Today is December 25. I think that date actually means something in certain cultures. You know, like it might be the day that you sing “Happy Holiday to You,” blow out the menorahs on a pumpkin pie, exchange boxes of gelt, and then play spin the tail on the dreidl until midnight when three wise snowmen riding on a red-nosed reindeer fling Champagne bottles full of flaming frankincense and myrrh at your front door.
It’s Christmas Day.
I think I was supposed to complete an entire project plan of tasks in preparation for the big beta launch of krsmsday2.0 like get dolled up for non-denominational Holiday parties on both nights of three weekends in a row with overlapping guests which meant I had to put together six entirely different outfits, shop for The Perfect Gift for every person I know, wrap them in paper that’s more expensive than the gifts inside, plan a Holiday dinner that could philosophically grace the cover of Gourmet magazine but actually hide between the sheets of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Bible, and of course, contruct a gingerbread mansion.
Who the hell has time to bake a gingerbread house these days?!?! I don’t even have time to bake a microwave pizza for dinner.
Besides, this is LA. You can’t just go and contruct a gingerbread house for the Holidays just because it’s the Holidays. The way real estate crushes LA, if I baked a gingerbread house, some over-ambitious agent in a shiny Lexus GX470 would pull up to my apartment, stick an Open House sign on the marshmallow fluff front lawn of my gingerbread house, and start the bidding on Tuesday afternoon at $789,000, and that’s for my gingerbread house that doesn’t even include parking for a tiny little gingerbread car. And that’s all assuming that I could even get the zoning permit to bake a gingerbread house, which would probably take so long to get signed anyway that it would be Easter by the time I could bake it and who the fuck makes gingerbread Easter houses?
Maybe Martha Stewart.
I am not Martha Stewart.
Martha Stewart is not the point here. Neither are gingerbread houses. The point is that it is Christmas, but this year, Christmas is so far removed from Christmas that had it not been for the fact that my eyes had happened to fall upon a photograph of a gingerbread house, registering it on the neurons, but not processing its significance as a symbol of Christmas, I would have gone to the mall tomorrow wondering why so many people were in the Customer Service line making returns.
That point. The saturation point that exists at the end of the entire historical life cycle of a holiday at which said Holiday no longer has meaning. What I am saying is that whatever the original Holiday was meant to celebrate or commemorate is completely forgotten and we go through actions for the sake of the actions. As we know, Valentine’s Day has already gone down such a path. Does anyone actually know what Valentine’s Day was originally for? Sure, some holidays are still in their nascent stages so that we do understand that we get hyped during the ten-second countdown to midnight and then kiss the closest stranger, but at some point in the future, we will forget the meaning of Mother’s Day and send a dozen pink roses to everyone in the family.
Nothing about The Holidays this year felt like the Holidays. My family opened presents on Christmas Eve. We ate a ham because we got it as a gift. On Christmas day, we played golf, ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant (further proof that I am indeed, Jewish), then I took off to pick up a friend from the airport (who the hell flies home from his parents’ on Christmas day?), and scoured the westside looking for something, anything, that was open for dinner. We ate curry at Blue Marlin. On Christmas Day.
Everything we “do” now really has nothing to do with anything.
Which is why it is totally appropriate for me to write one to two little paragraphs about Gaucho Grill! It has nothing to do with Christmas, but who cares?
Gaucho Grill is one of those places in Brentwood to which a Brentwoodie defaults (*gross* I just called myself a "Brentwoodie." Yes, you may delete me from your life) when she's too embarassed to show her face at the counter of La Salsa for the fifth night in a row, wants something nicer than Quizno's, not as BFD as Vincenti, but couldn't bear the corporate punishment of California Cheesecake Kitchen. Sure, Gaucho Grill is a chain, too, but it feels less like one because, well, there are fewer of them in southern California.
It's not the best food in the world, and I have to admit that I am not making a totally fair judgment because Gaucho Grill
boasts Argentinean steaks and I have never eaten a steak there. I have only ever had their salads. In fact, that's precisely the reason why we go to Gaucho Grill. Sometimes I just want a good salad for lunch or dinner, but the salad bar at Hole Foods requires a substantial investment; and that's assuming you only get "light" things like oh, I don't know, lettuce or air. Add some grilled vegetables that are weighted down with olive oil or a few cubes of tofu, or heck, dressing, and you'll have to take out a second mortgage. I don't even have a first mortgage, so...
My favorite salad of all-time is Caesar. I know that the hard core Caesar salad traditionalists would kick my ass into a giant bottle of Worcestershire sauce for saying this, but I actually do like having silvery, slippery slivers of anchovies on my Caesar salad. Gaucho, unfortunately, does not add anchovies, but their Caesar is sufficiently drenched in a garlic and cheese that I can't really complain. I never like croutons on my salad, Caesar or otherwise. I prefer plain bread. At Gaucho, it's all I can do to keep myself from going into carbohydrate OD using their sub-par bread as a vehicle for the semi-spicy, semi-tart chimichurri sauce.
The two other salads that deserve mention from Gaucho Grill are the Manager's Special and the Portena Chicken Salad. I am quite fond of chopped salads, but for some reason, the Manager's Special, when chopped and tossed with an overwhelming amount of dressing, always comes out looking and tasting like soup. Normally, a Caesar Salad by itself is hardly enough for a meal (in volume, not calories, duh), but I've never been brave enough to order the Caesar Salad as a starter, then have an entree...salad. That would just scream weirdness. If I'm with family, I could probably do it, but if it's anyone else, I might start with an extraordinarily health-defying appetizer that is an enormous brick of cheese melted into a small cast iron skillet. It is called Provoleta, but don't worry if you forget the name. When you see it on the menu, you will know because how on earth could you miss nothing but pure provolone cheese melted into a cast iron skillet?!?! The Portena Chicken Salad is a good, deceptively clarifying follow-up because it has lettuce in it and we all know that lettuce scrapes your intestines of melted cheese. (Please, let me live in blissful ignorance, okay?)
I wonder if Gaucho Grill is open on Christmas Day.
11754 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
** a year ago today, bread pudding was my come-to-jesus moment **