Upscale Picnic Simply delicious seasonal fare at Picnic LA


Ever wonder what it would be like to eat in the home kitchen of a top-notch chef? You don’t need to wrangle an invitation to find out. Just head over to Picnic LA.

This new, fast-casual Culver City spot serving fresh salads and clean meat and fish dishes was conceived when a group of restaurant industry buddies began gathering regularly for backyard barbecues. They shared simple platters of meats and vegetables that were much more pared down than anything they served in their high-end restaurants. The food was enjoyed so much by all that they thought, why not share this with everyone?

A simple yet sleek space for simple but sensational meals.

We’re glad they did. Instead of putting lots of energy into fussy techniques (as he did at now-shuttered Red Medicine), chef Alex Resnick opts for restrained preparations that let Picnic’s fine-dining-quality, carefully sourced ingredients shine.

Prepared salads (3 for $12; 4 for $15) are the backbone of the menu. Seasonal produce—sourced primarily from local farms that use organic practices—guides the rotating selections. Some of our favorites included a Tuscan black kale salad with kumquats, toasted pistachios, ricotta salata and pomegranate vinaigrette; and roasted parsnips with dried apricots and goat cheese.

As for proteins (one protein with two salads, $14.50), choose from eclectic selections like Moroccan spice-braised organic chicken leg tagine, Beeler’s pork meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and olive-oil poached sushi-grade salmon.

Dine at one of the modern, indoor picnic tables or call ahead for curbside pick-up. There’s nothing like enjoying a chef’s “home cooking”—at your home.

Picnic LA
9900 Culver Blvd., Culver City

Forget the freezer Enjoy a fresh new take on Vietnamese fare


How fresh is the Vietnamese cuisine at The District by Hannah An? Let’s put it this way: the restaurant doesn’t have a walk-in freezer.

Sure, there’s a small freezer for ice cream, but everything else—from the sustainably sourced fish to the grass-fed beef to the locally sourced vegetables—is used in its freshest state and cooked to order.

You might recognize An’s name from her family dynasty. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, who established the legendary French-Vietnamese restaurant Crustacean in Beverly Hills. But at The District, An is breaking away from that fine-dining focus. Though the two-level space—with an industrial-chic vibe downstairs and colonial-era Vietnamese manor setting upstairs—is on the upscale side of casual, she’s serving up dishes you could eat every day.

… the upscale side of casual dining

Instead of heavy oils or the butter and cream that can weigh down French preparations of Vietnamese dishes, An is using broths, fish sauces, citrus, herbs and spices to lend flavor. Following the Vietnamese principle of balance, each dish is at once subtly spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet.

We would drive across town for the divine turmeric-crusted Chilean sea bass ($35) and the crispy chicken rice paper rolls ($12) served with garlic-lime dipping sauce. And we love how An is presenting familiar vegetables through a novel lens, from the curry-spiced, wok-fried brussels sprouts ($9) to the charred heirloom cauliflower served atop mushrooms, edamame and cashew puree and accented with beet juice and hazelnuts ($17).

Given the supreme tastiness, you probably won’t have any leftovers, which is just as well. Food this fresh should be enjoyed as intended: on the spot.

The District by Hannah An
8722 W. Third St., Los Angeles

Salads go glam Have a healthy night on the town at Greenleaf


As build-your-own salad places go, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop (with locations in Beverly Hills and Century City) is consistently one of our favorites. The local and sustainably farmed produce, the clean, flame-grilled proteins and the epicurean preparations make us wish there was a Greenleaf on every corner of the city.

With the opening of their new Hollywood location, we’re on our way to wish fulfillment—and then some. Not only does the new outpost make their stellar salads more accessible to Eastsiders, but it also elevates the Greenleaf concept to night-on-the-town dining.

Whereas their Westside locations offer only breakfast and lunch service, the Hollywood location—located next to the Pantages Theatre—is positioned for nightlife. Open daily until midnight, the restaurant offers full dinner service, an indoor/outdoor bar serving craft cocktails made with organic juices and a buzzy patio decked out with market lights and a fire pit.

Ahi & farro salad at Greenleaf gourmet chopshop.

That means you can enjoy some festive pre-theater dining, grab pre-game drinks before hitting the clubs or sidestep the boulevard’s greasy pizza joints for a healthy late-night snack. Creating your own salad is always fun, but we’re also partial to the specialty salads ($8 to $16) like the Antioxidant Orchard (bursting with vitamin-packed berries and nuts) and Zorra The Great (an updated Greek salad). Sandwiches, burgers, thin-crust pizzas and hot entrée plates round out the menu.

And with the new brunch service (Friday through Sunday from 8:00am to 3:00pm) featuring egg dishes and smoothies, you can follow your nightlife with a healthy morning after.

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
6201 Hollywood Blvd., Ste. 120

This produce pops Sample the spoils from small-scale farms at Pop Produce


We love a good power lunch as much as anyone. But the tradition of brokering deals over a gargantuan steak, basket of bread and a midday martini? That’s not how we roll.

So we’re thrilled that one of Beverly Hills’s most beloved power lunch spots, the restaurant at Barneys New York, has hit the “refresh” button on lunchtime luxury. Formerly Barney Greengrass, it’s been reimagined as Freds, and the decadent, deli-style menu of caviar blinis and pastrami reubens has given way to farmers’ market salads and pressed juices.

The chef responsible for the transformation is Mark Strausman, a New Yorker with a farm-to-table philosophy and Italian background who oversees Barneys restaurants nationally. He’s having a field day sourcing organic produce from local family farms.

This stand is not your average pop-up shop.

Though the produce selection is ever-changing, you’ll likely find staples like kale, Swiss chard, Haas avocados and Fuji apples. Romney and Bowman also make a point to feature more obscure varietals (when in season) like finger limes, chilacayote, mirabelle plums and watermelon radishes. Local food products including granola, nut butter and jam are also in the mix.

And if you spot Eureka lemons from “Edgemont Farms,” just know that it’s a fancy name for Romney’s own East Hollywood backyard.

POP Produce at Arroyo General
5028 York Blvd., Los Angeles

Beer’s the Thing: SoCal Brews to Try For Fall


The Autumnal Equinox brings us shorter days, football season, pumpkin-flavored everything and Halloween decor, but it may be a while before the weather really cools off in Los Angeles. However, beer is a beverage that pairs well with foods for both seasons. We talked brews with Sayre Piotrkowski, cicerone (think sommelier for beer) and Beer Director at St. Vincent Tavern in San Francisco, who helped us tap a few ideas about refreshing suds brewed in the warmer half of this state.

We presented three vegetarian recipes from the Clean Plates blog and invited — nay, challenged — Piotrkowski to help us find some SoCal pairings, but taste wasn’t the only criteria. When measuring sustainability and global impact, location matters; the energy required to deliver a product can be as important as the ingredients used to make it. To be certified organic, there are many hoops to jump through and not all small businesses can afford the process, even if they use sustainable practices. In the end, we decided to prioritize location over organic certification. Even if a bottle isn’t labeled, that doesn’t mean the brewer isn’t doing all she or he can to make sure their suds are green from the inside out! Continue reading

The Best Local Mushrooms Come From a Repurposed Trailer

Shiitake mushrooms. Photo by Frankenstoen

A lot of the mushrooms sold at Los Angeles farmers markets come from big coastal commercial growers. These mushrooms are often sold in the non-certified section of the markets, or with a different certification, and they may not exactly comply with what some folks would consider “local.”

There is, however, a truly local, small farm source of mushrooms available to Angelenos: F & F Farms up in Moorpark, about 50 miles north of the city, where part-time grower Fred Ellrott cultivates exquisitely delicious shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Oyster and shiitake mushrooms

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