Food Travel America / LAX

2016 LAX, with help from Social Media & Lyft

LA! I always look forward to my extended weekend away to LA, but this year perhaps a bit more so after trudging through the wettest October in Vancouver on record. A simple 2.5 hour plane ride away and was quickly peeling off layers and exposing my skin to the heat.  Going from dreary grey to bright, sunny and warm, I felt my mood immediately lift. I was ready to have a great time away.

I have a long list for LA eating, but it’s pretty fluid. I know I won’t hit everything on this trip but I’m not worried. There’s too much goodness happening in LA and I’m there enough that I know I’ll eventually get to the places worth getting to.

Straight off the plane, I was singularly focused on an omelette. I’ve recently been swooned by food photos and videos watching Ludo Lefebvre making his perfect omelette from Petit Trois and I knew I had to try it.

I’ve been hot and cold on Ludo in the past 10 years. I remember him first hitting the LA scene with his pop ups at Breadbar. Looking at photos of those events, I was always curious to try. But then, watching him on Top Chef Masters, I was turned off by his attitude.  When Trois Mec opened a few years ago, I was curious mostly because it was a collaboration with LA awesome Shook & Dotolo, but I don’t really do the big tasting menu thing in LA all that often. But I’ve been interested in Petit Trois and mostly their omelette, and with a new found freedom in LA with Uber/Lyft, I knew I had to try it out for lunch.

I had braced myself to wait for a seat but was happy when I was escorted right in to the bar. I’d already scoured the menu online on my ride to the restaurant and knew exactly what I was going to order.

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Perfect ethereal omelette. So light and fluffy and looked like it never touched the frying pan. They often say making an omelette is a test of a great chef. Well from the omelette, and all the other amazing looking and food I saw passed out before me, I can attest that Ludo knows his stuff.

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Of course I indulged in a sparkling rose and had a side of fries smothered in mornay sauce. I have to say, the fries were so good they didn’t need any extra adornment.

I had dinner plans for the evening, but knew I needed to be easy-going considering I was deeply invested in the Cubs run at the World Series. Game 7 was the evening of my first night in town and as the game progressed, I knew we were not going to make even a late dinner reservation out with a friend. As the game went into extra innings and then a rain delay, I decided to explore take out options to my hotel.

It didn’t take long to find a few options that would work (with my Canadian credit card) and I easily narrowed it down to Mainland Poke, which I’d tried last year. The Doordash app made it super easy and within 30 minutes I had exactly what I wanted delivered to my hotel. While not the prettiest dinner I’ve ever eaten, the flavours were there and I was happy I didn’t have to eat anything too greasy or that would stink up my room.

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The weather was glorious during my time in LA and I didn’t want to waste any opportunities to spend time outdoors. So I threw my lunch plans of sushi out the door in lieu of sitting on a pretty patio. I’ve read a lot about Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant, which happens to have a sunny patio, so I thought I’d give it a try.

There were a few interesting things on the menu, but because I was solo, I knew the best way to sample the most flavours was to do the Chef’s menu. A choice of 3 items plus a dessert for $20, which was a good deal.

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Fried cauliflower with cashew nacho cheese & lemon

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Sauteed squash tamal and jackfruit carnitas taco

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The best thing I had, other than the delicious margarita, was actually offered to me by the gentleman sitting next to me after he caught me eying his fried brussels sprouts.

I could see how, if you’re vegan, you’d love Gracias Madre. The flavours and textures were interesting, but I felt that I was missing something (meat probably). And not that I didn’t have enough vegetables, but I followed with the juice sampler from Verve coffee next door.

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The juice flight went from green to sweet fruity to creamy to charcoal. There were many I’d never order, but a fun experience nonetheless. My cortado on the side made for a interesting palate cleanser between tastes.

I’d been to Son of a Gun for lunch a few years ago, but wanted to revisit it when Alex, who had been in LA a week before, mentioned that the tuna and avocado dish was one of her most favorite from her trip.

The only photo that didn’t turn out was the tuna, which turned out to be one of my favourites from the night as well. I was happy when a friend from  LA was able to join us for dinner, because it meant being able to order more from the menu.

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Uni, bursts, button mushroom and yuzu

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Octopus salad was the server’s suggestion and unfortunately my least favourite of the evening.

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Chilled peel & eat shrimp with lime mustard sauce were messy with a bit of kick. Neither a bad thing in my opinion. Although according to my friend may have been the cause of his bad stomach the next day.

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The fried chicken sandwich with spicy b&b pickle slaw and rooster aioli is “everyone’s” favourite for a good reason. A bit messy and hard to share, but even with just a couple of bites, I was satisfied.

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Linguine & clams with uni aglio-olio, chili and breadcrumbs was hands down the best dish of the evening.

I follow a lot of LA based feeds through social media and can’t help but see at least an image a week from Sqirl. I’ve been wanting to try it out for a few years,  but it’s never seemed that convenient to me. But again, the convenience of Lyft has opened up a whole new LA to me.

I arrived at Sqirl a bit before 10am and waiting around 15 minutes in line to order. I had done my research in advance and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to try everything I wanted. Again, on Alex’s suggestion and I got the the ricotta toast (which was my #1 choice anyways) and a side of bacon.

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Famed ricotta toast on burnt brioche a generous helping of ricotta and a slather of raspberry jam

That evening I ventured into downtown, which is a whole other post itself to follow.

I’d first heard about Guerilla tacos a few years ago, and while I’ve wanted to go, the truck is never in a location that’s been convenient to me. I was ecstatic this year when I saw that it was just down the street from my hotel on Saturday outside the Blue Bottle coffee shop.

With my food agenda planned for the day, I set out for a new adventure. I can’t believe that for as many times as I’ve been to LA, I’ve never gone up Runyon Canyon. But again, Alex (and her friend @thebryancarter)’s  Instagram posts led me to discover the amazing view that can be had at the top of the canyon. A short (and free with credits) Lyft ride away, (because parking there is stupid) and I was on my first LA hike.

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The flag (west canyon) route was what I’d set out for, but veered right instead of left and first ended at the peak of the east canyon. But after all the eating I’d been doing, I knew I needed more, so I went back down and up again along the west canyon to finally reach the flag.

I follow the Guerrilla Taco Facebook feed and have been drooling over their menu for a few years. For the week I was in town,  I was sad to see they weren’t serving  any uni for the week. I was also disappointed to find out they weren’t serving hamachi tostadas when I got to the truck either. But I ordered almost one of everything they had that day and while I enjoyed each bite immensely, I was still left with FOMO. The great thing about these tacos was that they’re so unlike traditional Mexican tacos that I couldn’t even compare (and then be disappointed like I was at Gracias Madre). Guerrilla tacos most definitely stays on list for next time.

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Fried soft shell shrimp torta with habanero, heirloom tomatoes, chipotle crema and cabbage slaw.

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Cauliflower taco with burnt tomato chile, olives, dates pistachios and chives. Roasted sweet potato tacos with almond chile, braised leeks, fried corn and goat cheese. Eggplant taco with fried cheese, dried figs and hazelnuts. Funny not a meat to be seen in any of these tacos, but this time I didn’t miss it.

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And of course because I was at Blue Bottle coffee, I ordered a New Orleans iced. Not because I love them all that much, but more because it just seemed like the perfect November sunny hot day to drink me.

Dinner with friends, Adrian & Mel is a top highlight to any LA trip. This year, Mel and I contacted each other in advance to do some planning. We knew downtown was out of the question, and with our relatively short planning, we came up with few options. I threw Wolf out as a suggestion despite my negative feelings of Chef Marcel Vigneron from his seasons on Top Chef. But I’ve seen some rave reviews that made me feel it was worth a try. What I didn’t realize was that Mel is a huge Top Chef fan like me, and jumped at the chance to try Wolf out.

We were seated at the perfect table, as Mel & I got to look right into the kitchen and watch Marcel send dishes out. From this vantage point, we not only got to see what looked good (it all did) and we also got to see Chef Marcel work the kitchen for the evening.

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Castelvetrano Olives with preserved lemon, rosemary, harissa

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Burnt Carrots with coconut, charcoal, passion fruit, tarragon, macadamia, lime

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Beets and Plums with yuzu, almond, berries, nasturtium

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Hamachi Crudo with nuoc cham, radish, herbs, puffed rice was Chef Marcel’s recommendation of what was great for the evening.

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Braised Beef Cheek with jerusalem artichoke, turmeric peppercorn sauce, baby chicory

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Perfectly cooked Vadouvan Lamb Rack with ratatouille, panisse, olive dust, lebneh, jus

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Charred Broccoli Polonaise wtih smoked tomato, flowers, croutons, egg, bee pollen

We were pretty satisfied but we “had to” order one of everything off the dessert menu.

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Chocolate ganache tart with honey brulee, cashew ice cream and persimmon

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Vanilla Pavlova with berries, black tea ice cream

There was more, but I stopped eating because Chef Marcel came out at that point to chat with our table. I told him how I never liked his “character” on Top Chef (neither did he) but couldn’t deny his talent. I love being surprised in a meal, and this one not only surprised, but delighted as well.

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One last day in sunny LA before heading back to rainy and cold YVR, so I wanted to make the most out of my day with a wholly California experience.

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Backyard Bowls acai berry bowl was bright and sunny just like the day. (My green kale acai bowl was too dark and goopy to photo).

With just a few hours of sunshine before heading back to dreary Vancouver, so I soaked up as much as I could. As one last treat before boarding a plane, we stopped at Gjusta in Venice for a slice.

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And just like that, another LA trip was in the books. But I’m never too sad to leave because I know Oaxaca is just around the corner. Well that combined with Christmas means I’m heading into the most wonderful time of the year for me.

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