Taking someone out to lunch on their birthday is always a treat because, when you really think about it, you’re taking yourself out to lunch too. So, a few weeks ago, on my friend Diana’s birthday, I told her to meet me at Coffee Commissary on Fairfax at 12 PM on the dot. From there, I drove us the rest of the way to Beverly Hills where I surprised her with lunch at Bouchon. Considering where we took her for her 30th birthday, this was a fitting choice; it’s not Diana’s birthday if Thomas Keller isn’t involved.
Pop quiz, hot shot: you’re at dinner, sitting at a table, celebrating your anniversary, and someone puts this glass bowl in front of you.
Do you: (a) Admire this beautiful display as a table decoration or do you (b) Eat it? The answer, it turns out, is both.
“Who’s Marion Cunningham? Isn’t she the mom from ‘Happy Days’?”
That’s what the guy next to us asked the server upon seeing the menu at last night’s Sunday Supper at Lucques. As Cunningham (who passed away last week) said herself in this 2001 article by Kim Severson, “I’m not trying to be modest, but it doesn’t feel like I have any celebrity. Really, I’m not saying this just to say it, but it doesn’t.” So I suppose it was appropriate that those who were at Lucques last night to celebrate Marion Cunningham were really there to celebrate her and those who weren’t were simply happy beneficiaries of a meal cooked in her honor by one of the country’s best chefs, Suzanne Goin.
At the new bakery Short Cake, I encountered a drink that’s so absolutely brilliant it deserves fireworks or a parade but that’s simply presented without any fanfare or fuss. If it were a Starbucks, you’d see signs all over the place advertising the Salted Caramel Latte. As it stands, you sort of have to discover it for yourself–it’s there on the menu, below the mocha and the vanilla bean and across from Aunt Nancy’s Shakerato (named for Nancy Silverton, I imagine)–but it’s not highlighted or underlined in any way.
If you’ve read your “United States of Arugula” (and, really, everyone should), you’re well aware that the age of the celebrity chef–an age we’re still enduring–may very well have had its start here in Los Angeles at a restaurant called Spago. The chef, of course, is Wolfgang Puck and on the night that I ate there with my family (including my aunt and uncle and cousin, who were visiting) there was Chef Puck himself making the rounds, going table to table–this was two days before the Academy Awards–smiling his movie star smile and making everyone feel welcome.
Imagine a restaurant that’s not really a restaurant but, rather, an event that will exist for only a limited period of time. What you’ve just imagined is a pop-up restaurant, a phenomenon that’s sweeping the food world and that’s been spearheaded, mostly, by L.A.’s Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre. I met them both back in July when they came over to my New York apartment (what!) and I fed them a piece of Melissa Clark’s pecan chocolate chip loaf cake. We talked about the fact that I was moving to L.A. and how, once I got here, I’d have to eat at LudoBites. They offered no help, though, in securing a reservation. I’d be on my own. I was ok with that.
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.”