Head over to the LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog to read about Laurel Hardware, a new restaurant in West Hollywood with one of my favorite L.A. chefs, Mario Alberto, at the helm. Alberto, who won a dedicated following with “Peruvian soul food” eatery Chimu, is calling the menu New American accentuated with L.A. flavors. As I write in the post, look out for the abundance of farmers market ingredients.
The zucchini blossom salad combines artichokes, radish and mache, also called lamb’s lettuce or lamb’s tongue. Unlike the harsh, bitter taste of herbs like arugula and watercress, mache has a sweet, nutty flavor. Because it grows low to the ground, mechanical harvesting is difficult. Don’t expect it in the aisles of your generic supermarket.
Note the merguez pizza with dandelion, ricotta and little yellow specks of fennel pollen, called “culinary fairy dust” by The Wall Street Journal. These granules mix “the licorice zing of fresh fennel seed and anise with citrus and honey notes,” and are a potent umami source. (Even cooler? Fennel grows weed-like throughout California; you can even pick your own.)
You may wonder about delfino. This fragrant type of cilantro is distinguished by its feathery, fern-like leaves with an appearance similar to dill. Alberto serves it atop the hatch chili pizza with smoked goat cheese and anchovy.
If you know Peter Shaffer’s classic play Lettice and Lovage, the lovage oil might catch your eye — a complement to pork belly prepared with apple cider and green barley. Lovage is like an over-sized version of parsley, and has been used since the 14th century. Its yellow-brown oil is especially aromatic. In the play, Lettice brews a vodka and lovage-based cordial.
I wasn’t familiar with these ingredients my first time at Laurel Hardware. They may not seem especially exotic, but I’m curious about how they contribute to the taste of each dish. Many L.A. foodists believe Mario Alberto is an exceptionally talented chef, and I hope Laurel Hardware can help unleash his potential.