Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ode to Lawry's Beef Marinade*

As a general rule, I try to avoid convenience foods. You know...the increasingly dangerous American obesity epidemic and all. That whole thing.

But I, like most young single professionals that I know, do not have time on my side. I work a 50-60 hour workweek, and at least one weekend a month. So for those very reasons, I like pre-chopped veggies and bagged salad. I'm thankful for the companies out there that make fresh pasta and put it in the refrigerator section at my local supermarket so that I don't have to make it myself. But in my defense, I do think Cool Whip is an abomination.

Normally, I don't like pre-packaged marinades. I know there are people out there that swear by Lipton's Onion Soup Mix. (I also know that my mother has always and will always have at least two boxes of the stuff in her pantry, but will mysteriously be out every time she actually needs it.) But not me, and not until I found this stuff: Lawry's Beef Marinade.

It's so tasty. It takes less than 15 minutes. It's great on the BBQ, and in the broiler. I love it. And, it costs $1.44. That's practically free. There's no reason for anyone not to keep it around the house!

*I have absolutely no idea why I felt it necessary to write a rave review for Lawry's Beef Marinade!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Everyone is doing it

Everyone is talking about it, blogging about it, reading about it, writing about it.

It is Pizzeria Mozza, and it is good.

I’m not going to even discuss the comparisons to NY style pizza, and whether or not it’s the best pizza you’ll find short of a vacation in Napoli. In this carb-conscious town, there is a shortage of good pizzerias, and when you find one, it’s my firm belief that any smart Angeleno should appreciate it and tell no one. But its too late for that, so I’m amending my statement. Any smart Angeleno will leave the CPK vs. Chicago-style vs. NY-style argument to the snobbish foodies and start crank-calling the restaurant and name-dropping with gusto to get their next reservation.

As everyone already knows, Pizzeria Mozza is the brainchild of Mario Batali (Food Network supa-stah) and Nancy Silverton, the lady of Campanile/La Brea Bakery and my own personal goddess of cheese. They took their love of rustic Italian blah blab blah and were looking for a location with a wood-burning oven blah blab blah to create a casual blah blab blah dining experience. On to the food!

We ordered everything we were supposed to, and then some. We started with one (which rapidly became two) orders of the fried squash blossoms. They were stuffed with ricotta and what I believed to be burrata mozzarella, then deep-fried in a light, tempura-like batter. The stuffing wasn’t overwhelmingly flavorful, but it was tasty. We also had the white bean bruschetta, which oddly came with just three toasts. I think it odd because in my experience, people tend to dine in pairs. It ended up being fine, but it was a touch odd and barely worth mentioning. The four of us ordered four different pizzas, and then swapped a slice of each with one another so everyone tasted all four pizzas. While we may not have been the first person to think of this, at the time the idea felt like we were teetering on the edge of brilliance.

Pizza 1: goat cheese, bacon, leeks and caramelized garlic
Pizza 2: Fennel Sausage, Panna, & Red Onion
Pizza 3: arugula & speck
Pizza 4: burrata mozzarella (and probably some other stuff, too)

Guess which one was mine? I’m a bacon lover to the bitter core. And although no one was playing “who ordered the best dish” except me, I totally won. I actually had a serious case of “food envy” as I saw my dining companions devour my pizza.

My favorite part of the night came when I realized that I’d eaten two fried squash blossoms, half a bruschetta, four pieces of pizza and drunk 1 ½ glasses of wine and still had room for dessert. So we did what anyone would do – ordered two orders of the notorious butterscotch pudding, a fig crostata and the yogurt gelato soffiata. The fig crostata was, in Bri’s words, “the best Fig Newton you’ve ever had,” but a Fig Newton nonetheless. The yogurt gelato was tart and creamy, but I could have done without the soggy profiteroles. And the butterscotch pudding…with just a slight sprinkling of salt…. Uh, yeah. Wow.

It is Pizzeria Mozza, and it is good. Go, if you can.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Friday, December 08, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"She was what we used to call a suicide blond - dyed by her own hand."

- Saul Bellow (June 11, 1915 - April 5, 2005)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nook Bistro

Who doesn't like a restaurant with a sense of humor?

Nook Bistro in West LA redefines "hole-in-the-wall." Like Lou on Vine, Nook is virtually impossible to find. I always think I know exactly where it is, but as I drive east on Santa Monica Blvd, I always find myself slowing at each strip center I pass, craning my neck to see if this one or that one is the right one.

While I've only been there twice, both visits have justified a return trip. I believe the menu changes fairly regularly, but the chicken paillard and the Nook burger seem to remain popular items. I've never had the burger, but I did salivate like Pavlov's dog every time one exited the kitchen. (Curse you, Weight Watchers!)

To quickly summarize Nook Bistro: the food is well-prepared, the portions generous and the price reasonable. That's reason enough to go back to a restaurant or to recommend it to a friend. However, I'll go back to Nook Bistro because on both visits I've gotten great service.

I cannot stress enough how rare it is to get good service in Los Angeles. Blame it on the overabundance of actors/comedians/dancers/writers/mimes all trying to make it big in Hollyweird. Blame it on the heat, blame it on the rain. Just whatever you do, don't put the blame on you.

I'm sorry, I got distracted for a moment.

Back to eating at Nook Bistro. On my first visit, the place was packed and my friend and I could barely get in the door. After forcing our way in, we were standing somewhat near the wee little bar, which was 5 people deep with diners and drinkers waiting for tables. The bartender grabbed two wine lists and found us, and spent just a few minutes going over the list with us before making a couple of suggestions and taking our order. Is that remarkable service? Not really. But it is good service to ensure that customers that are waiting an indefinite period of time are at least happy. My second visit was similar. No long lines this time, but still the same cheerful, friendly waitstaff that took the time to go over the menu with us, make suggestions and not hurry us along. It makes for an altogether enjoyable dining experience.

But then again, what else would you expect from a guy who's "stage name" is Red Fang?

Monday, November 13, 2006

blonde fact of the day

Facts about being blonde taken from wikipedia.org:

The word blond was first attested in English in 1481 and derives from Old French blont and meant "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut".

The French (and thus also the the English word) has 2 possible origins. Some linguists say it comes from Middle Latin Blundus, meaning yellow, others say it comes from Old Frankish *blund which would relate it to Old English blonden-feax meaning grey-haired, from blondan/blandan meaning to mix. Also, Old English beblonden meant dyed as ancient Germanic warriors were noted for dying their hair. The linguists who support the Latin origins however say that Middle Latin blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus, also meaning yellow, the word was reintroduced into English in the 17th century from French and was until recently still felt as French, hence blonde for females and blond for males.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower

I, like a lot of young, employed singles who enjoy cooking but frequently lack the time, have a refrigerator full of rotting food.

Oh, that is so gross. No, I don’t! (It’s only half-full.)

Deny it if you want, but if you’re a single soul shopping in a world designed for 4 person families, you occasionally end up overbuying. 5 lb of zucchini for $5? I’ll make a tart! Buy two get one free? This week only? Who wants chocolate cake?!

And then there are the pantry items. The hollow Greek noodles that you saw at Surfas and swore you’d find something to make with, spices that you needed for a recipe that you only made once. The list of less used, but not useless, pantry items continues to lengthen and the shelves clutter up with tiny bottles and decorative jars.

And that’s how recipes like this come about. The cauliflower was on sale, and the turmeric left over from an old recipe that I made once and never again. There have recently been several studies stating that turmeric is a wonder-spice in regards to preventing Alzheimer’s. I just like the color. And once again, please excuse the miserable camera phone photos. This one makes the whole dish (which really is delicious!) look like monkey brains.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, broken into small florets
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
large pinch of cayenne
Salt and pepper
¼ - ½ cup olive oil

Note: As always, these amounts are mostly guesstimated and depend upon your own personal tastes. This is especially true with curry powder. Curry powders all differ in flavor and the brand that I use has a lot of cinnamon in it, which is why I add the cayenne.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cauliflower and olive oil in a re-sealable plastic bag and shake. Add a good amount of salt and black pepper, then the spices and shake again. Pour the contents of the plastic bag into a baking dish and cover. Roast in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until tender.

Friday, November 03, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"It isn't that gentlemen really prefer blondes, it's just that we look dumber."

- Anita Loos, American screenwriter, playwright and author (1888 - 1981)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon

You know those chain emails that people send out entitled “all about me”? You know – the ones that are much too long and for people who need a more challenging job? Well, I received one not too long ago, and the question was, “Spring or Fall”? My friend reply was very succinct. She said, “Fall – the clothes are better.”

The clothes are better in the fall. Hidden beneath thick, woolen sweaters, layered tops, and high heeled boots its much easier to look attractive than when you’re letting every spare, sunburned ounce of flesh hang out of a tank top and flimsy cotton skirt. Maybe it’s the dark colors that flatter most skin tones, or maybe it’s the cool winter air that causes flushed cheeks and pink noses. There’s just no contest – fall is the superior season.

I have just one problem with fall. It doesn’t seem to exist in Southern California.

Today is Halloween, and it’s a balmy 75 degrees. I don’t even flinch when I see people wearing linen in this kind of weather. If you didn’t own a calendar, by looking outside you’d have no idea that Labor Day was practically two months ago.

But weather be damned, I’m tired of salads and seared ahi. I wanted a hearty, flavorful meal, the kind I always dreamed my mother would someday learn to make. I wanted the kind of meal that I’ve seen people who are both blessed and cursed to live in cold climates eat on TV.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Only slightly adapted from Ina Garten

olive oil
6-8 ounces pancetta, diced
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck cut into 1-inch cubes
salt & pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced into 1-inch chunks
1 ½ yellow onions, sliced
2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup brandy
1 (750-ml) bottle cabernet sauvignon
1 can beef broth
2 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen small whole onions
1 package mushrooms, sliced
½ package frozen peas
Crusty bread, like ciabatta
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the diced pancetta and cook until the browned and the fat rendered. Remove to a large plate, but do not drain on a paper towel. Season the beef cubes with salt & pepper, or if you’re lazy like me, use a pre-made steak seasoning blend. Then sear the beef for a few minutes on all sides. You may need to do this in several batches, and be sure to add more olive oil if needed. As each batch browns, remove the seared beef to the plate with the pancetta.Toss the carrots and sliced onions in the pot and cook until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Now this is the scary part: add the brandy and then stand back. Light a match and carefully bring it to the pot, keeping your fingers as far away from the flame as possible. Keep the pot top nearby! Ignite the alcohol fumes to burn off the alcohol. (When I did this, the flames did not immediately flame out as I’ve seen on TV. It actually kept burning, and I had to put the flame out with the top.) Put the plate of meat back into the pot and follow with the entire bottle of wine and can of broth. Add the tomato paste and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and place it in the oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Combine the butter and flour with a fork and stir into the stew to thicken. Add the frozen onions. In a separate pan, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until lightly browned, and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil, add the frozen peas, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the gravy is the thickness you like. Season to taste.

To serve, cut the bread into large chunks and then cover with stew and chopped parsley.

Leftovers Suggestion: spoon the stew into a baking dish and cover with mashed potatoes to make a fancy Shepard’s Pie. Just bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are browned and stew is hot and bubbly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."

- Alfred Hitchcock (1899 - 1980)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Restaurant Review: Beech Street Cafe

I've been to Beech Street twice in the past month. The first visit was while my grandparents were in town, and they wanted a restaurant close to church for an after-mass meal with their Los Angeles-based kin. I thought the menu was limited but adequate, and the food edible. It inspired neither cravings nor nausea and after that meal, I didn't think of it again.

When my sister suggested that I join her and her friend Erica at Beech Street for a meal prior to our weekly "Project Runway" viewing, I first declined. Beech Street serves Italian food (in the most Californian of styles) and eating melted cheese for dinner was not going to help me with my diet. But she badgered me into submission and the next thing I knew we were ordering baked goat cheese, a chopped vegetable salad and a large 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni pizza.

To share, of course. I'm on a diet.

We ordered a bottle of wine and teased Erica about the cost of text messaging her ex-boyfriend in Australia. The salad came at the same time as the appetizer, and we were barely done with either when the pizza arrived. The restaurant wasn't particularly busy, so I don't think they were trying to rush us; I think their timing was just off.

Its important to note that Beech Street is a sit-down restaurant, complete with cloth napkins and white tableclothes. Granted, this is Los Angeles so jeans, sweatshirts and other workout wear are almost guaranteed to make an appearance. Not long after we sat down, a couple who must have recently completed a very strenuous workout sat down at the table behind us. The woman's hair was dirty and pulled away from her face, and her partner was wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt. Bright, Charlie Brown yellow sweatshirt. In a restaurant. At night.

We didn't really notice them till the woman started to describe how she would like her dish prepared. It went something like this:

Woman: "I'd like it without extra garlic, please."
Waiter: "OK, no garlic."
Woman: "No, I know it comes with garlic in the dish. I just don't want extra garlic."

(She makes a hand gesture to suggest that the chef previously placed a side bowl of chopped fresh garlic on her plate.)

Waiter: "So, you do want garlic?"
Woman: "Just what already comes in it. I don't want extra garlic."

At this juncture, you might want to note that English is not this waiter's native language. He looks strangely at this wannabe Sally Albright and retreats to the kitchen to place the order. Of course, my sister and I motion with our eyes toward the woman to silently ask if we'd both heard the same exchange. We had.

My sister, Erica and I chomped on some breadsticks, giggled about boys and slurped our mediocre bottle of cabernet. The waiter was servicing the other tables when the Woman with Dirty Hair flagged him down again.

Woman: "Can we get some different bread please?"

(The waiter looks quizzically at the full bread basket on the table.)

Woman: "Do you have any soft, doughy bread?"

(The woman brings both of her hands up and begins to rub them together, as if she was kneading bread, taking one palm over the top of the other. She did this repeatedly as she spoke to the waiter.)

Waiter: "You want dough?"
Woman: "Soft, doughy bread. Like this --" (grabs piece of bread from basket) "But without the crust. More of the inside."
Waiter: "The inside?"
Woman: "Yes, doughy. Not this crusty stuff."

Again, my sister and I made eye contact and smiled. I know I should have been paying attention to the conversation going on at my table, but I was just too preoccupied with Dirty Hair Woman and Yellow Sweatshirt Man. She was leaning way over in her seat, henpecking the poor man as he stared mutely in her direction, and shoveling food off of his plate and into her mouth as if it were her own.

The waiter came out a few minutes later, plate in hand. He put it in front of Dirty Hair Woman and I couldn't help but watch in awe. She touched the doughy mass on the plate. "Its cold," she said. The waiter stood silently. "Is this cooked? Its...its dough!"

Yes, yes it was. It was uncooked pizza dough. Luckily the check had arrived and we were able to pay the bill and walk out before my sister and I erupted in laughter.

The lesson? If you want to get exactly what you want -- try Beech Street.

Beech Street Cafe and Pizzeria
863 Swarthmore Ave
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Monday, October 09, 2006

Iron Chef: Lake Arrowhead Edition

When making purchases of any kind, I divide items into two categories: Want vs. Need. For example: I want to get more exercise, but I need more sleep. Or perhaps: I want Steak Béarnaise for dinner, but I need that jadeite green balloon hem dress from Dame.

After a few weeks of desperately, feverishly wanting to quit my job and fighting the urge to actually do so, I needed a vacation.

We went to Lake Arrowhead, (because taking a speedboat to the supermarket is way more fun than driving) with plans to do little more than watch movies and lounge about.

Because my favorite leisure activity is eating, obviously food was a high priority. The original plan was to duel it out Iron Chef-style. However, common sense kicked in and we realized that as hungry as we were, we really couldn’t eat as much food as we thought we could. Appetizer vs. Entrée isn’t very exciting, but neither is obesity. Adapted from Ina Garten’s Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, this starter really is delicious, fast and super-easy.

Pan-Fried Goat Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Salad

1 large red onion, chopped into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 bell peppers, any color, chopped into chunks
2 yellow squash, chopped into chunks
2 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 oz. herbed goat cheese, sliced into ¾” pieces
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
mixed salad greens
olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chopped vegetables in a gallon-sized re-sealable plastic bag and sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried rosemary and approximately ½ cup of olive oil. Close the bag and shake until covered. Empty the bag of vegetables onto a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until the edges are browned and the inside is tender, around 45 minutes.

After the vegetables have been roasting for about 35 minutes, start on the goat cheese. Take one slice of goat cheese, and drop it in the beaten egg, making sure it’s well-coated. Put the fresh bread crumbs in a plate and add salt and pepper to taste. Take the cheese slice from the egg and drop it in the bread crumbs. Repeat with all of the remaining cheese slices.

In a medium size non-stick pan, heat a teaspoon of butter and approximately a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add a cheese slice to the pan (it should sizzle). Add the remaining cheese slices, being careful not to crowd the pan. You may need to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan. Fry the cheese until golden brown, roughly 3 minutes on each side.

To assemble the salad, place the mixed greens on a plate and top with the roasted vegetables. Place the goat cheese on top and drizzle with a little lemon juice and olive oil, or your favorite vinaigrette. Add cracked black pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"It is great to be a blonde. With low expectations it's very easy to surprise people."

- Pamela Anderson

Sunday, September 24, 2006

August Re-cap

I’m a basket case. It’s practically October and I’m just now getting around to my August re-cap. And can we please not address the fact that I went on a gorgeous, decadent trip to Europe and didn’t even bother to write one, single short little blog entry about it? I’ve got stacks of notes all over my desk at work, and a disposable camera still waiting to be developed, and I just can’t seem to get it together.

New Restaurants:

Cute little French places:

Cute little Italian places: (yes, that is a cat!)

Not so cute American airport places:
Chili’s To-Go – JFK International Airport
Chili’s To-Go – Atlanta International Airport

Cultural Event:

Nice, France!

Sori, Italy!

Knoxville, Tennessee! (emergency re-fueling, we weren't allowed off the plane!)

I think I saw something on the plane…but the sleeping pills I took may not have helped me remember it.

Uh, yeah…. No. But I did pick up a lot of Italian cooking magazines.

Cook? Who has time?

This is pitiful….August was quite possibly the best month of 2006 to date and this is the worst re-cap imaginable! But at least it has pictures…

Friday, September 15, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm indebted to her for."

- W.C. Fields (1880-1946)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Crazy Things We Do for Love...

Love makes you do crazy things.

I’ve highlighted my hair, poured hot wax on my nether regions and tinted by eyebrows – all in the pursuit of love.

I’ve written short stories, the better part of a trashy novel and even a one-act play – all inspired by love.

I’ve teetered around in too-high heels, stuffed myself into “suck ‘em” and “tuck ‘em” contraptions of every size, shape and color and doused myself in costly colognes reeking of exotic fruits and flowers – again, for love.

But never, never have I made a savory tart on a weeknight for the man that I love. Till now.

Inspired by a recipe I found on Orangette, I’ve made some adaptations that have resulted in two very tasty tarts (if you can find it in your heart to forgive the camera phone photos!).

Roasted Tomato Tart with Crème Fraîche and Thyme
Inspired by Orangette, which was inspired by Food & Wine, June 2003

4 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved
½ - ¾ cup olive oil
1 bunch lemon thyme, leaves plucked off
salt and black pepper to taste
½ package refrigerated pie crust dough (you could make your own, I suppose, but it’s a weeknight!)
2 Tbs crème fraîche
2 Tbs dijon mustard
Zest from half a lemon
1 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup shredded cheese, one that melts well (I used the Quattro Formaggio blend from Trader Joe’s)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss the halved tomatoes with the lemon thyme leaves, olive oil, a healthy pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Place on baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 30 minutes. Flip the tomatoes so they are cut side up and roast for another 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pie crust dough into a greased and floured 8 or 9” tart pan with removable bottom. Cover loosely with tin foil. Use pie weights or beans if you have them to help the crust maintain its shape. (I never bother – I live on the culinary edge and take my chances.) If you have room, put the crust in the oven with the tomatoes for the final 15-20 minutes. The crust should be just barely golden, and the bottom firm.

As the tomatoes and crust cool to room temperature, in a small bowl combine the crème fraîche, dijon mustard, lemon juice, zest, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour this into the cooled crust and top with the shredded cheese. Arrange the roasted tomatoes on top of the cheese decoratively and then put back in the oven for a final 15-20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the crust golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation: Roasted Zucchini

Instead of the tomatoes, slice zucchini lengthwise into ¼” strips and roast in the same manner for 15 minutes on each side. Assemble as directed above and enjoy!

Although I haven’t tried it yet, I believe that this tart base would be delicious with any number of different roasted vegetables, or perhaps some caramelized onions. It’s very easy to modify and with a little practice, very easy to whip-up on a weeknight!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

California Burritos

Several months ago, I was introduced to a little blog called The Great Taco Hunt. The taco “Bandini” (as he refers to himself) is on a hunt for the most flavorful taco in all of Los Angeles. He clearly has an iron stomach, as he’s eaten off of dozens of taco trucks all over the city, and from little shack-like restaurants that don’t necessarily have “A” ratings in the window. He’s an inspiration to all taco lovers, and his pilgrimage has inspired me to eat off more than one roach coach in the past few months.

I consider myself a (mostly) fearless eater, so as my friend Lindsay described the “California Burrito” on our way down from LA to San Diego, I was both fascinated and horrified. Apparently, the California Burrito is a San Diego specialty available at many taco stands and the occasional drive-thru burrito joint. The contents? Carne Asada, French Fries, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

My boyfriend and I were intrigued as we pulled up to Roberto’s drive-thru on Garnet in Pacific Beach, CA. We were considering ordering the dubious-sounding “cheese enchilada fries” but with Lindsay hanging out the rear window hollering into the tin-can/microphone asking detailed questions about Roberto’s California Burrito recipe, we knew we had no choice but to go along with her suggestion.

Lindsay has steered me right before, and she’s dragged me along with her on some pretty oddball adventures, but nothing compares to this glorious combination of seasoned skirt steak, greasy fries and fatty sauces wrapped up in a flour tortilla made the right way – with lard. There are no words to describe how tasty it was, other than those uttered by my boyfriend:

“I wish we’d gotten another one.”

Sunday, August 20, 2006

blonde quote of the day

"There's only one sort of natural blonde on earth - albinos."

- Marilyn Monroe

Thursday, August 17, 2006

July Re-cap

Whoops! I totally forgot my July re-cap.

New Restaurants:
Woody’s Boathouse (Lake Arrowhead, CA)
Papagayos Mexican Restaurant (Lake Arrowhead, CA)
Monty’s (Pasadena, CA)
The Rose Café (Venice, CA)
Table 13 (Ventura, CA)
Leaf (Culver City, CA)
Three on Fourth (Santa Monica, CA)

Cultural Event:
The Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl
(Talk about a fiasco: went to my local Whole Foods, spent 45 minutes picking out delicious finger food from the deli case only to have the whole market go dark right as I’m heading to the cashier. We waited another 30 minutes waiting for the electricity to come back on. When it hadn’t turned back on after 45 minutes, the checkers instructed us to abandon our carts in the aisles. It was very sad.)

Woody Allen’s Manhattan
So maybe I fell asleep and missed the ending…happens to the best of us after a couple of bottles of wine.

Uh, yeah…. No.

Recipe: Should Jell-O shots be considered a recipe? Because I’m sure I made something last month, but my mind is too cloudy with memories of the Ligurian coastline to remember. I definitely remember making my always-popular peach schnapps Jell-O shots. These are the best Jell-O shots you will ever have. People look at me like I’m a lunatic when I tell them they’re chock-full of peach schnapps, but taste and see!


1 - 4 oz box peach-flavored Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
½ cup cold water
1 ½ cup peach schnapps

The Woo Woo

While flipping through a tacky '70s bartending guide, my sisters and I discovered the “Woo Woo.” It’s just a Cape Cod, but the splash of peach schnapps makes it so much better. Recently, I've taken those same flavors and introduced them to the wonderfully wiggly world of Jell-O. A word of caution: if you’re not careful that little extra kick will have you dancing on tabletops and singing the shot’s name as loudly as you can.

1 – 4 oz box cranberry-flavored Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
½ cup cold water
½ cup peach schnapps
1 cup vodka (preferably from the freezer)

Follow the directions on the back of the box, substituting the booze for the cold water. As tempted as you may be to maximize the Jell-O shot impact by increasing the amount of booze to two full cups -- don't. You'll only be sacrificing texture. You really do need at least a half cup of water to get that true Jell-O consistency.

Once dissolved, divide the mixture between between the vessels you plan to serve your Jell-O in using a measuring cup. Dixie cups are inexpensive and easy to find at any supermarket or drugstore, but if you're feeling fancy, you can also find 2 oz. plastic containers with lids at most restaurant supply stores.

Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 4-6 hours, and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Champagne Tuesdays

I know, I know, I’ve been very lax in my posting. But I do have an excuse: I’ve been gallivanting across the French and Italian Riviera with a gorgeous man, drinking pink wine in the afternoon and pretending I’m the spawn of Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.

However, instead of rattling off the pleasures I experienced on this dream-like vacation, I’m going to collect myself, settle back into my semi-normal routine and formulate the best essays about this trip that I possibly can.

Oh, and I also have yet to get my photos digitized…

So, to keep my faithful four readers satiated, I’m going to post about the genius of Champagne Tuesdays.

My little sister and I were chatting a few months ago about how we wanted to start drinking more sparkling wine. (I don’t think we were drunk when we decided this, but it’s entirely possible that we were.) And so we created Champagne Tuesdays. The rules are pretty simple: we bring out the Riedel glasses, which are usually still drying on the counter from the week before, and then choose a bottle. Recently, we’ve shared a bottle of Laetitia, a great little winery specializing in sparkling wine just outside of San Luis Obispo. Sometimes its Veuve Cliquot or Laurent Perrier. (Most of the time its not.)

Last night was a great edition in the Champagne Tuesdays series. Since my sister is training for her new gig out in Pennsylvania this week and next, the afore-mentioned gorgeous man graciously offered to fill her space.

I’m a notorious Kitchen Nazi, and my sister is only allowed in the kitchen because she pays half the rent. Allowing my boyfriend into my 45 square foot queendom truly tested my ability to "let go and let God" -- not to mention our own compatibility. The end result?

The wine: Paul Cheneau Brut Blanc de Blancs
Appetizer: cold ginger carrot soup
Entrée: roasted chicken and proscuitto borsetti with spinach

Fancy for a Tuesday after the gym, no?

We borrowed the carrot soup recipe from Orangette, but found it bland. We fiddled around with some of the ingredients and measurements and added 1 seeded jalapeno, an additional quarter teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper from the mill. The resulting soup was cold and creamy as described by Orangette, but with the slightest bit of heat touching the back of your tongue. It was especially good with a massive dollop of lime, curry and salted diced avocado.

I have to be honest -- we didn't make our own borsetti. In fact, I didn't know what borsetti was until I bought it from the deli section of my local market, and then rediscovered this frozen fresh pasta hidden within the depths of my freezer. Since the little plastic box hadn't yet succumbed to the freezerburn fungus that plagues most of my frozen foods, I figured it was safe enough to eat. That's when my boyfriend stepped in. While I was fiddling around with the soup, trying to make it palatable for a couple of pepperheads, he went on his own mini freezer dumpster dive. He found spinach and frozen basil squares, sauteed it up in a little olive oil and butter, tossed in the borsetti, topped it with parmesan and then we had a multi-course meal.

Clearly, the man is a keeper. Don't you just love Champagne Tuesdays?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Three on Fourth

In thanksgiving for enduring the hippies, the heat and the dirt that made up Bonnaroo 2006, Lindsay took me to dinner at this adorable new restaurant in Santa Monica, Three on Fourth. The restaurant’s theme is “international tapas” or, more specifically, small plates featuring Western-European, American and Asian cuisines. They also serve beer, wine and sake.

When we arrived, the restaurant was virtually empty. I have mixed feelings about empty restaurants – part of me likes it when I can sit wherever I want and have the full attention of the waitstaff, and the other half of me wonders, what does everyone else know that I don’t?

We ordered the mussels, grilled pear salad and the open-faced sandwich trio. We sopped up the garlicky mussel sauce with toasted baguette and sipped happily on a bottle of pinot noir. We chatted with the hostess, who wore a gorgeous red rose print Dolce & Gabbana dress, met the restaurant manager/sommelier and hardly thought twice when our waiter brought us the wrong sandwiches. Normally, I’d be a little surprised that our order would be incorrect in an empty restaurant, but everyone was so friendly that I didn’t care. And the food was delicious! I was already imagining my triumphant return to this restaurant, where I would air kiss my new best friend the manager hello as the hostess seated me and my companion at the best table in the house.

At least that was the plan.

About two weeks after my first visit to Three on Fourth, I returned with boyfriend in tow. I was feeling fussy and indecisive at the time, and instructed him to do the ordering. He’s aware of my devotion to Tony Bourdain’s theory on “specials” but likes to listen to them just the same. After the waiter spouts the specials, we usually smile in gratitude and then wait for him/her to walk away before we agree to not order a single one. And then we giggle. Actually, I giggle and he guffaws – it’s far manlier.

However, the specials are definitely worth noting. Instead of the NY strip steak, they had ribeye. OK, no big deal. Oh, and the mussels that Lindsay and I enjoyed last time? They were marked down. Marked down to $12.

WTF? Who does that? I mean, if you’re going to serve rotting seafood, why advertise the fact in your evening specials?

Needless to say, we didn’t order the mussels. We ordered tuna tataki, macaroni & cheese with pancetta, crab cakes, ginger-cilantro shrimp and a half-bottle of pinot grigio. That’s part of the fun of this restaurant – you really can mix and match with different flavors. It’s like playtime for the palate.

The tuna portion was far larger than we’d anticipated, which was a nice surprise, but I found the macaroni & cheese to be a bit grainy and the pancetta too much like deli-sliced ham. I like my crab cakes to be lightly browned, and the color of these were just a bit too dark for me, so visually I was unimpressed. The real star of this meal was the shrimp. The tempura-esque coating was light and flavorful, and with the accompanying chili paste it really was fun to eat. We even had to split the last shrimp in half, so we each got our fair share.

So, what’s the consensus? It was a great outing the first time, but only mediocre the second. Will I go back? Probably. It’s a moderately-priced restaurant in a great location with a cute theme. I’d go back at least one more time just to make my final judgment. But to be honest, if you want to try it, go sooner rather than later. With the way restaurants turn over in this city, it may not be there long.

Three on Fourth
1432-A Fourth St.
Santa Monica, 90401
(310) 395-6765

Monday, July 24, 2006

I'm going here:

and I couldn't be happier about it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

blonde quote of the day

It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

- Raymond Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

June re-cap

Sorry this is so late in coming, it already being mid-July, but I’ve been running around like a crazy woman. Here’s the low-down:

New Restaurants:
Brent’s (Northridge, CA)
Cracker Barrel (Murfeesboro, TN)
Waffle House (Nashville, TN)
Koberl @ Blue (San Luis Obispo, CA)

I made Bri's phenomenal Morrocan chicken with lentils and apricots. (Except I used currants and golden raisins, and then flavored the yogurt with garlic and parsley.)

Cultural Events:
Robert Earl Keen at the House of Blues
KCRW Angel Party at MoCA
Wal-Mart (Murfeesboro, TN)

Who’s got time for movies when you’re in Tennessee one week, Orange County the next, and San Luis Obispo the weekend after?

So, I’m back where I started – books on CD. Even though I spent plenty of time on planes, in airports and sleeping in hotels this month, I really didn’t feel like I had time to read a book. So I didn’t. I listened to Jill Conner Browne’s The Sweet Potato Queen’s Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner. Why? Because I really have jumped off the deep end and after five days in Tennessee think I'm a Southern diva.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Restaurant Review: Waffle House

If there was a Cracker Barrel at every truck stop between Nashville and Manchester, then there were two Waffle Houses for every one Cracker Barrel. Those yellow block letters on the horizon called out to us, and at 6:30am before our 9am flight back to civilization, Lindsay and I stopped for breakfast.

We quickly learned that Waffle House restaurants (“Awful Waffle” to the locals) are open 24 hours, and offer both smoking and non-smoking sections in about 500 square feet of space. When we walked in, our waiter, Clarence, was finishing up his graveyard shift. Though the restaurant was empty except for the two waiters/cooks/bussers on duty, we sat at the counter next to a jug of bleach. Clarence promptly removed this bottle and cleaned off the counter. He handed us our menus, and the two of us ordered the following:

1 egg and cheese sandwich on white bread
1 egg, cheese and bacon sandwich on Texas Toast
1 coffee
1 large orange juice
1 order hash browns, with chopped onions mixed in
1 waffle with syrup and butter

Clarence was great. I’m not quite sure what he said, but he sure was friendly. He chatted to us the whole time as he made our egg sandwiches – neither washing his hands nor wearing gloves after cleaning up after the jug of bleach. And we even got pickles with our breakfasts, an accouterment to eggs I’m sure the chefs at the Ivy haven’t even considered.

As we ate we discovered that Clarence and his co-worker were finishing up the graveyard shift. The morning workers started trickling in one by one, with the shift supervisor, a scrawny woman in her late-50s wearing her gray hair in a bun and smoking a Virginia Slim with an inch of ash, coming in last. It was a sight to behold.

Yet again, I’d like to reiterate how much I enjoy it when stereotypes come to life.

With both egg sandwiches, a quarter of the waffle, and nearly half of the potatoes gone, Lindsay and I were nearing the end of our meal. But it was hard to leave. The staff was buzzing, talking back and forth about how busy it was going to be today now that all the out-of-towners were flying back home after Bonnaroo.

A group of 6 youngsters were stumbling up the walkway into the restaurant, and the wait staff was eyeing them as they walked in, each one fantasizing about the tip six out-of-towners were going to leave. As soon as they walked in, a sassy waitress pounced on them with the one question we heard at every restaurant in Tennessee: “Smokin’ or Non-smokin’?”

The kid at the front of the pack said, “Non, please.”

Her response? “Well, there ain’t nobody smoking over here!”

I nearly choked on my Texas toast I was laughing so hard.

Now, you might be wondering how much this fine Nashville meal cost us. This mammoth breakfast of eggs, potatoes, waffles, bacon, pickles and endless cup of coffee set Lindsay back a whopping thirteen dollars. Thirteen dollars for both of us. I don’t think you can get a single vodka gimlet at the Ivy for $13. And when Lindsay handed the cashier a twenty to pay for our $13 meal, she received $13 in change.

Lindsay smiled, handed the cashier $6 for the register and left the rest on the counter for Clarence.

Maybe he’ll buy some hand soap.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bonnaroo, Part II

What would you do to see Radiohead? Would you lie? Cheat? Steal? Because apparently, I would do all of that, and then top it off with a little “contribution to the delinquency of a minor.” Actually, I think he was well on his way to delinquency; I may have just helped him along.

On night three of Bonnaroo 2006, after sweating in the broiling sun for 12 hours and talking to way too many drunk/high/hopeless hippies, Linds and I were very excited to use our backstage passes to get prime seats to the Radiohead concert. Free beers in hand, we proceeded to the VIP bleachers, only to be told to keep walking – the stands were full. We took one look into the sea of people – 90,000 hippies that hadn’t bathed in three days – and started to panic.

Earlier that day, while I was taking a break and straining my neck to catch a little of the Beck show, I’d sent Lindsay a text message, jokingly suggesting that we could get into the disabled section for the Radiohead concert if she could find me a crutch to lean on.

I am a genius.

But if I’m a genius, then Lindsay is an eagle-eye mastermind, because she spotted them first: a pair of chrome crutches propped up against the railing that divided the VIP bleachers from the disabled section. The exchange went something like this:

“Hey – can we borrow a crutch real quick?”
“Can we borrow a crutch? Just for a second?”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Take it around and come and sit right next to you. We’ll get you beers.”
“Uh, OK.”

The kid passed his crutch to me through the bars. It wasn’t until I held it upright that I realized it was the same size as me. I couldn’t even reach high enough to try and get it under my arm. I started hollering to Linds, who had already taken off. I grabbed her bags and shoved it under her arm. As she shuffled along (the crutch was too big for her as well), a security guard saw her and started shining a flashlight and shooing people to the sides, shouting for them to make way for the girl on crutches. I was scrambling along behind her, weighed down with both her bags and mine, insisting to security that I was the companion for my handicapped friend.

We made it into the disabled section with no problem. We handed the kid his crutches and leaned up against the railing, absolutely ecstatic that we weren't drowning in the heaving blob of people before us. We were pretty proud of ourselves, until another security guard came into the disabled section checking "access bracelets."

She asked for mine, and I showed her my backstage pass. She pointed at the blue wristband the kid next to us was wearing. Lindsay just looked at me, silent. The words just kept coming...

"Oh! I'm sorry. My friend just sprained her ankle yesterday and I'm her companion. We didn't know that we needed access bracelets. Where can we get those tomorrow?"

I may be a genius, but I'm definitely going to hell. I don't know why she believed me. How would we have gotten a crutch in Manchester, TN without even knowing about the First Aid tent that handed out disabled access bracelets?

It was a dramatic, morally-compromising evening up until the point when I remembered that I owed the kid and his friend beer. I was now going to have to exit the safety of the disabled section, force my way through the mob of people, snag more free beers from the backstage bar and then make it back before Radiohead started. It was the Bonnaroo Physical Challenge. And of course, Lindsay couldn't come with me to help -- she was disabled.

It was a perilous journey that included waiting for security guards to look away before dashing into the bleachers, and shouting "I'm in the disabled section! I'm the companion!" to more one security guard. My personal favorite was handing the kid's beers over the railing to Lindsay, as a security guard came after me in the aisle shouting ahead to his co-worker, "Watch her! Make sure she goes into disabled!"

She may not have known it at the time, but the look Lindsay gave me seemed to say, "What the hell have you done?"

But I made it back to the safety of the disabled section without (much) incident, we toasted the kid on crutches and leaned against the railing again, marveling over what we would do to see Radiohead.

It was right at that time that a woman appeared virtually out of nowhere next to me.

"Uhhh..." I said, wondering if I really had gotten a contact high.
"I was under the bleachers!" she said, "I've been there for two hours!"

Apparently, I'm not the only one to do something extreme to see Radiohead.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Please excuse...

...the delay in posting. I'm recovering from six days in Tennessee, followed by three days at a regional meeting in Newport Beach and then another three days in San Luis Obispo for wine-tasting and a bachelorette party. I don't even know what my bedroom looks like, and I'm afraid my credit card company thinks I'm a hooker with all of these hotel stays.

Oh, and I also found out that I have "atypical necrosis of the fibular sesamoid" in my right foot. In layman's terms, that means I broke a teeny-tiny bone in my foot, didn't take care of it, and now the bone is dead and will continue to cause me pain until I have it surgically removed.

This blonde's bitterness is making a rapid comeback. Actually, don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years.

Restaurant Review: Cracker Barrel




I had no idea a place such as this even existed. Part of me wants to applaud the brilliant restaurateur that masterminded this behemoth Southern chain and the other part wants to give him a good swift kick to the bowels – just like his food did to me.

After seeing a Cracker Barrel restaurant at every truck stop between Nashville and Manchester, Linds informed me that I could not leave Tennessee without experience the trashy country-themed delight that is Cracker Barrel. They sell rocking chairs on the front porch! They have an entire country store fronting every restaurant! I bought a John Deere thermal shirt in a children’s small – and it fit! The glory! The horror!

Our waitress was an absolute delight. She guided me through the menu like an old pro, laughing when I said I’d never had chicken and dumplings or deep-fried okra before. When I requested cornbread instead of biscuits, she giggled and asked, "Have ya evah had cornbread before?" I should have said no, because I've never had cornbread that tasted like bacon before. Nor have I ever had green beans, macaroni and cheese or fried okra that tasted like bacon before.

I used to say "everything is better with bacon." I'm a changed woman.

The highlight of the meal came soon after I received my "Country Sampler" (aka "Country Salt Lick") consisting of chicken n' dumplings, meatloaf, country ham, macaroni and cheese, fried okra and cooked carrots. Linds and I were dying of thirst, having consumed massive amounts of sodium, and were keeping an eye out for our waitress. She arrived a few minutes later, a little flustered, but just as bubbly as before. "I'm sorry," she said, "but one of the girls just had a seizure in the kitchen!"

I imagined a woman flopping about the kitchen, knocking out her remaining three teeth and flipping over a vat of grits. Why? Because I think stereotypes are funny. And, I'm really not that nice of a person. Luckily, Lindsay is. She said, "Is she alright?"

"Oh, she's fine. The paramedics are here. "

"Is she a diabetic?" Maybe Lindsay isn't that nice either. Not all seizuring fat people are diabetics, you know.

"No. She just has seizures."

Lindsay looked confused. Our waitress nodded knowingly. It was my turn. "You mean, she has epilepsy?"

The lightbulb went off above our waitress's head. "Yep! That's why she has seizures!"

It was a brilliant moment. Our sweet, flustered waitress was doing everything she could to give us top-notch customer service while in the kitchen her epileptic co-worker was being wheeled away by paramedics after a grand mal. So we did what any good Southern diner would do.

"Glad to hear she's OK. Can we get the strawberry shortcake too?"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bonnaroo: Part I

Heard around the festival/campsite/dirty hippie playground...

"We have got to find out what kind of flat iron Tom Petty uses!" - cw

"Holy shit, Tom Petty looks just like Martina Navratilova!" - lg

"My stylist was running bad like a drunk gambler." - john of the disco biscuits

"You've got the prettiest smile I've ever seen!" (drunk man to Lindsay)
"Does she have all of her teeth?!" (drunk man's friend)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weight Watchers

I’m on Weight Watchers. Honestly, I really don’t need to be. But the idea of teetering down an aisle in strappy silver sandals wearing a sage green bridesmaid dress (with an asymmetrical watermelon sash) and then giving a maid-of-honor speech in front of 150 people doesn’t seem like something I should do as a size 6. It will all go much smoother if I’m a size 4. I’m also the only “single” bridesmaid in the group, with an overactive imagination that is currently envisioning the following conversation taking place:

Old Biddy at the Wedding #1: “Look at this garden, isn’t it lovely?”
Old Biddy at the Wedding #2: “And the bridesmaids...just gorgeous.”

They look on in silent content. Christianne comes barreling down the aisle.

Old Biddy #1: “Sweet Jesus, who is that?”
Old Biddy #2: “She must be the single one. I heard about her.”
Old Biddy #1: “Isn’t she the reason they had to have dresses to the knee?”
Old Biddy #2: “I heard that the bride wanted shorter dresses...
Old Biddy #1: "Didn't want to to embarrass her friend?”
Old Biddy #2: “Cellulite thighs! At her age! She’ll never find a husband.”
Old Biddy #1: “Let alone have children…Isn’t she near the bride’s age?"
Old Biddies (in unison): "Tick tock, Tick tock!”
Old Biddy #2: “It’s probably better that way. Not everyone should procreate.”
Old Biddy #1: “The good Lord works in mysterious ways.”

I’m not the better BITTER blonde, for nothing.

So as the saying goes, the best revenge is looking good. And I have exactly one month and eleven days to lose 5 pounds. For those of you familiar with the Weight Watchers plan, I’m allowed 20 points a day, with 35 Flex points to use as I wish throughout the week. Below, please find an “example” 20 point day:

Breakfast: 6 oz. nonfat skim milk (1 pt), 6 oz. vanilla flavor soy yogurt (3 pts), ½ cup raspberries (0 pts)

Lunch: 6-inch Subway turkey sub on wheat bread with mustard, spinach, tomatoes, pickles, olives, bell peppers, cucumber, salt and pepper (5 pts)

Snack: carrots & celery slices (0 pts)

Dinner: ½ cup edamame in pods (0.5 pts), 1 cup miso soup (2 pts), 6 large pieces California roll sushi (4.5 pts), 4 oz glass white wine (2 pts), ¼ cup lemon sorbet with ¼ cup mixed berries (2 pts)

TOTAL: 20 pts

Now, here’s what I ate on June 1st, 2006:

Breakfast: ¾ cup papaya (0.5 pts), ¾ cup strawberries (0 pts)

Lunch: 1 serving Tofu and Roasted Vegetable Napoleon (Weight Watchers recipe – 5 pts), 1 Tb store-bought pesto (1.5 pts – it WAS a WW recipe, after all), 1 serving Fat Free Jell-O Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Pudding (2 pts)

Dinner: 1 fillet cooked salmon (7 pts), 3 cups Caesar salad (7 pts), 2 bottles light beer (4 pts), ½ cup fried calamari (11 pts), 4 bottles regular beer (11 pts)

TOTAL: 49 pts

I can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. Can you?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Patron of the Arts

My sister and I frequently joke that I’m her “patron of the arts.” We both dream up what we feel are exciting and worthwhile home décor projects, and then I pay for her to execute them. She has a lot more spare time, and I have a lot (well, some) more spare money. As an added bonus, I get to wield my financial power like a 17th century Pope and can deliver my opinion to the artist whether its wanted or not. It works out, (when she’s not telling me to suck it) for the most part.

In the process of becoming a better bitter blonde, I’ve landed some great dates, filled a Rolodex with new restaurants and remembered why I love books so much that as a child I’d stay up till the wee hours reading in a closet with a flashlight. And somehow along the way I’ve managed to acquire my own Patrons of the Arts: Lindsay and Bri. And to be honest, I don’t know what I did to deserve friends like these. But I sincerely hope they know what talented, amazing women they are, how fortunate I feel to have them as friends, and how much I truly appreciate what they do for me.

Lindsay is the ecologically aware one, and next week she’s taking me to Manchester, Tennessee for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival to help encourage attendees to join the virtual march on Washington currently underway on StopGlobalWarming.org. (There will be more on that later.) Bri, on the other hand, has taken it upon herself to act as my fairy godmother of all things art-related.

On Wednesday night, my darling Bri took me to the KCRW Angel Party at MoCA in downtown LA. I, a native Angeleno who has spent all but my four years of college in this city, had never been there before. I have no excuse, other than my own ignorance and laziness. That’s where my fairy godmother steps in. After taking me to a Patina-catered shindig downtown with plenty of free vodka (who knew that grapefruit Absolut was actually drinkable?), I received a private guided tour of MoCA’s Robert Rauschenberg Combines exhibit.

I don’t know anything about Rauschenberg. When it comes to fine art – oil paintings, sculpture, watercolor – I’m positively ignorant. I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, I’m fairly aware of most art movements over the past few decades (courtesy of two artsy college roommates), but overall I’m uninformed. That’s why I have a Patron. As we toured the collection, Bri gave me a brief history of the artist, and related his work to things I do know a little something about: Beat poets, Dadaism and performance art.

I highly recommend getting a Patron. Unlike a Sugar Daddy/Momma, you don’t have to put out for your Patron. Instead, you hear things like, “Hey, want to check out Lorna Simpson since we’re here?” And you follow dumbly along. And then, in addition to free food and booze, you get to see fascinating photographs printed on felt.

Robert Rauschenberg Combines
5/21/06 – 9/4/06

Lorna Simpson
4/16/06 – 7/10/06

250 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Thursday, June 08, 2006

May re-cap

Already 5 months in and the better bitter blonde project continues to thrive! I'm pretty proud of myself, to be honest.


Hennessey’s in Manhattan Beach (Irish Bar on Cinco de Mayo?)

La Sostra in Hermosa Beach (gnocchi heaven)

Harvest Café in Brentwood (#1 reason to eat all the old people)

Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City (blech)

Culturally-Enriching Event(s):

Ashes & Snow (who knew orangutans had game?)

KROQ Weenie Roast (scamming for underage ass has never been so much fun!)


An Inconvenient Truth (A must-must-must see!)


I made an extremely tasty vegetarian pesto lasagna with marinated artichoke hearts and fresh tomatoes.


Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Angles & Demons by Dan Brown

so maybe Angels & Demons shouldn't really count as a work of literary merit, but...I had to get caught up somehow! Now I'm now at 5 books in 5 months, and I'm feeling much better about myself as a person.

As usual, now accepting suggestions and dates(!!!) for the summer....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Touched by Tipper

On Tuesday, May 16 my darling, eco-conscious friend Linds took me to yet another phenomenal event. We attended the premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore documentary on our world’s current climate crisis.

Like the Shakespeare fundraiser, it was another dazzling, celebrity-studded event. There were several food stations serving up all kinds of healthy eats, an open bar (always a joy!) and the dessert stations had not one, not two, but three chocolate fountains for dipping!

But, as they say, “the real star of the show” was truly the show itself. An Inconvenient Truth follows Gore around the globe as he gives presentation after presentation about the effects of greenhouse gases on Earth. In doing so, you also see the presentation itself, which is chock-full of information about global warming and what individuals can do to increase their energy efficiency. This is not a someday problem, but a today problem. Key points of interest:

  • The United States, with only four percent of the world’s population, is responsible for 22% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Deaths from global warming (heat waves, hurricanes, etc.) will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

The information presented in this documentary is astounding, shocking, horrifying. Everyone should see it.

I was impressed with this film. I found it to be informative, entertaining and all-together inspirational. It is the second Laurie David-produced film I’ve seen this year, and to be honest, I really wanted to meet the woman herself. I was probably bordering on pesky the way I was harassing Linds, but this premiere was my opportunity and I was excited.

Lindsay approached Laurie, waited for an opening and introduced me. I told LD how much I enjoyed both films and she asked that I get others to see An Inconvenient Truth. And then she was pulled away into another conversation. Lindsay and I stood there for a moment, marveling over how dynamic a woman Laurie is, when I got a good thump to the back. So much so, that I was actually forced forward and had to take a step to catch myself from falling. Now, this was a bustling premiere, and I was standing next to an executive producer, so of course it was crowded. I looked behind me, and the woman who had bumped into me took a few steps before turning around. She raised her arm towards me and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And because I’m really pretty mellow, I replied in kind. The woman turned back around and went on her way. I looked to Lindsay.

“Was that --?”
“Tipper Gore?”
“I think so!”
“Ohmigod! You just got body-checked by Tipper Gore!”

And then I did what any normal, well-adjusted mature individual would do. I called every single person I know to tell them that I've been touched by Tipper Gore. Good thing I didn't curse her out, huh?

An Inconvenient Truth


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

blonde quote of the day

Having money is rather like being a blond. It is more fun but not vital.

- Mary Quant (b. 1936), British fashion designer. Quoted in Observer (London, Nov. 2, 1986).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ford's Filling Station

I’m never going back to Ford’s Filling Station ever again.

I’d made dinner reservations at Cobras & Matadors in addition to Ford’s Filling Station because I couldn’t make up my mind on where I wanted to go. I decided to let my dining partner, who’d never heard of either, choose. Unfortunately, he chose wrong.

I was running late, and knew we were going to miss our 9:30pm reservations. I called C&M to cancel and got voicemail. Of course I did, it’s a decent restaurant and they were busy on a Friday night. FFS picked up on the first ring. They were more than happy to move our reservation back. After hanging up, I commented upon this and my dining partner said, “Maybe we shouldn’t have called the other restaurant first?” I laughed, sure that it would be fine. I was wrong.

FFS is in downtown Culver City, a formerly shady part of town that in the past several years has undergone a Renaissance of sorts and is now well-lit and mostly clean. When we arrived, I’d expected to see a gastropub of NYC's The Spotted Pig variety, and was surprised to see that it is an unremarkable in-line space between an alley and some sort of take-out joint.

We were seated quickly. The waitress rattled off the specials in the usual fashion, but I didn’t pay much attention because I’ve read Kitchen Confidential and now know better than to pay top-dollar for rotting leftovers. (And she was really pushing the Kansas City steak special, which proved to me that Bourdain is right.) After I told the waitress three times that I couldn’t eat a whole steak, I went with the lamb dish because it sounded complicated. My friend ordered scallops. We ordered a few cheeses to start with, and a bottle of wine off of the severely lacking wine list.

The cheeses were dropped off by another member of the wait staff as he was walking by. I thought it was customary for the waiter to point out which cheese was which. Apparently not. We simply played a guessing game. Not much later, our dinners arrived: my lamb, white beans and escarole and my friend’s….Kansas City steak special.

When we protested they took it away, leaving my dinner to cool as I waited for his. I may know nothing about wine, and only little more than that about food, but I do know customer service – and this place isn’t cutting it. Between the mediocre-to-poor service, lamb that resembled rope and wine that my dining partner described as “barely passable” we were far from impressed.

Total Price: $120 for two, exclusive of tip. This included 1 bottle of blah wine, 3 ounces of cheese, 1 mediocre and 1 barely edible entree. Needless to say, it’s overpriced as well.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

A good friend of mine, one whom I frequently quote, once sent me an email about a food writer she’d recently discovered. After she (verbosely) proclaimed her love of his writing style, she concluded her email with the statement, “I don’t know if I want to sleep with him or be him.”

That’s an interesting observation.

Do we as women actively chase after unattractive men, only to later discover that they’re well-spoken, well-traveled and well-versed in Italian wines? Doubtful. Or, and much more likely, do we meet that same man and slowly start to find him attractive as we learn more about the quality of his character? While I’m sure many women would disagree with me, those true to themselves will acknowledge that they have dated a man (or ten) that mentally stimulated them even if he didn’t quite ignite the fires within her loin.

That’s kind of the case here. I just finished (2 weeks ahead of schedule!) Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. And while I am fairly certain that I don’t want to sleep with a married man twenty-five years my senior with a history of promiscuity and drug abuse, Bourdain’s single-minded pursuit of pleasure is deliciously sexy. I am, officially, his food whore.

The book is really an insider’s guide to the restaurant scene, with a horrifying look into NYC kitchen and waitstaff antics. Already, you have my interest. Nasty knife wounds, food mishandling, sex in the pantry – I’m turned on, and I’m not kidding. It’s a cross between conventional one hand reading and the type bookish foodies are more likely to partake of.

His approach is brash, superior. His analysis of Central American line cooks is particularly offensive. He’s well-traveled, speaks French and Spanish and hideously arrogant. It’s unbelievably attractive. Maybe good girls will always like bad boys. Regardless, read this book and you’ll never order “tonight’s special” again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


And read a good one -- preferably one written by my wickedly funny, brilliant friend, Rob Roberge.

Rob's first novel Drive is back in print. Out on Hollyridge Press:



Find it. Read it. Love it. And when you're done, read his second book, More Than They Could Chew.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

blonde quote of the day

A chaste woman ought not to die her hair yellow.

- Menander (c. 342–291 B.C.), Greek playwright

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

April re-cap ADDENDUM

I woke up this morning and realized that Yes, it really is May. I don’t know where the first third of the year went, since its all been such a whirlwind, but clearly its affecting my mind and I can’t seem to remember all of the fantastic opportunities that have crossed my path. Luckily, I had Lindsay G. to remind me.

I must admit, I’m horrified that I neglected to mention this on my first re-cap. I attended the premiere of Laurie David’s film, “Too Hot Not to Handle” and the subsequent after-party hosted by Elle magazine courtesy of my darling, eco-conscious friend Linds. Held at the Pacific Design center, catered by Wolfgang Puck, DJ’d by Rosanna Arquette and featuring a live performance by John Mayer – it was an awesome night out. In thanksgiving, I replaced the most commonly used light bulbs in my house with compact bulbs. (Just don’t buy them at Rite-Aid, those bastards charge double what Target does!)

And when she’s not stopping global warming, my darling, eco-conscious friend Linds is letting me tag-along with her to Simply Shakespeare, a fundraising event benefiting Shakespeare Festival Los Angeles. Held at UCLA’s Freud Theater, this was no ordinary “Midsummer Night’s Dream” reading. I could regale you with every little detail of the private performance Natalie Cole gave, or Christina Applegate’s crazy dance moves, but instead, I’ll awe you with the amazing cast.

Rita Wilson
Tom Hanks
Natalie Cole
Jack Sheldon
Drew Carey
Tracy Ullman
Zach Braff
Rob Lowe
Sean McGuire
Ray Romano
Christina Applegate

And while I may have gotten a kiss on the cheek from this guy:

Drew Carey touched my arm not once, but twice!!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

blonde quote of the day

When confronted with two evils; Choose the Blonde.

- Jacob Bradt

Friday, May 05, 2006

April Re-cap

Restaurant(s): Lilly’s, Lou, Malo

Book: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I know I said I’d read two books this month, but I got busy!

Culturally-Enriching Event(s): Although I bailed on Create:Fixate and slept through the Brewery Artwalk, I did manage to make it to the Brentwood Artwalk and the LA Times Festival of Books. And I’ve got the gnarly sunburn to prove it!

Recipe: A simple act of culinary MacGyver-ism, not once by twice. I made beet-stuffed ravioli with sage brown butter sauce. My newest food obsession? The wondrous wonton wrapper. It’s amazing what they can do. I also really enjoyed this braised cabbage recipe from Orangette. While more time-consuming than I normally have the patience for, it lasted the whole week in the fridge and really rounded out some nutritionally-pathetic dinners.

NEW CATEGORY: My sister informed me that we’re behind the pop culture times and the fact that we haven’t seen a movie in a theater in months is entirely unacceptable. So we’re going to attempt to see a movie a month. We started with a good one, an especially good one if you dislike Katie Holmes and enjoy watching people treate her like a slut: "Thank You for Smoking."

Now accepting any and all suggestions for May…

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

blonde quote of the day

Only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

~W.B. Yeats

Friday, April 21, 2006

Olympic Spa

I’ve been having a rough go of it recently. Someone stole the dill plant off of my front porch. A woman called me the “c-word” over a parking spot. I had to give a vendor a verbal beat-down, follow it up with an ultimatum and then threaten his job. After that, a suspected murderer was tackled and handcuffed by a dozen armed police officers at my place of business during opening hours. There’s more, but reliving those events in words is almost as stressful as doing it all over again.

It’s my belief that when disappointment, frustration and exhaustion all make play-dates for the same day/same week/same month, its time to take action. The human spirit can only take so much before collapsing in on top of itself.

So last Saturday I went to Olympic Spa in Koreatown, where I (quite literally) washed that job/that mess in the kitchen/that man, right out of my hair.

I always get the traditional Akasuri scrub ($35) and 30 minute mini-massage ($35) when I visit this spa. A friend turned me on to it, and although I’ve had other treatments, nothing else provides the same value for the price. And as I’m sure you can imagine, for that price, Olympic Spa is what you might call “no frills.”

It’s also no clothes.

So there I was: tired, frustrated, exhausted and naked at the Korean spa, surrounded by dozens of other tired, frustrated, naked women, waiting to be scrubbed and beaten. Beaten.

After sweating in both the jade-lined sauna and the Finnish dry sauna, soaking in the mugwort tea and a brief stint in the (very!) cold pool, I was called for my treatment. The Akasuri scrub is a vigorous rub-down with silk mitts. The silk sounds nice, but it’s more akin to a Brillo pad than soft sheets. And the massage isn't one of those "little to the left - right there - no there! - ahhh, yeahhhh" kind of places. You get what you get, and its good. And I'm not about to argue with a woman who wears a black bra and panty for a uniform.

I thoroughly enjoyed it – especially since the woman only broke the skin once, reinforcing my belief that this is truly the only place in LA where you can really be clean.

Olympic Spa
3915 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Phone 323.857.0666
Fax 323.857.0535

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm not moving to New York

I’ve been telling everyone I know for the past several months that I’m moving, and I planned and rescheduled my last trip to the Big Apple numerous times. I called headhunters and corporations asking for interviews. I got few replies, but I went to New York anyway, intent upon proving to myself that a move is what I need.

However, this last trip was different. This move was supposed to be the final installment of my “better bitter blonde” self-improvement plan; a new city would force me out of my comfort zone and into the life I’ve always wanted for myself. So on this trip, instead of wandering the city and imagining myself shopping in Soho or dining in chic establishments, I walked into bars and restaurants and thought to myself, “If I lived here, this is where I would go. These people would be my friends. It really would be that $#%@ing cold outside.” And for the very first time, I started to doubt my decision.

At first I thought it was PMS. And then I thought it was the miserable weather. And after that, I thought it was the not-entirely-successful-yet-not-unsuccessful interviews that were clouding my views of a city that I absolutely adore. And then a friend (whom I dearly love and still do!) said, “LA is so fake.”

And I was honestly offended. People are fake, dammit. Not cities.

So I thought about what the City of Angels has to offer and shifted the focus from why I didn’t want to move to New York to why I did want to stay in Los Angeles. And even though Lady Luck seems to have stood me up this month, I was still able to come up with a couple (well, 93) reasons why I love LA.

1. seat covers in public restrooms
2. 36 days of rain (on average). A year.
3. At least when you’re trapped in traffic, no one is touching you
4. $2 freeway off-ramp oranges
5. Only an idiot would take a $20K paycut to move to a city that costs twice as much
6. Track homes make me laugh
7. Everyone is good-looking. Everyone.
8. Blondes really do have more fun
9. Don Antonio’s dollar taco Wednesdays
10. Nancy Silverton and her crazy love of cheese nights at both Campanile and Jar
11. right turn on red (stolen from Woody Allen, I know)
12. You can grow (or kill) most anything in Plant Hardiness Zone 9
13. It's extremely difficult to "accidentally" run into someone in this city. Which is good when you don't want to ever see your ex again.
14. A parade doesn’t shut down the city. A 26 mile marathon doesn’t even inconvenience my commute.
15. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. And I don’t even drink coffee anymore
16. In-N-Out
17. Wilshire Blvd. takes you everywhere worth going
18. Ports O’Call live lobsters and crabs
19. Celebrity-stalking is way more fun in this city. And easier.
20. Recycling
21. Smog = Beautiful sunsets
22. Sweatpants ARE stylish
23. Sunglasses prevent crow’s feet
24. “Tacos el Jerezano” on Hazeltine & Burbank in Van Nuys
25. $15 mani-pedis
26. Trader Joe’s
27. The abundance of cheap wine that doesn’t taste cheap
28. Long (is there any other kind?) walks on the beach
29. the Pacific Palisades Sunday farmer’s market
30. shopping outdoors, year-round
31. Venice canals
32. Friends in “the biz” means never paying to rent a movie again. (Take THAT Blockbuster!)
33. Catalina. (I’ve never been, but I think I should)
34. Spanglish spoken here
35. Dodger baseball (Gagne kicks ass, or so my brothers tell me)
36. Dodger dogs
37. Public tennis courts
38. movies in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
39. Nordstrom
40. Even better: Nordstrom Rack
41. Montana Avenue Holiday Open House each December
42. supermarkets that sell booze
43. Father’s Office burgers, medium rare
44. Wearing heels without ever worrying how far I’ll have to walk. Because nobody walks in L.A.
45. Olympic Spa in K-town
46. Al Fresco dining in January
47. Polite homeless people (at least in Santa Monica)
48. Picnics & Parties & Piñatas at Rustic Canyon Park
49. Sunday jazz brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel
50. If tourists bother me, I need only to roll up the window.
51. The Hollywood sign on a clear day
52. Picnicking at the Hollywood Bowl and not getting stuck in stacked parking
53. Being mistaken for someone famous (OK, it happened once)
54. Judging potential dates strictly based on their area code.
55. Karaoke at the Gaslite
56. Toi Thai on Wilshire – open till 4am
57. Taste of Santa Monica food festival
58. Taste of Santa Monica all-you-can-drink $15 pass into the wine garden
59. UCLA Extension courses
60. Walking to the Promenade
61. Easy access to Home Depot
62. Rent control
63. 3 hospitals in a 10 mile radius. You never know…
64. Hairdressers that pluck your eyebrows free of charge
65. Inexpensive bikini waxes
66. Wasting a beautiful day indoors, knowing that tomorrow will be just as nice
67. Palm trees with Christmas lights
68. Random celebrity sightings
69. Bike riding down the boardwalk
70. Staying in because you don’t want to “deal with” Hollywood
71. Getting good deals on furniture from people moving to NYC
72. Driving through Beverly Hills at Christmas just to see the lights along Sunset Blvd
73. Apartments big enough to have parties in
74. Bay Cities deli sandwiches
75. Enjoying the rare rainy day
76. 99 cent daffodil days
77. I’ll admit it. I like my car.
78. Pico Bowl birthday parties
79. Getting silly drunk in Manhattan Beach and pretending we’re still in college
80. People always want to visit you in the winter
81. Vegas is only an hour flight, and costs just $100 (well, getting there at least)
82. Driving on the PCH at sunset
83. Fireworks at Pali High on the 4th of July
84. Camarillo Premium Outlets
85. Cabazon is just two hours away
86. See’s Candy is so much better than Godiva
87. Dame on Broadway and Lincoln
88. $1.99 corkage fee at Fritto Misto
89. the chicken car on Lincoln Blvd
90. beach picnics at sunset
91. “Car-flirting” in traffic
92. Earthquakes really aren’t that scary.
93. Seasons are for suckers.

I know I didn’t list my family or my friends, and that was on purpose. This decision is my own and I don’t think I’d be content with it if I chose a city based upon the people in it. That’s what planes are for. Besides, Los Angeles would win every time and we’re trying to make this a fair fight.

Just because I don’t want to move right now doesn’t mean that I heart NY any less. I love it. And I may still move there some day. But for right now, you may call it “Hollyweird” or “LA-LA land,” but I’m going to keep on calling Los Angeles my home.

(now playing in your head: Randy Newman's “I Love LA”)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

blonde quote of the day

I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know that I'm not blonde.

-Dolly Parton

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Have you met Lou?

Tucked in the corner of a strip center between a Laundromat and what is (most likely) a “den of sin” advertising Thai Massage for $35, is Lou. It took me 15 minutes and three laps around the block to find it, but once I did I definitely felt as if I’d stumbled upon something extraordinary. Lou feels like a secret club for people who like wine, cheese and salami.

Lou’s website claims that they have 25 wines by the glass, but I only counted 24. I’ll forgive them, because every wine they offer by the glass, they also offer by the bottle. (And vice versa.) In addition, they have $12 flights and an almond and olives appetizer that rendered my gastronomically-minded dining partner speechless.

We ordered most everything available and were mostly pleased with both the well-edited menu and the quality of the items. In addition to the almonds and olives, we also had a selection of crostini, the mixed cheese and salami plate, macaroni and cheese and the newest sensation in gluttony: pig candy.

Pig candy is amazing. I don’t understand why no one ever thought of maple-glazing bacon before. It’s like candy…but made from pigs…its pig candy.

Our only disappointment was the macaroni and cheese. It was dry, flavorless and an utter waste of elbow pasta. However, the staff was very accommodating and sent it back for us without even attempting to defend the kitchen. The replacement mac & cheese was not much better, but I do appreciate the effort.

Grand Total: $90.93 for two, but that included SIX glasses of wine.

In summary, if you can find it, you’re more than welcome to have dinner with Lou.

724 N. Vine St. (one block north of Melrose)
Los Angeles, CA 90038