Blue prawn crudo and cauliflower panna cotta
One of the biggest sources of joy in my life is eating, making and exploring cuisine with the Cute Gardener. Another is listening to live music – from an extremely varied musical palate we share between the two of us. For that reason, Papilles Bistro (taglined: Art is to Refuse Mediocrity by Balthus) in Los Angeles has had a very special place in my heart. The tiny restaurant in a strip mall, reigned over by Chef Tim Carey in his ever present L.A. Dodgers cap, where you never know which few fabulous things are going to be on the menu yet everything is stellar, has been our pre-eat spot for nights filled with Stanley Clarke’s jazz at the Catalina Club, Da Camera Society’s chamber music at an estate of magnificent architecture in the ritzy hills, and good ole Neil Diamond at the Greek. Something about the combination of fine food, a Southern California evening and cocktails on the town along to the beat of great tunes fills me with sparkling joy and I have shared that often here on this blog.
Recently however, my posts have dwindled, and I am embarrassed to admit it has been because I have been leery of expressing joy. For multiple reasons. One, I have been in a state of dread leading up to and since our Presidential election. Two, because of the outcome of the Presidential election I have been chagrined (by friends and foes alike) for sharing my natural outpourings of joy. For example, on the night of the election, the Cute Gardener and I were at a steakhouse and after the meal, I was brought a large pink tuft of cotton candy. I took a photo of myself with that puff and put it on Instagram and noted that now, more than ever, we needed to try and personally experience joy, because our small little lives are really all we have. I wasn’t trying to say that my experience of joy would automatically bar any knowledge of the reality of many suffering on our planet. I wasn’t saying that my joy was something that I wanted to cloud other parts of me, like the activist woman with a writer’s mouth, geared for a life of written word service. I wasn’t putting my fingers in my ears and screaming “la la la la la la,” as if I wanted to become blissfully ignorant. I was merely stating that if we are in positions to experience joy, we should, because many aren’t and we are really lucky to have that opportunity.
I received a backlash. And it had everything to do with the Presidential election. And it threw me into a state of dread. And I wrote about my postpartum blues after the election for a literary magazine and I spoke about how many of us now feel frozen – frozen between enjoying our lives that we knew and being scared of whatever damage may come, not particularly to our lives, but to the lives of many others.
But … yesterday I read a quote in the Los Angeles Times by a writer named Jade Chang whose “Wangs Vs. The World” is becoming a bestseller. She spoke about being at a writer’s conference recently and how all of the panelists and audience members were kind of in the same frozen daze. They were asking, “Why even write?” She said, “We started talking about how joy itself is a rebellion, how living unapologetically is an act of defiance.”
It was enough to put some happiness back into my strut, giving me the confidence to share that strut here, where now I have come home to experience joy unapologetically. And it is entirely synchronistic that my first post back is about my experience last week at Lost At Sea, a new seafood restaurant in Pasadena, reigned over by none other than that favorite L.A. Dodger hat-wearing chef of mine Tim Carey.
Butter poached lobster
The best artists in life know to move from project to project, passion to passion, without growing stale. They take their surroundings, the materials they’ve been given, and they mingle that with themselves to find inspiration. We see this happening now in Los Angeles a lot. Chefs will open multiple places, or pop up here and there, or float, giving their talents and their muse a large field to choose from. Carey’s food at Papilles is still exquisite and supreme but Lost at Sea is his outlet for channeling a deft and creative touch onto the Southern California fresh seafood scene. The niche is exemplary in his hands. Think tangy raw blue prawns aloft in a sauce of passion fruit, orange, guava and aguachile; octopus mole with sweet potato, Satsuma and sesame tuile; snapper with baby turnip, fingerling potato, spigarello, tarragon fumet and duck; butter poached lobster with black trumpet mushroom, celery root velouté, (the CG says any chef, like Carey, who is an alum of Patina-training knows how to make a superior velouté) fresno chile and parsley; or my favorite dish of all, (and perhaps #1 yet for 2017), a rich and decadent cauliflower panna cotta (which coats the tongue wickedly more like a mousse) topped with luscious uni, pop-in-your-mouth trout roe, sexy brown butter and the sprightly spritz of citrus. Yum.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I am happy that I can continue to find joy in food through my relationship with the CG while it lasts. And I shall.
Forgive me for being (at) Lost at Sea.