We need to talk about the pancake at Canelé in Atwater Village.
I mean, look at it: it’s totally outrageous. It’s puffed up like a blowfish and it’s filled, almost defiantly, with a Meyer lemon custard. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with a lemon wedge, this pancake puts all other pancakes to shame. Is it a Dutch Baby? A riff on the David Eyre’s pancake? Possibly.
There was a moment at Michael Voltaggio’s ink.–where Craig and I went to celebrate our six year anniversary this weekend–when I washed down a bite of my egg yolk gnocchi (the first course on the tasting menu) with a cocktail made of mezcal and smoked salt and thought to myself: “I’ve never tasted anything like what I’m tasting right now. How is this happening?”
Some restaurants are like living museums. Musso and Frank is one of those restaurants: it’s a memorial to and a celebration of Hollywood’s rich cultural history. The Musso & Frank website explains it best: “In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the golden years in Hollywood, almost everyone in the entertainment business dined or drank at Musso and Frank. Through the years, waiters served Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Cesar Romero and many more. But the restaurant was also known for it’s clientele of famous writers. The famous back room was home to William Saroyan, John Fante, Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West, William Falkner, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and many more.”
With Craig’s parents in town (along with more family), we knew Musso and Frank might be just the spot to take them for a taste of Old Hollywood.
If you’ve read your “United States of Arugula” (and, really, everyone should), you’re well aware that the age of the celebrity chef–an age we’re still enduring–may very well have had its start here in Los Angeles at a restaurant called Spago. The chef, of course, is Wolfgang Puck and on the night that I ate there with my family (including my aunt and uncle and cousin, who were visiting) there was Chef Puck himself making the rounds, going table to table–this was two days before the Academy Awards–smiling his movie star smile and making everyone feel welcome.
The biggest challenge was finding the place. The address was 3317 W. 6th Street and we were meeting our friends Kyle and Gary there at 7:30. We drove down 6th, using my phone as a guide, and didn’t see 3317. We parked on the street and saw a sign for a hotel featuring Korean dramas on the TV, but no 3317. Then, entering a shopping center, we saw a valet parking attendant and asked him if he knew where we could find Dan Sung Sa. He pointed at the building right in front of him: there it was, in Korean, no English translation.
Imagine a restaurant that’s not really a restaurant but, rather, an event that will exist for only a limited period of time. What you’ve just imagined is a pop-up restaurant, a phenomenon that’s sweeping the food world and that’s been spearheaded, mostly, by L.A.’s Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre. I met them both back in July when they came over to my New York apartment (what!) and I fed them a piece of Melissa Clark’s pecan chocolate chip loaf cake. We talked about the fact that I was moving to L.A. and how, once I got here, I’d have to eat at LudoBites. They offered no help, though, in securing a reservation. I’d be on my own. I was ok with that.
Confession: Before Saturday, I’d never been to a food truck.
Predicted reaction: WHAT?! OH MY GOD!? YOU’RE A FOOD WRITER AND YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO A FOOD TRUCK OH MY GOD I’M TOTALLY NOT GOING TO READ YOU ANYMORE AND I’M BURNING MY COMPUTER RIGHT NOW TO RID IT OF YOUR EMBARRASSING HUMILIATING ATTEMPT AT BEING A DECENT HUMAN BEING.
Two things are making me more of a restaurant adventurer here in L.A. than I was in New York: (1) nicer weather and (2) a car. In New York, on the bitterest, most miserable days of January, I would stick to a very specific loop that involved lunch at Hummus Place, coffee at Joe, and a slushy trek home. Here in L.A., it’s just a matter of unlocking my car door, rolling down the windows, cranking up the Original Cast Recording of “Next To Normal” and hitting the road.