I’ve never liked Disney fairy tales very much even as a little girl.
(Picture credit by Tumblr)
Sleeping Beauty was more like Weeping Idiot to me because all she did was boo-hoo about the stranger who randomly joined her in an awful song and then the moron had to go prick her finger on a spindle. Cinderella and her impossibly tiny, erotic feet is just annoying—and again, there’s that weeping scene where all she does is cry when her stepsisters tear her gown apart.
Snow White? Couldn’t stand the way she talked with fluttering eyelashes and pranced about with her broom. Also, snow-white skin, blood-red lips and charcoal black hair? That’s just vampire-scary. And Jasmine? Seriously, how do you support your bubble head and that full mane with a waist that size?
The first Disney film I liked as a child was Anastasia. Now that was a girl with guts and self-respect. She didn’t need a Prince Charming to save her; she saved herself. And she didn’t fall right away in love with the first guy who strutted up with a smile; she had a brain and wits to go along with her heart. Plus, Dimitri was kind of hot. (Edited to add: Okay, I made a boo-boo. Anastasia is not Disney. It’s Fox. I should have known it was different.)
The second Disney film I liked was Mulan, although I did get very irritated and distracted by the fact that Mulan’s eyes would switch from double-lidded to single-lidded depending on whether she was a man or a woman. When did double-lidded eyes represent femininity? No wonder more and more Asian women are getting plastic eye surgery.
Anyway, thank God Disney movies started getting a bit better, though I guess the cheesy romance will always remain. Still, I have to admit this fact: even though I scoffed these ridiculous Disney princesses, inside, even as a little girl, I was just plain jealous of them.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a Disney princess? You’ve got looks to die for, literally. You’ve got perfectly flat abs underneath a perfectly perky set of boobs. You’re guaranteed a happily ever after ending, no matter what shit goes down. You’re kind of dumb, but who needs brains when your boyfriend is a hot, white horse-straddling prince?
Take Cinderella, for example. All the sweet girl does is daydream and sing with her rodent buddies, and poof! A fairy godmother appears and Bibbidy-boos her into a gorgeous gown and a fancy chariot. You don’t need to tell your stepmother to suck it and figure out your own path and dreams. Nope, you just gotta scrub floors and dream of the distant kingdom, and your fairy godmother does it all for you.
See, the reason I never liked Cinderella is because I identified more with the jealous step-sisters than the perfect girl who was kind, sweet, beautiful and popular with the rats.
Well, last week, I finally got to be Cinderella for once. Out of the blue, I got an invitation to dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s new restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air, a fancy hotel in Bel Air, near Westwood.
Because the blogger would prefer anonymity, I’ll just call her Fairy Blogger. Fairy Blogger and I have been in touch for months, and I’ve always found her to be a thoughtful and sweet person from both her comments and her blog. And she is the same lovely person in real life.
(Photo credit from Haute Living)
It was a dream come true. I felt like I was Cinderella walking in wonder into the castle. The only difference was that my “chariot” was an old, scratched up Civic Honda and I had no gleaming gown or glass slippers, though I did have a nice pair of knee-high boots.
At first I had no idea you had to park valet, so I parked my little car by myself and a parking attendant jogged over to politely inform me that parking was valet only. Oops.
(Photo credit from Luxury Travel Magazine)
I entered Hotel Bel-Air late at night so my photographs turned out horrible, so I took the liberty of borrowing some pictures via Google, but you can check out the gorgeous pictures at Cinderella 11pm’s thorough review of the place.
Visiting Hotel Bel-Air was kind of a huge deal because it had only just opened after a 2-year renovation. It’s an iconic 5-star luxury hotel with a legendary lake of swans. It’s the place where celebrities come to spruce up before going on a $50,000 shopping spree at Rodeo Drive.
(Photo credit to Luxury Travel Magazine)
I’m certainly no hot-stuff celebrity parading into the dining room on a date with another super hot celebrity (like Bradley Cooper, eee!), but I had someone even more awesome waiting for me with a warm, friendly smile and a welcoming hug: my Fairy Blogger, aka Cinderella 11pm.
The sun had just set when I walked in and the fire was crackling with warm pleasure at the centerpiece fireplace. There were no other diners yet, so for the first hour, we had the entire place to ourselves. Sweet.
The service was impeccable. It was slightly awkward for me at first because my seat got pulled out for me, and even my napkin got unfolded and laid onto my lap for me. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. But you know what? Ten minutes of this kind of service and you just ease into it as though you’ve been born into royalty your whole life.
Even the cutlery was top-notch. The fork and knife weighs heavy and steady in your hands, and the serving plates were minimalistic yet beautiful.
The pacing was perfect, too. Each course got served at an appropriate speed, allowing Fairy Blogger and I to just converse and enjoy our food and drink naturally.
We started out with Hand-cut Steak Tartare:
Raw sirloin, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, egg yolk “jam,” Parmesan tuiles, Fried pork skin, rock salt.
I had never tried steak tartare before. I’ve heard people rave about it. I’d always just assumed it would be like sashimi, just beefier. I was close, but not enough. For some reason the taste was even more exquisite and lighter than raw fish, paired wonderfully with the intense umami pop of jellied egg yolk and paper-thin cheese tuiles.
It’s definitely an experience to get used to though. Although the portion was small I definitely couldn’t have finished this by myself because every bite was strange and otherworldly to me, though not in a bad way at all.
That was our aperetif. We began our first course soon.
Oh so divine. The pasta skin was impossibly thin and delicate yet firm and supple. And pairing chestnuts with mascarpone? Gold star all around.
Mine was the Autumn Salad:
White truffles, chestnuts, Matsutake mushrooms, Pomegranate seeds, Fuyu persimmons, Comice Pear mixed with mesclun greens in light dressing.
How gorgeous is that! It was lovely— brilliantly fresh and full of flavor.
I’ve never tried white truffles—or any kind of truffles for that matter—and I have to say, I’m a bit puzzled as to what the fuss is about. Sure it’s got a nice earthy flavor, but I wouldn’t pay $30 extra for a few shavings of that. But at least now that I’ve tried it, I can actually say snobby stuff like that.
Before our entree, we were presented with a bread basket, from which we got a kind of sourdough braid and a fragrant pat of butter:
The bread basket was filled with lovely baked goods, and from that selection I chose a cranberry focaccia with jalapeno cream:
I really liked it, especially with a light smear of sweet butter. I’m not sure what kind of butter that was, but it was excellent.
Our second course came some time afterwards.
The server poured some kind of savory sauce on top at the table. I forgot what the sauce he said was.
Great tastes crave alike! I was so glad she got this because it was my second choice. Actually, everything on the menu sounded amazing and I had a hard time choosing what I want, which don’t usually happen; I’m usually very decisive.
I truly got a taste of what “melt in the tongue” chicken is like. This chicken was so luscious and tender that you barely needed to put pressure on the knife to slice into the flesh. It was utterly delicious.
Yay! I finally get to taste “foam”! I’ve been curious about it ever since it got ridiculed on Top Chef season three. It’s actually really interesting. The texture is like soap bubbles, but it’s warm and bubbly with savory flavors. Fascinating.
The fish was incredibly tender and flaky, pan-fried to perfection. The buttery mushroom sprawled on top was just as savory and juicy as the fish, and the kabocha below was sweet as honey.
And then, after a break for warm tea, we finalized to dessert.
Wow, isn’t this a night of firsts. I got my first taste of souffle too, and I really enjoyed the puff of dough mixed with the creamy, gooey insides.
It was a hefty dessert, perhaps even a bigger portion than the entree itself. I guess they believe that dessert is the most important course of the meal.
I got the special of the day, which was an artful dessert with a clever grapefruit theme:
Graham cracker crust, grapefruit cheesecake, grapefruit mousse, white chocolate, grapefruit gelee, caramelized sugar slab.
This dish was to die for. I usually don’t got for fruity desserts, but I’m so glad I finished with this because as refreshing and citrusy as it was, it was also rich and sensuous. It’s the kind of dessert that makes you stop all conversation and just eat slowly, painstakingly, trying to savor every bite and lick.
And then we got a third dessert, a green apple sorbet with fresh fruit:
I’m in love with that hummingbird/butterfly plate. I want it. I really wanted to take it home, but goody-goody Cinderella wouldn’t approve.
The dessert also came with hazelnut cookies that were delightfully buttery and crunchy and nutty:
Everything about that night was magical. It played out just like the meaning behind Cinderella 11pm: the unbelievably magical and royal moments before the clock strikes midnight.
The blogger behind Cinderella 11pm is in a way kind of like Cinderella. In the course of our three hour-plus dinner, we shared our life stories and I got a glimpse into who she is as a person in this big, scary world. Of course, her story isn’t an all-happy black-and-white fantasy, but it is spun with her own tales and experiences that are every part as miraculous and fascinating.
My impression of my dining companion as I waddled out of the hotel was that as sweet and lovely as she is, she’s also tough and strong and brave—not a Disney princess, but a human tale heroine in her own right. Thank you, Fairy Blogger, for the wonderful tales, the warm friendship, and the enthralling dining experience.
And of course, the clock started ticking to midnight once I got to the hotel exit. Out of all the sea of gleaming Audis, BMWs and Mercedes, my banged-up Honda Civic was parked far up on a little hill, away from them big guys.
I blew vapor into the chilly air while waiting for the valet guy to dash up to retrieve my car. I paid him, slid into my car, and the valet guy helped me close the door. The magic night was over at that instant.
The minute I hit the accelerator and rustled out of the driveway and away from the splendid lights of Hotel Bel-Air, I got stuck in traffic. Even though it was almost 9 pm. Oh, damn you, Los Angeles traffic.
Question of the Day: With which Disney princess do you identify most? Why?