Despite traveling internationally with relative frequency for the last decade or so, there are certain large gaps in my travel résumé, and the one that tended to surprise people the most – myself included, perhaps – was this: in 29 years of living in the USA, I had never once set foot in sunny California. Arizona, Oregon, Washington: I’ve been to them all. But somehow, nothing – not even work travel – brought me to California.
I finally rectified that in November. My sister moved to Los Angeles this fall (sob!) (come back to New York!), and my family converged there for Thanksgiving. We didn’t do much in the way of touristy stuff but, perhaps more happily, we ate a lot of really good meals and just hung out. It was not the most in-depth introduction to California, to be sure, but now I figure the floodgates have opened and I’m sure I’ll be back in the near future to see more.
On Thanksgiving day, like all proud Americans, we consumed a copious amount of food and drinks. While I love me some French food, after spending months overseas I was dying to get my hands on a good old fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. And IT. WAS. SO. WORTH. IT. God bless America, for rules. God bless Moscow Mules too, for that matter. And Martha Stewart, for publishing the recipe for my favorite triple chocolate pumpkin pie.
Friday, we set out for Venice Beach, beelining it to a restaurant that has long been at the top of my “LA must try” list: Gjelina. We got there early to make sure we got a table, and it was worth it – I loved this meal. We shared a cheese plate, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower for the table, and I ordered pear, burrata, and prosciutto for my main. For dessert, I got the pumpkin and chocolate bread pudding, my mom the date cake, my sister the pot-de-creme (which appears to be a Gjelina favorite, if Yelp can be trusted, and man was it good), and my dad was left to sample it all. The entire meal was good, but my favorite had to be….the Brussels sprouts! Amazingly flavorful.
Stuffed, we wandered along Abbot Kinney for a while. Filled with funky shops, quirky street art, and heaps of palm trees, I thought this area was quite cool, and would love to return to explore even more.
In the afternoon, we saw the final Hunger Games installment (reliably good, but the third book was always my least favorite, so I was never destined to love this). We walked to the theater from my sister’s place, passing through Santa Monica’s busy Third Street Promenade along the way. Predictably, all the Christmas hustle and bustle here was my favorite part.
In the evening, it was off to Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza. We loooooved this restaurant: we ordered burrata and a chopped salad to share, and then everyone ordered their own pizzas. The burrata was heavenly, the chopped salad was ENORMOUS, and the pizza had some seriously delicious crust.
On Saturday, we made our way to Huckleberry for brunch. This place gets packed so – aided by some severe Europe and east coast jetlag – we showed up at 8am on the dot to snag a table. My sister was embarrassed that we were lined up outside before the place even opened, but when it comes to really good breakfast burritos, it’s probably best not to fool around, amirite?!?!
In the afternoon, we headed to Tres by José Andrés for afternoon tea. While we all agreed that the tea was a bit too heavy on the sweets (there were something like nine of them!), it was still fun, with standouts being little savory cones (you could choose either avocado or smoked salmon) and chocolate pop rocks.
Realizing we were close to Rodeo Drive, we wound up driving through there on the way home. I’m never going to be one to drop thousands on designer duds, so visiting in the evening, when the swanky street was alight with Christmas decorations, was truly the best case scenario for me. Beautiful!
On Sunday, we brunched at Blue Plate, where I had the huevos rancheros with a heaping side of avocado and fruit. This place was another good one: yummy food AND a super cute interior. I was a fan.
In the afternoon, we made our way to Santa Monica Pier as the sun was just beginning to set, which was, as one might expect, a gorgeous time of day to be there – and a nice way to say goodbye to California (for now).
After dinner at Rustic Canyon – where I had a pork shoulder with polenta that tasted amazing but photographed terribly in the dim light – it was off to LAX for me, catching a red eye to New York before flying back to Paris the next day. All in all, a far too brief introduction to Los Angeles but, as I said already, I know I will be back soon.