The Critics Choice Awards were in Santa Monica the other night, and so was I. My wife, son, and I strolled into our hotel and asked the major domo in the lobby who all the paparazzi were stalking, and she says, “I can’t say, but you might want to stroll over to the big fireplace.” We did.
We were staying at Shutters Hotel On The Beach, my new favorite hotel in a city filled with great ones. The location is great; it is at the end of Pico Blvd., right on the beach, great pool, amazing service, and a level of finishes in the rooms that leaves you wanting for nothing: iPod docks, six different Italian bath bombs, and steam and hot tub in the rooms. It is casual and hip but still supplying all the kowtowing that you need when you are traveling with the family. Need milk for a bottle? It’s in the room in three minutes. And you can walk to Michael’s restaurant. The scene in the lobby is always hopping: roaring fireplaces, comfy couches, killer snack food (the braised short rib sliders were particularly awesome).
So we sidle over to the first set of comfy chairs, and who should we see standing in front of us but George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Julian Schnabel, Sean Penn, and a few other mega stars all enjoying a quiet drink in front of the fireplace. Welcome to LA.
Clooney and DDL are throwbacks, real big stars who radiate a deeper heat than most actors, even the famous ones, and they also strongly contrasted the brooding Penn, who glared at us and never moved from his chair. The others smiled and were gracious as we chatted with the producer who was sitting with them, a fellow we knew from here. Other highlights: Pizza from Vito, brunch at Coast, Wagyu at Cut, calves’ liver at Angelini Osteria, hamachi and crab rolls at Nozawa, chicken salad at Ivy at the Shore, tacos at Guelaguetza, and of course a double-double at In-N-Out. Mozza remains the hottest table in town, but Lucques, A.O.C., Matsuhisa, and Dan Tana’s are still some of my regular stops when I’m hungry.
I have gotten a ton of e-mail about a few roundups that included yours truly. Check out zap2it’s annual review of TV people. OK, I’ll take twenty-first on the list; it’s better than twenty-second, isn’t it? Or you can check out Chow’s website and click on the media title in the middle of the page. Not too shabby.
In Defense of Food is Michael Pollan's fifth book, and it’s another home run. As Liz Weise pointed out in USA Today two days ago (quotes are verbatim from her story):
Pollan started out with an interest in "the tradition of nature writing in America," but turned his attentions to our relationship to the food we eat after he "found himself fire-bombing the den of a woodchuck that had mowed down" his garden.
"Here I was pouring gasoline down its burrow and lighting a match to it and I realized I was replaying a certain American approach to nature, which is 'How dare these small-brained creatures thwart our desires?'" But in his latest book, Michael's focus is on the "small-brained creatures" otherwise known as the food industry. He doesn't call them small-brained, actually, but he does seem to regard them as the marketing equivalent of a hungry woodchuck: "Their interests are getting you to eat too much food processed more than it should be. And your interests are to leave well enough alone with food. But they can't make enough money on that."
Instead, says Michael, the food industry seeks "ways to 'add value' to food, by making it more processed and more complicated." They are enabled, he says, by scientists who "deconstruct food, to understand the component parts of it —vitamins, minerals—that make it healthy." Food companies take this information (e.g., resveratrol is good for the heart), and use it "to get us to eat more highly processed foods touted as healthier because the nutrients present in whole foods have been added back in at the factory." Michael's best advice is to "shop the periphery of the supermarket ... where the meat, diary, produce and fish are pretty much as they started out." He also advises eating "only foods that our great-grandmothers would have recognized."
It’s a simple idea but true, and although IDOF won’t change the discourse of our food lives the way The Omnivore’s Dilemma did, it’s worth reading.