Tag Archives: Portuguese sausage

“Spam: The Mystery Meat That Continues to Inspire Feelings of Agony and Ecstasy” in The Stranger

14 Jun
photo (10)

Foreground: The Blahlah Special at Kauai Family Restaurant, including saimin, Portuguese sausage, Vienna sausage, and, of course, Spam.

My second piece for The Stranger is an essay on how I came around on Spam–the edible variety, not the annoying junk mail. I discuss, among other things, dishes from Cheeky Cafe, Super Six, and Kauai Family Restaurant. I understand Kauai Family Restaurant’s cakes cause people to weep: I will most certainly return at some point, hopefully soon, after I’ve eaten a decent amount of kale. You can read the article here.

This is my third essay drawing on a single two-week family trip to Romania in 1995. The first was “Used to be Schwartz” in The Rumpus, which (not incidentally?) also touches on a troubled relationship with ham. (But hey–to quote my great-grandmother, “If it tastes good, it’s kosher.”) The second was “Dark Fruit: A Cultural and Personal History of the Plum” in The Los Angeles Review of Books. I’d love to go back to Romania sometime, not just to see how the country has changed (and of course to see family and family friends), but to see how my perceptions of the place have changed and to explore stories I couldn’t have possible looked for as a 12-year-old. Ah, someday!

A Humble Food Guide to #AWP16 in Los Angeles

20 Mar
The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore. Photo by Michael Kent.

Caveat # 1: I am an L.A. ingenue!

Caveat #2: I’m not even going to AWP this year!

But…I happen to be here right now, on a writing retreat while M takes a class for work, and I so enjoyed writing my little food guide to Seattle for the 2014 AWP, I thought I’d give this another spin, albeit with outsider humility.

I write to you from the Los Angeles Public Library cafe, which offers a Panda Express, TCBY, and a vendor called Food 630 which is closed and obscured by some potted plants. The scent of orange chicken is bringing me right back to my teenage field trips to the Staten Island Mall. Not incidentally, the downtown library has been a great place to hunker down and work. Free WiFi is not as ubiquitous here as in Seattle, but at the LAPL, the world is your oyster. I love libraries.

But,  I digress. Where do you eat? If you’re like me, downtown and car averse, there are several great options.

For breakfast, I cannot quit Pitchoun, a French bakery that will surely kill me. So far, I’ve enjoyed a plain brioche sprinkled with otherworldly-large crystals of sugar; a Kouign-Amann, more luscious than a croissant and oozing with syrup; a banana chocolate chip muffin, because, you know, it had some fruit on it; a pain au chocolat; and an almond croissant. Opt for the Kouign-Amann. It’s special.

As a New York transplant, I was very pleased to find Wexler’s Deli in the Grand Central Market.They smoke their own lox and pastrami masterfully. Their bagel is crunchier and less dense than a New York bagel, but it maintains a chewiness that saves it from being round bread with a hole in it. I did wonder whether there is an L.A.-style bagel, distinct from the holy New York and Montreal varieties. Indeed, this L.A. Weekly article confirms. If I were to return, I’d opt for corned beef on rye with a schmear of mustard and a pickle, which, I suspect, would hit a spot the bagel just so slightly missed. If deli food is not your thing, there are a bajillion other vendors at the market hawking foods of all kinds.

Wexler's

Photo by Michael Kent.

Chelsea Kurnick introduced M & me to B.S. Taqueria, the casual sister to fancy pants Broken Spanish. The lemon-pepper chicken skin chicharrones were tasty, and I would venture to say you should go there just for the outstanding rice & beans, flavorful with fresno chilis & cotija & delightfully crunchy thanks to rice being toasted. I enjoyed my tongue tacos, but next time I’d try the clam and lardo. (The Duritos, alas, were much too spicy for me.)

An easy Metro ride up into Hollywood brought M & I up to the old-school gem Musso & Frank, which is not cheap but not as expensive as I’d feared. An elderly barkeep in a red jacket made me a $10 gin martini, with a carafe of excess drink thoughtfully stowed in a little bucket of ice. The clams & linguine dish was well worth the $22 price tag and a side creamed spinach brought me right back to 1987.

Thanks to Kima Jones, I did eat *some* fresh vegetables this week at Bäco Mercat: deeply satisfying “caesar” brussels sprouts and a delightful sugar snap pea & pear salad. Kima urged me to dig deep into the salad, lest I miss out on the heavenly layer of burrata at the bottom. Seattleites will also kvell at the bicycle-powered ice cream parlor, Peddler’s Creamery.

We ventured up to Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake, a $5 shared uber ride, for beer,  buffalo cauliflower, and a garlicky white mushroom pizza that was very good. This spot is great for vegans; everything on the menu is vegan unless otherwise indicated.

For a down to earth meal close to the convention center, check out The Original Pantry Cafe, a 24-hour cash-only diner established in 1924. My dad has been going there every year for the last 30 years, “a good meat and potatoes” place. I had Portuguese sausage & eggs, incredibly savory and rich,  which plunged me into a pleasant food coma.

For an entirely different experience, and a good escape from the conference, take the Expo Line to Culver City for the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Fabulists will love the exhibits on old superstitions, pseudo-science, and other tantalizing mysteries. (There’s a whole room dedicated to Soviet space dogs!) The rooftop garden is a magical oasis, where you’ll be offered tea out of a samovar, doves flutter under billowing awnings, fountains burble, and an abundance of ferns, palms, and birds of paradise will sooth your overtaxed eyes. Many thanks to Sean Michaels for the stellar suggestion.

That’s all kids. Play safe. Eat well. While you’re at the conference I’ll just be up here in Seattle sitting in the rain, munching on kale.

 

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