This week has been a good one for Alta California cuisine, the emerging modern cooking style that blends traditional Mexican cooking with SoCal's farm-to-table ethos. At its forefront is chef Ray Garcia, who grew up in L.A. and spent nearly two decades working at the Belvedere and Santa Monica's Fig. He was named Esquire's Chef of the Year this week and his two new restaurants — B.S. Taqueria and Broken Spanish in the old Rivera space — were the only L.A. spots on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list, most of which was compiled by former restaurant editor to the magazine Josh Ozersky prior to his untimely death. If Esquire's November issue is the country's first real introduction to Alta California food, then Mexico itself got its taste last Saturday, when Garcia, along with chefs Eduardo Ruiz (Corazon y Miel), Carlos Salgado (Tacos Maria) and Wes Avila (Guerrilla Tacos), bombarded the Baja Culinary Fest in Tijuana. Bill Esparza organized the posse, which presented a panel called "Alta Meets Baja" and then cooked a hell of a dinner at Caesar's, the Zona Centro restaurant where the Caesar salad was invented (itself a manifestation of cross-border connections). Viva la Alta!
Tipping is so 2014. At least according to restaurateur Danny Meyer (basically the Bill Chait of NYC), who is eliminating tipping and raising prices and wages across the board at all 17 of his New York City eateries, becoming the first major hospitality group to do so. The announcement was made through an exclusive with Eater, which worked with its dev team to create a web layout whose form was as important as its function. The long-form piece of breaking news gives a lot of great context for this decision and explains how the shift to a tip-less, "hospitality included" model is the inevitable future of dining. Already in L.A. are restaurants that have added an 18 percent gratuity charge to take out the guesswork (and some that have added a separate line for healthcare funds and back-of-house tips), but Meyer's plan makes it all in one — every employee gets paid a fair wage and, as in Europe, quality service is included in the price of your meal.
Yesterday, we made the announcement that Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo and Ludo Lefebvre's new Silver Lake restaurant will be a French-Mexican brunch spot called Trois Familia. Casual, no-reservations and with a menu that features both French and Mexican dishes, we called it the first place of its kind, which it is — in L.A. Down in Orange County, Anepalco's Café has been serving Mex-French brunch for at least seven years, and the combination was so groundbreaking then that it earned the title of Best Restaurant in 2013. To be fair, Anepalco's doesn't have a Frenchman like Lefebvre in the kitchen, but chef Danny Godinez, to quote an OC Weekly review of his second location, "has one toe in French culinary traditions and a whole foot in his family's Mexico City kitchen," and his amazing food proves it. OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano sets the record straight in a blog post today.
Chowhound may be on its last leg after a new redesign has pushed away many old-school users of the forum-based food-hunter website. Read this great piece by Amy Scattergood at the L.A. Times for insight to Chowhound's importance, when its heydey ended and where many of the dissenters are now having their conversations (check out Food Talk Central's L.A. page).
It's a wacky and weird time for craft beer with buyouts, mergers and "partnerships" that threaten the very punk-rock beginnings of the microbrewery movement. It seems every week there's another consolidation move — with breweries and distributors being absorbed by larger companies. But this week came the biggest and scariest move yet: The world's two largest breweries have announced a plan to merge. Belgian company AB InBev intends to buy London-based SABMiller in what would be the biggest beer acquisition on record and one of the largest in corporate history. If completed, a merger would create a behemoth company with command over 60 percent of American beer production and nearly 80 percent of distribution channels.
In other L.A. restaurant news: Portland's Blue Star Donuts is opening in Venice on Monday with free doughnuts; Animal is rolling out brunch starting this weekend; Church Key is launching lunch; and Chop Daddy's Abbot Kinney location is closing.
Tweet o' the Week:
3: Danny Meyer is a hero and a visionary, and also his balls are bigger than the entire island of Manhattan.— Helen Rosner (@hels) October 14, 2015
Nope, not really interested in that umami-rich cocktail— Matt Rodbard (@mattrodbard) October 15, 2015
BYE TWITTER- the only reason I still had an account anyway was to follow @nihilist_arbys— ari taymor (@AriTaymor) October 15, 2015
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Saturday, Oct. 17: Taste of Soul
Now in its 10th year, Taste of Soul is taking over four blocks of Crenshaw Boulevard to celebrate all things "soulful," which means music, retail goods and lots and lots of food. Eat gumbo, fried chicken, burgers, waffles and more from South L.A. restaurants and street-food vendors who will show up to sling at this massively underappreciated community event.
Saturday, Oct. 17: Taste of Mexico
Drink mezcal and eat tacos under the stars at Taste of Mexico's annual food festival, which celebrates everything traditional and modern about Mexican cuisine. Organized by the Oaxacan gods at Guelaguetza, the fest includes such L.A. favorites as Guerrilla Tacos, Chichen Itzá Coni’Seafood, Yxta and more.
Sunday, Oct. 18: Eat Like a Pharaoh
Explore the art of ancient Egyptian cuisine with a workshop led by Maite Gomez-Rejon, who gives food the art-history treatment. Walk through the Natural History Museum exhibit, learn the significance of wheat, fruits and vegetables in the ancient world, then prepare garden-fresh salads and sweet treats with ingredients harvested from NHM's edible garden.