Monthly Archives: January 2011

Carmela Ice Cream

I’m being completely honest when I say I do not have a sweet tooth. No, really. Really. That’s not to say I pass up the occasional dessert, but rarely does my tooth have a hankering to be satiated with sweets. So why drive twenty-something miles out of my way to try Carmela Ice Cream at their newly opened creamery in Pasadena? Because when I found out one of their signature flavors is salted caramel, and coming from a girl who adds salt to her fruit, I knew this trip would be worth the drive. And so it was. A perfect combination of salty and sweet is what could make me a dessertest. What makes Carmela Ice Cream stand out is their use of all-natural and local ingredients, and now they have me wanting to make the drive to try their spiced strawberry and cucumber sorbet, and fill up on more salted caramel.

If you can’t make the drive out to Pasadena, try visiting them at the farmers’ market or in specialty food shops. Your taste buds will thank you.


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The Tara House: Old Southern Comfort in the Heart of West Hollywood

This historic building, nicknamed “Tara” by locals because of its resemblance to the plantation home in Gone With The Wind, sits on a massive estate right in the middle of Laurel Ave., half a block south of Sunset and within eyeshot of the Laugh Factory. The expansive property, lush with trees and shrubbery, is an oasis among the densely packed apartment buildings that populate the surrounding area. Built in 1914, the house is an excellent example of Colonial Revival architecture, and is the last of its kind in WeHo. It was also the home of the Modern Forum, a mid-century Los Angeles think tank that hosted such luminaries as Einstein, Gandhi, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

When the property’s original owner, Elsie Weisman, died in 2000 at the age of 101 (reportedly while watching, yes, Gone With The Wind) she donated the estate to the city in the hope that it would be preserved as a park and cultural center. So when the city announced plans to demolish the house for an “affordable housing” development project on the site, the neighborhood protested. A group of community activists formed a non-profit and sued the city to stop the development. After several years of legal wrangling, the State Supreme court ruled against the city, preserving the property and paving the way for the long-anticipated park.

Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn.

That was two years ago, and a recent visit reveals that the park appears closer than ever to becoming a reality. The grounds are extremely well-kept. The vegetation along the perimeter fence – once thick enough to conceal a neighbor’s giant tortoise farm – has been trimmed back, allowing ample views of the property. The house is bright and clean with a fresh varnish of paint, and looks better than it has in years. And new picnic benches have sprouted up in tastefully strategic locations around the property. A sign on the fence says public access is “Coming Soon!” Fiddle-dee-dee.

Tara House, 1343 N. Laurel Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90046

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While The Wife and I were driving through Los Angeles this past weekend, we were once again reminded just how vast La Ciudad really is, especially as we’d been on the road for 42 minutes (no traffic) heading due east and were only barely creeping toward the voluminous borders of our county.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the L.A. architecture is the freeways – to get six miles, we took four separate freeways and in total utilized eight and passed perhaps ten more.  It got me wondering – is this really an accurate overhead view of our city?

Perhaps not, though it feels like it.  This is a more accurate map:

In case you were wondering (and thank you SCVresources), there are 48 – yes, FORTY EIGHT – freeways in Los Angeles. For the detail-oriented, here is a numerical listing:

State Routes :
1 – Pacific Coast Highway / Lincoln Blvd / Sepulveda Blvd
2 – Santa Monica Blvd. / Glendale Freeway / Angeles Crest Highway
14 – Antelope Valley Freeway / Sierra Highway / Midland Trail
18 – Waterman Road / Rim of the World Drive / Apple Valley Road / Palmdale Road
19 – Lakewood Blvd. / Rosemead Blvd.
22 – Garden Grove Freeway / 7th Street
23 – Decker Canyon Road / Westlake Blvd / Moorpark Freeway / Grimes Canyon Road
27 – Topanga Canyon Blvd.
30 / 210 – Foothill Freeway
38 – Mill Creek Road
39 – San Gabriel Canyon Road / Azusa Avenue / Beach Blvd. – Updated 8/10
42 – Manchester Blvd  / Firestone Blvd
47/103 – Terminal Island Freeway
55 – Newport Blvd. / Costa Mesa Freeway
57 – Orange Freeway
60 – Pomona Freeway / Moreno Valley Freeway
66 – Foothill Blvd. / 5th Street
71 – Corona Freeway / Corona Expressway – Future Chino Hills Freeway
72 – Whittier Blvd.
73 – San Joaquin Hills Toll Road
74 – Ortega Highway
83 – Euclid Avenue
90 – Imperial Hwy and the Marina Freeway (Johnny Carson’s “Slauson Cutoff”)
91 – Artesia Blvd. / Gardena Freeway / Artesia Freeway / Riverside Freeway
107 – Hawthorne Blvd.
110 – Gaffey Street / Pasadena Freeway / Arroyo Parkway
118 – Ronald Reagan Freeway / Los Angeles Avenue
126 – Henry Mayo Drive / Magic Mountain Parkway / San Fernando Road
133 – Laguna Freeway / Laguna Canyon Road
134 – Ventura Freeway
138 – Lancaster Road / Avenue D / Palmdale Blvd. / 47th Street / Pearblossom Highway
142 – Carbon Canyon Road
170 – Hollywood Freeway Extension
213 – Western Avenue
241 – Foothill Transportation Corridor (Toll)
261- Eastern Transportation Corridor (Toll)
330 – City Creek Road

US Routes :
101 – Santa Ana Freeway / Hollywood Freeway / Ventura Freeway

Interstate Routes :
5 – San Diego Freeway / Santa Ana Freeway / Golden State Freeway
10 – Santa Monica Freeway / San Bernardino Freeway
15 – Mojave Freeway
105 – Glenn Anderson Freeway (Century Freeway)
110 – Harbor Freeway
210 – Foothill Freeway
215 – San Bernardino Freeway
405 – San Diego Freeway
605 – San Gabriel River Freeway
710 – Long Beach Freeway

images from,, Corbis Images


Filed under central, eastside, south bay, Uncategorized, valley, westside

She’s My Companion..

Can a city be your friend? Can it give you kisses? Know who you are? If you’ve ever heard Under the Bridge from the quintessential LA band Red Hot Chili Peppers then you know Los Angeles can be an extraordinary buddy. For me there is no better friend to pass the day with then Los Angeles.

I drive on her streets ’cause she’s my companion
I walk through her hills ’cause she knows who I am
She sees my good deeds and she kisses the windy…

Enjoy this classic!

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Filed under central, dine.o.saurus, eastside, south bay, valley, westside

In Los Angeles. . .

. . .the quintessential L.A. track

I mean, he didn’t even have to use his A-K. . .damn straight today was a good day.

It is beautiful today, Angelenos, take advantage.


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Filed under central, westside

A Hug for Hugo’s (Tacos)

Hugo’s Tacos
4749 Coldwater Canyon Ave
Studio City, California 91423

Quite literally a stone’s throw offthefreeway, Hugo’s Tacos is that rare offshoot that is actually better than it’s namesake (which is right across the street).

Well, allow me to back up for a minute. . .I was first introduced to the proper Hugo’s by a friend/college roommate who was a server, promising me fresh food in a unique, date-friendly environment with great ingredients. While all of those things are true, the overall experience at Hugo’s left me wanting more – it wasn’t quite a ‘nice’ restaurant, but wasn’t casual/chill, either. The food was neither great nor memorable, and the price was neither expensive nor cheap – in short, not a sensational experience; more of the “sure, we’re close, it’s decent and healthy. . .why not” kind of place.

Thus, despite living rather close,, I opted not to try these meat-filled tortillas for a year, despite driving past the misty water-shooting facade that was somehow always laden with a long queue of people awaiting their juicy vittles, even in the Valley heat.







Located in a VERY difficult-to-navigate intersection with negligible parking didn’t help, either – I could just walk there, I suppose. . .but this is L.A., after all.  Thus, I finally left it up to The Wife to try the food and report back.  Now she is definitely not one to overstate, but she came back salivating, asking when we could go again – and keep in mind that The Wife is not a repeater either; that is, neither of us like to go back to restaurants multiple times when there are so many new, exciting places to discover.

Never being one to turn down a new taco experience, I shoved aside my Hugo’s Haterism and decided to imbibe.  We were able to find parking pretty easily after all  (just go west on Riverside off of Coldwater, make a left at the first street and park behind the Goodwill Donation Center – I’m serious), and the line moved with the rapidity of the Soup Nazi. The line was so fast, in fact, that by the time we reached the (very nice) server/order taker,  I hadn’t quite made up my mind between their seven filling choices (including the wonderful soy chorizo/potato/zucchini, which is in addition to old standards as al pastor, carne asada, chicken and fish) OR six salsa options (you know me, I lean toward habanero, but they feature a range of spiciness – from inoffensive to super hot).

I ended up doing what I do – ordering as much variety as possible without needing to hit an ATM. I settled on three separate fillings with three distinct salsas. One chicken, one steak, one carnitas to accompany my one habanero, one chile de arbol and one pico de gallo salsas. The Wife had a carnitas burrito (yes, they do that too) with the salsa negra. In short, we hit a homerun as I was able to try the majority of the (concise but well-rounded) menu in under $20. And that was with drinks.

First glance provides first love with these bad boys – they don’t lie when they say “fillings” because they fill these tortillas to the brim. The juicy (but not greasy) meat is (literally) bursting out of the sides, and covered with diced onion, cilantro and your salsa.  I am a huge eater, but I almost couldn’t finish three tacos – I challenge you to find another high-quality eatery that provides that much value for your money. But it’s not just about the quantity here at Hugo’s – the quality was magnifico.  Every bite was bursting with sabor and just enough heat to keep my attention, without burning my tongue. The only complaint is that the habanero salsa isn’t quite habanero-y enough, but then again most commercial eateries are intelligent enough to not want to warrant lawsuits due to permanently burnt tastebuds. Otherwise, it was phenomenal – and we even found a seat (there are only six bench/plastic seat tables), upon which we could enjoy the typically Valley view of cars going up and down Coldwater, getting on the freeway and across the street, coming directly at us – offthefreeway.

thank you to greattacohunt, self and L.A. Times for photos

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Filed under dine.o.saurus, valley

Remodeled Arsenal Looks, Feels Pretty Much The Same

The colorful history of this Pico Boulevard watering hole is rich with legend. Built as a military outpost in 1874, the original adobe structure was destroyed by Santa Ana winds shortly thereafter and lay in rubble until the turn of the century, when an industrious Mexican woman and her only son built a saloon on the site. “El Arsenal” was destroyed by flood in 1916 and went dormant for a time before reopening as – wait for it – a speakeasy in 1929. Reflecting the Parisian influence of the time, Le Hot Arsenal became the westside’s answer to the Folies Bergere, featuring burlesque dancing and other live entertainment for twenty years. But an errant cigarette burned Le Hot to the ground, and in 1950 the bar reopened simply as The Arsenal, where it’s been in continuous operation for sixty years.

Given its tumultuous history of reinvention, it comes as no surprise that The Arsenal has undergone two renovations in the past seven years. The most recent appears to have been more of a touch-up than a full overhaul, in which the main bar and patio area were spruced up with a sleek new color scheme and splashes of trendy wallpaper. Both the food and drink menus have also been revamped, featuring quasi-gastropub staples such as faux-artisanal cocktails, beef sliders, mac&cheese (made with gouda, of course) and perhaps most interestingly, poutine fries. Remaining gloriously untouched, however, is the original dining room, which radiates mid-century cool with its deep red booths, handsome wood, warm lighting, and cozy corner bar. It provides a mellow contrast to the newfangled scene directly adjacent, and proves that some things are better left alone.

The Arsenal, 12012 W. Pico Blvd, 90064. M-F 5pm-2am, Sat 6pm-2am. Closed Sundays.

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Filed under dine.o.saurus, westside