Ed. Note: We appreciate that Quench readers will likely not be in a position to visit California anytime soon. Realizing this, we have conscripted a cadre of knowledgeable, experienced and extremely expensive Hollywood scriptwriters to craft a witty and whimsical “virtual gustatory visit” through southern California. Though written in a style that suggests a work of fiction, all places, events and actions (and even a few of the characters) are real. TS Epicure (TSE) is a moniker for an actual and (still) living Quench writer.
Episode 1: Eating the stars
In which our protagonist, TS Epicure, along with a ragtag band of food nerds, devours a large portion of southern California.
Cast of Characters:
- TS Epicure – Erudite, astute, and accomplished in the ways of the world; bon-vivant; man-about-town; gourmand of international acclaim; black belt in beverages; of indeterminate age (read: old-ish)
- Narrator – Columbia College Hollywood BFA graduate; a bit of a strange fellow; inexperienced but willing to work cheap for “cred.” Dresses in black (“Until something darker comes along.”)
- Director – Legendary Hollywood player; famous for award-winning food-themed films like Babette’s Feast II: The Diet Years and the avant-garde (and utterly incomprehensible) The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover, The Somm, and the Guy Who Wheels Around The Cheese Trolley; has worked (without the whole thing degrading into a screaming food fight) with TSE in the past.
[An animated conversation between TSE and a woman.]
TSE: “Where? At what?”
Woman: “See the guy over there? Don’t stare! With the black hair and beard?”
TSE: “Yes. And with the black shirt, black pants, and black boots?”
Woman: “Ohmygod…it’s Him!”
TSE: “The Man In Black? Johnny Cash? That can’t be Joh….”
Woman: “Keanu Reeves, dummy!”
TSE: “Yes. I know. Johnny Cash doesn’t have a beard. So what about him?”
Woman: “So he’s eating in the same restaurant! With us! Ohmygod!!”
Over the course of my commendable and envious career, I’ve had the opportunity to engage in some lengthy discourse with a few rather well-known figures (me being one myself makes this rather easy).
Most of them were down-to-earth and, well,“normal” (unlike some of those who “admire” - I did not say “stalk” - them). Mr. Reeves turned out to be - as far as I could tell - pretty, well, normal and gracious when asked to pose for a shot with our group for no money, or endorsement, or compensation of any sort at all as far as I could tell. His girlfriend, I dare say, was a tad less warm about the “interruption,” but, you sleep in the bed you make, yes?
If you want anonymity, stay in your mansion and order in. Or engage the services of your personal chef, as I do - that’s what you’re bloody paying him or her for, right? The fact that we were from Canada helped the extrovert (one of them) in our contingent leverage the star’s Canadian background as an icebreaker.
Our protagonist finishing dinner with a famous person at Le Comptoir, Koreatown, Los Angeles.
As it turned out, we didn’t actually “have dinner” with John Wick (or whoever), but given the restaurant sat but 10 diners at “the counter” - and ours was a party of seven - we were practically rubbing elbows all night. He and I exchanged many eye-rolling glances over the course of the evening because, well, sorry, you likely wouldn’t get it.
The establishment itself, Le Comptoir, is a superb and very unique Michelin star establishment in the Koreatown district of greater downtown Los Angeles. It’s an almost omakase-like experience (though with a distinctly Cali bent). Chef Gary Menes’ and his team deliver a multi-course, largely vegetable-inspired tasting menu that showcases seasonal ingredients sourced from his very own organic kitchen garden and local farmer friends. Chef Menes challenges the notion of fine dining, doing away with fussy white tablecloths and multiple sets of silverware in favour of an intimate, up-close-and-personal experience that’s at once informative, entertaining, and delicious.
Narrator: Now, ending up in the same space, at the same time, as Reeves/John Wick/Neo/Ted/the Guy From the Speed movie, was indeed sheer coincidence. Being at a fabulous Michelin-star restaurant was not.
Ominous music swells.
Narrator: Prior to dinner, while ensconced and refreshed in his room in the chic/funky LINE Hotel, with a view looking towards the iconic Hollywood sign, TSE reminisces on the fates that brought him to Southern California.
While the prestigious international culinary guide had, in the past, covered the San Francisco Bay Area, and Wine Country, MICHELIN essentially left the rest of the state’s great dining establishments waiting in the wings. That changed in March of 2019 when it finally stopped playing hard-to-get and got cozy with greater Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.
Meanwhile, our merry gang of canucks was on its own Excellent Adventure. They were on a mission to visit as many of the newly-recognized Michelin gems in Southern California as they could over the course of a week or die trying.
Dying of starvation would, of course, be out of the question for our hero and his troupe. Experiencing collective systemic shutdown due to gustatory overload, however, wouldn’t be. Oh, and some very lurid and naughty things happen along the way. Really. You’re going to love the part where….
Director: Cut! Did you write that last bit in yourself?
Narrator: Naaaoow…it’s in the script! Really. Have you even read it? Well…?
Director: [Looks down; fidgets.] Okay! Cut! Take! Fine, wrap it for now. Nicely done, TSE! Great to be working with you again!
Episode 2 airs August 13, 2020 at 11:30am.
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