Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lalalalalala (the brain pondering LA Trip Part II/II four days later)

I am streaming KCRW's Raul Campos' show from last night.  This dude plays awesome and eclectic progressive mixes! Now he has begun to play "Paris," this mesmerizing piece by Friendly Fires that I blast on my iPod when I am about to collapse on the elliptical machine and need a boost.

I should be sleeping now.  But the reason I write this even though it is late is because--dammit!-- I have to write this now or I will never do it.  

It is only the second day back at work from a two-week holiday recess yet my trip to LA, just four days ago, has nearly escaped me completely. It was like it happened....months ago.  Worklife and routines have taken over and shoved my memories into tight, hard-to-access corners of my brain.

It hasn't even been a week!

After Pasadena last Thursday, I headed to West Hollywood to Real Food Daily, which has been on my LA restaurant list for nearly two years now.  (After much agonizing, I had cancelled my reservation at Lucques in exchange for hitting up two or three casual restaurants, including M Cafe--a place I fell in love with in Culver City--and maybe the larder at Tavern--owned by Suzanne Goin, also of Lucques.)

Real Food Daily, which is a few doors from Trashy Lingerie Offices ( and across the street from a bunch of furniture stores, was getting busy at 6pm.  I had the "TV Dinner," which was really like a frozen TV dinner, without the aluminum tray.  It was good. I was in a meaty mood and this fit the bill, vegan style.

I used to beg my mother to buy me TV dinners from the frozen food aisle. Much better: Real Food Daily's "TV Dinner."  
Next up was M Cafe. I drove by the West Hollywood location, which disappointed me because of how puny it looked, so I headed to the Beverly Hills restaurant.  I had visions in my head of the Culver City place which so captivated me for its spaciousness, bright natural lighting, communal table and, menus, written on chalkboards...  I was horrified to learn that it was gone.  

RIP M Cafe Culver City.  Spacious, airy, clean, organic.

Japanese tray with black cod. (M Cafe, Culver City)

 Blueberry buckwheat pancakes.  Pancakes you don't have to feel guilty about eating. (M Cafe, Culver City)

I want a repeat of this breakfast. (M Cafe, Culver City)

People chillin' at the communal table. (M Cafe, Culver City)

But like the Westho location, the Beverly Hills restaurant was also small. It also was barren. There wasn't a soul in there except the manager and some guy sweeping the floor!  Meh.  And the limited offerings behind the glass case were hardly appetizing.  But I got the kale in peanut sauce, which turned out to be tasty, and a Babycakes gingerbread cupcake, which at $4.94 was by far the most expensive cupcake I have ever had.  It was excellent, but I have since vowed to never pay such money again for a cupcake.  

[I am listening to Raul Campos' show live now. He is now playing Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street! KCRW is a godsend. Absolute renegade radio. Ok, I just found out that Gerry Rafferty died recently. Still, you'd never hear a DJ playing his tunes on a commercial alternative station.]  

The gingerbread flavor tasted a bit medicinal--maybe it was clove, but it wasn't just ginger.  I still liked it very much and could not believe it was vegan!

Delicious faux cream cheese icing, and gingerbread with a bite.

After M Cafe in windy Beverly Hills, which felt like a ghost town, I headed to meet my bro in Studio City, at Jinya, the new ramen-ya that Jonathan Gold likes.  I was in a foul mood when I arrived. Due to a communications mix-up, I had been sitting in a parking lot for at least twenty minutes before I discovered that my brother was already inside and had finished his first course.  

Apparently my frustration showed because the waitstaff there, while courteous, kept their distance from me. No one asked me what I wanted or offered me a menu despite that I had settled into the chair at the bar counter next to my brother, who was being served. I faced a bunch of disarming Asian and Latino dudes in black t-shirts quietly but industriously preparing food  behind the counter.  I could hear customers behind me coming and going. The place was bustling at 10pm on a weekday night and the aroma of ramen broth was seductive. But I was not hungry.  TV dinner was still digesting in my middle.

After a while, one of the shaggy-haired Japanese dudes, who wore his cap backwards, started chatting with my brother and me.  I cannot remember what he asked us initially. But before long we were engaged in conversation about Jonathan Gold's review of his place (how often did Jonathan Gold come by? We asked. Oh, several times, he said), how the review spiked up business for him, and how he is planning on opening up more shops soon. He is prospecting, he said...he told us he was from fun it was to be talking to the manager of this rising-star of a place!  My stress...was gone.

I realized later that those moments are what I live for.  Cozy chats with strangers about food.  

Sushi from Jinya.

And the rest I will have to get to tomorrow or the weekend because my eye lids are getting heavy.

By the way, I watched 45 minutes of "Julie & Julia" the other day. Am I to believe that Julie has a stressful job in which she has to listen all day to wrenching complaints by victims of 9/11 and then has the energy to whip up Julia Child's meals and THEN blog about them? And that she does this every night?  It makes me feel like a complete loser.  Oh yeah this is a Nora Ephron movie. 

With that, I seriously need to get to bed.  But one last thought: I look forward to actually eating at Jinya next time the ramen noodles that Jonathan Gold reports "are long, springy, resilient to the bite, soaking up just enough broth to become almost part of it yet retaining a sort of wheaty integrity of their own."

Yes, indeed.  

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