SQIRL, LOS ANGELES
The sandwich board sits smack in the middle of the sidewalk. Two words and I’m a goner; Toast and Coffee. What started as a jam business is now one of LA’s all day breakfast destinations, with a queue that winds around the corner from 6:30 am when they open until 4 pm when they close. What Sqirl doesn’t tell you on its signage is that the toast you are about to eat will forever change your opinion concerning breakfast bread. Toasted until golden, no, beyond golden, the slice of brioche is not a slice at all, it is a slab. Far exceeding pedestrian Texas toast proportions, the toast that is featured on Sqirl's menu borders on burnt, not burned. Burnt in the most delicious of ways, reminiscent of the caramelized twinge of burnt sugar.
I order the Famed Ricotta Toast and Jam. Unable to choose just one jam, I timidly ask for three. A Gulliver-sized portion arrives, hanging on to its plate for dear life. Smothered in House Straus milk ricotta, the cheese spills over the edges of the toast, a petticoat peeking out from beneath a skirt of seasonal jams. Aprium/Olallieberry, Santa Rosa Plum/Flowering Thyme and Strawberry/Rose Geranium. This jam is too exquisite to be slathered on bread, it deserves to be eaten with a demi-tasse spoon.
My lunch partner Ann Marie has sensibly ordered a little protein in the form of a vegetable quiche. Baked in a springform pan, the vegetables and custard are more soufflé than frittata, surrounded by a buttery crust and served with a fistful of just-picked salad greens.
I am beginning to descend into a bottomless food coma but not before ordering a slice of Raspberry Rhubarb pie. The pie crust is sparkly with coarse sugar, the fruit sweet enough with just the right amount of pucker. I very well may have found my dream meal and I am heartbroken when it ends.
The following morning, I have the great good fortune to meet Squirl’s pastry chef, Meadow Ramsey. Food people are like theatre people, sharing a common bond and understanding of the crazy workplace in which we spin. Meadow’s kitchen space is tiny, her culinary talent ginormous. She graciously hands me a brown paper bag as a parting gift. Inside I discover not one, but two desserts, or in this case, flight nirvana.
On Wednesday at nigh noon, I begrudgingly board Virgin Air bound for the Garden State. Having forgotten Blondilocks’ adage that ‘jam is a liquid,’ I must check my bag or relinquish my jar of Sqirl’s Rhubarb/Kumquat. There is no discussion; my bag is checked. Safely tucked in my carry-on is a small brown paper bag, a plastic fork and sustenance for the plane ride home. Thank you, Meadow. The malva pudding cake and raspberry-rhubarb pie are all that separate me from the maddening crowd, otherwise known as Flight #166.