Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dear Shake Shack: A Side Request.

Dear Shake Shack:

I'm just going to get this out of the way: I like you. Like, a lot. For years we played the whole adorable, yet straining long distance thing. Upon my sporadic New York jaunts though, it really was true: distance does make the heart grow fonder. We'd jubilantly reconnect over a Shack burger, Crinkle Cuts and a Concrete. We were a real life, albeit somewhat peculiar, indie rom-com couple.

That was then though. Now you're as golden as the state in which you're proliferating. You're suddenly all up in my west coast grill. Which is 1) cool, 2) a big step for us, 3) intimidating, 4) changed our relationship. I'm going to focus mainly on number 4 here because it's the most pertinent. Shake Shack's expansion has shifted my Shake Shack eating habits. No longer is SS a special NYC treat in which every drop by (which was infrequent) I go goddamn calorically gangbusters. Now, Shake Shack is (kinda) part of what I call "the rotation." As in, along with other oft-visited lunch spots (Tender Greens, BacoShop, Sweetgreen, Cava, Loqui, et al), when the afternoon starts to hit, I mentally flip through my rotation to decide which establishment to proffer my lunching services.

I, however, often cannot chose Shake Shack. This is because you only have ONE side dish, girl! Just one. And they're French fries. You see, as a general rule of thumb, I abstain from fries during weekday lunches because, well, I don't want to die prematurely? I understand at your core, you probably think of yourself as the little burger stand franchise that could that doesn't need a side other than fries. But to that I repute: you were never just a "burger stand" because... you were originally a hot dog stand (ha ha, got ya, sucker!). More importantly though, you're not a burger stand to me. I'd imagine, as you expand, I'm not alone either. In fact, when I visited today, you were playing Nick Jr. on your TVs, obviously orchestrating to the mother-baby afternoon crowd. 

You're more than a burger stand now. 

In truth, I haven't had any of your burgers in a year. My usual: the new grilled chicken sandwich (add cherry peppers because DUH) and... THAT'S IT. There's nothing else to reasonably order - aside from maybe two sandwiches? I don't really want to order two sandwiches though, due to the whole aforementioned mortality expediency thing. Thus, I can't really have you in the lunch rotation. Only on the abnormal day (like today) will a grilled chicken sandwich solo do the trick. Most days it's simply not enough for a growing young Los Angeleno (note: I haven't grown for years and am not young anymore).

SO THE HECK DO YOU WANT, BRO? Good question. It's as simple as (a) pie (Concrete): I want a dang side! Any side. Something to accompany my very, very lonely chicken sandwich. Something that isn't fries. Exactly what that is? I don't know, girl. Almost everything I've devoured at the Shack is good. I'm sure you can think of something. I'd be happy to brainstorm to help out as well. Maybe... Soup? A Caesar? Baked zucchini sticks? Basically anything that isn't either deep-fried or celery with hummus. NO CELERY WITH HUMMUS for the love of God.

Shake Shack appears to be run incredibly efficiently. Almost as if Rosey from "The Jetsons" is in charge. You also, via your rotating specials, consistently demonstrate a desire to mix things up to please your customers. With this in mind, I hope you take my suggestion seriously. I imagine I'm not alone with this request. Remember when In 'n Out added Hot Chocolate and the internet lost its shit in excitement? This would be bigger. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my note. Hope to add you to the vaunted, highly-coveted rotation full-time soon.

Hugs and hugs,

P.S. Bring back the Hot Chick'n sandwich already. 
P.S.S. It can't be Mac 'n Cheese.
P.S.S.S. Something healthy-adjacent, but not too healthy adjacent, you know.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Large Pizza Festival Is Coming to LA in July.

As LA digs itself out of the pizza doldrums and emerges into one of the more exciting crust-sauce-cheese locales in the US of A, it's only fitting this summer we play host to a massive, weekend-long pizza festival. The California Pizza Festival goes down July 28th and 29th in the parking lots of DTLA's LA Center Studios (former home of the Grilled Cheese Invitational, R.I.P.) and will feature over 30 pizzerias, near and far. 

Billing itself as an "unlimited sampling" festival, CPF's Neopolitan highlights include iconoclastic Da Michele and Antica Pizzeria Port Alba, who have been slinging cheesy apizza pies in Naples, Italy since 1870 and 1738, respectively. Which, is, like, a really long time so they might know what they're doing. Local purveyors include popular WeHo spot Prova, Settebello and Sun Valley fave, 786 Degrees, amongst others. CPF promises a plethora of styles, including Sicilian, New York, gluten-free and vegan.

General admission tickets, which include unlimited sampling (but drinks are extra), are available for a pre-sale price of $45 a day. VIP $89 (includes three drink coupons, amongst other perks). Kids 4-10 years of age are $20 and 3-and-under are free. Find tickets HERE.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I Insta-Stalked A Pie Place For A Year. It Was Even Better Than Imagined.

I spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagram. If I'm not posting culinary pornography myself, I'm liking my peers' culinary pornography or local restaurant's culinary pornography or a cool hotel's culinary pornography or a tourism board's culinary pornography. It's just a heck of a lot of culinary pornography on Instagram. A while back I started seeking out such porno in cities I was visiting in the near future. Before I knew it I had almost a dozen folders "saved" on my Insta account with the food I absolutely needed to eat in my upcoming destinations of Scottsdale, Nashville, Portland, St. Augustine and Savannah, Georgia. I even started folders for cities I was bound to visit in the near future, like New York and Seattle.

Somewhere in the midst of this, I started following Sister Pie. Sister Pie features a popular Insta account, much thanks to their outside the box, sultry sweet pie and bakery offerings. Here's the thing though: Sister Pie isn't in Scottsdale or Nashville or Portland or St. Augustine or Savannah. Nor New York or Seattle. It's in Detroit. When I started following SP, I didn't have a trip planned to Detroit. Nor do I foresee one. But the pie looked so damn good, I just started following them... wondering if I ever would be able to reach into the screen and devour a slice.

Time went by and I thought about Sister Pie a lot. Probably too much. Then in February out of nowhere my wife declared she planned to visit her best college friend for a weekend. This friend lives in... Detroit. I didn't want to put the pressure on or anything, so I acted cool and like whatever about it, but I casually tagged the wife in SP Insta photos from time to time. Nudge, nudge, you know. BUT NO PRESSURE. As her Detroit weekend approached, I grew giddy. Then... it got canceled. Snow. Her flight was stuck in LA. Her midwestern sojourn got pushed to May. I once again backed off. Until the real weekend started approaching again. I started tagging her in Sister Pie posts again. NO BIG DEAL. 

As she departed for the Motor City, no promises were made. She would see if they had time. 

To save you more of my meaningless words, she.. HAD TIME. Returning on Sunday, she unpacked. Out came a bag of cookies, a half-eaten brownie and... the slice of the pie you see above. Here I was, face to face with the pie I had cross-continentially Insta-stalked (or is it, Instalked?). Together. At last. It was sorta like that Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock movie that isn't "Speed." Overcome by the momentous occasion and not sure how or if I should make the first move, I was shy at first. So I put it in the fridge, with the plan to re-approach the following morning. Naturally, I could hardly sleep. Tossing and turning, wondering if it would live up to the hype. 

Much to my surprise, it did.

In today's Instagram world, it almost doesn't matter if the product actually tastes good. As long as it looks good, you will get looky-loos like me. Thousands of fans everywhere that WANT to eat your pie. And WANT to post a picture of themselves eating said pie. That's almost all that matters. 

But, Sister Pie so did. This despite the tiny slice flying cross country in a cavernous, destructible box, in my wife's overheated backpack, under her coach seat, enduring a long layover and all. It was one of the best first pie bites I've ever had. And second. And third. Basically a classic buttermilk chess pie with high end maple syrup and sea salt added, it's body is chewy and tasty and grainy yet smooth. The crust buttery AF. The combination is the pie slice I envisioned all these long Instagram nights.

Now all I can think about is when can we go back to Detroit. Shouldn't my wife visit her friend again? They haven't seen each other... in a few days. 

For now, I move on to my shiny new Insta obsession: PV Donuts. It's a donut shop in Providence, Rhode Island. I may never go to Providence, Rhode Island...