Okay, maybe Steve and I are a couple of aging groupies, zealous fans or just plain ol’ Hamilton-maniacs, but when another opportunity came our way to see again the hip-hop musical that tells the story about the immigrant who became our first secretary of the Treasury, we jumped on it.
We decided to try something new, for us, for this Los Angeles adventure – we took the train. I’m glad we did, because as a result of traveling by train, I was also able to track through time and discover coincidental facts and reality that are significant to my personal journey and to find a piece of a puzzle I’ve been seeking several years.
Having finished the first leg of the trip by train from Hanford to Bakersfield, as our bus pulled out of the Amtrak station in Bakersfield, Steve nudged my shoulder and pointed out the window. “There it is. The Hill House.”
Steve was pointing toward a hotel located across from the train station. During our drives to southern California, we often pulled off the freeway, driving along the old highway 99 in search of a hotel, the place Gourmet 21 was once located.
As I have written before, during the mid-1960s, after the Imperial Dynasty had been established, Uncle Richard expanded his culinary aspirations and opened his short-lived restaurant, Gourmet 21, in a hotel in Bakersfield. I had been in the restaurant only once when I was a small child to attend Uncle Richard’s and Auntie Mary’s wedding reception. I had no idea where it was located nor did I know the name of the hotel and I had waited too long to ask anyone who could tell me.
A couple of years ago Steve spent some time perusing the Internet, in search for Gourmet 21. After digging and digging, he found the name of its hotel location, Hill House. As I settled back into my seat, I shook my head smiling, grateful for the co-winkidinks of life that brought us to this location so long lost to us, a missing puzzle piece.
On our return trip, we spent some time in the Los Angeles Union Station, the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States. While waiting for the bus that would take us back to Bakersfield, I did some research. In 1926, a measure on the ballot gave Los Angeles voters the choice between the construction of a large network of elevated railways or the construction of a smaller Union Station, which would consolidate different terminals. The election took on racial implications and became a defining moment in the development of the city of Los Angeles. The proposed Union Station would have been located in what was the original Chinatown, except that as the anti-railroad Los Angeles Times stated in editorials that the Union Station could not be built in the “midst” of Chinatown, because it would “forever do way with Chinatown and its environs.”
The 1926 voters approved the Union Stations rather than elevated railways. The electorate also voted in favor of the Los Angeles Plaza as the site of the new station. Union Station was eventually built across the street from the Plaza in Chinatown, largely due to the efforts of preservationist Christine Sterling and Los Angeles Times publisher, Harry Chandler. Viva la preservationists who protect history and whole ways of life from being tracked over by indifferent progress!
Conceived on a grand scale, Union Station is known as the “Last of the Great Railway Stations.” It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Hanford’s 1880s Taoist Temple was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. I was curious as to the actual date and wanted to peruse the archives. I found the letter that stated: “Mr. William Penn Mott, Jr., State Liaison Officer for the National Register is pleased to announce the placement of Hanford’s Taoist Temple on the National Register as of June 13, 1972. Your handling of the nomination was among the best we have received. Congratulation on your achievement.” And so one of the last great places commemorating the Chinese pioneers of California was preserved.
I don’t know if another opportunity to see Hamilton is in my future, but I am glad this trip provided a missing piece of the Gourmet 21 puzzle and my train station experiences became, among other things, a celebration of preservationists, past and present, who do so much to enrich our lives all over the world.
This week I’m sharing a recipe for tea-rubbed maple chicken. I saw an article in my latest issue of Milk Street Magazine. It riffed on the centuries old Chinese technique of preparing duck, where the bird is smoked in a wok over tea leaves. This delicacy can be prepared using various types of tea – green, jasmine, black.
In order to recreate the smokiness without using the typical smoking method, this recipe calls for a specific tea, Lapsang Souchong. This black tea originated in China’s Fujian province and is noted for its distinctive smoky flavor. In this recipe, Lapsang Souchong is used in an aromatic seasoning rub. Prior to roasting, the turkey is seasoned and air-dried over night. This method helps to ensure a crispy skinned roasted chicken that became popular from San Francisco’s Judy Rogers’ Zuni Café and her subsequent cookbook. A tasty tea infused glaze is brushed on the poultry while cooking.
I was intrigued by this recipe and wanted to try it right away. I didn’t have a turkey at the ready, but did have some chicken thighs. The meat was slightly smoky, succulent, with a crispy skin that had a trace of sweetness.