Fugu to foie gras, pizza to panuchos
By Jonathan Gold
View more photos in Anne Fishbein’s “99
Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die” slideshow.
We were going to call it “99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Move to
San Diego,” but it didn’t have the same ring of finality. You could
probably drive up from San Diego if you were really, really in the mood
for a maple-bacon biscuit but from beyond the grave? I’m afraid our
metaphysics isn’t quite up to that one.
And as long as we’re on the subject of
metaphysics, we will also confess to being a bit judgmental, because
judgmental is what we do around here. If we’re suggesting that some
things — 99 things — are on this particular list, we’re also suggesting
that others are not. A Tito’s taco:
Eat before you die. A Pink’s
hot dog? You’re on your own.
See — you’ve barely started reading and we’ve already absolved
you of the responsibility of standing in line behind Leonardo
DiCaprio. You’ve already recouped the entire cost of the issue,
and then some.
To eat, perchance to dream, in no particular order.
Eat before you die? If you get it from the wrong guy, blowfish can be
what you taste rather immediately before you expire — tetrodotoxin,
the nerve agent concentrated in the innards, is enough to paralyze a
charging bull elephant, and is rumored to be the agent used to turn men
into zombies. Usually, we satisfy our fugu cravings at Dae Bok, the
Koreatown specialist that cooks the blowfish into a spicy, garlicky
stew, but everybody should experience, at least once, the translucent
petals of fugu sashimi prepared by Hiro Urasawa
in its early spring season. But be warned: If the toxins won’t get you,
the size of the check just may. Urasawa, 218 N. Rodeo
Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 247-8939.
Bulgarini’s Goat’s Milk Gelato
Angeles is a world capital of so many things, including, it turns
out, goat’s milk ice cream. Delicieuse, in Redondo Beach,
is the most obvious source, sporting reams of literature about the
health benefits of goat’s milk and eight flavors of ice cream made with
the stuff, all of them delicious but none of them particularly goaty.
And then there’s Leo Bulgarini, the Zen gelato master of Altadena,
who amps up the strong, animal taste of his goat’s milk gelato by
tossing goat cheese into the mix along with a handful of toasted,
unsweetened cacao nibs for maximum pungency — it’s petting-zoo gelato,
gelato you can almost imagine nibbling on your sleeves. Leo recommends
that you pair it with a glass of rose prosecco from Valdobbiadene. Bulgarini
Gelato, 749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena. (626) 791-6174.
If you’ve been to a local farmers market midwinter, you’ve probably
seen these things — lumpy, glowing, pale-green vegetables, the size of
footballs bisected on their horizontal axes, plunked down near the
counter at any Weiser Family Farms stand. If you’re at the Pasadena
farmers market, there may be a Caltech student or two nearby, admiring
the peculiar geometry of the vegetable; fractal pyramids flowing in
tight logarithmic spirals, cruciferous Fibonacci series, galaxies
expressed in the medium of cauliflower. Nudge the postdocs out of the
way and take one home. Made into a salad with pureed anchovies, roasted
whole with a dribble of olive oil or sliced and sautéed with garlic and
capers, the nutty, deep-flavored Romanesco is the queen of winter
I have read more about cephalopod nervous systems in the last couple
of years than most of the people of my acquaintance, and I’m still not
sure about the morality of eating this dish — which is to say, the
tentacles of a humanely dispatched octopus, served chopped and still
wiggling on a platter. The predominant school of thought states that the
tentacles move purely by reflex, like beheaded chickens or the
twitching frog legs many of us encountered in high school biology.
Another theory, which begins to make sense when your next bite starts to
crawl up your chopsticks, claims that the octopus brain is rather
decentralized, and that the suckers adhering to the roof of your mouth
are still very much alive. Imagine a dish so delicious that it
occasionally outweighs pretty serious ethical concerns. That’s san
nak ji. Masan, 2851 W.
Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 388-3314.
Sherry Yard’s Kaiserschmarrn
Everybody who hasn’t been to Spago since the 1980s knows exactly what
to get there — pizza, chopped Chino Ranch vegetables, and pasta with
goat cheese and broccoli. They’re the dishes that made California
cuisine famous, that fed Hollywood and made Wolfgang Puck
America’s first celebrity chef. Except that Spago hasn’t really served
those dishes in a while: Puck’s and Lee Hefter’s
palates lean more toward the Austrian palette than toward the pizza
party, and the one dish that has remained on the menu for the last dozen
years has been the beet layer cake with goat cheese and pumpkinseed
oil. Which leaves longtime Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard’s
Kaiserschmarrn, an ethereal, fluffy pancake served with strawberries.
What does Tony Curtis
have in common with Emperor Franz
Josef I? Do you even have to ask? Spago, 176 N. Cañon Drive,
Beverly Hills. (310) 385-0880.
Tito’s Old-School Tacos
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