Some days I think they should just put an acrylic layer over LA and then offer fly-overs so we can see for ourselves how this experiment with people and cars has gone really, really bad. But other days, like today, I simply love LA and its sunshine and youth and creative sparkling energy everywhere I look.
We checked out this brand new restaurant called Short Order, in the Fairfax district’s old farmer’s market near Sunset Strip, at Third and Fairfax. We sorta know the chef, Christian Page, because we know his mom and aunts, who came from Philly and Sonoma to visit him and see the restaurant. They are the McNichol sisters, all Catholic school-mates of Sheila’s. They are Antoinette (the oldest and chef Christian’s mom), and his aunts Mary, Rosie, and Felicity. Aunt Meg had to work in Sonoma, unfortunately. Two of his cousins even came, with their moms.
This moveable feast began with dinner at the pizza/bistro Le Font and overnight in Ojai, followed by some sweaty hikes in the Los Padres hills, out on the edge of town. Later, this posse of eleven caravanned south for an hour on the 101 to the Calabasas home of Jean Schmit and her partner Timothy B. Schmit (I posted earlier about Timothy here.) Jean, Sheila and Mary McNichol graduated together from the School of the Holy Child, Jesus, back-east in 1970. Let’s just say that was a bonding experience.
The best hosts ever, Jean and Timothy magically arranged beds and ample bathrooms for all eleven of us. Calabasas caterer Melanie Walker prepared the dinner, which was served by her assistant Patrick who, of course, is really an aspiring actor. We delighted in a veritable meteor shower of healthy appetizers, followed by a simple but perfectly nuanced chicken entre with basmati rice, homemade bread, and vegan butter (which I loved). For dessert, a green-tea frosting topped big cupcakes, with ramekins of coconut ice-cream.
Next morning after a breakfast of Jean’s special French toast, maple syrup, papaya and berries, we caravanned again, this time to Hollywood – actually the Fairfax district – for lunch at Short Order. I’m sure you’re aware of the recent proliferation of burger joints, at least on the West Coast.
This LA Times article tells the story of successful entrepreneur and Short Order owner and chef Nancy Silverton. She hired our friend Christian to oversee the kitchen. It’s all a big buzz, if you read the papers. For one thing, Silverton’s business partner Amy Pressman passed away recently, mid-project. They’d worked together at Spago (Wolfgang Puck), mostly with pastries, had owned and operated several high-end establishments in LA.
Because it was Saturday, the parking lot was jammed with market crowds, but we managed a timely arrival at a big table up on the terrace. This is a “simple” burger joint, but hey, it’s got a full bar and a weekend brunch menu with nine choices and organic eggs. The place was jammed upstairs and down, but the service people were calm and attentive (ok, so the chef was sitting with us).
Our group ordered from the burger list, but just on the heels of breakfast, Sheila and I opted for the veggie burger, which the menu calls “non-animal style burger.” Cool. This near-perfect sandwich has two chickpea patties, a yogurt sauce, cukes and lettuce and harissa, a Tunisian hot sauce with piri piri peppers. We washed it down with a (shared) vanilla organic milkshake. The shake choices included chocolate, and one with broken cookie pieces in it, which probably aren’t 100% organic.
Lunch done, we took some snapshots, hugged and said our goodbyes. But it was too soon. Christian led us downstairs and out into the market where Short Order has opened a separate coffee venue and bakery called Short Cake, a state-of-the-art operation that serves the now-popular individual drip coffee. I also saw an exquisite espresso shot with a water chaser, both delicately set on a little tray. Outside! I love LA J
Normally, I would have loaded up on pastries, but by now, even I was finally full. Instead, I encouraged Kurt in our group to buy a glass Haro-brand cone for drip coffee, a method that I find enhances the flavor noticeably. I think he’ll like it.
Finally, our posse scattered—Sheila and I drove back up the 101 to Ojai. Jean went back home up the same freeway to Calabasas. Kurt, Felicity, and their daughter Maya, plus Antoinette and Rosie drove back to Sonoma on the 5. Mary and her daughter Callie flew back to Philly in the big silver bird.
Antoinette’s son Christian Page will keep making his name in the restaurant business in Los Angeles.