Delta asparagus with ricotta at Cook's County. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
On these beautiful, lazy mornings of late spring, brunch beckons like the promised land. Bring a couple of good friends (or your mom), sit in the sunshine and catch up over a relaxed meal. We're not talking giant buffets but carefully prepared, seasonal dishes. I don't indulge often, but whenever I do, I leave with a feeling of well-being that leaves a glow on the rest of the day.
Reserve a table in the romantic garden at A.O.C.'s new digs (the former Orso). Bougainvillea nods over the garden wall. Umbrellas provide shade. The menu is reminiscent of Campanile's old breakfast menu (not to forget Suzanne Goin was once chef de cuisine there). She makes a beautiful tall fluffy Meyer lemon French toast garnished with blueberries and pistachios. The wood-oven baked eggs is comfort in a cast iron skillet, with cannellini beans, Tuscan kale and purple olives tucked in. Goin has put her signature focaccia on the menu, too, in three varieties.
8700 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (310) 859-9859, http://www.aocwinebar.com. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends. Brunch items, $4 to $16.
Run, don't walk, to Cooks County for pastry chef Roxana Jullapat's bagels, the best in L.A., with cedar-smoked Idaho trout and all the fixings on the weekend brunch menu now. Also, delicious eggs fried in olive oil, sizzled at the edges, with chickpeas, a definitive harissa and dollop of yogurt. You'll want the baked pancake too, simple and perfect with bourbon-barrel maple syrup. And few can resist her basket of pastries: crumbly ginger scone, cheddar buttermilk biscuit, a feather-light Meyer lemon-cornmeal muffin. A rising star, she's got the touch of her mentor, Nancy Silverton.
8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 653-8009, http://www.cookscountyrestaurant.com. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends. Brunch items, $4 to $16.
Hey, it's a pub, so cocktails are almost obligatory. I like the idea of the Jean Genie (Bombay gin, grapefruit and lime juice — and maraschino) or Mountain Woman (tequila, pineapple and lime juice, and a salt chile rim). For sustenance, go sweet and comforting with brioche French toast with strawberries, blackberries and crème fraîche. Or revert to savory and hearty with a frittata of English peas, leeks and house-made ricotta. Want something lighter? Order the bitter leaf salad with Asian pear, speck and smoked blue cheese.
7617 W. Sunset Blvd. (near North Stanley Avenue), Los Angeles, (323) 850-5400, http://www.thepikeyla.com. 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Brunch items, $7 to $14.