I’m back from LA and I must say I have very mixed feelings. It’s always nice to get back to home comforts, but I’m definitely already missing Californian weather! I spent a lovely couple of days sunning myself in Santa Monica before heading up to Thousand Oaks for 4 days of meetings. Here’s what I got up to…
17/01/2015 Sweet Potato and White Bean “Cassoulet” with Cumin Rice – British Airways LHR – LAX
I think it’s hilarious when you get asked what you’d like to eat on the plane (if you’re even lucky enough to get a choice). They give you the minimum amount of information possible with which to make a decision. “Hello would you like chicken or curry?” Erm… Chicken what? And what curry? Well I managed to get the detail up a notch to “Honey chicken or sweet potato curry?” which I felt was enough, so I went for the curry. The label read “Sweet Potato and White Bean Cassoulet with Cumin Rice” which I thought was somewhat stretching the definition of cassoulet…I don’t think just any old thing with beans in can be called a cassoulet but I guess rules are there to be broken? Given that it was a plane dinner it was actually alright apart from the rice which had completely dried out.
Jet lag is great when you go to the US because you get up so early in the morning! I’m usually the opposite of a morning person but in the US I feel like I can actually get up and get on with things! I headed out early after breakfast and decided to walk the 3 miles to the beach to kick start my day. I wandered along Main Street via the bustling Sunday Farmer’s Market, and popped into some of the lovely shops including Mindfulnest and Ten Women. Ten Women showcases and sells products from local artists and I found some really interesting handmade salt and pepper shakers.
I was trying to find a small onigiri shop too that I had read about online but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I decided to continue along to Venice and maybe try the to find the onigiri shop tomorrow. You know when you’ve reached Venice Boardwalk because you suddenly just hit a wall of people and the boho vibe punches you in the face! It was great fun to walk along and pop into a couple of the shops and stalls. When I’d had my fill of the atmosphere I crossed onto the beach and walked back along to Santa Monica. I took my time taking in the beach and watching all the runners and surfers.
18/01/2015 Trader Joe’s Italian Veggie Salad – Trader Joe’s, Pico Blvd, Santa Monica
After a long day of walking I popped into Trader Joe’s just next door to the hotel to pick up a salad and I was bowled over by the choice! I spent a good few minutes browsing the wall of salads before settling on this one and taking it back to my hotel room. Trader Joe’s reminds me a bit of Whole Foods although this was quite a small store. I managed to find some Speculoos Cookie Spread (similar here) that I decided to buy for Mark as a present. The salad was great – really simple but just what I fancied after a long day in the sunshine.
I set out even earlier on my second and last day in Santa Monica and caught a bus into Downtown SaMo. I wandered along to Third Street Promenade to browse some shops and made a beeline for Brandy Melville and spent a good while looking around. When I was done shopping I made my way to Santa Monica Pier to see the famous sign marking the end of Route 66 and to get myself a souvenir fridge magnet! Then I walked along the beach and back to Main Street to have another go at finding Sunny Blue, the onigiri/omusubi shop and this time I was successful!
19/01/2015 Sunny Blue Curry and Miso Beef Omusubi – Sunny Blue, Main St, Santa Monica
I had done my research on this place so I knew exactly what to order when I got there and went for the Sunny Blue Curry and Miso Beef Omusubi. I queued outside the door to get my hands on these rice balls of deliciousness! The shop itself is absolutely tiny with literally 5 seats but I was lucky enough to get one and have a break from the sun. The place also serve iced barley tea at no extra charge which was the perfect accompaniment. The onigiri or omusubi (same thing) were without a doubt the best I’ve ever eaten. They were made fresh to order, sprinkled with furikake, and wrapped in a beautiful nori sheet that looked like it could have been made on site as well. They were absolutely amazing and well worth making the treck back to Main Street for!
So it was time to say goodbye Santa Monica and hello Thousand Oaks! I got a cab to the Westlake Village Inn where I would be staying for work and got myself checked in. When I was told to head to the villa I just assumed that all the rooms had a quirky name…nope I was staying in THE Villa. I literally wandered around the whole room for a good 10 minutes with my mouth wide open in disbelief at how ridiculous it was. It had 2 floors complete with an ornate spiral staircase, 2 bathrooms, 2 fires, a seating/lounge area, a dining table complete with chandelier, a kitchen, a chaise longue with a fur blanket, a massive bed, a baby grand piano and the upstairs bathroom had a walk-in shower room and a hot tub! Not to mention the outdoor private garden area with seating and a fountain and the huge balcony on the upstairs level with 2 sun loungers and a beautiful view of the golf course!!
The rest of the trip revolved around all-day meetings at work followed by dinner/drinks with whoever I’d been meeting with that day.
20/01/2015 Salmon Fish Tacos – Paul Martin’s, Westlake Village
These were SO GOOD. Beautifully seasoned and grilled salmon with rocket, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onion and mayo served in a small tortilla. My colleague didn’t think they were spicy enough and it’s true that they weren’t spicy at all but I didn’t miss the kick as they were so delicious.
21/01/2015 Frutti de Mare – Mediterraneo, Westlake Village Inn
We ate at this restaurant within the hotel complex a couple of times during our stay and this is a dish that a colleague had ordered the previous day. It looked so good and jam packed full of luscious seafood that I had to order it myself. The sauce didn’t have the level of spice that I was expecting from the menu description but the juiciness and the flavour of the scallops, shrimp, squid, clams and mussels more than made up for it.
22/01/2015 Tequila Lobster and Scallop Pasta – The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar, Westlake Village
The menu at The Landing Grill and Sushi Bar was huge and they also had a good range of sushi but I just couldn’t use up my sushi options so soon especially given that I’ll be in Japan in a month’s time! In the spirit of this 365 project, I went for this dish as I just couldn’t imagine what the sauce would be like and I love lobster. The meat was cooked beautifully and I like the addition of the asparagus too. The tequila was what I was most intrigued by but it was subtle and the sauce balanced the dish really well.
23/01/2015 Cali Burger – Umami Burger, LAX Airport
There were fairly limited dinner options at LAX airport but a colleague recommended Umami Burger for a great burger. Went for a medium rare Cali Burger with onions, roasted tomatoes, salad and American cheese and topped with their signature Cali sauce. It was literally melt-in-your-mouth good and I didn’t care that I was making such a mess with it. I particularly enjoyed the addition of the roasted tomatoes and thought they brought a great fruity flavour.
I followed that up with a frozen yoghurt from Pinkberry with chopped strawberries and crushed oreo cookies while I waited to board the plane back to London.