LA: The Wild Side

June 4, 2016

IMG_5710A couple days ago, hunting through my bookshelves for The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, I uncovered this true blast from the past hiding behind my old LA restaurant guides. It’s called LA: The Book, and it’s essentially a subversive artist’s book masquerading as a luxury lifestyle guide.  Published in 1981, it begins: IMG_5705

I can think of few more succinct reminders that a “nice” restaurant usually had to be French. (Although we do find some Italian, a couple nascent California Cuisine restaurants, and two of the first Asian-fusion restaurants in the country.)

There’s this irresistible image of  Rex Il Ristorante (where the famous learning to eat scene in Pretty Woman was shot): IMG_5709

Wolfgang Puck and Michael McCarty on promenade: IMG_5707

And finally, this excerpt from performance artist Rachel Rosenthal‘s 1981 Soldier of Fortune, in which she locates the blackening soul of conspicuous consumption squarely in the fine dining room: IMG_5704IMG_5711



Food and Technology

June 3, 2016

The most fascinating news in the food world – to me anyway – is what’s taking place in the tech space.  I read about it every chance I get, which is why I subscribe to food tech connect, which follows the field.

Today’s newsletter is about the startups pitching at FoodBytes! San Francisco by Rabobank, a networking event that brings food startups together with investors.

Pitchers run the gamut, from a group working with farmers to sell imperfect produce (1 in 5 fruits and vegetables in the U.S. go to waste because they aren’t sufficiently pretty), to a company making pasta out of seaweed, to a company aiming to sell fresh fruit and vegetables out of vending machines in food deserts. Another is trying to create a shared economy marketplace for agricultural equipment.

You can read all about it here.

That’s on the West Coast.  For East Coasters with an interest in this field, Food Loves Tech takes place in New York in a couple of weeks, June 1oth through 12th.  If I were going to be in New York I wouldn’t miss it, but I’ll be off speaking in Dallas, Bentonville and Chicago.

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Ode to Alice

June 2, 2016


Not that Alice – or that other one either.  I’m talking about Alice B. Toklas (on the right, next to her partner, Gertrude Stein), patron saint of the irreverent gourmet woman. Anybody with the faintest interest in food writing should read:

IMG_5700Stein was the famous writer, but although Toklas stood (happily) in her shadow, she was a master in her own right.  She takes us along as the two traipse up the coast of France, hold salons in their Paris apartment, travel the U.S. on Stein’s book tours and survive wartime rationing. Stein held court; Toklas cooked.

An accomplished French cook, she was also interested in the ways of others; her cookbook includes a chapter of recipes from various servants, recipes from famous friends (Picasso, Picabia), and an entire section on cold soup.

On this lovely summer day one of the gazpachos collected in the chapter following my favorite, “Murder in the Kitchen,” would make a perfect little meal.



And in case you’re wondering, this is indeed the cookbook that became famous for its hashish fudge. (Listen to Toklas read that recipe here. She thinks it’s the perfect thing for a DAR meeting.) Only the U.K edition of the cookbook can boast that recipe; Toklas’ U.S. editors, lacking courage, pulled the recipe at the last minute.



Barbecue, Circa 1958

June 1, 2016


It’s July 1958, and Gourmet is throwing a barbecue.  But this is Gourmet, this is the fifties, and this is a “High Style Barbecue.”  No burgers and franks in sight.

Instead, you get duckling, stuffed shrimp and Chateaubriand. 

Of course.

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