|Move over, Sprinkles: Frootsi soothes cravings on all fronts with boba, fro yo, and cupcakes. High marks for the uber-moist mango, with sunny yellow frosting.|
|How do you eat a tower of French toast? Very, very carefully.|
Still, a few exotic or exciting dishes remain etched in Harvey's memory: An appetizer that his mother prepared by roasting a whole eggplant over the stove's open flame and scooping out its smoky interior onto some salad greens, mamaliga, a cornmeal dish similar to polenta that she made especially for her Romanian husband, and the endless mound of French toast that she would treat the family to on weekends. Harvey remembers that she would continue to fry up the egg-soaked slices of bread and pile them up until they could not see each other over the stack on the kitchen table.
The Country Deli on Topanga Canyon Boulevard seems to have reinterpreted Dora's bountiful vision with their signature tower of French toast. Lengths of ripe banana serve as columns between layers of thick-cut cinnamon swirl bread dipped in egg batter. Fresh strawberries and blueberries provide color and antioxidants and the requisite pancake syrup and whipped butter provide the decadence that can only come with a breakfast designed to defy both gravity and reason.
|Like Cantonese carnitas: The Country Deli's Chinese chicken salad makes a believer out of me.|
|Lamb chops never had it this good - Farm Brothers' weekend BBQ plate|
But the other night, I had to plummet the depths of memory and order one of these pretty green shakes that remind me of my mom's "avocado ice cream" - ripe fruit mashed with milk and sugar, and frozen in ice cube trays with toothpicks, the better to pick them up with. I didn't care for this sweet as a kid, but my (slightly) more sophisticated palate enjoyed the creamy richness of the fruit and my juvenile delight in the fact that you can actually make a dessert with avocado.
|Green, green, it's green they say, on the far side of the hill:Pho CT's avocado smoothie|
Farm Brothers, which is also located in a strip mall on the east side of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, is a Russian market owned by an Armenian family. The small grocery store, with its picture-perfect produce, brightly packaged sweets, and fresh-baked cakes, provides more meaty madness. On weekends, the proprietors grill a variety of Mediterranean dishes out front, including what may be the best lamb chop plate this side of Yerevan. Complete with store-made hummus, a cold sort of ratatouille-esque veggie side, lavosh the size of pillowcases, and buttery rice, this takeout-only treat is a bit of old world yum.
Finally, Amazing Siam - which is two doors down from Frootsi and The Second to Last Ms. Pac-Man Machine in the Universe (at Uncle Ernie's Pizza 4-U) - provided a real crosscultural stretch with its dumpling appetizer.
|Feel the burn: Amazing Siam's spicy beef salad is one great bowl of fire.|
My standards for Thai and Southeast Asian food have been set impossibly high from my years of feasting at restaurants in Long Beach and its colorful Cambodia Town. However, Amazing Siam lives up to its name with fresh ingredients, magazine-worthy presentation, and hospitable staff. The spicy beef salad, my acid test dish for a new Thai place, did not disappoint. The spring rolls, which are the size of tamales, are fresh and crisp tasting, with just the right amount of shrimp, noodles, and herbs. But it was the potstickers - admittedly not a Thai dish, but a catch-all crowd pleaser - that struck a nostalgic chord.
|Dumplings, schmumplings: Amazing Siam's steamed potstickers are a hit in any language.|
"It's kreplach," Harvey said delightedly when the plump pockets of pork and vegetables arrived at the table. I'll never know if he was being funny or if he really thought it was some form of Thai kreplach. But it just goes to prove that the more we learn about our differences as people - or as appetizers wrapped in dough - the more we see our similarities.