Why, you may ask, was I picking kumquats at night in the driving rain? Because I was headed for dinner at Forage, the newest restaurant in Silver Lake, where I had heard diners were encouraged to bring in homegrown fruits and vegetables to barter for restaurant credit. Forage is an informal place, basically a big, stainless-steel serving counter and a long dining room narrow enough that you can touch both walls at once, populated with exactly the sort of Silver Lakistas whom you might expect to be excited about consuming the produce found in each other’s backyards. If last Friday there was anyone at Forage not talking about bands, Web sites, or Web sites run by bands, she wasn’t within eavesdropping distance.
Forage is set up a little like a cafeteria: You select from the salads, flat breads and ready dishes at the counter; snag baked goods or Blue Bottle coffee; or order avocado sandwiches or roasted Jidori chicken from the kitchen, then carry your tray to one of the tables in the back. The chef, Jason Kim, comes from the kitchen at Lucques; daily menus are online. There’s usually a freshly made agua fresca — the evening I went, it was made with Silver Lake tangelos, and was good — and a lot of people seemed to be bringing in their own wine. If you’ve spent much time around the indie-music scene, Forage will seem familiar. The vibe here is evolved crunchiness, which is to say, like a pregig potluck whose intrinsic veganism has been expanded to include ricotta cheese and the occasional slab of organic pork belly, all resting comfortably within the boundaries of conscious omnivorousness. The stewed Rancho Gordo beans with toasted bread crumbs were delicious.
Still, I was unable to apply my kumquats toward the down payment on a slab of flat bread. Apparently, you are encouraged to call in advance to make an appointment to show your produce to one of the chefs on a Sunday afternoon. Any true Silver Lake resident will recognize this procedure: It’s like trading in your used LPs at the record store.
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FORAGE: 3823 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 663-6885, foragela.com. Open Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.- 3 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Sunday brunch, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. MC, V.