Oh man. If you haven’t been to Clementine, you are missing out. It’s auspiciously tucked away in Century City slightly off the main drag of big Santa Monica. For those of you who have found parking somehow and had lunch (or dinner) there, you know Annie Miler is serving it up the right way, combining the fun of seasonal cooking with the warmth of comfort food.
I first discovered Clementine when I got into print advertising in 2005 before I figured out the internet and got all fancy with a blog. My old company did work with Annie and she was a great person to work with. I was in charge of the promotions for an event called “Grilled Cheese Month” and it was awesome. Every week, Annie pits her sandwiches against each other, conjuring up the most wonderful variations of grilled cheese sandwiches known to mankind. By the end, there is technically a winner, but the reality is, the more you tried during that month, the bigger the winner you were.
I used to truly enjoy going to Clementine for work, making the drive from WeHo and finding parking somehow only to come inside and have Annie give me a sandwich and a cookie like I was coming home from school. It was my first out of college job and I will always appreciate how cool she was, which she didn’t have to be to a Jr. Project Manager in print tasked with the job of helping her design her collateral for this wonderful event.
I do not know if she is still using the agency I used to work at, but their creative was always superb and I suspect it might still be them. The new ads for GCM look amazing. As you can see, it’s LA iconographic artwork with a vintage flavor, only grilled cheese is the star of the show. I think they are brilliant. They are joyous and remind me of the way I imagine Los Angeles used to be before I was born, and also of the feeling you get taking a bite of a big, gooey grilled cheese sandwich in the summer.
Even better than the advertising is this year’s lineup of sandwiches. Annie didn’t need any help from other celebrity chefs as this is her home court and she is the master of her domain, but the guests contributing sandwich variations clearly shows what those of us who frequent Clementine already know: Annie can hang with the best of them. And she does so without a trace of arrogance. As her list of guest sandwich artists proves, Clementine is accessible to top flight chefs and casual diners alike.
Jimmy Shaw, the genius behind Loteria grill, has created for Annie a Chichirron de Queso featuring crispy cheese, black beans, avocado, pickled jalepenos, mayo and pico de gallo. I know exactly how it will taste and how good that will be. The bar is raised even further as Annie has Suzanne Goin creating a sandwich. This also confirms how cool Suzanne is. If you haven’t tried A.O.C. and Luques yet, slap yourself in the face and then once you come to, eat there. Suzanne has drafted a Queso Mahon and Chorizo with quince paste and romesco. As with everything Suzanne does, a casual eater need not worry about having knowledge of the ingredients, just trust she knows exactly what works best.
Other guest contributors include Amelia Saltsman, who authored The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook, Evan Kleinman of KCRW’s Good Food, and last but definitely not least, Nancy Silverton, the virtuoso behind the breads of Mozza and La Brea Bakery.
All of these plus Annie’s brilliant spins on America’s most traditional of sandwiches. Personally, I look forward to her Cheesy Meatloaf, Cheddar and Swiss on dark bread with crunchy apple slaw and the Croque Monsieur and its ham and gruyere on country white bread.
So kudos to Chef Annie Miller and another successful year of Grilled Cheese Month. For a dorky foodie like myself, I revel at the chance enjoy her seasonal favorites along with experiencing how a Suzanne Goin or a Jimmy Shaw go after such a seemingly simple permeatation of cheese and bread. I doubt Annie remembers me, the work I did with Clementine or the cold limeade she’d send me home with when I would stop by with stuff for her to check out, but I remember it. Back then I didn’t know how to cook or what a Michelin star was or even who Gordon Ramsay was. I didn’t know I was talking several times a day with one of Los Angeles’ most gifted chefs and restauranteurs. Annie packages all kinds of goodies for sale along with take out dinners and even, during the summer, picnic baskets to take to the Hollywood Bowl. Miller has a real understanding of what is a landmark in Los Angeles, but more and more I am realizing there’s more to it.
The truth is, Annie and her restaurant are becoming one of those landmarks.
CLICK HERE to find out the schedule for Grilled Cheese Month and how to find the restaurant.