DINING OUT:

I always thought that a title attached “a go go” was to prove that it was groovy. I imagined girls in fringed outfits doing the Frug. But a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that it is an Americanization of a French term, “a gogo,” meaning “abundance” or “galore.”

So the 1965 B-movie “Monster A Go Go” was not a groovy monster, but an abundance of monster. And the Whisky A Go Go was not Gourmet A Go Go, and that's what I'm here to tell you about.

Two years ago Gail Connell had the two beautiful twins in fifth grade and the youngest finally in school and so decided now was the time to put that degree from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts to happy use. The result, to our benefit, is Gourmet A Go Go, where the “gogo” means not only an abundance, but that the wonderful food is available to take home.

Under a black awning with simple white lettering is a full-glass front to the high, beamed ceiling with skylights and brick-wall interior. The walls are graced with local art, the reddish wood tables inside and out sprinkled with diners. Hanging blackboards bear the menu, and a large board just inside is emblazoned with the day's specials.

Refrigerator cases house the tempting dishes, so even if you decide what you want from the chalkboard, you may change your mind when you see the freshly toasted flatbread pizzas with tomato or asparagus or the large wedges of macaroni and cheese.

Everything was already prepared in a kitchen that's constantly bustling. When you choose your item, it is warmed and served at the counter for you to take to your table. It's nearly impossible to decide between the dishes if you're hungry, and nearly impossible not to be hungry when you see the 4-inch-deep Quiche of the Day, grilled vegetables or light-colored Tarragon Chicken with big cubes of chicken.

When we finally did decide, our nattily dressed server assembled everything cheerfully. We dove into our side of Penne with Basil Pesto Salad ($2 as a side, $3 for a small or $6 as a main dish). Firm penne joined by large black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and sliced tiny cherry tomatoes are coated with lots of flavorful pesto sauce with garlic and finely grated Parmesan cheese. We loved it.

But maybe not as much as the surprising and wonderful Orzo Salad with Lemon/Ginger dressing ($4 to $8). A clever little dish, it's made with tender orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, crunchy pistachios, green onions and these amazingly firm, crunchy apricot halves. It was a light, lemony dish with a great, sweet punch!

My weakness is panini, so I tried the Chicken, Chipotle, Avocado, Tomato Cheddar ($7). It is mostly self-explanatory. The chicken is grilled and moist, and there was just a hint of spice and smoky flavor, light and complementary.

Next time, I think I'll try the Curried Chicken Salad ($6-$10) which can be eaten alone, on a croissant or on a bed of greens.

My guest, Leeann, tried the lovely Coconut & Macadamia Nut Boneless Chicken Breast ($7). She said it has a hint of sweet and just the right mix of macadamia and coconut. The flavors do not overpower the very tender, moist (boneless) chicken.

She's great to take along on these tasting adventures! But, ooh! Then we opened the little container of mild curry sauce, and it was a whole new, wonderful flavor experience!

Our impulse buy was a big block of Bread Pudding ($8). In spite of the Espresso Brownie, Blondies, Caramel Walnut Brownie, Lemon Squares and Fruit and Granola bars ($2.50), we went with something you can't find just anywhere. Each piece was fully soaked and moist with the milky, cinnamon-y batter, and there was the special surprise of little pockets of rich, dark chocolate.

I'll be honest, I haven't really gone in before because the prices seemed a little high. But when I look around at all the restaurants springing up in Montrose like weeds, these prices are more than comparable, and the food is, well, abundantly gourmet. Gail loves what she does, loves being a part of the Montrose community, loves cooking and being creative with the menu.

The touch of brilliance here is in the “Go” part. Need a quick and flavorful meal? It's all here. There are also frozen dishes to pick up now, heat later.

Pick something up before vacation, she recommends, for easy-to-heat food upon your return. And, naturally, catering a go-go is available.

A Spa Cuisine Menu with lighter, healthy foods is now offered, but it is recommended you pre-order to guarantee availability. She hopes to have a beer and wine license by summer and will then begin dinner specials and tasting events.

The ever-smiling Mrs. Connell is now also offering cooking classes. I hope she teaches the Bread Pudding recipe.


?JOANNA LINKCHORST is a lifelong resident of La Crescenta. She can be reached at Joanna@vveagles.com.

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