Palm Springs, CA: Cheeky’s Brunch Starts Your Desert Morning Right

Berkshire Pork Stew

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.

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The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich & More at J. Nichols

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods go, Marina del Rey isn’t exactly known as a culinary hotbed. So imagine my surprise when I found quite a few well-conceived menu items at J. Nichols, a recently revamped strip mall eatery.

Black Pepper Wings

My favorite of the meal was the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich – an item that you’ll find under the “sandwich,” not “burger,” column. How many times have I had a pulled pork sandwich where the bun sopped up all the sauce before essentially becoming a shell of itself, having lost its integrity? We all know and even love what a mess any handheld pulled pork item can be, but what if the “mess” part was contained somewhat by a firm, but tasty, pretzel bun? What’s more – the lightly fried, even delicate onion rings also help absorb the sauce, giving the pulled pork sandwich more structure and even crunch than anything this saucy and tasty ever afforded, before.

The Black Pepper Wings were another stand-out, an atypical nod of the Asian (Fusion) Persuasion. Think Black Pepper Beef, but with chicken, instead – and in a manner best enjoyed while your eyes are set on the sports screen. Tasty wings, they are, and there’s no better sauce from which to lick from your lips and fingers.

Of course, there are the menu essentials such as the beet salad and Brussels sprouts, both of which are done as well as anywhere. But my favorite pasta was the Creamy Chipotle Rigatoni, which was done al dente and finished off with that perfect kick. Corn and cherry tomatoes give the dish a nice, sweet touch while the mushrooms sustain its earthy notes.

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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

Desert Nights at The Cactus Lounge: The Standard, Hollywood

The Cactus Lounge at The Standard, Hollywood | Credit to simongoble on Flickr

This August, The Standard (West) Hollywood has taken a refreshing approach to the bustle and hubbub of Sunset Blvd. Since the month is half-over, I’m a little late but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy tonight and the remaining Wednesday in The Cactus Lounge, whereby local emerging artists are showcased live and unplugged, performing acoustic sets for all loungers to hear.

The great part is, you can order food from the adjacent diner so while you’re enjoying live music, you’ll be able to enjoy eats from their kitchen. Tonight, The Cactus Lounge will feature Kenneth Pattengale. Next Wednesday will feature the beautifully quaint-sounding Miranda Lee Richards (formerly Brian Jonestown Massacre).

August 18th: Robotanists, Aria Pullman, Kenneth Pattengale
August 25th: Miranda Lee Richards and TBD

So order a cocktail, some bites, sit back and enjoy local music. Not a bad night on The Sunset Strip.

Desert Nights
Wednesdays, August 18 & 25, 2010

7:30 – 10 PM

The Cactus Lounge at The Standard Hollywood
8300 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
323.650.9090

@standardhwood

Brunch at The Hollywood Corner: For The Locals

Quinoa Cakes Benedict (Spinach, Marinara, Goat Cheese)

It was a late Sunday morning when I visited the Hollywood Corner for brunch – a lucky, not omnicient, decision though I’d be negligent if I failed to disclose the decision was influenced by the bottomless mimosas (available during Sunday brunch $14.95). Breakfast will keep your bubbly company, however, since it’s served until 3 PM.

Breakfast Tacos With Chicken Chorizo, Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes, Avocado)

The good news is that you don’t have to rely on the bubbly and can count on a solid brunch at this neighborhood spot located just south of Hollywood and Highland. Yes, you heard right: It’s a neighborhood spot in the center of Hollywood. Because you were never the type to shove spicy tuna rolls in your trap to the tune of Ke$ha and would rather save the greasy grub trips to Mel’s for late night. It’s a great way to enjoy a Hollywood Sunday morning, with a casual but pleasant brick wall-lined bar and dining room that allow in plenty of natural light.

The menu features vegan, vegetarian and heart-healthy items – a decidedly California diner smorgasbord … with pizzas sprinkled on top. And for dinner, they have Turkey Meatloaf, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast and yes, a Smac and Cheese (shrimp, Applewood smoked bacon, grilled corn, roma tomatoes, scallions with 3-cheese sauce) – the ingredients of which entice me to order on the revisit.

Caprese

My web designer and brunch companion Roycifer and I were shown a few starters and signature bites that are popular with their loyal clientele – one of them being fried pickles. I could eat pickles every morning if fried to the perfect texture – and Hollywood Corner made the cut. The pickle was still juicy and the breading was nice and crispy. Also done very well was their Caprese atop buttery grilled bread with a tangy-sweet balsamic reduction.

But back to the brunch, for which I ordered their version of a Benedict. Not Hollandaise but marinara covered quinoa cakes in lieu of English muffins, spinach in lieu of ham. The eggs were perfectly poached and completed the creatively healthy yet substantial and tasty dish.

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