Ludo's Ham Soup

I ate at the fourth incarnation of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's pop-up restaurant LudoBites (named like software simply as LudoBites 4.0) exactly four times (no one on Yelp checked in more, and by my last visit Ludo was greeting me with raised eyebrows and a "You again Eugène?!").

The web has given pop-ups a bad name, but Chef Ludo just might salvage the word. Food trucks were all the rage in the last two years in LA, but I'll take pop-up restaurants over a food truck any day of the week if it's of the same caliber as the LudoBites experience: no corkage fee, a rotating menu of original dishes, and the feeling of taking in something temporary, never to be recreated. The four meals I had there with four different groups of people were among the most fun culinary outings I've had, not just in LA, but anywhere.

Ludo may come off as a whiny snob on Top Chef Masters, but the few times I've met him he's never been anything less than friendly and amusing. I'll never forget my last visit, when he stopped by our table to chat, spotted something out the restaurant's glass door entrance, and then turned as pale as a ghost sprinted back into the kitchen with a brief "I must go!" Jonathan Gold strolled into the restaurant ten seconds later and all was clear. When Jonathan Gold comes for his fried chicken, all else recedes.

One of the highlights of the LudoBites 4.0 menu was his foie gras croque monsieur, the foie gras sandwiched between two pieces of bread dyed black with squid ink. But my personal favorite was Chef Ludo's ham soup (recipe), one of the all-time great soups of my lifetime (and I am something of a soup junkie). All you need to know about the recipe is that it begins thus:

11 tablespoons (scant 1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided