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