d been looking for – tangy, light, crunchy, fresh and flavorful. It’s the kind of food that will convince even the biggest non-believers that vegetarians are not completely out of their minds. There were even a few of our friends who went back to the Veg Grill a second and third time before the week was over. Yeah, it’s that good. Additional favorites included the Papa’s Portobello (above), a Grilled portobello mushroom sandwich topped with chopped tomato, basil & garlic pomodoro, caramelized onion, pesto, lettuce, tomato, red onion and chipotle ranch; along with sides of Nachos served with vegan-friendly cheese and Buffalo Tenders made from crunchy Chillin’ chickin’ strips.It was easily one of the best meals I had while eating in LA, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t quite a few of those.
Miceli’s: During our touristy morning in
Hollyhood Hollywood we decided to dine at one of the areas oldest Italian restaurants — Miceli’s! My friend who is from the area warned me that the place was a little kitschy, but that it was a Hollywood staple that serves some great Italian food. I’ll admit, we went on a slow day and service was not on point. We were constantly flagging down our server for silverware, water, condiments, you name it; whatever we needed was never on the table. However, there were a few dishes that held their own. Clockwise from top left, the entrance to Miceli’s followed by Caprese Salad, Rigatoni Della Casa and Mozzarella Marinara. We also decided to try one of their pizzas since apparently they’ve been famous for over 50 years (here we go again with the fame claims). The pizza, however, was not a win. The dough was bland and the sauce underseasoned; I would have to advise against it. Thankfully, the rigatoni was beyond irresistible topped with homemade marinara, romano cheese, and buttah. So rich, so good. YUM.
Crumbs: Just moments before stuffing ourselves at Miceli’s my friend took me by Crumbs Bake Shop. Located on Hollywodd Blvd. amidst all the cemented celebrity handprints and character impersonators, Crumbs is an adorable sweet shop with tons of cupcakes, and I mean TONS. I got a headache just reading all the names – Coconut, Cookies n’ Cream, Carrot, Oreo, Lemon, German Chocolate, Turtle, Vanilla, GAH! Knowing I would be eating an Italian meal in mere moments, there was no way I was committing to eating an entire cupcake bigger than my fist but I decided to dabble in a few bites of the Cookie Dough cupcake. ZOMG so effing good! Definitely one of the better cupcakes I’ve ever tried, putting some of Boston’s best to shame (Sweet, cough; Izzy’s, cough cough; Kick Ass — you stand a chance). The thing was so dense and rich three of us couldn’t even finish it. I wish they came in mini or else there’s absolutely no way to try every flavor without going up at least two dress sizes, ughh.
Geoffrey’s Malibu: A place I’d been meaning to stop by all week, I finally made my way there on our last day. Conveniently enough, it was also the most beautiful day weather-wise. Sitting on a cliff, overlooking clear blue waters, Geoffrey’s Malibu is another restaurant located along the PCH highway. I literally drove by the place at least 4 times a day, wondering what it was like inside and why so so many cars seemed to be parked out front all the time. We originally showed up under the impression we’d just have a drink or two while appreciating the view, but once we looked at the menu we realizing not ordering food was simply not an option.
The Golden Beet Salad (above) was delicious, served with herbed goat cheese, micro greens and a tangerine walnut vinaigrette. We also tried a few other dishes (pictured below) including the Ahi Tuna Tartar with avocado, scallions, ginger, red onions, topped with tobieko caviar and served with wonton crisps; Tahitian Sweet Corn Chowder garnished with fresh lump crab meat and Geoffrey’s Kobe Burger topped with horseradish cheddar cheese, smokey bacon and roasted shallot Aioli. Everything was excellent, as we’d hoped it would be given the hefty price tag. The service was impeccable and the view really was spectacular. We sat on the outdoor patio overlooking the beach, pristine white umbrellas scattered about. None of the menu items were out of the ordinary, but every dish they did they did it well, and corn chowder is easily becoming one of my favorite soups this season. I still dream about the one I had at Bondir not too long ago. Sigh.
There were also a few other places we ate that are not photographed in this post including Nobu for undeniably exquisite sushi, Howdy’s Taqueria for a quick Mexican fix, Cholada to satisfy our cravings for Thai and then Lares on our last night, deemed the most authentic Mexican in Santa Monica by my more-than-accomodating hosts. In case you haven’t already guessed, I ate really well on my vacation in Cali. There wasn’t a single meal I wouldn’t eat again, or a restaurant I wouldn’t recommend. Hopefully some of you have been to these places, heard of these places, or plan on going some time in the future.