I love Los Angeles because it's so diverse. You can find a world of experiences here, so different and yet so nearby.
We recently went to a wine bar down in Venice. The place featured wine by the glass and small plates of cold and hot mezze. Antique chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the walls and wooden chairs were painted with a deliberately wrought distressed effect, as if the paint had been blistered off by age. The waitress wore a short black mini-dress, with bright scarlet lipstick that matched the red crocheted snood worn over her jet-black hair. Tattooes ran up her arm and wrapped her ankles. She caught me giving [The Man I Love] a brief kiss as I sat down, and pronounced it "sweet."
We nibbled at artisanal ewe's milk cheese from Spain, a chunk about the size and shape of a Chanel lipstick, served with a cherry compote and four whole almonds on a plate that had been brushed with liquid chamomile-flavored chocolate. The flavors together were so good I wanted to pick up and lick the plate when it was all gone.
Earlier that weekend we'd gone to a little shack in Inglewood, painted brightly with scenes of the beach at Nayarit, and were warmly greeted by a smiling, middle-aged woman. She brought a bowl of fresh green salsa and some warm crispy tortilla chips. Behind her, at the grill, the chef performed marvels with fresh seafood and bright, hot chiles. Two skinny African American kids came in and ordered some deep-fried fish, and stood at the narrow steel-topped counter, hiking up their baggy pants while the chef and the lady at the counter asked after their families. The chef held up a fresh whole tillapia to show them, its scales glittering blue in the light. I tried a michelada - a huge glass goblet filled with a mixture of clamato and beer, spiced and with a squeeze of lime.
We were served broad oval platters full of shrimp - mine in a creamy sauce of jalapenos and crema, his with their heads on, swimming in an orange oily brew flecked with red chiles, cilantro and redolent of tequila. Alongside, white rice with diced fresh corn and onions, and round slices of fresh cucumber to cool the chile heat.
Which place would you like to go to, if you could choose?
The good news is you could try them both, if you wanted. If you flew in to LAX this afternoon, each of these places is just a short taxi-cab ride from the airport.
How's that for wish fulfillment?