Purple Magazine
— Los Angeles issue #30

amanda wall

los angeles
food
eating out by amanda wall

Have you ever sat on a piece of cake? I don’t mean like, a piece of cake that you didn’t notice was in a chair before you and you accidentaly sat down — I mean intentionally, in pursuit of … pleasure. I did once, out of curiosity, or maybe boredom, or actually it might have been during that late-20s existential crisis, to find out if a food fetish was right for me. You see, I’m a bit food obsessed. The sense of taste just thrills me.

So when you need a recommendation, it’s me you text, because I know about every restaurant. Also, I love to cook, and I’m at least at one farmer’s market a week. It’s not just food in itself that interests me, I like to know about Food World, to know important chefs by name, I might even know who got a James Beard nomination this year. My cookbook library is ever-expanding and Gather Journal is my second favorite magazine. I’ve been to Noma.

I grew up eating a lot of McDonalds. Eating out happened rarely in my family, we were lower-middle-class and lived in a very small town with one Mexican restaurant for special occasions, and a drive-thru with golden arches where my cousin was the manager. My Happy Meal toy collection was impressive. I ate Eggos, I ate Hot Pockets and all of the other kid marketed pre-packaged splendor of the ’90s. My mom made my school lunches and cooked dinner until she left my dad when I was 13, in which said dinners declined and the self-foraging started. Again, not a lot of options around, so I mostly ate Doritos. College it was cereal. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, that I started taking an interest in this thing that we all have to do a few times a day, this thing that is so integral to culture, evolution, not to mention status. It was with a lot of travel and increased income, that I started knowing about food. In America, good food costs money.

I’ve been living in LA for the last eight years and the food scene now is hot. I live on the increasingly hip side of town, in Silver Lake, where it feels like a new restaurant opens every week and I love newness and I love not driving across town and I’m aware that my rent is going up with each word I type. There are other neighborhoods, too, like downtown and Venice where the new and the cool, sometimes too cool, are thriving. Though it’s not just the newness that’s exciting, there is a real sense of creative community here, people pushing boundaries of food standards and norms with concepts that are modern or going back to things quite old. It could be a generational backlash, of looking for something real to eat after the Lunchables propaganda of our youth (which is of course much larger than a Southern California movement, there are other hip cities with interesting food scenes). Though the food in LA feels different, the cultural influences are more vast, more conflicting, and our produce, which is also most of America’s produce, is insane #CalExit. I read somewhere that the restaurant culture here is special because it’s not rooted in European technique, i.e. French discipline. A restaurant in a strip mall next door to a 7-Eleven could likely be as valuable of an experience as a place like Spago in Beverly Hills. Let me remind you that we are a city without any Michelin stars. There is a sense of freedom, the spirit of a counterculture and no one seems to give a fuck about culinary elitist rules.

I really want to tell you about so many great places and exactly what to order, but also I don’t, for fear of my favorites being filled up with (French) fashionistas. Also, there’s not much that I can tell you that you can’t find out from Jonathan Gold, ruler supreme of food critics, local voice of validation, a personal hero. Or seriously just google “best restaurants LA.” But I’ll give you an insight into some places that I frequent, my everyday neighborhood diamonds, places that I think about when I’ve been away from LA too long.

Firstly the chopped salad at Alimento, a small Italian restaurant that I live up the hill from, where I sit at the bar, and order this goddamn salad every time. It always arrives quickly, sooner than you’d expect, a heaping mound whose elements are hard to distinguish in the dim lighting. Each forkful a combination of crisp juicy lettuces thinly sliced laced with salami salty anchovy bursting cherry tomatoes (especially sublime in the summer months) spicy pepperoncini and this bean — chickpea? — puree with some crunchy shit on top. Each bite in varying proportions. I’m realizing now that describing taste is not easy, the momentary and fleeting bang of sensation never quite matches up to my limitations of the English language, and I’m wondering now if any sense can ever adequately be put to words. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to describe an orgasm.

I am fundamentally a fool for the unconventional, like Mh Zh, an Israeli Eastside hot spot that has no sign, no website, no phone number. No one really even knows how to pronounce its name. All of the tables are out on the sidewalk unless you’re lucky enough to score a stool at the counter of the tiny open kitchen, I’m usually lucky, and watch the whole branzinos being stuffed with herbs then quickly shoved into the fiery mouth of the coal oven in front of you. Where the menu is written in Sharpie on brown paper bags and the same bags are often used as plates. The music is loud and ironic, the whole experience feeling more like a very cool friend’s dinner party.

A current favorite lunch spot is Triniti, an unassuming and minimalist coffee shop in Echo Park, there is a bean soup thing that will kill you. The flavors here are intelligent, and so artfully plated that you might feel an urge to take a picture. I do every time. The chef and I once DM’d about where to pick nasturtiums.

Meiji “supreme” tofu, the silky kind, changed my life. It’s one guy who hand-makes it daily, it’s somehow better plain, the first spoonful straight out of its plastic container. You’ll see it often on menus of the best restaurants around the city. I first bought it at Cookbook, a tiny place in Echo Park, a favorite for groceries that sells a beautifully curated selection that is locally sourced and responsibly grown. You will buy things here for the packaging alone, and all of the employees are cute.

I would recommend that you go on a date at Kismet and order the jeweled crispy rice — spoiler alert — there’s an egg yolk, maybe two, hiding in the center. Everyone is cute here too. I go there with my boyfriend a lot. We eat out a lot, any chance we can get really, which is often. A meal is an intimate experience, or can be if you follow the rules. Namely, that you must share everything, no one gets their own dish, you must experience all of the chewing all of the swallowing at the same time and you should probably be drinking the same wine, if wine’s your guy’s thing. This also means my significant other must like the same types of food as me. I’m a never say never type, and I predominately eat vegetables, but I don’t think I could ever seriously date a vegan. Even if you don’t like seafood our days are numbered.

Why I have such a preoccupation with food is still unclear, maybe I can just taste more than other people, more taste buds or a higher sensitivity to smell. You know I just found out that most people can’t smell asparagus pee? I can. Look it up. Or maybe this is all a psychological trauma void I’m continuously trying to fill. One of those healthy addictions like working out but totally the opposite. Oh, and it turned out that I don’t have a food fetish, there’s a sex-to-mess ratio that just wasn’t working out for me, though I’m not unwilling to one day revisit it in a more of a I-don’t-have-to-clean-later hotel room service scenario. Forever fascinated by a scene from the 1985 Japanese film Tampopo of two lovers slowly passing an egg yolk back and forth from one mouth to another until it finally breaks in the woman’s mouth, yolk dripping down her chin as she cums. If you haven’t seen this you should. Another recommendation is to revisit all potential fetishes on a five-year rotation.

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Los Angeles issue #30

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