Ah, the omelet. So deceptively simple. A few whisked eggs, some butter in the pan, a touch of salt, a little pepper and (hopefully) not too many ingredients folded in. What could go wrong? Apparently everything. With alarming frequency. Many a diner omelet (and let’s not even discuss what goes on in dorm cafeterias), consist of eggs either too runny or too rubbery, encasing underseasoned and barely warmed fillings, served up with a sulfurous whiff to envelop the wan cup of out of season fruit chunks loitering nearby. And while Denver omelets and Greek omelets may defeat your senses with promiscuous jumbles of processed meat and glops of mediocre feta, they’ll never get into your soul.
Perhaps that’s why the loving manner in which Remy cooks his new friend Linguine an omelet in Linguine’s tiny Parisian apartement strikes a chord with omelet lovers everywhere. It’s not only the relative simplicity of his preparation, but also the delicate way he massages and gracefully flips the omelet into being. It’s about more than just a fluffy perfectly folded manifestation of the exquisiteness of eggs, it’s about cooking as both a gesture and an art form, a self-expression based on love. A love for the ingredients, a love for perfection, a love for other people that emerges as a desire to delight and inspire them with the simple glory of something so common elevated to royalty by craft and heart. The rat made a damn good omelet. And he made it look easy. It’s not. Neither is crafting a stunning world of remarkable texture, color and detail, down to the burn marks on the wrists of the chefs, but director Brad Bird is good that way. He sweats the details. It always shows.
Luckily for us in LA, there’s a place that also sweats the details when it comes to extraordinary omelets. It’s called Joan’s and Third, and it started as little more than a storefront catering company filled with delicious imported meats and cheeses, which the owner, Joan McNamara expanded into a magnificent specialty marketplace with a stunning array of prepared foods, excellent pastries and ice cream, more outstanding meats and cheeses, and of course, wonderful omelets, which are tender, moist, buttery and the deep yellow of fresh, high quality eggs. According to chef/food personality Alex Guarneschelli, the secret to the ethereal fluffiness of a Joan’s omelet is the addition of a bit of water instead of milk or cream.
They typically encase one or two fillings: a few herbs, a little goat cheese and asparagus, at most a lusty tumble of caramelized onions, potatoes and bacon. They are on the smaller side, which is perfect because they’re so rich and filling that they satisfy without the least bit of omelet fatigue. Most importantly, they are made with the kind of care and love that it takes to do the same thing over and over again, and to try to get it a little more perfect every time. Like transforming the most unpromising of closet-size storefronts into an airy bazaar of every kind of foodie delight. Like Remy living to cook despite the fact that he’s a rodent. Like the way Brad Bird and his team of artists achieved the gorgeous visual density of Paris in Ratatouille, and rendered each character indelible. That’s all it takes to make a good omelet. A respect and awe for each element and the way they come together, and the will to keep getting it right, when you have to start over every time. Just ask Linguine. It’s worth it.
Joan’s on Third
A bright temple of prepared foods, pastries, cured meats, cheeses, ice creams, wines and oils. Picnic central.
Bustling with happy families, urbane LA’ers of every stripe, and the more than occasional celeb.
Efficient and friendly.
Boisterous when busy. Pleasant hum in the evenings.
8350 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048. 323.655.2285 joansonthird.com
Breakfast served Mon-Fri 8am-12pm and on weekends 8am-2pm. Store hours are Mon-Sat 8am-8pm. Sun 8am-7pm.
Ratatouille – (2007) Directed by Brad Bird. Screenplay by Brad Bird. Original story by Jan Pinkava & Jim Capobianco & Brad Bird. Starring Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Ian Holm, Peter O’Toole.