Yesterday I was taken to Z & Y Restaurant for a lunch to end all lunches. Platter after platter of gorgeous, frequently incendiary Szechuan specialties made their way to our table, where they were piled onto a lazy susan that never stopped spinning. The piece de resistance was a braised sea bass, presented whole and half-submerged in a neon crimson sauce on a platter roughly the size of a bathtub. The fish, which came accompanied by a nest of hand-pulled noodles, was extraordinary, with fall-off-the bone meat that melted like butter on the tongue. The sauce, despite its inflammatory hue, was just sweet enough to balance the heat, and so deeply flavorful I wanted to bottle it and take it home to use as an all-purpose condiment.
Zoe Nathan, a former Tartine baker and the current co-owner of L.A.'s Huckleberry Bakery & Café, just published her first cookbook. On Monday, Tartine featured some of Nathan's work in its display case; based on her blueberry polenta cake, I can attest that living in L.A. has its advantages. Nathan's cake is a flat, rectangular little number whose surface is paved generously with chubby blueberries; its crumb is moist, moderately sweet, and, thanks to the polenta, pleasantly gritty. It's one of those cakes you work your way through slowly, from front to back, so as to save the fantastically crunchy crust for last. I'm planning to be in L.A. in December; suffice it to say Huckleberry now has pride of place on my itinerary.
This weather all but mandates the consumption of ice cream, and by extension decrees that the lines at Bi-Rite Creamery will be both perpetual and brutal. Unless, of course, you go to its relatively neglected soft-serve window, which is what I did on Sunday. I got a chocolate-salty caramel twist, and it was pretty much everything I ask of soft serve: cold, creamy, melty, easy to lick into weird shapes, and served in a very crunchy sugar cone. An afternoon delight, if ever there was one.
Finally, a shout-out to the Réveille Coffee Co. for its excellent tuna salad, which has single-handedly rescued the concept from the place where it resides in most people's minds, which is somewhere under a buffet sneeze guard, riddled with celery and suffocating in mayonnaise. Réveille's is beautiful: it incorporates poached tuna, cucumbers, beets, radishes, and a lemony vinaigrette, served over a pile of peppery arugula. Both the portion and flavor are generous, and the poaching gives the tuna a silky texture. I am a person who rarely craves salad, tuna or otherwise, but I crave this one all the time.