Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hole in the Wall

It's leap day, that random bonus day we get every four years. It is also the final day of February - the end of my birthday month. What better way to celebrate 24 extra hours and cap off a really grand birthday run than a hole in the wall burger with friends?

Literally, a Hole in the Wall burger, a hidden gem behind the Winchell's on Santa Monica Boulevard near Sepulveda. (There is also a West Hollywood location.) Yes, I know I already had this month's burger at the Apple Pan. But, I'm redeeming a get-out-of-food-jail-free card because this burger sounds soooo good!

Their burger premise is the same as covered in posts from Slater's 50/50 (April, 2011) and The Counter (November, 2011): you build your own burger from a hearty list of fixins. I went with the Black Angus burger (8 oz. is the standard size) on a pretzel bun, with chipotle mayo spread, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickles and relish, and a bag of sweet potato fries. Yum!

They are cash only, and parking can be sketchy. Plan accordingly, because it would be a crime to miss out.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nail Lounge

I was feeling wolverine-ish. Ravaged cuticles, claw nails and scaley dry paws (both pairs!) were not only ugly but painful. Nail Lounge in South Pasadena's Bristol Farms plaza to the rescue!

South Pas has an abundance of nail places for its 3.44 square miles (almost like the multiple pizza-by-the-slice places I've posted about), but I'm now taking my tootsies to Nail Lounge. What makes it stand out from the pack? Let's see: the steamy towels, chocolate-scented scrubs, and warmed oil/stone massage on your feet and calves contributing to complete relaxation. I'm due for another grooming - care to Nail Lounge with me?!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Scottish Festival at the Queen Mary

Back in November, I posted on the Queen Mary Scottish Festival in relation to my bagpipe classes. So, in case you didn't bite at my tease, here's what you missed over President's Weekend.

I'll start with some piping. It was great fun to see the parade of bands with the pipers and drummers all decked out in their kilts, brogues and various caps. Here you see one of the competitions, with two of the judges circling around with clipboards tracking the pipes and drums technical parts, with other judges rating the musical component. It all sounded good to me, and I hope to be out there myself one of these days.

Next up has got to be the chow! Here you see a modified version of the classic dish haggis. Traditionally made of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, with onion, oatmeal, and spices then simmered in the sheep's stomach, this version was stuffed inside a sausage casing for individual portion control. It definitely had the hearty liver flavor I'm so fond of! I also had a sausage roll and meat pie (I was there two days, afterall!) from the savory category, plus shortbread and Welsh cakes as sweets. Yum!

The sheep herding was also a sweet treat! I watched "Babe" on Friday to get up-to-speed on the intricacies of working dogs. The extra bonus with this demo was Mr. Ondrak calling out to his dog, Bree, "That'll do, luv," just like Mr. Hoggett said to Babe. Aahh!! It was great to see the dogs in action and obviously loving their work.

Finally, it's all about the athletics at the Festival. In addition to the thrill of seeing swirling kilts, these competitions take me back to my Hoosier roots. In high school, I helped out at track meets, usually in the shot put and discus throw pits, keeping track of the distances thrown by each athlete for each event. Randomly, I earned an athletic letter for doing this!

This one is called putting the stone, and, as expected, is similar to shot putting.

Stop - hammer time! Notice that the hammer has a "safety net," and you can't see the blades on the toes of their boots for stability because you're all distracted by the kilt action.

This is the signature Scottish caber toss, where the athletes take a run with a telephone pole-esque shaft of wood, give it a heave, and hope that it not only flips end-over-end, but also lands at 12 o'clock to the flipper. Remember, the Scots like their challenges, and I got to see several lads successfully toss the caber.

Finally, here are two different ways to throw the weights, for distance and for height over the bar. The weights also get heavier as the competition proceeds.

The pre-toss warm-up and wind-up offered cheap kilt-spinning thrills, more so than the other events.

I only had a quick glance into the Highland and country dancing, the dart tournaments, and re-enactments. There was a lot going on at the Festival. FYI, ScotsFest2012 is coming up over Memorial Day at Costa Mesa. Will I see you there?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Auntie Em's Kitchen

While hanging out in Eagle Rock for Lovey's service last week, I found Auntie Em's Kitchen. I've heard about Em's from multiple chums, and I was good to finally taste for myself what all the fuss was about.

It was between breakfast and lunch, so I went with the bakery selection. Here you see a delicious sampling of their miniature cupcakes. At top and moving clockwise: chocolate, coconut, Burning Love (chocolate chipotle) for Valentine's Day, carrot, and red velvet. If forced to pick a favorite, it would be Burning Love for the totally unique and kicked-up flavor, but know that they were all fantastic!

I look forward to storming through the food options, too. Luckily, we only need to visit Eagle Rock and not Kansas.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pat & Lorraine's Coffee Shop

Lovey, my 2002 Jeep Liberty, needs a check-up. Her engine light has been going on and off for a week or so, and I happen to need a smog check for this year's registration. Supporting the Mom and Pop shops, I went to an independent garage in Eagle Rock. To wait out the diagnosis and service, I walked over to Pat & Lorraine's Coffee Shop on Eagle Rock Boulevard, south of Colorado. Talk about an independent joint!

For starters, the interior is delightfully thrift store chic with framed "art" of produce, a velvet-worthy painting of James Dean, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart at Rick's Bar, shelves of dolls in Mexican costumes next to models of classic cars, and pictures of THE Eagle Rock. You may also recognize it from the opening scene of "Reservoir Dogs." There's the U-shaped counter with four seats per side, and a spinning pie chiller in the middle with Jif, Cheesecake Factory boxes, RediWhip, pies, and cinnamon rolls as temptation.

And take a looksie at the menu, a wonderful collection of all your favorite coffee shop options. Once I got my eyes focused, my taste buds kicked in. I went with this Rainbow Burrito, which was stuffed with spinach, bacon, avocado, tomato, eggs and cheese. Yum! The skillet fries with onions and peppers were equally delish.

Properly nourished and swimming in all the feel-good hormones, I wondered back for Lovey. She received a couple of Band-Aids and a clean bill of health. Woohoo!!

Pat & Lorraine's does not have a Web site. Their street address is 4720 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041 and phone (323) 257-7926.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yujean Kang's

Day 3 - my actual birthday - was action packed! Starting with some Lustreware and bread pudding at Pasadena City College (check out my February 2009 post about the PCC flea market and Cake Lady Bea Kelly), I next went to Macy's for some new Ray-Bans. Woohoo, round one of Happy Birthday, Susan!

Hungry again, I stopped for lunch at Yujean Kang's on Raymond in Pasadena. YUM! Here you see my mu shu pork with spinach and egg crepe in the wafer-thin Chinese pancakes. Thanks to the appies of sweet and sour soup and their tasty Chinese chicken salad (and the bread pudding!), I actually packed up two of the four stuffed "pancakes" for later.

Re-energized, I'm off to the Apple Store to purchase this laptop. Woohoo, Happy Birthday, Susan, round two! And, if you remember my Mac angst from my July post on Sugar Fix, rest assured that I returned to the source for a cupcake to-go to carry with my extras from lunch and new computer. Wow, here's to setting the tone to a wonderful year!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Encounter at LAX

Day 2 of birthday weekend, and after my favorite Griffith Park hill run and breakfast with my training chums, I was off to LAX. Not to catch a flight or pick up a friend, but to have an encounter at the Jetsons-esque restaurant.

That cool '60s building in the center of the terminals is the home of a restaurant called The Encounter, which opened in '97. Disney Imagineering was involved in creating the space-y interior, including a full 360 degree view of arrivals and departures.

Here you see my delish dinner with an overview of a few planes. Officially listed as Sesame Crusted Norwegian Salmon on Ginger, Scented Steamed Rice, Crispy Noodles topped with a Trio of Micro Greens and Sweet Citrus Chili Demi Glaze on the menu, the meal was surprisingly modern amid the lava lamps and space-age decor.

Since the days of TSA, I don't go to the airport unless I have to. It used to be fun, but not any more. Once in my teens, my Mom and I went to the airport in Louisville hours before my Dad's return from Toronto. Standiford Field was deemed an international airport, and I thought it would be cool to go watch people from other parts of the world. Mom was game, or at least humored me. Cut to the chase - international meant Canada - and we were sorely disappointed by the non-exotic people passing through. I learned my lesson then, and I probably won't make another trip to the Encounter just for the heck of it. However, I am excited to cross it off the list!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Apple Pan

After the awesome TMZ tour, I needed some food. The Apple Pan was the solution.

The Apple Pan is the tiny little restaurant on Pico across from the Westside Pavilion and next to Guitar Center. Opened in 1947, it inspired the Johnny Rockets burger restaurants. Does this spread look familiar?! When I worked in Century City, the Apple Pan was a regular stop, but I haven't been in 10 or more years. Glad to report it's the same as it ever was.

You are greeted at the Apple Pan by a screen door, and the down-home continues from there. Inside is a counter with maybe 24 stools. Old-school registers (it is cash only) anchor the counter corners. The sole decoration is tartan wallpaper on the back wall. I love that you get the paper cone cup with the metal holder to keep the soda cold. Fries arrive almost simultaneous to placing the order, and the Steakburger with the ketchupy-relishy spread was delish! Once again (read the Pie 'n Burger post from last September), there was no room for pie. Sigh, because I remember how good that pie was. Dang, next time...

Click here to go to the Apple Pan's Web site.

TMZ Hollywood Tour

It's my birthday weekend (yes, 29 again!), and I'm working through my LA bucket list. First up, the TMZ Hollywood Tour. As you probably know, the whole Hollywood/celebrity scene is a big yawn at minimum, an annoyance without doubt. Multiple times I've steered out-of-towners away from Hollywood, primarily because I didn't want to deal with it. Now I have a reason to go back!

I love TMZ, and this tour was a blast! Our guide Van was a hoot, and he kept us laughing the whole time. How it works: the driver tools around Hollywood/Bel Air/Beverly Hills while Van is chatting us up and playing relevant TMZ video spots. Outside The Ivy, we see spots of celebs at the Ivy. By the Hollywood police station, we see mugshots of celebs and hear the offenses as covered by TMZ. At Kings Road, actors Wood and Steve Harris are spotted, and they board our bus for photo ops. Note that Van was filming this the whole time and feeding it back to Harvey and the crew back in the studio. Did anyone see it on the show?!