Thursday, December 29, 2011

Party hearty and smartly: free Metro rides and AAA Tipsy Tow service for New Year's Eve weekend

Many of us already have our plans made for celebrating the New Year. Some of us are still deciding - and if you happen to be in this category, might we suggest visiting the calendar for some ideas :)

Whatever your plans are, if you and your roommates are drawing straws to see who will be the sober this year, or if you simply haven't had time to think about finding a designated driver, fear not! Metro and AAA have provided some wonderful solutions for this coming weekend of merriment in Los Angeles.

Looking Back on 2011 and Running Forward to 2012

2011postAs the end of the year approaches, we look back on 2011 as documented in's blog. 

We began the year with a great honor - being named by Arts Media Contacts as an Art Blog of the Year for 2010

But it was also a year of endings.  We said good-bye to the Wilshire Grand Hotel and the Mulholland Dr. Bridge began its demolition and reconstruction project - which means we also survived round 1 of Carmageddon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Upcoming Cirque du Soleil Truck stops

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

You may have already spotted the Cirque du Soleil Truck at various locations around town, but if not, we've got some of the remaining dates to help you plan your visit. The truck is an opportunity for fans to interact, take photos, receive free Cirque gifts, purchase tickets to "OVO" and "IRIS" at an exclusive discount offer, win prizes and celebrate 25 years of Cirque du Soleil performing in Los Angeles.

The Cirque du Soleil Truck will make various stops at shopping centers, business districts, and attractions all over Southern California now through January. Keep up with the truck's scheduled appearances and updates by visiting their Facebook pages ( or or on Twitter (use #CirqueTruck). Or, you can also follow XLA's Facebook and Twitter pages and we'll give you updates as we receive them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Saying "Goodbye" to the Wilshire Grand Hotel

Wilshire Grand Hotel - Aerial View.  Photo by Charity Tran.
We all know the saying, "All good things come to an end." Alas, the time has come for us to say good-bye to our friends and wonderful partners at the Wilshire Grand Hotel. Tomorrow - December 23 - after 59 years, the hotel will bid farewell to its last guest before being demolished. Future plans for the lot include a two-tower hotel and condominium skyscraper, slated to open in 2015.

Photos: Grand Central Market

Sarita's Pupuseria - Photo by Charity Tran (intellichick)

Right before heading into a matinee showing of Miracle on 34th Street at the Million Dollar Theatre, my friend Katie and I roamed nearby Grand Central Market.  Whether you're rushing in for a quick bite, looking to do a little shopping, or just need a little down-time wandering through eclectic food stalls and neon lights, this is a Los Angeles experience worth adding to your list.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tonight: Freedom & Fashion 2011: REBIRTH Fashion Show

If you haven’t heard yet, this is the year for giving.  Of course, every holiday season includes gift giving to the ones we love, but what about giving a little freedom this season?  

Our friends at Freedom & Fashion are throwing their annual socially responsible fashion event this Saturday, December 17th.  That’s TONIGHT!  We’re talking, local LA designers presenting their fabulously eco-friendly collections, to the sounds of KCRW’s Anthony Valadez, all in the architecturally-amazing landscape of the DTLA Cooper Design Space.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alice Wallace plays Coach House on Dec. 17, win a signed CD

Courtesy of Alice Wallace
We're happy to share that we've gotten our hands on 5 copies of "Sweet Madness," the debut album from one of today's rising young artists in folk/country/blues. And, they're signed! And we're giving them away!!

Called "one to watch" by OC Music Magazine, Orange County-based singer/songwriter Alice Wallace will be opening for the Grammy-winning folk artist Shawn Colvin at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano this coming Saturday, December 17th.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Timothy B. Schmit to play Canyon Club tonight

For any Poco or Eagles fans, or fans of country music in general, check out these photos from our XLA Flickr pool taken by XLA-er Curt (after the jump). These are from Timothy B. Schmit's solo performance last Wednesday at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Schmit, best known for his work as a bass guitar player and singer in the bands Poco and The Eagles, will continue to promote his solo project with a performance tonight at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Indie LA - Shop Local!

__MG_3812I always knew our beloved city was a breeding ground for fashion, art, and the engaging of the two, but the destinations for such events seem to have grown almost overnight. that the official gift-giving season has arrived, it's the perfect time to check out the best of what LA's got to offer local-style. Here are a re-cap of the ones I've visited, plus a few more that I've got my eye on:

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Holiday Matinee: The Million Dollar Theatre & "Miracle on 34th Street" on December 4th

thumbnailimageI have holiday favorites, one is fairly stereotypical.  My favorite holiday movie is Miracle on 34th Street (it's tied with White Christmas).  There's just something about the movie's focus on believing that cheers me up every time.  My next holiday favorite is not quite so typical - though there are times I wish it was, but perhaps it would then not feel so special. 

An evening with "The Night Watcher"

A couple of weekends ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend "The Night Watcher" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (thanks to Allied Live for the comp tickets). Neither my husband nor I had ever been to KDT, and I had been considering purchasing tickets to the show anyway, so of course I jumped at the chance when it was offered.

"The Night Watcher" is a one-woman show written and skillfully performed by Tony Award nominee Charlayne Woodard. In this play, Ms. Woodard fluidly moves in and out of characters as she tells the stories of her "children" - none of which are biological, but all confide in her and trust her as a second mother (or in some instances, as their only mother-figure).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Timothy B.Schmit Bass Player for Poco and Eagles to Play Local Solo Gigs

Timothy B. Schmit of Eagles and Poco fame will be playing solo performances at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Wednesday, November 30 and at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Saturday December 3, 2011.  The picture above was taken at Stagecoach 2008 off the Mane Stage big screen, since I had decided to spend that entire performance with my wife, Karen Dinning Gibbs, rather that take pictures of the first 3 songs and then rush back to our carry-in folding chairs among the 40,000 gathered around the stage.  Below is a picture of my wife for that Friday evening performance several hours before the Eagles came on with Timothy B. Schmit playing bass who can be seen on the far left of the picture above.  In looking through Karen's Facebook pictures on a similar picture at Stagecoach, she commented on the picture that one day she hoped to be rich enough to afford the up close and personal seats and not have to be looking at the enormous video screens provided by Goldenvoice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Chinatown Thanksgiving

6322937695_c185d489b3_zTiina and I were invited to Plum Tree Inn (913 N. Broadway, Los Angeles 90012) in Chinatown to try some delectable foods for an alternative idea to Thanksgiving.  I know when we generally think of the festivities it usually involves Turkey and Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce and Stuffing - all wonderful food items for the holiday - but sometimes you want a change of pace. 

How about --

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving for those who prefer not to cook

Photo courtesy of West at Hotel Angeleno
It's that time of year: Thanksgiving. As with many things in life these days, the traditional Thanksgiving meal has received quite the makeover in recent years, especially as more and more people make lifestyle changes that impact what foods they can or choose to eat. Fortunately here in Los Angeles, there are all kinds of alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving menu, and plenty of options for those who are not so talented in the kitchen, or simply prefer not to cook.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Halloween Night Dive at the Aquarium of the Pacific

We welcome our newest staff blogger Melissa Doll!  Her first post reflects on her Halloween experience at Night Dive at the Aquarium of the Pacific!

RestavrantWhoever first decided that sea creatures and music meld together naturally deserves an award. Seriously. Somehow, even in such a party-like atmosphere amongst silly costumes galore, the true peaceful nature of the ocean and animals inside it, shone through.

This is the second year for the Night Dive at The Aquarium of the Pacific. A variation of this event (Shark Lagoon Nights) is a monthly occurrence that has been present for years although (sadly) never quite making it to the top of my to-do list, until now. Add LA band favs, Restavrant and Free Moral Agents, 3 additional dj's, a local art show, and a free dress-up photo booth, and this was definitely worth the drive to the LBC to see what the hype was about.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Over 50% off on final two USC Trojans home football games

USC Trojan
USC Trojan by Mark Luethi
For all of our USC and college football fans, has partnered up with ScoreBig to offer our readers a chance to attend the two remaining USC Trojans home games at more than 50% off regularly priced tickets.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fall in Los Angeles

Fall Sky in LA
Fall Sky in LA by Lucyrk in LA
Fall for me always officially starts the day after Halloween. Maybe the lingering sounds of the rustling leaves as trick-or-treaters were out and about the night before has something to do with it. I think my favorite part about fall is the abundance of warm colors all around. It helps to ease the chill from the cooler air.

Friday, October 28, 2011's "Epic Ticket Giveaway": IMMORTALS World Premiere presented in RealD 3D has been generously provided 4 pairs of tickets to giveaway to the 'IMMORTALS' world premiere presented in RealD 3D. The film is directed by Tarsem Singh and stars Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Freida Pinto, John Hurt and Mickey Rourke. The premiere takes place at the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live on Monday, November 7th at 7:30PM.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Multi-sensory night: The Los Angeles Bach Festival Prism Concert

I came for the lights and I got a whole lot more. Last friday night, I headed to the Prism Concert of the 78th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival with expectations of fancy technical artistry with lights, but came out with a full appreciation of Bach's musical genius - and much more!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Transit Space combines skateboarding and dance

(Photo by Randall Bass)
When I first heard about L.A.-based and world-renowned Diavolo Dance Theater's resident project at the Music Center, I knew I had to learn more. Skateboarding and dance - how does that work? Similar to MOCA's summer exhibit, Art in The Streets, Transit Space takes an American subculture sometimes frowned upon, and injects it into the world of - for lack of a better word - highbrow art.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The World Comes to Luckman Fine Arts Complex

Truly, the best thing about working with is all the amazing and exciting events we come across on a daily basis. Especially as a new mom, many of these events have taken on new meaning for me as they provide an opportunity to share an experience with my young daughter and witness her reaction as she takes in the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cirque du Soleil: IRIS at the Kodak Theatre - Fantastic Fantasy in Reel-ity

Acrobatic feats with special effects live camera feed in
the background are what make this show stand out!
I’ve been a long-time Cirque du Soleil fan, but always seem to miss the touring shows. Now that IRIS – the Los Angeles resident Cirque du Soleil show at the Kodak theatre – is in town, I jumped at the chance to see it. This time, I brought a friend, and newbie to Cirque du Soleil shows, and we had a blast.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde...

Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde on Bites and Booze Radio Show
Sometimes the ExperienceLA blog becomes ExperienceLouisiana when there is a Los Angeles connection, and "Meanwhile, Back at Cafe du Monde..." straddles both LAs. Producer and creative director Peggy Sweeney-McDonald is from Louisiana and lives in Los Angeles. On Wednesday she taped a talk radio show with Jay Ducote for radio and Internet broadcast on the Bites and Booze show for Saturday 3 pm west coast time to discuss the upcoming performance of Meanwhile Back at Cafe du Monde... at Boutin's in Baton Rouge that features a local cast of chefs and personalties connecting with food.

Also in the broadcast booth and on part of the Baton Rouge cast was General Russel Honore who played such a pivotal role during Katrina coordinating military relief efforts. Calling into the show was Paul Arigo, CEO for Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau., who is also part of the Baton Rouge cast. I was in the broadcast booth taking pictures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CicLAVia Photos

I just happened to be near a part of the the CicLAVia route on Sunday.  It was a great turn out of all ages, pedestrians, and cyclists alike.  Check out the photos below!

CicLAViaCicLAVia Stop and Stare

"TwEat" to win tickets to exclusive after party with nation's best chefs

A chance to hang out with some of the country's top chefs? No, this is not some new reality chef show, and you won't need to prepare any special dishes. All you need is a Twitter account and follow @experienceLA to enter our "TwEat to Win" ticket giveaway! Read on for details.

Monday, October 10, 2011

L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade Stand: A Decadent Chefs Cookout

In the world of art and culture (and especially here in Los Angeles), we encounter many things that inspire us. At, we've recently been inspired and touched by the story of one little girl, Alexandra "Alex" Scott. (Details on how you can donate and help XLA raise funds are at the end of this story)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rainy Day L.A. (Photos)

Oh L.A. - when it rains, it pours.when traffic is concerned.  But the shift from sun to rain can be pretty spectacular and we have some photos from our ExperienceLA Flickr Pool to prove it!


Rain Splatter LA by intellichick

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A retrospective of Los Angeles arts and artists (Pacific Standard Time: Art In L.A. 1945-1980)

One of the largest collaborative art projects in Southern California officially kicked off last weekend. Pacific Standard Time: Art In Los Angeles 1945-1980 is a long overdue project that celebrates Los Angeles' contribution to and impact on the arts and popular culture. Over 60 museums and cultural venues are joining forces across Southern California (from Berkeley to San Diego) to share with the world the significant works, artforms and artists that this era in L.A. has produced.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy National Coffee Day (Photos)

Happy National Coffee Day, friends! Stay caffeinated and enjoy a look at the coffee experience from the perspective of our awesome ExperienceLA Flickr Pool!

Joan's on Third - Coffee Mug

Joan's on Third by JohnyRokkit

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vince Gill's All for the Hall Fundraising Efforts in LA for Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Country music star Vince Gill who was recently re- elected President of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville for the 10th consecutive year and brought his All for the Hall guitar pull fundraiser on September 13, 2011 to Club Nokia for the second year in a row. The purpose of this fundraising effort is to support ongoing programming at the Nashville cultural facility to help preserve the legacy of this vital form of American music so that future shows such as the Bakersfield Sound opening in March 2012 (narrated by Dwight Yoakim) are possible. For now enjoy  my Dwight Yoakim Grammy Museum picture set and I also saw Dwight in a dynamite performance at Stagecoach 2008; so seeing this exhibit will be reason enough to visit Nashville again. In addition, executives from the Country Music Hall of Fame had a chance to tell the audience of their $75 million capital campaign to significantly enlarge the museum and to add major performance space. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville is already reason enough for a visit; but this expansion of the museum and addition of a music venue will make it the premiere music museum in the USA if not the world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Should Have Gone Metro: The Kodak Theatre

Hollywood & Highland

As a carless Angeleno, I don't often have this feeling - that twinge of regret that I should have taken the Metro bus or rail somewhere, but I had this feeling the other week and I'm surprised the drivers of Los Angeles don't have this feeling more often. 

I was headed to see Iris by Cirque du Soleil at the Kodak Theatre with a friend.  When I meet anyone for anything near Hollywood/Highland, I generally say "I'll meet you there."


The Metro Red Line stop at Hollywood/Highland practically drops me off there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ExperienceLA Special Offer: Get discounted tickets to "The Magic of Ivan Amodei"

Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) said that "Magic is science we don't understand yet." Perhaps that's the allure of magic. It captivates, makes us wonder, but most of all entertains audiences.

For a limited time, readers have the opportunity to see "The Magic of Ivan Amodei: Intimate Illusions" for only $29 when you use the promo code "experienceLA29" to purchase your tickets (original ticket price is $70). Accompanied by a concert cellist, audiences will experience magic happening mere feet from them in an Italian Renaissance setting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free Like Me to Play Chinatown Moon Festival on Saturday Night

If you missed the two Saturdays of Chinatown Summer Nights, or had so much fun, you want more, this Saturday night is the 73rd Annual Moon Festival featuring Eddie Lin from Deep End Dining as host on the chef cooking stage. And for the first time ever, a non-Asian band will play the Festival, and that is a story onto itself. Last Saturday, Free Like Me that features Lucy Gallant from Australia and Daniel Urbina from Venezuela came to Chinatown with their videographer to gather footage for their music video. What they didn't know was that they had come upon Chinatown Summer Nights, a festival that the Downtown News had given special recognition to earlier this year for transforming three Chinatown summer evenings back in 2011.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Restoration of the Great Wall of Los Angeles

Almost everyday this past summer, I've watched as multiple artists have gone down into the Tujunga Wash that runs by my neighborhood to patiently restore the mural known as the longest mural in the world: The Great Wall of Los Angeles.

The mural is painted along a half-mile stretch of the wash that is located on Coldwater Canyon Ave. between Burbank Blvd. and Oxnard St. It depicts historic US events and figures, including those specific to CA and Los Angeles. The project, started in 1976, is an initiative of SPARC, a community-based non-profit arts organization. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

CicLAvia Invites L.A. to Play in the Streets

mom-daughter-cropFrom 10am to 3pm on Sunday, October 9th 2011, CicLAvia will create a free fun family festival on ten miles of Los Angeles streets. By removing cars, the streets are transformed into a temporary park - a wondrous, safe, family-friendly place. CicLAvia welcomes folks of all ages, interests, and every kind of non-automotive transit imaginable - from sneakers to skate to bikes to wheelchairs. Dogs, on leash, are also welcome. CicLAvia is magical. All kinds of Angelenos come together and they're all smiling!

Support L.A.'s biggest block party with its Kickstarter Campaign!  CicLAvia will be raising funds online until September 14th!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Alice Wallace to Play Hard Rock Hollywood on Thursday Night

Alice Wallace at The Mint who will soon be in the studio with a slew of country songs
I met Alice Wallace, a rising alt-country/rocker/blues talent, when she played right before the Greencards at The Mint several months ago (which was covered on the ExperienceLA blog), and felt I was seeing an emerging artist. What was interesting about that night was that here was The Greencards, a Grammy nominated nouveau bluegrass band promoting and producing themselves. since they had been dropped by their record label. The Greencards raised enough funds through their friends, fans, and family to produce their Bricks CD which is tracking very well on the Americana charts as they tour America. They are their own boss.

But back to Alice Wallace who is appearing at the Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe on Thursday night, September 8, 2011 from 10 pm to midnight, and there is no charge for the music. She refers to this as a semi-acoustical set, and will be joined by her band. You can discover Alice Wallace on your own at her brand new website, which she just launched to promote her debut full length CD that she is finishing off in the recording studio. What intrigued me was that she used Kickstarter which is actually owned by to finance her studio time. The way Kickstarter works is that you decide how much money you want to raise and the time period, and then appeal to your friends to donate for the cause. If you don't hit your goal, then the pledges are not collected.

There are aspects of Alice Wallace that remind me of early Tift Merritt, and then her yodeling song, is not just channelling Patsy Cline, but would remind one of the spirit of The Dead Ringer Band when Kasey Chambers was a teenager. Incidentally, Randy Lewis, the LA Times music critic just reviewed and praised Kasey's current CD release "Little Bird" and I would suggest that it be sampled, as it is tracking near the top of the Americana charts at number 4. Kasey Chambers in the Little Bird CD in some ways shows a mature Kasey Chambers returning to her Americana roots.

So if looking to stay out late on Thursday night, take the Red Line to Hollywood getting off at the Hollywood and Highland station, and be entertained by Alice Wallace and her band at the Hard Rock Cafe. Wouldn't it be something if her guitar made it on the wall one day. Here are my pictures as a slideshow of Alice playing at The Mint in very difficult lighting conditions ( and for those with an iPad, the link is here:

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Mobility 21 Regional Transportation Conference and QR Tags

Metro QR Tag Real Time Bus signage

On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, at the LA Live JW Marriott, the six County Region that comprises SCAG will meet under the auspices of the Mobility 21 partnership which was created to bring more federal transportation dollars into the region. A top priority for the region is America Fast Forward that began as Mayor Villaraigosa's 30-10 plan whose purpose was to pledge Prop R funds for accelerating the Metro approved 30 year Proposition R capital program into getting done in 10 years. In our current economic climate where one needs to create jobs, fast tracking these major capital projects and their related construction jobs is a great idea.

The ExperienceLA project will be covering the Mobility 21 conference on Twitter (follow us @experienceLA) and will be using the hashtag of #mobility21 along with whatever hashtag the organizers promote. The conference is sold out, so one way to get an understanding of the discussion is to follow on Twitter. Most likely Steve Hymon, who tweets and blogs for Metro on Metro's The Source will be there posting tweets along with other social media advocates. ExperienceLA was funded by Metro through a competitive process in 2001 for the novel idea at the time to use the Internet to promote public transit and cultural destinations in Los Angeles. ExperienceLA has worked with over 2,000 cultural organizations encouraging such organizations to make sure that transit instructions show up on their site, and on ExperienceLA, one can find such cultural destinations, and instantly retrieve from the Metro Trip Planning server, the required transit instructions.

The ExperienceLA project also was a very early adopter of the use of social media to promote cultural tourism and transit in Los Angeles, and Metro itself is making great use of such tools. One example that was recently launched by Metro is the use of Nextbus real time transit information coupled with the use of QR (Quick Response) tags as shown in the picture above. Metro currently has deployed 1,000 of these, and hopes to over time have them at most of the 15,000 Metro bus stops in Los Angeles County. The way it works is that using your smartphone and using an application that is now being preloaded on many phones, or you go to the Android or Apple application store, and download for free the required software. Then with the application open, you proceed like taking a photo, and up will come information on the next buses arriving at that stop. This is much easier than prior technologies tested by Metro. It works because there are GPS tracking devices on all of the Metro buses. It is quick, easy, and reliable.

Almost six years ago, I started writing, and had it published in the Main Street monthly journal a major article discussing WiFi, mobile devices, and locational services which was presented at the June 2006 Main Street conference in New Orleans. Based upon the chatter in various blogs, the article discussed the advent of "smartphones" with features very similar to what became the Apple iPhone that was announced by Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007 and launched in June 29, 2007. In the Main Street journal article, I thought about all of the different things that could be loaded onto an iPod and especially wireless and locational services. When I wrote the article, I had a Nokia Tablet which was a relative hot seller in Europe (and a novelty in America) that gave me WiFi Internet access, and it replaced my Dell Axim which also did the same. Right now I use my Motorola Android (bought on launch day November 6, 2009) and Google transit application to obtain the scheduled information, while thinking about what MetroRail or buses to catch, including Long Beach Transit.

I was invited back to present at the Main Street Chicago conference in March 2009 in which we brought a Los Angeles panel to discuss social media in downtown Los Angeles with a focus on the Downtown Art Walk. I had a chance to attend a session to hear about how several Main Street programs were having to think about different approaches in the implementation of Main Street programs in Spanish speaking areas of the United States. At one particular session, one of the speakers stated how important it was for stores to put their phone numbers on the store window, since low cost mobile phones were becoming so important to the Latino community. I then interjected in this session that what this means is that the Apple and Android smartphones are going to completely change how lower income individuals communicate, as they will have access to the Internet with them at all times, and this will many times be their only access to the Internet.

This is why the Metro investment in the QR tag signs is a smart move, as Lucy Hood from the USC Marshall School of Business, wrote in the August 29, 2011 Wall Street Journal about how smartphones are closing the digital divide. Thus, smartphones will be everywhere, and thus the QR tag technology deployed by Metro as it spreads across the County and the universal adoption of such phones with these most basic tools, will be of benefit to all income levels in Los Angeles. And we will begin to see businesses with a QR code sign on their window, so that someone can easily bring up the website for the business.

Friday, September 02, 2011

LA230: Celebrating Los Angeles' 230 birthday with over 200 events

Olvera Street Mural "Blessing of the Animals" On September 4, 1781, 11 families escorted by 4 soldiers and their families, traveled 9 miles from The San Gabriel Mission and founded a little pueblo on what is now known as Olvera Street. 230 years later, that little pueblo has grown into an enormous metropolis that millions today call home: Los Angeles.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

September Literary Picks

Culver Reads The Call

I was just talking to someone the other day about how great it is to disconnect from technology every once in awhile.  That kind of mindset always takes me back to books.  I wonder what I should buy on my Amazon Kindle app for my iPad - sigh - okay, how about some great events this month that feature literary stuff instead? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Photos: Chinatown Views

6077806811_b3bef8beed_mI found myself visiting Chinatown the last few weekends.  Inspired by the variety of public art, people, and food of one of my favorite cultural neighborhoods, the following is a collection of my instagram photos posted on our ExperienceLA Flickr Pool.

Make sure to check out Chinatown Summer Nights (August 27th & September 10th) for your own adventure.  Try to Go Metro to Chinatown!  It's home to a number of major bus lines, right by Union Station, and has its own Gold Line Metro Stop!  -Charity Tran

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New chef focuses menu on local ingredients at West Restaurant & Lounge

Food is something I can always get excited about. As a foodie, I find myself quite fortunate to live in Los Angeles. Nowhere else can I think of where cuisines from all parts of the world are so easily accessible. I can travel the globe on a culinary journey without leaving Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Angeleno)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Los Angeles culture goes extreme: Xtreme Sports lesson package giveaway

(Photo: ZJ Boarding House bench in Santa Monica courtesy of LocalPAGES)

As you know, we at are big advocates of local arts, culture and trying out new things in Los Angeles. So, when our friends at LocalPAGES (an L.A.-based online directory for small businesses) asked us to help spread the word about their summer promotion, we were happy to support them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Upcoming Zydeco and Cajun Dancing in LA


Well for those who missed the Long Beach Crawfish Festival and the other Zydeco/Cajun and Mardi Gras festivals in Long Beach and elsewhere, there is a chance to join hundreds of others to dance to Zydeco and Cajun music at the Music Center Plaza on Friday night August 26 from 6:30 pm to 10 pm. This free event is back by popular acclaim and for those who haven't participated before, put this on your calendar. This is one of many free Music Center events during the summer on the plaza. Even if you have never done this form of dancing, don't worry, there will be free lessons to help you learn and overcome any anxiety. Purpose is to have fun and be part of this gathering.

And if you are looking for a low cost family event revolving around cajun/zydeco music, then you are in luck, as the LA County Arts Commission has such an event at the Ford Amphitheatre the next day after the Music Center on the morning of August 27. Children under 12 are free and adults are $5. The kids will get to dance and have fun listening an interacting with Lisa Hadley and the Zydekats

If you are already a fan of this music genre and are looking for a regular fix, then offers up live Zydeco/Cajun music every month in Long Beach on the second Sunday. The $10 cost of admission covers the cost of the band which sometimes are musicians on the road from Louisiana, and on those times, the cost is $15. Before the night begins at 4:30 pm, there are free dance lessons. This past Sunday, there were 30 people that showed up early to get the free dance lessons from Karen Redding who is also part of the Music Center Plaza event. Here are performance pictures that I took from this past Sunday's event featuring David Sousa & The Zydeco Mudbugs. Watch the ExperienceLA events calendar for these upcoming sessions for September, October, November , December and beyond.

If you have been to the various Lousiana-related events in the Los Angeles over the years, and are a big fan of zydeco and cajun music, then maybe it is time to visit Louisiana and get beyond New Orleans and their Jazz Festival. One of the great festivals for Zydeco/Cajun music and regional food is the annual free Festival des Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette, Louisiana from October 14 -16, 2011. Here is a link to pictures I took from several years ago at this major regional music and food festival in Louisiana.

Now if you want to know where to go in the Los Angeles area for authentic Lousiana cooking without waiting for the festival circuit, well that will be a future ExperienceLA blog post. I do have my favorites for Oyster Po'Boy sandwiches, but for now here is one from Traxx Restaurant at Union Station.

Po'boy at Traxx at union station

Friday, August 12, 2011

Curing Raw Green Olives from the Farmers Market

Paso Robles' Peacock Family Farms raw manzanilla olives at Hollywood Farmers Market

ExperienceLA has promoted and provided a Los Angeles Farmers Market database since inception. Over the last three years, my wife and I have bought raw Manzanilla green olives from Paso Roble’s Scott Peacock, owner of Peacock Family Farms during the Fall months. Scott has been coming to the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market since inception and can also be found at the Santa Barbara Saturday Farmers Market. The first year we bought one pound of raw olives, then the second year we bought 3 pounds, and then this past year we bought an entire flat of 27 pounds. We wanted to cure these olives without using lye and we looked at our curing/preserving cookbooks and checked out what was on the Internet.

The first year we started small and worked our way up to the larger quantities. Frankly, we were a bit intimated about doing this, and the purpose of this posting is to offer encouragement on home curing of raw green olives that you might find at your local farmers market beginning in October and later. Raw olives need to be cured, and are not ready until then. Otherwise, they are bitter, and the brining will leach out the bitterness. These curing recipes go back hundreds and even thousands of years. With no refrigeration, one needed methods to preserve food, and salt was always a favorite.

For our basic brining recipe, we settled on a recipe from Karen Solomon’s “Jam it, pickle it, cure it and other cooking projects” published by Ten Speed Press in 2009. When you go on the Internet, you can find recipes that even call for changing out the water on a daily basis without the use of salt. But here are the basics from Karen Solomon:

One cup of kosher salt to one gallon of cool water

Wash the olives and place a slit in each olive. This can be time consuming depending on how many olives you bought

Place olives in a glass container with a lid. Make sure the olives are completely submerged. One way to do this is to fill a small plastic bag with water which will push the olives below the water. Store in a cool dark place, check weekly, stir, and skim the scum from the top.

Olives will be ready to eat in 6 – 8 weeks but can keep curing for many more months. When you are ready to stop the curing, then change out the salt brine liquid by changing the kosher salt and water ratio to a half cup of kosher salt to one gallon of water and refrigerate. Once you have diluted the water, the curing process has stopped. So taste the olives, if they are still bitter, then keep curing.

This is the essence of the Karen Solomon recipe. Once the olives are ready to eat, they can be eaten as is or fancied up. But more on this later, as the following are some additional comments on curing based on our own experience.

When researching recipes on the Internet, we noted that some people had one changing out the brine on a weekly basis, while others might suggest a change of the brine every month. We noticed that the initial salt brine really accelerated the leaching of the bitterness in the initial week. In fact one time, we noticed that it had actually produced some bubbles. Karen Solomon did not have one changing out the brine liquid, but we changed it out every month or so. Olives being stored in a salt brine in a cool dark place can keep for six months or so.

Other Internet recipes had you smash the olives to speed up the curing process. We found that patience is the best virtue, as someone even suggested that we try pitting the olives to speed it up. Yes it did speed it up, but the flavor was not as full.

So since we had cured 27 pounds of olives, and we were not likely to consume or give them all away in six months, we did set aside 10 pounds for pressure canning so as to extend the shelf life and not require refrigeration. This process ends up cooking the olives to some degree and they are similar but much better than any canned green olives you might purchase at the store.

But the fun part is flavoring the cured olives after being removed from the curing liquid, and one can use your imagination to come up with your own variations. This year we did the following three different flavors all packing the cured olives in a quality virgin olive oil and then refrigeration. But don’t get alarmed when you see what happens to the olive oil while in the refrigerator. Just take it out, and once at room temperature looks like olive oil again.

So here are three of our recipes from this year, you can experiment with the amount of the flavorings as you put the cured green olives without the brine in quality olive oil using canning jars or plastic containers:

· Mix the cured green olives in olive oil with garlic, rosemary, a few chili peppers, and lemon peel version. Refrigerate making sure that the olives are covered with the olive oil.

· Mix the cured green olives in olive oil with a couple of teaspoons of liquid smoke for smoked olives. Refrigerate making sure that the olives are covered with the olive oil. Note I did try smoking the olives in a barbecue, but one needs to have it at a really low heat, otherwise the olives cook.

· Mix the cured green olives in olive oil with a a couple of tablespoons of herb de provence. Refrigerate making sure that the olives are covered with the olive oil.

Anyway, Scott Peacock and his helpers have been fascinated by what we have done with their Paso Robles green manzanilla olives. And for those who might want to learn more about olives, one can check out the Paso Robles Olive festival on August 20 or ride the Metro Gold Line into Pasadena to visit the Beyond the Olive store or ride the Metro Blue Line into Long Beach transferring to the Long Beach Transit Passport to Belmont Shore to visit We Olive that incidentally had its origin in Paso Robles .

Curing Olives in Salt Brine

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Be the first to taste Joel Gott Wine's latest collection at West Restaurant & Lounge

Foodies and wine enthusiasts will have an opportunity to meet Joel Gott of Joel Gott Wines when he debuts his latest collection at West Restaurant & Lounge.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Acrobats and Performance Art at Cirque du Soleil IRIS and Lucent Dossier Experience

The ExperienceLA blog recently covered the press previews for the opening of Cirque du Soleil IRIS at the Hollywood Kodak Theatre and Lucent Dossier Experience at the Downtown LA Palace Theatre on Broadway. Over the last two weeks, I had the chance to see both of their complete performances. Both are must see acrobatic and performance art creations for both residents and visitors alike. Cirque du Soleil is in for a long run at the Kodak Theatre, while Lucent Dossier at this time was a single sold out performance at the recently renovated Palace Theatre.

The performance of Lucent Dossier Experience reminded me of the rawness of Cirque du Soleil when they first came to Los Angeles in 1986 for their North American premiere as a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. If my memory serves me correctly, they set up their tent in the City of LA owned parking lot near what is now the Geffen Contemporary, and then their next visit to Los Angeles was a tent in the parking lot adjacent to the Santa Monica pier. Is it a coincidence that the Trapeze School of New York's Los Angeles location is on Santa Monica Pier? Cirque du Soleil has created an entire industry for acrobats, gymnasts, trapeze artists, and dancers. In fact the number of jobs being created at the Kodak Theater most likely exceeds any original estimate when the facility was built as part of the original Hollywood and Highland Project. The overall economic impact for Hollywood is significant with Cirque du Soleil now in residence.

Lucent Dossier's offices and rehearsal facility is located in the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District. Los Angeles itself has a long history of acrobatics and showcasing champion gymnasts at the original Muscle Beach near the Santa Monica pier. Thus, in watching those flying through the air for both of these cirques, I remember before there was a Cirque du Soleil, seeing amazing acrobatic stunts at a 1970 (approximate date) Pasadena City College sponsored gymnastics open competition that encouraged the best gymnasts of the area to compete. Word was out that Mark Davis from Southern Illinois University would be the first one in the world to throw a triple from the high bar in an official competition. Comments in the crowd was that this was like bringing the circus into a gymnastics competition. Speaking of a circus, Mark Davis later surprised the audience while on the rings with his clown routine. With gasps of concern from the crowd before they realized it was a comedy stunt, Mark Davis entertained the crowd, once they realized it was comedy. Mark Davis would continue to do the clown ring routine at other competitions. Little did people realize that the development of these skills in competitive gymnastics and acrobatics that would form the basis for what now entertains us from Cirque du Soleil and even Lucent Dossier, and even the use of humor folded into acrobatics.

I was even surprised to find that you can see Mark Davis doing his clown ring routine on this YouTube video from 1977 near the end of the sequence. With regard to the building of human pyramids, which is a major feature to the Hollywood Cirque IRIS show, again the original Muscle Beach near the Santa Monica Pier has a long history of such feats, including this rather modest one when compared to Cirque du Soleil that I captured several years back. And you can even find this clip of Mark Davis throwing a a quad from the swinging rings at Muscle Beach from the late 1960s. The Venice historical books and those of Muscle Beach show some of the Muscle Beach acrobatic pictures from the 1940s onwards including those with Jack Lalanne participating in the human pyramids.

Up until the Palace Theatre performance, Lucent Dossier had earned its reputation performing at Burning Man and Coachella, although many had seen them perform at the Edison in Downtown LA. Neither of which I had attended, and thus it took the Palace Theatre performance to showcase these local talented performers so that I and I suspect hundereds of others could also discover them. With people still talking about Lucent Dossier on social media channels, I would hope that Dream Rockwell who runs (and performs in) Lucent Dossier is working on the possibility of a return engagement at the Palace Theatre.

Here is a link to the pictures that I previously took at the Cirque du Soleil IRIS press event, and below are embedded links to my latest picture sets as skude shows for Lucent Dossier that will have to hold you over until their next performance. Due to the swift movement and lighting conditions, these are not the easiest images to capture.

This first set are pictures taken outside and inside the Palace Theatre before the show began:

The second set is the first half of Lucent Dossier Experience:

And then the second half of the show, including the curtain call, and Dream Rockwell thanking the audience:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lucent Dossier Experience Plays Palace Theatre on Thursday Night

Unless you already know the downtown Los Angeles based Lucent Dossier you may be wondering what all the excitement is about regarding their show at the newly renovated Palace Theatre on Broadway on Thursday evening, July 28th. Having a chance to watch a couple of scenes from a dress rehearsal of the Lucent Dossier Experience show (and tickets are still available) brought back memories of other great performance art. A decade ago I stumbled upon the Certaldo International Festival of Street Artists, one of the premiere festivals in Italy featuring the best streets artists from all over Europe coming to perform in this medieval Tuscan town. The Certaldo festival organizers were proud of having collected the best of European performance artists featuring actors, musicians, jugglers, fire acts, acrobatics, etc. and bringing it all to the medieval center of this Tuscan hilltop town reachable by a funicular railway. But you don't need to travel to Italy, you can discover this same range of talents at the historic Palace Theatre on Broadway on Thursday for a one night show of the Lucent Dossier Experience.

Thus, I felt transported to another time and place watching these talented performance artists showing up on the Palace Theatre stage that dates itself to an era of Al Jolson and other vaudeville acts from the early 1900s. This 1,000 seat venue that recently played to four sellout crowds of Sunset Blvd from the Los Angeles Conservancy Last Remaining Seats is a perfect venue to become engrossed in the myriad talents that will be displayed on this stage. The music showcasing violins was captivating. As I write this, there are still tickets available, and check out this show that starts at 8:30 pm. There is plenty of time to eat at one of the many new trendy restaurants in downtown Los Angeles, and you can even ride our own Angels Flight funicular railway to the top of Cal Plaza while exploring the downtown renaissance. Then arrive early for the performance and explore the Palace Theatre and think what the future of Bringing Back Broadway will bring using this great performance space.

Here is a link to some of the pictures I took at Lucent Dossier Experience press preview, but not including the even more spectacular use of fire pictures, so that the audience can be surprised on Thursday night. But after Thursday, I will share a few.