The Clean Plate Club, Episode #2: Zach Brooks, Luke Matheny

Hey everyone, I’m proud to share with you the second episode of my brand new podcast (it’s still brand new, right?) The Clean Plate Club, the show where I invite one food guest and one non-food guest over for dinner with me and Craig and record the conversation. This week’s guests are pretty impressive people: Zach Brooks, creator of Midtown Lunch and one of the best food podcasts out there, “Food Is The New Rock”; and Luke Matheny who just happens to have won an Oscar for his short film “God Of Love.” You may remember his hilarious speech which I’ll embed below.

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Shophouse (The New Chipotle)

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You should’ve seen the crowd at Shophouse on Hollywood & Vine, where I went to meet Zach Brooks (of Midtown Lunch and Food Is The New Rock fame) for lunch last week. The place was his suggestion because, apparently, he’s addicted to it. It’s a new concept from the folks that brought you Chipotle; whatever it is they did with Mexican food, they’re doing it here with Asian food (I say “Asian” food because it’s a combination of rice, protein, vegetable, and sauce which could describe various Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai dishes). Despite some lawsuits going on behind the scenes, it looks like Shophouse is going to be a huge hit. Here’s why.

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Lunch at Chung King in the San Gabriel Valley

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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.

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Rodded & Ramen Jinya

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A funny thing about L.A.: you can drive past a place over and over again, not think anything of it, and then–out of the blue–have a food friend tell you to meet them there on a Thursday afternoon, at which point you discover that this place you’ve been driving past and ignoring has really excellent food.

Such was the case with Rodded and my friend Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch. I met him and Noah (who gave me that great Katz’s Deli advice) and Zach’s “Food is the New Rock” co-host Chuck P for lunch there last week.

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Boat Noodles at Pa-Ord

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At a certain point, if you want to earn your stripes in the food world, you can’t act squeamish or repulsed at the prospect of eating a bowl of pig organs floating in a broth thickened with pig blood. Truthfully, I’m at a point now where such thoughts don’t repulse me; in fact, I think I have a mature attitude about such things. For example, I once attended a dinner cooked by Chris Cosentino of Incanto and the first course was a raw venison liver served on a spoon. I ate it. It popped in my mouth and did I cry? Did I enter psychoanalysis afterwards? Well, yes, but still. I got over it. And so it was that after interviewing Zach Brooks last week, I joined him for lunch at Pa-Ord, a deeply authentic hole-in-the-wall in Thai Town.

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Someone’s In The Kitchen With…Zach Brooks

When Craig got his L.A. job offer and I knew that we’d be moving out here, I took great comfort in the fact that Zach Brooks, creator of the legendary N.Y.C. food blog Midtown Lunch, made a similar move a year prior. Which is why, when I thought of starting up my web series “Someone’s In The Kitchen With” again here in L.A. (check out my new L.A. kitchen in the background!) I knew precisely who my first guest should be. Join us as, then, as we chat about Zach’s blog, his childhood, his life in radio, how he thought up the idea of a site that’d tell office workers where to eat a good lunch in midtown Manhattan and how he’s expanded his empire to include downtown New York, Philadelphia and, of course, L.A. Thanks, Zach, for being my first L.A. guest! Your final interview bit about L.A. makes me excited to be living and eating here.

Mo-Chica & A Sunday Supper at Lucques

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Zach Brooks, who created the blog Midtown Lunch, moved from New York to L.A. over a year ago. From my perspective, he’s been like the canary in the coal mine; the fact that he not only survived the move but is flourishing out here gave me inspiration to move here too. And, of course, once I got here we quickly made plans to hang out. I told Zach to pick a place, which was a tough task seeing as he’s done such a thorough job of canvasing the city on Midtown Lunch L.A. After a few e-mail exchanges we decided to go to Mo-Chica, which Zach described as “this unbelievable Peruvian place located in a weird food court just south of Downtown.”

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Saved By Ramen at Robota Jinya

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Maybe because of all the stress of moving (and don’t kid yourself: moving is stressful), last week–having survived the ordeal of flying with a cat (I gave her a test sedative the week before which worked almost instantly; the morning of the flight, I gave her the pill at 7, went to a diner, and when I came back at 7:30 she was totally unaffected leading me to believe she’d done like Rosemary in Rosemary’s baby and secreted the pill somewhere. So I gave her a 2nd sedative, which she promptly threw up. Freaking out and already late for my flight, I gave her half a pill, put her in her carrier, and sure enough her eyes glazed over in the cab and she was fine on the flight. Phew!) and the endless ordeal of leasing a car (a Toyota Camry) and getting car insurance (Geico) and the thankless task of dealing with movers (“we’re coming Tuesday” “now we’re coming Wednesday” “now it’s Friday”)–I got sick. This happens to me; when I’m stressed out, I get sick. So I had a nasty cold and I felt crappy and depressed and unsettled. And having been as enthusiastic about Yuko’s guest post as you all were, I decided that I wanted ramen.

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