You’ve tasted Korean, Thai and Mexican food. You may have tasted Burmese, Ethiopian and Iranian food. You know that Los Angeles is a city with a diverse population. In City of Gold, you learn that Jonathan Gold often begins his reviews with writing in the second person. Hence, my opening paragraph.
Food critic Jonathan Gold wraps his arms around Los Angeles and its diversity. He loves L.A., his hometown, and its wide assortment of cuisines and flavors. City of Gold explores the food of Los Angeles and the people who cook and serve it. The film also provides insight into Gold and his writing.
Gold says, “You’re not going to find food like this anywhere but L.A.” I’d argue that many cities in the U.S., including St. Louis, offer a wide range of ethnic cuisines prepared with skill and passion.
But this film is about Los Angeles. The sheer enormity of the L.A. metro area and its population from across the world make it possible for Gold to experience meal after excellent meal at favorite dining spots. Gold revels in the smaller establishments, often in the less celebrated corners of town. (He once wrote a series of articles about every block of Pico Boulevard, which runs from downtown L.A. to the ocean at Santa Monica.)
Among the spots I like best in the film are the taco stand King Taco, which also has a taco truck permanently parked outside, and downtown’s Grand Central Market.
City of Gold features appearances from food personalities Andrew Zimmern, David Chang, Ruth Reichl and Calvin Trillin talking with or about Gold. (He and Reichl commiserate over fried grasshoppers.) Gold’s wife Laura Ochoa, who also works for the Los Angeles Times, adds her takes about her husband and his work.
Gold, the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize (2007), writes colorfully. Of a spicy dish, he compares it to “a mysteriously pleasurable punch in the mouth.” In an Op-Ed regarding preservation of over-harvested sea animals for food, he writes of the “bitter taste of extinction.”
Jonathan Gold has a wide cultural range. He is a cello player who grew up listening to classical music but later wrote about Gangsta rap. He doesn’t seem like a truck guy, but he proudly drives a Dodge pickup.
Laura Gabbert directed City of Gold. Her shots of Los Angeles at the end of the day give the city an appealing look that contrast with the gritty look of much of her street level filming.
City of Gold provides a glimpse of the vastness of the food choices L.A. brings to the table. Gold is a man who loves his work as much as he loves his city. His passion is obvious. You will enjoy meeting him and, especially, checking out the food he eats.