L.A.

LA

I’m one of those people who loves Los Angeles. Even rarer, I’m one of those San Franciscans who loves Los Angeles. Each sometimes writes off the other, and the two big cities in California are often at odds with each other. One is serious, grey, and a little foreboding and mysterious. The other sunny and warm, with an upbeat attitude that even after visiting for the umpteenth time, I find refreshing. And it always makes me happy to be in LA.

LA

My first “Aha!” moment on this visit was when I woke up the morning after dinner at République, the stunning restaurant that took over the space of the former Campanile restaurant. I took the elevator up to the breakfast room of my hotel, on the top floor. When the door opened, my eyes took a moment to adjust after being greeted by a sky so bright-blue, I was wondering why I had spent so many years trying to stay warm under the blanket of chilly fog of San Francisco.

So a poolside breakfast it was, a plate of scrambled egg whites with kale, squash, avocados and Sriracha sauce, along with a thermos of coffee, and a terrace view. I was ready to move in.

carrots at Hollywood Farmer's Market

Although I would have been content to spend my entire life up there, I packed up my Sharpies and headed over to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market for a book signing.

Hollywood Farmer's Market

As much as the blue skies wowed me, I had forgotten the magnificence of California produce. Stands with smiling vendors were piled high with tangles of earthy greens, and dewy heads of oak leaf lettuce were lined up in orderly rows. Yikes, I wonder what their refrigerators look like at home. I guess that is something for my produce at home aspire to.

market lettuce at Hollywood Farmers Market

An array of citrus was on display in a number of booths, which took every bit of my willpower not to pack up and take home with me. And being on the cusp of summer (which seems to be the case, daily, in southern California), flats of California berries were making their first appearance.

California berries

My guide was Daniel Mattern, the chef-owner of Cook’s County restaurant, who knows the market well as he does a lot of the shopping for his menus there. (When I ate there a few days later, I know it’s très américain to list where you source everything, but I think places that do, carry those words as a badge of honor. As he does.)

Lettuce at Hollywood Farmer's Market

Roxana Jullapat, co-owner and co-chef at Cook’s County, made some treats from my book to serve to folks who came to my event; little bites of chocolate and dulce de leche cake, and salted olive crisps.

Treats from My Paris Kitchen

While I was signing books, a man stepped up to the table who looked very familiar. I almost leapt out of my seat when I realized it was Robert Dedlow, who I’d worked with at Chez Panisse, beginning way back in the 1980s. When I naïvely walked up to the front door of the restaurant, where I was hoping to snag a job, Robert had a slightly aloof demeanor, which I found off-putting at the time – actually, he put the fear of God in me…but I persevered.

Robert

Looking back to that moment, Robert was my gateway – rather than gatekeeper – as he directed me inside the kitchen in the direction of the chef. Who wasn’t interested in talking to me at the time, but somehow, I succeeded in getting them to let me try out. Because I was so motivated, I landed the job and Robert and I worked together for many, many years – he as a waiter, and I in the kitchen. I came to appreciate his understated humor, which I had mistaken for cool reserve and we had a lot of fun together working during those crazy early days at Chez Panisse.

Heidi

As happy as I was to see him, I was especially thrilled that he and Andrea, who pioneered growing the lettuces for Chez Panisse in the restaurant’s garden, are not only baking beautiful breads at Kenter Canyon Farms, but are raising their own wheat and grains for the loaves. A woman in Paris recently asked me why she couldn’t find good bread in southern California, and if she’s reading, well, in the words of probable SoCal resident Steven Tyler, “Walk this way!” It’s easy to see why they sell out quickly.

Bread

After ripping into a loaf, I can attest to how fantastic this bread is and if anyone thinks all this organic, local, etc. stuff is hooey, go ahead and take a bite: you can taste the actual grains that are used in the bread in each slice. Honestly, if I did decide to take up permanent residence on the roof of my hotel, I’d still make the trek to the Farmer’s Market to pick up my bread.

Republique in LA

I was glad I had fortified myself for the day, the night before, with a great meal at République, which was quite dark and I wasn’t able to take very good snapshots. We ordered everything, including lots of vegetables, and oven-roasted meats and fish, with impeccably sourced products. I’d told myself that I was going to really curb my consumption of alcohol and coffee on this trip, since it’s been so hectic.

Republique cocktail in LA

But I couldn’t resist a cocktail, whose name escapes me in my book tour stupor, but was an enticing blend of rye whiskey and vermouth, with a dash of bitters – just up my alley. It was worth the woozy feeling the next morning. (Although I was glad I limited myself to just one!)

After my chat with Evan Kleiman at the packed-to-the-rafters William-Sonoma store in Santa Monica (special thanks to the staff there for doing such a great job, and to all those who came, too), I hustled over to Lucques restaurant to take part in their weekly Sunday supper event.

Dinner at Lucques from My Paris Kitchen

I’d worked with chef-owner Suzanne Goin, who prepared a menu from My Paris Kitchen, and while I didn’t have time to sit down and eat my way through the menu, I made a ton of new friends – and connected with long-time pal from Los Angeles who came by for dinner, as I did the LA-thing; table-hopping, meeting and greeting everyone, and signing books.

Crostini from My Paris Kitchen

Of course, the team at Lucques did a bang-up job with the food, including roasted cherry tomato crostini with homemade cheese, one of the best leeks vinaigrettes I’ve ever had, bitter chicory salads piled in wooden bowls, piping-hot chicken Parmentier, all capped off with warm chocolate cakes with hazelnut ice cream and salted butter caramel, which even the stick-thin LA ladies and gents couldn’t resist. Probably a biased opinion, but my aunt told me the next day that the crostini was one of the best things she’d ever eaten.

I couldn’t stop myself from talking to everyone, until I found myself in a near catatonic state, while Caroline, the co-owner of the restaurant, kept me revived with sips of cool rosé. (What is it they say about those “best intentions”?) Waking up the next day, after saying goodbye to the blue-skied terrace overlooking LA, I packed up my things to meet my aunt for lunch.

kale salad at Cook's County LA

We ended up at Cook’s County, starting with a healthy kale salad (which, if you can believe, I’ve never had) with farro, squash, and a flurry of grated cheese, which made me realize what all the hoopla was over kale salad. Main courses were steamed clams and mussels, and orecchietti pasta with a beef ragù, along with a healthy side of sautéed broccoli sprouts, greens that I want to take bundles of back to Paris.

Cooks County

While I didn’t leave my heart in Los Angeles, I did leave with some great memories of fine meals and friendly faces, and perhaps a bit of a tan from my (former) morning rooftop perch over the city.

Kimpton Hotel LA

74 comments

  • Sounds like so much fun! I can’t wait to meet you at BlogHer in Miami.

  • Hope you had fun with Evan. I’d say we all have to get together and meet Anissa at her new place in Sicily. Road trip?!

  • Great post! Your (short) travels here make me want to try out Cooks County, and as a LA transplant from New England, your experience here also helped me remember why I moved in the first place (the markets! the blue skies! the perma-tan!). I missed out on your book signing and dinner at Lucques because I just had my wisdom teeth removed (quelle dommage!…), and I was so bummed — but this post takes away the sting of it =)

    Cheers,
    Ashley-Marie

  • I don’t miss America that much anymore but this sunny, produce filled post really made me crave a little bit of American summer. Glad you enjoyed your first (what?!) kale salad!

  • I believe that Martini you were referring to was a Manhattan – one of the classics ;)

  • It was great to meet you at Lucques! The food was incredible but it was such a zoo, no wonder you were catatonic. I don’t know how you do it, but thanks for being so accessible to your fans, we really appreciate it!

    • It was a lot of fun, and a bit crazy. I had great time at Lucques and the combo of the great food and meeting everyone was, indeed, intoxicating : )

  • It’s funny because for some strange reason lately my mind keeps wondering about the quality of food in SoCal. (I play host to an array of strange musings). Anyway, you answered my question. I’ve always had a soft spot for LA since I began my Pilates training there. And your post has enhanced my longing for a visit.

    • I was there too. I felt overwhelmed for YOU(!) although I believe I may have said I loved you (haha, only as a sister, & hopefully u didn’t hear;). I’m the one who gave u the scarf from my friend Thai. Cheers, all the best.

  • Such a cool post. I love how you can keep taking great pictures, even on the road. And by the way, that seems like an amazing market.

  • totally not important but a Manhattan with whisky (usually rye or bourbon) sweet vermouth and a twist of lemon is called a Perfect Manhattan. (dry vermouth and a cherry is a Manhattan) Wonderful post as always.

  • http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink5828.html 30 years ago a ‘Perfect Manhattan’ called for a twist, not a cherry. Dry manhattan called for an olive, and a regular got a cherry.

  • A Perfect Manhattan contains BOTH Dry and Sweet Vermouth. All Manhattans are made with Whisky, preferably Rye, and should contain a splash of bitters. Perfect Manhattans are normally garnished with a twist of lemon and a regular Manhattan with a cherry.

    A very classic American drink. Glad David enjoyed his.

  • As a native Northern Californian who now lives in San Diego, I understand all too well the great California divide. While I will always be a Northern Californian at heart, Southern California has come a long way in the past 30 years. I still long for the green landscapes and more variable weather of NC, but am content taking walks on the beach and enjoying the beautiful, mild weather that SC is known for (especially this past winter!).

  • Thanks for reminding me how fantastic LA is . . . and it was such a pleasure to meet you for my birthday dinner at Lucques and eat the delicious dishes Suzanne prepared from your book. I am going for the Panna Cotta next . . . nice n easy. Kenter Canyon is fabulous and we even have a miller now in Pasadena; also wonderful for bread and everything else is the teeny Red Bread in Culver City, kind of my second home. I am really enjoying the book . . .

  • Hey David, there is a blot of smudginess in the middle right of the pics… (just in case you haven’t noticed and you keep on taking pics and noticing it later – that’s even more annoying than eagle-eyes readers:) Always a great pleasure to read your posts David, thank you.

    • I noticed those. It’s been a whirlwind trip and I didn’t see that until I downloaded my pictures to my computer to post. I did clean the lens this morning.. thanks for the tip-off! : )

  • LA is a great city to visit with its always sunny skies, great restaurants and general scene but could not live there with the persistent and endless and horrid traffic.

    …Which is why I live in SD :) same sunny skies (with the minor exception of May gray and June gloom), great produce, gorgeous nature + beaches, and ok the restaurants are a bit of a step down but the traffic is nearly non-existent.

    Have always wanted to try Lucques though, is that a shepherd’s pie lurking behind the salad?

  • FRESH!!! My God, that produce. I live in Spain, and the food here is great, but it’s rare to see food SO spanking fresh. Enjoy, on behalf of us in Europe!

  • May I ask the name of your hotel? Contemplating a trip to LA later this year, and that view is gorgeous.

    • It was the Kimpton on Wilshire. The room was very nice and the staff great. The breakfast was so-so, but the view was spectacular.

  • Kenter Canyon Farms breads are THE BEST! It’s staggering how delicious they are. I have a bag of their flour at home right now and am sorely tempted to make a loaf of bread when I get home from work, in spite of this 90 degree heat.

    • The bread was truly excellent. When you can taste the flour, and all the flavors in it, that’s pretty special. I’m thrilled for what they are doing here in Los Angeles!

  • I grew up in Los Angeles and then moved to San Francisco as an adult. The “rivalry” is completely one-sided. Few Los Angelinos hold a strong opinion about San Francisco, partly because Los Angeles doesn’t foster a strong city identity. It’s a collection of great neighborhoods.

  • I have never been to L.A. but definitely a great place:)

  • You had such a perfectly curated LA market experience. Sun, markets, great restaurants, a good drink, tons of fans and a pool. perfect! Come back soon. We love you.

  • So glad you enjoyed LA! Sorry to have missed you!

  • my partner and I stayed at the Kimpton Wilshire. Loved it, staff great, rooms eclectic and the pool side restaurant for dinner was super

  • Wow! I’ve got roof envy!

  • I’ve been a fan for years and been praying that you’d come to LA.My prayers were answered not totally because I was scheduled to work that weekend.What a disappointment!!
    David,I love your blog.Thanks for sharing your funny stories.
    You make me laugh.
    Someday,someday…..maybe in Paris.

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  • Being from the east coast, I never understood the rivalry between southern and northern California when I learned of it after moving to the SF Bay area..and I’ve lived here for 42 years, now! I like LA, too, and am always excited to visit.

  • so so true–the SF’ers disliking LA. actually it’s very popular to dis LA in general and most people don’t know that city. i’ve lived in both places, (now in NO CA), absolutely love LA. in fact i think it is the world’s best kept secret, although i hesitate to say it, not wanting that quality to go away.

    if you have ever been to the Santa Monica farmer’s Mkt, it truly has the best, freshest, most varied, produce in the world. and there are fresh farmers markets on ”every corner” on whatever day you need, it seems like. and fresh architecture :) things change fast.
    Lucques is one of the best restaurants there. hopefully that will be a fixture.
    so sorry to have missed your fête there. looks AMAZING–great photos!
    next time.

  • It is so refreshing to see and read about the beautiful farmers markets in California (my former home.) I have lived in the midwest for 8 years now and truly miss the California produce, growing season, sun, and warmth. Thanks for the mouth-watering recap of your trip!

  • So sorry that I missed you in LA. I moved to Paris for 5 months with my family and definitely missed our great LA Farmer’s markets and variety of Southern Ca produce especially kale which I was lucky to find at a street market in London!! But there is still nothing like a French Baguette. Come back to LA – it’s going through a wonderful renaissance again, very creative and energetic. Bon voyage.

  • I am dying to try this bread on my next trip to LA. I am a NC kind of gal. Love So CA but it is just not the same. Is Chicory the same thing as Dandelion?

  • I’m another native Californian who straddles the north and south–born in Laguna Beach and grew up in Walnut Creek–and loves both regions for their incredible differences. Thanks for reinforcing the many wonderful things about LA beyond the film industry!

  • LA is great. And it is lousy. Depends on your situation and time of day.

    I even love it in is lousiness.

    North vs. South. The age old matchup. Sharks (San Jose) vs. Kings. One more game to go.

    We’ll see who skates victorious.

    Two hands on the wheel on those LA freeways.

    I’m writing this with my feet. Watch it!!… you bleeping’ #@%&$!!!

  • Me too, I miss LA, and I’m a die-hard Berkeleyan.

  • Grew up in LA; loved the mild temps., but had to get out of the traffic and smog. On the good side, in those days there were orchards near by, but not as much local produce as now. There were great restaurants and specialty markets, especially Italian…I miss that part!

  • I have a love/ hate relationship with California. I lived in Southern Ca and Ventura for over 20 years Their are some great bakers and I do miss there bread as much, if not more than I miss the weather. Those pictures made me hungry. No fresh produce like that around here.

  • I was so happy to see the last minute announcement of your visit to the Hollywood Farmer’s market. I begged my husband we skip our early morning yoga in Santa Monica to see you instead! We both had a great time enjoying a new farmer’s market location (we visit SM weekly), buy your book, meet you and getting it signed. We enjoyed Cooks County’s samples and more than eager to try those out ourselves. I am a fan and gush to my friends about how amazing your books and blog – you are very entertaining to read and the recipes inspire the home cooks! Hope to see you back in LA again :)

  • Great Blog & photos…..I had forgotten all about the Manhattan drink…they are so good. Thanks for reminding me.

  • What a great whirlwind trip!!! Thank you for sharing. I love and miss LA, too. But isn’t that top photo from Burbank? LOL :)

  • Just love all your story telling and of course receipes look forward to all your adventures.

  • Sorry!! My mistake — was thinking of the Safari. Same era…. Obviously I need to go back ASAP to refresh my eyes. Again, thank you for the tour!!!

  • Hi David, your LA trip looks amazing! What hotel did you stay at, looks lovely!

  • Great post on L.A. I remember years back being blown away by the quality of the offerings at a farmer’s market in Beverly Hills. Just stumbled across it while on an early Sunday morning stroll. Back then the Washington DC area didn’t have much in the way of good open markets. Things are getting better now. I see you will be here later this month. Hope to catch you there and then possibly when you get back in Paris in June.

  • I haven’t been to any of the farmers’s markets in LA, but I have gone to a bunch here in San Diego. Now why can’t SD have the great-looking markets of LA?? Aside from a few, the ones here are typically managed by paid workers rather than the framers themselves, and the produce is fine but generally not something exceptional. Lots of flowers though. The BEST farmer’s market I’ve ever been to was in Portland, OR. Absolutely fantastic with cheeses, mushrooms, berries, breads, herbs, gorgeous produce!

    Truly enjoyed meeting you at Lucques! Excellent restaurant too! The place was MOBBED! Thanks for signing all three books!

  • Nice post, awesome pics! But where were the egg yolks in your breakfast? Even our dog doesn’t like egg whites…

  • I am one of those Narthern Californians who used to turn my nose up at the Southland. That was contempt prior to investigation. Now I love both, but happy living in West a Marin and visiting the south. I recommend Brick Maiden Bread when you’re up in the north.

  • The kale salads made with baby leaves like that are really the only good kind. The full grown ones are so tough and green tasting. They make you feel like you’re a big bowl of grass.

  • Great post, David…it has been a long time since I have seen you…and since LA is my “home” of origin, I’m feeling nostalgic about hangin’ at the Farmers Market, although I spent my Wednesday mornings at the Santa Monica fm where Nakamura, Harry’s Berries, Polito Brothers, HoneyCrisp, and Aerie Farms Orchards would keep me busy until the next week, making some of the most amazing jams and marmalades from their fabulous fruits. I can also admit to waking up at 3 am to head down the 5 from Marin County to Santa Monica just to score 5 or six flats of the finest Chandler strawberries and May Diamond Peaches just to turn around and head back to my jamming orgy back home in San Anselmo on numerous occasions over the last 17 years since my move up here, although I would tell my son and granddaughter it was to have a quick kiss from them before heading home again.
    I hope you have had an amazing experience on your book tour, and I will try to see you at Pasta Shop, but my husband and I are excited to attend your “Cooks with Books” dinner at Left Bank, which we are so looking forward to.
    I hope you had an opportunity to see Rochelle while you were in LA…she adores you so…

  • My husband and I went up to LA (we’re in San Diego) for a few days last summer, and stayed at the same hotel that you did – no matter what we did each day we made sure we got up to the roof at least once daily for either breakfast or drinks – the views of the hills are fantastic from there. LA has changed a lot since I last spent time in town instead of just passing through (my last stop for other than fuel was 30 years ago) – the traffic is still appalling of course, but the city has so much positive energy these days.

  • What are the names of the baskets they use to rise those great breads:?. The ones with the patterns. Is there a good source in U.S.? Thanks

    I saw one time but 20 years ago.

  • So great to see you again after five years! I wish we had more time to catch up, but I’m glad you’re so popular that finding time to talk for more than a moment was difficult. I hope the rest of your tour is even more of a success! Please do come back for an unofficial visit soon.

    Ursula

  • Though I didn’t have the good fortune of giving you a quick double cheek kiss while you were here, I was thoroughly delighted to see that you were in my neighborhood and eating at all of my favorite places. I hope I get to see you next time! Have a great book tour!

  • I had the crazy luck of getting a last minute reservation at Lucques and the meal was exceptional–comforting, beautiful and yummy all at the same time! I’ve been feverishly looking through the cookbook plotting my cooking strategy so I can try everything but this sudden hit of heatwave is not a great motivator as the temp shot up from comfy 70s to way past 90 overnight. I guess this gives me more time to plot! I’m glad you have fun in LA, David. Good luck with the rest of your tour!

  • Your information about good bread in southern California is much appreciated by your fan in Paris who asked the question at your talk at the American Library – and must make it to that farmers’ market!! By way of sharing news, I was intrigued by your recent post on the aperitif Lillet, and have been keeping my eyes open. Within a single week I have had the chance to try it twice, though at establishments I suspect are not your regular haunts. But when one has guests here, there are always discoveries. The Lillet blanc is served with ice at Le Grand Colbert, and both blanc and rouge are served (without ice, but chilled) at Deux Magots. I loved the blanc, as you did, and hope it finds a new popularity, especially if the weather warms up! Thanks for this new vice!

    • Hi Sarah: Glad the info will come in handy! Interestingly, when Nancy Silverton was opening La Brea bakery way-back-when, in Los Angeles, I thought she was nuts because no one cared about good bread in LA. But with he success, and tasting Robert and Andrea’s bread, both confirmed that I had no idea what I was talking about – I was, and am, happy to be proven wrong : )

  • On a topic unrelated to Los Angeles, I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your new cookbook! I ordered My Paris Kitchen through Amazon.ca and was delighted to receive my copy before it appeared in bookstores. Looking forward to cooking my way through it.

    Barbara

  • CONGRATULATIONS on making The New York Times best seller list.

  • Thank you, David, for the LA-praise. This avid reader of your newsletter and LA resident says Thank You, but did you not check-out KTown, for some of the best eats currently on the planet (in my humble opinion)? Next time you’re traveling to the area, do try it out.

  • Good lord, those are the most gorgeous heads of (looks like) butterhead lettuce I’ve ever seen. I’ve just ordered your new book this morning…I’m so excited to get it!!! My husband’s going to be thrilled…where am I going to put one more cookbook?…but it will make future conversations much easier, since I’ll be able to point to your cookbook instead of doing the “he’s the guy who moved from California to Paris…the one who’s a pastry chef?’”.

  • I was born and raised in Los Angeles and thought I would never live anywhere else. It was great until the late 80′s and then ugh! Could no longer get anywhere and the smog was unbearable so in 1992 escaped to Santa Fe, NM and have never looked back. I occasionally go back and it is even worse now. It’s fine if I want to live on an inhaler. We have a great farmers’ market here with locally sourced just about everything. I’m glad you had such a great time and Los Angeles is good for a quick fix but that is about it. Happy travels David- your book is terrific!!

  • Thanks so much for being another person who loves Los Angeles. I lived there for 10 months, and I miss it every day, even though I live in London & Brittany!

  • David it was such a pleasure to meet you at the Williams Sonoma book signing!! As soon as I left the event, I went straight home and made the Chicken with Mustard! It was perfection!! (and easy to make!) Thank you so much for writing this wonderful book. I am very much looking forwarding to reading each story and savoring each dish! I hope you enjoy the rest of you tour!

    -Alexis

  • Alexis: That was a really fun afternoon and was happy to come. Everyone was so nice – wish I had more time to stay and chat. But nice to make it to the store and thanks to the staff as well for doing a great job. Happy you like the book!

    Rachel+Robert in Santa Fe: So many things have been said about LA but it’s turned into a terrific food city. Was especially impressed by the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It’s beautiful.

    Cynthia: Thank you! Was surprised, but delighted, to see that : )

  • Kale Salads? Try a massaged kale salad. Ribbon thin slices of kale massaged with minced garlic and olive oil. Add lemon juice and any fruit, vegetable, cheese or nut cut/chopped/sliced to bite size. Tastes even better the next day. Enjoy left over salad on top of quinoa or pasta or inside a quesadilla. A good way to use the larger sized kale leaves. Happy Travels!

  • After 25 years of being away and living on the east coast, I still miss L.A. Especially miss the delicious food — haven’t found any place like it out here where eating well, even at the street food level, is just taken for granted.

  • Hi David, sorry I missed you by a week in LA! After a two week road trip with my family (adult daughters, one boyfriend & my husband, we landed in LA staying at Venice Beach for four days. Enough is never enough in LA! As we are from Sydney we enjoyed the shopping too of course ($$$ savings). Having grown up in LA it was fab to see it 50 years later! Also great to have grown up daughters telling me what’s hip & whats’s not. On our travels we stayed in Petaluma & had an exquisite meal at Central Market. Bouquets to the food,wine,service & ambience. Regards, Meg

  • looks like a great trip.. i love staying at the Kimpton hotels they are a good value for your $$$ we like the many in SF

    • I stayed at 3 Kimpton Hotels and for the most part, they were very good. Although they can vary. The one in Seattle had amazing breakfast items, such as housemade granola made with the spent grains from a local beer maker and locally smoked bacon. However the one in Washington DC had supermarket muffins and croissants on the breakfast buffet (which oddly, was priced more than the breakfast that was made with granola and local bacon.) But in all, the staff was very friendly and nice, and the rooms were very comfortable.

  • We received your latest cookbook as a gift; a lucky friend of mine got hers signed at the Hollywood Farmers Market! We love it and have spent a few days just savoring what recipes we’d like to try.

    It is so refreshing to hear from a sophisticated traveler how beautiful it is in L.A. Anyone who appreciates good food will see our more-than-adequate local produce, fish, poultry, honey, viandes, etc. It was very nice to see that you are connected to some of my favorite restauranteurs and chefs (not on a first-name basis, but still). It makes sense. Have a wonderful time in the U.S.