My friend Sandy emailed me last week. “Just came back from a place that’s right up your alley”. My friend Sandy is a woman in the know and she certainly knows what alleys I frequent.
She’s also very discriminating and not prone to false alarms or wasting anyone’s time, so my interest was piqued. When I heard the name, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, I was more than curious, I was out the door. Not being a lady who lunches, my friend Sandy was a bit surprised, and I hope delighted, that I emailed her straight back asking for a lunch date.
Sandy and her husband Marty are both people with a lot of hyphenates after their names and resumes, showing they are risk taking creative types who’ve done many things very well, including owning a hot dog restaurant in Beverly Hills called Marty D’s.
For years they had a 4th of July party serving “Marty’s wieners” with “no substitutions” which, surprisingly, (due to the no substitution rule, here in the land of renegades!) was always well attended. I suggested we invite our guys to come with us. My husband is always game for a good grilled cheese and Marty, who doesn’t give his seal of approval lightly, would give us perspective.
...It wasn’t the hot time in Paris that caused the shift, though. It was Michael, my friend Michael Roberts, who I loved so much and miss so dearly. There are times, even though I detest making phone calls, when I just want to call him up and hear his voice. He had a lilt to his tone, happy, like a young boy, and genuine. Surprised and happy you were calling him and ready to have a laugh with you. He was my first chef. He was the man who set me straight as best as any man can. He was my first chef, the first I’d really ever met, actually, so let’s hear it for starting at the top.
My friend, Michael Roberts was “The Chef”, a pioneer on many levels and a dear and wonderful man. It’s only fitting that I begin my series on chefs and what motivates, inspires, nourishes and continues to ignite their fires, with my dearly departed pal Mikie, as some people could call him, but not too often! It’s with love, humility and gratitude I share my friendship with Michael Roberts, partner and chef of the Los Angeles Restaurant, Trumps, the place to see and be seen, at lunch, dinner and high tea from 1980 until 1992...
Yesterday I sat through two and a half of the most excruciating hours of my life. Sat through, twisted my torso through, felt like throwing up through. But I stayed there riveted, horrified, sickened and saddened beyond belief.
I was at a movie, "Twelve Years a Slave." A movie that should, in my humble yet convinced opinion, be required viewing for every American over the age of fifteen. It is based on the true story of a black man, a father, a husband, a violinist, a cultured, educated, middle class citizen of Saratoga Springs New York in the 1840's who is kidnapped, brought to the south and sold into slavery. It is the story of what he witnessed, endured, and survived for twelve years before being rescued and reunited with his family.
The movie, directed by Steve McQueen, gives it to us full strength, undiluted. The camera lens takes us into the open, oozing, purple wall of the wound. Close up and into the bubbling beads of fresh blood made by the long taut leather lashing out, slashing, ripping red rivers into chocolate skin.
It's a story of a despicable part of our history and needs to be told correctly for many reasons. And it is torturous to sit through.
There’s a new cake in town. Actually, it’s a whole boutique full of cake and it’s here to stay! Lady M, the glorious cake boutique with three locations in New York City opened in LA last August, quietly without much fanfare but with a line out the door. It seems word spread fast among cake connoisseurs.
Coming upon it by accident while taking my daughter, in from NYC, to AOC for lunch, my daughter informed me that although I was at the wrong valet parking spot for AOC, I might be at the right parking spot after all.
“Parking for AOC is half a block up, Mom, but if the Lady M on that valet sign is the same as the one in NY, we’re skipping lunch and going straight to dessert.”
“Hmmm , that good?”
“Seriously ridiculous.” (Her highest compliment).
Since we’re both over 21, I figured we we’re old enough to go straight to the good stuff.
This is like an April Fool’s Day joke; a BBQ joint write up by a vegetarian! There is a method to this madness. After all there’s more than one way to come at anything!
Here’s the theory; there are a lot of men out there who love BBQ. It’s such a manly man food. A lot of those manly men have wives, girlfriends, partners who are vegetarians. This makes going out to BBQ with their loved one difficult. Probably an adventure saved for boy’s night out. You know, after playing poker, shooting hoops, or screaming at TV skirmishes, they go grab a few ribs and some beers.
Ladies. I’m taking a page out of my book and handing it right to you. Want to make your hungry he-man happy, take him to Bludso’s BBQ and Bar on La Brea where you both will eat well and be happy. There probably won’t be any romance that night because he will be stuffed like the pig he just ate, but he will fall asleep with a bloated smile on his face and you will have won several gold stars! (To be cashed in later for jewelry, an i-pad, a weekend away with (or without) him or whatever your need might be at the moment.)
Kai Lobach's “baby” is Currywurst, the hole in the wall sausage restaurant on Fairfax Avenue that he opened a few years ago and is fighting to keep alive and well. Small, compact, and beautiful as it is, it has not had the proper attention it deserves! Maybe it’s because in Southern California we don’t appreciate sausage stands. They are a common site, though, in Germany and are as popular and ubiquitous as Mickey D's here in America. We don’t think in terms of sausages for lunch…or dinner…and not too much for breakfast anymore, truth be told.
No, when making a lunch plan, sausages, (pork, chicken, or veal), served on a delicious homemade brioche bun, with a choice of different sauces on the side, (including my favorite aoili mayonnaise) doesn’t come readily to mind. But it should, the way Curry Wurst makes it! Served with excellent French fries on the side. My Heaven. The French fries are so good; in fact, they could be the main act.
Kai Lobach goes way beyond interesting and catapults risk-taking to new heights. He also seems to be quite fearless, but I suppose one has to be to lead a life guided by passion. Make that plural…passions.
Kai is a chef who has his own event planning business one could call celebrity driven or sustained. Born, raised and schooled in Germany, and having attended European culinary institutes, it would be natural to assume that food and cooking are his main passions. But haven’t we all been taught, assume nothing. Or, as my growly teen puts it, assuming makes an ass out of you and me. Collecting art and what he lovingly refers to as his “baby”, take first position.
Right up front let’s just say Death Valley is not a destination trip for foodies. Don’t fool yourself for a minute on that score. Death Valley is where you go to see extraordinary beauty, hike mind blowing rock formations, find God or ingest mushrooms (not particularly in that order), but one does not go for culinary arousal. Not that you can’t eat well and enjoy some surprisingly good meals but as my illustrious travel companion (i.e. foodie daughter) pointed out, that is because we weren’t expecting much.
Having said that, Death Valley is an absolute must see. Take it off your bucket list and move it straight to your “to-do” list. Now. The shame about Death Valley is its name. And the older one gets the less fun it is to say, “I’m going to Death Valley.” It was my daughter’s idea. At 63, I couldn’t bring myself to suggest it. Palm Springs was the closest I could come on my own. And we all know whose waiting room that place is!
My daughter, home from the east coast, freezing east coast, I should say, in between jobs and exploring her options (read sleeping & being fed by mom) could have proposed Bosnia as a mother/daughter road trip and I would have blurted my “Yes” out. Death Valley sounded perfect! For those who have never experienced a mother/daughter road trip, once the daughter half of the team is over 21, it is a wonderful thing! Totally different from those nightmare road trips back in the day when they were teenagers and being in the car with them for more than ten minutes gets ugly. A road trip? Only a total masochist on a pain run would attempt it.
Isn’t it great to be blessed with friends who entertain beautifully, who attend to every detail, artistically, with care and flare? Friends who take pleasure in delighting with beauty and richness?
I am one lucky ducky in this department for sure. Most of my friends enjoy setting a pretty table and “doing the flowers” as I call decorating when having guests over for a meal. A couple of my peeps, though, are off the charts in this department which causes me to spend most of my time wandering around their house saying “wow I love that,” like I haven’t read a newspaper in weeks and have nothing else to say for myself, or like a gal from East Podunk, straight off the farm, who’s never seen a formal place setting before let alone matching salt and pepper shakers. Or someone in awe of people who create beauty and inspire me by the things they think of and do. Please say the latter.
One would expect our friends Heidi and Guy to have a great house. She’s been selling prime LA real estate for 25 years, and he is the proprietor of Ligne Roset Los Angeles, the go-to store for architectural furniture. Ten years ago Heidi and Guy combined tastes, talents and 3 young teens and moved into a sprawling and spacious Spanish, Mission- style house in a canyon with a never ending view of LA’s immense valley. Guy is almost apologetic in sharing in his off the cuff, just between us, way that the style of the house, the architecture, is not really him so much, (like any of us who know him and his exquisite design sense need to be told), but the interior and over all vibe of the house is so him and Heidi in all of their beauty, creativity and warmth; the art, furniture and fabrics, the two gorgeous greyhounds, the family photos taking up a whole wall in the kitchen juxtaposed with the Chanel Houndstooth fabric on the family room couch.
Before leaving on my recent trip to Ireland I was thinking that while there, I’d write about the butter. I even remarked that I thought I had a “butter piece” in me. Limited thinking, that’s what that was!
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t, nor will I ever, lose my taste for Irish butter. It is truly the creamiest, dreamiest butter on earth. Truth be told I am a girl who could and would be happy to spend the rest of her days eating bread and butter. Fresh French baguette, slathered in Irish butter washed down with an ice cold American coke in a glass bottle, now that’s my heaven!
Once in Ireland, though, going from county to county with my brave husband behind the wheel of our rented car with said wheel being on the wrong side of the car and himself (as the locals say) driving on the wrong side of the road, I discovered two new Irish loves.
One could be called a relative of butter; a third or fourth cousin several times removed. The second, funnily enough, could be called the anti-butter or even the antidote to butter.
by Nancy Ellison