We made pizzas at home today in honor of Ed LaDou. Mushroom, caramelized onion and garlic, mozzarella and one of his signature ingredients - goat cheese. Managed a fairly respectable crust.
I was wandering around the Web last week and discovered that Ed had recently died, the LA Times published a very nice and representative obit worthy of a chef who made a meaningful and lasting contribution to the broad and evolving concepts of "gourmet" pizza and California Cuisine.
I hadn't thought of Ed in probably 10 or 15 years, but the news of his death stayed with me because when I moved to Los Angeles in 1989 - the first of two extended trips out West - I was living on a couch in Laurel Canyon, and the neighborhood place my friends and I went to eat more than any other was his great and understated restaurant, Caioti, tucked away in what was essentially the basement of the Canyon Country Store.
I actually kept a menu, a precious artifact I found yesterday in one of the boxes where the remnants of those years now live, surrounded by letters, old credit card statements, photos and some of the stories I wrote as a cub reporter for the LA Daily News.
As a native New Yorker, sitting inside Caioti munching on Ed's garlic knots and waiting for one of his chopped salads and goat cheese pizzas was everything you thought California could be, everything you hoped it would be. Just like a pint of Widmer Hefeweizen at Father's Office in Santa Monica, kicking off a Saturday morning with scrambled eggs and iced Hibiscus tea at The Source on Sunset (apologies to Woody Allen), or flying down the Pacific Coast Highway with the sunroof open, the ocean as a driving companion, in February.
Ed produced consistently brilliant and satisfying food out of kitchen that was about the size of a Volkswagon, a sweltering vortex of activity and culinary benevolence I'll never forget. He was also a really nice and humble guy, a gracious and welcoming host, whether the guest was Madonna - rumored at the time to be a Caioti regular - or a bunch of idiot kids in their early 20s, working entry-level jobs and feeling pretty much like the world was theirs and anything was possible, in life or in a pizza made by Ed LaDou.