March 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Today I took a walk to the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax to buy dog food from Huntington Meats, when my iPhone was stolen. There are a lot of good reasons to shop at independently owned stores, but the fact that you can count on the nice guys who work there when you’re in a total panic over a small, stolen, six hundred dollar device, is one not to be overlooked. I’d left the butcher a few minutes before, phone in hand, and walked a few hundred steps to the nut store to buy some salty toasted mixed nuts since I am still not eating sugar, and when I noticed the nuts where in my hand and my iPhone wasn’t, I ran back to the butcher (had I left it there?), then back to the nut place (had she seen a phone?), and then back to the butcher—this time not to look for my phone, but just plain desperate for help. Jim the Butcher entrusted one of his younger employees (i.e. knows how to use an iPhone) to use his “find my iPhone” app to find my iPhone. The guy’s name was Charlie, and, to make a two hour story shorter than two hours, suffice to say that we walked around the grounds of the Farmers Market, following my iPhone, setting off the loud, alarm-like cry it makes for lost iPhones and refreshing its location constantly. At one point, back at the nut store where the phone seemed to linger, Charlie and I thought we even heard it. We asked the nut lady to turn off the the peanut-butter making machine (they make the best peanut butter) so we could hear better, and be sure it wasn’t the rotating belt making the noise. No. I was sure I heard it. But where? We circled the nut store. The noise seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The lady still insisted she hadn’t seen the phone. We sat down and checked my purse for the 500th time. Maybe we were following me around? And when we came back to the nut store, we no longer heard the phone. Had it been our imaginations? Maybe not. Because the phone was now somewhere in the vicinity of a shuttered Johnny Rockets. After two hours of this bewildering sleuthing, we could see from Charlie’s phone that my phone was about to die. Once it did, I’d no longer to be able to track it. By this time, we’d followed my phone around from the nut store to the Coffee Bean to the bathroom to the bar to another bar… and now, we could see, it was in a car. Yes, we could see that my iPhone was in a car.
I was already a huge fan of Apple. What their devices do, well, I’d say it never ceases to amaze me, but I’m hardly even amazed anymore because I just expect the devices to do amazing things. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the fact that “find my iPhone” was at this very moment able to tell me that my phone was not just in a car in the parking lot at the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax where it was last seen buying nuts two hours ago, but this thing could tell me that it was in a small black car, sandwiched by a couple of silver cars exactly five cars from the end of the second row. It even showed me a picture the parking lot in real time! By now, Jim the Butcher had joined the chase, mostly to comfort me because I was nearly hysterical both for the lost iPhone and the frustration, knowing it was so close and yet so impossible to find. Jim and Charlie and I stood there by the car that held my phone. But now my phone was really about to be dead. Five percent battery power is what Charlie’s phone said my phone had. All hope was lost. Except that all hope is only lost if all parties know that all hope is lost, and the one party who didn’t know this was the guy who had put my phone in his car.
Let’s take a moment to think about the last two hours from his point of view. He sees a phone. So close. So tempting. So shiny, and so… within reach. He grabs it. Finally, I have an iPhone! he thinks. He puts it in his pocket. Thirty seconds later, the rightful owner of the phone comes back for her phone. The woman behind the counter who sold this nut her nuts says, “I haven’t seen your phone.” And the lady walks away. The guy thinks, This is great. She’s gone! Now this really is MY phone! Until this phone in his pocket starts making a noise. He can’t turn it off—not the noise, not the phone. And now two people and a scruffy little dog are walking around, following him. Wherever he goes, there they are. They don’t know who he is, but he knows who they are, and this effing phone won’t stop making noise. But he’s a clever guy. He can’t get the phone off (an iPhone tagged as lost or stolen, which Charlie had done to mine, can’t be turned off—how amazing is that!?), but he figured out that if he put the case on backwards, the speaker emitting the noise would now be covered by plastic. The noise was muted. But still, Everywhere I go there’s these people and that dog. I’d suspected that whoever had my phone worked in the Farmers Market because anyone who had the chance to leave would have done so. Without that chance, what he’d done was throw the phone in his car. And now what he evidently saw was the three of us, me and Charlie and Jim, standing around his car, looking through the windows. The truth is, we were feeling pretty much hopeless because of the near-dead battery and all. But this guy didn’t know that. All he knew is that we had the ability to follow him around like a tracking device and cause something in his hand to make noises that he couldn’t stop. I’m going to guess he thought that the cops were on the way. In any case, he came running, wearing a baseball hat bearing the name of the nut store, and without any prompting, said to Charlie: “The phone in my car.” And then in Spanish that the guys didn’t understand. “I found it in a basurera.” Jim handed the guy ten dollars for my phone. He was rewarded for his lie. Someone asked if I was going to go to the nut store or to security to tell. I didn’t have the slightest inclination. I’d spent enough of my life on this phone. Instead, I walked back to the butcher and picked up the femur bones they were cutting into Rufus-friendly rings for me at the moment that I’d realized my phone was missing. As Rufus said, “All’s well that ends in marrow.”
July 14, 2009 § 2 Comments
I was at the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax last week when Jim the butcher–the one that makes Nancy Silverton’s famous burger blend–asked me how to make the mayo that Nancy puts on her burgers. For an upcoming party, he wanted to create The Perfect Slider, and he felt this might help him get there. The mayo he was talking about is the not-so-secret mayonnaise, the recipe for which is in the book I wrote with Nancy called Twist of the Wrist, about using packaged foods to help you along the road to really great food. Chipotle Mayo one of three mayos in the book—the others are garlic; and olive-anchovy—all of which are essential elements of Nancy’s burger spread and, for those such as own family and friends who care, part of mine, too. But the chipotle is by far the most popular. It is so good, you really should have it on hand at all times, and if Best Foods were smart, they would copy it, give us no credit, and start selling the stuff very soon. Speaking of Best Foods, although you might be tempted to start with some expensive, fancy mayo you find at Whole Foods, I’m telling you now: unless you have big problems with eating egg yolks and/or corn syrup, use Best Foods (aka Hellman’s). We tried them all, and Best Foods is the yummiest. And I don’t use that word lightly.
1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
4 large garlic cloves, grated or minced (about 1 tbsp) or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons pureed chipotle peppers in adobo, or more to taste (to puree chipotle peppers, dump the entire can, liquid and all, into blender)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste.
Stir the mayonnaise, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, chipotle peppers and kosher salt together in a small bowl. Season with more lemon juice, chipotle peppers, garlic, or salt to taste. Put this on your burgers, use it to make a chicken salad, spread it on a sandwich. Go nuts.
July 1, 2009 § 5 Comments
Today’s New York Times article about burgers struck me as odd. Not because there was an article about burgers. Burger stories is what food publications do for the Fourth of July, which might as well be called: National Burger and Hot Dog Day because four out of five Americans probably couldn’t tell you: Independence from what? But I digress… There’s only so much you can say about burgers and the author pretty much covered the bases. She even tried to go national on the story. But here in Los Angeles, she chose to cover, of all places, the French bistro, Comme Ca. Huh? Okay, so evidently they serve one, but… does anyone in this town talk about the Comme Ca burger or wonder about the secrets behind it? In L.A., when it comes to burgers, people talk about the Pug Burger at the Hungry Cat, Nancy Silverton’s burgers, based on her signature fatty burger grind sold at Huntington Meats, and the have-it-their-way burger at Father’s Office (to be clear, that’s, the restaurant’s way, not the customers’), and that new joint on La Brea whose name I can’t remember that offers nothing but burgers–including nothing in the way of ambience.
When people ask me what my favorite burger is in Los Angeles, my standard response is that the best burger in L.A. is in San Diego. The one I’m referring to is the Drugstore Style Hamburger made by chef Jeff Jackson at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, an Arts & Crafts style architectural wonder perched over what many say is the nation’s best public golf course on the cliffs of La Jolla that may also be my favorite hotel on the planet. Jeff is from Oklahoma, and he named his burger after those you buy at drugstores. You know? All those burgers you’ve eaten at drugstores!? I don’t have the heart to tell him that those of us who grew up in Southern California (or maybe anywhere but Oklahoma) did not eat burgers in drugstores, and what’s the point, really? Because his burger is just so good. Chef Jeff uses all the best ingredients, of course–good meat, makes his own mayonnaise, farmers market veggies, and all that. But what I like best about this burger is that it is just a burger. Nothing fancy. No foie gras. No short ribs. It looks pretty much exactly like Big Mac without the useless third slice–right down to the shredded lettuce, pickles, and soft, sesame seed bun. You can even pick it up with your hands and put it in your mouth. Try doing that with a Pug Burger. Or at a French restaurant for that matter. God bless America.
June 16, 2009 § Leave a comment
The reason I’ve been away is that I’ve been moving, and all I can say about that is: you really find out who loves you when you move. In my case, turns out it was my mother. While I like to give my mom a hard time for not being much of a cook, or for not baking my birthday cakes now or ever, the truth is if she were to bake me a cake I’d probably think of the ways I would do it better. And besides, no cake-baking mom would endure what she did in the last week as I/we engaged in the tedious and seemingly endless process of transferring every one of my earthly belongings from one location to another.
When I’d thought about my impending move, I’d imagined, get this, a party. My logic was, “If Tom Sawyer can get people to pay him to whitewash his fence, why won’t my friends pack my boxes for me? For free!?” My party would involve my many colorful friends, lots of strong and funny men making us girls laugh all while dealing with various tasks I didn’t want to, and just when we needed it, having already put in a hard day’s work with hours yet to go, the perfectly timed, heroic appearance of warm, molten, still crisp pizza from Mozza. What I got instead was this: a nice few hours from Sara, my intern, who spent a gorgeous post Guac-Off Sunday packing every damned book in the place. Some real dedication from my pal, Camille, who took on the worst part, the kitchen, as if she were being paid. Daily phone calls from my friend Ralph, whose promises to help me move as the move approached had given me the courage and confidence I needed at the time. When he called, though, it occurred to me: This is his day off. He doesn’t want to pack my boxes. He is just being nice. “If you want to come over, I’d love to see you,” I said each time. “But we have it under control.” (I never saw him.) And then there was my mom. Day in and day out, driving from Santa Monica, where she lives, picking up Cobb salads at La Brea Bakery on the way, and packing stuff.
Those warm pizzas never arrived, but we didn’t go hungry. In additon to the salads my mom brought, I cooked off the contents of my freezer, which included half a dozen chicken apple sausages from Huntington Meats, eight servings of frozen lasagna verde that had been there since February, from Osteria Angelini. A beef pot pie, also from Huntington Meats, which I heated up and served upside down with a mountain of warmed-up frozen petite peas on top, which–substitute a Swanson’s Pot Pie–was one of the staple home cooked meals my mother raised me on. And lots and lots of Progresso Lentil Soup, which I consider to be canned food perfection. All in all it was its own sort of festive. Moves are exciting. New beginnings, and all that. And my mom and I really did have a great time. “Boy did I have fun!” she wrote in an email to me this morning. “Just a great weekend!” To which all I can say is: Thank God for moms. And to each his own.
May 21, 2009 § 3 Comments
Here in L.A., when it comes to burgers, people talk about Nancy Silverton’s hamburger meat, but strangely, nobody ever mentions her buns. I was making Nancy’s classic burger buffet for my family recently, and in addition to the famously fatty blend of 18% fat prime chuck with an extra, whopping 20% fat (that’s fat trimmed from all the best cuts of meat) ground in, sold as “Nancy Silverton Grind” at Huntington Meats in the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, I went to buy the buns she now also insists on.
NS used to serve her burgers on crusty European-style rolls. It’s not that I have anything against crusty European-style anything, it’s just not what I want in a hamburger bun. Me and her boyfriend, a crime reporter who sometimes writes under the pen name Morty Goldstein, often rebelled and bought soft, cheap grocery store buns for ourselves. Then Nancy found these—Thees Continental Pastries.
When I asked the guy behind the counter, who turned out to the be the owner, Thee—just to be sure—if this was where Nancy Silverton got her buns, he showed me the buns, and also a blank stare. I asked him for 18 of them. As he was ringing me up, he told me I’d bought his every bun. “We’ve been selling a lot of them lately,” Thee said. “You might want to call and place a special order next time.” I told him that the reason for the sudden spike in sales may be because Nancy’s been talking them up to her food-obsessed friends, which is pretty much all of them. Then he indicated that he didn’t know who she was, “But I’m glad to hear she likes our buns.” I loved his innocence. More than anything, I loved the buns. Soft and ever-so-slightly sweet with the thinnest, crustiest of crusts. Split them open, brush them lightly (but all the way to the edges!) with melted butter, and put them on the grill for a minute or two just to get some color and crispness. A great American burger bun if ever there was one. I mean, if hamburgers were French, it might be a different story.
Here’s the Goods
Thee’s Continental Pastries
The Original Farmers Market
(Third & Fairfax)
You might want to call and put in an order…