TARTINE BAKERY

I feel loneliest sitting on a plane, waiting for take off. In my small space, with my small pillow, small blanket and small amount of legroom, looking out the small window as the terminal grows small in the distance. Leaving everything behind, crossing the skies and the seas, hoping to make it somewhere. The loneliness between leaving home and getting there yawns.
I wonder who will miss me while I’m away. I wonder where the kind older man sitting next to me is going and why he’s also travelling alone. I wonder if he feels lonely on planes. I’m grateful that he remains within his own small space, makes small movements when stretching and refrains from making small talk. I’m afraid my small voice will shake and crack if he is kind to me. I wonder if he’s leaving or coming home and I wonder who I’ll come home to when all is said and done. Continue reading

CANTER’S DELICATESSEN

“Everybody needs a place to rest; everybody wants to have a home. Don’t make no difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody like to be alone. Everybody got a hungry heart.“ We may not have all been born to run, but The Boss eloquently expresses our appetite for love and belonging, with a rousing sing-along chorus. It’s the knots in your stomach, the jolt that wakes you in the night, the sob trapped in your chest. Cud for poets, musicians and writers to chew, and the guts of Maslow’s hierarchy; as unfathomable as existence and inherent as eating.

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BÄCO MERCAT

My best friend moved to the other side of the world. Not to get away from me (right, pal? TELL THEM) but to carve out a new life with her husband. She’s like that – adventurous, driven and devoted. She also matches me, pound-for-pound, when a plate of food is set in front of her. No mean feat. We share a romance with food; a love for cooking it, eating it, writing and obsessing about it. We both hate runny eggs and both love… well, most other foods. She’s not big on pork, but that’s ok, as it balances my passionate and excessive consumption. When I’m blue, she cooks for me. When I’m exultant, she cooks for me. On weekdays ending in ‘ay’, she cooks for me. When we worked in the same building, our productivity plummeted as a result of regular tea/yoghurt/vending machine/crudités breaks. I sat by her side as Maid of Honour on her wedding day and greedily enjoyed the spoils of a considered, and spectacular, matrimonial feast. She waited patiently when I was vegan, tolerated me as a vegetarian, encouraged me as a pescatarian and now, frets about me as a glutton. I miss her. I’ve been lucky to visit her twice since she fled my clutches and each time we easily picked up where we left off. And ate a lot of hot pastrami. I love her a lot. Like I love sandwiches a lot. Far from the madding crowds, she takes me to grand, tragic, on-the-up-again Downtown, Los Angeles. If she had blindfolded me in, say, Hollywood, spun me around and around in circles then whipped the blindfold off in Downtown, I would have sworn I was in NYC. Or, at least, on the set of Seinfeld or something. But there we were, on the eerily quiet streets, passing the run-down early 1900s movie theatres and playing a round or two of ‘Hipster or Hobo?’ Baco Mercat is a fancy sandwich shop and bar snuggled in the bosom of this exotic, Gotham City landscape. Our waiter is sassy, dropping an F-Bomb here and there and making me feel like an idiot in the most charming way. On his recommendation we each order a Vinegar_Based Sweet & Sour Soda ($3); the pear and meyer lemon varieties from a list of fifteen flavours. They are indeed vinegary and sweet and sour – an absurdly appealing mix of tart, fetid and irresistible. We share the “Cowgirl Creamery” cheese plate ($19), a top-shelf selection replete with candied pine nuts, honeycomb and pickled golden beets. But we’re here for the ‘baco’ flatbread sandwich. I’m pretty sure people have been wrapping bread around meat since people were monkeys, and the baco renovates this ancient art to modern masterpiece. I order The Original – pork, beef carnitas, salbitxada ($10) and my buddy, The Meatball – raisin, pine nut, tomato ($14). Both come served in a bowl, the famed flatbread piled high with the chosen fillings – so high I have to chip away with a fork before grabbing it and taking the whole lot on a messy journey to my mouth. The chunks of pork are satisfyingly fatty, the lard softening a potentially tough equal-measure of meat; the beef is yielding and prickly with heat.  Heaped with tangy, sweet, nutty Salbitxada sauce and with minimal rocket/arugala, I want to order a second helping immediately upon finishing the first. It’s a sandwich to break my heart. Lucky then that the broad sitting opposite me is the woman to help mend it. As much as I miss sharing the same city as my best friend, exploring Los Angeles and it’s sprawling, glorious eating options with her is delicious consolation.

http://bacomercat.com/

LANGER’S DELICATESSEN-RESTAURANT

Joan used to be married to a man from New Zealand, but now they’re just friends. He lives in Venice. Joan sits on her lifeline somewhere between 41 and 55, she has yellow-blonde hair, parted at the side and secured near her ear with a pink clip. Her accent is part drawling Californian, part Fargo, North Dakota. Joan works as a waitress at Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant in Westlake, Los Angeles. Open since 1947 (though tragically, orangely renovated sometime in the 70s), Langer’s is home to the #19 sandwich. Oh, the #19. How does one put love into words? Let me start at the right side of my plate, with the pickle; everybody loves pickles. Everybody. The Langer’s pickles are plump, firm and yielding; vinegary and sour… again, love renders me mute. Joan interrupts my reverie for, ‘a little more Sprite?’ Yes please, Joan, how did you know? Joan makes sure we are comfortable, discreetly replacing our balled-up, Russian-dressing-stained paper serviettes. She walks up and down the bar, tending all of her customers with the same quiet courtesy, ‘A little more diet coke?’ The menu humbly describes the #19 as PASTRAMI, SWISS CHEESE and COLE SLAW with Russian Style Dressing ($15.20). But the bread! For the love of bread, why is there no mention of the bread? Baked daily and sliced fresh, the rye has such a perfect crust, not toasted exactly, certainly not soft; I’m sure there’s no other word for it than, well, crusty. The secret? It’s baked twice; don’t tell. The caraway is a flavour memory, lingering back there somewhere but tricky to pin down. It’s bread to break Atkins. Pastrami, cole slaw and Swiss cheese are each individually sublime, and together symbiotic. We all know a good sandwich is the sum of it’s parts, but a great sandwich is the sum of perfect parts, prepared by expert hands and served with love. Traditionally hot pastrami is a NYC kinda thing. So why then did Nora Ephron, the woman who knew New York so well it’s an integral character in most of her films, name this the best in the world? What does Langer’s have that New York City doesn’t? Surely not better pastrami, nor more passionate pastrami eaters. What Langer’s has got that NYC hasn’t, is Joan. ‘A little more Sprite?’ 

 “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world. It’s a symphony orchestra, different instruments brought together to play one perfect chord. It is, in short, a work of art.” – Nora Ephron

http://www.langersdeli.com/