Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Discover a Food Writer

Of course, I read that Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly won the Pulitzer for Criticism in 2007 and that no food writer ever had. Of course, I'd read a few of his reviews, but I wasn't paying that much attention.

But, now, as Arts Reporting and Reviewing embarks on its first review, I turn -- equal parts snob and pedagogue -- to his Pulitzer entries to show the kids that if I am no longer on the ball, I used to know where the ball was.

And, damn, he can write, with density, humor and (as the Pulitzer citation says) erudition.

Do I love The Lodge for its double-fisted Tanqueray martinis or for the thick-cut pepper bacon put out like peanuts at the bar? For the big chunks of blue cheese in the house chopped salad or for the onion rings as golden as the bangles on a Brahmin woman's arm? For the dripping-rare New York steak or for the bone-in rib-eye as big as some models of compact car? For the sommelier, Caitlin Stansbury, who seems to purr like a cat when you order her favorite Madiran or Spanish Syrah on the wine list? When this dining room was Tiny Naylor's, my mom used to take us here for patty melts when she didn?t feel flush enough to spring for the onion rings across the street at Ollie Hammond's. When it was reborn as an upscale coffee shop, at least one of the waitresses used to slip punk-rock dudes warm beer in teacups after the bars closed. And now that it has been reinvented as a wood-paneled post-Googie ski lodge, I find it pretty hard to get a reservation. It must have something to do with the bacon.


The potato taco may be El Atacor's enduring glory, but its fame in the online world comes mostly from its Super Burrito, a foil-wrapped construction the size and girth of your forearm, which drapes over a paper plate like a giant, oozing sea cucumber or, perhaps more to the point, like an appendage of John Holmes. It is impossible to look at a Super Burrito without marveling at the flaccid, masculine mass of the the thing. It is probably even harder to bite into it without laughing.

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