Monday, August 24, 2009

Images: Dinner at Cube

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Michael and I enjoyed a lovely dinner tonight at Cube Cafe & Marketplace on La Brea. This is a place I've been wanting to visit for a while; the owner, Alex Palermo, had generously shared several recipes with me for my LA Cooking Examiner column earlier this year, including pasta with black truffle sauce and a classic spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and hot peppers. Jessie Litow, Cube's lovely public relations master, invited us in for a thank-you dinner on the house - for which we say a big THANK YOU, Jessie, because we had a marvelous time, and dinner was just delicious.

Here's the thing I love about cozy places like Cube: It feels like a place where the owner really loves food and loves to cook. The walls are covered not with arty photos or elegant paintings - they're lined with shelf after shelf of unusual, high-end, hard-to-find condiments and ingredients. Jars and jars and bottles and bottles and packages and packages of grains, oils, mustards, preserved vegetables, honeys, chocolates and more. So you're sitting there eating terrific food, and you're surrounded by terrific-looking food, and you're bathing in flavors and textures on the table, and possibilities and food fantasies on the walls - it doesn't get better than that. (Someday I'm going to interview Rachel, the women who buys all the gourmet foodstuffs for Cube, because I think she has my dream job, and I want to figure out how she got it.)

For the picture above of some of their salumi, I opened the door to one of the big refrigerators and stuck my camera inside - good thing it was early and there weren't any other customers there, because if there had been, I'm sure they would have thought me quite strange. Here are a few of the other things I looked at tonight at Cube:

The shelves in one corner of the restaurant hold dozens of types of oils and vinegars.

In another corner, different spices sit in silver tins. This is one of the only places in L.A. where I've seen grains of paradise, a pepper-like spice with a citrus-like presence.

Spanish saffron, left, and a selection of infused salts, some of which were on sale - I bought some of the truffle salt, which I use all the time, and some saffron salt, which I've never tried before.

These nut creams were too expensive for me, but maybe someday I'll splurge on the pistachio.

In the grain corner, I found farro, a kind of wheat often used in salads; "beans from purgatory" (not sure I want to know the origin of that name); cicerchie, an ancient kind of chickpea that looks a little like teeth; and black rice.

On the sweet side, I spotted tea rose petal preserves from Armenia, and frozen wild strawberries from Italy.

As for what we ate, I am embarrassed to admit that it was all so delicious and beautiful that - um - I forgot to photograph most of it. By the time I realized I hadn't gotten a photo, the food was gone. Let's chalk that one up to the marvelous glass of Prosecco, and next time I'll be more diligent. Here are the few things I did manage to snap before they were gone:

Hamachi crudo with Flavor Grenade pluot

Black truffle and wild mushroom pizza with a fried egg on top - Cube sells a frozen version of this (not your standard frozen pizza, these are made in Italy, all local, natural, etc.) and they kindly sent one home with me - so I'll report back.

My husband's beautiful cheese plate, with giant corn nuts, hazelnuts soaked in honey, dried cherries, and pistachios as garnishes. I love the way they serve their cheeses - on a slab of slate, with the names of the cheeses written in chalk.

Cube also has a wonderful private dining room, just off the kitchen (it used to be a walk-in, and the big metal door's still there), where they do a six- or eight-course prix fixe tasting menu for up to 12 people. Now doesn't that sound like a great way to spend an evening?


Shara Karasic said...

Mouth-watering. I can only imagine what you ate, undocumented. You bring the interior of the restaurant, and of course the food, to life!

Erika Kerekes said...

The other things we ate: a very seasonal pasta stuffed with sweet corn and topped with bacon, delicious; a filet of beef Florentine, with lemon squeezed over (surprisingly delicious), the best broccolini I've ever had, and a decent wild mushroom risotto, clearly made with red wine as it was dark pink rather than the standard off-white. Oh, and an apple walnut mini-tart for dessert.

Carolyn Jung said...

What an adorable place. I would have gone crazy buying all those goodies, too. Ooh, pistachio cream, and frozen wild strawberries from Italy?? Oh my gawd! Must make a side trip to this charming cafe/store on my next trip down south.

Erika Kerekes said...

The pistachio cream was the one other thing I wanted, too, Carolyn. It was $30 though, and I restrained myself. Guess I'll have to save up my allowance.

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