Last week a good friend came into town from the Bay Area and invited me to meet her at the vaunted Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
Although I love the SaMo farmer’s market as much as the next foodie, I rarely get there because, well, it’s in Santa Monica. And anyone familiar with Los Angeles traffic knows that these days, nothing gets in or out of the West Side without an hour or two of apocalyptic traffic.
But having just been laid off from my day gig, I had plenty of time to sit in traffic. Plus this wasn’t just any friend. This was Ann Spivack, the writer behind pretty much every Bay Area celebrity chef’s cookbook. She’d be famous if she didn’t have to ghost write all that stuff.
Just as well. She can travel freely and remains the Number One person you want to be with when putting food in your mouth. She can identify any fruit or vegetable, no matter how unfamiliar (“Keep on the lookout for dragonfruit,” she told me, as we searched for the purveyor of a certain kind of pear she’d tasted earlier.) Also, she’s got a story to tell about every meal.
I once spent 6 hours eating 16 small plate courses with Ann at the incomparable Aziza in San Francisco. It didn’t hurt that chef Mourad Lahlou knew her personally and kept sending things out for us to try.
She is delightful company. I was ready to eat anywhere she recommended, so she gave me a choice of a vegan cafe I’d been to once already, or the relatively new farm-to-table resto in town. I opted for the latter.
It took us a bit to find FarmShop, tucked away in deepest Brentwood, in the back of what looked like an old farm house (surrounded by Range Rovers, Jaguars and Mercedes of the S-class and above.) We wandered around the building for a bit, remarking on the frou-frou boutiques ($354 for a bra??) and unfriendly patrons. It was hot. We were hungry. Ann kept insisting that we drive back down to Gardena to hit up my secret Japanese noodle place, but I was damned if I was going to leave a perfectly good parking spot so soon.
Finally we found it. We were ushered in just before the lunch slam. The waitress filled our water glasses, and handed us menus. OMG, as the kids say:
Using produce from the very same Farmer’s Market we were just at and combining them in ways I would never have thought of…turns out we were gonna eat vegan after all.
Suddenly, I didn’t care.
…Like I wasn’t gonna order this. Yes. Every bit as delicious as it looks.
…sorry for the blurry picture. I guess I was shaking with excitement at this point…
For the main, which we shared, we got this incredible dish…
That’s right. A smear of fromage blanc on the plate before everything else meant that every single bite had a sweet zing adding to the chewiness of the bulgur and crunch of the corn. The sort of meal that makes you (well, me, anyway) slap hand to chest and thank baby Jesus for food porn like this.
This was the only dish we didn’t love love love. It was a nice idea. And we dug on all the farm fresh ingredients. But the crispy little artichokes weren’t so fun in the mouth, and while tasty, nothing here screamed OMG like the bulgur salad above did.
Our server was great – knowledgeable and not annoying; she kept out water glasses filled without comment, and the food came out quickly. If there was any downside to our lunch experience it was the surly starlet seated to my right who was yelling petulantly into her cell phone, despite the restaurant’s request on the menu to quiet all that shit down, please, so everyone can enjoy the food. (OK, and I took pictures of the food with my cellphone. But I did it very quietly…)
We didn’t even GET to the cheese shop, the butcher, or the wine selection. I looked away and hastily exited. Unemployed writers have no business eyeballing such things. It’s just too cruel.
Would I return to FarmShop? Heck yeah. The Chef would plotz. But will I ever find myself on the West Side during business hours? With that traffic?
…buy me lunch and I’ll meet you there…