CULVER CITY, Calif. (KGET) — The food hall phenomenon hasn’t made its way to Bakersfield, but I hope to one day enter a building in the 93301 zip code where tacos, burgers, steaming bowls of pho and peanutty, spicy dan dan noodles are served under the same roof. A fella can dream.
In the meantime, Los Angeles and its surrounding environs are fulfilling my food hall fantasies. There is Grand Central Market — the granddaddy of L.A. markets — as well as a number of smaller but still impressive spots.
One of those is Citizen Public Market in downtown Culver City. Opened last year in a 1920s-era building situated amid a slew of restaurants along Culver Boulevard, Citizen Public Market isn’t especially large, but it packs quite a bit inside its moderate confines.
Octopus tacos, fried chicken sandwiches, raw oysters on the half shell and brioche doughnuts are available. There’s a bar upstairs serving tapas plates and rum-based drinks with names like Wanderlust and Summer of Love.
But I was there especially for Pizzette, renowned chef Nancy Silverton’s (La Brea Bakery, Mozza) spot specializing in “stuffed pizzettes,” which closely resemble fresh-baked pita loaded with an array of ingredients.
I ordered the one featuring roasted eggplant with cucumber, tomato, coffee-stained egg, tahini, potato and a few ingredients I’d never of. Zhug, it turns out, is not the name of an orc from “Lord of the Rings” but a greenish hot sauce.
It was quite a meal, leaning more Mediterranean than Italian, each bite connecting me to another pocket of sauce or vegetables.
Other stuffed pizzettes revolve around braised tuna, salami, porchetta and mozzarella with baby peppers. Individual-sized pizzas are also served.
For dessert, I walked across the street to Salt & Straw. The ice cream chain is known for inventive flavors like pear and blue cheese, cold brew coffee cashew praline and chocolate gooey brownie — with housemade marshmallow fluff.
I decided to play it safe with a scoop of double-fold vanilla ice cream (intense vanilla flavor) and be slightly adventurous with my second scoop: Arbequina olive oil.
That second scoop was a revelation. Slightly salty and extraordinarily creamy, with herbal notes and no bitterness, it dazzled my taste buds.
The closest comparison I can think of is when I tried garlic ice cream at the Gilroy Garlic Festival a few years ago. I didn’t think it would work, but it did.