From Hollywood's Golden Age, repast of the rich and famous

November 03, 1993|By Maureen Sajbel | Maureen Sajbel,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Is there anyone who doesn't love hearing about the glamour and glitter of Hollywood's Golden Age? Like the tales of star-filled nights at the Cocoanut Grove, when big bands broadcast their music live over the radio, and early Academy Awards were given out during its big dinner galas.

Or stories of swooning fans keeping vigil outside Perino's in the hope of seeing stars such as Greta Garbo. Or remembrances of the parade of movie stars, still in makeup and costume, dropping in for lunch at the Brown Derby.

The newest book to mine this territory talks about the past with an interesting twist. "Hollywood du Jour," by Betty Goodwin (Angel City Press, hardcover, $15.95) has a subtitle that tells it all: "Lost Recipes of Legendary Hollywood Haunts."

Other books dish the gossip; this one delivers the dish and the dishes. (The book is available in specialty bookstores, or by mail through Angel City Press at [800] 949-8039.)

If you're old enough, these are the recipes you've heard about but may never have seen in print. Like California figs Romanoff from the Cocoanut Grove, the legendary Brown Derby's original cobb salad or grapefruit cake, Don the Beachcomber's rumaki or whitefish Italienne from Perino's. The rich chocolate souffle recipe from Romanoff's printed in this book is still served today at the Bistro. (Kurt Niklas, the maitre d' from the former, is now owner of the latter.)

Cream pies, French onion soup, corned beef hash and veal cordon bleu reflect bygone eating habits -- no matter how good, they showed that heavy Continental cooking and complicated recipes that required hours of preparation time were in fashion. Those restaurants that spanned into the 1970s and 1980s had a lighter and more health-conscious approach, as well as a dip into such trends as nouvelle cuisine.

Ms. Goodwin includes a number of old cocktail recipes, notably the Moscow Mule, "the drink with a velvet kick," from the Cock 'n Bull; and the Players' recipes for Side Car, Rob Roy and Jack Rose cocktails. In beverages, there is also the non-alcoholic treasure, Schwab's chocolate ice cream soda, a simple recipe served at the counter by then-unknown soda jerks Ava Gardner and Hugh O'Brian.

Ms. Goodwin does a great service in preserving a bit of the past in a town notorious for forgetting everything prior to last week's film grosses. As a well-heeled native, she remembers going to the best restaurants while growing up and, in later years as a society reporter, she continued to go to the Hollywood gathering places to mingle with celebs.

All 18 places she writes about are gone. Some arrived along with the talkies in the 1920s and lasted decades, like the Cocoanut Grove and the Brown Derby.

Others had shorter runs, like the Players, which was director Preston Sturges' labor of love and money pit. The most recent casualties were victims of recession, changing tastes and shifting loyalties, including Trumps, a modern Hollywood restaurant that defined the 1980s with its exotic and eclectic cooking.

In the case of Bullock's Wilshire Tea Room (which opened a month before the stock market crashed in 1929 and employed many a young rising movie star before he or she made it big), the 1991 riots sounded the death knell. The last of its aging, well-heeled clientele feared going to the Art Moderne masterpiece, which was now in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood.

Ms. Goodwin makes the point that the restaurants each had a presence as compelling as any of the stars they served.

Along with bits of history and more than 30 recipes, there are descriptions of the decor, and photos picturing old-time stars in these glamorous and long-gone watering holes and eateries.

Ms. Goodwin also throws in a few good anecdotes -- like the fact that Jimmy Durante had a diet of cornflakes and cigars; that more than one star jumped naked into the lagoon at the rowdy Luau restaurant on Rodeo Drive; and that Orson Welles was such a regular at Ma Maison that it was the restaurant's owner, Patrick Terrail, who first notified the newspapers of Welles' death.

The Brown Derby's original cobb salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finely chopped

1/2 bunch watercress, stemmed and finely chopped

1 small bunch chicory, finely chopped

1/2 head romaine, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced

2 breasts boiled roasting chicken, skinned, boned and diced

6 strips bacon, crisply cooked and finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

3 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1/2 cup crumbled imported Roquefort cheese

1 cup Brown Derby's Old-Fashioned French Dressing (recipe follows)

Place lettuce, watercress, chicory and romaine in salad bowl. Arrange tomatoes over top of chopped greens. Place chicken over top of chopped greens and sprinkle with bacon. Place avocado around edge of salad. Decorate top of salad with chopped eggs, chives and cheese. Just before serving, mix salad thoroughly with dressing.

Old-fashioned french dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

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