Los Angeles

phoinside.jpg"How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"It's a really obscure number. you wouldn't have heard of it."

Since starting my dance company, my affiliation with hipsters has grown exponentially (and it wasn't exactly non-existent before). So instead of fighting it, I've decided to fully embrace all the customs and habits of this (increasingly less) rarified group of moustache sporting, shower shunning, flannel-wearing, beanstalk-bodied ugly ducklings. To accomplish this, I consult my sister, who, while she is much too beautiful to need to hide behind hipster affectations, is an expert on all things Eastside and off-the-beaten path.

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hmsqueenmary.jpg This year on my summer vacation I actually played tourist in my own home town. I've lived in Los Angeles for 20 years – never thought I would be here this long – and have pretty much seen/done everything over the years. Or so I thought. With keyboard at the ready, I searched the Internet for attractions that would appeal to both adults (me and my sister) and our 16-year-old niece, sort of a child, until you have to pay for her. 

Since the trip was for her birthday and she loves animals, especially sea creatures, the Aquarium of the Pacific was a must-stop. I had no issue with driving to Long Beach, but the aquarium is not that big and I didn't want to go down and back in the same day, as we'd assuredly end up spending more time in the car than experiencing the wonders of the deep.

I knew the Queen Mary was right across the bay and figured that would be an interesting thing to see, too. (Well at least for the real adults.) There's nothing wrong with learning a little something on your vacation, right?

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tacosporfavorextDriving on the freeway, looking at the streets and neighborhoods below, I often wonder what fabulous restaurants I'm missing. Tacos Por Favor is one of those places that I had heard about for years, but had always driven by without stopping.

Today I decided to stop.

A cantina-sized Mexican restaurant on the corner of Olympic at 14th Street,Tacos Por Favor sits on the border between the two-Santa Monicas.

It is well-known to the people who work in the auto repair and building supply businesses nearby as well as the students of the upscale private school, Crossroads and the well-heeled who could eat at the upscale Buffalo Club down the block, but prefer Tacos Por Favor's casual atmosphere and lower prices.

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Suzanne Goin, the uber-talented celebrity chef of Lucques and A.O.C. Wine Bar fame, was rumored to be the front runner for the 2005 James Beard Chef-of-the-Year award, and as far as I was concerned, she could just skip the swim suit competition and pick up her gold toque and tongs. Because praise the lord and pass the friggin’ salt cod, if food could cure cancer, it would be this food. May The God of Good Eatin’ please keep Suzanne Goin’s hands hale, hearty, and forever heating up the small plates. 
   
sign.jpg Having earlier experienced both the exquisite pleasure and excruciating pain that comes from washing down four or five pounds of Chicken Liver pate with fifteen dollar glasses of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape, I was careful to prepare my sensitive digestive tract by fasting for practically an entire half-day on Fiji Natural Artisan water, plus a supplemental half-inch rind of smoked salami that I discovered under a plastic tankard of Barefoot Contessa Moussaka that I accidentally made five weeks ago in a bizarre attack of culinary industry. As a note, I have a firm policy of never throwing away any left-over that originally took more than sixty minutes to prepare,  unless it starts to stink worse than my daughter’s feet did after two weeks at Catalina Camp, where filth is a fashion statement. 

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churchstateescargots.jpgChef Walter Manzke’s smile is infectious. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say “infectious” since we’re in the middle of the H1N1 Flu scare (I refuse to call it the OTHER name because I love my bacon).

On my first visit to Church and State, I didn’t get to meet the chef until evening’s end, when I stole a few seconds of his time to tell him how much Peter and I enjoyed the restaurant. During our entire dinner though, from across the room, I was carefully watching him as he expedited orders and finished off each plate in the open kitchen. 

Between bites of the luxurious beef short-rib bordelaise and the perfectly baked (and cute) tiny ramekins of escargot, I would look over and see Chef Manzke’s face beaming. It’s almost like I could feel his joy drifting through the kitchen, then up above the beautiful, antiquated string of lights, and finally, smack down onto my plate.

Delicious food always makes me happy, but seeing chef Manzke’s ear-to-ear grin in the kitchen definitely made me more aware of the joy and care he (and his crew) puts into each dish.

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