After spending eleven years in New York City, Time columnist Joel Stein tells Grub Street that his move to the West Coast several years ago unexpectedly altered his eating habits. “You just eat more in New York,” he says. “A lot more during the day. It just felt less healthy.” Even still, food is a major interest for the humorist: Stein has learned to barbecue in Texas, flipped a bird at the farm-to-table movement, sneaked in for an early preview of Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago, and pissed off a generation of food-allergy sufferers (before discovering his own son has one). Today, the scribe offers a look at his own day-to-day eating schedule in this week’s L.A. Diet.
Wednesday, December 14
It wasn’t my intention when I woke up, but I didn’t leave my house all day. I don’t think I took a shower until 6 p.m. But I figured that the night before, we had an awesome big meal at the Bazaar. That should excuse this.
I don’t drink coffee, so I had a cup of Sencha, a Japanese green tea. I made my son some leftover steel-cut oatmeal. He likes it cold. After he went to school, I had some low-fat Strauss yogurt with pomegranate seeds and walnuts. My friend is the president of POM Wonderful, and they sell these bowls with pomegranate seeds already seeded, so you don’t have to do it yourself. It’s super lazy, but I don’t know. I bought it.
For lunch — again, I didn’t leave the house, but didn’t know I wasn’t going to leave the house — I had most of an eggplant sandwich that I got from Trader Joe’s and shared it with my son, Lazlow, when he got home from school. Can I reiterate that last night I had a huge meal at the Bazaar? Someone else paid, so we ate a lot.
For dinner, we had leftovers from a dinner party we had on Sunday. I made short ribs, and it’s the first time I did a really horrible job making them. They weren’t really great. I think it was the meat. These were cut weird or something; they weren’t fatty or thick. What’s the deal with short ribs, anyway? They used to practically be free. I’ve never seen short ribs like this before. I’m still sad about this. It ruined everything.
So we had the leftover short ribs, and truffle macaroni and cheese that my wife made. They have this package of greens called Southern greens or something at Trader Joe’s, so we made that too. I felt that the whole eating day was so lame, so I opened a decent bottle of wine. A Bordeaux, 2001 Chateau Lamessan. I got it at K&L;, which is my favorite wine store. I love that place.
And then we had leftover bread pudding, which I made. And I’ve never baked anything before in my life. My son goes to preschool at Temple Wilshire, and they get a challah to bring home every Friday. And I started making French toast every Saturday, and everyone’s sick of it. So I thought, What else I can do with it? So I made bread pudding, and it was awesome. You can’t mess up bread pudding. It’s basically French toast in a different form.
Thursday, December 15
My son had this holiday party at the temple, and my wife wanted me to go. I had to do some work in the morning, so I just had an orange and some green tea before I went over there. I ate at the school party. This was an incredibly Jewish eating day, by the way. I had a bagel with cream cheese, real kugel, and fruit salad, which my wife brought.
The temple is in Koreatown, so I stopped in this store, Han Kook, off of Western. Picked up some groceries for dinner that I’m making on Saturday. I had some mixed nuts. You know that Costco thing of mixed nuts? It’s in my office.
For dinner, my friend and I went to this place Mezze on La Cienega. See? Also Jewish. That’s what makes this the Jewish eating day. We split a bottle of really good Lebanese wine, which is kind of anti-Jew, isn’t it? We had the risotto, and these little shawarma sandwiches, the Brussels sprouts, all really good. After, we wanted to keep talking so we went to the Coffee Bean, and I had their green tea latte.
Friday, December 16
I kind of had the same breakfast, the yogurt with pomegranates, but I put flax seed in it. My son is allergic to nuts, so I try not to eat them when he’s there. I had flax seeds because I was reporting on this movie set in Ann Arbor. It had the best movie-set food I’ve ever seen. They had a yogurt parfait with flax seeds in it, so I bought them for home. They are incredibly crunchy in this really satisfying way.
For lunch, I made huevos rancheros for me and my wife, Cassandra. With corn tortillas, some salsa fresca, avocados, and some canned black beans. I’m not crazy about cheese, so no cheese. She was out with our son later, and they went to the Counter. They brought back pickles and fries. I don’t particularly like fries, which makes me a freak. I’m not grossed out by them, I just don’t appreciate them the other way people do.
We went to a party that night — my friends had a housewarming. They had this really good ham. This is to get back at my day before. Claire made this cauliflower soup that was really good. And someone brought chocolate macarons. We had some wine and mulled cider.
Saturday, December 17
We had a game-night thing here a while go, and people brought ice cream. And my son discovered it. That morning, he kept saying “I need something from the freezer.” He meant the ice cream. I directed him toward frozen fruit, and I made him a smoothie, and had some too. My wife went to Intelligentsia, and she brought me back a chai and half of a bacon-Gruyère scone.
Other than some more mixed nuts, I didn’t really eat again until dinner. I made dinner, and apparently I can’t get enough short ribs. I think I just wanted to get back at the bad short ribs, so I made bulgogi with the ribs I bought at the Korean store. You know you can buy the ribs already marinated? I make these Brussels sprouts according to David Chang’s recipe.They are so good. You just chop them in half, and you make some bacon, cook it in the bacon fat until it browns. Then take kimchee, and blend it, add a touch a water, and that’s the sauce on top of the Brussel sprouts. Cabbage on cabbage on bacon. And I made some brown rice wraps in lettuce leaves.
We had some wine with that, and yeah, I had some more bread pudding.
Sunday, December 18
For breakfast I made blueberry and banana smoothies because my son was looking for ice cream again. Later, I went to lunch at this place Gastronomico in Los Feliz. It’s one of the food trucks, Gastrobus, that opened its own little restaurant. They have this Ecuadorian pulled-pork sandwich, which I shared with my wife, and we had tempura fried pumpkin and sweet potatoes with some kind of dipping sauce.
For dinner — this is the most exciting thing we did all week — while at Mezze, I ran into the publicist, who told us about this restaurant that just opened, Papilles, near our house. So we went there, it was sort of a preview. You had your choice of two things, it’s all prix fixe, a three-course deal. I had Tahitian squash soup, which was awesome. My wife had a salad with persimmon and radishes, and some kind of trout in stinging-nettle sauce, and I had the beef cheeks; both were great. And the cheese course. The wines are really good. For dessert, poached pear with ice cream; the pear was amazing. There must’ve been a ton of butter in that thing.
Monday, December 19
My son was still obsessed with the freezer, so I made him a mango smoothie. I just had some yogurt with blackberries. We had to eat quickly because we had to run to the Bob Baker marionette show. It’s insane. I don’t know if it exists anywhere else in the country. It takes place in a theater that’s almost downtown, and nothing has been changed since 1960 or whenever it opened. And there is the marionette show. You see the players, they come out and sing creepy old Christmas songs for kids. It makes you realize how weird the fifties were. After that, it’s part of their tradition that everyone gets ice cream. Lazlow didn’t hear this — he was spaced out from the whole marionette thing, maybe — so I got him out of there.
We were near downtown, so I wanted to get ramen at Daikokuya, but first we saw Spice Table, which I haven’t been to before. Our son is such a man about the spice. He’s a man about the ocean and spice, and a wimp about everything else. They have just some curry chicken and rice for kids, and he ate it all. I had a special, what they call “Asian Sloppy Joe.” It was awesome. And we got a bánh mì. And they have this lime pepper dessert, it was one of the few desserts that my son was not crazy about, but my wife and I loved it. On the way home, we drove by that Brooklyn Bagel place, and we got some bagels for home.
The day before, I bought some salmon at McCall’s in Los Feliz. I love that place. They’re so nice. They always have great stuff. Small selection, but it’s all good. For dinner, we had some leftover Brussels sprouts and made some quinoa. And we drank some kind of wine, some cheapish Burgundy.