Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Three on Fourth

In thanksgiving for enduring the hippies, the heat and the dirt that made up Bonnaroo 2006, Lindsay took me to dinner at this adorable new restaurant in Santa Monica, Three on Fourth. The restaurant’s theme is “international tapas” or, more specifically, small plates featuring Western-European, American and Asian cuisines. They also serve beer, wine and sake.

When we arrived, the restaurant was virtually empty. I have mixed feelings about empty restaurants – part of me likes it when I can sit wherever I want and have the full attention of the waitstaff, and the other half of me wonders, what does everyone else know that I don’t?

We ordered the mussels, grilled pear salad and the open-faced sandwich trio. We sopped up the garlicky mussel sauce with toasted baguette and sipped happily on a bottle of pinot noir. We chatted with the hostess, who wore a gorgeous red rose print Dolce & Gabbana dress, met the restaurant manager/sommelier and hardly thought twice when our waiter brought us the wrong sandwiches. Normally, I’d be a little surprised that our order would be incorrect in an empty restaurant, but everyone was so friendly that I didn’t care. And the food was delicious! I was already imagining my triumphant return to this restaurant, where I would air kiss my new best friend the manager hello as the hostess seated me and my companion at the best table in the house.

At least that was the plan.

About two weeks after my first visit to Three on Fourth, I returned with boyfriend in tow. I was feeling fussy and indecisive at the time, and instructed him to do the ordering. He’s aware of my devotion to Tony Bourdain’s theory on “specials” but likes to listen to them just the same. After the waiter spouts the specials, we usually smile in gratitude and then wait for him/her to walk away before we agree to not order a single one. And then we giggle. Actually, I giggle and he guffaws – it’s far manlier.

However, the specials are definitely worth noting. Instead of the NY strip steak, they had ribeye. OK, no big deal. Oh, and the mussels that Lindsay and I enjoyed last time? They were marked down. Marked down to $12.

WTF? Who does that? I mean, if you’re going to serve rotting seafood, why advertise the fact in your evening specials?

Needless to say, we didn’t order the mussels. We ordered tuna tataki, macaroni & cheese with pancetta, crab cakes, ginger-cilantro shrimp and a half-bottle of pinot grigio. That’s part of the fun of this restaurant – you really can mix and match with different flavors. It’s like playtime for the palate.

The tuna portion was far larger than we’d anticipated, which was a nice surprise, but I found the macaroni & cheese to be a bit grainy and the pancetta too much like deli-sliced ham. I like my crab cakes to be lightly browned, and the color of these were just a bit too dark for me, so visually I was unimpressed. The real star of this meal was the shrimp. The tempura-esque coating was light and flavorful, and with the accompanying chili paste it really was fun to eat. We even had to split the last shrimp in half, so we each got our fair share.

So, what’s the consensus? It was a great outing the first time, but only mediocre the second. Will I go back? Probably. It’s a moderately-priced restaurant in a great location with a cute theme. I’d go back at least one more time just to make my final judgment. But to be honest, if you want to try it, go sooner rather than later. With the way restaurants turn over in this city, it may not be there long.

Three on Fourth
1432-A Fourth St.
Santa Monica, 90401
(310) 395-6765

Monday, July 24, 2006

I'm going here:

and I couldn't be happier about it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

blonde quote of the day

It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

- Raymond Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

June re-cap

Sorry this is so late in coming, it already being mid-July, but I’ve been running around like a crazy woman. Here’s the low-down:

New Restaurants:
Brent’s (Northridge, CA)
Cracker Barrel (Murfeesboro, TN)
Waffle House (Nashville, TN)
Koberl @ Blue (San Luis Obispo, CA)

I made Bri's phenomenal Morrocan chicken with lentils and apricots. (Except I used currants and golden raisins, and then flavored the yogurt with garlic and parsley.)

Cultural Events:
Robert Earl Keen at the House of Blues
KCRW Angel Party at MoCA
Wal-Mart (Murfeesboro, TN)

Who’s got time for movies when you’re in Tennessee one week, Orange County the next, and San Luis Obispo the weekend after?

So, I’m back where I started – books on CD. Even though I spent plenty of time on planes, in airports and sleeping in hotels this month, I really didn’t feel like I had time to read a book. So I didn’t. I listened to Jill Conner Browne’s The Sweet Potato Queen’s Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner. Why? Because I really have jumped off the deep end and after five days in Tennessee think I'm a Southern diva.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Restaurant Review: Waffle House

If there was a Cracker Barrel at every truck stop between Nashville and Manchester, then there were two Waffle Houses for every one Cracker Barrel. Those yellow block letters on the horizon called out to us, and at 6:30am before our 9am flight back to civilization, Lindsay and I stopped for breakfast.

We quickly learned that Waffle House restaurants (“Awful Waffle” to the locals) are open 24 hours, and offer both smoking and non-smoking sections in about 500 square feet of space. When we walked in, our waiter, Clarence, was finishing up his graveyard shift. Though the restaurant was empty except for the two waiters/cooks/bussers on duty, we sat at the counter next to a jug of bleach. Clarence promptly removed this bottle and cleaned off the counter. He handed us our menus, and the two of us ordered the following:

1 egg and cheese sandwich on white bread
1 egg, cheese and bacon sandwich on Texas Toast
1 coffee
1 large orange juice
1 order hash browns, with chopped onions mixed in
1 waffle with syrup and butter

Clarence was great. I’m not quite sure what he said, but he sure was friendly. He chatted to us the whole time as he made our egg sandwiches – neither washing his hands nor wearing gloves after cleaning up after the jug of bleach. And we even got pickles with our breakfasts, an accouterment to eggs I’m sure the chefs at the Ivy haven’t even considered.

As we ate we discovered that Clarence and his co-worker were finishing up the graveyard shift. The morning workers started trickling in one by one, with the shift supervisor, a scrawny woman in her late-50s wearing her gray hair in a bun and smoking a Virginia Slim with an inch of ash, coming in last. It was a sight to behold.

Yet again, I’d like to reiterate how much I enjoy it when stereotypes come to life.

With both egg sandwiches, a quarter of the waffle, and nearly half of the potatoes gone, Lindsay and I were nearing the end of our meal. But it was hard to leave. The staff was buzzing, talking back and forth about how busy it was going to be today now that all the out-of-towners were flying back home after Bonnaroo.

A group of 6 youngsters were stumbling up the walkway into the restaurant, and the wait staff was eyeing them as they walked in, each one fantasizing about the tip six out-of-towners were going to leave. As soon as they walked in, a sassy waitress pounced on them with the one question we heard at every restaurant in Tennessee: “Smokin’ or Non-smokin’?”

The kid at the front of the pack said, “Non, please.”

Her response? “Well, there ain’t nobody smoking over here!”

I nearly choked on my Texas toast I was laughing so hard.

Now, you might be wondering how much this fine Nashville meal cost us. This mammoth breakfast of eggs, potatoes, waffles, bacon, pickles and endless cup of coffee set Lindsay back a whopping thirteen dollars. Thirteen dollars for both of us. I don’t think you can get a single vodka gimlet at the Ivy for $13. And when Lindsay handed the cashier a twenty to pay for our $13 meal, she received $13 in change.

Lindsay smiled, handed the cashier $6 for the register and left the rest on the counter for Clarence.

Maybe he’ll buy some hand soap.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bonnaroo, Part II

What would you do to see Radiohead? Would you lie? Cheat? Steal? Because apparently, I would do all of that, and then top it off with a little “contribution to the delinquency of a minor.” Actually, I think he was well on his way to delinquency; I may have just helped him along.

On night three of Bonnaroo 2006, after sweating in the broiling sun for 12 hours and talking to way too many drunk/high/hopeless hippies, Linds and I were very excited to use our backstage passes to get prime seats to the Radiohead concert. Free beers in hand, we proceeded to the VIP bleachers, only to be told to keep walking – the stands were full. We took one look into the sea of people – 90,000 hippies that hadn’t bathed in three days – and started to panic.

Earlier that day, while I was taking a break and straining my neck to catch a little of the Beck show, I’d sent Lindsay a text message, jokingly suggesting that we could get into the disabled section for the Radiohead concert if she could find me a crutch to lean on.

I am a genius.

But if I’m a genius, then Lindsay is an eagle-eye mastermind, because she spotted them first: a pair of chrome crutches propped up against the railing that divided the VIP bleachers from the disabled section. The exchange went something like this:

“Hey – can we borrow a crutch real quick?”
“Can we borrow a crutch? Just for a second?”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Take it around and come and sit right next to you. We’ll get you beers.”
“Uh, OK.”

The kid passed his crutch to me through the bars. It wasn’t until I held it upright that I realized it was the same size as me. I couldn’t even reach high enough to try and get it under my arm. I started hollering to Linds, who had already taken off. I grabbed her bags and shoved it under her arm. As she shuffled along (the crutch was too big for her as well), a security guard saw her and started shining a flashlight and shooing people to the sides, shouting for them to make way for the girl on crutches. I was scrambling along behind her, weighed down with both her bags and mine, insisting to security that I was the companion for my handicapped friend.

We made it into the disabled section with no problem. We handed the kid his crutches and leaned up against the railing, absolutely ecstatic that we weren't drowning in the heaving blob of people before us. We were pretty proud of ourselves, until another security guard came into the disabled section checking "access bracelets."

She asked for mine, and I showed her my backstage pass. She pointed at the blue wristband the kid next to us was wearing. Lindsay just looked at me, silent. The words just kept coming...

"Oh! I'm sorry. My friend just sprained her ankle yesterday and I'm her companion. We didn't know that we needed access bracelets. Where can we get those tomorrow?"

I may be a genius, but I'm definitely going to hell. I don't know why she believed me. How would we have gotten a crutch in Manchester, TN without even knowing about the First Aid tent that handed out disabled access bracelets?

It was a dramatic, morally-compromising evening up until the point when I remembered that I owed the kid and his friend beer. I was now going to have to exit the safety of the disabled section, force my way through the mob of people, snag more free beers from the backstage bar and then make it back before Radiohead started. It was the Bonnaroo Physical Challenge. And of course, Lindsay couldn't come with me to help -- she was disabled.

It was a perilous journey that included waiting for security guards to look away before dashing into the bleachers, and shouting "I'm in the disabled section! I'm the companion!" to more one security guard. My personal favorite was handing the kid's beers over the railing to Lindsay, as a security guard came after me in the aisle shouting ahead to his co-worker, "Watch her! Make sure she goes into disabled!"

She may not have known it at the time, but the look Lindsay gave me seemed to say, "What the hell have you done?"

But I made it back to the safety of the disabled section without (much) incident, we toasted the kid on crutches and leaned against the railing again, marveling over what we would do to see Radiohead.

It was right at that time that a woman appeared virtually out of nowhere next to me.

"Uhhh..." I said, wondering if I really had gotten a contact high.
"I was under the bleachers!" she said, "I've been there for two hours!"

Apparently, I'm not the only one to do something extreme to see Radiohead.