Vegetable Maki, The Abbey, and Ina Garten

vegetable maki

The Abbey
692 N. Robertson Blvd (@ Santa Monica Blvd)
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310.289.8410
www.abbeyfoodandbar.com

There aren’t too many shows and personalities left on the Food Network whom I like anymore. The ones I remember have moved on to better and, well, better things: Ming Tsai and his adorable Asian Campbell’s Kid face that totally didn’t match his sexy, sophisticated cuisine, long and lean Indian siren Padma Laxmi, Jamie Oliver, Sara Moulton, and of course Tony Bourdain. The continually hot, new crop of celebrity chefs and celebrity non-chefs are, well, barely *eh* Giada de Laurentiis is certainly a sight to see, but I sometimes wonder if what she cooks actually tastes good because she doesn’t seem to eat much of what she makes.

But.

There are a few personalities I adore, even though I may not necessarily ever make a single thing they cook. Paula Deen is one of those. Her southern cooking is a little extreme with respect to beer-battered, deep-fried sticks of butter dipped in mayo, but she is sincere and charming and a little silly, and hell, who doesn’t like to watch her fawn all over her two hot sons Jamie and Bobby? Guys with southern accents. Who cook. *swoon*

Everyone knows about my fantasy chef husband Tyler Florence, but I also have a crazy sexy soft spot for Michael Chiarello. Don’t ask me why. It’s not PG. ;) Really though, I think it’s that he makes food that I would attempt to make. His recipes are simple enough that I can attempt to make them, and yet not stupid enough that I wonder why on earth the Food Network would think I need someone to show me how to bake a cake by reading the instructions on the box a la Sandra Lee. “Here’s how you make a cake from a boxed mix. Follow the instructions on the box. And to frost it, just open the can!”

(For the record, I am not being a food snob turning up my nose to things like packaged cake mixes – I know what a Godsend they can be in times of entertaining crisis. However, I have a slight problem with someone trying to “teach” me how to add eggs, water, and oil, when the instructions are right there on the package. With pictures.)

But the one with whom I most identify is Ina Garten. I love her for so many reasons. She is The Barefoot Contessa, like me, a princess in my own fantasy world. But she keeps it easy and real, barefoot. She has range in what she cooks and bakes, from comforting meatloaf and brownies to could-be-too-precious crab salads. That is what I love about her recipes and cooking. Everything is accessible and doesn’t seem like they’re trying too hard. She has proven herself a successful entrepreneur. She owned a store, then sold it, she has written multiple books, and has a television show. She stays home all day in a fabulous house, drives a fabulous car, makes fabulous foods for entertaining, and yet there is something warm and inviting and charming about the faintest hint of insecurity in her laugh and the way she tucks her hair behind her ears. She is Martha Stewart on Xanax washed down with a martini. I love Ina Garten.

But best of all, I like Ina because she sends Jeffrey off to work for a week at a time (I think I love the fact that he’s the Dean of a business school, too), then surrounds herself with fabulous gay men. That’s my kind of girl.

I want to be Ina Garten.

Friday. Happy Hour. Poolside cocktails at a friend’s incredible new house in WeHo. Surrounded by gorgeous men with their shirts off? Call me Ina.

I really was channeling the Barefoot Contessa. I was tickled that I had been invited to one of their pool parties, and no one but a contessa is “tickled.” Can I bring something?, I asked, hopinghopinghoping that I could, because these are the only opportunities I have to cook these days. You know, a busy (non)working girl like me doesn’t have the time to cook much for herself.

He said yes. I shrieked. But then immediately slapped my hand over my mouth. Girly shrieking is unacceptable. It’s annoying.

These are my gay boyfriends, which meant nothing creamy, greasy with butter, fried in oil, or heavily laden with excessive carbs that would counteract the hours they crunch at Crunch. I certainly wasn’t going to make a salad (which would have been way too *ahem* girly), so I made sushi. Since we would be outside under the sun, raw fish was out of the question. I made vegetable maki.

I brought everything with me, just like Ina does when she packs a perfectly perfect little beach blanket bingo picnic in her perfectly perfect picnic basket complete with tablecloth, flatware, candles, a centerpiece, and if she could, I bet she would pull out a complete set of table and four chairs with matching cushions.

I didn’t do that. I just brought soy sauce, wasabi, and chopsticks. I may be channeling Ina, but I ain’t no Martha Stewart hopped up on speed.

We sat out there on the deck, ate a little, drank a lot, talked, laughed, twinkled like only Sarah and her fabulous gay boyfriends do. Some were shirtless, rockin’ the ripped abs; some were not. All of them were my personal eye candy. ;)

When the sun went down, we skipped up the street to The Abbey. That was more fun than it should have been.

Up until only recently, I actually thought that in a former life, The Abbey truly was a church of some sort that had been converted into a bar/club, thusly called The Abbey. Duh. They actually built and decorated The Abbey that way from the get-go, though there is nothing holy about this place made of dark, sexy spaces, including a row of private, curtained cabanas. A DJ bangs out booming dance music from a corner confessional in the main bar area up front. There’s a highly suggestive (suggestive of what, I don’t know, but it’s suggestive of something) sculpted glass chandelier hanging over the bar where people suck down cocktails like they’re being baptized. The drinks are not cheap, but for size, strength, and always accessorized with something from the sizeable array of fruit on the bar, you definitely get your money’s worth. And hey, sometimes you just have to tell yourself that you’re paying for “the view.”

The patio is more relaxed, with tables and
chairs. It’s slightly quieter outside, away from the music, so it’s easier to have a conversation, as well as eat something from The Abbey’s kitchen. Though I have heard that The Abbey’s food isn’t bad, I have never eaten there. Are you kidding?! If I eat anything, I’ll pop right out of this outfit! Besides, there’s no time to eat when you’re a Dancing Queen.

I love playing in West Hollywood. I love the pool parties. I love The Abbey (though apparently, word has gotten out and The Abbey is slowly but surely becoming overrun by non-natives like myself, but I’m not annoying, I swear! Don’t kick me out! I’ll stop shrieking, I promise!). I love dressing up only to impress myself. I love that a silver-haired South Beach Sexybeast will lean over and whisper how fabulous my bag is. I love it.

I am Ina Garten of the West Coast, surrounding myself with gay boyfriends whom I adore.

Or maybe I’m just a gay man trapped inside a girl food blogger’s body.

Nah. I hate fruity cocktails.

** a year ago today, i had an almost-come-to-jesus-moment at mario’s peruvian **

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  • KT

    Oh girl, I *swear* I am a gay man trapped in a little woman’s body. It’s so frustrating sometimes!

    Those veggie rolls look so good right about now, in the 500-degree weather. That sounds like the perfect dinner.

  • dorkie

    um… excuse me. tyler florence is MY fantasy hubby! hahah! :-P when his cookbook, the real kitchen, came out, i went to his book signing at the Vroman’s here in pasadena. hubba hubba!!!

  • Marilyn

    I love Ina Garten, too. It makes me want to move to the northeast, just so I can be one of her bestest friends and just so she can bake all kinds of deliciousness for me.

  • nosh

    Sarah, I have the Food Channel on a lot, but then again I have the TV on a lot! For me the Food Channel has sucken and sucked much like MTV — instead of the bread and butter, the music videos and cooking shows, it has devolved to Emeril trying to be funny and too many specials and food contests. I still tune in, I like Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” and Emeril’s old kitchen show, and the endless repeats of “Best Of.”

    I eat up the cooking shows on PBS. “America’s Test Kitchen” is the best of the genre, and Ming Tsai’s show where he showcases a master sauce or marinade and makes four dishes from it is fun and helpful. (Mostly broadcast Saturday afternoons in L.A.)

    I sometimes check in on the Travel Channel, where Epicurious repeats and Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” airs — I have problems with his ego and smoking, but the special he did on the Bulli Restaurant in Spain with its new concepts and techniques was the best cooking show of the year, especially since he mixed in a trip to an authentic high-end ham merchant/artiste and a super-simple fresh seafood meal.

    So Sarah — You’ve been to restaurants, cook in your apartment, and have that special something — Do you have a friend with a high-end video camera and some connections and funding?

  • Stephanie

    I don’t want to be her, I want her to adopt me!!

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