Simmzy’s is a Long Beach Neighborhood Delight

Daytime view from open patio at Simmzy’s Long Beach

Long Beach is that sister city, south of Los Angeles. If you are one who truly loves being an Angeleno – without the irony, that is – you accept The LBC as the L.A. away from L.A. Each block is potentially completely different from the next, and it’s one vast county hosting a cornucopia of cultures and backgrounds.

Blue Cheese Haystack

And then there’s Long Beach-Belmont Shore. At Simmzy’s second location, their corner on the block is bustling with flip-flops, beer and pub food. It’s a true pub without having bowed to the recent “gastro-” trends as of late. Besides, Simmzy’s are beachy places without the beachfront. People sometimes just want good weather, good beer (offered up by two dozen taps), a good time and good food – not groundbreaking culinary trends.

While I tend to think the Manhattan Beach location is a tad small, the Long Beach one also has no problems filling its space to the gills. They’ve got day-of-the-week special, which happened to be the Short Rib & Chocolate Porter Chili on Saturdays – a sweet, tangy treat. Though their crust is not a lot to write home about, their pizzas showcase some original topping combinations, such as a smoked Bacon & Date Marscapone, made with garlic, mozzarella, sage and balsalmic syrup for a slightly sweet treat.

And while I know that Brussels sprouts are a bit of a shoe-in for many places, I can’t say that I’ve had many executed so impressively as their carmelized rendition, with butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies, capers and bruschetta for a succulent yet zesty combination.

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Soaking in Summer Weekends at M.B. Post

Truffle honey laced fried chicken

I don’t make it a secret that M.B. Post is practically my favorite restaurant in the South Bay and one of my top picks for all of Los Angeles. So it pains me to admit that I wish I lived closer so that I could take advantage of their new “Nooner” menu – essentially a weekend daytime menu that’s served from 2 – 5 in the weekend afternoon but also lunchtime until dinner on Friday afternoons.

Albondigas

You can count on Chef David Lefevre’s terrific truffle honey laced fried chicken to be on the mid-day list, as well as Albondigas and Meyers’ Farm “Never Ever” Skirt Steak. Order the Pomegranate Cous Cous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds and grapefruit and the Blistered Green Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce and crispy pork to pair, and you’re pretty much all set.

Oh, but wait. You’d be remiss not to try one of the awesome cocktails at M.B. Post. Since it’s daytime, go for the Coughlin’s Law, or the glorified Bloody Mary. Complete with quail egg, dill and picante, this will likely be the best Bloody Mary you’ve had in awhile.

If you’re good to actually make it to weekend brunch at M.B. Post, even better. You’ll have your choice of egg dishes, including the incredible Breakfast Frittata and the same Meyers’ Farm steak but with a sunny side up egg. Their Benedict incorporates the famous bacon cheddar biscuit and La Quercia prosciutto and truly makes me do a happy dance.

Either way, any time of day – even dinner – is prime time at M.B. Post, since there’s such a great selection and execution of small plates for every occasion.

Peep below for a slideshow of their brunch items:

Brunch: 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Saturday & Sunday Nooner: 2  – 5 PM
Friday Nooner: 11:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Nooner menu

M.B. Post
1142 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.545.5405

The Best Pastries in West Hollywood: Luca on Sunset

Selection of Pastries

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.

 

Open daily

7 AM – 12 AM

Validated parking, Free WiFi

Luca on Sunset
7950 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
323.822.2900

The Weekend Brunch at Playa Rivera: Modern & Elegant Southwestern

Huevos Polenta ($11)

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.

Blue Corn Muffins

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. The don’t-miss at Playa Rivera’s brunch is the blue corn muffins, which are made with 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’s full 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!

Duck Hash ($14)

As for the entrees, I have resigned to the fact that in early-day weekend meals, eggs are king. In a recent episode of “Ladies Who Brunch” at Playa, I sorely wished that my Croque Monsieur Senor was a Senorita. The layers of chorizo and queso in each bite were really good, but when the eggs on three other plates waver at you with their perfectly poached, 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.) Ladled over the top of a bed of polenta, the red chile just makes for a super delicious soup.

Ice Cream Sundae ($7)

If you’re feeling like a tamale, you can enjoy that same red chile 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, 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.

Brunch: Sat – Sun

10 AM – 2 PM

Playa Rivera
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.933.5300

@playarivera

The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) 😉

Happy Easter!!

***

Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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Do This: Alcove Brunch at the Bar in Big Bar

Crab Cake Benedict ($13.95)

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.

Lifeboat Cocktail

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.” 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.

Plymouth Gin, vermouth, jalapeno

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.

Mon – Wed

6 AM – 12 AM

Thur – Sat

6 AM -1 AM

Sun

7 AM – 12 AM

Breakfast available 1 hr after opening until 5 PM

The Alcove and Big Bar
1929 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027-2711
323.644.0100

@bigbarlosfeliz

Denver, CO: Breakfast at Snooze is a Savory and Sweet Treat

Upstream Benny ($10)

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.

Breakfast Pot Pie ($8.50)

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.

Pancake Flight ($8.50)

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?

Mon – Fri

6:30 AM – 2:30 PM

Sat – Sun

7 AM – 2:30 PM

Snooze
2262 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80205
303.297.0700

Solid French Brasserie Fare at Le Saint Amour

Moules Marinieres ($18)

It’s about time there was an approachable French Brasserie on the block; thankfully, Le Saint Amour is just that restaurant. With Walter Manzke having consulted on the menu and Chef Bruno Herve-Commereuc in-house to see that vision through, the Culver restaurant is putting out traditional French dishes that delight.

Country Pate, Duck Rillette, Galantine avec Pistachio, Toulouse Pork Sausage

During our media dinner, I even caught Maître Écailler (that is, shellfish expert) Christophe Happillon stopping by to visit old friends and enjoy dinner at the bar – proof that even an industry Frenchman will stop by Le Saint Amour to get his fix of back home.

All charcuterie, pates, sausages and terrine served at Le Saint Amour are made at the restaurant. Luckily, you can get your taste of them with little commitment, with a plate of pates and terrines starting at $11, or $12 including a serving of foie gras.

My favorite hors d’oeuvres of the night (besides the pates and terrine) was the Moroccan Merguez ($11), with refreshing couscous, arugula and baby carrot salad surrounding two tender, spicy and flavorful lamb sausages. This salad is a great way to start off a meal here, with pickled ribbons of carrot and radishes bringing bright flavors to the beginning of your meal.

Merguez | Moroccan lamb sausage, couscous, baby carrot salad ($11)

Or, you can order a traditional Escargots de Bourgogne, in which you get 6 for $10, each encased in their little containers for you to peel the buttery tops off onto which you spoon the snails in all their garlic and parsley buttered glory.

As for entrees, the mussels in white wine-cream sauce are definitely a must. They come with fries frites, which you can use as sauce and sop up all that goodness thanks to the crispy potatoes. Each mussel was almost like candy – you can’t have just one.

The Boeuf Bouguignon was also an indulgent main and one that I wish I had more room for. The peasant staple at Le Saint Amour was as well an executed dish that I’ve had in memory – though admittedly, my memory hasn’t spanned across numerous Boeuf Bouguignons. I think I’ll let it stand as being a dish of flavorful, braised goodness.

Boeuf Bourguignon | red wine braised beef cheeks, carrots, gnocchi ($21)

And don’t forget dessert. Their chocolate profiteroles (Profiterolles au Chocolat – $8) were delicious and appropriately hot and saucy on the inside, garnished well with a small scoop of banana ice cream, but what I really loved was the off-menu Blood Orange Granite, atop tangerine ice cream and panna cotta. This was a tart treat, a dessert that never made it so fun to suck in your cheeks.

All in all, you’re in for a rendezvous in France when you visit Le Saint Amour. The best part is, it’s not an experience that will break your bank. It’s down-home, approachable and traditional French fare that’s serious yet doesn’t take itself too seriously.  They’re also open for brunch, which will add a great weekend option to your calendar. 

All food and wine were hosted.

Mon – Fri: 11:30 AM – 3 PM

Sun – Thur: 5:30 – 9:30 PM

Fri – Sat: 5:30 – 10:30 PM

Brunch: 10 AM – 3 PM

Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
310.842.8155

Favorite Dish: Bibimbap Style Farro at Black Cat

Bibimbap-style Farro

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 and swiss chard - on top of, yes, farro instead of rice is just enough to warrant the name. 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 many tasty selections on Black Cat’s reasonably priced menu (see: $2 coffee). Though nothing can take away from the cultish longevity that Mani’s had 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 fresh 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, earlier in the day. My wallet can handle it.

Mon – Fri: 7:30 AM – 5 PM
Sat – Sun: 8 AM – 6 PM

Black Cat
519 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
323.932.1500

Eva Restaurant Launches Holiday Sunday Brunch

Interior of Eva with waiter (probably making refills on mimosas)

Snow season has started, which means many weekends away at Mammoth for me. And if there weren’t a storm this weekend, I know where I would certainly be on Sunday. But it looks like I’ll have to save Mark Gold’s Sunday Eva brunch for next week with the girls. I have a lot to look forward to.

For only $29, you’ll get to have two courses of Mark’s delicious food – in addition to unlimited mimosas, which they present as the “main course.” Fair enough. Check out your non-liquid choices in the menu below:

first course:

fresh fruit: pear, apple, tangerine from the market

salad: organic greens, emulsified vinaigrette

granola: house made, dried fruits

second course:

a sandwich: pain de mi, organic eggs, smoked bacon, avocado, buttered onions

a piece of meat: prime steak, organic eggs, roast potato, salsa verde

an omlette: fine herbs, braised artichoke, crème fraiche

some bread: brioche french toast, warm maple syrup, french butter, nothing else!

for vegetarians: hand crafted tofu, roasted matsutake mushroom, smoked sesame seed, seaweed salad

fish: a piece of white fish, potato pancakes, capers, lemon

main course: unlimited mimosas!

The seafood and vegetarian option will be changing weekly throughout the holidays. Got some little ones with you? Eva, so named after Chef Gold’s 2 1/2 year-old, will also serve a kids menu that will include French Toast and Build-your-own Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Looks like Eva, known for being one of the most delicious bangs for your Los Angeles buck, is continuing to live up to their reputation. Brunch is served!

Sundays during the holidays

Brunch: 10 AM – 1 PM

Eva Restaurant
7458 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.634.0700