Central Park in Fall

With a focus on the colors of the moment, black and orange.


Bar Marmont

One last dispatch from LA.

Something momentous has happened in Hollywood, though many there don't even realize just how big a deal it is. One of the chefs from the Spotted Pig, Carolynn Spence, who trained under April Bloomfield, has decamped to Bar Marmont. As any New Yorker who counts the Spotted Pig among her favorite restaurants could tell an Angeleno: this is huge.

Of course, when we walked into the bar, which admittedly is not as new and trendy as it once was, Fellow WASP wondered what we were doing there.

"What's different?" She eyed the butterflies on the ceiling, the very same little butterflies that had been there before Andre Balazs' renovations. Still, Bar Marmont has its gritty-underside-of-Hollywood charm. The proof would have to be in the food.

Everyone knows the stories about the booze- and drug-filled parties at Chateau Marmont, but now it seems Bar Marmont has taken to actually serving drugs, because their gougeres must be cut with crack. Otherwise there's no way to explain why they were pounced upon like an illicit, jones-for substance that has to be quickly consumed before it's confiscated. Granted, we had to wait over a half an hour for the gougeres to appear after ordering from our kinda spacey waitress in white go-go boots, but they were worth the wait. Piping hot, with a crisp exterior and fluffy within, these fancy cheese buns are a must-order. And they go beautifully with wine and cocktails.

The extensive menu is easier to navigate if you've learned a few tricks from the Spotted Pig. Boozy bacon prunes are a variation on the Spotted Pig's Devils on Horseback, but without any pear within. I missed that contrast in texture, but we loved the sinfully candied taste of the boozy bacon prunes. Smoked trout with creme fraiche in potato crisps sounded like a reinterpretation of the Spotted Pig's fabulously fishy roll mops, but Bar Marmont's were comparatively meh. The ingredients just didn't hang together as well, and the crisps weren't crisp.

Perhaps even more illicit in LA than drugs are fried foods, especially in a respectable establishment like this one. It's one thing to get caught in a late-night drunken drive-thru to In-N-Out burger a la Paris Hilton, quite another to order a host of fried things while completely in control of your senses. In this way, Bar Marmont brings something new to the LA dining scene: The food is both unhealthy but upscale in a land of either-or dining. The fried squid, a calamari-like crowd pleaser, is paired with a delicious horseradish cream sauce that way exceeds the culinary requirements of bar food. On the flip side, even the fish items are made with some kind of fatty thing like butter or chorizo.

After we decimated the fried squid, the entrees started to roll out. My friend the Agent had the herb-roasted chicken, which was probably made with equal parts butter and chicken. It was delicious. Crispy skin gave way to a very juicy interior. All it was missing was some kind of starchy side to absorb all that buttery sauce.

Mon Ami's pork chop was herbally inflected and sweet, perhaps a little overdone, but you never know if a kitchen is cooking pork that way so as to avoid freaking people out. The corn fritters on the side were fantastic, light and barely glazed with honey. These seem to be purely Spence's; they have no Spotted Pig precedent. Across the table Fellow WASP tried the rock shrimp po boy and pronounced it good. The rest of us had already had way too much fried squid to sample it.

There was only one thing wrong: my "damn good burger" didn't come out with the rest of the entrees. It took several minutes and lots of flagging to retrieve Go Go Boots. The burger was going to "be right out." Did the order even make it to the kitchen the first time around? Worse, when it finally did arrive, it wasn't cooked correctly. The kitchen had rushed it off the grill, delivering it very rare instead of medium-rare. This violated a cardinal rule of service. If you're going to mess up an order, mess it up only once, not twice.

When the dishes were cleared, we ordered coffee from a busboy. Several hours passed. I knit a sweater, while Mon Ami read War and Peace. Finally, Go Go Boots appeared. "No one told me about the coffee," she said. By then we were dying from lack of caffeine.

Glitches notwithsanding, Fellow WASP said at the end that she now understood what was different about Bar Marmont: the food's much better than it used to be. Something else was apparent by 11pm as well: the cooler-than-thou crowd that once left Bar Marmont for newer places has come back. Sometimes you can't help but return to the scene of the crime.

Bar Marmont
8171 W. Sunset Boulevard at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard
Hollywood, California


Anorexics Make Great Party Planners

Possibly one of my favorite Page Six items ever appeared today, a report on the Style.com book party for Candy Pratts Price. It reminded me of a sticker I saw in a cab last night, right. (The cab driver totally freaked out when I took a picture inside his cab. I might distribute it, thus enabling other people to see the inside of his cab!) In Page Six, we learn that at the Style.com party, guests like Zac Posen and Doo-Ri Chung were served a menu of champagne, almonds and cheese sticks. That's all. No doubt it was some anorexic underling who planned the party, not Anna herself, as the Post implies. As the spy notes, "Everything was white, and there was no bar, no branding - just emaciated models eating cheese sticks."

Don't even think about actual cheese, that fatty, disgusting substance. Or passed hors d'oeuvres, which are certainly a waste of money. Besides, no one has figured out a way to pass sashimi. It's not like anyone's going to eat rice, for Christ's sake. Did you say pigs in a blanket? If I hadn't thrown up after lunch already I'd be throwing up now. The thought of these fashion icons - I mean, it's Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, people - living gods! - putting anything like that in their mouths is just sickening. There are certain people that you just don't want to imagine eating, ever. And you want to pass food in front of the models, over and over again? That's just, like, inhumane. Better to ban food from the party altogether. Then there's no chance of overeating and getting that not-so-thin feeling.

Phew. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Congratulations to the cab driver for reminding us of what we already know (except for that drinking part.) Now, to that "spy" who dared voice disappointment over the fact that there was no food at the party, I say, come forward. You will be banned forever from Conde Nast parties. And as for the Waverly Inn, even if you manage to get a reservation, don't even think about eating there.


Robertson Boulevard

Robertson Boulevard is one of the few places in LA where you are guaranteed to see people walking down the street. Call it the Kitson-Ivy circuit.

Outside the Ivy.
Men are wearing jeans that look like women's, jeans that emphasize the waist and hips.
Vests on women...
...and men. Steven Alan was long on vests this past spring, while I shorted them. Guess who was right? Not surprisingly, the fashion designer.

Newsboy caps still signal fall.
In LA adults are dressing like kids and vice versa. It wasn't until this guy walked by that I realized he was about 13, out with his mom and his sister. Tween girls are also wearing designer clothes and carrying designer bags. The only barrier between childhood and adulthood now seems to be clothing size.

A chic salesgirl at Olive & Bette's. I like her pirate-y headband and patent booties.


The Milky Way

It's the height of lunch hour at the Milky Way, a kosher dairy restaurant in Los Angeles, and the proprietress is making the rounds, stopping at tables to greet the diners. It would be like any other power lunch scene in LA, but the woman making the rounds is Steven Spielberg's mother Leah Adler.
At first you may wonder why the mother of one of the richest men in Hollywood isn't following the more glamorous trend of starting her own clothing or jewelry line. But after you taste the food at the Milky Way, the only thing you're left wondering is how Steven Spielberg and his mother ever managed to stay so thin.

For the goyim among us, a kosher dairy restaurant is one that serves dairy products and fish but no meat or fowl. Call it the flip side of a Jewish deli, but the atmosphere at the Milky Way is anything but deli. Located on a stretch of West Pico populated with kosher meat markets, veggie stands, and a bakery, the white stucco space within is lit by skylights, decorated with potted palms, and ringed with banquette seating in deep red leather. Only rarely are you reminded of the celebrity connection: The restroom contains a poster of Schindler's List.

Though the Milky Way offers many creative dishes you wouldn't automatically think of as kosher, like mushroom lasagna and Cajun blacked snapper, I went with the classics so as best to contrast and compare the Milky Way with New York equivalents.

If you want to know what cabbage rolls are really supposed to taste like, try them at Leah Adler's place. Crunchy, slightly sour and topped with a tangy sauerkraut tomato sauce, these were fresher and more complex than any I'd tasted in Eastern European themed East Village restaurants. The "secret blend" of vegetables inside seemed to include dried cherries, carrots, rice, walnuts, and a hint of cinnamon. These cabbage rolls were more Fertile Crescent than Borscht Belt.

The potato pancake alongside was also a wonder - potato shredded into vermicelli-like strands, massed into a pancake and fried crisp on the outside. The potatoes within were still al dente.

The Milky Way's cheese blintzes were some of the best pastries I've had in a while. Light, airy, but rich cheese, crepes pan-fried in butter, and the slightest perfume of almonds made these an excellent treat.

Even for those who don't keep kosher - or heck, for shiksas like me - the Milky Way dishes out some vegetarian dishes so good you forget they're good for you. OK, maybe not the cheese blintzes, but if there were ever a satisfying way to thumb your nose at Atkins, this is it.


Malibu Country Mart

You guessed it - back to LA.

If you find yourself landing at LAX with an afternoon to kill, it's an easy trip up to Malibu, more specifically the Malibu Country Mart, just off the Pacific Coast Highway on Cross Creek Road. Though it may sound quaint, this "country mart" is full of pricey, tempting boutiques.

The best concept store here is an only-in-LA creation that mixes designer sneakers with an art gallery. The name? "Canvas," naturally.

A display of children's sneakers.

It's hard to describe to an East Coaster what to wear in LA. Sneakers and tee shirts, yes. But they have to be the kewlest sneakers and tee shirts out there. This is a town of sneaker fetishists, and Canvas really captures the vibe.

Embroidered sweatshirts by Artful Dodger ($165-325) were particularly interesting, and a John Varvatos one, at over $200, was very flattering. Great for LA, but they may not be the best outerwear investment for New York, a city where it, like, rains.

LA is also home to a chain of stores called Madison. Despite the somewhat cheesy name (kind of like calling a New York boutique "Rive Gauche"), it is like taking a trip up Madison Avenue - all the same brands are represented. Below, the a guard looks out the door of the couture version, Madison Gallery.

A stealth photo of the upstairs. At Madison Gallery, you'll find gorgeous pieces from the likes of Chloe, Matthew Williamson, Nina Ricci, and Lanvin. Indeed, there's no reason to actually leave Malibu to go to Madison Avenue.

Shoes and bags.

The under-$1000 version is just plain Madison, around the corner, which is like Barneys Coop with a few more brands thrown in for good measure. Though you can find almost everything worth having here, from denim to party frocks, the selection is well-edited. See by Chloe, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, and even Tom Ford sunglasses.

More shoes and bags.

James Perse is the stop for comfy LA basics.

Malibu seems the perfect location for the casual RRL branch of the Ralph Lauren empire.

A skull and crossbones necklace made of white gold and studded with rose quartz, black diamonds and emeralds will set you back $10K at Malibu Rock Star jewelry. For lower-budget rockers, the Travis Walker cufflinks are $350.

Two shoppers with Juicy Couture bags.

A Ron Herman outpost.

Malibu Country Mart
3835 Cross Creek Road
Malibu, California