Susan Feniger’s life is a blur of shopping, prepping, cooking, and taste-testing as she oversees the Border Grill empire with her collaborator of 30-years, Mary Sue Milliken, and her Hollywood restaurant Street. Somehow, the chef still finds time to spearhead fundraisers for organizations close to her heart like L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and Share Our Strength, stage weekend cooking classes, and fly across the world for some street food R&D.; So it’s surprising to hear the chef say she actually wishes she could do even more cooking in her free time. “I wish I had a lot more time to be cooking at home, making some fantastic, creative meals,” Feniger tells Grub Street. “But honestly, my days are full to the brim. I wouldn’t want it to be any different. What a lucky gal I am.” So what did the chef eat this week and cook for Thanksgiving? Read on in today’s L.A. Diet.
Wednesday, November 21
Typically I would be preparing, or at least doing heavy duty grocery shopping, for Thanksgiving at one or all of the restaurants. But this was my first day back after six days eating day and night on the streets of Shanghai. I’ve been eating dumplings, noodles, Chinese donuts stuffed inside sticky rice, and the list goes on. So getting in the kitchen and cooking for 30 people just didn’t seem to be the smartest thing for me. Instead I began the day thinking about cooking for just a few of us and what I needed.
I had a Black Cat latte with soy milk in our kitchen at home and it tasted pretty damn great. Then a piece of toasted rye bread drizzled with XVOO. With a mash of my favorite Haas avocados, a little sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, this was the perfect welcome home breakfast. I picked some oranges from our old orange tree. In the week we’d been in China, our oranges turned so ripe and delicious I couldn’t stand it. I finished it all with the sweetest glass of fresh squeezed O.J. then off to work, not feeling any jet lag yet.
Of course walking into Border Grill, it was hard to resist the pot of carnitas just getting pulled off the stove, not that far from all the pots of things cooking in China. I grabbed a warm corn tortillas just off the comal, took a chunk of carnitas, grabbed a bit of chopped red onion and cilantro the kids were prepping, and a touch of roasted tomato arbol salsa, and headed to my office for breakfast number two. It’s not the streets of Shanghai, but wow, still tasted pretty fabulous.
As the day went on, I was starting to feel a bit of that jet lag creeping in. So I made myself a bowl of tortilla soup, added some habanero salsa, panela cheese, and continued on. As I sat in front of my computer trying to catch up, I started falling asleep. I needed a tea pick me up, so I headed out, had an Assam tea with cream, and I was good for a bit more.
By the time I got home, I was too exhausted for much but a bit of my nephew Ben Feldman’s Angelica Cellars wines and some Brillat-Savarin on wheatmeal crackers while watching Rachel Maddow with Liz and the dogs and cats. Then off to bed.
Thursday, November 22
We picked up Liz’s mom, who’s 89, around eight in the morning to come home and watch the Thanksgiving parade. Very exciting. I began my morning with a latte again, it’s a ritual. We ate breakfast while watching the parade, again with fresh O.J. from the tree, toasted poppy seed bagels with cream cheese, sable, capers, and onions, and of course the infamous avocado with sliced tomato. A perfect Thanksgiving breakfast.
I was feeling a bit better, so I picked up some stuff from Street to cook, along with some of our Thanksgiving to-go stuff. I prepped the brisket with tons of paprika and salt and pepper, then into the oven with chicken stock to cook away for hours, nice and slow at 350 degrees. The amazing smells of brisket cooking took me back to my childhood. We haven’t had turkey for many years now, but that’s a long story.
Then, we went off to the movies, and had buttery, salted popcorn for lunch. Afterward, there was a late afternoon latte, cause we all needed it from such a rigorous day. Then home for a cocktail, a bit of Ciroc vodka and sparkling water with tons of lemon from our very old lemon tree, which actually taste like a mix of lemons and oranges. So sweet you can just eat them.
Then the brisket, warm out of the oven. It’s hard to beat that with homemade applesauce, horseradish whipped cream, Brussel’s sprouts with goat cheese and apples, creamed corn with pandan, and a kale salad with miso vinaigrette. Dulce de leche caramel sauce over vanilla ice cream for dessert. And in honor of Thanksgiving, for every single thing we have and our health, we had a teeny shot of Cat Daddy moonshine. Even Liz’s mom.
Friday, November 23
Started today with an Assam tea with condensed milk, one of my favorite things to have straight from Vietnam, a version of India Chai. Although I’m trying to not drink as much condensed milk anymore, I was still pretending like I had jet lag, so it was okay. No breakfast, I often don’t have breakfast. Not that that’s a great habit, but I know I’ll be tasting in the restaurants and I just don’t want to eat at home first thing in the day.
I headed into Street to taste some of the new menu items, so having an appetite came in handy. Since I just got back from China I wanted to try our jackfruit bao again to see what I thought. Pretty great. Had a few bites of the new fish and chips, too.
Later in the day, I had a snack of rice crackers and a piece of sashimi with yuzu sesame aioli and Asian pears. Yum. Tasted a bite of the rice balls with umeboshi in between meetings.
Yikes. Then another Assam tea at about ten o’clock at night. Liz wanted to meet for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry, but food is about sharing the day, the moment, and life, so off I went to meet her near our house at The Brentwood. The perfect late night meal there is the vegetarian plate, all from the farmer’s market and done really simply. I was in a salty mood so I had a dirty martini, very dirty.
Saturday, November 24
I often make a rice cooker full of some sort of rice and today all we had in house was a bag of basmati from Samosa House, where I get most of my basmati rice. So I had some of this with furikake, toasted sesame oil, and ponzu for breakfast, with a latte of course.
Headed on over to the farmer’s market before running to Border Grill in Santa Monica. We just started our new brunch menu there, so once again, I was in tasting mode. I tried the biscuit with peanut butter, jelly, jalapeno bacon, and an egg, short-rib hash, a guava empanada. I know it was a lot, see how painful my job can be? I was pretty stuffed by mid-day, so I know I tasted more before the night was done, but that was the major part of my day’s diet. Later that night, I had some marinated green beans at home with a Fuji apple.
Sunday, November 25
It was my day-off and we started with leftover brisket Reubens with sauerkraut, thousand island, and Swiss cheese. Tasted great. We had that with fresh O.J. again, and carrots and cukes with salt and lemon.
Dinner ended up being an artichoke with mayo, lime, and cracked black pepper, and a baked yam with butter, along with a salad of endive and pears with pickled chilies and chipotle vinaigrette.
Monday, November 26
Smoothie for breakfast with bananas, O.J., apples, blueberries, and ice. Then I headed off to play tennis. I try to do that every Monday, but if I make it two Monday’s a month, I’m thrilled. I imagine I need way more than that to deal with all the food I consume each day. Came home and had some almonds and raisins, sat down to work on my home day off, which is actually a work day at home, but still feels like a day off.
I made Liz and I a quick lunch. She’s a filmmaker and was busy writing, and I was buried trying to catch up from China still, so it was a quick sandwich of toasted black bread, open faced with Bulgarian feta, tomatoes that we still have in our garden, and fresh basil, also from our garden. I toasted the bread in a bit of California XVOO, topped it with feta, and sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. After lunch, I was running around catching up on my life with errands and stuff. Of course a latte was in there.
I came home to relax with soba noodles, rapini, fennel, and edamame, with reduced O.J., sesame oil, and soy.