A Day in the Life

November 9, 2018

Zaza in Spencertown, waiting for breakfast.

Drive into Hudson…

The porchetta and pickled shallot sandwich at Talbott & Arding – astonishingly simple and filled with flavor. Perfect food to eat in the car.

Listened to Colm Toibin’s wonderful House of Names as we drove south.

Then a meeting about the upcoming In Your Face show, which I will be headlining on December 6th.

Beginning of the Nobody is Above the Law march in Times Square, which grew larger as we marched.  Ran into director James Schamus along the way, then a few more friends who ran out to say hello and joined us.

After the march ended in Union Square we went looking for dinner. Long waits everywhere.  After wandering around,  increasingly hungry, for at least an hour we ended up at Hearth eating anchovies butter and bread …

meatballs, and…

this crisply delicious chicken.

When I looked at my phone it told me I had walked 7 miles.  A good day!

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More Menus from the Eighties: LA Game Changers

November 7, 2018

It’s hard to convey to a contemporary audience what a huge breakthrough Mandarette was at the time.  Philip Chiang, who’d been running his mother’s Beverly Hills Mandarin Restaurant, decided to open a casual little place of his own serving the food the staff made for themselves back in the kitchen.  But there was a twist: Philip was brought up in Japan, and the food had a spare, clean quality that was completely new to inexpensive Chinese fare.

I couldn’t get enough of the food.  i think of that, wistfully, each time I pass a PF Chiang (after Philip sold Manderette he went on to co-found the fast food chain). If only he was still serving this!


Angeli was another huge game changer.  Marcella Hazan once told me she considered Evan Kleiman’s little cafe one of the only authentic Italian places in America. (There seems to be some question that Evan may have invented the caprese salad. Not sure about that….)


Although it came a bit later (1986), Bruce Marder’s Rebecca’s, with its wonderfully weird building designed by Frank Gehry, was another seminal restaurant.  Back then, before John Sedlar started opening his beautiful places, upscale Mexican food made with top quality ingredients and served in a fancy environment was not part of the LA dining scene.

And finally, just for the fun of it, here’s the late, very great Michel Richard’s wedding banquet, created by a group of friends:

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Old Menus: Berkeley in the Eighties

November 6, 2018

I’d happily eat this menu all over again…. Mark Miller was really onto something with his celebration of chiles. Even today, almost forty years later, this menu looks totally modern. (Not sure what year this was, but Mark opened Fourth Street Grill in 1979, and I remember this as being early on.)

Sounds delicious – was delicious – but looking back, this strikes me as the strangest menu for Marion Cunningham. She, after all, was the woman whose most ardent desire was to be the spokesperson for iceberg lettuce.

Alice, on the other hand, just wanted to feed her friends perfect little lettuces….

This was one of Bruce Cost’s most memorable meals… I’ve always loved his pork kidneys, which have the texture of clouds, and that fresh bacon is the best kind of dessert.

Doesn’t this menu sound wonderful?  It was particularly nostalgic for me, because I was just about to leave Berkeley and move to LA, and I wondered what I’d find to eat there.

Tomorrow, what I found when I got to LA.  The great Max Au Triangle as well as opening menus from Mandarette, Angeli, Rebecca’s. Every one of them has had an influence on the way we eat today.

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Old Menus: LA in the Eighties

November 5, 2018

The other day Francis Lam said to me, “LA in the eighties – it must have been such a great place to eat!”  A few hours later a young social media reporter said the same thing.

It made me remember what Jonathan Waxman, then chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica, told me at the time:  “I can feed my customers anything – so long as it’s not the same thing they ate last night.”

There was such a sense of excitement about food in the city, a sense that anything was possible. I’ve been rooting through one of my (many) boxes of old menus, to see what I could find.  Here are just a few examples of the kinds of special meals chefs were conjuring up.

A series of wine and food dinners featuring Haut Brion, which spread across the city at many different kinds of restaurants: New American, Italian and Japanese.

The first was at Michael’s


And finally, a lunch for the proprietors of the great Paris restaurant, Taillevant.  Wish I could remember where it took place. Anybody know?

Tomorrow, a group of great old menus from the Bay Area in the eighties.  And the next day, a few from France…  I might be having too much fun taking this walk down memory lane.

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