Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dining at Canyon Pace -- Abuelita's


137 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga, CA 90290
(310) 455-8688
Google Local Info
MC, Visa, AMEX
Extensive Vegetarian Menu

In an effort to rediscover my Shakespeare roots, I made the trek out to Topanga Canyon for a production of Twelfth Night at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Of course, Twelfth Night features a clown named Feste, Feste reminds me of "fiesta," "fiesta" is EspaƱol for party, so was there any question that I'd be going out for margaritas before the show?

Turns out one of the most well-reviewed Mexican places in L.A. is Abuelita's, about a mile and a half down the Canyon from the Will Geer, right around the corner from The Inn of Seventh Ray. I might have checked out the New Age, organic Inn, as everyone says I must do; but I worry, do they even have margaritas, and if so, do they put tofu in them?

I'll make it to Inn of the Seventh Ray one of these days, but let's talk Abuelita's. The name is a good sign: "Granny's", is a loose translation. You know that I'm all about Mex food made by grandma, not the gang youth at your local Baja Fresh, right?

The service upon entry was not a good sign. Bees were attacking their outdoor patio overlooking the creek (the best outdoor dining in L.A., according to AOL Cityguide -- as long as you don't count the horror-movie infestation of bestingered insects), so I'll cut 'em some slack. But still, our hungry party of five waited fifteen minutes just to be seated in a nearly-empty restaurant. We sat inside to avoid the swarm, but the creekside canyon ambience did seem lovely.

The first round of margaritas, the house blend, were so watery that we seriously wondered if they'd remembered to add the booze. Our waiter (cute, I'm told, by our female companions) had suggested we order the Cadillac version for a buck more, and he was right. The second round was a major improvement.

When the food finally arrived, all other concerns went out the window. The tortillas, handmade on the premises, were delightful. The chiles rellenos were delicate and fluffy, perfectly picante chiles stuffed with a generous (maybe too generous?) amount of cheese, the light tomato sauce tangy, flavorful, and not the least bit gloppy.

A grilled shrimp burrito, made mojado with an unusual lobster bisque sauce, got rave reviews. You know I love my taquitos, and these delightful fingers of deep fried pulled pork were some of the best I've ever had. The sum of gritty, chewy quality of the fresh, hand-pounded tortillas, perfectly cooked pork, and fresh guacamole added up to a thoroughly satisfying whole. Only a chicken mole soft taco disappointed. The chicken was fine and tender; the mole, a little too sweet; but the taco itself, just chicken mole with no condiment, felt like it needed another ingredient to finish it off. Onion? Scallion? Something.

Visting Topanga Canyon is a little like visiting the 70's. Life goes on at a slower pace there; but you do come away with some good memories.

Oh, and Twelfth Night, under the moon and oak trees of the utterly delightful Theatricum Botanicum, kicked ass.

Friday, September 01, 2006

L.A. Food Crazy Meets "Not For Tourists"

If you're familiar with the hardcopy version of the Not For Tourists guide, you know it's an excellent guidebook designed for people who live or work in the big U.S. cities. Stunning graphics, thoughtful listings of offbeat places for locals to visit, and plenty of listings of locals' necessities like carwashes and schools make it a great guide for locals and newcomers who info beyond to go beyond the Chinese Theater and the Wax Museum.

I'm contributing a few food write-ups for their online site; check out today's Daily Radar blurb, and then visit ther rest of their newly re-vamped site. Even if you're a local, you might learn a thing or two.