Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 16

After a rogue breakaway episode of uncontrolled mania involving french fries, doughnuts, and the 405*, I am proud to report that with our latest foray, the Foodie Girls have regained a semblance of dignity, if not downright civility, respectability, and even, dare I say...gentility? 

Episode 16 - The Sweetsalt Gestalt

On a quiet stretch of Riverside Drive, in a land far, far away from industrial chic skid row sausages and stand-around-the-parking-area pancakes, there lives an outpost of the east coast summer house life.   A little clapboard slice of Martha's Vineyard, complete with a hand-lettered shingle hanging outside the door, whitewashed walls, and marble counter tops with earnest-looking girls in aprons behind the old-fashioned cash register.  A glass apothecary jar of "pure Toluca Lake Tap Water" belies its quaint title with the slices of lime and cucumber cunningly floating among the ice cubes within.  A blackboard hanging high above the narrow seating area lists the cheeses of the day and the requisite coffees and teas, while a line of hungry people waits patiently to order.   Two Le Creuset pots of homemade soup bubble on a hot plate.    Plank tables for larger groups and mini wrought iron settings for two are nearly all full, and a golden doodle waits outside for her owner to return.   Sunlight streams through the windows onto a vase of daisies.  Daisies, for heaven's sake!   I don't think it is possible for a place to evoke a sensibility any more perfectly than Alex Eusebio's Sweetsalt Food Shop.   It's got charm practically oozing out of every pore.

The FGs, of course, are also quite a charming bunch, when we so choose, and we responded immediately to the surroundings.   For example, we saw a cheese plate at a surrounding table and responded by immediately ordering one of our own.   We also were quite responsive to the menu, which made our mouths water, albeit very unbecomingly.   While we exuded an air of ladylike decorum at first, the gloves came off when it became abundantly clear that FG6 had no intention of giving away more than a few bites of her short rib roll.   After determining that it would not be undignified to indeed order more than one short rib roll, peace was restored.

The aforementioned cheese plate was a thing of beauty, and would be on the must list for any future visit.   The caveman blue cheese, in particular, was marvelous, as was the kumquat chutney provided alongside the selection.  It was a great deal at $15, and the staff was happy to provide extra bread so we could savor every last bite on the platter.

It was a good thing that we had that sustenance, however, as the rest of our lunch took quite a while to emerge from the kitchen of the charming people.   It's one thing to look like a sleepy beach town sandwich shop, but it's quite another to operate at the pace of one during an LA lunch hour.   At last a flurry of quaint tin plates arrived, and we fell to.

There was universal acclaim for that coveted roll, which layers deep, rich coffee-braised short rib meat, onion confit, a slathering of goat cheese, and wild arugula on a fresh brioche bun.   As FG3 said when she sat down, "All I want is that short rib sandwich."   Good thing we ordered two.  The shrimp po' boy was also quite tasty, with plump, juicy shrimp carrying a nice edge of heat into the crunch of potato chips and spicy aioli.

The champagne chicken salad, with grapes and shallots, was light and completely refreshing, but not something you'd crave when you left.  Opinions split on the BLT, with some enjoying the sweet addition of a fruit chutney, but FG6 found the combination off-putting.    A pile of leafy mixed greens accompanied everything, and the portion sizes were more than ample for us to eat our fill.

Our fill, that is, of the "salt" part of Sweetsalt.   We most definitely had room for dessert.   The place stocks Cake Monkey Ding Dongs, homemade caramel corn** and filled cookies from local bakers, but we mostly stuck with the chef's offerings:  Bread pudding and creme brulee***.     Both were fantastic!   The bread pudding, especially, was heaven on a fork, with each perfectly creamy, cinnamon-y bite laced with a caramel sauce that was to die for.    When we went around the table naming our favorite part of the meal, FG9 was quick to say she'd be back for dessert more than anything else.   

All in all, it was a pleasant, delicious lunch.   There were some definite high points, but I have to say that in this instance, my penchant for rhyming titles actually hit the nail on the head.  Something about a meal at Sweetsalt is greater than the sum of its parts****.   That must be the true measure of charm.

FG Final Verdict:  Sweetsalt Food Shop is ON the List!
Pricing Information:  Sandwiches $8-10, salads $7-9, soup $4-8, cheese platter $15, desserts $2-4
FG Value Rating:  Fair Deal

Want to know where we're going next?  We do, to!  We will post the answer on our website as soon as we figure it out.

* The email exchange went something like this:
Me to the FGs:  "Frysmith and Buttermilk Truck are TOGETHER today for lunch at the Howard Hughes center near LAX.   Shows how hooked I am that I'm actually considering fighting the traffic.   Talk me down, ladies!"
FG3 to Me:  If we car pool we'll be there in 30 minutes. I'm ready to roll!

** Specifically, Orange Chipotle Caramel Corn and Bacon Truffle Caramel Corn.  I got some of that last one to go and can only say, Amen to that!

*** We tided ourselves over while we waited for the main desserts with this chocolate turtle cookie.  There was marshmallow involved. Nuff said.

**** I double checked the definition of "gestalt" before I hit save, just to be on the safe side.

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