Los Angeles

wilshireoutsideLiving in LA is easy. Eating out here is hard. Sure you can wear whatever you want, and reservations for most places aren't necessary, but the high prices for ho-hum food and lackluster service by kids waiting on you while waiting for their big break (this is not a myth) mostly keeps us at home where the food is at least warm, the company enjoyable and (for us) the wine cellar filled with lovely selections. When we want a fix of beautiful, inventive food, we just turn on Top Chef and watch the pans fly. That's where we discovered Nyesha Arrington.

A contestant on the recent season in Texas, we couldn't help but root for her and Chris Crary, another LA chef to win the top prize. They both seemed, not only genuinely talented, but to be decent people as well. Which is not, by the way, a requirement for a chef, though it probably helps in the kitchen and certainly when you're on reality TV. Unless you want to be cast as the villain. They say all publicity is good publicity, but that is surely a double-sword when you're "playing" yourself. Regardless, we would be able to taste their food and, yes, the fact that we saw them on TV did sway us to go to their respective restaurants. Actors are a dime a dozen. Someone who can cook perfect pork belly truly has my attention.

We met Nyesha at LudoBites 8.0 while she was waiting to be seated. We felt a bit silly, nervous and dorky approaching her to chat, but she was incredibly gracious and I think a bit surprised to be recognized. (She was not eating yet. We would never be so rude as to interrupt someone in that manner.) We told her how impressed we were with her kitchen skills, especially during the Last Chance Kitchen segments, and promised to come into Wilshire soon. (She's the executive chef.) We had been there once - before she took over the kitchen - and enjoyed the experience, so now we were doubly excited.

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stanslogo.jpg There’s something about being up at 4:00 a.m. that I feel, gives me permission to go to hell in a hand basket, gastronomically speaking.  I dropped my husband and kids off at LAX so he could escort them to Connecticut for summer camp. I always  feel bereft when the kids are away.  Especially our younger daughter Hannah, who I think on the eve of leaving, feels obligated to be sweeter to make up for the fact that her older sister Lena, urged by her teenage-ness, becomes, well, let’s just say, not so sweet.

I slept with Hannah last night and it was like being 13 all over again. Although I think our combined ages when we do that amounts to about 10.  “Quit tickling me!” “I’m not Mom.” “Are too!!” “Am not!” “Oh, Christ, you farted!” “Miss me yet?”

Driving home from the airport, I thought, ‘what would be open at this hour that would be absolutely decadent and bad for me…..?”  “Stan’s!”

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chef-gordon-ramsay.jpg One for the Table has never engaged in deliberate snarkiness. I’ve certainly avoided it as I scrupulously adhered to the motto “if you can’t say anything nice…” But, in this economy, I find myself being a bit cranky when certain chefs hold themselves to a particular standard and humiliate others on national television, when they themselves have a restaurant that is pitiful. Gordon Ramsay has set himself up as the arbiter of quality, but after eating at The London twice now, I can tell you The Emperor has no clothes on.

The first time I went there, I was really excited to have the English Breakfast. I loves me sausages. What I got were these dry, jerky-like, lukewarm salt tubes accompanied by a roasted tomato whose flavor was incomprehensibly bad. How can you mess that up?

The second time I went was because my daughter’s admissions counselor for the college she’ll be attending in the fall was staying at the Bel Age hotel where The London is located. Looking over the menu, I felt like a pinball being battered around from bad choice to bad choice.

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bazaarcaviarcones.jpgTo great acclaim, José Andrés recently opened four restaurants (Rojo, Blanco, Saam, & Patisserie) and a bar (Bar Centro) on the ground floor of the SLS Hotel (465 S. La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90048; 310/246-5555). Collectively called The Bazaar, the space reflects Andrés' elegance, playfulness, energy, and love of food.

Serving an eclectic menu, Andrés uses foam and flavor essentials reflecting his relationship with Ferran Adrià. Serving the best hams and cheeses cements his connection to the Spanish tapas bars where working people gather to eat, drink, and talk.

Over several visits to the Bazaar, I enjoyed wildly extravagant treats like his crispy cones filled with cauliflower cream and topped with American caviar or the whimsical, delicious sticks of foie gras wrapped in cotton candy, but the most memorable dish was something extraordinarily simple: an appetizer of salt crusted potatoes with a cilantro-parsley dip.

 

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shirley_temple_sm.jpg Clementine, the great west-side L.A. charcuterie has amazing candies, too...

Ok, so I love Shirley Temple.  Anyone who thinks I’m a sap can eat me.  She was a genius.  There’s never been a child performer who could do what she did.  At the age of 3, she could sing, dance and act. 

When she uh, matured, one of the many things she did was a television show called Shirley Temple’s Storybook. It ran from 1958-1960. She did all the classics and even starred in some of them. 

As young as I was, I was aware of the schism between her matronly plumpness and the tight fitting costumes she squeezed into as she appeared as The Little Mermaid among others.  But, that never diminished my love for her.

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