Sweet Butter

Sweet Butter ATG FINAL


Where: Sweet Butter
Location: 13824 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
Cost: $$


What is it about seeing a line hanging out of a restaurant that instantly makes you feel like you’re missing out? I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in L.A., anytime you see a group of people congregated outside a dining venue, it’s usually a place you want to be. Aside from word of mouth, it also happens to be the best form of free marketing for an establishment. I cannot tell you how many places I’ve frequented based merely on “line hanging out of the door” advertising. And 9 times out of 10, I can understand the hype. That 1 other time, well

Whenever I find myself driving down Ventura Boulevard on a sunny weekend morning or early afternoon (moon roof open and iPod on shuffle), inevitably, my eye would be drawn to the crowd of people just outside a little yellow building that channels a rustic, welcoming feeling. My eye would then look up and smile at the charming marquee. Sweet Butter. Something in the name just grabs you.

I don’t think there’s anything that I enjoy more than kicking-off a weekend by going out to breakfast. Sadly, it’s not something I get to do as often as I’d like, so I’m particularly picky when choosing a place. I’m all about the food (of course!) but I admit that I’m a sucker for good ambiance. I trust that when my fellow Angelenos feel the need to wait on the sidewalk for a table, it must be for something pretty special. Angelenos don’t typically have the patience to just stand around…especially when you can walk 2 minutes in either direction to find somewhere else to eat.

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{Exterior/The best seats in the house.}

After hitting Yelp to ensure legitimacy, Sweet Butter became the next place to conquer. Though I can appreciate the kind of business that has people so into it that they’re willing to stand on the sidewalk for scrambled eggs, I made it a point to go during their slower time for my inaugural visit. It was a crisp, Friday morning in January around 10:00am, the place practically deserted. In other words, perfect timing.

I was immediately struck by the “homey” feel to Sweet Butter and the use of the space. As you enter through wrought iron gates you’re instantly welcomed by a seating area, doors on either side of it. The one of the left leading to where the magic happens, the kitchen. The one on the right, where you consume and enjoy the magic. It holds the bakery, market, coffee bar, and most importantly, it’s where you order.

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{Positive words and cucumber-infused water to greet you.}

Sweet Butter Market_ATG FINAL

{Sweet Butter has a charming little market inside, were you can purchase everything from jam to candles.}

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{Perusing the menu. / Checking out the interior shop.}

The menu is diverse enough to cater to anyone’s needs – whether you’re in the mood for breakfast (served all day), a hearty salad, a sandwich or a wrap. The same attention given to the decor, is equally allocated to the ingredients used on the menu. Sweet Butter’s turkey, chicken, and beef are all free-range or grass-feed. They personally make their own salad dressing, spreads, and pastries in-house using the freshest of ingredients, without preservatives. Are you vegan or gluten-intolerant? Heck, do you need a last-minute gift for the foodie in your life? Sweet Butter’s got you covered.

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{Interior. Artisan products for sale.}

Sweet Butter Interiors ATG FINAL

{Coffee bar menu. / Bookshelf full of goodies to purchase.}

Caffeine addicts: I was beyond bummed when I ordered a “vanilla” latte and was told that they don’t make them. (Boo!) The baritsa was quick to try to put a smile on my face and offered their signature “sweet latte” made with simple syrup instead. My frown was instantly turned upside down. She was right. I didn’t miss the subtle sweetness of vanilla, the simple syrup did just the trick – and I’m sure in a much healthier fashion. Admittedly, I’ve been back a handful of times just to stop in and grab a latte to-go.

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{Their sweet latte is to die for. It’s my favorite new place to grab a latte in the Valley.}

I must have passed the wrought iron gates and yellow walls of Sweet Butter on Ventura Boulevard dozens of times over the last few years, always making a mental note that my next girl’s brunch would find me there. Unfortunately, the blessing and the curse of living in a big city with dining options abound, is that it’s slightly overwhelming! I simply never got around to it. I don’t know what it was that made me finally stop being so curious about what was on the other side of the crowded sidewalk. Perhaps it really came down to feeling like I was missing out. And indeed, I was.

Since there are as many cafés in LA as there are out of work actors, I’m looking for what makes an establishment stand out. Of course, a long line of devotees is a good start, but what more does it have to offer? Sweet Butter creates an experience around food. From the quality ingredients, to the welcoming decor; the artisan shop, to the best latte I’d had in a while.

And you know me, if the latte’s right…I’ll be back.

Overview:

PROS: Great ambiance, quaint market, fresh ingredients, well-curated breakfast and lunch menu, staff friendly, vegan and gluten-free options available, pay before you eat (perfect for when you don’t want the hassle of splitting the bill), and online ordering ready for in-store pick-up.

CONS: Parking is difficult (but when is it not?), coffee is pricey (but worth it), the lunch rush and weekends are extremely busy (I waited 45 MINUTES during my second visit to receive my order), and hard to find a table during rush times.

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{Mia’s Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, blueberry pancakes.}

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Highlights

Laguna Beach_ ATG FINAL2{Laguna Beach, January 2015.}

2015 thus far has been kind to me. I’ve spent the last few weeks tackling little projects that I’d put off for far too long. It’s made all the difference, making the new year feel quite productive. Two big things I’ve crossed off my to-do list: de-cluttering/reorganizing my pantry, and finally backing-up all the data from a former laptop that gave out on me (over a year ago!).

That being said, I encourage you NOT to wait until your pantry gets so out of hand that you didn’t notice food that expired a year ago (yuck!) happily stored on your shelves. I would also encourage you to back-up your computer…regularly. Naturally, this is a pretty “duh!” statement. And yet, I didn’t. If you recall, my laptop of 7 fruitful years broke up with me in the Fall of 2013. Let’s just say that it took until January 2015, to finally haul ass to Fry’s to have them extract the data from it. I can now officially move forward from that relationship, the baggage from it (the kind you actually need) in hand.

Then there are those projects that I thought I’d channel my inner “D.I.Y. Martha Stewart” side that went totally awry, not making me feel the least bit productive. Case and point: I have an old-ish vase that currently holds a bamboo plant in my apartment that needed a little sprucing up. I won’t go into too much detail so as to not completely embarrass myself, but I thought the vase would look amazeballs in metallic gold. I was right. The color was/is gorgeous. However, I should’ve practiced my spray painting skills on something beside the actual vase first. I clearly used way too much paint, that effectively dripped liked crazy and dried as such. Needless to say, Martha Stewart would be extremely disappointed in me. I did everything but spruce the vase up.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Highlights post and there have been quite a few memorable happenings since we last caught up. Three of which definitely deserve a shout-out:

  1. I finally made it to the Hollywood Costume Exhibition in the old May Co. Building on Wilshire (the same place that hosted the DVF show last year). Movie costumes galore! It couldn’t have been a better way to spend New Year’s Day.
  2. I struck gold when I came upon a new spot for my caffeine fix, that will undoubtedly double as my go-to brunch spot in the Valley, Sweet Butter. As trivial as this “highlight” likely sounds, yes, it makes me giddy. Extremely.
  3. It was my boyfriend and I’s 4-year anniversary last weekend, which found us hanging out in Laguna Beach on a day so perfect it was insane. I highly recommend Nick’s if you ever find yourself hungry in the O.C.

Full posts to come fleshing out both the costume exhibit and Sweet Butter in the coming weeks on the blog. As you know, it’s my happiness in life to explore new places, try new things…and then give my two cents.

Another weekend is upon us. I hope yours is just fabulous.

See you next week! x

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New Year’s Eve with Señor Fred

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Location: 13730 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

With the Christmas season and our Carmel getaway behind me, one last important celebratory holiday milestone to go – New Year’s Eve. My boyfriend and I decided to keep it very low key this year, with an intimate dinner at Señor Fred Restaurant in Sherman Oaks; followed by a casual movie night at home with a Martinelli’s Apple Cider toast at midnight.

Señor Fred offers a perfect dark sexy ambiance, balanced with delectable Mexican cuisine. Since it was New Year’s Eve, the expectation was that every restaurant in town was going to be pretty packed. God bless Open Table! We put in for an 8:00pm reservation and when I called the restaurant to check to see if they were only serving a prix-fixe menu or if patrons could order from the regular menu as well, I was less than enthused by the guy who answered the phone. He wasn’t rude exactly, but told me that he thought he had blocked off all Open Table reservations during the 8 o’clock hour, so that people entering after 9:00pm would be charged the $10 cover for the night.

I almost wanted to cancel my reservation altogether when he told me that as long as we were done between 9:30pm-10:00pm it should be fine. While this seemed like plenty of time to finish our meal, the fact that he even communicated a time limit made me nervous. The idea of being rushed to accommodate the fact that he screwed up with the reservation system should not have even come up in the conversation.  Bottom line: that was between him, Señor Fred, and Opentable.com.

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{Margarita selection.}

While Señor Fred certainly didn’t make the best first impression, or second for that matter when there was a slight mix-up in where to seat us, by the third impression – once the chips and guacamole came out, Señor Fred had begun to redeem himself. From there, the night went flawlessly (minus some service issues from a seemingly distracted, but pleasant waiter).

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{Chips and guacamole. Divine.}

I went with the Grilled Salmon infused with Mexican flair served in a roasted chile cilantro sauce, over sweet corn, shrimp picadillos and mashed potatoes. For dessert, I splurged on the Chanpurrado con Churros (translation: churros served with Mexican Hot Chocolate). Fabulous! 🙂

Needless to say, this gal was more than impressed with the food and the ambiance for her last meal of 2012; but service, service, service always brings the dining experience to absolute perfection. Senor Fred can cook, but he seriously needs some help on his people skills.

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{Dinner: Grilled Salmon.}

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{Dessert: Mexican Hot Chocolate and Churros.}

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{Back at home – N.Y.E. toast.}

Buttercelli Bakeshop, Sherman Oaks

Location: 13722 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

The search for the best cupcakes around town continues. Buttercelli sits in a sweet little spot on the very busy Ventura Boulevard in “The Oaks” (yep, I came up with that myself!). My second time here puts this place in the “so-so” category. Let me explain…

It was a H.O.T. Sunday afternoon earlier this summer. After spending the morning at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, we made a quick and spontaneous decision to head over to Buttercelli to check out their selection. They have one of the largest gluten free baked goods sections that I’ve come across to date (for the boyfriend) and somehow I always feel better about eating sweet treats when they’re promoted to be of the finest organic ingredients. I went with a simple lemon cupcake and because it was over 100 degrees outside, I didn’t want the frosting to melt while sitting on my kitchen counter and put it in the fridge. A complete no-no, of course, but it was too H.O.T. not to. When I ate the tiny treat later that night, the cake portion was hard. Boo!

Take 2.

Since it was the “weather’s fault” that I didn’t get to experience all the hype from my first time at Buttercelli, I made it a point with the recent cooling temperatures not to make the same intentional mistake twice! I left with an apple pie cupcake and a lemon poppy-seed muffin.

{My treats.}

The apple pie cupcake was delicious, but unfortunately the cake portion was hard on the edges and not as moist as some other places I’ve been in general. I swear, no fridge was involved this time. The next morning, the lemon poppy-seed muffin went well with my coffee for breakfast. This treat was both moist and delicious.

As such, I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with their cupcakes. Their Yelp reviews are positive overall, the other customers I’ve met in-store rave about the place, and the staff have always been very friendly and confident in their goodies. Perhaps the point is to eat the treat right away. The store must have some magical tool in the air to keep their goods fresh and the minute you walk out the door their stock plummets.

Either way, it shouldn’t be this much work on my end to enjoy a cupcake (in decent weather no less). Kudos to them for the gluten free selection and the use of organic ingredients.

Bottom line? I’m not too convinced of this place’s awesomeness. The muffin was good and a bite of my guy’s chocolate thumbprint was yummy, but why is it that the cupcakes can’t seem to float my boat?  I rate Buttercelli “so-so.”