When Chef Diep Tran sang the praises of Arkansas Black apples on L.A. Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, there was no lack of enthusiasm: “The Arkansas Black’s siren song starts out bright and tart, then blooms with notes of nutmeg, coriander, vanilla and anise the longer it sits in cellar.” She points out that the apple is called the “Snow White” apple because of its “white flesh and ebony skin.” By the time I finished reading her post, I knew that if I ever saw Arkansas Black apples I would have to buy them. And sure enough, a week or two later, at the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, I found them in a bin. I felt like I won the lottery.
There are many things in this world worth pickling–cucumbers, carrots, pig’s feet (if you happen to have a few lying around)–but my favorite thing to pickle? It’s peppers, just like that tongue-twister about Peter Piper. (How do you pick a peck of pickled peppers, anyway? If they’re pickled, aren’t they in jars? I guess you can pick from jars. I wonder if he had tongs?) This is a recipe I learned from Brandon Pettit (aka Mr. Orangette) while writing my cookbook. It’s hidden in a sidebar, next to a pizza recipe, but it remains one of my favorite recipes that I learned how to make writing the book.
There was this time, long ago, when I was writing my first book and talking on the phone to Amanda Hesser who I revered and who kindly agreed to give me tips about shopping at the farmer’s market. I was trying to get a grasp on how to know which ingredients were in season, which were good, which were bad, etc. At some point I said, “Well I guess garlic is one of those things that’s always the same no matter where you get it?” No, actually I said: “Well I guess garlic can’t be fresh can it?” And Amanda Hesser set me straight: “Of course garlic can be fresh…”
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.
This morning I received an e-mail from Brad Parsons (author of an awesome new book about bitters called, appropriately enough, Bitters) that said the following: “I was watching the Suzanne Goin (who I know you adore) special on Food Network (or Cooking Channel?) last night and they had some b-roll of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market in the beginning and I swear there was a shot of you (or your doppelganger) in the beginning browsing the stalls. Same haircut, glasses, plaid shirt, canvas jacket. I’m not sure if you were already in LA when they filmed this or if it’s just an illusion, but wanted to let you know in case you haven’t seen it.”
To get to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market from where I live, you have two choices: you can take highways (the 101 to the 110 to the 10 West) or you can take streets. If you do take streets, there are probably many speedy options; streets that take you far west with minimal traffic. Of all the streets that you can take to Santa Monica, the slowest is probably Santa Monica itself–it moves at a crawl–and that’s something I learned the hard way (even though I’d be warned!) as I chose that as my primary route last Wednesday to the farmer’s market most frequented by chefs and food lovers here in L.A.