Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Taste of Larchmont

We moved back to Los Angeles in 1994 after living in San Diego for nearly ten years. In those days we were renters and so moved into Park Labrea, an enormous, fifty-year-old apartment complex in the heart of the mid-Wilshire district.

One of the pleasures of living in Park Labrea was its proximity to Larchmont, an increasingly upscale section of Los Angeles, developed in the 1920s. Adjacent to the mansions of Hancock Park, the quaint Larchmont “village” gives this part of town a real midwestern flavor. Tim used to get his hair cut there and we’d frequently eat lunch or dinner at one of its many restaurants. The atmosphere is friendly and casual, and even the celebrity residents seem like normal folk. Tim met Huell Howser once at the barbershop and we even saw Kate Mulgrew, at the height of her “Star Trek” fame, openly dining in a sidewalk cafe while chatting loudly about her fellow trekker Patrick Stewart. We’ve seen other TV stars there, too, just going about their daily lives.

We’ve gone to the annual Taste of Larchmont event, off and on, for probably ten years. Where else can you sample the food of several favorite restaurants all for one flat fee? In fact, we’re big fans of the whole “taste of” phenomenon, having attended events in Coronado, Culver City, El Toro, Santa Monica (at both the Promenade and the pier), the backlots of Universal Studios, and Westwood. Then, of course, there was the famous time Tim and I got separated in a NYC subway, only to miraculously find each other amid 50,000 people enjoying the Taste of Battery Park! But that’s a story for another time...

Unlike similar events, which are usually held in parking lots or other more scenic spaces, the Taste of Larchmont is served up in the restaurants themselves, all located within a one block radius of each other. The mood is more like a progressive dinner since you tend to see the same people going from table to table. This year, fourteen restaurants and seven dessert stations participated.

The tasting was scheduled to begin at 6PM, so naturally we arrived at 5:55PM. None of the restaurants was ready to serve, so we decided to start at Chan Dara, one of our favorite Thai food places, at the farthest end of the street. Several other early birds were already there, including a librarian friend David, who we see every year at this event. Everyone was chomping at the bit to begin! Finally, at 6:05PM, the doors opened and we began to feast: vegetarian spring rolls and chicken and noodles with peanuts sprinkled on top. You would have thought we’d been on a week-long fast!

Next was Kiku Sushi, which I don’t eat, so Tim got double portions, and then onto Prado, which was serving Cuban. Arroz con pollo and a tasty salad—yum! Not much time to sit around savoring, however, because we were soon onto Louise’s Trattoria, which has become one of our favorite westside haunts (love that Sicilian cobb salad!). The pasta primavera was disappointing (mine is *much* better), but the bread was outrageous as usual. It was now time to conquer the other side of the street.

We followed David almost reluctantly over to the Larchmont Deli, where there is always more food than any human could possibly consume. Sure enough, in addition to the usual sandwiches, salad bar, and cold cut platter, the owners had set out hot plate meals, including roast beef and some other items I was already too full to admire. Tim grabbed a four-inch-thick turkey sandwich, while I nibbled on a slice of salami. We left David behind as we fled to the next destination.

We skipped the El Cholo tamales (not as good as Corn Maiden) being served at Coldwell Banker, but did take a breather in front of a real estate agency window. There was nothing listed for under a million dollars, so we laughed and moved onto the outdoor “pavilion,” where dessert was being served. I got a scrumptious lemon bar from Sweet Lady Jane. Tim had a cupcake, chased by a slice of French apple pie from Callendar’s Wilshire, our former local Marie Callendar’s, which has been transformed into an upscale “grille.” (Excuse me while I roll my eyes...)

By now barely able to move, we waddled over to the Avocado Grill, where we forced ourselves to eat carnitas tacos. “Enough!” Tim declared. But that didn’t stop us from carrying away sandwiches (Cafe du Village) and two slices of cheese pizza (Z Pizza) for lunch the next day. Sadly, we were too full to even consider La Luna and Le Petit Greek, two of Larchmont’s more popular eateries.

Next year we’ll be sure to bring ziplock baggies so we can truly get our money’s worth!


1 comment:

Cyn said...

What a FABULOUS life you must have! You are lucky to have that Tim guy take you to all these neat things...