Open up to unexpected dining experiences


Southern CALIFORNIA is a very appetizing megalopolis, replete with restaurants exotic, traditional, innovative, family-run and fancifully fusioned. But sharing a meal with the city itself can offer dining experiences beyond what any mere eatery can provide -- rubbing elbows with nature, culture and neighbors you never knew you had. You know that -- you already go to the Hollywood Bowl with goodies in tow. But have you gone to these places?

A languid horseback canter across the river and up the trails into Griffith Park lets you imagine transportation before the 10 Freeway. With prior notice, Griffith Park Horse Rentals ([818] 840-8401; will ride out at all hours (midnight being one of the most popular) to wrangle a picnic of your own design. Savor it with a view of the canyons and the Hollywood sign while the city twinkles unsuspectingly below.

The liquor cabinet is open at the Living Room ([323] 665-5070;, and the table’s usually set with fruit and cookies for flagging shoppers. But the store has also been known to pull out the barbecue grill or truck in a mess of red beans and rice. On Dec. 20, this upscale Silver Lake furniture store will host another of its semi-regular soirees. Early word is it will feature the house band (sons of owner Steve Melendrez) and a DJ. Although the menu is still in flux, there will be homemade hors d’oeuvres and other catered options likely to hail from the tasty neighbors -- as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Melendrez favors the local mom-and-pops.


The O.C. is not as monochromatic as television would have had us believe, and, as such, globally themed grocer Wholesome Choice ([949] 551-4111; www.wholesome in Irvine is a mecca of sorts. Peruse the county’s diversity in the international food court, where we can recommend loobia in the Persian quarter and sangkak -- a thin, sesame-dusted bread that is so popular it’s cooked on the hour, every hour.