“Californify It:” Eating our way through LA

This year for spring break I decided to do something different. One of my best friends has been studying ‘abroad’ in LA this semester for BU’s film/tv program, and, given that I have never been before, I figured this was a good opportunity to experience a new (and warm!) place while reuniting. It turned into a super fun group trip which entailed a detailed Google doc (thanks to my OCD) to meticulously plan the 3 days, jam in as much touristy activities and eating as possible, and forever be made fun of by my friends.

Though we were only there for three days, we managed to try a lot of really good food. I shamelessly had my phone out and ready to take photos to capture each and every place and most dishes. I’ll go in chronological order:

1) In-n-Out:
Well, our hotel happened to be LITERALLY right next door, so we couldn’t NOT get In-n-Out for our first meal at midnight when we arrived. It was an obligation. The place was jam packed at that hour and we even had to wait a little while (so much for their name). In any case, I’m not much of a burger person (sue me) so I don’t have too much to say…I got a regular cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake. Probably would’ve enjoyed it more had it not been 3am in my head at the time. I was also slightly confused because apparently In-n-Out has this sort of ‘secret menu’ that only regulars/non-tourists/BuzzFeed readers know about. News to me!

The hungry crew after our 6-hr flight NOMMING.

The hungry crew after our 6-hr flight NOMMING.

Cheeseburger and shake.

Cheeseburger and shake.

Reunited at last <3

Reunited at last ❤

2) Gladstones
On day one, we woke up early and drove to Surfrider beach (Malibu area) to soak up some sun and, at least for me, stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The beach was gorgeous, but as much as we wanted to stay out in the sun for hours on end, we were soon hungry. Since we had been told by two separate individuals to go to Gladstones, we figured we should probably try it. It’s located right off the oh-so-scenic Pacific Coast Highway as we headed back toward Santa Monica. We gave our name to the hostess and had to wait for about 15 minutes in the lounge area until our table was ready. The waiting went by quickly though, as we were entertained by the sandbox built into the lounge area. Dan tried to make friends while we occupied ourselves by assigning other little kids as mini versions of ourselves (i.e. the little girl with the hat was me, the little girl with the ice cream all over her face was Nikki, etc).
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So about the food…everything on the menu looked amazing and I would’ve easily eaten anything on it. It was a tough decision bu I finally decided on the fish tacos (sounded very Cali to me at the time). Dan tried ceviche for the first time (so proud), Hannah got a flatbread pizza (goat cheese yes please), Nikki got some sort of wrap that she ‘Californified’ (which pretty much means just adding avocado to said dish), and Chris got a cajun grilled salmon sandwich. Although pitchers weren’t on the menu, we inquired anyway and managed to swing a pitcher of blackberry/raspberry margarita (good decision). The amazing meal was made even better by the perfect weather and view of the beach.

Right on the beach.

Right on the beach.

Cheers to spring break #hydration

Cheers to spring break #hydration

Mango salmon tacos with guac, mango salsa, and limes. #socal

Mango salmon tacos with guac, mango salsa, and limes. #socal

3) The Grove:
The next day, after an incredible tour of Warner Bros., we went to The Grove, a must-see item on the Google doc. I didn’t know what exactly ‘The Grove’ consisted of, despite how much I’d heard of it, so I was really open to anything. Turns out, it’s this incredibly beautiful outdoor shopping area and, attached to it, there is an amazing semi-covered farmer’s market area with virtually every type of cuisine you could possibly want.

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

We did one walk-through just to get a lay of the land, and then we had to make the very difficult decision (#firstworldproblems) of where to settle down and actually buy lunch. Chris and I settled on a cute little French place and Dan, Nikki, and Hannah decided on Mexican (#carnitas, Dan?).

Croissant with brie, apples, and proscuitto and side salad with mustard viniagrette

Croissant with brie, apples, and proscuitto and side salad with mustard viniagrette

Quesadilla

Quesadilla

Chris and his massive crepe

Chris and his massive crepe

While I was waiting for the three Mexican diners to get their food (I was polite and didn’t want to start without them, though I may have nibbled on some of the croissant because how could I not?), I walked over to a little fresh produce stand and FINALLY came upon the avocados I’d been searching for. I purchased 2 perfectly ripe avocados (though I was hoping they would be cheaper considering we were in California…oh well #worthit). I couldn’t wait and immediately cut into one so I could add it to the sandwich I bought for lunch. And that is what we are calling ‘californifying’ it.

$1.99/avocado and worth every penny

$1.99/avocado and worth every penny

Me being me.

Me being me.

I brought the other avocado home and had it for breakfast (duh) because our Days Inn ‘continental breakfast’ was just not cutting it. Mashed avocado is SUCH a great alternative to cream cheese/butter/jam on toast. Breakfast of champions.

When in California...

When in California…

On the way out of the Grove, we had to get ice cream (because when it’s warm out, it’s pretty much an obligation). So we stopped at Bennett’s which had a wide variety of flavors to suit all of our cravings. I couldn’t resist ordering a Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet (because I’m such a huge fan of JP Licks’ Maneschewitz sorbet which only is offered twice per year in Boston). It was delicious and refreshing (and classy?).

So many choices!

So many choices!

Cute old fashioned register

Cute old fashioned register

NOM

NOM

4) Carney’s:
We met up with a friend from BU who graduated last year (shoutout to Saba) and who is now out in Cali writing for the LA Times (here’s to hoping for employment come graduation…). After much discussion, we finally decided to meet up at Carney’s, a very unique restaurant because it is actually in an old train! Very cool. The menu included primarily burgers, so I got a turkey burger and sweet potato fries (my favorite) which I pretty much watched the cooks make the entire time because they cook right in front of the waiting customers.

yummm

yummm

A real train!

A real train!

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5) Griddle Cafe
I’m not sure where to begin. Our friend Jeremy made it very clear during the planning process that this restaurant was a must. So we decided to go for brunch after hiking Runyon Canyon (so the calories would cancel out?). The photos really don’t it justice, so just take my word for it. The pancakes are the size of medium-large pizzas and they are typically served three at a time. While we waited for our table, we saw how massive the portions were and knew better than to order a stack of three pizza-pancakes. Instead, we opted for the single pancakes, which, it turns out, are still too large to eat in one sitting.

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In addition to pancakes, the cafe serves egg dishes, french toast, and non-brunch items. The 6 of us managed to order quite an array of dishes as the photos clearly show. There was no way we could finish–or even close to finish–all the food that came to our table.

The fruit makes the meal healthy, right? Eh....

The fruit makes the meal healthy, right? Eh….

Another egg dish

Baked potato omelet

Jeremy and his Chocolate Chip Cookie Crusted French Toast. This shouldn't be legal.

Jeremy and his Chocolate Chip Cookie Crusted French Toast. This shouldn’t be legal.

Chris for some reason adding syrup to his Nutella stuffed French toast. Because it wasn't sweet enough as is...?

Chris for some reason adding syrup to his Nutella stuffed French toast. Because it wasn’t sweet enough as is…?

For the first time ever, I witnessed Dan NOT finish the food he ordered. Pictured: 'Black Magic' pancake (oreo filled) and the 'A Time to Love' pancake filled with streusel, butterscotch chips, caramel).

For the first time ever, I witnessed Dan NOT finish the food he ordered. Pictured: ‘Black Magic’ pancake (oreo filled) and the ‘A Time to Love’ pancake filled with streusel, butterscotch chips, caramel).

My red velvet pancake topped with streusel and cream cheese frosting. It tasted just like a cupcake but in pancake form. And beautiful presentation!

My red velvet pancake topped with streusel and cream cheese frosting. It tasted just like a cupcake but in pancake form. And beautiful presentation!

Nikki and Hannah's split third dish: 'Banana-nana' pancake with brown sugar baked bananas mixed into the batter.

Nikki and Hannah’s split third dish: ‘Banana-nana’ pancake with brown sugar baked bananas mixed into the batter.

Needless to say, we needed to be rolled out of the cafe. Moving was a struggle to say the least.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The waiters may or may not have come outside to check to make sure we were okay...

The waiters may or may not have come outside to check to make sure we were okay…

6) Diddy Riese Cookies:
Jeremy insisted we visit this cookie shop located by UCLA. Considering how great his Griddle Cafe recommendation was, we figured trusting his recommendation was a good call. So after visiting UCLA and admiring the beautiful campus (too late to transfer? JK…), we stopped by the little shop to each get a handful of cookies. That being said, I still felt so full from brunch that I got the cookies to-go. The place only takes cash which is annoying, but, at $0.35/each, the cookies are SO incredibly cheap I really shouldn’t complain. I admit I have high cookie standards (the gold standard remains Paradise Bakery) so they were not the absolute best cookies ever, but they were definitely worth the visit. They were all completely full of chocolate chips/M&Ms/etc which was great.

If there's a line, it has to be good.

If there’s a line, it has to be good.

COOKIES

COOKIES

Unlike me to just buy two...but I somehow did. One dark chocolate and one regular chocolate chip.

Unlike me to just buy two…but I somehow did. One dark chocolate and one regular chocolate chip.

Believe it or not, we actually did other things in LA besides eating, I swear. But it holds true that the best way to explore a new place is through its food.

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Eating Our Way Through Utah

I am a firm believer that the best way to get to know a new place when travelling is through its food. So, I made sure to take copious mental notes, as well as many iPhone-quality photos, on my most recent trip to Park City, UT. My family has been traveling to the area every winter break for about 10 years now, so we’ve had some time to figure out the cuisine of the area. We tend to return to our same favorite restaurants year after year (creatures of habit), though every once in a while we’ll throw in something new and different.

First, it is difficult to convey this in writing, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The quality of the on-mountain food served at Deer Valley is bar-none. I have skied at numerous other resorts around the country, and not only does Deer Valley’s food surpass all other on-mountain food, it also surpasses most gourmet, upscale restaurant-quality cuisine. I am not the only one who feels this way; Deer Valley Resort is notoriously ranked highly because of its renowned food and customer service. I own their cookbook (yes, they publish and sell an overpriced cookbook for foodie tourists such as myself).

I kid you not–we were having lunch with our family friends (shoutout to the Matz family) at Empire Lodge on our first ski day when a couple chefs came out of the kitchen wheeling a huge clear tub filled with legs of lamb marinating in gallons of olive oil and herbs. While we ate our gourmet panini sandwiches, flourless chocolate cakes, and beef/lamb pot pies (can’t make this stuff up), we watched these chefs tie and hang the legs of lamb in front of the fireplace to start slow roasting the meat (to be served at dinner for those lucky enough to eat there twice in one day). Lunch and a show (I won’t get into the sanitation of these procedures at the moment, which we were all seriously questioning but will let go because the food is just too darn good)!

Can't make this stuff up.

Can’t make this stuff up.

Deer Valley is clearly really vegetarian friendly...

Deer Valley is clearly really vegetarian friendly…

Beef/lamb pot pie with a perfect golden-brown puff pastry crust. Deer Valley's famous carrot cake.

Beef/lamb pot pie with a perfect golden-brown puff pastry crust. Deer Valley’s famous carrot cake. Not your typical on-mountain food.

In past years, we’ve tended to ski more frequently at Deer Valley than the other mountains nearby (usually because we want to eat lunch there…now you know why). This year, however, we spent more time skiing at The Canyons Resort, a mountain about a 15 min drive from Deer Valley and a 5 min drive from our condo (the Canyons also has cheaper lift tickets). The on-mountain food is not on the same playing field as Deer Valley’s, but I would still like to highlight 2 good lunches:

First, there is a Belgian waffle hut called Bruges Waffle by the Red Pine Lodge which serves THE most delicious waffles. They are coated in sugar so that, when cooked, the outside becomes sweet and crispy, and they are served with whipped cream and strawberries/raspberries/blueberries. But, the best part–they are STUFFED with dark Belgian chocolate which melts and oozes out as you cut into the breakfast/dessert concoction. As a nutrition student, I do not endorse this as a well-balanced, nutritious lunch. As a hungry skier on vacation, however, I fully support it.

Lunch of champions.

Lunch of champions.

Another good lunch at The Canyons was at the Tombstone Grill, an outdoor BBQ joint by the Tombstone lift mid-mountain. While I wouldn’t be too thrilled eating outside on a cold, snowy  day, it was the perfect choice for a sunny, (relatively) warm ski day. I ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich (because I’m such a good Jew) which came with a side of cole slaw and cornbread. Wasn’t a fan of the cornbread, but the pork was delicious and hit the spot. Portion was pretty decent too, as you can see. Also, service was super quick, which is always a plus when you’ve paid for an expensive lift ticket and want to get as much skiing out of it as possible.

That's a lot of meat.

That’s a lot of meat.

With all of the above said, dining on the mountain is NOT cheap. There are ways to be thrify, however. Take a lesson from my father, whose eating habits never cease to entertain us.

Bringing an apple and pack of honey in his jacket with him...happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone.

Bringing an apple and pack of honey in his jacket with him #freelunch…happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone.

Adding his own crushed cheese crackers to the free crackers that came with our paninis #carbsoncarbsoncarbs

Adding his own crushed cheese crackers to the free crackers that came with our paninis #carbsoncarbsoncarbs

His annual free birthday dessert at Ruths Chris in Park City: caramelized banana cream pie.

His annual free birthday dessert at Ruths Chris in Park City: caramelized banana cream pie.

Moving onto some other meals out and about throughout Park City.

For dinner one night, we decided to try something new and different. My family, as well as our family friends, went to Shabu Shabu in the Redstone development (not to be confused with Shabu on Main St) to experience a claypot pho dinner–a first for us all. It was an experience, to say the least. We all bonded over how utterly confused we were throughout the process. It did become pretty clear, however, that Americans would all be much healthier if we ate pho all the time.

I ordered a plain chicken pho soup. Huge portions.

I ordered a plain chicken pho soup. Huge portions.

Corinne, Mollie, and Ethan smile as they receive a pho steam facial.

Corinne, Mollie, and Ethan smile as they receive a pho steam facial.

For a more conventional meal, my mother, sister, and I ate at Zoom on Main Street for lunch one day when we took a day off skiing. Interestingly, the restaurant was opened in 1995 by Robert Redford and is a Sundance Resort Restaurant. The vibe is very chic and modern-mountain-esque, which supports the eclectic menu well. I ordered the bison/beef/venison chili, Corinne ordered the truffle mac and cheese starter as a main course, and my mother ordered the special of the day which was a grilled halibut sandwich. The three of us shared a side of sweet potato fries (because if and when that’s on a menu, you can’t not order it). Despite the wait (we couldn’t get in for lunch until 2:30pm since we hadn’t made a reservation beforehand), the food was worth it and we were not disappointed.

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Perfectly crisp and salty.

When out west, how can you not order wild game chili? Homemade corn muffin on the side.

When out west, how can you not order wild game chili? Homemade corn muffin on the side.

Truffled mac with bacon. Doesn't get any richer than that.

Truffled mac with bacon. Doesn’t get any richer than that.

Grilled halibut sandwich and side of fries (not as good as the sweet potato ones though)

Grilled halibut sandwich and side of fries (not as good as the sweet potato ones though)

The last meal of the vacation to discuss took place at Riverhorse on Main. We’ve been coming to this restaurant for a number of years now; it never seems to disappoint. The upscale restaurant was re-modeled recently and is stunning. As beautiful as the decor is, though, the food is not to be outshined. The specials are always innovative (my dad ordered a special–tortilla-encrusted grouper) and I appreciate the freebies that come with the meal–an amuse bouche as well as a dessert treat that comes with the bill.

Our amuse-bouche of the evening: salmon mousse on a cracker.

Our amuse-bouche of the evening: salmon mousse on a cracker.

Fried goat cheese salad with heirloom tomatoes, balsamic syrup, and microgreens.

Fried goat cheese salad with heirloom tomatoes, balsamic syrup, and microgreens.

My mom's dish: UT red trout with pistachio crust, forbidden rice, pomegranate salsa, and arugula

My mom’s dish: UT red trout with pistachio crust, forbidden rice, pomegranate salsa, and arugula

My dad's dish: the special of the evening--tortilla-encrusted grouper with black beans and avocado aioli

My dad’s dish: the special of the evening–tortilla-encrusted grouper with black beans and avocado aioli

My sister's dish: macadamia-crusted halibut with broccolini, herb-whipped potatoes, and mango

My sister’s dish: macadamia-crusted halibut with broccolini, herb-whipped potatoes, and mango

My dish (again with the wild game): slow roasted buffalo short ribs with red currant compote and parmesan steak fries.

My dish (again with the wild game): slow roasted buffalo short ribs with red currant compote and parmesan steak fries.

The best part: their molten lava cake. By far the best lava cake I've ever had anywhere. That's saying a lot because I've tried many.

The best part: their molten lava cake. By far the best lava cake I’ve ever had anywhere. That’s saying a lot because I’ve tried many.

Free dessert treat with the bill: homemade dark chocolate truffles and peanut brittle.

Free dessert treat at the end of the meal to make paying the bill not as sad: homemade dark chocolate truffles and peanut brittle.

Needless to say, it was hard to pick a favorite dish (jk the lava cake wins every time).

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the trip. I’ll set the scene: we were in the car leaving the mountain and my dad, making conversation, asks my sister: “What was your favorite part of the day? Ninety-nine 90 [a tough peak at the Canyons which we’d skied that day]?” Corinne’s nonchalant and totally serious response: “umm…lunch.”

And there ya have it.