Last week and three pounds ago I spent a week in Los Angeles. If you care about food, it’s about the best place there is to see what’s coming to America’s tables. The cutting edge of food is like a blunt instrument, compared to what’s cooking in LA – and I barely scratched the surface in a week’s time. Vegan Mexican, Asian fusion, Korean BBQ, the farmer’s markets – it’s total sensory overload.
I want to focus on the clever, the uber-healthy, the new produce I’d never seen or heard of before. I love the way some restaurants in L.A. take the kernel of a traditional food idea and re-energize it to make it relevant again. My favorite spot was True Food Kitchen, which serves a range of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free foods in a casual atmosphere. Embarrassingly, I only have photos of the crudité bowl from True Food, because everything was so good that we became utterly absorbed in the food and forgot to take pictures. The edamame dumplings and the shiitake and lettuce tofu cups were crisp and substantial. The gargantuan crudité bowl was full of unusual veggies, and those tiny, perfect little things perched on top are mouse melons. They’re about two inches long and look like the perfect watermelon for an Angelina Ballerina picnic, but they’re green inside and taste like cucumbers.
Another place I loved was Erewhon, an organic and natural food store famous for it’s pressed juices. They have a sense of humor about what they offer, as you can see from this Karma Cupcake, a vegan, gluten-free version of a Hostess cupcake. It was moist and chocolatey, and the lovely cream center was just like the original! Who wouldn’t love this? Erewhon was a lovely start to a day of helping my daughter move, and their tonics gave us the boost of energy we needed to power through the heavy lifting.
Later that day we staggered to a late lunch at Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea, where we saw several celebrities trying very hard to be noticed, while giving the appearance of not wanting to be noticed. (If you wear a silly hat and sunglasses indoors in LA, it’s like carrying a sign that says “I’m incognito. Please look at me.”) The tuna salad sandwich had lots of dill, and the bread smelled, and tasted, homemade. Respect to any place who can make a tuna salad sandwich a transformative experience.
We stopped at Fonuts for dessert, (as in faux donuts). Fonuts sells baked donuts, some of which are vegan and gluten-free. In the interest of research we bought a baker’s dozen and started working our way through them, taking little bites of each to find our favorites. I thought the best one was the Blueberry Earl Gray Tea, but the Salted Caramel was a close second. Dunkin’ Donuts should really get in on this baked donut thing.
While we waited for the movers to arrive the next morning, we took ourselves to breakfast at Chateau Marmont. The place was eerily quiet at 9 a.m., this home base for the hard-partiers of Hollywood. (I guess they were all sleeping it off somewhere.) We sat in an outdoor colonnade and ate the hippest soft boiled eggs, presented with toast soldiers and samplings of salt, pepper and cayenne.
I realize I may have missed some of the sights of the city on this trip, since my daughter’s move fell in the middle of our visit. There were several long days of ripping open boxes and filling kitchen cupboards, but we rewarded our hard work by hitting the high spots of casual restaurants. We went to Joan’s on Third, a jam-packed slice of heaven, full of original treats and superb takes on more traditional foods. Observe the before and after shot of the Chocolate Cloud:
Imagine my surprise when I cut into the cupcake and found a pile of soft meringue resting beneath the hardened chocolate frosting! It was a gift! But there was also am amazing lobster roll on a bed of warm crisps lightly seasoned with Old Bay. Joan is a woman who knows how to put her flavors together.
My husband is always in search of great deli food and while there are lots of delis in LA, Lenny’s is our new favorite. The matzoh ball soup was flavorful and rich, with matzoh balls of just the right consistency, the latkes were huge and yummy, and I had my usual egg salad on white bread sandwich. I didn’t grow up on pastrami and gefilte fish, and never really made the transition… We finished off the meal with a chocolate pretzel.
My favorite breakfast of the entire trip was the acai bowl at Liquid Melrose, which took the concept to an unexpected level with the addition of pitaya, or dragon fruit. I would eat this every day for the rest of my life, if I could. They also do Wellness Shots here. I tried the Life Force Super Shot, a combination of E3Live, wheatgrass, liquid chlorophyll, spirulina, and ginger. All I can compare it to is the opening scene of the first Jeeves and Wooster book, when Jeeves the butler prepares his special hangover cure for the woefully overserved Bertie Wooster. After drinking this shot, my eyes popped, speech was impossible, and mt brain felt as if it was coming out of the skull – but then – I was suffused with inner tranquility and a sense of glorious restoration. (I didn’t have a hangover, but I think it would work wonders for one, and even Jeeves could learn a thing or two from Liquid Melrose.)
On our last night in LA we had sushi at Matsuhisa, the Beverly Hills outpost of restauranteur Nobu Matsuhisa, whose restaurants around the world have introduced people to the best of Japanese sushi. It seemed inappropriate to take photos in such an elegant setting, but when they brought out the dessert special, a Japanese version of S’mores, made with rice cakes and tofu but tasting very much like the ones we used to make in Girl Scouts, I couldn’t resist.
Finally, I couldn’t write about LA food without leaving out Milk, a Willy Wonka-esque emporium of exotic ice cream sandwiches and extreme cookies. Such fun!
And now you know where those extra three pounds came from! Tomorrow: things in LA that were NOT food…