Consider this a confessional new year’s resolution: Worthiness slipped through the cracks. I like a clear conscience, so here’s a handful of places and things that should have had their moment.
Meadowood in Napa Valley. This one is the most egregiously overdue — like, more than a year, even before I launched The Knife.
In September 2006, I made a trip to Napa Valley for a feature article in Variety Weekend; when I got back, the VW section was killed and the story never happened. That was unfortunate because the trip had been terrific (Stony Hill Chardonnay; Havens, which makes the only Albarino in Napa) and I was really looking forward to writing about Meadowood.
Not that it needs the press — it’s sort of the area country club — but the rooms are better than "world class" and those other weird adjectives that suggest some kind of thread-count throwdown. The beds are big and warm, the ceilings are high and white and staying there feels like… well, when you’re a kid, it’s what you think it means to be a grown-up. As a grown-up, you realize it’s what it means to be rich: Prices start at $450 a night.
Also noted: the restaurant makes what’s quite possibly the best corned-beef hash ever. Dinner there is also very good, although Meadowood recently sent me a pack of promo recipe cards that detail how to make things no one in their right mind will ever cook at home. (Chinese mustard-glazed sturgeon with heirloom apple, pickled shallots and fennel emulsion, anyone?) But don’t hold it against them; if you can afford it, Meadowood is worth it.
Cafe Del Rey. This came out of one of those infamous media dinners, where food writers get free food. I don’t usually write about them for that reason (What, the food was good and they treated you well? You don’t say!).
This one deserves note because Cafe Del Rey used to be kind of an awful ’80s remnant, a reminder of a time when the only thing bigger than the hair was the food. However, the owners have seen the error of their ways (including killing off an awful logo that used a font last seen on a Bananarama album; they even had a party, above, to celebrate; possibly a step too far, but that old sign was scary) and hired a new chef (Jason Niederkorn, formerly at Aubergine in Newport Beach). The result is a restaurant that, while not groundbreaking, nonetheless stands as a rarity in Los Angeles: Eating well with a water view.
Saltistry. This sounds like the unnecessary oxygen bar of the 21st century: Have a party comprised of little things to dip into darling little dishes of different flavored salts! Then you dip a baby tomato in vodka followed by six-pepper salt and stop being snarky because it interferes with your digestion and now all you want to do is eat. Raw tuna with tangerine salt, roasted potatoes with truffle salt, dark chocolate with coconut salt… sneer if you like. I’m salting.
The Crushpad Fusebox. I’ve had a crush (no pun intended) on the San Francisco-based Crushpad, where you can blend your own barrel of wine for a semi-reasonable sum ($5,000 and up; that’s $17 a bottle). I can’t afford that kind of time or money, but for $125 you can buy the Fusebox, a collection of seven 375 mL single-varietal wines and the accessories (pipettes, graduated cylinder) that let you design your own wine blends. Every bit as nerdy as a Sears Chemistry Kit and your experiments taste a lot better.
Flan King. Enough with the cupcakes, the Beasley muffins and those drywall-flavored cookie bouquets. Flan King will deliver a large flan for $25 in a cardboard-foil container; open it up, turn it upside down (my order came with a plate) and you have a beautiful dessert that is, no small feat, one of the best flans I’ve had. Not too eggy, or grainy, and with plenty of rich caramel. Never thought of flan having delivery potential, but I’m glad they did.