Friday, April 30, 2010

Bungalow Heaven

Last weekend was the 21st Annual Bungalow Heaven Home Tour in Pasadena.  It's an interesting tour because Bungalow Heaven is a neighborhood with a collection of over 800 historic homes, built from the 1900s to the 1930s.  Many of these bungalows were prefab — you could order a kit for around $650! The homeowners here take their heritage pretty seriously.  Bungalow Heaven was the first neighborhood in Pasadena to be granted the Landmark District designation, and in 2008, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

The tickets were a little pricey, so we just walked around, which turned out to be pretty interesting.  Many of the homes weren't open to the public, but had these green signs on their lawns that told you when they were built and when they were last opened to the public.  I liked that so many of the enterprising neighborhood children decided to open up old-fashioned lemonade stalls — one stall had its very own chamber orchestra!  All very cute.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hummingbird Feeder For Your Head

As regular readers will know, ever since we got a hummingbird feeder, I've been very fascinated by these tiny helicopters of nature.  I can easily see how people spend hours staring at the feeder as bird after bird come foraging for nectar.  Even as I write this post, I'm staring at the feeder, wondering who's going to pop by next.  We have about a dozen regulars, each with a very distinctive personality, from Tiny to Valium (Valium is a rather jittery bird and I'm hoping the name might do it some good with a little bit of sympathetic magic).  But, my fascination has limits.  And the hummingbird face mask feeder is that limit.  See below and maybe you'll understand?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Gratitude of Bones

Kartika Review just came out with their fabulous Home issue.  OK, I am a little biased as my short story "The Gratitude of Bones" is included.  But it is a pretty cool issue with tons of wonderful things to read, including essays by Asian American artists on what home means to them.  To download the full issue, just click here!  And please read my story and say something nice in the comments because I'm a pretty sad charity case and am not too proud to beg. ;)

Intelligentsia Update

The Pasadena Intelligentsia is going to serve food!  At least according to LA Eater.  I think that's a great idea!  Of course, only if the food is going to be good.  The pastry stuff they serve at the Silver Lake Intelligentsia is pretty blah.  And often stale.

Talking about Intelligentsia, I finally got to try their Venice Beach location.  Having been a regular at the Silver Lake location, the VB location seemed very strange.  Totally different feel and decor, which was all wood and high, exposed pipes ceiling aesthetics.  The pastry counter was also much bigger and the pastries looked really good (didn't get a chance to try any :( ).  The crowd was very different too.  No Hipsters.  Couldn't identify any writers.  Very dressed up in that 90210 way.  And every fifth person seemed to have those bulky SLR pro cameras around their neck (girls too).  Was it Bring Your Camera To Work Day?  The only thing the two locations had in common was their bathrooms — totally out of paper towels.  Who had the better cappuccino?  I'm going to have to say Venice Beach.  I think that was the best cappuccino I've ever had.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vietnamese Coffee

It's called cafe sua da.  Most happily served as iced coffee, it's a fantastic concoction of coffee, condensed milk and ice.  At its best, the coffee is made at your table, using a Vietnamese coffee filter (pictured above).  But in LA, it's awfully hard to find a place that does it this way.  Usually, the coffee will be premade and served to you like any other iced coffee.  Which means, it's hard to find a great cafe sua da (although Banh Mi Che Cali's premade cafe sua da is pretty darn good).  But finally, we found a place that does cafe sua da the old-fashioned way, complete with the agonizingly slow flowing Vietnamese coffee filter!  In San Gabriel, the place is Vietnam Restaurant and their cafe sua da is really, really good.  Oh — and so is their food.


Had traditional cafe sua da at Golden Deli — not bad (much faster filter than the cafe sua da at Vietnam Restaurant).

Vietnam Restaurant
340 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 281-5577

Golden Deli
815 West Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is Pasadena hip?

So is Julia Child's hometown finally becoming as hip as Julia?  I mean Pasadena of course.  Using restaurant openings as a gauge, things definitely do seem to be chillin'.  Last year, The Counter opened up on Lake.  Super cool hot dog place, The Slaw Dogs, opened a few months ago.  Then I heard that Urth is going to open up.  And, as if things couldn't get better, Intelligentsia decided to head on over.  Oh, and get this — supposedly Intelligentsia will be serving alcohol!

You know what else Pasadena needs?  A really hip hair salon.  And better broadband.  Internet connection choices here suck (even Sierra Madre has FiOS).  What's with that?  Pasadena is the home of Cal Tech and JPL!!!  The good news is that Pasadena is participating in Google's Fiber for Communities program (Google is going to give a few lucky communities super fast internet connection).  But I'm not seeing any plans for Pasadena to change its name to Google.  Is Pasadena so much better than Topeka that it can't beg?  Hell, Pasadena should change its name to Larry Page.  Megalomanics like that.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Local News

I was in Old Pasadena yesterday afternoon and couldn't help but notice the three ABC7 News vans parked outside the Apple store.  iPad fever, of course.  Local news was covering the iPad launch the way network news used to cover war campaigns.  Well, I suppose it is a war of sorts.  The thing is, I've been noticing that ABC7 News is always reporting from Old Pasadena now.  Need the Common Man's opinion about the weather?  Grab someone walking through Old Pasadena.  Need the Common Man's opinion on lettuce?  Old Pasadena — just over brimming with Common Man*.  ABC7 News used to hang out at Studio City, on the intersection of Ventura and Laurel Canyon Blvd.  I used to live near Studio City.  Now I live near Old Pasadena.  Is there a connection?  Is ABC7 News stalking me?

Anyway, if appearing on the local news is part of your Bucket List, head on over to Old Pasadena.

*Here I'm using the Old English meaning of man, a term that was not gender specific and meant person (I'm thinking we need to revive that great old meaning).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hot Dog Fever

At the moment, hot dogs are really hot in LA.  Wiener specialists are opening up all over the place, introducing Angelenos to things like rippers and Chicago dogs.  Not that hot dogs were unheard of in LA before this new trend:  Pink's is a legend, and so is Carney's.  Roughly in the same Hollywood area, Skooby's has a die-hard following.  But now you have genuine altars to the dog like Fab Hot Dogs (Reseda), Vicious Dogs (N Hollywood), and, the latest darling of every LA food blog, The Slaw Dogs (Pasadena).  Oh, and there's Let's Be Frank Dogs (Culver City), a gourmet hot dog stand which I guess would be a portable altar.  And to remind you that we should thank the Germans for the humble dog, there are Brats Brothers (Studio City) and Wurstkuche (Downtown).  No signs that the trend is slowing either — heard that Big City Dogs, which is based in Michigan, will soon be opening up a branch in Old Pasadena.

Which altars are my favorite places to worship the silly dog?  Well, I can't claim I've eaten at even 10% of the hot dog joints in this town, but here goes anyway.

Carney's (8351 Sunset Blvd & 12601 Ventura Blvd, Studio City)
If you have kids, this is a fun place because you eat in a train.  The dogs aren't anything special here, but they're still pretty good.

Pink's (709 N. La Brea Blvd)
Only if you're a tourist.  The average wait seems to be around 45 minutes, but Pink's is legendary, having started out sometime during the Great Depression.  And all the Hollywood stars seem to love getting their hit here — usually they'll send a flunky with a limo, but, hey, you might see someone worthy.

Fab Hot Dogs (6747 Tampa Ave, Reseda)
I really hate that they're all the way in Reseda.  And that seating is so small.  And that you can't get in ever since Guy featured it on a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode.  What they're really known for is their rippers — a dog that's been deep fried.  Amazingly good.  And so are their tater tots — why don't more places do tater tots?

Brats Brothers (13456 1/2 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks)
Cozy place in Sherman Oaks with very good European-type dogs.  Very friendly.  Can't believe they don't have beer.

The Slaw Dogs (720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena)
They still have their new car smell, but they're already very popular.  Great relaxing room with plenty of space (unless it's lunch time or Saturday night).  Their menu of toppings is crazy huge, from the humble sauerkraut to kimchi, jalapenos to truffle oil.  Slaw's philosophy is definitely "Pile It On!" and they always look at me strange because I'm a purist and like my dog modestly dressed — just sauerkraut and dark mustard.  Probably one of the only hot dog places that do salads (which are really good).  Going back to the dogs, I'd really suggest you get the natural casing dog and have it rippered.  OMG.  And the chili dog — Slaw probably has the best chili in LA (the secret is the Newcastle beer).  Certainly in Pasadena.  The nicest thing about Slaw (besides the really good food)?  They treat you like good friends.

So, does LA have a dog of its own?  Actually, yes.  It's called the Street Dog because it came from the streets:  Mexican hot dog vendors liked to wrap a bacon around a dog.  Because of health regulations, you can't legally get an authentic Street Dog from a vendor anymore.  Luckily, Fab does one.  In any case, the story of the Street Dog is fascinating, and this LA Weekly article does a pretty good job telling it.

One last thing:  what happened to the corn dog?  Is it considered sacrilege for a hot dog joint to serve up a good corn dog?  Because I love corn dogs.

Here's the YouTube video on Fab Hot Dogs: