Some Great Cuisines and the Remembrance of a “Taco Titan”
I may be walking on eggshells for the next ‘graph or two because my publisher has a particular yen for the dish of emperors, Peking Duck—a dish that boasts a heritage that has stretched nearly a millennium. To prepare this specialty is a matter of ample time plus creative culinary acumen.
A best bet in this neck of the Valley is the highly-esteemed Chinese restaurant Bamboo Cuisine (14010 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks) where patient palates are treated to a tender, tasty version with perfectly steamed buns with fresh veggies.
It’s worth the drive and hour preparation wait for Peking Duck with perfectly crisped skin and juicy meat wrapped in satiny scallion pancakes at Lu Din Gee (1038 E. Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel).
In Chinatown, Pecking Duck gets the super star presentation at the immense Plum Tree Inn (913 N. Broadway) where the bird is served tableside by duo-attendants dishing out spring onions, veggies and steamed buns.
For truly addicted Mexican cuisine fans, there’s nothing quite as tempting as green corn tamales, and there’s no place that excels venerably as El Cholo Mexican Restaurant where husk-wrapped cakes contain an abundance of sweet summer corn plus chiles and cheddar. The flavorful bounty is a bit excessively priced, $42 a dozen, but what a treat at three locations—the original address at 1121 S. Western Ave. in L.A., 840 E. Whittier Blvd. in La Habre and 1025 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. Ole!
The passing of 86-year-old innovator and entrepreneur Gene Bell deserves notice beyond the founding of the Taco Bell chain. “We changed the eating habits of the entire nation” boasted Bell in his 1999 biography “Taco Titan.” After World War II, Bell decided Americans were ready for fast food beyond burgers and hot dogs. He targeted the massive with humble tacos, tabbed at 19 cents, in 1951 when he launched the idea in San Bernardino and opened the first Taco Bell in ‘64. The fast food formula rapidly spread across the USA and he broadened the fare to include tostados, burritos, frijoles and chili burgers. In ‘78, Bell sold the Taco Bell business to PepsiCo for a cool $125 million. The chain and subsidiaries now peddle their wares to more than 36 million patrons weekly with more than 5600 U.S. locations.
For those contemplating an invasion of the fast-food jungle, Bell laid down three crucial rules in his “recipe for success.” First, you build a business one customer at a time. Second (the hard part), find the right product and devise a way to mass produce it. And third, an innovative product will set you apart.
A tip from the Palate: don’t open a donut shop hereabouts. Valley dunkers already have over 80 places to choose from. “As you wander on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”
Maybe it could only happen in Las Vegas where bigger is always rated as better. The challenge burger from Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill weighs in at 4.5 pounds including a 2-pound beef patty. For high rollers, Le Burger Brasserie at Paris Las Vegas offers the $777 burger; a tender Kobe beef patty is topped with Maine lobster, caramelized onions, Brie, proscuitto and century-old balsamic vinegar. If you think the price is a trifle steep, consider the bottle of Dom Perignon Rose that accompanies your jackpot sandwich. How silly can Sin City get?
Vegetarians take note: Vegan on N. Hillhurst is a destination to be savored. And/or if you crave fresh, home-prepared veggie ideas, latch on to the Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (Simon and Schuster, $24.99) that describes over 200 easy prep vegetarian and vegan recipes, including four stove-top tofu.
If you have a special place for any of the mentioned dishes, share it with the Palate at firstname.lastname@example.org.