We just got back from a trip to L.A and it was a bad news/good news kind of vacation.
First the bad news.
I have two Achilles tears (one on each leg, and trust me, it’s not the kind of twin set you actually want) so my mobility is severely limited right now. I’m not able to drive and even walking with a toe-to-knee boot is difficult and painful.
So that meant for this trip to my mother-in-law’s condo there was no walking in favorite neighborhoods
no long shopping trips and certainly none of this, one of my family’s favorite things to do in Southern California.
Play miniature golf.
Okay, that’s the worst of it.
The good news, however, is much sunnier.
And more delicious (like this poke and Kettle potato chip snack enjoyed mid-trip).
My appetite is stronger than ever.
So may I present to you:
THE TOP FIVE THINGS WE ATE IN L.A.
Five. Little Next Door.
My family and I are shameless steak frites hussies, and we’re always on the hunt for a good steak.
In previous trips, we’ve had this one at A.O.C. (oy! those onion rings!)
and this one at Thanksgiving at L’Assiette.
On this past week’s trip we hit the French bistro Little Next Door in West Hollywood.
We started with incredible salads (Caesar Salad and a Farmer’s Market Salad with butter lettuce, peppers and capers)
and then moved onto the main deal.
I’m not even going to pretend that I was there for anything other than that Steak Frites.
The steak was velvetty and the fries crispy, perfectly salted and herby– and the bottle of French Burgundy was a superb. This was a home run all the way around.
Four. Plan Check.
There are a couple of these in L.A., and they’re known primarily for their excellent cocktails, fried chicken and burgers.
Now that’s something I can work with.
That cocktail was called Plan Check Penicillin and do you see that little blossom in the glass?
It’s called a Buzz Button and the waiter told me that once upon a time they were used for their anaesthetic properties.
I took the advised bite into it and sure enough my lips and mouth started to numb up. Thankfully it was short lived, because the combination of top-shelf mezcal, ginger, lemon, agave and fennel made for an outstanding cocktail.
More goodness awaited us.
Chicken and Waffles (check out that bacon butter!),
ribs and surprisingly delicious salads (those turmeric pickled eggs were crazy hued and tasty)
and of course the requisite burger topped with a runny egg, hot sauce and a Frico.
That was one fun night out.
Three. Shake Shack.
I love this chain; if you recall we dabbled with it in Brooklyn in March
and our return to Shake Shack‘s Hollywood branch was no less scrumptious.
Right now Shake Shack is my favorite fast food burger: juicy, great tasting beef with crispy edges, the right amount of cheese and a bun that’s pillowy enough not to be a distraction but durable enough to hold it all together. Supposedly owner Danny Meyer exhaustively researched how to make the perfect burger and I have to say that it shows.
I’m a huge fan of their Smoke Stack with those killer marinated hot peppers and bacon.
Shake Shack, come to Portland! You will be much loved here, too.
Regular readers know what a huge fan I am of this Southern California chain.
Sure, their eponymously named drinks in rotating flavors are always a draw (like this Classic, Strawberry-Rhubarb and Blood Orange)
but there’s so much more to Lemonade than that.
Like sandwiches and fantastic soups and short ribs and truffled mac and cheese.
They offer so many different things but most of all it’s the salads that always slay me.
You can order one salad or as many as you’d like and they’ll serve it up to you on a lovely white porcelain platter.
This time we had the Spicy Pineapple Chicken with green beans and coconut
and a Tuna Poke with avocado and Satsumas.
I envy those with a Lemonade near them; if I had an outpost near me I might never cook again.
Maybe I’ll just have to crack open their cookbook and share some of those recipes with you.
And then, finally, drum roll, the most memorable thing we ate on our trip.
Ice Cream Sandwiches at The Milk Shop.
I’d been seeing the pics on Instagram (you can find my feed by searching portlandsampler) and Pinterest, and when Milk kept popping up as an L.A. must-do, I knew we needed to go. Luckily we had an hour to spare before the flight home and we hustled over there.
Man am I glad we did this. On a sunny day, is there anything better than an ice cream sandwich?
Here’s how the place works.
You can order ice cream straight up, pick out one of their just-made frozen confections (everything from ice cream bars to macaroon sandwiches and chocolate dipped drumsticks) or you can pick out any cookie there and pair it with an ice cream of your choice for a custom-made cookie.
I nabbed one of the already made Grasshopper Mint Macaroon Sandwiches (mint cookie and ice cream dipped in dark chocolate).
Friends, it was a stunner.
Oliver and Charlotte picked out their own concoction.
Both kids picked these wonderfully dense triple chocolate cookies, and Charlotte had Cookies and Cream Ice Cream while a Oliver opted for a Red Velvet interior.
Pros that they are, they ate the entire sandwich.
I mean, seriously–just look at these big, fat, juicy honkers.
The ice creams were all terrific but it was the excellence of the cookies that really stood out for me. Not many bakeries are able to produce such an array of outstanding cookies, but Milk nails it.
Having to choose between the cookies (peanut butter chunk! molasses ginger! snickerdoodle! triple chocolate! red velvet and chocolate! and more) was nerve-wracking but rest assured that they all seem to have just enough softness that they act as the ideal ice cream delivery system. Just pick a cookie and a complementary flavored ice cream and you’re golden.
And that’s our last trip in a nutshell: Eat. Drive around and look at nice cars.
Play Scrabble. Relax. Have something tasty to drink and pick up something interesting to nibble on and read.
(Repeat on loop until the ticket agent tells you it’s time for boarding.)
So thanks to Grandma for her generosity, her Scrabble-playing tenacity, and all those wonderful treats, snacks and meals.
But most of all, Ruth, thanks for loving my babies like I do.
(She’s 93, people.)
As a token of my esteem, I miraculously saved her this as a parting gift — and stuck it in her freezer for later that day.
Could there be a better gift?