June 13, 2015
Just found a box of old menus – from my days at the Los Angeles Times – hidden in a box in the closet.
I've been trolling through them, which is like encountering old friends. Here is early Thomas Keller, and his fascinating menus from Checkers. And the inaugural menu from the much-missed Rex, which I still consider the most beautiful restaurant I've ever visited. (The dining scene from Pretty Woman was shot there.) And here, in all its laminated glory, is Michael Roberts' menu from Trumps; it's at least thirty years old, but still so modern you could change the prices and offer it up today without anyone finding it strange. Was there another high-end restaurant in the country whose menu offered Tacos, BBQ brisket on a bun, tuna pastrami, fried chicken, salmon tartar, chicken with spicy peanut sauce, french toast with bacon and fruit donuts on the dinner menu? I'd guess not. Michael, who passed away ten years ago, was one of the most interesting chefs in the country, cooking to some interior music no one else could hear.
I'll be posting menus now and then, as I find them. But for today, here's John Sedlar's menu at St. Estephe from 1982. He's been a pioneer of Southwest cooking – but as this menu makes clear, so much more. Isn't it amazing to see a recipe for pasta with sea urchin sauce from a time when most Americans had not the faintest notion that those spiny creatures even existed? And just look at that price! (John was also the first chef who ever served me American caviar and home-grown snails.)
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