travel: crawl up the five…

The color of drink.

Burrata.  Sea urchin.

These two ingredients recurred with such frequency at my table on a recent trip to the West Coast that you’d think they sponsored my blog.

It amazes me the intensity with which food trends move these days.

Beyond burrata and sea urchin, I also wallowed happily in a fair amount of pristine produce from the mecca of farm stands at Chino Farm.  Hopefully, such things will never be irrelevant.

There was candy-sweet corn. There were ripe, fragrant melons of all shades. There were plump plums, and baskets of strawberries (one of a French variety, the other Californian, which I found slightly sweeter and more fragrant) that chuckeats, Miss O.M.G., and I snacked away on an unbearably slow crawl up Highway 5 from San Diego to Los Angeles.

We visited our friend Tomo.  And for a brief moment, we revived the Charleston foursome.

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Ricardo Zarate

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I lived in Los Angeles for two years. And I hated it.

I hated it a lot.

So I moved away, vowing to return only for food. It took me a decade, but I finally went back.

And I still don’t understand it: the hype, the bling, or the scene.  The traffic is a royal nightmare.  The sprawl is endless.  The smog. The haze.  The concrete.  There is simply no way to make that city look pretty.

But, I can’t deny that Los Angeles has managed to build a vibrant dining scene, even if it lacks some of the seriousness at the high end that you would expect from such a large city with such vast resources and perennial access to great ingredients.

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Michael Cimarusti and Hiroyuki Urusawa

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In four days, I hit a wide range of tables, from the communal to the haute, the hip to the humble.  I had some pizza and lots of pasta.  I drank some spectacular wines at Craig Thornton’s wolvesden, thanks to Dave Haskell, who brought a treasure trove from Burgundy.

I attended a special “Four on Fish” dinner hosted by Michael Cimarusti at his restaurant, Providence, where he and three of L.A.’s most well-respected chefs cooked a nine-course dinner spotlighting seafood. Cimarusti, Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites),  Hiro Urasawa (urusawa), and Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica and Picca): the two dishes that stood out were Cimarusti’s “Japanese Fresh Water Eel” and Lefebvre’s musky “Lobster Vadouvan” with a swatch of bittersweet orange marc crawling up the side of the bowl.  I won’t be writing about this meal, but you’ll find all of the photos HERE.

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Picca

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Thanks to Tomo, I was a guest at the friends and family opening of Zarate’s new restaurant, Picca, right off the heels of his appearance in Aspen as one of this year’s Food + Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs. The local fooderatti and chefs appeared in full force for this fun night of snacking and drinking.  The food, drinks, and interior at Picca created a great sense of place and time: shareable, flavorful, modern, Peruvian.

And there were a couple of late-nights at Red Medicine, where Jordan Kahn is building Southeast Asian cities on plates with flora and fauna. His food is architectural, landscaped, beautiful, a crossroad of fish sauce and herbs.

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George's at the Cove

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But before L.A. there was San Diego, which was actually the primary target of this trip: George’s at the Cove in La Jolla has been pinned to my bucket list ever since I met Chef Trey Foshee in Kansas City in early 2010.  And fanatic reports rolling in from chuckeats only hastened my arrival.  I’ll save the details for later.  Suffice it to say, he and his staff pampered us and fed us well.

You’ll notice from my last two posts that I’ve been traveling a lot.  I’m sorry I can’t be filling in more often between trips.  I will try my best to write more frequently about some of the amazing meals I’ve been having.  In the meantime, stand-by with my rapidly expanding list of restaurant meals in hand.  I’ll hyperlink the following to their posts when they issue:

San Diego

George’s at the Cove
Market
Nine-Ten

Los Angeles

Bazaar (Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel)
Il Grano
osteria mozza
Picca (friends & family)
pizzeria mozza
Providence (“Four on Fish”)
Red Medicine (once, twice)
Tavern
Torafuku
wolvesden

Photos: The Burgundy aftermath at wolvesden; Ricardo Zarate at the friends and family opening of Picca; Michael Cimarusti and Hiro Urusawa at the “Four on Fish” dinner at Providence; Picca, at night; George’s at the Cove, in the still of after-service.

~ by ulterior epicure on July 11, 2011.

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