Eating with strangers should be a mandatory monthly event. It is good to get out of your comfort zone and sit among the folks in your community, eating excellent chow, watching hungry excitement turn into sated bloated satisfaction.
Last Monday I headed to Loteria Grill in Hollywood for a Mexi-Italian feast: my gift for supporting public radio and subscribing to KCRW during the Good Food radio hour. Loteria Grill is a gorgeous spacious place, with oversized Loteria cards hanging above the bar and banquet. I quenched my palate with a prickly pear margarita, hot pink and laced with salt and some chili pepper.
Folks are coming in fast, eyeing the large platters and bowls. Grab a seat then begin the rounds. Chicken mole tacos, zucchini blossom empanadas, carnitas enchiladas. But the star of the night was no doubt Evan Kleinman's butternut squash lasagna with fontina cheese. Sweet, nutty, creamy beyond the depths of cream. I gently reminded my fellow diners to the magic qualities of butter. And the gnocchi... I should have put a few dumplings in my purse to take home and freeze. Just to have them in my presence would create calm. Thyme Gnocchi with an Heirloom tomato sauce. Sort of puzzled by their beautiful rosy pink color. No idea why they would be pink. Don't really care.
The desserts were a city wide collaborative affair. Tres leches cake by Loteria, lemon tiramisu by Evan, caramel chili lollipops from Little Flower Candy Company in Pasadena. After a couple margaritas and all the goodness presented before, desserts were hard to get down, but still worth standing in line for.
My table of course fell into the subject of food quite easily; where to eat creole in LA, comparing good ice cream joints, recommendations for Brazilian food. I steered a couple towards a good BBQ joint in a parking lot in Alta Dena on Lake, then we all reminisced on our experiences at Bulgarini Gelato on Alta Dena Avenue. We got into our favorite treats at Trader Joe's. I am loudly celebrating the return of the almond macaroon, and now am on the lookout for chocolate covered caramels with fleur de sel.
A lovely festive atmosphere. The chefs were followed by cameras and fans, a little manic but worthy of the praise. Nothing too obnoxious. I would have gotten a photo of the chefs as well, but I was too full.