My little sister Carly came to visit in the middle of May; she was here for a long weekend, the main purpose of her visit being our trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where we saw Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey. Here is everything we ate during her visit.
Carly got in at like midnight on Thursday and Friday morning we went to Republique for breakfast. For breakfast dessert - but the kind of dessert that comes before the actual meal - we split a chocolate bomboloni and a peach raspberry pistachio danish thing. The bomboloni was adorable, a perfectly spherical donut filled with chocolate pudding, but the danish was the true star. If you look at the photo above, you'll see that its center is basically an entire half of a huge fat peach. I don't know where Republique's getting their peaches from, since the peaches I've bought at the grocery store so far this year are all so puny. Probably Republique gets their peaches from peach heaven.
For my actual breakfast I ordered the Walter's Favorite: a hot baguette and a little pot of poached eggs, plus coffee and orange juice. I didn't even like the eggs that much - I don't like poached eggs, I don't get why I ordered them - but what's important is I loved them, just for being so weird and beautiful. My plan of attack was to tear off a chunk of bread and dip it into the egg pot; it was a nice little game to try not to run out of bread before the eggs were all gone. In Walter's Favorite and in life, I get a lot of inspiration from Albert the badger in Bread & Jam for Frances and his finesse in making "the sandwich, the pickle, the egg, and the milk come out even."
After Republique we went to LACMA, where we saw that fantastic Chris Burden piece with the miniature cars and lots of photos by Larry Sultan (including this picture from "The Valley" series, which was my favorite). Then we walked up Fairfax and went to Farmers Market for a little snack (chips + guacamole from Loteria, plus beer from the Farmers Market bar). The overall theme of this edition of the Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet is "Places I love but hardly ever go to + places I've always wanted to try but never have, for some reason," and Farmers Market fits into neither of those categories. I love Farmers Market and I go there all the time, ever since I wrote my "To Anthony on His 50th Birthday" post three years ago. One of my favorite things is to go there on a Sunday, get a pint of strawberries and a pint of beer, go up to the secret little room in the upstairs eating area, and then drink beer and eat strawberries and write. That is me in my element.
For Friday dinner we went to Toi on Sunset. I got the same thing I always get at Toi: the spicy eggplant, pumpkin, and tofu, with a side of purple rice. I also went out on a limb and ordered a glass of the slum wine (half sake, half plum wine), which was totally gross. I guess I had some harebrained idea that, since I hate sake and don't really care for plum wine, the two together would somehow blend into this groovy new drink that would really understand me. But whatever, I was wrong, and on the next round I got myself a Tsing Tao. Smart move.
The decor at Toi is so corny/amazing (it's a "rockin' Thai" restaurant, if you don't know). They've got this gorgeous Clash poster that I really wanted to take a picture of, but it was right over somebody's table and I wasn't really feeling going up to the people and asking to interrupt their meal so I could take a picture of a picture of the Clash. And Toi played really great music and kept doing this thing of alternating Rolling Stones deep cuts with Beatles deep cuts, and they also played a bunch of songs from Darkness on the Edge of Town. I felt supremely indulged in that moment, drinking beer and eating pumpkin and purple rice and listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town with my sister while an episode of Animaniacs played on a big screen behind us. Toi takes great care of me.
After dinner we went to the Sunset Strip, so that I could force my sister into seeing the greatest band in the world aka MARY TIMONY'S EX HEX. Before the show we got a drink at the Rainbow Room, where I hadn't been since this really weird night in 2005 that I can't even get into right now. We sat in the little bar in the back of the first floor and I drank whisky & soda and everything smelled like spaghetti sauce and cologne and grunge men. There's Carly at the bar, and is that a fish tank behind her? Is there a fish tank at the Rainbow Room? Who knows. I want to go back and get spaghetti next time, keeping to my new promise of constantly eating spaghetti in bars.
Then we went to see Ex Hex! I consumed nothing at the Ex Hex show, but I just wanted to show off how hot Ex Hex is. In case you can't tell, Mary Timony's wearing a short-sleeved sequined top, a pleather mini-skirt, Converse hi-tops, and classic-Timony half-up-half-down hair. She kept saying to the crowd, "You guys are really cool!" They played "Roxy Roller," and "All Kindsa Girls" by the Real Kids. Mary was on fire and happy as hell.
On Saturday morning we went to Grand Casino, an Argentine restaurant in Culver City. Her junior year of college, Carly studied in Buenos Aires, and our brother and I went to visit and ate one of the best meals I've ever had in my life, this gorgeous bowl of garlicky mushroom and pasta at Il Ballo Del Mattone. At Grand Casino we got some cafe con leche (I'd been jonesing for cafe con leche, ever since the Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain goes to Miami and drinks cafe con leche), and also some treats to go. My treat was that cute dollop of chocolate-covered dulce de leche set atop a chewy little ginger-snap-y cookie. I don't know what it's called but it was a beauty, and the cafe con leche got the job done just fine.
Check out this insanity. That mountain of cheese-smothered ridiculousness is the truffle hash from Patrick's Roadhouse on the PCH. Patrick's Roadhouse definitely falls into the "places I love but hardly ever go to" category, which is a drag. It's one of those restaurants that's eternally stuck in 1986 or 1987 or 1988 or some other dumb year; it's across the street from the ocean and feels like being on vacation when you're 9-years-old. My truffle hash was so earthy and heavy and wonderful, my whole breakfast was out of this world. I can't remember what Carly got for breakfast but I know she drank a glass of mango nectar! What heaven.
After Patrick's Roadhouse, we drove up the PCH and went to Zuma and walked the beach. The sky was gray and the sea was wild. On the way back down the PCH we made a flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants stop at Paradise Cove, which I've always been curious about. It's right on the beach and kind of a mob scene but also really hokey and chill. I got a pina colada and Carly got a mango pineapple margarita and our drinks were very cute together. I ate the flower, because why not.
For dinner we went to Abuelita's in Topanga Canyon. The place was empty, on account of the fact that there was some party happening up the street at Froggy's. Alisa and John joined us and we sat on the deck and drank margaritas and ate chips and guac. For dinner I got a beer and fish tacos; it was good and unremarkable. There's really never anything remarkable about the food at Abuelita's but I don't care: I'm there to sit among the Topanga trees and feel the Topanga vibes and get halfway-nostalgic for when I was younger and fairly new to L.A. and had these weird daydreams about running away to Topanga Canyon and becoming Neil Young or Devendra Banhart or some guy like that. I don't care about being any of those guys anymore. I'm a writer and I live in Echo Park and it suits me fine.
After Topanga we went to MacLeod Ale Brewing Co., which is a bar in a garage in the middle of nowhere in Van Nuys, i.e. my #1 ideal drinking situation of all time. Carly and I split a flight that included who-knows-what (I'm a horrible SFW Diet note-taker, sorry), though I'm almost certain we got this pitch-black beer named Jackie Tar. I mean I know that a beer named Jackie Tar exists at MacLeod, and it's basically impossible that I'd not order a beer named Jackie Tar, so, yeah - Jackie Tar! As with all of the beers at MacLeod, it was served warm, or at least not very cold. John explained to me that the non-coldness of the beer is because of Europe? Or something? I don't know. Non-cold beer is not my dream scenario, but I can deal. We played blackjack and had lots of peanuts, from the free-peanut barrel by the bar. I ate the peanuts with the shell intact, as per yoozsh. Try it sometime.
Also at MacLeod's I spent some time checking the Internet on my phone, and had my picture taken with Paul McCartney. MacLeod's has it all. I'm in love with their Mick Jagger art as well.
Sunday morning we went back to Grand Casino and got breakfast. I got a plate of eggs and sausage and toast, Carly got empanadas, we both got cafe con leche. Here's Carly with her coffee and dynamite braid crown and, if you look just past her left shoulder, you'll see this bonkers child who was extremely excited about going to the Dodger game that afternoon. He kept shouting "Baller life!" and was generally a delightful little muppet, a delightful little scamp.
After Grand Casino we went to Beverly Hills to visit Greystone Mansion, which is a mansion that some oil tycoon in the 1920s gave to his son as a present, and now it's a public park. My favorite thing about Greystone Mansion is that parts of the movie All of Me were shot there; I also liked these flowers that look like Janice from the Muppets. While we were there we sat on a bench and I ate this dulce-de-leche-stuffed puff pastry I bought at Grand Casino - it was the kind of puff pastry where you take one bite and the whole thing crumbles all over you and then you've got puff-pastry flakes all over your clothes, but it's all right. The dulce de leche made it all worth it. I want to go swimming in an ocean of dulce de leche, or at least in a dulce de leche lake.
On Sunday night we had dinner at Pinocchio's in Burbank, which is an Italian restaurant with a little grocery store/ice cream counter attached. Carly and I split a Caesar salad and the Pinocchio's Special (pepperoni/sausage/pepper/mushroom pizza); she got a Sierra Nevada and I got a glass of red wine. My wine was three dollars and absolutely terrible, but I'm into it. I'm into everything about Pinocchio's. It was too hot inside and the salad was wilted and the pizza was whatever, and I loved it all to death. Basic Italian is hard to come by in Los Angeles, so really I was all in no matter what. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
After Pinocchio's we went to Laurel Tavern and drank beer that I don't remember anymore and then I dropped Carly off at Citywalk to hang out with her friends. THEN I WENT HOME AND WATCHED THE LAST EPISODE OF THIS SHOW CALLED MAD MEN. Remember when it was the night we all saw the last episode of Mad Men for the first time? God. On the way to pick Carly up I stopped at the gas station and bought a can of Coke, and of course I picked the can with the word "Dreamer" on it. The freeway was empty (probably because everyone in the world was home rewatching the last episode of Mad Men) and I listened to "Sympathy for the Devil" and drank my Coke and thought about Don Draper, Retreat Don, our best guy. Coke doesn't taste as good as it did when I was a kid or a teenager, but it's still pretty great. Coke is my friend, like Vivi says in the Ya-Ya book.
On Monday we went to Bottega Louie, my first time there. Our intention was to eat breakfast but breakfast was over, so lunch it was. First we split a plate of Brussel sprouts and pistachio and a little pot of macaroni and cheese, wherein the macaroni was this cutely gigantic/oversized version of elbow pasta. I got the club sandwich and the bread was sliced so thin, so delicate, a degree of bread-thinness suited for a princess at a tea party. To drink I got a cup of coffee, and then when I finished my coffee I ordered a Coke, because #RetreatDon. It was all perfect, though I'd be fine with never going back to Bottega Louie again, mostly because of the whole downtown-y, business-lunch-y kind of vibe happening there. The only business lunch I'm interested in is the businesswoman's special.
Monday night was Lana and Courtney night! We made the genius decision to get a bunch of little cakes and so on from Bottega Louie and bring them to the Hollywood Bowl. The dud of the lot, in my opinion, was the Raspberry Saint Amour (seen at the top of this post). It's the prettiest thing and appropriately Marie Antoinette-y, but the best I can say about consuming it is that the puff pastry component reminded me of a knockoff cronut I once ate at six in the morning at the Dunkin Donuts in the baggage claim of the JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport. Second-least fave was a strawberry tart I'm not even going to bother talking about: it was acceptably delicious, let's just leave it at that.
But oh my god, the White Chocolate Princess Cake! The description in the Bottega Louie pastry catalog claims that it's made up of flourless chocolate cake and white chocolate mousse (plus red fruit creméux), but to me the cake element felt like some enchanted pudding - firm enough to stand on its own but also of a consistency where, if you were to smack it with a spoon, the cake would just shimmy a bit but stay beautifully intact. If I meditated, my top meditation technique would be holding the image of the White Chocolate Princess Cake in my mind, really honing in on that purple-dusty outer layer and the gravity-defying spongy dreaminess within. I don't know whether the word "texturalist" exists, but the White Chocolate Princess Cake is absolutely a texturalist's dream dessert.
Runner-up for best Bottega Louie treat was the Tropezienne. The catalog describes it as "brioche soaked in kirsch simple syrup, vanilla bean cream & streusel topping," but truly it's just your average cream puff, done to perfection. The cakey-bready element had some kinda impossible fluffy-yet-dense thing going on, and the cream was a magical cross between Cool Whip-y-basic and all pure and lovely like real whipped cream. Best of both worlds for sure.
My quick review of the Lana/Courtney show is I love them. Courtney covered "Take This Longing" and Lana covered "Chelsea Hotel #2" and I really hope they planned that, with some goofball idea about being Leonard Cohen twinsies. I hadn't seen Courtney in nearly 11 years, since a Halloween 2004 show at the Wiltern where she wore a red dress and devil horns and at one point stomped her foot and whined, "I'm so sick of going to jail, make it stop!!" What a scream. I'll never not love her. The above photo's a screenshot of this good video of barefoot Courtney singing "Celebrity Skin" at the Bowl, btw. Stoked to read her interview with Jemima Kirke later.
So Carly left on Tuesday morning and our last meal was at Millie's in Silver Lake, which I'd so put in my L.A. restaurant top ten. Before I went freelance, I thought being a freelancer would mean I'd go to Millie's a minimum of once a week and spend hours on end there, eating biscuits and jam, reading the paper, drinking thousands of cups of coffee. Now I've been self-employed for nine years and I work more than I've ever worked in my life and go to Millie's a few times a year, always when entertaining out-of-towners. It's okay. Whenever I'm at Millie's I feel like I'm on vacation, a vacation about biscuits with raspberry jam. On Tuesday I got the Heavenly Hash, with two eggs over-medium and home fries and duh, a biscuit. I love to sit at Millie's and keep the pot of raspberry jam right beside me and spoon the jam onto the hot biscuit one tiny spoon at a time, and then drink some coffee, and then eat some hash and some egg and some hot-saucy potato, make it all come out even. So someone should come visit soon so I can go back to Millie's again. Let's all go back there tomorrow.