Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Train Runs Through It: Atwater Crossing Kitchen

What I miss the most from my old neighborhood is the Farmer's Market.  It offered this amazing space where you could be around people as you had a meal, but were also totally anonymous.  There was no table service, there was plenty of seating, you were in an airy environment that kind of even felt outdoor.  Once you got your food, you were pretty much on your own -- bring a couple magazines or a crossword puzzle and hang out all day if you wanted to.  I lived half a block away, and I miss it bad.

I'm surrounded by restaurants in Los Feliz (and the nearby neighborhoods), but sometimes nothing hits that sweet spot of casual, easy, anonymous, delicious.  Enter Atwater Crossing Kitchen.  Order your food at the counter, then hang out undisturbed in their summery courtyard dining area.

Atwater Crossing is a strange and wonderful place -- 2 blocks of industrial buildings house creative offices, artisanal manufacturing facilities, locations for photography and film shoots, and theaters, and the events there are eclectic and funky.  The area surrounding the Kitchen portion includes a small screening/performance room, a wine and beer bar, and that courtyard dining area with a couple communal tables, as well as a bunch of single-party ones. 
no train...

Oh! And said dining area is situated right next to a railroad track. So, every once in a while, a train chugs by right next to you! It's the coolest thing ever.
The food isn't bad, but it still needs some tweaks.  They capitalize on a wood-burning oven for flatbread pizzas that often have a Middle Eastern bent.  I had a sujuk pizza that had tons of flavor, but it was greasy and soggy in the middle, and the fresh arugula on top should have been picked through for yellow leaves.  The menu's a little weird, too:  on weekends they serve breakfast until 3, which is awesome, but you can't get anything off the lunch/dinner menu (say for example, a salad) other than pizza until after 3.  It's kind of a bummer to sit in the sunny courtyard, and not be able to enjoy a fresh, light lunch. (UPDATE:  The kind folks at Atwater Crossing itself commented below to note that lunch is in fact served before 3 now.  Awesome!)
yes, that's my finger.  hi.
Overall, though, I'm totally stoked that this place exists.  The courtyard is perfect for lunch on a sunny day, but now that the days are getting longer, I can't wait to go there for an evening glass of wine.  I know I started off singing the praises of the place's anonymity, but I just changed my mind.  Atwater Crossing Kitchen is actually totally awesome and neighborhoody; of course I want to be its friend!

Atwater Crossing Kitchen is at 3245 Casitas Ave.

Friday, March 09, 2012

How I Saved Little Dom's Deli from Imminent Destruction

You guys, I basically saved the universe the other night.  I mean, I generally don't think of myself as a hero, but sometimes the shoe just fits. I know, to most people, I just look like your average little brown girl who can't stop picking at any bowl of anything that is placed in front of her, but friends, I am here to tell you that were it not for me, there would be a giant pile of ashes where Little Dom's Deli once stood.

A couple Saturdays ago, I had some early evening downtime, and I was hongry.  I needed a sandwich.  Fortunately, I live a block from Hillhurst Avenue, which may as well be called Sandwichhurst*.  I decided on the Deli at Little Dom's, a thimble of a place perfectly designed to make you feel like you're in the Norman Rockwell version of a New York Italian deli.  I managed (somehow, inexplicably) to resist the tiny jam jars of vanilla panna cotta, stared down the pistachio shortbread (I mean, those two words:  Pistachio.  Shortbread.  Hello?), and in the end, gathered myself and ordered a sandwich.  "How's the tuna melt?" I asked.  "Amazing," he said. The guy behind the counter described their Sicilian tuna melt to me with a smile:  a salad of poached tuna from Little Dom's proper next door, capers, and herbs, no mayo; Fontina cheese; all grilled panini-style on whole grain bread.  Sold.

I sat down and waited for him to do his panini magic.  I was the only one in the little shop, and I could see that they were using some of the deli space to hold the prep stuff for dinner service at the restaurant.  A narrow shelf against one wall held table linens, a bunch of lit tealights, and a grey plastic tub filled with silverware.  I looked up from iPhone futzing and noticed that one of the tealights actually had fire on the outside of it.  Um.

The tealight had melted the corner of the plastic tub, and a little puddle of hot plastic had caught fire.  Fire!  I yelled out to my tuna melt friend, he doused the fire with a cup of ice water, thanked me profusely.  Disaster averted, he saw me out with my sandwich in a white paper bag and tons more thank-yous.

When I got home, tucked into the bag with my incredible tuna melt, I found a pistachio shortbread and a sweet blueberry and pear focaccia.  I'm here to tell you this:  it pays to be a superhero.

* I've recently been thinking of doing a sandwich crawl down Hillhurst Ave, though technically, it being a downhill slope, it'd be a Sandwich Roll (see what I did there?).  Between Little Dom's Deli, Community (the restaurant that used to be Papa's Place), Mustard Seed, Alcove, Gelato Bar, Home, and Gastronomico, oh, the sandwich fun we'd have!

The Deli at Little Dom's is at 2128 Hillhurst Ave., just north of Avocado Ave.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

links links links!

Sometimes (and by 'sometimes', I mean every single day), there is so much amazingness on the internet that I'm overwhelmed with the task of keeping up.  Here are some awesome things I've found recently.

A Cross-stitched Skillet:  Would you like some embroidered toast with that?  (Note:  Colossal is one of the best blogs ever.  Art and design, excellently curated, always awesome.)

Anissa in Iran: We talked a bit about Anissa Helou's videos of breadbakers in Iran.  She's posted quite a few more gems from her time there.  So much good stuff.  (Also, her Saveur spread is incredible:  beautiful photos, lots of stories, and a book's worth of recipes.)

this LA Times article: I suppose an article about the trials and tribulations of being Bill Chait, a top LA restaurant entrepreneur, is interesting to some folks, but the real nugget in this article (to me) is hidden in the middle of page 2: There are plans to replace the Louise's on Hillhurst with something called Mess Hall: "higher energy, simpler food, with a modern twist."  2 blocks from my apartment in Los Feliz!  Woop woop!

Bon Iver's 'Towers' video: The music of Bon Iver has had my heart for a couple years now.  I couldn't tell you what his lyrics are about, but the perfectly blended harmonies and twangy acoustic guitar make for a sound evocative of cold places, quiet rivers, sturdy old cabins, grizzled faces, wary smiles.  The video for 'Towers', from his newest, eponymous album captures all of that.  (PS: Think of this video when Pixar's Brave comes out and you see the gorgeous short, La Luna, that opens for it: to me, anyway, there are strange little parallels.)

Vermont introduces monumental GMO labeling legislation:  Hell yeah, Vermont!  Rest of US, please take note.  This is huge. 

Banksy on advertising:  What he says is absolutely right, and really important to remember. 

The LowLine: Were it to exist, the Lowline would sort of be the upside down cousin to Chelsea, New York's awesome High Line park.  An indoor, underground park, built in an old trolley terminal on the Lower East Side, using solar technology to to generate enough light to grow trees.  This makes me love the world.  (Watch the video!) 

Little red cake:  Apollinas makes cakes that are inspired by dresses (and sometimes shoes!), and they are amazing.  Here is a Valentino little red dress in cake form.