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In the glory days of the big studios — from the late twenties through the early forties — Los Angeles was pretty much a steak-and-Stroganoff kind of town. The cooking was either geared to male bonding and dealmaking (“Make it a porterhouse, waiter, well-done!”) or pour l’amour (“A champagne cocktail for the lady — and a double martini for me”). Needless to say, the settings were often pure faux. Think a vaguely Russian palace as imagined by a studio art director. Think brown derbies and Chinese theaters, Sunset Boulevard and Gloria Swanson — you get the picture.

The cast, of course, was often swell in those days: moguls, directors, big-name stars, maybe even the odd Nobel Prize-winning writer. Back in the thirties, one of the places William Faulkner frequented was LaRue’s on Sunset Strip. He didn’t necessarily go there for the cuisine, though. It was the company that attracted him. Like the beautiful young Meta Carpenter, director Howard Hawks’s assistant. Over a bottle of 1929 Pontet-Canet, the great Southern novelist shed a tear and poured out his story: There was a silver plate in his head. Von Richtofen — the Red Baron — had shot him down over the fields of France.

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