Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Bites #7-Strawberry Superhero

I do not use a Bat-Signal. I can be summoned by the Hot Now sign at any nearby Krispy Kreme. If you ever need me, don’t be afraid to use it.

Doughnuts have always been in my consciousness. I recall the shape of red blood cells in high school biology described as “a biconcave disk, with a flattened center.”

Vancant stare.

Frances, they are doughnut shaped.” National Honor Society here I come.

I have been faced with hundreds of promisingly crisp-edged cardboard boxes filled with them when working on set. But like chili dogs and supermodels, they are usually much better in theory than in real life.

The photoshopping done to chili dogs these days is OUTrageous.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vendys Victory: The Red Carpet Wrap-Up

Today I have for you a visual love letter of sorts. A collection of images gathered during the 2nd Annual Vendys, an event I got into legitmately without having to crash. An event built with folding chairs, truck-mounted generators, and cream cheese frosting. An event put together to honor the almighty food truck, the penultimate goal being to choose one which exceeds all expectations of what can possibly be served from the side of a vehicle. What does the winner go home with?

A bursting sense of pride. Possible second degree burn. Validation of their life's work. And THIS:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sweet Salty Serendipity

As a child, I had always hoped that I would be the sort of adult person who would cross paths with my adult friends on layovers in adult cities. I also believed that my adult job would require me to wear a trench coat and pantyhose, and that I would have headaches like the people in Excedrin commercials get.

Lots of my ideas about adulthood came from Murphy Brown and pharmaceutical advertisements.

It was winter. And part of that dream was about to happen.

Not the pantyhose part.

I was in NYC for one day, en route to somewhere else. It was charmingly cold in the city of salted pretzels and subway strangers, a Rom Com snow dusting down over the city.

I arrived in my hotel room and did the necessary 4-6 minutes of poor form crunches and push-not-really-all-the-way-ups. Important to get the blood going again after a long flight. Quite serendipitously, a very good very old friend of mine was in town as well.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Real Kung Pao Wives of Beverly Hills

I do not consider myself a bandwagon girl. I am instead an irritating contrarian. My favorite Katherine Hepburn movies are the ones you haven’t seen. I hate chocolate cake. I take surface streets from the Valley to Santa Monica.

Just to piss you off.

This reality can be traced to two moments in my life. The first was when I chose to abstain from all organized sports as a child, instead preserving the sanctity of the after-school snack hour. As a result, even now I have a paralyzing fear of falling down, a fear that I rarely witness in people who have played competitive sports at some point.

Falling down was never an integral part of my life (soccer, skiing, assorted physical hijinks), and so to this day it remains worst case scenario. Even if technically I am only somewhere between 1 and 4 inches off the ground, the panic sends me into a quiet meltdown, and I tend to flee the scene in search of chocolate-coated comfort.

Temple Grandin had her Hug Machine. And I have the Choco Taco, an improbably not disgusting frozen delight now made harder to find by the complete evaporation of almost every physical Blockbuster store, and the impulse-buy frozen treat cases they housed.

The second moment that forged me into an oppositionist happened on a blustery fall day in the late 90’s. I heard the crunch of tires in the driveway, and looked up from my after-school snack. (See: Second Paragraph) Footsteps landed with eerie determination on the gravel, then the stairs, then the porch. Faster than usual. My sister crept to the top of the stairs above me, her eyes wide with (terror? hours of continuous television programming?)

My eyes never leaving the front door, I took what could have been my last ever bite of cinnamon toast. The door flew open, or slowly creaked open, or opened at a normal speed. My eyes struggled to focus in this new natural light that had shattered the blue light emissions of the My Two Dads re-run I had been enjoying.

There stood my dad, a scarlet feveresque spark in his eye-the result of an impeccable and inescapable marketing campaign that had now made its way into my home. He didn’t have to think about it, and it was the most certain of anything that I have ever heard him sound. He just said it.

 “Everybody get in the car. We’re all going to Old Navy to get those vests.”

And so I spent much of high school in a square fleece vest the color of a taxi cab, and while I have certainly made much more egregious fashion errors (and continue to do so to this day), that was really the moment I decided not to do the thing everyone else is doing.

I live in Los Angeles, and once in a while I have a sickeningly California day. The kind of day that everyone who doesn’t live here thinks you have every day, except that of course you don’t. Unless it’s one of those days that you accidentally do. Savvy?

Now that you know that I am contrarian and why I am as well, I can tell you that sometimes I accidentally have a completely typical Los Angeles day, despite my best counter-offensive. This one was a Thursday.

For reasons I will not go into, unless you ply me with red wine and curly fries, at which point I start giving away missile codes anyway, I had to have a bit of a “proceeeeeedure” done the other day in Beverly Hills.

It’s not what you’re thinking.

It’s not that either.

Not even that.

It’s so boring and un-scandalous, it’s kind of disappointing actually. Nothing about me is bigger or smaller, or better or worse, less or greater, or younger and “more radiant.” It was something so lame, but that had to be done, and it was by pure circumstance that the office was in Beverly Hills, thus making the whole scenario completely damned typical.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thank. God. It's. FryDay.

The first thing I want most in the world is a set of visible abdominal muscles. I ask for them for Christmas every year, and they never come. The second thing I want most in the world is something fried to eat.

You can see my dilemma-these two things rarely happen to the same person. It’s a one or the other type deal. Those Carl’s Jr. commercials are a lie.

I have a crème brulee torch, a Japanese mandoline, and a cherry pitter. These things make my kitchen an arsenal of deadly culinary toolery, and I consider the cabinet next to my sink to be my first line of defense in the event of a break-in. I will dash PAST the mace by the door, push the block full of sharpened knives OUT of the way, seize the contents of that cabinet, and brulee the intruder to a crunchy-brown sugar crust. Or slice them into thin uniform rounds with my mandoline. I’ll just have to see how I feel.

But my food preparation brinkmanship does have a limit. I draw the line (for myself, not others) at a deep fryer. Here’s why:

First of all, I know that once I get started I won’t be able to stop. Fried chicken is a gateway drug, make no mistake. The road to hell is paved with good fried chicken. It starts there, and it ends with you staying up for four days straight frying peanut m&m’s and mini marshmallows individually with a crazed look in your eye smelling like a chicken nugget, and all the while justifying it to yourself by muttering: “Can’t waste all this oil, can’t just throw it away…such a waste…such a waste...” Trust me, if you're Breaking Bad in your midnight kitchen with a jug of canola oil, don't do it for the sake of being "green."

Secondly it’s a lot of work, and I’d rather just let someone else do it for me. It takes a lot of prep time, and then it’s gone. The people you fry things for will love you forever and stain their shirt with your finished product, but it still remains the ultimate thankless task. Like untangling Christmas lights, or putting tights on a baby.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pancake Taco Genius Grant.

As a kid, I once walked into a room where my dad was using a soup can to hammer a nail into a wall so that he could hang a picture. When I foolishly asked him why, he said “You know Francie, some people in life ask why. But I prefer to say ‘why not.’”

I knew that he had not set out to make the hanging of this picture a pivotal character-building moment in my life. He just couldn’t find the hammer.

Nonetheless, it is a philosophy I have tried to incorporate into my daily life as much as possible since that day.

Make an entire loaf of Wonder Bread into cinnamon toast one piece at a time?
And then eat it.

Why not?!
(It was the late 90’s, everyone was doing it. Plus, it was during a Weekend at Bernie’s slash Overboard marathon with my sister. He without sin may cast the first stone…)

Make a pie crust even though you have nothing to put inside of it, and then eat aforementioned empty pie crust because my sweet tooth is THAT bad?

Why not?!
The crust is always the best part anyway. Three cheers for having only the best part of anything, ever! I'm all over that.

Wear the crazy swingy gaucho pants that swept the nation like baby fish mouth that one summer, even though they were clearly designed only for all-legs model types, and actual real-life gauchos?

Why not?!
I can’t lie, there’s actually a lot of why nots for this one. But, hey! At least we all looked weird together.

When my dad came for a visit recently, he had a few things on his “To Do” list. Catalina Island. Solvang. The Biltmore Hotel where he worked when he lived in Los Angles 35 years ago.

And to hit a food truck.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Wien Wien Situation

My dad and I share an amazingly abiding affection for alliteration, and a complete intolerance to extreme heat. It breaks us down, nucleus by nucleus, disorienting us like whisker-less cats. He visited me the first summer I lived in New Orleans, and I recall watching him melt like a Dali clock as we sat at an outdoor bar. His glasses fogged up, just before sliding down his face. It was really quite something. And they took a while to do it, too. It was a very dramatic few minutes.

I have the additional genetic jackpot of turning an alarming “emergency exit” red when overheated as well. It’s my body’s defense mechanism, much like a lizard that greens itself to match the leaf upon which it sits in order to avoid certain death.  I am the warning sign for everyone else. One look at my unsmiling, candy apple face, and the message to my species is clear: IT IS TOO FREAKING HOT HERE. TURN AROUND AND GO BACK, LIKE I WISH I HAD.

As the temp goes up, my activity level (which is already negligible) and sense of humor go down. Way. Way. Down. I stop talking. I move slowly. I drop things and refuse, REFUSE, to pick them up.

My insolent keys will learn their lesson after spending a night on the floor directly beneath the key hook.

Once again Los Angeles, specifically the Valley, has been treated to an August meltdown. My pajamas are in the freezer, my body lotion is in the fridge. When Titanic was on the other night, the infamous “Iceberg Straight Ahead!” moment caused me to think: I wish. And that’s not great, you guys.

When it gets this hot in LA (again), we all have our own ways of coping with it. I have found that setting my car radio to an easy listening radio station with a name that is purposely misspelled to accommodate the call letters, is quite soothing. It’s a saunic 101 degrees-but I get in my car and vengefully crank the AC to MAX, with all the vents open and pointed directly at me like a never-to-be-seen magazine cover shoot. I sit there for a minute recovering from the 90 Rango seconds it took me to get from my apartment to my car. I turn on my radio and am thoroughly unbothered by the Sinead O’Connor/Bryan Adams/Smokey Robinson lineup that follows. And that is exactly what I need right now: to be unbothered. Don’t ruffle my feathers today.  And since he knows what’s good for him, Christopher Cross never does.

Times like these call for simplicity. These are simply not the days for Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska, forks and knives. I don’t want to think. In fact, I can’t. I’ve put my cerebral cortex in the freezer for safety.

Days this hot need something reliably satisfying, something you can eat with one hand, and in a few bites. Something tried and truly delicious. Something that enters your life fully assembled, unlike absolutely anything you will ever buy at Ikea, including plants somehow. I don’t know how they do it.

The dog days of hot summer call for hot dogs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Werewolf

When I was a kid, I sometimes would sleepwalk and eat straight-up butter from the fridge.

Now that I’ve said it, I don’t even know if my parents know that. I remember hoping that no one would notice the little nibble marks down the sunny yellow stick of weaponized dairy, and I think I got my wish.

Lately, I have been “sleepwalking” again. I find myself now eating generous spoonfuls of peanut butter in the middle of the night. I wake up in the morning with a niacin hangover to find at least one, sometimes more, used peanut butter spoons on my nightstand.

So clearly I’ve been spooning.

This is bad for a few reasons. One, I hate ingesting calories I can’t remember. I pride myself in having a razor sharp food memory as I explained in my first ever blog post well over a year ago. (
These sordid secret meetings between myself and assorted nut butters rob me of that.

Sometimes it’s almond butter, so basically just a nice responsible after-hours dose of Vitamin E. A midnight medicine, really. Sometimes, I hoover the peanut butter filling out of a white chocolate Reese’s peanut butter egg left over from Easter, crouching beside that oddly shaped cabinet in the kitchen that I specifically put them in so that I couldn't ever get to them. That plan falls through on a regular basis. Why am I hoovering? Because I do not care for white chocolate. And I do not wish to discuss it.

A bite I cannot recall? THAT is my definition of an empty calorie.

Secondly, it makes it hard for me to inventory my nut-based product stock. That jar of Valencia Peanut Butter with Flaxseeds from Trader Joe’s might be there tomorrow. But it might not.
Among my greatest fears are:

1.)    That the sample lady at the Cinnabon in the mall will wise-up and realize that I don’t have “a friend in Sunglass Hut,” who wants one too.
2.)    That I will run out of shampoo. It happened once to someone I knew.
3.)    That I will develop a nut allergy. Even now, just writing that my heart seized up a little.

Earlier this year, I was given a giftcard to Amazon. I used it to purchase 90 portable packets of Justin’s honey peanut butter, and a lipstick that perfectly matches a bright pink terrycloth one piece strapless romper my grandmother gave me. It’s basically a towel that you wear like an outfit, and I Caps Lock love it. I rarely wear them together, though. That would be crossing a line. Plus, according to her, these Florida-purchased garments used to have two embroidered flower decals, but now only have one, “because of the economy.” So add one more casualty to the list. Bear Stearns will never know the ripples... 

When the peanut butter came in the mail, I realized that it was essentially the kind of box an actual store would order to put on their shelves, in order to sell. It was that much peanut butter. The little sleeve on top said “Tear Along Perforations Before Shelving. Remove Before Display.” Which I did. Before I displayed it to myself. So I kiiiiiiind of have a tiny Whole Foods peanut butter display case in my cupboard. I’m hoping that’s cool, instead of weird. Fingers crossed.

When I found out there was a peanut butter-based truck, my gaze narrowed, my jaw set, and I began to hatch a plan. I would have this peanut butter truck for my own. I would love it, and take care of it, and pet it, and squeeze it a little too hard, Of Mice and Men-style. And finally, on a Friday night around the corner from my house, the plan came to salty fruition.

This time, instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter eaten in pajamas by the light of the moon like a werewolf activated by saturated fat, I put on real-people clothes. I left my apartment. I walked around the corner, and into a different universe. A universe in which one may order, and eat, a PeanutButterBananaBaconHoney Sandwich.

Let's take a look at this cast...

Peanut Butter: Perfectly salty, indisputably nutty, all-natural, and smooth with the ladies.
Banana: Soft and creamy, wants everyone to get along.
Bacon: AKA Moneybags. Rich and crispy counterpoint.
Honey: The poet of the bunch. Has a way of sweettalking.

It's CLUE, in sandwich form.

Exactly. PeanutButterBananaBaconHoney Sandwich. Now, the real name of this dish is the Thank You Very Much, but I like using my own ingredient-based nickname. It allows me to really toy with the affections of the Space Bar. I will say that I did not actually eat this sandwich. I drank it. I stood on the sidewalk amongst friends and countrymen, and drank this (expletive)-ing amazing sandwich. There was no jaw activity. There were no teeth involved. It was so delicious, I simply could not be bothered to chew.

We stood there, my compatriots and I, alternating between speechless and this-is-so-delicious moaning, until the Thai Airways chicken wings showed up.

Technically, these are chicken wings in a peanut butter hot sauce. But unofficially, they are: “The best chicken wings I have ever had.”

Is what he said. Four seconds after this picture was taken.

Now, a word on Kharyn. Kharyn is a bad-ass PB ninja, who has taken something we have all had at one time or another, and has made it into something absolutely transcendent. When you visit the Pnut Butter Bar truck you will eat THE BEST peanut butter sandwich you have ever had, you will have THE BEST chicken wings you have ever had, and you will leave evidence of both on the sidewalk. You will regret leaving any behind, and wonder if anyone will care that you suck on the paper the fries came on. Heads up: they won’t. They are doing it too.

Oh, yes. Fries too. With a peanut butter ketchup you have to taste to understand the brilliance of. The Pnut Butter Bar ninja grinds her own peanut butter by the way. But that’s just the ice cream sundae on top of the ice cream sundae. And get the Walk The Pig hot dog too, because I’ve discovered that mustard is in love with peanut butter, and being around them makes me happy.

So, go. Find this home-grown grinder of greatness. Drink a sandwich outside a bar with friends. This stand-in-a-circle-no-talking-just-slurping meal will put your fanciest tablecloth dinner memories to shame. Remember that all of your pictures will come out fuzzy, because the air is full of satisfaction and contentment. And try to take them flip-book style.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Manicotti Festo

Here’s the deal: I love working on this blog! Tracking down a food truck and throwing myself into hot pursuit is an extension of every kid’s CIA agent fantasy. I say that irresponsibly, knowing that my sister and I preferred to play a strangely pedestrian and of course now outmoded round of “travel agent.” Phrases like “I can get you on the 2:30 to Cincinnatti, but you’ll have to race to make your 5-o-clock connection into Dallas,” were more our speed. Less spy, more fly.

And as I preferred, a lot less running. More like lots of swiveling around on a rolling office chair. My extensive knowledge of centrifugal force can be traced to that time. At 12, I  wouldn't have run from a fire. I would have rushed to find marshmallows though.

So there I am living out every OTHER kid’s fantasy, which is now mine as well. Of course, in Los Angeles “hot pursuit” means a stand-still on the 101, putting the windows down when the air conditioning begins to give you all that nice hot atmosphere you had been missing outside. And then I am rewarded with a sometimes one-day-only special, or the last grilled cheese sold, or something they’re just trying out, something they’re working on, something experimentally or reliably delicious.

And then I get to write about it.

I have always followed other amazing food blogs, and I’ve finally sat down to nail down what makes mine different. So here it is, one-time-only. My Manicotti Festo. And then let’s never speak of this again, because we’ll just KNOW, and be cool like that. (Incidentally, I really wanted KNOW to be in italics, not caps, but I can’t figure that out. So just imagine it.)

Lots of bloggers are also extremely talented photographers. Their voluptuous whipped cream snowcaps, and oozing brownies are nearly 3 dimensional. Each berry perfect in color and symmetry, each austere bunch of herbs sitting on a sparkling clean counter in an implied farmhouse, in the glowing natural shaft of golden light that comes to farmhouses to illuminate their countertop herbs, as we all know. Visit any of the wonderful blogs I've listed at the right to see what I mean.

Here’s what I do: I watch as my phone battery dwindles in the Falling Down traffic I’ve described above, hoping by the time I get there I will have enough juice to get some flashless pictures under the tinny anti-light of a roll-out awning. Then, I curse myself for having already eaten 90% of what I was supposed to photograph, and debate ordering another. Lastly, circumstances usually demand that I attempt to take my own photograph with the food. Anyone who has an iphone (not the newest one, the other one) knows this is a fool’s errand, and requires a physical flexibility and a realistic perception of the shape and size of one’s face to pull off. More on this later, when I post my greatest (worst) hits, illustrating how this whole thing goes terribly wrong.

Also, many food sites are focused on the cooking/baking of food. And thank god, because if they weren’t I would have to make my own damn banana caramel bundt cake every day. The lovely catharsis of seeing what others make, and make well, and then having access to their recipe to try yourself someday when you literally can-no-longer- take-it-and-absolutely-must-have-that-banana-caramel-cake, is why I am drawn to these sites again and again. It’s sort of like a living menu, and they do it extremely well, and with gorgeously scrumptious results and great personalities.

Here’s what I do: I power through a cookbook I now see myself as irreversibly committed to, as I have already gone to the sizeable effort of taking it off the shelf. I find something extremely complicated, with many many steps, widely unavailable ingredients, multiple components, and sensitive timing. And then I throw myself into it whole heartedly while eating half of it in the process, in the dubious spirit of “test-testing.”

And when it’s finished, and I’m completely exhausted, I take it to a dinner party, birthday, or movie night, pretend I’ve never tasted it, and attempt to conceal how incredibly time consuming it was-never mentioning of course the apocalyptic state it has left my kitchen in, or the third degree burn on my arm that “I can barely even feel anymore!”

SO, in the interest of Do As I Say, Not As I Do, I will not be focusing on cooking or baking myself. I do these things, I love doing them, but don’t be me. If I find something great, I’ll share it with you I promise.

So, here’s what you’ll get. A story, a solid recommendation, and several guerilla-style photos of some really really good food. I’d like to be the Christiane Amanpour of Los Angeles food truck reviews. But there might be one already…

In conclusion when you are forced to take a picture of yourself eating with one hand, and no sense of your own arm length, this is what you get. Take a picture awkwardly, get an awkward picture.

I call it “Vogue Meatball Sandwich.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No Soup. No Pencils.

I have spoken, (written), ((bitched)), on this blog previously about the surprising downside of Los Angeles weather. Having grown up on the East Coast, activity and weather have a direct relationship as far as I’m concerned. A snow day equals microwave s’mores and watching movies on the couch all day. (I did try sledding across the street with my best friend one year. I came down terrifyingly and elegantly backwards the whole way, and sprained my ankle during what I will refer to loosely and inaccurately as a “dismount.” So, movies it is.)

The emotional payoff of a rainy day was that you could shoot for a combination of quietly productive, and indoor guilt-free relaxation. Reading a book for hours? Of course! It’s pouring outside.

In the fall the days get shorter and crispier around the edges, the leaves ignite, and you can just feel the back-to-school clock inside you start to tick. Though it’s been a long time since I have had to listen to this clock, even now September happens and I am consumed by a desire to buy pencils.

In all honesty, I don’t even know if I ever actually used pencils in school, but I try not to argue with anything in September. That’s a bad-ass month that knows what it’s doing.

The shortage of real, actual, sunny days meant that these days were exploited within an inch of their life. Picnics! Swimming at a good friend’s pool! Swimming at a good friend because they have a pool’s pool! Swimming in a freezing cold lake because it’s July, so get the hell in there! Swimming in the one square foot of space available at the overcrowded the town pool! Barbeques! Bug Bites! Sunburn!

In Los Angeles, pretty much everyday is a sunny one. It ruthlessly robs you of your choice to be in a bad mood or to do nothing and feel ok about it. The trauma of getting a parking ticket when there’s not a cloud in the sky, or of wanting to spend the day at the library but “it’s so NICE out!” is hurtful in it’s own way. Do you see this parking ticket I just got, sky?! This is when it’s supposed to start raining, because I don't have an umbrella and it will enhance the drama! Are you with me?! No? O.K.

When, I ask you, is it ever even appropriate in the City of Los Angeles to eat SOUP? Soup needs an overcast day, a snowflake, a windstorm. Soup is unwelcome and unfamiliar here. Like walking, or a helpful person working at Kinko’s.

No soup. No pencils.

But in February I was given a gift. I say it that way because I’m pretty sure everyone else actually likes the fact that it is temperate and warm and semi-tropical here, and that my complaints about the absence of seasons are not met with very much sympathy. In fact, it is quite probably WHY they have chosen to live here. So to them I say this: I completely understand, and you are definitely the better person here. But it’s hard for me to be lazy when it’s so damn nice all the time. Aren’t you running late for your hike?

Back to February. A gloomy day! An east-coast day on the WEST coast! I had waited for this. I had longed for this. I had my plan polished and ready. There was a phone tree and a code word. Much like Jason Bourne a lockbox filled with passports in a European bank was…not…waiting for me…actually. So scratch that. Yeah, sorry. Nope, no lockbox.

But that’s ok because where I was going, I wouldn’t need one.

I had trolled this stretch of Ventura Boulevard before. I have been to that Jinky’s. I have fed those meters. True, I had never patronized the tattoo/piercing establishment outside of which the Lobsta Truck stationed itself, despite its appealing double promise of cosmetic enhancement. But it mattered not.

I felt instantly at home in line, as though everyone else there had also saved that heavy navy cardigan in their closet for just such a day. A day when it would be called into action. A day when it would be needed. A day when it would most likely have clarified butter spilled on it, and henceforth be known as “the butter sweater.”

The instantaneous comraderie was born out of sweaters, and long pants, and rain jackets- a slightly more casual and ethnically diverse version of the Gorton’s fish-stick box. And lobster. There was lobster to be had. A lobster roll, specifically. That delicacy that lives along craggy rocked-shores and is enjoyed on salty coastal cloudy days. It was here for us on our New England day, and we were ready. Pull yourself together navy cardigan, it’s GO TIME.

The creators of the Lobsta Truck were driven to this feat by a whirlwind lobster tour of New England, during which they decimated delicious whole family trees of lobsters in search of a truly divine lobster roll. Anyone who has had a perfect lobster roll will tell you that it is the brain surgery of foods. Every single component has to be EXACTLY right, and if you try to get fancy it will backfire on you. The split-top roll has to be perfect, the lobster pristine, and the alchemy of what and how much is mixed into it is easily botched. To this end, the Lobsta Truck gets their lobster, as well as their bread from suppliers in New England.

Their menu is as simple as a well-done lobster roll should be. Lobster rolls with either mayo or butter, (I got butter of course. One will never get a butter sweater by ordering mayo.) crab rolls, and clam chowder. The red gingham curtains, Cape Cod potato chips, and whoopie pies, complete the scrumptious scene. My buttery lobster roll was pretty damn close to perfect. Lobster super fresh-sweet and the right kind of chewy. Roll toasted scientifically to the perfect beige. I refer to it as “Lobster Roll Beige,” but you don’t have to. Aside from being depressingly small, it was fantastic.

I will now cease complaints about the weather, because now there is an edible upside. We may still not get seasons, but we can make the delicious buttery most of a gloomy day, dammit.

Aren’t you late for that hike?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Full

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I was full. Not “I shouldn’t have had that last piece,” full. Not 3 baskets of chips and salsa BEFORE the enchilada platter arrives full. THANKSGIVING full. The one day of the year when gluttony and a day inside eating like the Barbi twins is not simply encouraged, it’s expected. Ironic, isn’t it, that a day which was probably originally marked by a meager table landscaped with anemic, snow-harvested vegetables and maybe a few skinny wild animals charred to a crisp, has manifested itself as a highly anticipated group binge? Family members collect themselves at a festively decorated table (thank-yoo, Jo-Ann’s fabrics), and literally eat themselves into a reclining position. It’s kind of obscene, really. And I absolutely couldn’t live without it.

When I was in college, I usually visited my aunt and uncle in Houston for Thanksgiving. There was such a lovely ritual about it all-the cornbread stuffing took between 3-5 days to make somehow, and was guided by my uncle’s handily sentimental sense of smell. I don’t actually think you were supposed to look at it, really. Smelling was the key. And it always worked. My aunt would hand me a stack of napkins and a book on how to fold them decoratively. I would buckle down and try for the advanced 3-D “Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria Landing," but usually wind up with some kind of lopsided fan-thingy, and just stick a leaf in there somewhere.

I loved these Thanksgivings, not just because they let college student me sleep until noon, eat all their Toaster Streudels, and use the neato can crusher in the garage. The parade played during the day, the phone rang constantly with mutual family we could all scream at through the dark miracle of speakerphone, and the night usually ended with a movie. Like me, they too understand that the special features are where it’s at. One year, we watched The Godfather-a serious commitment which I believe is just over 3 hours. We then watched the entire special features package, which comes in at an economical 37 hours. It was awesome. We would stumble out into the light after 3 days as though from captivity, all 5-o-clock shadow and crazy eyes. Citizen Kane, same thing. I believe that was the year of what came to be known as the “English Patient” turkey, roasted under cheesecloth, unidentifiable in a line-up, and as complex as the slippery character for which it was named.

OK, so back to reality. Picture it: Los Angeles, weekend after Thanksgiving. I had gotten back into town late, and had spent the holiday with people I completely adore, who just happen to lean vegetarian. So I was all hopped up on quinoa and swiss chard when word came down that the Takosher truck was parked on my way home. (And by “word came down,” I mean that I obsessively cross-referenced Roadstoves and Twitter) for something meaty and mobile. I needed a fix. Bad. A Brisket Taco would do the trick.

It was raining. and the mean streets of Century City had the slick black sheen of pleather. An odd reference, I agree. In order for the Takosher’s famous “Brisketaco” to work, it had to hit both nails on the head. You can’t make a cheeky compound name out of two lackluster components. Just can’t be done. TAKOSHER is the first certified Glatt kosher taco truck in Los Angeles, and I was counting on them for a serious protein experience.

The Takosher truck, which advertises itself as the home of “The Chosen Taco,” sat innocently beneath a streetlight on this L.A. Confidential night, hard to miss because of it’s cornflower blue color. It sat there glowing like a mirage or something from a memory, as I raced up to the window. (I’ve convinced myself that these trucks are always 2 seconds from driving off, leaving me empty handed-so it seems I am always “racing” up to them unnecessarily, only to have the proprietor slowly and kindly take an order from the crazy running girl.)

I ordered the original “Brisketaco,” braised beef with chili sauce, sauerkraut, and raisins, as well as the “Latketaco,” latkes made from 3 kinds of potatoes with apple jalapeno chutney-in a taco. Oh. My. God. I stood on the sidewalk, adopted the necessary lean, took a first bite at a perfect right angle, and alternated hits of each kind as though it were a dual assassination. Latkes on a taco? Starch upon starch? YES. Believe me when I say: YESSSSSSS. And the chutney means you had some fruit too, so don’t feel too bad. Brisket on a taco? Natch. Braising is an act of love, and this taco is in serious black-and-white movie love with you. Not heavy, just messily juicy and spicy in the most well-rounded way. Raisins? They can bring down an oatmeal cookie in a heartbeat. They are the unwelcome stowaways in cinnamon toast. They are freaking DELICIOUS in this taco.

Every component was so individually good, that combined in the portable and familiar institution which we call “taco,” it is a complete success. In six bites my vegetarian streak had ended. “Streak” may be going too far. 2 days, 3 max. Although, if we’re going to split hairs, let’s start with the fact that I referred to CHUTNEY as fruit in the last paragraph. Kind of a stretch, I’m the first to admit it.

Let’s be honest here. Thanksgiving isn’t about family. It’s not about the first to settle the continent (pilgrims, Indians, the Walton family). It’s not about a parade, or the injury-causing stampede at a Target the next morning at 3 AM. (Seriously, what the hell.) It is about food. The stuff you’ve always made. The stuff you’re trying for the first time. The stuff you eat 5 times over 3 days.

It’s just that family makes it all better tasting, the settlers provide a convenient excuse to put marshmallows on yams, and the carbs make you more likely to make it through the bizarre crack of dawn shopping tradition. If you’re going to engage in this kind of culinary warfare, you want to do it with the people you love, it’s really the only way.

And then do it on a street corner with a kosher taco in each hand, and the joy of the season in your heart.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ice Cream Sandwich Stakeout

It was less than a mile away. I had been waiting for this for days. By now the word had gotten out that the Cool Haus truck, known through all the land as a distributer of gourmet ice cream sandwiches, was going the way of credit reports and ringtones for the week. You heard right. Due to a sponsorship by USA, in a very “cool” move (hold for laughs, or giggles, or awkward silence in the absence of both), all week this mobile dessertery was giving it up for free.
Which is good, because I pretty much never have cash. Now that you can buy a 5 cent tile of Bazooka Joe gum on a debit card, cash has become sort of extinct in my life. Believe me, that fact really comes home to roost when I am faced with a parking meter. Desperate scrounging occurs, much huffing and puffing, and I usually wind up peeling a nickel from the perpetually sticky bottom of the irresponsibly sized cup holder below the dash. Gross for me, and I’m sure, gross for the meter maids.

Back to ice cream sandwiches. Less than a mile away. I knew it was over at 6pm, but this is LA, and time doesn’t seem to apply here. As soon as my class ended I raced to my car across 4 lanes of traffic. (It doesn’t sound like a lot now that I write it, but it certainly felt death-defying at the time.) It was exactly like the scene in Atlantic City when Susan Sarandon runs down the boardwalk with the radio blasting opera in her purse-sans boardwalk, sans radio, sans opera. Boils down to running, actually.

The traffic at this hour was pretty horrible, as you might imagine, but in a moment of bizarrely convenient soundtrackery, Tom Petty fueled me onward with “I Won’t Back Down.” Nor will I, Tom. Nor. Will. I. As I squealed around the corner, through what I will always remember as a yellow light, no matter what the cameras reveal, I spotted my prey. Parked innocently on a quiet street. No line. YES. No Line! Wait, no line. No line? This can’t be good. This is bad. Free ice cream sandwiches, and no line. What can this mean?!!

I pulled into an oversize parking spot on an unnecessary diagonal, bypassed the sticky nickel, and raced to the shutting window just in time for: “Sorry guys, that’s it for today.”

Now for a little trip down ice cream sandwich memory lane. When I was a kid, ice cream sandwiches were sold in the school cafeteria for 50 cents. Having no debit card yet, I made the cash purchase on a regular basis. Two chocolate cookie planks that were miraculously never soggy, holding captive a brick of basic, unbeatably vanilla ice cream. I’m really not a picky eater at all, but there are some things that I like to eat with a certain ritual. For example I like the Newton, but not the Fig. So I eat the Newton, and leave the Fig. It’s about as athletic as I get. And I like to eat the ice cream in an ice cream sandwich first, and then eat the remaining cookies, now just a double-decker cookie.

Visions of a younger me with my 50 cent delicacy swam in my thought bubble until I shouted, “Where are you going next?!” Which is how I found myself sitting in a shopping center parking lot, staking out the truck’s next location. I beat it there by 10 minutes. I’m not proud.

In my case, the perp was a scoop of balsamic fig and mascarpone ice cream between two snickerdoodle cookies. The ice cream was like the coldest, creamiest cannoli filling, with the chewy bonus of balsamic softened figs. But the cookies, always my favorite part anyway, were so cinnamon dusted, so crispy on the outside but soft in the middle, that for the first time in my life I found myself having eaten both cookies first, with the ice cream for dessert dessert. So much for tradition. And the whole experience, the sentimental flashbacks, my first time eating the cookies first, all the scurrying across Los Angeles intersections, was absolutely free. Thank God, because I never have cash. Except for you, sticky nickel. Except for you.