Sunday, October 05, 2008

My Fond Farewell to California

“California Soul (Diplo / Mad Decent Remix)” Marlena Shaw and Diplo

I decided to end my time in California by doing something exclusive to this large and mostly sunny state. I headed up the coast to Napa, the first seriously taken wine region in the country, with some of my closest friends for some good ole winetasting. We visited Artesa, Domaine Chandon, Cakebread, Mumm, Duckhorn, and a random tasting room in downtown Napa; we also had dinner at Bistro Jeanty, a yummy French eatery in Yountville.

In true California fashion, and leading up to this winetasting trip, I managed to fit in a few other Cali-isms: dinner at the Hotel Bel-Air; wine at Primitivo, a cozy tapas and wine bistro; beer at the Otheroom, a dark, LA-trendy beer/wine joint in Venice; homemade margaritas on the sand in Hermosa Beach (thanks, U and W); dancing at Sharkeez, a frat-row-type bar, and karaoke at Fat Face Fenner’s Fishack, a dive-y seafood joint, both in Hermosa. I even managed cocktails at the ever-growing popular J Lounge, a new Asian fusion resto-lounge known for its $3-Grey Goose martinis before 3 p.m. (after 3 p.m. the price adjusts to about $20 each) in downtown LA, and I was able to sneak in a last Super 8 dinner at Rush St., a modern quasi-sports bar/resto that recently hosted a French Tuesday, located in Culver City, the new hot spot for restaurants in LA.

Hmmmm…. My intention right now is not to provide a laundry list of what I’m grateful for in California or what or who I’ll miss. Don’t know how long (or short) that list would be anyway, and I’m not in a mood to get nostalgic right now and confront my last ten-some-odd years. Admittedly I am feeling a little jaded right now. I have a head cold (which I’m sure I can attribute to lack of sleep mixed with a little bit of stress), and I am sitting in an airport waiting to head back east for a permanent time. I am actually thinking that I am homeless right now. I do not officially move into my new place in DC until this weekend, and in the interim I will be staying with family in the south. For the next four days I will be living out of three suitcases and settling final arrangements for my perma-reloke to the east coast.

Honestly, if I were to think about what I’m leaving behind as I head back east I might start to seriously reconsider what I’m doing. Well, no, I take it back. I wouldn’t. I’m very conscientiously making this decision, and without regret. I could wax on about how excited I am to have seasons again and live in an area where mass transit is taken seriously. I could, but again, I won’t.

Instead…if you will forgive me for reneging on my earlier statement about not getting nostalgic, I can’t help but smile as I fondly remember just a few of my favorite Cali-patois, and thus give myself the closure that every girl needs in a long relationship that has finally ended…hopefully healthily. Much of these are most likely targeted at southern California, Los Angeles, to be specific, a city where most of its residents are not homegrown, but from everywhere else, and a city where these same residents both love and hate it…with a decided passion--and yet they find themselves unable to leave it. My move is not unprecedented, but it is still infrequent enough to be considered unusual.

Okay already. I bid adieu to some of my Cali-faves: al fresco dining—year-round, the best resto wine lists west of the Rockies (probably east, too), sunshine 350 days of the year, an underrated music scene, beach volleyball nets as far as the eye can see, tailgating with one of the top college football programs ever, seeing movies before anyone else does, valet parking, beautiful people everywhere, a respectably growing resto/foodie scene (that includes two of my fave chefs: Govind Armstrong and Suzanne Goin), Pinkberry, the ability to snowboard and surf in the same day, Vegas close enough to be an occasional playground, the 6-Man Beach Volleyball tournament, my hula family, really good Mexican food (even though I’m not a big fan of Mexican), really good sushi (and I am a big fan of sushi), earthquakes, the strongest business school network I’ve ever come across, Peter Pans (young and old), movie studios, talent agencies (a la CAA and Endeavor), area codes making an impression, carpooling, multiple social hubs, multiple business hubs, awards ceremonies, beach cities, In-n-Out served protein-style-animal-style, the Hollywood Bowl, late-night Roscoe’s chicken and waffles.

I need to stop and take a breath…and go ahead and end this by (I think) aptly borrowing from the classic George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen: “Say goodnight, Gracie. Goodnight.”…oh, and include one of my favorite flavor combos (burrata, tomatoes, and basil), done best by one of my favorite chefs.

Govind Armstrong's Burrata, Japanese Tomatoes, Panzanella, Wild Arugula

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 sprigs thyme

1 large clove garlic, smashed

3 slices rustic sourdough bread, torn into tiny pieces

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 pints mini Japanese heirloom tomatoes, blanched and shocked, then peeled

1/4 hothouse cucumber, split lengthwise, seeded and very thinly sliced

1/2 small red onion, thinly julienned

3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only

1 sprig basil, leaves only

4 medium-ripe Japanese beefsteak/heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced in rounds and kept together

1 (16-ounce) tub fresh burrata cheese

1 large bunch (about 6 ounces) wild or baby arugula

Begin by preparing the olive-oil-fried croutons. Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of the olive oil, the thyme, and garlic. Once the oil has been seasoned for approximately 1 minute, remove the herbs. Add the torn bread, and gently fry while stirring occasionally until thoroughly golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bread from the pan, drain completely on paper towels to keep the croutons from becoming soggy, and season with salt and pepper. (You may reserve the oil for up to two weeks for similar uses.)

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with a small pinch of salt until dissolved, then whisk in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.

Just before serving, to keep the bread salad from becoming soggy, place the peeled mini tomatoes in a small bowl, add the cucumber, red onion (to your liking), parsley leaves, basil, and the croutons. Dress the salad with approximately 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.

Fan a few of the sliced tomatoes just to the left of the center of each of 8 small plates. Drizzle the slices with some of the remaining vinaigrette, then place a small pile of the marinated mini tomatoes to the right of the slices. Spoon out the burrata right between the two, fluffing the plate with the arugula as garnish around the outside. Drizzle the burrata with extra-virgin olive oil, and season the plate with sea salt and a few turns of the pepper mill.

N.B. To blanch and peel tomatoes, first cut an X in the end opposite the stem, then immerse in boiling water 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water, then peel.

1 comment:

Sparky said...

Hope you're doing well!