Ultimate Food Summer Weekend: From Seafood Craze to Farmer's Market Bounty
This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Kick off your culinary tour with dinner at the lively Connie and Ted’s (8171 Santa Monica Blvd.) in West Hollywood. It’s the latest in L.A.’s big new embrace of classic East Coast seafood shacks, as reconceived by top local chefs. (Think Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo at Son of a Gun, Jason Travi at Littlefork and David LeFevre at Fishing With Dynamite.) This one is all about the steamers and chowda, creations of Michael Cimarusti, known for the fish-focused Providence (which earned two Michelin stars when the guide was still covering the city), all served up in a postmodern swoop of a building that recalls Googie architecture.
First thing, visit the most-talked-about breakfast spot in town, Silver Lake’s Sqirl (720 N. Virgil Ave.), which is at the forefront of the jamming movement. Exhibit A: burnt brioche toast with house ricotta and Blenheim apricot jam. Stay on the Eastside and nab a spot at a suitably summery Hipcooks (eastla. hipcooks.com) class like “The Thrill of the Grill,” held in a loft at the Brewery Arts Complex near downtown L.A. For lunch, go old school with a No. 19 on double-baked rye at Langer’s (704 S. Alvarado St.) in MacArthur Park. The late New York supremacist Nora Ephron once declared it “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.” Afterward, download a neighborhood map from nonprofit Fallen Fruit (fallenfruit.org) and go on an urban produce-picking adventure among the trees and bushes of Pasadena. Then stop by Janet Jarvits’ singular shop Cook Books (1388 E. Washington Blvd.) in the same neighborhood to select a tome from her 30,000 titles, many of which are rare finds. For dinner, book a table — far in advance — at the toughest new reservation in town: the Italian sensation Bestia in downtown’s Arts District (2121 E. Seventh Place). (Warning: Seating for two at 7:30 on a Saturday night is booked two months out, so your assistant better know how to pull strings.) If that sort of planning ruins your appetite, then head west to Brentwood’s Vincenti (11930 San Vicente Blvd.), which has just begun sourcing an Australian truffle variant of the traditional French black Perigord fungus — joining the likes of Santa Monica’s Melisse and downtown L.A.’s Patina. Vincenti’s top toque, Nicola Mastronardi, doesn’t just employ truffles over pasta but with everything from hamachi carpaccio and white asparagus to vanilla gelato. The Down Under market is beginning to boom as U.S. chefs realize they no longer need to fall back on frozen truffles outside of autumn.
Bring a basket to the bountiful Sunday farmers market in Hollywood, which draws top chefs — like the kitchen team behind Cooks County — and Jake Gyllenhaal alike to scout out A-list Southern California vendors like Gardens Of..., known for its lettuce and potatoes. When you’re finished, tuck into a barbecue brunch at the stylish new Bludso’s Bar-&-Que (609 N. La Brea Ave.) in Mid-City. Kanye West is a stalwart of the storied original outpost in Compton. Once you’re sated, hit the Eastside to stock up on libation rations. Silver Lake Wine (2395 Glendale Blvd.) boasts a Wally’s-esque array of vintages and $20 four-pour tastings — typically regionally themed — at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Close by, Bar Keeper (3910 W. Sunset Blvd.) has all of the nouveau-mixology accoutrements for at-home sipping, such as vintage glassware and small-batch bitters including the sought-after Miracle Mile brand, produced by former Miramax executive Louis Anderman. Then, over in Highland Park, stop by the unparalleled Galco’s Soda Pop Stop (5702 York Blvd.) to select among hundreds of carbonated rarities, from colas (Fukola, Double) and sarsaparillas (AJ Stephans, Baron’s Boothill) to such experimental flavors as juniper berry and lemongrass that make Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray really seem old-fashioned. Finish your 48-hour tour with this summer’s periodic weekend 626 Night Market (626nightmarket.com), situated along the ornate Paddock Gardens in front of the Santa Anita Park horse-racing track in Arcadia. Mimicking the jam-packed night markets of Asia, vendors — many from nearby San Gabriel Valley communities — offer a dizzying array of street eats such as stinky tofu, pig intestine skewers and mango ice drinks. Or, at the other end of the Asian dining spectrum, there’s the glitzy Chi Lin (9201 Sunset Blvd.), across from Soho House. It’s a favorite of Courteney Cox. “I love having a great Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood, especially one that has such a good atmosphere,” she says of the weeks-old newcomer, which specializes in Hong Kong haute cooking with a vaguely Trader Vic’s flair (expect the shrimp-and-chicken fried rice to be served in a hollowed-out pineapple and retro cocktails to be adorned with plastic monkeys).
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