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.