Red Flag Warnings Saturday (9/25) evening until Monday evening (9/27)

Twitter announcement from LA County Fire.

I just got the twitter announcement.  Heat in the triple digits in the Valley’s coupled with extremely dry air has triggered LA County Fire to issue Red Flag Warnings.  If you live in an area that is at risk you should already know what to do, more precisely where not to be parking.

Aside from the fire risk.  Remember to keep you and your pets hydrated during this heat wave.

Menu Mining: Cafe Massila Crepes au Lard

Craving Crepes? I have only one place in all of LA that can sooth the craving. That’s Cafe Massilia in Monrovia. They have a nice variety of crepes but I always go for “Crepe au Lard” when I’m there for a date day lunch with the better half. (She orders Crepe au brie, tasty too, but not superlative heaven like my favorite).

“Lard” as in lardon, en francais for BACON! Pork product at its crispy best with a wonderful melange of goodies in a melt in your mouth buttery goodness crepe. Not just a watered down pancake batter with no flavor but traditional old school crepe. (We benefit from the owners and chefs being from Provence). Rounding out the goodies in the “Crepes au lard” is mushroom, caramelized onion, sun-dried Tomato, and swiss cheese. Think of it as a BLT only wrapped in the most perfect crepe this side of heaven.

And for a bit of trivia, Massilia is the old roman name for modern Marseilles. How much more Provencal can one get?

Details: Cafe Massilia, 110 E Lemon Avenue, Monrovia CA 91016 WEB SITE HERE

Downtown Art Walk Sorta Canceled

The official statement:

The Downtown Art Walk, a downtown Los Angeles institution since 2004, has grown to become the largest regularly occurring event in the center city. In its 6 years of operation it has achieved every one of its slated objectives; re-energizing Downtown Los Angeles, establishing a downtown art gallery district, and acting as a significant economic development tool for a multitude of other neighborhood serving businesses.In recent years the Downtown Art Walk has grown so large that it has become too costly to manage in its current form. Effective immediately the Downtown Art Walk will go on hiatus, ceasing all event operations until January 2011, at which time it will be reborn as a quarterly, weekend, daytime, gallery-focused event which will appeal to both patrons of the arts as well as the general public.

Doesn’t sound good to me.

Menu Mining: Salt Peanut Chocolate Cake at the Nickel Diner

best. cake. ever.

First let it be known I am really more of a pie person than a cake person. I’ll take a slice of cherry pie or a fruit tart before a piece of cake almost any time, but whenever I find myself downtown and it’s before 11pm (Tu-Sa), I try to stop by the Nickel for the salt peanut chocolate cake. The Nickel, you may know, is notorious for its maple glazed bacon doughnut, and I mean no disrespect to that doughnut or to the awesome red velvet cake or homemade pop tarts or any of the other amazing eat-dessert-first offerings at the Nickel, but my heart belongs to the salt peanut chocolate cake. The love child of Betty Crocker and Elvis, this is the king of LA desserts. First you’ve got the cake itself, a good dense chocolate cake, and then you’ve got the peanut brittle peanuts crushed on top, but what really makes it is the peanut butter/cream filling with crushed up potato chips between the layers. Seriously, if I lived downtown someone would need to perform an intervention. I would become immense, and it would be the Nickel Diner’s fault.

SNAP TO GRID: the UN-Juried Exhibit Needs Artists.

Black Oak and Elephant Rocks, my submission this year.

Working with digital photography and/or digital art? Want to show your stuff somewhere and be “seen” in a gallery setting to see how you look hung on a white wall? Then the Snap To Grid show at the LA CEnter for Digital Art is the show for you. I’ve participated for the last 5 years and can’t tell you how much fun it is to actually SEE the exhibit and the wide variety of images produced in the digital realm.

Your entry will be printed (8.5″x11″ on heavyweight paper) and shown in the LACDA gallery arranged in a grid. Entrants submit JPEG files of original work. Multiple entries are permitted. Separate registration required for each image. Exhibit is limited to space available, early entry is advised.

All styles of artwork and photography where digital processes of any kind were integral to the creation of the images are acceptable. Digital video stills and screen shots of web/new media are acceptable. Documentation shots of digital installation and digital sculpture are acceptable.

Special consideration is given to “Snap to Grid” artists for inclusion in future exhibits. Entrants to our calls for submissions form the pool of artists from which we select the majority of our exhibitors. There have been a large number of “Snap to Grid” participants who have been included in group exhibits, as well as a number of solo shows. Proceeds for “Snap to Grid” benefit these gallery programs and keep LACDA thriving. Exhibit your work, build your resume, and support our gallery. Everybody wins!

How to submit is easy, but read the rules first. Two easy steps to exhibit your work at LACDA…first you REGISTER and pay your fee. Then you UPLOAD your image(s).

Location: This call is international, open to all geographical locations.
Show Dates: November 11-December 4, 2010
Deadline for entries: October 25, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday November 11, 7-9pm (in conjunction with Downtown Artwalk)
Entry Fee: Registration fee is $30US.

Rules, Rules, Rules and there are always some. Submission Rules: Registration and submission are done online only. JPEG file uploads are the only accepted submissions under 2MB each. Please do not send materials to LACDA. All materials sent to LACDA will not be viewed and cannot be returned.

Multiple Entries: Multiple entries are permitted. $30 registration fee for each additional image. Separate registration required for each image.

Menu Mining: Little Dom’s Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Sweet Fancy Moses these are exceptional.

I like a nice plain regular pancake as much as the next guy, but this take on the ‘cake is just a tremendous treat.

Soaring high above the regular pancake-o-sphere, Little Dom manages to use the power of Portion Control (and quality ingredients) to make these nearly guilt-free.

Who could fault you for eating three tiny pancakes, loaded with antioxidant-happy blueberries? And just the tiniest ramekin of syrup – why it’s barely a thimbleful! (But it’s plenty, because the ‘cakes themselves are so delicious they hardly require any.) And don’t even look at the butter; why it melts right away!

Don’t wanna know calorie or fat content. Don’t care. But I honestly don’t consider this an unhealthy meal. In fact their whole breakfast menu is pretty mindblowing.

Honorable Mention also goes to the grilled house-made Italian Sausage. Better than the bacon here.

Oh and they’re Just Eight Bucks.

Wheeee!

Little Dom’s

2128 Hillhurst Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90027

323.661.0055 phone

323.661.0066 fax

Hours:

Breakfast, Lunch all day, 8am – 3pm

Sunday-Thursday 6pm – 11pm

Friday and Saturday 6pm – 12am

Menu Mining: Garage Pizza’s Eponymous Pie

Yes, dammit, I eat pickles on my pizza.

OK, OK. I’m a little defensive. That’s because ordering pizza with friends is like frolicking gaily through the enchanted marshmallow forest and then stepping onto a Bouncing Betty that blows your legs off. Here’s the problem: Some people are annoyingly picky eaters. You know the type; their diets consist largely of chicken fingers and unflavored oxygen, and they refuse to go to any restaurant whose condiments aren’t primarily ranch-based. Sadly, you will occasionally have to share a meal with these people, because we all have at least one friend who reacts to sushi or tomato seeds or green vegetables or ethnic foods with the shocked horror we usually tend to reserve for spiders or 9/11.

When I’m sharing pizza with friends like these, I tend not to order from Garage Pizza. And I certainly wouldn’t order Garage’s title pie, the Garage Pizza. Because it’s delicious, but it’s not a dish for the childish eater.

Basically, it’s a cheeseburger pizza. I know, I know: Cheeseburger pizzas are, for the most part, totally gross. Like taco pizzas, they often focus on ground beef as their main ingredient, and too often they come covered with iceberg lettuce that immediately and damply wilts from the heat of the underlying pizza, turning what could have been a pleasant meal into a slithery kelpish mess.

(I also understand the seeming contradiction in assuming that picky eaters would avoid a food item that’s essentially a combination of the two most unassailably normal American foods available. But such combinations often turn out to be the picky eater’s kryptonite.)

The Garage Pizza avoids the standard cheeseburger pizza problems, first by infusing the well-seasoned beef effortlessly into the sauce and cheese, including it as an important component of the meal yet not taking its presence too seriously. The diced tomatoes and red onions manage to stay crisp and fresh despite the heat of the pizza, probably because they’re applied after it comes out of the oven. And you’ll notice a market lack of iceberg lettuce, a vile and useless weed first cultivated by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

And then: The pickles. Oh, lordy, the pickles. Huge and ripe and engorged with salt and dill. Hell, they probably come directly from a giant food-service-sized jar shipped directly from the massive industrial warehouses of Archer Daniels Midland, but you’ve never had pickles like this. They’re the best possible alternative to iceberg lettuce, since pickles are already soft and yielding and not meant to provide any measure of crispness. Whenever my girlfriend and I buy this pizza to eat with a movie, I always do the serving. That way I can save the slices with the most pickles for myself. I’m not a proud man.

If the Garage Pizza has any failing, it’s the crust; it doesn’t hold up well over time, and doesn’t reheat well. The segment underneath the toppings will be fine, but if the pie is more than 45 minutes cold you’ll probably have to stop eating at the “handle” portion of the crust. A small price to pay.

Of course, Garage has a whole host of other unique pies: The Hot-and-Sweet Pepperoni, with its pineapple and jalapeno; the Elmerino, with pignolias and pesto-dipped mozzarella; and the Game Pie, full of pork and peppers and onions. But I haven’t quite made it past the Garage Pizza.

Summer Is Back; Time to Hit the Beach

Summer may have ended a couple of days ago, but we never really got one, and it looks like our real summer may be ahead of us.   If you are heading to the beaches west of Los Angeles this weekend, you’re in luck.  First, you should check out the Summer of Color public art project.  Billed as the largest public art project in the U.S., Summer of Color involves thousands of children and adults from local schools, hospitals, and social services programs, many of whom have physical and other challenges, who painted the lifeguard towers along the beach from Zuma to San Pedro.  Each tower is different, but many of the designs incorporated flowers and geometric shapes for symbolic reasons (see the above link for more info).  These towers were painted some time ago, but if you’re like me, you may not have checked them out up close.  I did so recently in Marina del Rey, and was rewarded with the glorious sights pictured above (at Mother’s Beach in the Marina Harbor) and below.

N. Channel tower near Marina boat channel

This Saturday night, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., the beach adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier will light up, as  GLOW returns after a two-year hiatus.  According to its website,

Glow is the only all-night art event in the United States that emphasizes the commissioning of original artwork. Glow projects invite active audience engagement and exploration and constantly surprise in their unexpected placement in spaces and times not normally reserved for fine art.

I covered the first Glow event in 2008, and found some first-time shortcomings.  This year, however, a friend of mine is working there, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new and hopefully improved version.

On Sunday, a few blocks from the beach, the 26th annual Abbott Kinney Festival will take place along Abbott Kinney Blvd. in Venice, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The festival features live music, gourmet food trucks, handcrafted items for sale, beer gardens, valet stations for those arriving by bicycle, and much more.  The festival is lots of fun, provided you do not mind very tightly packed crowds.

I’m looking forward to having a really fun summer this fall!

New Series: Menu Mining

A cheesesteak from South Philly Experience. Who knew this would be one of LA's best dishes?

You know the situation: You go to your favorite restaurant, planning to try something new. You want to be one of the regulars. One of the people who’s had everything on the menu. One of those cool diners who knows the head chef’s first name and sometimes he comes out to say hi to you, and maybe suggests something that’s really good today and the right wine to go with it.

But then you sit down and open the menu. And your eyes fall right to that same thing you always get. And you think: NO! I promised myself I’d try something new. I promised myself I’d expand my horizons. But really, I’m kind of tired, and I’m in a comfort-food kind of mood, and anyway I don’t want to risk going home unsatisfied, because then I’d just wait until 10 PM and eat a frozen pizza or half a box of cheese crackers. So you order the old standby. And you don’t regret a thing.

This series is for you.

It’s dedicated to those dishes that keep you coming back; those singular meals at your favorite restaurants that make you say things like: Don’t go to Costa Alegre without trying the huevos divorciados. And don’t go to Fred 62 without trying the Bearded Mr. Frenchy. And certainly don’t go to Carousel without gorging yourself stupid on the Merry-Go-Round, an enormous pile of meat that some mad scientist could use to create an unholy cow-chicken-lamb zombie hybrid. It would seem so peaceful, until all those popping flashbulbs frightened it into a rampage. Why, oh, why did we hold the press conference on such a cloudy day! And now my beloved Sophia, dead! Dead! If only there were some way to bring her back…

But I digress. Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll read about some of the finest meals Los Angeles and its environs have to offer, from orange blueberry pancakes to fish tacos to bun thit nong. No, I won’t tell you what bun thit nong is. You’ll just have to wait. Also, I don’t know what it is.

So stay tuned. And let us know what your favorite dish is!

LA County Fair 2010 Edition

So yes, we went to the fair, and yes, we had fried foods. My personal review: last year’s deep fried oreos surpassed this year’s deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Krispy Kreme jelly donut fried chicken sandwich. Yes, I ate those things. No I do not have documentary evidence. We didn’t go on any rides, which was probably wise given the belly full of artery-hardening is-it-food-or-is-it-a-science-experiment lunch. In fact, one of our party, a Derby Doll in training, had a broken ankle, so we maneuvered the fair with a wheelchair even. We did go to the carved ice museum in the shopping building, which was a disappointment in terms of the carving but almost worth it for the air conditioning.

So here are some photos and tips for you:

Take lots of pictures:

the fair has these photo op thingies everywhere

Pet the goats:

thanks to Noe for the goat picture

Cool off in the shopping area (yes I know I also supplied a picture of the Dodger casket in last year’s county fair post. It seemed to bear repeating):

Thanks to Andrea for this year's Dodger casket shot

Skip the bible stories for children (haven’t we all seen that horror movie? it doesn’t end well):

Bring a parasol or hat. It’s hot and sunny, and drink the lemonade from Hot Dog on a Stick (best lemonade ever):

Me and Andrea courtesy of Conor Horgan

Eat:

Turkey legs and porkchop on a stick by Conor Horgan

Eat some more:

Corndog on corndog action by Conor

Then eat some more:

another one of Conor's great shots

If you require food that isn’t a science experiment, check out the food trucks which are rumored to be parked by the midway (we did not see them but Twitter claims they’re there.

When you’re done with everything, spend a quarter for the silly foot massager seats. They are bone-rattlingly hilarious:

Chris, Devon, and Colin take a load off

Playing LACMA

Ben Meyers beats out a tune ON LACMA

I got the link via a twat from the Getty Museum regarding this Youtube video. Musical artist Ben Meyers with nothing more than a set of sticks bangs out a melody on LACMA grounds. How fun is this for an afternoon diversion?
[youtube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H05pA7YBgYA&hd=1 [/youtube]

Shonen Knife on Hamburgers, Love Songs, and Why They’re Not J-Pop

The first time I heard Shonen Knife – a three-piece all-girl band from Osaka, Japan – was after an episode of The Powerpuff Girls.  Apparently, the Cartoon Network show was so cool that it got its very own tribute album.  The track list is pretty impressive: Shonen Knife joined the likes of Frank Black, Devo, and Bis in a soundtrack ode to Bubbles, Buttercup, and Blossom.  Zach Braff should be so lucky then next time he curates a soundtrack.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7ZFeViTl4g[/youtube]

So you can very well imagine my pee-in-my-pants excitement when I had a chance to interview Shonen Knife right before their Spaceland show last week (read my recap of the show here).  The band was in the early leg of their 21-city US tour in support of their new album, Free Time. This is the band’s 17th album – pretty impressive, considering the fact that the band has been around in some form or another for nearly 30 years.  Naoko Yamano, Shonen Knife’s singer, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter, has been with the band from its start, so she is a seasoned pro at these tours.  It was bassist Ritsuko Taneda’s second tour in the US and drummer Emi Morimoto’s first.

Hi!  How is your tour going so far?

Naoko:  Tour is going very well!

Ritsuko: Oh, it is very fun!

Emi:  Exciting!

A constant theme of Shonen Knife is food. They love food.

What kind of American food do you like?

[Unison] Hamburgers!

Ritsuko: Blue cheese hamburgers!

They mentioned they would be in LA for another day and would probably go to Santa Monica.  I told them that there was a really good pizza place there called Joe’s, at which point they all lighted up and, again in unison, said, “Pizza!”  Naoko asked if I meant Joe’s Crab Shack, and formed her hands into crab pinchers, and all band members then started miming crab claws.  Based on their blog, they didn’t hit either Joe’s, but it looks like they did have a pretty awesome time at Bubba Gump, Hollywood, and the Grove.

The conversation turned to their new album, “Free Time.”

You [Naoko] don’t usually write about love or politics, but the new album has both a “Love Song” and a song called “Economic Crisis.”  What motivated you to write those two songs now?

Everybody ask me, why don’t you write about [love]?  I just wanted to explain.

[“Love Songs” is really about why Naoko doesn’t write love songs (“I need you I want you/Musty phrases embarrass me”).  Naoko might have resisted the impulse, but I think Shonen Knife has written some of the greatest love songs of all time – except these songs are about heartbreak over not having any strawberry cream puffs readily available, or they’re odes to a Rock ‘n Roll Cake (also on “Free Time”).  This perhaps is the most honest love song of all: you can tell an awful lot about how a person loves another by observing how they love inanimate objects.  Are they the type to sleep inside a soft sponge cake, or will they rip it apart in their frenzied need to possess it and swallow it whole?  In other words, are you Shonen Knife or are you Cookie Monster?]

And the song “Economic Crisis” is … it’s not so dark song.  I’m just singing about the phenomenon.

Even their autographs are kawaii.

Why is your album called Free Time?

Naoko:  I want people to listen to our album when they have free time!

What do you do on your free time?

Naoko: For me, I play tennis.  Vamos Nadal!

Ritsuko:  Reading comics!  I like manga.  I like Bleach.

Emi:  My mother has her own Japanese sweets shop, so I help her.

What kind of sweets?

Sweets like mochi!  Very good!

One more thing about your album: it seems to be more rock-oriented than your other albums have been.  Is there a reason why you did that this time?

Naoko:  Recently, I was having been inspired by ‘70s British hard rock, so that’s why I went for some hard rock songs.

What are you listening to now?

Naoko:  I listen to various kinds of music.  My favorite British ‘70s band is Judas Priest, and Motorhead, and also Black Sabbath.  I also like ‘70s American rock – Doobie Brothers, Chicago, and also I like to listen to classical music, too.  And also some other bands like recently I saw [LA local metal rock band] Bigelf.  They were very nice.  I saw them at a music festival in Osaka.

Shonen Knife at Spaceland last Tuesday.

In prior interviews, Naoko states that she sings in English because she believes that the language of rock is English.  The choice in language is a marked difference between the various music scenes in Japan; I asked Naoko to expand on the differences a bit.

Can you talk a little bit about the music scene in Osaka, like how it compares to Tokyo?  I know there is a lot of talk of J-pop, and that’s different than your music.

J-pop music scene is just in Tokyo.  Most or all of J-pop songs are sung with Japanese lyrics, and Japanese language is very digital.  English is kind of analog, wavy.  The melody line would be naturally different than Japanese music.  But Japanese J-pop musicians like to play just like Western musicians, but actually – still a little bit different.    That’s why I speak in English for my songs.  We are all from Osaka, and the underground scene in Osaka is different from Tokyo.

Free Time was originally released in Japanese, right?

Right.  And Japanese version has Japanese lyrics for 30% of songs.

Last question: for thirty years, Shonen Knife has always been an all-girl group.  Have you ever thought about letting boys in, or have you always wanted to keep it only for girls?

The three girls laugh.

Naoko:  I like all-girls band.  It’s very fun, and also very convenient and we can share hotel rooms.  Also, we can talk in girls way.

Give Yourself Over To Absolute Pleasure

This weekend marks the 35th Anniversary of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There is a very special party planned to celebrate the anniversary, and you’re invited.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened on September 26, 1975 at the UA Theater in Westwood. 35 years later, it has become the longest running theatrical release in film history, having never been pulled from theaters by 20th Century Fox since it’s release in 1975. To celebrate, SinsCon, the 35th Anniversary Rocky Horror Picture Show convention will run in Los Angeles this week from Thursday through Saturday, September 23-25.

SinsCon will climax with a very special screening of the movie at the historic Million Dollar Theater (Sid Grauman’s first theater) in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday evening, beginning at 10:00pm. The screening will be hosted by none other than Brad Majors himself, Barry Bostwick. The screening will also feature a live performance by an international shadowcast while the movie plays. This event is not to be missed.

If you’re a Rocky Horror fan, or even if you’ve just always wondered what inspired all of those crazed fans to see it in theaters week after week, this is the event for you. It is rare that the L.A. Conservancy opens the Million Dollar Theater for screenings. It is also rare that Barry Bostwick is present to lead the show. This 35th anniversary may in fact be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don’t miss it!

What: 35th Anniversary screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Where: The Million Dollar Theater, 307 South Broadway, Los Angeles.
When: This Saturday night, 25 September 2010, 10:00pm.
How: Tickets are available online now. (Advance purchase gets a discount.)

“So come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with antici…….. pation.”

See you there Saturday night, Los Angeles.