Culinary couple Cheryl and Bill Jamison share their experience with this Los Angeles restaurant.
On our last night in Los Angeles (check out the first part of our L.A. visit) we celebrated Bill’s birthday at a delightfully plucky new restaurant called Animal. Despite the name, Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo love vegetables, fruits, all kinds of seasonings, and probably anything else edible.
They just put meat, often pork, in the spotlight in most dishes, using other foods in creative and playful support roles.
As we frequently do, each of us ordered three appetizers and passed on the entrees and desserts. Many American restaurants in our experience make better starters than main courses, and besides, a meal of appetizers gives us a greater variety of tastes.
For the first round we shared a salad with Middle Eastern flavors and crisp, tempura-fried hominy kernels that reminded us of a potent popcorn.
Our second courses ranged from Asian-accented sweet-and-sour veal sweetbreads to a southern-style smoked pork belly with a butterbean salad.
We wrapped up with foie gras topped with maple sausage gravy and Canadian poutine (French fries) covered with a rich short-rib gravy and Vermont cheddar. For both of us, but Bill especially, it was the perfect birthday blowout.
The next day we got up early to drive north on the California shore for a three-night stay in the Central Coast wine area.
We followed the contours of the Pacific up Highway 1 on a brilliantly clear, sunny morning to the lovely city of Santa Barbara, where we had planned lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the country, La Superica. It’s only a humble stand outside the ritzy areas of town, but the food is so delicious (as the name claims) that a line for ordering usually extends down the block at almost any hour.
We arrived 10 minutes before the opening and were already behind several groups of eager eaters. Since most plates are moderately small, we chose five dishes, including one of the daily specials, a vegetable tamale.
From the regular menu, we picked a bowl of whole pinto beans cooked with bacon and spices, a melted, milky cheese, and a couple of tacos, one made with pork adobado and the other with rajas, strips of poblano chile cooked with onions.
The meal made the day seem even sunnier than before, providing a superb start for our Central Coast sojourn.
Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Jamisons’ newest book, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.
Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at cookingwiththejamisons.com. You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”