There are fewer things more iconic in Southern California than a Sunday spent in Pasadena. Whether you’re on your way to The Rose Bowl Flea Market the second Sunday of the month or are in the mood to lazily stroll Old Town Pasadena afterwards, the Red White + Bluezz Sunday Brunch is a southern treat that shouldn’t be missed.
Upon stepping into Cheeky’s on a Friday morning, I knew it was a place I’d enjoy eating at. Filled with natural light, it’s open Thursdays through Mondays during the breakfast-to-brunch time block. It makes sense, since the menu changes weekly – and it’s a delicious one dedicated to seasonal, local ingredients, at that.
Brunch remains the fruition of the ultimate Southern Californian snub – a meal Angeleno dilettantes could fit into their schedules almost any day of the year if they wanted to, and on an outdoor patio, at that. While I once considered the tweener meal synonymous with a certain 3rd Street spot known as much for their celebrity sightings as for their fruit cup and egg dishes, brunch has become a fact of life. There is now no shortage of restaurants – most of whom don’t even offer lunch service on the weekdays – who open early on the weekends for brunch. It’s become a ritual, a pastime that has become justification for that Friday or Saturday night hangover. With that comes competition and an audience that is no longer enamored with the existence of eggs on the menu.
City-wide pastry and sweets addicts know and love Huckleberry for their wonderful selection of treats. Always a proponent of the highest quality ingredients – down to their organic flour – Huckleberry’s impressive display case is quite the Westside attraction but their fresh salads, sandwiches and weekend brunch dishes also hold their own thanks to Executive Chef, Head Baker, and Co-owner Zoe Nathan.
Now, on Thursdays, nobody will have to bid adieu to the cafe favorite earlier than they have to enjoy a family-style dinner. With a new seasonal menu featured weekly, you’re offered a different experience each time. Take-out options are also available on the 3-course, $30 per person weekly. To get the menu of the week, sign up for the restaurant’s e-newsletter.
Anticipation of Josef Centeno’s upcoming Bar Amá reached fever pitch recently as a result of Bon Appetit naming Bäco Mercat one of America’s 10 Best New Restaurants (Michael Voltaggio’s Ink also received a nomination in this category – bravo for Los Angeles). But nothing prepared me for the day on which my cravings actually led me to leave the 49ers-Packers game on my TV during free DirecTV NFL preview week. I wanted eggs. I wanted a Bloody Mary. I also wanted a Bäco.
If you are ever reminiscent of France and in the mood for a beautifully buttery croissant, you need not travel any further than West Hollywood.
But not just anywhere in WeHo. Forget the scene and oversized, mediocre plates at The Griddle and walk two blocks toward Luca. At the cross-streets of Laurel and Sunset Boulevard lies the eatery that prepares some of the best pastries in the LA area. Only organic ingredients are used in all of their recipes, including organic flour in the construction of these beautifully baked goods – so you know that you’re only getting wholesome goodness.
The croissant is probably the best I’ve ever had. It comes out warm and embodies the perfect balance of flakiness, butteryness and finally, that pull-apart lusciousness in the center. The apple tart? To die for. The currant scone? A beautifully moist texture (despite the scone not having butter in its recipe). The blueberry muffin was super fresh. Clearly, no corners are cut at Luca – and this, I can tell from just the pastries.
And all this, without even having had a meal there, yet. I wonder what else is in store… (And I’ll have plenty of time to figure that out, since there’s free in-house WiFi.)
All pastries were hosted.
7 AM – 12 AM
Validated parking, Free WiFi
Luca on Sunset
7950 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
There may be many a nightowl in the circles I run, but I still can’t remember the last time I heard or read about breakfast. Brunch is the meal of leisure over sustenance and a time when friends can order eggs or sandwiches. Brunch makes it okay to drink before noon. And brunch brings purpose to sleeping in on a weekend morning.
Enter Playa Rivera, Chef John Sedlar’s newest venture in the space that was formerly Grace. While dinner service may be pricey for some, Playa’s brunch menu (in lieu of happy hour) is a great foray into Sedlar’s Santa Fe-influenced cuisine. Entrees range from $10-15, with no shortage of the chef’s artistic expression – or cinematic appreciation, for that matter (you may find a scene from Clockwork Orange beneath your Tamal).
But do not start with the entree.Â The don’t-miss at Playa Rivera’s brunch is the blue corn muffins, which areÂ made withÂ organic cornmeal and furnished with almond butter (I could’ve spread that butter on anything). And if you do order a cocktail, be sure you look at Julian Cox’sÂ fullÂ selection before you autopilot that bloody mary or mimosa. The sangria is no ordinary sangria, but a complex cocktail with a hint of sour. It’s so good!
As for the entrees, IÂ have resigned to the fact thatÂ in early-day weekend meals, eggsÂ are king. In a recent episode of “Ladies Who Brunch” at Playa,Â I sorely wished that my Croque
Monsieur Senor was a Senorita. The layers of chorizo and queso in each biteÂ were really good, but when the eggs on three other plates waver at you with their perfectly poached,Â sunny and easy yolks, you can’t help but become envious.
The duck hash was one such example as two round eggs stood against a colorful plate of potatoes, delicious dark meat and arugula. It was as beautiful a display of savory as it was tasty.
For those more Santa Fe-inclined, go with one of the red chile-laden dishes, such as the Huevos Polenta. Once I was finished with my sandwich, I couldn’t help but steal spoonful after spoonful of Maya’s dish. Sedlar’s red chile really is that good, and dare I include “authentic.” (I am no expert, though I did enjoy a blitz in chile education during a weekend trip to Santa Fe with other food bloggers a year ago, in which we were lucky enough to observe Sedlar in his native environmental and culinary elements.)Â Ladled over theÂ top of a bed of polenta, the red chile just makes for a super delicious soup.
If you’re feeling like a tamale, you can enjoy that same redÂ chileÂ atop the Tamal – that of which are topped by some beautiful, sunny-side up eggs. Yes, you get the Clockwork Orange mural, as well. (In the latest series of dish art at Playa, expect a controversial radioactive theme – an homage to the chef’s native New Mexico.)
But just like the muffins, you best not miss dessert. The Sundae comes with a blue corn chocolate chip on a jar with goat’s milk ice cream, cocoanibs, hazelnuts as well as hazelnut syrup. If the blue corn muffins were mind-blowing, the dessert rendition is really the icing on the blue corn cake.
With just one experience under my belt,Â Playa Rivera brunch is in the ranks of being one of my favorite brunches in town. It won’t break the bank and isn’t one of your standard issue pancake-waffle breakfasts over mimosas. Not that those are necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to change the pace – and the cuisine – when the results come out this good.
We all have done it. We all have stood in lines. We may have even stood in lines for brunch, even though it’s our first kick-start of the day and can’t even function standing up in said line without that first cup of coffee.
So when I took my friends visiting from Milwaukee to The Alcove for the ultimate L.A. brunch, I was feeling pretty much like a sucker when I saw the line trail out their cute, tiny cottage door and onto the brick walkway. It was a Saturday morning – brunch time at one of the most popular brunch spots – and I dared think, “I don’t stand in lines.” Luckily, one of the staff caught my “explore other options” vibe and said, “There are seats at the bar in Big Bar, if you want to sit down.”Â I was fast as a rocket: “Is it full menu?” “Yes.” So I sprinted into Big Bar to claim our four spots in a flash.
Bar seating is underrated. I enjoy being a part of the action (the bar at Lazy Ox Canteen is one of my favorite places to eat solo) and witness to what goes into making the food and cocktails I’m about to consume. The best seats in the house were essentially unclaimed before we had arrived. And with Rosie Ruiz and Eugene Lee behind the bar, my friends and I were about to experience a cornucopia of delectable cocktails beyond our already-excellent Bloody Marys made with pureed in-house tomato juice and sinus-clearing horseradish.
I loved my crab cake benedict and my friends (two Jessicas and an Eric) blissfully enjoyed their scrambles and crab cake sandwich. It’s no secret that food is consistently solid at The Alcove, and I was relieved that that was still true even though it’d been awhile since I had returned. Truth be told, we stayed at The Alcove for over 3 hours, thanks to our willingness to be liquid guinea pigs and Rosie and Eugene’s gregariousness and hospitality at Big Bar’s…bar.
I never did sit in front of such a lively pair of bartenders in the morning with zero guilt. Usually, I’d validate morning drinking with a bloody mary – but why restrict it to just one cocktail? Eugene asked me what I wanted to drink next, and I picked gin. And so he put together a beautifully simple cocktail that had just the right amount of kick in it thanks to the jalapeno. Hand-crafted, tailored cocktails in the morning … I can handle that.
But I apparently can’t handle notes during brunch in the morning, since the coveted recipes are nowhere to be found in my phone. (Don’t worry, I can type without looking at my phone, under the bar. Look ma, no touch screen!) One of the lost notes includes the Lifeboat cocktail, which Eugene shared is a Kirsten Dunst favorite – to the point of returning a handful of times and bothering him during his meal to make the cocktail, just to skip out on the check.
Gah. Celebrities. It may not be Hollywood, but there’s no escaping that The Alcove is a scene, a place to be. Deservedly so. Just don’t take my seat at the bar.
P.S. – Eugene’s got tunes on the patio and at Big Bar on Wednesdays, the themes of which change every week. So, be sure to pop in for food and/or cocktails for what promises to be crazy, mid-week funtime. Big Bar itself also has some of the best bar bites I’ve had in town.
All photography by Jessica Kaminski…which is why it looks professional and stuff.
It took four nights and three riding days in Vail to get the opportunity to experience Snooze in Denver. In between was mac ‘n cheese at the pub called “The George,” that mid-mountain hot dog at the “Hot Dawg Haus,” this bowl of chili from “The Red Lion,” and all the other carb-heavy treasures found in such density as ski resort villages such as Vail’s.
Enter our last meal before boarding the plane back to LA. We made an early morning departure from Vail to Denver – the drive back in to the metropolis and airport hub from the ski town at which we stayed for the past 4 nights. We were destined to eat well without the LA cost. And no longer true was the direct correlation between money spent and quality food eaten so often found in ski towns.
The interior of Snooze is evocative of an updated 1960′s diner. Oval tables with orbiting benches line the center of the dining space. Its bustling energy employs eco-friendly mores and consistently tasty dishes, with a twist. I very much enjoyed my Breakfast Pot Pie, which advantageously didn’t even have a pot. The square crust that surrounded it was golden, buttery flakyness all around. The filling did its job, with the warm sausage gravy providing a savory and satisfying center to which the flaky crust collapsed.
Probably most glaring on the menu for sweets lovers is the variety of pancakes and house-made custom butters and syrups in which they are dressed. But don’t be fooled by a la carte, lone pancake ($4.50) – it’s humongous. My breakfast companions who ordered the pancakes were overwhelmed and couldn’t very well finish the sweet flapjacks. Maybe the Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting and praline syrup; the Sweet Potato topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter; the Graceland with bananas, peanut butter and bacon caramel sauce all require a bigger, sweeter mojo.
The benedicts were solid, though, with perfectly poached eggs being no small detail, nor was the fresh salmon in particularly the Upstream Benny. This was another score for the savory selections at Snooze. We appreciated that our server was honest with what exactly on the menu wasn’t her favorite when we asked for a recommendation, indicative that this is an establishment whereby actually thinking about your food is encouraged.
And don’t forget the variety of mimosas, available with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and bloody marys, available with an extra-spicy, tequila (Maria) and gin option. They average around $6, which is quite a steal – especially for the Angeleno buck.
And now, I’m intrigued by what other eats Denver has to offer. Alas, maybe my fellow snow sliders and I will have time to do a more thorough pass-through on our next trip. Aspen, anyone?
Though I’ve always been a kind of “over easy” kind of gal when it comes to eggs, more and more I’m apt to go “sunny side up.” Especially when it comes to Korean food. The runnier, the better.
And that’s really the only thing that the so-named “bibimbap-style farro” has in common with the actual Korean dish. I’m not questioning the taste, however; I’m just wondering what exactly is so “bibimbap” about this dish. No chili paste, no silver bowl – but you know, perhaps the mixture of vegetables – including asparagus, roasted tomato andÂ swiss chard -Â on top of, yes, farro instead of rice is just enough to warrant the name.Â The most pleasant surprise, though, was the burrata. (If it were “dolsotbop style,” do you think farro could result in a crispy bottom caused by a stone pot?”)
Regardless, this is one delicious and surprisingly filling dish out of manyÂ tasty selectionsÂ on Black Cat’s reasonably priced menu (see: $2 coffee). Though nothing can take away from the cultish longevity that Mani’s hadÂ in the same spot, I’m sure glad that Black Cat is now filling the neighborhood space.
They’ve remodeled the interior and kept the decor simple. The best indoor seats remain in the Fairfax-lining bay windows built for 2. Of course, there’s still sidewalk seating for those who like to really make the most of Black Cat’s neighborhood feel.
I came for lunch, so my appetite didn’t exactly call for one of the freshÂ pastries (baked on-site with breads coming from Homeboy Industries) behind the counter. But thanks to this great experience with the farro, I’ll be sure to return for more menu items,Â earlier in the day. My wallet can handle it.