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LA (HOLLYWOOD): THE BEST POTATO PANCAKES WITH SHERRY APPLE BUTTER

By Nora Zelevansky / May 3rd, 2010

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As spring and summer begin (depending on the coast) and we all get a little itchier at our desks, why not start the week by dwelling on the weekend?  Let's take a second and talk about brunch.

I may have confessed this before, but, if not, I am not such a breakfast food person.  Yes, I know.  Gasp all you want.  Prattle on about Eggs Benedict and pancake stacks, if you must.  Even with the best french toast and scrambled egg intentions in mind en route to brunch, I generally end up ordering a cobb salad or turkey sandwich, generally accompanied by french fries.

Even hungover in college each weekend, I'd stuff my face full of BLT, french fries and diet coke, instead of the omelettes and Belgian waffles favored by my friends.

Because the menus are usually more limited therefore, I shy even more often away from swankier brunch spots with fussier, smaller menus.  So, when A.L. suggested that we hit The Mercantile post Runyon Canyon hike on Saturday, I was luke warm about the idea.  I'd been dying to try the place for lunch or dinner, but brunch?  Not so much.

Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.

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Okay, okay.  So, I DID end up ordering a more lunch-like option in the above Fennel Crusted Albacore Salad, but seriously how could I turn down anything with Black Olive Vinaigrette?  It was incredibly flavorful and delicious.

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[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]

A.L. & Andre went for delicious options too: the above Crab Hash with Bernaise Sauce, which is made with blue crab.  Andre checked in advance, being a snobby crab dude and all.  A.L. had the above House Smoked Trout with pickled onions and yellow beets.  The trout was sort of along the lines of a great white fish salad, but even more flavorful and, of course, the beets and pickled onions do wonders to create texture and variation.

BUT the piece de resistance had to be the above Potato Pancake with Sherry Apple Butter and sour cream, which was crusty and crunchy and perfectly cooked and had this whole sweet and salty simultaneous vibe with the incredibly delicious apple butter.  I mean, we could NOT get enough.

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Sadly, my pictures of the interior, which is really quite simple, but pretty, didn't come out.  But it's very modern with a yummy larder full of olives, gourmet sodas and the like.  Drinks arrive in mason jars.  Does that illustrate the vibe?  I feel like it does.

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Anyway, for dessert, I couldn't resist a canelé from the pastry area (that would be next to the homemade ice cream).  It was possibly the best version I've ever tasted–perfectly burnt and sugary on the outside and eggy and warm on the inside.  It  literally tasted like creme brulee in a solid form.  I made Andre and A.L. try it (twist their arms) and they both freaked out.

So, all and all, Mercantile was a success, as brunch spots go.  But you know all I can think about it is stopping in for lunch (both their Reuben and Sloppy Joe sound INSANE).

xo – N.

Q & A: Karaoke Question, Best Place To Belt It Out?

By Nora Zelevansky / February 25th, 2009

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(M. & P.S. Bring Down The House Echo Park-Style)

Question:  (posed by Connor via "Ask Lifestyle Questions"–02/18)
Hey Nora, what's the best place to go for group Karaoke?  Where you can rent a room for a large group?  Or maybe a bar with karaoke?
I love your blog!  Hugs, Connor

Answer:  First of all, I'm afraid you're only permitted to read this answer if you agree never to karaoke Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back.  Hearing people drunkenly karaoke that song is like watching people dance to I Will Survive at weddings.  IT MUST STOP.  TOO MUCH.

Now that I've said my piece: I feel I'd be remiss in answering this question without first addressing the above photo.  My friend M. is the Karaoke Queen.  And, as anyone who has had ample karaoke experience knows, her royal highness fits the "unassuming" profile.  It's always the quiet, demure ones, no?

Anyway, M. not only transforms from adorably awkward, proper lady to maniac crooner at the first sign of an old school Britney or Destiny's Child ballad, but she also works serious dance moves.  It's truly a sight to behold.

Lucky for us, I have pictures:

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ANYWAY, here are some of my favorite places in LA, where I've watched M. go nutty:

EAGLE ROCK (and M. rocks too):

Okay, I know that All Star Lanes is TECHNICALLY a bowling alley and a trek, but bear with me.  First of all, they have bowling AND karaoke AND a bar on Saturday nights (double check cause the schedule changes).  Second of all, you're like blocks from Casa Bianca, so–for my 29th birthday for example–I had a bowling party, followed by drunken karaoke, followed by eating our weight in crazy inexpensive yummy Italian food at Casa Bianca (they take reservations for parties over six, I believe).

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(Bowling at the 29th in Andrew's Glasses and Then At Casa Bianca With My Prizes NOT For Birthday, But For My Impeccable Bowling and Karaoke Skills–YUP)

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(Yum, Casa Bianca that night too . . . )

HOLLYWOOD (and so would M.):

AMAGI is a bar situation in Hollywood.  I'm not sure about private rooms, but their karaoke area in intimate enough not to feel intimidating, so . . .

BRASS MONKEY is an old standard for locals; they've actually been open since 1971.  This is a great option if you want drinks AND snacks, as they're actually a cafe too.  Every night of the week!

LITTLE TOKYO (and big M.):

OIWAKE in Japanese Village Plaza is always festive and you can eat sushi and drink sake while you sing.  I just really like the Little Tokyo karaoke scene cause I get it feels authentic.  Apparently, City Cat Karaoke has private rooms, but I know a bunch of the Little Tokyo spots do.

Metromix offers some other options and City Search did a "Best Of" LA Karaoke for 2008, which lists some Sawtelle and Korea Town options. 

I know K-Town has some great spots, but I haven't experienced anything except Zip for cocktails.  Same with Sawtelle.  So, if anyone can recommend some good Korea Town and west side spots, then please "comment" below and let us know!

Also, it's hardly a private room scenario, but bars like Barney's Beanery and Guys (sorta underground star-studded) totally do weekly karaoke nights.

Kinda makes you want to sing.  And dance.  Right, M.?

xo – N.

LA (HOLLYWOOD): CRUMPLED TWENTY

By Nora Zelevansky / February 12th, 2009

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The Best Link Today:

Every so often you wander into an LA spot and find yourself transported elsewhere: such is the case (in my book) with Hollywood's Bowery bistro, where–in an intimate, NYC West Village-esque, beautifully tiled space with specials scrawled across a chalk board–locals (like moi) dig on deeply flavorful burgers (served on English Muffins), wine and beer.  (The pharmacy parking lot on Sunset & Fairfax also transports, but that's more like to a East Village crack den circa 1985, so that's another story).

Well, according to Daily Candy's Weekend Guide today, the Bowery owners have launched a tasting room at their newest Hollywood spot: Pizzeria & Bar Delancy.  Obviously, a Lower East Side NYC-theme rules the roost and, while DC focuses on the vino situation, I think some of those pizzas sound pretty amazing.  Yes, in true lactard fashion, I especially like the sound of the Essex with Salumi, Cannelini Beans, Black Olives and Sheeps Milk Ricotta.

BTW–I am an olive fanatic.  Another fascinating tidbit about me.  And another must-try place for pizza.  Add that to the list . . . I'll get back to you with a full report!

xo – N.

LA: THE BEST NEW SLEW OF LOCAVORE SPOTS

By Nora Zelevansky / February 2nd, 2009

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I’msure this designates me as some kind of freak, but, before last week, I’d never really had a Slurpee before.  I didn’t even know that it was spelled with two “e”s (like Ashlee Simpson).

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

1) What the hell is wrong with you?

2) You poor, deprived child . . .

3) What is wrong with Ashleeeeee Simpson’s parents? (I’m with you on this one).

Growing up in Manhattan, I really didn’t frequent 7-11 (okay, maybe inebriated in the Hamptons). I’ve never had a huge sweet tooth and, well, I was raised by crazies who fed me carob-covered brown rice cakes for dessert. Yup, they even tried to pass off yogurt and honey as a “sundae.”

Eh.  At least they didn’t name me “Noreeee.”

Anyway, as a result of this deprivation, I have developed a love affair with gas station stores.  (I even have a favorite one: a 76 Station on Sunset & PCH).  But, still, I had never tasted the (sorta) frozen coke and cherry goodness until a fateful day last week.  I quickly became consumed.

Oddly, this new found obsession with Slurpees drew me to Hollywood’s brand new local/eco-friendly “conscious convenience” store, Locali.  See, I heard they were serving organic slushies. Enough said.  And the shop proved even more promising when I arrived and discovered other elevated versions of convenience store grub like fresh baked hot pretzels, grass-fed beef and tofu hot dogs, organic tamales and local beers and wines.

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Don’t be fooled by the location: in LA, mini-mall destinations can be high-end and chic.  Decked out in light woods (largely reused/recycled) and offering composting facilities and specially filtered water for anyone with an empty agua bottle, Locali is just a pleasant place to drop in.

Andrew insisted on sampling the vegan-wannabe Slim Jim called a Primal Stick.  BIG mistake (duh): the only primal urge it gave him was to gag; and this from someone who ate my nasty “Home Quick Fire” cookies).  Although, in a moment of hungry desperation, he ate the rest of the stick a few days later and said it wasn’t that bad.  Eh.  Maybe if you haven’t eaten meat in a really long time. Primal Stickeeee.

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(Me at Locali with Andrew’s Primal Stick–yup)

But, anyway, the hot pretzels were crusty and warm and the upscale slushies (in flavors like grape ginger and coconut) were a tiny bit spicy with a nice not-too-icy consistency.  Locali carries other types of organic products too like hand-milled soaps.

Meanwhile, on the beachier side of the city . . .

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(Fig’s warm bread and arugula butter, charcuterie plate and homemade pickled veggies)

New Frenchie, simple, seasonal restaurant at Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, Fig, is opening tomorrow.  The restaurant is literally market-to-table, as Chef Ray Garcia frequents the famed Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, just minutes away.

I stopped into Fig for a preview last week and totally recommend the Elderflower Royale cocktail created by famed British Mixologist Charlotte Voisey. Andrew LOVED the chicken liver concoction (front and center in that charcuterie above) and I am a complete sucker for pickled veggies.  I couldn’t be more psyched that pickling is trendy right now.  I hope it never goes out of style.  Yeah, I said it.

If you’re not in the mood for a whole dinner to-do (or to spend as much $$), Fig also has a wine and cheese bar, where you can graze.  Over all, a charcuterie experience with cheese and cocktails is the way to go.

And on Beverly Blvd. right near my very own little Third Street hood (West Hollywood-ish) . . .

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Tapas fave Cobra & Matadors’ adjoining wine shop, known for their selection of lesser known labels, Potato Chips (formerly Bicentennial 13), is revamping and will soon launch a sandwich shop menu And, as Blackburn & Sweetzer reports, another locavore sausage spot, Golden State, is opening soon nearby on Fairfax, just above Beverly Blvd.  (Now sausage, that’s a primal stick).

Not surprisingly, local, simple, fresh, organic chow is what’s on the menu at LA’s newbie spots.  And, if all this talk of food has made you hungry, well, I guess that’s only natural.

Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.

xo – Neeeeeee.

P.S. I promise only Mondays will ever be this long . . . I know I’m breaking the cardinal blogging rule of short posts.  So long.  So long!