Ah, the sunny state of California. How could we not take a moment and dream of your bright blue skies and kicked-back way of living? And for us four-season dwellers (like sweat-dripping, wind-slapping, frost-biting kind of four seasons) traveling the dessert trails of Los Angeles with the top down and enjoying temperate 70-degree weather sounds like a lovely way to induce our own sunny state of mind.
There is a growing list of good restaurants and food purveyors in the Greater Los Angeles area. Culver City is becoming its own food mecca, offering such sweet spots as Platine Cookies. Plus there is ice cream and baked goods at the Farmers Market on Third and Fairfax, and taking a drive along Rodeo Drive, you may want to consider indulging your taste buds with a cupcake from Sprinkles. (Giving in to the Good Life as advertised is what this place is all about, right?) And don’t forgot this is the city that started that rampantly growing trend: tart original and green tea frozen yogurt, still reveres the doughnut as king, and was one of the very first points of cupcake mania. A mere scratch on the surface, here’s a report on a few of the delicious places we spent our calories while taking in those famous Hollywood Hills.
Tucked along the edge of the suburban neighborhoods just off West Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills, this mid-century modern boutique hotel is easy to drive by without noticing; but for all the Avalon‘s demure exterior, there is plenty going on inside. Steps from the pool and your own dinning cabana, you’ll find the award-winning restaurant Blue on Blue. This hip restaurant turns out nouveau American cuisine, which can also be enjoyed at chic lucite tables underneath a cloudless canopy of blue. On the savory front of baking, you won’t want to miss the bacon/croissant bread pudding. Salsa verde and a sunny-side egg make this dish breakfast perfection. And for a sweeter turn, a variety or pancakes and waffles rotate through the seasonally bent offerings. The dessert menu is limited but good. This time bread pudding is given a sweet treatment with chocolate, marshmallow crème, and crème fraîche ice cream. And a late night snack of house-made chocolate chip cookies won’t disappoint. (Editor’s note: Blue on Blue has been replaced by Oliverio, featuring modern Italian cuisine, since this story was written.)
Just up the road, you will find another late-night (or really any time) stop, Milk. Situated on a corner along Beverly Boulevard, the red and white awning acts as a siren call. The small shop serves up ice cream by the scoop as well as house-made ice cream bars and sandwiches along with a case of assorted cakes and cookies. Sitting as close to the dessert counter as possible, so they could be eyed while I munched on a Cobb salad, what caught my eye was blue cake. Well-known as Blue Velvet, this twist on tradition is appropriately studded with blueberries and frosted with white-chocolate cream-cheese frosting.
Take a day-trip to Santa Monica for lunch at Huckleberry. Husband and wife team Zoe Nathan and Joshua Loeb, who also own Rustic Canyon—their more formal restaurant, a few blocks away (she cooks, he manages)—serve up all sorts of baked goods, desserts, and breads alongside their sandwiches and salads. The rather large chocolate cupcake (generously offered to us by a friendly neighboring diner) was extremely rich but delicious. And most importantly the cake was dense and moist. Among some of the other goodies sampled and enjoyed were sweet corn loaf cake, which delicately balances on the line between sweet and savory, a salted caramel bar with vanilla beans, golf ball–sized cinnamon-sugar–sprinkled doughnut holes, miniature kouing-aman, and a shortbread bar cookie with blueberry filling and an oatmeal crumble topping. Nathan is a Tartine (San Francisco) alum and has definitely from there made her baking style her own. Huckleberry shows off her skills through the wide-variety of dessert options and breads. For those of us who like to try it all, it was nearly impossible to decide what to leave behind.
The epitome of French-California seasonal cuisine, the last stop on our eating course was dinner at Lucques. It’s a straightforward dessert menu that delivers. Making the best of the latest produce available, the nectarine and blackberry shortcake we tried, proves that classics should never die, especially when treated with slight variations on theme such as cornmeal shortcakes and whipped crème fraîche. This tasty dessert came off as positively healthy, so lightly did it end the meal. The plate, however, left the table clean. Do something familiar and do it extremely well and you can guarantee a following.
There can be more to L.A. than meets the eye, if you are willing to look, and it’s food culture is growing. From our vantage point, we predict sunny skies and even more delicious things to come.
10850 Washington Blvd. (Culver City)
9635 Little Santa Monica Blvd.
Blue on Blue, Avalon Beverly Hills
9400 West Olympic Blvd.
7290 Beverly Blvd.
1014 Wilshire Blvd. (Santa Monica)
8474 Melrose Ave.