Monday, July 23, 2018

Jonathan Gold

This immensely life loving food writer passed away this weekend. Here is a review or two to remember his wit and panache for language.

Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential LA Restaurants
NOVEMBER 12, 2008 – LA Weekly

If there were such a thing as a Los Angeles cuisine, I suspect it would probably be a lot like what they serve at Houston’s, which is to say the market-tested version of the grill-happy, big-flavor, salad-intensive cooking pioneered decades ago at places like the original Spago.

We can examine the way local food has insinuated itself into the national food culture, and we can name dozens of local dishes, including L.A. galbi, California rolls, Caesar salad, gourmet meatloaf, designer tamales and McDonald’s fries, which are prepared all over the world. We can look at the way that farmers market produce has become so essential that certain carrots and berries have achieved something close to celebrity status, or we could look at the continuing importance of Urban Rustic cuisine, where entertainment executives pay big money for the privilege of eating like Tuscan peasants. There is the vitality of our immigrant communities, of course, and the quality of Asian and Latin-American food rarely approached in other parts of the country, and the continuing abundance of small-plates restaurants geared to the palates of promiscuous aesthetes unable to commit to a single entrée.

Even more so this year, there is the rise of the hypermasculine restaurant, where chefs take the same kind of fierce pride in their arcane meats and cheeses they probably used to take in their record collections. Their whites are always stained with blood, and they exult in the hard labor and difficult conditions of even the modern restaurant kitchen. I include women in this formula: One of my favorite new hypermasculine restaurants, a Skid Row breakfast dive called the Nickel, is actually owned and run by women.

So what is an essential Los Angeles restaurant? It is where your scrambled eggs come flavored with hyper-reality, where the plums are the sweetest, where you occasionally have to be reminded that you are neither in Osaka nor Guadalajara nor Panicale, that you are sometimes most in L.A.

Where Does a Restaurant Critic Go When He's Not on the Clock?
FEBRUARY 1, 2012 – LA Weekley

I am often asked where I eat when I am not on the clock, when the agenda includes neither distant anticucherias nor Korean silkworm soup. And the answer I have not quite given, although I probably end up there once a week, is the Pasadena takeout stand Burrito Express, although if pressed I will also profess my admiration for the roast beef grinders at nearby Connal's, the Armenian sujuk sandwiches at Torino and the spicy takeout salads at Garni. It's not a bad neighborhood in which to be hungry.

Burrito Express probably is most famous for a scheme it once had for FedExing burritos to homesick Angelenos around the country, for its rice-laden Ito Burrito, named after the O.J. judge, and for a saucy, overstuffed mess called the JVC. You could get enchiladas, taquitos with truly dreadful guacamole, or nachos. A sign advertises tortas, although I have never seen anybody actually order one.

What Burrito Express does best is the old-fashioned L.A. burrito: honest beans, a bit of cheese and a spoonful of stew. Will it make you forgo the considerable pleasures of Al & Bea's, Lupe's #2 or even J&S? Is it a deadly bludgeon in the war against the atrocities of Fresh-Mex, Mission burritos or food-court wraps? Not quite. But the tightly wrapped burrito, especially when the filling is long-simmered green chiles with pork, is exactly the size of lunch.