L.A. Bites: The Glorious Green Pea Toast at Salt Air in Venice

I was a freak of nature as a kid. My mom never had to bribe me with dessert to encourage me to eat my veggies. I freaking loved veggies. Almost all of them. Green beans...heck yes. Carrots...couldn't get enough of them. And peas? Well, peas were one of my favorite veggie sides in the world. With a small dab of butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, the little bright green morsels are delightfully inconspicuous. Not packing too much intense vegetable flavor, they do look awfully pretty in just about any pasta, Indian curry, or tried and true American casserole.

But I've never seen green peas take center stage. I couldn't even imagine a dish where that'd make much since.

Until I feasted my eyes...and my mouth on the picture-perfect and oh so luscious Pea Toast from Venice's Salt Air. Holy moly guys. This Pea Toast is flawless in every way imaginable. From the sugar snap pea spread that's so impeccably seasoned to the mild and creamy ricotta to the sweet caramelized onions to the subtle bite of fresh jalapeno to the whole snap peas adding a nice crunch on top of it all, this playful dish pretty much nails it in both texture and flavor. The thick cut toast, while delicious, serves as a vehicle to transport all of the goods from the plate onto my palate.

Friends, I could eat Salt Air's Pea Toast all day, every day. Forget avocado toast. Pea toast is totally the new hotness. 

Salt Air has a refreshingly concise menu featuring lots of seafood and Cali-inspired fare. The restaurant's ambiance is something to be admired too, with tons of natural light pouring through the windows and a theme of all white everywhere that just makes you feel alive....and hungry.

Venice Beach's The Anchor: Los Angeles' Best Lobster Brunch and More

It's no secret that I'm a certified brunch fanatic. I'll take eggs any way they're handed to me...though I certainly prefer a perfectly prepared poached egg or a sunny side up beauty to a lackluster scramble. And Eggs Benedict? Well, that's about as delightful as brunch gets in my opinion. Especially when the egg spews its golden goodness all over the English muffin, croissant, or whatever kind of crusty bread its so proudly sitting on.

I'm also all about a righteous Bloody Mary. But that shouldn't come as surprise either. 

So I'm always looking to check out the local brunch hot spots in an efforts to fulfill those weekend runny yolk and spicy bloody cravings. I must gloat too, I'm pretty lucky with where I live since there's an endless array of seriously superb brunch time staples all within a short bike ride from my front door.

One of those places that I often catch myself daydreaming about and salivating over is relatively new to the Venice Beach drinking and eating scene. And while it may be a Los Angeles restaurant newcomer, The Anchor has certainly made quite the name for itself in the last several months since its opening early last fall. It's no wonder why they've been such a hit in the community either.

The Anchor does everything right. From their pledge to always use locally-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients to their kitchen run by knowledgeable and charismatic Executive Chef Dustin Taylor, to the friendly neighborhood watering hole vibe, they've pretty much nailed it with what a quintessential local restaurant should be.

One of The Anchor's best contributions to the community? That would be their bottomless Bloody Mary and Mimosa brunch, which also features a delightful assortment of heavenly breakfast and lunchtime fare. 

The Bloody Mary is solid. With a fresh, scratch made mix and without all the unnecessary bloody bells and whistles, it's the kinda bloody I can get down with, without feeling full before my actual meal has arrived at the table. Perfectly spicy, this boozy treat is made with soju as The Anchor is currently beer and wine only. Side note: they have one killer selection of craft brews. 

Let it be known. No visit to The Anchor is complete without their (already) famous Lobster Roll. Yes, even at brunch, this sandwich is mandatory. Having tasted traditional lobster rolls in Boston, I can tell you that The Anchor's take on the New England classic is very, very different. But in a good way. The small roll is lightly buttered, toasted, and loaded with beautiful hunks of sweet and delicate lobster. It's then topped with truffle oil and some...wait for it...black truffle shavings. Guys, the combination is mouth-watering, insane. 

But The Anchor doesn't stop their with their (super successful) lobster efforts. Chef Dustin Taylor pulls out all the stops yet again with their flawlessly executed Lobster Benedict. I can't even begin to describe the emotions I have for this creation. Two warm buttermilk biscuits come topped with beautifully poached eggs, a rich and subtly lemony hollandaise, and tons of that decadent lobster. Oh, and who could forget those black truffle shavings on top...

While I'd definitely be an idiot to pass up on both of their lobster dishes, I must say, the simple and comforting Scrambled Egg sandwich is actually pretty luscious. Pillowy soft scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, farmhouse cheddar, and the best damn bacon you've ever had all come nestled between two slices of toast, making one hell of a breakfast sandwich. Effortless perfection right here.

I know I briefly mentioned those biscuits....and that bacon...but ordering both a la carte would be wise. For the bacon that Chef Dustin uses is no laughing matter. Nueskes bacon is applewood smoked, thick-cut, and oh, so meaty. Cooked until tender and a bit crisp, this bacon is deserving of a special moment when you take that first bite. The biscuits deserve some credit too as their warm soft center and sturdy "crust" can hold up to joint's amazing (and unique) Red-eye gravy, sweet jams, and Lobster Benedict. 

The Anchor serves up a sweet happy hour too, with some of the prettiest deviled eggs I've ever seen. But that's another story for another day. This place is the type of place that (no matter how much you want to visit new restaurants) you keep going back to for more. Because the food is absolutely delectable and because the service is solid...and because it's well, perfect...every single time. 

St. Patrick's Day Recipe: Individual Guinness Braised Short Rib Shepherd's Pie with Irish Cheddar

I really can't tell you why I love St. Patrick's Day so much. I can't give you any particular reason why the festive green Irish holiday appeals to me so. Wait. Yes, I can. It's the booze. There, I said it. Shame on me. But seriously, what alcohol consuming adult can resist an Irish Car Bomb (that term is pretty offensive by the way...look it up) or a baby Guinness...or an Irish coffee...or heck, even a really delicious stout? I know I sure can't.

But...I'm also kinda a sucker for Irish/British fare. I know, I know...they're not our world's most interesting or most impressive cuisines. But damn are they comforting. Meat, potatoes, cheese, fried stuff galore...it's all pretty glorious to me.

Especially when it's a Dash of Les "cheat day" and I  consume whatever on God's green earth I want. So you can bet your butt I honored one of my favorite holidays on a delightful cheat day this past weekend when I prepared a cheesy, meaty, mashed potato-y delight that never gets old. Shepherd's Pie. Comfort food at its best.

You probably already know this about me, but I'm not much of a red meat eater. So when I do eat the stuff, it better be knock your socks off, righteous. Ground beef just doesn't do the trick. In fact, ground meat of any kind rarely suits my fancy.

Braised short rib is possibly my favorite way to eat red meat. So fall-apart succulent and flavorful, it often triggers a prayer kinda moment with that first bite. But I didn't stop with Short rib. No, this savory pie needed a bit more Irish flair. So I braised that beautiful meat with some Guinness. I also portioned the pies into individual ramekins and topped with some delicious sharp Irish cheddar. And man, oh man, was this a dinner that I could eat for days.

Individual Guinness Braised Short Rib Shepherd's Pie with Irish Cheddar

Ingredients:

3 pounds short ribs

1 yellow onion

2 cups white mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups chopped carrot, divided

3/4 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup frozen peas

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can or bottle Guinness beer

1 cup beef broth

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup chives, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup Dubliner Irish Cheddar

salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Thoroughly pat dry the short ribs with a paper towel and then liberally salt and pepper on all sides.

2. In a large heavy pan, bring olive oil to medium-high heat. Then, add short ribs. Sear on all sides and then add to a slow cooker. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth and stir. Then, add the Guinness beer and bring to a light boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Then, pour the broth and beer mixture on top of the short ribs and turn the slow cooker on low.

3. To the slow cooker, also add the chopped onion and celery, sliced mushrooms, minced garlic, and 1 cup of the chopped carrots. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. When there's 1-2 hours left of cooking time, add the rest of the carrots. Stir and cover.

5. When meat is fall-apart tender (about 8 hours) make the mashed potatoes. Peel and chop russet potatoes and add to pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes break with the prick of a fork. Drain completely. Add the butter, cream, and a heavy pinch of salt and mash with hand-held mixer until smooth. Feel free to add some of the cheese to the potatoes themselves...

5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and pull apart from the bone. Discard any extra fat/gristle. Then, spoon out about one cup of the drippings, making sure to get as many as the veggies as you can. Add the drippings and veggies to a sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add the peas and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until sauce has reduced and thickened. 

6. Add the meat, veggies, and reduced "sauce" to a bowl and mix. Then, spoon into individual ramekins (or all of it into a 13x9 casserole dish). Top with mashed potatoes. Spread cheese on top. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until meat and veggie mixture is barely bubbling. To get the cheese golden on top, turn on the broiler for 5 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

8. Enjoy!