Award winning chef Susan Feniger is largely known for changing the scope of cuisine in Los Angeles. Starting with the opening of the iconic City Cafe in 1981, Feniger and partner Mary Sue Millikan went on to open Border Grill – the innovative Mexican restaurant conglomerate that brings flavors from Oaxaca and The Yucatan to new heights. Recently opening The Border Grill food truck, Feniger has always managed to stay on the cutting edge of global cuisine, making it both delicious and accessible. Her most recent restaurant, STREET, which opened in 2009, brings the flavors of street food from around the world to delighted LA diners. STREET is host to an incredible culinary variety, from massaman chicken curry to egyptian style baked fish and millet puffs. Whether you’ve read her cookbooks or seen her on Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales or Bravos Top Chef Masters, you’ve fallen in love with Susan Feniger one way or another. The New Potato certainly has.
Can you describe what your ideal food day would be?
My ideal food day (although there could be many) is to wake up on a Sunday, have a delicious latte outside in the sun reading the Sunday LA Times with my gal and the dogs. Then begin with a poppy seed bagel, toasted, fresh orange juice from our tree, or a spicy bloody mary if necessary, saint andre cheese on my bagel, some California avocado with salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes from my garden (seasoned too) and topped with (sable) black cod.
Then moving onto later in the day, I’d swing by Bay Cities and get a Godmother, extra spicy with some potato chips, and take a walk on the beach with a blanket, a book and some rhubarb soda.
Later that day, I’d make a vodka with ginger syrup, fresh lemons and a bit of sparkling water. I’d have some edamame, an artichoke with lime and mayo, and cracked black pepper to dip it in. Ribeye on the BBQ, marinated in mustard, worcestershire and paprika. Corn on the cob with butter, cayenne and lime. A delicious salad, with fennel, watercress, daikon, carrots, and a sesame vinaigrette. Maybe some roasted rutabaga. A delicious cabernet, ending with a hot fudge sundae or maybe a frozen milky way…
If I was up late, maybe a bowl of buttered, salted popcorn – but might be too full for that…
Where would you like to travel for inspiration that you haven’t been to yet?
I would love to go to Korea and try the food there…
What’s special about Street Food? What are some tips for making it so delicious?
There are so many wonderful experiences that happen with street food; the interaction that happens with the person making the food, the people waiting to eat the food and the energy around it is very special. One time I remember being in a tiny town in Mexico. The cubano sandwich was only served at this one stand, starting at 10pm at night. The lines were huge. We got there early, just sat and watched as the elderly woman was setting up. Literally we hung out about two hours, talking to everyone around us, and meeting people we would have never met. And oh my God, that sandwich was absolutely fantastic.
The thing that can often make it so great is the intention. That person typically has made that dish over and over and over. It’s perfection. The heat is often exactly right to make something crispy, and the oil to make it perfectly cooked but not too oily. It’s all that – and the passion. That in the end makes it one of those amazing bites.
What is your go-to recipe when cooking for family and friends?
Steamed artichokes with lime and mayonnaise. Ribeye marinated or a filet of some sustainable fish, wrapped in hoja santé from our garden, served with drained yogurt, grated cucumbers, tomato and herbs. Grilled corn on the cob with mayo, cotija cheese and lime and chilies. Sliced tomatoes, California avocado with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Avocado and goat cheese with extra virgin olive oil, lime served with credité or chips. Brownies, homemade chai, or churros.
What is your favorite spot to have brunch?
If you’re going to eat out in Los Angeles besides your own restaurant, where do you go?
Brentwood Restaurant (open late after work), Golden Bull (great neighborhood hang and dirty martini’s), A-Frame, AOC, Mozza, Lazy Ox Canteen, and Gjelina. I listen to what Jonathan Gold tells me and go to all the tiny finds. He’s the king of finding all the great cool spots.