Friday, August 23, 2013

America - Los Angeles - Running Around Town

After keeping it simple with taco trucks, doing the tourist rounds at Universal Studios and Hollywood, it was time to get a tiny slice of the finer side of Los Angeles. On the agenda was a bit of brunch, a bit of Beverly Hills, a touch of Venice Beach, and dinner with a friend. It's a long post, but I didn't want to break it up. Cause it's my blog. You'll listen to me…or not…please stay? 

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After two days of not really having proper breakfast's, I was totally hyped up for eggs. All of the eggs! I consulted Yelp and discovered that one of the most popular brunch places was just a block away, although as mentioned earlier, the block's in LA are very big and it was a solid 15 minute walk, which led to much hunger. 

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And since we naturally picked one of the more reputable places for brunch, it meant that similar to Melbourne, there was a generous queue. Le sigh! Much hunger! 

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Blu Jam cafe is located on Melrose Avenue, which upon first glance I can tell is much hipper and cooler than Beverly Boulevard, with a smattering of other (far less crowded) cafes in the distance and a healthy mix of cute and hip little boutiques all around (although not open at 10:30am in the morning unfortunately (or fortunately if you're Brad)). 

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e were eventually seated under the little awning outside, which was perfectly blissful in the practically constantly perfect Californian weather, and because I could also go a little gaga over all the cute dogs that were out and about. One of them even had a dog leash made of plastic hotdogs. Nawwww.

During the duration of my stay in the states, I learnt that brunch is a bit of a funny affair. Whilst in Melbourne I'm used to brunch usually being available all day, everyday, just about everywhere, there surprisingly aren't as many places that do this in the states, with brunch being conducted in very limited hours only on the weekend. Weirded me out yo.

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Also, in California, hot sauce is an expected condiment on the table at all times.

Blu Jam Cafe was one of the few spots that offered all day breakfast. And man, that meant a lot of eggs. Like. A lot. The menu was huge!

You could go from healthy and all protein, with options like 'Muscle Beach' that came with six scrambled egg whites (?!) to completely indulgent with a 'brunch carbonnara' (should you feel like risotto for breakfast) or a crunchy French toast that was out at almost every table and totally ginormous. 

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I mean heck, even look at this latte, I was floored with how big it was, Brad's hand looks tiny next to it! I don't think Brad knew quite what to do with this much caffeine. 

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Feeling the need to clean out my system after barbecue chicken and burgers from the day before, I kept it nice and clean with a carrot, apple and celery juice. Thank you California and your love of freshly pressed juices. Everywhere. All the time. Yum.

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I honestly don't know why Brad and I decided to get two dishes. I had been quite clear before we left that we'd just get one thing and share it between the two of us when we went out, since we were expecting gigantic proportions…but y'know…that never happened. And so we were faced with two of the biggest breakfast plates I had ever seen in my life. 

Like I don't even know.

I think my food might have gone a bit cold from me just gaping at how big it was. 

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I ordered the 'Migas', a spicy combination of eggs scrambled with jalapenos, chipotle, beef chorizo sausage, red bell peppers, tortilla chips and mozzarella, topped with tomato salsa and served with corn tortillas and a mountain of fried potatoes. 

Where do I even start? It wasn't that spicy to begin with (although not particularly surprising) but man, was it moreish. Can more of Melbourne brunches please have a Latin American flair? I want the crunch of tortilla chips, the fresh and lively jalapenos, the herbs, and the zesty tomatoes all enveloped in the outrageously fluffy scrambled eggs, which were just perfect really. 

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And I mean, look, I'm not into potatoes for breakfast, but that's more because I'm worried about my hips, rather than being fussy over my palate. So although I tried to resist, it's kind of hard to go past deliciously golden potatoes with a touch of crisp skin and a sprinkling of rosemary. Urghhhhhh. So good. 

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Brad got the Breakfast Quesadilla, with grilled chopped chicken breast scrambled with eggs, tomatoes, spinach and cheddar in a grilled flour tortilla, topped with avocado, homemade salsa and sour cream…also served with potatoes.

I didn't have a lot of his quesadilla, but I did love how cheesy it was. Although I shouldn't because we're having it as breakfast, but I guess my body clock would have been in dinner time at that point, so I guess that's okay. Maybe. Shh.

Needless to say, although we were both determined to finish, we didn't. 

Which meant that a long walk was sorely needed to aid digestion which we took down to the La Brea Tar Pits (about a 30 minute walk away), something Brad had read about. It's a totally random but really interesting spot of history, as in this particular area, tar has seeped up from the ground for tens of thousands of years. As such, being tar and often covered by leaves and dust, it has trapped a lot of ancient animals in it and preserved the bones of these animals as well. 

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With these Tar Pits, the bones of mammoths, dire wolves (Game of Thrones anybody?) and sabre toothed cats, amongst many others, have been found here, which is pretty darned cool when you think about it. 

The tar pits don't smell so sexy tough, but fortunately there's a big park to wander into, and a museum should you be further interested in the history. 

Brad and I decided it was time to move on though, and since our next destination was far…but not too far, we decided it would be a good opportunity to give the application 'Lyft' a try, and gauge how much a longer trip might cost us.

You've probably heard of 'Uber' in Melbourne, the limousine service you can use by booking and paying through your iPhone, whilst this service is also available in Los Angeles, 'Lyft' is also quite popular and after trying it out, I totally loved it!

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Basically you open the app, and let it know where you want a car to pick you up from. Once a car has been booked (which usually is a matter of minutes) you'll actually see a little icon of the car making it's way to you and an estimate of how long it'll be. Totally brilliant!

You'll also know for sure whether it's your car or not, as it'll rock up wearing a bright pink fuzzy moustache on the front of it.  And then you fist bump your driver as you climb in, maybe a bit cheesy, but it's part of protocol to make you feel at ease and create a connection with your driver. 

We had our first driver Luna, take us to Robertson Boulevard, a 10 minute drive away, and along the way we talked about where we were from, the more detailed workings of Lyft (she even gave us a promo code to use for our first time!) and once she learned that I was into food, promptly started rattling off a healthy list of places to check out. 

And also conveniently pointed out where the new Georgetown Cupcakes store was. Ah. We could have definitely been friends. 

After that, it was a simple matter of bidding farewell, climbing out of the car and confirming the amount to pay with credit card via the app, and rating our driver (apparently if you rate anyone 3 stars or below, you'll never be matched with them again!).

For our 10 minute ride, it cost us $10, which already included a tip to for Luna. We used Lyft an additional 2 or 3 times during this trip and we loved the service every time. The only downside is that you, and the driver, have no way of knowing how much it costs until you get to your end destination, you leave the car and the amount is brought up on your phone. But for the most part, we thought it was always reasonable, for a much friendlier and less stressful experience than taking a cab (also cheaper)! 

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So. About these Georgetown cupcakes. They're originally from Washington, DC, with the founders being the stars of the reality show 'DC Cupcakes'. I had heard often heard people comparing Georgetown Cupcakes and Sprinkles Cupcakes (which I have the fondest memories of from my last visit in 2010) and was quite excited to get to try them both in the same day. Cupcake overload suckers!

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The Georgetown Cupcake store in Los Angeles, was pure elegance, with tiers of cupcakes neatly stacked in a spick and span white store, with marble countertops and a touch of pop art for some colour jazz. 

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It wasn't long before I became acquainted with a gluten free peanut butter chocolate fudge (say it fast, I dare you) cupcake, and clearly, I was just beaming from ear to ear. The Americans know their icing. Oooh do they. I honestly don't think you would be able to tell that this was a gluten free cupcake, maybe slightly denser than regular flour, but gosh, it was so rich and just bursting with cocoa-y, peanut butter goodness. When they say peanut butter chocolate fudge, they mean fudge. In cupcake form. Urgghh.

After happily patting my newly formed food baby belly, Brad and I strolled along Robertson Boulevard, which is supposedly an area where the paparazzi tend to hang out and therefore celebrities (or the other way around, whatever). Whilst we didn't see any of the latter, I found Robertson Boulevard quite charming, with a nice mix of big end brands and cute little boutiques, which kept the area fresh and interesting to wander around. 

From there Brad and I were like, awwwwwww, it's not that far to Sprinkles, we just gotta go down Santa Monica Boulevard…….

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…Uh. That turned into a 45 minute walk. But at least it was absolutely gorgeous, since we were in Beverly Hills after all darling, and the lawns were manicured and the trees matured, full and shady. I also gotta earn those cupcakes somehow right?

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…or ice-cream. As we walked by a stretch of ever-so-chic boutiques and cafes, my eye couldn't help but be immediately drawn to the Ice-Cream Lab. Decked out in bright blue, with white fixtures, I found myself getting closer…and closer…until I was pushing the door open, throwing Brad a cheeky little "but I have to!" look over my shoulder at the same time. 

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With a name like "Ice-Cream Lab" it could only be liquid nitrogen ice-cream. Only. 

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I opted for a Raspberry Swirl, with fresh raspberries, vanilla bean and white chocolate. Yum. Yum and yum. I loved the texture from the raspberries, the seeds giving a bit of grit to the super smooth ice-cream. The white chocolate was a nice pairing, especially when accentuated with a bit of a vanilla, giving it a very elegant and not overly sweet flavour. 

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We then wandered over to the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, where I proceeded to lose my shit. I was freaking out. Brad couldn't figured me out as I thrust my camera onto him so he could video me ordering my cupcake via the cutest pink terminal you ever did see. 

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You simple go through the options, press the one you want to buy, swipe your credit card and then a little camera on the inside, follows the crane as it goes and gets your cupcake. Genius. Pure genius. And just so much fun.

If you missed watching it earlier, here's the video of the whole process again!

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I'm still in love with the gluten free red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles, for being gluten free, I found it so light and fluffy and the perfect level of sweetness, although I did detect a tiny big of graininess in the frosting this time around. Personally, I still preferred the Sprinkles cupcake over the Georgetown one, just due to the texture. 

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Rodeo Drive is located just around the corner, home to all of the big, luxe and beautiful…price tags that is. In the summer sun, it was kind of glaring to walk down, as the street was impeccably clean and impeccably white, which meant loads of glare. So Beverly Hills right?

It didn't take us long to get down the whole thing, since Brad's not into shopping at all, which means I start feeling a tiny bit guilty when I start ogling at a window for too long. It's kind of crazy to see some of the people who spend all this money on this branded stuff, not have any style at all though. Such a shame. 

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From there, we grabbed another Lyft ride, with an actress trying to make it out in the cutthroat Hollywood industry (that was a rather interesting discussion with her), down to Venice Beach, to see yet another side of LA. 

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Although a little bit crazy, Venice Beach is still undeniably beautiful, with it's white sands and blue perimeters. I particularly enjoyed walking down the pier, and getting away from the crowded thoroughfare, and stopping to watch the skaters do their thing. There was one kid who was absolutely incredible, totally taking everyone else's thunder!

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We escaped Venice Beach and wandered down to Abbot Kinney, which our previous Lyft driver had recommended we make our way to eventually, to escape the touristy-ness of Venice. And indeed it was a much cuter area, with a bit of a Fitzroy vibe, but with more beach influence thrown in. We stopped by Willie Jane and tucked into a couple of refreshing beverages. Happy Hour in the states is so cheap and so awesome. Yes to $5 glasses of wine.

Following that, we had one of our most interesting Lyft rides, on the way back to our hostel, as the driver was a screenwriter, who had spent a year with NASA to learn about global warming for a project he was commissioned on, which unfortunately fell through. Even still, he retained all he had learnt and we had rather in-depth conversation about global warming, new technologies that were being developed and how to look into changing people's mindset about the whole thing. I learnt a lot!

To wrap up our incredibly long day (I know, looking back through this post is kind of ridiculous), we had dinner with a friend of mine, also a budding actor who has previously been on Survivor, who I had met on my last trip to the states. We met up at Katsuya by Starck in Hollywood, as I had previously fallen in love with Starck's fit out for Kong in Paris. All the ghost chairs. Mmmm.

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Katsuya in Hollywood, was a much slicker affair than Kong, in a dim setting, blown up back-lit pictures of a beautiful woman's features, with neon lights and the odd neon light here and there. It was honestly a bit of a shame the restaurant was so dark, as you didn't get to see much of the interior! 

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Honestly, I won't go into too much detail over this dinner, as although the setting was fairly swanky, and we had plenty of sake to keep us happy, for what we paid I found it to be just an okay dinner. I was quite disappointed to see the few sushi rolls we ordered didn't hold together at all, unfurling upon touch in to a mass of rice and seafood. Sad.

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The tuna was dressed in great flavours, but the tuna itself was a bit underwhelming, with a bit of what I would describe as a chalky texture. Similar situation with the scallops, I enjoyed the pairing with the kiwi, but the scallops themselves seemed a little depressed, they're not looking their sexiest. 

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I did however, very much enjoy the black miso cod, which was naughty, smooth, rich and oh so succulent (and a lot less than Nobu), and the other fried fish main we had. 

On the whole though? Not really worth if for the food. Although, the place was bustling, pretty much at full capacity, and girls were streaming through the doors in their teeny cocktail dresses and sky high heels. This is a place to be seen, but not to eat. It's all style (what style that is is also some of the dresses I was seeing) and no substance.

Post dinner, we hit up the AV Night Club with my friend and his friends, where I continued to discover that there must be no one actually doing any desk work in Los Angeles as everyone we met was linked to the Hollywood industry in some shape or form. It's kind of bizarre.

And since everyone is in the Hollywood industry, everyone loves to drink. And party. And be seen. And wear tiny tiny dresses, spike their hair up and drink a lot of vodka. 

A lot of vodka.

To wrap up, let me tell you. Way too much vodka. Way too many visits to the hostel bathroom. The LA life? At least I made it back in one piece, and no mess. Sigh!

7371 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles

La Brea Tar Pits

9461 S Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills

9635 S Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills

6300 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles


  1. Oh the massive breakfasts look yum. Also the cupcakes. And the ATM! So much fun!

    1. For being as big as they were, they were surprisingly delicious, although everything slightly mexican flavoured was in general very tasty. :)

  2. Oh wow! Everything looks like so much fun! I want to go to AMERICA!!!!

    1. Hehe, I hope you can visit soon! :)

  3. One word JEALOUS! of all the good food and amazing weather! I would die to try one of those Sprinkles vending machine cupcakes hahaha so much fun! Arghhh now I wanna save enough money and just jump on a plane to USA!

    1. You would go so crazy over the cupcake ATM! I saw a juice one down the road, but was so full from everything I had eaten already so didn't get to try that one unfortunately :(

  4. Love this post! Memories. Lyft sounds awesome!
    Heidi xo