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Restaurants & Bars 1

Clementine's with a nod to Surfas

cvc | Mar 4, 200604:17 PM

Saturday mornings are about Mom, maybe a chocolate iced cake donut at Primo's or pancakes at Teddy's. Sometimes, like today, I like to push the envelope and we made it to Clementine's before the mid morning rush. In the last year, I've tended to pull up when possible and grab a chocolate chip cookie or the city's best blueberry muffin on the fly, proving that even the worst parking may not impact a demand for excellence.

We were set to take things to go when the breakfast menu caught her eye so I grabbed one of the small round tables against the inside window. Twenty minutes later she's enjoying perfect poached eggs for $6.75 with sweet slices of Fuji apples, tangerine and a buttermilk biscuit out of Norman Rockwell's or, better yet, Paula Dean's America. Not even the emerald green scallion sauce on top fazed her.

I ordered the brown butter cinnamon roll and the blueberry sour cream muffin for $3.75 and $2.75 respectively for rather generous portions. The remaining halves of each will be enjoyed tomorrow morning with the Sunday Times by someone. Finally, the ultimate indulgence: the nine inch chocolate cream pie for $26. Hey, tomorrow's Oscar Sunday and I'm responsible for dessert. (A flat tire shortly after was the justification for cutting into it a few minutes ago and the resulting joy is the inspiration for this post.)

For me, Clementine's defines the best of the L.A. food scene as much as Spago or Sona, and sets the local standard for the American style deli/bakery. Even the sometimes awkward, "Whom do I talk to, next?" style of service that plagues most new ventures has evolved into a kind of ritual here. I don't think twice about dropping my plates off at the counter or grabbing a refill of coffee instead of anxiously waiting for someone to come by. They've trained me well.

Like City Bakery, Surfas Cafe, as reported here, has entered effectively into the artisan snack arena with welcome, if mixed results, as two recent back to back visits showed. The 'ultimate grilled cheese sandwich' on raisin bread with a bechamel sauce and, possibly, bleu or goat's cheese for $4.50 could easily coax me off the 10 freeway for a quick repast while the organic chocolate and coconut cream muffin and apple walnut cinnamon muffin for $2.50 each are comparatively smaller than the competition but tasty nonetheless. I wish they didn't fall apart though when you removed the liners. My friend, the chocolatier, liked the canele for $1.75 although thought it under cooked.

Now, if I only can white knuckle it until tomorrow night with the rest of that pie.

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