On Christmas I generally cook a goose. That I do may raise the eyebrows of some of you who know my penchant for vegan food, but I cook for non-vegans and the last thing they want, as I found out several years back, is tofurky for Christmas. In the past several years as I mentioned in a previous post, my food intake has gone from veggie to vegan to raw, to pescatarian, back to vegan with a few exceptions, eggs, goat and sheep cheeses among them. Early on in this evolution, I would moralize not necessarily vocally, but in my thoughts about the benefits of vegetarianism to the health of humans and the planet.
During a night on the desert in Egypt in 2003 a month before the Iraqi war, my internal moralizing was deeply challenged… I was with eight other sound healers who had gone to Egypt to do sound meditations in the pyramids, monasteries and temples in an attempt to do whatever we could to avert a war. Early one morning we were driven in two SUVs out into the crystal and black deserts where we would spend the day. At a given point the drivers turned off the main road and for the next couple hours, guided by intuition and past experience only, drove deep into the desert away from all sign of any human habitation. We spent the day strolling through crystal and meteorite littered sands. With the setting of the sun we gathered for a group sound meditation. While we focused on the ritual our drivers spread rugs on the desert floor, set up some wooden crates to act as a small buffet table, and laid our a traditional Egyptian spread. On completing our meditation we crunched our way across the sand to the pop-up dining room. Sounds of ancient Egyptian songs and instruments sung and played by our multi talented drivers filled the unbounded space.
Gathering around the food Fadel, our guide, explained how a lamb had been roasted in the ground for our repast. It was a moment that I shall never forget. In honor of our visit, a sacred lamb had been sacrificed. When I heard the news, I felt a conflict as did the other vegetarians in the group. My heart ached for the lamb, but I also felt the need to honor my hosts. Conferring, we vegetarians to a person arrived at the same conclusion. We felt we had to put aside our normal diet and at least take a token taste of the lamb. I know that not everyone would agree with our decision, but in that moment on the desert under clear, star-filled skies the internal moralizing about what I felt was the best diet in the world ceased.
So, for the Christmas feast I buy a 6-8 lb goose from a respectable vendor if the group is small, otherwise, larger. When I place my order the vendor never fails to inform me that I may not get the size I choose. At times a 10 pounder arrives for 5 diners, but I have no qualms about size. Left-over goose makes great tacos, bean stews, crepes, and salads. Further, a large goose means I have more fat for the following year’s consumption. Try adding a little goose fat to the buccatini just before you mix it with the sauce.
Two days before Christmas I prick the skin and place the goose uncovered in the fridge for 48 hours. This causes fat to drain and the skin to crisp as it roasts. On Christmas day there is always a never-fail tension when the bird is pulled out of the oven. Cooked long enough? Overdone? Too dry? Just right? Sound familiar?
On Christmas Day 2015, the above changed. Knowing that the big stork would deliver a beautiful baby to our family the week before Christmas I knew I would have little time to dote over a goose. I decided to go on line for help. Googling geese turned up Schiltz the countries largest goose purveyor out of South Dakota. On its website Schiltz offered to deliver a pre-cooked, frozen goose on the day of my choice. With no hesitation, I placed my order. True to their promise, a fully cooked, frozen goose arrived from Schiltz on the evening of Dec. 23rd.
On Christmas, as instructed, I took the goose out of the freezer and put it directly into the hot oven. An hour and a half later I pulled a fully cooked goose. In a word, I sat down to eat the best goose I’ve ever had. As long as Schiltz exists I may never cook a goose from scratch again!
Spendng the holidays in Los Angeles afforded an opportunity to try out three local dining hotspots. After some great meals, I could hardly wait to share the sites.
Eggslut: a hip, casual eating place serving breakfast 8-4 daily in downtown LA’s Grand Central Market, with two more sluts coming soon to Venice and Vegas.
That Egg—of the mother; slut—a sexually promiscuous women or one “not concerned about conventional standards of domestic cleanliness” seems like an inappropriate name for an eating establishment located in the city of the Queen of Angels has been a heated topic among foodies since its opening over a year ago.
As a word, slut slides over the tongue, slips down the body into the gutter where like a chopped egg it marinates in the mustard-like liquid settled along the curb. The name struck me as disgusting, so much so I stayed away from Eggslut for several months, but when I was in the Grand Market in downtown LA recently with long lines bearing witness to the quality of the food, I decided to swallow my misgivings, go with the humor and the sensory intentions of the founders Chef Alvin Cailan and Jeff Vales and get in line.
Our wait was a mere thirty minutes; I understand that there are times when it runs into an hour. Mind you, I never wait in line, but with my curiosity titillated and the fact that the lines were the longest in the market, I acquiesced. Once we ordered it took a mere few minutes to get our food. I had the egg salad, my partner, the fairfax. The long bar surrounding the kitchen was full so we scrolled around to the table area in back. We had to clean the trash off our table before we could sit down.
Since Eggslut is built on eggs, duh, I decided that the basic egg salad sandwich would be the best test for my first slut. I have to say, she lived up to my most demanding desires. The eggs had a melt in the mouth quality, not mushy, mooshy or overly soft. They glided across my tongue with the ease of a genteel ballerina sliding across a finely glossed stage. Thin slices of flavorful, but barely detectable chives accompanied the ballerina with grace. I expected bitter from the arugula but the honey mustard aioli that dressed the chives softened any hint of sharpness. The warmed brioche bun with its light as air texture enclosed the earthy egg mixture bringing a balance of elements in unlike any other egg salad sandwich I had previously encountered.
My partner decided on the fairfax (name of a major LA street). Our sandwiches had eggs, chives and bun in common, but the fairfax traveled down a less common, although frequently traveled road. Long ago I learned to pour my beaten eggs into the skillet over a moderate flame. Give a minute or two then spatula in hand, pull the eggs from sides of skillet toward middle until desired texture is achieved. Having practiced for years I felt I had mastered the skill. Still, the scrambled eggs in the fairfax took me by surprise. Caramelized onion, a hint of sriracha mayo with cheddar created a succulent layer that more than aroused the taste buds. As in the salad, the ingredients so perfectly texturized and balanced offered the diner an orgasmic experience. The only other eggs I have experienced in LA that so rise to the occasion are those in the French omelette at Petit Trois.
The following day we headed over to the Westside to have lunch at Gjusta in Venice.
Lured by honorable mentions in Eater.com, but mainly by Jonathan Gold’s (food writer for the LA Times) review. If you are far, far from LA, after you read Gold’s take, you may want to hop the next flight to LAX. The article makes the fact that Gold is the only food writer to have won the Pulitzer Prize very understandable.
No sign labeled the non-descript entrance.
Giusta is a deli that does it all. Waiting in the order line we passed the bakery, and the charcuterie.
We decided to eat at the stand-up bar the only indoor place to eat.
My partner’s smoked trout sandwich (Gjusta smokes their all their own fish) and my greens lived up to the roar.
On leaving we purchased a loaf of hemp-nori bread and a loaf of sprouted rye. I had to know how they compared to Josey Baker in SF. As it turned out, a different style, more rustic, but very competitive with Baker’s.
Since Gold’s review, a patio area with tables is now available in back of the deli.
The following day I discovered that I had misplaced my new, multi hundred dollar, hi tech Ovvo Optics glasses. I called Gjusta to inquire if I had left them behind after the fabulous lunch. “Yes, we have them,” responded the person at the other end of the phone. What are the chances? Staying in the Eastside, the upside was a trip back to the Westside. After retrieving the glasses we drove to the nearby Rose for lunch.
Originally opened in 1979, the famous restaurant underwent an update and reopened in October 2015. The bloom is beautiful!
Enter through the rose.
With several places to sit, we decided to eat at the counter that faced the kitchen.
As we waited for our order a server brought a Cubano sandwich to our table.
“We had one from the kitchen and thought you might like to try it.” Thin slices of pork belly, alternating with ham probably paired well with the mustard, swiss and sweet pickles, but my inner vegan rose up in protest. It was not a time for an exception as in Egypt. No issue for my partner, the Cubano did not go to waste!
My order of savory oatmeal was unlike any oatmeal dish I could remember and surely no comparison to the oatmeal that was the daily breakfast of my childhood.
A little like cereal, a little like pasta with sauce, a little like risotto, the carbonara-style oatmeal with poached egg and tomato jam (I asked for the bacon to be left out) could serve for any number of meals from early morning to midnight snack. At $9.00 a serving it has to be one of the best going value meals in LA.
The same could be said for my partner’s choice of charred avocado toast covered with 2 fried eggs, lemon, and grilled scallion/jalapeno marmalade Difficult to put a knife through though, a bit rustic and while a bit too charred for my taste the flavors were intoxicating.
Like Gjusta, the Rose does it all: bakery, coffee, wood fire, pizza, pasta, breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, but more formal, albeit casual, that commands 5,000 square feet inside, 3,000 out, with the ability to seat 240 people at bars and tables.
Exit through the rose.
Local surroundings includ Jonathan Borovsky’s clown.
A local non denominational place for spiritual gathering
Streetside community gardens
A protective Buddha
As well as LA’s ubiquitous homeless.