Royal/T, the Culver City cosplay café, is in shambles right now -- a chaotic mess of boxes, dust, overturned tables and yes, TV cameras. It will be spic and span by 6 p.m., though, when Andrew Zimmern's "California Dreaming" pop-up dinner will opens its doors.
Part fundraiser, part stint for his new show, Bizarre Foods America, tonight's five-course menu will feature the more intrepid side of Southern California cuisine -- as is Zimmern's way -- while benefiting the L.A. Foodbank.
This setup is an anomaly within his show, however.
Typically Zimmern travels the globe eating an awful lot of offal in exotic places like Namibia and Singapore and Samoa. He dabbles in the United States, but in this upcoming season, he's focusing exclusively on America. For his visit to L.A., however, he felt he couldn't just observe. He wanted to immerse, and even contribute, to the food scene here, which is something he didn't do anywhere else. In a brief meetup today, he told us:
"This episode was born out of a problem. How do you come and do a story about a place that everyone has done stories about? What am I going to do? Taco trucks? Famous restaurants? No. So what I decided to do was do a pop-up. It's quintessentially L.A., it's very 2012. So if I'm going to do a pop-up, what would I do? I'd hang out with my friends for a couple days, search, go to markets, go to purveyors, ask them what plays in L.A. -- what the L.A. customer likes. It gave me an opportunity to go see my friends at Animal, my friends at Spago and Cut, old-school, new-school and everything in between. I went to ink. and hung out with Michael [Voltaggio] for a day -- went to some markets with him and just saw what was up. Lindy & Grundy are supplying some ingredients, and it's just going to be a blast. I think this is going to be the best show we've ever done."
For those on the list for tonight's dinner, here's a sneak peek at the menu, though Zimmern says its altered a bit since inception. For one, face bacon from Lindy & Grundy (which we nibbled, and it was delicious) will be working its way into one of these dishes:
Sea Urchin and Yellow Tomato-Vegetable Aspic
Pasta a la Vongole, Linguine and 'Clams' with Oregano, Olive Oil, and Garlic
Tongue Tied: Veal Tongue Tartare and Chile braised Lambs Tongue Quesadilla
Grilled Broken Arrow Ranch Venison Chop, Crispy Goat Chuchules, Posole, and Avocado Salsa
Cioccolato Orrare da Gustare
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Zimmern was quite taken with the butcher shop. So much so that he mused about it on a conference call we sat in on with him earlier this week, seeing it as representative of a growing trend towards more adventurous eating.
The last time that I was in Los Angeles there were no butcher shops. I just spent an entire morning at a place in L.A. called Lindy & Grundy. I don't know if any of you have ever heard about it. It's a full service butcher shop that brings in whole animals from farms that raise it just for them and they sell every single cut that is here.
They make bacon from the face of the animal. They make scrapple. They do lamb bacon. They do house cured bresaola. I'm standing here looking at six types of sausage, everything from homemade andouille to rolled and tied lamb shoulder roasts. There's lamb bellies that are rolled and tied here for people to cook.
And when they open their doors at 11 a.m. there are six butchers cutting away...and the customers don't stop coming until they close their doors.
Now what that tells me is that something has changed, you know? When people are coming into a shop like this and getting calves sweetbreads and they actually can't keep enough of them in for the demand, I know something has changed. And that's a very comforting thing. We're not quite there yet but we're getting there.
If you didn't score a reservation to tonight's dinner, you can catch the L.A. episode of Bizarre Foods America sometime later in the season. The show premieres on Monday, Jan. 23 at 10 p.m. on the Travel Channel.