The Old Place way up in Malibu Canyon - Fave of the Moment.


For real, LA can drive me mad sometimes...

I feel like the whole world closes in and it's just time to beat it.   But, then I land somewhere else and realize OMG, So Cal is the place to be.  Right now, I'm land locked in Colorado working on a show (just a few weeks) and I already feel smothered.  The cold, the snow, no crashing Pacific ocean inches from me in every direction.

I already can't wait to get back home and just start living again.  These shows literally S.T.O.P. life as I know it.  Right now, in LA - my fave place to go is The Old Place.  Much as I hate to give away this little secret, their Sunday brunch is off the charts.  It's like my Granny down in Georgia cooks, but with a tiny bit more exotic ingredients.  

Their dinnertime menu is amazing, but there is something about hitting this place up on a Saturday morning and ordering the whole menu with bottle after bottle of wine and champagne.  The wine boutique next door is the kind I would have if I were to open a wine joint. They focus on the super duper regional wines, mostly California.  Who knew the Santa Monica mountains had almost 30 wineries!?

So,  the whole menu:  it's biscuits and gravy with chunks of sausage; fluffy cornmeal pancakes with barrels of butter and maple syrup; scrambled eggs in a cast iron with goat cheese, basil and sun dried tomatoes; throw in a BLT; steak and fried eggs with homemade A1.  In fact, everything is homemade in house - all the butter, cheese, cream.  They don't even have a freezer - which means homespun whipped cream with the berry cobbler, not ice cream*

Minka loves, loves, loves to visit her pal Jacques next door at his all French architectural salvage spread.  She can run free, digging for bones, treasures and dirt.  She goes so hard, she just passes out at our feet when she's done, while we polish off another bottle of perfect French rose.  

I bought my new/old front door there - an incredibly cool dutch door from a 1920's farmhouse in the French countryside.  I keep making up excuses to go back - I just have so much fun in Malibu Canyon country, it's like being home in TN, but...the Pacific is just down the hill.










A Violent 21 Day Taco Bender...Is Coming to an End.


Oh the dirty little secrets I have...

Thing is, I don't eat meat.  Just doesn't sit well in my mind or my belly.  However - there are times when my mouth has no control.  And it just simply wants grease.  The grease of any meat I can get my hands on.  Doesn't happen often, but when it does - it totally dominates my whole world. 

Welcome to my 21 day crispy taco bender.

Here's how it's done.  I enter some sort of Mexican establishment.  Well, backtrack.  First, I or my pal Lisa have called them up (and confused the holy *f out of them) and demanded to know if they serve hard shell tacos with ground beef.  Muy importante. Must be ground beef.  The grease is like no other.  Keep in mind, most places don't serve ground beef tacos - or as they call them out this way - gringo tacos.  They are way more into carne asada, pork, chicken - whatevs.  But, if ground beef is a yes - well, we make our way there.

Enter taco being delivered to the table - always with a side of sour cream and extra cheese.  Cause here's what happens.  I scrape out all the meat (what I'm going for is a crispy taco made soft by the grease of the meat) and stuff it back with the 1st layer of sour cream, then the iceberg (must be 'berg), and all the cheese (needs to be shaved cheddar for maximum moan factor) and a final layer of cream.  I then toss on heart attack amounts of salt as well as a bit of salsa.  Usually this is all crunched down with a marg or two.  And, then another taco is ordered.  Or not, if the joint sucks. 

Over the past 21 days, I've hit so many places with horrific takes on tacos.  I mean, places with lines out the door - like Tito's Tacos.  YUK.  What the heck is the deal with that joint?  Are folks really that wildly uneducated about the way a hard shell should taste? 

I cannot believe that I've stayed on this wagon for so long.  But, for real - come June 1, I'm giving them up.  What I'm going to do instead is go on a 21 day health bender.  Or like, a smoothie bender.  Why not a yoga bender?  Who rolls thru 21 days of hard shells without blinking an eye?

The hands down LA winner for greasiset, most delish, ground beef taco (sans the ground beef, of course) is Hacienda Del Rey in Westchester.   They must be so sick of me by now - who is this crazy lady with this taco fix.  That's all I order, ever.  And their warm...with the perfect salsa and thick sour cream smothering it all. And, lots and lots of salt!

Yep - June 1.  Def a mad health kick.  I mean, I'm part of a CSA for God's sake! 



California Spiny Lobster Season...Over But Not Forgotten

Photo lob

Bring on the seasons....

I managed to find myself at a sustainable seafood cooking seminar this weekend at the magical store of Surfas. 

They had some good folks in there talking about reasons to eat seafood whilst it's in season, as well as this wizard chef, Mark Gold, from Eva.  He tricked out some mussels with a potato puree and a giant batch of spot prawns with fried tempura heads.  It was all delish and passed around to the audience like kids in a candy store.  Thing is - the reason it was so tasty was cause it was all just off the boat AND it was all in season.  You might think that seasonality doesn't matter with seafood, but it's just like fruit and veggies.  The fish come and go and they also need time to regroup and grow to a certain size.

There was also a fisherman in there that was answering questions - which of course, I stunned him with my litany of questions about fish fraud, fish tagging, and such...but it was just such a joy to see all these peeps really taking pride in where their fresh catch comes from.  And, just pulling off straight up responsible fishing.

Which brings me to California spiny lobster.  Now, ever since I was in Nicaragua years ago, I've had a real strong love affair with lobster (and mojitos and Flor de Cana rum).  I look for it in most places - but that does not mean that I will eat it in most places.  You just don't know where junk seafood trolls in from and you really gotta search out the spots that care.  The chefs that really know their shiz and have relationships with fishermen on that next level.

So, one day last fall I'm trolling about the marina and run into my old dockmaster (an avid diver and seaman all the way around) who was all jacked up about the opening day of lobster season.  His excitement in turn got me all jacked up and before you know it I was on the hunt.  Like hard core.  But, it was a little tough to come by restaurants actually serving TRUE Cali spiny lobster.  Guess where I found it?  That joint The Lobster, right off the Santa Monica pier.  I was soooo hesitant to try it thinking it was just a tourist trap, but after badgering the manager on the phone, he had me convinced that it was the real deal and BAM, I was on the move.  Turns out loads of locals go there - who knew?

Let me put it this way - no lobster I have ever had in all my travels in the world compared to that hulking slab of seafood.  It was char-grilled and dripping with butter.  Steam was smoking off it and the margaritas went down real, real kindly with it.

You know why it was so damn good?  Cause it was IN SESASON!  It was just off the boat.  It was fresh and mighty and since that day, I've pretty much turned my back on all lobster.  It was that phenom. And, now I have to wait til October to get it again - since the season is Oct thru March.

What made me bring all this up?  Welp, I was rockin' some research for my summer project of getting to know all the countries in the world via documentaries and food...and of course Afghanistan is #1 on the list.   I was looking up seasonal food there and of course all that pulls up is food shortages and god awful news about the country as a whole.  No matter.  I am going to cook some goodies from there.  I have my doc/movie list on the up and up...and I'm excited to get it all started.   I'm gonna wait til I move on my sailboat in a few weeks, though - cause right now I'm consumed with work and the FLO BO remodel beginnings.  And margaritas.   And all the seasonal goods in my CSA that I cannot possibly eat all of in one week. 

But, it's coming.  Summer ain't even here yet)...that's the good news!  And, if you've never shot over to Surfas - holy moly - bring the 'old credit card.  That place is insane. 


What If I Went Back in Time?

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Back in time...

I happened to grab lunch at Beachwood Cafe the other day and I saw this old billboard outside.   Thing is - it's the place where I found my first Hollywood apartment at the tender, insanely young age of 20 years old.  I was in fresh from TN and living in the youth hostel at the Hollywood YMCA when I noticed this locals only billboard (all I did back then was cruise around and try to figure out how to "make it").  I saw nothing my 3k credit card limit could afford and fell into a deep depression immediately, but some random dude was standing there and offered me his copy of the latest Westside Rentals doc.

And dontcha know it - there was a tiny studio for rent right up underneath the Hollywood sign.  $400 a month - all included...with a view looking right up onto the sign.  I was in hog heaven.  My landlady was a little grandma from the south and we fell straight in love with each other. Plants everywhere, lemon trees, views from the top of the Hills.  Beyond perfect.

I always wonder what it would be like to start over out here.  Did I make all the right moves?  Where would I have been if I hadn't have gotten that little place, or lived at the YMCA hostel where I met the dude who introduced me to the first grip I'd ever met - someone who actually worked on movies - that got me a job on a TV show.  Thanks Frolic Room.  It's so easy to forget how it all happened.  Whatever "all" is.  I just keep moving on...and now that I'm back - it's like I never left.

Maybe I'd have a restaurant in Mexico if I'd never come here?  Maybe I still will :)

Meanwhile, the Beachwood Cafe did a mega makeover a few months back and is now farm-to-table....and totally delish on a whole new homemade level.  Menu changes weekly.  Who'd have thunk?  (Sorry for quality of iphone pix) - but lemme tell ya, the harissa sauce on the poached eggs is insane. 


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The Valley and All Her Foodie Finds


I just spent 3 days in The Valley.  Yes - horror of all horrors.  I was taking a workshop over there - you know, enhancing some skills and what I found was just incredible - it was the food I've been looking for all over LA!  All within a few miles of where I was spending long, long days holed up in front of a computer.

Koko's - I kid you not - maybe the best Middle Eastern I've had on the West Coast.  One bite of the velvety hummus and I was braving the dusty streets of some two-horse town in Lebanon.  Same goes for the fluffed out rice and the perfect feta salad (now, this was before the vegan comment, mind you - haven't had dairy or eggs since then).  Located in a dreary strip mall.

Next day was Thai.  Kinnara - found in a bustling little strip mall.   Full transport on over to Thailand - with nothing but a backpack and loose sense of hunger leading the way to the freshest papaya salad in the world and a pile of smoking green beans.  Joy.

Final day was a jovial joint run by a Vietnamese dude named Kevin (I know this cause every single patron called him by name).  A tiny spot called Vinh Loi Tofu - where they have a full blown tofu factory set up rocking in the back.  Yep one bite in, I was over in S. East Asia, to Vietnam...a place I've never been but have been dreaming about since birth, I'm sure.  I slurped down a loaded down bowl of tofu curry and slammed a Thai Iced Tea from the happy folks at the Viet shop next door.  Again, strip mall heaven.

So, turns out the valley is good for one thing - good eats.  And, who knew Van Nuys had an airport. only took me a half hour to get there.  LESS than it takes me to get to friggin Hollywood.  Good to know, good to know.

And - don't you know it on the way home that final day, I stopped by my fave Mexican joint and ordered up a horchata...and the f'er was half frozen.  Most insane treat of all time.  I guess if you can't hit the road, may the road hit you.





Me + Food - I'm Not Sure You'd Believe Me If I Told You *


My relationship with food is the one constant in my life that never, ever wanes.  Let's just say - coming from a chick who has real trouble with commitment - the love never dies between us.

Every single waking moment is spent thinking about 2 things - escape and what I'm eating on the way out.  Curiously enough, my long, delicious love affair with F-O-O-D isn't even about the actual meal.  It's about the condiments, seasonings, and accoutrement's that play side car to the actual dish.

Forget the pizza - it's about the egg on top and the ranch I dunk it in to.  It's not about the french fries - it becomes an freakish obsession with the salt, ketchup, mayo combo I dunk them into.  Mmmmmm salad - nope - it's about the feta sprinkled on top.  Egg salad or tuna sandwich sounds sooooo good - but that's cause they are doused in vats of mayo.  Popcorn = butter.  Toast = chunky blackberry jam.  Fritatta = spicy aioli.  Cupcake = icing.  Milk = chocolate.  Spring rolls = peanut sauce.  Fish & Chips = malt vinegar.  Spinach salad = shaved parmesan.  Tostada = crema.  Chips = dip.  Black beans = avocado.  Rice = soy sauce.  Octopus = lime.  Chicken Soup = onions & cilantro.  Martini =blue cheese stuffed olives. 

The list goes on and on and on and my quest for the perfect meal, the perfect bite, the perfect food experience plays out on an hourly basis.   Many times I'm disappointed.  In fact, most times.  But - sometimes - in all these little eating adventures I go on - I find myself crumbling from mouth ecstasy.  Fish & Chips and the Clam Chowder soup at Baleen - both are maybe the finest versions I've ever had.  Patrick Roadhouses version on the other hand...well, lets just say I shant be back for those.  Frittata at Bar Pinxto - man, if you get it right when they's a glorious thing.  I've had three others since at three different restaurants that we're sub-par at best.  Almost embarrassing, actually.

I always thought Chicago was the perfect food city.  But, slowly...very slowly I'm discovering LA via all my random, gotta-quench-the-desire-right-now bites.  It's a good thing.  A real good thing.  And, this ain't even the half of it.  

{Pls forgive the quality of my iphone photos - sometimes I just don't have my camera with me!}













Tunes, Smelt, Prosecco & Magic


Download 03 Living In the Unknown

There is magic everywhere when it comes to food.  In a chilly glass of Prosecco at mid-day.  In a wee mountain of smelt immersed in warm marinara.  In a vivid bowl of rich mushroom risotto.  In the smile of the passionate/about/all manager, Mario, over at Antica Pizza in MDR.  In a perfect-to-the-core Neapolitan margherita pizza.

It's truly wacky where the day can take you.  You wake up thinking what-to-do-what-to-do...I finally have a free minute.  A day of nothing.  The weather is sick.  The phone is off.  The next 24 hours is anything you wanna make it.  Craft a pitch?  Read a book?  Eat at a new joint?  Peruse the paper?  Walk the beach spine?  Any of it.  All of it.  Listen to soothing tunes.  Conjure up dreamy lands.  Just try to tune up the system, one breath at a time.  One sip at a time.  One bite at a time.  One nap at a time.

And, remember.  You make your own choices.  This is the life you've carved out, one situation after another.  Does it work anymore?  I think it does.  Better to figure out a way to tell one story at a time.  That's the new deal.  Tell one small, yet powerful story at a time.  Next to impossible.  Why?  Cause the brain is like the internet - a full search engine ON at all times.  If there we're a way to simply shuffle things.  To build flow charts, call sheets, colorful grids...all in the head.  I'm lousy with notebooks - small, large, lined, graphed.  I have about a mil going at once and even those have become crushing to the true intel.  I can't seem to find jack shit. 

Yet somehow, one cold glass at a time, things get done.  They morph and actualize into things that matter.  At least to me. 

And, why not kick in some good tunes for these entries?  You might find some magic in them.


3 Combo Meal at Samosa House - Can I Just Move On???


There's not much in the world that $7.99 can buy.  Not much at all.  But, at Samosa House on Washington - an Indian restaurant/cafe/deli/market, you can get your pick of a dozen or so 100% vegetarian Indian eats.  With garlic naan, mind you. 

Yah, I was ill once I left the joint, but that was only cause I inhaled some veg fried fritters and a potato samosa in the span of about 1.5 seconds.  Then, mixed in my combo with Lisa's combo and it was enough food - for real - for a small army.  That just ain't right.

So, now...I'm on a mad health food kick.  Like crazy for 2010.  All organic.  All vegetarian.  Maybe even some vegan madness thrown in for good measure.  I got my awesome Vegan Table cookbook, I got mi casa all sorted.  I got my new MAC rockin' in the office.  All is well for the new year.  Gotta stay away from Indian, I think.  

PS - so many of my pals are doing some sick, sick stuff this year.  Enough to make the masses bawl and bawl.  I'm gonna lay some of it out in the coming posts, just to inspire the Toothies.






Back to Food, Back to Mexican, Back to All that May Matter in the World - A Satisfied Belly


After tumbling out of the new and incredibly blissful Wilshire Spa (if you're into Korean spas and treatments, pony up the $130 for 2 hrs of massages, scrubs, body wraps and a cucumber facial extravaganza--its open 24 hours), me and my bud Lis happened upon my new fave Oaxacan restaurant in Koreatown.  Crazy, mad, deliciously good.  In fact, I now love Koreatown.  8th St. is where it's at for street food style grub.

Guelaguetza (look at the dish gallery on the website, I would not steer you wrong...PLEASE go out of your way to hit this spot) had quite possibly the best mole I've ever devoured.  I know for certain the horchatacantaloupe will never be forgotten, and seriously, the teaser plate of warm chips doused in coloradito sauce and crumbled cheese was sick.  Sick to the point of I ate 'em so quick, I was honestly sick!
with cactus juice, chopped nuts and

Why can't there be joints like this over in MDR?  All brightly lit with blaring bandito tunes.  Valet parkers that charge $3 just to back your car up 16 inches.  Chubby Mexican kids racing around chasing a bruised ball.  Ginormous vats of food on the cheap.  The stuff belly dreams are made of*

True love found, once again...perfect Mexican in the heart of a Korean hood in the middle of loca LA.




Making a Case for Persian in LA


Seems I'm on a bit of a food bender lately, so let me just spill a few reasons why you should eat Persian as soon as you see a sign for it.  I am very fond of one I discovered over in Westwood called Shahrzad.  Could be one of my best meals in '09.

1.  The meat is simmered for so long, it falls apart the minute your fork comes within an inch of it.

2.  The fresh herbs rival that found in the best Vietnamese restaurants.

3.  They always have copious amounts of lemon and lime on hand to squeeze all over the place.

4.  The homemade yogurt which is best slopped on everything.

5.  The tart lentil soup that no doubt has a home in every Persian kitchen.

6.  The big round oven in back of most Persian restaurants that fire up smoky flat bread every few minutes, of which you can usually order a few to go.

7.  The unusually cheap prices for such fat plates of food.

8.  Perfect basmati rice.

9.  The most delicious eggplant you will ever come across.

10.  Sumac.