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: