A Trip To Bologna By Way of Rossoblu in Downtown L.A.

My friend Toby spent a summer in Bologna during college and over the past few weeks (months?) he’s been talking to me about going to this new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A. called Rossoblu that cooks food from the region. “Yes, we should totally go!” I said in that tone that suggests that there’s a good chance this will never happen. Mind you, I love Toby and I loved the idea of going to a new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., but the logistics seemed a little tricky. For starters: driving downtown, that’s not fun. Plus I make a lot of pasta at home, did I really need to pay for it at a restaurant? And reading about it online, it sounded very heavy (fried bread? lots of meats and cheese?). But then it was Toby’s birthday and I said, “We should go to Rossoblu!” in a tone that suggested I really meant it. So last night, we finally went.

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Restaurants That Do The Right Thing

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That sandwich you see towering above you is called the Stella Hero from Stella Barra Pizza, where Craig and I went for lunch before seeing Gone Girl this past Sunday. The question isn’t “what’s in that thing?”, the question is: “What isn’t in that thing?” It’s got smoked ham, turkey, capicola (cured pork shoulder), tomato, Caciocavallo cheese, Giardiniera (a spicy pickled condiment), and lettuce. It’s a sandwich for the ages, served on warm crusty bread that’s a perfect foil for all the soft meats and cheese inside. There really isn’t a bad thing to say about it, except this: it took 30 minutes to get to our table.

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One Night in Strasbourg (Lunch at Chez Yvonne–Featuring Choucroute Garnie–and An Epic Michelin-Starred Dinner at Buerehiesel)

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Once I made up my mind that I would travel to Paris from London by train, I looked at a map and realized it would be silly to return to London to fly to Munich (where I’d be meeting Craig for the Munich Film Festival two days later); a far more sane idea would be to keep moving east, via train, stopping over somewhere along the way. When I put the question to Twitter, a follower (I forget who; sorry follower!) mentioned Strasbourg. Before I knew it, I was reading about one of the great world’s food cities–on the border of France and Germany–in the Alsace-Lorraine region where we get Riesling, Alsatian pizza (aka: tart flambĂ©e), and a dish Jeffrey Steingarten celebrates in one of his books called Choucroute Garnie. Needless to say, I booked a EuroRail ticket, booked a hotel (the Hotel Rohan, nice and reasonable), and after kissing Paris goodbye on a Friday morning, boarded the train to Strasbourg.

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Lamb Burgers and Greek Salad

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My cooking life has been a weird one. Most people start out making things like burgers and mac and cheese; me, I started with braises and roasts and only now (almost ten years later) have I started getting comfortable making the stuff that most people make at the beginning of their cooking careers. Burgers are a good example. I had only cooked burgers once before in my life and it was in the oven. Never had I shaped a patty, plopped it on to a grill or into a cast iron skillet and lifted it on to a bun. And, true to form, even last week, when I finally did this thing that most cooks–most American cooks–do all the time, I didn’t just make normal burgers. I made lamb burgers and I served them with Greek salad.

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Baked Ziti

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We all need a good baked ziti recipe, don’t we? Well here it is. I was looking for something like this to serve up for Episode #3 of The Clean Plate Club. Pasta being my favorite food, I wanted to serve pasta without having to be in the kitchen the whole time, boiling, straining, stirring, etc. Baked ziti is the perfect solution. You make your pasta earlier in the day, cook it al dente, toss it with a flavorful sauce (more on that in a sec) then layer it in a baking dish with lots and lots of cheese. Boom: you’re done. All you have to do is pop it in the oven.

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Nothing To Cook For Breakfast? Make Breakfast Anyway

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Waking up on the weekend, one doesn’t want to get dressed. One wants to throw on a pair of shorts, veg out on the couch, listen to music and possibly read the newspaper. One–and I’m pretty much talking about myself here–definitely doesn’t want to go to the grocery store to buy breakfast ingredients. So what to do when there aren’t enough breakfast ingredients to make a normal breakfast? You make breakfast anyway.

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The Burger That Ended It All

The Golden State on Fairfax. After 11 days of fish and vegetables, that’s where I headed to eat meat again.

Did tears trickle down my face as I took my first bite? No, they did not. That’s one thing that occurs to me now, how easy it is to take meat for granted when you eat it. Yes, I enjoyed myself–it’s a really excellent burger–but eating meat in America is akin to watching reality TV or listening to loud, repetetive music. It’s not something you really think about, it’s just something you do when you’re not thinking. And that, I think, is what this conversation about meat all comes down to: whether you want to think about it or not.

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On The Precipice of Meat

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11 days. It’s been 11 days of no beef, no pork, no poultry. I’ve had fish up the wazoo; sushi for lunch, seared salmon for dinner. In fact, last night’s salmon–which was very good salmon, from McCall’s in Los Feliz–made me a bit queasy, probably because, at that point, I’d become a human aquarium. Today, at lunch, I had a vegetarian meatball hero at The Oaks near where we live and though the vegetarian meatballs were impressively good substitutes for the real thing, they weren’t the real thing. And all afternoon today, after going to the gym, I’ve been craving a hamburger. A big, juicy hamburger. I think I may just snap.

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