I could smell the savory air of good restaurant talk happening somewhere. You can’t hide that scent from my dog sense of smell. Oh, but where?? Aaah, here, on the 1st nite of December at Vroman’s bookstore, the Publishers Weekly National Bookseller of the Year!
A book signing & discussion for another book on food or restaurants? Yes, why not if it’s good. And this is a tasty one: Eat Los Angeles edited by Pasadenan Colleen Dunn Bates with contributions by longtime experts of our food scene, published by Pasadena’s Prospect Park Books. How good? Good enuf for me to buy it even though I came in without any intention to be a consuming American. This guidebook is targeted to be most helpful for people who actually live & eat here.
Now, this isn’t a book review. I’ve only had this book in my food-stained hands for a few hours. This is just a quickie get the word out blog post to those eaters who like to chow down at new or different restaurants. But, an excited scan tells me this is already one of the best local restaurant guides to see eyeballs.
Fifteen minutes before the 7pm book discussion yet the seats showed only a 10% occupancy rate. Surprising. One of my girlfriends, ET, hasn’t arrived yet either. But, the authors were already here so I chit-chatted with them for a minute, chomped on some chocolates from Pasadena’s Little Flower Candy Shoppe, but somehow forgot to pour a glass of the champagne.
Time to wander up front to check out a copy of the book, having no intention to buy of course. Within seconds of opening the cover a girl walks up next to me to do the same. I’m distracted from the book enuf to say something to her about eating, to which she agrees. Well, with a new restaurant book in my hands in front of me & clicking shoulders with a new girl on my left, I’m unable to concentrate on either. I descend into brain lock-up between two favs – eating & girls! Oh well, what’s a poor starving guy to do – especially in the dawning of the Great Repression.
I reboot in time to see it was seven sharp. Suddenly a stampede & the seats are all filled with human dough. Five after & it’s SRO! Fine but where’s my ET? She works just 2 blocks down Colorado (“Don’t worry. I’ll be off work & meet you way before 7pm.”) Sure. Where’s my award show seat-filler when I need one? Better yet, here’s my ET! She’s “just in time.”
Actually, one local writer got stuck in the usual mid-east weather at the Chicago airport. Another, located a bit closer in South Pasa was somehow late as well. Finally, is everyone in? Yes. The show is about to begin.
Here’s the view of the moderator of the panel, editor Colleen Dunn Bates. No, you wouldn’t have had a better view if you were here sitting in the audience, unless you were sitting in the first 2-3 rows. Pre-Lasik surgery gives better looks. Authors at Vroman’s either need to be sitting on a riser, stand, or give it the old sit on someone’s shoulders try. My only good view of the contributing writers was of Amelia Saltsman. It seemed like we looked at each often so maybe I was her only good view of an audience member. You can see I was so thrilled to be at a restaurant discussion that even my camera image stabilizer was having trouble keeping up with my excitement!
Bates gave her introduction, then introduced each contributing writer. In addition to this latest publication, each has a resume of food blogging, LA Times, Variety, Gault Millau, Bon Appetit, books, etc. The buffet of panelists took their turns giving us recaps of their contributions to Eating L.A. The main area of focus was the San Gabriel Valley. Restaurants emphasized here are not the big corporate chains. Instead, they are the indie, community based, jewels, which reflect the sweat and time of their owners. And, believe me operating a restaurant is challenging work, to put it mildly – and that was before this economic repression we are just entering.
During this segment my friend & I were gleefully pointing out some of the restaurants listed of which we’ve been to already. Then, Bates told us it was time to come & get it for asking questions.
With a SRO crowd I expected an unending round of questions. So, “I’d better try get my question in 1st.” And, I got my answer! About 3-4 others put their hands up next. Then, it was over. Almost as soon as it started, what looked like a tasty treat was over. What?! Only about 35 minutes! Not with one author – FIVE were on the panel. Everyone must’ve been starving. In these last days nothing surprises me anymore.
Well, I talked to the authors prior to this, asked my question during it, and I’ll just talk with them some more after this is over. So I thought. See the photo below of the post-talk book discussion? With all those women ahead of us! It must’ve taken at least 20 minutes for those few women to go through the panel to get their books signed. Two minutes per person! I usually move faster in freeway grid-lock.
So, I wasn’t gonna contribute to de wait for my fellow foodies in line behind me, which included a woman from The Cooks Library. Gave the young ladies my book to sign, made a quick comment on how this discussion could’ve have gone on without end, and got outta the way for those behind me waiting even longer. My friend, food lover or not, wasn’t gonna wait in a line where the only food at the end is paper between covers. She headed home a few blocks away.
What’s up with marking up my book?! These writers just had to write their names – in my copy – maybe so they can brag that they are in my little lime green book! Hohoho! Interesting. Any expert handwriting analysts out in the land of blogs?
- The only negative from my first impression: the book feels slightly fragile, sorta like it’s gonna show its age before its time.
- Most memorable quote: South Pasa’s Pat Saperstein, when it was her turn to talk the first thing she said: “ok, uh, what are we doing here?!” When I reminded her of this a few minutes afterward she couldn’t recall what she said.
- A few of the familiar restaurants listed: Vietnam House, Golden Deli, Ugo’s Italian Deli, Aun Deli Cafe, Zona Rosa, Zephyr Coffee & Art House, Urth Caffe, Ter & Yaki, Sabor y Cultura, Falafel King, Tibet Nepal House, Del Rae, Poquito Mas, Pink’s, Mr. Baguette, Millie’s, Bloom Cafe, Lucky Baldwins of Sierra Madre, Bean Town Coffee Bar, Joan’s on 3rd, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Pie & Burger, Indo Kitchen, Gus’s BBQ, Fu Shing, Daisy Mint, La Brea Bakery, Cafe Tropical, Buster’s, Ocean Star Seafood, Indo Kitchen, Euro Pane Bakery & Cafe, Babita Mexicuisine, Auntie Em’s Kitchen, Astro Burger, All India Cafe, Azeen’s Afghani, and various Farmer’s Markets.
- Important reminder: the writers stressed the struggle all restaurants are suffering through in this economy. One author mention a couple of favs already closed. I know exactly what they mean. The profit margins in this industry are slim or none, as is, in normal times. Support your local restaurants!
Ok, I’ve wiitten enuf about this. Actually, more than I intended or have time for. It’s your turn to get the book, read it, and eat with it! Support your local indie bookstore, like Vroman’s. I think it’s worth your time & treasure to get & Eat la . Still, when it comes to food, each of you are the real judge of your good taste.
Gotta run, I’ll edit later – just got some new eatin, I mean, work, to do….