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Get Your Gourmet On: Spend an Afternoon at Surfas

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By now, everybody knows that the magical culinary wonderland that is Surfas will be closing its doors at its current location on July 1, no thanks to Culver City and one of the lamest enactments of eminent domain in Westside history. The latest news update on their website states that they will be moving to a nearby warehouse on July 1st and continuing to serve their customers, but hope to continue fighting the city through legal action. Culver City, on the other hand, hasn't even decided what it's going to do with the land - there have been nebulous rumors of a light rail system, which would certainly be a positive use of the space. Hopefully the property won't be sold off to a private developer - wouldn't it be, like, TOTALLY AWESOME if they put in a giant corporate bookstore-electronics-Starbucks complex? Hooray for the suburbanization of America!

Anyway. In an attempt to appreciate what we've got while it's here, we visited Surfas this weekend. It's the kind of place that a foodie can wander about in for hours - they’ve got endless aisles of professional-grade kitchen supplies, not to mention the specialty foods section that features items like duck confit, white anchovies, gjetost cheese, and blood sausage. We like to survey the freezer for their selection of exotic meats – buffalo? Ostrich? KANGAROO? Seriously? Plus you can pick up hard-to-find items like veal demi-glace, which any good Anthony Bourdain fan knows is essential to making fine cuisine at home. There's also a reasonable selection of Asian foods, a whole section devoted to baking ingredients (candied flowers! chocolate sprinkles! puff pastry! oh my!), and a incredibly diverse number of dried legumes, pasta flours, and grains.

We went in without a shopping list, which can be a dangerous proposition. Although we managed to resist splurging on a camouflage-patterned apron, we did pick up a bottle of Vietnamese fish sauce (key for making soups, sauces, and dips), a carton of baking caramels (which we’ll be eating as they are), and some pre-made tikka masala sauce which we enjoyed over chicken last night. Next time, we’re definitely going to pick up a white canvas apron (just like they wear on Top Chef! squee!), a salad spinner, and maybe some cocktail accessories – they’ve got bar pours in a rainbow of colors, and even a soda siphon! Do you think we could use that to concoct some Marcel-style foams?

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We stopped to survey the selection of seasonal items - you can stock up on all manner of barbecue implements and condiments for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and man, have they got some cool sauces and marinades! Jalapeno pepper jelly can be used as a glaze, correct?

Photo by chotda via flickr

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Surfas, of course, is much more than just a playground for foodie dilettantes - they also sell hardcore restaurant items like convection ovens, mixing bowls big enough to blend up a couple babies, bain mairies and industrial butter dispensers. Actually, we might want one of those for our home kitchen. They also design and install commercial kitchens, including those in the restaurants at the Hollywood Bowl and the Avalon Hotel. We've got to wonder, though, how useful items like the hamburger press really are - doesn't that break the Alton Brown Law of Utensil Multi-Tasking? Just asking.

There's also, of course, a fantastic cafe on the premises, where you can stop to refresh and reload after a hard day's shopping. They specialize in soups, sandwiches and salads made with the finest meats and cheeses. They even have a kobe beef "haute" dog, made in the now-ubiquitous Father's Office style: with blue cheese and caramelized onion dressing. We're not complaining, of course, since pairing tender beef, sharp cheese, and sweet onions has got to be one of the greatest culinary combos of all time.

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This sunny warehouse has been a part of the Culver City landscape since 1937, and it will be a shame to see it relocate, especially when that whole area near the 10 freeway and Venice and National Boulevards is bustling with new restaurants, stores, and people. Yes, a light rail would also be pretty rad - but Surfas is one of those businesses that would benefit from easy access. Check them out at their current location while you still can, and pick up a salad spinner for us while you're there, aight?

Surfas Restaurant and Supply
Cafe Surfas
8777 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(Corner of National and Washington)

Monday – Saturday: 9AM to 6:30 PM
Sunday: 11AM to 5:00 PM

Photo by kruder396 via flickr