L.A. Diet

Barbara Fairchild Dines With Her Mom Every Week, Confesses to Being a ‘Cereal-Holic’

Barbara Fairchild, at Joan's on Third.
Barbara Fairchild, at Joan’s on Third. Photo: Lesley Balla

Throughout her ten-year reign as Bon Appétit’s editor-in-chief, Barbara Fairchild was a valiant champion of eating in Los Angeles. And even though her tenure there ended last year, her stance on our dining scene hasn’t changed: “One thing that always speaks to L.A. is how great the casual dining is,” she says. “Everything from trucks to stands to casual places and certainly as far as ethnic restaurants go, you’ve always had a really strong tradition.” But since Bon App moved to New York, she says she’s worried that people won’t recognize the city’s great food: “Now that there’s no longer a national publication based here, I don’t want to see us get lost in the shuffle again.” So she’s doing her part to keep L.A. in the country’s dining consciousness: She writes a regular column for Real Eats, travels the country for industry appearances, and, as you can see, took the time to document everything she ate over the last week for today’s edition of the L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, July 6
I eat breakfast at home every day now. I really enjoy making my own coffee. I use a blend called Sicilian Gold from Caffe Roma, out of San Francisco, that I’ve been mail-ordering for years. I take my coffee black, no sugar. And I have officially regressed to childhood and have become a cereal-holic! I don’t know what it is, just all of a sudden … And now I have cold cereal almost every morning, topped with a generous amount of blueberries from Trader Joe’s, where I shop about three times a week. That morning I had a bowl of good old Wheat Chex. But really, when did cereal get to be six or seven dollars a box? I’ve been eating at Starbucks every morning for so long or going out to business breakfasts.

Lunch was at Culina at The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. I’ve always been a big fan of that hotel, and I am even more now that they made the very bold move to totally revamp their very formal dining room. I really admire the executive chef, Ashley James, and Meredith Manee, the sous-chef there. They do a great job; everything’s fresh. I had a lovely tuna crudo and a wonderful summery salad of arugula, artichokes, fresh favas, zucchini, and pecorino topped with grilled prawns, which came with a terrific, tangy Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I drank an iced tea and had a big bowl of fresh berries for dessert. It was all wonderful.

I didn’t really have dinner, because I went to see Midnight in Paris, for the second time. The film is fabulous, one of Woody Allen’s best in years. Before I left, I had a banana and peanut butter, then one of those nonfat Fage Greek yogurts that I added almonds to. So, I didn’t have any popcorn or candy at the movie.

Thursday, July 7
That morning, I had my cereal and blueberries with black coffee. After Pilates, I am always feeling very virtuous. I’m very focused right now on taking care of myself, since I’ve spent 32 years in an office where I was not taking particularly good care of myself. I’m doing yoga and Pilates now and I’m really eating a lot more healthfully. Well, not a lot more healthfully, but I’m doing more eating at home and eating out less often for a while. I’ve lost sixteen pounds since the end of May and I want to keep that going.

For what we do, when food is our passion, our interest, and for some of us, a career, it’s really the hardest thing to put that foot down. I’ve had the good fortune of having the greatest chefs in the world cooking for me and it’s (a) really hard to stop eating and (b) if you don’t finish everything on the plate, they get very upset. They think something’s wrong! So I’m concentrating on myself right now and ordering the right thing. And definitely cutting my gin and tonics and vodka martinis has helped a lot.

So I made a big salad for lunch that included some grilled chicken left over from our July 4th party. I finished with a fresh peach for “dessert” from Tapia Brothers Farm in Encino. I absolutely adore it; it’s just such an interesting place, in the middle of the city, to have a farm where they’re growing corn and vegetables and basil.

My life partner, Paul Nagle, is a consultant who is usually away during the week. When I’m not going out, I still like to make something simple for dinner, even if it’s just for me. That night, I used the last of the grilled shrimp from our Fourth of July party. Yes, I do eat leftovers. I made shrimp tacos with lots of Cholula sauce, lettuce, tomato, and grilled veggies on the side. I use these great tortillas from Trader Joe’s that are corn and wheat combined, and really, really good. For dessert, I cut up a fresh peach, added a few roasted almonds, and topped it with some Fage nonfat Greek yogurt, because I’m hooked on that texture. Most of the time, I drink water, Diet Coke, diet tonic, or good old Fresca. But most of the time, just water.

Friday, July 8
I had cereal and blueberries again, with black coffee. After yoga, I ate lunch at home again. I made an egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread, and I put some carrots and radishes on the side. Then I had a piece of watermelon after.

We had dinner at home after Paul flew in. It was getting late, but we both had this craving for hot dogs. So we grilled those big dinner-size Hebrew National Dinner Franks and we had a whole bunch of toppings here and just topped them with whatever we wanted.

Saturday, July 10
I varied from the norm and made a breakfast quesadilla with scrambled eggs, salsa, and a little cheese that morning.

Paul and I headed down to the Belmont Shores area of Long Beach to go kayaking around Naples Island. It was a gorgeous day and great fun. I had never done this before and can’t wait to go again. We had lunch afterwards at Olives Gourmet Grocer on 2nd Street. Paul had a roast-beef panini and I made a big salad from the salad bar.

The trip was a really great little getaway. I felt like I was on vacation. We did a lot of walking and window shopping, and then at 6:30 p.m. we met Paul’s mom, uncle, and their spouses for dinner at a place called Fuego. It’s in the boutique-y Hotel Maya in this weird, hidden part of Long Beach that’s a little difficult to find. But the view from this place is spectacular — across the water from the Queen Mary over to Downtown Long Beach. Great place to watch the sun set over everything and see the lights come on, with a big bar and an outside dining area with a fire pit.

The food was okay. I feel like I ordered really well. I had a salad that had Fuji apples and arugula to start. Then a so-called shrimp “ceviche” for my main, though it was an appetizer on the menu. And the shrimp were already steamed before they were put into the sauce, so really, it’s shrimp with avocado, onion, and salsa. I had a bottle of Negra Modelo, ‘cause I love love love dark beer and was really in the mood for a beer. We had a ceviche sampler with mahi-mahi and salmon, both of which were “cooked” the proper way, and were fine. Paul liked his carnitas, and his uncle’s roast chicken looked good. The sole special was overwrought. I was glad I didn’t order it. The bread was also very good; sort of a Panera-ish baguette — nice crust, tender crumb. Nobody had dessert. I think we all drank our dessert.

I would definitely recommend the place for the view, but keep your order simple and have maybe two appetizers and a beer or a cocktail, and watch the sun set and the lights come on for a pretty, twinkly evening.

Sunday, July 10
I made regular scrambled eggs that morning, with whole-wheat toast and coffee. Then sometime about mid-morning, I had a banana and some nonfat yogurt.

I ended up outside doing a lot of work in the garden most of the late morning and lost track of time and let lunchtime go by. So I had a late lunch where I nuked a baked potato in the microwave, added some soft goat cheese and arugula, and sort of chopped the whole thing up with tomato, green onion, salt, and pepper, and polished that off. I don’t know what that’d be, a potato-goat-cheese salad?

Late afternoon, I went to Joan’s on Third, and had an iced coffee and fresh fruit salad for our photo shoot.

I really love spicy flavors, so I’ve been putting a lot of Cholula and Tapatio and Chipotle salsa on a lot of stuff. Sunday night, I wasn’t that hungry, so around 7 p.m. I simply mixed together some cottage cheese and canned tuna with some chopped-up red pepper, onion, and cucumber. Then I topped it off with a bunch of chipotle salsa. It probably sounds disgusting, but given how hot it was that day, it was filling and refreshing at the same time. I had lemon yogurt with seedless green grapes later in the evening.

Monday, July 11
I ended up having coffee and cereal with raspberries. Trader Joe’s was out of blueberries yesterday — they never got their delivery — and the clerk there was as unhappy about it as I was. I suffered through! I’m not complaining; the raspberries were delicious, but maybe it was something about the antioxidant factor of the blueberries that got to me.

For lunch, I made a big, white-meat turkey sandwich on rye bread. I like Buona Fourchetta, which for a bakery with an Italian name, makes great corn rye. I made it with lots of mayo and a little celery salt, which is a family thing. I had a Bubbies Kosher Dill on the side and some cherries after.

Every Monday night, my sister and I take our mom to dinner. My sis is out of town, but I wanted to go out anyway. I really wanted to take mom to the Aroma Café on Tujunga in Studio City. She has never been and I think it’s so charming, so it seemed like the perfect evening to sit outside. I was all set to order the salmon salad; my brain was, like, focused on it. I love it. But around 7:15 p.m. about a thousand other people had the same idea. It was so crowded. No parking anywhere, line out the door, so after a few times around the block, I gave up.

The great thing about living in Studio City these days is that we have so many really nice dining options now. We ended up going to Loteria Grill at Ventura and Laurel Canyon. I’m a big fan of Jimmy Shaw’s and everything he’s accomplished with those restaurants. We’ve followed him since the Farmer’s Market. I’m also, as you know, really into Mexican flavors this week.

I think my mom may be the only one who ever orders the tongue, but it’s one of her favorites. I had the chicken mole as a tostada. I love that mole; it’s so good. I drank iced tea and no dessert there, but when I got home I cut up a peach and put a dollop of rice pudding on top of it and watched The Daily Show as I scarfed it down.

Barbara Fairchild Dines With Her Mom Every Week, Confesses to Being a