On a Roll

Photo by Rachael Narins via LA Weekly

 

Despite the fact that I’ve made it abundantly easy for me to have a healthy breakfast at work (tasty low-fat granola and coconut milk at both of my two desks) cinnamon rolls keep calling my name. At this point, I’m starting to worry that I truly am addicted. No matter; I’ve now found 10 more  reasons to indulge — even on the weekend! — thanks to LA Weekly’s list of the 10 best cinnamon rolls in Los Angeles. Uh oh …

Summer Bucket List #21: Give Me Mo’ Momed

Arabic coffee and Baklava bread pudding from Momed

I crave Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food like nothing else – and ever since my trip to Egypt and Jordan, I’ve been craving Arabic coffee even more. So it was only natural that my first stop on Los Angeles Magazine’s list of 101 Cheap Eats (Summer Bucket List item #21) was Momed.

Nestled among designer fashion stores and ultra modern cafes lined with rows of glimmering luxury cars, Momed, on Beverly Hills’ Beverly Drive, doesn’t exactly give off the “cheap” vibe. And to be honest, it actually isn’t all that cheap (perhaps by Beverly Hills standards). But it’s worth it.

From the moment we walked in, I couldn’t take my eyes off the brightly colored meze (salads) beckoning to diners from a refrigerated glass case. In fact, my first thought was to start with the $16 three-item meze combo. The boy reeled me back a little and suggested we start with just one meze before the main dish. I reluctantly agreed and before long we were devouring the muhammara, a subtly sweet blend of roasted red pepper, walnuts and pomegranate served with wheat pitas.

As I eagerly anticipated my main course — the absolutely delicious and return-worthy duck shawarma with oven-dried tomatoes, figs and garlic spread – I was pleasantly surprised to see mint lemonade, just about the most refreshing thing you can drink, on the menu.

We wrapped it up with Arabic coffee – just the way I like it, with a hint of cardamom, although I could’ve used just a pinch more – and three desserts. Yes, you read that right. We simply couldn’t decide. With a baklava combo that included regular and chocolate versions of the honey- and pistachio-filled filo dough treat and baklava bread pudding on the menu, who could?!

All in all, it was an incredible meal. Cheap? No. But worth every penny.

Is This Real Life?

Myrtle Avenue Panorama - http://www.gemcityimages.com/

Sometimes when I go to places like Ojai or Los Olivos or watch Gilmore Girls or basically any show about suburban life in the ’50s, I wonder what it must be like to live  in one of these tiny towns where everyone knows everyone and people spend lazy afternoons eating ice cream in the park. I think I might finally know.

Last week, I started house sitting in Monrovia, a hidden gem (and virtual time warp) just off the intersection of the 210 and 605 freeways. I don’t know if it was just the particular weekend I spent there or if this is the norm in Old Town Monrovia (a stretch of small businesses, shops and restaurants extending down Myrtle Ave), but over the course of a single weekend, there was a street fair, a farmer’s market, a parade, music in the park, a clown on stilts blowing balloons, a woman playing a violin outside the local movie theater  … I mean, everything was just so pleasant it was hard to believe it was actually real. I had to resist the temptation to walk up to random strangers to ask if they were actually just extras in an elaborate remake of The Andy Griffith Show. The town is charming to say the least. And it seems so tucked away yet it’s barely 10 minutes from the freeway. Leaving Monrovia for a friend’s birthday party in Beverly Hills on Saturday felt like entering a foreign land — or maybe leaving one, I’m not sure.

Jury’s still out on whether small town life is for me. Perhaps if there were a beach nearby? I’m certainly a fan of the local eats. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

The Peach Cafe – The Monte Cristo is to die for!

Cafe Massillia – A great spot for classic French dishes at reasonable prices — and they just opened a new location in Yorba Linda.

Mediterranean Garden Grill – All my favorite staples (tabbouleh, kibbeh, shawarma, kabobs, baklava) and a hookah happy hour if you’re so inclined.

I’m still eating my way through this quaint little town and trying to understand exactly how it can stay so quaint, but I would highly recommend a visit if for nothing more than to marvel.

{Photo via Gem City Images}

Hang On, Soupy, Hang On

Wonton Noodle Soup - Urban Noodle

I was stuck in bed all weekend with a cold that wouldn’t quit and once the rain began pouring down, all I could think about was soup. I usually dread winter weather, but I do love the onset of soup season. And this weekend’s woes made for the perfect time to indulge. My favorite new soup spot is a place called Urban Noodle in Downtown LA. Not only are their broths incredibly flavorful, but the ingredients are to die for. I’m a big fan of the wonton noodle soup.

Check it out if you’re in the area and share your favorite soup spots in the comment s.

And just in case the title got this song stuck in your head:

Lunching The Good, Pure Way

This past weekend, my friend Grace and I met up at True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island to catch up over a healthy lunch (and go shopping, of course!). I just wanted to share this great place with you guys if you’re looking for a restaurant that serves organic, sustainable, and truly delicious food with a number of vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free options. Grace got the Shaved Turkey with provolone, yogurt dressing, and grape, and I got Andy’s Favorite TLT, a combination of tempeh, lettuce, tomato, and avocado on whole grain.

We rounded out the meal by sharing a banana chocolate tart, which was hands down my favorite part :)

Everything was really fresh and very filling, and all of the restaurants have a bright, fun atmosphere–great for a group brunch. You can see their locations and menus here.

p.s. their salads and pizzas also looked amazing, which I’ll have to try next time!

{photos via True Food Kitchen}

I’ll Toast to That

Girlfriend Toast via Cheeky Kitchen

You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I eat A LOT. And it’s usually not healthy food either. There’s even a tradition in my family that once you’ve finished one meal — or sometimes while you’re still cooking it — you discuss what to have for the next one. That’s how much I love food.

Luckily, “the boy” feels the same way as I do. But after recent trips to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Indian, Ethiopian and repeat pastrami bagel sandwich and biscuit and gravy breakfasts at Nick’s, an amazing diner in Downtown LA, he suggested that our next breakfast consist only of fruit. Of course, my first response was, “Fruit?! Can we at least have toast with it?!”

Cheeky Kitchen blog to the rescue. I think this recipe for “Girlfriend Toast” would be just the thing to satisfy our need to avoid heart attacks and still have something drool-worthy for breakfast.

{Photo via Cheeky Kitchen}

You Say Potato, I Say Potatomato

Cafe Angelique

KTCHN 105

Spice TableRestaurants pictured, from top: Cafe Angelique, KTCHN 105, Spice Table.

Now that I have the pleasure of visiting Celeste and “the boy” at their new digs in Downtown LA, I’m becoming more and more enamored with the food scene there. The problem is I get almost all of my leads from the boy, who gets almost all of his from a coworker. Celeste is starting to think I’m this all-knowing foodie because it just so happens that every time we’ve met up in LA, I’ve taken her to a different restaurant of the total five that I know.  ;)

So thank goodness for the twin sister bloggers who run Potatomato, which has excellent reviews of a ton of hip Downtown restaurants, including one I’ve been dying to try called KTCHN 105. Now, I know many of you are probably screaming, “Why not Yelp?” at your computers right now. And the reason is that it’s too overrun by reviews that start with something like, “I’ve never had Mexican food before, but this place looked interesting …”

Potatomato seems to have exactly what I’m looking for down to an art. Plus they post about travel destinations, which makes me want to call them up to see when we can all get together in Turkey for a meal. I’ve heard Istanbul is beautiful in September!

{Photos via Potatomato}

Never Eat Alone

The Good Apple 5x5 Art Print - MarianneLoMonaco shop on Etsy

Two of my favorite activities are eating and trying new restaurants. But these days, getting a group together to do either of those things can be downright impossible. That’s why I love this idea from Eddie Lu and Daishin Sugano, who started Grub With Us, essentially a social network for foodies in the same predicament.

Available for a number of cities, including LA, Grub With Us lets you join a group of strangers for dinner at a hip spot around town. Grub With Us arranges all the meals ahead of time, so you don’t even have to pick a designated planner or figure out how to split the bill. It’s not only a great way to branch out and try new restaurants, but also meet new friends, especially if you’re new to the area.

Don’t want to go it alone? Connect your account through Facebook and/or Twitter and ask a food-loving friend to join the adventure!

{photo: The Good Apple 5×5 Art Print – MarianneLoMonaco on Etsy}

My Old Kentucky Home

Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

A view of the famous twin spires of Louisville’s Churchill Downs.

Even though I adore Southern California, there are times that I long for the lands of my youth: the Midwest. I spent the first decade of my life in the quaint and stunning scenery and history that is Cincinnati, Ohio — and no native Californians, I didn’t live anywhere near a farm. This week I took a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, to visit my family (the sweetest people on Earth!) and got a taste of that Midwestern and Southern charm I’ve been without for so long. I know these cities aren’t generally top of mind for travelers, but they really are worth visiting. If you like nature, history, art and a lot of quirk, it’s a no-brainer. Here are some of the highlights:

Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Louisville, Kentucky

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe — Louisville, Kentucky: This quirky brunch spot will keep you entertained even while you’re waiting to be seated. 

Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Louisville, Kentucky

An equally quirky shop inside Lynn’s is like an Urban Outfitters on steroids. 

Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Louisville, Kentucky

More fun outside of Lynn’s … 

Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

Betting on the races at Churchill Downs: A must. A mint julep to top it off: Priceless. 

21c, Louisville, Kentucky

Red plastic penguins “migrate” around downtown Louisville’s 21c hotel. Even if you can’t afford to stay here, it’s worth taking a look inside. 

21c, Louisville, Kentucky

One of the many fabulous exhibits inside 21c’s art gallery. Viewers can interact with letters floating down a projector screen. 

Miller's Grocery, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Fruit tea at Miller’s Grocery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They aren’t kidding about the size. I missed the famous buffet, but apparently it takes “all you can eat” to new levels. 

Cicadas, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

These little buggers look nasty, but they’re pretty harmless. A fixture of my youth, cicadas, as I learned on this trip, only come out in swarms every 13 years. This year? They were everywhere! 

A Toast to French Toast

French Toast

Lately, I’ve been on a French toast kick. It seems like every other week, I’m making the drive to Trader Joe’s to pick up a new bread to batter up for that weekend’s breakfast – and ramping up my workout schedule accordingly. I used to not even like French toast. Weird, I know. But a trip to San Francisco eatery Mama’s changed my mind for good. Mama’s is a fantastic – and highly popular – breakfast spot in San Francisco’s Little Italy that’s written about in probably every travel book known to man, making it also famous for long, long waits. It’s worth it though because the French toast is to die for! You can order a sampler of a number of different toasts, each made with fancy breads like banana, apple, walnut and so on.

Because I don’t live in San Francisco and certainly don’t want to wait two hours for breakfast every weekend, I figured why not recreate this breakfast treat in my own home; it can’t be that hard! And it’s not. It’s actually really easy to do and so, so yummy. Since this is probably the only dish I can claim to make well, I thought I’d share the love … or, in this case, food. So here goes:

First, I suppose it needs a name, so we’ll call it …

Can’t Wait French Toast

Makes 2 servings (4 pieces of toast)

What You’ll Need:

Fancy bread mix — plus necessary mix-ins, like veggie oil, eggs and milk (Trader Joe’s offers a number of good and easy-to-make bread mixes, including banana, apple and pumpkin.)

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp sugar

Dash of cinnamon and allspice

Desired toppings (I like strawberries, bananas, powdered sugar and syrup)

Preparation:

Make the bread ahead of time according to package directions, giving it enough time to cool before starting on the toast.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Dip thick slices of bread into the mixture, letting each slice soak up the batter. Place each slice onto a greased pan, and pop in the oven for 12 minutes. After the 12 minutes is up, flip the slices over and bake for another 12 minutes.

Serve onto a couple of plates, top with fruit, powdered sugar and syrup, and dig in!