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Fritzi#Six Dogs at Stall #742 #    Nothing in one’s morning ritual prepares you for this sort of text. Dialing in KUSC, poring through e-mails, and intermittently checking wine articles online over breakfast with Ferde Grofé providing the diagetic scoring—the day’s burger-eating plans were dumped on their head. Farmer’s Market bound, close to Short Order, and on a mission to find Stall #742 by 12:30 PM. I was told to bring some wine and with the flask tucked in my front right pocket, I looked for my friend and the stall for our lunch.

We met at Fritzi Dog—burger dreams dashed. An inspired hot-dog vendor, tucked into a dizzying array of eateries inside the Farmer’s Market on Third and Fairfax. More serendipity: While we were plotting lunch, a random voice called my name. I turned to see it was a friend I’d lost touch with, midway through her lunch, and quickly invited her to sit with us.

Sausal and DogsThree minds were better than two as she helped us finalize our order, settling on the Chef’s Sampler, a corn dog and mixture of tater tots and fries on the side.

We set up our plasticware and divvied up a little taste of the 2008 Sausal Private Reserve Zinfandel from Alexander Valley from my flask while we waited for the grub.

Sausal Winery was the first tasting room I ever stepped foot in (sadly now shuttered), and the wine I split with friends was one of the first wines I ever bought winery direct. Our hot dogs’ companion, Sonoma County Zinfandel, showed a nervy black fruit core with leather and tobacco nuance in its full and balanced frame. It was a certainty that it would pair well with at least a few of the six hot dogs we ordered.

Our silver tray hit the table, loaded with six individual dogs. We split each one, between the two of us tasting the multitude of flavors, the favorites quickly emerging. The spice from the Jalapeño relish and the depth of flavor from the pretzel bun combined smartly with “the Fritzi dog” (a blend of pork and beef). The other favored bites were split between the bird dog with sautéed onions and peppers on a brioche bun and the well-executed corn dog loaded with “the porker.”

By the time the silver tray was bare we were still hungry. Our thirty-three dollar lunch (!) was hardly enough to quell our appetites. Fritzi Dog wasn’t cheap, and the bun to dog ratio was a little high, dog-skimpy. There was extra brioche, parker and pretzel bun long after we finished the franks. Not for the carbohydrate conscious.

I admit it’s fun to change things up; even if the results aren’t always smashing. I was able to reconnect with a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year, sharing a few pours of wine between all of us, over lunch. The mystery and lure of a Matrix-style tweet-sized text can put you on an adventure… or not.

YLTUp and at ‘em at 3:00 AM, still unwinding from my magnificent midweek dinner at the recently hatched Superba Snack Bar on Rose Avenue in Venice. I was only a couple hours away from starting my big day that would include a free concert and burgers… What else?

My shift began at 5:00 AM with a little more pep, knowing that eight hours later I would be darting across town to see a perennial favorite, Yo La Tengo, promote their latest record with a free show at Amoeba Music. The lines on Ivar Avenue grew around the block as the clock approached 6:00 PM. Once inside, roped off between the clearance records, we enjoyed an abbreviated set from the New Jersey trio.

I got my poster signed and gave a heartfelt thank you to the band. Another buddy met us at the show and it was off to Short Order at the Farmer’s Market on the corner of Third and Fairfax for dinner.

ShortIt was a nice change of pace to venture east to the Farmer’s Market at the Grove to grab a meal, and not just attend another tasting in the area. Seated immediately, we settled into the comfortable woodsy/modern environment, with heat lamps and fire pits ablaze.

The menu reflected a commitment to local and organic—those posh food and drink superlatives—without gouging. The hardest thing to swallow though was the pricing for wine, so I followed my party and went draft.

We each had a burger: one lamb, one dry-aged and one just grass-fed while sharing two sides—my choice followed our server’s recommendation for Ida’s Old School Burger cooked medium rare.

Ida’s burger landed tableside, folded neatly into the wrapper. Protruding was a cascading layer of aged cheddar atop the thick beef patty and a few vegetables not forgotten. The other burgers looked equally appealing.

Short OrderNo longer fooled by a pretty appearance, it would be the first bite that would tell me what I needed to know. Soft and tender, the entire first chew disintegrated in my mouth. I reexamined the burger—the cooking time was flawless—a bright pink core shown through. The bun also stood out, with a soft, pliable texture that was superbly constructed. All combined, Ida’s Old Fashioned Burger was solid, making use of a sweet and savory blend of house-made pickles and griddled onions on Short Order’s classic take. However it wasn’t without flaw. I could’ve gone for more seasoning (a pinch or two more salt to bring out the flavors), and the grass-fed beef didn’t leave me with that jus-dripping goodness that I prize in my favorite burgers.

Around the horn, I heard similar musings; we each liked our individual choices but they fell short of the wow factor. The prices were reasonable ($11-$14 without sides) and our server (Miss. M) was amazing. Excellent service isn’t normally factored in my reviews. Yet it’s an undervalued part of the dining experience and greatly appreciated when received.

By 10 PM it was time to retire; I was starting to feel the effects of my 3 AM wake-up call. I had reached my limit from the night before but not without seeing one of my favorite bands and spending time with friends over gourmet burgers. Not bad for a Thursday.

It is great to have chef friends. They keep me honest (they taste wines too!) and up-to-date on culinary trends, share awesome tips on purchasing the ‘right’ knives, filleting fish, preparing sauces and can give excellent recommendations for serious foodie spots worthy of dining. Their training might be different, growing up in restaurants versus getting their feet wet at culinary school, and then entering professional kitchens between here and Chicago. With all their varying opinions on where the Los Angeles’s food scene stacks up, one thing that everyone can agree on is that Californians have exceptional produce. I was treated to a dinner recently by one of my chef friends that highlighted the quality ingredients of local farmers markets, playing to his strong suits by making an Italian-themed meal; my ticket for admittance would be a bottle of wine.

I accepted the invitation happily because I had not seen my friend for at least three months. He told me that he would be serving pasta but everything else was based on a whim, depending on what he picked up from the farmers markets. I was hoping to find something Tuscan or at least a red wine from Central Italy (Lazzio, Marche, Abruzzo or Umbria) in my possession, but alas, my stock was primarily filled with bottles from the Northwest—Dolcetto and Barbera*. Rather than over-thinking the dinner pairing, I opted for a bottle of Barbera d’Alba, thinking that the acidity in the grape would best handle the wide variety of fare that would be served. A bottle of 2005 Angelo Negro e Figli Barbera d’Alba was in my clutches as I shimmied through the congested boulevards to my buddy’s new digs in Culver City.

Once there, we discussed the latest happenings in our busy lives since we last talked. I readied the bottle as we caught up over each other’s current successes while he continued preparing the dinner. As the news petered out, the focus shifted to the ingredients garnered from his latest visits to different markets. I was prodded to eat all the fruits and vegetables, apart from their destined courses. He extolled the produce before I ingested any of it, and in my mind, I was certain that these market fresh items would disappoint. It was a weird experience to be forced to pay attention to a single leaf of arugula or carrot as if it were aged Brunet from Piedmont, Italy. But, when I listened closely they were singing brightly, full of flavor and much more complex than I had anticipated.

The food was plated an hour later and we sat down and shared cheers, sipping the wine before diving in. The Barbera showed cherry and blackberry cloaked in wet soils which proved to be a better match for the first few dishes of the evening but not really ideal for the main course of rigatoni all’Amatriciana.

I sat back and indulged in the flavors and freshness of the dinner, my friend had perfected some dishes that he was looking to incorporate into his repertoire. True to my Italian experiences, he kept the dishes simple, concentrating on preserving the integrity of the locally sourced ingredients with reverence. I knew that I had been missing out; I left his house resolved to take advantage of the many farmers markets in the area, weaning myself off my convenience-oriented food buying habits. I initially was skeptical of the “sourcing movement” afoot in the food world but after that illuminating meal I can see that it is anything but faddish.

* Next month (March), for the purposes of palate education, I will be taking a closer look at Central Italian red and Rhône Valley white wines almost exclusively.

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