The Sausage Fest tradition began in college. We frequented a San Francisco eatery called Rosamunde that offered gourmet sausages in all varieties, from Knockwurst to Andouille to Wild Boar. That was a simpler time, when Rosamunde was a standing-room-only unless you want to eat in the bar next door, kind of a place. They have now expanded to four locations, including one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and they serve brunch. We were going there when the Mission location was still a little seedy, instead of being one of the hippest and most sought-after places to live in the country. But we’re trendsetters that way. We used to buy up a boatload of raw sausages from Rosamunde, bring them back to our apartment off-campus in Menlo Park, where we had furnished a 1000-square foot two-bedroom with one mini-futon from Ikea, a shoddy unfinished birch 4-seater dining table and a small charcoal Weber grill, and we gathered all of our friends for beer and grilled meat. It was a blast. And more importantly, it was a tradition.

In our quest for gourmet sausages worthy of The Fest when we moved to LA, we discovered a holy grail of exotic sausage. Wurstküche goes beyond your average elevated street dog and offers duck and bacon sausages, alligator and pork sausages, even rattlesnake and rabbit sausages. An adventurous eater can go wild here. They still have the classics, of course: a delicious hot Italian, Brats, and I love the buffalo, beef and pork with chipotle peppers. They have a few different tasty chicken and turkey sausages for the Kosher or health-minded among us, and like Rosamunde, they even offer vegan sausages, and not bad ones either. So everyone can get in on the action.

Wurstküche is also housed in a great space, open and airy and light during the day with a nice ivy-lined patio and fire pit, and clubby and hopping at night. The brick interior features a long bar with many, many taps of constantly rotating Belgian and German craft beers, a different glass for each and every one lining the wall. I asked my husband and our friend Mel to join me for an afternoon of sausages and beers at Wurstküche, and I brought my film crew along too so you could experience the delight of Belgian fries, Merguez sausage and Guden beer firsthand. Please enjoy!

Special thanks as always to my crew, the fabulous David and James Codeglia of Ghostlight, and my producer extraordinaire, Hesley Harps.

La Isla Bonita

I am in the middle of reading Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, in which she strives to convince an old friend to try sushi. Her friend is aghast at the notion of eating raw fish, and proclaims that Ruth will never be able to get her do so, no matter how hard she tries. But that was 1995 in New York City, and this is Los Angeles in 2012, where I imagine that I would be hard pressed to find one solitary soul who would be shocked to know that I am about to recommend eating ceviche out of a truck. That is due in no small part to the proliferation of food truck culture in Los Angeles; at this point you can get anything from currywurst to empanadas to dim sum off of a food truck, and a lot of it is really delicious. But La Isla Bonita is an OG, a real Mexican mariscos truck that has been around since before even Kogi’s conception, a truck that does not tweet its whereabouts but rather can be found every day (except Thursdays) at the intersection of Rose and 4th in Venice. It is there you will find the most incredibly fresh, light ceviche you’ll ever have standing up. The ceviche tostadas consist of a crisp, flat corn tortilla shell topped with a thin layer of perfectly chilled, fresh ceviche. The fish is finely chopped with acid and salt and a little bit of onion, tomato and cilantro—no more. On top there are two thin slices of avocado and a lime wedge, which you should twist over the ceviche. Add a dash of tapatío (or even better, many dashes). The ceviche is pleasantly juicy, and though juices will dribble down your hand, the tostada will not get soggy. There won’t be time. The perfect bite has crunch from the tostada, suppleness from the soft flesh of the fish, the rich creaminess of the avocado, and if you’ve done it right, it’s plenty spicy too. It leaves your lips tingling and your fingers smelling of lime and corn.

There are also the usual taco truck suspects of tacos, burritos and quesadillas stuffed with carne asada or pollo or whatever meat you like, and they’re good. But you are here for the seafood. I love the shrimp tostadas—I admit I sometimes even prefer them to the ceviche. They are a bit more substantial, the tortilla shell spread with a thin layer of crema and a flattened mound of pico de gallo to hold on to the juicy, plump shrimp that cover it. The shrimp are not raw, but they’re very lightly cooked, and incredibly fresh. Again, garnish with lime and tapatío.

I have eaten at many, many food trucks, and as I am sure any LA food lover will already know, a lot of them are great and a lot are second rate imitations of the great ones, and even more are half-baked ideas or non-chefs’ misguided attempts at capitalizing on the food truck craze. But La Isla Bonita is a true delight, a reliably excellent Venice mainstay. And though probably nobody will bat an eye anymore at the idea of uncooked fish from a food truck, you might find yourself surprised at the quality of these tostadas and the simple perfection of their execution, regardless of where they came from.