If California falls into the ocean some day, and I find myself living back in New York, you might think that Pizzeria Mozza would be the last place I’d miss with Franny’s and Roberta’s and all the other individual pie places (Motorino, Co., etc.) that would fill that gap. You’d be wrong, though, because Mozza is a lot more than a pizza restaurant. As Amateur Gourmet reader (and Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera”) Kyle Barisich said to me recently on Twitter, “I really think Mozza is LA’s finest restaurant.” Can’t say I disagree.
Pop quiz, hot shot: you’re at dinner, sitting at a table, celebrating your anniversary, and someone puts this glass bowl in front of you.
Do you: (a) Admire this beautiful display as a table decoration or do you (b) Eat it? The answer, it turns out, is both.
Here’s what I’m starting to get about L.A.: L.A. cherishes its secret hole-in-the-wall dining destinations. People would rather eat at a restaurant that nobody knows about yet than one everyone’s clamoring to get into. In New York, things are more open. For example, the restaurant-of-the-moment in New York right now is Carbone and everyone’s Tweeting and Instagramming and talking to their therapist about going there. In L.A., there are restaurants so exclusive they don’t take reservations and you can’t go to them unless you’re invited (see: Yamakase). I think the L.A. vibe is a product of celebrity culture, one in which well-known people want to remain incognito while enjoying the best life has to offer. As a result, some of L.A.’s best dining experiences are hidden away like little buried treasures waiting for you to find them.
Last we left our hero Chinese food explorer, he became so bewitched by Tasty Noodle House in the San Gabriel Valley he went not once, but twice. To refresh your memory, the San Gabriel Valley is home to some of the best Chinese food in the United States. Yours truly made a pledge to thoroughly explore this region and stopped abruptly after falling in love with noodles and dumplings, like a failed Odysseus lured away by Sirens. Luckily, New York snatched me away and now that I’m back, I’ve retaken my pledge, striking things up again last week with Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch who joined me for a meal at Chung King.
When I was invited to give a cookbook-related Google Talk in Mountain View, CA last Friday, I was incredibly honored and flattered but, also, I was really keen on checking out the cafeteria. I mean: what kind of food would I find there? What do people who work at Google eat?
Luckily, my host Chris invited me to lunch first. And not only that, I was allowed to take lots of pictures. So prepare yourselves for a journey, a journey to the Google Cafeteria.
Yesterday I described a mini-drama in my head when I was choosing, on Wednesday, between the fried potato bread with fried chicken and something healthier at Bar Tartine. I went with something healthier and kind of regretted it.
So yesterday (Thursday), I went back with Kate from Serious Eats and we tackled the fried potato bread with fried chicken on top. You can see it in the above photo. I see that picture and think to myself, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I ate that.”
When I was a nerd in high school (“What? YOU were a NERD in high school? That’s SHOCKING!”) my brother and I played many CD-ROMs. “Under A Killing Moon,” “The 7th Guest,” and, my personal favorite, “Return to Zork.”
This post has nothing to do with that except the title is an homage to that most peculiar video game, with creepy animations and a most memorable soundtrack. Instead, this post is about my return to one of San Francisco’s most beloved restaurants, a restaurant that I was dying to try my first time visiting here as an adult only to leave disappointed (see here). Was I disappointed this time around?
Yesterday I crowned Forage my #4 favorite place to eat in Los Angeles. Even if you don’t live in L.A. or don’t plan to visit any time soon, this is relevant, I think, because what I’m praising here isn’t just a restaurant that makes good restaurant food. I’m praising a place that does something instructive: it makes Michael Pollan-ish food that’s not obnoxiously healthy. It’s all seasonal, it’s all colorful, but mostly it still tastes like a treat when you eat it. Compare the chefs at Forage to the chefs who use fat as a crutch and a calling card, who wrap chunks of lard in bacon, deep fry it in duck fat and call it dinner. Sure that’s sensational and will get you written about, but it may also kill you. Forage shows us how to eat in a way that’s exciting and stimulating while still being healthy and sustainable. What follows are photos of my lunches there over the past year.