There are food events and then, occasionally, there are food events. Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for the LA Weekly, puts on an event annually for his brother Mark's environmental movement, Heal the Bay. Jonathan is the guru of all foods ethnic for every one of us who writes about or loves food and restaurants... we all look up to him as the authority. His book, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles, is the much-thumbed bible of authentic ethnic food here.
So when Gold puts on his yearly benefit, the Gold Standard, at the Petersen Auto Museum, you know that it will feature a plethora of places which don't ordinarily participate in the more celebrated food events. I'm certain that some of those eateries here never even heard of Wolfgang Puck's Meals on Wheels or Ivy Chu's Pier del Sol for Special Olympics. Which may explain why, at the benefit, I ate the best fish taco of my life... as well as a plate of Ethiopian beef stew beyond belief, sautéed chicken gizzards, and a Thai green curry which blew the roof off of my mouth with the fierce intensity of its heat and flavor.
Yes, many more conventional eateries participated, like Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza, Susan Feniger's Street, Michael Cimarusti's Providence, Maureen Vincenti's Vincenti Ristorante, Celestino Drago's Drago Centro, Susan Tracht's Jar, Eric Greenspan's The Foundry, Chef Brandon Boudet preparing for his Mardi Gras dinners at Dominick's. while Chef Alain Giraud previewed his forthcoming Maison Giraud with ham-and-cheese croissants... after all, this is Jonathan Gold, folks, the man!
But man does not live by food alone, so drink and spirits are an important component of any food event... and Bill Knight of the Wine House at 2311 Cotner in West L.A. shepherded the huge wine selection, with more than ninety vineyards participating in a tasting/sipping display which would satisfy the wine-quenching quest of any oenophile.
But it is the unexpected gems which make an event like this such a treat... the discovery of flavorful bombs which blow your mind and stimulate your imagination... at least if you are a food person of unquenchable vigor, something which I presume all of my readers are. An attractive woman named Genet, owner of a Fairfax restaurant, Meals By Genet, featuring traditional Ethiopian cuisine, served up this deeply earthy beef stew, meant to be scooped up with pieces of freshly-baked flatbread. A robust, powerful woman named Jazz was there, from Jitlada, the legendary Southern Thai restaurant in Hollywood which is found daily by a new crew of adventurous eaters who can't believe they are gulping down the hottest food on the planet... and enjoying it so much they return weekly. I embraced the quixotic Chef Laurent Quenioux, who is turning out remarkable French bistro dishes of breathless imagination at his Beverly Blvd. gem, Bistro LQ.
I met for the first time the brilliantly-reviewed Scottish/Jewish chef, Ian Hall, of downown's The Gorbals (he is the one who served me a tidbit of chicken gizzard on toast) and comment to him that my close friend, Brian Wald, has been threatening to drag me to Spring Street to eat there After all, who else is serving matzoh balls wrapped in bacon, or roasted pig's head served whole? (Yes, I would eat it... and thoroughly enjoy doing so.) Marc Gold of Eva's Restaurant on Beverly Blvd. dishes up for me a cup of his bolognese sauce, beef and veal cooked for 49 hours until the flavors assume a rich, mystical power to enchant. The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood is here, plugging its upcoming sexual bombshell of a show, The Escort, opening March 29th and sure to be a much-discussed event, with its on-stage nudity and naughty language.
I'll end this potpourri of gastronomic nonsense with a revelation of that incredible fish taco that I mentioned. I once did a story about my search for the best fish tacos in Mexico and Southern California, ending up at a seaside shack in Baja California's Ensenada. Would that I had known that Tacos Baja at 6385 Whittier Blvd., LA 90022, (323) 887-1980, existed to serve my pleasure. A charming woman named Lulu handed me a freshly-made fish taco and I was in heaven. Possibly the best fish taco I have ever eaten. Certainly the equal of that Ensenada treat. The morsel of white fish quickly fried and put on a just-made taco, spread with some good crispy green stuff, and it sells there for $1.59! (On Wednesdays, it is $.99... except on Ash Wednesday.) Hell, Whittier Blvd. is not that far from Beverly Hills, especially on Wednesdays.
Thank you, Jonathan, for a brave and worthy effort by all who love the beach to protect it. For 25 years, Heal the Bay has been dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including my favorite Santa Monica Bay, stay safe, healthy and clean. More power to them!
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