Marina del Rey Dining – family restaurants, with margaritas

 

Seafood is not the only great offering for LA’s premier waterfront dining destination

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Dining experiences around the Marina range from the causal to the classy, with a row of eateries across the Fisherman’s Village, a New-England style promenade by the docks, to hotel and waterside restaurants offering spectacular views of the boats. Here are a few offerings for families, date nights or drinks.

TonyP’s Dockside Grill, overlooking the Marina, serves up consistently good seafood – including legendary fish and chips, as well as steaks, sandwiches and salads in a friendly, family restaurant atmosphere that appeals to local and tourists alike.

El Torito at Fisherman’s Village offers one of the best views of the Marina, which is why the place is packed at sundown, full of boisterous diners who come for the sundown spectacle and some of the best tequila drinks in town, like the George Clooney strawberry margarita, best enjoyed with the restaurant’s signature table-side-prepared guacamole and fresh-made chips, along with the ultimate appetizer of bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp.

For causal family dining a bit more inland, Fresh Brothers at the Waterside Marina del Rey shopping plaza offers deep-dish, skinny, thin and cauliflower crust pizza and hearty meatball and chicken-parmesan sliders, as well as big bowl salads and delicious fresh garlic bread knots.

 

 

At the popular Marina Beach, known locally as Mother’s Beach, enjoy a a picnic by the water, with food to-go at Beach Eats, and all-summer weekly food truck event with live music on Thursdays evenings.

 

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Il Piccolo Verde offers small town Italian dining with a big heart

 

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Il Picollo Verde is fine Italian dining that is approachable in price and atmosphere. The restaurant is relatively small, occupying a long and narrow storefront on Barrington Place in Brentwood Village. The heated patio overlooks a relatively quiet street, and is almost as large as the cozy restaurant inside. For those opting for the dining room, The ambience inside is mellow and romantic, with low lighting and tables lit by small oil lamps.

It was the perfect atmosphere for a date night, or in our case, an intimate family dinner.

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The restaurant and staff are welcoming, and like the menu, very approachable. Chef Pablo Merida prepares the made-to-order from-scratch Italian specialties in an open kitchen, along with his able and friendly crew.

In addition to many traditional dishes, the restaurant features a Verde Naturale menu with a number of health-conscious, low-calories options made with organic, unrefined, raw and pressed oils and organic gluten-free grains and leafy greens and vegetables.

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We first tried a family favorite, the App Calamari Friti, which was lightly fried and not overly greasy, served with a tangy marinara sauce. While it was not an appetizer per se, we decided to have the Ravioli Casarecci before our entrées, because we didn’t want to miss the restaurant’s favorite famous homemade pastas, but we all had our minds set on non-pasta dishes.

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For our main courses, we had the Lemon Chicken Naturale, grilled with garlic, herbs, vegetables, lemon juice, millet Verde, which was very similar to the Petto Di Pollo Al Limone chicken breast, though the former served in a lighter sauce.
My nine-year-old was in the mood for seafood indulged in the Cioppino, a seafood stew of clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp, fresh fish, and served with Crostini for dipping. We also had the Salmone, a grilled salmon fillet served with broccoli and roasted potatoes.
Though the restaurant was out of gelato the night we visited, we had two other delicious desserts from their dessert menu of a custard pie with almonds and a ricotta cheese pie.
While we didn’t have the appetite for it the night we visited, the restaurant is known for its New York style pizza, which our table neighbor had ordered and which looked tantalizing. In particular, the Bianca E Neve pizza looked appetizing, covered with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and spinach. For that, we will have to come back, which we surely will.

DTLA’s Miro trades whiskey for mimosas for Saturday morning brunch

The restaurant famed for its whiskey bar wakes up downtown diners with an exciting Saturday morning brunch

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It used to be that Downtown LA was like Wall Street on the weekends, vacant and quiet, especially on Saturdays, but slowly and steadily, chic and inviting restaurants like Miro are changing that. Because no other premiere restaurant was serving brunch to hungry DTLA dwellers on Saturdays, Miro smartly introduced its upscale late-morning, mid-day meal offerings with inventive dishes that give late-night clubbers something to crawl out for and those outside the center city a reason to drive into it.

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Miro’s Chef Gavin Mills has created an imaginative menu featuring pan-Mediterranean entrées, along with some modern Italian regional offerings, such as a pastrami-rubbed Smoked Salmon with pickled beet, ale mustard and crème fraiche, served with fries or a salad. For a heartier lunch, there’s a selection of house-made pastas like the Strozzapreti lamb ragu with dark chocolate, mirpoinx, garlic, mushroom and chili flakes. On the lighter side, there’s Farro Salad with roasted squash, black truffle pecorino, arugula and balsamic.

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At the center of the concept for Miro are dishes that are made with locally sourced foods from sustainable farms, and a presentation that invites shared-plate dining style. As the sophisticated new breed of DTLA denizens inspire, the atmosphere is decidedly fashionable, with touches such as hand-made pottery dishes that adorn round brass cocktail table tops and fine wood benches and picnic tables, with a centerpiece in the main dining area of a thick white marble slab bar with chic Saarinen-esque wood tulip bar stools, under modern chandeliers of blown glass balls. The ambiance is swank but approachable and comfortable, like the strains of strains of Marvin Gaye and 80s and 90s tunes that played in the background during my recent, visit, perfect for a lazy Saturday morning.

So far, this Brunch remains undiscovered by the culinary masses, but as more of those working in the city return to it to play, Miro expects this lunch offering will continue to grow, a welcome oasis for those who desire an elegant downtown setting for a relaxing and sophisticated brunch. With the recently opened InterContinental Hotel across the street, the traffic is starting to increase, as Miro is among the first with confidence to build it, knowing that the brunch bunch will come.

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While many know Miro as an excellent upscale farm-to-table restaurant with an impressive menu for a business lunch or after-hours dinner, or as a hot happy hour spot with a legendary hidden-away whisky lounge downstairs, -to-impress restaurant, their brunch will be sure to put them on the map for those who find themselves in the city overnight.

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20170729_193432109_iOSSaturday brunch is served 11:30 am to 3 pm. Menu items are subject to change, so check online for the latest brunch menu at http://www.mirorestaurant.com/menu-brunch.php

Tasteful gifts for the foodie on your holiday list

Give the epicureans on your shopping list something to savor

Belly up

What’s better than bacon? How about bacon as often as you want it? This pork-happy dream can be a reality with Tender Belly, the bacon specialists who use vegetarian-fed pedigreed heritage pigs from sustainable Iowan family farms to create their flavorful, fine-restaurant-quality signature thick slices of yummy bacon – with no antibiotics, no nitrates, now available via a monthly subscription. Order up a three-month subscription ($177) of four pounds of glorious, delicious dry-cured and cherrywood-smoke bacon shipped door-to-door at the beginning of each month. Or, for smaller appetites, order strips by the pound ($14.75).

 

Bake by numbers

The baking beginner on your list will feel like an accomplished chef with Scratch and Grain baking company kits. These color-coded ready-to-bake kits make homemade baking fun and easy. Just follow the step-by-step instructions and whip up delicious treats made with organic, high quality ingredients. Kits cost between $5.49 and $8.49 and include snickerdoodle, classic sugar cookies and limited-edition holiday sugar cookies. Other cookie kits include chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, gluten-free chocolate truffle, and chewy peanut butter gluten-free. There’s also cupcake kits and organic pumpkin markets. Available at www.scratchandgrain.com

Cool beans

Stock up the foodie on your list, with mixes for soups, chili and baking like Old-Fashioned Chili Mix ($5.95) , Chocolate Brownie Mix ($5.95) , Golden Cornbread mix ($3.95) or Gourmet Popcorn kits ($5.95) from the Women’s Bean Project. Each product is lovingly handmade by women who support themselves and their families through their work for this philanthropic-minded company that gives opportunities to disadvantaged women. Gift baskets and other items like dog treats are also available from www.womensbeanproject.com.

Hostess helper

Your hostess with the most-est will appreciate your gift of exquisite desserts and treats from Matthews 1812. Baked in Connecticut-based and shipped nationwide, these delicious serving-size party pleasers, like Bourbon Pecan Minis ($20) or Bourbon Fig Cake )$33), are the perfect hostess gift, or great for serving at your own holiday gathering.

Meat me

Carnivores will salivate for delicious and tender steaks from Greensbury, a dedicated leader in the grass-fed movement, with its origins in the Amish farms of Pennsylvania and now ranching in Texas, Ohio, New Mexico and Illinois. This beef-by-mail company delivers exceedingly high-quality meat products from cattle raised humanely and sustainably, free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics. The taste and quality of the meat comes from careful cutting, vacuum sealing and boxing of the meat, using only natural enzymes and a 21- to 28-day wet aging process. The company also sells premium seafood, pork, lamb, poultry and game products. Two six-ounce fillet mignon steaks cost $43.99. Subscriptions offer a reduced cost for regular customers.

 

Food for thought, when you’re pulling an all-nighter

Snacks and drinks to live on during exam week

It’s midterm time, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning is an unfortunate reality for hard-studying students, but pulling an all-nighter does not have to be a miserable experience. Here are a few survival snacks  to make the hours go faster when you’re cramming for a big exam or have to finish that research paper due tomorrow.

Yogurt your way

When the dining hall is closed and the vending machine just won’t give you the brain food you need, grab a Siggi’s Triple Cream 9-percent milk fat Icelandic-style strained yogurt for some quick nutrition and energy, without the sugar crash. If a traditional serving container is not your cup of yogurt, Siggi’s drinkable Swedish whole milk yogurt is perfect for imbibing on the go, or for a fast pick-me-up, tuck a Siggi’s tube of strained low-fat yogurt in your backpack to squeeze in some 2-percent milkfat dairy with 5 g of sugar and 5 g of protein and only 50 calories that’ll keep you going when the studying gets tough.

 

 

Think drink

Protein means power, and Iconic Protein Drink has the formula for quick energy that is delicious and nutritious. Iconic’s convenient 11.5-ounce serving bottles can be a filling snack or even a meal replacement if time doesn’t allow for to a bite to eat. You can fuel up with 20 g of dairy protein – from grass-fed cows, 3 g of sugar and 130 calories, with no lactose, gluten, soy, carrageenan, GMOs or BPA. Iconic comes in a variety of flavors including Chocolate Truffle, Vanilla Bean and Café Au Lait. Get a sample pack of each flavor for $12.99.

Instant gratification

Want a great cup of Joe to help you make it through the night, but you don’t have time to hit a café? Indulge in a class cup of caffeine with Kuju Coffee, a one cup portable drip coffee brand that is perfect for brewing up in a dorm room. Kuju’s Pocket PourOver ready-to-brew filter anchors to your mug so that you can brew craft quality coffee, without a percolator. Kuju not only tastes good, the brand does good by sourcing its beans from a family farm in Thailand that employs former sex trafficking victims, and Kuju donates 1% of sales to the National Parks Foundation. Travel 5-Pack available for $24.95 at kujucoffee.com,

Clean energy

When your reserves are running low, fuel up with the clean energy of Zevia Energy drinks, the clear carbonated energy drink in flavors like Kola, Mango Ginger and Raspberry Lime that will give you a zing with 120 mg of natural caffeine without slogging you down with sugar and mind-gunking ingredients like artificial sweeteners and coloring. While your party schedule is on hold until the last bell rings, that doesn’t mean you can’t take time for a mocktail happy hour with a Zevia zero-calorie mixer. Enjoy the straight-up flavors of Dry Lemon Lime and Ginger Beer as a deserved refresher on a study break and of course a most-excellent elixir for the celebration after you ace the test. Grab a variety 12-pack of energy 12 for $18.99 on Amazon, or shop for Zevia products at grocers nationwide.

 

Raise the (snack) bar

If a diet of liquid lunch has got you craving something to crunch, try Granola Cups from Nature Valley, a satisfying mix of a dry snack with a creamy filled center. Stock up with a 5-count pack of 6 for $33.63 on Amazon, or pick up a box of five-pouches (each with two cups) at Target. If your snacking style leans more to the leafy and fruity, go for a LÄRABAR Fruit and Greens bar, packed with natural nutrition in flavor combos like Pineapple Kale Cashew and Mango Spinach Cashew. Grab a four-pack for $4.99 on Amazon or at retailers nationwide including Target and Walmart.

                              

 

 

 

An appetite for appetizers

Begin your exam prep with a trip to the grocery store to stock up the freezer with Hip Chick Farms line of artisan organic poultry products like chicken fingers, meatballs, and sausage patties that can make quick, hot and hardy meals to get you through a long night of hitting the books. All of Hip Chick Farms’ products contain no artificial ingredients, stabilizers, preservatives or fillers and are picky-eater approved. Available at Target and other grocery stores nationwide.

 

Communal Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago brings the familia to the table

Regulars and newbies make a night of the Northern Italian restaurant’s authentic Morso Della Bestia feast of a whole animal

When you think of Italian hospitality, you think of the kind of warm familia ambience that welcomes guests at Locanda del Lago; and when you think of the heartiness of a satisfying Italian dinner, it is a table filled with generous servings of meat, pasta and wine, like that of the restaurant’s monthly feast, Morso Della Bestia. If you are not familiar with this Italian tradition, translated as “Bite of the Beast,” it is a banquet that is the epitome of Italian cuisine – a celebration of food, family, friends and life, Italian style.

The last Thursday of every month, Lago hosts this communal, four-course dining experience, featuring a different animal roast each month, along with rustic Northern Italian dishes for which the restaurant is known, with recipies originating from Italy’s Bellagio on Lake Como, an homage to the hometown of restaurant’s founder.  Of course, to complement the meal, diners may also select wine pairings.

As is the case with all of the menu items at Lago, the fare is fresh-sourced locally from farmer’s markets and other purveyors with whom the restaurant has long-term associations, as this business places a high value on trusted relationships, doing business the way it was done in the Old Country.

The restaurant usually seats between 30 to 40 guests to this RSVP-required event, at which the main course has featured whole-animals, such as boar and venison, or on occasion lesser daunting beasts, like rabbit, goose, or even tuna. Chef George Pincay endeavors to use all parts of the animal for a variety of dishes, featuring generous portions, served throughout the night, giving time between courses for guests to pace themselves and preserve an appetite while they socialize.

 

 

Guests who come as couples or even solo diners will find by the end of the evening they have made new friends; and in fact, one group of wine aficionados has attended the event together for many years, adding to their club and their friendship circle each year.

The staff have become part of the meal as well, with the owner, West Hooker-Poletti, and his wife, Karin Fumagalli, and general manager Megan Heritage, who is lovingly referred to by staff as the restaurant’s “soul,” often joining the gathering, and many regulars call their servers by name, and joke like family, such as one patron who elbows Lago’s tall, lean and handsome resident mixologist, Mirco Pallotti, in the ribs and teases, “I order the six packs, but he wears them.”

While Morso Della Bestia is one of Locanda del Lago’s most popular events, the restaurant hosts an ample crowd most nights, with the restaurant dining room and outdoor seats filled nightly at the location on Santa Monica’s bustling Third Street Promenade.

If the Bite of the Beast is not your taste, say if you are vegetarian, Lago hosts another night, Meatless Mondays, that may be more your style.  Or if you prefer to stick to libations, check out the bar for local flavor and stocked with a curated wine list of more than 400 vinos from across Italy, along with organic, local liquors. The restaurant keeps a full calendar of events and celebrations and is open to serve its extended family of regulars, tourists and new friends seven days a week.

Locando del Lago is located at 231 Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica. Street parking and several Santa Monica public parking structures are walking distance, with 2-hours free or $3 flat rate on weekends.

 

Fred 62 giving the people what they want to eat, for 20 years

Iconic Los Feliz diner serves up everyday, anytime food for everyone

I was afraid my picky, eats-like-a-bird 10-year-old son would not find anything to nosh on at Fred 62.  Trained by his health-conscious dad at a young age to have a taste for only healthy, gourmet food, he generally scoffs a restaurant fare, but we were in for a huge surprise.

For a sure bet, we ordered one of my son’s favorite appetizers, Crispy Calamari, served with sriracha and remoulade; and for the grown-ups we got the Avocado Toast with chili flakes and Chickpea Fritters.  But when the food arrived, the tables were turned, and my son devoured the toast and fritters first, then did damage on the calamari, and that just whetted his appetite.

His eyes lit up as he slurped up the Noo Deli noodles, a steaming bowl of vermicelli, in spicy lemongrass broth with Thai veggies, which was followed by a “freshwich” of seared ahi tuna, wrapped in rice paper and served with a Japanese dipping sauce.

He then began sharing off our plates of “Pastramid” Short Rib combo of short rib slow smoke short ribs with coleslaw, jalapeno pickles and spicy mustard on a potato roll, served with French fries, and Moroccan Tajine Eggs with harissa, Castilian sausage, and green olive tapenade. He polished it all off with a Chocolate Peanut Butter shake.

All of this food was consumed by a boy who basically eats every other day.  He declared, “Let’s definitely come back to this place.” And of course, we will have to, as we didn’t even try the famous griddle treats, like the Bearded Mr. Frenchy, a fluffy brioche French toast with cornflake crust, or the hearty comfort food meals like the Partridge Family, a dinner of pan-friend chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, gravy, sautéed greens and a mini waffle.

 

This 20-year-old funky retro-themed restaurant, easily recognized on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz by its bright lime green exterior and orange awning, is known as LA’s coolest all-nighter diner, open 365 days a year, where hard partiers can get munchie-satisfying delights from the Stoners & Drunkards menu, like F-Bomb Mac n Cheese Balls, Falafel Sliders or Frito Pies, anytime in the wee morning hours.

 

It is a rare diner that has a cook called a “chef” and that promises food prepared “mindfully and with care,” which is what makes Fred 62 an anomaly in the diner universe. Owner and chef, Fred Eric, had a unique vision of Fred 62 when he opened the restaurant with the concept of a diner serving food that people want to eat every day, serving it all day and all night, every day of the year.  Two decades later, he’s still cooking with gas and expanding his menu of enlightened diner food with more healthy menu offerings for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free patrons.  For those who love a surprise, he offers daily “Fred Plate” specials.

After enjoying a meal at Fred 62, make a day of exploring the hood, including a variety of eclectic stores selling everything from clothing and rare books to housewares and jewelry made by local artisans, or stop in for a flick at the vintage cinema house, Los Feliz 3, or see a live production at Skylight Theater.  Fred 62 is located at 1850 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles.

Eagle Rock’s Turningfire puts a new spin on rotisserie

Chic eatery turns up the heat with flavorful rotisserie cuisine

Turningfire Modern Rotisserie in Eagle Rock is a year-old restaurant with a fire-brand new concept that is skewering traditional rotisserie cuisine. Michael Rolibi came up with the idea of a rotisserie restaurant with a modern twist in a setting he calls premium casual, which is a tic up from the newly branded fine casual category.

Rolibi, a career changer who achieved enough success in his first professional life to pursue his passion of opening an eatery, is the author of most of the restaurant’s eclectic menu of unexpected taste combinations. Rolibi’s original recipes includes rotisseries of free-range poultry, natural pork and beef dishes that are flavored with proprietary, made-from-scratch freshly ground spice blends, marinades sauces, dressings and condiments.

 

Besides the rotisserie entrees, which can be ordered up a la carte or as a meal plate with a protein, side and a salad, Turningfire makes mincemeat of stodgy old-school meatballs with a modern blend of pork and beef with added crushed fresh tomatoes and a topping of ricotta salata, for the most-tastiest meatballs ever. The menu also features a short list of sandwiches, among which is the most popular chilled Cali Gold, with lemon lavender chicken, mesclun, orange shallot vinaigrette, avocado spread, lemon aioli and tomato.

Other twists on traditional fare include LA Street fries, which are thick hand-cut potatoes covered with frilled chile corn, pickled red onion, cotija cheese crumble, grilled scallions and cilantro lime creme.

Despite what the rotisserie namesake implies, many of the restaurant’s dishes are vegetarian, including flatbreads and a number of gourmet salads loaded with ingredients like purple kale, golden beets, toasted pepitas, watermelon radish, roasted white yams, spicy pickled carrots, jicama and other out-of-the-box, not out-of-the-bag bag veggies and fruits. There’s also an excellent kids’ menu with healthy versions of approachable favorites, like chicken cheese quesadilla, served on whole wheat tortilla.

Inside, the restaurant impresses with a contemporary and clean design, with textured concrete floors, light spilling through a glass brick front, and lofty wood-beam ceilings.  The space is sleek but cozy with about 30 duets, foursomes and bar tables of butcher-block-style table tops surrounded by iron modern chairs, with the furnishings and trims all painted in earth tones.

The restaurant’s interior, envisioned by North Hollywood designer Janelle Wright, achieves its purpose in making food colors pop against the muted color palette, enhancing the appeal to the human palate.  The chic style is a nod to the trendy tastes of the Eagle Rock neighborhood, an area that is gentrifying so fast that restaurant concepts are popping up on a nearly monthly basis on the main strip of Colorado Boulevard.

Turningfire is located at 2146 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, and is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.

 

Chill at an outdoor movie or concert, LA style

What happens here, only happens here

Mild temperatures keep LA outdoor nightlife lively into fall

LA outdoor nightlife

Southern Californians don’t know how lucky they are. While East coasters are storing their patio furniture for the long winter, SoCal dwellers can enjoy shirtsleeves outdoors for months to come. Even at night, when temperatures drop to their lowest, a sweater or light coat is all one needs for a comfortable evening under the stars. So rejoice Angelenos, and enjoy the bounty of alfresco activities into autumn, such as these venues and events that define LA outdoors nightlife.

I-See-a-Bowl

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in LA who would argue with you that the Hollywood Bowl is the most fabulous place to experience an outdoor concert. With a full summer series that trails into early fall, the Bowl hosts international musical headliners, such as this season’s lineup of artists including Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Pentatonix, Kool & the…

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