Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fine Food Found: LA Food Truck Madness

I don’t know what possesses me to do it. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like heat. Because I drink green tea non-stop all day, I can never be too far from the ladies room. Yet still, I’ve eagerly plunged into food truck madness twice this year in L.A.

The most recent foray was the “Street Feast” at the Americana at Brand in Glendale this week. Food trucks from Asian-inspired to French fries to American barbecue couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming demand for their sweets and savories.

It was madness, best described as Disneyland for foodies. Instead of waiting hours to get on the most popular rides, it’s a different kind of sensory thrill that comes from the tortuous victory of scoring a dish from a food truck.

Knowing I’d make it through no more than three lines, I tried to be methodical in my approach to the madness and check out all the trucks’ menus beforehand. Wedging through the crowds became too tiring and the lines were building, so I just jumped into the line for Indian food from Dosa Truck. It was the beginning of the festival and my wait was an extraordinarily short 30 minutes.

My food was only fair. Here’s what I ordered: the “Slumdog” dosa, which they describe as containing “Indian ‘pesto’ rubbed inside a dosa with paneer, spinach and masala potatoes.” It was decent but not remarkable.

Then I opted for the insanely long line at the Grilled Cheese Truck. I’m almost afraid to admit this publicly, lest someone dispatch medical personnel to cart me off to a padded room. It was 3½ hours from the time I started in line to the time I took my first bite. Just process that for a moment. Now if it’s any consolation, I wasn’t the only one to partake of such lunacy.

I ordered the Harvest Melt, which comes on six-grain bread with “roasted butternut squash, Gruyere, agave, fresh thyme and a balsamic reduction.”

It had a more sophisticated flavor profile than the Indian dish, but it was obvious the cooking had been rushed and tender loving care was lacking. Ultimately not worth an insane wait, but a fine experience nonetheless.

All told, I was prepared for the adventure because I had been baptized by fire in February at the infamous LA Street Food Fest in downtown L.A.

That one was more crowded and more chaotic, insofar as it was a grassroots event without precedent. The one this week was organized by the Americana at Brand, which had the stage management and crowd control down pat. Everything was orderly to a fault, with polite concierges and security officers telling you exactly where to stand and how to curve the queue.

For further reading (and yummy pictures), check out these stories on this week’s food truck madness:

Brand X
Glendale News-Press

With regards to the L.A. madness from February, I’m especially fond of Jonathan Gold’s piece in the LA Weekly. Like Gold, I waited f........o........r........e........v........e........r for the Ludo Bites fried chicken and deemed it maddeningly worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


We were amazed to find out that one of our favorite Indian restaurants is 25 years old. You would never know it by the look of the Bombay Palace interior. The restaurant has a remarkable space that doesn't look dated at all. But more importantly, the food still achieves a level of quality that you just don't find at cheaper places. We got to the party early, before the crowds arrived, so we didn't have to compete for the fabulous appetizers that were being passed. The highlight was the Indian stuffed mushrooms: so good. They don't seem to be on the menu but the fish pakora is, and that was our other favorite. Bombay Palace 8690 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 310-659-9944.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saveur savors Suzanne's flavors

Saveur magazine had a party last week at Lucques, to celebrate the special Los Angeles March issue. It was wonderful to see the LA food pros mixing with the home chefs that are always a feature of Saveur magazine. Saveur treats four star restaurant chefs and church ladies who cook the Friday fish fry, equally, which is what makes it such a great magazine: it's about good food no matter where it comes from. And that's what made Los Angeles a natural candidate for a dedicated special issue: we've got it all here, from haute cuisine to street food from every corner of the globe. But we were glad the party was at Lucques and not next to a taco truck. Lucques chef/owner Suzanne Goin, in her signature black headband, popped out of the kitchen to say hi to Saveur editor James Oseland, seen smiling above. In the meantime Brendan Francis Newnam, of the Dinner Party Download, and Alan Rosenberg listened to Noura Samimi, who was profiled in the magazine for her famed Persian home cooking. Click here for her recipe for Kuku Kadoo!