Lunch at Forage

Cavolo Nero and Arugula Salad with Feta and Breadcrumbs
Cavolo Nero and Arugula Salad with Feta and Breadcrumbs

First of all, I’d like to thank everybody who wished me a happy birthday on various social media sites. I’m pretty sure you guys are the main readers of my blog, so your birthday wished meant a lot to me. Anyways, today I had lunch at Silverlake’s Forage. Plates of roasted carrots, quiches, asparagus, and quinoa were placed behind a glass window, while a chalkboard was written the rest of the menu plus the daily specials. Immediately I was reminded of Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney, and Huckleberry in Santa Monica. Forage seems to place a emphasis on local ingredients, using food grown in Silverlake, North Hollywood, and Mid-City, while shopping at Santa Monica’s Wednesday farmer’s market every week. This is personally something I look for in a restaurant like this, as I can justify spending a few extra dollars on a sandwich or salad when I know the ingredients are worth it. For lunch I had the following. Salmon Belly Tacos with Avocado, Jalapeño Slaw and Aioli. A pork belly sandwich. Cavolo Nero and Arugula Salad with Feta and Breadcrumbs, and Blue Bottle’s New Orleans Style Iced Coffee.

Yelp may not have the most accurate rating system, as most reviewers dock stars for the most idiotic reasons (unsatisfactory lighting, unhip server outfits), but it is useful to get a general consensus on what is good at a restaurant. Yelpers seemed to agree that at Forage, the pork belly sandwich was the way to go. The pork, from Niman Ranch was cooked to perfection. I find that many pork sandwiches, no matter how good the meat is, tend to be either over marinated or dried out. Forage avoided this problem by keeping all the fat from the belly, and putting a generous amount of it on the sandwich. To be honest, I forget what kind of bread it was made with, but regardless, the excess fat drippings were absorbed by the bread, alleviating the need for any type of dressing. There was a minimal amount mayonnaise sauce and cole slaw on it, but the succulent, slightly smokey, pork belly dictated this sandwich.

Fish tacos are a very delicate dish. Unlike carnitas or carne asada where much seasoning and spices are involved, fish is naturally a very unique flavor. When too many toppings and ingredients are involved, the “fishiness” is masked. Issues arose in Forage’s salmon belly tacos, as the avocado, jalapeño slaw, and Siracha aioli taken together, overpowered the salmon. That’s not to say it didn’t taste good, but it didn’t taste like a salmon taco.

Any qualms I had with the salmon belly tacos were erased by the Cavolo Nero and Arugula Salad with Feta and Breadcrumbs, or known simply as “the kale”. The dressing wasn’t mentioned, but it was very simple, seemingly citrus based with some olive oil and a touch of mustard. Lightly dressed, the salty, sour taste of the feta came through, while the breadcrumbs provided a enjoyable alternative to croutons. The beauty of this salad (aside from costing only $4), was its minimalism. Listed as a side, it fulfilled this role, not trying to distract from any main dishes, while still remaining exciting and delicious.

I like to drink my coffee black. It’s coffee in its purest form, and with good beans, it’s by far the best tasting way to enjoy it. Blue Bottle Coffee, based in Oakland, roasts excellent beans, and I was excited to see that Forage brewed their coffee. Since it was a warm day, I ordered a iced coffee, and the server asked if I wanted whole, skim, or almond milk with it. When I told her I’d like it black, she informed me that the “coffee was too strong to drink black”. Not wanting to put on a spectacle, I asked for almond milk, deciding to give it a shot. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It tasted just like iced coffee. I doubt that it was too strong, but I learned later that New Orleans style iced coffee is brewed with chicory and simple syrup. I didn’t taste anything that resembled chicory, but I respect that Forage is following a traditional recipe rather than  refusing to serve my coffee black out of principle.

The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but I would definitely go back to Forage. The menu seems to change on a daily basis, which for obvious reasons makes a second trip worth it. After reading their blog, I learned that they are quite committed to using seasonal, local foods, hence their changing menu. This is Forage’s main selling point to me. Eating healthy isn’t about low-fat, low calorie items. It’s about using fresh, local ingredients, as seen in the Mediterranean diet. In the case of Forage, eating in the manner also happens to be quite tasty, and if nothing else, aids in your general well being after a meal there.

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