"There’s something so sad, somehow, about seeing a middle-aged man, sitting in front of a receptionist’s computer…temping. Ready for action, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, sitting quietly with his hands folded, watching the bustle of big business around him while he reads the morning paper. How did he get there? What string of bad luck led him to the point of seeking out temp work filling in for the receptionist at a medium-sized private equity in Santa Monica? How does he feel about it? Ashamed that he is forced to temp…or happy to have finally gotten the call for duty? I imagine him waking up at 6 every morning, showering and ironing his shirt and pants…and then waiting by the phone. Maybe he showers the night before, just to make sure he doesn’t miss a call? I want to smile at him, show him some friendliness just in case he is hating the fact that he is here right now, but he doesn’t look up from his paper."
I just found this little piece--I named the file simply "10-23" (October 23, 2007):
Today I counted down the minutes, as I do every day, until I could break free and suck some life back into my nearly lifeless, corporate body. When 6PM came, I cut my shackles and headed home.
What greeted me when I went out the door was not the usual unspoken unclean smog of Los Angeles, but something dirtier, heavier. My eyes felt itchy and dry. The fires, which had up until now been beyond my periphery, seemed ever closer.
I quickly got into Lainey and forgot about the air as I rocked to the Beach Boys on my Workout Magic playlist and got cooled off by my A/C. As I battled through Hollywood traffic, I wondered if it was bad to curse the GOD-AWFUL driver who happened to have the enormous “God Bless” Sign in the back of his car. Should that REALLY give him license to swerve manically in and out of lanes without signaling? I’ll have to meditate on that one.
As I drove up Cahuenga towards the freeway, I thought of little beyond getting into the left lane to get onto the 101. I missed it. Why ANYONE would INTENTIONALLY take Cahuenga past the freeway entrance is beyond me. It gets ridiculously backed up and takes 10 times the amount of time. I was busily swearing at the snail’s pace of the traffic (as the 101 traffic running parallel streamed steadily along) and not paying attention to anything outside, when suddenly I reached the peak of the hill.
The skies had been just dark up til now. It’s late October at 6:30, so I wasn’t questioning that point. If I had stopped to think about it, I would have remembered that yesterday wasn’t quite so dark…
But when I got that peak, I saw something odd. The horizon looked different. It looked like that silhouette time, that David knows I love so much. But this wasn’t the regular white-blue silhouette against the sky. These silhouettes stood against an orange-red sky, beneath the smoke, above the horizon.
I became breathless. I had to turn off Diana Ross on my iPod because I could not think of anything but this sight I was seeing and all that it represented. Suddenly I was reminded of all the lives that had been displaced in the last 48 hours; all the homes that had been built from hard earned money that were suddenly and cruelly burned to the ground. I realized that all of my money troubles, which I had brought onto myself, were nothing compared to the devastation that so many of my fellow Southern Californians were suddenly faced with.
I was at the stoplight at Barham, much sooner than I expected. There was a man there holding his cardboard sign, like so many other intersections throughout the city. I didn’t even look at the sign, but simply felt relief at the fact that I had cash in my wallet to give him. I needed to do something, anything, to help someone other than myself right then. I fumbled in my wallet and pulled out $2. I rolled down my window and the man said, “God bless.” Just like that fricking bad driver’s car.
I turned the corner and started down Ventura. The skies weren’t red anymore…they were just back to that same smoky black night sky. I really hope that guy buys himself a burger or a taco or something. How many drugs can $2 buy you on the street, anyway?
Mmmmboy it has been awhile.
I have been struggling a lot with this blog and its purpose, for me and the world-at-large. Because, you and I both know everyone and their mom reads it. Hello Kazakhstan!
I think what has been a struggle is that I really want to say something neat and unique and cool every time I write, and neat, unique, cool things regarding FOOD just don't happen to me every day. To be perfectly honest, they DO happen a lot more than the 10 previous entries in this blog over the past 10 months, but it has really gotten hard to get up the desire to write when TV or books or sleep were alternatives.
As much as I LOVE food (and you know I do) I think that if I want this whole blogging thing to work, I need to encompass a bit more of Emilyworld outside of my kickass vintage kitchen. Shoot, I still need to do a blog about that!
MY POINT IS...if I want to do this blog regularly, and my multitudes of fans demand new material regularly, I need to write about more than just food. Like music, something I've been studying for umpteen years. And movies. And books. And life as a twenty-something. And...and. Yes.
So, this is my intro to a new chapter of Em the Epicurean. The name change will come shortly. Until then, kisses, my dears.
Fast forward 11 months later...and I had yet to go. Reservations for the place are still as elusive as aforementioned Grail, plus money's been a bit tight and the urge for this splurge never came at a good time financially speaking. And then suddenly a new job popped up, and I was about to be forced far, far away from the Pizza Lunch that appeared destined to never happen.
And then...just when I thought the bosses at LL could never do right by me...Sharon canceled one of those hard-won lunches. Rather than let the prize once again slip through my fingers, I held onto it tightly. And so it was, that Megan, Sara, KG and I enjoyed a lovely lunch in the Mario Batali/Nancy Silverton mecca.
Boy, that was a long time coming, eh? Both the meal for me and this little review for you!
Anyway, we were bustled in with the rest of the Friday lunch crowd. It's not a large place, but the atmosphere is made homey by the rust and goldenrod-colored walls. There was a film crew there for some reason or another, just in case we had forgotten that we were very much in Hollywood. The restaurant is not great in terms of sound-control--being the 'scene' it is, it was packed pretty quickly, and I felt almost as if I was in a bar, with the amount each of us had to speak up to be heard.
Our utensils were individually wrapped in paper with the Mozza logo--again, do we really need this reminder of where we are? The placemats were cute, though, covered with Italian cartoons. Who cares if I didn't have a clue about what they said beyond "I"?
Megan was the only non-Mozza virgin amongst us, and she recommended that we all split some appetizers. Out of respect for KG's tryst with veganism, we got all veggie-ful, dairy & meat-free treats: the Eggplant Caponata (described by one as really good ratatouille), the Brussel Sprouts (supposed to come with prosciutto breadcrumbs, which I am SO curious about, but we forewent them) and the Beets with Horseradish. The last of these was veeery light on the horseradish--it looked almost like tiny flower buds on top of the lovely purple vegetable--but still packed plenty of wallop! The fave of the table was definitely the eggplant. Though all of these came out in bowls not much larger than regular sized ramekins, we all got good samplings of each app. We also got a serving of the White Bean Bruschetta, which I probably could have polished off on my own. Loves me some white beans and good bread.
Less exciting was the salad, which was Rucola (a type of leaf that looks rather like overgrown clovers), mushrooms (white-yawn) and fresh Parmesan, the most redeeming part of this dish, but not enough to save it, or rather me, from boredom.
As I had been dreaming about Silverton's pizzas for months on end, I insisted on getting one for myself. I decided on the Goat Cheese, Scallion, Leek and BACON.
KG and Sara split the one vegan pie on the menu, just tomato sauce and oregano. It was very heavy on the oregano and really not much else. When you highlight your sauce so nakedly, I really think it needs to pop. This one did not.
Anyway, my real point in this blog is one of speculation. There is a sign up on the front of The Dive, promising something new and exciting in the coming days. Here's what I think: I spotted an Application for New Ownership or something similarly official at the Dive a few months ago, and on that App...the names of Milliken and Feniger. That's right, the Two Hot Tamales, creators of my FAVE restaurants in LA, Ciudad and Border Grill. Could it be REMOTELY possible that they're extending their (albeit small) empire to RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO MY OFFICE?!?! Demeter, that goddess of the bountiful harvest, has surely been listening to my pleas.
Again, this is all speculation...but I hope that for once my wishful thinking will pay off with bowls of hot tortilla soup all around. Mmmmmmm!
- make a batch of risotto
- cool it overnight
- combine risotto with a couple of eggs and form into balls the size of small fists, stirring in breadcrumbs to help balls keep shape
- poke a hole in the center of each ball and stick in a small cube of mozzarella (we used fresh whole milk mozzarella, which David called ice cream mozzarella-so yummy!)
- seal up hole in ball
- roll risotto balls in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs-repeat
- fry balls in batches of 4-5 in pot of oil
- drain on paper towels
- serve hot
Work drudgery aside, lunchtime is usually a happy time for me. There are loads of restaurants in every pocket of LA, and I'd like to wax poetic for a moment about the two that are making my Tuesday a bit brighter.
Most of the hipster crowd in the city is probably aware of M de Chaya (http://mcafedechaya.com), even if they haven't been. This veggie/pesca friendly place has always struck me as a uber-clean, new-agey deli. They serve loads of sandwiches, salads and sushi, with a revolving menu of soups. Most of their sandwiches come with meat substitutes...do NOT go in there expecting the Muffaletta to taste of real salami, because trust me, you will leave a sad panda. However, go in with an open mind and mouth and you are sure to be satisfied. I have fallen in love with the Panino Tuscano, which they describe as "tuscan white bean spread, spicy seitan “salami”, caramelized onions & arugula on house-baked focaccia grilled hot & crisp to order." It sounds delicious because it is. Nuff said.
Today, though, I wanted something different. I have a (some say bad) habit of always getting the same thing at different restaurants once I find something I adore. So I decided to opt out of my sandwich rut and dive into a few salads. Their menu lets you choose 2, 3 or 4 salads to combine in a sort of personal salad smorgasbord. I went with three vastly different but (pretty much) equally yummy choices:
- Kale with Peanut Sauce--there's really nothing else to this puppy. Kale, if you're not familiar, seems similar in strength of taste to spinach; texturally, though, it is more substantial. The strong taste of the kale is balanced by the subtle sweetness of the peanuty dressing.
- Sesame Soba Noodles--basically cold veggie lo mein (which, if you're me, is pretty much kickass anytime), but with a distinct taste of sesame, both in the dressing and in the seeds throughout the salad. There were some rather unwieldy pieces of tofu in this serving a little too tough for my liking, but it didn't do much to detract from the salad as a whole.
- Wasabi Sweet Potato Salad--yes, wasabi. I was both scared and fascinated by the idea of this dish. Let me put it out there now that I am normally not a fan of salads with mayo, and only ordered this one because they made it with vegannaise. The wasabi was an undertone of the overall dish, which worked really well. However, the sweet potatoes seemed no different that regular potatoes to me...it could be I just have not had enough exposure to them, but I have to admit being disappointed with that. My fave part of this salad was the slices of cucumbers...their crunchiness in combo with the wasabi vegannaise was nearly worth my sweet potato disappointment.
So I did. And it was right. It was just the right ratio of cherry to lime to soda water, not too sweet or tart. Just Cherry Lime Rickey perfection. If you don't know what that is yet, well, I hope you do someday. It makes even hell a little bit more comfortable.
Until next time...
Moving on: I am a formerly extreme picky eater who has been mostly converted through the vast and wonderful culinary experiences I've had since living on my own in Los Angeles, CA. This is Hollywood, people. Now, I admit to still having some food hang-ups (and you may wonder, as I do on occasion, whether a girl who abhors plain tomatoes is really capable of writing a decent food blog) but trying new things now excites rather than scares me. I am a comfort food girl at heart but adore Thai, Indian, French, Southern, German, New England, New Californian...yadda yadda, you know the drill.
I also love baking. Both of my parents as well as my maternal grandma have been baking all my life and through their influence, I like to think that I've gotten pretty good at it! Baking begets things like big bellies and chunky hips, so lately I've been expanding my repertoire to things that aren't loaded with butter and sugar.
Through this blog I am hoping to share new recipes and restaurants with you. I hope to make them enjoyable and informative enough to get you all into the kitchen, and out to some great new places!!