Who needs a city full of great restaurants once you’ve discovered one that serves up food exactly like you love – wholesome, healthy and truly fresh.
My palate came of age in France where fresh food in the local market was picked within the last 48 hours. The idea of fresh food in America is hardly the same. If you shop in a supermarket “fresh” could mean “has been on a boat from China for the last month” or “was on a truck from Mexico for three weeks” or even “has been sitting on the store shelf since last winter.”
Once a year, I lead a yoga retreat at Esalen. Thirty percent of the produce served in the dining room is picked that day. You can frolic amidst the gardens and see the crisp green lettuce your teeth will be making love to just a few hours later. When most people think of Esalen they think of the majestic, magical baths and who could blame them? The baths are heavenly. But me? I relish the long, festive, and fresh meals.
The point is that I love fresh food. Picking a succulent fig off of a tree and plopping it in my mouth is heaven for me. Fresh food is alive with energy. It is crispy, luscious and delicious, and also happens to be quite beneficial for your health. So last year when I stumbled into Milo & Olive on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, I immediately noticed the offerings depended on what was in season and what was available at the local farmer’s market. The second thing I noticed: the gorgeous breads and desserts baked on the premises that morning.
My waitress Claire told me and my dining companion about the specials. One was pizza with burrata and prosciutto. I asked Claire if they could substitute avocado for the prosciutto and she replied that there were no substitutions. Having been king in a past life and/or excessively prone to making insanely stupid self-indulgent off-hand remarks, I whispered to my friend that if Brad Pitt wanted a substitution I’m sure they would accommodate him. “Brad Pitt was in here last week and we didn’t make any substitutions for him either,” said Claire with a smile, putting me in my place.
We ordered a minestrone soup, a mushroom pizza, and a chopped arugula salad. Since then, I’ve eaten at Milo & Olive three or four times per week without fail. The food is made of the highest quality ingredients — fresh, local ingredients. The dishes are ridiculously rich yet refreshingly light, service is impeccable (when you can get a seat), and their prices are honest and fair.
Aside from the food, there are three other aspects of Milo and Olive that I absolutely adore:
1. Besides the bar, seating is only available at two large community tables. So while it isn’t the ideal place to go for a private tête-à-tête, it is perfect if you’re single, dining solo and enjoy eating your meal while enjoying a casual chat with some fascinating folks. I’ve sat with tech people, creative people, many fellow psychotherapists (it is a wildly fulfilling yet ultimately lonely profession), and two Academy Award winners
2. I’m not sure how important this is to you but I really like it when the people handling my food are healthy. Call me crazy, call me a socialist (trust me, I have been called worse), but at Milo & Olive there is a 3 percent charge added to every bill for health insurance for everyone who works there. I applaud such transparency and will gladly pay the charge.
3. Killer wine selection.
So while in Los Angeles, and particularly if you’re single, put Milo & Olive on your must visit list. And be sure to try the minestrone soup – one of my favorites. It’s a mouthwatering treasure and a perfect metaphor for the pleasures of living in healthy abundance.
Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Bakery – Opens at 7 a.m.
Breakfast – 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. daily
Lunch and Dinner – 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily
Copyright © Ira Israel/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.