Every Thanksgiving we go down to Los Angeles and visit Ruth, my mother-in-law, for a week.
She’s 92 but very mobile and completely interested and engaged in the world around her — and luckily for us, she loves to eat out and spoil us with treats.
So every week down here is a balance of restaurants, playing Scrabble, taking walks — and trying to find other ways to build up an appetite for the next meal.
We always stay in her small condo in Beverly Hills, so we’re ideally located for good times.
Like being just two blocks away from one of the outposts of Lemonade — a place we usually visit more than once as it’s always so delicious.
Never been? Whether you get one of their incredibly inventive salads
or bakes, braises or stews (like this ridiculously rich white truffle mac and cheese as well as smoky beef brisket)…
you can count on a usually wonderful and inexpensive meal.
I never thought I was much of a fan of lemonade, but when it’s made with fresh blood orange juice, or watermelon and rosemary or basil and strawberry — it’s easy to become enamored.
Nearby there was a lot of eye candy to take in and sidewalks to walk off a fraction of the calories.
It was so cheery to see so many plants in full blossom at this time of the year.
And every block or two there was something that caught my eye.
Some of the things I saw reminded me of France.
This storefront was right near The Ivy and also Chanel on Robertson.
And how about this pretty spot?
Before you knew it, it was time for another meal out.
Happily many more good eats awaited us on this vacation — like burgers and sandwiches around town.
Like at one of my perennial favorites: Umami Burger at The Grove.
First, look at the starch options here: giant cheesy tater tots, pomme frites with truffle cheese sauce and sweet potato fries with maple syrup and bacon lardons.
Everyone else went for one of their unbelievably moist burgers
but this time I decided to go for one of their Ahi tuna burgers with wasabi mayonnaise, shaved carrot and microgreens.
That tuna burger was amazing!
Not as outstanding but still pretty tasty was a pit stop at Johnny Rockets.
Their burgers were just okay but I loved my club sandwich with crisp, meaty bacon and ripe tomato.
Another dinner was a blowout at Matsumoto (formerly Hirozen).
Their shrimp and vegetable tempura is always a standout
and their sushi always satisfies.
We always purposely over-order so that we can enjoy leftovers the next day.
Sushi and a little tuna poke from Bristol Farms enjoyed midday with the paper?
I’m so in.
Here’s another place we always hit during our time here.
At this point in the trip David’s brother Larry and his wife Linda had come down from San Francisco to join us, so we all sat at a big table and ordered up a storm.
Connie and Ted’s is based on the clam shacks of the East Coast; although Parker House rolls may be a deviance from the norm, they are a must-do.
They are baked-to-order in a small cast-iron pan and arrive piping hot; you can literally see everyone trying to work out the arithmetics of the roll-to-person ratio.
Another must is the Little Gem salad with tomato, hardboiled egg, bacon and blue cheese.
I love the lobster roll here
but this time I thought I’d try something different: The New England Boiled Dinner.
As you can see, clams, mussels and lobster all clamor for your attention and bites of linguica and warm corn tempt further (so so good).
With so much eating and other sedentary pleasures, it was nice to balance it with some walks in the sunshine.
Just ten minutes away from strip malls and condos are tree-lined streets with gorgeous homes.
This part of Beverly Hills is much nicer than where my mother-in-law lives but it’s also always strangely quiet– no one is on the street.
Cars whiz by barely slowing down at stop signs and even the dogs go straight from indoors to pristine vans in which they carted off by groomers or daycare (we witnessed this four times on one walk alone) so Charlotte and I usually had all these streets to ourselves.
So much to look at, though, with one house grander or more appealing than the next.
Walking is so unusual around here that twice a private security car slowed by to take in my measure; I guess they had to make sure that I wasn’t the casing the joint.
This front yard I found to be particularly fascinating.
Somehow the ground had been manipulated to create a peculiarly bumpy exterior — like the earth had been covered in grass-topped measles.
The end result was striking and otherworldly, like a Tim Burton movie set.
Later still, two more delicious dinners awaited.
One was a very special dinner at L’Assiette on Melrose.
After Paris I’d been craving another classic French steak dinner, and I’d read raves about this place so we made reservations and headed over later that day.
The place was adorably Gallic– a lovely marble bar, chalkboard menus and interesting art.
We felt right at home in this intimate little place (if a bit homesick for our St. Germain apartment).
We ordered a gorgeous bottle of wine
and eagerly awaited our steak (apparently cooked in a 24 hour sous vide process, and their fries involve 8 steps).
Just like a place we’d heard about in Paris, the steak and fries are served in two stages; as soon you finish your plate, impossibly another portion is doled out to you.
So while you might originally think you couldn’t possibly eat all of it, you later realize you’re willing to overstuff yourself because the steak (with its incredible sauce) is so amazingly tender and the hand-cut fries (finished off in beef tallow) are the stuff of daydreams.
This phenomenal 2-step reverie was just $27 — an incredible deal considering it included the price of the soup or salad and both the amazing quality and quantity of entree.
I can’t wait to go back (only next time I won’t eat after breakfast and I’ll wear something stretchy to allow for full gluttonous rampage).
Last but not least was our last dinner all together at Lisa’s (David’s cousin) house in the Valley.
Lisa is a lovely hostess and an amazing cook (who also works for a foodservice company) so I know that every year there is going to be spectacular food. She opened her home to about twenty five of us and this is the one time a year we are all under one roof.
Both Richie (Lisa’s brother) and her sons (Jeffrey and Eric) are also fantastic cooks, so everywhere you looked deliciousness awaited.
Like these inventive deviled eggs (filled with an avocado-yolk puree, and topped with chili de arbol, blue corn chips and cilantro)
and these puff pastry wonders filled with sharp cheddar and smoked chicken sausages (I think I ate ten).
Her turkey was flawless — of course! — and because she was able to buy from her company, she got both whole breasts and separate ten pound turkey thigh roasts, enabling her to cook both separately and expertly.
The end result was ridiculously plump and tender meat– every single part, every last bite.
I mean, C’mon.
One of my favorite times of the party was running off to a spare room with Lisa to gossip and drink wine and catch up for a few minutes– I adore her and wish that they lived closer!
Next year I hope that I can arrive at her house a day before the party to help her cook and hang out (this year I just was asked just to bring a vegetable so I made Asparagus with Shaved Manchego and Smoked Almonds and Roasted Squash and Fennel with Lemon and Oregano Oil.)
What a feast– and bite for bite, the best Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had.
Afterwards, Charlotte took a number of the younger cousins into the kitchen and gave them a lesson in whipping cream.
It was so cute to see a couple of them propped up on the counter and taking turns with a giant whisk.
I didn’t try the apple crisp, but the pumpkin pie with ginger cookie crust was the best version I’ve ever had.
We got back last night and right now I’m still feeling so grateful.
A week of sunshine, amazing food, non-stop Scrabble games, catching up with David’s family and catching glimpses of a world so different than ours in Portland.
Just when I thought I’d seen almost anything I saw these designer fire extinguishers.
And yet another street filled with one mansion after another.
And more beautiful gowns in windows.
So Ruth and Lisa, thanks so much for everything.
Next time the hospitality is on us.