Sunday, May 30, 2010


Up until today, when I thought of La Cañada Flintridge, it was about Descanso Gardens. Now, I'll fondly think of Dish.

It was breakfast time, and I wanted to try something new. What? Breakfast in La Cañada? I didn't think there was anything there. I was skeptical but up for an adventure. And, I am certainly glad I did.

Dish is wonderful from the start. It smells fantastic as soon as the door opens with the bakery scents wafting through the dining areas. Vintage ovens serve as side boards, and there's a huge fireplace in the main space. If you're lucky enough to get a booth, each has it's own toaster. (See Café 101 post from December for relevance.) I immediately started visually shopping the other tables for what looked the yummiest, while reviewing the menu for what sounded the tastiest.

I went with the apple oatcakes (made with whole wheat flour, rolled oats and diced fresh green apples, squirted with apple butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar) combo plate with the sunny-side-up eggs and applewood smoked bacon. The oatcakes were phenomenal and, I like to think, better for me than their buttermilk brethren. Next time I'm going to try the cornmeal jonnycakes to see if they can surpass the oats. Or, maybe I need to order something where I can utilize the toaster. If that's the toughest decision I'll need to make, life is very good!

Click here to go to Dish's Web site.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

First off, my apologies for the picture of flyers, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. As you can guess, security at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AKA the Oscars) headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard is pretty tight, and cameras are prohibited.

So this will have to do as the image for two visually stunning exhibits: Chuck Jones, An Animators Life From A to Z-Z-Z-Z and The Fantastical World of Ray Harryhausen.

I went for a looksie at Chuck's work. When I worked at the auction company in the '90s, we had animation sales, and this medium was so fascinating to me. (I later took old-school animation and storyboarding classes, with not a computer in sight.) I'd seen many auction consignments, but these items are directly connected to Chuck himself. Here on display, you can see original drawings, backgrounds, character studies, production cels, storyboards, color models and other pieces to the production process. All your favorites are there: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, plus the Grinch, Horton Hears A Who, and Tom and Jerry. Chuck won an Academy Award in 1965 for "The Dot and the Line" and was nominated for two more. In 1995, he received an Honorary Academy Award for his 50-years of "classic cartoons which have brought worldwide joy," and you can see this Oscar surrounded by all his delightful characters.

Much to my surprise, on the fourth floor is the Ray Harryhausen exhibit. Although his name is not as familiar as Chuck Jones, I'm sure you know Harryhausen's work. He's the man behind the stop-motion animation of the 1949 "Mighty Joe Young" to the 1981 "Clash of the Titans" movies. He also made some sci-fi classics like "It Came From Beneath the Sea" and "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers." I'm here to tell you how much fun it was to see the set pieces with the breakaway parts and the armatured models that made the action come to life! Film clips were shown on two screens, with moulds, bronzes, photographs and storyboards nearby. If you know me at all, you know I love the cheese of this pre-computerized film genre, and to get a behind-the-scenes look was incredible. What a treat!

Note that these exhibits are both free and are on display through August 22.

Click here to go the The Academy's Web site.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Burger Kitchen

Here we are two-thirds of the way through National Hamburger Month, and I've not shown any national pride! That changed when I spotted The Burger Kitchen while in the 'hood at Kiss My Bundt. And, oh, what a spot it is!

Don't be overwhelmed by the 25 or so burgers on the menu, as you'll certainly find one - or more - that you'll like. Not a beef person? Select turkey or lamb patties instead. There are also salmon, shrimp and lobster options, as well as veggie choices.

I wanted several, like the Capitol Burger (lettuce, glazed apples, applewood smoked bacon and bleu cheese), The Godfather (fresh buffalo mozzarella, arugula, fresh tomato, italian house spread) and the Texas Chili (lettuce, house chili, chopped onions, grated cheese). I finally went with the pictured mini Three Amigos, so I could try different flavors, one mild, one medium and one hot.

At 1 o'clock is the mild with pico de gallo and wrapped in lettuce. At 6 o'clock is the medium with honey-ancho chili sauce, roasted bell peppers and grilled onions. Finally, at 9 o'clock is the spicy hot burger with grilled jalapeno and cheddar cheese. I ate them in that order, and each was delicious! The char-broiled meat was so flavorful, and the toppings were just fantastic.

Burger Kitchen just opened in April, yet they seemed to have all the start-up jitters worked out. I went "commando" with just the burger and no fries or sides, but everything that came out of the kitchen looked and smelled terrific! Give the newbie a try, and let me know what you think.

Their Web site is under construction. Street address is 8048 West Third Street (at Crescent Heights) and phone is 323-944-0503.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sol y Luna Restaurant

Sol y Luna. Sun and moon. Day and night. Or, in my visit to the Sol y Luna Restaurant in Tarzana, it was an experience more like night and day.

I went with two friends, one who was visiting from the Midwest, and the other who had heard good things about Sol y Luna. The place looked fun with a mural of famous Mexicans (I immediately recognized Frida Kahlo) and other cool decorations on the walls, and we were looking forward to some yummy Mexican food.

On the bright side, MY food was very good! I had the green corn tamale shown here plus a grilled fish taco and fried plantains. All my dishes were very tasty and just what I wanted. Unfortunately, my friends had woeful experiences.

My friend from the Midwest ordered ceviche and a burrito. The ceviche was served at the same time as my tamale instead of as an appetizer as intended, and the burrito only showed up on the bill and never at the table.

My other friend, who had worked for years as a waitress and server, started off disappointed as the waitress couldn't answer basic questions about what beers were served and then disappeared for way too long. She finally ordered two à la carte tamales but asked for them on the same plate without the extra scoop of guacamole. Guess what? Two plates arrived with two scoops of guac, and then her tamales were dry and drab.

Throughout the hour-plus lunch (we know this because we had to replug the meter midway), we had four different servers, and they pretty much all got it all wrong. The hostess was no help in resolving the situation, and probably made it worse.

Again, I can recommend my delicious food, but it was hard to enjoy my meal when things were going terribly wrong for my friends. If you go, let me know how if you get the sun or they moon you.

Click here to go to their Web site.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Open House

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena had a free Open House this weekend. Why should you care? Only because it's the two days of the whole year to really see what's happening in the world of robotic spacecraft. How do you pass that up?!

JPL is "dedicated to the scientific exploration of space and Earth with robotic spacecraft," and a "leading research and development center for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)," per the program brochure. On any other day, you'd hardly get past the guard house, and you'd never have the access to the manufacturing and assembling facilities like for Open House. Attendees got to see the "clean room" where the next Mars Rover named Curiousity is being put together. It was fun to talk to JPL staffers taking advantage of the opportunity to find out what was going on outside their departments. Even employees don't get to go behind the scenes, it seems.

In the picture, I'm peering through the locked door into the Mission Control room, where the staff is communicating with satellites zipping around our solar system. Security would have escorted me out long before I got to this point under normal circumstances. Then there's the new Visitor Center (must be for the men in black as it isn't open to the public) with the actual camera from the Hubble Space Telescope, plus models of the Mars Rovers that hit the headlines in 2004 in their search for water.

I'm definitely going back next year for another dose of rocket science. Want to blast out there with me?!

Click here to go to JPL's Web site.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kiss My Bundt Bakery

By day, Kiss My Bundt is a deliciously decadent bakery on the corner of Third and Crescent Heights. By night, they transition to the Baking Academy, where you learn to create the treats yourself, after sampling the specialties (like the luscious lemon drop and red velvet cakes) for inspiration.

I was gifted with a ticket for KMB's Custom Cake/Frosting Flavor Development class. As the winner of the Miss Home Economics award my senior year of high school, I was pretty confident in the kitchen, but it was cool to get a refresher course on the science of baking. Owner and founder Chrysta Wilson's presentation includes why we use baking powder for some recipes and baking soda in others, how to really measure flour for the right fluffiness of the final product, and how to layer flavors for the tastiest results. The learning is definitely hands-on, and the concepts are immediately applied.

There were 10 aspiring bundters for the class, and we split into two groups. Each group had to come to a consensus on the batter flavors; my group went with lime and mint. YUM!! You see them here, and we all took a spin with the pastry bag and the vanilla buttercream frosting. The other group devised an orange/cinnamon cake with cinnamon/vanilla frosting.

So let's cut to the chase on Kiss My Bundt's Baking Academy: arrive, sample cakes, make and eat baby bundts, then take more bundts home. Any questions? Class dismissed!

Click here to go to their Web site.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Arlington Gardens

OK, I'll be honest here. I really wanted to keep Arlington Gardens my own little secret. I'm taking one for the team here to share what I consider my private, ever-evolving garden with my dedicated followers.

Arlington Gardens is on Pasadena Avenue, just south of the Fork in the Road (really, there's an 18-foot-tall silver fork in the road but that's a whole other story!) where St. John and Pasadena Avenues come together. They will be celebrating their fifth anniversary in July, and it has been a delight to watch these gardens grow!

When I bought my digital camera two years ago, Arlington Gardens was my first photographic stop. There's always something new to see, like the modeled tortoise traipsing through the poppies, and the Craftsman-style Welcome signs at the path from Pasadena Avenue. The gardens serve as living laboratories for water-wise gardening appropriate to our climate, and the paths need to be walked from both directions to catch all the vistas.

The Gardens exist on a three-acre lot owned by Caltrans, on a corner originally conceived as a staging area for the 710 Freeway expansion. Although that plan has been pending for almost 40 years, property in that area is still "on hold" for the final go/no go decision. Thank goodness we get beautiful flowers, trees, succulents and cacti, and not an empty, overgrown lot in the meantime.

Today's visit was planned to catch some of the last hoorahs for the bearded irises, my absolutely favorite flower. It was great to see couples and families enjoying the gardens even though I'd like to have them all to myself! Take a peek when you're in the area, as I know you won't be disappointed.

Click here to go to Arlington Gardens' Web site.

Click here for information on the Fork in the Road.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hot Wings Cafe - Glendale

I was in Glendale to see a show at the Alex Theatre. OK, I was seeing a taping of Last Comic Standing, but it hasn't broadcast yet, so I can't really talk about it. Anyway, I knew I'd be there for several hours, and I needed some tasty food beforehand to power up the laughter. Hot Wings Cafe was about a block away. Hot wings hadn't shown up on my blog yet, so I could take of my food and blog needs simultaneously.

I went with the spicy BBQ combo, and luckily snaked some celery and carrots from friends to balance the goodness (badness?) of the curly fries and wings. They ordered lemon-pepper and extra hot wings, so we got to do some sampling 'round the table. Nice!

Click here to go to their Web site.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chili John's

I get a chili craving on a regular basis, and I usually lean to the delish version at the Autry Museum cafe when I need a fix. But, now I've experienced Chili John's, and my chili world has totally exploded!

Chili John's is the oldest restaurant in Burbank, opening in 1946, and it's like time stopped. You walk in to a U-shaped counter with an old school cash register and lots of covered pots in the center, and maybe 25 swivel stools surrounding the U. For first timers, the server offered samples of the three chili styles: beef, chicken and vegetarian/lentil. Once that base selection is made, you decide mild, medium or hot. Then you choose beans/no beans, served over spaghetti noodles, served over a tamale, or served over a hot dog. Finally, it's the toppings, with cheese and sour cream as options, plus the little jars of chopped onions and carafes of oyster crackers on the counter. Wow! Once you settle on what you want, the server goes go work, making the dish from the steaming pots right before your eyes. I went with the spicy beef, with beans, served over noodles (my Mom always made chili with noodles) and sprinkled with cheese. It was fun to note that Chili John's invented the small oyster cracker that sopped up the final juices at the end.

While scarfing down my chili, I couldn't help but check out other options: the chili dog, the chili/tamale option, and don't get me started on the pies. I think I've found my new fix! Who wants to give it a try?!

Click here to go to their Web site.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

South Pasadena Eclectic Music Festival & Art Walk

When my little city of South Pasadena has something called an Eclectic Music Festival & Art Walk, you have to question how eclectic it's really going to be. It turned out to be pretty diverse from what I saw.

Now, right off the bat, I will share that this Art Walk was nothing like the Brewery Art Walk I strolled a few weeks ago. At just 3.44 square miles, South Pas doesn't have that many galleries and art studios, and certainly they're not all in the same complex. However, I've never noticed the quantities of exposed brick walls and loftish spaces before this event.

The music part was fun and random. I spent about an hour listening to a band named Wonk. Their bio described them as "vintage-inspired jazz funk, heavy on the groove." Think bow-chicka-bow-bow and wa-wa peddles with a saxophone thrown in for good measure. Next, I heard students from the Music Conservancy (who knew South Pas had a Music Conservancy?) do some Miles Davis-inspired tunes, and since Miles is one of my spirit guides, I definitely enjoyed that. Next up was the quartet Moira Smiley & VOCO; think Celtic Women vocal harmonies with accordian and banjo accompaniment. Finally, as it was getting dark and cold, I saw the pictured Double Naught Spy Car. What made them unique? Well, for starters, there's the lap steel guitar weaving crazy sounds into the punkish-jazzish-surfish original tunes, plus they are instrumental only. In total, there were 21 performances scheduled throughout the day at different locations. I walked home and thought, dang, that was eclectic!

Click here for the City of South Pasadena's Web site.