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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Birthday at Bestia, Dinners at Chez Emily, The Hart and the Hunter & The Coconut Club

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When you look at these pictures, you’re not going to believe me when I tell you I’ve been on a bit of a health and fitness kick lately. That’s right: five days a week at the gym, salads, chicken breasts, the works. My strategy, though, is to reward myself on weekends and birthdays and at dinner parties–haha, I know you’re rolling your eyes–which is how I can justify what you’re about to see. Because last week I turned 35 and Craig surprised me with dinner at a restaurant I’ve been dying to try ever since I first heard about it: Bestia in downtown L.A.

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Dinner at Alma, The Best New Restaurant in America

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Imagine being 27 years old and on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard when you find out that your relatively new restaurant in downtown L.A. has just been named by Bon Appetit the “Best New Restaurant in America 2013.” That’s precisely what happened to Chef Ari Taymor in August and his restaurant Alma is now on the lips of every food-obsessed person in the city (maybe even the country).

Being the wily person that I am, I immediately reacted to the news of Alma’s award with a jaunt over to OpenTable where I booked the earliest reservation I could: dinner for 4 on Saturday, September 7th at 9:15 PM.

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A Trip to L.A.’s Grand Central Market

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There was a moment, driving to L.A.’s Grand Central Market, that I started to regret my decision. Downtown L.A. can be a hassle and there I was chugging along listening to “On The Town” (I’m still obsessed with it) with my windows rolled down and the street was closed due to some construction, so I had to make a difficult right, then a difficult left, all the while searching for the parking garage while Leonard Bernstein’s sailors sang about the Bronx being up and the battery down. By the time I parked I really questioned whether this journey was going to be worth it.

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“The Finest Hot Pastrami Sandwich in the World” (Lunch at Langer’s)

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I remember reading the New Yorker in 2002 when Nora Ephron declared the pastrami sandwich at Langer’s in Los Angeles “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.”

As a New Yorker who grew up on the east coast (both in New York and Florida, major pastrami territories) I found this hard to believe. When I shared this tidbit with others, they’d be offended. “The best pastrami’s in L.A.? No way,” would be a typical response. On Saturday I brought Craig, Mark and Diana to Langer’s to experience this blasphemy firsthand. All three of us moved to L.A. from New York in the past year; would Langer’s really hold a candle to Katz’s? Was Nora Ephron just being provocative? Did we really want to eat pastrami on a hot summer’s day? These were important questions and after a short drive on the 101 (exit: Alvarado) we were ready to answer them.

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Brooklyn Bagel & Mexicali Taco

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As many of you know, since moving to L.A. I’ve been coping with a loss of decent bagels. My coping led me to Everything Bagel Bombs (which were an enjoyable but unrealistic substitute) and to frozen Murray’s bagels, over-toasted in my toaster to compensate for their cross-country staleness.

Commenters in both posts asked if I’d been, yet, to Brooklyn Bagel here in L.A. I hadn’t. I realized I was being unfair to my new home city, criticizing its bagel culture without really exploring it. So off to Brooklyn Bagels I went.

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Starry Kitchen, Local & Trader Sam’s

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Last week, we went to see “Follies” at the Ahmanson Theater (my second time seeing this production) and, beforehand, we needed a place to eat. I Tweeted out to the world and received a response from @StarryKitchen: “Starry Kitchen’s not a bad place to start.. Oh wait a minute, that’s my restaurant. (Tee hee hee) we’re only a block away ;).” I already had Starry Kitchen on my mental radar so the fact that the restaurant itself (or its Twitter handle) was beckoning me in (and that it was super close to the theater) made this dinner decision easy.

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B├Ąco Mercat & La Casita Mexicana

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Two things are making me more of a restaurant adventurer here in L.A. than I was in New York: (1) nicer weather and (2) a car. In New York, on the bitterest, most miserable days of January, I would stick to a very specific loop that involved lunch at Hummus Place, coffee at Joe, and a slushy trek home. Here in L.A., it’s just a matter of unlocking my car door, rolling down the windows, cranking up the Original Cast Recording of “Next To Normal” and hitting the road.

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