Well, figures after a plunge back into the work week that the remainder of the Los Angeles adventure would not be chronicled in a timely manner. Overall, I am not sure if LA can supplant San Francisco or Boston (of course) in terms of general wonderfulness, but it holds it own against just about any other US city I know (Chicago is better, but the winter brings it close to a tie). What else?
- On the last day, we started heading to Griffith Park, the location made so famous in Rebel Without a Cause. There was a hike up Mt Hollywood – a definite good workout, and the views from the top were awesome. Also, the dirt and plant life on the hike are a stark reminder that we are in a desert-ish climate, something which is easy to forget sometimes.
- Lunch was at Yuca’s in Los Feliz. I would have been seriously remiss if I left Los Angeles without trying something Mexican – and a taco stand even cooler to boot. The carintas torta was excellent – definitely beats having to settle for a half-smoke.
- Got gelato was Scoops in Wilshire Center. THIS was pretty amazing. The flavors were certainly not things you recognize in classic ice cream. For example one of us got Rosemary and Olive Oil, another got Ricotta Marsala and Oreo. I got Salted Caramel which was absolutely fantastic. I am a sucker for the sweet and salty tag team anyway, but this was so good – rich, caramelly, salty and sweet without being cloyingly so. It is impossible to overstate this awesomeness.
- The last big event was taking in Virginia-USC at Los Angeles Coliseum. I tweeted (or something) that the Coliseum was a dump. Indeed, it is not much more than the four slabs of concrete and 90,000 chairs. However, the variety of concessions was extremely wide – the concourse almost resembles a county fair with the funnel cake stand, sausages, churros and the like. The seats themselves were pretty comfortable, and it is cool to see something as historic and iconic as the USC band – although they only seemed to keep playing “Seven Nation Army” when the Trojans had the ball. Definitely glad to make the trip.
A view from the top of Mt Hollywood. The smog clouds some of it, but not that bad.
A view of the sign, from the trail
Griffith Park Observatory
See? I told you!
Coming out of the tunnel.
The band in action. Actually was kind of neat.
Highlights of Day 3 of the exploration of Los Angeles:
- Day was focused on West Hollywood (right?) starting with the La Brea Tar Pits. Contrary to what I remember from The Flintstones or a few other images, we didn’t get to play in the tar itself. But it really does bubble. It’s like a hot spring, but more disgusting. The smell makes it pretty clear that it’s tar – thought it also looks like Korean Black Bean Sauce – but that would be mean to point out. The lake pit itself was a little touristy – with fake mastodons portrayed. The real cool thing was seeing the fossils that they dug out – sabertoothed cats, pre-ice age horses and other such critters.
- Lunchtime took us to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles – legitimate tourism! To be fair, I think we went to a less sexy location (West Pico St?) – service was quick and it sure looked like no celebrities were there. I had never had chicken and waffles and … let’s put it this way, after the food showed up (I had 2 pieces of dark meat smothered in gravy on two waffles) there was a solid 10 minutes of silence – just eating. This was amazing. The chicken was perfectly cooked and seasoned, the waffles were solid, the syrup was warm and in little glasses – I might die from a coronary during this post, but it was worth it.
- Afternoon spent at the Los Angeles County Museum or art – LACMA. This was lauded as a great place to go – and certainly it was pretty enormous. I am still not used to having to (gasp!) pay for admission to a museum, but the $15 does offer a lot. The most memorable parts was being able to see a couple of Pollocks – and yeah, in real life it feels more skilled than it would seem – and all the pop art at the modern art portion of the museum. LACMA also offers a nice view of the Hills, and the Hollywood sign.
- Dinner took us to Jitlada, a Southern Thai place in, well, Thai Town, that was featured on Food Network. This was reinforced by the dining table with various news articles about the restaurant on it – especially the joker-like visage of Rachael Ray (eeeek!). The menu is gigantic, and has an authentic menu with warnings on the spice. I had the jungle noodles which were sort of like a ramen with a spicy tangy sauce. It is not as sweet as the Thai we know, but a very good flavor. The jungle curry though was spicy – in the pork spare ribs one of the table got, it was truly hot – one of the hottest things I have had recently. However, the flavor was good, the meat was all very tender and juicy. It was really good, but more a case for admiration than love. Roscoe’s that was love!
Tar! The bubbling was kinda cool though.
Fossils ... marked by the flags - obviously a little hard to see
The signs shows all
Tastes as good as it looks
the view from the top of LACMA
random observations from the first full day of the Los Angeles mini-sojourn:
- Atlanta tends to be my frame of reference with Los Angeles due to what I had heard from friends who had experienced both. I did not see the bucolic Atlanta a hell of a lot, so that showed in my first entry. However, there are a couple of ways that Los Angeles and Atlanta are a LOT alike. One is the traffic and massive roads – though LA has a curious lack of turn lanes considering the traffic. The other of the areas is in how small the downtown actually is. Today, we took to exploring LA’s downtown – the amazing thing is how it actually really only amounts to a couple dozen blocks (granted the blocks are large). We started in Little Tokyo but went to Pueblo de Los Angeles and Chinatown and really did not take up much time.
- LA’s Chinatown, the inspiration for Polanski’s classic of course, is actually a bit of a disappointment. Chunking Plaza holds a lot of young artists galleries and showings, and the work varied the way that all artists could vary – typical bell curve sort of thing. However, the mom and pop restaurant thing – largely underwhelming and (granted this was Thursday afternoon) curiously deserted.
- LA’s Little Tokyo on the other hand, was pretty cool. A contrast to the tourist knick knack silliness of Olivera Street – ok, not a contrast, there was tourist trap Hello Kittyness – the Japanese section was legitimately cool and interesting. In particular, we went and got lunch at Sushi-Gen, a highly recommended sushi joint in the area. You knew it was a special place given the Disney-World sized line that was forming at 11 AM (we got in the front). Also the menu was lacking in chef’s rolls – the fish was the star. I got the Sushi Combination special – which came with a salmon skin and green salad which was a tasty start. The sushi was lovely – I thought the “taste the difference” thing with California was a wives’ tale, but with the tuna, it just melted in your mouth. It was just so much fresher as to render East Coast Sushi silly. The eel was similarly lovely. The Tamago/Japanese Omelet I just don’t think I like generally. (food porn below)
- Dinner took us to the Kogi truck – which was at UCLA. UCLA campus driving through was ok, but did not fill me with yearning to not have been a Brown graduate . Kogi itself is a Korean-Mexican mashup food truck. I got a Kogi dog, a hot dog with a Korean spicy slaw (with cabbage, bean sprouts, kimchi spices) – the best Slaw Dog I have ever had. Also shared in a Kimchee Quesadilla which was delicious, crispy, cheesy and spicy. This was the best food truck I have experienced, not even close. Dessert a cookie sammich at Diddy Riese. Normally, cookie ice cream sammiches are awesome – when the cookie is hot, so much the better. Good Humor this was not
- Attended a Dennis Hopper exhibit at the Geffen at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Very modern, conceptual – the notion of taking a common piece, calling it art and suddenly, it’s art! Warhol pictures abounded. It was interesting, but without photographing the works, hard to discuss further.
Very modern art
Sushi-Gen Sushi Combo. Tuna and Eel were something to behold.A nice view of teeny tiny downtown
Bradbury Building - interiors used in Blade Runner ... I think 500 Days of Summer Featured this also
Four random observations from the first day of the first trip to Los Angeles – a good R&R chance. (note: have some encounters in Assateague and Ohio to yammer about – will get to them when possible):
- One of the more durable maxims of this day and age is that if you want a pleasant airline experience, you probably need to turn to a foreign carrier. Certainly Virgin Atlantic and Sri Lankan Airlines in recent excursions have delivered the goods. US Airways, is pretty terrible. Of course, with DCA being a major hub for them, the short trip is too much to resist. Anyway, after racing through the terminal in Philadelphia to catch the flight to LA, US Airways had their entertainment menu published with the various crappy movies and crappy food selections. Of course when someone asked about the movie, they said “oh we haven’t done these in two years.” Also there was false advertising with the WiFi on the flight. Of course, captive audience.
- LA in September is much cooler than I expected. 66 when we landed, has not gotten much warmer. Compared to DC, it is much more – well, fall-like … somehow that feels like an upset to me.
- Given the normal views of the city on TV, the pavement and palm trees and such, one got the impression that LA would be sort of ersatz and concrete, like Atlanta is to a large degree. But homebase for the trip is at Silverlake – a surprisingly quaint neighborhood that actually evoked a bit of Park Slope in Brooklyn. Furthermore, staying in a house designed by Richard Neutra (look at the view!) it is hard not to feel refreshed.
- Had dinner at Cru. Cru is a raw, vegan, gluten free restaurant in the Silverlake area. Obviously this theme is out there for me (or lots of other people). American vegetarian food for me is usually bollocks, since the history of vegetarian cuisine represents a deviation from meat – there is always a bullshit protein like quinoa or tofu trying to act like meat … as opposed to South Indian which simply enjoys what it is. So – I was very pessimistic going into this, though I was excited to try a “trendy, California” thing. Imagine my surprise to report that it was in fact remarkably good. I ordered a vegan mushroom soup (creamy, hearty – they cooked it, so I did cheat). The entree was this jicama ravioli with a raw cashew “cheese” and an uncooked herbed tomato sauce with an arugula salad on top. This was delicious. The sauce had good flavor, basil-y (almost like a marinara salsa if you can understand) and the cheese was not at all disgusting (like vegan cheese slices). The dessert was a coconut chocolate mousse cake – also tasty and convincing – I did not notice what was missing. Cru is not the cheapest meal ever, but absolutely wonderful. My tablemates had the vegan chorizo on tostada, and the “chorizo” made of pumpkinseed was wholly satisfying. This is an Appalachian State over Michigan level shock and surprise – seriously.
The view from the window. Yes, I am staying in a tree house.