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Jul 2, 2006 08:06 PM

Feeding Mr. Smith (long weekend, long story, pt. 1)

Old buddy from Nashville came for a few days - his wife co-owns a very nice restaurant there, and while he's only a casual 'Hound he's adventurous, so we did what we could for him. This started with a somewhat hungover breakfast at TONNY'S, just down the street from us (in Pasadena, if you didn't know), where I suggested I might find the huevos rancheros (with the chile relleno on the side) that I was craving. This struck a chord, as did the melon smoothies Mrs. O (watermelon) and Mr. Smith (cantaloupe) got to accompany the excellent food. Our first breakfast there - first daytime meal, actually - but not the last.

Guest and Mrs. O had a creative project to work on that evening, and wanted to do it someplace with beer, so I suggested BRIT'S pub on Colorado. The dining room was almost deserted and not terribly welcoming, and the only red wine choice (gouty Mr. O can't have beer) a very modest merlot, but the fish and chips were unanimously judged to be among the best we'd ever had. Our somewhat curt hostess thawed noticeably at our comments, and urged us to vote for them in Pas Weekly's "Best Of" poll. We left a nice tip anyway.

Friday saw an early start for Culver City, where we wanted to make our first-ever visit to SURFAS, among other things. As we pulled up to Surfas, our guest called his wife in Nashville and asked if he could pick up anything in the way of chef's gear for her. She handed him off to her partner, who's cooked on this coast, and when he heard where we were going he got really excited and reeled off a list of items unobtainable in Tennessee. As for me, Mrs. O told me she'd spring for whatever I wanted, within reason, and to go for it. This place truly is what a Smart & Final in Heaven would be like! Won't go into the gory details, but I did load up on lots of interesting beans, grains and kitchen goodies, including the Lodge cast-iron grill pan I've been wanting forever.

Nothing like shopping in a place like that to whip up an appetite, and we wanted something a bit earthier than the sandwiches on offer at Surfas' cafe. As we were going to introduce our guest, who in real life is a high-school science teacher, to the inspired goofiness of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, we went looking for a nearby parking space and found one directly in front of a Mexican place we'd enjoyed before, BALLONA, on Main St. between Venice Blvd. and Culver. This is really GringoMex, but it's pretty good for its kind, and it's a nice room and very friendly, and we got to see Italy wupping up on Ukraine while we had some reportedly delicious mole-covered enchiladas (a special), some tacos, a small combo plate and my very welcome bowl of refreshing if bland albondigas soup.

This really needs to be a two-parter, since there's too much food and drink to report on yet and I have chores to do. More later.

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  1. No please! Gory details! What did you get at Surfas? :) Did you guys check out their cheese and meats case... Yumm!! :)


    3 Replies
    1. re: Dommy

      Dried Tongues of Flame beans and flageolet, plus a 2-lb bag of the kind you're supposed to use for classic cassoulet (we'll see about that: I've been using Peruanos, and they're wonderful); two kinds of fancy brown rice; 1 1/2 lb. jar of whole-grain grits; bag of White Lily self-rising cornmeal; bag of whole-grain coarse polenta; can of smoked Spanish paprika; 3-can package of Italian tuna in olive oil; bottle of Monin violet syrup; assorted long skinny flavored marshmallows (presents for the in-laws). Nonfood items were that Lodge grill pan, a nice heavy-duty fine-mesh chinois, 2 cans of Bar Keeper's Friend (very cheap there!) and some small utility tongs. I'm probably forgetting something...anyway, Tania just this morning noticed they'd charged her for two CASES of BKF instead of two cans, and I just called and got the difference refunded. Cheerfully.

      Yes, I checked all that charcuterie etcetera, but even with the in-car fridge we were too many hours from home to risk it, and my home fridge is too full anyway. Next time!

      1. re: Will Owen

        Do let me know what you do with the violet syrup. Years ago I bought Jasmine, Violet (and others..) and never used them. I hate when I do that.

        1. re: Funwithfood

          No big plans so far, but we have a recipe for ice cream that oughta work. I think it'd be wonderful just poured over ice with some fizzwater - we'll letcha know.