Diana’s Birthday Lunch at Bouchon

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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.

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My New Favorite Summer Dessert: Shaved Ice and Ice Cream and Fruit at Mr. Boba

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When people enthuse about something they ate, it’s always a good idea to pay attention. For example, two weeks ago I was at Park’s BBQ in Koreatown with our friends Jim and Jess, and also our friends Jimmy and Raef, and as we were fighting over grilled pieces of rib-eye and skirt steak, Jim mentioned this amazing dessert he and Jess once ate nearby at a place called Mr. Boba. “It’s seriously like the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” he said and before I could yell “Hyperbole!” Jess echoed the sentiment. Which led me to say, “Then why don’t we go there after this?” And everyone nodded their heads in approval.

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Lunches at Good Girl Dinette & Son of a Gun

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Even though I’ve lived on the east side of Los Angeles for almost a year and I spend a good amount of time in both Eagle Rock and Pasadena, Highland Park–an up-and-coming neighborhood and home to my favorite podcaster, Marc Maron–has eluded me. That is until two weeks ago when I met my food writing friend Tien Nguyen (she co-wrote the Roy Choi cookbook L.A. Son and has appeared on my podcast) for lunch at The Good Girl Dinette, a place owned and helmed by Chef Diep Tran.

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Lou (A Story of Wine and Sardines)

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If you’re lucky in your life, you’ll encounter a person who is so passionate about a particular subject, they become a constant resource, a trusted guide through a murky world you might not otherwise enter. Sometimes this happens socially–you meet a classical music maven at a cocktail party who gently nudges you towards Schubert–other times it happens commercially, as in: you stumble into a store whose proprietor reveals themselves to be something of an oracle. The latter scenario played out for me recently when I entered the store that popped up next to SQRL down on Virgil Avenue here in Los Angeles: Lou Provisions and Wines.

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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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Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung

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My shame was very great indeed. Din Tai Fung, the world famous emporium of soup dumplings, had opened up at the Americana Mall literally ten minutes from where we live in Atwater Village. I’d seen the sign go up when I was Christmas shopping, and–a few weeks later–I saw life through the windows. But any time I’d plead, “Soup dumplings? Din Tai Fung?” to Craig, there’d be some reason we couldn’t go. I was getting restless. I had to try it. So, right before Sundance, when Craig was still picking out his premiere outfit, I agreed to help him find a pair of shoes at the Americana if he’d agree to eat lunch with me at Din Tai Fung. A deal was struck. Soup dumplings would be mine.

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My Ever-Morphing L.A. Restaurant To-Do List

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[photo taken at Gjelina]

On my web browser I have a folder called “LaFOOD” and any time I see an article or a blog post about a restaurant I want to try, I save it to that folder. As you can imagine, after two years here, that folder’s grown quite unwieldy. I was just about to organize it for myself when I thought: “Why don’t I turn it into a blog post?” So what follows is a list of L.A. restaurants that I haven’t been to yet with links to the stories that inspired me to bookmark them*, organized by cuisine. Of course this list will grow and morph over time as I check off places and add new ones to my folder; but for now I think I have my work cut out for me. (* Note: some of the links are just links to the restaurants because I must’ve bookmarked them after hearing about them out in the world. Also, sometimes multiple restaurants link to the same article because that’s where I heard about them all.)

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My Heart’s Aflame For Chengdu Taste (My Mouth Too)

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This is the place. I’ve been in L.A. for two years, stalking my way around the San Gabriel valley, slurping noodles at Tasty Noodle House and tearing into salted egg yolk pastries at Sea Harbour. Secretly, I was looking for a place that would put our favorite New York Chinese restaurant, Grand Sichuan, to shame. The only thing that was in the same ballpark was Chung King where I went with Zach Brooks last year. It was ok, but it didn’t blow me out of the water. I’d pretty much let go of the idea of supplanting Grand Sichuan since most of my San Gabriel experiences were Cantonese. Then, last week, I met up with Ganda and Zach for lunch at a place that Kat Odell recommended during my podcast: Chengdu Taste. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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