Monday, August 29, 2016

Joan's on Third, Los Angeles

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I discovered Joan's on Third.  I had a poorly timed flight out of LAX terminal 3 (aka, a wasteland with, literally, a news stand, a Starbucks, and the worst rated Burger King I've ever seen), and I needed dinner.  So, rather than dealing with the non-options at the airport, I sought out food in advance to bring on board.

I asked my hotel if they had a recommendation for where to pick up food, and they said Joan's on Third.  I did a quick search online, and saw rave reviews.  Sounded very promising.  I stopped by a few days prior to my departure to scope the place out, and I wish I'd remembered to take photos when I did.  Because, it is a memorable venue.

Joan's on Third is a cafe.  And a deli.  And a bakery.  And a coffee shop.  And a cheese shop.  And a gourmet foods store.  If that sounds a bit confusing, it is.

The cafe has abundant outside seating with sidewalk tables and a few tables inside.  I believe if you order food to eat there, it is brought to you at your table.  So, part one, cafe.

Next is the deli, on one side of the store inside.  You can order salads and sandwiches made to order, and they have a very, very extensive deli counter with a myriad of pre-made salads.

Next, a bakery, on the other side inside.  It has all kinds of pastries, stunning cakes, and an ice cream counter.

Adjacent to that is the coffee bar.

In the middle of the whole space is a cheese counter, with cut to order cheeses.

Along one back wall is fridges with pre-packed grab and go items, drinks, and assorted housemade dips and dressings.  Adjacent to that is a freezer section.  And then there are the snacks.  Housemade flavored popcorns, spiced nuts, and other munchies.  Candies, chocolates, chips, and more.

Seriously, the place has ... everything, all in its own section, but all in one not-as-large-as-it-sounds, space.

The day of our flight, I was running very behind schedule in terms of taking a shower, packing, and being ready to leave the hotel, so I sent Ojan to Joan's to pick up food.  I gave him some suggestions on what to purchase.  Given my popcorn addiction, I asked for savory popcorn (his choice of flavor), thinking it would make a great munchie on the flight.  I was of course eyeing the bakery, so suggested a baked good (his choice) too.  And some candy, because the selection looked great.  Oh, and of course, some real food too.  I suggested that we get salads from the deli to bring on the flight, and listed of my top 8 picks, which was about as much as I could narrow it down given how great they all sounded.

I kinda assumed he'd be like I was when I stepped inside, a kid in a candy-store, and that he'd come back with a big sack full of goodies.  There were so many amazing things to pick from!  I was absolutely shocked when he didn't pick up anything else in addition to my basic list, except for a soda for himself (and no drink for me!)

I didn't get a photo of the popcorn he selected, but it was a house made popcorn, packed in a re-sealable plastic bag.  Now, I love popcorn, so I was seriously looking forward to my savory treat to munch on during the flight.  But ... he selected "Moroccan Spice", which is not what I'd ever pick.  And, as I feared when I saw the variety, I didn't like it.  I don't know what the spices were, as, the ingredients just said popcorn, oil, salt, and ... "Moroccan spices".  Strangely, it was also sweet.  The kernels were nicely coated, and it was fresh tasting, but, alas, I just couldn't stand the flavor.  But, kudos to Joan's for having gourmet flavored popcorn, I'd like to see this trend continue.

I also didn't get a photo of the bakery item he selected, another disappointment to me.  I love all sorts of desserts and pastries, and honestly, I thought nearly everything looked pretty good when I visited.  I had my eyes on the mini fruit crostata and the cakes.  Yet, he selected ... an eclair.  Doh.  I don't usually like choux pastry.  That said, of course I had my share, and, for an eclair, I'll admit that it was indeed quite good.  The chocolate on top was a thick rich ganache, the choux pastry wasn't too eggy and the shell was actually quite thin, and the filling was a really delicious cream, almost more like a slightly custardy whipped cream than a pudding.  He really enjoyed it.  It didn't even last more than 2 minutes into the cab ride.

So, on the popcorn and baked goods front, I didn't fare so well having sent Ojan to pick out goods.  I think however that this is just a reflection of his picks, not of Joan's.  I'd gladly try more baked goods and more popcorn.

Luckily, the salads were amazing.
Trio Salad: Tarragon Chicken, Cavatappi, Kale.  $14.00.
Joan's makes a variety of composed entree salads featuring greens, and those are made to order.  But they also have probably 20 or so pre-made deli salads, ranging from grains (green lentil salad, brown rice with crunchy veggies in asian dressing, couscous with toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries, etc) to veggies (szechwan green beans, sautéed baby brussels sprouts with dates, almonds, and manchego, golden beets with goat cheese and walnuts, etc), to proteins (curried chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, etc).

The top three I listed out to Ojan were 1) butternut squash with basil, pickled red onion, pine nuts & lemon yogurt, 2) tree oyster mushrooms with toasted walnuts, and 3) kale salad.  But I couldn't stop there, and rounded out my top 8 with other fresh seasonal grilled veggie choices.  Ojan came back with an interesting assortment: the kale salad I had suggested in my top 3, cavatappi pasta salad, and, chicken salad.  I did tell him to pick what he wanted and just make sure at least one was something I'd like, but, chicken?  I loathe chicken!

So, starting with my pick, "kale salad with spicy peanuts, cranberries, tortilla strips and queso fresco".  It was pretty good, although overdressed.  Interestingly, our salads came with a tiny container of extra dressing in the center, which I believe was the dressing for this one.  Why would we need more?  I would have preferred it with less to begin with.  Anyway, the kale was not crispy but also not soggy, if that makes sense.  Clearly it had been soaking up dressing for a while, but it wasn't mushy.  The spicy peanuts were a fun touch, crunchy, and, well, spicy.  I loved the soft, fresh queso fresco.  Cranberries aren't my favorite, but,  they added a nice sweetness.  The menu said there was supposed to be tortilla strips, but, we didn't have any.  The dressing was a tangy vinaigrette that I didn't love.  This was a good salad, with interesting components, but, both of us put it as our last pick.

Next, "cavatappi with tomato artichoke sauce".  This wasn't like any pasta salad I've had before.  Instead, it was kinda like cold leftover pasta.  Which I don't say as a bad thing.  I actually really like cold leftover mac and cheese, american chop suey, or even lasagna.  The pasta was nicely cooked and not mushy, and the sauce was extremely flavorful.  There was a lot of sauce, so, like the kale salad, it almost seemed overdressed, where in this case the "dressing" was tomato based sauce.  This was my second pick, and Ojan's favorite.  He was shocked by how much he liked it.

And finally, Ojan's chicken pick, "tarragon chicken salad with apples and toasted pecans."  I was pretty sad when I saw this choice, particularly given all the delicious vegetable salad suggestions I had made.  I actually wanted those and didn't want this.  Of course, he got it for him, to be responsible and have protein.  I took a tiny nibble, inspired by the promise of toasted pecans and the generous amount of mayo.  Um.  It was good.  The chicken was all white meat, tender, shredded.  The chunks of apple added a crunchy fresh element, like celery often brings, but, a bit sweeter and larger chunks.  I love pecans.  The tarragon mayo was creamy and delicious.  I was amused and intrigued by the fact that I not only tolerated this, but actually liked it.  Like the others, I'd say it was overdressed, as it was drowning in mayo, but, that is certainly what made me like it, so I'm not complaining.  My favorite of the salads, Ojan's second favorite.  Yes, you can laugh at me now.

The three salads were each several scoops.  You can't tell from the photo, but, this was a deep container.  I can't imagine a single person eating the entire container, particularly when one is as filling as the chicken or pasta salad.  The salads were served on top of mixed greens, which soaked up all the flavors and dressings from the salads on top.  This made the mixed greens kinda a bonus fourth salad, with all the various flavors combined.  The greens that were directly under the mayo chicken salad were my favorite, as they were coated in the creamy dressing.

Overall, generous portions, flavorful ingredients cooked well, at a reasonable price.  I'd certainly return, and would love to try more items (although, next time, I'd go myself so I could pick!)
Joan's on Third Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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