I am still new to living in LA, but have logged many moons in NY so this was an interesting read. Of course everyone has their own priorities. There is no right answer (does there even need to be?) but it's fun to consider the differences.
As the author alludes to, I think many of the differences come right down to real estate.
In my experience so far, dining in LA is more convenient than NYC. I know some people will say "BUT...TRAFFIC", but I mean the restaurant experience itself (I will rate navigating traffic and schlepping through hot urine soaked subways a wash, so to speak).
The typical LA eatery has more space than in NYC, so you're much less likely to show up somewhere to find that it has 4 tables and your neighbor's water glass is closer to your elbows than your own. Some may not care, but I have had too many NYC food experiences compromised by eating in unpleasantly cramped quarters.
Related, in LA you are less likely to leave a restaurant bathroom traumatized for life.
For the same reason, as the author says, LA restaurants -- particularly smaller, modest ones -- are better able to keep prices down compared to NYC. I don't blame NYC eateries for charging what they have to charge, but I also don't want to pay $15 for fried chicken. In LA, you don't have to, unless you are physically incapable of eating outside of the trendiest neighborhoods.
LA residents seem more willing, and perhaps able, to roam than New Yorkers. Sure, LA folk complain about traffic, but they still do it (as proven by existence of said traffic). It's been my experience that many NYC residents travel a very limited range from their home neighborhoods. They will say that "everything they need" is within a few blocks, but everything there is to explore actually isn't. I think they miss out on a lot in their own city.
I agree with the author that there is an attitude difference about food. LA, as in many areas of life, is more open to new ideas and less beholden to narrow definitions of traditional preparations. And as a New Yorker, I admit that sometimes -- such as pizzas with chicken, figs, and bbq sauce -- I roll my eyes like you'd expect. But on balance, LA's permissive food culture (and, again, culture in general) is refreshing. New York indeed has its famously traditional foods nailed without peer, but sometimes you feel like 'enough already' - can we try something new? In LA, you can, every day.
And let's not forget access to produce. This is actually huge. NYC has access to many great producers within a couple hours' radius, but they can't help the fact that for 7-8 months of the year all those farms are basically useless. It can be hard for a NY'er to appreciate the difference until experiencing produce in LA, which is amazing. In quality, in freshness, in variety -- in every way, a huge advantage and this translates to restaurant plates. Heck, even the usual factory farmed stuff seems better here -- probably because it doesn't have to add "5 days in transit" to its other shortcomings.
Negatives of LA dining over NY? I avoid the ubiquitous valet services. Not going to pay someone to park my car. I can walk a few blocks, like a New Yorker. (Besides, it's so nice out!)
Everyday Italian food should be better -- less mid-western and more Mediterranean. Like the climate.
Also, we need an event to compete with the Nathan's July 4 contest. But with tacos, obviously.
Update: in case there is anyone else out there with the same shameful secret desire, I found the Hawaiian Punch Light at the Walmart in Torrance, the one at Normandie and 190th. (Yum!)
I don't want to hijack this thread, but to OP Midlife -- can you name some of the socal bbq joints that serve the kind of beef rib you are seeking?
Years ago I dined several times at a place in North Carolina that served an amazing beef rib. Here it is:
I would love to find a place here in socal that sells a beef rib like that; or, like Midlife, where to buy them to cook at home.
I admit it: this question is embarrassing. I am overcome with shame just writing this. And yet, minor desperation drives me to do it anyway.
Sooo...we all have guilty pleasures. Right? Right?? I happen to like Hawaiian Punch, but I no longer consume high sugar drinks. There is a Hawaiian Punch Light with significantly reduced calories. It is not exactly the same taste as the original but it is close enough to quench my occasional craving.
Being new to LA, I haven't yet seen it here. I only ever saw it rarely before in other cities. Does anyone know stores in LA that sell the Light version? Westside or Valley preferred but anywhere would be good to know!
PS. Don't tell anyone I asked this.
Newcomer to LA here, have relied heavily on the sage advice of Chowhounders to find great eats. We are definitely batting well above .500.
A few weeks ago we were up near Northridge, far from our home turf on the westside, and I remembered the Chowhound love for Brent's Deli. As (yet another) NY'er with kosher-style deli roots, I dived right in. (I have not yet been to any other LA delis.)
Suffice it to say, the Brent's in Northridge was a big win. We loved it. In addition to the great pastrami and reubens, there were two delicious surprises: the cup of gravy that accompanies the kasha varnishkes, and the potato salad that can come with most sandwiches.
I haven't actually been served gravy with kasha before, but we tasted it and were instantly addicted. Used most of it for dipping the french fries. Rich, flavorful, nothing like a generic insta-gravy.
The potato salad side was also surprisingly yummy. Again, great flavor and texture, not your standard leaden potato salad.
Not long after that first visit, we again visited the same Brent's location. Ordered some different sandwiches, also great, and enjoyed the same awesome gravy and potato salad.
Fast forward to this past weekend. We were further west and decided to try the Westlake location. It appears to be much newer (and larger), so at least getting a seat on a weekend wasn't a problem.
BUT...although our sandwiches were probably just as good, I have to say that the gravy for the kasha and the potato salad was just not the same. The gravy was the biggest letdown -- it fell far short of the Northridge location. In fact, it seemed more like instant. Gloopy and bland. We left it practically untouched.
The potato salad wasn't quite as big of a miss, but it definitely lacked that special something that elevates the Northridge version. It seemed less fresh and denser, not as fluffy.
Given the high level of CH love for Brent's, which I am not contesting, I am just curious whether there are any general opinions on the differences between the locations and/or these items in particular. As much as I share the hope for a third Brent's on the westside, if it ever happens I really hope it comes with the Northridge version of these dishes!
Thanks everyone, these all sound like good candidates! Just what I had in mind...
We are visiting LA and will happen to be there on Superbowl Sunday. While not hardcore fans we do like to watch the game, normally on east coast time where we live. Being in LA the game will be on in the afternoon and we don't want to be holed up inside when its likely to be nice out.
Wondering if anyone has recommendations for a cool/fun vibe sports-type bar or pub or whatever that might be open to the outside, beachy area or otherwise. I know this is a little vague, just thinking of how we can casually catch the game, eat some tasty bar food, and still enjoy some LA sunshine. Anywhere from LA to south bay is fine.
Christopher Kimball: The Day I Killed a Man
I am a new owner of a gas KitchenAid Architect II series range/oven. I have been stuck with electric for many years, so it's been a treat to get back to gas, albeit in this case propane (the range was converted per instructions).
The range top and oven all seem to function perfectly, so this is really just a question out of curiosity -- I notice that the oven cycles on and off quite a bit. For example, at 300 or 400 degrees for any length of time, the flame will run for a couple of minutes at most (maybe less) then go out for a minute, then relight. I mainly notice because you can hear the "pop/hum" of the flame lighting.
Is it normal to cycle so often? I suppose that with my old electric range I had no idea how often it cycled since I couldn't really hear the faint hum of the element from the next room.
Another take on the subject:
Oh, sorry -- you mount the slatwall panels (or strips) to regular drywall. The panels are usually 3/4 inch thick.
Here is some slatwall mounted in a garage:
Here is some slatwall in a possible kitchen usage:
You can buy standalone slatwall displays but these cost a lot more than wallmount panels.
I haven't seen this posted yet, and it is probably unconventional: slatwall.
Doing a DIY home kitchen reno right now, and my plan includes mounting slatwall. You typically see this stuff in retail spaces to hold merchandise hooks and such. The cool thing about slatwall is that the slots are industry standard and there are countless (relatively cheap) attachments you can get to hook into the wall -- hooks, brackets, shelves, etc. Plus, loads of flexibility.
Most slatwall is sold in 4'x8' panels, but you can also buy slatwall "strips" that you can position with more flexibility. Many vendors sell slatwall both for retail and commercial buyers, and with many finishes, from plain unpainted MDF to bare aluminum to powder coated to melamine in various colors.
On a recent trip to the Triangle area, I visited the highly rated Allen & Son for barbecue. Indeed, everything about the food was excellent. Love the hush puppies, double love the barbecue, and would be happy to expire from a pecan pie coma.
I was particularly struck by the cole slaw, the one dish I might have a shot at making at home. The cabbage was finely chopped rather than sliced. The mayo component seemed very thin, and the dominant taste was a sharp vinegar flavor. Does anyone know if this cole slaw is a particular style of the region, or particular to Allen & Son? In either case, does anyone have any pointers to a recipe of a similar kind of cole slaw?
On a recent trip to North Carolina, I was at a pork store where they sold many forms of "country ham". Having only read about country ham before, but otherwise being quite fond of all things pork, I wanted to give it a try. Rather than buy a whole ham, I bought a vacuum-packed selection of slices. Large, but thin slices from the center of the ham.
Excited to try my country ham this morning, I realized that I didn't quite know what to do with it. Treating it like a conventional ham steak, I took one slice and seared it in a hot pan on both sides until it browned a bit and the juices started to run.
My understanding is that country ham is cured and dried so I expected it to have a concentrated flavor. But...whoa, that was strong. Almost...and I'm afraid to say this about anything pork...almost too strong. It was a bit challenging to finish the cutlet. There was definitely a meaty pork flavor in there that I liked, but it was almost overwhelmed by the pungent overtones and saltiness.
I have several more pounds of these cutlets which I plan to freeze and use from time to time. But how? Are there other ways to prepare these slices that I'm missing? Thanks for any and all ideas!
I believe that you have hit upon what I like to call "the meaning of life". I discovered it in nearly the same way. In fact, I did indeed make my discovery in a place -- a magical, ethereal place -- where both an In-n-Out and Krispy Kreme exist (nearly) side by side in a kind of spiritual harmony.
My story of revelation: on a trip to the San Francisco area several years ago, we had one of those travel days where everything goes wrong. Our list of "foodie approved" SF restaurants was one story of bad luck after another -- full up, closed, and yes, even burned down (which we discovered after walking 20 minutes through some of the seedier parts of the Mission district). Tail between our leg (and stomachs growling) we retreated back toward our hotel out in suburban Daly City.
And there, just off the interstate exit, shone an In-n-Out beacon. Beside it -- Krispy Kreme. We already knew the glory of hot KK's. We (east coasters) had long read about but had not yet had been able to try the famed In-n-Out. And here, both in one night!
First we gobbled up our double doubles, animal style of course. Awesome. Glorious. Out in the parking lot, the HOT light blazed on the Krispy Kreme. A friendly server was handing out free hot KK's while we waited in line.
I no longer remember how many we ate. All I remember is waking up the next day wondering if it all was a dream (the scale said no).
Anyway, if you do the right thing and plan your future travels (or move your home) to where In-n-Out and Krispy Kreme do indeed live side by side, there is Daly City, CA. In fact, here is the Google map:
(If you putz around in the street view you can nearly make out both buildings at opposite ends of the parking lot)
The cable company is always adding channels I didn’t ask for, but Chinese Food Network delivers recipes that are both quick and healthful — just stay away from the fried stuff:
Like many on this board, eating at Babbo has been high on my list for a long time. Recently the opportunity arose, and so I thought I'd add another anecdotal experience to the existing mountain of reviews.
Reservations were made 30 days in advance for an early seating (5:30), which was not a problem. I was under the impression that 5:30 was the first seating (and that the bar opened at 5), although I have to say that when we showed up at 5:17 a number of tables were already occupied. I am assuming these people are special and possess extra chromosomes that mortals lack.
I'd read on this board and elsewhere that Babbo was more "casual" than people expect it to be, in terms of dress and decor and music. Although these are all very subjective, I actually found the space more "fine dining" than I'd expected. The decor, which seems a little stiff and generic, doesn't really match the supposed playfulness of the menu, but this is also an issue that isn't that important to me. I've read some diners put off by Babbo's selection of contemporary music. Our meal was accompanied by the entirety of Coldplay's "Parachutes" followed by a David Bowie album. This was fine with me, actually, and did do for the menu what the decor does not. Diners' dress varied quite a bit, from business suits to tourists in t-shirts. We dressed casual but respectfully enough to say that we cared at least a little bit.
Both our server and the sommelier were friendly and helpful. Neither seemed snobbish, nor were they unctuously fake.
We began with an order of the 2-minute calamari shared among 3 as an appetizer. This item is listed in the secondi portion of the menu, but our server said we could order it as a shared course. The calamari comes in a tomato broth which has a nice heat that builds and a sweetness that keeps you coming back. The squid itself is very tender. That said, was this my favorite calamari preparation? Not really. More on that later. We also began with a serving of salumi, which I believe was a soprasetta and a lamb prosciutto. Obviously these are high quality cured meats—no complaints here. Sweet, tender, and salty.
The server did explain that pasta courses could be ordered for sharing by the table (of 3), and we ordered three pastas to share. I'm not really sure what "sharing" meant, though, since the pasta courses did not arrive pre-divided. We're not very fussy, though, so we just divided the plates ourselves.
Our three pastas: beef cheeks, mint love letters, and pappardelle with wild boar ragu. All excellent, although our three diners split on their top picks. The pappardelle was my favorite, though it was certainly the heaviest dish. Beef cheeks a close second—interesting and compelling texture. The mint love letters are definitely minty—a little strong for me, but others really liked that fresh green blast.
We selected two secondi for three people, anticipating full bellies near this point. One was the duck. It was shared by the other two diners who pronounced it rich and delicious. I had ordered the pork chop. Admittedly, a potentially "safe" choice, but in fact I was well-rewarded—easily the best pork chop I've ever had. Incredibly flavorful, not just through the crust, but all the way through the thick center. An absolutely divine pork chop.
For dessert I chose a chocolate hazelnut cake. It was good, but is not necessarily going to stand out in my "desserts of all time" hall of fame. We also shared some scoops of the much-discussed olive oil gelato ordered for the table. Unanimous verdict: eh. Companion diners much preferred the gelatos that accompanied their desserts, a strawberry and a hazelnut. Not sure what the big deal is about the olive oil.
I am not a drinker, but companions enjoyed two quartinos recommended by the sommelier. To his credit he was entirely helpful despite us choosing from the less costly end of the wine list, and his picks were very much enjoyed by the drinkers. (I drank iced tea, which received prompt and courteous refills.)
Unlike some, I would not say that Babbo was the most amazing meal of our lives. And if it matters to you, it is obviously not cheap—with tax and tip the bill for three totaled about $350. Of course, we knew this going in and came prepared, so I am not complaining.
However, in the real world price does matter. While we ate at Babbo with our out-of-town visitor, we repeatedly found ourselves telling her about the dishes we order at a small neighborhood Italian joint in Carroll Gardens called Fragole. The grilled calamari at Fragole, for example, is simply wonderful—charred, smoky, tender—and turns us on in a way that Babbo's just did not. It doesn't hurt that they charge half the price for it compared to Babbo.
Also at Fragole, we simply love their pappardelle with braised short rib ragu. The dish shares related DNA with Babbo's wild boar version, but is in fact more delicate, at least equally flavorful, just as generous, and costs less than half the price. In fact, we took our friend to Fragole the night after Babbo just to compare and contrast.
My point is not to diss Babbo, or promote Fragole (just a satisfied customer), but to say that is more than one way to look at this equation. That said, if I found myself at Babbo again and ordered only the wild boar ragu and the pork chop, I would indeed be a very happy eater.
Have not been to Ca Phe yet, so no comment. In a small town like this there aren't many "secrets", in more ways than one. In thinking of my own reply, I'm lead to think of specific foods or dishes at particular places:
- Wings at Napoli's. Not exactly hidden, or a secret, but I do have a major weakness for their wings. Not precisely traditional, but delicious.
- Pancakes (blueberry) at Linda's Diner. Technically in Lansing. Actually North Lansing. On 34, past Bakers Acres. Huge, cheap, yummy pancakes. Rural diner vibe.
- Pork burrito at the Terrace Restaurant, Statler Hotel
- Friday fish fry at Max's (NOT Maxie's); yes, the Holiday Inn hotel sports bar. Anything else I've tried there has been as meh as you would expect, but their beer-battered fish, Fridays only, is a destination trip.
- Burger (medium rare, with cheese) at Boatyard Grill; sure, this place is not hidden, and it's no secret, and many people (rightly) consider it overrated. The secret is that the burger is not only excellent -- rich, beefy, and well-seasoned -- but the best value on the menu.
- Vegan cupcakes at Greenstar (in the fridge case by the deli). I'm not vegan nor particularly fond of many Greenstar edibles, but for some reason the cupcakes are outstanding.
- Fat Boy Bakery white whole wheat baguette, the one with the pointy ends. Only available at the Farmers Market these days (formerly also at Greenstar). Best baguette in Ithaca, like the real bread you would find in a real city.
- "Vegetarian salad" at Vietnam restaurant. The less-than-descriptive name actually yields a generous shredded cabbage (?) salad with carrots, squishy tofu, and peanuts, dressed with an addictively tangy sweet and sour vinegar sauce.
- And for the least hidden, least secret place of all: Wegmans! Bear with me -- moon cookies. Also known as black and white cookies. Not traditional at all, like I grew up with -- but better. Decadent creamy icing, moist cakey goodness.
Bah. Born and raised on NY pizza, and my first visit to Pepe's three years ago was a revelation. Best pepperoni pie I've ever had. Two visits since confirms perfection. I don't like clam pies, so if I had ordered that at Pepe's, I'd probably have been disappointed too.
One time we tried Modern on a swing through New Haven instead of waiting for Pepe's. Mistake. Bland imitation.
All you folks who actually live in New Haven and disdain Pepe's might as well just jump out of a top floor window now and end it all.
PS. Yes, buy the pitcher.
We do tend to have selective memories, which might explain why everything from food to movies to music seems to "go downhill."
Surely, some restaurants do actually go downhill. Maybe they expand too fast, or maybe they are forced by economics to take shortcuts. It can be a double-edged sword to become overly popular, because this can put pressure on the very resources you needed to make the things you got famous for.
That said, many eaters project their own perceptions onto things, too. You can't relive the novelty of a new discovery. We come to love a food, we keep going back for more, and eventually become accustomed to it. We may still enjoy it, but it's not going to have that same sense of wonder and awe it did the first time. I do think this phenomenon leads some people to wrongly attribute their shifting experience to the restaurant "going downhill".
Then again, we also change as individuals. Our tastes change. Our experiences accumulate. The best Thai restaurant in the neighborhood might not seem as amazing five years later, after you've sampled Thai in several other cities, or Thailand, even if that original restaurant is still serving the exact same preparations. The fast food you craved and inhaled in high school might just taste like a pile of salt thirty years later, even if the recipe hasn't changed at all.
I do think there is a tendency for us to see ourselves as static and the outside world as ever changing, when in reality, both factors change simultaneously.
Full time writer: comedy -- print, web, and script; technology, journals and mass media.
Part time eater: would go full time, but doctor recommends against it.
Nutritionists are cyborgs who are merely designed in the shape of humans, albeit enviously thin ones.
Their view of food is akin to how the Mars Lander analyzes rocks on a foreign planet. Composition, mass, portion size.
The truth is that nutritionists themselves run purely on solar power.
Here's a slight twist -- I can get pretty crabby if I'm hungry for dinner and dinner isn't around the corner (or we haven't figured out something yet), but I don't get too irritated if I'm hungry for breakfast or lunch. I suspect a lot of this has to do with conditioning.
Also, just to add another data point, I'm a guy and I completely cannot relate to the stereotype of guys who "forget" to eat. Forget?! That's like forgetting to breathe.
I do have a friend (male), skinny little guy, who is very much a "MUST EAT RIGHT NOW!" person when he's hungry. Honestly, it can be a little inconvenient if we're out and I'd like to push through the hunger to find a chow-worthy experience, while he just wants to slam anything (preferably sugary) down his gullet right-that-very-minute.
Local produce has a limited season in some places. I'm all over farm stands and markets when they're up and running. But come May, I'm not above buying grocery store strawberries. I know what to expect.
This year, I thought, hmm...the California-trucked strawberries seemed a little better than usual. They tasted kind of like strawberries. Or at least something resembling strawberries. A few even had "actual strawberry flavor."
Today I bought cob corn shipped from Georgia. It's been years since I have tried supermarket corn. When I have, it's been tasteless and hard, like something a cow would eat. (No offense to any cows reading this.) We do have wonderful fresh local corn -- delicate, tender, sweet -- but not this early in the year. Something irrational came over me seeing the Georgia corn piled up and it seemed cheap enough to try out.
You know, it was not terrible. It was veritably corn-like. I'm sure it is a high-sugar variety, and yes, the taste of sweet comes through more strongly than the corn. Clearly the fresh local stuff has a better balance. But still, this corn could be eaten and produce a corn-like experience.
I won't pretend this is a scientific sample. Nor am I trying to overstate the case. I know, you prefer local produce. Yes, yes. But do you think that mass-market produce has improved at all, perhaps due to pressure from the foodie movement? Changes in growing practices or breeding?
I hope this isn't hijacking the subject too much, but I can relate to "losing" the taste for certain foods for temporary periods of time.
Two examples that stand out are olives and spinach. These are two foods I can either be hot or cold on. If I'm hot on olives, then they're delicious and addictive. But when I go cold, I can hardly stomach their taste -- all I taste is brine and salt. This can happen even when the olives are from the same source.
We make spinach here frequently -- as in several times in a week -- for healthful eating reasons. When I'm "hot" on spinach, yum yum. I just reduce it down with some soy/lemon/sesame oil. When I go cold, it just tastes bitter and off and I just peck at it. As with olives, same source, same preparation.
Just a theory, but maybe it's a body chemistry thing. At certain times I "need" what is in olives or spinach and at other times I don't. Still, it's weird because this hot/cold thing happens only with a few certain foods. By and large I'm "hot" for most everything most all of the time ;)
So then, to summarize: Chowhounds will go to almost any length in their hunt for excellent food, unless the place where it is found is: too hot, too cold, too loud, too crowded, too bright, too dark, overstaffed, understaffed, too attentive, inattentive, too big, too small, tables too far apart, tables too close together, too many children, and too many headless fish.
Olivia's advertises "local meat", which has always struck me as sounding a little creepy, but I did find their local roast chicken entree to be rather amazing. I would almost never recommend ordering chicken in a restaurant, but in this case, absolutely.
That said, I'm not as enthusiastic about everything else our party of four ordered. The price/performance ratio seemed dubious, besides the local chicken.
Sarah's was formerly Renee's patisserie. I think Sarah was a protege of Renee. Regardless, both incarnations are very good.
Been around here awhile, hope I can help. Coming from LA, you can obviously skip the Mexican. I would say skip all the Asian -- not that there isn't some good stuff -- it won't be better than what you have, but if your son is looking for local eats it might be worth the research.
Lost Dog Cafe is decent, not amazing, but friendly vibe and good enough food for 'college crowd' eats.
Nines: Bleh, but a seminal college experience, so might be worth it for that.
Glenwood Pines: I wouldn't go out of my way for their burger -- I like the burger at Boatyard Grill much better, if you like your burger "pure" (i.e. "about the beef" rather than unusual toppings). Boatyard isn't the best value across their menu, but the burger is pretty solid.
Dijon Bistro: Very excellent French bistro fare, odd location in a fringe part of town strip mall beside the DMV.
Just a Taste: Tapas -- very good, but order a lot if you don't want to leave hungry. Still, excellent quality.
Maxies: Love it. Go there.
Vietnam: It's a nice Collegetown staple for the students, but it's not gonna blow you away coming from LA.
Antlers: More of an 'early bird special' type crowd.
Mediterraneo: ?? Must be gone.
Cornell Dairy: Fun to visit and try things!
A few more candidates to toss in the ring:
Smart Monkey Cafe south of town is a new-ish organic cafe. It is a tad pricey, but the selection and quality is good, interesting, creative, different. (Alas, they don't serve monkey.)
Aladdin's in Collegetown is a solid middle eastern/natural-ish foods joint. Like a lot of places here, it's not the best of its kind you're going to find, but it is a college staple and is good for what it is.
Echo recommendation of food at the Farmer's Market -- lots of very good stalls there, besides the produce and crafts. The burritos, macro mamas, sticky rice thai, jung ching, the wood oven flatbread guy...
Pizza Aroma is good but it isn't really "NY style" if that's what you're after. If anything, it is more west coast in terms of eclectic toppings. While we don't have "true" NYC style pizza in Ithaca, close approximations include Ginos and Napolis.
Among higher-end meals (such as Pangea), my pick is actually The Heights. Perhaps the best, or at least among the 2 or 3 best, in town. Dress up food.