This Sunday past, food critic LA-Xtraordinaire Jonathan Gold gave the world his “Best of” list of Southern California cuisine, the second such list published via the LA Times in as many years. A few years ago while at my writing program at USC, Mr. Gold discussed his passion for food exploration while a panelist at a session sponsored by my program, which featured LA genre-smart phenoms speaking on food, movies, books, music. Each on the panel were memorable, but the pursuits Mr. Gold described – the near limitless steps he’d take to discover a new taste or an intriguing and relevant dish – begged respect.
At the time, I thought I wanted to write for television. So instead of enrolling in J-Gold’s class on food writing the semester following the panel, I took a sitcom course. We were just next door to the food class, and at breaks could smell the varietal flavors seeping out from their classroom and into the hallway. Back then, I wasn’t too jealous – I cranked out my own Modern Family episode and got to sit in on a Simpsons table read. Looking back now, though, thinking about what stirs my passions, what stimulates me, the food writing class would have been very fitting.
But sometimes our journeys take rewarding detours. I think I considered the class back then but I had so many food fears, I didn’t dare embarrass myself by taking a food writing course and opt to pass on 50-75% of the food. In the past couple of years, I’ve come a long way in my pickiness. And I’ve also come to savor and adore dining out, and then writing about my experience as a beloved hobby. Since skipping his class, I’ve stayed tuned in to Mr. Gold – his likes, his loves, his Pulitzer Prize winning turns of phrases when describing a dish. It makes sense that he is so well respected – just in the telling of food he offers a sensuous experience for the reader.
Last year’s Bite Nite – hosted by the Times – gave subscribers the chance to sample dishes from some of J-Gold’s list of 101 spots all in one night, and all in one space. This year, thanks to the popularity of last year’s event, they held two Bite Nites.
And I went.
And I ate. And I saw J-Gold once again. And I lived happily ever after.
My Nite featured plates from 20 restaurants, served along with signature cocktails, beer, and wine. And some groovy snacking music spun at the Times printing facility. I know I don’t eat everything – pork, beef, bananas, dishes that still have eyes when put on the plate – but I tried EVERYTHING. Mostly. Here are some of my favorites, and a list of must-try spots from the 101 that I hope to get to before 2014 comes to an end.
Favorite Single Bite: Cherries with chamomile, elderflower, and rye crisps from Girasol
Greatest New Thing I Tried: Grilled beef heart tartare crostino with mint, red onion, pine nuts, Fresno chilies, champagne vinegar, and dill from Bestia
Sweetest Sweet Treat: Peanut butter potato chip cupcake from Nickel Diner
Favorite Mini Meal: From Post & Beam – I can’t remembered what the protein was (not because it wasn’t worth remembering but I was so chef-struck at seeing Govind Armstrong in the flesh, I somehow forgot to take a picture of their menu), but the cornbread and greens with which they were served were out of this world
Bite I Can’t Forget: Boneless short ribs wrapped with rice paper
Can’t Wait to Eat Again: the classic chicken mole from Guelaguetza or the pistachio mole from La Casita Mexicana
Most Dynamic Carrots on the Planet: Mozza
Wonderful-est Moment: Running into Guillermo Diaz (aka Huck) from ABC’s Scandal
Where I Want to Eat Right Now: Girasol, Post & Beam, Bestia, La Casita Mexicana, Guelaguetza, Ink (they were at the Monday Bite Nite so I didn’t taste anything from there, but still need to get there ASAP)
Bite Nite – Tuesday