Thursday, December 30, 2010


I was dining with some friends at Chin Chin in Beverly Hills. After plates and plates of peanut noodles, minced chicken lettuce cups, garlicky string beans, and Chinese chicken salad, we needed some American dessert.

Luckily, Gulfstream at the Century City Mall and their hot fudge sundae delivered. Here you see the vanilla bean ice cream, candied nuts and the vat of hot fudge. Yum! Happy faces all around the table!

What you don't see is the second dessert we ordered: butternut squash and nutmeg creme brulee. I KNOW!! It was delish, and I will admit that it was even better with some of the hot fudge drizzled atop. Note that this was the Daily Dessert, so don't have a sad face if you go and they offer some other equally fantastic special.

Now, does anyone know what restaurant Gulfstream used to be?!

Click here to go to Gulfstream's Web site.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Barn Burner BBQ

I drive by the Barn Burner in Pasadena almost every day. Lately, I've been noticing the "Closed for Renovation" signs and I'm trying to not freak out.

The Barn Burner (or Barn Burger as it teases in my mind) is an awesome Texas barbecue joint within walking distance of my apartment. If you haven't been, it actually is a barn. It used to be a feed store (yes, in Pasadena!) and was a antique mall when I moved to the 'hood almost 10 years ago. Now, it's a cheezily decorated joint with some tasty chow. I'm thinking they're renovating the cheeze, which will totally take away the fun.

Back to the burger: this was a tasty slab of beef with cheese and mushrooms I had for lunch a few weeks ago. Note the little basket of homemade potato chips for munching while waiting for your fries. They used to have buckets of shelled peanuts at the tables, but I'm thinking that was for dinner service. For some trailer-parkesque reason, it's entertaining to crunch open the peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.

Stay tuned for updates, and keep your fingers crossed that no one's messing with our Texas barbecue!

No Web site at this time. Street address is 1000 South Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. Phone is 626-403-7427.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


It's one of those crazy rainy nights in Los Angeles (really, it happens!), and I had a ticket to see my friend's Christmas concert at the Alex Theater. Knowing I'd need to find someplace to eat beforehand, and addressing that I didn't want to drive all over the place, the clouds cleared in my head as I thought about Porto's just a block or so across the street.

I've had their food quite often: their Cuban sandwiches at Hollywood Bowl potlucks and their pastries at fancy parties. This was my first time salivating over the full menu! I went with the Medianoche sandwich (medianoche = midnight and the weather made it seem very late, indeed) with the plaintain chips. Here you see the slow roasted pork, ham and Swiss cheese, but the kicker was the sweet bread. YUM!! And, before you think I pulled a "just a sandwich at Porto's" visit, I'll admit I warmed up with their legendary potato balls. They're kind of like mini breaded and fried shepherd's pies. Oh yes, and some steamy hot chocolate to wash it all down.

So, no pastries this time, but I could do some major damage at that counter. And, I won't save a return visit for a rainy day!

Click here to go to Porto's Web site.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Maira Kalman at the Skirball

I have two friends who are writing in the horror genre, one who has made a short and the other has several scripts floating around town that are garnering interest. So that may be where the vampire spark came from, or it could be the Monsters in the Movies program I went to in October still festering in my subconscious. In any event, when I saw the "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" book at Target, I was intrigued enough to throw it into my cart. (Never mind that I get to see his face regularly, as I will explain below.) I won't spoil it for anyone, but the book weaves historical facts, some twists on those facts, and some complete fabrications with enough intrigue that I had to take another looksie at what was known about Abe. In that exploration, I realized he and I had a number of similarities.

Abe Lincoln spent his formative years in Indiana, as I did. Me more years than him, but we're not quibbling over small details here. At 21, he left his small town for the big time in Illinois, with about a year of formal education under his belt. I left at 22 for NYC, the day after I graduated from college. Neither of us had a job, a place to stay, or more than a few coins (some of mine bearing his profile) to rub together at the kickoff to our adventures, yet we were able to land on our respective feet and launch our careers.

So how do Maira Kalman, the Skirball Cultural Center, and Abraham Lincoln connect? The Skirball currently has a delightful exhibition called Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) up through February 13. If her name is unfamiliar, you'll recognize her wacky illustrations. And, Maira loves Abraham Lincoln; she wrote about him in her blog and painted a wonderful portrait in adoration. He definitely would fall into the pretend boyfriend league for her. (Any of you who have known me more than a few minutes know about my pretend boyfriends. As a single girl, mine range from Ewan McGregor to Peter Sagal of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! fame, so I totally get Maira's thing for Abe.) Above, you see her homage on one of the exhibition banners. And since I now work at the Skirball, I get to see that face everyday.

Hopefully, I've now brought some illumination to the crazy world inside my head!

Click here to go to Maira Kalman's blog post about Abe.

Click here to go to the Skirball's Web site.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Village Pantry and Chocolate Monkey tea

A friend was in town from Denver, and we definitely needed some girl talk. Front of mind for this chat was The Village Pantry in Pacific Palisades and some Chocolate Monkey tea. Where do I start with the Chocolate Monkey? First off, it comes in a French press as opposed to a steeping pot, so you get some interaction while seeing all the interesting bits that make up the awesome flavor. Can you spot the apple and banana chunks or the pink peppercorns enhancing the chocolate and red tea? I've enjoyed it both hot and over ice, and either way it is delicious. Bonus points for being decaf!

And, if you're assuming that The Village Pantry is all about girly tea, think again. I had their Mayor Burger: Angus beef with carmelized onions, bacon, bleu cheese, lettuce and tomato on a challah roll. YUM!! It deserves its own post!

Click here to go to The Village Pantry's Web site.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Button Store

As the fifth of six kiddies, I regularly got hand-me-downs from a sister - or brother. Early on, I learned the benefits of the sewing machine, and I often made or remade my clothes. (Remember, I was Miss Home Economics senior year of high school, and they don't just throw those titles around!) Sometimes, my clothes remaking involved a fitting situation, while other times it was all about the bling.

Although I'm not making my own clothes these days, I still alter clothes on a regular basis. Boring cardigan sweater? Attach some ribbon to the placket. Sleeves too long on the pullover? Use the pinking shears to shorten and prevent raveling. The little curl it creates on the edges looks planned and paid for.

Lately, I've been into buttons and have been relying on my stash to enhance choice items. One time in San Francisco, I visited a button store and bought sassy gold buttons with bagpipes. (Those buttons have dolled up a number of jackets over the years and now adorn a preppy brown corduroy blazer.) With the SF shopping experience in mind, I found The Button Store on Third Street near Sweetzer. Again, I was a bit overwhelmed by the thousands of buttons, both vintage and new, on display. Here you can see one set of graduated buttons I bought: black/magenta mother of pearl babies. Buttons here are not cheap, but these are not the kinds of buttons you'll find at Wal-Mart (not that there's anything wrong with Wal-Mart!). Sometimes you just gotta pay for your bling!

The Button Store does not have a Web site. Address is 8344 W. Third Street in Los Angeles. Phone is 323-658-5473.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pita Kitchen

One of my friends shared that the Pita Kitchen on Van Nuys (on the block south of Ventura) has
the best Mediterranean food in Sherman Oaks, maybe even the SFV. Although I haven't tried them all, I think she may be on to something.

I was feeling run down (after a run, mind you!) and needed food. Really, I needed some meat! I remembered her accolades about the Pita Kitchen and gave them a try.

Right off the bat, know that the place isn't much to look at, and they only have street parking on that busy intersection. However, once the food arrives, those inconveniences quickly disappear, along with the heaps of food on your plate. I went with the lamb kebobs, with rice, hummus and Greek salad. Wow!! My Mom is wearing a sad face at the thought of my eating lamb, but it was delicious!!

So now the challenge is out there. Share your recommendations on the best Mediterranean food in your part of town, and I'll take one for the team and blog about it!

Click here to go to the Pita Kitchen's Web site.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Porta Via

Now that I'm committed (or should be committed for even considering another full!) to running the LA Marathon in March, I'll be needing some new carb-loading options. The antipasti plate at Porta Via in Pasadena is a perfect solution.

Here you see my four delectable selections: spaghetti with tomato, olive oil and garlic at 9 o'clock; penne arabbiata at top; tomatoes and garbanzo beans at 3 o'clock; and their ceci bean cous cous with cranberries, almonds, arugula, and orangey essence at bottom. You know I like the arabbiata sauce from my Rosti post, and that cous cous salad is now guest-starring in my dreams!

So bring on the 26.2 miles! I'll be more than fueled up by my new chums at Porta Via, especially since they sell these salads by the pound. Let's see how much weight I lose on this plan!

Click here to go to Porta Via's Web site.