It's a whole week of date nights, because our kids are visiting their grandparents until Friday (thank you, thank you, thank you V & Z for giving us time to reconnect!). Tonight my husband and I walked through the blissful Santa Monica evening down to Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, a chic street of boutiques and beautiful-people restaurants. We had dinner at 3 Square, the latest in Hans Rockenwagner's string of very pleasing eating establishments.
I had an appetizer of grilled baby artichokes with chipotle aioli. They weren't the tiny little ones I've been seeing at the farmer's market - they looked like normal artichoke hearts and stems with just a few of the inside leaves left on. The flavor was incredible, and the texture a perfect blend of smoky-charred outside with tender, smooth flesh inside.
I assumed the artichokes had been cooked before they went on the grill, but I wasn't sure how. Luckily, Hans Rockenwagner himself sat down at the table next to us as our drinks arrived. I asked whether the artichokes had been steamed before grilling. Actually, he said, they're stewed in white wine with carrots, shallots, and a few other things he named but I can't remember. Truthfully, I was a little star-struck: I've eaten at his restaurants many times over the years I've lived in California, and I've seen him from a distance before, but he's - ahem - quite a pleasant-looking guy. And talented, and creative. So I got distracted before he got to the end of the ingredient list for the artichoke bath.
I wish I'd had the courage to introduce myself and tell him about this blog and my LA Cooking Examiner column while he was still at the table by himself. But then his chef came out, and another guy who might have been a supplier or perhaps just a friend, and by the time we were ready to leave they were engrossed in conversation. So I gave my card to the waiter and asked him to tell Hans it was from the woman who asked about the artichokes.
Oh, what else did we eat? White asparagus soup with shrimp, very light and delicate, not too creamy. A bowl of chili. And a pretzel burger, with Swiss cheese and carmelized onions on one of their famous pretzel rolls. A really excellent dinner.