There’s this notion that there’s an objective answer to the question, “Where’s the best place to eat in (insert city name) right now?”
Let me be the first to say that I don’t think it’s possible to be objective about such a thing. In fact, I’m planning a trip to Paris right now and listening to all kinds of advice. Many people are telling me about their favorite restaurants and I’m entering them into Google and though the menus look excellent, sometimes I just look at pictures of the restaurants on Google images and don’t get a great vibe. That’s enough for me to set that place aside, even if the food’s spectacular. Atmosphere matters just as much to me as the food (Craig too). That’s not true for everyone, but that’s true for us.
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.
Craig’s in the middle of editing his new movie ALEX STRANGELOVE for Netflix (can’t wait for you to see it) in New York and though I planned to just stay in L.A. for the duration of the edit, two things did occur to me when he asked me to come out for a week: (1) it’d be good for our marriage for me to support and nurture Craig through the difficulties of the editing process; (2) I COULD EAT AT A BUNCH OF NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS!
I won’t tell you which was the more compelling factor, but there I was, last Monday, arriving at JFK and taking a cab into the city.
I’m not sure what the sequence was. Let’s say it was this: we were going to Bellingham, Washington for Christmas (as we usually do) and just before we left, Tom Sietsema, of The Washington Post, ranked the best food cities in America and put Portland in at number one. Since Portland’s in between Bellingham and Los Angeles, it seemed like a good idea to maybe stop over there for a few nights before coming back. I pitched it Craig. He said “sure.” And then the great work began, the work of figuring out where oh where were we going to eat.
Recently I became friends with an Amateur Gourmet reader named Peggy who works in T.V. out here in L.A. and who comes from a Taiwanese family. Over the course of our first lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, she casually mentioned that her family frequents the San Gabriel Valley (home of some of America’s best and most authentic Chinese restaurants) and that she’d be happy to show me around there the next time we met up. “We can even go to a Chinese supermarket!” she added and that was like the moment when you pull the handle of a slot machine and all the bells and alarms go off and coins start pouring out. As you all know, I love visiting unfamiliar supermarkets.
It’s a bit of a struggle for me to spend a fortune on sushi. Don’t get me wrong; I really like sushi, but I’m perfectly happy eating the $12 sushi sampler at Jinpachi for lunch in West Hollywood. Craig, on the other hand, is a major sushi enthusiast. He loves the stuff and, if given a choice between an elegant eight-course meal at a palace of fine dining like Le Bernardin or Jean-George vs. an omakase dinner at a well-regarded sushi restaurant, he’d pick the sushi every time.
Here’s how cold it was in New York: on our last morning there, I left a pair of gloves behind for the person I borrowed them from and rode the elevator down to the street with Craig to catch a cab to the airport. Craig had gone to the trouble to get me a cappuccino from our favorite New York coffee shop, Joe, which he handed to me as we stepped outside. The temperature that day, with wind-chill, was close to negative 10 degrees. NEGATIVE TEN. And no cabs were stopping, so there I was with my bare hand holding on to this warm coffee drink and the feeling was so awful–the cold was searing my hand so fiercely–I had to toss the full cup of coffee into a trash bin so I could shove my hand into my pocket. That’s the coldest I’ve ever been.
And yet, before you call me an L.A. traitor, even in the most miserable weather, New York is still my boo. I actually hadn’t been back in over a year, not because I didn’t want to, but because in the whirlwind of Skeleton Twins stuff, it just didn’t happen. Then, for Christmas, Craig presented me with tickets to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch (one of my favorite musicals) on Broadway starring the show’s creator John Cameron Mitchell the day after my birthday in February. “February?” I asked incredulously. “It’ll be fine!” he promised.
Is it possible to go to Paris with your friend Diana, eat yourself silly, then come back from Paris to L.A. only to have a French meal just as good as, if not better than, anything you ate 6,000 miles away? The answer is yes and it happened at Petit Trois where Diana and I went for lunch last week. This place is a marvel, one of the best restaurants I’ve been to anywhere in a long time. Don’t believe me? Prepare to be wowed.