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East coast food lover needs lay of the LAnd

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Food writer/ chef at large just moved here from Boston, so I anticipate being on the LA chow page alot. I was wondering what the best moderate to high end restaurants are in Santa Monica, where the staff seems very happy. Any other high end restaurant recommendations outside of SM are also appreciated. Also, where is a good place to source good, cheap produce, and Thai basil, and live sea urchin (esp. Santa Barbara). Thanks for your help.

P.S. You can check out some of my food writing on my blog, Minnie Eat World, http:///www.minnieeatworld.com

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  1. Welcome to LA. Santa Monica is one of a few locations with high-end dining. If you're looking for Cal-French or Cal-Italian, there's Michael's, Melisse and JiRaffe all in SM, not to mention the Lobster. For truly high-end though you're better off heading a bit east to places like Providence.

    Thai basil can be got in any number of places but if you want a Thai market, there are several on Hollywood Boulevard near the 101, or on Sherman Way in the Valley, near the 170.

    Good produce is never a problem. Cheap, though -- how cheap do you mean? If three pints of strawberries at $6 or $7 is OK, then Santa Monica's farmers' markets, on Wednesday and Saturday at Arizona Avenue and 3rd St Promenade, on Saturday at Pico and Cloverfield and on Sunday on Main Street, will suffice. If you need cheaper than that, Latino markets are usually a good place to start. If you want truly cheap, get off the Westside. Very little is cheap on the Westside.

    And don't neglect the thing we do best -- our little ethnic dives. You'd be surprised what an incredible meal you can have in LA for under $10.

    1. Other high end places in Santa Monica worth checking out are Josie, Valentino and La Botte (the latter two just received a michelin star a piece).

      http://www.josierestaurant.com/enterm...

      http://www.valentinosm.com/valentino_...

      http://www.labottesantamonica.com/

      1. Why not try coming to Venice we have a few good restaurants.Joe's,Axe,Capri,Wabi Sabi(sp) Beechwood on Abbot Kinney.Chaya Venice,Chinios(Wolfgang Pucks)on Main Street in Santa Monica.A few cool bars-Hals Bar and The Otherroom on Abbot Kinney.