Posts Tagged ‘LA 2012’
Maybe, God forbid, the place was what it appeared to be–a melange of Okies and thieves and bewildered Jíbaros.
~Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary
Despite an amazing time at the wedding, enjoying the unending vacation weather, finding good food and drink, and the pleasant disposition of people, something about the city seemed off. I can’t judge based on this 72 hour jaunt, but something rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed like a shiny new sprawling suburb. A clean surface with an untrustworthy or vacant interior. Though, perhaps, I could seen hints of what people love about the city. It is clean, healthy, with weather that allows you to love the outdoors. Maybe it’s, as I began to contemplate on my return to New York, me or my life that’s a melange overdue for resorting and re-evaluation.
Even here on the East Coast, I’ve heard rumors of the wonders of In and Out Burger. Some have dared to say it rivals Shake Shack, a New York burger institution which I’ve enjoyed but never drank the kool aid for. So I knew that I would have to get in at least one good eat at this famous chain.
The menu on the wall is bare bones basic, burgers, cheese burgers, fries, etc. But the standard menu is augmented by the not so secret menu (available at the company’s website). The options expand from there with additional secret menus to be discovered.
There are many others who have explored and written far more on In and Out Burger and its secrets than I intend, the options are seemingly endless. This is my hit and run experience.
I actually managed to do my heart right and hit this place twice on the trip. The first go with Matt was an impulsive stop on the way to take down a full deep dish pizza. I wanted to keep things simple, so I just got a cheeseburger animal style (lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty, pickle, and thousand island spread with grilled onions), fries, and a soda. It was good, but the burger seemed to get lost in all those toppings. So when Nick, Becca, and I stopped at the In and Out at the airport on our way out of town I got a 2×2 (two patties and two cheeses) animal style but with no lettuce. With the double meat, foregoing the lettuce seemed unnecessary as the right-sized beef could hold up to the layers of extras.
In all, this place is awesome. Despite the rumors of a planned New York opening, I just don’t know if this place could survive in this city. It wasn’t just a tasty burgers, the place is unbelievably clean and the folks working there didn’t seem crushed by life and working a job they hate. They smiled. They actually gave shit! Things that would break the laws of fast food physics in New York. Though if its arrival does materialize, my waistline and cholesterol levels are in danger. Tasty, tasty danger.
Not long ago, I was lamenting the absences of deep dish pizza in New York. Well, take note New York, Los Angeles came through and delivered the king of pizzas.
Matt (NYC based friend and LA hotel co-habitant) and I stumbled on this pizza by complete accident. After the wind down of Saturday’s events, Matt and I retired to our hotel room and flipped through channels. In between infomercials and even less watchable late night television, we stumbled on a food show that happened to be talking about deep dish pizza at Masa of Echo Park. The next morning, a little Google map research revealed that Masa was just off our route to Beverly Hills.
We sat at the bar and ordered an onion and sweet sausage pizza. During our 40 minute wait for the pizza (deep dish takes its time) we sampled a house IPA. When the pizza arrived, I knew we had found the real thing:
- 2 inch thick crust, check;
- diced tomatoes for sauce, check;
- cheese under the sauce, check; and
- a corn meal crust, check.
Matt and I were a little full because we had taken down an In and Out burger “snack” about an hour before arrival, yet we still managed to take down the whole delicious pie.
So simple, but so good. I can only guess that its ignorance or fear of a 40 minute cook time or a perverse sense of pride that keeps deep dish off the streets of New York.
Masa of Echo Park
1800 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
The epic wedding culminated at the Nixon “I am not a crook!”Presidential library. Hors d’oeuvres were served in the garden, under the beautiful California sun to the tunes of a live jazz band. One particularly interesting morsel was a blueberry and a small piece of brie skewered on to a piece of chewy bread with a toothpick. It’s a combination that I wouldn’t have thought of, but is perfect warm weather finger food.
After the bride and groom fulfilled their photo obligations, all entered an exquisite hall for the dinner. One of best meals served on that scale I’ve had. Through the dinner, there were the usual speeches by friends and family of the newlyweds–some funny, many painfully awkward. And after we all enjoy yet another decadent table of fruits, sweets, and coffee.
Despite a late night, I was out of bed by 8 a.m.; not so much by choice as from the firm grip of timezone differences. My body thought is was already 11 and time to find adventures. And I did find a few, but this post is for the wedding and it was time to shed Indian attire for a suit. The day was filed with ceremony.
This ceremony was described to me as the blessing of the groom. In the presidential suite of the the hotel, the Fayaz’s friends and family gather to lift any curses and impart good luck. (Word was that the bride had a congruent, but separate, ceremony.)
Chi tea was available in the room: a strong brew in a pot with condensed milk on the side.
The ceremony appeared to closely resemble that undertaken before the mess-up the groom. A tray held a cup of M&Ms and cups of quarters. However, this ceremony involved all feeding Fayaz and M&M and circulating the money over his head. By the time Nick and I were up, Fayaz had eaten his fill of sweets and passed the M&Ms off on us.
After all had imparted their blessings, we had an hour or so before it was time to head to the mosque for the actual wedding ceremony.
Once we arrived at the mosque, the men and women separated and removed their shoes before entering their respective rooms in the place of worship. Inside the moque, there were no seats and all took their places, siting on a softly carpeted floor. Fayaz and his best man were seated against the wall on pillows near the front. The Imam sat at the pulpit, a large elevated chair which looked well suited for long speeches.
After words from the Imam on equality, particularly of that between men and women, the floor was ceded in for various words on marriage and the couple. The men listen in person, while the women watched from their room over video. The Imam again took the podium and explained variations in wedding ceremony across Islamic traditions. He then explained that Nushin would come over the speaker system and ask to Fayaz marry her and that Fayaz would then (hopefully!) accept.
The microphone was handed to Fayaz and Nushins voice filled the room and asked the big question in Arabic. To which Fayaz responded. The exchange lasted no more that 30 seconds. When it was over a man ran into the room to get Fayaz’s signature on the wedding certificate.
As we exited, I saw many large tables covered with food and learned that the separation of the men and women was to continue to through dinner. I filled my plate with naan, chick pea curry, beef curry, chicken tikka, roasted veggies, rice, and various Indian deserts. I happily worked my way through the heaping plate over conversation at an outdoor table with Fayaz’s male friends and family.
The Cake Cutting
This portion of the was a hybrid of Western and Indian ceremonies. Speeches from family interspersed Indian traditions and the exchanging of rings. The event culminated with the cutting of the cake and turning the room full guests lose on a table full of coffee, tea, sweets, and sandwiches. (It had been almost three hours since dinner!) Strangely, though all events were, in the Muslim tradition, sans alcohol, ham and cheese sandwiches were in the mix.
After eating the table’s sweets and after wedding cake was passed around, guests were invited to take photos with the beautiful new couple.
After arrival at LAX, I headed directly to a park for the first event in the weekend of festivities: a BBQ and ceremony for the groom. At the park, I chatted with Fayaz’s family and friends from Minnesota who I hadn’t seen in ages. After maybe an hour, there was a brief ceremony for Fayaz which drew on a number of traditions including negotiations for Fayaz’s purchase of fetched water, the eating of sweets, and waving coins over Fayaz as a blessing.
The next phase was described to me as “mess-up the groom.” Fayaz said that, while this is usually limited to some shaving cream on the groom, his family takes to an all out round robin of shaving cream, cool whip, water balloons, and silly string. At the end of the ceremony, the action began. For about ten minutes, no one was safe. Things finally calmed down when a brawl nearly broke-out as people were thrown in the lake. May Fayaz’s Blackberry rest in peace.
A lunch of burgers and chicken tenders was served and, over a meal in the beautiful Cali weather, friends and family had a chance to catch-up.
After the BBQ, we all had enough time to check into the hotel and grab a drink or two at the bar before heading over to the Mehndi at the bride’s family’s home. Well, at least the men had a moment of leisure. The women headed to the bride’s home early for the application of henna.
When we arrived at Nushin’s family home we headed to the back yard. I was instantly stunned. I felt as if I’d walked into a fairy tale or the set of a bollywood movie. Set-out in the warm California night were lounge areas. Large white soft rectangles covered with brightly colored and shiny pillows basked in soft light. The seating surrounded an open walled tent with a wooden floor. The air was filled with the smells of meat cooking in one corner of the yard and fresh fruit in another.
It was on arrival that Fayaz’s male friends, most of us white, learned we would be dancing in a precision (in front of a few hundred people) to lead the groom to the tent. After being shown a few dance moves the music started and we were off. Fayaz, dressed in all red traditional Indian attire lead the way surrounded by his poorly dancing friends (also in traditional Indian attire). The attire consisted of a long top and light pants held with a draw string. Large pants, with a draw string that was very tricky for this white boy. Half-way through the dance in I realized my pants were falling down. Thankfully the top is long and I was saved from exposing myself to the crowd as I danced with my pants at my thighs.
After Fayaz took his thrown like seat under the tent, Nushin was carried to the tent in an ornate box supported by a pole. It is fortunate tradition, as Nushin had broken her leg only two weeks before. Fayaz picked her up out of the box and set her on her own thrown–looking more like a princess than any bride I’ve seen. Speeches and rituals followed.
Then, it was time to eat. Nushin, understanding Fayaz’s intense love for shawarma arranged for several large spinning cones of meat served with a spread of other amazing Indian delights and guests ate until they could eat no more. We lounged and ate as traditional Indian music from a live band wafted over the crowd. Once satiated, many retired to smoke from the dozen or so hookah’s set-up in the yard.
The festivities ended around 1:30 a.m. and only then because the police showed-up (I’m sure half of LA had been serenaded up to that point). In a near daze I retired to the hotel for a brief sleep before another day of Cali adventures and wedding ceremonies.
I’ve just returned home to Brooklyn from an amazing weekend in Los Angeles for Fayaz and Nushin’s wedding. An epic Indian wedding with events stretching over three days. While I can’t help but feel a profound sadness for the end of an era (Fayaz and I have been off and on roommates, friends, and co-culinary adventurers for a decade now), I’m also profoundly joyed to see Fayaz enter a new phase in his life with truly one of the most amazing and accomplished women I have ever met. (She’s cooked for the Park Slope apartment, and it’s a travesty those amazing meals are not represented here!)
Over the next few days, I hope to post descriptions of the weekend’s events. At every turn, at every meal (there were many), all stops were pulled-out. More than once, I felt as if I had walked onto the set of a movie. And, in between the wedding festivities, I was able to grab some California eats worthy of text here.
The three days of the wedding and a final day to fly out seem much longer in the best possible way. Event after event and meal after meal in a city unlike any I’ve experienced before. Between the new city, two five hour flights in which I surveyed most of America, the experience of a wedding from a fairy tale, and seeing the marriage of one of my dearest friend, I feel a deep stirring in me. The kind that beings blurry, creates restlessness, and ends in reevaluated life perspectives and goals. (I’m sure reading Hunter S. Thompson along the trip is a bit of a factor as well.) I’ll try to keep talk of all that to a relative minimum here and focus on the epic experiences of food, culture, and city.
Though, I have to note my realization that I’ve become a New Yorker. LA felt like more of a foreign city more than it would have at any previous time in my life. Cars, highways, malls, sprawl, miles of new buildings, and suburban like environments have all shifted well outside of normalcy for me. At the same time, flying cross country, looking over vast swaths of open country has given me the itch to take the road and again explore the “back waters” of America.
But good food related posts to follow, I promise.