A Few Amazing West Coast Meals…..

January 19, 2014

A Munch-Around Dinner at Tosca in San Francisco:

Such a lively place!  People kept pouring in the door, long after midnight, in a town not known for late night adventures.  We went for a drink, ordered some pig's ear terrine – all crunch and flavor – and ended up staying for an impromptu dinner.

It's the vegetables I remember most. Roasted treviso with garlicky breadcrumbs – a play on bitter and sweet vibrating in the mouth, one long chord after another.  Can't get it out of my mind. Luxurious cauliflower gratin. Broccoli, cooked almost to a mush, powered with lashings of anchovy. Really fresh crisp studded with pumpkin seeds in an intense dressing. Gemelli with pecorino and black pepper. And then sorbets….   


AW breakfast

Breakfast at Alice's house in Berkeley

Whole grain flat breads (wheat from Wes Jackson), heated on the griddle to a fine light char.  Such flavor! A thin coating of smooth hummus and a splash of olive oil.

Pu er tea, strong enough to startle you into the day.

Local rice with greens and garlic.


Dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills

Another completely fantastic and original meal from Tetsu Yahagi, that made me so deliriously happy that with the exception of the truffles above, I neglected to take pictures. (Hidden beneath the truffle and egg white foam is an intense egg yolk jam. A fantastic way to eat black gold.) 

The dish I remember best i a savory bacon macaroon – the most amazing texture; a fascinating interpretation of bacon and eggs. Wonderful squab grilled on bincho charcoal.  And a superlative Peking Duck, with homemade hoisin sauce I wanted to drink by the cupful. 

Wines? I particularly enjoyed the Denner Theresa, a Rhone blend from Paso Robles. It's a wine I haven't had before (but will again.)

Dinner at Chengdu Taste in Alhambra

The food here is so mind-numbingly wonderful all I can think is – when do I get to go back?

But there's a drawback: the line. We went at 5 because if you wait until later you might have to wait hours for a table. 

What did we have? The Lion Fish, above, which is probably the only dish I wouldn't order again.

Fantastic rabbit, tangled with chiles, scallions and Sichuan peppercorns.  The most wonderful dan dan noodles. Little bits of lamb, showered with cumin and skewered with toothpicks.  Sliced beef in what is called "tofu pudding" but turns out to be an enormous casserole of sliced tofu swimming in a violent chile-flecked sauce and topped with tender slices of beef.  Velvet-soft chunks of fish surrounded by bean sprouts in a broth filled with green chiles and sichuan peppercorns; the first impression is the texture of the fish, then there is the frontal attack of the fresh green chiles, and finally the sly, sneaky heat of the peppercorns.  It's a stunningly good dish. 

If you go, read Jonathan Gold's review first.


And now I am about to indulge in the live sea urchin I just bought (among other winter surprises), at the Hollywood Farmers' Market…..






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