Friday, February 11, 2011

Forage: A welcome respite from overindulgence

The first time I visited my brother in New York four and a half years ago, I was stunned by how much he would order at a restaurant. Even a “light” dinner would involve a bottle of wine, two orders of steak frites and a proposal for at least one or two desserts. It was also during this trip that my brother introduced me to the tasting menu – a complete anomaly to me at the time.

Though slightly hesitant, I followed my brother’s lead and dove into each course with the vigor of a seasoned athlete. We were so full when we finished that we had to walk 45 minutes before finally hailing a cab to take us the rest of the way back to his apartment. I could barely choke down half of the H&H sesame seed bagel I bought the following day.

Since that time, I’ve grown accustomed to “going all out” at a restaurant. I think nothing of ordering appetizers to share, and a full entrée and dessert to horde to myself, and tasting menus are no longer a rare occurrence in my dining life. Because I do tend to overindulge myself when I’m out, restraint has become the greater anomaly. Even on nights when I’m “being good,” I still find myself ordering a second glass of wine and eying the dessert menu – somewhat of a problem during weeks when I’m dining out more than a couple nights.

Last week was one of those particularly indulgent weeks. There was pasta, wine, fried zucchini blossoms, arancini, and ice cream at Terroni; crispy honey duck, crying tiger pork, mussels, rice, pad thai, beer, and mango sticky rice at Jitlada; and, as a grand finale, a beef fondue dinner party that ended with a hefty slice of blackberry buttermilk cake coated with tangerine lemon curd. By Sunday morning, it was hard for me to fathom ever wanting to eat again. (Hence the “cleanse” and depraved scone dreams this week.)

Amidst all the self-destructive food rubble, I had one meal out last week that didn’t make me feel like my blood was churning into butter. Two girl friends and I met up at Forage in Silver Lake, a fast-casual café known for its seasonally-inspired, rotating menu that features high-quality, fresh ingredients.

While the somewhat chaotic, neighborhood space specializes in seemingly standard composed deli salads like beets with oranges and feta, its commitment to quality has even caught the eye of LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold, who named it one of his 99 Essential Restaurants this past November. The vibrancy of the ingredients and care that is put into every dish makes the food taste far better than what one might encounter in the deli counter at Whole Foods.

Forage offers diners several options – there are fully composed plates like the popular “P Belly” Sandwich ($10.25) with cabbage, tomato, jalapeno and aioli; there’s Rotisserie Jidori Chicken and Coca-Cola Marinated Flank Steak available as proteins; and there’s a variety of side dishes that can be paired with the proteins ($14.00), or ordered as simply a trio of sides ($11.00).

On this particular evening, I opted for three of the sides. After gawking at all the various selections as I waited in line to place my order, I settled on the Cous Cous with Peppers and Chickpeas, the Roasted Winter Vegetables, and a Lentil Salad tossed with barley.

For the price point, Forage is incredibly generous with their portions. Both my plate and my companions’ plates were brimming with food when we crammed around our small table that was really only meant to seat two. While the cramped quarters and precarious seating arrangement weren’t particularly comfortable (especially with the constant influx of cold air that blasted us any time someone opened the side door), we were all satisfied by the hearty, well-executed dishes. The delicate cous cous and deeply-flavored roasted vegetables quickly disappeared from my plate.

Though the fare is not unlike something I might make for myself at home, and is decidedly similar to what Joan’s on Third offers, Forage is a pleasant place to take a breather from tasting menus, gargantuan bowls of pasta and Starbucks Trenta-sized pours of wine (a bottle’s worth).

If I’m in the neighborhood, I’d surely stop by again for another dose of my beloved vegetables and healthy grains. And if I’m indulging that day (a likely possibility), a slice of their banana bread cake to horde all to myself.

3823 W Sunset Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90026-1529
(323) 663-6885


SinoSoul said...

This is the perfect place if you want a sugar IV. Otherwise, I can toss a salad about as good as anyting. (no homo-erotic double entendre please)

Esi said...

You could make all those things at home I guess, but some times you just don't want to. I want to go to there.

the actor's diet said...

forage has been on my to-eat list for a while; i am a bit disappointed that they make food you can make at home. but i'll still give it a try, esp. with those generous portions!

Anna A. said...

I would love to check out forage and have everything you had.

Ashley said...

Even if you can make the food at home, isn't the point that you're not the one making it :)? That's how I look at it. And with their portion sizes, I know I couldn't make that much food for $11. I need another Forage fix asap!

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

i love forage! and since i don't get to indulge in joan's daily it is nice to have a close alternative so close to home! next time you go let me know i'll meet you :)

Monet said...

I actually like restaurants that are similar to my own kitchen...because sometimes I get tired of cooking but I want some homey goodness! I love your philosophy on dining (it is something I need to take up!) I think I miss you sometimes by being too frugal. Thank you for sharing, sweet woman! I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow. Take time to love yourself and those that are dearest to your heart!

Gastronomer said...

Hello, Sweet Woman.

stuffycheaks said...

haha for a moment I thought you were going to order the pork belly. now THAT would be overindulgent

Diana said...

Tony - Next time, I'll go straight for the sugar. You know I practically bleed the stuff.

Esi - Hah, exactly! It's not too far from your new digs... we'll have to plan a Forage date once you move!

Lynn - You should definitely check it out -- if you like Joan's, you'll love Forage!

Anna - It's definitely TALF-ready!

Ashley - Meet me there? We can go to Covell after for drinks!

Nastassia - Definitely! We need to plan a meet-up sooner rather than later!

Monet - I sort of wish I was more frugal at restaurants... I spend way too much money on food! Makes it hard to buy clothes!

Cathy - Right back at ya.

Stephanie - Yes, it would. ;)