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.
The lead photo in this post shows a triptych of lunch items: a piece of toast with goat cheese, hazelnuts, figs and honey; a fattoush salad with toasted pita and cauliflower; and a barley salad with walnuts and green onions.
My very first lunch at Forage, though, was slightly more indulgent: an avocado sandwich.
This sandwich gives avocado the royal treatment, piling it on good French bread that’s coated with a house-made aioli and topped with a piquant slaw of fennel, radishes and carrots. It’s one of my favorite L.A. sandwiches.
Eventually, I started going to Forage for healthier fare. Like this beet salad with, what I think are Dandelion greens (they had a peculiar taste and texture), and another grain salad. Forage does whole grains well.
In fact, grains pretty much became a constant in my lunches at Forage. This, I think, was couscous which I ordered with a carrot salad that had oranges in it.
But this use of citrus was my absolute favorite; a grain salad that had kumquats cut up into it. That’s something you should totally try at home—they give everything an acidic blast that feels like sticking your finger in a socket.
Here’s a fennel salad with blood oranges, a good way to add color…
And speaking of color, check out this multi-colored beet salad with oranges and cheese.
(A pattern: citrus, color and cheese.)
Look, color again… multi-colored broccoli salad!
There on the right is a carrot salad with chickpeas and a yogurt sauce.
And check out the purple potatoes here in this fresh corn salad.
Finally, there’s the most recent lunch I had there…
That was an heirloom tomato salad and couscous with eggplant.
Seeing all of these lunches together, it’s easy to see (at least from my perspective) why Forage deserve its #4 slot. I can’t think of another restaurant (or food emporium) where the food is as varied and seasonal and reasonably priced. In a way, Forage has an east coast corollary, the salad bar at City Bakery. But in a head-to-head battle, Forage would win if only because it’s in California where you can get the most beautiful farm-fresh ingredients year-round.
And so, Forage, I salute you for your inventiveness, your good taste, your healthfulness and your friendly, sunny atmosphere. Thanks for making such good lunches.