Patina Restaurant, Los Angeles

Pricey. Pompous. Petite portions. These are all words that could be associated with Patina Restaurant, located right at the foot of the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. However, after a wonderful experience at Ray’s, which is one of the restaurants belonging to the Patina Restaurant Group, I was excited to try the famous LA establishment that is the namesake of the internationally renowned restaurant empire. The aforementioned adjectives can be used to critique fine dining in broad strokes, but Patina Restaurant allows you savor not only each delicious morsel of food, but also each careful pause in the warm, enthusiastic service from the waitstaff, and every word in the dinner conversation as a result of a relaxing, quiet restaurant environment.

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Oatmeal Ice Cream

Today was an unusually overcast and chilly for San Diego in mid-July and it was just as well because I have begun my preparations for my move to the United Kingdom. I will be gone for two years, so between packing winter clothes and researching bed sizes in the UK, my mom has been nagging encouraging me to use up as much of my accumulated baking supplies as possible. This means using up ingredients that are ideal for another season, like oatmeal, which I associate with apple pie, Thanksgiving, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Not wanting to just make more oatmeal raisin cookies, I opted for oatmeal ice cream, which is quintessentially summer. This cream is very subtle with a hearty texture and a refreshing lightness that cools off while alluding to the brisker months ahead of us.

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Lemon Ricotta Poppyseed Muffins

Happy Fourth! The best way to start a day filled with lots of quality family time and kitchen prep is to eat a solid breakfast. These lemon ricotta poppyseed muffins give you a little sweetness and tangy, zesty freshness on the go; just one muffin is substantial enough to get you going in the morning or to stave off your pangs of hunger before the grill’s ready in the afternoon. The ricotta is essential to its crumbly, scone-like texture and the light lemon flavor of each bite is bright and refreshing.

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Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In my opinion, Ray’s at LACMA is the most impressive museum restaurant in the city; so good that it actually doesn’t need to be qualified as a “museum restaurant” and can stand on its own with some of LA’s more acclaimed establishments. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our relaxing weekend lunch together at Ray’s and our touring of some current exhibitions. The combination of fresh, well-prepared food and interesting artwork were central to a memorable and fun day. Ray’s is absolutely not the mediocre and depressing museum café with club sandwiches and canned soup. Though the prices are high, we left feeling like our splurge was money well-spent.

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Nobhill Tavern, Las Vegas

Having driven past Michael Mina’s XIV several times while on the Sunset Strip, I was disappointed to hear that the space is now for many private events and is no longer a fully functioning restaurant. Of course, I say this as though it happened yesterday, but it’s actually been almost a year. Thankfully, Stephen and I tried out one of his Las Vegas establishments, Nobhill Tavern, and had a delicious meal with excellent service. Unlike XIV, which was supposedly marred by an identity crisis in menu (and service), Nobhill Tavern shines in its creative interpretations of classic American fare.

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The Restaurant at the J. Paul Getty Museum

There are a lot of reasons the Getty is so popular in L.A. Beautiful architecture framing gorgeous views of the city, interesting art exhibitions, and relaxing gardens, all for free (or $15 if you drive there and park) makes a museum-going experience that is fun and enjoyable for casual museum-goers and families.

Currently, there is a great exhibition called L.A. Style on the late Herb Ritts’ black and white photography. The exhibition is quite large, one could easily spend a good hour at least looking at some truly iconic shots of famous celebrities and oiled athletes. After I spent a few hours wandering around the galleries and examining the Ritts show, I headed over to The Restaurant for lunch and tried their three course tasting menu inspired by Los Angeles and the Getty’s recent, L.A. focused programming.

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Golden Deli, San Gabriel

After almost four years of living in Los Angeles, one gets used to planning forty-minute drives to the other side of town for awesome pizza or some crazy food truck. This time, our destination was a family-style, couldn’t-find-it-unless-you-were-looking-for-it establishment that served incredible Vietnamese cuisine. Back home in San Diego, I had a standard rotation of my favorite Vietnamese places, but in L.A., a decent Pho Citi partially addressed, but did not fully satiate a periodic hunger for delicious Vietnamese food.

Golden Deli Restaurant is in the San Gabriel Valley, which necessitates braving I-10, plenty of traffic lights on long stretches of local roads, and crowds of hungry, mostly patient SGV insiders that know all the neighborhood gems. Once you’re about to be seated however, the wafting aromas of steaming soup and barbecued meat dissipates any transport-related frustrations, succumbing to a suddenly very apparent craving in your core that simply wants something, anything, from their menu.

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Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

If cupcakes are so 2011, it would appear that doughnuts are in a good position to dominate 2012. Granted, neither cupcakes nor doughnuts are great for you, but my belief that making something homemade (even if it’s indulgent junk food) is better for you remains as steadfast as it did last year. To make homemade doughnuts, you need only go to the blogosphere’s resident expert, Lara Ferroni. Her recipe will allow you to make unbelievable doughnuts that put your favorite doughnut joint’s productions to shame.

This is my first attempt to make something from her wildly successful first book, Doughnuts, and if this recipe is any indication of the whole book, I am expecting to permanently inhabit my stretch pants. Her advice and guidance is concise and easy to follow, so my first attempt gave me wonderful doughnuts. A simple topping of cinnamon sugar is perfect to highlight the sweet, bouncy doughnut dough and light buttery, yeasty flavor.

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Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Las Vegas

Growing up in California (and in a Chinese family) meant that many family vacations involved Las Vegas. Chinese people love Vegas. I have lost count of the trips I have taken with my parents and the number of buffets in which I have indulged. For my boyfriend however, who was born and raised in Texas, Las Vegas existed only in movies and television shows. So for his first trip, we planned an array of sights and dining for experiential diversity. For me too this first trip to Las Vegas would have a few firsts. In particular, this would be my first trip without my parents so it would be a good opportunity to try places other than the usual haunts.

A longtime staple for fans of the Southwestern-inspired chef, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in the Caesar’s Palace was an ideal place to have brunch after wandering around the Strip for several hours. Mesa Grill is casual, intimate, and relaxing. It’s the kind of restaurant you wish you could transplant back home and make it a part of a weekly tradition.

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Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Las Vegas

My boyfriend and I have always enjoyed watching Tom Colicchio, head judge on Top Chef, call people out on various culinary sins, such as sub-par butchering skills, too-stiff risotto, and over-salting. Our experience at Craftsteak was definitely not marred by any of those missteps. After a good 6 hours of driving, we craved a hearty steak. Craftsteak certainly delivered, though various service-relate hiccups prevented the experience from being flawless.

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