The Little Next Door

THE LITTLE NEXT DOOR
8142 West 3rd Street
323.951.1010


As a creature of comfort, I rarely delineate from my trusted stand-bys–one of which is having breakfast at Joan's On Third. In my humble opinion, Joan's consistently makes the best eggs in town. There, they've mastered three basic egg-cooking techniques to perfection: Their soft-boiled eggs always have a warm, yolky center; their scrambled eggs are always scrambled into creamy-soft, fluffy folds; and their omelettes would make Chef André Soltner proud. Despite the number of breakfasts I've cooked over the years, I still feel iffy about how my eggs turn out. I don't know how their kitchen manages to churn out perfection day after day.

This past Sunday, when my boyfriend and I arrived at Joan's for breakfast, we saw that it was closed for the Easter holiday. Quel dommage! Our attention then turned to a small, ivy-covered patio with café tables and rattan bistro chairs next door, which is literally called The Little Next Door. (I've passed this French restaurant numerous times on the way to Joan's and paid no attention to it previously. In fact, I believe it was my friend Bill who once told me this place was nothing to write home about. When it comes to restaurants, I always ask Bill for his two cents.)

We started off with a warm pain au chocolat as we decided what to order. (If you don't already know this, it must be said that you should always judge a café/restaurant/bakery by its pain au chocolat or croissant–especially if it's "French".) Thankfully, theirs was a promising sign. 

My boyfriend ordered his usual omelette; I went with "Two Eggs Your Style, served with bacon and potatoes". Whence dining at an unfamiliar establishment, I tend to order my eggs over-easy because, in my opinion, it's a foolproof method of cooking eggs. (Sunny-side up can be tricky if the whites aren't cooked through on top.) Given the interesting variety of eggs Benedict on offer, it might sound like I ordered the most boring thing on the menu, but the aforementioned "potatoes" weren't your run-of-the-mill hash browns... Imagine my delight when I was surprised with a serving of pommes dauphinoise, the Queen of Side Dishes: thinly sliced potatoes cooked in milk, butter and cream underneath a bubbling blanket of grated Gruyère!

My eggs were good–because, like I said, it's pretty hard to screw up eggs cooked over-easy–but the pommes dauphinoise is truly what took this breakfast to the brink of divine. 

The Sole Incident

The problem with not having a kitchen–or a car, for that matter–is that you have to plan your meals somewhat in advance. For breakfast, I usually keep a stock of Fage Greek yogurt in my mini-fridge, which I'll have with a cup of tea. For lunch, I will venture down to town where I'll pop in somewhere for something quick and easy. For dinner, if I'm not catching up with a friend, I have to decide how to make food appear at The Clubhouse. Getting food delivery, while at-times convenient, is not very cost-effective for one person if you consider the food order minimum, delivery fee and tip for the driver.  Thank goodness for prepared foods counters, where you can point to what you want, decide how much of it you want, and leave the rest of the work to your trusty ol 'microwave.

Speaking of which, I got caught in a weird tailspin at the prepared foods counter at Joan's on Third the other day. One of their daily specials was sole meunière, sautéed sole filets in lemon butter with capers and parsley–one of my favorite dishes in the world. The price card read $9 per 1/2 lb., which was reasonable enough. I thought it'd make a nice dinner if I added a side of asparagus ($6) and mashed potatoes ($3.25). Half-a-pound of sole filets, though it sounded like a lot, would surely mean leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Half-a-pound, it is, then. 

When I got to the front of the line, there were two girls standing behind me–maybe a little too close. For whatever reason, this narrow proximity between us triggered a strange sense of anxiety in me. I felt disoriented, scatterbrained and rushed, even if it was all imagined.

"Hi, can I get half a pound of the sole?" I asked, nervously.

Is it odd for me to order "half a pound" of something? Does that sound like too much food?

"Sure, let me weigh that out for you," said the counter person, as she lifted several filets on a paper plate to be weighed. 

I started feeling light-headed and my heart beat faster as I watched her check the food scale.

"OK, that'll be murmurmur five murmurmur..."

Wait, did I hear that right? That doesn't make any sense. The sign clearly says $9 per 1/2 lb. Am I crazy? It's so noisy in here. Did she say "twenty-five dollars"? Or did I completely mishear and she meant that 1/2 lb. is five pieces? Mental hyperventilation taking place now.

"Oh, in that case, I'll just take one piece."

"Are you sure? That's just half of a filet. Do you want two?"

Oh, gosh. Why did I say one piece? That's not going to be enough for dinner. But everyone in L.A. is skinny. I need to go on a diet. Cannot compute. Do not understand. Confusion. Confusion. CONFUSION.

"No, no, one is fine," I said, feeling out of breath, "And a side of mashed potatoes and asparagus, please."

I wanted to get out of there. The room was spinning. I felt an enormous pressure from the girls waiting in line. What's taking so long??? Help!

I still cannot comprehend what unfolded internally, but I walked out with half of a sole fillet and a small side of mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was exactly the right amount of food. There were no leftovers. (I did, however, wish I took her up on that second piece of sole. That way, I could have avoided eating the entire container of mashed potatoes.)


*My friend Bill read this post after I'd already told him over the phone what had happened. "I still don't understand what happened. But don't try to explain to me again because it'll only make things more confusing," he said. Oh, good, I was able to, in this post, accurately convey the same level of confusion that I had experienced!

 

 

 

BLT Sandwiches

JOAN'S ON THIRD
8350 West 3rd Street bet. La Cienega and Fairfax Avenues
323.655.2285


Slapping lettuce, tomato and bacon between two slices of white bread with a swipe of mayo doesn't sound like much of a sandwich but boy, oh, boy do I love a good BLT. It reminds me so much of my childhood when my mom used to make BLTs (or two-tiered club sandwiches, when she felt particularly ambitious) for my school field trips. She'd even cut them into little triangles and use festive cellophane-wrapped toothpicks to hold their structural integrity in place. 

I like to keep it pure and simple with a single layer of each ingredient–no crazy whole-grain breads, turkey bacon, flavored mayonnaise/aïoli or exotic greens! BLTs, in my opinion, must be made with plain white bread, real bacon, Hellman's mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce–and only iceberg lettuce (for its crisp, neutral freshness)–and a very ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomato. If I'm feeling wild, I might concede to the addition of avocado slices but, honestly, you really can't improve on such a classic. 

I went to a FitMix Endurance Pilates class at noon and was ready for lunch an hour later when it was over. I should've ordered a salad but couldn't help but be tempted by the BLT at Joan's On Third. Their BLT is an exemplary one, with its strips of thin crispy bacon, juicy tomato and perfectly toasted pain de mie. Truly scrumptious. I also ordered a cup of the celery soup on the side because, well, who can resist a little teacup of soup?


*If you're avoiding carbs as I sometimes do, you can request the B.T.A. (bacon, tomato, avocado) at Croft Alley as a Bibb lettuce wrap. It's light and delicious.

Brebirousse d'Argental Cheese

 

I originally came across this cheese at Vintage Grocers when we were staying in Malibu. I had never seen it before but was drawn to its bright orange-tinged rind (colored with annatto), squat square shape and soft, oozy quality. I love creamy pungent cheeses and Brebirousse d'Argental does not disappoint–this French sheep's milk cheese is buttery and ripe with a tang. It spreads beautifully on crackers! I've started seeing it around the cheese sections in different gourmet markets. It's usually quite pricey at $15 per pound, but I found this SGD-sized piece at in the bowl of cheese ends at Joan's On Third and bought it because it was mini-fridge-friendly.