Trish and I arrived too late for prime seating, but we made do in the overflow room. Actually, I think it was better that we were in that room. Why? Because we couldn't stop giggling about Jonathan Gold.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Zocalo's description of the lecture, moderated by none other than Pulitzer prizewinning L.A. Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold, is as follows:
Unshockingly, all three chefs agreed that L.A. is defined by variety and freshness. And, while I didn't need to trek to Westwood to learn what we all already know, I enjoyed the lecture because it was super cool to listen to Becerra and Cimarusti. Becerra used to be associated with the Patina Group, while Cimarusti has earned a Michelin star and also triumphed over Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America. They are my new chef crushes!
When you go to a Chicago-style restaurant, you know to expect hot dogs or deep-dish pizza. A New York-style restaurant might serve old-fashioned Italian-American seafood or giant steaks. “Philly'' signifies cheesesteaks; “Buffalo,'' chicken wings; “Seattle,'' salmon and blueberries.
Los Angeles cooking, from designer sushi through Asian fusion through barbecue chicken pizza, is perhaps some of the most influential in the world. But like Los Angeles-made movies, rock 'n' roll and sportswear, the local cuisine is universal enough to transcend regionality. Nobody thinks of McDonald's, Johnny Rockets or the Caesar salad as coming from Southern California. They think of them as coming from America.
Zócalo brings together a panel of prominent local chefs that will include Michael Cimarusti, co-owner and executive chef, Providence Restaurant, Octavio Becerra, chef and owner, Palate Food & Wine, Evan Kleiman, executive chef, Angeli Caffe and host of the Good Food show on KCRW to ask what exactly Los Angeles cuisine might be. Does it owe more to the confluence of global cultures or the extraordinary local produce, to car culture or to pure imagination? And where is it going?
Jonathan Gold is another story. Hmm. How do I put this? I'd seen pictures of him online before, so his appearance didn't surprise me. Seeing him in real life, however, was interesting. He has this smacking habit when he talks -- you can hear saliva.
I think Gold is an amazing food critic. I dare say he is one of the best, if not the best in L.A. But I don't know if I can ever read another piece by him without thinking of saliva.
Man, I'm going to Hell. Ugh.
Mr. Gold, if, for some reason, you ever happen to read this, I'm really really really sorry because I think your reviews are sheer genius. Please forgive me. Please.
If S. Irene Virbila is anything like Gold, please please please keep it to yourself, so I can continue to revel in my food critic worship of her. Thank you.
My glib summary is no substitute for the real thing, so have a gander at a few very short clips.
Becerra talks about exploring L.A. ethnic communities with Fred Eric (of Fred62 and Tiara Cafe).
Cimarusti explains his Far East influences.
Kleiman describes her simple food philosophy.
Cimarusti sings the praises of Korean supermarkets and Mitsuwa.
"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, often the most difficult to obtain." I'm swooning here, Octavio. You are so awesome.
New York City's produce "is the stuff that doesn't even make it to Ralph's."
Gold loves L.A. produce. Farmers are rock stars!
After the lecture, we headed to dinner at Sprazzo, which is right next door to Pomodoro Trattoria, where I dined the last time I attended a Zocalo event.
Don't be frightened by the deserted dining room. We ate dinner well after 9 p.m.
I also loved my gnocchi gotti ($17) with marinara cream sauce, a touch of vodka, and tiger shrimp. Very good. I much preferred it to my meal at Pomodoro Trattoria. Like the gnocchi at Pomodoro Trattoria, the gnocchi at Sprazzo is homemade, and I think it's even better.
Trisha seemed to enjoy her ravioli spinaci ($14) in a Gorgonzola cheese cream sauce.
insomniac dined on pappardelle quattro funghi ($15) with shiitake, porcini, oyster, and champignon mushrooms in a light wine sauce.
File me under the minority who prefers Sprazzo over Pomodoro Trattoria. I think the food is better at Sprazzo, and I also favor its pleasant, less cramped tablescapes and excellent service. Yes, dishes are one or two bucks more, but I feel that's a price worth paying for extra elbow room, better lighting, and a super nice server.