There have been a few cases of “food concepts” taking their biz plan to Bank of Kickstarter for funding: Gastronomes. Soups On. Auntie’s Fry Bread.

Many have succeeded, but capitalization of food businesses that have never produced actual edible products? There’s a sucker born every minute. Seems a tough sell. Some chefs/cooks/restaurateurs are trying more organic ways… Ari Taymor & Dinelle Luchesi met on a plane in 2011. They swear they’re not dating, but they did make a tumblr baby.

With no rhyme and reason, I visited this outfit which was all the way in Venice. No PR firm invite, no goading from bloggity types. The chef happened to tweet his new ventures after a 6 months at Salute Wine Bar, and it happened to be a “pop-up”. That word should really be added to the list of words to be banned in 2012.

Budget is rather tight for most of America these days. People must still eat, but most mustn’t partake in $55 prix fixe menus. It is a difficult time to open a restaurant using $35 and $55 set meals as corner stones. Perusing the menus, and understanding the history of this chef (staged at Flour+Water, roamed the planet) evidenced these dinner will probably not be gluttonous, probably involve foraged young flowers placed perfectly upright. Some people voiced concerns about leaving hungry; the solution is to bring wine (and skinny friends).

First up, the controversial amuse bouche. This fried tofu ball seasoned with yuzu kosho is carried over from Taymor’s Dinner with Farmers menu at Salute. To be honest, as a guy who loves stinky tofu, this presumably Asian inspired dish was obfuscating. It’s not quite a doughy fritter, it’s not quite a tender fluffy tofu inside. Those who dig Starry Kitchen’s Ballz in Yo Mouth would enjoy it.

First, garlic oyster “stew”, torn bread, bronze fennel: Eeveryone drink this up. One neighboring new mommy brought the ceramic ware up to her face. Her nose might have touched the bottom of the bowl. As someone who finds Venetian rather extraterrestrial, this was shocking. The act was straight hoodrat Vietnamese, and totally comforting. Yes, there’s photo proof:


Second, charred allium: tofu, smoked dashi. Again, clearly Japanese infused. The tofu is made by Alma. Minimally, you gotta appreciate the man for trying. But really, look at the beautifully placed flowers. Every dish had same attention to detail. Remember, this was executed at a cereal bar with no stove. You look at this and you want to LOL at the absurdity (and bravery) of the chef’s attempt. And smoked dashi really should be Venice’s next naked juice? $8 cup of pressed kale would be so much better with a hefty dash of dashi. Hasn’t Abbot Kinney heard of umami?

Third, asparagus: mustard, egg, caviar. There was a perfectly ooey gooey soft boiled egg. Quinoa types love this dish, ramen types will enjoy the egg. Taymor scoffed at the notion of recirculating the egg. Boiled for “Exactly 5 minutes and 20 seconds” he said, “immersion circulators are for pussies”. Or something to that effect, please don’t use that time to make the perfect hanjuku egg.

4th, Jimenez lamb: hay, parsnip, ash. This was course that cemented the meal. It was difficult to understand the ingredients beyond the lamb/parsnip foam, surely the hay and ash represented some type of smokiness? It didn’t really matter; the lamb, done medium rare, was a pleasing marriage of flavor and fragrance.

Before the dessert, came the palate cleanser of pomelo (oro blanco) and ginger juice. This was no passion fruit-gate; the juice washed away every and any remnant of hoofed animals from the tongue. The very weekend after this meal, a replica of this elixir was produced with farmers market ingredients. This weekend, that juice-tail will be embellished with some gin. Matt Biancanello, eat your heart out.

After 5 courses and half a bottle of wine each later, no one was hungry, and the purpose of the pop-up was obvious: Alma wants people to enjoy the food enough to invest in their future. If nothing else, you also get a chance to geek out about the SF food scene for two hours while becoming Ms. Lucchesi’s bridal party.

Finally, Billy Joel was wrong, we did set the fire. But it was just a little one.

Alma LA Pop-Up
Currently at:
3524 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
http://almafoodandwine.tumblr.com/reservations
Alma // POP UP on Urbanspoon

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