I love food. And I love going out to eat and trying new places. And I love talking about food. In fact, I love food so much that whenever I'm eating I actually try not to get too full so that I'll be able to eat again in another two hours—which is something I think I inherited from my mother. When I was a kid, I thought it took five hours to get to Santa Barbara from LA because she would take the Pacific Coast Highway and stop to eat three times. (If you are not familiar with the geography of Southern California, it shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half to get to Santa Barbara).
But despite that fact that I grew up in a household where it was the norm to discuss what we were going to eat for lunch during breakfast (even if breakfast was at 12pm), I am not a foodie. I hate restaurants that pile food into thimble sized pyramids in the middle of oversized square plates. And when things like soup are served in shot glasses (unless you're Hatfield's and then you can do whatever you want). But the other night when my lovely boyfriend realized that not only did he not owe extra taxes, but he was getting a hefty refund, I wanted him to take me somewhere nice to make up for all those nights of sopitos at Poquito Mas while he anticipated paying what he thought was going to be a huge bill from the government. It turns out my step-dad is not the only man in my life who can’t do his own accounting. No offense, Alan.
During the Great Depression, Hollywood did its part by providing
people with the ultimate escape. It didn’t try to provide its audience
with everyday situations that just reinforced their misery. Sullivan’s
Travels made that point brilliantly. Instead, Hollywood gave them
fantasy and opulence. The glamour of the Busby Berkley movies, the
optimism of Shirley Temple; all these movies were a respite from the
bleakness that awaited them when the lights came up.
Nobody wants to admit that the country might be facing a
depression. At the very least, right now, times are tough. That’s why,
when I tell you about Gold Class Cinemas, you must understand the
spirit in which my husband Chad and I went. First of all, we were
invited by our friend Nigel, who is already a member and was very
excited to see our reaction to the whole experience.
We were to see Iron Man 2 and the theatre was in Pasadena. When I went online to check it out, I saw that there were, what looked like big orange Bark-a-loungers with smiling people resting with cocktails. Hmmm.
|photo: Joshua Lurie/944.com|
With a sensibility learned from fairy tales, one would expect a baker, the conjurer of butter, sugar and fruits, flour and spices, to be a kind and gentle person. Peering over a row of story-book cakes and pies, the baker, always wrapped in a white apron with a dusting of flour, desires only the customer’s enjoyment of what has been produced by “her” skilled hands and generous heart.
That fairy tale baker has come to Santa Monica with the appearance of Zoe Nathan, she of the mile-wide smile, generous heart, and magical hands. Zoe and husband Josh Loeb are the proprietors of Huckleberry (1014 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica CA) and Rustic Canyon Restaurant and Wine Bar just across the street from Huckleberry. Since Zoe begins baking each day at 3AM, she is not always peering over the display case filled with her efforts, although one morning I glimpsed her dancing behind the pastry board. The display case at Huckleberry makes for its own worthy peering and astonishing, addictive eating. Every day it is a bit different depending on the availability of farmer’s market fruits and Zoe’s whims.
My mother used to tell me she would drive to Malibu several times a week. She wouldn't stop there, just drive there and back. To relax…to write in her head...to figure things out. She doesn't do it anymore, because of the price of gas, it's wasteful...but every once in awhile I'll wake up early and do the drive myself...watching the coastline as I speed by...I'd pay more for a movie...
When my parents first split up they weren't exactly on the best of terms. My time was divided. I spent way more of it with my Mom, and distinct brackets with my dad. My Mom and I had an easier time hanging out, satisfied with doing nothing. One Wednesday, in the middle of the day, she drove me along the coast. 'Where are we going,' I thought to myself, but I didn't dare ask, for one because she wouldn't have told me if I had, but also because she probably didn't know herself. She stopped at one point and we got out of the car. She disappeared up a small trail you would barely notice, and I followed her up the mountain.
This year on my summer vacation I actually played tourist in my own home town. I've lived in Los Angeles for 20 years – never thought I would be here this long – and have pretty much seen/done everything over the years. Or so I thought. With keyboard at the ready, I searched the Internet for attractions that would appeal to both adults (me and my sister) and our 16-year-old niece, sort of a child, until you have to pay for her.
Since the trip was for her birthday and she loves animals, especially sea creatures, the Aquarium of the Pacific was a must-stop. I had no issue with driving to Long Beach, but the aquarium is not that big and I didn't want to go down and back in the same day, as we'd assuredly end up spending more time in the car than experiencing the wonders of the deep.
I knew the Queen Mary was right across the bay and figured that would be an interesting thing to see, too. (Well at least for the real adults.) There's nothing wrong with learning a little something on your vacation, right?
When I originally conceived of taking a self-led tour of the LA food trucks with some friends it was to see who was trying to capitalize on the success of Kogi BBQ, the crossover Mexican-Korean taco truck, and their use of Twitter to let people know their current location. Supposedly Kogi is the originator of the hip and cool LA food truck and, as some have told me, has the best food of all the taco trucks. My plan was to find trucks that had just rolled out, are newly popular, or ones that I know nothing about and see if Kogi would hold up against the rest.
My food truck team consisted of seven diverse and discerning palettes including a maitre fromager, a chef, a pastry chef, a hungry stoner and a guy who makes the biggest sandwiches I’ve ever seen, but seems to gain no weight. We started our glutton-fest at Barbie’s Q who was parked at T-Lofts in Santa Monica (11500 Tennessee) where food trucks hang out every day. The big green truck has a pin-up girl and the slogan “A Rollin’ BBQ Joint” on the side and is a clear representation of the owner. John, who insists that the pin-up on the side is not his daughter, takes everyone’s order while standing in front of his truck so he can shake hands and show off his fluffy white mustache. The St. Louis ribs were sweet, juicy, and did the fall-off-the-bone thing that grosses out my vegetarian girlfriend. It was my favorite dish of the day (out of the two dozen things I tried). We also tried three kinds of deliciously simple sliders (chicken, pork, or beef, sauce, and a bun), potato salad that was thankfully dill heavy and mayo light, and some baked beans that were best consumed when poured over a slider.
Is there an uptick in the number of French restaurants in Los Angeles? I certainly hope so. French food = comfort food. At least in the case of Le Saint Amour in Culver City. I haven’t kept track, and I don’t really know actual figures but it seems to me that there are more and more French restaurants opening in Los Angeles. And that’s a good thing. We’ve been so Italian for so long that I’m ready for the return of France. The best recent example of this was my weekend visit to the very French Le Saint Amour, a Culver City restaurant that has been open for a year and a half.
But before I go there, a bit more on French restaurants in Los Angeles, (San Francisco and New York too). I just checked on Open Table and seventy-four French restaurants came up in a search for Los Angeles and Orange counties. A quick cursory glance and I’d remove a number of them because they’re not truly French. A secondary search of West Hollywood/Beverly Hills/Mid-Wilshire and the Westside gave me thirty-five results. For those same neighborhoods seventy-three results pop up for Italian.
Not scientific in the least. The reason I say there seem to be more French places: Le Saint Amour, Petrossian, Fraîche Culver City (French chef Benjamin Bailly), RESTAURANT at the Sunset Marquis (French chef Guillaume Burlion), Church & State, Comme Ça, Bistro LQ (French chef Laurent Quenioux), RH at the Andaz (French chef Pierre Gomes), to name a few and not naming the many that have French influenced menus, or American chefs that lean towards cooking French food.
Though I've lived in Los Angeles for two decades, I still don't consider myself an Angeleno. Mostly because we rarely do anything that's considered interesting or hip in this vast and ever-changing metropolis. We have our own wine cellar – well it will be someday, but right now it's an office with cases of wine stacked in it – and a kick-ass Rock Band set-up, so we're pretty much self-entertained. It's hard to pay for drinks when you have so much waiting for you at home. However, every once in awhile I feel the need to explore our horizons and wander out into the City. The Man goes along with "the plan" because he has no real choice in the matter. Putting up a fuss just wastes energy in a fight you aren't going to win. Lately, our excursions have centered around vintage Hollywood venues, which are regaining their popularity due to an "old is cool" mentality sweeping the city. We're not only old-fashioned, we like our drinks that way too, so the new classic cocktail culture is giving us a reason to step out once again. Being a fan of Hollywood history, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that there are many old school, infamous places I've never been to like Musso & Franks, The Polo Lounge, Chateau Marmont and Spago. Didn't have any money when I moved here. Still find it hard to spend $12 on a martini. There is however, one place I can now cross off the list: Yamashiro.
After a screening of the frightening (and somewhat hilarious) Paranormal Activity my pals and I wanted to grab a drink and maybe some chow. Three of us, on separate occasions, by different people, had Baby Blues BBQ recommended to us.
This is a place with a great vibe and some pretty delicious BBQ. We all
chatted and laughed over a few beers, some sloppy ribs and crumbly
I opted for The Deuce, which is a platter consisting of 1/2 a rack of Memphis style ribs, 5 of their BBQ shrimp (which were recommended to our table by some random cook who came out for no reason other than to tell us we should order the shrimp - they were delicious), cornbread and my choice of two from an extensive list of "fixins". It reads like a who's who of barbeque: collard greens, potato salad, baked beans, mac 'n' cheese, okra - fried and sauteed, mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes, pork 'n' beans, etc. I opted for cole slaw and fried okra. At $22.95 this wasn't such a bad deal.
I know I’m really late to the game on this one, but I finally went to Fraiche in Culver City. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t just chance that kept me from trying it. It’s not that I don’t want to give Culver City a chance. I do. And I have. I’ve been to Wilson – terrible and terribly expensive (good riddance). I’ve been to Akasha (and will probably go back)—I highly recommend the lamb sliders, but it’s a little expensive for me. I’ve even been to Royal/T where, although I do like the idea of eating in an interactive art gallery, the food is only so-so and there are way too many children running around. But my mom would not stop raving about Fraiche. So I decided to swallow my bias about Culver City and try it. Plus, Matt and I really needed to go on a date—for both of our sakes.
It was surprisingly easy to make a reservation and I guess they sensed we needed a “date” because they made us wait a few minutes so that we could have the best table in the house. The menu is full of fresh ingredients (baby beets, house-made ricotta), surprising combinations (white wine and saffron) and besides the shellfish platters, nothing is over $25. And the drinks are some of the best I’ve had in LA. I ordered the Summer Sage which is like spiked spa water and Matt had the Bourbon Street (Bourbon, Grand Marnier, egg whites and orange bitters) which I thought I was going to spit back up on the table but ended up liking so much that we’ve since tried (unsuccessfully) to make it at home.