There are a lot of people who have forgotten that the restaurant business is supposed to be fun. Chris Himmel is not one of them.
The chef-turned-restaurateur recently completed a cross-country RV tour in which he and his chefs popped up in cities across America to give the locals a little taste of his brand of farm-to-table flair. The antepenultimate stop on the Boston-to-Brawley journey was at L.A.’s beloved Hinoki & The Bird in Century City.
The one-night affair showcased the teamwork of the executive chefs of Cambridge-based Harvest and Hinoki & The Bird, Tyler Kinnett and Brandon Kida, respectively, as they hosted a five-course, wine-paired pop-up featuring the an eclectic blend of both restaurants, with each chef alternating on courses.
Chef Kinnett got the show started with a strawberry and spring pea dish that included labneh, basil and vin cotto. The juxtaposition of textures and flavors excited the palates of the packed house, and was perfectly paired with a glass of Champagne.
Chef Kida followed with equal pizzaz, offering Santa Barbara spot prawn with smoked trout roe in coconut dashi. The dish could be considered an homage to chowder or quite possibly the apex of its possibilities, as well as a reverential welcome to a New Englander.
And so this was the mission of the Himmel team, exploring the regional cuisines in America’s backyard. Meeting with local purveyors, farmers, fishermen and ranchers to better understand how they source their ingredients.
The more-than-3,000-mile adventure led from Boston down the Eastern Seaboard and involved fishing the waters off Charleston and the Florida panhandle; hitting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail; cooking Creole-style in the Big Easy; serving wild game in Texas and, of course, local seafood and beef in Southern California.
So you’re probably wondering where Brawley is, and unless you’ve gotten really lost in the Anza-Borrego Desert or trekked out to the Salton Sea, mistaken by its name, then it’s a fair piece of ignorance. Brawley is cattle country, and is home to Brandt Natural Beef, the family-owned ranch from which Himmel has been sourcing his beef more than a decade and a half, describing it as “some of the most flavorful beef found anywhere in the world.”
The Himmel team is in discussions about a similar trip next year. I have it on good word that they’re considering a trip through the various wine countries along the Pacific Coast, where Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan sources a substantial portion of the wines in the Himmel group’s remarkable cellar.
The journey would likely have early stops in San Francisco and Carmel, and perhaps Monterey. So if you’re planning a road trip, you won’t want to miss this opportunity (of course, it wouldn’t hurt to try to persuade Chris to go ahead and greenlight the West Coast trip).
Himmel Hospitality Group’s restaurants include Harvest in Cambridge, and Grill 23 & Bar, and Post 390 in Boston. For more information, read “Himmel Hits the Road” Trip.
Hinoki & The Bird
10 W. Century Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.
All photos courtesy of Scott Bridges.