Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Try to be cool.


While lurking peoples' facebooks and reading Stuff White People Like I came to a certain realization - the installation piece in front of LACMA has become a status symbol of sorts. It's cool and interesting enough that you can have a profile picture with it and look "cultured." A picture in front of the lamps says "I'm so hip because I leave my happy little slice of suburbia to venture into LA, which is sooooo cool. I'm also artsy, because I can appreciate this installation piece and actually know of its existence. But I totally knew about this before it got big. And while we're here, I know this great little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best (insert ethnic dish)."

On a similar note: #103 in the book is self-deprecating humor. And #50 is irony. Shit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


As most of you probably know, I love food. I mean, I don't eat food merely for sustenance, but because I genuinely enjoy eating and imbibing. So while I've eaten a lot of different foods throughout LA, it is only at a few places that I reach a state of food-driven bliss. Animal is one of these places. It's a simple, nondescript restaurants with simple wood tables, sparsely adorned walls, and not even a sign to mark its location.

The beauty of going with three other people is that I get the chance to try three more dishes than I would have been able to otherwise. Success. So here we go...

Nick's choice: duck confit, apple, pecans, dates, arugula
The duck fell off of the bone with but the slightest prodding with the fork, while the arugula lended a bit of pepperiness that played well with the sweetness of the apple slices. The pecans seemed a bit out of places, but contributed a nice bit of crunch.

Hannah's choice: sweetbreads, creamed spinach, capers, hen of the woods
I didn't eat nearly enough of this to establish an informed opinion on the dish, but I can safely say that my tastebuds were happy to have experienced it.

Yureli's choice: barbeque pork belly sandwiches, slaw
I was a bit taken aback by the pork belly - almost spam-like in appearance, but with a texture resembling a semi-form tofu. It was salty and swimming in a glaze of sweet (perhaps too much so?) barbeque sauce, on two buttery, toasted, impossibly airy buns that seemed to deftly defy gravity. The slaw was unimaginative, but solid.

My choice (and the most universally liked): foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy
How strange of animal to place something as delicate as foie gras with biscuits and gravy. Strange, but brilliant. The foie gras was perfectly cooked, with a crisp skin that was able to hold the entirety of the buttery, rich goodness together. The biscuit was corn-based and as good as any biscuit that I've had at a solid barbeque joint. The gravy was hearty, but not so much as to mask the complexities of the seasonings used for the foie gras. Rather, it was more oily than creamy and acted as a complementing sauce versus a dousing agent.

And for dessert: bacon chocolate crunch bars, with a salt & pepper anglaise
I do believe that this is the dessert that put animal on the map. The layers of light milk chocolate with little crisps and a denser dark chocolate section with nuts are topped with chopped bacon bits. The sweetness of the milk chocolate, the bitterness of the dark, the saltiness of the bacon, and the two different crunches from the crisp rice and nuts - my tastebuds were having a complete frenzy without even the anglaise thrown in. I found myself picking off pieces one layer at a time to even begin to comprehend the mix of flavors and textures in a seemingly simple dessert. I mean, how complex could bacon with chocolate be?

So we left the restaurant with stomachs satisfied but not too full, and wallets significantly lighter. I would still go back in a heartbeat, though. The weird mix of ingredients and the play on sweet and salty-food combinations that animal does so well leaves me craving for more.


It's been a while since I had a LA daytrip, seeing as college somehow manages to eat up my free time without fail. But with Spring Break finally here, I decided to get out and do something interesting. So I kidnapped some friends from Pomona and took them on a mini tour of LA that didn't involve Melrose, Hollywood, and Pink's.

First stop - Dino's Chicken and Burgers.
Dripping with oil
You get half of a bird on a bed of fries and coleslaw for $5.50, which frankly is an awesome deal. Especially considering that fact that there's so much food, we got 2 orders for three people. The chicken is flame-grilled and dripping with deliciously orange-colored oil, lime, and an assortment of peppers that are flavorful without being too hot. The oils then drip down over the fries, soaking them in a bath of heartstopping goodness. Did I mention it all cost $5.50?

After waddling out of Dino's, we headed downtown to check out some old historical sights. You may recognize this one from Blade Runner or, more recently, 500 Days of Summer.
Bradbury Building
The Bradbury Building is a landmark with such beautiful craftsmanship that I couldn't help but stare. Ornately wrought iron, wood paneling, marble walls - it really took me back to a classier time.

On the subject of 500 Days of Summer, one of the few worthwhile movies to be filmed in LA in recent memory, we headed up to Pershing Square to get our hipster on.
500 Days
Look familiar? The angle's not quite right, but I'll take what I can get.

After taking Angel's Flight up to some plaza with a name I cannot remember, we found a Famima! Oh, how I miss those... particularly because of one of the greatest sodas out there: Leninade.
Drink, Comrade!
Get hammered and sickled.

Over to MOCA, for their "First 30 Years" exhibit. All of the pieces have been switched in and out for the museum's thirtieth anniversary, so after dealing with an annoyingly rude ticket seller, we headed downstairs to delve into something interesting.
This is my favorite installation piece that I've had the joy of experiencing, and I was glad that it survived the scrutiny of whatever curator decided what pieces belonged in the anniversary exhibit. There's just something incredibly calming about the soft glow of the blue light as it slowly emanates across the walls of the stark white room. We took the time to sit down and enjoy the dimly lit void.

Kidnapped another friend and wandered around the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Somehow ended up with these cool pictures in the meantime.
Photos by Nick, except for the one of himself.
The mirrored surfaces of the concert hall had the great effect of acting as reflectors, thus creating some great light without any additional strobes or anything of the sort. It was kind of a perfect situation, and we made sure to take advantage of it.

Next, a short drive over to Scoops for some remarkable ice cream. Even upon entering the place, I felt welcomed and quite amused by the cute worker who seemed genuinely excited about the ice cream she was serving. After getting tastes of some ridiculously awesome flavors (salty caramel or Guiness rasin, anyone?) I settled on a scoop of Green tea butterscotch and Strawberry Pomegranate. Good choices, both.
Scoops' claim to fame is the fact that they switch out most of their flavors everyday and are constantly accepting suggestions for new flavors. I'm rooting for jalapeno-blood orange. Their ice cream is all natural, and is significantly creamier than the typical scoop of ice cream. This does cause quicker melting, but you'll be downing the cool treat so quickly that it shouldn't be much of an issue.

Then, a quick stop over at MILK to pick up some baked goods. Ooey Gooey Chocolate Chip cookies for the guys, and a velvet popper for Hannah.
Velvet Popper

Ate at a restaurant that warrants its own post, which I will do soon. Ventured to some other little places around the city, but ultimately ended up at the Bonavista Lounge in Downtown, enjoying the revolving cocktail lounge that gives a 360 degree view of the LA skyline. Mind you, this was after the twenty minutes of driving around looking for parking when the lounge will actually validate parking at the hotel. Wow. And of course, we're too young to purchase cocktails so we stuck with some Apple Tarts.
Apple Tart
Unremarkable, but quite pretty.

By some amazing feat of intestinal fortitude, we were still hungry after all of the food consumed thus far. So we meandered over to Little Tokyo and Mr. Ramen! Shoyu ramen ftw.
Shoyu Ramen
Not the best in the world, but the pickings get pretty slim at 11 at night.

And so we ended our day with happy tummies, tired feet, a drained ipod, and an empty tank of gas. Twas quite a good day, indeed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010



Harwood's basement scares me a little bit. Possibly because it looks like the bowels of a ship? Or a mental asylum, with those industrial pipes, mysterious noises, and God knows what else. And there's no natural light. Anywhere.

I'll stick to my nice, happy, bright dorm in Blaisdell.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Travel Journal

1/7/10, while in Tokyo

Public Transportation.

I've found that one of my favorite parts of traveling is sitting around on public transportation. The mundane task of waiting amidst a whirlwind trip of exploring and meandering is quite relaxing. I actually find myself a bit disappointed when I reach my destination, regardless of how incredible the location may be. For instance, when the bus arrived at Arashiyama, where I'd wanted to go for years and years, my excitement came with a twinge of regret at having to leave the bus. Strange, considering how intent I am on doing ridiculous things while abroad, that I would find such happiness in going around in circles.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

조금 기다려

"I'm training you hard because the rest of the world won't be easy" - Kevin Saxton

A random moment of introspection reminded me that the Nationals are coming up for naginata, here in sunny Southern California. If I do well there, I'll be representing the USA in 2011, pitted against some of the strongest practitioners of naginata in the entire world. To add a touch of romanticism, the whole shindig's going down in Japan. I've been training for this since I was twelve, looking forward to the day when I'd be able to join Team USA and give it my all against the international naginata community.

And now, I'm stuck practicing on my own, with the biggest tournament of my life thus far looming in the distance. I can do nothing but practice diligently... and wait.