Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Will Be This Year's Summer Song?

Edison Research's Sean Ross once again asks the question, What song will ultimately be remembered the most as the quintessential 2008 summer tune?

Last year, it was pretty obvious that Rhianna's "Umbrella" would wind up as the song. With its catchy "-ella, -ella" chorus, the song dominated the charts and the airwaves all summer long. Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" wasn't too far behind.

This year, there doesn't seem to be an obvious contender just yet. Ross breaks it down:

Kid Rock, "All Summer Long" - It's been just lying in wait on his "Rock N Roll Jesus" album since the end of last summer. It is already off to a good start in medium markets, but as "Picture" showed, Kid always has to scrap his way back on to major-market, rhythmic-leaning Top 40 stations which could take, well, all summer long.

New Kids On The Block, "Summertime" - A co-worker who grew up with NKOTB heard this and liked it, but couldn't help making the comparison to LFO's "Summergirls," which is a little like the singer John Wesley Harding's joke about the Beatles reuniting and sounding a lot like ELO and XTC. And, besides, we've now seen them go from Boyz II Men as well. Also took a few weeks to get some major-market momentum, but is picking up this week.

Boys Like Girls, "Thunder" - As a power ballad, it's disqualified. But it belonged on this list because the trade ads have emphasized its "soundtrack of my summer" lyric.

Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocketful of Sunshine" - It's growing slowly now, but if it can hang in there for a few weeks, it will, like "Unwritten," then hang around for months. And if having a pocketful of sunshine doesn't quite sum up the national psyche right now, aren't summer songs meant to alleviate the national mood?

A few more of Ross' finalists: Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl"; Metro Station, "Shake It"; Danity Kane, "Damaged"; Duffy, "Mercy"; Chris Brown, "Forever"; Alicia Keys, "Teenage Love Affair"; Miley Cyrus, "Seven Things"; Lady Antebellum, "Love Don't Live Here"; Carrie Underwood, "Last Name"; Flo Rida, "In The Ayer"; Maroon 5 & Rihanna, "If I Never See Your Face Again"; Lloyd f/Lil Wayne, "Girls Around The World."

And what are your summer picks?

Tenacity, Thy Name is "Jericho" Fans

"Jericho" fans on Livejournal report that at least one bilboard pushing for another revival of the CBS drama is now up -- on Ventura Blvd., west of Vineland Ave.

The chances of the show coming back are pretty slim, but you can't say they're not tenacious in the pro-"Jericho" camp.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rate-A-Restaurant #172: Golden Deli Vietnamese

Restaurant: Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant

Location: 815 W Las Tunas Drive (San Gabriel)

Type of restaurant: Vietnamese

They stipulated: Test your luck trying to find parking in the cramped lot (we lucked out and found a spot on the street). You'll also likely be waiting for a table on the sidewalk at this strip mall; take advantage of it by checking out the nearby stores. Just make sure you're close to the door when they call your name.

We stipulated: We were car shopping in the Alhambra area, and realized we were close enough to keep driving a bit further for the mythical, cheap Banh Mi sandwiches of Golden Deli. Actually, Maria's been here before, so they weren't mythical at all to her. But she's been wanting to take me here forever. Now that our nearby K.P.'s is no more in Silver Lake, I needed a new home for Banh Mi.

What we ordered: For beverage, I got Soda Xi Muoi -- Salted Plum Soda ($1.60), while Maria ordered the Mang Cau Xiem -- Cheremoya ($1.50). For entree, we got the Bun Chao Tom/Bo Nuong/Cha Gio -- Shrimp Paste/Charbroiled Beef/Egg Roll with rice vermicelli ($6.25). We also got the Banh Mi Thit Nuong -- Banh Mi with charbroiled pork ($3)

High point: $3 for an excellent Banh Mi. Now I feel ridiculous for spending so much at K.P.'s -- although, I guess K.P.'s had Golden Deli beat for convenience. But man, that price for that sandwich is worth the drive.

Low point: The service is not friendly in the least... but yet, I didn't mind, it kinda added to the place.

Overall impression: Any place that offers up a homemade salted dried plum soda is OK in my book. You heard me right. Coming from Hawaii, I loves me some li hing mui -- there's something about the saltiness, tartness and sweetness all rolled into one that makes me a firm believer. Here, it mixed nicely with the soda water (and didn't contain that unnecessary food coloring).

Oh, and did I mention $3 Banh Mi?!

Chance we'll go back: OK, one more time: $3 Banh Mi! So yes, we will be back.

For a complete list of our more than 170 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

Grab A Slice: Choice Cuts Volume 6

There's no excuse. In 2004, I was able to put together an end of year Choice Cuts even though we'd just had a baby. In 2006, we were busy finishing up our house addition, and yet I still had time.

This year, well, I guess we've both been busy. Maria with her freelancing, and me with all sorts of things. Plus, let's face it, in some ways a rambunctious 3 year-old requires more attention and energy than a newborn.

So that's my way of noting that, hi, it's the end of May, and I'm only now posting my 2007 Choice Cuts round up. Better late than never, yes? It's a fun mix, a lot of poppy stuff, plenty of electronic beats, several local entrants and... yes, two songs from TV shows, including one from a hip series geared toward preschoolers.

I popped it in the other day, and I didn't feel as bad -- I still like the mix, even if I put it together six months ago. Here it is, my sixth annual Choice Cuts CD, "Grab A Slice":

1. CITY OF ANGELS -- Ozomatli: Gotta start off with a Los Angeles-centric track, of course, and there are few better suited for an ode to the City of Angels than Ozomatli. The group is L.A. : Multi-ethnic, offering up a melting pot of hip-hop, rock and Spanish influences. Ozomatli’s one of the few groups that sound at home on KROQ, Power 106 or Super Estrella.

2. A GOOD START -- Maria Taylor: What can I say, I’m in love with Maria Taylor’s ethereal voice. Both Taylor and her old group, Azure Ray, have made frequent appearances on the year-end list. This one comes from her most recent CD, “14:59.” Thanks to Franklin Avenue reader and former Nettwerk exec JT, I was able to check out Taylor last year at the Echo. Great show.

3. MAN OVERBOARD -- Kristoffer Ragnstam: Catchy pop from Sweden’s Kristoffer Ragnstam, whose music doesn’t sound at all like he hails from Sweden . What can I say, I’m still enjoying the 80s influenced electro pop, as several tracks here can attest to.

4. GOOD LIFE -- Kanye West feat. T-Pain: I know, I know, going ultra mainstream with this pick. But I figured Kanye would whine if I didn’t include him. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good sample, and “Good Life’s” use of Michael Jackson’s “PYT” is so damn infectious, I can’t resist it.

5. FALLING SLOWLY -- The Frames: You know the version of this song from the movie “Once,” the duet featuring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Hansard also fronts The Frames; I kinda like this version better.

6. GET UP GET OUT -- The Rosebuds: The blog You Ain’t No Picasso writes: “The intro and chorus of Get Up Get Out” answer that age old question: What would it sound like if ABBA wrote music for the Final Fantasy video games? This is a delightfully poppy work that’s destined for glimpses of dancefloor glory.”

7. HOME -- Great Northern: Los Angeles’ own Great Northern had a great 2007. Not only did they become the year’s local indie darlings, but they scored big time national exposure thanks to a Nissan commercial, which used “Home” as musical accompaniment.

8. AGAIN & AGAIN -- The Bird and the Bee: I guess I’m a sucker for duos made up of producers and chanteuses. I loved Frou Frou, and I’m digging Bird and the Bee. Inara George, whose solo work you probably remember from the early part of the decade, has paired with producer/keyboardist Greg Kurstin to make up Bird and the Bee. Dare you not to get sucked in by “Again & Again’s” chorus.

9. PRESSURE SUIT -- Aqualung: The sweeping sound of Aqualung – also known as Matt Hales – makes another appearance on our end-of-year recap.

10. FLY PAPER -- K-OS: OK, remember how I said I was a sucker for a sample? The use of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved?” guitar riff was good enough for entry on this song. And the maddeningly catchy hook kept me.

11. THE ERASER -- Thom Yorke: Reverb. The way Thom Yorke says “E – rase.” That final “ooh.” Like a rainy afternoon in New York .

12. POOL PARTY (YO GABBA GABBA! Mix) -- The Aquabats: Could a quirky Nick Jr. TV show geared toward pre-schoolers be the best new program of 2007? If you’re the parent of a toddler, the answer is yes. Evan’s introduction to indie rock has come via “Yo Gabba Gabba,” which was created by Aquabats frontman Christian Jacobs (with Scott Schultz). The 'Bats have appeared on the show several times, and performed a kid-friendly version of their track "Pool Party" -- a song that Evan now knows all the words to. I actually kinda like the YGG! version better than the original, believe it or not, as it's more uptempo.

13. BUSINESS TIME -- Flight of the Conchords: Maria and I are finally going to see Bret and Jemaine live next weekend, and we can't wait -- talk about a reason for getting a sitter! I had a hard time choosing which FOTC song to put in the end-of-year wrap... but how can I deny "Business Time?" You know when I'm down to just my socks it's time for business that's why they call them business socks!

14. LAST OF DAYS -- A Fine Frenzy: Singer/pianist Alison Sudol has seen several of her songs score TV airplay; she even guested last year on "CSI: Miami." Her "Almost Lover" was the big hit (well, "big hit" is a relative term), but I kinda like the gravity of "Last of Days" instead.

15. UMBRELLA (Remix) -- Rihanna feat. Chris Brown: Here's another pick inspired in part by the Kid Formerly Known As Blogger Toddler. A year ago, he and I would frequently sing "Umbrella" in the car -- and indeed, hearing a two-year-old croon "-ella, ella, ella, ella" is as cute as it sounds. This was obviously the song of the summer in 2007. Here, I've thrown on the reworked version featuring Chris Brown. Yes, his take on it -- "Cinderella -ella-ella-ella" is pretty damn cheesy. And yet, it's nearly as catchy.

16. ELEPHANT GUN -- Beirut: Zach Condon may be from New Mexico, but his voice and musical choices are as haunting and melancholy as the under-seige city from which he's taken his performing name. "Elephant Gun"

17. IT’S ALL TRUE -- Tracey Thorn: How great was it to see Tracey Thorn finally re-emerge with a new CD? One-half of Everything But the Girl, Thorn had been quiet in recent years, as hubby/partner Ben Watt continued to explore his DJ side.

18. TAP-TAP, CLICK-CLICK -- Division Day: Like many of you, we'd actually had "Beartrap Island" in our hands back in 2006, but the CD was re-released by Eenie Meenie in 2007. Much like Silversun Pickups before them, Division Day began to see it all come into fruition by the end of 2007. This is my favorite track off the CD.

19. VALERIE (REMIX) -- Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse: Here's another case where I think the remix is stronger than the original. Just as crazy, messed up Amy Winehouse is much more interesting.

20. PAPER PLANES -- MIA: I still remember the first time I heard this track. Wait, are those gun shots? And is that a cash register? Even Indie was too wussy to play the gun shots, muffling the sound effect. 2007 felt like the year of MIA, and it felt like a natural way to wrap up this year's "Choice Cuts."

Driving While Phoning: One Month Left

For all of you who don't have a hands-free device but hafta, just hafta use the phone while stuck in traffic, you've got a month left. The L.A. Times answers the pertinent questions:

If you're 18 or older, you are prohibited from holding a phone and talking while driving. If you're 16 or 17, the only time you can use a cellphone at all while driving is in an emergency.

The first offense will result in a $20 ticket, and subsequent citations are $50 apiece. But with court costs and penalties, the true costs of those tickets are $76 and $190, respectively.

Something else to chew on: The new laws go into effect just days before the California Highway Patrol goes on "maximum patrol" throughout the Fourth of July weekend. That means 80% of CHP officers will have their eyes on the road. And on you and your cellphone.

The paper notes that, oddly, texting while driving isn't covered by the new law. But don't go typing your OMGs and LOLs while speeding down the 10 -- CHP says it'll nab you for distracted driving.

Will the roads be safer? Who knows, the paper says. Some argue that drivers are distracted by the conversation itself, and that won't change.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Retro Friday: Stephanie Edwards and "Monty Python"

Before "Good Morning America," there was "A.M. America," ABC's short-lived morning show hosted by Bill Beutel and Stephanie Edwards. In this 1975 clip, Beutel is out, but the cast of "Monty Python" joins Edwards to co-host on the set. If that's not surreal enough for you (and trust me, it's surreal), the mayhem is contrasted by a somber Peter Jennings, who anchors the morning show's newscast -- and reports the impending collapse of Saigon.

Piece of That Japanese Kit-Kat Bar

As you may know, I love unusual candy flavors -- and I especially love bizarro Kit-Kat flavors from overseas. The Japanese market close to my hotel in New York sold two varieties of Kit-Kat I'd never had: Vanilla Bean and Green Tea. The Vanilla Bean flavor was fantastic: No chocolate, just pure vanilla-flavored goodness. The Green Tea flavor was chocolate, with a green tea middle. Good, but hard to make out the Green Tea flavor.

Also at the store, I spotted something I KNEW I had to bring back for the Kid Formerly Known As Blogger Toddler:

Thomas the Tank Engine Pocky!

Correction O' The Day: Gossip Girl Edition

The L.A. Times pulls a "Gossip Girl" quote out of thin air:

'Gossip Girl': In Sunday's Calendar section, the Monitor column about 'Gossip Girl' misquoted two lines of dialogue between characters discussing one's relationship. It read: "Jenny: 'Is that why we went dessert?' Elise: 'You went dessert?!?!?!'" The correct lines on the show were: "'Jenny: 'Is that why we went to third?' Friend: 'You went to third?'"

I personally like the "We went dessert" line better. It's slang so new, it actually doesn't exist!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spotted on the Freeway: Amber Alert

Is this you?

"American Idol" vs. the Lakers

I can't remember a time when two major, nationally televised events were taking place across the street from one another. But Wednesday night, "American Idol" fans mixed with Lakers fans, as the "Idol" finale went live at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live, across the street from Staples Center -- where the Lakers met the Spurs for Game 1 of the Western Conference championships.

I managed to find $10 parking (not an easy feat, but there it was, not to far from $30 and $25 lots), and parked mostly among Lakers fans. Hiking to the Nokia, guys selling Lakers caps were standing near others passing out free T-shirts touting "Idol" finalist David Cook (still not sure why, or who those people were).

Inside, I got my first taste of the Nokia. Damn, it's huge. And lacking in much character. Two Kodak Theatres could fit in there, and that's not necessarily a good thing. The theatre may have been built to be acoustically perfect, but it's quite plain inside.

I got there late, but still caught the Idols as they performed with Bryan Adams, Graham Nash, One Republic and George Michael. I swear the screaming was loudest for the Jonas Brothers, and clearly I'm now old, because I have no patience for them.

In the end, the right contestant won -- David Cook, the "rocker" who provided much of the season's more interesting performances. Oh, and across the street, the right team won as well. Traffic heading home was a breeze as well, as both the Lakers playoff and Dodgers game were still going on.

(Above, the L.A. Times home page looks a lot like downtown did Wednesday night, with "Idol" and the Lakers side-by-side.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hugo's Tacos Comes to Atwater Village

The Atwater Village Newbie wrote last month that Hugo's Tacos is opening an outpost in the 'hood... and as of today, the "coming soon" signs are up.

The new Hugo's Tacos is located on Glendale Blvd. in the tiny store that formerly housed Long's Realty. Not sure how Long's stayed in business; the only property they ever touted was some 400 sq. foot office space on Broadway in Glendale. Guess it finally caught up to them.

Maria and I were actually thinking the space would be perfect for a small wine bar or other mini food spot. But I gotta imagine Hugo's has some work ahead of it, as there isn't any sort of kitchen in the tiny space, as far as I can tell.

We reviewed the original Hugo's Tacos -- itself an off-shoot of the popular Hugo's brunch chain -- in 2006. Here's our review from then. A highlight:

It still seems weird that brunch staple Hugo's now also operates a taco stand. But because it's fairly new, the stand is clean, operates well, and is a gourmet alternative to your typical greasy taco shack. It also offers up vegetarian options, like a soy chorizo and potato taco, as well as a zucchini/corn/string bean one.

Always nice to have yet another dining option in Atwater Village. And since I pass by that old Long's Realty shack every day on the way home from work, I can imagine plenty of nights in the future where I'm bringing home tacos to the Franklin Avenue 3.

Rate-A-Restaurant #171: Crispo

Restaurant: Crispo

Location: 240 West 14th St. (New York)

Type of restaurant: Northern Italian

They stipulated: You're not getting a seat until your entire party is there, no matter how many empty tables the restaurant has. Plus, Crispo is deceiving: It looks like a tiny hole-in-the-wall, but a pathway in the back leads to a large, brighter dining room.

We stipulated: A bunch of us decided at the last minute to get together for dinner. Not an easy task, finding a table on a Sunday night so late, but Crispo was there for us.

What we ordered: For starters, the calamari, risotto balls and Mozzarella Fritta. For main course, I got the red snapper special (above). Among other table mates, Joe got spaghetti and meatballs (below).

Overall impression: Solid, solid Italian food, and not a bad place to end up on short notice on a Sunday night.

For a complete list of our more than 170 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

Scenes from a New York Visit

At the NBC "Experience" event: NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chairman Ben Silverman... and COOLIO! That's right -- Mr. Gangsta's Paradise, now the star of an Internet cooking show, in da house!

Also at the NBC event: Last season's "Top Chef" winner, Hung.

Walking down Jerry Orbach Way.

Dunkin' Donuts, baby!

American Gladiators and their giant Q-Tips.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ga-Ga For Googie

(Flickr pic by AgilityNut.)

With gas prices what they are and the cost of a plane ticket continuing to rise, the L.A. Times is smartly paying more attention to local trips and sightseeing in its Travel section.

This past Sunday, that included a brief primer on survivng Googie architecture in Los Angeles:

This whimsical, Space Age look grew out of the Midcentury Modern style -- think LAX's flying-saucer-like Theme Building -- and became synonymous with Southern California's fun-loving lifestyle.

Even the story of how Googie got its name is fanciful. Yale professor Douglas Haskell spotted the Googie coffee shop, the eponymous building that once sat at Crescent Heights and Sunset boulevards. He declared the style "Googie" in a 1952 House and Home magazine article.

Among the paper's Googie examples:

BAHOOKA (4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead): " Polynesian-style design, plant life."
BEACH-LIN CAR WASH (126 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim): "Free-form design, steel beams and wires."
BOB'S BIG BOY (4211 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank): "Streamline Moderne architecture, large glass windows, plant life."
BRUNSWICK COVINA BOWL (1060 W. San Bernardino Road, Covina): "Free-form design, A-frame roof, large palm trees, angled marquee sign."
CASA DE CADILLAC (14401 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks): "Large pane windows, neon roadside signage."
CBS TELEVISION CITY (7800 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles): "Modern entranceway, lightweight-looking materials."
CHIPS (11908 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne): "Concrete walls, glass windows, jutting roof, plant life, steel-beam pylon sign."
JACK COLKER UNION 76 (427 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills): ""Space Age-style sloped roof."
LA HABRA 300 BOWL (70 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra): " A-frame roof, pylon beams, neon starburst sign."
ORIGINAL McDONALD'S (10207 Lakewood Blvd., Downey): "Iconic golden arches."
NORMS (470 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles): "Concrete walls, glass windows, jutting roof, neon marquee."
PANN'S RESTAURANT & COFFEE SHOP (6710 La Tijera Blvd., Los Angeles): "Tilted roof and sign, plants and exposed stone walls indoors and out, glass windows wrapping around the restaurant. Pann's celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Watch for party information this fall."
SIMPLY WHOLESOME (FORMERLY THE WICH STAND) (4508 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles): "Sloped concrete roof, stone walls, indoor-outdoor seating, Space Age-style antenna sign."
STARBUCKS (FORMERLY SHIPS CULVER CITY) (9718 Washington Blvd., Culver City): "Glass window panes surrounding the restaurant, concrete siding."

Galco Helps Quench Our Thirst

Driving through Highland Park on a burning hot weekend afternoon, we passed by one of our local faves, Galco's Soda Pop Stop on York. The idea of a cold, obscure soda brought us inside. A few of our selections:

Mr. Q. Cumber: I wanted to like this soda. The idea of a cucumber soda sounded pretty refreshing, especially on a 100 degree day. But Mr. Q. Cumber is hampered by too much sugar. The sweetness may make it more like a real soda than not, but I'm not sure it worked.

Diet Cricket Cola: This one grew on me. I loved the idea of Cricket Cola, which is made with kola nut extract, green tea concentrate and other ingredients. The taste was kind of disappointing -- but I blame that on it being diet. I kept chugging it, and it grew on me. Not too sweet, but just right.

Any of you have favorite obscure sodas or Galco's picks?

Relive 2000's Florida Voting Mess at the Grove

(Flickr pic by Moz1.)

To promote HBO Films' telepic "Recount," the pay channel has set up 12 actual Votomatic Florida voting machines -- the ones used in the 2000 Presidential election -- at the Grove today, starting at 10 a.m. According to the network, people can "re-enact the actual voting process and determine if they would have voted for their intended candidate and if their vote would have counted."

I'm guessing the answer is yes, since you'll be fully aware at this point of the confusing nature of the ballot. The point in 2000, of course, was that it was older folks who were confused, and whose votes -- in the thousands, enough to tip the election to Al Gore -- were miscounted. Eight years later, it's still pretty upsetting to think about.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rate-A-Restaurant #170: BonChon Chicken

(Flickr pic via inuyaki.)

Restaurant: BonChon Chicken

Location: 314 5th Ave, 2nd Floor (New York); Also in Los Angeles: 3407 W 6th Street (Koreatown)

Type of restaurant: Fried Chicken

They stipulated: Korean Fried Chicken is cooked in oil, then set aside, before being cooked in oil again for extra crispiness. BonChon's chicken is coated with either a soy garlic or "hot" flavor.

We stipulated: For my last night in New York, my Gotham friends Lisa and Hank promised me the best damn chicken I've ever tasted. (Well, they promised pretty good chicken.) I was sold.

Condiment bar (Flickr pic by Roboppy.)

What we ordered: Large plate of chicken (wings and drumsticks), half with hot, half with soy garlic.

High point: Holy crap. Hank had hyped BonChon for days. I'd honestly not clued in on the Korean Fried Chicken craze, which seems to have hit NYC first. (BonChon's L.A. outpost just opened here two months ago.) Lisa and Hank tell me they're here every week, and I can see why. The chicken -- how can I describe? It's like candy. You bite into the skin -- and I HATE chicken skin, I NEVER ate it, at least until Korean fried chicken came along! -- and it's like biting into a piece of chicken fruit. Also, like anything this good, you can't eat just one. Or eight. I prefer the hot chicken, which contains just the right amount of fire for a fan (like me) of all things spicy.

Coincidentally, the L.A. Times wrote about the Korean fried chicken craze on Thursday, the very same day I was trying it out in Manhattan. Here's their take.

Low point: The thousand island dressing-laden salad and the pickled radishes are just OK... but it doesn't matter, you're there for the chicken.

(Flickr pic by Scaredykat.)

Overall impression: Haven't visited the L.A. outpost, but the Manhattan spot is all the more intriguing because of its location -- it's hidden on the second floor of a non-descript building. You've gotta climb some narrow doors to get to the second floor... and then you're suddenly in a dark, nightclub atmosphere with booming dance music. And tons of young New Yorkers tearing into drumsticks. Meanwhile, BonChon's website touts the healthiness of it all... but c'mon, it's fried chicken. But I don't care, it's too damn good. If it takes a year off your life, so be it.

(Flickr pic by Scaredykat.)

Chance we will go back: Oh, there will be several field trips to the L.A. location in the coming weeks as I introduce all of you to the joys of Korean fried chicken. Who's game?

For a complete list of our more than 170 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

Gnat Invasion

Not even sure if they're gnats, but whatever they are, they've taken over our house. Have any of you noticed what seems to be an increased number of those pesky, tiny, flying insects outdoors? Several of them have made it in our house, and they're tough buggers. These fast little guys seem to always know my next move, and will quickly dart away as I aim to smack them with paper or my hands.

We've even tried a few homemade remedies, but to mixed results. (Maria put out a jar of sweet vinegar and stuck a paper funnel in there. The gnats flew in... but eventually made their way back out.

Any of you experiencing a major gnat invasion?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Retro Friday: Gene Kelly On Roller Skates Edition

"Xanadu" is not only worth the cheese fest, but it's also a great way to see Venice Beach in 1980 -- and one of its major stars (just behind Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, but above Michael Beck) is the late, great Pan Pacific Auditorium.

Rate-A-Restaurant #169: Maoz Vegetarian

(Flickr pic by Roboppy.)

Restaurant: Maoz Vegetarian

Location: 38 Union Square East (New York)

Type of restaurant: Falafel/Vegetarian

They stipulated: They hand you your pita with falafel (and, if you add it, hummus and roasted eggplant), then you load up on various veggies and condiments. Pile it as high as you can.

We stipulated: Looking for a quick, late night meal, Maoz was open late and close by. Plus, after a week of eating so much and so bad, wanted something tasty but with a tinge of being healthy. Of course, after piling so much stuff high on my falafel, not sure the calorie count was all that low.

Condiment bar (Flickr pic by Stillafly.)

What we ordered: Falafel, Belgian fries and drink meal ($8.75)

High point: I love the salad/condiment bar, and the spicy green pepper sauce (which I pour all over). The falafel itself is nicely cooked, and the roasted eggplant a nice touch.

Low point: I got a batch of fries that must have been sitting there a while, because they were soggy and hardly the crisp deliciousness I was promised. Also, there's only one table in the tiny outlet, which means having to take your food to go.

(Flickr pic by Peanut99.)

Overall impression: When you're in a pinch and need a quick meal or snack on the run, Maoz is quite a nice choice. Would love to see an L.A. outpost of Maoz, which was originally born in Amsterdam.

Chance we will go back: When I'm here in NY on business, I'm usually running around so much I don't have a lot of time for lunch. Maoz fits the bill, so I'm sure I'll be back.

For a complete list of our nearly 170 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

Should New York's Calorie Counts Come to L.A.?

(Pic via Weighty Matters.)

Last year, New York began requiring restaurants to include calorie counts on menu boards.

That means everything. At Starbucks, it even lists the calorie count for regular, drip coffee at "5." Spending the week here in NY (yes, that's why the post count has been low at Franklin Avenue), I actually began to appreciate this. Do I really want that "reduced fat" coffee cake at Starbucks? Now I know, it's 450 calories. So no, no I don't.

Should we bring this trend to L.A.? It reminds me of a comment the Militant Angeleno left in a post below -- we're a town devoted to hamburgers, etc., so why do we still have this "healthy eating" rep?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

License Plate of the Day: Loving Mama

Hope this driver had a great Mother's Day... clearly they're a fan.

One Upon A Time In Glendale, Pre-Americana

The Glendale Public Library blog dug up this photo of Brand Blvd., facing north, in 1936. The library provides context:

This photograph (courtesy of the Special Collections Room of the Glendale Public Library) shows Brand Boulevard looking north, dating from around 1936. Harvard Street, which will act as the eastern entrance into the Americana, crosses Brand Boulevard here behind the Western Auto Supply Co. sign on the left and in front of the Famous Department Store building on the right.

Other notable businesses in this image that operated in the area now covered by the Americana include a Pep Boys Auto Supplies store and the Capital Theatre. The tall building in the top center of the photograph is the Bank of America Building, which would be torn down in 1982 to make room for the Galleria II project.

Yes, that classic Bank of America building was destroyed so that the area's most tattered Mervyn's could be built. Fair trade.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Big Dogs Not Allowed at the Americana?

The Americana at Brand's recent ad campaign has featured illustrations of stylish women walking their dogs across the shopping center's courtyard. (Above, a screen grab from the Americana website... but ads have also run in the Glendale News-Press that illustrated Americana patrons with much larger dogs.)

That's why it's kind of strange that this Glendale News-Press letter writer hit so much resistence when she tried to walk her dog at the Americana:

I live one block from the Americana and have been looking forward to its opening. I saw it to be a place that we could walk to in the evenings with the family and our dog and enjoy the surroundings. Wednesday night we took the dog (a Great Dane) for her walk over to the Americana.

We were stopped by a rent-a-cop and were told we had to leave the Americana because our dog was too large. We pointed out to this young man that no signs were posted at any of the entrances that no dogs were allowed, let alone the size of the dog.

He informed us that if you cannot carry the dog you cannot bring the dog in.

And so begins the debate over what's allowed and what isn't at the Americana -- and whose land is it, anyway.

Los Angeles As Brazil: L.A. Ad Town

Thanks to Franklin Avenue reader Stuart, who notes that this commercial -- for the Dodge Journey -- supposedly follows the U.S. Women's Soccer Team as they drive to Brazil for a rematch.

But that's no Brazilian stadium in the final shot -- that's the Home Depot Center in Carson!

Yoga Deficiency

I figured it would at least be a few more years before the Kid Formerly Known as Blogger Toddler mastered a skill before me.

But there I was this weekend, learning Yoga moves from a three-year-old. They're teaching Yoga at his pre-school, and he's already mastered downward dog and a few other moves. Me? Have never done Yoga. Never gone to a class, never tried it. And when I did... well, let's say my body isn't quite as flexible as it was when I was 3.

Then again, we're convinced the KFKABT thinks he's twice as old as he actually is. A few weeks ago at a festival, he started taling to a girl who was at least 8. We were distracted by something else, and missed part of their coversation.

Later, the girl asked Maria: "How old is he?"

Maria: "He's three."

Girl: "He told me he was seven!"

That's my boy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's Your Burning L.A. Question?

You know, the one that probably doesn't have an answer?

I'll start it off: Whenever I'm stuck in truly horrible, bumper-to-bumper gridlock on a Los Angeles freeway, I'll flip to KFWB and KNX to check out what's impacting my commute. Yet almost always, the freeway I happen to be on won't be mentioned in those traffic reports. How can that be? Is it simply that ALL traffic is bad in Los Angeles, and I happen to just always be stuck in gridlock that wasn't caused by any specific incident or SigAlert?

Your turn!

License Plate of the Day: Oh, I See!

Or maybe it's this person, who refers to herself as "Princess among Migrators and Defenders of Those who Lose their Luggage."

Get to Know Los Angeles' Old Time Mayors

You know Antonio Villaraigosa, remember Jim Hahn... sorta remember Richard Riordan, and Tom Bradley -- that's right, he was mayor for decades. There's Sam Yorty and Frank Shaw... and after that, things get hazy.

I meant, but never got around to linking to this excellent piece by Robert Greene in the Los Angeles Times last month. Greene notes that formerly obscure ex-mayor Cristobal Aguilar re-entered our conciousness after Villaraigosa began running for mayor (countless news reports reminded us that Villaraigosa would be the first Latino mayor since Aguilar, in 1872).

Writes Greene:

But do you know any other Los Angeles mayors? Many L.A. residents would be able to name more mayors of New York (Bloomberg, Giuliani, Koch, Dinkins, Lindsay, LaGuardia -- and no big deal if you forgot Abe Beame) or Chicago (Daley, Washington, uh, Daley) than of their own city.

Maybe that's because Bradley was mayor for a generation and made us forget the relative short-termers who came before. In 1993, when Bradley opted against a sixth term, Los Angeles voters adopted term limits. But a good argument could be made that they weren't needed, because before Bradley, voters tossed out one mayor after another. Who was the last pre-Bradley mayor to leave office voluntarily, without being defeated for reelection, recalled or otherwise trying to regain office?

It took Greene a while, but he digs up several contenders -- and the final answer.

Friday, May 9, 2008

License Plate of the Day: Can You Elaborate On That? Edition

Thanks to Chris Nichols for emailing this one in: "Very" -- OK, "very" what?!

(Email vanity plates you see on the road to Franklin Avenue, at franklin_avenue-at-yahoo-dot-com!)

Retro Friday: Treat Your Mama Right

Back by popular demand... it's Mr. T's "Treat Your Mother Right," from his classic video, "Be Somebody, Or Be Somebody's Fool."

Not sure what I love more: Mr. T pulling a microphone out of his pants, or the fact that he's OK with those kids trash talking... until one of them starts telling a "your mama is so" joke.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Castro Confusion

Something about the juxtaposition of these two radically different stories on the L.A. Times home page cracks me up. Yes, we're talking about Cuba above, but no, Fidel Castro was not voted off "American Idol."

Urban Mystery: What Was This Building?

These days, it's the Christ Church, at 635 S. Manhattan Pl. (near Wilshire). But I'm thinking this building was once home to something else. A library? A school? An organization of some sort? What was this building? If you know -- or if you even have a guess -- comment below.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

R.I.P., Glendale's Ice Cream Man

Just steps from our house 63 years ago, Irv Robbins opened up the Snowbird Ice Cream shop (above, in Adams Square -- a kebab shop now sits where Snowbird once stood). A few years later, his brother-in-law, Burt Baskin, opened an ice cream shop in Pasadena. The two eventually merged their operations, and Baskin-Robbins was born.

Given my love of ice cream, I kinda like the fact that we live so close to the spot where the modern ice cream shop was born. That's why we pay tribute today to Robbins, who has passed away at the age of 90.

Robbins cashed in an insurance policy soon after leaving the Army in 1945; with $6,000 in his pocket, he opened Snowbird. The L.A. Times writes:

"There was really no such thing anyplace as a pure ice cream store," Robbins told The Times in 1985. "I just had the crazy idea that somebody ought to open a store that sold . . . nothing but ice cream, and could do it in an outstanding way."

Baskin, who was married to Robbins' sister Shirley, also had recently returned from serving in the military in World War II. In early 1946, he opened Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena.

By 1948, the five Snowbird and three Burton's shops had been combined into a single enterprise, and they had devised their 31st flavor -- Chocolate Mint. But the new partners realized they were too busy to give the stores the attention they needed to succeed.

"That's when we hit on selling our stores to our managers," Robbins said in the 1985 Times story. "Without realizing it at the time, we were in the franchise business before the word 'franchise' was fashionable. We opened another store and another and another. . . ."

In 1953, they renamed the company Baskin-Robbins, deciding the order of their names with a coin toss. The "31 flavors" concept was introduced that same year to bring attention to a deep menu that featured a flavor for every day of the month.

They sold the company in 1967, but Robbins remained involved through the end of the 1970s. More:
His family often filled the role of ice-cream taste-testers around the dinner table at their Encino home with its backyard pool shaped like an ice cream cone. He named his boat the 32nd Flavor.

After retiring, he moved to a Rancho Mirage home equipped with a six-flavor ice-cream counter and was known to start the day with a bowl of cereal topped with a scoop of banana ice cream.

OK, that sounds like the most awesome breakfast ever.

Even as a kid, I turned my nose up at boring, traditional flavors, and always chose the more unusual scoops at Baskin-Robbins or other stores. Baskin-Robbins paved the way for the even more exotic offerings of Ben & Jerry's and yes, our fave East Hollywood spot, Scoops.

31 cheers to ice cream man Irv Robbins!

Los Angeles Draws Itself

The Center for the Arts/Eagle Rock -- a member of Northeast Los Angeles Arts Organization -- will bow the exhibit "Drawing Los Angeles" this Saturday.

The juried exhibition examines "the trends, themes, and terrain of drawing in Los Angeles today." Opening reception takes place May 10 at 7 p.m.; exhibit continues on display through June 14.

Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock is located at 2225 Colorado Blvd., and is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.