L.A. Diet

Bizarre Foods Host Andrew Zimmern Hunts Grunions in Venice, Forages With Jordan Kahn in Topanga Canyon

Andrew Zimmern at Red Medicine in Beverly Hills
Andrew Zimmern at Red Medicine in Beverly Hills Photo: Javier Cabral

Andrew Zimmern, the intrepid eater, chef, and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods isn’t always munching on camel kidneys and goat scrotums for lunch. “I seem to be always working,” Zimmern tells Grub Street, “but whenever I’m not, my desire is to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and very lean meats.” This devoted fan of Lindy & Grundy’s face-bacon is himself the face behind The Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards and was in L.A. over the past few days shooting his show’s new season. We took the opportunity to catch up with Zimmern to learn what he eats back home with his family in Minnesota, about the doughnuts he can’t pass up during long layovers, and which chefs he covets in Southern California. Read all about it in today’s L.A. Diet.

Friday, March 8
When I’m on the road I don’t get to pick and choose my diet to the degree that most people might imagine. When I’m home and not eating whole hog cookery or Hobo Tamales—for the 100 days a year, if it’s that many—we’ll have roast chicken, brussels sprouts, a big salad, and watermelon for dessert - that’s a pretty typical dinner at our house. We live in Minnesota and eat in a way that most people would be kind of surprised about in terms of its simplicity. My wife is a meat and potato girl from the Midwest and we have an eight-year-old son but are very food-forward.

So I was flying to D.C. the next morning for work and had a pork shoulder roast in the oven. We cooked it with leeks and milk for that classic Italian milk-braised pork shoulder where the milk fats and solids caramelize around the meat. And then we had a marinated tomato salad with sweet vinegar, pan roasted cauliflower with preserved lemon, and then I charred a bunch of scallions on the grill, added a little feta to that, and did a little salad.

Saturday, March 9
I flew to Washington D.C. and had a doughnut and cup of coffee at Reagan Airport. One of my guilty pleasures is the Dunkin’ Donuts’ crueller, which is a puffed, airy little braided delight. I can’t walk past a Dunkin’ Donuts without having one.

For lunch, I ate the seafood that a colleague of mine and I were preparing at the Travel Adventure Show I was in D.C. to speak at. Linda Greenwald, who has a TV show on Discovery called Swords grilled up some swordfish with blood orange and caper butter. I was doing a talk and one of my demos was a geoduck clam, so I had a couple of bites of that. Then I went to my hotel room that afternoon and they sent me a little treat of Kobe burger sliders, so I had one of those. It was a grazing day.

I did an event later on that night back at the show and was showing people how do to Korean soondae, grilled ox heart, and a Chinese jellyfish salad. As I was making those, I had to taste to make sure they were right.

And then I ended up stopping by a little Japanese gastropub on my way home called Kaz Bistro. The chef does a thing with monkfish liver where he smokes it and does ankimono with a little green apple. I had some pieces of that with some sashimi then went home to call it a night.

Sunday, March 10
I was staying at the St. Regis Hotel and they have really good Virginia Ham on the menu there. So, I had that on some toast with coffee for breakfast.

Then I went to the Travel Adventure Expo and I didn’t eat anything that day. I skipped lunch. I went to the airport to fly to Los Angeles, so I had a bowl of katsudon at Reagan. There is a little Japanese restaurant called Matsutake, they actually have really good food. I ate that so I wouldn’t have to eat the food on the airplane.

Then I landed in L.A, went to The Beverly Wilshire. I ate a bunch of fruit in my room and linguine with shrimp. I couldn’t move. I end up doing a lot of room service for the obvious reasons.

Monday, March 11
I woke up and was doing Access Hollywood. One of the true, dirty secrets in this business is that people like me end up eating a lot of bagels in talk show green rooms. So, I had bagel and coffee that morning at Access Hollywood. I was making breakfast for the host, serving them some raw liver, Ethiopian style and kidney.

I was also turning them on to a local butcher in Los Angeles that I just love, called Lindy & Grundy. They are good friends of mine, so I got some face bacon, a pig face bacon that I am nuts about. I got that for the hosts of the show to check out.

For lunch, I was eating out at the Hub City Ranch in Compton. Compton has an area called Richland Farms that still zones for farming. There is a local family there that I was shooting with. The grandmother of the house did a very traditional Michoacan farm lunch for us. She did a cuerito tostada, you know, pickled pork skin tostada. She did some carnitas and then a nopal salad, and that was awesome.

We then shot that night. We went to the beach down in Venice because we were doing some grunion hunting. It was the start of the grunion season, the little white fish that jump out of the ocean. We had a snack at Larry’s, a little bar and grill right on the beach there. Brendan Collins, the chef there, is very gifted, a charcuterie guy. He made a whole bunch of terrines. Pork terrines and goose terrines and duck terrines, so we ate a bunch of that. Then we went out in the beach and hunted grunion, then came back to the kitchen at Larry’s and borrowed his fryer. And at one in the morning, I was standing in an empty restaurant deep frying a handful of grunion that we had just pulled out of the ocean.

Tuesday, March 12
I woke up and had one of those high-powered meetings with a big, famous producer. I invited her to breakfast at my hotel, where there is a restaurant called BLVD with a great breakfast. I love breakfast at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. They have a plate there called “The Norwegian,” one of the things I eat almost every single time I’m there. It’s a roasted potato cake with a poached egg, smoked salmon, and a little bit of hollandaise sauce. I had that for breakfast with a lot of coffee and a lot of fresh squeeze grapefruit juice.

And then I went foraging with Red Medicine’s chef, Jordan Kahn. I ate a lot of wild sorrel and wild radish walking around the hills of Topanga Canyon. A little later, I went to lunch at Son of a Gun and had their lobster roll and the sea urchin and burrata salad with baby gem lettuce and yuzu vinaigrette-it was delicious. Oh, and I had their frozen lime yogurt for dessert.

Then we went to Red Medicine. I had what I call “first dinner” at six o’ clock. I ate Jordan’s brisket with wild greens and wild mustard vinaigrette in the kitchen. And then I went out to the table and had his snap pea and tofu appetizer and his crispy sweetbreads with spiced cake croutons. I mean, there were so many elements on that plate. He had poached figs and caramelized leeks and onions-it was an exercise in sweet and sour flavors that was just remarkable. Delicious with the sweetbreads.

We had his birch ice for dessert and then a pear tart. His pear tart was done in a ring with a sorrel curd that was just remarkable. I think that Jordan Kahn is one of the top ten to twelve greatest chefs working in America. It’s brilliant what he’s doing there. Absolutely brilliant. He’s young, so he experiments a lot. He’s not afraid to take risks and that makes for a remarkable experience.

Then I went to the hotel and I met a friend of mine for dinner and ate at Cut. Cut is one of my favorite steakhouses in America. I had the lobster with black truffle sabayon and a tasting plate of Wagyu. Then I went upstairs and went to bed.

The Munchies nominees will be announced April 1 with voting to go live during the month of April.

Bizarre Foods Host Andrew Zimmern Hunts Grunions in Venice, Forages With