Saturday, May 16, 2009

Romi's, Palmdale - Saturday 5/16/2009

This wild mushroom & chicken linguine looks really good, doesn't it?

Sadly, that's about as far as it goes. Chicken was dry and wasn't the highest quality. It was like those weird cuts they often serve you in cheap Chinese restaurants--where lunch comboes are still $5.95.

You know what I'm talking about. The chicken knuckles.

They offered no freshly ground pepper, which I think sets off pasta so nicely, and no Parmesan.

When we first visited Romi's right after it opened last summer, we were excited that someone was trying to up the level of dining in Palmdale. We were impressed with our first meal here. We've been here three or four times since then, and each experience has been less satisfying than the last.

Service is consistently below par, with a great deal of inattention even though the dining room has never been anything near full on any of our visits. This time, they brought Hydra's large over-dressed Cesar salad first. That's fine, even though I think they would have been far wiser to offer each of us a smaller salad with our $12.95 lunches.

My entree came about ten minutes later. Then we waited another 5-10 minutes for Hydra's entree. Hydra saw our server stop and talk with another employee as she carried his Cajun Meatloaf to the table. (Please, there was nothing discernibly Cajun about the was barbecue sauce if you ask me.)

The best part of the meal was when the server came to the table with water and had her eye on the elderly man making strange gestures in the air at the table behind me. We'd just come from seeing Angels and Demons and I was about to make a comment on the classic Italian decor of the dining room.

"We just saw Angels and Demons," I said to the server, smiling.

She blanched and her eyes widened. "What!?"

"Um...Angels and Demons? The movie."

"Oh! That's such a relief! I was watching that old guy and I thought--"

She really should go see the movie, if she's that willing to believe in the supernatural!

I'm not saying anyone else should see it, unless you're willing to leave your logic and your sense of time at the door. Tom! Ron! What are you, thinking with your dwindling investments in mind?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Innocents Lost - Thursday 5/14/2009

Yes, in a few minutes, these innocent vegetables will be chopped and blended into an inedible batch of gazpacho.

First off, there was too much onion, so I added some canned tomatoes in an attempt to fix it. But I think the cucumbers might have been bitter.

Lesson : taste the ingredients.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Got Milk? Well... Got Luck! - Wednesday 5/13/2009

The most thoughtful Los Angelista invited me to a blogger's event sponsored by the California Milk Board and their long-running "Got Milk?" advertising campaign. I was surprised to learn the slogan that spawned so many imitations has been around for 16 years. This event was part of their outreach to the Spanish-speaking audience with the similar "Toma Leche".

The idea is to make a bunch of bloggers happy and tell them that drinking milk helps hair growth because it contains protein and vitamins. It was interesting to talk to bloggers about the ups and downs of these sorts of events, and to experience one first hand.

It was held at Estilo Salon on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, which was a very comfortable place. Nice decor but not fussy.

That's my hand getting a manicure from the lovely A, who is from Toronto originally. I am wearing a ring and earrings from Antipasta and a bracelet from Braveheart. I wear these pieces other times, but make sure to have them with me when I am going into a new situation or a writing-related event. They're my talismans, my lucky stuff.

This was my first blogger event, and you'd think I'd be nervous, but just the fact that Los Angelista thought I was cool enough to be there made me feel at ease. I was curious about how these things go.

Photo by Emilio Flores

It was very interesting to meet other bloggers. I'm the one in the middle with the gift bag...more on that later. Left to right : NJ of Yellowbox, Los Angelista, me, Chatty of Constant Chatter on my right, and a writer's assistant whose name I didn't get.

It was cool being around other bloggers, because we are all making it happen for ourselves. I'm not saying that there is anything in the least wrong with traditional writing venues (in
which I continue to beleive), but writers are constantly asking permission to share their work and being denied access.

It was refreshing to talk about work we are actually doing, whether we're being paid for it or not. There was no angst about "am I worthy to call myself a writer if I'm not being constantly published" which plagues many of us.

It made me feel even better about being here, doing this.

To add to the fun, there were fabulous tiny sweet things on hand, and a latte bar serving real live milk!

I happened to take this photo on my way to the salon, because it was good to see the Insomnia sign. Insomnia first opened near my apartment in Sherman Oaks years and years ago, and was a beloved hangout. I included Milk in the photo because of the bulding, and as it turned out, they provided the treats pictured above.

That's Roberto Ramos giving consultations on the right. I was the second person to get a consult. He was a lot of fun, and very easy to talk with. We bargained for the amount of time I'd be willing to spend every day on my hair and shared a laugh. He did almost nonstop consultations for about 2 hours. Must have been tiring, but he was very gracious about it.

Up top, there's a DJ who kept the music going all night.

Looking down on the event from next to the DJ. I didn't go up there. This is another Emilio Flores photo, sent to me by the folks at "Got Milk?"

I don't know why I look so apologetic in this photo. I'm having a great time. Cool mirror shot of Chatty taking the photo, yes? And that's Emilio Flores on the left, taking his own pix.

Los Angelista gets advice. I didn't hear everything he said, but I did get that he didn't tell her to get her hair straightened. Good man. Thank goodness, her tiny curls are just adorable. He seems to flow with women's instincts for their hair and build on that.

He said I'm doing mine almost half right. Suggested some products and some layers in the bottom. Actually, it sounds like the way I was having it cut before I had the layers cut out in February as an experiment.

I wish I remembered this lovely person's name, or the name of the writer she assists. This was late in the evening and she'd waited a long time.

Okay, drumroll folks! They gave away three levels of gift certificates for salon services at Estilo: $75, $125 and $200.

And guess who won the $200!

Yeah! Me!

Boy, I really need this. I was just thrilled. I hope I thanked everyone enough.

I called the next day and made an appointment for the week before I go to Indiana, which will be two weeks before my 30th high school reunion. [Jeez, that always sounded soooo impossible up until now.... No, actually, it still sounds impossible. Little ol' me?]

Roberto Ramos is going to make me look just like Jessica Alba, whose hair he also does. Along with a lot of other gorgeous celebs. Okay, not just like Jessica. Maybe I could aim for Bette Midler, though?

What a fun evening. Dodger was very curious about my gift bags when I arrived home.

"Got Milk" gear and a pampering kit were in the bags. I gave them to my neighbor, who is in his mid-to-late twenties and will give them to his friends. There's also a tee shirt.

All in all, very interesting and fun evening.

Pan Pacific Park - Wednesday 5/13/2009

I stumbled upon Pan Pacific Park today while looking for parking near an event I was going to. It's on the site of the former Pan Pacific Auditorium. It was still standing when Hydra and I arrived in Los Angeles, and they were trying to find a new use for it.

I'd forgotten that it burned down in 1989. I figured it had just been another victim of L.A.'s general disregard for its architectural history. (Click on the photo for a link to the site where I found it.)

As you can see, the architects of the recreation building located at the park paid tribute to the original design. Very nice.

These tiles depict various architecturally interesting buildings in Los Angeles.

Tiles with images of Pan Pacific Auditorium.

More tiles inside the building. There are classrooms and a couple of gyms in here, and some surprisingly well-maintained bathrooms.

Echoes of children's voices in here reminded me of visiting the Huntington YMCA pool when I was a little kid.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Can Forget All Your Cares and Go Downtown - Monday 5/11/2009

Antipasta, Braveheart and I ventured into downtown Los Angeles for the day to visit some museums and soak in the atmosphere. Central Los Angeles doesn't have the kind of street culture that other major cities do, but it's still pretty wonderful.

I'd driven by the new(ish) Walt Disney Concert Hall but I hadn't been up close or inside. It seemed rather sharp to me, but it's quite sensuous when you see it up close. As Braveheart said, the building itself evokes the movement of music. I really wanted to put my hands on those walls. And maybe even try sliding down them!

We went inside and there were tours offered, but they didn't offer a viewing of the auditorium. Antipasta and Braveheart were mildly shocked that I haven't been there yet. There they go, setting the cultural bar a little higher again.

Above the entrance to Our Lady of Los Angeles Cathedral. I love that her toes stick over the edge of the platform.

Oddly, I didn't take a photograph of the outside of the cathedral. You can get an idea of it from the church's architecture page. It felt very uninviting to me. Layers of shingled concrete give the impression that it's like an armadillo ready to roll up at the slightest provocation.

Maybe this armored effect is a symptom of the struggles the Catholic Church faced during the time when this structure was designed and built, as it was under siege of so many accusations of sexual abuse by its priests.

A noon mass began as we stepped inside the gigantic sanctuary. See the three-dimensional cross in the window?

The windows were probably my favorite part of the cathedral. The thinly cut natural alabaster lets in a most benign light.

I happened to take a shot almost identical to the cathedral's own representation.

One of the small chapels that line the corridor outside the sanctuary. The Cathedral commissioned some truly lovely artwork.

All in all, though, the cathedral feels like a mausoleum. Cold and impersonal. I wonder if it will resonate for people in a hundred years when it has had time to absorb the hopes and fears of those who worship here.

It was just a little misty up at elevation. This building is on 4th Street near Olive.

Our next stop was MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art], where it's okay to photograph exhibits from the permanent collection.

I like the sculpture on the left. It's called "Soft Scissors."

See it now?

I like art that doesn't take itself too darned seriously.

Number 1, 1949 by Jackson Pollack surprised me. When you are in the room with this piece, you can follow all the different colors and layers in succession and see so much.

It struck me that it's like looking out at the whole amazing universe and simultaneously inward into the heart of the atom.

We explored the performance room part of the Dan Graham exhibit.

Braveheart's response to most creative challenges is to remove her shirt.


I take pictures or notes. Or both.

Well-walked and hungry, we arrive at Grand Central Market to seek out lunch. It was after 2 p.m. by then and some of the stuff on the steamer tables honestly looked a little crusty. But we scoped it all out and came up with a shared lunch of teriyaki chicken, ceviche tostada, scallop burrito, and tilapia.

The tilapia plate, served with rice, beans, shredded lettuce and corn tortillas. Mmm.

And we're off to Los Angeles Public Library's Central Library. This building and the services it provides along with all it's branch libraries are one of the truly great things about this city. I use it all the time.
Along with books, interesting architecture and literary events, it houses a gallery on the 2nd floor and an exhibition space on the 1st floor.

This is a self-portrait of Richard Neutra, a California architect whose designs had a great impact on California. I have to say that I am not a huge fan of the sharpness of his building designs, but I was very impressed with his artwork.

Antipasta pointed out that there were early 1930s style cars parked in front of his futuristic looking buildings in many of his renderings. Interesting!

Stairs up from 5th Street to 4th, across from the library. There's usually water running through the rocks on top of the bannister.

These kids aren't fooling around. They know how to get around downtown.

We search in vain for a Pinkberry...

Yes, my toes are a little tired. After yesterday's calf-stretching climb up and around Vasquez Rocks, they've had a bit of a workout.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Hike - Sunday 5/10/2009

BikerChick takes a photo of our favorite yucca. We all took shots of this gorgeous thing!

I noticed lots of ladybugs around our house this year, too.

RockGoddess and Cabrita (little goat) scale the heights. Whoo hoo!

A whole lot of trucks were pulling into the main parking lot as we hiked above the road. They film a lot here.

I suspect that this is a set up for something to do with Saving Grace since the woman on the bed looks like she could be a Holly Hunter stand in, and the show filmed promotional spots out here.

Oh, yeah! It's very cool to see Vasquez Rocks show up in Star Trek (2009) as the planet Vulcan. Welcome back, guys! I didn't take any photos of the big rock this time, but here's a post where I did.

Not the place I want to be in an earthquake.

Life really wants to be.

Cafe Vasquez is open for business. Nice shady spot. First time I'd met RockGoddess and Cabrita.

Cabrita knocks back some peanuts.

Turtle takes to the trail.

Go Turtle!

Blackberry Compote - Saturday 5/9/2009

I've been getting tasty blackberries from Costco recently, and wondering what to do with them other than enjoy them fresh. Our friends BikerChick and Capo are going to stay over with us tonight after going to a hoot together and we'll have pancakes with blackberry compote for breakfast tomorrow.

I went online and looked at a bunch of recipes and then made up my own. I made a double batch, but here are the basics. You could do this with different berries, and adjust the amount of water and cornstarch depending on how juicy the berries are.

2 cups berries.
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cold water
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (to taste, and depending on how tart the berries are)
1/4-1/2 cup water (like I said, depending on the juiciness of the berries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few shakes of powdered cinnamon

Mix the corn starch and the 2 Tbs of cold water. (Preferably in the same pink melamine cup your mom used to mix up corn starch in when you were a kid.)

Put the berries, sugar and fresh water in a non-reactive pan and heat them to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until the berries seem cooked to you. In this case, they seemed to become redder as they cooked. I wanted to leave mine with a little body.

Stir in vanilla extract and cinnamon. (This pairing is my twist on the recipe.)

Keeping the mixture bubbling, slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture until you reach your desired consistency. Mine was about as thick as pie filling. You may not use all the cornstarch...sort of depends on how much liquid you have. If you want it to be more saucy, you can add more water before stirring in the cornstarch mixture.

Tip: I made space in the middle of the berries with my spoon and poured the cornstarch into that. It will thicken a lot in that area, but before it gets lumpy you stir in the thinner juice from amongst the berries. Repeat that several times so you can control how thick the sauce is.

The finished product, ready to cool and pop into the fridge to await breakfast.

I have to say, this was really good on the pancakes.

Which was a relief, since I burnt some of the pancakes, undercooked some and flipped one down between the stove and the counter. We ended up with just barely enough good ones to fill us up, along with some scrambled eggs. I guess I got cocky with my cast iron cooking skills and didn't really pay enough attention to the temperature of the pan. Sheesh!

I told BikerChick and Capo that they have to come back so I can make them a frittata or an omelet. I'm better at that.