Interview: Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold

Jonathan Gold, the longtime restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times whose 2007 Pulitzer Prize is the only one ever awarded to a food critic, explores the diverse dining landscape of his native Los Angeles in filmmaker Laura Gabbert's documentary "City of Gold." Credit: IFC Films
Jonathan Gold, the longtime restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times whose 2007 Pulitzer Prize is the only one ever awarded to a food critic, explores the diverse dining landscape of his native Los Angeles in filmmaker Laura Gabbert’s documentary “City of Gold.”
Credit: IFC Films

Jonathan Gold is used to asking the questions. The restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times has made a 30-year career of weaving captivating tales about food (and music) and the people who make it.

But the roles were reversed after filmmaker Laura Gabbert convinced the dry-witted and brilliant storyteller to allow cameras to follow him as he explored the diverse dining landscape of his native Los Angeles for the documentary “City of Gold.”

What happens when the examiner becomes the examined?

“It was more than slightly weird,” Gold said recently by phone. “It’s kind of fun to be on the other side, though, I guess. I recommend it. If you have a chance, you should try it.”

Cute sentiment, but something tells me when the history of film is written, the list of documentaries about individual journalists will be a short one.

Gold, whose 2007 Pulitzer Prize is the only one ever awarded to a food critic, is more than just a journalist, though. He’s a cultural anthropologist who uses food as a lens through which to examine the myriad cultural influences of Los Angeles. He responds with modesty to the classification.

“Other people call what I do cultural anthropology; I’m just a restaurant critic,” Gold said. “I don’t put a higher meaning on what I do.”

Gold is demure in his rejection of the label, but Gabbert’s film, which shows the critic giddily bouncing from Mexican to Korean restaurants, reveals the critic as a deeply informed lover of food who serves as a conduit between cooks and diners. He investigates and interprets the food, its provenance and cultural context, and then teaches and entertains his readers.

Continue reading the interview at MyStatesman.com.

The documentary “City of Gold” is currently screening at the Regal Arbor. You can read my review here

Austin Food & Wine Festival: 10 Questions with … David Bull

David Bull, executive chef and co-owner Second Bar + Kitchen.
David Bull, executive chef and co-owner Second Bar + Kitchen.

Second Bar + Kitchen chef-partner David Bull, who earned the honor of Best New Chef from Food & Wine in 2003 and came to prominence at the Driskill Grill, will join with Driskill Grill executive chef Troy Knapp ahead of the fest on Wednesday to pay tribute to the elegant hotel that is celebrating its 130th birthday.

First important meal you ever cooked for another person?

Personally: we had large family gatherings growing up, and my aunts and uncles were always in charge of the food. I remember I was asked to make the deviled eggs for Christmas one year — this was a huge honor to be included in the preparations of the meal. I felt like I was a “mad man” cooking deviled eggs!!

Professionally: I had the privilege to cook for the late Charlie Trotter at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean (Fearing) joined him at the table along with Charlie’s mother, who was celebrating her birthday at the time. I lost a few nights sleep over this one. But it went off without a hitch and I have a signature and message from chef Trotter that I cherish.

Favorite cooking tool in the kitchen?

The standards come to mind: my knives, blender, zester — but I don’t have a favorite — I’m a firm believer that every task has the right tool and you should use any tool available to make your life easier!

Most overrated/underrated food?

Another hard question — I’m not sure I can answer this. I find value in all foods — I think vegetables have gotten a bad rap but are starting to get the attention that they deserve. I find that root vegetables are underrated on the consumer side but chefs have often loved their depth of flavor and versatility.

Just home from a long night in the kitchen, what are you drinking?

Water for sure, followed by a cold Lone Star and scotch

What’s the next buzzy food coming to restaurant menus?

Also a tough question. We are working on tempeh at the moment, and I love the versatility and health properties of this product.

Last meal in America (not at one of your restaurants), where do you go?

I would go home and have an old-school Italian family get-together. These gatherings are what began my inspiration, and I’ve never had better meatballs or lasagna!

Neapolitan or New York-style pizza?

Neapolitan

Cake or pie?

Carrot cake

Dream four-person dinner party?

Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, my father, Mike Tyson

Bagel or breakfast taco?

Depends on where I am: In New York, I would have a bagel, for sure. But in Texas, it’s a taco all the way.

The Austin Food and Wine Festival takes place April 22-24 at Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park. For tickets and more information, visit austinfoodandwinefestival.com

Mueller restaurants Kyoten Sushiko and L’Oca d’Oro eye May openings

The chirashi bowl at Kyōten. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The chirashi bowl at Kyōten. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Mueller development will soon welcome to new restaurants to its growing culinary community. Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro and sushi restaurant Kyoten Sushiko both say they now expect to be open in May.

L’Oca d’oro from chef Fiore Tedesco, who has worked in esteemed restaurants like Roberta’s in Brooklyn and Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan as well as at Franklin Barbecue and Bufalina in Austin, plans to open his restaurant at 1900 Simond Ave. in May.  Contemporary Italian neighborhood restaurant with a focus on refined family-style service, with homemade pastas and salamis cured in house. The restaurant will have a full bar, wood-burning grill and rotisserie and serve lunch and dinner.

Some of the best sushi in Austin came out of a trailer last year, and now chef Otto Phan will bring his creations to Mueller. Kyōten Sushiko, slated to open in May, will initially serve omakase dinners (priced around $150) and, after about a month of operation, will expand to include casual lunch options like boxed sushi, similar to what was served at the Kyōten trailer. Kyōten Sushiko will be located at 4600 Mueller Blvd.

Veracruz All-Natural opening restaurant in Round Rock

rbz-Veracruz-Food-Tariler-01

Wildly popular taco truck Veracruz All-Natural may have started in Austin, but Round Rock, and its cheaper rent, is getting the first brick-and-mortar location from sisters Maritza and Reyna Vazquez. Veracruz will open in a strip mall next to Brooklyn Pie Co. at 2711 La Frontera Blvd. Ste. 320 just south of Hesters Crossing Road on April 22.

The sisters will throw an opening night party from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with t-shirt giveaways, free beer and a special dinner. After the opening party, Veracruz will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Veracruz opened its first taco truck in East Austin in 2009 and has since added locations at Radio Coffee & Bar and Hotel Vegas.

 

Trace hosting Crush, an unofficial AFWF after party April 23

crush

You don’t have to have a badge or pass to attend Trace’s 5th annual after party following Austin Food & Wine Fest’s Rock Your Taco event on April 23. Crush, the “mid-summer night’s dream”-inspired event features entertainment (contortionists, an interactive art exhibit), music, a raffle and more. Bites and sips will be provided by Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Austin Winery and Rodney Strong Wines. Tickets cost $35 in advance and $40 at the door for the event that runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the grant program of the benefiting the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. More information and tickets at whotelaustin.com/crush.

 

 

Video: Austin360 BBQ Tour: Day 5 (Central Texas)

Hwy 29 BBQ in Bertram.
Hwy 29 BBQ in Bertram.

Thursday found me closer to home, as I hit Bertram, Burnet, Marble Falls and Spicewood and slowly made my way to the final leg in the Hill Country.

Photos: Austin360 BBQ Tour

A plate of barbecue from Payne's Bar-B-Q Shak in Burnet.
A plate of barbecue from Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak in Burnet.

Not following my #360BBQTour escapades on Instagram? Check out this collection of photos for a few highlights from the first five days. Click on the time stamp of each photo for location info.

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Beef. It's what's for dinner. #360BBQTour

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Fried chicken and Frito pie. Why not?

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