Foodies in Love

IMG_8273This elegant little block of tofu doused with a perfect amount of soy and striped with tender piles of meticulously placed chives represents the Cute Gardener. He is neat, ordered, minimal and aesthetically clean.

IMG_8274This chaotic bowl of ramen with awkwardly large noodles trying to elbow for room amongst the greens and wobbly eggs punctuated by strands of fatty pork represents me. I am messy, cluttered, rich and juicy.

Together these dishes make one of our favorite at home meals – food being the common denominator in our sea of differences that have always fueled our relationship with curiosity, wonder and mutual adventure. As we celebrate our third anniversary I thought I would pay homage to some of the best things I’ve learned or come to understand about our foodie life together.

  1. The CG will never share my love of white foods, i.e. bananas, coconut, etc.
  2. I will never share his love of sucking the goo from a crab head.
  3. When it comes to a bird, he likes stripping the carcass whereas I like digging the marrow from the bones.
  4. The CG received the gene that makes a person hate cilantro. I did not.
  5. If you want a cake or cookie in this household, you better ask the CG otherwise you may get something resembling rabbit food and granola without proper fat and termed raw.
  6. I make better homemade pizzas but his look prettier.
  7. Cooking the entire Dorie Greenspan Around My French Table is taking me a lot longer than I had envisioned when I gifted the book to him for our first Christmas together.
  8. Whereas the flavor of peppermint is like garlic and the sign of the cross to the CG, my kryptonite remains any form of poultry skin not fried to a non-flabby crisp.
  9. I am in charge of the baked salmon and other things in the oven; he is the king of the stove top.
  10. Rye bread doesn’t last in our household, especially if it’s from Diamond Bakery on Fairfax. He prefers it lighter without seeds and I crave dark loaves with seeds. Sometimes we get marbled.
  11. I am most assuredly spoiled because I get dinner cooked for me at least five days a week but I don’t take it for granted.
  12. Backyard produce has made grocery store produce unbearable to me.
  13. Bourbon is to be respected.
  14. For red wines, he likes his complex and balanced while I prefer funky, dark and big.
  15. We have found that there are very few restaurants that make us want to return more than once and so many good ones to choose from that it seems normally silly to do so. But there are exceptions that include Asenabo for simple yet sophisticated Japanese, Hatfield’s for buttery agnolotti, Scarpetta for scrumptious spaghetti, Papilles for Chef Tim Carey’s new-nightly dinner menu,  Il Fico for belly comforting pastas, Osteria and Pizza Mozza, Brent’s for the best pastrami in Los Angeles, El Faro for dollar fifty pastor tacos, TLT for pork belly nachos and Kokekokko because we will never tire of skewered chicken parts and cursing, beer slinging cooks.
  16. We will always enjoy non-American food for the Fourth of July.
  17. We will never eat out on Valentine’s Day preferring to whip up a feast at home.
  18. He was right when he told me I should ban dessert at restaurants because I would forever be disappointed.
  19. I was right when I told him he should do the same with BBQ anywhere on the West Coast.
  20. It is mutually understood at this point that we will never meet a pork belly we don’t like.
  21. You don’t have to like the same foods to be compatible but you have to be a foodie to be in love with a foodie.
  22. We are very lucky.

I say that last one, “We are lucky,” while knocking on wood because when you find your food soul mate you never want to lose him.

Honey Rose Strawberry Moon Summertime Meals

10268644_10152134790424080_5406738666010982166_nTwo 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.

BestiaLambNeckThe 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.

BestiaGizzardsSecondly, 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.