Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Posts Delayed

But the good news is that they’re delayed because I’m getting published. I just finished a profile on John Apodaca, classic cocktail aficionado, for LA2Day (will go up next week), and turned in a feature on the Dos Carlitos restaurant and tequila bar for the Santa Barbara Independent last week. I have two more projects in the works for LA2Day for which I must go to a beer-making class (such hard work!) and a bakery, and I’m working on a super secret, very “hush hush” project for “a social networking site” which will keep me very busy for the next two weeks.

So, when I have a moment - or when the need to procrastinate paid labor overwhelmes me - I will post again! Until then, I'll keep linking to my articles as they are published. Cheers!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama-fest 2009

Anglophile LV LIVE in Downtown reporting.

Today, right now in fact, President Obama is set to speak at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in downtown Los Angeles. Since it’s 6 blocks away from where I work, I climbed up Lucas Street to get a glimpse of the event, and maybe even a peek at the man himself. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Sorry, had to do that.

Apparently Villaraigosa and Governor Schwarzenegger are there also, but the only Mayor I see is the one in the cheap suit with the plastic Antonio mask using a loudspeaker to shout out to the laughing Mexican families gathered on their fire escapes across from the complex.

When I first arrive, around 12:10, the air is festive, like the parking lot of a football stadium before a playoff game. Fans with Obama hats and shirts walk around the building, since they don’t have tickets to get in, just to be in the excitement. There’s a man selling souvenirs two blocks downhill from the event, who I walk past with a polite shake of the head. I’m not buying Obama today. A platoon of black-clad cops carrying riot helmets pass me in pairs, tightly grouped like Roman soldiers. A cluster of Mexican women chatting to eachother in Spanish sell snack food out of cardboard boxes. An attractive young black woman wearing a bright blue Obama hat with matching blue flip flops, carrying a large bag makes her way around the building. Definitely a reporter. I follow her to the side of the building and she is joined by two less attractive companions. Crew.

The Learning Complex is a school, and the noise coming from its courtyard sounds like lunchtime at any high school: boisterous. News crew trucks are parallel parked next to minivans. The two large Mexican families have hung two flags from their fire escape balconies: 1 Mexican flag and 1 United States flag. A little girl in pink waves a mini Mexican flag. For a moment, a gust of wind makes the flags wave together and look like one big red, white, blue and green piece of fabric. Everyone is smiling.

I’ve never seen so many smiles. Even the usually surly cops look filled with good will. I see more Obama-merchandise. Vendors sell “Obama art”, copies of LA Times photographs in cheap frames. Women carry Obama-totes and wear Obama T-shirts with the words “Progress” on the front, and “Si, Se Puedes – Obama ‘08” on the back. A middle-aged blonde woman poses with arms in the air, beaming, while her friend takes a picture of her standing beside a police vehicle. Another middle-aged blonde woman is being given a hard-sell by the fast-talking man with the “Obama art”.

Black people, Mexican people, and blonde teacher-type people gather together on the street corners across from the complex. Young Mexican boys play on the steps of the rundown apartment building, pretending to shoot each other. A group of young, tough looking Mexican teenagers patrol the area in a pack, looking slightly disgruntled at the cop cars, and shout rap lyrics in fluent English (I guess the school system is accomplishing something after all). A Rastafarian is playing a jubilant “On the Sunny Side of the Street” on his saxophone while the phony Villaraigosa panders to his fans in Spanish (how like the real thing).

Now people are coming with more causes on their shirts than just “Obama.” Armenians For Obama carry a sign to recognize the genocide, and apparently earlier in the day there were illegal immigrant activists protesting for immigration reform, though I didn’t see them.

Apparently, holding a notebook makes me look like someone who knows what’s going on. Three people so far have asked me questions:
“Is this the place?” --Yes.
“Where is the entrance?” –Over there, I think.
“Are you writing a parking citation for the cop car?” –No, but they really have some coming.
“Which way do you think he’ll come in?” --I have no idea. (though I suspect he is inside already)

By now, it’s 1pm and I need to get back to work, but the sense of anticipation and the festival-like atmosphere make me want to stay.

A woman next to me turns to a complete stranger to say “Everybody say he gonna land in a helicopter on the football field they got over there.” She turns to her little boy who has been running amuck, and fidgeting when caught. She scolds him, “Somebody gonna snatch you—watcha gonna do then?!”

We watch two men on the rooftop of a far building check for snipers. At 1:15 we hear sirens, but it’s just Los Angeles noise. No Obama. Not yet anyways. And me? I have to get back to work, because Obama is sooo not worth getting yelled at by my boss.

This is LV, signing off.

What's Hot? SpiceMonkey

It's been a while since I last plugged my go-to recipe site: Spicemonkey. It's hosted by my very talented friend who does crazy things like Indian-Mexican fusion beans and rice (seen above). That girl knows her spice and describes the floral scent of habaneros with unabashed affection. I can't even get close enough to a habanero to smell it - I'm still treating Jalapenos and Serranos with extreme caution! In addition to her world-rocking recipes, there are a bunch of mine also. I haven't devoted this blog to my cooking endeavors, because they all go to Spicemonkey (with the exception of the catastrophic failure that was imagawa-yaki).

So check it out, and seriously, you have to try the beans and rice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trip Planning: Solvang and Santa Ynez

I have suddenly become Trip Planner Extraordinaire for my friends and family, and while I’m really enjoying the role, it does come with some drawbacks. Monday night my cousin called—wait, let me preface this:

My Grandfather is in his mid-nineties and doesn’t stay up past 7pm for anything. So when I get a phone call at 10pm at night on a Monday and my cell phone says “Grandad’s House,” I think the old man must be dead as a doornail, or pretty close to, and someone is calling to tell me the news. I’m mid-way through washing my hair when the phone rings and have a good 10 minutes of thinking how a person could or should react when they hear about the imminent demise of a grandparent before I’m able to check my messages. That was not fun.

So when I get the cheery chirpy voicemail from my North Carolina cousin asking where to get the best Pea Soup—I’m ready to KILL HIM. Apparently he and his wife are visiting, staying at Grandad’s house in Goleta, and were planning on driving up to Solvang the next day. So, Tuesday morning I restrained the urge to yell at him for scaring the dickens out of me and gave him my best tips for where to eat and drink in the Valley:

From the 101 North, hang a right onto Hwy. 246. The highway goes through Buellton and on to Solvang – the most-like-Disneyland place on earth! I’m waiting for the giant ambulatory stuffed animals to appear any minute.

For breakfast, hit Paula’s Pancake House or Olsen’s Bakery. They are right next to each other on the main road, Mission Drive, and are both good picks; the former for omelets and Danish pancakes, the latter for kringle, a Danish pastry everyone should try.

My Lunch-date place of choice is The Chef’s Touch, also on Mission Drive. Instead of sausages and aebleskivers (the fare at the Danish themed restaurants), Chef’s Touch is more of a foodie experience. The chef/owner uses seasonal ingredients for inspiration, and just has fun with it.

My cousin wanted to hunt down some semi-precious stone marbles for our family board game (Wahoo!- it had a blip of popularity in the 70s and dropped from the shelves soon after, to such an extent that my family makes our own wood game boards because we can’t find them anywhere else). I sent him to my friend Joelle at the Mystic Merchant on Copenhagen Dr, who, if she doesn’t have them in stock, will at least be able to order them for him. The Mystic Merchant has a geology department’s selection of geodes and crystals, not to mention jewelry, and Joelle knows the stories of everything (and everything has a story).

After a good dose of Solvang, I figured they would probably need a drink. I put them back on Hwy. 246 towards Santa Ynez with instructions to turn right on Refugio Rd. Kalyra winery, offering Australian style wines in a cute aussie-style tasting room, and the stunning Sunstone Winery are my picks for two of the best wineries in the Valley. Sunstone is possibly the most beautiful winery I have ever seen, and they’re committed to “gentle production techniques”—which is probably good. Most importantly, their wines rock. All of them. Try them if you don’t believe me.

I also pointed them in the direction of Roblar Winery and the small town of Los Olivos on Hwy. 154. Roblar has some *killer* reds, and Los Olivos has art galleries (Judith Hale is my fav), Panino’s sandwich shop, The Wine Cask (stocks hard-to-find wines like Seasmoke) and what used to be Patrick’s Side Street CafĂ©. God only knows what it’s called now. You know how it is with small towns – if a restaurant changes its name once, people always refer to it as “the place that used to be…”. I think they even have the old sign up so locals don’t get confused, or rather, so locals don’t confuse visitors when they’re giving them directions.

For dinner though: Ballard Inn. Forget there are any other restaurant options. It’s just Ballard Inn. Unless you’re poor, but even then, save up the dough because Chef Budi Kazali makes some of the tastiest and most original food in Southern California. And he’s a nice guy too.

Next Up: a joint post by me and my boyfriend where we answer our friend’s question on where to go and what to do on a road trip to San Diego. He’s got the local knowledge, I’ve got the…blog. Together, we’re quite a team.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Southern (California) Living

Last night I had a hankerin’ for collard greens and coleslaw.

Which is odd, since I’ve never had collard greens.

I’m not Southern. Not one single gene is from South of the Mason-Dixon line (I actually need to google where that line is…). But some instinct deep inside told me that I could make collard greens as good as any belle of the South. So I went to my favorite inspirational website,, and looked up a top rated recipe for collard greens – and then tweaked the hell out of it to make a pretty wicked dish of greens, bacon and spicy sausage, and coleslaw on the side to relieve the heat.

This is not my picture (wish it was).

SoCal Collards
Serves 3

1 tablespoon garlic olive oil
6 slices turkey bacon*
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bunch fresh collard greens, chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (if using buillon cubes, go with ½cube for 2 cups)
1 pinch red pepper flakes (or a packet leftover from the last Dominos delivery)
2 big sausages, grilled (I used Italian)
*Note: If you’re using real bacon, just use the bacon grease to cook everything and forget about the olive oil.

1. Use a deep skillet to cook the turkey bacon until browned. It’s not oily, unlike bacon, so you may need to add a dash of garlic oil. Remove from pan.

2. Add the 1Tb garlic oil, garlic and onion to the hot pan. Cook until slightly browned on the edges. It’s ok if the onions begin to caramelize.

3. Add the chopped collard greens and cook down for 5 minutes. Then add the 2 cups of chicken broth and red pepper flakes. I add the fresh ground black pepper at this point too. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.

4. Using a grill, cook the sausages for around 7 minutes on each side to serve along side the greens.

SoCal Coleslaw
Servings: 2

½ bag of broccoli slaw
3Tb diced red onion
2 TB mayonnaise
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tb sugar
¼ tsp salt, pepper to taste
2 tsp white vinegar (or to taste)

1. Mix ingredients together. Taste. I like my coleslaw more on the tart/salty side than the sweet side so I added more salt and vinegar. That's it!
Next Stop: GRITS. I wonder which aisle they're in at Ralphs...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

So, I'm like, TOTALLY doing a makeover on my blog. It's gonna look FABULOUS dahling. The first step is already done, and that's to change the name to Now, if you type that into the location bar, it will lead you right back here. The old one still works too, but use the new one. It sounds better.

Step 2 is the reeeeeally exciting one. I've enlisted a pro-blog designer to make my blog beautiful. We are currently working out the details, so no news yet, but I'll keep you posted. Get it? Posted? Blogs = posts? You know you love me.