This outing begins like most in Southern California, a beautiful sunny day and a short car ride down the 101 Freeway. Today I’m heading out with my two foodie compatriots Lauren and Marci. We’re going to Toluca Lake, located in the eastern San Fernando Valley and home to Warner Brothers and NBC studios. I worked in Toluca Lake in the mid 80’s for a movie production company that made one C-rated movie and then was never heard from again. When I worked there, Toluca Lake was stuck in the 1960’s and the only places to eat at the time were a place called Paty’s and Bob’s Big Boy, with that huge statue of Bob right out front. Today I saw a whole new Toluca Lake that’s seemed to have had a makeover. It appears refreshed with quaint shops and modern eateries.
Marci suggested that we try Olive & Thyme, a newly opened, family owned cafe and marketplace. The restaurant is warm and welcoming. You can tell a lot of thought was put into the details of creating this environment. This is my kind of menu, simple and fresh with a limited number of choices. They offer the usual cafe fare with a selection of salads, sandwiches, soup and prepared salads in the deli cases, along with homemade desserts and top-notch coffee drinks.
We decided to split several dishes so we could get a little taste of everything. We opted for the Middle Eastern Chicken sandwich wrapped in a grilled pita with hummus, tomatoes and harissa (a Tunisian hot chili sauce). It was a great combination of flavors and seemed a healthy choice. We also ordered the Cobb Salad which is a standard at every cafe these days, but it’s a salad I always like to order. This one didn’t fail to please and was plenty for three people. What amped this one up was it’s spicy Russian dressing which took it from ho-hum to something really special.
But the piece de resistance (I had to use that term) was the Braised Short Rib Sandwich. This would be the sandwich I would recommend you would have to order. It’s served on thickly cut country sourdough with a horseradish creme fraiche and smothered in sweet, caramelized onions. Very rich, and you might not be able to eat dessert after it.
Having made the trek out to Toluca Lake, I was not going to leave without having one of Olive & Thyme’s homemade desserts. Lauren and I made our way over to the dessert counter where we both spied the same thing…the coconut cake of course. And mama loves her comfort food. Moist cake with a lemony filling and a white chocolate frosting covered in lots of coconut! Three of us could not finish one piece.
My overall feeling was that I just had a delicious homemade lunch at a friend’s house. The surroundings were that cozy and the food that comforting, and the company, the best!