Deus Ex Machina Coffee and Birthday Breakfast at Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery

Deus Ex Machina Coffee and Birthday Breakfast at Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery

To kick off Birthday day, which was going to be a culinary tour de force, we went to Deus Ex Machina at the corner of Venice and Lincoln for a quick coffee and croissant (and a dandy tea for Jonny). Deus is a very image driven biker, hipster, hotspot that attracts edgy coffee fiends and the remote, work-from-home creative’s that populate Venice; you might also the same crowd at Whole Foods. Deus, for short, also happens to be a retail store for apparel, sunglasses, motorcycles, surfboards, and general Venice lifestyle accouterments.

The coffee though is actually quite good, part of the reason I like the place, the other being that the inside is completely open to a lovely patio with a long communal table and a couple of smaller tables with stools. I’m not sure how they secure it at night, but spatially it’s wonderful. I like to sit to inside and look up from my computer and outside at the day. It’s very pleasant. I usually have the Flat white, which is a traditional small Italian espresso and steamed milk brew that could be described as a small latte (piccolo latte). It is expertly executed with a delicate leaf shape design, and is creamy and light, and just the right size. I find the normal cappuccino and latte sizes to be too much sometimes/most of the time, which is probably why I rarely finish them.

We then headed over to Huckleberry Café and Bakery on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica for some breakfast because Jonathan has been wanting to try the other endeavors of the Rustic Canyon group. It is your usual busy local breakfast-lunch spot that has loaves and loaves of fresh bread piled up behind the counter, and takes walk through orders to maintain the flow of traffic. It seems to me like a blend of Panera Bread and Le Pain Quotidien. At the counter we ordered the Cured Salmon Platter, quiche of the day, a blood orange juice, and my favorite, a San Pellegrino Limonata. The sugar content in the limonata is ridiculous, but it’s delicious. If you like real sour lemonade, or lemons if you’ve never had that, then you have to try the Limonata, but be cautioned: it is highly addictive.
The quiche of the day was so good. I was distracted and didn’t take a look at the description at the counter, but it had little cherry tomatoes and yellow pepper inside with a shredded parsley garnish on top. It was so gooey and savory, and a little sweet, and is an easy side to share or a breakfast treat you can have all to yourself. The Cured Salmon Platter, is as big as it sounds; smoked salmon, cucumber and bread slices, piled on top of a bed of arugula with cream cheese and capers on the side. If you’re a smoked salmon fanatic like me, this is a must order classic that reminds me of the Le Pain Quotidien Tartines, only DIY style. It is hard to mess up smoked salmon and cream, so needless to say it was an easy pleaser, but I did particularly like the addition of the sliced cucumbers that were especially juicy and rich. We split both plates and it was plenty, though I’m sure I could have taken care of the salmon platter alone given the opportunity. We had a full day of eats ahead though, and I at least was trying to pace myself.

Sprinkles!!

Sprinkles!!

This week is Jonathan’s birthday ‘week’, and yes that does mean we are pretty much celebrating all week. Because why should your birthday be confined to just one day? Especially if your birthday falls on a weekday, and in which case you have to plan a party or dinner for friends and family for the weekend before or after anyway.

His birthday was on Tuesday this year so we started Monday night. After I got off work I took him to the Sprinkles cupcake ATM and ice cream shop next door on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills. For those of you who do not yet know what Sprinkles is, it is a famous premier cupcake shop in Los Angeles with a location also at the Grove shopping center. The shop on Santa Monica is the most popular though due to this cupcake ATM, which dispenses cupcakes to sidewalk customers outside store hours. Such an amazing invention! The ice cream shop next door is open until at least 11pm so you can do one or the other, or both….. which is what we did.

We first hit up the ATM for two red velvets to save for the next day, and then went next door to the ice cream shop for a Sprinkles Sundae and cookie ice cream sandwich. I haven’t had that much sugar in one sitting in a long time. It was so much I started to feel a little overwhelmed and sick, which is not to say our treats weren’t incredibly yummy, just that we probably could have split one and been okay.

The cookie sandwich was definitely the best, though the sundae was really good and much lighter in fact. For the sandwich you have the option of any flavor of ice cream and you can mix and match the cookies. He got a chocolate white chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie with pistachio ice cream. Pistachio is one of my all time favorites I first tried in Italy. It is a hard flavor to get perfect, and most American ice creams don’t get it quite right. I personally think the Sprinkles version is a little too light and bland, and though it was good in the sandwich it would have been even better had it been richer.

If you like something very sweet and light, to quell that sweet tooth without turning your stomach, then the Sundae is the perfect portion. I got the salty caramel ice cream with the red velvet cupcake, because the Sprinkles Sundae, unlike a normal Sundae, includes a cupcake, split in two, with the ice cream inside. I also added some crumbled gram cracker to mine, which was a nice light topping. It was a great late night treat and something fun to do every once and a while.

Shutters on the beach: One Pico

Shutters on the beach

We went to Shutters, a posh beach hotel and bar in Santa Monica, the other day for lunch at their reputable restaurant. I have been to the bar before and they do have exceptional cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Lunch was a Gilt City special that included an appetizer, two entrees, and a dessert. Jonathan bought the voucher because he knows I have talked about going there with my cousin for drinks many times. The bar balcony is quite the choice spot for having an afternoon drink and gazing at the ocean.

So lunch started off with a salmon crudo appetizer that had a really lovely presentation and nice flavor combination. The crudo came in small slices of salmon with a slice of fig, pickled onion, and bread crisp. I always love crudo as a starter because it’s light, delicious, and cuts the appetite just enough that you’re not anxiously awaiting your meal. The combination of the fig, onion, and crisp with salmon added just enough interest to the dish without being overwhelming. We also received a basket of fresh, soft bread with a plate of sea salt and cracked pepper butter that was ridiculously addictive. I mean butter and bread is already unbeatably satisfying, yet simple, but the rocky sea salt and big black pepper flakes made it exceptionally savory.
For the entrees we of course both had the dry-aged burger with roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, truffle pecorino cheese, and fries. I have such a weak spot for burgers and anything with the word truffle in the ingredients. There was nothing terribly unique or different about this burger, but it was delicious nonetheless and expertly cooked. The fries served in a brown paper cone and tin bucket with a parsley garnish were also nothing surprising, but it’s forever the faithful companion to a nice juicy burger, and while they were certainly not the best ones I have ever they were still perfectly tasty. It is hard to mess up salted fried potato.

The dessert I actually hardly remember because we were so full by that point that we struggled through whatever it was, a gooey chocolate thing I believe. I’m sure it was good, I just don’t really remember.

Over all it was a perfectly lovely lunch, and I would go back again, because I love Shutters. It has a very East Coast beachside décor and vibe, and the people-watching is quite good because it is such a well known upscale Santa Monica spot that it attracts an assortment of LA locals and travelers.

Shutters on the beach
One Pico Restaurant

Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30am – 2:30pm
Sunday Brunch 11:00am – 3:00pm
Nightly Dinner 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Quiche at Urth

Quiche at Urth

We dropped into Urth café one afternoon, post gym, to grab some tasty sustenance before continuing on with our errands. My favorite treat there is the tomato basil quiche, which we randomly picked out of the case one Saturday morning. They give you a big, wobbly slice that is so cheesy and savory it is hard to take it slow. We also got their version of the green tea frappuccino with boba on the bottom and no whip on top, which I prefer. It was just the right time of day too, about mid afternoon on a Tuesday, because normally this location is slammed around the clock, but this time there was nobody there! Relatively speaking. I think there were maybe 15 people, which is hardly anyone in comparison to the hundred that fill up the place most mornings. I usually don’t mind crowds, but it borders on the ridiculous sometimes. I will give it to them though; they are terribly efficient. Despite the long line and crowded tables, there is hardly any wait. Quite impressive really. It is also ideally located on Main St in Santa Monica, which a boutique shopping and dinning area, and is just down the street from the beach. It is a great place to bike to on a weekend morning to get breakfast and a coffee. I say bike specifically because parking can be a fiasco during their peak hours. Biking is also a great way to make a difference

Urth Cafe, a Los Angeles Hot Spot

Santa Monica Location:
2327 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Hours:
Monday-Friday 6:00am – 11:00pm
Saturday and Sunday 6:00am – 12:00am

What I Had For Lunch, Again

What I Had For Lunch, Again

So the other day I packed a pretty interesting assortment of leftovers for lunch in an effort to clear out the fridge and not waste. And what I came up with was: half a burger from the barnyard and a small container of their harrissa and sour cream sauce; a carton of white rice; chili lemon dried mango slices; and a thai sticky rice and red bean pocket thing with an unidentified meat in the middle wrapped in a banana leaf. I certainly win points for diversity and balance. This kind of situation usually occurs due to lack of planning and having to rush out of the door in the morning for whatever reason. I also have all of these leftovers because it was the end of the weekend, and you know what that means: eating out and take-away. I can’t decide which I like better, but it really depends on the mood of the weekend.

Ultimately I was really entertained by this lunch. The chili lemon mangoes we had been working on for a while, and are one of my favorite snacks in the whole world. I have a weak spot for spicy things, and these guys are like my kryptonite, along with coffee. The burger was still good, even reheated, and to make it even more interesting I spread the harrissa sauce, which is normally for the fries, on the bottom of the patty. I loved the flavor twist. Now, white rice is white rice, and there isn’t much to tell about it. I reheat mine in the carton with the lid closed to keep the moisture in, which essentially re-steams it.

The sticky rice, red, bean, meat, banana leaf thing I saved for last because it was very…….. interesting. I can’t tell you what it is because I couldn’t understand what the girl on the other end was saying to me when we ordered delivery Sunday night. Initially I asked for an order of mangoes and sticky rice, but they were out of that, so I asked for fried bananas and they do not offer those. She told me what they did have and all I caught were the words banana, sticky rice, and sweet, so I said, “okay yes an order of that please.” The sticky rice was obvious, and I surmised that the dark spots were red beans, but the meat filling I’m still not quite too sure about. It tasted mostly like bananas so there was no flavor quality I could pick out that would tell me what it was. It did not make me sick though, and I really kind of liked it. Next time I will have to ask exactly what it is and hope for the best.

GTA Guanciale Pizza

GTA Guanciale Pizza

On my Thursday off Jonathan and I decided to take a walk down Abbot Kinney and do a little pre-birthday peruse of his favorite shops, but first we had to grab a bite at GTA, Gjelina Take Away. The renowned restaurant came up with the ingenious idea of a walk through take away kitchen that just does salads, sandwiches, and pizza, and breakfast bites. The reclaimed “sit down” nook space next door gives it that Venice edgy homeless vibe: dilapidated but charming. You can pop a squat on a stool or squeeze on to one of the benches or boxes. It is actually perfect because it gives you somewhere to pause and eat, but does not encourage lingering, keeping the flow of people steady.

This time we went for the Guanciale pizza because I could not pass up anything with pig jowl bacon in the ingredients. Perhaps you’re the opposite and are immediately turned off but such a description; fortunately there are simpler, more traditional choices that won’t chase your appetite away. For us, the guanciale was exactly what we wanted, coupled with pomodoro sauce (Italian for tomato sauce/Gjelina trying to entice you with culture) Fresno chiles, mozzarella, and green olives it is really a simple pizza at its core. I am also a fan of the extravagant, over the top with toppings pizza, but in this case the guanciale just enough of an interesting tasty twist to take it from average to awesome. And at four reasonable slices, it is the perfect size for two people.

On a side note, while we were standing outside waiting for our pizza, which we did eat in the nook, first my friend’s ex-boyfriend walked by, and then Reese Witherspoon and a paparazzi man. What a weird day!

Chicken Fried Quail

Chicken Fried Quail

I was eating with Jonathan at Barnyard again the other night, and we got our usual bowl of “crack” fries, as I like to call them because of their highly addictive nature, steamed clams au jus with bread, and a new dish called chicken fried quail. It is simply wonderful, of course. Like all of his other creations, Barber’s quail is gourmet home cooking. I’m not saying my mom can’t turn out impressively delicious meals, but this is another level. The batter is crispy and light with a drizzle of tangy bone sucking sauce, and grilled peaches with garnish and a hefty slice of lemon on the side. The peach is a perfect pairing, offering sweetened notes to the savory dish, and it gives me ideas for my own home creations. To really sum up this endorsement, I have literally ordered the quail every time since it appeared. Enough said

Again, Barnyard is open:

Monday – Saturday 5:30-10:30pm
Sunday Brunch 12:00-4:00pm

barnyardvenice.com