Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Egg Trick

I just came back from a week of mostly good eating in Los Angeles, a city whose name alone can make any sentence glamorous. And with good reason: I stumbled upon both Jeff Goldblum and Glenn Close in different places on the same day.

“This is like a Big Chill reunion!” I almost said, temporarily forgetting that I wasn’t actually in the Big Chill, I just watched it with my dad on his V8 video machine. If you haven’t heard of the V8 format, you must be stupid because it’s totally the best picture quality and will one day overtake both VHS and Beta, at least according to the propaganda my dad was disseminating to anyone who would listen at the time.

Of course when you see someone famous in LA, you totally can’t go up and talk to them, or ask them for their autograph or a photo. It’s a shame because I feel a bit of a connection to both actors – when I was 17 and dreamed of being a famous movie star, Jeff Goldblum gave me hope that even if you look a bit uncomfortable in your skin, you can just reflect that discomfort back at the people watching you and make them feel like they’re the ones doing something wrong.

I never wanted to be Glenn Close, although a few weeks ago I came up with a tweet so fantastic that it was largely ignored by everybody on Twitter, and which I felt she would have appreciated. It took all of my willpower not to lean over her shoulder and whisper it into her as she sat in that leather booth at the Hotel Roosevelt: “keep your Glenn Close, and your glennemies closer.”

The Roosevelt is in the middle of Hollywood, but as a general rule in LA, you bump into celebrities in the less obvious parts of town. If you want to jump Ryan Gosling, go down the road to hipster neighbourhood Silver Lake. If you don’t see someone famous, at least the food and drink will be good – LA tourism has just published this list of top ten restaurants in the area, including the amazing SQIRL which I visited last week.

SQIRL makes every list of top LA restaurants, from Los Angeles magazine, to LA Eater, to LA Weekly, to LA Times' tastebud savant Jonathan Gold and his famous annual list of the top 101 LA restaurants. By the way, if you're travelling soon yourself you can read a pretty good list I compiled with the New Zealand reader in mind here; I wrote it a couple of years ago, before SQIRL opened and made a whole town crazy about baking and preserves.

But I’m not here to tell you about a restaurant you probably won’t ever go to in a city you might never visit; after all, this is Auckland Food Blog, not Oakland Food Blog (he says, unleashing a piece of word play so clever he hopes it will distract you from the fact that Oakland is almost 600 kilometres away from the area in question). The reason I bring SQIRL up is that they do this thing with an egg that I’ve fallen in love with, not just in LA restaurants or Auckland restaurants but home at my house too.

Look, there it is in the photo above – that’s brown rice with sorrel pesto, preserved lemon, lacto-fermented hot sauce, feta cheese and a beautifully soft poached egg on top. The egg on top.

And look, here it is again with brussel sprouts at another LA restaurant, Republique: If they get their timing right in the kitchen you can puncture that yolk to create a bright yellow sauce for everything else, transforming a bowl of sprouts into a sticky and nutritious little meal.

It works with Asian dishes, like Indonesian gado gado or plopped into a bowl of Japanese ramen. And it’s particularly good with grains, like the brown rice at SQIRL or, this weekend just gone, with barley at Auckland’s Ortolana:

Never mind that the presentation made it look like they'd left half the food in the kitchen, this was one of the loveliest brunches I’ve had, in a beautiful room with tables to spare (it was a bit wet out, to be fair) and perfectly tasty dishes that almost cost less than parking at Britomart carpark ($12 for less than one hour, in case you’re interested).

No egg for the wife, but she was pretty stoked with hers as well. She ordered some sort of cereal concoction, despite the fact that this order inevitably ends with her staring at her food and cursing “oh my god, why do I order muesli for brunch when I can do it so much better myself at home?!”. She couldn’t have done this, and that made her very happy:

Back to eggs, and if you can’t be bothered cooking them there’s always the option to do them raw. After saying I’d do it for years, I finally made my own steak tartare at home last night, complete with a little yolky sun right in the middle:

It tasted bloody good. It tasted bloody, good!

I’ll make it again. In fact I’ll probably keep making it until I reach a point where I can order a restaurant steak tartare, look at it, then say loudly to my wife “oh my god, why did I order this when I can do it SO much better myself at home?!” Then I’ll send it back and order a bowl of muesli, with a soft poached egg on top.

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