Category Archives: Santa Monica

Tacos Punta Cabras a Tiny Spot Pumping out Big Flavour in Santa Monica

Grilling hand-made tacos at Tacos Punta Cabras in Santa Monica

Grilling hand-made tacos at Tacos Punta Cabras in Santa Monica

Talk about hole in the wall. *Tacos Punta Cabras is so small that when I ask if they have a bathroom, the order taker sends me through the kitchen, with a shout of “Coming through!”

It’s a good way to see how the food’s being prepared. At Punta Cabras, it’s authentic and oh-so fresh, with a cook pressing little balls of fresh corn nixtamal into disks and then grilling them in rice bran oil on a small stove.

The dining area is the definition of hole in the wall

The dining area is the definition of hole in the wall

My lightly breaded shrimp taco is similarly fresh and chewy, the crowning touch the two house-made salsas: an arbol with some bite and a pineapple. At $3.75 per taco ($6 for a heaping tostada), it may cost more than at many taquerias. But it’s a small price to pay for such quality.

Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica
Monday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm, except 9 pm Saturday. Closed Sunday
Tacos Punta Cabras on Urbanspoon

Jumpstart Your L.A. Day With Some Excellent Coffee

Fabulous muffin and coffee at Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica, California

Fabulous muffin and coffee at Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica, California

The Los Angeles region has certainly jumped on the hipster coffee bandwagon pioneered by wetter coastal climes to the north. There’s now no shortage of spartan digs, with baristas in tight jeans and fashionable eyewear dispensing pour overs and cold brews.

But for a metro area of gazillions, there’s surprisingly few indigenous places roasting beans, especially now that Handsome Coffee’s been bought out by San Francisco’s Blue Bottle. Of course, there’s longstanding Klatch, but it’s based out in the relative L.A. hinterlands.

One exception is Caffe Luxxe, which bills itself as a local, artisan coffee roaster. What’s nice, from my perspective, is its signature Testa Rossa embraces the darker side, which many “third-wave” roasters have abandoned in favour of lighter beans. It’s most pleasant sipping a smoky Americano in a high-ceiling Santa Monica cafe, while chewing a scrumptious apple crumble muffin from nearby bakery Huckleberry and listening to soft jazz and conversation among friends.

A pleasant place to while away the morning.

A pleasant place to while away the morning.

Caffe Luxxe
925 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, California
Weekdays 6 am-6 pm, weekends 6:30 am-6 pm
Caffe Luxxe on Urbanspoon

If you don’t mind venturing into the downtown L.A. area, Blacktop is a wee coffee bar in the funky Arts District. Its lovely little street-front patio is a great place to sip an espresso and then saunter over to frequent-visiting, outstanding food truck Guerilla Tacos. You’d hardly know you were in the heart of the giant city.

Yes, this is the downtown Los Angeles area at Blacktop Coffee

Yes, this is the downtown Los Angeles area at Blacktop Coffee

Blacktop Coffee
826 East 3 Street, Los Angeles
Daily 7 am-7 pm
Blacktop Coffee on Urbanspoon

Happy Huckleberry in Santa Monica

Huckleberry is a fun, happening place in Santa Monica, California

Huckleberry is a fun, happening place in Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica’s Huckleberry can get kinda loud. Not pounding music loud. More happy customers chatting with friends and enjoying a late breakfast or lunch loud.

Oh, it can get pretty busy, too, with people lining up at the counter to order a brisket hash or a lentil ragu with poached eggs for breakfast or a butternut squash salad for lunch. I opt for a recommended warm turkey meatball sandwich ($12), hold the extra burrata cheese. Great choice. The meatballs melt in my mouth, the tomato sauce slops my chops, the soft bread making everything pillowy smooth.

Warm turkey meatball sandwich certainly hits the spot

Warm turkey meatball sandwich certainly hits the spot

It’s not cheap. But like it’s sister Santa Monica restaurant Milo & Olive, the first-class food is mostly made from scratch and imaginatively put together. If you’ve got room, the baked treats will weaken your resolve, I assure you.

Huckleberry
1014 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, California
Weekdays 8 am-8 pm (lunch starting at 11 am), weekends 8 am-5 pm
Huckleberry Café on Urbanspoon

The 4 Best New Things I Ate in 2013

The greatest thing since sliced pizza: the garlic knot at Milo & Olive

The greatest thing since sliced pizza: the garlic knot at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica, California

There are plenty of mouth-watering distractions at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. But I’m here for only one reason: something called a garlic knot. It features plentiful whole cloves of garlic roasted in confit fat, wrapped in pizza dough and then cooked in a wood-fired oven till slightly blistered. I tear this trussed treat apart with my hands, dipping chunks of the soft bread in the warm extra-virgin olive oil and a little dish of fresh tomato sauce they give me to try. Oh, my God, is this good, and only $7 for one of the best new things I’ve eaten in a long time.

Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, California
Daily, bakery opens at 7 am, restaurant 8 am-11 pm

The name alone, Hangtown Fry, makes me want to put it on this list. A celebratory dish for California gold miners in the late 1800s, it remains a signature San Francisco breakfast: a mixture of oysters, eggs and bacon cooked in a skillet. Brenda’s French Soul Food does an outstanding version, the crispy oysters blending wonderfully with the other ingredients and accompanied by some grits and a feathery biscuit.

Hanging out with some excellent hangtown fry at Brenda's French Soul Food in San Francisco

Hanging out with some excellent hangtown fry at Brenda’s French Soul Food in San Francisco

Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk Street, San Francisco
Monday-Tuesday 8 am-3 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 8 am-10 pm, Sunday 8 am-8 pm

The name, Healthy Bread, isn’t particularly inspired and scarcely prepares me for what is to come at Revelstoke B.C.’s outstanding La Baguette. Likewise, the ingredient list—including kamut flour, flax, coconut and dates—elicits more curiosity than excitement. Still, I’m in the mood for something light, and a $3.50 sandwich of toasted bread with melted cream or three-berry jam in the middle sounds about right. But the first bite blows me away, the wonderfully soft middle offset by the slight crunch of the oat-flake topping. And the flavours! I don’t know if I can ever go back to ordinary toast again.

Mind-blowingly good "healthy bread" toast at La Baguette in Revelstoke, B.C.

Mind-blowingly good “healthy bread” toast at La Baguette in Revelstoke, B.C.

La Baguette
103, 607 Victoria Road, Revelstoke, B.C.
Daily 6:30 am-7 pm

Chicken wings? Really? Well, when they’re a Vietnamese take on the standard bar food and they’re the biggest, juiciest, messiest, best wings I’ve ever tasted, then yes. At Portland’s legendary Pok Pok, the wings are marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried and then tossed with garlic, more fish sauce and my choice of spicy chile flakes. Pok Pok has a lot of other northern Thai choices that could make this new food list: charcoal-grilled eggplant salad, pork belly curry, lemongrass-stuffed game hen…

Fantastic, monster chicken wings with an Asian twist at Pok Pok

Fantastic, monster chicken wings with an Asian twist at Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon
Daily 11:30 am-10 pm

A Knotty Question: The Best New Food I’ve Eaten

The greatest thing since sliced pizza: the garlic knot at Milo & Olive

The greatest thing since sliced pizza: the garlic knot at Milo & Olive

If you’re not feeling that hungry when you enter *Milo & Olive, don’t worry. It won’t last. First, you’re greeted by the sight of a display case filled with gorgeous pastries. The temptations continue as you pass patrons feasting on pork belly sausage pizza and plates of potato gnocchi and pasta artfully arranged in towers. My counter seatmate is moaning about the burrata panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes.

But what intrigues me, as always, is something I’ve never had before. It’s a garlic knot featuring, get this, plentiful whole garlic cloves roasted in confit fat, wrapped in pizza dough and then cooked in a wood-fired oven till slightly blistered. I tear this trussed treat apart with my hands, dipping chunks of the soft bread in the warm extra-virgin olive oil and a little dish of fresh tomato sauce they give me to try. Oh, my God, is it good, and only $7 for one of the best new things I’ve eaten in a long time. As I watch a chef in the open kitchen make French toast with amazingly thick slices of cinnamon brioche for his cooking buddies, manager Rosemary slips a loaf of said bread into a bag for me to take on my journey. As if I’m ever going to make it out the door.

Try walking past this display case without your willpower completely dissolving

Try walking past this display case without your willpower completely dissolving

http://www.miloandolive.com
2723 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
Daily, bakery opens at 7 am, restaurant 8 am-11 pm
Milo & Olive on Urbanspoon