• Posted by Califia Suntree on February 1st, 2007, 5:15 PM

    back in the monochromatic winter of NYC, i thought i’d post some musings on my favorite food things in LA. i don’t know if i’d call LA a “food city”, but it is certainly an incredible place to be a home cook. but there are also some treats that visitors without kitchens the size of manhattan apartments can enjoy. here are some of my favorites:

    * ajo ramen at ramenya on olympic blvd. (west LA). ajo means garlic in spanish, and there’s several handfuls of it (whole cloves as well as tasty deep-fried slivers) in this soup, as well as their handmade ramen noodles and a roast-pork broth. this soup is literally better than antibiotics. it’s my health insurance.

    * freshly ground masa from gallegos on venice blvd. (mar vista). they still make tortillas, as they have since 1946 (they used to be in santa monica). so they have the best, yellowest, corniest masa dough around, which means you can buy some, mix it with fat and leavening, and make the best homemade tamales around. truly. try it. or try their tamales, if you get there early enough.

    * piles of bbq and kimchi at soot bull jeep on west 8th (koreatown). after hitting the korean spa and getting scrubbed, oiled and pounded like a piece of meat (it’s bliss, really), it seems only fitting to stop for a bbq feast. this place has the most incredible wood-fired barbecues and piles of delectable kimchi and enormous beers and cheap shoju around. after dinner, you will smell like you’ve been camping for a week.

    * my definition of LA comfort food is a burrito. and there’s no shortage of them. but there’s another sort of comfort food–the lentil-soup-burger-steak-chopped salad type that’s oddly hard to find a decent version of in LA, unless you want to spend $90 for your comfort. so thank goodness for the nook, hidden away on santa monica blvd (west LA). you can get big bowls of soup or crocks of incredible ‘gourmet’ mac n’ cheese for something like $5, or else a one-bowl meal of stir-fried ginger chicken and rice for around $10. nice wine, lovely atmosphere…pretty much ideal.

    * empress pavilion for dimsum (chinatown). there’s a reason they have the largest dining room you will ever see in your life: because you can scarf as many delicious little bits of this and that as your poor stomach can hold (don’t skip the dessert-like homemade tofu in broth), and pay less than you would for a movie.

    * it doesn’t get very cold in LA, but when it dips down to, say, 50 and you break out the parka (don’t laugh, east coasters!), head to warszawa on lincoln blvd. (santa monica) for their deeply delicious hot borscht. they also make famous martinis with polish vodka, and my favorite appetizer anywhere in the world: prunes wrapped in crispy bacon. on hot nights, i go for the cold borscht. and the bacon (it’s just never too hot for bacon!)

    * i suppose i could go on and on, but i’ll end with two of my trashy delights: hot dog on a stick (under the santa monica pier) for pepper jack on a stick, and all those fantastic diners all over the place. for authentic atmosphere, try callahan’s on wilshire and 12th (santa monica). time warp!

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