Monday, September 15, 2008

The Unbirth of Cool

I came to LA for this conference because I was afraid not to. I'd presented here last year and made lots of connections, and although I wasn't going to present again, I thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass around a lot of business cards, especially now. But because I'm not as visible this time, I've got to work harder.

Also I don't mind so much coming to LA anymore because it's familiar, and this time I chose to stay at my old haunt, the Grafton on Sunset, where I know exactly what to expect. It's like those tourists who come to NYC and eat at McDonald's and Olive Garden. You can't blame them. There are plenty of bad places in New York that one could stumble upon, and they're just trying to avoid their own regret.

I'm a little more adventurous, but if I decide to try something new, it probably is going to be familiar to me in some way.

Tonight I tried STK for two reasons: 1) it's owned by the same folks that own several Meatpacking District eateries, including STK NY and 2) I keep seeing it on Hollywood.tv celebrity coverage. I apparently was there too early, because it was practically empty and I only saw typical fake-boobed aspiring actresses, no Jessica Simpson or Eva Longoria. Still, I felt conspicuous eating on my own, so I moved myself from a bar table to the bar itself so I could ogle the black-clad, hot bartenders who shake their cocktails for show, competing with one another to see whose cocktail shake is bigger.

I happened to sit next to Marc, one of the partners of the company, an experience slightly less thrilling than when I met the owner of Blue Hill at Gottino. Marc, also owner of Sky Radio, was very LA, though, and was much more interested in his blonde companion who joined him later than in conversation with little ol' me, so that was that. We only spoke long enough for him to comment on my "petite little dinner," which was true. I was starving when I left.

I'm trying to get back on the food diary so I only ordered a 6 oz. skirt steak, which still seemed big to me in theory (in caloric theory anyway), with a side of roasted cauliflower. Everything was delicious - including the "bold" STK sauce - but it just wasn't enough. But, if I wanted to drink a couple of glasses of wine, that was the portion sacrifice I had to make.

The food was noteworthy but the wine was overpriced and not that good. My initial waitress was ditsy and less than knowledgeable about the food and wine, only pointing out the most expensive dishes as her "favorites" and telling me the Rose Sauvinion was good when it was not. I moved partially because of my conspicuousness, partially to ditch her. And I figured at the bar, I wouldn't notice how much of an unscene it was there, despite all the hype.

oven burner oven wall
The highlight of my evening came before dinner, when I had the hotel shuttle driver drop me off at Johnny Cupcakes, a boutique of skull-and-crossbone wares that feature, well, cupcake iconography. It's the perfect merger of my two sensibilities, and although I can't tell if the place is hipster or played out, I was glad to visit their homey bakery shop and buy myself a freshly-baked signature tee. I suspect the place isn't that cool considering its proximity to Paul Frank, Kid Robot and Agent Provocateur, but considering how cool I am not and how much I love all those places, it was a perfect stop on my trip.

My conference starts early tomorrow morning and I will likely be working for a good 10-12 hours. Thank God I'm seeing Billy Idol at House of Blues on Sunset tomorrow night.