Food Column: The last meal with Loretta

Teresa Gelbman (center) takes a selfie with her Aunt Loretta (left) and her husband Jeff. Contributed photo.

by Teresa Gelbman 

I recently lost one of my oldest friends, my “plus-one,” my dining and traveling companion, my beloved Aunt Loretta. Not only did we share a love of shopping, concerts, theatre, opening night galas, and music, but we also loved lunching together.

Loretta loved researching new restaurants and chefs, and she was always excited when we could dine someplace new. 

The Valley and Ventura Boulevard were her main haunts; she’d call me after eating at one of her new finds, describing it in great detail. If she didn’t feel it was up to the high standards she prescribed for me, we wouldn’t go there, whereas I really don’t have high standards when it comes to food — I mean, I’ve eaten dog treats because they smelled good.)

Back in our younger years, we were Ladies Who Lunch. We nibbled aspic salads, vegetable tureens and foie gras with champagne at Le Dome. We sampled cold poached salmon salad and chocolate souffle at Bistro Garden and escargot at Café Bizou. We enjoyed rack of lamb at La Rive Gauche, ribs and brisket at Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ and sizzling walnut shrimp at Bamboo Forest Chinese Restaurant. Sometimes we’d meet her friend Wanda for lunch downtown at El Colomao for the best bistec empanizado with rice and beans, and pineapple or Ironbeer soda, or at Harold and Belle’s for clam chowder and po’ boys. We celebrated our birthdays at The Four Oaks on Beverly Glen, with three appetizers: one for her, one for me and one to share. 

We ate Thai, Japanese, Lebanese, Greek and Mexican — nothing was off limits unless she considered it “too healthy.”

Special occasion dinners were held at Lawry’s for prime rib with creamed spinach and baked potatoes or at Delmonico’s Steak and Lobster House. Cheesecake Factory and Hugo’s were her favorites, too. 

Before shows at the Pantages we dined at Musso and Franks for martinis, Caesar salad and, if it was Thursday night, the most deliciously amazing chicken potpie in the world, followed by another martini for dessert. If we craved seafood before the show, we’d sit in the bar at Delphine, sipping pinot grigio, Sancerre or Chablis with calamari, oysters, shrimp cocktail, and a crab Louie salad. 

I loved those days of lunching, shopping, concerts, and theater with her. 

The last meal my family and I had with my aunt was in January, around my mom’s birthday. My vegan husband Jeff and I took them to our favorite Oaxacan restaurant, Quidaiyn in Mar Vista. We started with memelitas. Jeff got his favorite, tlayuda, with a side of their rich mole negro. Dad stayed true to form and had fajitas. Mom and I both ordered the taquitos and Aunt Loretta had the pork ribs with black beans, rice and homemade corn tortillas. For dessert, we shared vegan chocolate cake, bread pudding and a scoop of cactus and lime nieve. 

As always, the meal was delicious, we were all happy, talking about our lunch, and planning future meals together.  

Sadly, those are now meals that will be eaten without my aunt, but always in her memory. 

Love you, Aunt.