Dining in the City of Angels
No matter the time of year, airline or itinerary, most Australians who travel to the USA commonly enter though the main gate, Los Angeles. Being the front door of the USA for most Australian travellers, this City of Angels always gets a mixed bag of reviews and it usually depends on the type of traveller that happens to be passing through. Businessmen stop over, families rush to Disney and the theme parks, and singles hit up the West Hollywood party scene in hopes of experiencing a California love story of their own. Regardless of your type of itinerary or what you hope to walk away with, we all need to eat! So I thought what better way to kick off my series of posts on the United Sweets of America, than to chat with the lovely Stacey Sun, Director of Dine LA. We spent an afternoon wandering through Downtown LA's Grand Central Market, and spoke about life in LA, and the eats that will make your time in LA that little bit sweeter.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of Stacey… My day always starts with checking Instagram and emails. Followed by a two-mile run (or very slow jog) and then head into the office with a green juice in-hand. At the office I meet with other teams and agencies to work on strategy for the dineL.A. program. I’m constantly in touch with PR reps and chefs to find out the latest news on L.A. restaurants. My evenings usually consist of media dinners or checking out the latest hotspots. Before I shut down for the night, I check Instagram one last time.
Where did your love affair with food begin? Being that I’m Chinese and my parents are obsessed with food, it started at a very young age. My mom would cook dinner every night and these were not simple dinners. Each night she would make three to four dishes that would involve a full afternoon of prepping. And every time we traveled, we based our itinerary around where we would eat. Now, I do the same thing.
Were you always from LA? I was born and raised in San Marino, a small city about 15 minutes north of Downtown L.A. Los Angeles has awesome weather, great restaurants, shops and an overall fun scene. So for now and probably for a long time, I’m going to stay right here.
Describe the Los Angeles food scene in 3 words: Vibrant, unlimited, international
What are your top 3 picks for a good cup of coffee in LA? The coffee scene has blown up over the past few years in L.A. and the shops that stand out are G&B Coffee/Go Get ‘Em Tiger, Intelligentsia and Menotti’s Coffee Shop.
Most Australians have never tried real, honest to goodness, authentic Mexican food. Where is the first place all Aussies should go for the best ‘first’ Mexican feast? La Casita Mexicana in Bell is the place I tell everyone to go to. It’s owned by Chefs Jaime and Ramiro who are the nicest people and they also cook the most authentic Mexican food. They have chile relleno, mole, great fish, flautas and one of my favourite dishes, queso fundido which is like a cheese fondue.
Your top picks for a good slice of cake in LA are… I’m a chocolate cake kind of girl so my top picks will all be chocolate. Republique has a chocolate salted caramel cake which is the best I’ve ever had. Brewell in Koreatown serves an amazing chocolate cake made by Quenelle in Burbank with layers of chocolate mousse in between the cake.
The best cupcake in LA can be found at… Sprinkles is known for their designs and different flavours, Joan’s on Third for their chocolate coconut cupcake and Susie Cakes is known for the more traditional flavours.
I’m from out of town, and I only have a day to taste LA… Where should I have breakfast, lunch and dinner? Breakfast is a must at Eggslut inside Grand Central Market where eggs are the star of every menu item. Be sure to try the Fairfax which has soft scrambled eggs, chives, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and Sriracha mayo on a Portuguese bun. Eggslut dishes are extremely photogenic so it will get a lot of love on Instagram. While you’re at Grand Central Market, you must get ice cream from the newly opened McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams which is my favourite ice cream shop right now. They have the most unique flavours like Turkish Coffee and Summer Fruit Cobbler which has pie crust chunks.
For lunch, head over to the Arts District in Downtown L.A. and have lunch at the Guerrilla Tacos truck. The Chef/Owner Wes Avila trained with the best chefs in L.A. and his tacos and tostadas definitely show off his culinary skills. The truck’s menu changes daily based on availability but my favourites include: fried shark tacos (similar to a fish taco, but more adventurous); chocolata clam tostada with heirloom tomatoes, wasabi, habanero chile, seabeans and olive oil; and the New York steak and mushroom quesadilla with a fried duck egg is to-die-for.
For dinner, end your day in Koreatown which is one of the most exciting parts of the city right now. If you love Korean BBQ go to Kang Hodong Baekjeong, owned by a former Korean wrestler. The quality of meat is fantastic, especially the pork jowl. And what makes this place extra fun is the “moat” around the circular grill. Servers pour a steamed egg mixture out of a tea kettle into the moat to cook. It’s the best. Another section of the moat is dedicated to cheesy corn. Yes, cheesy corn. What’s not to love?
At Project Sweet Stuff, we’re all about the journey into the heart of the sweet life… so what is your ‘sweet life’ and where do you go to experience a taste of it? For me, it’s all about spending time with friends, family and my soon-to-be husband. And to help offset the food intake, I like to do my daily runs in Culver City, practice yoga at Yogahop in Santa Monica, and hiking at Temescal Canyon by the Pacific Palisades to keep my sanity. When I’m not eating out at a restaurant, I love to cook so I’ll do that every weekend and usually invite people over for a casual dinner party.