It was a big mixed bag of emotions for restaurant openings and closings this week, with both the expected chaos and triumphant celebration surrounding the highly anticipated reopening of Clifton's Cafeteria (which brought lines and affordable Jell-O back to Broadway on Thursday), and the sadly unsurprising news that much-loved minimalist restaurant Alma, just a few blocks down the street, would be closing later this month. Clifton's has undergone an extensive remodel and restoration to its five-story space, which some early detractors said would be appealing only to yuppies, but judging from the crowd that grabbed trays and chowed down on moderately priced roast beef and mashed potatoes yesterday, we'd say it's still a gathering place for the downtown masses. Alma, on the other hand, has been struggling financially ever since a lawsuit began threatening business operations three months ago. An Indiegogo campaign was launched, $48,000 was raised and a restaurant community gathered around one of its most beloved restaurants, hoping its owners' youth and talent could ride out the storm. Alma's last day of service will be Oct. 24.
In the fast-changing world of L.A.'s food scene, one thing is sure to be a constant: tacos. And now you can brush up on the history, styles and methods that have made the simple Mexican offering so damn fascinating with Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena's seminal book Tacopedia, which as of this week is available in English. Originally released in Spanish in 2013 (after four years of sweet, delicious research), Tacopedia was historic not only for its content — which includes interviews, recipes and photos of traditional taco stands throughout Mexico — but also its visual presentation, which sometimes feels more like an issue of Lucky Peach than an actual encyclopedia. Detailed illustrations show cuts of every animal and which cooking process they're used for, diagrams explain how corn becomes a tortilla, and a double-spread map of Mexico puts all the regional taco variances into context. If you needed more proof of this book's necessariness, René Redzepi wrote the foreword about the first time he fell in love with tacos. After reading Tacopedia, we fell in love again, too.
Over the summer, street food expert Bill Esparza released an online Tacopedia of his own, one that was all about the kinds of tacos you can find in L.A. This week, he published over at First We Feast an even more useful roundup — the ultimate guide to regional Mexican food in L.A. From coastal Mexico's glorious seafood dishes (to be found at Coni'Seafood and more) to Yucatán's unique cuisine (try Chichen Itzá), this guide has a good breakdown of where our diverse Mexican food actually comes from. There's even a bonus section for Alta California cuisine, a new-wave, chef-driven take on Mexican cooking that exists only in Southern California.
Another regional guide that came out this week is Lucky Peach's guide to regional barbecue in the United States, which might not be very useful in L.A. (where Texas-style meat and its goopy sauce dominates) but would be crucial for anyone planning a road trip or seeking authenticity in their smoked meats.
At least 20 cases of salmonella have been traced back to West Hollywood restaurant Fig & Olive, which was slapped with a corresponding lawsuit this week. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s investigation is ongoing, but it stated that in early September at least 20 people with salmonella reported eating at the restaurant; three of them were employees. Fig & Olive's Washington, D.C., location also was affected, shutting down for six days after more than 60 people became ill. An additional 150 possible cases are being investigated.
Also, go check out our Best of L.A. issue, which dropped this week!
Tweets o' the Week:
My friend overheard a young woman on the street: "I just don't like salsa." San Francisco is DEAD. Tech, you have WON.— John Birdsall (@John_Birdsall) September 30, 2015
When your taco-making skills are unfuckwittable. https://t.co/PHlcgxM11w— First We Feast (@firstwefeast) September 30, 2015
buying vegetables and coming up with grand plans for them and watching them slowly sag into obsolescence in your fridge instead— Mallory Ortberg (@mallelis) September 30, 2015
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Oktoberfest has been going on in L.A. for more than a few weeks now, with the usual suspects at Alpine Village in Torrance and the Fairplex in Pomona hosting their annual, every-weekend, lederhosen-fueled ragers. But the real fun starts this weekend with the Vegan Oktoberfest on Saturday and Sunday and the more demure Oktoberfest celebration at Lucques. Next weekend, there will be one at BierBeisl and the Beer Olympics at BarONE in North Hollywood and Roxanne's in Long Beach.
Sunday, Oct. 4: Feria de los Moles
Another year, another mole festival. Again, the Feria de los Moles takes over Olvera Street with 13 kinds of moles and a history lesson about each. Enjoy the traditional dish from Puebla and Oaxaca in all its diverse glory, from sweet to salty to spicy to hot, plus traditional music and garb.
Sunday, Oct. 4: Good Food Pie Contest
KCRW's Good Food is hosting another edition of its famous pie contest, with 382 pies in seven categories competing this year. In addition to gobs of free pie, there will be an all-day cookbook swap, an artisan marketplace, kids' activities, curatorial talks at the Fowler Museum, food trucks, demos and panels. Did we mention the FREE PIE?!