Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"the most indie thing to have ever existed"

the beginning of indie as we know it. it's the 20th anniversary of the issue of NME's C-86 compilation. tonight at spaceland, the c-86 all stars, featuring dave newton from the mighty lemon drops, will cover all the pop songs from the eighties that will reawaken your hidden twee heart. you can come again, with vodka in your veins...splendour in silver dress, velocity possessed, the world can be yours again!

i'm just filling up the spaces in my happy head....i'll dig out my anorak and meet you there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

an afternoon at the cat and fiddle.

cat and fiddle

just before the holidays, i met up with a close friend and spent the day with her and her lovely family. we hadn't seen each other in years, and we fell in like old times, only this time with her toddlers and amenable husband in tow. we had a very yummy mummy sort of brunch in a neighbourhood joint popular more for its location, agreeable attitudes towards large parties with more children than adults, and pet-friendliness than its food or ambiance, although to be fair, the latter two attributes were more than satisfactory. she is as vivacious and kind as ever, she has married a good man, and her children are adorable as children get. however, i found myself exhausted from their exuberance and vigour, and feeling a little alien in this cosy family unit. i left them with well-wishes and a sincere hope to keep in touch, but with also a desperate desire for a tall alcoholic beverage and some room to breathe.

luckily a quick phone call and even quicker ride down sunset brought me to the cat and fiddle, a pub in hollywood that we--old friend and i--had frequented much during university years but i had not been to since. the building is a spanish-style stone complex built around a large courtyard, and dating from the 1920s. it is quiet and calm at any given time, and takes you away from the rush of sunset boulevard just yards in front. i found it to be the same as ever, although a bit foreign in the light of day. it was bright but chilly, and my friends were already ensconced in a cozy corner of the courtyard, nursing pints of stella. (i don't know if we've talked about this before, but i gave up drinking awhile back. i was a teetotaler up until...sometime this summer, but haven't really imbibed much in the ensuing months. however, when i was younger, i was a bit of a lush.) i was quite fond of snakebites; besides completely dating me (and apparently outing me as a former goth), i don't think there's any pub in la that will serve them. still, pubs get extra points from me if they've got cider on tap; cat and fiddle has strongbow, a pint of which suits me fine in my creakity older years.

i admit to have gone to the cat and fiddle for food, not drink, before, even though ye olde king's head has better batter on their fish and chips. it's still california, though, and i feel like the vegetables are more abundant and fresher than typical pub grub. we ordered plates of cod and chips, which came with either soup or a big green salad, and welsh rarebit, an abundantly cheesy toast made with double gloucester and served with a broiled tomato. everything was hearty, well-prepared, and reasonably priced. they've got typical fare as scotch eggs, shepherd's pie, and bangers and mash; of course you are in los angeles, so like other pubs, there are healthier, grilled fish and meat, and vegetarian alternatives. good side salad. good bread rolls (if you don't get one, ask).

the pub, at night, can get lively and horribly overcrowded in the late evening, but the afternoons are generally calm and genial--the perfect respite. it has been awhile since i've had the time to just hang out with my friends, and do absolutely nothing at all except sit and enjoy each others company. as the afternoon wore on, the christmas lights were turned on, and some of the employees began to decorate the tree outside, laughing and joking as if it was a christmas tree and not just the garden ficus. i began to appreciate my morning of familial chaos more, but also really treasured the "family" i was with at that moment. it was good to catch that breath before another season of chaos, stress, and overwhelming festivities began, but also to remember and experience a little of the real reason for the season: caring, compassion, friendship and family.

(and a little tipple to grease the wheels never hurt either--but don't drink and drive, folks!)

cat and fiddle at dusk 1

the cat and fiddle
6530 w sunset blvd (x-street shrader)
hollywood 90028.

Friday, December 08, 2006

ray of light

ray ferra's shop interior 3

ray ferra's iron 'n antique accents lamp shop on la brea. complete tip, but great resource for old lamps, parts, and fabrication. and of course, ray, who has probably lit everything that can be lit. i hear he's retiring soon, and i'm not sure what will happen to the shop. check it out while you can.

lamps at ray ferra's shop glass lampshades at ray ferra's shop
odds and ends at ray ferra's shop

ray ferra's iron 'n antique accents
342 n. la brea
los angeles 90036.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

the *real* california's gold.

broguiere's eggnog and huell howser!

eggnog. huell. dairy. cheese.

imo, strauss creamery has the superior eggnog, but broguiere's has the better packaging. huell howser, host of "california's gold" and subject of a very entertaining drinking game, graces some of the regular glass milk bottles throughout the year as a tribute to being the dairy's favourite visitor; the "california's gold" episode featuring broguiere's dairy is one of the most popular episodes of the series. however, his visage is most apropos on their holiday eggnog bottles. the 'nog a little overly sweet, overly viscous, and best in small doses, but full of cheer and holiday spirit. just like huell. real california gold, y'all.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

rip this joint! dinner at mozza.

mozza sugar

mama says yes, papa says no,
make up you mind 'cause I gotta go....

rip this joint, gonna save your soul,
round and round and round we go.
roll this joint, gonna get down low,
start my starter, gonna stop the show.
oh, yeah!

oh, the inevitable mozza post. after a couple of false starts, more than a few canceled and re-appointed reservations, i finally made into the mario batali/nancy silverton pizza joint, mozza. i went to dinner with a friend, whose previous experiences in that space on highland avenue included a collapsed lung, so you know this night was destined to make some sort of impression.

i do have to say, it was probably not a good idea for me to check out a new restaurant right after thanksgiving feasting, and on a bitterly cold night where lethargy was the highest form of energy i could muster. however, i had been really curious about this place, and after canceling out on three reservations in a row, it was a very kind thing of them to actually let me in (and not ban me for life). during regular dinner hours, even. i got there, actually found a space on the street to park (otherwise, it's $6 for valet parking--which is somewhat cheap, i think, considering how the valets risk their lives crossing highland all night), and opened a giant barn-like door to a high-ceilinged largish room that was darker than it was out on the street, and about 5 times louder. heaving with people, "exile on main street" on the stere-ereo. loud. we were seated promptly, at a banquette table at the back, and then handed what looked to be a stylized folded street map. oh, wait, that was the menu. it sorted reminded me of a font catalog, someone spent a lot of time on it. too bad they didn't hire that person to paint the dark orange and ochre walls, which seemed hastily done. guessing from the colour underneath the framed mirrors, the space was a little more soothing at some point--maybe nancy silverton influenced?--but now i'm told it looks similar to batali's pizzeria in nyc, otto, all orange-hued and honey wooded. i'm told orange is a colour that stimulates one's appetite. mario batali is very orange. i, er, am pretty sure that batali does not whet my appetite. the menu items do not seem very much like otto, but very much more like nancy silverton's doing (as other blogs and reviews have mentioned), even though the press kit says the food is not only "silvertonian" but "batalian" as well. (ergggggh. i just got the batalian/italian pun. bleah.)

our server asked us if we wanted anything to drink, i think, i couldn't tell as mick jagger was telling me how got his rocks off in a very loud yet muffled way. my companion ordered quartino (a 250ml carafe, maybe a third of a bottle?) of a dry-ish house wine, never found out which one as i couldn't hear him, even though our knees were touching (and even though i was at elbows with people at the tables next to me, i couldn't make out their conversations either).

mozza squash blossoms

we ordered the fried squash blossoms, because everybody orders the fried squash blossoms. they were filled with a fresh ricotta, and lightly battered in what i venture to guess is a rice flour/soda water batter, then salted with maldon sea salt. light and delightful. i don't know if this was a dish about flavour as everything seemed quite delicate; i think it was more about the creamy texture of the cheese and the delicate shards of batter that were only the tiniest bit greasy. no sauce to speak of, but also unnecessary. i think it was at this point that i realized there wasn't any salt nor pepper at the tables (my friend merry hates this, that the house presumes the chef's seasoning should suit everyone--what do you think?). also, that while the blossoms weren't cold, they mightn't have seemed a little greasy if they were warmer.

mozza crostini

these were followed by a crostini with cannellini (white) beans, caramelized onions, and capezzana olive oil. beans on bread. carby, but packing more flavour than i expected. however, i found myself doing that thing where you start mentally calculating how much this dish actually cost to make, and thinking if you made it at home it might be just as good as the restaurant version.

mozza gorgonzola pizza

then the pizza. you know about the crust: woodfired, crisp and bubbly on the edges, still crisp on the outside towards the center, but with a thin, chewy middle. you like it or you don't. i like it. it's not as hard as some of the bread crusts i've encountered in silvertonian breads (i am using that foolish phrase from now on), but there's enough heft to not sag under the weight of the (albeit modest) toppings. pizza not sliced all the way through, so for a minute i had a vision of a pizza tussle where half of it goes flying as i try to sink through the possibly impermeable crust. luckily it was easy going. the gorgonzola dolce, fingerling potato, radicchio and rosemary pizza was exquisite; the sweet creaminess of the gorgonzola matched the sweet creaminess of the roasted potato, the wilted radicchio cut through the fattiness, the fungal tang of the cheese and the pine-iness of the rosemary lent a very earthy, woodsy quality to the 'za. very very nice. if just a touch cold. the white anchovy, tomato and hot chilies (? the menu says olives. there were no olives) pizza wasn't as successful--the white anchovies were marinated in vinegar, which didn't quite blend well with the tomatoes. the spiciness of the chili was dull and one note. spice and acid, not much else. also a touch cold.

mozza white anchovy pizza

by now, i was fully carbed out, but still got dessert. the butterscoth budino (pudding), which many people have already raved about, and a fig crostini with a meyer lemon pannacotta.

mozza butterscotch budino

the butterscotch pudding was something like a not-to-sweet caramel dairy thing, texturally a cross between a creamy pudding and a mousse. it was topped with a layer of caramel, a sprinkling of maldon sea salt, and whipped cream. i can't say i cared for the pudding part of it--the texture was great, like something i'd want in a hair product--but the flavour was mild (neither buttery nor burnt sugary) and not particularly interesting. the caramel topping and maldon was much better, like a liquid version of a very good candy. very rich, but the blander pudding balanced this out. it was served with pine nut and rosemary butter cookies on the side, which were tasty on their own, but didn't enhance the pudding itself in any way.

mozza fig crostata

the fig crostata was a small free-form pastry with a buttery shortcrust and stewed (?) figs. fig jam. something. like an adult fig newton. the figs were quite good, but very one note--i didn't notice if there was any other flavours in there, of which it could have benefitted, maybe a little citrus or anise? the crust was okay, but again! cold. i would have been happier with a warmer pastry, to contrast against the very good meyer lemon pannacotta on top, which was like a sunny, citrusy greek yoghurt--tart, jiggly, sweet, refreshing.

oh, and coffee, which was really, completely, stone cold.

impression so far: effing loud. is "exile on main street" really restaurant music? orange paint does not whet my appetite. also, overall, while the food was competently prepared, i would have been much happier if the meal was hotter in temperature overall. i'll definitely return, but maybe during the afternoon, or any off hour. see if there's a difference in temperature and acoustics.

mozza interior

641 n. highland (x-street melrose)
los angeles 90036.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


frittelli's cake doughnuts

fancy doughnuts in beverly hills. nice enough space, nice enough people, parking in the back. virbila recommended. raised, cake, specials. although the standard combos are special enough: apple cider, lemon poppy, cranberry orange, vanilla cake with espresso glaze, blackberry jelly-filled, bittersweet chocolate raised. coffee drinks available, chocolate and teas. did i mention nice enough space and people? hm. well.

doughnuts in general do not excite me. on my 0-10 scale of doughnuts, krispy kreme falls somewhere at 5 (hot raised glazed: 5, 7 without glaze, the rest: 3), bob's at 8 (nostalgia: 10, doughnuts: 6, kitty doughnuts: 10), hong kong mandarin oriental bakery a solid 10 (the apricot-filled doughnuts? seriously, the best). frittelli's would be a 7. these have very interesting flavour combinations as far as doughnuts go, and are executed well, but don't change my opinion that raised are better than cake (these are mostly cake), and that simpler is better. their raised doughnuts are large and have a lovely, silky texture, but not much of a taste without the glaze. cake are fine crumbed, not greasy, and not as stodgy as the ones in your local donut hut. the flavoured coffees aren't made with commercial syrups, and are competently brewed, and they seem to be awash with mariebelle chocolate products for sale--maybe they use said product for their house hot chocolate? they are definitely raising the (buttermilk) bar, so i can't dismiss them. maybe with a name like frittelli's, i was expecting something a little more old world, a little more old-fashioned, more wood and brass and old italian men and proper football on the telly (as in soccer not nfl). maybe i'm asking too much from a small shop in beverly hills. but maybe, i am really asking too much of doughnuts, to be better than they really able to be.

frittelli's pbj doughnut

frittelli's doughnuts and coffee
350 n. cañon drive
beverly hills 90210.

Friday, November 24, 2006

peregrine on pico?

bird help please

sorry for the bad photo, but i saw this bird flying high above pico blvd, near fairfax the other day. i've seen it a few times since then, but always high above. does anyone know what kind of bird it is? i'm just a little curious. it has a small head, a short, sharp turned beak, medium brown feathers on top, and white on the bottom, which some dark/black markings throughout. i think it might be a peregrine falcon, but i've never actually seen one in los angeles.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

give thanks

be thankful you were on frank sinatra's good side.

that you weren't on frankie's shit list.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

back in pv.

conchas chinas

back to puerto vallarta, for yet another wedding. eh. could be worse.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

capturing summer.

summer preserves 1

the poetic: the bounties of the markets, gardens, and backyard trees of friends and family speak so much of summer; the long, lazy days, the heat, humidity and stickiness, the vividness of colours and heightened senses all captured in elements of each fruit in their own unique way. the first bite through the earthy, thin membrane of strawberries to the warm, sweet, slighty saline dribble of juice reminds me of the salt-tinged, hot, heavy air of the coast and the glaringly sunny, dusty fields from where they were picked. lemons recall a day of easy companionship of friends, the waxy skin akin to the shiny leaves from the gnarled tree from whence they came, pruned back reluctantly; the pucker of stinging juice a reminder of the hidden thorns which pricked us in retaliation. there is so much of it that one would long to remember in the grayer, busier, more stressful days of the year; a way to capture the essence of summer, to give a sweet reminder of sunshine, warmth, and grace.

fruit, sugar, water, heat. easy alchemy.

summer preserves

the reality: 1. i go to the farmers' markets and vendors are practically *throwing* their wares at me--i'm tempted by everything in season, and the idea of buckets of berries going for a fistful of crumpled dollars that won't even get me through a fast food value meal menu is hard to resist. i visit friends and family who complain that it's too hot to pick the fruit or veg bursting off the vine, falling off the tree in their backyards. if, they slyly comment, i want some, just go ahead and take what you want. they know that i already know where the ladder and secateurs are; they also know i'd rather pull down everything ripe for the picking and leave the majority for them. cheap labour, they secretly know. suckaaaah. oh yeah, whatever, where are the gloves.

2. i take home pails, laundry baskets, milk crates of ripe-at-that-moment fruit. i gleefully arrange jadeite bowls, plastic polka-dotted trays, and precious craftsmen-era sideboards with marthaesque towers of lemons, blossom, and herbs. i waft around in ballgown skirts and pearls whilst vacuuming, citrus fruit gently tumbling down to the rug like a scene from a stanley donen musical starring a demented asian girl, set in rue du pico-robertson. i live in ignorant bliss for 48 hours before the reality that it's a hazy, stifling 90 degrees outside sets in, and there's penicillin mold bulleyes growing at an alarming rate on all the lemons. i start to hyperventilate the mold spores in as i imagine grisly fruit-fly-related illnesses or slipped-on-rotting-cellulose concussions. i am reassured i will not contract scurvy, but only just.

3. spend an aggravating afternoon trawling the westside for canning supplies--am blanked out at major supermarket chains and at 'spensive gourmet outlets. do people not can anymore??! only on the prairie, says a blithe stockboy. well then, get me some mother****ing jars from the mother****ing plains! i am reminded that winter is just. around. the. corner. and what with al gore sightings and melting ice caps and such i can't be too careful you know? (la cienega at sunset would make the perfect slalom run, btw.) weirdly discover that the major 'spensive gourmet supermarket, gelson's, carries every canning supply i could possibly ever want, including paraffin wax for airtight sealing. hardcore, awesome. i'll take a case of each size, please. as i am pushing my cart through the aisles, i look at the other patrons in the store and wonder: are kyle maclachlan and ricki lake (not together) a part of the secret gelson's canning society? does special agent dale cooper can royal anne cherries for homemade pie? do orson and bree preserve victory garden vegetables for fun? does tracy turnblatt have a pickled beets recipe to die for? i buy enough cane sugar to make the supercilious checkout lady assess the size of my thighs. i seethe quietly yet quite visibly alarm the law clerk who just wants his yogurt.

5. get home, bung all the jars into the dishwasher for a round on the hot rinse cycle to sterilize them. leave 'em there to dry and tackle the piles of flesh around me. slice and dice like a human ronco machine.

6. take out a pot. take out two pots. take out four. dump lids for jars into one pot of boiling water, then ignore it. generally, it doesn't take that much to get your jam on, especially if you're not too picky about the consistency of its consistency--throw in any amount of ripe fruit, adjust acids and sugars to taste, add other flavourings, cook down until a teaspoon of the boiled liquid begins to gel/harden on a saucer chilled in the refrigerator. of course i don't follow a recipe, that would imply i am more prepared than i am. i clean out the fridge and pantry use my imagination and come up with some winning combinations:

1 pint of fresh figs, quartered + 1 small meyer lemon, sliced, with peel (without seeds) + 1/2 cup white sugar + 1 cup port wine

2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved + 1 pint blueberries + a handful of royal anne cherries, pitted + juice and zest from 1 meyer lemon + 3/4 demerara sugar

2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved + 2 pints blueberries + 1 cup brown sugar + freshly grated nutmeg

4 cups white corn kernels + 1 pint red cherry tomatoes + 1 pint yellow pear tomatoes + 1 cup apple cider vinegar + 1 cup brown sugar + 1 tablespoonful whole mustard seeds + 1 bay leaf

7. fill dozens of clean jars with prepared fruit or veg, and discover boiling method of canning not as difficult as building a sod house under the banks of a river. basic, scary looking directions here, but help from the dishwasher eliminates step 3. all you really need to do is fill the jars carefully, leave a teeny bit of room on the top, remove as many air bubbles as you can, seal not-too-tight, then boil a bit in water. anyway, if you fear you are the harbinger of plague or the e. coli strain that will wipe out your entire blackberry list, then put the finished jars in the fridge anyway. no biggie.

8. flatmate opens the fridge for a beer. stares for moment then finally says, "what are we? poor?" i finally perfect the Santos Death Stare™, then stalk off to the little garden. too bad you can't really slam a sliding door.

summer snack

back to the poetic: by far my favourite of the lot is a four fruit marmalade made from a haphazard zesting, grating, chopping, and juicing of blood oranges from my uncle's garden, meyer lemons from merry's, lemons from cyrano's, and a ruby red grapefruit stolen from a neighbour (shhhhhh). the jewelled tones of red, orange and gold are as vivid and brilliant as any sunny summer day, the sweetness, bitterness, acidity and sheer brilliance of flavour is such a perfect reflection of my bond with each of the people who contributed to the bounty. each taste is as fresh as the next, with a subtle difference from the intermingling fruit; yet, it is as classically traditional as marmalades should be. a bit of summer in every bite, a little reminder of friendships forever, even after the last spoonful is long gone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

new concept: dim sum, everything you've heard, read, and more.

new concept charsiu bao

everything you've read or heard about new concept is true: it can take forever to get in on weekends, the waitstaff is either in their own world or rude, the dim sum is totally overhyped, the napkins are terrible. sure. but they've got the best char siu bao buns i've have ever had--soft, delicate, fluffy, glossy, a nice balance of tender pork, salty sauce, sweet dough--and generally their dim sum is pretty good. i'll go back.

here's a random survey of menu items:

new concept taro cake new concept scallop dumpling

new concept roast pork

what i loved: the fried taro cake, which came in smaller chunks than what you'd find in one of those rolling cart palaces, and was lighter, fluffier and less greasy too; the shark fin and scallop dumpling was filled with a plump, barely cooked scallop and generous portion of shark fin, wrapped in a jade green wrapper and topped with delicate roe. the roasted pork rocked the house down--shards of crispy, fatty skin atop tender, well-marbled pork loin meat, and served with a tiny bit of hoisin and sugar to bring out its flavour. droolworthy.

new concept chicken feet

chicken feet=pretty great. flavoured mildly with jalapeño, and totally fatty without being greasy.

new concept chicken wings

pretty good, okay: chicken wings, braised in soda, although i don't know what kind of soda. probably a bad thing that i can't tell if it was cooked in a lemon-lime soda or a cola, but really, i just got it for novelty's sake. chicken good well, sauce not that interesting.

new concept mushroom caps

also just okay: mushroom caps stuffed with a minced prawn mixture. quite generous in portion, and cooked well. however, the fungal shellfish combination just doesn't work for me. tasted great separating the two main elements, but then what's the point of that.

new concept shanghai dumplings

disappointing: shanghai dumplings. i thought the wrapper was a little too thick, and they stuck to the bottom of the steaming dish, so they broke easily and let the broth run out. however, i didn't think there was enough soup in them anyway. the flavour was good enough though.

new concept honey herb roll

the odd: i don't know what this is called, because it was written in chinese characters on the menu. the very abrupt host really didn't feel the need to explain what it was to me: "do you want it or what?" uh, what, but yeah, bring it over. turned out to be a glutinous rice roll, flavoured with a sort of medicinal herb and sprinkled with sesame seeds. sweet, sticky, odd. couldn't finish the portion.

okay. there you go. proceed at your own risk, make your own mind up. want to come with me next time i go?

new concept
700 s. atlantic (x-street: harding)
monterey park 91754.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

a short commentary on the disney concert hall.

disney concert hall, southside

i don't really know all that much about the walt disney concert hall, except for that it is an impressive alien on the downtown landscape. i can only imagine that when frank gehry first conceptualized this piece, he was gazing a stray, crumpled up piece of paper (probably an earlier, rejected design), or maybe the wadded up foil from the lid of some reheated leftovers as he worked into the night.

i haven't made my way there for a concert yet, nor have a sprung for the self-guided audio tour. i can tell you that even at 8 o'clock in the morning, the glare absolutely radiates off of those stainless steel walls; i had the most extraordinary case of vertigo standing on the sidewalk looking up at it. the sidewalk in spots was hotter than a frying pan--i started to tan. funnily, it is slightly claustrophobic, yet somehow calmer and steadier up on the roof, and inside is as placid and almost conventional as the exterior is not.

ah, the infamous flickr slideshow, or for the impatient, the complete flickr set.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

fern dell, i heart you.

ferndell bench

if i had to name the one stretch of nature i love the most in los angeles, i think griffith park would just edge out the coastal beaches along the PCH. the park is over 4000 acres of land along the eastern santa monica mountains, making it the largest municipal with urban wilderness in the united states. although there are definitely well-developed areas of the park (griffith observatory, the greek theatre, autry museum, la zoo, and travel town), much of it is left free to be explored through hiking, biking, running and horseback riding trails, camping areas, or just left to be. how can i not love a landscape where morning walks finds me greeting sleepy coyotes waking up for the day, just around the corner from where "rebel without a cause" was filmed, or where i can go stomping from one zip code into another--not really know where i am going but *up*--and just as my male hiking companion says, "sometimes i just want to get really buffed and start wearing women's blouses" who should appear from just below the fire ridge but kd lang? i mean, really--you would heart it too if this happened to you (and it can!).

ferndell walkways ferndell stream

i have to say that one of my most favourite places within griffith park is just at the very edge of the los feliz/western canyon entrance, fern dell. it is quite literally a dell full of ferns--fifty different varieties at last count, along with a thick tangle of tropical trees and plants that fight for space amongst cedars and coastal redwoods planted along a lively brook that hosts a number of crayfish within it, and colourful blue and red dragonflies around it. the dell is always ten degrees cooler than anywhere else underneath its shady canopy, and although early morning walks often find it gray and foggy, i've encountered oppossums, squirrels and deer drinking from its rather clear depths. yes, yes, i know, it's very snow white, but it's very charming. although i am quite enamored by this bit of natural beauty, i do know its truths and am more than charmed by it, i am gleeful in sharing them to all and sundry (you, tg, you, and whoever else may be reading). you don't really have to look too closely at the winding paths and footbridges that follow the brook, the fakey wood railing that keeps you from falling into the water (theoretically), and the well built up stone beds to know that there is a certain manufacture about it, not to mention where in the world would you find hibiscus bushes naturally growing next to cedar trees? here's the rub: the crystal clear waters of the stream that i tra-la-la along were actually a by-product of the cooling system used for the giant telescope housed in the griffith observatory, which is directly above fern dell. instead of just letting the flowing water go to waste, it was channeled into this lovely little haven, landscaped and fern dell was born. (this however, is no longer the case, and there are currently plans to renovate the whole water system....) oh hollywood, your Oz-ness is everywhere.

the trails tables

at the very edge of fern dell, there is a picnic area and a little snack bar that has been there since i was a young'un. however, it has recently been taken over and reinvented into some sort of childhood fantasy of What Snack Shacks Should Be Like™. the little wooden hut has been cleaned up and furnished with antler light fixtures with sweet little lightshades, quirky hanging flowerpots and fairy lights. the menu has been revamped to include snaildogs (hot dogs wrapped in spiralling pastry), meat pies, fruit pies, healthy sandwiches, and fosselman's ice cream treats. and craziest of all, not only are there vegetarian offerings, but vegan ones as well. okay, so maybe that's not really any childhood fantasy of anyone, but it's pretty fantastic all the same.

the trails berry pie the trails peach pie

i wish i was hungry enough to try out one of their vegan savoury pies, but we did stop to try the pies on offer--mixed berry and peach that day. although our slices were all smooshy, it was nice to know that it was because they still warm from the oven. i am not sure if the fruit was fresh or if they were fresh frozen, but the flavour of both was quite intense and there was still a little bite left in the texture of the peach (gloopish for the berry). the best part was the crust, which is the thinnest crust i've ever had on a pie, but still flaky, sweet, and buttery, scented with a dusting of cinnamon sugar that lent itself well to the warm fruit. mmmmm. along with a couple of glasses of homemade lemonade, they hit the spot. perhaps not the best pie in los angeles, but definitely the best pie i'd had in the nicest snack shack in the bestest park. evah.

oh, you know i love my flickr slideshows....

the trails
233 fern dell drive,
griffith park.

Monday, August 21, 2006

questions of curiosity.

people tend to want to break up with significant others in public spaces, usually restaurants, because supposedly you'd have less of a scene and it's neutral territory. if you were breaking up with someone in los angeles, where would it be? what restaurant and why? would you end on a high note and go someplace nice, would you go somewhere familiar because it would be easier, or would you go someplace loud so if there's a scene, no one will notice?

on the other hand, if you think you were going to be told to shove off, what restaurant would you like to be in for that final interaction? personally, i'm not sure if a fast food restaurant would be a good place, but i'm thinking it might be appropos. and put you off eating junk food anyway, so it could be a good thing.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

the dowager empress, queen of the 'b's.

empress pavilion custard tarts

i didn't want to have this photo as the header, but you know how i feel about asian restaurants with marginal health code ratings. suffice it to say, i'm more than okay with it, and apparently so are the thousands of people who throng to empress pavilion in la's chinatown.

empress pavilion is, imo, the queen of the dim sum/yum cha trolley palaces, in los angeles. there are no doubt more innovative, interesting, and tastier dim sum places in the region, but for sheer volume, consistency, and quality in the face of its popularity, it ranks right up there at the top. weekdays host a large crowd, but nothing near as much weekend brunches, where being seated 'within the hour' is considered reasonable. the crowds and waiting time can swell to the point of absurdity, but instead of eating elsewhere, i've noticed that many people will actually just start ordering dishes from the adjacent takeaway shop instead of giving up their place on the list. it is so ridiculous that my cousin and i are hatching a plot to rent the space directly across from empress pavilion--we are going to recreate their façade faithfully, down to the brass letter, only call our place "temptress pagoda." we're going to take in the overflow and/or completely confused clientele, then just run over to empress's takeaway joint and serve their dim sum in our place. bwaharrrr.

here's some tips: go for breakfast. no, really. come here at 9am, it's never crowded--it's just me and a bunch of old chinese men having their morning tea and dumplings. the selection isn't quite as varied, but it is as fresh as it's going to get. if you come when it's crowded, make nice with your waiter and you can ask for specific dishes, which he'll bring from the cart for you. maybe. or, if you are delegated to a far reaching corner, make free to leave your table and chase down a cart for what you want (don't forget to bring your ticket for trolley lady to mark). it's probably quite a bad mannered thing to do, but i haven't heard anyone complain, nor has anyone chastised me for doing so (just keep it to a minimum unless you are really, really hungry. chances are they know well enough not to mess with a famished one). grab your dessert early, especially their faboo dun tat/custard tarts--they do run out.

and now, a bunch o'thumbnails for you to click on of things i have snagged from the cart lately....

steamed dumplings:

empress pavilion char siu bao empress pavilion steamed scallop and pea shoot dumpling empress pavilion steamed scallop dumpling empress pavilion har gow empress pavilion cheong fun empress pavilion steamed scallop dumpling

char siu bao/roast pork buns--good, a little sweet, nicely fluffy; scallop with pea shoots--scallop sweet and tender, pea shoots an interesting vegetal element that adds just a bit of earthy flavour; scallop dumpling; har gow/prawn dumpling--slightly bland, but prawn nicely cooked, tender; cheong fun/minced beef with a mild seasoning in a rice noodle roll, served with a sweetened soy-based sauce--the rice rolls is not too sticky, and doesn't overwhelm the filling; scallop and prawn dumpling.

fried dumplings:

empress pavilion wu gok empress pavilion jow har gok empress pavilion prawn rolls with taro empress pavilion nori-wrapped prawns empress pavilion mango prawn roll empress pavilion pan fried pork and vegetable dumpling

wu gok/chopped pork, prawns and vegetables in deep-fried taro pastry--slightly oily, but nicely light in texture, not gummy; jow har gok/prawn turnovers in glutinous rice pastry--also slightly oily, but not gummy; an interesting prawn wrapped in rice paper roll, then garnished with a ring of fried taro pastry--the prawn was plump and juicy, but the rice wrapper slightly too dry, could have used a dipping sauce; deep-fried cigars of minced prawns wrapped in nori seaweed--excellent, very shrimpy; mango and prawns wrapped in rice paper then dipped in an egg batter and fried--sweet, tender, quite good when warm; pan fried meat and chive dumplings--slightly oily with a slightly too thick wrapper, but bursting with chives and minced pork.

non-dumpling dishes:

empress pavilion jook empress pavilion chinese broccoli empress pavilion rice in lotus leaf empress pavilion ngau yuk empress pavilion see jup pai guat empress pavilion roast duck empress pavilion char siu

congee/jook/rice porridge--this one was chock full of dried scallop and preserved vegetables, a perfect breakfast item; chinese broccoli with oyster sauce--still crispy and very green; fried rice with mushroom, prawn, chicken and roasted pork, wrapped in lotus leaf--they have the sticky rice version, but prefer this as it's not so heavy (however, it is tricky to eat); ngau yuk/steamed beef clumps--meatballs seasoned with ginger and chives, light and tasty; see jup pai guat/steamed pork ribs seasoned with black beans, garlic, salt, oil, sugar, and pepper--oily, piggy, tender and salty; roast duck-a little fatty, skin not too crisp, but the meat quite tender; char siu/roast pork--super fakey colour, a little too fatty, but not-overly seasoned and quite tender.

obviously i like this place. although there's nothing i can think of (besides the dun tat/custard tarts) i must insist upon, there's nothing on the trolleys i'd actively avoid--even the bowl of guts is pretty tasty, although heavingly large. it is solidly dependable (the guts and the restaurant). this of course, does not even begin to cover the selection--i'll be back to try the rest. maybe you'll join me?

see the flickr slide show.

empress pavilion
(in the chinatown bamboo plaza)
988 n. hill street,
los angeles 90012.