West Coast Trip: starting out

Hello! I am in Sunny CA for a vacation again. This time I am traveling almost the entire west coast from LA to the Pacific NorthWest. My friends Janeen and Carrie are joining me up to San Francisco and then my husband Dan is meeting me and we are going North! I couldn’t tell you lovely people about the awesome month I had in June because my computer decided to break down right before I left… Oh we’ll, it’s vacation time! I left my worries at home and headed out.

This LA visit started out great. After Carrie and I had to starve on the way here (our flights were so close together we literally had to run so we didn’t miss our connection) and after I had to finagle us a car with a trunk (they tried to give us a little smart car type vehicle) we finally got to eat a good lunch. yes.

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We went immediately to the restaurant where our awesome friend Erin works (with whom we are staying with in LA) called The Park in Echo Park. Thank god we got to eat. I went a little over board and ordered a lot of things: a chicken-avocado-gruyere-tomato sandwich, tuscan white bean soup, and home fries with buttermilk ranch dressing. I also wanted to order an egg because I was really hungry for an egg but I refrained. Anyway, it was all awesome.

The rest of our first day was napping, porch hangin’, and going out and about in Silver Lake.

We celebrated July 4th in true LA style… or at least what I think of as true LA style – POOL PARTY! Ace of Base was blasting, the pool was full, and the grill was smoking. Needless to say, we had a really great time.

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We went to a few other parties that were also fun. I think my favorite thing at the end of the evening was that there were a bunch of really cute dogs around and the neighbors were having a firework battle – who can make the loudest boom-sparkle?!

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Today we decided to have a beach day and go to Malibu. But first I needed to get
my egg fix, so we stopped at Silver Lake Coffee for breakfast. They have great egg sandwiches. I got an everything bagel with scrambled eggs, tomato, avocado and cream cheese – yea cream cheese and eggs – try it! They also have great coffee here.

We went to one of my favorite beaches ever – El Matador. Beautiful views, beautiful weather, and some really awesome rocks. You have to climb down the bluffs to get to the beach. Its pretty steep but a lot of people seemed to make the trek today. Once a hidden gem, El Matador was pretty full. Each rock is a little mini ecosystem full of muscles, anemones, barnacles, these weird tube worms that look like they have dragon scales, limpets, snails, and chiton – and of course there are all different types of seaweed everywhere! The rocks are eroded away into pretty formations, some with windows that you can walk through and some little caves to crawl up in and under. We stayed there for most of the day before heading out to get dinner.

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We decided to go to Paradise Cove. It is kind of famous I think, being a place where some older TV shows and retro movies were filmed. Their motto is “probably the best beach in the world” I think it is probably not the best beach in the world. It was very pretty and it did have nice views, but it was not nearly as cool as El Matador. The visit is pricey – if you do not go to the restaurant, it costs $40 for day use. We were eating there so we only had to pay $6 to park. We sat down at an outside beach table, which was cozy – You are definitely paying for location here. I started my dinner with clam chowder, which was creamy and really good. The clams tasted super fresh and it was really filling. However, in between the clam chowder and my fish and shrimp tacos coming out… I started feeling not so good. So I couldn’t eat my dinner at all and I ended up having to take it home. I was feeling ok by the time we got back to Erin’s house and I tried to eat some of it but everything just tasted a little off, except the rice, that was ok. So my opinion of this restaurant is that it is way too overpriced and probably not worth the venture. There are much better places in Malibu with and without the lofty price.

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So overall, we had a nice start to our travels. We are going camping today near Santa Barbara at Lake Cachuma. We plan on exploring the area and doing a little wine tasting over the next few days.

Vacation Eats – Tar Pits and Hitting the Road

Back to the California trip… It’s about time for a famous eatery stop. So on Wednesday (August 3rd) we had hot dogs for breakfast.

We choose Pink’s Famous Hot Dog Stand on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood. Pinks has dozens of condiments and topping combinations on their famous dogs. The specials are named after famous stars, chefs, TV personalities and landmarks.

I chose the Emeril BAM! Dog. Emeril has a new show called The Originals that featured Pinks on one of the episodes about LA. It airs on the Cooking channel if you’re interested in finding it.

This special dog had cheese, jalapenos, mustard, onions, bacon, and cole slaw. I had to take a lot of the jalapenos off because there were so many they were falling out of the bun. I also am not a huge fan of pickled jalapenos, or bacon for that matter, but the cole slaw pulled me into picking this dog. The combination overall was BAM good, I would get it again!

Janeen got the Pastrami Reuben Dog, not named after any celebrity but I think it was famous all by itself. it was loaded with sauerkraut, pastrami, swiss cheese, and mustard. I tried it and it was a mouthful of meat. there was so much pastrami on it, it was falling all over the place. It was a fine dog.

With our bellies full of hot dogs we drove through Miracle Mile and into the La Brea Tar Pits. I’m kind of a science nerd so I thought this stop was great. The Page Museum held a lot of the fossils they excavated from the tar pits. There are also open sites that they are working on that you could observe.

We drove back across Hollywood into Echo Park to eat a late lunch at The Park restaurant, which the wonderful Erin caters to the lunch time crowd. Janeen and I had an identical lunch today. We both got Lucifer Ale, a nice light Belgian with hints of apple.

The Park has sandwich specials that all looked so good it made it really hard to choose just one. I went with some thing kind of light because I ate the hotdog for breakfast… I enjoyed the avocado and Gruyère sandwich piled high with avocado, Gruyère cheese, tomato, and lettuce. I added crispy onions, as per Erin’s recomendtion and spread some Dijon on the grilled whole wheat sourdough bread.

It was nice light and delicious, perfect after a morning of looking at gas bubble out of pits of black asphalt smelling pits.

So we headed out late that afternoon to drive up the coast. We had one perfect stop as we made our way North. I was reading “taste of Santa Barbara” magazine in the car and telling Janeen about this amazing looking Gelato in Montecito. A little bit later she noticed that we were passing Montecito on the highway and said “wasn’t something in Montecito? oh yea, isn’t the Gelato place there?” So I checked the magazine and yes! So we pulled off the exit and 2 minutes down the road we were stopping at Here’s the Scoop for a Gelato dinner.

This place it definitely worth the stop! They let you try any flavor you want and they make everything with local ingredients. Yes, I realize I keep writing about these places using local, organic ingredients, but I am drawn to that so I am either a sucker for people writing local on everything or I just pick really awesome places… probably a little bit of both. Anyway… The gelato and sorbet are out of this world awesome at this place.

I tasted the lavender lemon flavor which was crisp and refreshing but I ultimately decided on one scoop coconut, one scoop chocolate strawberry in a waffle cone. Janeen got Italian chocolate chip (which tasted like cannoli filling) and espresso in a chocolate waffle cone.  All flavors got my stamp of approval and left me wanting more.

Vacation Eats – Santa Monica and Venice Beach

On our Tuesday (August 2) in California, we headed down to the beach towns. We strolled along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica in the morning to window shop and have brunch. We chose a little french cafe in the middle of the promenade called Monsieur Marcel. We sat outside watching passer-bys. I ordered the Benedict Marcel- poached eggs atop a buttery croissant with smoked ham and Hollandaise sauce.

It was good, a solid take on eggs Benedict, but not the best I have ever had… Janeen asked me where the best eggs Benedict was and I immediately replied two places… The Nodding Head Brewery in Philadelphia (they have sunday brunch with excellent bloody marys) and this little shack (can’t remember the name of it) beside a river in Connectitcut that I stopped at on the way back from cape cod.

Janeen had the souffle french toast. I tried it – it was super-good! It was so good I wished I had gotten in. It was soft, fluffy, buttery and it had a slight citrusy taste to it. French perfection, that’s what I would call it. If you ever find yourself eating brunch in Santa Monica, I highly recommend it.

We checked out the pier and rode the ferris wheel to get a birds eye view of everything.

Then we took a tip from Erin’s friend and went to The Lobster for a large bloody mary with a giant prawn and olive attached to it. It was a good bloody mary, kind of mild but really impressive looking. It was a nice break from the sun and we got some post cards written.

We rented bikes and rode the sandy bike trail down to the complete spectacle that is Venice beach. We locked the bikes by the skate park where skaters were zooming around the concrete learning tricks. The two headed turtle was out in front of the freak show and it seemed all the usual buskers were out.

We stopped into a cafe that was set back a little from the boardwalk. They advertised Peach Chai, which sounded good, so we decided to try it. Not really that great, it was ok but I would def not go there again. Janeen got an iced vanilla latte that was so sweet she didn’t even really drink it. I can not remember the name at all but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

We walked the whole ocean front, headed back to our bikes, and rode back to Santa Monica. On our way out, we knew there was going to be a lot of traffic and it was going to take a long time to get back, so we got a snack. We sampled the frozen yogurt at PinkBerry. It is all fat free and made with ultra fresh ingredients.

We both got waffle cones. I tasted the salted caramel, a great little bite but a bit too rich to eat a whole cone. I went with pomegranate and mango swirl with strawberries in the bottom of the come. Janeen stuck with the strawberries and got chocolate and original side-by-side in her waffle cone. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I know some people love Pinkberry and some people don’t. It is a chain that I usually only see in big cities, I think they have a good business plan. I thought it was tasty, but wait until you read what we had on Wednesday…

We had to rush once we got back to Erin’s place because we were going to her comedy show in Downtown LA and we didn’t have much time. Erin was nice enough to make us dinner. Arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette with little cukes and avocado slices.

She even cut up some pickled cauliflower (from giardiniera) and added slivered almonds. Great salad Erin! We also had pasta with olive sauce that we got at Global Gardens on our wine tasting adventure.

Erin’s comedy show was great! It was at a theater called the Downtown Independent. Finally a place with some Sierra Nevada! Good beer, good laughs. Thank you Erin for a wonderful evening!

Vacation Eats – Malibu and Jeff Goldblum

We have been having some jam-packed days here in LA! I have been so busy that I hardly have time to write. On Monday (August 1st), we headed to Malibu for some beauty and beach time.
We started off the day right with a good breakfast. We went to there’s no place like Home restaurant in Los Feliz. I went here once before when I was in California. Last time, I had the breakfast burrito. It was giant and really good. Erin got the breakfast burrito this time (I think it is her favorite). This place has a good deal on breakfast. There’s a special before 11am – $6.50 for any of the starred menu items – what a deal! And all the starred items looked like they were the best things on the menu to me.
I couldn’t decide what to get so I shared two things with Janeen. We ordered the California breakfast sandwich. It had eggs, two kinds of cheese, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and chipotle mayo on sourdough bread. I ordered the side of fruit. It was fresh and full of watermelon, honeydew, blackberries, and cantaloupe.

We also shared the Pomodoro Omelette. It was filled with tomatoes, basil and feta cheese. It also came with sourdough bread and a side of Spanish style home fries that were kind of like short french fries with peppers and onions. I haven’t eaten lunch or dinner here, but I give this restaurant a big thumbs up!


We took highway 101 to Malibu Canyon Road and drove through a deep cut canyon into Malibu. We stopped at a grocery store to get some supplies called Hows Market. Unfortunately, it is going out of business so I don’t know what will be there in the future but it was a deal for us because everything was 20% off. We packed a cooler with goodies and headed to the El Matador state beach.
You have to climb down the cliffs to get to the beach, but it is totally worth it! The beach is rocky and beautiful. There are large outcrops of rocks jutting up out of the water.

There were numerous professional (and unprofessional) photo shoots happening. We took a bunch of pictures and relaxed on the beach.

It became rather windy just as we decided to bust out our discount goods to eat. We made some salami and cheese sandwiches, and I mean SAND-wiches. We also noshed on olives, pickles, and Trader Joe’s black bean dip… awesome beach snacks.

We headed back down to LA after a great day on the beach. We didn’t have that much time to get dinner so we went to Leela Thai, right by Erin’s house in Silver Lake. There are countless Thai places in LA. There are probably two or more per block in some places! So I’m happy we had some since it is so abundant.
Leela Thai is a nice little restaurant with outside seating. I ordered a Thai Iced Tea. Thai Iced Tea is usually too sweet for me but this one was pretty good, it was sweet but not overly done. They also brought us our water in small metal cups that seemed to keep the water ice cold (with no ice in it) the entire time we were eating.


I had the Pad Thai with chicken. It was pretty standard but really good. It really hit the spot after a sunny beach day.

So… we went in to Hollywood for the evening and what we saw was pretty amazing. We walked into a guest only event at Cafe Was… The Jeff Goldblum jazz ensemble. yes, that is correct, Jeff Goldblum has a jazz band, and he plays piano. He is also extremely excited and animated while he is playing the piano.

One thing I noticed about Hollywood places is that they really don’t have a good beer selection. Either people don’t like good beer around here or they are just really into wine and cocktails (probably the latter). We did get to meet Jeff Goldblum at set break. He was pretty excited to take a picture with three hot girls. That was beautiful, yes, thank you…

Janeen had her first In-n-Out Burger experience after the show. We went to the location in Hollywood that was packed late at night. I thought it was pretty funny that we went when we were all dressed up!

We ordered a standard cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, ketchup and their In-n-Out Burger sauce. While I didn’t love it, it was definitely better than the Whopper/Big Mac. It at least had a real toasted bun and way better lettuce and tomato. People really love In-n-Out Burger here. I don’t know how often I would eat it but I have a feeling I would stop here more then McDonald’s or Burger King, it is way better than those two places. I think we might give it another shot while we are out here and try ordering from the “secret menu” next time.

Vacation Eats- Silver Lake and Hollywood, CA

Janeen and I made it to California! We came out here to see our really great friend Erin (Hollywood comedy star). We are starting our vacation in Los Angeles. Erin lives in Silver Lake not far from Hollywood,  an awesome part of town.

The first thing we did when we got to LA was hit up a food truck! It was late but we just got off the plane and into Erin’s neighborhood.

This one was called Gus’s Lunch Box. It had standard Mexican food like burritos and tacos. I had the Taco Pastor, which was pork in red sauce. It did not have pineapple, which I was expecting because of how the Mexican place back home makes them.

The tacos hit the spot. I chose the mild sauce because I can’t eat very hot spices anymore… I’m not sure why, but I have developed an allergy to one of the chemicals in hot red peppers. The mild sauce was great though and the corn tortillas were really good.

In the morning, Janeen and I set out on a mini-walking adventure that turned into an all day affair. We walked through Silver Lake and stopped at Local for brunch. As you can see by the menu, it was right up my alley. Everything was fresh and well made.

Even though this menu looks bangin’ and I wanted all of the dishes on it, we chose to eat off the special whole wheat crepe menu.

We ordered the La Razza and a dessert crepe (the one with sweet lemon ricotta) and split them between the two of us.

Here’s the La Razza, cut in half with sour cream, avocado, and some awesome home fries. It also came with a smokey (but not hot) pepper sauce that was really good spread on the home fries.The whole wheat crepes added a new texture that went really well with all of the fillings.

The dessert crepe had lemon ricotta stuffing the crisp whole wheat crepe, topped with cooked fresh strawberries and creme fraiche. Excellent, I still ate a lot of it even though I was a little full from the breakfast crepe.

Sharing the two crepes was a great idea. I was comfortably full after the half of breakfast crepe and stuffed after half the dessert crepe. This place also had excellent iced coffee. They even had soy milk out on the fixins table. I really appreciate this because I always have to ask and usually pay extra for soy milk.

After our excellent brunch, we headed onward to the Silver Lake Farmers Market. Here we found super fresh fruits, veggies, and taste-tested many delightful treats. We got a ginger lime juice to share with cane syrup and found some pretty styling LA hats. Here’s some veggie eye candy from the market…

We started walking down Sunset Blvd. and just kept on going until we hit Hollywood Blvd. We actually walked the whole way to the Chinese Theater. Sightseeing, penny squishing, and stopping for a frozen margarita along the way. We had to call Erin to come pick us up because we had walked 5 miles to get all the way over to the most touristy part of Hollywood. On our way home we stopped at the Griffith Park Observatory for some spectacular views of the city.

After some freshening up it was dinner time! We went to Erin’s favorite place Pho Cafe for Vietnamese.

We shared the #3, spring rolls with shrimp and beef inside and a large Sapporo beer.

I got the Pho Ga #13 – rice noodle soup with free range chicken, ginger sauce, and herbs.

Both dishes are highly recommended. They use really good meat here, the beef and shrimp in the spring rolls and the chicken in the soup were all really good.

After dinner we went to a wine and beer bar. My drink of choice was Russian River Damnation. A smooth Belgian ale with an apple/pear taste to it. Perfect for sipping after a late dinner.