As an eighth grader at Jessie Clark Jr. High, I once took an interpretive acting elective that would eventually set me on a crash course for where I am today–on sound stage 22 at CBS Studio Center for a taping of the Freeform sitcom Young and Hungry. Nope, I’m not here to star as the next Jackie Chan (or even Charlie Chan for that matter). Katie and I are here simply as part of the live studio audience providing real time chortles, chuckles, and the occasional displaced cough for the comedy production laugh track. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Young and Hungry. I hadn’t either until I looked it up on YouTube. But the tickets were free, so what did we have to lose? As it turned out, we weren’t treated to anything like Seinfeld or Friends, but definitely received a realistic taste of the hard work that goes into producing a typical 30 minute sitcom.
“What does go into filming a 30 minute sitcom?” you might ask. Well today the answer was “about three-and-a-half-hours”. The cast (Emily “Hannah Montana” Osment, Jonathan Sadowski, Rex “Entourage” Lee, Aimee Carrero, Kym Whitley) and crew were extremely professional but the number of retakes needed to capture each scene perfectly required much cinematic patience and discipline. Fortunately we were entertained during breaks in the filming by Ron, our multi-talented studio host, so the time passed rather quickly. This guy delivered a performance worthy of any club lounge comedian on a Carnival Cruise ship, equally insulting every single nationality represented in the studio audience, mocking their respective leaders, and improvising at will. He punctuated his circus act by balancing a step ladder on his chin while simultaneously juggling oversized bowling pins. When he passed out the free pizza, we all agreed that he was definitely the highlight of the entire afternoon experience.
In continuing with the Hungry theme of this post, I want to quickly update you on the food we’ve devoured thus far on this trip. Let me warn you that anytime I travel, one of my top priorities is sampling the regional cuisine. I love to eat and I’m able to eat a lot–my emaciated anorexic looking physique belying the numerous buffets that I single-handedly put out of business. I’ve been accused of having a tapeworm and a hollow leg, so loosen your belts if you must as I take you through this gastronomic journal of gluttony. Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are lightweights in my book. I can give Adam Richman of Man Versus Food a run for his money any day. I can’t pack away nearly as much as before but when I’m ready to eat, watch out. I’m always ready to eat in LA.
Day 1 started with a light bowl of ramen noodles. This wasn’t your “poor starving college student” ramen with a spice packet served in a styrofoam container but rather a perfect blend of springy noodles and melt-in-your-mouth chashu pork bathed in a spicy miso broth. It compared favorably to the curry chicken udon noodle soup and the always delectable Vietnamese pho we sampled a couple nights later. The great thing about these Asian noodle dishes is that they always leave you craving just a little bit more. That wasn’t a big problem as we returned for a repeat performance at lunch on the next two consecutive days. This time we threw in some pork, shrimp and leek dumplings just for good measure.
I’m always hesitant to eat Chinese food in a restaurant where the proprietors are not Chinese. That’s exactly what happened the other day when I had a craving for some barbecue pork steam buns. But I like to try new places so seeing the Caucasian chef with his Latino sous chefs making these traditionally Asian staples didn’t prevent me from taking the plunge. The pork belly buns were especially tasty and the Korean short ribs packed a flavorful aromatic punch reminiscent of my imaginary halcyon days in Seoul.
Being by the ocean always conjures up my appetite for seafood. Southern California isn’t necessarily the oyster capital of the world, but you can still find good oyster bars throughout the city. Katie and I did just that–twice actually– chasing down these raw succulent bivalves on the half shell with a dollop of horseradish, lemon, and tobasco. You can’t get full on just oysters alone, so the budget-busting side order of king crab legs, calamari, and fried clam bellies provided for the perfect complement.
Does sushi count as seafood? Katie found this hole-in-the-wall place in a strip mall close by. It’s cash only and the service sucks but we had salmon and tuna sashimi so fresh that I can’t in good conscience ever eat Kroger sushi again. You know a place is good when they aren’t chintzy with the wasabi and ginger. I’m craving the albacore jalapeno tempura rolls as we speak.
Mexican food always tastes better in LA. There’s a food truck that’s parked just down the block from our condo and they serve food until three in the morning–perfect for our late night taco run. Beef, pork, and chicken tacos lavished with different red and green chili salsas garnished with just the right amount of onions and cilantro. The little quesadilla type mulitas were some of the best I’ve had anywhere. And all that for $11. Are you kidding me?
I also got to finally try the East Indian place across Wilshire Blvd for the first time. The tandoori chicken and tikka masala had a distinctive California flair to it, lighter and less oily than what I was used to. The proprietor, noticing we were first time customers offered us complimentary Indian black tea and mango yogurts to cleanse our palate while promoting his wine tasting event a week from Tuesday. Only in California, eh?
And finally, I had to make the obligatory stop at In-N-Out Burger. Not sure what it is but the burgers and fries here will make you permanently forget about the golden arches. The lines are always out the door and it’s often difficult to find seating but the wait is definitely worth it. The loaded animal style fries are a gazillion calories but what the heck. YOLO.
I just got back from visiting my cousins down in Cerritos. I’m not going to even try to describe the buffet they took us to. I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blanks. Suffice it to say that my pants no longer fit and I swear I’m not going to eat for the next three days. It’s crash diet time, or perhaps time to go on the dreaded juice cleanse. C’mon Bingo, it’s time for a ten mile run.