Truth be told, I don’t love Los Angeles. Although I’m often traveling to the west coast for business, after a few days I find myself clock-watching, eager to fly back to the convenience and frenzy of New York, my home. I envy people who have the ability to uproot their life and live in an unknown city, because the thought of living somewhere, other than New York, even for a stretch of time, is inconceivable. But I do love to travel, especially on days when the temperatures soar above ninety in New York and I’m dining al fresco in Los Angeles, in desperate need of a sweater.
Such was this week when I spent a total of twenty-four hours on the left coast, the majority of time spent in a car or in meetings. After a long day of presentations and discussing technology with CMOs, my boss treated the team to a well-deserved late dinner. Convenience was indeed a factor as we were all pooped, so a work colleague suggested Loteria Grill, a delicious Mexican eatery in Hollywood.
With high, billowing ceilings and an expansive outdoor space, the restaurant was a welcome respite from cars and conference rooms. We managed to secure a patio table and immediately ordered the chips + guacamole, along with a hearty dish of spicy, oozing queso fundido. Can I just say — cheese never tasted this good. I kept it safe and ordered the beef tacos, and was delighted to find that they were extraordinarily full on flavor and presented simply. The problem I often have with Mexican food is volume — the sheer amount of food dished on your plate is sometimes frightening, however, the portions at Loteria Grill were reasonable and wholly satisfying. The guac was fresh and cilantro-infused while the queso deserved a serenade of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You.”
My teammates equally devoured their burritos, chicken salads and taquitos, and we left full but not stuffed and completely relaxed.
Although I don’t adore Los Angeles, I certainly love the Mexican fare and only wish I could smuggle it back to my Brooklyn abode.
If you happen to be in Santa Monica, and you happen to stumble along Montana, should you choose to ignore Louise’s Trattoria, there’s truly no hope for you. Don’t pass go, don’t collect the proverbial $200. Instead, quietly acknowledge your failure and hit the showers. Rookie. It should be known that every time I’m in Santa Monica, I am helpless to resist the sirloin and pork meatballs, the fresh fettucini, and the char-grilled chicken. Louise’s Trattoria resembles that Greek siren luring you to demise, because quite honestly, who says no to spicy sausage?
Brief parenthetical: I’m reminded of that scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula when Gary Oldman snarls at a tepid Keanu Reeves, I’ll accept no refusal.
Today, after an extraordinary meeting, my colleagues and I hit Montana and practically took over the nondescript, yet earthy, restaurant with our raucous laughter and ferocious hunger. It’s quite possible that we ordered everything on the menu. From the satiny baratta and beets to the tender meatballs to the epic lasagne, the food at Louise’s is a cacophony of gastronomic greatness. Suffice to say I’ve never had a bad meal at this joint.
And did I mention that most dishes are under $12? Can I possibly export Louise’s to New York because I can’t possibly live in Los Angeles with its car culture and lack of 24-hour convenience?
Right now I’m relaxing in The Viceroy in Santa Monica, after a long day, a terrific pitch, and a necessary catch-up dine and dish with my L.A. cohorts. I should be working, cranking out decks and client deliverables, but all I want to do at this moment is relax. All I want to do is applaud myself for having a day worth photographing, a job worth adoring, and most importantly, for being disciplined.
You see that lovely, juicy cheeseburger, and how it practically leaps off the page? That burger was savored by one of my work colleagues, while I played it safe with a grilled chicken salad and rice because I’ve grown tired of feeling owned by the poor choices I’ve made. It’s hard to keep up with my Freshology meals when I’m traveling for work (although they’re quite good about shipping your meals anywhere in the U.S. with adequate notice), so I’m taking today and tomorrow off, trying to be as mindful as possible about the choices I’m making. For me, it’s all about smaller portions, protein and greens, and believe me when I say that I feel amazing. Imagine in the course of a few days to feel healthier by cutting back and focusing on a well-balanced diet.
So while I feasted on my grilled chicken and arugula salad at The Library Alehouse, my L.A. counterparts savored buttery steak, Mexican fare, curly fries and a mountain of sirloin beef housed in a freshly-based bun. Normally, this would be the time where I would STAB EVERYONE IN THE EYE, however, I was focused on the great conversation, the necessary gossip, and the fact that I didn’t feel ill after eating a meal.
Cheers to keeping it simple and trimming the proverbial fat.
Would you believe I was in California for less than twelve hours? Wild, right? Sometimes I believe I’m younger than I am, impervious to the delirium that only a lack of REM sleep can bring. Today I’m recovering from my cross-country work commute by working out, lounging in my pajamas, visiting friends and kicking off my Freshology program.
But let’s rewind the tape and celebrate the last supper, shall we?
Not only did my West-coast counterpart, Serena, generously chauffeur me from the airport to our meetings, she also indulged a woman’s necessity to feast on meatballs draped in provolone, and a piping-hot donut with strawberry preserve filling. Enter The Village Idiot on Melrose.
A casual, airy ambiance, you will immediately want to lie down and toss back fries in this sun-drenched eatery. From a steak and potato pie that guarantees to evoke childhood memories to buttery and tender meatballs that have you pining for multiple orders, I promise you that this L.A. spot is not to be missed. I loved a space that didn’t kick us out an hour after we cleaned our plates and committed to work emails. And I certainly adore a place that is kind enough to change dishes if something doesn’t truly strike your fancy (as it turns out I wasn’t in love with the cheeseburger, possibly because the meatball appetizer was so RIGHT). Serena and I chowed down, sipped coffee, and settled into an evening of after-pitch repartee and gossip.
Let’s be honest – aren’t you just dying over the crafted frosting with the lone pink dot on top? This vanilla bean cupcake was exquisite on the plate (don’t this sprinkles remind you of mini diamonds?), but a touch disappointing to the palate. While the frosting was lovely and the cupcake base was divine, it could have been a smidgen better, I think. This was snapped at Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica. The decor was decidedly sweet, elegant and a little bit of a throw-back to the posh bake shops of the 50s. I quite enjoyed their ingenious selection of cupcake fare, however, my frosting was a little lacking.
Will you get a look at that swirl? This red velvet variation with cream cheese frosting snapped at the venerable Yummy Cupcakes was infinitely more pleasing. The red velvet was moist and slightly chocolately and the frosting was light and mildly sweet. My new friend Kathryn was kind enough to take me a on a mini tour of cupcake eateries in Santa Monica yesterday. Although I love both, after a long conversation with my bff this morning (always the under the cover chats), I relayed that I (and I say this trying my best not to sound smug) can make better. Perhaps there is a little baked shoppe in my future?!
Can we talk about how much amazing food we had? So, straight up. This is real Mexican. This is the read deal. No lard. Fresh ingredients. Homemade recipes, this place is all about old school. I almost sobbed eating the hard tacos (and then got violently ill when I sampled the guacamole, knowing full well that I am allergic to guacamole). Forget the fancy decor of the swank eateries, this joint is all about down-home Mexican fare. We went to Tacos Por Favor .