I just had to say thanks to all you Chowhounds for your excellent recommendations. My short weekend in LA was packed with awesome stuff thanks to you.
Here's a short recap:
I took your suggestion and flipped my plans for Fri and Sat so I wouldn't be stuck in rush hour traffic. You guys were Sooo right.
Fri started with a tour of the Disney Concert Hall. Its an impressive space (inside and out) and the audio tour is very informative. MOCA Downtown was closed for a new installation, so we moved on to Phillipe's. With its snappy waitress' and saw dust on the floor, it's old LA in the best sense. I had the French dipped lamb sandwich, a cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cream pie (an unbeatable combination). LA's Union Station (beautiful space) is just a couple of blocks away, as is the MOCA Geffen. Both were great suggestions.
After a short nap at the hotel, we stopped at the Standard for rooftop drinks. This place was a very pleasant surprise. The drinks were good and the sunset views are spectacular. From there it was dinner at Blare's in Silver Lake. This was another perfect choice, exactly what I was looking for. Great food and a comfortable atmosphere. I had the squash soup as an appetizer and fresh cod with an anchovy sauce as my entree. Both were excellent. The service was great too.
Saturday morning started with a visit to LA's Central Market for breakfast. What an interesting place! It's such a hidden treasure (very few tourists) with amazing fresh meats and produce and just about every cuisine imaginable. The breakfast choices were somewhat limited, but we found great espresso and had a very tasty omelet from Jose's with fresh tomatoes, avocado, bacon and cheese. The Bradbury Building is right across the street. What an architectural gem! I don't know how I missed this on previous visits.
We drove out to Pasadena in the afternoon for a tour of the Gamble House and the Huntington. We had lunch at the Huntington Tea Room. It was very relaxing. The tea and scones were delicious, as were the tea sandwiches and deserts. We needed to walk the grounds afterward to work off some of those calories.
From there we drove out to Santa Monica for a visit to the Pier and Pacific Park. The crowds had thinned out by this point, so traffic wasn't too bad and the parking was relatively easy. The beach and the boardwalk looked especially nice in the late afternoon sun. I got some great pictures and the people watching was lots of fun. While we were there, we had drinks at the Ivy. The early dinner crowd was just starting to arrive, which made for more great people watching.
Our last stop was Joe's in Venice Beach for dinner. Once again, you guys made an outstanding recommendation. The meal was top notch. We started with a tuna & foie gras appetizer served on a potato cake with a rich wine sauce. It was amazingly good. I had duck as my entree. It was served as thick meaty medallions over spiced beans and a citrus flavored spinach. Desert was grilled peaches served with a creamy custard that had a crumbled crust. It was a very satisfying way to end the trip. The chef (Joe himself) even stopped by our table.
We covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time, and thanks to you guys it was a very memorable experience. I can't wait to do it again next year.