Monday, December 17, 2012

The Foundry's Elevated Bar Food

It’s getting cold in Los Angeles, finally, after a month or so of thinking that global warming was truly going to bestow a summer-like winter upon all of us who choose to live so vicariously near the tempestuous sea. I noticed the cold more than ever this past weekend, as if a frost light switch had been flicked from warm to cool in a matter of 24 hours. This was ever present as The Cute Gardener and I found ourselves at an outside table Saturday night warmed by the buzzing heat lamps that become part of the California dining equation at places all up and down the state this time of year.

We were at The Foundry on Melrose, renowned Chef Eric Greenspan’s homey little joint known for odd things like grilled cheese sandwiches and other bits of upscale bar food that are as equally quirky as their jolly giant of a creator. Originally on our list because we’d heard of its burger, tonight we were searching for a proper dinner.

We ordered a truly bizarre assortment of dishes merely because we chose based on what we craved from a chaotic and disjointed menu of delights rather than trying to put together a cohesive weave of flavors. In each dish, we noticed that we really liked certain flavors and textures but had never tasted them paired quite the same way before. Although everything was truly good, we were left a little baffled at the end from each thing we had tried. This is good in that it’s not something that happens often – the surprise combinations and wondrous gazes across the table as if we were finding new ways to eat – but also strange in that you aren’t sure after eating something whether or not you love it, are just mildly shocked and happy about it, or have just been given a question in which you are struggling to find a satisfactory answer that seems to just float a few inches past your grasp.

The famous grilled cheese was made from taleggio cheese and bits of short rib between two slices of raisin walnut bread and an apricot caper puree. It was delicious, elevated from the norm but not too fussy. Of course, any grilled cheese other than the superman version we discovered at the Citron in the Viceroy Palm Springs will always be second best. It’s not hard to make bread, cheese, and meat look good when married together.

Prawns over beans with interesting sweet and sour bits of sauce that alternated with a smoky crunch of cicharon-style bits became the very mysterious dish of the night. The taste of burnt fat with plump shrimp, neutral buttery beans and the strangely spiked sauce was an underhanded gift.

The cocktail menu was interesting. My first drink was made with rum and honey and bitters and my second was a nod to egg nog -- perfect for this time of year.

Pork belly scallion pancakes were more like shredded pork quesadillas, arriving on the plate at two wedges per a five-dollar order. A good deal for some seriously generous bites of meat between dough, perfect for dipping into the black vinegar dipping sauce and topping with a sliver of brightening scallion before popping in the mouth!

My entrée was a hand rolled, fresh pasta adorned simply with sprightly lemon juice, bits of al dente broccoli and cauliflower bits and an odd dash of mealy breadcrumbs –super simple and satisfying and something I could easily see myself making at home.

That was oddly enough the theme of the evening – most dishes becoming things that we admitted we could easily make at home. Although we want to eat out in places that make things we cannot create at home, we didn’t mind so much that this was our experience here because it gave us some ideas to try at home, particularly with the pork belly pancakes.


A plate of comforting seasonal turkey on a bed of grits and smothered in a rich, plummy gravy was the CG’s choice for an entrée.

We shared a bowl of steaming apple beignets for desert, which were more like doughnut holes than crispy exterior and puffy beignets. But we didn’t mind – the heat helped at the end of the night under the stars and crisscrossing power lines of industrial L.A. 

It was a nice thing to note that Chef Greenspan (fresh from his falling off of The Next Iron Chef competition -- in t.v. time, not real life time) was strolling the dining room and being super hospitable to his guests. Reminded us of our Sunday supper at Mark Gold's Eva a few months back and how much we respect chefs that walk the room and talk to their guests. 

There were other interesting items that I wanted to try on the menu but we simply couldn’t get to that I might go back to order in the lounge after a later concert night or something to that effect. These were things such as mustard spaetzle, shrimp toast, chicken and peach terrine and a potato soup poured over leek and bacon pudding with Gruyere and egg.

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