Pardon the infrequency of my blog posts lately. The months of June and July are really my busiest months! It is the big summer school break of the kids, and this is the time when we travel the most as a family. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I went on holiday with the fam bam in California. So this post is about the first half of that trip, the time I spent in Los Angeles. (If you want to get ahead of me and see the rest of the pics, check my Instagram account here and look for #TSMinLA)
So what are my favorite things in LA?
1. Bouchon Bakery’s Pain Au Chocolat
This beautifully baked French pastry called pain au chocolat, or simply, a croissant filled with chocolate inside, was my constant breakfast companion during my weeklong stay in LA. It was everything a French pastry could ever be – buttery, soft, flaky, flavorful and yes, filling. I paired it with my double macchiato every time and the generous chunks of chocolate from the bread and the double dose of caffeine from my coffee were more than enough to jumpstart my jet-lagged filled days.
But what I looked forward to the most about going to this place every morning was sitting alone in this beautiful patio surrounding the little bakery. The fresh, cool early morning dew coupled with the gorgeous trees and blooming flowers all around (plus that nice, romantic fountain in the middle!) became my favorite breakfast setting! Eating this freshly-baked bread of Thomas Keller (the famous celebrity chef and owner behind Bouchon Bakery) in this beautiful garden, is surely something I am missing right now.
2. In N Out Burger’s Double-Double ® Cheeseburger
Those familiar with California know the In N’ Out name all too well. They say, this burger is THE AMERICAN BURGER to beat all other burgers. What’s the big deal? Two pieces of 100% pure beef patties, lettuce, tomato and onions all stacked up together in between two slices of thick, slighlty melted cheese inside their house-made bun.
This is the American Hamburger done right, done the old-fashioned way. Simple and no fuss, but big on taste and flavor! In N’ Out Burgers,particularly their Double-Double ® Cheeseburger, are known for their high-quality beef patties. They take pride in not freezing, not pre-packaging and not over-processing any of their ingredients. No fillers, no additives and no preservatives are used in any of their food products, unlike in most hamburger fast-food chains we know. So really, what you see and what you get here is as fresh and as good as can be!
3. The Bazaar by Jose Andrés
If there’s one dinner I will consider as my favorite amongst the many great dinners I had in LA, it is this one located at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills : The Bazaar by Chef Jose Andrés. It was one memorable dinner as the tapas served were actually traditional Spanish tapas I am quite familiar with, but were all executed in a modern, “molecular” kind of way.
The place itself is huge, looking more like one big indoor piazza rather than your typical Spanish restaurant, and was designed with a lot of playful elements and art by no less than avant-garde celebrity designer, Philippe Starck. The culinary creations by this James Beard award-winning chef / owner Jose Andres, were not just beautiful to look at, but more importantly, were all packed with explosive taste and flavor!
Photo above shows just some of the many small dishes we had that night : Seared Squid in Ink Eggplant and Crispy Rice, Japanese Taco made with Grilled Eel, Shiso, Cucumber and topped with Chicharon, Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks Mojo Rojo style and their most famous “Philly Cheesesteak” – made with Air Bread, Cheddar and of course, Kobe Beef! (There were many other wonderful dishes not shown in this photo, like their Jicama Wrapped Guacamole with Micro Cilantro and Corn Chips that you must order too, if in case you find yourself in this restaurant in the near future!)
Of course, a meal will not be considered a great meal without some great desserts! And this restaurant exceeded my expectations. The Bazaar by José Andres treats its sweet endings seriously — by having another area called The Patisserie dedicated just for desserts. In fact, because of the huge space allotted and the prettiness factor here, this area seems to be another restaurant, a whole new production in itself. It is in this section where guests are asked to move from their dinner table to have their desserts. This place is made even more playful and whimsical with modern furniture around and artworks displayed side by side with their delectable dessert counter filled with all kinds of cakes, tarts, chocolates and more.
4. The Ivy Restaurant
Another “landmark” in LA’s dining scene, is The Ivy Restaurant, located right in the middle of West Hollywood. Because of its proximity to the “stars”, Hollywood celebrity sightings are quite the norm here. (However, I failed to spot one when I was there — but managed to see a throng of paparazzi waiting right outside!) Having had this reputation as the place to see and be seen, I didn’t expect much about the food. However, I was completely surprised when each and every dish that came out turned out to be actually — good!
We had Fresh Tuna Tartare, Fried Zucchini Flowers stuffed with Goat’s Cheese, Wild Calamari with Olive oil and Lemon, Seafood Fish and Chips, Risotto with Fresh Seafood and Lobster Marinara. I had a spoonful or two (or three!!) of each and every dish, and they were all hearty and flavorful. But amongst the many dishes we had that lunch, the one that stood out for me was this generous plate of warm and freshly baked scones they delivered to our table as soon as we settled. This is something quite special (since we all know how rare it is to find good scones in Manila), so when I was presented with a heap of these baked goodies as my “starters”, I immediately wanted to pack them all up and bring them home with me! 🙂
However you will notice in the photo above that they served these scones with butter and jam – instead of the traditional English way of serving it with clotted cream and jam. (But this is America and not England – so they will serve it their own way :)) This does not discount the fact though that these scones — especially since they were served warm and fresh from the oven, were just some of the best (taste and texture wise) I’ve ever had!
5. Shopping in LA
After all the food mentioned above, let me not forget to tell you that one of my favorite things in LA is also their shopping scene. Almost every imaginable brand from cheap to luxury can be found here. Designer names at sale prices? Why not! Outlet shopping? Oh yes, of course! Everything can be had here at a sale price, if you only know where to go.
However, if you want to do some real, serious luxury shopping (and do some celebrity sightings as well), then Rodeo Drive is the place to be. Do you remember this scene in the movie Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts was seen walking around with a dozen or more shopping bags in her hands (and was also turned away by a couple of salespeople)? Yes, that scene was shot right here in Rodeo Drive.
All the high-end, expensive brands are lined up here, from Hermes to Valentino, Armani to Cartier, and a hundred more. Whether you will end up shopping here or not, this gorgeous row of designer boutiques is still worth a visit, with a photo-op or two surrounded by these tall and beautiful palm trees! 🙂
What are your favorite things this July?
(To see last month’s favorite things, click here)