10 Lbs in 10 Days : Hawaii Trip 2006

I’ve been trying to write the entire trip in this blog before publishing it, but it’s alot, so this is a WORK IN PROGRESS….What you see is unfinished, and I’m werkin on it. I need to add photos, stories etc…So Here’s what I got so far…

12/16/06
Just got back from 10 food and fun filled days in Hawaii. All the usual rules of vacation applied here…eat whatever I want and however much of it. So…10 lbs in 10 days, I hope not, but it sure feels like it. Anyway, this trip included 2 islands.
Oahu and the Big Island.

So, a quick itinerary rundown.
Dec 4-14
6 Days on Oahu. Stayed in Kailua 1 block from beautiful Kailua Beach.
4 Days on the Big Island in Kailua-Kona, oceanfront.

OAHU

The first part of the trip we were in Kailua, which is small-ish beach town on the windward (east) side of Oahu. Both times in Oahu I opted for NOT staying in Waikiki, because I wanted to avoid the city and main tourist destinations, and get a better feel for the local, small town feel. Oddly enough, we spent a pretty fair amount of time in Waikiki, shopping, sighseeing, swimming even….Hey, after alll, we ARE tourists, so who are we to avoid doing touristy things ? So, despite trying to avoid the tourist traps, we fell into many of them anyway, all blissfully I might add.

KAILUA

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The road to Kailua Beach….We stayed on this street about a minute from the beach….
At the end of the path is this….

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Kailua beach in the early a.m.

As far as Kailua goes, it’s a great little town, with shopping, restaurants, and coffee places, as well as one of the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, since our trip was in December, the water was a bit chilly, so we didn’t swim as much as I’d hoped. So, we set out to explore the island, and revisit the spots we loved last time. That being said, Kailua Beach in the early a.m. just after the sunrise is a pretty magical place.

We stayed in a guest house about 1/2 a block away from the beach, and with the windows open, we could hear the ocean when we went to sleep…always a great sound. In the morning, we awoke to dogs barking, tropical birds, lawnmowers, cars on their way to work, a rooster in the distance, and kids having their breakfast…ie: your typical neighborhood stuff. It was nice living amongst the locals…I got a little taste of living in Hawaii. I’d get up, and walk down the beach with the sun blazing behind those two little islands by Lanikai….Sweet!

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The Street where we stayed in Kailua.

We’d go for our morning coffee at Morning Brew, which is a great little coffee house with free wireless internet, yummy breakfast and lunch stuff, and treats. More than good enough to break our Starbucks ritual….there was a Starbucks right across the street…the espresso was strong like bull, the scones were yummy, and free wireless internet….StarWHAT? Good stuff ! One thing…bring cash, they don’t take cards.

DIAMOND HEAD

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Diamond Head State Park…this was AFTER the hike….exuasted!

Well, it’s one of those things they tell you you HAVE TO do if you’re on Oahu, so we decided to do it. The Diamond Head hike was exhausting, but SO worth it. The view from up there is just amazing. The hike is pretty strenuous for non hiker types like us, and those damn stairs at the top just kill ya when you get to them. Still, the view made it worth the near heart failures we all experienced.

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Up the trails…
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climbing stairs…
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through tunnels
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and finally to the top !

NORTH SHORE

Well, one things for sure, not only was there not much swimming in Kailua, the winter season on the North Shore is no place you wanna be swimming either . With the reported 28 ft waves (yes 28 FEET), it was all about watching the sheer magnitude and violence of the waves breaking on the beach. The Surfing Triple Crown was in it’s last legs at this time, and people were out watching the surfers ride these monstrosities. Hale’iwa was way busy, and pretty much comes alive this time of the year because of the surfing.

We ate at the Grass Skirt Grill A great little place next to the Strong Current Surf Shops, and I think they’re owned by the same people, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I had a grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich, which was good, tho I enjoyed the grilled Ono I had last time more. Still a great place with, fish, burgers, salads and vegeterian dishes. Sit out on the front porch and peoplewatch Hale’iwa style

It was here that I got turned on to the artwork of Swanson, and bought home a print of his last time. Awesome Tiki art…if you’re a fan of SHAG, you’ll like Swanson. They sell all kinds of his merch at the Strong Current Stores. Good stuff.

Also not far away, is Resurrection City, which is an art and music studio centered around musician/artist Ron Artis,his wife and 11…yes you read that right 11…children. Ron is a mural painter, who’s painted alot of the murals you see around the island, as well as submarines, and broken surfboards, which are on display all around the property. Throughout the day, Ron and his entire musical family jam, and he talks about his kids,god,art, and everything else in “ART-IS” world. Of course, there’s lots of stuff for sale, and if you got $1500 (or more), you can get one of his painted surfboards, all of which were ridden and broken by pros, then Ron paints em with his island flair. They family jam all throughout the day, and you can sit there and watch inside the house…pretty cool.

WAIKIKI

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Just another Waikiki Sunset…amazing.

Yea, that place I tried to avoid because everyone told me so ended up being a good time.

Tourists, tourists, amd even more tourists flooded the streets, shops, restaurants, hotels, buses and beaches and the place is really alive from it. Although, a mega crowded city can be really annoying, the fact that almost everyone here is on vacation means that you’re surrounded by happy people. It’s an odd thing. being from LA and NY and being in a busy city situation and everyone is happy…the beach is crowded, but everyone is happy…the restaurants are crowded and overpriced, and everyone is happy, the streets are crowded, and everyone is happy….it’s almost surreal.

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The International Marketplace…Once home of Don The Beachcombers and trader Vics. Unfortunately, it’s not long for this world. It’s getting the dreaded “upscale makeover” soon.

Here’s how it used to look….
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Either way, the tourist trap I tried to avoid so much ended up being aot of fun.Swimming at Waikiki Beach at sundown, with Diamond Head off in the distance, the tiki torches getting lit, the X Mas lights all over…surreal. The International Marketplace, who’s heydey is in the past is still a fun place to walk around, even tho’ it’s mostly foreigners selling the same old trinkets and souveniers from booth to booth, but you can still see guys carving tikis, barefoot and all.


Barefoot Tiki carver at the International Marketplace.

We ate dinner at TIKIS which has paintings by SHAG, Mark Ryden, as well as carvings by Gecko all over the walls….The food was good, tho’ a bit pricey naturally. I had the Mac Nut crusted Mahi Mahi. They served up taro rolls with banana/tahitian vanilla butter, and the clam chowder was damn good, and then there is the decor….

Waikiki ended up being alot of fun, and we spent 2 days hangin’ around there.

CHINATOWN

On the flipside of Waikiki, and not too far away is Chinatown. We got the real deal Chinatown tour from Auntie Lynn, whom I hooked up with via Hawaii Threads and Wala’au.org

Upon meeting Auntie, I walked over to her, and she got up and started limping. When I asked why, she said, “Aw, I got in a fight last night, from here, all the way dow to there”…(like a block and a half) !

What can you say about someone who raises money to buy low income kids rubber slippers for X Mas, helps feed like 900 homeless people every week from da KauKau wagon, blogs more than a geeky 15 year old, and gives lei greetings and tours of Chinatown to strangers from cyberspace ? Give this woman a tv show, please ! I’d watch it.

This day, she was dressed in all black, cos she was just a Policeman’s funeral. She knows everyone, and everyone knows her. She led us thru the back entrance of dumpling places, into stores, plazas,food courts etc all the time giving us all the historical facts, and saying to hello to everyone along the way. Unfortunately, she lost a meaningful gold broach in our travels, and I only wish we could have found it.

I just want to give auntie a personal Mahalo for taking time out of her busy day and giving us the Chinatown Tour, Auntie Lynn style. She’ll kick your ass if you act up, but she’ll feed you if you’re hungry.

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Me and Chinatown’s (in)famous Auntie Lynn…Hollywood…give this woman a tv show!

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Angie,Auntie Lynn, Coco

Later that night we met up with Auntie at the Hawaii Threads and Wala’au X Mas party at La Mariana Sailing Club.

Basically, MECCA for Tikiphiles like myself, La Mariana has been in business forever, and is one of the last of the great Tiki establishments in Hawaii. The party was great and I got to meet, face to face, lots of people from HT and Wala’au. An awesome bunch of folks, and we got to talk story in person, and attach the person to the screen name. So, everyone there (too many too mention), it was great meeting you all and Mahalo for a great night.

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Me and Chris (Diver Down) at Hawaii Threads, Wala’au X Mas Party

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Angie and Manoa123/Warriorfan Jr (from Hawaii threads and Wala’au)

Other Stuff

A few other places we stopped at was the Byodo In Buddhist Temple in Kaneohe, which is a replica of a 900 year old temple in Uhi, Japan. Upon entering, you ring a 3 ton peace bell, even tho there was no peace for us, as the mosquitos waged war on our legs, arms and any other body part they could get to. There were beautiful koi ponds, lush Japanese gards and waterfalls and a place to pray to Buddah.

On our last day we were treated to breakfast at the Big City Diner in Kailua by another Hawaii Threads friend Pomai. Pomai is a major food blogger, and he blogged about it on his Tasty Island Blog. I had some really awesome french toast, and Pomai gave us a nice big ole tub of chocolate mac nut candy and coffees. Mahalo Pomai for the breakfast, treats, and Aloha.

Next…..the Big Island.

HAWAII – The Big Island

Upon arriving we were greeted with a lei greeting by “that gnome guy” Tony, whom I know because of his Punagnome, which is a travelling gnome that you get to “host”, take pictures of, and then send on it’s way to the next participant. I was the first to host the gnome, I added one of my Tikis, Tikiyaki Jr as a travel companion, and at the time of this writing, I believe they are in northern California. Check out the website www.punagnome.com for pics of all their travels.

As soon as I hit the Kona air, my fond memories of my first-ever trip to the Hawa’iian islands came rushing back. The Big Island is a special place for me. Mine and Coco’s first trip together was here, and it was the first trip to the Islands for both of us.The lo-fi Kona airport, the warm air….paradise.

Tony wasted no time in taking us sightseeing. About 5 minutes from the airport he took us to a nice “hidden” beach. Not really hidden, but he took us in through a way which wasn’t through the normal entry. Here we are with this guy I just met in person taking us across marshes, through brush etc….I checked…he had no axe on him, so, other than his camera, no visible weapons.

When we finally made it to the beach, it was beautiful. Black sand, tide pools, sea turtles….in other words, the Big island.

When we finally got into KONA, Tony left for an appointment, and we checked in to our condo (waterfront!) , and hit Alii Dr.
Alii Dr is, where all the hotels and condos are…restaurants, tourist gift shops,bars etc…it’s all there. It changed a little since 2004, but not that much. Island Lava Java cleaned up a bit, and is more crowded now. Great place for coffee, treats, and now food (last time I don’t believe they served luch and dinner items), and best of all, sit out with your laptop 50 feet from the ocean in the warm Kona sun and just chill. Coffee, free wireless with the purchase of a drink, and that awesome Kailua Kona ocean view…it don’t get any better.

There are some more restaurants, and it seems that some of the shops and condos have painted and fixed up, but Uncle Billy’s is still there, as well as the Kona Seaside Hotel (we stayed there last time) so, other than being a little less “lo-fi”, Kailua Kona is still the same. At the end where our condo was, there was some new construction going on, probably new condos being built, so the face of Kona is changing, but I doubt it will become Waikiki any time soon.

January 25, 2007 at 5:25 am 8 comments

Be a Tourist in your own Town

I moved from Long Island, NY to Hollywood in 1995. One year after the Northridge Earthquake,a few years after the housing crash of 1990, the Rodney King Riots, and the Seattle “Grunge Movement” which included a few decent bands,alot of bad imitators and the almost intravenous invasion of Coffee into the veins of America. .
I’d hit a level of bordom and depression in my life that was in dire need of something drastic to reinvigorate me. I felt trapped. I needed a change. So, I packed up my shitty Ford Escort and moved to LA.
Back in 95′, Hollywood was in a lull. Alot of people I met told me stories of “back in the day”…aka the, 80’s, when Hollywood was crawling with rockers, people having sex in the bushes on Sunset, Rock n’ Roll Denny’s insanity at 3 in the morning etc.

I missed it all. I had opportunities to visit LA back in 83′ when my childhood friend moved here and would send me letters telling me “I have a spare bedroom, come visit”…I didn’t, I was too involved in my then band to even take off a week. We really weren’t too busy to take a week off, I was just too wrapped up in it to do anything else.

Stupid me. Looking back now, I would probably have never come home. For years after I tried to convince the band to move to LA, so we could “get signed”. No one wanted to. You see New Yorkers have this thing about New York being the center of the universe, so it’s hard to convince alot of them that any place else exists.

Anyway, water under the proverbial bridge. Back to 1995…
Hollywood was this place that “used to be…” and was kinda slow at the moment. I didn’t care, I loved it. It was quaint, seedy, and glamorous all at the same time. It was laid back, but still exciting, and you could still feel the ghost of Poison and Guns N Roses in the neighborhood, even tho’ those folks were curshed under the shadow of “alternative”.

Alot of people I met were around the same age as me, and grew up on the same 70’s pop culture I did. The Powerpop movement was surging, and bands who loved the Beatles and Cheap Trick were coming out of the woodwork.Fun, without all the cheeze of the 80’s. I met lots of cool people, saw cool bands, got to record some of them too. Hollywood still had some of it’s old architecture from the 50’s still hanging around, Ben Franks was still open, Rock n Roll Denny’s showed no sign of meeting the bulldozer. It was old and cool….That was then…

In 2006 it’s a very different place. I moved out to “the valley” in 2002. Why ? Hollywood was getting crowded, people were moving in. Lots of Britney Spears and N’ Sync clones were running around, listening to shitty music, saying stuff like “dope” and “bling”,like MTV oepened up it’s can of worms and poured it out all over the streets, and those horrific Strip Mall on Hollywood Steroids starting rearing their ugly, massive heads. Hollywood was making it’s comeback, and it was going to be bigger, brighter, glossier, more fake and in your face than ever. Change was coming…you could just feel it.

It started with The Hollywood and Higland Project. Hollywood and Highland is for all intents and purposes, a Retail Theme Park. When you walk inside, it looks like a mini town. All frilly, overdone with ugly details, and the dreaded “upscale shopping”. Gross. Add to that, the location, which makes getting in and out of Hollywood an insane clusterfuck. There are only a few ways into Hollywood from the Valley….Highland, Cahuenga, Laurel Canyon…that’s pretty much it.

“SO, how about this…we put a HUGE shopping attraction right at the main mouth of one of those conduits”….STUPID. Now, the traffic here is insane.I’m glad I don’t live there now, but I DO miss what it was, and find myself a little sad when “I go into town” now to do stuff. As a result, I end up doing the touristy stuff, oddly enough.

In 95′, The Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax was a cool little piece of old Hollywood where you could go on a weekday morning and eat, get coffee, whatever…You’d pull right into the parking lot and park. There was no guard collecting money, no parking vaidation tickets….you could go wherever you want. Inside, you’d see old timer’s, mostly the area’s Russian and Jewish folks eating and talking, or buying stuff from the Vegetable stands and Meat Market….It was old school, a step back in time. It was a big social thing for the old timers.

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Farmer’s Market….greab a seat, and a bite.

Surrounding the Farmer’s Market was a plant nursery to one side, a bank to another, a wine store, and CBS studios. There was a makeshift post office in a trailer, and there was DuPar’s…home of the best pancakes on earth.

Sometime after the Hollywood and Higland Project, some developers bought all the land around the Farmer’s Market with the idea of putting in one of these Retail Theme Parks….I’m sure they tried to buy the Farmer’s Market, but I think the old timers probably raised hell about it and demanded they leave the Farmer’s Market Alone…

Thankfully so. The Farmer’s Market remains largely untouched, and still retains that old school charm. Soon as you step outside tho’ it’s a whole new Ballgame.

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I’m big, I’m new, I’m upscale and grotesque, I’m a theme park,studio backlot and a mall all in one…I am the GROVE!

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WEEEEE!!!!! Let’s ride on the TROLLEY mommy! Coolness has left the building

BOOM!!!! The G R O V E HAS ARRIVED !!!
Upscale shopping, a megaplex theater (a good theater I must say), an Apple store (the saving grace), and a trolley car that goes from one end to the other….YAY!…DISNEY is in the HOUSE ! A huge fountain centerpiece wows spectators, and Hollywood is BACK, in all it’s 80’s over the top, disgusting splendor.

Yea….a more gross juxtaposition you be hard pressed to find, but hey, I’m sure the Farmer’s Market Vendors are happy as a pig in shiznit about it, with all the patronage it’s bringing in.

So, that being said, the Farmer’s market is still a great place to go. Once you’re inside, you have no evidence of all the other ugliness, except for the fact that it’s more crowded than when I first used to go there.

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Step back in time….The entrance to Farmer’s Market.

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The French Crepe Company.

Usually we go to Kokomo to eat, but on this particular day we opted for The French Crepe Company, being that we didn’t want to indulge in a huge meal, as to save room for the OTHER Hollywood staple, Canters (more on that later)

We had a roasted Turkey crepe, with some kind of cheese (unnamed) and tomatoes, and a standard “sweet crepe”…basically butter and sugar…Crepes are just so good if prepared right….these were pretty damn good. Warm, soft, tasty…everything inside all melted and gooey, everything it was supposed to be. The sweet crepe tasted like swedish pancakes, sweet and buttery…just awesome. I’ll be back to this place again.

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The French Crepe Company – Just perfect !

The Farmer’s Market also has several fresh produce stands, a meat market, liquor store, and even a store that sells only Hot Sauce. There are, of course, all the Hollywood tourist trinkets, and tons of other great food stands and bakeries, ice cream, Chinese, BBQ, pizza, you name it. Many of which have been there for years.

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Bob’s Coffee and Donuts. great Coffee, Great Donuts, Old school, what else can you ask for ?

No trip to the Farmer’s Market is complete without a quick cuppa joe and a donut from Bob’s Coffee and Donuts. Their cinnamon rolls are just amazing. Coffee is always good, and the seating area is a great place to hang, IF you can find a seat. This place has been here many years, and is always voted Best Coffee and Donuts in LA.

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There IS a Starbucks on the other side of the market, but you ain’t gonna find these donuts there…

Anyway, a trip to the Farmer’s Market is a way bigger hassle these days, with the aformentioned parking attendants, Grove mobs, and general Hollywood madness, but it’s still a nice place to go for a bite and to walk around and check out the shops.

Sometimes it ok to be a tourist in your own town…next stop…Canters.

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Canter’s, a Hollywood Institution

CANTERS

What can be said about Canter’s ? It’s been around almost as long as the Farmer’s Market. It’s a Hollywood Institution. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a heinous undercover news investigation that uncovered some really bad health issues in the kitchen didn’t put a dent in this place’s business (it’s since been improved on the cleanliness front)
So what are they famous for, besides being a hangouot for famous people, not so famous people, freaks, weirdos, and the old school Fairfax Jewish community ?

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Matzo Ball soup, what else IS there are Canters?

The Matzo Ball soup for one. All my Jewish friends who grew up on “mom’s matzo ball soup” say this is the next best thing. I never even tried matzo ball soup until having it here, so I have no frame or reference beside my own tastebuds, but this stuff is GOOD! It’s pretty basic….A bowl of Chicken Soup with a HUGE matzo ball in it. Carrots are extra, and I always indulge. No need for much else, the matzo ball is the star of this shindig…big and tasty, great consistency, and a bowl of this is a meal. They give you bagel chips on the sidem which are great for dipping in the soup, or if you’re REALLY hungry, order a toasted and buttered bagel on the side, and dip THAT in there….YUMMY !

You can also get a nice Kreplach soup too, which is basically a Jewish Dumpling, or the “Mish Mash” soup, which is matzo ball, kreplach and noodles…I’ve only attempted that one a few times.

I HAVE had other stuff there too. They make great salads, and breakfast is aways good.
Then there are the Sandwiches….and when you’re in a Jewish Deli, you best get your sandwich on rye bread. Being that they’re a bakery, you can bet on the rye bread being good, and it is…..stack up some turkey, or corned beef or pastrami (if you’re into that kinda thing) or turkey or egg salad…good stuff. The pumpernickel bread is great too.
Then there is the usual diner stuff, burgers, spaghetti, desserts from the bakery etc….A huge menu overall, but it’s the matzo ball soup that makes me go out of the way to go there.

You can’t really go wrong with a place where Rodney has his own booth, and some of the wait staff have been there 40 years or more. Like I said…it’s an Institution.

2 HUGE dining rooms, a deli counter, a bakery counter, and the Kibbitz Room, which is an adjoining bar, with live bands (sometimes, all star jams or a dj), all relatively untouched since the 50’s, and still retaining their great Googie Light Fixtures. Canter’s was a big hangout back in the heyday of the Sunset Strip, ie: the 60’s, and continues to be the place to go after a night out in the clubs….just go there after 2 am any night of the week, and see for yourself.

Canters
419 N Faifax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

October 8, 2006 at 11:07 pm 4 comments

Gnome Sweet Gnome

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Be a host to a new cult phenomenon…the PUNAGNOME !

This past week I was the first of a growing number of people around the globe to partake in what I like to call an “interactive art and social experiment”. PunaGnome.
Basically, PunaGnome is a travelling garden gnome. He originated in Puna, Hawaii, and already has a travel itinerary booked until February of 2007! He’s “hosted by different people for a week or so, and is photographed in and around the host’s city, and is then sent off to a new destination.

A travelogue is kept and Bud tells stories of his visits.

I’m very excited to have been the first to host “Bud”, and I even gave him a travel companion, TIKYAKI JR . I think this will become a cult phonemenon, and it will be great to have all my own Tikiyaki Jr photographed all around the globe.

To become a host, go HERE. Better do it fast, BUD is on a fast track to stardom.

October 4, 2006 at 6:34 am 3 comments

Good Italian in LA ? La Bottega Marino

Being Italian is seemingly more acceptable the last few years. Now, it’s almost “hip”.
Thanx to the Sopranos, and a never ending string of great mob movies, it seems like being Italian is alot cooler than it used to be.

Maybe living in California for the past 11 years has made me a feel little less like everyone else. After all, when you grow up on Long Island, everyone is either Italian, Jewish or Irish. That’s the way it was when I was there anyway.

In LA, there’s alot less of us, so when you run into a NY Paisan it’s a pleasant surprise. Really, at the end of the day, I’m just American, 2nd generation, it’s not like I speak Italian, have ever been to Italy, or even know the first thing about being an Italy Italian, just a NY one.

Either way, I grew up with the culture….the food, the big ass family, the food, the big ass family gatherings, the food, the even bigger ass weddings every other month, the food…you get the picture. So being in LA, good Italian food is hard to find. There’s alot of bad and mediocre stuff, but few good places to ind the real deal.

Back in my early days living in Hollywood, I worked as a delivery guy at La Bottega Marino in West Hollywood. It was a part time gig, and left me time for my “real job” , my band. Back in 96′ you could work a part time job and still make your rent in LA. LA was cheap then, a place where you could “get by” while pursuing your dream, whatever that was.

They’ve since moved from WEHO to West LA, as well as having a place on Melrose in Hollywood. It’s been about 8 years since I’ve been in La Bottega, but when we went in today , I knew just what to order.

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First things first – a nice Cafe Americano – strong like bull!

Started things off with a much needed caffeine fix. This Cafe’ Americano packed some serious punch. Strong like Bull, and really good. Not long after they brought us out some bruschetta and bread. Anyone who knows me, knows my pet peeve with 95% of Itaian restaurants is the over abundance of Garlic. This, to me is the first sign that a restaurant doesn’t really do Italian food right. I know garlic is a huge favorite of people, and they seem to can’t get enough. Not me. To me, garlic is to add flavor to a dish, not to BECOME the flavor of a dish.

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Good Bruschetta, or “cecca” as some folks call it

So, this bruschetta, to ME, was done right. Good roma tomatoes, the right texure, flavorful, and the right amount of garlic. A tad more basil would’ve been ok too, but this stuff tasted great. Pile some up on a slice of bread (NOT sourdough) and go for it.

So, I ordered what I used to get when I worked at La Bottega, back in the day. The Vegetarian Sandwich, which, on the menu is, “Fresh Moots” (uh, fresh mozzarella cheese) roasted peps (roasted peppers) and balsamic vinegar eggplant, only, I’m not a big eggplant guy, so I subbed it with tomatoes. when I worked there, I worked late mornings, and the bread was usually only out of the oven for an hour or 2, sometimes I would go to their pizza place across the street, and pick up some fresh loaves, and bring them back. It was like eating fresh pizza crust….amazing.

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Vegetariano Panini – with my own twist. Fresh Mozzerella, Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes

Being that we were here in the late afternoon, the bread was cooled off, and soft, as opposed to crusty, like back in the day, but, you can’t always expect it to be fresh out da oven. Still the sandwich was great, piled with the fresh mozzerella, their own roasted peppers (once again, garlic’ed correctly) and tomatoes. Good stuff.

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Gnocchi with really tasty tomato basil sauce. It’s hard to find a good sauce in LA

We also ordered the gnocchi with tomato basil sauce. I have to say, the gnocchi was a little chewier than I’m used to, but the sauce made up for it. A nice tomato basil sauce, very flavorful, one again, the right amount of garlic,as not to kill the flavor of the tomatoes, not over cooked, very fresh tasting. They threw a little mozzerella on top. Nicccce !

LA Bottega is set up really more like a deli, than a restaurant, with all their good stuff in deli cases at the counter, so you can buy the fresh mozzerella and roasted peppers by the pound. They also have tiramisu,cannoli’s, sfogliatelle and other pastries, as well as gelato and espresso drinks.
Hey, they’re a restuarant too, so if you’re in the mood for a nice “sit down”, you can get a great meal there too. Owner Salvatore is a nice guy too. He’s from Italy, by the way, Not NY.

La Bottega Marino
11363 Santa monica Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90025

203 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004

October 1, 2006 at 8:34 am 3 comments

So, Who invented the French Dip ?

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Philippe, inventors and purveyors of the French Dip, since 1908.

Well according to the oldest standing restaurant in Hollywood, Philippe, THEY did.
Philippe, down in the Chinatown section of Downtown Los Angeles is something you see in old books, usually in black and white. They claim to have invented the French Dip Sandwich, which, for those who don’t know, is your basic deli sandwich with the bread dipped into beef juices, which adds flavor and moistens the whole thing up.

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This is what drives people here in droves….

It works. They use a small sub sandwich roll, and you have your choice of sliced Beef, Turkey, Pork,Ham or Lamb, and a choice of cheese for an extra charge. The Sandwich gets a nice moist texture due the bread dipping, and the beef juice adds a nice flavor.

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Yes, It’s as good as it looks. Turkey and Swiss French Dip Sandwich, Apple Pie, Coffee

That is only part of what makes this place so great. The inherent and well preserved “old school-ness” of Philippe is the other part of the appeal. It’s downtown location, in Chinatown, the sawdust on the floor, the rows of cafeteria style tables, and the signage all add to the experience. Those old painted signs behind the counter are great, and the prices are pretty old school too….look here
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Yea, you read that right….Lemonade 60 cents, Iced Tea 50 cents. Hey, they’re not 1908 prices, but maybe 1976? They AIN’T 2006 prices, that’s for sure.

Here’s the REAL kicker….”Spare a dime for a cup of coffee?”…..Here, a panhandler downtown could ask that question and it would be true, AND he’d get a penny back. Coffee here is 9 CENTS a cup….Yes, 9 CENTS. THOSE are 1908 prices. Starbucks, are you listening?

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They come in droves…at lunch time, the lines are way longer, but they keep it movin’

Then there is the ordering. Here’s how it works…there are a bunch of people working behind the counter….people line up in front of one of them, you get in line, tell them what you want, pay, wait about a minute, get your food on a tray, go find a table, sit and eat.
That’s it. There’s old cafeteria style high tables with stools, or go in the dining room and get a table. Deli mustard on the table,sawdust on the floor, the old,brokendown, downtown people, and business people mix, it works.

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Philippe…dining for the “regular guy”.

I had the Turkey and Swiss Cheese French Dip. Apple pie was great, and the coffee fresh. I walked out stuffed for like $8. I’d pay about $16 at Jerry’s Deli for that, granted, the Jerry’s sandwich would have like 10 lbs of meat on it, but I don’t think it’s necessary. This sandwich had just the right amount of everything.
They serve breakfast until 10:30 am, and have lots ofother stuff, cole slaw, potato salad, pork chops etc, but it seems that the people come here for the French Dip. As they should, after all They DID invent it.

September 28, 2006 at 2:42 pm 2 comments

Aloha Grill – Huntington Beach, CA

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“I heard the pounding of the drums not far away…” Meet (meat?) the “Hawaiian Drums”…the best chicken wings on the planet.
Hawaiian Drums…It’s ALL about the Hawaiian Drums…I’ve had nothing to do, and a craving for these things, and made the hour plus trip to Huntington Beach just to have these. These mysterious drums are the best chicken wings I’ve ever had in my life.
They’re only the “drumstick” part of the wing, not the other part, so it’s like little chicken legs, and you don’t have to fuss with the other part with no meat.

Described in the menu as “Marinated Chicken drumettes, slow roasted then tossed in a spicy cherry char siu with pineapple and green onions” , Hawaiian Drums are an appetizer on the menu, but it’s the main reason I’ve been coming to the place for the last 5 years since I stumbled on it with a friend. First off, they’re roasted not fried, which sets them apart from most other chicken wing dishes. Second, the sauce. Char Siu, a Chinese BBQ sauce most commonly used on BBQ Pork and classic Spare Ribs, is the main ingredient, but the cherry flavor,green onions, pineapple and mysterious other ingredients makes these things SO ONO.(One thing tho’ they’re not at all spicy, that’s ok by me, but the description is misleading) Add to that the price…$5.95 for a big ass plate…no meal necessary, this IS the meal.

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Hungry yet ? Maui Wowie Egg Rolls w/fried wontons and mango salsa.

Oh, they have other stuff too like the not too imaginitively named Maui Wowie Egg Rolls…basically, an egg roll filled with seared ahi tuna, mac nuts, green onions, cabbage,carrots, served up with some teri-style dipping sauce, big fried wonton chips and a mango salsa on the side…pretty ono.

To tell you the truth, I’ve never gotten to a main course, due to the Hawaiian Drums stopping me dead in my tracks, but they have some interesting items including some of the Hawaiian standards, Kalua Pork, Loco Moco, Teri Chicken Hawaiian Plate, all served up with one scoop rice, one scoop macaroni salad, as well as Fish and burgers.

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Don’t be fooled by the bland, stripmall frontage…. Inside the scene gets way better…

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Tiki greets you at the front door…always a good thing to see walking in

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Big Bamboo…Inside the Aloha Grill

Tiki decor, bamboo furniture and overall classic Polynesian style. This Place gets the Tikiyaki “2 shakas”. The only negative I can say about this place is that, like most of the Eating establishments on Main St and alot of the South Bay’s beach town areas, The Aloha Grill has the dreaded Sports Bar thing going on with “the game” blasting from many tv’s placed around the restaurant, and the even more dreaded drunk sportsfan knuckleheads cheering at the game way too loudly in the bar area.

On this particular outing, after we were finished and outside there was a ruckus at the front door with some big fatass yelling profanities at the employees who asked him to leave, no doubt for being rude and loud. So my 15 year old had to endure hearing this dumbshit hurl a string of profanities including the “C word at the emmployees as he was storming out. Nice ! Unfortunately, the South Bay is filled with these kind of knuckleheads. Instant Idiot…Just add alcohol.

That aside, the Aloha Grill is a mandatory stop every time I’m in HB.

ALoha Grill
221 Main St
Huntington Beach, CA
http://www.alohagrill.com

September 10, 2006 at 7:27 am 5 comments

Little Steven’s Underground Garage-A-Go-Go – 9/06/06 – Avalon Ballroom, Hollywood

Little Steven’s Underground Garage-A-Go-Go pulled into Hollywood on Wednesday Night to spread the word, and preach the gospel of real rock n roll. With music getting crappier every year, Little Steven is saving the day, bringing REAL, RAW, sweaty rock n roll to the masses. This lineup featured The Zombies as headliner, Phantom Planet, The Mooney Suzuki, The Woggles and the Holograms. I’ll keep it brief, as not to make this look like some sort of Rolling Stone review

First up : The Holograms : They get better (and more Asian) every time I see them, and now have that onstage confidence that was missing the last time I saw them. Like a Hello Kitty version of The Go-Go’s, only brattier. Their record “land of 1000 Ex-Boyfriends” is on Teenacide Records
Check it out.

Next: The Woggles. The Woggles feature the Mighty Manfred from Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, which by the way was not mentioned AT ALL this night…maybe because the sponser was KLOS ? Anyway, The Woggles do it authentic 60’s style, complete with coreographed moves, and the Might Manfred puts out 110% onstage…seriously, the guy is manic. He was in the crowd, he was onstage, everywhere….alot of energy and their “Kinks with a little bit o soul” style sounded great.

Next : The Mooney Suzuki…One of those Rolling Stone/Spin Magazine “important” bands of the moment, they rocked pretty hard, and managed to live up to the hype, unlike alot of bands. As I keep hearing these guys, their songwriting seems to keep getting better, and their direction more 70’s boogie rock, than the 60’s garage sound of the earlier stuff.
They kicked ass, and were flying all over the stage while they were doing it. Beats the hell out of those dreaded shoegazer bands of the 90’s…makes me think that maybe there is some hope left, if more bands are doing this sort of thing. Highlight of the set was a new song called 99%. Very BTO…which is more than fine with me.(really, it is)

Next : Phantom Planet – Authors of that dreaded “California” song from tv show THE OC (kidding, I actually like that song, I’ve just heard it an awful lot), Phantom Planet did their geek pop/emo/whatever you call it these days thing and they were pretty good at it..not great songs, but the fact that they can actually play is refreshing in itself. Not your standard 3 chord Green Day in a can kind of a band…
They did their best to bring the energy but, after The Woggles and The Mooney Suzuki, it was tame by comparison.

And finally…The Zombies – After standing for something like 3 1/2 hours, my old legs were ready to limp home, but, being that I came to see the Zombies, I’d have to endure another 45 min or so. Typically, when an classic 60’s band does the reunion thing, it’s usually like this…One or two original members from the classic lineup, and some other “cats” filling in.

The other guys are usually those session “cats” with really modern equipment (the most common one is the “headless guitar” ie: Steinberger or some other hi tech crap), and they usually play like the guys in Toto…you know, that 80’s session “in the pocket”, “tasty” kind of playing…the drums are always spot on, the guitarist plays a strat through some really hi tech stuff, and busts into those Steve Lukatherian shred licks, the kind you hear in a G.I.T instructional video, or Paul Schaffer’s band…gross!

Unfortunately, the Zombies followed suit. The bass player was the original guy from the first Zombies records (and played with the Kinks in the 70’s) and his SON was the session “cat” drummer….I had to endure him overplaying the Zombies biggest hit “Time of the Season” with all those tricky session “cat” drum licks, like Neil peart was playing it, only when Neil Peart does it, it works, because RUSH’s music is all about that. That coupled with a guitarist who played with Dave Stewart (Eurythmics)…great, just great.

Also disappointing was the too fast, almost disco version of “Hold Your head Up”, tho’ it was saved by Rod Argent’s keyboard genius. BUT, and there always has to be a BUT…
When they finally got to the “Odyssey and Oracle” section of the show, it got good, most notably “care of Cell 44″,my personal favorite by them. It was joyous to hear that song live, and that and “Rose for Emily” made enduring all the noodling worth it. Colin Bluntstone sounded great, and the goosebumps made their appearance on the back of my neck, which is what great pop like that has the ability to do.

If only more of the touring classic bands would take Brian Wilson’s lead of hiring the right people for the job. ie: geeks who worship them and play all the correct gear, and respect the songs enough to recreate them in the way they were performed in the first place. Paul McCartney has since followed suit, and now we don’t have to endure some Steely Dan reject playing “tasty” studio cat solos in place of our most treasured George Harrison masterpieces.

Anyway, overall, it was a great show, and thank someone (Buddah, Moses, Jesus…pick the deity of your choice) that Little Steven is bringing this music to the masses…I mean, it’s so great that folks have an alternative to Fallout Boy, My Chemical Romance, 50 cent and all the other crap MTV is spewing between it’s vapid reality shows, and other non music related garbage.

All that AND he’s Silvio Dante from the Sopranos !

Sidebar : Dial “H” for Hipster, dial “P” for Poser.

In between sets I got myself into an interesting conversation about some of the bands on the bill with someone who I’ve since dubbed “The textbook Hipster”.
If you don’t live in LA, I’m sure you have your own version of this guy in your local urban jungle, but in LA there are these guys….Textbook Hipsters….Textbook Hipsters have a rulebook they follow. In this rulebook, there are chapters about clothes, music, and the mandatory “vibe” and attitiude”. They live in Silverlake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park (well, the more daring ones do).

I don’t know where you purchase such a book, but then again, I’m not one of them. There’s no bookstore on Melrose selling these things, but I can tell you one thing, they all read the same book.

Hipsters dress really retro (usually 70’s, sometimes 60’s), have the Silverlake hair (last year it was that Badfinger Shag, this year it’s the mandatory beard), and listen to obscure records on vinyl, and if you’re REALLY cool, you have the “ironic” cheesy records in your record collection, like… Pat Benetar, Quarterflash, and some other 80’s homogenized crap, that’s been dismissed by the masses, but since everyone makes fun of it, you have to have in your collection to be “against the grain”. Of course you think it’s crap too, but you have to have that sense of faux irony, it’s part of the deal.

In this instance, the conversation got into the bands on the bill….Having just been blown away by The Woggles, and singer, the Mighty Manfred’s intense energy, I was spouting on about how great I thought they were to the Textbook Hipster in question. His reply was something along the lines of…”I don’t know man, I mean, they did all this goofy coreography, they seemed so forced” which I replied “yea, but their thing is that they like to keep it really authentic to the 60’s garage bands, and those early garage bands DID all that goofy coreography stuff, because they were into that whole Motown thing…it was the 60’s, that’s how bands put on a show”

Then he commented that , “… I don’t know, someone in that band looks like they needed to get strung out on junk or somethin” …meaning, hey, the gutarist is a bit of a fat guy, he needs to drop some weight so he has that Rock n Roll, junkie look. Meanwhile, he’s jumping all over the place, cutting his hand open and bleeding all over his guitars, while he’s playing the shit out of them, I may add, and yet, he needs to get addicted to junk, so he “Looks cool”. He then went on to say that he liked The Mooney Suzuki better, cos the singer had a “New York Dolls vibe”, and they had that “really raw, rock n roll thing goin on”.

And there it was…The mandatory name dropping of “influencial” bands dubbed “important” by rags like Spin and Rolling Stone. The New York Dolls…easily one of the most overrated bands of all time, but hey, they looked trashy, and did lots of dope, so they must be cool. Add The Velvet Underground,The Stooges, and the Stones (maaan) to that list, and you have all your Hipster influences intact. Of course, the Textbook Hipster’s favorite Beatle is John, cos Paul is so Pop, and John was more “radical”.

Anyway…Imagine saying something as stupid as “I think someone in that band needs to get addicted to junk”. Yea, tell that to all the people who lost a friend, lover, or family member to that stupid crap. Not to get all D.A.R.E on you, but what does any of that have to do with rock n roll.

Well, to the textbook hipster…everything.
Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest…I feel better now.
Hey, go buy a Woggles record, and listen to a fat guy kick your ass on guitar.
Also, buy the new Mooney Suzuki record too, but don’t tell anyone, cos their too “mainstream” now.

Sorry, this got very longwinded and Rolling Stone review-like…My apologies.If you’e actually gotten to this part, I’ve actually held your interest…unbelieveable!

September 10, 2006 at 7:26 am 1 comment

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