I just got back from a trip to LA for the Discovery Network Upfront presentations and did a little noshing in LA in anticipation of a story I am working on for the July issue of the magazine. Let me fill you in on a few of the people I spotted in my short visit to the City of Angels and a few of the things that you might want to nibble on when you are out here next.
Kat from L.A. Ink is my newest big fan, and I am hers. I met her in Chicago last week, and she made a beeline for me Tuesday evening when she saw me across the floor at the event. In tow was her beau, the ageless paunchy rocker Nikki Sixx, who was unable to bring himself to chow down on the geoduck that she and I offered to him.
Jai Rodriguez (former Queer Eye style maven) was Trading Spaces stalwart Paige Davis’s date for the event, and he spent the whole time at the show drinking highballs and shouting at the screen, basically acting like a four-year-old. When super hunk Dave Salmoni from Animal Planet hit the stage with a six-month-old cub wrapped around his neck, Jai nearly passed out with desire, audibly moaning from his seat. When Salmoni turned and exited, Jai kicked it into high gear, shouting lecherous offers from his back-row perch. Ten minutes later, Dave sat down next to him, and Jai lost all his confidence, turning into a shrinking wallflower at the very moment he should have risen to the occasion. What a schlub. Paige, by the way, is a stone-cold fox in real life, and all her perky folksiness from the show is noticeably absent when she is out and about.
Dhani Jones, Sam Brown, Kirsten Gum from Cash and Treasures, and all the rest of my Travel Channel teammates were there. Annabelle Gurwich (formerly of Dinner and Movie, with a new show on Planet Green, the new network launching this spring) was there, but all eyes were on PG’s new star Adrian Grenier from Entourage, who has a new show about his home and his green lifestyle. He is a very nice guy, very earnest and genuine, and only out done by the superbly humble Bear Grylls. Bear, Man vs. Wild, has recovered from the flap over his show’s truth telling, and his show is a huge ratings giant for Discovery. He and I share the same diet on the road, although as he told me at one point in the evening that I get a choice, he has none since it is eat or perish.
The highlight of the evening was sitting in between Justin Timberlake and Ellen Degeneres and gal pal Portia Rossi at dinner after the show. Timberlake was cool as a cuke, noshing with pals (no Jessica Biel in sight) and kissing everyone in the room on his way out the door. I got a little chin nod when he stopped to see who was at our table, and he smiled, mimed a little chewing, and then laughed as he made his way to his car. That kid is a star, huge magnetism. I am channeling both Sid and Joe Franklin right now . . . get it? Anyway, Ellen and Portia were having dinner, chowing on steak (we were all at Puck’s CUT in the Beverly Wilshire), and kept looking over at our table, sending one of their pals over after twenty minutes of giggling to ask me what was the best tasting animal testicle I ever ate? Resisting all temptation to make a joke about their lack of experience with that body part, I told them all about the black chicken balls in Taiwan, the Prada of animal testes. Jet black and rarer than truffles.
Turns out, they are all huge fans of the show, and to be honest, what a thrill to have them all be so interested in what we do on Bizarre Foods.
Tuesday I ate lunch at Spago, and mega chefs Lee Hefter and Wolfgang Puck were both in the kitchen, clearly the stars had aligned. Turns out Alain Ducasse, Jacques Torres, Eric Ripert, and Bobby Flay were all in town for the day to cook a meal with Puck at a charity event in Newport Beach. Dinner for eight cooked by these guys went for $100,000. Well, the chefs were all having lunch at the table next to ours, so I got to hang with them for a bit. Flay was charming and gracious, so for the first time in twenty years, he is off my s**t list. Since Rocco came off that same list after we kissed and made up in South Beach last month, that leaves only Tyler Florence to carry forth the banner of official putz of the food world. He is a pompous and arrogant man who has no-showed on me twice throughout the years as a show guest of mine and the second time with no call or apology.
Anyway, here is what we all ate: Some of the dishes were being worked on and finalized for the event later that night, see the pix below for some cool photos. We started with the tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, then spoons of hamachi sashimi with yuzu, then fava puree tarts with basil oil, then Iranian osetra (wow!) tarts, cured salmon on lemon blini, rhubarb sorbet on pickled Jerusalem artichoke with lemon grass Earl Grey tea, sweet pea agnolotti with marscapone, and those were just the first seven courses!
Above: rhubarb sorbet on pickled Jerusalem artichoke with lemon grass Earl Grey tea.
Above: (left) Sweet pea agnolotti with marscapone and (right) Iranian osetra tarts.
Say what you will about Spago, but Puck and Hefter are always there, and the food is still, decades later, superb. Craft LA, Katsu-Ya, Pinks, In-N-Out, Dan Tana’s, Bastide, Providence, Lucques, Mozza, Matsuhisa, and Crustacean are all on my list of musts, and since I have approximately forty restaurants on my hit list with only room to write twenty, well, I am in trouble to say the least. Best dish? Maybe the sea urchin amuse at Craft. Teeny cubes of pickled watermelon, small slivers of compressed watermelon, and sea urchin perched on top, and the doughnuts are still the best in the universe. Best main course, the awesome roasted lobster in truffle sabayon whipped with the lobster tomalley. Oh, Lordy.