Last August, I got out of town for the weekend and headed down south to stay with my friend Harper in LA. Ever since our shared dinner at Animal back in May, I knew she and I shared a special affinity for comfort food.
After a Friday night filled with a heated game of Celebrity (or The Name Game, as they call it in Venice) mass amounts of Wildflour pizza and other unmentionables (Lays’ Fried Chicken and Waffles Chips may or may not have been involved), we headed out for a hike on Saturday to Topanga Canyon, you know, to do as one does in LA. Although we were winded about thirty seconds in, we managed to cover numerous topics ranging from family dynamics to Simon Cowell’s latest baby-mama drama to problems with our health care system. Inevitably, as is expected towards the second half of all hikes, the conversation turned to food. (Or does this just happen to me and my friends?)
Luckily, proactive Harper had made a crucial reservation for us at The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney in Venice so our bingetastic fantasies were about to come to life. We had to push back our reservation since we were covered from head to toe in sweat and canyon dust, and when we arrived it felt like we hadn’t eaten in weeks.
We headed to the bar in the back to order a round of bloody mary’s while we waited for our table. They offer three variations on this classic brunch drink, but the girls assured me that the ‘house’ option is the way to go. Looking at the menu, I’m sure the 1920’s Bloody is nice with its heirloom tomato and light spice along with the Petite Mary with citrus and sumac, but I like my bloody mary thick with tomatoes and bursting with horseradish and this one certainly fit the bill. I already had a feeling that this would be my kind of brunch.
The wonderful part about brunch at The Tasting Kitchen is that there truly is something for everyone on the menu. The food is beautiful and rustic and depending where you fall on the scale of GOOPy to hungover as all get-out, there is a dish that will meet your needs (and not in a Cheesecake Factory kind of way). So many dishes spoke to me from the lighter Roasted Grapefruit with Moscovado and Mint to the more indulgent Short Rib Hash with Baked Egg and Gremolata. There were some tough choices to be made, but luckily we put in an order for an epic sticky bun that put our blood sugar in check long enough to give us time to decide.
It’s safe to say that the sticky bun was amazing. Look how perfectly round it is! Even better, it’s drenched in that delicious syrupy sauce, so there’s plenty to mop up with any of the drier, inside parts.
Shauna ordered the asparagus, which was topped with a beautiful fried egg, roasted tomatoes, and chopped almonds. I think the simplicity of the dish is probably what makes it so satisfying. It’s something that would make a great mid-week lunch at home. Light enough so that you don’t have to go lay down after, but still gives you a bit of the salt and fat you’re craving.
Speaking of laying down, Harper and I split two dishes that encouraged us to do just that after we finished. The Tasting Kitchen is known for their fried chicken and waffles and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve never been one for gravy, but I do love to dredge any meat (fried chicken, bacon, sausage, you name it) in maple syrup. We also ordered the grilled tomato sandwich with burrata, eggs, and bacon. Now, it was still good, but it differed from what I was imagining. When I saw burrata on the menu, I was immediately visualizing the white, creamy cheese bursting from it’s skin and unfortunately with this sandwich, the burrata is cooked into the eggs. This explained why I could not locate my favorite cheese in the sandwich. Just a heads up should you be a burrata fanatic like me. The more you know, people.
I felt badly about the sandwich not being quite as good as we’d hoped, especially because I twisted Harper’s arm out of ordering her usual dish (the polenta and eggs) so that we could try it. Luckily, Katie ordered the polenta, so we still were able to sneak a few tastes. There is something so magical and comforting about polenta with egg. It’s like the polenta is a perfect pillow for the delicate yolk. Luscious and creamy.
A meal at The Tasting Kitchen can be anything you want it to be. You want to go stroll Abbot Kinney afterwards and try on skinny jeans? Done. You want to be so blissfully full that all you can do is go home and watch trashy TV in sweatpants? You can do that, too. The people watching doesn’t disappoint and it has a casual versatility to it that makes for a great brunch experience. Whether you can walk there from your Venice bungalow or are just passing through, The Tasting Kitchen is a great place to spend a weekend morning.
The Tasting Kitchen, 1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA, (310) 392.6644, http://www.thetastingkitchen.com, Open Every Day for Dinner from 6 p.m. – Close, Weekend Brunch from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Reservations Recommended