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LA (AND BEYOND): CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL (AND BELLY)

By Nora Zelevansky / September 14th, 2010

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In September, for a while
I will ride a crocodile
Down the chicken soup-y Nile
Paddle once, paddle twice
Paddle chicken soup with rice

Sorry.  I'm sick.  And I always sing when I'm sick.

No.  I don't.  But I have chicken soup on the brain and my brain is a little mushy at present.

When I'm sick at my sister's place in NYC, I LOVE Bergen Bagels' chicken soup.  For me, it's a no-brainer.  It's salty, flavorful and has those good skinny noodles.  Plus, the chicken isn't too REAL, if you know what I mean?

Here, I'm a little more stumped.  I used to eat my mother's chicken soup, but she lives across the country now and it's not the same when I make it.  Mostly because I have to make it.

So far, I guess my favorite in LA is Toast's chicken noodle because, again, it's not overly intense or hardcore.  It's also conveniently located around the corner.

But maybe you guys have other suggestions?  I was in Hollywood yesterday, so I grabbed some serious deli chicken soup from Victor's, but it has a real fatal flaw: It's a little greasy, which can be just fine, but it also has no noodles.  No noodles?  No me.  (BTW–if you haven't been to Victor's, you should still check it out for the meatballs, Greek salad and ambiance alone–serious diner sitch.)

Anyway, anyone have any other suggestions?  With love and sniffles …

xo – N.

LA (THIRD STREET): THE BEST TOAST TO COAST

By Nora Zelevansky / February 18th, 2009

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(Toast's Treats–I Know, I Know, You're Over Cupcakes, But Bear With Me)

Food, glorious food!  It's been days.  I mean days.  So, here I am back to the topic of stuffing my little face (which may not be so little, if I keep scarfing food, glorious food).  But anyway . . .

Forgive me father (or whoever) for I forgot my trusty camera on this jaunt, so the pics are compliments of my Blackberry phone, which may or may not really do the eats justice.  Anyway, I went to a meeting the other day to discuss the soon-to-launch new Narciso Rodriguez fragrance, Essence (which, incidentally, is his first in six years and smells citrus-y and delish), with a New Yorker and an Angeleno, neither of whom had ever eaten at Toast.

Now, if you ask Andrew, the lines at Toast are prohibitive ("Just because the Olsen twits eat there–"), BUT, Sunday brunch notwithstanding, lunch lines are not so heinous and the food is actually kind of worth it.  (Also, the place is a hop, skip and a jump from my house on indie boutique-lined Third Street, so a no-brainer for wandering by foot).  Sure, the menu offers mostly your usual LA lunch fare (although quite a large selection), but the ingredients always taste super fresh and they happen to have the best fruit salad around: think fresh mango, blackberries and papaya.  I like the passion fruit iced tea too.

Anyway, I most often order the Chicken Chow Salad (see below), so that I have an excuse to consume either their AMAZING onion rings or their extra flavorful sweet potato fries.  (What? Sometimes a girl needs a side!)  Fries on the side . . .

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And, while I know many of us are BEYOND over cupcakes, my NYC lunch partner in crime rightfully had to try some of Toast's famed baked goods, so we ordered (ahem) FOUR.  How else were we to truly sample? A focus group needs a wide range, no?

I have always been partial to Doughboys' Red Velvet cake, but since they closed their doors (sniff, sniff) last year, I haven't gotten around to actually ordering one via their site.  Turns out that Toast's Red Velvet Cupcake (which is such a popular cupcake flavor in LA that it should become the citywide mascot) is pretty damn good, though still not quite Doughboys.  (I know my friend, Lady Lo disagrees and is all about the Toast version though, right, Lo?)

And, while the chocolate peanut butter couldn't be bad, I still think the Joan's on Third chocolate and peanut butter cupcake reigns supreme, as it's like an elevated Hostess Cupcake with chocolate filling the middle.  BUT Toast's coconut version and the regular yellow cake with pink frosting version (sorta a la old school birthday cake–a personal favorite dessert) were both totally delicious.  In fact, I went back a couple days later solo to answer a craving.  Not this salt addict's usual fix.

So, here's a toast to Toast!  Chin chin, cheers and all that jazz . . . right, cupcake?

xo – N.

Joan'sCupcake3Joan'sCupcake4
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Joan's On Third's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake. (It Looks Like a High-End Hostess, Right?) And Then Some Other Pretty Exquisite Looking Creations.)***

***These pics were stolen from the Joan's On Third site.  It's true.  What can I say?  I just HAD to share them with the world:)

A couple other key LA cupcake spots:
Crumbs (also in NYC and Beyond)

P.S. For some Beverly Hills sweets action, check out Food Marathon's take.

LA (WEHO-ISH): THE BEST OLD SCHOOL NYC SALAD

By Nora Zelevansky / February 10th, 2009

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(NYC-Style Carrot Ginger Dressing To-Go)

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(Artichokes, hearts of palm and chickpeas–oh my!)

As a born and bred New Yorker living in LA, I admit to missing certain east coast foods.  Don't worry, I'm not about to launch into some boring, predictable tirade about bagels and pizza.**

[**For the record, Bagel Broker is my pick for best LA bagel spot–just don't order the white fish salad cause it's like pureed–and Barney Greengrass has H & H, so stuff it.  Also, New Yorkers who complain about LA pizza should take a listen to what New Haven locals have to say about NYC slices.  WWIII.  I'm just saying.]

ANYWAY, so, I'm NOT going to talk about bagels and pizza.  Ahem.  Or even the fact that sometimes a girl wants some hot apple cider, you know?  No, I want to talk about salad bars.  Now, I know that Whole Foods has a salad bar and swanky Beverly Hills Bristol Farms even has a new one and there's a place in The Water Garden in Santa Monica that rips you off weight-wise just like you're back home. (Actually, if you guess the exact weight, your salad used to be free and my friend Roseanne once succeeded).  And I know that salad bars can be questionable for germaphobes and that about a billion LA cafes are famous for their salads, BUT I'm trying to recreate an experience, you know?

The only salad bar that really brings me back to the Korean groceries of my childhood is the one at Gelson's on Santa Monica Blvd.  Actually, to Andrew's mystified chagrin because it's out of the way, Gelson's is also my favorite supermarket overall, but I won't bore you with the details of that (although it is the perfect mixture of swanky and regular).  All I'm saying is TRY THE JEWISH COOKIES AND SPICY TUNA ROLLS.  That's all I'm saying.  Anyway, this salad bar has all the iceberg lettuce, gloppy Italian dressing, macaroni salad and fake krab that one needs to replicate the old school NYC experience.

One more issue (and you thought we were done): at NYC Japanese restaurants and even health food spots like Dojo's, carrot ginger dressing flows like water.  After years of searching, I have FINALLY found a similar situation in LA!  Our neighborhood hosts many of the city's hottest lunch spots from Joan's On Third (we'll talk about their wilted arugula potato salad later) to Toast, but the dressing is found at a lesser visited joint around the corner at 8486 Third Street, which has changed ownership like 85 times in that last two years.  It used to be called Chicken and Grill and now, well, I don't even know if it has a name, but it's worthwhile to stop in just for the ginger dressing.  Not for the ambience.

And now, my very low-end food post is over.  Sorry guys.  But sometimes I have to vent.

xo – N.

P.S. For LA bagels, my father swears by some place called Kosher Land, but I can't confirm until I try them myself.