82-86/1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die
Los Angeles Edition!
Went to LA with Miles for a week in August for work and fun. Let’s get right into it…
Huevos Rancheros — Mexican (82)
At one of my favorite diners on earth, Fred 62 (my point of orientation in the city of Los Angeles), I had one of my favorite breakfasts (for dinner).
What does Mimi say about this delicious mess? “As their name suggests, huevos rancheros (“ranch eggs”) were originally a hearty breakfast served to farmhands in rural Mexico; a simple, filling affair… [that] became a diner staple across North America, served in innumerable variations.” Really, all you need is tortillas topped with eggs and cheese and salsa, but if there’s some kind of spicy sauce and some kind of bean involved, and if the eggs are fried instead of scrambled, Mimi and I both think you are better off.
Chocolate Cream Pie — American (83)
Directly across the street in Los Feliz from my beloved Fred 62, you can find the justly famous House of Pies. It seemed like the obvious place to go to check this item off the list. Per Mimi: “In this wholly American dessert, the pleasure of a crisp pie crust is a foil for the decadence of a rich, silky chocolate pudding filling.” And that is exactly why I’m not a huge fan of the chocolate cream pie. IT IS PUDDING IN A CRUST, PEOPLE. JUST EAT PUDDING. I prefer any other kind of pie, when I want pie. But I did find out a few interesting things from Mimi about this concoction. First of all, that it’s cornstarch in the filling that binds the custardy interior and makes the slices hold their shape. Secondly, that the chocolate cream pie is a great favorite for throwing in people’s faces, because “it creates a mess, yet is soft enough not to do much harm.” The more you know.
Cinnamon — Indian (84)
I didn’t have to go all the way to California to find cinnamon, of course. But what could be better than sitting on the beach and devouring about ninety of these soft, sugary-cinnamony Mexican cookies called galletas de canela? Nothing could be better. I did it right.
Cinnamon is in the Indian chapter of the book. Mimi guides us: “The real thing, C. verum or zeylanicum, is a delicate golden spice derived from the inner bark of evergreen trees in Madagascar, India, the Seychelles, Latin America, and their native home, Sri Lanka. … One the outer bark is removed, the trees’ inner layer of bark is cut and dried into brittle, coiled sticks known as quills — these, in their unadulterated state, are the cinnamon sticks we love to swirl in our hot chocolate. As a flavoring, cinnamon has been enjoyed for centuries.” Pro tip from me: if you add a pinch cinnamon to a savory dish that calls for cumin, the cumin will taste even more like itself and the whole dish will be a shade better than it otherwise would. It’s magic. Cinnamon is magic.
Dim Sum — Chinese (85)
I broke the seal on the Chinese chapter of the 1000 Foods book with a dim sum lunch in Beverly Hills. Dim Sum translates to “heart’s delights,” which is some of the more on-the-nose etymology I’ve encountered on this food journey. As Mimi tells us, “the wide world of dim sum ranges from an infinite variety of dumplings to spring rolls and noodle dishes… cooked-to-order dumplings arrive hot and fresh.” Indeed, my lunch arrived hot and fresh, and included what you see below (the shrimp variety of each dish), as well as as soup course and a shrimp-stuffed-crèpe course. It was delicate and gorgeous and divine. And the best thing about dim sum is, because of the inexhaustible variety of offerings and combinations, I can have this kind of meal a thousand more times and never repeat the same one twice.
The Legacy of El Bulli: The Bazaar by José Andrés — Spanish (86)
Occasionally, when Mimi suggests a certain thing to eat before you die, it’s not a specific food, but a certain restaurant or experience. In this case, what she insists cannot be missed is the legacy of a certain restaurant and experience.
It’s impossible to watch all the food shows that Miles and I watch without hearing, over and over again, about El Bulli, the Costa Brava restaurant named the most influential in the world, where the concept of molecular gastronomy (molecular gastronomy blends physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food) was essentially created and perfected. El Bulli closed in 2011, but the legacy of its visionary chef Ferran Adrià can be seen and tasted all over the world.
The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills is one such fantasy world in which, to quote Mimi, “essences of herbs and fats and fruits and meats and shellfish are reduced to mere filmy gels and dreamy foams, carefully carved or re-formed into morsels… No ultramodern deviation, its techniques are in fact an evolution of classic French methods for concentrating flavors by the use of reduction.” I have eaten at The Bazaar several times (once for afternoon tea, which I highly recommend), and I couldn’t wait to take Miles to dinner at this place that is so full of delicious surprises. The menu at The Bazaar features a bevy of molecular gastronomy delights on the one side, but on the other side is a list of hearty, traditionally-prepared Spanish dishes to balance out the more adventurous choices. We sampled from both sides. The service, decor, atmosphere, and especially the food, did not disappoint.