Monday, December 29, 2014

Dog Haus

I'm back to Lake Hollywood Reservoir for another loop with one of my besties. Afterward, we needed some food, and Dog Haus in Burbank near the Warner Brothers studio was the perfect spot. You really can't miss it. It's the place with the line wrapped around the side on West Olive.

And I know why! They have some awesome hot dogs! This is my Old Town Dog: smoked bacon-wrapped dog, caramelized onions, roasted jalapeños, chipotle mayo and cotija cheese on three King's Hawaiian rolls, with perfect tater tots on the side and a yummy Boylan's root beer. Wow!!

I think it's a hoot that they play up the "wurst" factor, like "The Absolute Wurst" on the neon sign, and "Prepare for the Wurst" out in the parking lot. Although Dog Haus is a franchise, I'm cool with supporting it. They have hot dogs, sausages and burgers, with vegetarian options, and it was great fun examining other guests' orders and finding out what they were having. There are several others I want to try, so who's with me?

Click here to go to their website.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mission Inn's Festival of Lights

Feeling bah humbug with Christmas right around the corner? Make the drive to downtown Riverside for the Mission Inn's Festival of Lights, and I guarantee you'll get the Christmas spirit!

The Mission Inn is a historic hotel, and it takes up a full city block. The current evolution dates back to 1931, and it has a history of Presidential stays starting with Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. The Inn's balconies, roofs, trees, and fences - virtually every surface - are covered with brilliant lights; their website says four MILLION lights!

While all this wonderment is going on, the City of Riverside has coordinated an outdoor ice skating rink, reindeer, Cinderella carriage rides (the line was sooooo long, but I'll know for next year!), artisans selling their creations, and vendors offering hot chocolate and mini donuts (deeelish!!).

This looks like a new holiday tradition. Who wants to join me?!

Click here for the Mission Inn's website.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bangkok Palace

After Bob Baker's Nutcracker show, my chum and I walked a few blocks north to Bangkok Palace for some lunch and to verbalize the awesomeness of what we just experienced.

And this is the next round of astonishment: my standard Thai benchmark spicy mint chicken taken up a few notches. Wow, I might go out on a limb and say this is the best yet! Mouth-on-fire chiles definitely spiced  up the minty-deliciousness. Yummy, plate was licked clean with both happy brain and tummy!!

Click here for Bangkok Palace's website.

Bob Baker's Nutcracker

Two years ago, I saw Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-De-Doo and said I would see his Nutcracker that year. Welllll, better late than never, I guess. As you may know, Bob passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 90, so seeing this show now was especially important to me. It was as special and spectacular as ever!

Bob's crew continues to tell the classic tale in his own unique way, utilizing 100 or so handmade shadow puppets, marionettes and props to make the story come alive. The orchestra players and their instruments actually moved!

This dragon puppet from Clara's dreamy travels was my favorite, and the kids in the audience were mesmerized by the magical performance, including this big kid!!

PLEASE help keep Bob's Theater alive! The Nutcracker runs through Sunday, February 1, so continue the holidays going long after the stockings and ornaments are tucked away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight at Pasadena Playhouse

Last year, I posted on Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty with vampires and puppets in his ballet adaptation. This year, Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight at the Pasadena Playhouse weaves in "Eye of the Tiger," a drag queen, Lucy Lawless and Patrick Cassidy, and some fabulous kiddie dancers. Yes, same story, but this time it is panto-style!

Panto is interactive theater, where you are encouraged to hiss and boo at the baddies, and cheer for the good ones. Not only is the fourth wall broken, it doesn't even exist. Characters speak directly to the audience and invite ticket holders to become participants in the fun. Lucy Lawless as Carabosse joked about always wanting to be a princess; Patrick Cassidy shared that Florence Henderson is actually the ideal TV mom.

Pop music keeps the story moving forward, and the audience was invited to sing along to "Happy," "Footloose," and "Best Day of My Life," to name a few. Lucy Lawless totally had the audience in her hand with "One Way or Another." Fun, fun, fun!

Our drag queen - Nanny Tickle, to be precise - was hysterical. The kiddie dancers were amazing, and switched costumes several times to entertain the packed audience.

Go see it!! Like most of the special holiday performances, this one closes January 4.

Click here for Pasadena Playhouse's website.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Modan Artisanal Ramen

I got my mani/pedi fix at my fave South Pas Nail Lounge (see February 2012 post), and, feeling human again, I noticed a new shop in the strip: Modan Artisanal Ramen. Time to go all Cruise Director and give my new neighbor a try.

Artisanal ramen, you ask? This is their namesake dish, with slabs of chashu (braised pork belly), green onion, wood mushrooms, seaweed paper (on the back side of the bowl), half a hardboiled egg, and black garlic truffle oil. Certainly not the 10 for $1 ramen noodles of our hard-times years, but you can decide what would be artisanal to your palate! It can tell you it was delicious!!

I also had an appie order of tempura green beans with garlic aioli dipping sauce that still has been bleary eyed with happiness.

When you go, be advised that the space is small, with fewer than 10 tables and a couple of seats at the bar. The joint was bustling with take-out orders the night I was there. And, you can get your nails done if you have to wait for a table!

Modan does not have a website. Their address is 700 Fair Oaks Avenue, Suite G, South Pasadena. Their phone is 626-799-2878.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hollywood Costumes and Charlie Chaplin

Today's adventure with my LA bestie involved the Hollywood Costume exhibition courtesy of the Academy Museum (in the old May Company building on Wilshire), Charlie Chaplin movie clips shown at LACMA, and some good chow (two meals, in fact) while in the neighborhood.

After juggling schedules for a few weeks, we finally decided to see the costumes today and got the earliest 11 a.m. entry. As luck would have it, there was also a screening of rare Charlie Chaplin shorts at 7:30 p.m. Let's make a day of it!!

It was super cool to see the costumes up close and personal. I was reminded about the costuming class I took in college, and the goal of the outfit being believable yet not overwhelming, secondary to the story. In one section, clips of Tippi Hedren and Edith Head talked about decisions regarding "The Birds." In another, Dorothy's gingham dress and ruby slippers served as the cherry on top of the collection.

The exhibition layout is kind of wonky: some of the costumes were shown with film clips behind, some were shown with headshots, some were shown with video screens for the heads. Placement of label copy didn't always connect with locations of the costumes, and there wasn't a clear logic to how outfits were placed together. But, as shared, it was a fun experience.

Afterward, it was time for lunch, so we walked over to the Farmer's Market. I've been hankering for a catfish po'boy, and The Gumbo Pot totally delivered! Whisper-thin slices of lemon put the exclamation point on this delicious sandwich; what a refreshing surprise. We did some shopping at The Grove for a couple of hours before walking back to Hancock Park, sniffing around the Tar Pits, and checking out shops on Wilshire.

And, we still had to have dinner before the Chaplin show. I was due for my burger and fries this month, and a return visit to The Counter certainly fit that bill. This time, I got a burger on a pretzel bun with smoked Gouda, smoky chipotle aioli, tomatoes, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, spicy pickles, cucumbers and mixed greens. Oh, and really crispy shoestring fries. DEEElish!!!

Finally, it's time for the Chaplin lecture, which was presented by the Academy in conjunction with the exhibition. It turned into an overview of the film restoration process, with screenings of super-rare and super-hysterical clips and shorts as examples. Clips were shown from several deteriorating sources then in the restored, finished product. Film historian Serge Bromberg also accompanied the silents on the piano! He didn't share if the piano or the films came first for him. We saw three shorts featuring Chaplin's The Tramp character, one of Chaplin in street clothes, and one with Max Linder, who was one of Chaplin's inspirations. Definitely entertaining and educational!

Click here for Academy's website.

Click here for The Gumbo Pot's website.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

California Fiesta Tamales

I'm at the Burbank Town Center for a screening of the Glen Campbell documentary "I'll Be Me," about his amazing Goodbye Tour following his Alzheimer's diagnosis. Click here for the post from June, 2012. If you see "I'll Be Me," and I highly recommend that you do, be prepared for the full range of emotions: jubilation to tears. The ride is definitely worth it.

But, knowing the emotional roller coaster ahead of me, I needed some food. I grabbed these fantastic tamales at California Fiesta Tamales at the mall's food court, honestly not expecting much. Wow, was I surprised! This is a combo with a carnitas and a cheese and green chile version. Delicious!! Everything tasted homemade, fresh and delicious; their spicy salsa had we weeping with joy to get the night rolling. With Christmas coming up, who wants to split a dozen tamales with me? The chocolate variety may be the sugarplum dancing in my dreams!

California Fiesta Tamales does not have a website. Address is 201 E. Magnolia, space 374, in Burbank. Phone is 818-567-6100.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rise of the Jack O' Lanterns

Here's a coooool new Halloween adventure - Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns at Descanso Gardens! Here are just a few of the gazillion or so (really, more like 5,000) hand-carved pumpkins displayed along the quarter-mile trail.

My new TV boyfriend Daryl Dixon with his cross bow.

Skeletons that look like they are coming at you!

Day of the Dead calaca masks.

Wizard of Oz characters heading to the Emerald City.

And some dinos for good measure. I loved the carved-out leaves at their feet!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five Meals in NYC

I'm off to NYC with my Milwaukee bestie for a long weekend. Like the trip to Portland, it turned into five meals with plenty of adventures and snacks in between. I haven't visited NYC as a tourist since spring break 1987, right before I made the big move and became a resident. I'm looking forward to seeing the city with fresh eyes. Let the games begin!

Meal #1: Salt Crusted Branzino at Fishtail by David Burke. From our base at the Roosevelt Hotel (conveniently located at 45th and Madison), we started walking north for some food. I slept through breakfast after coming in on the red-eye, so I was hungry. Our intended lunch spot had a 90-minute wait, so we moved on toward Central Park and found Fishtail. This delicious fish and broccolini was preceded by a brioche roll the size of a softball! My first fresh eye experience was the little cloth on the lemon to keep the seeds off your food. I've been missing out! Properly satiated, we move on to the Park to start our adventures.

Click here for Fishtail's website.

Here we are on the Carousel in Central Park! (I won't get started on my comparisons to my fave Griffith Park, as this one is special in its own way.) We took a pedi-cab for a bit, and it was cool to see the hansom cabs with the horses clopping along.

We picked the perfect fall weekend with the crisp jacket weather, and the leaves were just starting to change. This is a shot from Central Park Lake.

Next up was getting in line at Levain Bakery on the westside of the Park for some fabulous treats! I got the dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie, dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie, and the cinnamon brioche. Let me tell you, I'm STILL dreaming about the choc-PB flavor. YUM!! I also got a fun Cookie Monster t-shirt, with their cool crumbly cookie logo. You'll notice my smile when I wear it!

Click here for Levain's website.

Can you believe that we happened to be there during the previews of Ewan McGregor's Broadway play The Real Thing?! I KNOW!! The story was fun, with play-within-a-play twists and turns, and Ewan was delightful! Go see it in you're in the 'hood!

And, coincidentally, it was National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Before leaving Times Square, we score these spider-decorated beauties from the just-reopened Crumbs Bake Shop.

Meal #2: Brooklyn Diner for split pea soup loaded with Brooklyn Diner frankfurter slices and crispy fries. Finally, after all the snacking, it's time for some real food, but not a lot of food, before calling it a night. Brooklyn Diner scored! I'll admit I stylized the smiley face in my soup, but the eyes and nose for the frank slices were already in place. Brooklyn Diner offers American Ethnic selections, like chicken pot pie and pastrami, and the plates on the neighboring tables like pretty tasty. NYC, so far, so great!!

Click here for Brooklyn Diner's website.

Day two starts off with a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. On the ferry, I played Neil Diamond's America via my iPhone to get us in the right mood! I have been to the top of the crown, but Ellis Island wasn't open on that trip in 1987. The day went from gloomy to glorious as the sun came out and spotlighted Lady Liberty.

Look at those blue skies! But, I'll admit Ellis Island was a eye-opener. I didn't know that only steerage class passengers were subjected to inspection at Ellis Island; I thought everyone was screened! The immigrants with money for a higher class of ticket were welcomed without question, and they got going with their lives without delay.

The museum is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, as some display cases are empty and whole exhibitions closed. Enough of the immigration story was there, though, and I'm looking forward to taking another look at my ancestors and their stories about coming to America.

Meal #3: Il Palazzo stuffed artichoke appetizer. OK, back on the mainland (after the ferry rides), and it's time for food. We asked the cab driver to take us to Little Italy, and, due to the jammed streets, we got out in front of Il Palazzo. Perfect!! Let me tell you, this artichoke stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella was amazing! And then there was the pasta, where I went "lean" with sautéed squash. I know!!

Il Palazzo does not have a website. Find them 151 Mulberry Street (at Grand), NYC 10013.

Across the Street at Caffe Palermo, we found these cannoli and the flaky sfogliatella with orange-flavored ricotta, almond paste and candied peel of citron. Caffe Palermo is lauded as the Cannoli King for very good reasons!

Click here for Caffe Palermo's website.

Meal #4: Brick Lane matar paneer with rosemary naan. Back to the hotel for a disco nap before meeting for dinner with one of my Hoosier ex-pats friends who stayed in NYC after the mass immigration to LA. I talked-up Curry Row for Indian food (similar to the cluster of Ethiopian restaurants on Fairfax) to my bestie, and the three of us enjoyed some fabulous Indian meals at Brick Lane. I had my favorite peas and cheese dish, with fantastic rosemary naan. I know!!

Click here for Brick Lane's website.

Before heading back to the Roosevelt, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. This is the cool artwork in the lobby. I'd never visited before, so this was a fun treat.

And this is the Chrysler Building taken from 86th floor. It was always my favorite skyline building, so I really appreciated seeing it from above.

Meal #5: Met Roll at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's my final day in NYC, and I'm off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, still my favorite museum. First, I need to power up! In the cafeteria, I scored on the Met Roll: salmon, avocado in rice with spicy tuna on top. YUMM!! I also had probably the best black and white cookie EVER!

I saw the temporary Cubism exhibition.

And the bagpipes in the permanent Musical Instrument gallery! After a stop at the Gift Shop, it was time to hustle back to the Roosevelt to gather my luggage and head off to the airport. In summary, two and a half days was the perfect amount of time for the visit. Any longer, and I could no longer ignore the crazy crowd scene, the incredible expense of everything, and the Pinkberries in the former cool neighborhoods. 'Til we eat again, NY!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Caffe Concerto

I went with a group of Skirball Volunteers to the fantastically restored Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Here you see two of my favorite things: stained glass windows and Hugo Ballin murals! (Hugo did the murals at the Griffith Observatory, among many other LA locations.) We had a wonderful, informative tour, and it was amazing how beautiful the Temple is now.

Afterward, we walked over to Caffe Concerto on Serrano Avenue, which was another terrific find for the day.

Here you see my seared salmon salad. It was delicious - so fresh and flavorful. I highly recommend it! And, while you're there, take a minute or two to stroll by the macaroon cases. My favorite was the salted caramel. There's also a full bar, so something for everyone.

Click here for Wilshire Boulevard Temple's website.

Caffe Concerto does not have a website. Their address is 610 S. Serrano in LA, 90005. Phone is (213) 738-0909.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ventura Seaside Highland Games

I'm in Ventura for my first bagpiping competition. I know!! The same stomping ground from my April 2012 Ventura post makes for a comfortable and welcome return.

After walking and shopping Ventura's Old Town District, I decided on this beef salad at Tipps Thai for dinner. While waiting for my meal to-go, it seemed like everyone knew each other. It would be a fun place to hang on a regular basis. And, this salad was terrific! It was super spicy and a tasty base for the next layer of flavor.

Click here for Tipps Thai's website.

I HAD to return to Trufflehound's! They delivered again with this dark chocolate, cinnamon oil and cayenne pepper delicacy. This beautifully decorated piece is about the size of a credit card; I normally could power through this and more, but the fire from the spice called for some portion control.

Click here for Trufflehound's website.

So, I'm happy to report that I did not choke, play the wrong tune, or embarrass the bagpiping community with my first competition attempt! YAY!! Goal met, I'm going to have a tasty meat pie from the festival before starting the drive back to South Pas. Yummmmmm.

The final stop in Ventura was McConnell's, home to some incredibly delicious ice cream. I'd only know of the Santa Barbara location until I spotted this one on the way out of town. This is the Eureka lemon and marionberry blend in the innovative biodegradable bamboo cup. I'm excited to see that they now have a storefront at the Grand Central Market, but it's a little too close for comfort!

Click here for McConnell's website.

Next up on the competition schedule is Long Beach in February. Stay tuned for those adventures!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Black Cow

I started the morning with my LA bestie at a warehouse clearance event from my favorite Hughes Estate Sales in Altadena. I bought several locally-inspired drawings: Chinatown, Rose Bowl, and the arroyo. He scored on some cool things, too, and made notes of items worthy of a return visit.

After all that, we went to Black Cow Cafe in Montrose, which had me at corn pudding! This is my delicious Southern Baked Skillet, with poached eggs over bacon, tomatoes and house-made corn pudding. If that wasn't enough, it was doused with a creamy cheddar cheese sauce. Wow!!

After powering-up, we strolled Mayberry/Montrose. I've posted before on the quaintness of Montrose with Paradis Scandinavian Ice Cream and The Star Cafe visits. My newest rave is Tom's Toys on Honolulu - a truly old-fashioned toy store! I didn't know such things still existed. I'll definitely return the next time I need a little something for one of the kiddies.

Click here for Black Cow's website.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hardy's Best BBQ

Here's one time when construction and traffic congestion worked in my favor. It was stuck in the jam on Moorpark near Coldwater Canyon when I smelled smoke from cooking meat. In M & M Market's parking lot, a Texas-style grill was producing those amazing scents, so I peeled out and pulled in.

Hardy's Best BBQ's wood-stoked grill produced this amazing meal. My pulled pork and tri tip were off the chart! So tender and flavorful!! And, I haven't had corn on the cob since BEFORE I got my braces on, and today was the day to break the two-year dry spell. Next time, I'll try the beef and/or baby back ribs, and/or chicken from that wonderful grill. You get to pick two meats and two sides for your $17. Mark your calendars, as the BBQ is only available on the weekends.

M & M Market is a liquor store with Hardy's Meats and a deli case inside. I spotted an elusive bag of Spicy Thai Kettle Chips, but I fought the urge knowing I had several pounds of hot, fresh food to enjoy once I got home.

Neither M & M Market or Hardy's Meats have a website. Street address is 12903 Moorpark Street, Studio City 91604.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


It's National Cheeseburger Day! Did you celebrate?

I drive by Manny's (on the corner of Woodman and Moorpork in Sherman Oaks) usually twice a day, and I had never tried them out. Until today! Their "burgers-tacos-beer" signage drew me right in.

This cheeseburger was tasty! I was especially pleased that it come without onions, since I didn't have time for heartburn. This month's fries were crispy outside/meaty inside. YUM!!

The tacos looked tasty, and I saw breakfast burritos on the menu. I'll probably make a few more stops before AND after work!

Manny's does not have a website. Street address is 4378 Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks. Phone is (818) 990-4961.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Clearman's North Woods Inn

The temperatures are starting to drop; L.A. may have chilled down to 99 inside of triple digits. Still needing to eat, it's always cool inside Clearman's North Woods Inn!

The San Gabriel location on Rosemead south of Huntington is classic old-school lodge, and the faux-snow roof is a hoot. Check out the taxidermy mounted on the walls, and you are encouraged to throw your peanut shells on the floor. Don't eat too many, because lots of food is on its way!

Purple cabbage salad and lettuce with blue cheese dressing are mixed at the table, and hot cheesy bread is delivered in baskets.

This is my entree: steak chunks on a skewer with pilaf and whipped cheese butter on the baked potato. Deeeelish!! Who wants to chill out with me?!

Click here for Clearman's website.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quenelle and North Pole Snow Cream in Burbank

OK, it's 9,000 degrees outside, and ice cream is sounding really good! I've tried two novel Burbank spots in the last few days. Sorry, but I'm going to say it, get it while it's hot!!

Quenelle on Magnolia near Buena Vista was the first stop. Here you see half-scoops of chocolate and blueberry pie - deeeelish!! And, yes, the cup is sitting on my Jeep's console as there is only a kiddie table inside for seating. They had all kinds of great flavors, and I'll look forward to stopping by there again on my way home.

Quenelle does not have a website. Street address is 2214 W. Magnolia, Burbank 91506. Phone is (818) 843-1035.

And, for something completely different, there's North Pole Snow Cream at the Burbank Mall. In some ways, it's like your standard "build your own" ice cream with lots of toppings to select from, except this is snow cream, which is a whippy/shaved blend of ice cream and Hawaiian ice-y. I got seasalt caramel snow cream with mochi and caramel sauce. Just go with me on this; it was taaaaasty! (And, I'll go back again if you need further encouragement!)

You can feel good about your treat as they "donate 2% of their monthly income to Polar animals in need, as well as green and environmentally beneficial causes and organizations," per their website. The cute little blue spoons are even biodegradable!

Click here for North Pole Snow Cream's website.