Saturday, June 04, 2016

Southern California - Part 2 - Los Angeles

Hi readers (all 5 of you!)
Who wants to know about the rest of my trip to Southern California?
Ok, here goes.

More breweries, as we drove from San Diego to Los Angeles. First up, Alesmith. More flights of beer. I was designated driver so stuck to having a bit of whatever stout looked most interesting to me. A took full advantage of having a personal chauffeur. We kept exclaiming over how spacious breweries and tap rooms are in the US, compared to the squashed confines of railway arches in London. Plus, as we were doing a weekday brewery hop during a late morning / early afternoon drive, there were only a handful of other similarly geeky beer tourists around. Good if you want to spend your time tasting / discussing beer with the knowledgeable staff. Bad if you want atmosphere.

Ballast Point was next door. They are more established, which was obvious from the much more expensive décor and fully bustling restaurant and gift shop. I am appalled that I did not write much down but there were definitely some beers here that were right up my alley. Too bad I’ll never remember what they were.

As it was a Monday, another brewery close by wasn’t open (Green Flash) and we decided to skip Karl Strauss as we’d had a few of their beers in San Diego and two breweries in a morning seemed like a pretty decent achievement.

Back to what I care about – lunch options! Both Kotija Jr Taco Shop and Carnitas’ Snack Shack are in Del Mar, and why eat at one when you can eat at both? We started with a fish taco and taquitos at Kotija – again a pretty great example of what a bit of freshly grilled fish and shredded cabbage can be when done right, and the taquitos were full of greasy childhood nostalgia. Then we hit up Carnitas’ for their famed Triple Threat pork sandwich (our AirBnB host in San Diego raved about this). I’m glad we tried it, but it was just too over the top for me. Deep fried pork loin, pulled pork, and bacon smothered with aioli and relish – even having half of it made me feel a few years closer to a heart attack.

With some lunch, A was ready for another brewery so we went to Stone’s headquarters in Escondido. It was really difficult to find as there isn’t much signage out front and looks like a weird office building complex, but in the back there is a pretty incredible beer garden. While this is where they do most of the brewing for their mainstays, the location in San Diego has a lot more experimental beer, so if you were choosing to visit one, I’d recommend going to the San Diego location (which is also surrounded by a lot more stuff to do).

While Rip Current and Latitude 33 were also on our map, we were keen to get to LA before dark so we ended up skipping them. Leaves us some places to visit on the next trip…

Our first two nights in LA, we stayed with C in Pasadena. She took us to a great casual Italian place for hearty bowls of pasta and broccoli rabe which helped me cleanse after the crazy pork sandwich for lunch.

The next day was a downpour unlike anything I’ve ever seen in LA. This meant that A and I could only see things from the car – Griffiths Observatory was a bust, and we made a quick stop at Squirl for some avocado toast (fine) and bread pudding (way more than fine, I would eat this over and over again). Maybe the rain is the only reason why we managed to find a table and get served without a long queue. We then proceeded along Sunset Blvd heading west, going at a crawl and pointing at things through the blurry windows. 

Another stop at one of the many outposts of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, for, you guessed it, chicken and waffles – we really liked the fried chicken as it was juicy and crisp. I know it can be variable in quality but we hit a good one. We decided to hide out at the cinema and watch The Hateful 8 in 70mm, as the rain just never stopped, and afterwards drove around Hollywood and Beverley Hills, gawping at mansions, until it was time for our reservation at Pizzeria Mozza.

Pizzeria Mozza gets its own paragraph. I’ve heard endless raves about the pizza, the butterscotch budino, the warm atmosphere, both here and at its sister restaurant next door, Osteria Mozza. It lived up to it all – my friend K met us for dinner (C couldn’t make it, sadly) so between three of us we attempted to stuff ourselves silly. Arancini and bone marrow for starters (A’s first bone marrow!) and then two phenomenal pizzas (mixed mushrooms, and a Brussels sprout and pancetta special). A, whose top gripe about pizza is when the crust is too thin/soggy to hold up to toppings, pronounced these excellent and we had no trouble finishing it all. Then, because we couldn’t decide between the butterscotch budino and the caramel coppetta, we got both. A preferred the caramel, I preferred the butterscotch, K didn’t discriminate. It was perfect. I love it when places meet your high expectations.

The next day, the same downpour meant another curiously indoor day. The Broad Museum was my kind of place – small enough that you could see the whole thing in a couple of hours, big enough that the collection was interesting. Also your free tickets come with an audio guide that really helps you understand what you’re seeing – I am getting really into audio guides lately as they are transforming my experience of museums. After, we headed to Little Tokyo for lunch. I don’t have pictures or the name of the restaurant, but it was a pretty standard bento box experience and we’d go back, if we could ever find it again. For dessert, we hit up The Pie Hole, which was doing a special Yoda pie – green tea and salted caramel. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about pie. I think I like it? But then when I look at the picture I don’t crave it.

A and I stumbled across Joe’s Restaurant Office while we were on Abbot Kinney and took advantage of their happy hour margaritas. The bartender was outstanding (and outstandingly friendly) but sadly their website says they have closed after 24 years…

Then we met up with K again in her neighbourhood and went all out for dinner at Leona. There was some homemade cheese, another mushroom pizza, duck confit, beef shortrib, fries and roasted Brussels sprouts. Again, lots of exclamations of delight (and the two lovely bottles of red that K brought didn’t hurt!) I think we were too full for dessert (or I just didn’t take any pictures).

Finally, on our last day, LA showed off what it’s known for – sunshine and warmth, even in January. Thank goodness, because I think A was starting to think that I was a massive liar. With bright blue skies and T-shirt temps, we headed to the beach, first to Venice, where we shared a breakfast burrito at The Sidewalk Café. It was fine, but the view is the real draw. Then we visited the Getty and soaked up sunshine at the outdoor amphitheatre, and took the PCH up to Malibu. 

We capped off this drive with one of my favorite meals of the trip – fried clams and grilled fish at Malibu Seafood. Something about fresh seafood by the seaside in blazing sun just amplifies the blissfulness of each individual component. 

And the last thing we did before catching our flight was getting a quick Double Double at In N Out – can’t come to California without at least one stop there.

Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake in One Bowl

I love the UK method of doing most baking recipes by weight as you can just add ingredients straight into the bowl without dirtying loads of measuring cups and whatnot.

A requested a yogurt cake, he has fond memories of this one, but as soon as I saw the Barefoot Contessa had a recipe I had to try that one out.

So here we go:

Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake in One Bowl
Adapted from Food Network

Makes one loaf sized cake


210g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
245g plain whole-milk yogurt
225g sugar for cake, plus 1/3 cup sugar for syrup
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
75g vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners' (or icing) sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350F / 180C. Grease a loaf tin. You can line with parchment paper if you like, but I use a silicone tin so never bother with that step.

Combine yogurt, 225g sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk well until smooth. Add flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well to combine until smooth. Fold in vegetable oil until combined.

Pour batter into loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup - combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small pan (that was roughly 2 lemons worth of juice, which works well with the number needed for zesting). Heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Let cake cool for about 10 minutes, but while it is still warm, poke some holes in the cake with a tester or skewer, pour the lemon syrup over the cake and let it soak in. Cool completely.

For the glaze, which is optional, combine icing sugar and lemon juice, then drizzle over the cake.