Eating in truly exceptional restaurants is one of life’s great joys in my opinion. Fortunately I live in Los Angeles where there is no shortage of such establishments. But for a variety of reasons (such as the state of my wallet) you can’t always indulge yourself in this manner.
Still, sometimes you want to eat something special. Something particular. Maybe it’s a regional specialty that you are craving. Perhaps it contains some unusual or hard to find ingredients. These are the times it pays to be a decent cook. But even decent cooks can get slammed up against the wall because when you crave something particular, something unusual there is the likely possibility that the corner market is not gonna carry all the items you need. How are you gonna make your particular culinary dream come true?
You could always improvise. There is a certain joy in creating something out of nothing. You could substitute a few anchovys for the Colatura di Alici in that special pasta you flipped over in that little seaside village south of Rome. You’d feel great, the pasta would be delicious, but deep inside you’d know it wasn’t REALLY what you were craving.
I found myself in a similar predictament to your Colatura conundrum. That’s because recently the LA TImes Food Section reviewed Thomas Keller’s latest entry into his Bouchon franchise. The newly opened restauant in Beverly Hills was given the highest of praise by Ms. S. Irene Virbila. I was surprised by her superlatives because I had been dubious when I heard (yet another) Bouchon was opening and that Mr. Keller chose Los Angeles to host it. I am not saying I was not happy about itâ€“ especially since L.A. has not had a Thomas Keller restaurant since the 1990s. That’s a long time for a world-class city to wait to welcome back a chef who (arguably) made his name by cooking for us Angelinos, way back in the day.
Anyway, I would have preferred Mr. Keller had brought us a completely new and original restaurant, but the review was so good I decided to be happy with our own Bouchon. So I picked up the phone and tried to get a table. Well, how long have I lived in Los Angeles? And when will I ever learn that you can’t just pick up the phone and get a table at the current hot spot. You gotta “know” somebody.
So I am resolved to thumb through my rolodex (yes I still have my roldex) and see if I “know” somebady who can get me a table. After all, I did work in show biz for a very long time. I must “know” somebody.
In the meantime, I still wanted that authentic bistro taste. So the next best thing to going to Bouchon is pulling out the Bouchon cookbook. Almost immediately I saw a recipe for really good, really French, really delicious garlic sausage with green lentils. CLICK here for my (simplified) version of this classic bistro recipe. I suddenly wanted saucissons Ã l’ail aux lentilles (CLICK here to watch a video of me making this for a dinner party). But I was not about to settle for sweet Italian sausages. I wanted the real deal. Where could I turn? What could I do. Letting my fingers do the walking is so last century. So I put on my techno-geek hat and I surfed the web! Here’s what I found:
Salumeria Biellese has been making Italian style sausages and salumis since 1925. Itâ€™s not the easiest online resource, because you still have to call them up to order. But itâ€™s worth it. Whoever answers the phone is very knowledgeable and helpful. Especially in getting the product to you on just the day you need it. They were able to get me the very French garlic sausages I craved overnight! They also have a nice selection of assorted charcuterie.
My success with the garlic sauages reminds me of other online sources I have used in the past to get me what my body craves. I decided to share a few of them with you!
Bellweather Farms provides fromage blanc and other artisan style cow and sheep cheeses to restaurants and chefs. Thanks to the magic of the internet, people like you and me can get that quality just as easily! They are right here in California (Sonoma) which is an added bonus to me.
Dâ€™Artagnan is where I go for duck. Duck foie gras, duck fat, duck legs. They have so much more, but this is where my experience with them lies.
Eden Foods is beyond organic. This is a truly natural food resource with an interesting history as well.
Fauchon is almost as good as spending the weekend in Paris. A world famous gourmet company, tres chic!
French Gourmet Store carries a lot of hard to find regional French specialties.
Though I can usually get spectacularly good seafood right here in Los Angeles. Garyâ€™s Seafood Specialties is a good resource to have anyway. Because there are other fish in the sea! And sometimes I really want fresh FLORIDA seafood, or John Dory from New Zealand. This is the place to get it!
Gourmet Mushrooms is a terrific resource where you can actually get the stuff to grow mushrooms yourself. Now that is something I keep planning to try! If I ever do it, youâ€™ll certainly hear about it. In the meantime I have been known to order some real beauties from this site.
La Espanola Meats is another great place for sausages and other meats. These are exclusively in the Spanish style.
La Tienda has a great assortment of Spanish foods. Itâ€™s the only source I have ever found those tiny sweet green peppers called pimientos de PadrÃ³n. They also have incredible anchovies.
Leeners was recently recentlty recommended by fellow Blogger JoePastry. They seem to have “fermented food craft supplies” and cultures of all kinds. Cultures for creme fraiche, cheese, yogurt, bread, beer…bubble gum? Anyway from what I have read from Joe he knows what he’s talking about. I mean after all his last name is Pastry!
Marx Foods It used to be that the customers here were limited to the top restaurant chefs in the country. But now they have an online site we can all surf. Many gourmet items in bulk.
Pacific Rim Gourmet is the place to find exotic ingredients for your Asian palette.
Rancho Gordo …beans, beans and more beans! Great heirloom varieties especially. A wonderful resource, and a really fun site to visit.
Salumi Artisan Cured Meats This is the senior Bataliâ€™s store and salumeria. Incredibly authentic, amazingly creative. These meats are finally, truly available here in the USA.
Savor California since we can’t all live here. They have gourmet specialities from our local California suppliers.
Urbani Truffles in case you haven’t guessed, they have truffles and truffle related items.
Zimmermanâ€™s has just about anything the gourmet pantry needs. Lots of gift items as well.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD