3-4 years ago i started poking around downtown, and have come to find some fantastic restaurants and cafés. It’s a strange place, downtown LA, and if you don’t know your way around, it can be quite depressing. In a way, it’s like a miniature version of Los Angeles, which has several great ‘pockets’ – the Indian community on Artesia’s Pioneer blvd, the oddities of Venice Beach, the altered reality of shopping in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica (or ‘The People’s Republic of Santa Monica’ as i like to call it), all separated by blocks and blocks of ‘culture free zones’.. streets lined with strip malls, shitty restaurants (if one could even call them that), bad ‘family’ diners and 99c stores. And, much like downtown, if you don’t know your way around, you’re screwed. You could drive for 45 mins. without finding one person that knows the meaning of ‘sustainably farmed’ or ‘organic vegetables’. You could easily get lost in a sea of billboards for Burger King, Big Momma’s House and American Pie 3.
So, back to downtown. One of my fave spots there is the Nickel Diner. Run by Monica May and Kristen Trattner, it’s easily become a must-have when i’m in the area (if even remotely). They’ve become famous for their Bacon / Maple donut, but also try the Nutella donut and the Irish Carbomb (filled with Irish Whiskey custard). It’s one of the VERY few places i’ll keep coming back to, despite their shitty coffee.. the pastries are just that good. And besides, how can a place that has a weekend breakfast menu item called the ‘Hangover Helper’ be anything but great?
Other hot spots are the Wurstkuche sausage operation w. over 40 beers and over 20 sausages (try the Rattlesnake & Rabbit w. jalapeno – Sid did!), a fantastic meatfest, the superbad Church and State Bistro and Angelique Cafe.. great euro food. And don’t forget the Pitfire Pizza joint.. arugula and burrata pizza.. my lord!
By the way (and i’m rambling) – i love when I’m cooking, and the recipe calls for ‘one medium onion’. People: this is america.. there is no ‘medium’ anything here!! I’ve looked for medium onions here for 20 years now, and it’s just not something you see. And can we talk about celery for a moment??? The smallest ‘portion’ of celery you can buy anywhere is 2 whole bunches.. together. I just need 2 stalks!! I don’t know what kind of fridge you have, but my ‘crisper’ does everything but.. so even when i’m trying to be frugal, and stick the remaining 37 stalks of celery in the fridge, they’re dead the next day.
Some good meals Sid and I made in the last few weeks: The Port and Stilton burger. Reduce some port in a small skillet – from here (remember, if it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to use for cooking, so don’t skimp), until heavy and slow.. drizzle over some thick beef patties, w. Stilton cheese – which you’ll get form here – or the Cabrales, aged in limestone caves, wrapped in maple leaves… oh my. And don’t you DARE put ketchup on that!!
Also good: shrimp bisque (this is the ‘two celery stalk’ recipe) – great stuff.. and why? Well, because you boil the shrimp shells with some butter and water, to make the stock. Then you saute the veggies in butter, and then the shrimp (in more butter) and finally, after you mix it all together and puree it, you add cream. Ha! can’t go wrong with that, now can you?
And how exactly am I supposed to be able to afford all these french restaurants and expensive cheese and port, you may ask? Well, good news: I’ve been looking at the release schedules for movies this summer, and since pretty much all that’s coming out – aside from the new Terence Malick – is utter and complete crap (Priest, Thor, Pirates pt 13, Scream pt 4, Green Lantern, Colombiana, Conan, Transformers pt 9, X-men pt 11 … i could go on), you’ll save so much money that you’ll be more than ready to spend it on some good food! Woooo!