Two nights ago, on Friday the 13th, Mother Nature bestowed us with a golden colored-full moon that is typically referred to as a honey, strawberry or rose moon. Strawberries are currently burgeoning in our garden and one of my favorite things to do with them is cut them up room temperature, scatter them atop real, thick coconut Greek yogurt and drizzle them with a bit of organic honey. This, of course, would make the perfect afternoon meal for the summer washed down with an expensive glass of rosè wine. Rosè, a wine commonly maligned, yet with a proper and respectable place during the long hot summer is something I enjoy seeking out during the three torrid months a year which complement its light and fruity characteristics.
These full moon reveries also led me to think about summertime food and how it is the ideal time to change up our eating patterns. Hot, Southern California days slither in too heavily to merit three full meals. The bounty of produce that springs from our paradise soil along with farm-raised local meats and briny jewels from the Pacific Ocean are all we need to dine light and fresh until Fall.
Taking the seasonal eating shift one step further into the restaurant experience, it is an ideal time to find single appetizer dishes that are too large for a simple pre-meal bite but small enough so that they aren’t as filling as normal entrees. Elevating these types of appetizer dishes to a meal during summer can be a delight, especially eaten alone at the bar of a bustling restaurant with nothing other than a glass of wine. For under $40 in downtown Los Angeles alone, you can find plenty of opportunities to have this type of sumptuous summer supper.
Recently the Cute Gardener and I dined at the hot spot Bestia—a trendy Italian joint complete with frighteningly sexy meat hook décor and a loud playlist of 1980s hardcore hip hop music. Everything was top notch and above average but two appetizers entirely bowled us over—both of which would completely qualify for a lone dinner at the bar with a glass of rosè.
The lamb neck deserves a prize. Seriously, a “golden way to rock a bone-y piece of meat” prize by the likes of Chris Cosentino or Lucky Peach magazine or some old French bastard who appreciates toiling for hours over a funky cut of sheep. For 18 hours, the neck is braised and then some magical forces of caramelization are accomplished before the brick-sized hunk hits the plate. This chunk of tender flesh is then covered in a refreshing green sauce that carries only a hint of mint amongst its lemony goodness and accompanied by a small, sparsely oiled green salad. The meat falls apart at the touch, is full of savory nuggets and sweet bits to slurp out from between the bones, providing not only an outstanding and unusual meal but also it’s also fun to eat.
Secondly, the chicken gizzards appetizer really surprised us. We are chicken gizzard aficionados and typically order them whenever we see them (our favorites being at Kokekokko, grilled and skewered plain with a shot of sake). But these were the best I’ve had so far, tender and meaty on the inside and charred on the outside. They arrived in the form of a salad pile, individually tucked into leaves of endive and topped with a shaved flake of exquisite capra sarda cheese. The whole lot was then dressed with tangy balsamic lending a hint of summer BBQ.
Although the pastas that followed were nice and crafty, it’s these two dishes that we would return for. I am now inspired to seek out some more opportunities this summer to find other types of this one plate with wine experience until the Fall when a more “meat on my bones” mentality becomes more acceptable again in the cold.