On this Dish Trip, two gals took on LA to find the best food in the city in 24 hours. Because Southwest Airlines was a proud sponsor of Blogworld Expo 2011 in LA, Dish Trip was lucky enough to cover the food scene. We were thrilled to meet new foodie friends over dinner for a special Southwest Airlines and Dish Trip “Eat Up” at Napa Valley Grille on our first night in town.
Of all the food bloggers that joined us, vylovestoeat and midliferoadtrip, recapped the evening on their own blogs. As part of this blog post, we are asking you, the reader, to help us pick the blogger that best recapped the evening for the chance to win their own Dish Trip with our crew on Southwest Airlines.
Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Avenue, Los Angeles
Under the dedicated leadership of Executive Chef Joseph Gillard, Napa Valley Grille hosted our “Eat Up” event. Nestled in the Westwood Village of Los Angeles, this Open Table restaurant entertained and delighted the food and wine aficionados over four courses of locally-sourced, seasonal plates.
Orchestrated by Napa Valley Grille’s Pastry Chef Manuel Ortega, the food bloggers experienced an evening with the culinary superstar, uncovering his West Coast craft through bites of signature dishes and desserts, which were paired with select East Coast-brewed beers from Victory Brewing Company.
For a full recap of our “Eat Up” at Napa Valley Grille with our food-loving friends, swing over to Open Table – available by clicking here.
Our guests included Vy-Uyen Truong of Contiki, Ann Campea of Girl Vs. Food, Stacey Sun of Dine LA, Aisha Lomando of The Choosy Foodie and Foodspotting LA, and Caroline Bean, the Director of Social Media for The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. Be sure to vote for your favorite recap of the dinner in the comments to decide which food blogger goes with us on our next Dish Trip!
You can check out those recaps here:
Dish Trip LA: One Day of Dining in LA
Now, here’s OUR recap of the trip:
Mary Bigham: I read online that people in LA wear their sunglasses ALL the time. Outside, inside, it didn’t matter. I bought the biggest shades I could find so that I’d blend in. Turns out, no one really does this, but I still wore them everywhere, for fun. I almost hurt myself in a lobby because of this, but … whatever.
We consulted a local friend on where we should grab our first bite, and he suggested The Standard. We also wanted to check out Philippes, the home of the first French Dip sandwich where we could pick from roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey, or ham served on a freshly baked French roll then dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. While we love a good sandwich, we had limited time, and we wanted sunshine, so we opted for the rooftop at The Standard.
Amy Strauss: Just wanted to throw this out there: We’re two East Coast girls – born and raised – who hit the West Coast for a whirlwind food trip, one that had a deliciously-packed agenda. This food trek was interesting, to say the least!
550 South Flower Street, Los Angeles
Mary Bigham: Amy made a beeline for the Biergarten as soon as she noticed the sign. I was still trying to adjust my eyes to the sunlit rooftop atmosphere (wearing shades inside and outside is harder than you think). I checked out the people lounging by the heated swimming pool and decided to try the vibrating waterbed pods. Yup, you heard me; vibrating waterbed pod. An employee stopped me to make sure I wasn’t wearing heels before getting in it (apparently heels have punctured the waterbed in the past). I was wearing flats, so we were safe. I looked over at the AstroTurf deck, dance floor, bar, outdoor fireplace, and grassy knoll with sculptured topiary from my pod. This is why people live in LA, I suppose. I ordered a fancy drink with champagne and enjoyed a Turkey BALT (Bacon, Avocado, Lettuce and Tomato) sandwich while Amy swooned over the German goodness of the Biergarten.
Amy Strauss: I dig two concept spaces, especially since each member of Dish Trip has his or her own personal preferences. Standard offers a Biergarten aside their posh rooftop bar – which may sound mind-boggling since the roof isn’t that big. But, for my sipping choice: the German-themed, open-air space enclosed by exceptionally-tall hedges, lined with artificial grass turf, and accented with communal picnic tables and mustard-colored umbrellas, I was able to score stellar views of the downtown skyline while having a German getaway! Of course, I recommend you do the same, but first by snagging yourself a ticket from the quirky, straw-lined hut at the entrance. This petite piece of paper will be your one-stop ticket for an authentic (and affordable) Biergarten experience! Just $8 bucks scored me a serious-sized German beer, but other rooftop-dwellers were rocking choice two: a hearty, rock-your-world soft pretzel. I’d opted for the beer, but hey – my diet consists of eighty-percent things hoppy. Other German eats included bratwurst, weisswurst, currywurst, dill-spiked cuke salad, red cabbage salad, and more.
8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
Mary Bigham: Amy has had a serious crush on anything Top Chef, so we had to try Season 6 winner Mike Voltaggio's restaurant, “ink,” while we were in town. Normally, you’d need a standing reservation for this hot spot, but we were able to score a sit-down spot at the bar. This is where we met our bartender that was so precise and focused I nicknamed him, “the cocktail warrior.” As talented as the chef was, our head bartender was equally skilled when it came to cocktail creation. My favorite? The savory and spicy Aviation Gin cocktail, made with red bell pepper, agave, and Parfait Amour. A basil flower topped it like a sweet little tiara. Loved this.
Amy could crush all she wanted on the chef, ‘cause my love was for the food.’ Best meal I had all year in 2011. Each dish had elements of surprise and unique twists on classics. For example, the Berkshire pork dish that I cut with my fork and was crusted with a light charcoal and paired with macaroni and cheese (translated into tubular pasta with a creamy cheese filling) and served with leeks. On top? Fried leek roots. Every bit of this dish was dreamy.
Amy Strauss: Any Top Chef fanatic (come on, you know you are) fawns over the swaggering, tattooed Season 6 winner. But, I must confirm: He is not just a pretty face, he has “chops,” the creative culinary skill-set that is able to flood a one page, deliberately-small menu with petite plates that will blow your freaking mind into a stupendous mush. If we would’ve excused ourselves after our first taste, a mashing of crispy pig ears with house-cured lardo, creamed apple and Brussels sprouts, we would’ve had enough food-induced ecstasy to speed us through the brisk LA night. But–we kept going.
The chickpea poutine would possess any Canadian to bow down to the chef, especially after tasting this captivating construction composed with curds of yogurt, braised lamb neck, and a chive puree. Our meal-closer – a marvelous, multi-textural sugary creme caramel paired with frozen “grape-like” apples, walnuts and burnt wood-infused sabayon – will forever linger in my always-hankering brain as a perfect illustration of a cutting-edge culinary icon who is successfully able to redefine the way we approach food.
Sweet Lady Jane:
8360 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
We had a lot of West Hollywood locals recommend the quaint bakery next door to ink for a another meal-ending sweet treat. This cozy European cafe was chock-full of gorgeous cakes, fit for the set of Alice in Wonderland. French press coffee and a full selection of teas also joined their enchanting menu offerings. With only 20 seats indoors, we opted to take cake to-go and chose the layered Red Velvet Cake, filled with generous cream cheese frosting, topped with red poppies, and crusted with a dainty edge of toasted red velvet cake crumbs.
The Roger Room:
370 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
Mary Bigham: It’s always a good idea to ask an excellent bartender where he likes to go for a good drink. We wanted a nightcap and our bartender at ink gave directions to an unmarked speakeasy-style bar in West Hollywood. “Take the second left and walk until you see a neon sign of an old psychic parlor, then you’ll see a door. It’s in there.” We trusted him and ventured inside (cake in hand) to find suspender-wearing, mustache-faced gentlemen slinging drinks. Awesome. I got a bourbon cocktail (bartender’s pick) and tried to spot some famous faces. I wanted to say I saw at least one famous person in LA.
Amy Strauss: I rest assured knowing that we’re living in the revival of pre-Prohibition age, where cocktails are topped with incredible whipped egg whites. Damian Windsor, our spirit-slinging barkeep, suggested I sip a feminine ‘tail topped with a perfect, frothy head – and well, I just couldn’t deny such a recommendation from an Australian lad. My drink, the cocktail wizard’s Spiced Mule, was a rum-based beverage crafted with liquefied ginger, lime, nutmeg- and cinnamon-spiced simple syrup, and some Sailor Jerry’s. Creative, especially with the balanced sweet and spice, I get why this mixologist has a cult-like following.
Pink’s Hot Dogs:
709 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
We had hoped to grab a dog at the infamous Pinks. But, we were full of so much LA goodness that we couldn’t. We waved at Pink’s as our taxi drove by and promised to visit next time we were in the city. If we could have ordered something, we’re pretty sure it’d be the Pastrami Burrito – a beautiful gut-buster that is built on a huge flour tortilla that’s packing two of Pink’s signature dogs aside grilled pastrami, Swiss, chili, and onions. Sounds amazing, right? (I know, shame on us!)
The Terrace Café in Venice
7 Washington Boulevard, Venice
The next morning, before our flight home, we had to go to Venice Beach, so we hailed a taxi to the coast. Venice Beach was exactly what we envisioned it to be – sun forever-shining, surfers and skaters everywhere. We had limited time, so we popped into the closest restaurant that we could find. It just so happened to be excellent! Casual and friendly, the patio seating at The Terrace Cafe had views of the beach and made for perfect coffee sipping and late-morning eating while soaking up our last rays of the California sun.
Mary Bigham: I always order Eggs Benedict, and this time was no exception. They were light, fluffy and were a flavorful last bite of LA.
Amy Strauss: My choice for pre-flight fare? A pair of fish tacos on house-made tortillas, served up aside a fresh-squeezed glass of lemonade. I must also tip my hat to the fantastic staff of the beach-side restaurant, who were incredibly hospitable and made sure this hungry duo didn’t miss their flight sailing back to the East Coast.
LAX Airport, 332 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles
Since the European-inspired frozen yogurt chain is headquartered in California and had its first-ever dessert shop debut in West Hollywood in 2005, we found it fitting to sneak in one last treat – a shareable dose of Pinkberry’s Original topped with pomegranate seeds and mango slices. We quickly learned what all the fuss was about. A sweet treat with fresh flavors, low-fat content, and nutritious – we were smitten.
We left Los Angeles wanting even more, but we were thrilled to meet new foodie friends and experience fabulous flavors in our limited time on the West Coast. Until next time, LA! Cheers!
Dish Tip for a Dish Trip? Do you have a favorite city or food destination that we should know about? Share with us in the comments below.