Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monsieur Marcel's Happy Hour

Nestled in the southeast corner of the Farmers Market is one of my favorite French bistros. Attached to a boutique grocery store which specializes in the finer things in life, Monsieur Marcel has the advantage of being able to utilize its excellent array of wine, cheese and charcuterie.

When dining I rarely get further than the coq au vin, which comes served with a divine gruyère-rich potato gratin ($15.49). If I'm there for lunch, or in the mood for something lighter, I'll either go for one of their quiches (ham & cheese, wild mushroom, or leek & goat cheese) which come complete with a salad on the side ($10.99), or one of their cold cheese or charcuterie plates ($16.99), which are perfect for sharing with friends.

However those on a budget or in need of refreshment after a shopping trip next door at The Grove (or both) should keep in mind that Monsieur Marcel has a rather excellent Happy Hour which runs from 3 til 7 PM. Wine is 50% off and they have a special menu of reasonably priced small plates. I've long been a fan of their by the glass wine list (even at full price), which goes well beyond the usual merlot and cabernet sauvignon varietals, and a small plate shared between two, eaten with wedges of baguette, will stave off hunger and soak up the wine in a delicious and satisfying manner.

The Breakdown
1 glass of bourgogne albert bichot vieilles vignes 07 (pinot noir) @ 50 % off = $4.75
1 glass of France madiran laplace 06 (tannat) @ 50 % off = $4.55
1 small plate of rosette de lyon = $4.99
Tax $1.39
Tip $ 3.50
Total = $ 19.13
Cost per person = $ 9.56

Get the 411: Monsieur Marcel website
Farmers Market @ Third & Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA 91604
Tel: 323 939 7792
(Plus new location in Santa Monica.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Spark of Life At Lunchtime

Since first opening in its Studio City location in 1999, the Zagat-rated Spark Woodfire Grill has consistently hit all the necessary and notable fine dining lists. Though eating here has always been surprisingly affordable given the quality of the cuisine and the elegance of the Osvaldo Maiozzi-designed interior, Spark has got downright economic thanks to its recently introduced "Lets Do Lunch" menu which features 10 items for $10 or less.

A personal Spark fave is the Fork & Knife Salad ($9), their version of the classic wedge. With no tacky bacon bits in sight, it goes above and beyond the average wedge with candied walnuts, diced tomatoes, fresh chives, red onion, and the most delectably tangy bleu cheese adding pizzazz to the obligatory iceberg and cream-based dressing. Also recommended is the 1/2 Wood-Fired Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich, which comes with your choice of soup, caesar or chopped salad on the side ($9). Both wash down nicely with a glass of the Redwood Creek Sauvignon Blanc (one of several excellent wines on the menu for $6 per glass).

Lunch runs from 11.30 AM through 3 PM. If you're looking to dine a little later, Spark's "Happy Hour" is also worth checking out. Kicking off at 5 PM, with last orders at 7PM, it features 1/2 price beer, wine, well drinks and specialty martinis, and an appetizer menu with items that range from $3 to $6.

The Breakdown
Fork & Knife Salad or 1/2 Wood-Fired Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich w/ Soup or Salad $9
Wine $6
Tax $1.46
Tip $ 3.00
Total = $ 19.46

Added value celebrity sighting:
With George Clooney's Fryman Canyon home being but a stone's throw away, there's been several sighting of the Oceans Eleven sophisticate at this establishment in recent times.

Get the 411: Spark website
11801 Ventura Blvd.,
Studio City, CA 91604
Tel: 818.623.8883
(Additional locations in Beverly Hills and Huntington Beach.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Froma's Flight of Adventure

Enjoy an exquisite selection of wine, cheese and accompaniments (yummy candied apricots, dates and pecans) as Froma's highly knowledgeable French Canadian proprietress, Francine Diamond, educates you on the often unusual delicacies being served at this fine food emporium-cum-cafe.

Though there's a wide selection of antipasti, paninis and salads on the menu, we always seek out the adventure that is the three cheese tasting platter, which you can order with wine pairings for $18 total. You can specify what kind of cheese and which wines from the excellent by-the-glass menu you'd like to try, but that might be missing the point. We let Francine know if we're in the mood for red, white or both, but then leave the rest up to her good taste and top notch sommelier training.

French made Gruyère style cheese that we never even knew existed comes served with the kind of Bordeaux wine that'd be well beyond our price range if we bought it by the bottle. In around an hour Francine will take you on a gastronomic flight through France, Italy, Spain, and the most progressive regions of the New World. No journey is ever the same, so this is a treat that can be enjoyed again and again.

The breakdown
3 cheese platter with accompaniments and wine flight $18.00
Tax $ 1.76
Tip $4.00
Total = $23.76

Ge the 441: Froma website
Froma, 7960 Melrose Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Tel: 323 653 3700

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Loteria Grill: Fiesta On A Plate

Up and coming chef Jimmy Shaw has taken Mexican cuisine to a whole new level at Loteria Grill. Traditional food is given a contemporary twist, an aesthetic that's underscored well by the cantina's clean and minimal, yet warm and welcoming decor.

We recommend you go there with a least one friend and order the Probaditas sampler plate ($14), which is comprised of mini versions of all 12 of Loteria's specialty vegetable, chicken, beef and pork tacos. Also be sure to try their signature Tamarind Margaritas ($7), a blend of tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and simple and tamarind syrups that might sound a little counter-intuitive but are well worth the leap of faith, and pair well with the various home-made sweet, smokey and spicy salsas that come to the table on the house alongside freshly prepared tortilla chips.

The Breakdon
Tamarind Margarita X 2 $ 14
Probaditas $ 14
Sub-total $ 28
Tax $ 2.73
Tip $ 6.00
Total = $ 36.73
Cost per person = $18.37

Added value celebrity sighting:
Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Lisa Cuddy from House) and Hill Harper (Dr. Sheldon Hawkes from CSI: NY) who we spotted in the valet line as we were walking out.

Get the 411: Loteria website
Loteria Grill, 6627 Hollywood Blvd.,
Hollywood, CA 90028
Tel: 323 465 2500

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jolly Feet For A Jolly Good Price

Hidden in an innocuous looking mini-mall on the SE corner of Vineland and Ventura in North Hollywood, Jolly Foot is a newly opened oasis for those in need of a little low cost relaxation.

Lounge in one of the plush reclining chairs as the tension is washed, then rubbed away from your feet. As an added bonus, all packages include a little attention to your scalp, neck and upper back (and a nice cup of hot green tea).

A 30 minute massage costs just $15. Those that want to splurge can pay $20 or $25 for 45 and 60 minutes respectively (hey we were under budget on our cocktails and nibbles yesterday -- so we get to push the boat out today!).

The Breakdown
30 Minute Massage $15
Tip $5
Total = $20

Get the 411:
Jolly Foot, 5160 Vineland Ave. (@ Magnolia),
North Hollywwod, CA 91602
Tel: 818 763 1500 (walk-ins welcome)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Katsuya Gets Special

Katsuya, the chic sushi chain operated by raw fish guru Katsuya Uechi and minimalist designer Philippe Starck, is offering recession-beating specials in the bar area at all locations (Brentwood, Hollywood, Glendale, and the newly opened restaurant at LA Live in Downtown LA) Monday thru Friday between 5 and 7 PM.

Taking advantage of the budget menu, we discovered an affinity for the Fresh cocktail ($7), which is a cool Mojito-inspired remix that blends cucumber, vodka, sake and freshly squeezed lime juice. Also recommended: the Shrimp Tempura Cut Roll ($5 for 8 pieces).

The Breakdon
Cocktail $ 7
Roll $ 5
Sub-total $ 13
Tax $ 1.27
Tip $ 2.60
Total = $ 16.87

Added value celebrity sighting:
Zach Braff who plays John 'J.D.' Dorian on Scrubs.
(Noticing he was at a loss as to what kind of sake to order at the bar, we suggested he try our new favorite beverage, Sayuri Nigori unfiltered sake, which is milky in color and is much smoother and sweeter than the more common filtered kind.)

Get the 411: Katsuya website