Everything I Ate In LA

I visited my friends (aka adopted LA family) Michele and Andrew in LA this weekend, and if you watched my Snapchat story you would think I simply ate my way through the city. As a self confessed restaurant addict, I love that Michele and Andrew are the perfect friends to enable my addiction. I’d much rather spend my money on a beautiful meal in a gorgeous restaurant than on a night watching D-list reality stars party at 1 Oak. While I still have a long list of old favorites and new spots to devour on my next trip, I’d thought I share a glimpse into this little culinary tour de LA.

As soon as I landed , I went straight to Coffee Bean, as you do. There’s really no replacement for their Vanilla Ice Blended – I’m looking at you Starbucks. If your’e on the West Coast, you need to try one; it’ll ruin Starbucks for you forever.

Once Michele and Andrew were off work, we made a dash to an old favorite, Umami Burger. With convenient locations across LA, it’s delicious food and trendy atmosphere at an affordable price. No shrinking violet, I went straight for the “Manly Burger,” truffle fries and cheesy tots. A light meal.
The next day, I met my old friend Adam for lunch and a catch up at Mendocino Farms. Another affordable staple, it’s a quick sandwich spot right across the street from the Grove. I inhaled the “not so fried” chicken sandwich.
After wandering around the hordes of tourists at the Santa Monica Promenade, I pranced over to Dogtown Coffee off Main Street Santa Monica. I sipped on their famous sea salt caramel iced coffee in the perfect beachy surfer hangout, just steps from the beach. Totally worth the $20 Uber back to Weho.

 

For dinner Andrew and Michele introduced me to a new favorite, Honor Bar in Beverly Hills. It’s South Beverly Grill’s cooler younger brother, and a upscale casual spot to grab shared plates and drinks. I had the Osaka style sushi (stacked in a layered cube instead of rolled), fries and a margarita. Andrew and Michele had kale salad and the famous chicken sandwich. A weird combo, but super yummy.
Not ones to pass up dessert, we grabbed ice cream from Sprinkles and windows shopped around Beverly Hills. Nothing better than a scoop of Rocky Road and eyeing some Chanel.
Saturday morning, we punished ourselves for Friday’s feasting with a beastly hike of Runyon Canyon. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life on that damn canyon. Miraculously finishing the hike, we then headed to breakfast at Backyard Bowls. Capitalizing on the acai bowl trend, it’s a healthy option in the middle of endlessly hip West Hollywood.
Our healthy interlude was quickly interrupted, however, when we headed next door to Blue Bottle Coffee. Instead of just sampling coffee like normal people, we behaved like hobbits and had our second breakfast of poached eggs on toast. YOLO.
We napped off our breakfasts and thankfully didn’t have dinner until 9PM. Michele, the best hostess, had made reservations at Weho staple and celeb favorite, Cecconi’s. Owned by Soho House, the restaurant pleasantly surprised me. Most of these “sceney” places have horrible service and food, but Cecconi’s exceeded expectations. We dined on their beautiful patio (the restaurant is very glamorous and Mediterranean style), and devoured bruschetta, meatballs and pasta. The food was very authentic and damn delicious. My photos really don’t do it justice. Plus, we were one table away from Paula Deen. The quintessential LA dinner.
Before I had to head back to St. Louis, Michele took me to one more LA staple, Joan’s on Third. We tried their new Santa Monica location, and it was a perfect morning. Michele had the Chinese Chicken Salad, and I had Grandma’s Italian Sandwich – all under the sun right near the beach. Head there for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or to pick up prepared food, but whatever you do, make it to Joan’s.  It was the perfect goodbye to the perfect Angeleno weekend.
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(Almost) Everything I Ate on the Amalfi Coast

After we ate our way through Rome (you can read more about those culinary pursuits here), we made our way via high speed train to Naples then on to the Amalfi Coast. The food on the coast is very much dictated by what’s available to eat locally – fresh fish from the neighboring sea, lemons from one of the many blossoming lemon groves, and local produce. If you’re a seafood lover – you will gobble up enthusiastically every single meal. I’ve included almost everything we ate minus a jar of nutella (or two) that I may have consumed all by my lonesome. So grab a slice, down a shot of limoncello, and dig in.

DAY ONE

After a long day of cab ride, train ride, then another cab twisting over the craggy cliffs, we finally arrived in Praiano. We had made no plans on arrival day, instead deciding to leisurely sink into coastal life. Our only appointment was a dinner reservation at the Trip Advisor approved Locanda Costa Diva. Nestled underneath a lemon grove dangling above the sea, Costa Diva is a dream for any seafood fan. Like most meals in Italy, we didn’t stop at one course, enjoying appetizers of shrimp, calamari and mussels, then moved on to the main course – pasta with tomatoes and prawns for me. European shrimp, I’ll warn you, comes fully body and head on – and I was not expecting my shrimp to look quite so fresh (aka alive)! The pasta was still lovely, and we finished off the meal with chocolate cake and shots of limoncello. To aid with digestion of course 😉

So beautiful. Definitely recommend this spot for a romantic evening.
Appetizers (these were good, but not earth shattering).

 

Yummy pasta. I picked around the shrimp – the heads freaked me out!
DAY TWO

Unlike our first day, our second day on the coast was jammed-pack. We chartered a boat to Capri (full post on that experience to follow), and spend the majority of the day wandering the island then sailing around its grottos and coves, only taking a break to slip into the perfectly turquoise water. Lunch was in Anacapri at a random street cafe (sorry can’t remember the name!). I wasn’t expecting much, and maybe it was my hunger, but the pizza with prosciutto was actually quite yummy. From Anacapri, we wandered back down to Capri, and enjoyed Straciatella gelato, that’s chocolate chip for you fellow yanks, while overlooking the busy harbor below.

Gelato at Bar Funicolare. Easy and yummy cafe right in the center of Capri. Italian fast food at its finest.
When we finally arrived back in Praiano several hours later, we were properly sun kissed, sleepy, and ready for sustenance. Beat after a long day in the sun, we decided to stay close to home and try our hotel’s restaurant, Ristorante Mama.  Weirdo that I am, I was craving red meat. Even though we were in fish central, I ordered a juicy steak, enjoyed after complimentary fried risotto. Not really taking advantage of seaside flavors, but delicious nonetheless.

 

DAY THREE
While my dad and brother stayed to chill at the hotel, my mom and I spent the morning exploring Positano and gleefully bringing business to the shops. I’ll talk more about that day later, but needless to say, climbing up and down the hills and spending all that money left us famished.  As soon as we arrived back at dreamy Hotel Margherita, I inhaled spaghetti via room service, all while taking in the afternoon sun and passing yachts on our balcony.
After properly freshening up in the pool, we made the trek up the mountains to neighboring Ravello. We fiddled about the popular ceramic shops, and I may have tripped over a basket of ceramic knick knacks and broken one or two eek! On the lam from the shop owner, we found our way to one of my favorite restaurants on the trip – Cumpa Cosimo. Unassuming in a dark back street, the restaurant is spartan, but the food more than makes up for the lack of elegance.  Following recommendations from our waiter, we tried fresh antipasti, bolognese, and the best veal marsala I’ve ever had. I still dream of this damn marsala. Finished off, of course, with tiramisu. If you’re nearby, you must make the trip to Ravello and go!
I have never been a veggie lover, but these may have made me a convert.

 

Marsala of dreams.

 

DAY FOUR
You can read about my unforgettable tripe to Arienzo Beach in this post, but the fab beachside lunch is worth mentioning again. Pasta with mussels and clams paired with a watermelon mojito – all overlooking an orange umbrella dotted paradise? Yes please!
Dinner, sadly our last one of the trip, was back in Positano at Da Vincenzo. Our guide of our Eating Italy tour in Rome highly recommended the joint, and it definitely lived up to expectations. We zipped over in the orange bus from Praiano and were let off on one of the winding Positano cobblestone streets. Sadly, no breathtaking views of the pastel buildings lining the harbor, but the fare was still excellent. Appetizers were stuffed peppers, and they were good but not really my jam per se. I was quickly revived, however, with the arrival of my rigatoni ragu. Hummina hummina. All finished with the required chocolate cake and shot of espresso.

 

 

After cleaning our plates, no licking was involved I swear, we ran down the hills of Positano to catch our bus back to sleepy Praiano. I really did not want the magic of Italy to end, especially the culinary parade of delights.
Check out more of my Italy posts:

(Almost) Everything I Ate in Rome

While Italy is full of art, history and culture, I definitely was most looking forward to its gastronomic tourism. Translation – the food was DAMN good. I kept a little photo diary of (almost) everything I savored in the beautiful culinary country, so I wouldn’t forget my favorite restaurants and dishes. There are definitely a few I hope to return to and enjoy again some day.  I broke the food up by Rome and the Amalfi Coast – there are too many dishes to fit into one post and the cuisines are pretty different. So, let’s first enjoy a tasty tour of Rome – my mouth is already watering.

 

DAY ONE
 

Our first meal was at La Bruschetta near our hotel, the Marriott Grand Flora on Via Veneto. We were jet lagged and just wanted food and wanted it yesterday. I had lasagna, and it was soggy and mediocre. Not the best culinary note to start the trip on.

 

Our dinner that evening, however, more than made up for the poor first impression. At the recommendation of our concierge, we tried Ristorante 34 near the Spanish Steps. It’s definitely in a touristy part of town, but the food was UNBELIEVABLE. We dined al fresco in the twilight, and dish after miraculous dish was paraded out by the welcoming (rare in Rome) and hustling waiter. I feasted on red pepper and gorgonzola pasta, veal saltimbocca with truffle mash (ohmagahhhh), and a chocolate souffle. My parents split an outrageous veal shank, and I had to partake in those festivities as well. Honestly, this was our best meal by far in Rome, and I highly recommend you try it.
Picturesque Roman al fresco dining, straight out of Lady and the Tramp.

 

 

*Drools*

 

All finished off with a shot of espresso.

 

DAY TWO
Day two, we ventured to the neighborhood of Testaccio for the Eating Italy “Taste of Testaccio Food Tour.” My parents had completed the tour their last trip to Rome, and highly recommended it. We spent half the day wandering Testaccio, sampling its foodie delights at local vendors, restaurants, and markets. Unfortunately, I was so entranced by the food that I didn’t take pictures of everything. I did remember to snap some, however, and have included them below. Definitely add this tour to your “must-do” list in Rome.

 

 

 

Suppli, a street food made out of breaded, fried risotto.

 

Our tour began as most days should, with tiramisu.

 

DAY 3
 
The morning of our third day, my mom and I explored the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and had worked up quite an appetite by lunch time. We met my brother and dad to fuel up at Ristochicco, just a short walk from St. Peter’s Square. The whole surrounding area by the Vatican is a swarm of beggars, scammers, and tourists traps. I definitely relied on Trip Advisor to find a legit restaurant that wouldn’t serve awful food and take us for every euro. Ristochicco was fabulous, and we gobbled up our pasta (I had gnocchi with toms), served fresh out of the cast iron pan.
That evening, after an afternoon filled with rain showers, we took a perilous cab ride (every cab ride in Rome will bring you close to death) to the Trastevere neighborhood. Trastevere was the least “touristy” feeling place we visited, and it was lovely to spend an evening with “real” Romans. Most restaurants are partially outdoor, lining the pedestrian walkways that are filled with street vendors. We had dinner in the center of the action at Grazie e Graziella, another TripAdvisor find. To start, we shared an antipasti of beautiful meats and cheeses, then I had amatriciana for my main. It’s a traditional Roman meat sauce (you definitely don’t order bolognese – this isn’t Bologna!) made with guanciale, pecorino cheese, and tomato. For dessert, we were stuffed but just had split a tiramisu. This was probably my second favorite restaurant in Rome, after 34, plus the waiters were really hot ;).

After dinner, we attempted to walk off the pounds by wandering the piazza in the dusky glow. If I lived in Rome, I would without a doubt live in Trastevere.

DAY FOUR

On our final fourth day in Rome, we had a full day of touring planned at the Colosseum and Roman Forum. To make planning a bit easier and to avoid the crowds at restaurants near these tourist hot spots, we filled up on brunch at our hotel, the Marriott Grand Flora, restaurant. Luckily, the buffet provided this view:

You could do worse than a hotel breakfast with sweeping vistas of Rome. I nibbled on an assortment of pastries, meats, and fruit. The breakfast was included with our room, so not a bad way to save a few euros.

 

After lots of walking and putting on our best Russell Crowe and gladiating about, we decided to forgo a normal lunch and do as the Romans do – eat gelato. I can’t remember the name of this random gelateria a few steps from the Colosseum, but their nutella flavor was on point.

We had a day of travel to Naples then on to the Amalfi Coast looming ahead of us, so we decided to stick close to our hotel for dinner. Unfortunately, we struck out in this neighborhood, yet again at Andrea. It was fine, serviceable, but entirely forgettable. Not representative of Roman cuisine at all. Plus, their saltimbocca was never going to live up to the heaven I experienced at 34. Lesson learned, Via Veneto is not a neighborhood for impressing foodies.  I should have known when the restaurant focal point is the Hard Rock Cafe.

meh.

 

We really outdid ourselves with sampling the tiramisus of Rome. This one was okay.
The cookies weren’t too shabby, but I’m easy to please when it comes to sweets.

Luckily, the Amalfi Coast cuisine finished our trip on a high note. I’ll be sure to put together another post recapping that tastiness!