We just came back from a week-plus visiting family in Los Angeles and Orange County.
And man did we eat well.
To sum it all up, I’d say there were a couple standouts — be they categories of food I like to indulge in or establishments that I would highly recommend.
But first, a resounding dud.
For years I’ve heard people rave about this chain, and had yet to go. Just before we flew back to Portland yesterday I insisted on a quick pilgramage here, and we were all universally disappointed with the experience. A ho hum burger and dreadful fries. I’m no snob, and I eat almost every fry that’s ever put in front of me, and yet none of us was feeling the fry love (throwing out 2/3 of these flavorless, dessicated disasters).
I think we are so spoiled in Portland with lots of inexpensive yet delicious burger options here (like these at PDX Sliders)
so this experience at INO was all the more jarring. No mas, gracias.
But so much other tastiness awaited us in the southland.
LEMONADE, the quick-service chain.
I’ve told you about these restaurants before
but I love Lemonade so much that I own their cookbook
and visiting my MIL in LA this time, we went there twice.
Sure, their signature drinks are fabulous
but this time it was all about that grilled cheese with bacon jam, a number of their salads
and poke bowls.
Their current poke version has mandarin oranges, avocado, choice of brown or white rice and furikake and fried onions. It’s so delicious!
How I wish Lemonade would open up here — I’d eat there weekly.
ICE CREAM AND FRO-YO.
It makes sense that a place that’s warm year-round has such wonderful frozen options.
I have a soft spot for frozen yogurt whenever I head south, and I always love some Pinkberry.
In case you’re not familiar, it’s a minimist kind of place with just a few flavors and high-end toppings, but what Blue Star is to donuts, this is what it is for frozen yogurt — a commitment to minum but premium ingredients and a modern vibe means desserts here are refined, sophisticated, urban.
On the other end of the fro-yo scene are places like Yogurtland, and it was a riot to go there with cousins while at my Mom’s (we were too busy having fun and stuffing our faces to get a good pic).
Another place that’s a favorite (and we returned to this time) is a place called Milk, an ice cream parlor on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles.
This is a place that features fantastic fresh-baked cookies
and rich, succulent ice creams, and it’s so fun to pick up one of their pre-made ice cream sandwiches, like this Grasshopper (featuring oversized mint macaroons and ice cream and then dipped in chocolate),
a combination I love so much that I get it every single time while in L.A.
We also like to make up versions of our own using any ice cream or cookie they have on hand.
Another surprise this trip was some of their handmade frozen bars, like the chocolate-dipped Cookies and Cream
and the Strawberry Shortcake. It was like the best possible version of a Good Humor treat.
My God it was scrumptious.
DIN TAI FUNG.
I was thrilled to see that our favorite Taiwanese restaurant had opened up a branch at Century City — and we were eager to have my MIL try this place devoted to killer dumplings and noodles.
Of course we had to start with the XLB soup dumplings
but everything we had was out-of-this-world.
Spicy shrimp and pork wontons
noodles with ground pork
and, as always, a few smoothies to round it all out.
I heard recently that Din Tai Fung is rumored to be opening up their first Oregon branch in Washington Square and I’m beyond excited about this — but I can’t imagine the lines there’ll be for this kind of crazy good.
Along the way there were so many wonderful times with grandparents and cousins (and not as many photos as I’d like!) and fun experiences, like getting our nails done at Olive and June
another California chain that features premium polish (Chanel, OPI and Essie to name just a few)
and a lovely setting in which to get some lively nail art.
Getting spa treatments is something I rarely do so it was so fun to kick start our vacation with a little pampering.
Charlotte and I both chose a Tiffany-like blue from French company Kure
and Charlotte had some custom art done just for fun (thanks, Grandma!).
Before I dash, I have to share with you the most memorable meal of our entire trip.
Gjelina in Venice Beach.
I’d seen (and salivated over) the cookbook and for years I’ve heard the raves for all over social media, so to find myself sitting in that gorgeous back brick patio(filled with umbrella-topped tables and plants) after all these years had me pinching myself.
I wasn’t the only one feeling the special vibe.
An adorable couple was celebrating their anniversary with lunch there and when they played their song over the speakers, they spontaneously got up and started dancing.
The menu is an intriguing one, with one offering sounding even better than the next one, so it was hard to settle on our choices.
I think we ordered well (although I think it was impossible to end up with a dud).
We feasted on Lemon Buckwheat Pancakes with Blueberry Compote, a Steak Sandwich with Aioli and Arugula
and a White Pizza with Castelvetrano Olives (oh that crust!)
and then the real game changer– a BLT with heirloom tomatoes and an oozy, unctuous egg.
It was the best one I’ve ever had.
Gjelina is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to anywhere, and I adored it.
Leaving family and fun behind is always hard
but it helps when you have another happy face at home waiting for you.
(Porter/Pork Chop, we missed you so much but are so grateful that your foster family took such good care of you.)
Happy Summer, all!