Jonathan Gold is the only Pulitzer Prize winning food writer in history and, as far as I’m concerned, I will never do anything in my food writing career that comes anywhere close to what he’s been doing for the bulk of his. Except for this. You see, the other day Mr. Gold, who writes a regular quiz for The L.A. Times, posted a “Food and Musicals” quiz that was a lot of fun to take. I got 9 out of 10 right. But the quiz left me feeling like Gold favors a specific brand of Broadway musical, heavy on the Lerner and Loewe. Also, there was an Oliver question which seemed a little too obvious to me. So last night, in a heated moment, I began constructing my own Food and Musicals quiz. It goes from the esoteric (Falsettos) to the extreme mainstream (Wicked) with various diversions along the way. There are 30 questions. I could’ve done more. Some are very hard, some are pretty easy; mostly, though, this is my favorite thing I’ve done on my blog ever. Let me know how you score in the comments!
There are many cheesy, self-helpy things to say about going outside of your comfort zone and eating unfamiliar foods from unfamiliar cuisines as often as possible. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that adventuring on the scale of Jonathan Gold and Robert Sietsema or, for that matter, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern has to be in your blood; as much as you might push yourself, if you’re not drawn to experience new and exotic taste sensations, there’s not much that’s going to change that. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to break out of my routine, for those cheesy, self-helpy reasons, but would I prefer to eat a good roast chicken instead of drinking cobra blood in Indonesia? Why yes, yes I would.
Sometimes you have to tap into your inner Mary Poppins and remind your inner George Banks that flying a kite is a perfectly respectable way to spend an hour or two, even on a busy day. So in the middle of my mad apartment hunting, I gave myself a break by driving up on the highway to Sunland to check out a restaurant I bookmarked a few months ago after Jonathan Gold wrote about it; a Mole-specialty joint called Rocio’s Mole de Los Dioses (aka: Mole of the Gods).
In the latest issue of Lucky Peach, Jonathan Gold talks about a Taiwanese restaurant that he really didn’t like at first. “I went and I really hated it…[But] I could tell that it wasn’t a bad restaurant. People were really dressed up and obviously they were there on purpose.” Gold ended up going back 17 times. “I was back there so often–this place that I detested–that one of the waitresses tried to set me up with her daughter.”
17 times. That little nugget stayed with me after I read it: I go to a restaurant, eat there, take pictures, and write about it. I rarely go back. So last week, I decided to Goldify myself: I made the pilgrimage to the San Gabriel valley, home of some of the nation’s most authentic Chinese food, to eat at Tasty Noodle House. And the next day I went back to eat there again.
Mad at myself, I flung open–as much as you can virtually fling something open–Jonathan Gold’s epic article “60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know” and said to myself, “You big jerk! You’ve been in L.A. almost a year and you’ve barely scratched the surface of Koreatown. You’ve never eaten any of this food. Eat some of it right now!”
My eyes settled on something called “Shaken Dosirak” and I decided I would go eat that thing, whatever it was, this very instant.
According to Jonathan Gold, when the mayor of Oaxaca comes to Los Angeles, he eats at Guelaguetza. It’s listed on Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011 and in his original review he calls it “one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country.” Clearly, then, I knew I had to go there; and I knew I had to go especially for the mole negro which Gold describes as “black as midnight, black as tar, black as Dick Cheney’s heart.”
In 2003, a funny thing happened. My parents were visiting Atlanta, where I was attending law school, and they were staying at a nice hotel in Buckhead. They asked me to meet them there for a drink and, as often happened when I’d sit with my parents in a hotel lobby sipping a gin and tonic, they pointed out a piano and asked me to play it. The lobby was pretty quiet so I shrugged and sat down and knocked out a few tunes. After all, I used to play the piano professionally (I was the pianist at the Boca Raton Hotel & Resort Sunday brunch buffet).