Thursday, November 30, 2006

Desserts on the Westside

Pinkberry is the latest craze in LA (or has steadily been on the rise since February 2005). It's actual frozen yogurt, either in the original or green tea flavor, with your personalized choice of toppings that range from fruit to nuts to even Korean rice cake aka "dduk". The yogurt is definitely not too sweet - it's actually more on the tangy side. My favorite so far is green tea topped with mango and blueberries. Dubbed by the LATimes as "the taste that launched 1000 parking tickets", it was founded by Hyekyung Hwang in LA and is currently branching out to several locations (now even in NYC's Ktown). There's even a copycat called Kiwiberry.

But if frozen yogurt isn't to your liking, and you'd rather go for something sweet, there's always Diddy Riese in Westwood, a few blocks away from the Westwood Pinkberry location. For $1.25, you can get your own personalized scoop of ice cream sandwiched by two yummy and incredibly soft cookies. It's still my favorite and preferred option between the two (though some friends like to argue otherwise); what can I say, I'm a loyal "foodie" and I like bargains. And if you don't mind shelling out a few more bucks, Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills offers quality cupcakes for $3.25 each. My favorite is the Red Velvet, a perfect balance of being just sweet enough without inducing potential toothaches.

Pinkberry currently has locations in Westwood, Melrose/La Brea, Ktown (6th and Berendo St), and West Hollywood (868 Huntley Drive), among others.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Intern

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LA Library Foundation Aloud Foodie Panel

The LA Library Foundation assembled an elite LA food panel of Los Angeles women chefs for their Aloud Series in the Library Mark Taper Auditorium. However, Nancy Silverton with her recent opening of Mozza Pizzeria restaurant could not break away from the kitchen. Even without Nancy Silverton, this was an opportunity to hear from Suzanne Goin (Lucques and AOC,) and the two hot tamales: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Ciudad, Border Grill, and Sonora Cafe) about the defining moments of their careers and what it was like to be a woman in the kitchen early in their careers - which usually meant the pastry chef. We also had an opportunity to hear about some of their favorite restaurants, when they want to hide out and relax away from the kitchen. Moderator, Barbara Fairchild, Editor of Bon Appetit Magazine, engaged the three in a discussion of what they had each written in the book: How I Learned to Cook.: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs (edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan).

These women have each made a major contribution to the food scene in Los Angeles with their restaurants, and have established a national identity with their respective cookbooks. They are part of a food movement that has been recently chronicled by David Kamp in his excellent book, The United States of Argula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation. Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken are mentioned in several places, and Suzanne Goin is one of many who can claim to have worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The Chez Panisse story is one of the great chapters in the book and it was also featured in Vanity Fair. When I was a graduate student at Berkeley in the mid- 1970's, Jermiah Tower was in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, and I could not afford to eat there. I did finally make it in the late 1980's and count myself as a big fan of Alice Waters (by proof of the number of her cookbooks that we own).

The Aloud foodie panel provided an opportunity for each of these trand-setting women to interact about learning to cook in their home and being a chef on the line. Each claimed that their mothers were great cooks in their homes growing up. Barbara Fairchild asked each of them what would be their fantasy restaurant which elicited the following responses: Suzanne Goin - to serve the home-style cooking of my Mexican chefs; Susan Feniger - Indian Vegetarian; and Mary Sue Milliken - an 8-seat Japanese sardine restaurant.

My wife and I have many fond memories of City Restaurant from Mary Sue and Susan, and the picture you see above is ours that they signed commemorating almost 25 years of use. The book is now out of print. Our current favorite book is Suzanne Goin's Sunday Supper at Lucques in which we have made about one-third of the recipes in the book.

A great place to buy all of these books, is the Cooks Library, and Rose, the owner of the book store, was among the many who filled the Taper Auditorium. Since we are talking about foodie books, and Nancy Silverton is the talk of the town with the opening of the first of her two new Mozza restaurants with Mario Batali, another book that is already on its way to being a classic is Bill Buford's Heat. Mario is the inspiration for Bill Buford's best selling book that chronicles his adventures in learning what it really means to be work and cook in a famous restaurant and to learn a speciality. The chapters in which Bill Buford interacts with Mario are fascinating, but the book really takes off when Bill Buford recounts learning how to make pasta in Italy, and returning to Italy to learn everyting about being a butcher.

Congrats to Suzanne Goin and David Lentz - they are expecting twins.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Downtown LA: Clifton's Brookdale

I recently had lunch with a friend at Clifton's Brookdale, one of the last remaining cafeteria eateries in Los Angeles. Situated in today's Historic Core on Historic Broadaway, the restaurant opened in 1935 and was designed with a mountain/forest-theme. Clifton founder Clifford Clinton spent his childhood summers in the Santa Cruz mountains and wanted to convey the feeling of that location in his restaurant.

The restaurant had an assorted array of foods to choose from and the restaurant's forest design is something rare to come by. The interior is unexpected given the restaurant's basic exterior. In many respects, it felt like stepping back into another place and time...which is always a great feeling when roaming through historic places.

A recent LA Times article End of the line for cafeterias discusses the history and closing of the cafeteria eateries.

For more information about Clifton's Brookdale, visit its Destination Profile on

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Saturday, November 25, 2006

LA Observed Video Blogger Covers Gold Line Tunnel Event

If you want to know what is really going on in LA, then is must reading on a daily basis. Kevin Roderick has broken new ground and brought on Jacob Sobaroff on his staff to get out and record LA with his new High Definition Video camera. Jacob made a splash recently with his excursion out to the new State Cornfield Park in which you see YouTube meets Huell Howser. In his official debut with LAobserved in the field, he interviews Mayor Villaraigosa at the Gold Line tunneling event. Even though I can link directly to the video on YouTube, please read and view it from LAobserved here. For those of you who have YouTube blocked at work, you are just going to have to watch the videos from home. My cameraphone picture shows the Gold Line construction above ground construction, as it crosses the 101 leaving Union Station.

When I first proposed to MTA to promote transit and cultural tourism in 1999 on the Internet, their response was that they only cared about work-related trips on transit. When MTA decided to fund the ExperienceLA project in 2001, they were beginning to realize that they needed to promote destinations on Metro, and thus, when ExperienceLA debuted with the opening of the Gold Line to Pasadena in July 2003, Metro was on a full marketing blitz with destinations. The Gold Line to Pasadena helped people to rediscover "main street" South Pasadena. Thus, when the Gold Line extension opens in 2010, it will bring cultural visitors to Boyle Heights who will have a chance to explore the community of today and to find reminders of JewishLA from long ago such as the Breed Street Shul.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Downtown LA: Ansel Adams at Manzanar at JANM

On Sunday I visited the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. I took the Red Line to Civic Center stop and walked a few blocks east on 1st street.

In addition to their extensive permanent exhibition about Japanese-American internment, they are currently running an exhibition of photographs by Ansel Adams at Manzanar. These photographs were compiled and featured in a book by Ansel Adams entitled Born Free and Equal. I greatly enjoyed this exhibition, as I am most familiar with Adams' work in landscape (of which there were also quite a few photographs) and it was interesting for me to see him capture people and their spirit.

Quoted excerpts from the book are also stenciled on the walls of the exhibition. Of these quotes I noted one by Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura, "I am glad my faith in America is strong enough to stand the test of evacuation." The exhibition also had a space where it showed a documentary on Manzanar that brought voice and movement to the images of Adams and it greatly moved me in its vivid portrayal of the struggles of these people at this conflicting time in American history.

The exhibition recently opened on November 11, 2006 and will run until February 18, 2007.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tift Merritt and Watkins Family (Nickel Creek) at the Largo

I am a big fan of Tift Merritt, and she was a recent guest of Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) at the Largo at 432 North Fairfax. One of my friends on Flickr from Birmingham, England tipped me off that Tift would be playing in my hometown. This person had recently posted some great photos of Tift Merritt from the Cambridge, England Music Festival. There is also some footage from the Cambridge Music Festival on Youtube. During the festival Tift met Sean and Sarah Watkins, who were also performing, and they invited her to visit them in Los Angeles and share the stage with them at their weekly show at the Largo. Tift told the audience that Sean and Sara had even taken her out surfing, and that she, could grow to like living in LA. It is definitely not North Carolina. Tift opened the show and finished her set with Sean and Sara. It was then the host turn to entertain the packed house (which can seat up to 300 according to the waitress) which included many regulars along with their parents. Tift played songs from her two CD's and other material. She expects to have her third CD out next summer, although there is a hard to find live music CD from a couple of years ago. Tift Merritt is categorized at Alt-Country, and thus, is not heard that much on Country music stations, although here in LA, KZLA is no more. You can catch her music videos on the GAC cable station, and there are several shows like Edge of Country that feature this other side of Country that does not get as much airplay on mainstream Country music stations. Please listen to Tift on her website, and buy her CD's, especially, if you've previously written-off country music.

The Largo is a dinner club that had a door charge of $15 per person, and then the requirement to spend another $15 on food plus a drink. For those not wanting to eat dinner at 9 pm, you could sit at the bar which was in the back of the room. The doors opened at 8 pm, and they immediately began taking orders. There was a very strict policy of all electronic equipment had to be off and no pictures were allowed, otherwise, I would have performance pictures posted on my Flickr site. Seeing one's favorite artist in a small venue, feels like you are at a private party. It is called the Watkins Family Hour, although the concert started around 9:30 pm, and finished shortly before midnight. The audience was treated to new material that Sean and Sara had recently written that played really well to the audience. They also reached into the way back machine to dust off an old Bob Dylan song that Judy Collins covered many years ago, and "Different Drum"a Linda Ronstadt song from her days with Stone Poneys. Sean told the audience that their new Best of CD just came out contained live tracks from many years ago which I will be buying soon.

Several times, Sara and Sean invited Tift back to the stage to perform with them and their steel guitarist, piano player, drummer, and bass player. They were all excellent muscians. Listening to Sarah play the fiddle reminds one of a young Allison Krause. In fact, Allison Krause discovered them, produced them, and introduced them to the Sugar Hill label. Several of the songs were instrumentals, that showed off Sarah skills along with her brother Sean on the guitar. The steel guitarist also had many opportunities that demonstrated his many years on the instrument.

While leaving the Largo, I asked Tift if I could take her picture, and she said sure, and thus you see the above photo taken by my wife. I can't wait to see Tift Merritt when she returns to LA for a full concert, and I also suspect that Sean and Sara will invite her back for the Watkins Family Hour which is now on my radar screen for great Thursday night acoustical entertainment. Thank you Sara and Sean for putting Tift on the Largo stage. You and your friends were wonderful together. It reminded me of the Crosssover shows on the other national Country cable station.

I will update this posting with additional links, and I did take Metro (Red Line and Rapid Bus) to ExperienceLA at the Largo.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

West LA: MOCA's Mark Rothko Exhibit at PDC

MOCA just opened their Mark Rothko exhibit at their Pacific Design Center (PDC) site on Sunday, the 5th. As fans of Mark Rothko, my friend and I decided to be cultural buddies for the day and venture out to the West LA location. Parking's available at the PDC for a flat rate of $6 on weekends, but there's plenty of metered street parking on San Vicente Blvd. and Melrose Ave. Actually, since it was a Sunday, I ended up not having to worry about parking costs at all (the free admission didn't hurt either). The exhibit presents MOCA's own monographic holdings of 8 paintings, and the museum setting is curated in a way that allows the viewer to experience the intensity and spirit in the canvases. There's a marked difference between experiencing a Rothko painting that's hung up among other contemporary works and experiencing several Rothko paintings collectively hung in one intimate room. After the exhibit, my friend and I decided to walk around the surrounding neighborhood. Walking further along Melrose, we passed by little boutiques and stores, a quirky used book store, another gallery, and cozy cafes with outdoor seating (Le Pain Quotidien and the well-known Urth Caffe) which all seemed fitting for a bizarrely warm November Sunday afternoon in Southern California. The exhibit will continue until January 21, 2007.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Intern

Monday, November 06, 2006

Downtown LA: Sunset & St. Marks Exhibit

Having just moved back to LA this past June from the Boston area, I wanted to check out the "Sunset & St. Marks"exhibit at the Standard Hotel in Downtown LA. The description of the show stated that this exhibit brings together some of the youngest and brightest talents from Los Angeles and New York (hence, the title of the show), in spite of whatever "false dichotomy" and rivalry that might exist between the two. Given that I now feel like an East Coast city girl with a Southern Californian mentality - if that even makes sense, I wanted to see what this was all about. Located in a small room on the second floor of the hotel, I found it interesting that when grouped together, I couldn't really tell which artist came from what coast. The works actually seemed to echo one another in various ways: political and urban undertones, definite usage of specific colors, themes and statements that were anything but merely pretty. Ironically, I found myself most drawn to the subtler works, maybe because they stood out in their ability to convey a statement without the sometimes overused "shock value". My other favorite was the huge collaboration work. In any case, if it's not the dichotomy that interests the public, it'll probably be the infamous statue of Britney Spears in labor, "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston" by Daniel Edwards. The exhibit will close this Thursday, November 9th.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Intern

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Club Culinaire of French Cuisine Presents Check to M.E.G Foundation

The Club Culinaire of French Cuisine donated $8,000 to the Mary Ellen Gerber Foundation for a kitchen in one of their orphanges in India. Attending was the head of French consulate in Los Angeles and a number of noteworthy French chefs from the Los Angeles area. The Club Culinaire celebrates French cooking by showcasing the many French Restaurants in greater Los Angeles County. A wonderful French brunch in the garden at The Goddess Studio Boutique in Venice, was held to mark the occaision and to raise additional funds. The desserts from Sweet Temptations, a supplier to several hotel restaurants, were incredible. In my cameraphone YouTube video Mary Ellen Gerber talks about the railway and Tsunami orphans in India, while accepting the check.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Downtown LA: Monster Massive

This past Saturday I attended Monster Massive at the LA Sports Arena. My first rave, it definitely felt like I was stepping into another world of lights, sound, culture. A couple of my close friends are ravers, so they've been hounding me to attend something for awhile, and I'm glad I did. I had a great time. Here's some pictures from the flickr pool for that event:

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator