We've been on a bit of a hiatus, we Foodie Girls. Not that we haven't been eating, mind you. Far from it. No one is starving. I myself was extremely well fed throughout the latter part of August and well into September. But as a group, we were overdue for a collective dining experience. I'd like to believe that it was a longing for each others' company that brought out a record number of FGs, old and new, this time around.
But it was the rice pudding. I can't lie.
Episode 20 - We're Crazy for Lazy Ox
I dial the number.
Highly chipper voice on the other end: Lazy Ox Canteen! This is Jennie*! How can I make your day better?
I am in no way prepared for this. Do my laundry? Pick up the kids? A foot massage?
Me: Uh...I'd like a table for six for lunch next week?
HCVOTOE: Fantastic! We can certainly take care of you! See you then!
Me: You can? Um...thanks. Thanks very much.
I hang up, still in a bit of a daze at the outpouring of apparently genuine solicitude I have experienced from a very "in" restaurant in downtown LA.
The day before our lunch, I call back. I am nervous, because I am going to be causing a problem for the happy lady.
HCVOTOE: Lazy Ox Canteen! This is Jennie*! How can I make your day better?
Me: Hi, Jennie! (Stalling for time) I love the way you answer the phone there. Really. It's awesome. Anyway, I have a reservation tomorrow for six. Is there any way that you could accommodate nine of us?
I hold the phone slightly away from my ear, wincing in anticipation.
HCVOTOE: Sure! That is no problem at all!
Me: Wow. I mean, just wow. There are no words here.
HCVOTOE: It's my pleasure! We can't wait to see all of you tomorrow!
I love Jennie. Even without the manicure or the ironing I was thinking of having her do.
The following day, we arrive to find our table waiting, three good friends at the bar, and a smiling staff ready for us. I almost hug the blond at the front desk, but maybe it's not Jennie? Better not risk getting thrown out when this is so obviously a place we want to stay for a good long time.
Our server fills us in on the chef's specials for lunch: fried squash blossoms stuffed with burrata, soft shell crab, a braised breast of veal, and highlights some things on the menu. Almost every dish has an intriguing ingredient or approach: Grilled cabbage salad with tarragon. Poblano chile soup with grapes and crispy pork belly. Creamy faro with kale and mushrooms. Caramelized cauliflower with mint. Pig ear "chicharon". Pasta ragu with a fried egg on top.
We order with gusto. The staff figures out in about two seconds that we are sharing everything**, and brings out the dishes in rounds without our saying a word. Well done.
loved at Sunnin, but with the clever addition of pine nuts and mint that heightens the earthy richness of the warm golden brown cauliflower.
I quote here from the Culinary SOS column in the LA Times***:
"I've only had rice pudding in college dining halls 10-plus years ago and was never a fan. But last night I had the rice pudding at Lazy Ox Canteen; I think my knees went weak. Could you help me get this recipe? I have been thinking about it for 12 hours straight."
And from a high school guy I know:
"The best rice pudding in the world is at the Lazy Ox Canteen."
I am turning to signal the waiter so we can order some, when he leans over to clear the table and says:
"We have some dessert coming out right now for you. Hope you enjoy it." And then several generous bowls of rice pudding are set down in front of us.
Three orders of rice pudding (paid for) to go later, we troop out into the sunshine and hug each other good bye, grinning like idiots from the after-effects of our magical time at the Lazy Ox.
Jennie, how can you make my day better? My dear, you really can't. This was the best day I've had in a long long time.
Pricing Info: Smaller plates $6-12, entrees: $15-20
FG value rating: Fair Deal
* Not her real name, but it's something as cheerful as Jennie, so you get the picture.
** I give them full marks for this, even though it was probably hard not to overhear nine women agreeing loudly that ordering a bunch of stuff to share would be a really good plan.
*** The recipe was printed in the paper here. Fair warning that a fellow FG has already tried recreating the dish based on this, without even coming close. But it's probably worth a shot anyway.