Object of Desire: Beef cheeks with romesco espuma
Let's say that we are in the Artist Village district of Santa Ana, an attractive, old neighborhood that looks more like certain areas of downtown Kansas City than like a California suburb in the year 2012. And further, let's say that we are dining on the curbside patio of Lola Gaspar, a pleasant restaurant that tends to inspire passionate reactions in both its detractors and its fans. The anti-Lolas see the place as an unwelcome gentrifying force that charges $4 for its chips and salsa and does things like put wild boar bacon in its bowls of macaroni and cheese. The pro-Lolas actually like wild boar bacon in their macaroni and cheese, and couldn't care less whether the restaurant is a fake cantina, a fake tapas bar, or both. It is pleasant to sit outside on a warm summer night whether you happen to be drinking mezcal or you happen to be drinking tequila.
One thing you have to say about Lola Gaspar is that the Mexican food tastes kind of Spanish and the Spanish food tastes kind of Mexican – even the burritos with bacon, potato and cheese; even the A.O.C.-esque bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. So don't ask me to identify the provenance of the braised beef cheeks with romesco, the ubiquitous Catalan sauce of roasted red peppers, almonds, and olive oil, which in this case was whipped into a thick foam and piped into a frothy mass around the plate. There were also purple potatoes. And herbs. The cheeks were nicely braised; very soft and gelatinous. The romesco tasted good. And with enough mezcal in your system, it all starts to taste pretty good.
211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, (714) 972-1172, www.lolagaspar.com.
Photo credit: Jonathan Gold / Los Angeles Times