I don’t drink, but this (finished) martini looks stunning
A long-time resident in LA that I meet says to me, “When people hear ”˜LA,’ they immediately think Hollywood, the glitz and glamour of it all. Hollywood seems to be our nobility. But that’s such a small part of LA.”
I agree with him on that since I’m certainly not “starry-eyed.” However, when my friend Patty picks me up from the LA airport, she brings me, ironically enough, to Beverly Hills. Yup, that Beverly Hills with the world-famous 90210 zip code, the $20 million mansions, and the palm tree-lined streets. No, I don’t see any celebrities ”“ it’s too dark ”“ but Patty takes me to The Beverly Hills Hotel, known in these parts as the Pink Palace. “BEST burger in town,” Pat tells me with emphasis.
This ”˜best burger’ is served to us at The Polo Lounge. It’s a Kobe beef burger complete with all the sidings I can ever want or even hope to want: lettuce, long pickle slivers (what is it with these protracted pickle fingers?), onions (red and white), tomatoes, and seriously crunchy fries.
Pat proceeds to place her Portobello mushroom on her already loaded burger, slices it in half, and munches away. I follow suit and am all the happier for it, although I have to stretch my maw open to full capacity to accommodate this mother of a burger. The juiciness of the burger gushes into my mouth followed by the smokiness of the Portobello. It’s a tantalizing interplay of salty and juicy punctuated by bursts of pepper. Out of this world. I want to swoon to the floor, although I’m sure it wouldn’t be appropriate in such a posh place.
Soufflés are one of the few desserts that I’m not fond of. But Patty cajoles me into trying one saying, “It’ll make you change your mind about soufflés, Lor.” We order the chocolate soufflé which comes to the table looking like it’s about to explode from all the steam trapped underneath it. Our server ceremoniously pierces the fluffy top and then pours some raspberry sauce into the resulting hole. With Pat looking at me expectantly, I gingerly scoop out some and put it into my mouth. Unlike the dryness I’ve come to associate with most soufflés, this one is quite moist, the chocolate flavor is highlighted quite nicely by the tang of the raspberry sauce. I still don’t like soufflés, but this one may be the best I’ve tried so far.
Going to the La Brea Bakery is one of the top things on my LA to-do list. It’s the most widely recognized artisan bakery in North America, and its owner, Nancy Silverton, is considered to be the mother of the artisan bread baking movement in the States. While her bakery is right next door to her husband, Mark Peel’s fine-dining restaurant, Campanile, La Brea itself is as rustic as can be. It’s a bakery that is a showcase of what it is ”“ a bakery selling quality bread and pastries. There are no fancy frills here, and nothing detracts from the bread.
Of course good bread makes for a darn good sandwich, so there are plenty of ready-made and customized sandwiches here. I’m drawn to the cookies, particularly the shortbread buttons (sucker for shortbread here) and the ”˜almost an Oreo’ cookies. Pat and I take our lunchtime haul and sit at an outdoor table munching away while the cars whiz past. Nope, no outdoor pollution here.
Cookbook junkies in LA have it good because they have a have a bookstore to call their own, and man, am I envious. The Cook’s Library is wall-to-wall cookbooks (be still my beating heart!) with a super-efficient staff who make some helpful recommendations, and lots of cushy couches to chill out on. There’s even that pleasantly musty/new book smell that I’ve come to associate with fantastic bookstores.
While the selection is inspiring and daunting all at the same time, I’m a bit disappointed that most of the out-of-print books I’m looking for aren’t here. What’s worse is that the one book that I am looking for is available but it’s tagged at the cover price of $36! This, even though the book was published way back in 1994. I can get it used on Amazon for just $9. I sadly walk out of there empty-handed helping Patty who’s stumbling under the weight of the tomes she’s bought. “I thought this was supposed to be your shopping trip, Lor, and I’m the one who’s buying stuff!” She chides me kiddingly.
Across the street from The Cook’s Library is Joan’s on Third, an incredibly haute gourmet market place and café renowned for their cupcakes and if I may say, their snobbishness as well. I wasn’t allowed to take photos so Pat and I bought a dozen of their cupcakes and shot them on the hood of her car. I fall in love with the coconut cupcakes and realize that chocolate cupcakes are not something I like very much.
You can tell by now that I frequent bakery-cafés while I’m here in the States. I like them all but I’m especially enamored with Panera Bread. They have a huge pastry display and plenty of bread to sooth my carbohydrate heart. One thing that I choose to eat is this bear claw, something that I’ve seen plenty of in my cookbooks, but have never actually tried. It’s essentially Danish pastry encasing almond paste and then cut halfway to mimic a claw, which is how it gets its name. Unforgivingly flaky and good to the last bite, it kept me busy brushing crumbs off my shirt for a good part of the day.
This is just like the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco.
Food Flight of Fancy: Los Angeles (conclusion)