Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ford's Filling Station

Downtown Culver City was pretty much a ghost town when we moved here ten years ago. Despite being the self-proclaimed “Heart of Screenland,” there was only one sad movie theater—a Mann multiplex across the street from Sony Studios—and absolutely no nightlife. Things have certainly changed since then!

Five years ago, a new Pacific movie theater opened, followed soon after by the renaissance of the live Kirk Douglas Theatre, now part of the Centre Theatre Group. But the really big news came in 2006 when Benjamin Ford, celebrity chef and son of actor Harrison Ford, decided to open his restaurant Ford’s Filling Station in the middle of Culver City’s downtown district. Before long other high-end and well-reviewed restaurants were springing up downtown and in Culver City’s newly artsy eastside. Suddenly our sleepy town had become L.A.’s latest hot spot, and all because of Ben Ford.

The food at Ford’s is wonderful: healthy American fare that’s a tad expensive but, oh, so tasty. My favorites are the flatbreads, salami platter and roasted chicken. Tim loves the “pub burger” and just about everything else on the menu! Ben Ford calls his restaurant a “gastropub,” where people can eat good food and meet other like-minded diners.

To celebrate the Filling Station’s two-year anniversary, Ford held a special dinner-lecture last night, where he talked about and introduced several new items to his menu. I made reservations for Tim, Karen and me as soon as I heard about it. The event was sold-out, despite it being a rainy weeknight.

We were, of course, among the first people to arrive. The restaurant is fairly small, so we could see everyone coming and going. Karen and I were chatting when Tim suddenly grabbed my arm. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes were bugging out of his head. There, scooting behind Karen’s chair, were Harrison Ford and TV celebrity girlfriend Calista Flockhart! In all the times we’d eaten at Ford’s, we’d never seen them, even though we’d heard they eat there regularly.

“Harry and Calista just came in and are right behind you!” I whispered in Karen’s ear.

The couple hugged and kissed the people seated next to us, but passed us right by. Apparently the restaurant was filled with Ben Ford’s friends and family—how we were able to get reservations, I’ll never know.

The dinner was fabulous. As appetizers, we had smoked lake trout (Tim), oxtail-stuffed cabbage (Karen), and chilled marinated leeks with tomato vinaigrette (me). For their main course, Tim and Karen each ordered the shoreman’s pie (lobster, leeks, sweet peas, and truffle potato), while I had roasted hen with champ (root vegetables), pea tendrils and roasted porcini mushrooms. Lots of sharing went on, but mostly between Tim and Karen as I don’t eat fish or red meat. There were several appetizers and entries to choose from, so our heads were spinning trying to see what everyone else was eating. Meanwhile, Tim, who had a clear view of Harry and Calista’s table, reported on everything the couple ate (chicken and beef).

Finally, after eating and talking for about three hours, dessert was served. Karen and Tim enjoyed their persimmon bread pudding, but I was sorely disappointed in my toffee apple ice cream (a cored and baked apple with vanilla ice cream down the middle). Still we all declared the evening a huge success, with Tim saying he got his money’s worth after the first course. I did him one better and said I was satisfied as soon as Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart walked in. By the way, they both look exactly like they do in the movies and on TV and seem to be very happy.

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