“Savour Life Slowly,” it reads.
I shake my head in amusement – I had not been savouring life slowly that day. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.
I knew it was going to be an indulgent weekend. Whenever my college friends come to visit me in Los Angeles, our trip itinerary always seem to revolve around how to fill (and keep filling) our stomachs. We eat and then find something to occupy our time (usually shopping) until we are hungry enough to do it all over again.
Or, when we are really ambitious, just keep eating the whole way through.
I’d been gearing up for the food fest with five full nights of quinoa, vegetables and tofu, and had been ignoring my chocolate supply in favor of strawberries and mango. Yet even my “good behavior” couldn’t make up for everything I’d consumed that day. My heart shuddered and lurched and glugged at an unsteady rhythm to think of it all.
It was the most indulgent food day ever – including the time in college when I ate my way -- Hungry Caterpillar-style – through a short stack of blueberry granola pancakes, a side of peasant potatoes and a banana nut bagel for “brunch.” (In my defense, it was consumed after I'd run a 17:17 5K track race.)
The morning started off on a high note. I ran to the gym and biked for 40 minutes while reading this month’s Bon Appetít, and munched on a few strawberries to tide me over until my friend Ali and I made it to breakfast at Canelé in Atwater Village. This was to be the spot where our indulging would commence – a fine choice for the practice as I'd learned on a previous occasion.
While there were other potentially less painful options on the menu like the moderately virtuous beets and burrata salad ($10.50), I knew I had to get the epic French toast and a side of eggs for a savory contrast. For a girl who is used to eating oatmeal for breakfast – not French toast soufflé towers with mascarpone cheese, stewed prunes and maple syrup ($10) – it was a diet fail akin to shooting myself in the intestinal tract. So after frantically forking my way through half my eggs and half the mountainous French toast, I did what most reasonable human beings would do. I stopped.
Was it restraint that finally brought my fork and knife to a state of stagnancy? A fear of popping the buttons on my cute Anthropologie shorts? A desire to match the amount of food my dining companion consumed? Not really. I had already eaten more than Ali, and I secretly knew that we would be stopping by Cube Marketplace & Cafe on the way back to my apartment for free samples of Jeni’s Ice Creams and XTpatisserie macarons. I wasn’t completely maxed out at this juncture, but even a hungry caterpillar has her limits.
Or at least she does until faced with her version of kryptonite – dessert.
After 3 shared sample cups (which equated to 3 small scoops each) and 2 chocolate macarons (I consumed both), Ali and I waddled into my apartment already in the throes of massive sugar comas.
We didn’t move for the next two hours.
A short recess at the Grove helped revive our senses and stomachs, and we were soon on our way to meet our friends (and other halves) Ashley and Caroline at Gjelina in Venice for an early dinner. I was planning to order a light salad with my half of the gorge-worthy Mushroom Goat Cheese and Truffle Pizza ($15), but my eyes couldn’t stop fixating on the Crispy Duck Leg Confit with Roasted Cherry, Shaved Onion, Pistachio and Arugula ($20).
So I ordered it, convincing myself that since it was still technically a salad, I was being at least somewhat "healthy."
I wasn’t expecting to receive a duck leg the size of a Cornish game hen.
And I wasn’t expecting to eat my entire three slices of thin crust pizza, every tender strand of the aforementioned hen-duck, and a Strawberry and Rhubarb Cornmeal Crisp with Almond Gelato ($10) for dessert. Especially since the dessert’s deliciousness quotient paled in comparison to Ashley’s more prescient order of the Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel ($8).
I cursed myself and my rapidly expanding stomach all the way to Caroline’s friend Cate’s graduation party.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” I thought, while Ali, who’d ordered the Tai Snapper Crudo small plate ($13) to go with her duck, sat rather unburdened on my right.
There were no trips to the margarita machine for me at the fiesta. Instead, I spent half the time fighting off another food coma as I protectively hugged my middle in one of the leather chairs in the family room.
Even now, sitting in Bar Centro with a four-page cocktail and drinks menu in front of me, I can’t bear the thought of ingesting anything – not even the Liquid Nitrogen Caipirinha with cachaça and lime ($20) that is made tableside and tastes like lime sorbet.
I lean over to Ali. “Do you think I can get tea?” I whisper.
She shakes her head, nearly choking on her "Salt Air" Margarita ($16).
I bow my head and sit quietly while my friends attack their cocktails and an order of the Croquetas de pollo ($9).
I groan at the sight of the salt-kissed chicken and béchamel fritters. I want tea. I want bed. I want…
“Try one.” Caroline’s husband insists, pushing the plate across the table at me.
“I’m fine,” I insist, thinking, “if ‘fine’ means ‘ready to bleed fat from my pores.’”
“Try one.” He says again.
His insistence is wearing my clearly pathetic resolve down. Forgetting all about the French toast, eggs, ice cream, macarons, pizza, duck, and strawberry crisp I’d consumed earlier, I reach a quivering hand out for the croquette.
Even with the toxic levels of fat encroaching upon my blood stream, the croquette renders me silent.
“Chicken soup.” Ali says – filling in the gap in my head.
I nod in bewilderment.
“The best chicken soup ever!”
I sit back in my chair – still uncomfortable, but brilliantly happy.
I’ll “Savour Life Slowly” tomorrow.
3219 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039-1831
Cube Marketplace & Cafe
615 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2013
1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291-3740
Bar Centro at the Bazaar
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048