I don’t regularly read GQ, nor any other men’s magazine for that matter (though I do like to flip through Cargo every once in a while in line at the market for the geeky gadgetry). In fact, I very rarely read any magazines at all, especially now since I have decided not to renew my subscription to Bon Appetit, because...well, let’s just say it has something to do with memoirs of a geisha (house).
But it just so happens that in the last few months, GQ happens to find its way into my hands, though I shan’t reveal how this happens ;). So, it's not like I purposefully seek out the magazine because I think GQ's food articles are wonderfully well-written, incredibly insightful, or even accurate. I mean, come on, Houston's having one of the Top 20 burgers? No, it’s just that the food-related headlines are interesting and then whatever opinions or choices that that are in the details almost always make me shriek, “whaaat?!” and that's kind of fun. :)
So even though GQ’s August 2005 issue has *ick* Johnny Knoxville on the cover, and it is already the end of September, still I had to open it to read their choices of The 4 Greatest Food Cities on Earth. That’s quite a statement – greatest on Earth. I can't really make any sort of educated observations about their choices of Bangkok, Madrid, or Piedmont, but I will say that I was surprised by Los Angeles. Whaaaat?!
LA isn't even the greatest food city in...California. Why the heck would LA be one of the greatest food cities on earth? I hate Los Angeles. I hate the rents, I hate the freeways, I hate the traffic, I hate the smog, I hate the fact that I feel like I have to “dress up” to go to Whole Foods Market, and worst of all, I hate that LA so embarassingly can’t hold a spatula to SF or NY or any of the majors when it comes to dining out. Sure, there are lots of restaurants here. In fact, there are also lots of nicer, highish-end restaurants. But there are only a few that are actually good. It’s embarassing that there are so many glamour-injected, celebrity-enhanced, nipped and tucked into fabulously flashy places, but the food is flatter than...Paris (Hilton, that is). And the sad thing is, anywhere else, bad food means it won’t last long. But here in LA, we tolerate the bad food as long as the place is “cool.” *ugh* And even with all that, writer Mark Bittman chooses LA.
It turns out that Bittman’s reasoning is exactly why, as much as I hate this city, I love Los Angeles. I love my city for having some of the best low-end authnic (that’s “authentic ethnic”) neighborhood eating anywhere. For Asian and Latin foods outside their native countries, nothing beats LA. Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Thai Town and even the lesser known “outposts” of these cuisines around the greater metropolitan area. And for Mexican food? Forget it. Some have even told me that the food is better here in LA than in Mexico. There’s Little India in Artesia, with a tiny little pocket of Indian places right here on the westside. Bittman says it perfectly: “It’s not so much that L.A. has a few outstanding restaurants; it’s that for whole culinary categories..it wins hands down.”
The five spotlighted culinary categories are Japanese, Korean, Breakfast, Mexican and Thai. Funny, Breakfast is its own category (Original Pantry Cafe, Marston’s, Griddle Cafe, Clementine). I guess that makes sense here in LA where there are as many movie deals made over an 8 am breakfast-before-yoga as there are power lunches. The other categories are interesting and I could devote an entire post to each one, but I won’t. Only to Korean. Aw...I’m so proud of my very own peeps.
Bittman names Soot Bull Jeep, Sa Rit Gol, Woo Lae Oak, Chosun Galbee and Yongsusan. Hm, not so sure about that Woo Lae Oak, but I'll forgive him because I love that he says that “Korean food is Japanese food with balls.” LOL! So, some day, galbee will go the way of Japanese food and be as popular as sushi. And when it does, when naeng myun replaces ramen in popularity, when people crave kimchee over coleslaw, when the book becomes Sahm-Gyae-Tahng: Chicken Soup for the Seoul, I will be there with my ggori (oxtails) and dehn-jahng (fermented soybean paste).