Second Helpings

Dead and Berried: That's what I feel like after most meals out these days. Will someone please explain to me why just about every other dish that lands on my table seems to have berries in it? Are all the chefs in town working from the same recipe book?

I'm not just talking about desserts, either, where berries have been inescapable for years. Chocolate cake, creme brulee, bread pudding, cheesecake, even cannoli--it's almost impossible to get a sweet in this town without berries or a berry sauce.

Now berries are in main dishes, too. And not just teamed with traditional partners like roast duck, either, but with foie gras and swordfish. Right now, I've got a sickening feeling that some chef is experimenting with a raspberry-mozzarella pizza or blackberry chow mein.

I realize berries are in season. And I know they taste good. But I'd like to call for a berry moratorium once summer is over. It used to be that berries were an eagerly anticipated late-spring and summer treat. Now, though, they're just a substitute for creative kitchen imagination.

Thank you berry much.
Latte Lawyers: How do you like your legal advice--regular or decaf?
To succeed in the restaurant business, it helps to have a gimmick. An entrepreneurial young attorney in Santa Monica has come up with a beauty.

According to the industry trade journal Nation's Restaurant News, Jeffrey Hughes has set a precedent: He operates Legal Grind Coffee & Counsel, a coffee house that dispenses espresso, bagels, pastries and, in the afternoon, free legal consultations.

Hughes' coffee house also sells various state bar pamphlets and statutory will forms, and provides notary services for $10. If the concept is successful, he plans to branch out to other states. Pass the apple tort.

Bagel Update: A few weeks ago, I did a column rating the bagel shops in the Valley. Several readers told me I should have commented on the service as well as the bagels.

They said that being treated nicely was at least as important as getting a good bagel. In fact, many said they patronized a low-rated store because the folks behind the counter were so friendly. One reader told me he refused to go into the top-rated bagelry because he didn't want to put up with what he called the help's "surly attitude."

I understand what these folks are saying. But with bagels, I'm a bottom-line guy: If the bagels are good, I don't care if I'm waited on by Hannibal Lecter. And if they're not, even a bagel shop run by Mother Teresa couldn't lure me in.

Wine Time: Local wine writer/consultant Lynn Chamberlain has begun putting out a bimonthly, 16- to 20-page newsletter called "Food Tastes Better With Wine."

She reviews about a hundred different wines in each issue, and the writing is clear, succinct and opinionated. One nice touch: Chamberlain refuses to grade wines with a number. "Numbers," she correctly observes, "make up your mind for you." (That's why the New Times Cafe column doesn't rate restaurants with numbers, stars or forks.)

If you'd like a subscription or more info, call 946-3774.
--Howard Seftel


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