Wednesday, August 26, 2009

HFF on the Road: Jerome, AZ - Day 2

Day Two was the big day. This was the day we were spending with Paula Woolsey, AZ Stronghold's national marketing director, former co-owner of The Asylum, and the woman who has just maybe done more for Arizona wine's visibility than even Maynard himself.

We met up with Paula at the Flatiron Cafe in Jerome, a tiny corner restaurant on the approach into town. Little coffee counter with about eight seats inside but they also have seating at the patio across the street--a bonus on this warm morning. The cafe's got an upstairs kitchen that throws out some pretty cool sophisticated takes on southwestern food and diner cuisine. My breakfast burrito was simple and clean--egg, chorizo, nopales, et al nicely griddled. The patio was great though we had to deal with a gaggle of sexagenarians demanding that the vintage clothing store upstairs open up. Apparently the three blocks of Jerome was far too large of a city to be roaming around in waiting for a store to open. No doubt they were really looking forward to complaining about the prices and not buying anything.

Paula drove us out to Page Springs Cellars, giving us a roundabout tour of the Cornville wine country: Merkin Vineyards, Maynard's produce market (it's the most organic market in the world, if you don't mind the limited selection), and John McCain's driveway. Apparently "Sedona Cabin" sounds better than "Cornville Ranch," no matter if that ranch isn't within a Navy plane crash of Sedona.

We had vague plans to visit a couple other wineries but Page Springs was far more compelling than we anticipated so, well, the rest of Arizona's wines will have to be saved for another trip.

I've learned two things in AZ:
1. Eric Glomski is a talented winemaker.
2. Arizona is uniquely suited to aromatic white varietals.

As regards point one--it's hard to quantify, but I tasted through a large array of Glomski's wines from many different vineyard sites and they were all well-made, nicely structured, and compelling. Transcendent? Only some. Good? All.

As regards point two--holy fucking shit, Page Springs can make the fuck out of Malvasia Bianca, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and blends therefrom. And, actually, some tasty Chardonnay as well.

A few (two) reasons for this:

1. Heavily volcanic soils. Northern Arizona is covered in volcanic soil. Serious, it's like a Peter North volcano went to town on the earth and the earth liked it.
2. Although it's hot as hell in much of Arizona during the day, it gets really cold at night. Lots of wine regions get to 100 degrees during the day (Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Lodi), but not as many get to close to freezing at night. In fact, frost is the biggest problem Arizona fruit faces, with UV exposure probably a distant second.

It's an odd coming together of terroir that echoes both cool-climate wine regions like Alsace and hothothot regions like Bierzo and the Alentejo. Godello and Arinto, anyone?

But I think that raises the most interesting question in this whole discussion: why do we insist on describing Arizona in terms of other wine regions? There's a sort of projection of the other aspect to that, no? I suppose that will go away with time: I'm sure in the 1970's the Napa Valley was described in Francophilic terms and Keenan himself talks about his decision to grow grapes in Northern AZ because it "looked like Spain and Portugal."

I'd like to just think of the subregions of AZ--there's actually officially only one AVA--as simply another grape growing region of the USA slowly (quickly?) figuring out what grapes grow well. Sure we can infer some successes based on similar climates--I'm not shocked that Petite Sirah grows so well here or that Pinot Noir doesn't--but we should be open to some surprises. Who would've thought Riesling, that stalwart of cool Alpine climes, would take so well to Arizona?

After tasting through most of the current Page Springs wines in the tasting room, we were given a tour of the creekside estate vineyards. Hermitage-clone Syrah makes up much of the vineyard: its widely spaced clusters resist rot. But Glomski's also planted Chateauneuf clones of Grenache and Mourvedre, California-clone Petite Sirah, and some Cabernet Pfeffer daringly waving about on its own rootstocks. I'm excited to see what Grenache on this site can do, given its similarity to sites in the Rhone and Spain (there I go being all comparative like a shmuck), but the vines are still too young to harvest. Of the Page Springs Estate reds, the Petite Sirah stands out. Full-bodied but not nearly as jammy as some of its California competitors, with a palate-enticing acidity and lots of dusty earth and leather on the nose. This is what French Durif tastes my mind.

After the vineyard tour we headed into the cellar and met the man himself Eric Glomski. He generously popped open a freshly-bottled 2008 PSC Petite Sirah (the first 08 red I've had the pleasure of trying). Tight and shocked to be sure, it quickly lubed up with a few swirls (if only it were that easy), and definitely showed its promise. There seems to be a general excitement about the 08 vintage in AZ.

I plied Eric with a bottle of 06 Domaine Gauby Calcinaires Blanc (have you had a French Muscat-Macabeu blend? I didn't think so) so he shared a couple tank samples of freshly crushed Marsanne and Viognier. You haven't actually tasted grapes until you've had freshly crushed Marsanne--sweeter than Jesus with diabetes, it tastes like a ripe white peach dipped in honey; it'll stick in your memory as vividly as the first time you went south on a girl.

(And it [probably] tastes a helluvalot better.)

And that's not to belittle PSC's Viognier which was also rich and vibrant with some pronounced floral aromatics--they're flirting with Condrieu country here. I'll be curious to see how the finished product compares with the offerings from Demetria in Paso, so far the best non-French Viognier I've had.

And fuck Pride Viognier. If I wanted my wine to taste like shampoo I'd shower with Carlo Rossi. It'd cost me less.

There's still very much a sense of play at Page Springs, from the children's toys in the tasting room to the broad array of varietals on hand. Arizona is the Wild West (east?) of winemaking and there's lots of experimenting to be done. A mix of careful study, educated guesses, gut calls, and whimsy over the coming years will help determine the shape of AZ's flagship grapes.

We wrapped up our visit at Page Springs by picking up a mixed case of whites. Did I mention I liked them? I'm currently sleeping with a bottle of PSC La Serrana Viognier/Roussanne blend, it's stern but still likes to cuddle. Paula dropped us off at our divey motel in Cottonwood (the Connor in Jerome was alas fully booked by a gay New Zealand motorcycle club--I'm only lying about one of those descriptors). We cruised out to Sedona with a plan for dinner and a visit to Slide Rock State Park. Slide Rock was very cool--it's basically a natural waterslide formed by erosion in the slippery bed of Oak Creek. The whole park is pretty fun and (unfortunately) kid friendly.

After surveying our options in Sedona--mostly expensive touristy places--we opted instead to go back into Jerome, having still not gotten enough of the town. Dinner was at Quince, a Cal-Mexican diner offering big portions and good prices, as well as the compelling option of "pulled pork" in one's burrito. Nothing to write home about, but a more than solid bet for dining in Jerome when The Asylum's out of your price range.

We walked around Jerome some more and checked out the twilight views before calling it an early night and coasting back to Cottonwood.

In terms of getting Page Springs wines, your best option is to visit the winery on a long weekend from LA. They currently have limited distribution in Arizona and have no intention of expanding outside the state. You can also buy the wine online and some Page Springs wines are available at the Caduceus tasting room in Jerome.

I'm not intennding to sound like an AZ wine geek fanboy, and to be honest I'm no more excited about Northern AZ as I am the Anderson Valley or the Alentejo. It's just exceedingly rare that you can be one of the first outside voices touting the virtues of an emerging region so you better believe I'm going to pimp that for all its worth.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Asylum - Jerome, Arizona

It's exceedingly rare to find a decent restaurant in an out-of-the-way tourist town. Selections are often limited to the kitschy tourist-themed (Uncle Petey's Wacky Mountain Chuck Wagon) to the expensive faux-fancy (Chez Petey's House of Steak and Beans). But befitting an organically atypical town like Jerome, I wasn't surprised that there was at least one top-notch restaurant in town.

They Asylum's located in the Jerome Grand Hotel, a concrete beast that looms above Jerome like Willard Scott's cliffside El Centro sex den. The hotel was originally built in 1927 as the town's hospital and then lay dormant (like much of the town) for most of the second half of the 20th century. In 1994 the hospital was rehabbed into a luxury hotel.

Being a few hundred feet above a town that's already a thousand feet above the valley below affords some of the best views of any restaurant I've been to.

We had a couple local beers at the dark wood-appointed bar and then moved to the patio overlooking the Verde Valley. Appetizer was the fried squid--medium sized squid rings and tentacles lightly dusted and quickly fried and perfectly tender. Well seasoned, not greasy, nice heat from the accompanying spicy aioli. Good stuff.

Our server recommended a really nice inexpensive Pinot Noir (Barra of Mendocino) served at a perfect temperature for out-of-doors dining on an 85 degree night.

Entrees. Grandmaster A had the New Zealand rack of lamb special which was excellent, albeit pricey (unlisted and a good 25% more than the most expensive item on the menu--a practice I'm not too keen on). I had the vegetarian entree--roasted butternut squash with sesame-crusted tofu, brown rice, vegetables, and pickled ginger. Great flavor combinations but an odd preparation: the squash was one big chunk of roasted squash instead of pieces, so it was a bit bland with an inconsistent texture. Mild hiccup.

We also had dessert, it was good--chocolate--don't remember what it was. We were drunk at this point.

Great space, gorgeous views, great wine list, solid food, and fair prices. It's nice to have an opportunity to end a day of exploring that isn't either McDonald's or diarrhea-inducing Mexican food. Worth a stop if you're in the area--near as we could tell it was nicest spot for dinner in the greater Jerome-Cottonwood-Sedona area.

The Asylum
200 Hill St
Jerome, AZ 86331
(928) 639-3197

Thursday, August 20, 2009

HFF On The Road: Jerome, AZ - Day 1

I fucking hate Phoenix. It's admittedly an irrational hatred stemming from one extended visit several years ago where I ended up in the middle of a monsoon and stuck 10 miles of asphalt from anywhere. Still, Phoenix reminds me of the worst parts of the San Fernando Valley without any of the charm of being within 30 miles of the ocean. It's unfair, but it is what it is Phoenix has my title for "Worst Big City in America." And I've been to Philadelphia.

As this was my only exposure to Arizona, my disdain for Phoenix had sort of extended to the entire state. But my relocation to Los Angeles and its relative proximity to the Copper State--along with my general love for deserts--put Arizona back on my radar.

But it was a little tasting at Silverlake Wine that made reconsider what 'Zona had to offer besides binge drinking, blond Republican coeds, and the good half of Lake Havasu (the topless half).

I've always said two things (and I mean ALWAYS):
1. California Wine that's any good is too expensive.
2. California became the wine production capital of the country by accident--a product of Prohibition, a lack of phylloxera, and a lucky break in 1976. New Mexico had more land under vine prior to Prohibition than California did.

Caduceus Cellars turned me on to Arizona wines (though most of the wines aren't 100% Arizona fruit) but AZ Stronghold (partnership between MJ Keenan and Eric Glomski) sold me on what can be had out there. Really nice, food-friendly wines at an attractive price. So I made a few calls, packed up my suitcase, and rode through the desert on a horse with no name. Or rather it's a Kia Soul with a name that I won't disclose (let's just say it rhymes with paint yockey).

My travel partner on this journey was Grandmaster A--friend since elementary school and frequent co-adventurer to places as far afield as Denver, Japan, and Anaheim. We got an early start and hit the state line by lunch time. As we debated our fast food preferences (both having jobs that keep us on the road a lot, we've redeveloped an appreciation for quick cheap eats that belie our organic mindsets). We agreed El Pollo Loco to be our favorite but hunger and an empty gas tank found us at a Burger King in Blythe.

We both grabbed the "Angry Tendercrisp Sandwich." Crispy chicken breast on a roll with lettuce, tomatoes, fried onion strips, jalapenos, cheese, bacon, and a spicy mayo. To our shock and awe the sandwich looked surprisingly like the picture on the wall and I'm not embarrassed to say that it was fucking good. Juicy, drippy, spicy--and not cheap. Since when did a fast food sandwich and some onion rings cost eight dollars? A couple bucks more and I'm getting Oinkster. Meh.

The next exit had an El Pollo Loco.

There are two ways to get to Jerome, AZ (where you'l find the Caduceus tasting room). You can take a straight shot on I-10 through Phoenix and cut north on I-17 to SR-89A or you can cut northeast at Blythe and take a series of mountain highways through a series of high desert trailer park oases. Unfamiliar with the terrain, we stayed on the interstate this time (our return trip would be different). The low desert country gives way quickly as you make your way up the Colorado Plateau out of the Lynchian hellscape of Phoenix into the Coen Brothersian heckscape of rural Arizona. Scrub desert gives way to saguaro forest, then rocklands, until you get to the fringes of good old-fashioned Ponderosa pine forests.

We sped through the local metropolis of Cottonwood (pop. 11,000), wound our way through no less than three roundabouts with central berms so high you couldn't see oncoming traffic, negating the purpose of roundabouts, and made a hard left (still miraculously on SR 89A) up a winding mountain road to imposing, haunted Jerome, AZ.

In the less than six miles from Cottonwood to Jerome you gain 2,000 feet in elevation and you do it quickly, like huffing glue while riding an escalator. A copper boom town in the late eighteen hundreds through the 1930's, Jerome was all but abandoned by the early 1950's, when the mine closed after yielding over a billion unadjusted dollars in copper, gold, and silver. Jerome stayed virtually empty and decaying until the the late 1960's when hippies, bikers, and outcasts began calling the quasi-ghost town home. At present, Jerome is a town that looks largely like it did at the turn of the 20th century with most residents restoring the town's beautiful Victorian homes. But the town still has its ruins.

The town reminds me a lot of the mining towns of the Sierra Foothills, like Murphys or Columbia, but without the history theme park veneer. With the exception of a couple tacky t-shirt and jewelry shops, Jerome isn't flaunting its mining heritage. The town is very much Jerome 2009, everybody there just happens to live in buildings out of Jerome 1909. It's also not as family-friendly as some tourist destinations: in its roughly four blocks, Jerome sports three wine tasting rooms, two full-service saloons (along with several restaurants with full bars, one of which is a local gay bar), a tattoo parlor, a sex shop, a Thunderdome-esque basketball court, and Keenan's Puscifer Store which, despite the cute cartoon devil, is neither for kids nor for for the dull and obtuse.

Basically, it's heaven for the off-beat, progressively libertarian, Mr. Show-worshiping, 25-60 year-old music-loving wine geek.


We arrived at the Connor Hotel, est. 1898, were greeted by the extraordinarily friendly staff, and tossed our stuff in our room. Nice hotel. It maintained all its historicity while having most modern amenities: in-room fridge and coffee maker, (superfluous) TV, in-suite bathroom, good AC, etc. And reasonable too. With a AAA discount we got a nice big room for right around $100 on a Friday night.

Since the Caduceus tasting room was open until 8PM we spent the remaining daylight hours bouncing around the town, looking at the mining exhibits, stumbling into the aforementioned Puscifer shop, hiking up the gravel roads on the perimeter of the city, admiring the views, exploring the town flume, and getting hit on by camera-toting art students from Phoenix. But there was business to be done, and that business was wine.

Here's a basic rundown of the northern Arizona wine scene. It revolves, at least in the wider national consciousness, around Maynard James Keenan--lead singer of Puscifer/A Perfect Circle/Tool and accomplished vigneron. He makes his home in Jerome and has about a half-acre of Cabernet Sauvignon growing on his property. Keenan's winemaking partner and co-celestial orbiting grape body is Eric Glomski, formerly of David Bruce winery, and owner/winemaker of Page Springs Vineyards in nearby Cornville. Together, they've formed Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, whose winemaking facility is in Cornville but whose vineyards are in southeastern Arizona. This is where the bulk of Arizona's grape-growing takes place; it's a fairly fertile valley and the soil retains water well. But with Keenan's personal estate fruit, Glomski's fruit at Page Springs, and the grapes at Keenan's Merkin Vineyards project in Cornville, there is a lot of wine to be made from grapes in the Jerome area.

Which is a long way of saying that the Arizona Stronghold Vineyards wines are made mostly from Keenan & Glomski's estate vineyards all over AZ as well as some purchased fruit from selected sites in California. The Caduceus Wines are still largely California-based since it took 3-5 years for the new AZ vines to be ready for their first harvest, though Caduceus' new "Dos Ladrones" white wine is 100% Arizona fruit as is the "Nagual del Judith" (a tiny production premium Cab Sauv from Keenan's personal estate vineyard, dedicated to his late mother). Eventually the Caduceus wines will transition to more AZ fruit.

I'd had most of the Caduceus wines before at Silverlake Wine and they impressed me, in particular the powerful aromatic Dos Ladrones (half Malvasia Bianca and half Chardonnay) and the funky Cote-Rotie inspired Primer Paso (88% Syrah and a hefty 12% Malvasia taking on the role of ersatz-Viognier). In a domestic wine market that is producing more and more ripe, extracted, high-alcohol wines that taste more like brandy than wine, Caduceus Cellars is producing red wines that are, to use a horribly over-used douchey wine term, a revelation. Musuclar to be sure, but structured as hell with nice tannins, dusty earth, modest alcohol, and rocking acidity.

I tasted some of the Page Springs wines too, but I'll get into that in more detail with my Day 2 post. I'll also get into detail about or dinner at "John McCain's favorite restaurant," The Asylum, on a different post. You've all read enough for one sitting.

HFF out, with love.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Wherein the protagonist becomes self-righteous in defense of tradition and old-fashioned intuition

It was a quiet night, quiet even for a Tuesday in downtown. I stumbled out of King Eddy's Saloon into a balmy Los Angeles evening. Fitting for an evening in Los Angeles, I was on Los Angeles Street, walking south and not quickly enough--my shoes are worth more than a month's rent at a local SRO. I lit a cigarette. I threw it on the ground. I forgot. I don't smoke.

Lucky for me the City's coming back to mama, back to where it was born, and it's filling up mama's womb with million dollar lofts. Where there's a million dollar loft there's a bar serving pretentious cocktails, 'cause when someone's paying a million to live adjacent to a cardboard-box tenement he's willing to spend $14 on a glass of vodka shaken con brio. I'd say he or she, but women have more sense. More sense but no dick, that's what mama always said.

I made a quick right onto Sixth right before three tough-looking hoods in skinny jeans and white belts wearing eyeliner made a grab for my iPod. And who could blame them? I was listening to the Faint. But Quick's my middle name and I made sure my birth certificate didn't lie as I left the toughs grabbing only at air, like when I tried to feel up Molly Archer in the tenth grade. Her middle name was Quick too.

When you make that turn onto Sixth and walk toward Main, you leave Skid Row squalor for a new kind of squalor--the kind that wears Rock & Republic jeans. I hurred across the street and down a small set of stairs. I was walking into Cole's, but I wasn't looking for a French Dip I was looking for booze cold and straight. The bouncer nodded at me and I nodded back. I pretend his name is Marquise.

Cole's after feeding time is an eerie place. Barstools sit on top of the bar, booths are empty, there's no au jus. The mise en scene is unsettling--it looks like if Charles Bukowski shit on a Picasso after eating an Edward Hopper. If you ever make that movie, give me a "story by" credit.

In the back of Cole's there's a door. Behind that door is a bar. That bar is Varnish and it pretends to be a speakeasy. I walked in and sat at a booth in the dim light. I picked up the cocktail menu but I couldn't read it--it's been hard for me ever since my cousin was killed by a cocktail menu. That and the light was too damn dim to read by--crucial oversight or deliberate hip douchebag maneuver? Dollars to donuts on the latter.

I picked up the candle at my table to shed more light on the menu. The menu caught fire. I watched it briefly burn--fire licking at the corners of the paper as vigorously as Mayor Villaraigosa on a Hollywood Blvd. tranny--before extinguishing it beneath my palm. Ouch.

A cocktail waitress slinked up to my table but unlike a slinky she wouldn't be falling down my stairs tonight. She leaned forward and smiled, her low-slung neckline slinging lower from her not insubstantial chest.

"What'll it be," she would've said if this was a movie from the 1940's. Instead she said:
"What do you want?"

You have to love a town that'll spend a few million on a new bar but won't spend five minutes trying to hire friendly staff.

"Well manhattan, up."
"We don't really have a well."
"Excuse me?"
"We don't have a well."
"The fuck you don't have a well."
"We don't have a--"
"Do you have a speed rack where your bartenders keep their primary liquors?"
"So you have a fucking well."
"It's not--"
"I'm ordering a fucking well manhattan because I don't want to have to fucking think, yeah?"
"So is Maker's okay?"
"Is that what's in your well?"

Pause. I stared at her. She stared back. She blinked.

"I'll have that."
"Are you sure you wouldn't like our Skid Row Flip? It's like a manhattan--"
"No I don't want your fucking Skid Row Flip. I want my fucking manhattan as I ordered it from you what feels like a fucking hour ago."

She walked away. I watched her. She was cute but I was sober and in the morning she'd still be dumb.

I watched the pair of bartenders behind the counter. They were surrounded by flasks and beakers. It was a scene more appropriate for a laboratory trying to figure out a way to artifically inseminate a cantaloupe with Burt Bacharach's sperm--and not in the fun way.

The mixologists each didn't look a day over sixteen and unlike in pornography in the drinks business that isn't a good thing. I watched as they carefully measured everything in jiggers and teaspoons. Everything. Every drop of booze, liqueur, bitters, fruit juices, ball sweat, and orphan tears that goes into a Skid Row Flip or Old Bank District Sour or Bunker Hill Rickey is rationed like a Soviet whore apportioning handjobs. I got up and walked to the bar.

"Excuse me, but would you hand me that bottle of vodka?"

I grabbed the bottle of vodka.

"Shh, easy there chief. It's okay. You see this top?" I asked, pointing at the resin pour spout on the tip of the vodka bottle."
"What about it?"
"That's a fine piece of technology my friend. It measures your pours. You invert the bottle and about a quarter ounce comes with each second it pours. Are you following me?"
"How much vodka does that bullshit cocktail you're making require?"
"Two ounces."
"How many times does a quarter go into one?"
"Four times."
"So how many times does a quarter go into two?"
"Eight times."
"So what?"
"So just pour your fucking vodka straight into the shaker. Put down the spoons and shot glasses and mix your drinks like a man, not a pretentious little prick who thinks he's a freakin' scientist because he pours homemade bitters from a graduated cylinder. And maybe that way you won't take so goddamn long to make a FUCKING MANHATTAN!"

I felt a large strong hand on my shoulder. It was the bouncer whose name I pretended was Marquise.

"Is there a problem?"
"No my friend, I was just heading back to my seat."

I sat back down. My iPhone buzzed--someone was Tweeting and that someone was a director of dirty movies. He was throwing a DVD release party in a warehouse off Alameda. Decisions decisions.

The cocktail waitress came back with my drink.

"Your manhattan."

I stared at the drink. I stared at her. I stared at Tom Sizemore making out with a model in the next booth over.

"That'll be $14."

I handed her a twenty.

"Keep the change--and the drink."

Out through Varnish, out through Cole's, a quick nod at Marquise and into a taxi. I was out the door before my drink started to sweat.

"Where to?" said the cabbie. At least he played his part perfectly.
"Just start driving," I replied. "East."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

C for Effort

As a Bay Area transplant it's something of a novelty to see the LA County Health Dept. letter grades posted in the window of every diner, taqueria, Walgreens, and Office Depot. Los Angeles diners seem to love those letters, especially when it's because the House of Pies has a B, or so says every fucking person in line for a fucking table at Fred62.

Well, get ready to have your minds blown Los Angeles:

The letter grades don't fucking matter!

Are you startled? Did I shake you up? Good.

Here's why not:

If a restaurant passes its health inspection, what does the score matter? Is there a sliding scale of "possibly-make-you-sick-itude" for restaurants? Am I more likely to die of salmonella at a "C" than I am from an "A"? If I'm at all likely to die of salmonella, shouldn't that be an "F"? Seems to me that a health inspection is a pass/fail proposition. We're determining a business' fitness for serving food to the public, not the quality of its analysis of the theme of the "phallic female" in Hemingway's later works.

So what's the point in the grading system? In what is pure rampant speculation, here's my theory:

1. A restaurant that had an "A" receives a "B."
2. Angelenos with the ingrained belief that these letter grades mean something slow down/stop their patronage of that restaurant.
3. The economic impact forces the restaurant to make rapid adjustments, bringing the Health Dept. back before their next scheduled visit. (Perhaps for a fee?)
4. Health Dept. is able to show that they're relevant, get more funding, hire more inspectors, go on gambling junkets to Macau.

Health Inspector letter grades should go. A restaurant passes and stays open or fails and is shut down. Keep the inspections on file and make them available online to the consumer, but the posting requirement gives the grades more weight than they deserve (I mean, what is the difference between an 88 and a 92 anyway?). Letter grade distinctions are arbitrary and the economic impact of dropping down a letter is too great.

This creates yet another hurdle for restaurants operating in LA and disadvantages new or immigrant-owned restaurants whose operators are not familiar with the byzantine requirements of Los Angeles bureaucracy. It's not that they don't keep a safe restaurant.