Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It Is Happening Again
Ok imagine you're a baseball fan, say a Yankees, Dodgers or D-Backs fan, and one day the rules change so that every other day a new stadium for your team opens in the team's (and your) town and official major league players are added in for each stadium so lots of games end up being added to the season schedule for each team. This would probably result in your being very excited that there are many more games to see each week, each night even, and this would spur you on to see all the games in your now bigger baseball club but then you'd start to think about it realistically and wonder, how will you ever have enough time or money to go see them all?
Welcome to my world. I'm a foodie. And this is the hell I'm again living in.
Things were under control in Los Angeles when I got here in 2006. Being a food lover/obsessive is actually one of the reasons I moved here from that other city you've probably heard me talk about, New York.
Huh, you say? Why would that be? Moving from one to the other because of food? Doesn't sound logical in this case really, especially since then you'd expect me to move from New York to Chicago or San Francisco, not Los Angeles! Okay let me put letters to visual paper so you can hear me...
Living in New York City is like living within the churning and expanding contents of an over-reactive petri dish. Things keep growing and moving and you're living inside of it, merged and in sync with the molecules in the dish every breathing moment. While it's exciting to be in such a volcanic environment, it's rather exhausting to be growing and moving all the time but you must stay with it, you have no choice!
For instance, art and culture were rather set in NY, with X amount of museums in X neighborhoods. Then came Chelsea, with its galleries and oh then came Williamsburg, with its many hipster galleries. Then outdoor art hit Central Park with The Gates, and those paper-maché cows and then baseball team Statues of Liberty on every major street corner. Art was everywhere, in more and more places, so if you liked art there was suddenly no rest for you.
The same can't really be said for baseball, but it can be said for theater, and it certainly can be said for bars and restaurants. As a resident living in the supernova also known as Brooklyn, I wasn't a foodie for no good reason. My job then was to know what was going on in the city's food world due to my employment at a large restaurant firm. A foodie job for a foodie is a great fit, however when the world around you is exploding into a new bar and/or restaurant every single day, all of which sound amazing and worthy of my hard-earned cash, it simply becomes an exhaustive effort to keep up with all the new places to check out.
So I left. Not just for that reason but it was suddenly no longer fun to explore every new place, read and jot down notes every week from NY Magazine (on Monday) and Time Out Magazine (on Thursday) and the New York Times (on Wednesday), plus walk past very exciting fresh cubbyhole spots with unique menus yet with no time to go in so you merely look at the menus and want it all but can't have it all.
Los Angeles is home to wonderful low-key ethnic food, and some high-end Beverly Hills mover-shaker places that I couldn't really care about. So upon landing on these shores my foodie needs subsided naturally, and my brain reveled in the change since it was so tired. With that in mind, LA and I got along just fine.
There were a handful of places I frequented when I got here, and slowly other ones sauntered my way. Actually, while living here I've experienced the lost joy of being a repeat customer! Back east, that was close to impossible. Perish the thought that I was ever able to visit a favorite haunt more than once or twice a year. It simply didn't work. In LA from day one, my foodie driver's seat was on cruise-control for the first time in years and I flourished. One time I even went to a place-of-the-moment three times in a week, and 14 times within several months! New Yorkers, can you imagine? Okay also, I mean sure, having restaurant variety is why I don't live in Tulsa, but must we all go crazy learning about the next great new place every single day?
So here I was enjoying LA, gingerly discovering new places, and eventually, admittedly, a little frustrated by the lack of great food if you want a reasonably priced sit-down meal. Then, recently, I noticed a change. It started slow, and has picked up a sudden momentum. Perhaps due to a backlash from Angeleno restaurateurs resulting from LA's first Michelin Guide a few years ago having a very low number of star-rated restaurants, or perhaps just because it was my dumb luck, I recently realized it is happening again.
What is happening? I'll tell you what... that this month one of Gourmet magazine's cover stories is "Explore America's most exciting Chinese Food" and it's an article about the San Gabriel Valley, a sprawling Asian neighborhood in LA County. What about this month's Bon Appétit magazine, a theme issue called "Best of the USA" with the article "Food's Golden State," about California's bounty including where to find LA's best taco truck (see pg 3). Note: In the same issue is this article, "A Scene Grows in Brooklyn," about Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and seeing it brought up a momentary combo of hypersensitivity and guilt about all the Burg places I hadn't visited yet, a knee-jerk reaction from my not-so-defunct-after-all New Yorker peripatetic foodie brain.
See it's one thing to read "Best LA Restaurants" articles in LA Magazine, the LA Times blog or from the local Tasting Table emails. It's quite another to start seeing articles appear about the food of LA, my proudly safe haven of the relaxed quasi-foodie lifestyle, in national food magazines.
The energy is building here in a way it hasn't yet, and I suppose it's inevitable. Now, I fear, my list of Los Angeles bars and restaurants to visit has grown exponentially on this blog and that old familiar mind exhaustion is setting in. It's a pressure, like the summer movie season, where you know you want to see all those movies or the list will pile up and if you don't see as many as possible now you never will. Or it's like baseball, if each major league team kept adding more teams and players like I said.
How does a person keep up you say? Is there a way to Tivo a restaurant? No. There isn't. You have to get off your ass and go. I hear you, it's definitely a good thing too, to watch the bar finally rise on interesting restaurant choices, food quality and expectations in this sunny city. And of course I love going out, but back east isn't that how I gained weight and got into debt in the first place? Then subsequently lost that weight and paid off that debt while living out here? Sigh.