Have you ever been at a massive bookstore and shot straight to the food section, wishing it were bigger and included musings from your local writers? Have you ever dreamed of a bookstore, whose collection was focused on all things food, had a large inviting kitchen for food demos and cooking classes, made fresh-baked cookies waiting just for you on snow days, hosted book signings with the author who might even create one of their recipes on site in said-kitchen? Well, if you haven’t heard of the Book Larder, you may want to reconsider your ignorance.
This Larder sits next to Dot’s Deli, which is also a new Fremont gem serving up sandys, in-house charcuterie, steak tartare and pates. The Book Larder is in quite the perfect location within this little wedge of foodie haven. Across the street is Caffe’ Vita, Via Tribunali Pizzeria, a few beats past there is Pecado Bueno (home of the $3 margarita) and Uneeda Burger. I love this little nook of Fremont. With the Fremont Abby also within couple steps to furnish your art and culture appetite, you really don’t need to bother tumbling down the hill to the main strip. All this area would need is a grocery store….oh wait, there IS.
Anywho, one of the snow laden days that Seattle shutdown, I received a FB update from the Larder offering up hot cookies and tea for any who dared to make the trek. Oh, you bet I did.
And bet your pants that I went sledding later on for, you know, “exercise”. These gems were warm gooey buttery crunchy around the edges dark chocolate hazelnut cookies. And it came from a British baking book. Of course it did. Those Brits know a couple things (emphasis on “couple” ;), and those are jacket potatoes and cookies. Our American oatmeal raisin (I’m sorry but raisin in cookies are just gross) and even some versions of the chocolate chip are pathetic in comparison. Americans rarely invite the hazelnut, sorry I mean filberts, to the baking goodies party. Peanuts, maybe. And the Brits also are not afraid of…BUTTER.
During this peruse, I discovered rad rare finds like The Anthropologist’s Cookbook (which you bet it included beetle stews). They have every reference book you can think of, as long as you’re interested say in making your own sausages, DIY butchering and pickling, WINE guides, and even books on IRAQI cuisine! So far, my picks have been Plate to Pixel (a great read and how-to for snapping Food Porn) and The Wine Lover’s Companion (a wicked useful handy dictionary for all A to Z wine talk!).
Every so often, I make the random jaunt to L.A. for family visits. I usually make a respectable effort to put my feelers out into the local food culture there, which is not too hard to do. In a certain sense, L.A. is a true foodie mecca. Its a honey pot of agricultural abundance, ethnic food gut busting hole-in-the-walls, Middle-eastern/Mediterranean food markets, raw food and all things fringe gourmets and the place where organic became “cool”. I can’t begin to describe how explosively abundant this place is for all of our gastronomic fantasies. But L.A. also represents a huge paradox as a sunshine metropolis of tormenting traffic, insanely sterile, cookie-cutter strip mall urban design, material girls, hair gel, obsession with all things vain and plastic, nonsensical local government and poor fiscal policies. Not to mention, its unyielding familiarity to some of the worst pollution in the country. You hope for a windy day here in order to blow the smog aside just long enough to get a view of the rolling canyons. I have a love hate relationship with L.A. and Orange County, my (sorta) hometown.
Prior to arrival, I do some research. I come up with a list of establishments I have hopes of visiting and believe my family would be so impressed with, but to my surprise, I am usually met with “What?! That’s on the East Side! You know how much traffic that means?”
In Seattle, people will drive 2 hours North to Skagit Valley, on a Saturday a.m. with 1.3 hrs of sleep, to get fresh raspberry french toast from a place called “Calico Cupboard”. We don’t mess around. So it was quite foreign to me, the concept of limiting yourself a scrumptious meal based on something as temporary as “traffic.” But eventually I did realize just how deep this trama runs during one of my foodie visits, which was at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. The realization was made after a conversation with a young surfer-looking Ray-Ban sporting gentleman which consisted mostly of all his traffic and parking horror stories which eventually prompted him to move to NYC and never look back. Sheesh, this guy is messed up. (Yeah- what 20somethingyearold isn’t) I just wanted to chat to someone while eating my sandwich, but now I get it, okay? Traffic steals your soul in L.A.
Anyway, I found and read up on Bay Cities and apparently this was the legit spot for sandwiches of the grinder genre. Upon walking in, I was immediately comforted by its familiar chaos. The kind that I’ve experienced mostly in delis in Rome and Naples. Its the kind of place where you take a number, keep your hands to yourself and listen carefully for your #, for if you don’t slam it on the counter within 3 seconds, they are already onto 6 numbers ahead of you. And be careful about taking pictures, they might ask you kindly: “Hey! You! No paparazzi, aiiiight?!”
**disclaimer: these pictures are s*** quality and I fully admit that in hindsight.
Instead of all you see here, I went with the critically acclaimed: Godmother. With the WORKS. Oh man, talk about a heart attack on gluten. The crohns people shouldn’t even be looking.
Think every cured meat that exists then smother it nicely with olive oil, dijon, provolone, pepperoncini in between the chewiest buttery sourdoughy Italian roll, a heart attack and you’ve now been blessed by the Godmother.
A particularly noteworthy joint I attended was Asian fusion extraordinaire Lukshon in Culver City, L.A.. Delish delights involved soft, moist marinated and cilantro dressed duck rolls, lemongrass & coconut cream tender short ribs, chinese eggplant fries w/ fennel raita, heirloom black rice w/ lamb bacon and fried egg and little precious custard and brittle desserts on the house! Our server was amazingly sweet and enthusiastic. Another observation about an eater L.A. trend is wine on tap, this place had several dazzling Cali whites on tap (wine in kegs, not bottles) including complex Asian-flavor food-friendly Rieslings. Yum!
On the weekend I heavily enjoyed Bossa Nova, a top notch Brazilian go-to for many L.A.lalers, someone told me to not mess around with anything but the ribeye steak and plantains. But that sounded kinda too safe and boring. I’m an adventurous eater, so I went with a Coxinha (a typical Brazilian “street-food” pyramid shaped delicacy of shredded chicken and cheese and then breaded and fried) and the Linguiça Frita (sausages!) with Yucca flour, fresh salsa and extra plantains.
Then for last supper, I visited Father’s Office. Which, has a sort of following and is obviously pretentious by its purposefully inappropriate name and “Office Max” marketing theme. Oh brother, give me a break. I don’t quite get your niche…yelp reviewers praised them mostly for their carmelized onion bacon burger w/ blue & gruyere, but as I learned during my visit that this burger (by the way trademarked- eye-roll please!) was the ONLY burger on the menu’ and like 3 other menu items including random things like ribs and bacon fried brussel sprouts. So bizarre. And if you go to the website, it’s increasingly more cryptic. They have no menu’ online, however you’ll assume the tab for office supplies is a cute name for menu’. Oh no, its actually a link to get Father’s Office (FO) logo crap like shirts and a skateboard (?!).
Word to the wise: Don’t ask for ketchup.
Exhibit A: “May I have some ketchup for my fries?”…”We don’t do ketchup, ma’am.” I was pretty baffled by the attitude, fluff and snobbery in this “office”. Besides the incredulous no-ketchup policy, they don’t permit substitutions or modifications since they assume their shit don’t stink (maybe I want sweet potato fries instead of boring ol’ showstring ones ). What the hell? What if I didn’t want some greasy egg oil glob of garlic aioli for these FRIES and BACON burger…sheesh!!! But I have to say, after all the grating irritation I was totally placated by the (trademarked??!) juicy flavor stricken burger and the malty, spicy seasonal Cali beers on Tap
A couple other places I visited were Salute Wine Bar and Versailles Cuban Cuisine. Oh man, Versailles was phenomenal. The kind of random vinyl table cloth restaurant on a strip of car dealership highway-kind worthy of every woo and yay known to Cuban pork and mojito heaven. Salute on the other hand was a total crap house. Un[wine]friendly Seaweed Beignets that tasted like salt balls wrapped in nori and cream puffs, pizza with like 3 pieces of porcini on stale dry dough, and pathetic sub-par wines on that you had to self-serve using a dispensing card to keep track of your overpriced 2 oz pours. And then this off-balance, scratchy dessert of pickled fennel, orange, (dry, chewy tasteless mush) sponge cake and dots of creme fraiche that really lasted like fish. It was terrible.
One of the absolute worse and reckless establishments I’d ever seen, and I’ve never met a wine bar that I didn’t like. But this, man no. Salute really should fire its chef or give him some serious culinary intensive therapy.
Otherwise, I encourage you the very same delicious stay in Los Angeles, just avoid Salute on Main St. 🙂
Hama Hama. Kumamoto. Penn Cove. Those were the ones who made the fateful leap into my belly. Almost painfully cold, kinda made your teeth squeal and your molars zing. Sgulpy, milky, meaty and slippery, these ones were ever so munchy munchable. So good, they were ordered to the 3rd power.
As far as small plates goes, they got it going on. Fried oysters (seemingly southern style in the fryage) with a thick creamy cilantro aioli. Pork Belly over lentils and greens. Alright Seattle, enough with the Pork Belly. Except you, Carpenter. These were THICK smokey SLABS of MEATY GREASY SWINE. Mmmm. And, salty. Fried brussel sprouts. Crispy buttery and cruciferously wicked. Steak tartare with a farm egg and crostini. At first I thought, who the hell would order steak tartare from an oyster bar. At last, I realized: smart people. It was as if the egg was a a silky olive oil custard creme and the taboo minced steak was lusciously mustardy and made my stomach butterfly with infatuation at this pinnacle moment: my life’s very first bite of raw cow flesh. Romantic, I am.
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