Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eat Out. Bella Pita.

If there's anything I learned from my time studying abroad in London, it was the value of finding a good pint of beer and good falafel. The first, thankfully, L.A. is abundant with; the second, I have found a bit more difficult to come by.

The search will always continue, but for now I've found a pretty cozy spot. Bella Pita is a tiny shop on the Westside that's no bigger than a living room, but it packs a big Mediterranean cuisine punch. Get your green falafel patties in a pita or a cone, or opt for the 'wowshi,' which the L.A. Times calls "a panini meets pita sandwich meets burrito item." The pitas, as seen above, are pretty huge as it is, though--especially with a tempting salad bar with all the filling goodies you would ever need, including 'really really hot sauce.' But with all the ingredients fresh and baked to order, using only canola or olive oils, the food actually tastes light and not greasy at all.

Top out your meal with fries (delicious!) and a drink (classic Martinelli's in a glass bottle!), and you still won't even hit close to $10. Ah, the value of good falafel!

Bella Pita is located at 1945 1/2 Westwood Blvd. in West L.A. or 960 Gayley Ave. in Westwood (this location stays open until 2am!).

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: theBEAT

Do It. The Queen Mary 2-for-1 deal.

Today is the last day California residents can visit the historic Queen Mary and get one general admission ticket free of charge with the purchase of one regular ticket. Docked in Long Beach, this historic old ship has really stunning art deco decor and fixtures, and is said to be haunted.

For the month of March the nearly 100-year-old cruise liner was open to residents for this 2-for-1 deal, and if you haven't seen the Queen Mary yet it's definitely worth a trip to Long Beach.

Along with the tickets are the Haunted Encounters and World War II tours, and guests can explore the ship without a tour guide -- something not often encountered at such a historical site.

The Queen Mary is open from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Regular admission prices are a bit high at $25/person.

The Queen Mary is docked at 1126 Queen's Highway in Long Beach.

-- Lauren Williams

Do It. Lebowski Fest Los Angeles.

I have this poster in my living room. I have a greater fondness for White Russians than I care to admit. Being from Malibu, I think "Stay out of my beach community!" is one of the best lines in modern cinema.

Where do you come in? If you heart The Dude (played by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges) as much as I do, you may want to check out Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles April 2 & 3. There's a film screening at the Wiltern on Friday, and bowling party on Saturday. There will be costume and trivia contests, special guests, and drinks, man.

Info:, tickets $19.99-$30.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eat Out. Street Feast at Americana at Brand.

Trying to trace and chase after the ever-so-popular gourmet food trucks is half the fun or half the trouble, depending on how hungry you are. Tonight, you can bypass the tweets and Facebook posts and finally just get to eating already.

Some of the most recently popular food trucks, including the Grilled Cheese, Buttermilk and Dim Sum trucks, are taking part in Street Feast, a mobile cuisine fest grounded at Glendale's Americana at Brand. Some of Americana's brick-and-mortar restaurants are joining in too, bringing in specials like happy hour at Katsuya, wine from Trattoria Amici and signature tacos from Frida Mexican cuisine, along with a live DJ and contests and raffles.

And with Crumbs Bake Shop and Beard Papa's right on site, dessert is all set. Happy eating!

Street Feast will take place 6pm-9pm tonight at Americana at Brand, located at 300 S. Brand Ave., with the trucks reported to be lined up long Caruso Ave.

-- Chau Tu

Check It. DVD releases.

One of my favorite movies of 2009, An Education, is now out on DVD. Carey Mulligan is perfect as English schoolgirl Jenny who gets swept up in a world very different from her own. It was nominated for 3 Oscars, including Best Motion Picture of the Year. Chau and I met An Education's screenwriter, Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) at the Skirball Center last year, and he was charming.

Also on DVD today is Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. I didn't make it to the theater for this one, but as a fan of Robert Downey, Jr., I'll probably check it out as a rental.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Advance Notice. Ben Gibbard at Largo.

As strange as this may sound, one of the most rock star moments I have ever witnessed on a stage was done by Ben Gibbard. Yes, Ben Gibbard, the bespectacled, soft-spoken frontman of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service (oh how I miss thee!).

It was at a taping of a television performance back in 2006 or so, and Death Cab was performing their single "Soul Meets Body," an uplifting, soaring jingle of the usual DCFC variety. And though it sounded great, the set had been raft with minor technical difficulties, causing them to stop and start over again. Then, after a final successful take, Gibbard proceeded to throw his guitar down and effectively smash it on the ground. He left the pieces of the instrument splayed across the stage and stormed off. Remember: this was a taped TV performance for a random show, and it was after "Soul Meets Body." So unexpected, but so absolutely rock star.

Anyway, I don't imagine Gibbard to be destroying any property as he hits Largo in a few weeks (but I guess you never know!). He's set to perform solo on April 10th, with a setlist sure to be filled with DCFC and Postal Service favorites, and tickets are on sale now.

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Ryan Russell

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do It. Annie Hall at the Arclight.

Nothing like a little classic Woody Allen to start off your week.

Relive the famous neurotic's tour de force Annie Hall tonight, as part of the Arclight's month-long "Crew Oscar Picks" series, which takes a look back at the Arclight crew's favorite Oscar-winning films. Annie Hall, of course, won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1978, and is still revered today for its unconventional take on the romantic comedy (they just don't make 'em like they used to, huh?).

The "Oscar Picks" program is set to end this week, but you can also catch Forrest Gump at the Arclight Sherman Oaks tomorrow night.

Annie Hall will be showing at 8pm tonight at the Arclight Hollywood, located at 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

-- Chau Tu

Etc. Palm Springs weekend.

Sometimes you just have to get away. Palm Springs is an easy two hour drive from Los Angeles, and is relaxing in a simple vintage kind of way (it still looks much like the photo above). Most of the city is centered around North Palm Canyon Drive, which I can't help calling "Main Street". You enter town through this main strip of shops and restaurants, and immediately realize the charm of the little desert city. The big mountains on the right, the clear blue sky above, and the warm dry air all around are all indicators that it's time to take it easy.

When in Palm Springs for a weekend, I look forward to a dinner out and an evening stroll. Palm Springs stays warm past dark for a lot of the year, so often a sweater isn't even necessary. Las Casuelas Terraza is a favorite for a fun atmosphere (they have a live band and outdoor seating), great margaritas and Mexican food, but they are always beyond packed on weekend nights, so I'm usually looking for alternatives. Tony's Pasta Mia is a true Italian, and decorated very 1980s in the best possible way. This Saturday past night we found a really good Thai spot, Pepper's Thai Cuisine. The tofu yellow curry and chicken fried rice were both delicious. They don't have a full bar, but some variety of beer and wine (and Thai iced tea, of course).

Palm Springs is known for it's mid-century modern architecture. There are several tours you can take to be guided by professionals, but you can easily check out Elvis' Palm Springs hideaway yourself. The current owners also offer all kind of options for getting a look inside. There's also lots of vintage and modern shopping along North Palm Canyon Drive.

A great off-the-beaten path place for a nightcap is Melvyn's Restaurant & Lounge at the Ingleside Inn. It's a beautiful, fancy, old-school piano bar, and the Inn has a rich history. Melvyn himself is at the lounge meeting and greeting his customers. It's quite a special place, but don't go unless you're dressed up, it just wouldn't feel right.

For morning coffee, there's a convenient drive-thru Starbucks, and there's the very popular local spot Koffi. Koffi takes coffee seriously, and can make everything from an individually brewed cup of Kona coffee to a malted mocha ice blended with house-made whipped cream.

There's lots more to do that I'm leaving out, in the spirit of writing about a simple weekend getaway.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Check It. NPR's All Songs Considered [The Monday Download].

Last week, after listening to NPR's streaming live broadcast of SXSW shows, I found out that several shows and live videos are free on iTunes through NPR's "All Songs Considered" program.

Not only are there full sets from SXSW, but from NPR-sponsored shows from years past, including performances by M. Ward, Dinosaur Jr., The Frames, Belle and Sebastian, The French Kicks, The Walkmen, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tom Waits--the list goes on.

Needless to say, I've loaded up my iPod with tons of free, NPR-provided music. Legally free, live music -- definitely a good way to start out the week.

-- Lauren Williams

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eat In. Chilaquiles.

Basically the breakfast version of nachos, this is a great meal for a morning after drinking or just a tasty brunch in, really. This was one of the first Mexican meals I learned to cook, and it's incredibly simple, and it can be made in a healthy way, or with plenty of cheesy, greasy goodness.

Here's the healthy version:

-- 1 pack of corn tortillas
-- 2-3 eggs
-- Salsa Pato OR Trader Joe's soy chorizo (really tasty) OR regular chorizo
-- Sour cream or crema fresca
-- Canola oil
-- salt to taste

First, tear about five corn tortillas into triangles. The smaller the more quickly they will fry into chips. Add very, very little canola oil to a pan (NOTE: Olive oil will not work here -- for sure, I've tried it). Next heat the oil in the pan until hot, but not bubbling otherwise you might hurt yourself.

Drop tortilla triangles into the hot oil, flipping when they are just a little crunchy on one side. After all triangles have been flipped, crack three eggs over the pan and scramble. Quickly add chorizo/salsa mixing into the tortilla-egg combination. When the eggs are cooked, you're in business -- turn off the heat.

Mozzarella and cheddar works well on top of this as does a good dollop of sour cream on the side to dip the chips in.

All these things need to be done quickly to make sure the chips don't burn, but this definitely is good meal to start out a long day or is a good after a long night out.

-- Lauren Williams

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat Out. Cafe Stella.

This adorable restaurant is tucked away near Intelligentsia in Silverlake on Sunset, and probably has the tastiest, most authentic French food I've ever had.

The salads are excellent, as are the soups, pastas, and I'm told the meat here is quite good. Basically everything is tasty. They serve Chimay Triple (the white label) as well as other excellent European beers. The portions however, are authentically French too so appetizers are recommended.

The ambiance is quaint, although it is about half a block up from busy Sunset Boulevard, it still has a quiet, intimate atmosphere with candles lighting tables on the tiny patio and a charming inside, decorated with a vintage theme. Following its legit Frenchness, eating here you totally feel welcome to spend as much time you need to eat and enjoy the night, which is a big plus.

But the price tag on this is a bit high; entrees in the $30 region can make this a rare experience rather than a regular excursion. Despite its cost, this is definitely a place worth checking out. They also have particular hours, only opening from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., and 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday they close at 10 p.m. -- not exactly predictable.

Cafe Stella is located at 3932 W. Sunset Blvd.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Flickr

Drink It. Hoegaarden.

It's Friday. After a long week, a cold beer sounds pretttty good. If you're too tired to go out to a bar or club, or even to make a good mixed drink at home, you haven't picked up any Chilean wine yet, here's a convenient yet delicious beverage to exhale with.

I discovered this delicious white Belgian beer a few years ago, and it became a fast favorite. I've since turned a few others onto it and it's become the go-to choice for an evening when we're looking for some good beer. Cloudy and mildly spiced, it's tasty enough to enjoy alone, but also a perfect cold beverage to have with a hot meal. Conveniently, the 7-Eleven on Cahuenga near Village Pizzeria's Hollywood location sells it refrigerated, so in one stop I can get the best pizza in town and cold imported beer. If that's not your neck of the woods, BevMo! and Gelson's also carry Hoegaarden. (In other pizza and beer news, Silver Lake's Nicky D's has Hoegaarden on tap!)

Hoegaarden is especially fantastic served ice cold. Put the bottles in the freezer for five to ten minutes before opening. Just don't forget them in there! Set a timer--you don't want to waste good beer.

Hoegaarden costs $8.99 for a 6-pack at BevMo! - located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Other locations also.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Do It. Waved Out Festival and KSCR Fest.

Two all-day, all-ages music festivals touting the best in rising bands--plus food and other fun happenings to spare--for a grand total of $10? Welcome to the best weekend of your life, or otherwise known as March 27 and 28, the days of the Waved Out Festival and KSCR Fest, respectively.

But in all seriousness--this weekend is set to be one to remember. First up is the Waved Out Fest on Saturday, where ten bands are lined up to play the stages at both the Echo and the Echoplex, and the headliners are none other than fresh-off-SXSW-buzz bands Best Coast and Surfer Blood.

Best Coast is a female-headed, California beach-loving (you knew what they meant by 'Best') fuzz-pop group with a lot of reverb mixed with a lot of sentiment worthy of singing along to. Surfer Blood started out as a guilty pleasure for me, until I gave in and realized just how great they could be. They're East Coasters (south Florida, to be exact), but they've got enough laid-back surf-rock gems and soaring guitar solos to make them right at home here.

Considering the fest is being presented by vet music bloggers Aquarium Drunkard, and with the SXSW buzz building fast, there's no better time to catch these bands at a great venue like this. And all only for $10!

Remember to save up your energy though, because Sunday boasts the FREE KSCR Fest over at my alma mater USC (fight on!). Here we've got seven up-and-comers, led by SF noise pop band Thee Oh Sees. My pick in the line-up is local (by way of Santa Monica) band Princeton, who make sweet, shoe-gazey pop with a lot of genuine heart. Though young, they've been making music for a while, always on the cusp of something bigger, so grab your chance to see them now.

Plus, the delicious-sounding Coolhaus ice cream truck will be around, a perfect complement to a wonderful warm afternoon sprawling outside on a beautiful campus (really!), listening to some great tunes.

Just another great weekend in Los Angeles...

The Waved Out Festival will begin at 3:30pm on Saturday at the Echoplex at 1154 Glendale Blvd. in Echo Park, and the KSCR Fest will be in Founder's Park at USC at 3551 Trousdale Pkwy. near downtown starting at 4pm on Sunday.

-- Chau Tu

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eat In. Chilean wine [Thirsty Thursdays!].

Wine is one of tiny Chile's biggest exports, and after a little probing it's not hard to see why people are so crazy about it. It's been said that good grape that grows in Chile first grew in France, before a terrible plague in 1867 ravaged the vineyards of Western Europe and left Chile with the unique root of the carmenere.

Whatever it is, Chilean wine is fantastic. The first week my roommate and I had our apartment here and opened a cheap bottle of a white, the entire house was filled with the smell of grapefruit. I was astonished. In Chile wine is incredibly inexpensive, but here are a few bottles that shouldn't break the budget when cruising around BevMo!, although I'm not sure which of these qualifies for their 5 Cent Sale, which rolls around every once in a while.

In my short two months living here, I've found a few labels that are consistently spot on. Concha y Toro's Terrunyo cab is quite good, I've heard that their Diablo carmenere is tasty too, although I have yet to try it. Cousino-Macul has a very nice affordable cabernet sauvignon as well, pictured below. Cousino-Macul's vineyard is just outside Santiago, as are many vineyards that surround the city.
Cono Sur is also very good, devoted to sustainability this bottle can be spotted for the adorable drawing of a bicycle on the label.

As far as whites go, Undurraga has an exquisite (it's snobby, but really the only word that can describe the extraordinary flavor from this vineyard) late harvest white dessert wine. The term describes when the grapes were plucked, and one sip and you'll definitely be glad they stayed on the vine a bit longer. I'm not much of a dessert wine person myself, but this is wonderful, and not too sweet. Should you find a bottle of this excellent wine from the Maipo Valley, get it! It's dark color is a dead give away to the goodness that lies within it's bottle.

Drink up and enjoy!

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: The vineyard of Cousino-Marcul in Puente Alto.

Advance Notice. M.I.A. and HARD Summer L.A.

It just ain't summer without a great outdoors concert, and thanks to HARD, this summer is shaping up to a darn good one.

Not only will the electro fest specialists be bringing back HARD Summer L.A. with Soulwax, Crystal Castles and Diplo to headline on August 7, but it is also bringing us the return of the one and only M.I.A., who's lately only been teasing us with mysterious digitalized videos of beatastic songs. M.I.A. is set to perform on July 17 at the L.A. State Historic Park, which is also the site for HARD Summer L.A.

Tickets for both HARD shows will be going on sale tomorrow at noon (click here for M.I.A. and here for HARD Summer L.A.), so get those credit cards ready. Capacity for the park is 25,000, but they'll surely be popular--don't want to miss out on a good summer, after all.

-- Chau Tu

Eat Out. The Mercantile.

Sunset Boulevard has a new restaurant that's something to be excited about. It opened late last year and is quite delicious. What's nice about the Mercantile is, it's gourmet fare in a casual setting.

Chau and I went on a recent weeknight evening with a great coupon from BlackboardEats, which gave us three-course prix fixe dinners for $20 each (drinks not included, and most glasses of wine are $10 and up). We both started with the endive and warm goat cheese salad (pictured above) which had a generous amount of goat cheese, fresh lettuce, dates, and smoked almonds. I totally cleaned my plate, it was a great salad. For our main courses, I had their gnocci (which I think is actually gnudi), and Chau went with their homemade sausage dish, which was Spanish chorizo. The only complaint I'd have is my portion was a bit small! And if that's the only complaint, a restaurant is in pretty good shape.

The restaurant/specialty market has a deli case of meats and cheeses that one can buy for take-away, as well as shelves stocked with wines and condiments such as pepper jelly. Next to the deli case, is an ice cream case with homemade gelato--course number three. After some samplings, Chau went for the white chocolate peppermint, and I for Nutella-banana. Both were flavorful and creamy, perfect gelato. While the check would have been heftier if not for our coupon, I think I'd still go back, with or without help from BlackBoardEats. They're supposed to have a fantastic brunch, stay tuned!

The Mercantile is located at 6600 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: the BEAT

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Check It. Opening Ceremony collaborations.

As far boutiques in L.A. go, Opening Ceremony's got to be the hippest and most drool-worthy around. Built upon the simple idea of highlighting styles from different countries and designers from all over the world, the company's grown this past year to build a credible reputation in creating some of fashion's best collaborations. Among them? Keds, Levi's, Chloe Sevigny, Jeremy Scott, Terence Koh and Sanrio (yes, Hello Kitty!), to name a few, with each collab bringing something fresh and new to the style plate.

But where Opening Ceremony gets even more fun is outside of their fashion realm--with a little help from their many hip celeb friends, of course. Here is a too-cute music video starring (my fave!) Jason Schwartzman (who's helped out OC before) and Kirsten Dunst, featuring music from Schwartzman's musical venture Coconut Records, and created by Gia Coppola (yes, that Coppola) and Tracy Antonopoulos:

Opening Ceremony also recently promoted another amazing collab not actually involving themselves, by getting Solange Knowles to join the stage with Dirty Projectors to duet on "Stillness is the Move," the DP song Knowles had infamously surprise-covered online. Part of that performance can be seen at the end of this video here, which also happens to be an interview segment on OC created by Spike Jonze.

For Opening Ceremony, it's not name-dropping when they just happen to be your friends, and when you've got the awesome products to back up your cred.

-- Chau Tu

Check It. Greenberg's LA.

Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) has made an L.A. story, and it's playing at the ArcLight. With the help of wife (also the film's producer and co-screenwriter) Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach sprinkled the film with scenes at landmarks such as Musso & Frank's (above), Lucy's El Abobe Cafe, and easy-to-spot places like the Gower Gulch Rite Aid.

Greenberg stars Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg, a New Yorker in Los Angeles for a while to "do nothing" after a stint at a mental hospital. He visits with old friends (Rhys Ifans' Ivan), and makes new ones (Greta Gerwig's Florence).

Florence's awesome Henry's Tacos T-Shirt stood out to me, and I was so pleased to discover it's an actual place, in Studio City, and they sell the T-Shirts. I went to get one on Sunday, but they were closed. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The film's costume designer, Mark Bridges, who I've had the pleasure of meeting, has a really impressive resume.

It's always fun to see movies based in your town, so if you're an L.A. BEAT reader, check it out--and it's even worth seeing if you live elsewhere!

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Advance Notice. Mummies at the Bowers.

A collection of artifacts from a recently rediscovered mummy site in China is set to go on display this weekend at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and it definitely sounds like it's worth a trip south.

Bowers will be displaying artifacts from a strange European-looking group of mummies that had been living in China's autonomous Xinjiang region hundreds of years ago.

The New York Times did a story about this fascinating group of well-preserved people, who were buried in upside down Viking-style boats in the middle of a Chinese desert. Their boats were decorated with phallic symbols, as was their entire burial ground (see above).

Everything about this story sounds totally fascinating, and Bowers has 150 objects from this colony's mysterious home in the desert on display in their "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition opening at 10 a.m. March 27. The museum is commemorating the opening of this exhibit with lectures, calligraphy demonstrations, and tea ceremonies all weekend.

Admission to Bowers can be a bit hefty, with a $20 charge, but if you wait until April 4th the exhibit will be open free of charge as part of the museum's free first Sundays program.

Bowers Museum is located at 2002 N. Main Street in Santa Ana.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: New York Times

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eat Out. Cart For a Cause.

You can't travel down a street in L.A. these days without hitting a food truck, and while we'll be doing our best to give you the dish on what's worth chasing (briefly: Grilled Cheese, yes; Nom Nom, no; Dim Sum, you're next!), here's a new one that should definitely go on your radar, for its simple purpose alone.

Cart For a Cause calls itself 'the nation's first philanthropic meal truck that helps feed homebound seniors and those who are unable to prepare their own meals.' Indeed, all of the net proceeds from the truck will benefit the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels program in a one-for-one concept--each meal bought provides a meal for a homebound person. But its philanthropy isn't the only thing setting Cart For a Cause apart.

The truck will be headed each month by a different top L.A. chef, the first of which is Chef Alex from Nobu in West Hollywood, to be followed next month by the well-revered Chef Susan Feniger of Street. That means that your $10 ('healthy beverage' included) is not only helping out a good cause, but getting you a world-class meal too.

Good eating, indeed.

Cart For a Cause will be rolling out Tuesdays, with its official launch happening today at 9650 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills (United Talent Agency building) from 12:30pm-2:30pm.

-- Chau Tu

Eat Out. Free Starbucks pastry and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Christmas came a little early today, with two major chains giving away their goodies for free.

Today marks Starbucks' annual free pastry day. Print off a coupon, and present it with the purchase of any "handcrafted" coffee at a participating Starbucks and get a pastry gratis.

As Starbucks happily points out, their goodies are now sans artificial flavors, dyes, transfats, and high-fructose corn syrup, so you can enjoy a treat guilt free (pretty much).

Free pastry day ends at 10:30 a.m., so go get your free breakfast/brunch ASAP.

Also serving up free treats is the hormone-free ice cream of Ben & Jerry's. Between the hours of 12-8 p.m. people can visit any Ben & Jerry's to get a free scoop of ice cream, but lines get pretty long for this one, so maybe bring a magazine. Their new flavors of Maple Blondie, Peanut Brittle, and Milk & Cookies sound pretty enticing.

A free scoop of ice cream? Yes, please.

-- Lauren Williams

Check It. DVD releases.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is out on DVD today. This is one of those films that you can either sit down with, and carefully listen to each line, or just have it on in the background (if you've seen it before, hopefully) and simply appreciate the style visually. Adorable foxes aside, there is definitely the Wes Anderson stylistic touch in Fox. It's that appealing style (along with interesting story lines) that make Anderson's films nice to watch over and over again.

Also now available on DVD (it came out Saturday), Twilight: New Moon. Whether you're Team Edward or Team Jacob, or neither one--if you have any interest in the Twilight saga, this is worth watching just so you're clued in to what all the fuss is about.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eat Out. The Counter opens in West Hollywood.

When you've got In-N-Out, there's not much else you need to ask for in terms of burgers. But on the off-chance that you'd like something beyond that tried-and-true Double-Double drenched in special sauce, you may as well step on over to The Counter, which is opening its newest location in West Hollywood today. After all, where else can you face more than 312,120 burger possibilities?

That's no over-exaggeration. Sit down at a table inside the eatery and you'll be given a clipboard, where you are surveyed on every single aspect of your meal, down to the sauce and the type of bun. A little intimidating for indecisive folks like me, but undoubtedly fun. Tillamook cheddar or soft ripened brie? Onions grilled or in fried strings? Traditional burger or throw it all in a bowl?

Thankfully, if you're concerned whether that ginger soy glaze will counteract your English muffin bun, the waiters and waitresses are quite helpful in giving you a few tips. One of our tips? Go for the Fifty-Fifty for a shared side--and definitely go with the sweet potato fries. And if you're feeling a bit guilty, all the beef is hormone and antibiotic free and humanely raised and handled. No frills, but tons of possibilities, The Counter makes for a good, unpretentious go-to spot for your (specific) burger fix.

The new Counter is located at 7919 W. Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: The Counter

Check It. Local Natives [The Monday Download].

I was pretty bummed about missing SXSW yet again this year, but thanks to a little live streaming via NPR and KCRW, I still got to enjoy listening to some great tunes. One particularly awesome set was played by one of my new favorite bands, Local Natives, for NPR Music's Day Party at the Parish, which you can listen to here.

But if that doesn't already endear you to the (yep!) locally based band (Silver Lake, to be exact), then the following videos should. Probably inspired by the amazing Take-Away Shows from La Blogotheque (more praise about that to come another time), these creative and beautifully plotted videos take the indie rock band away from the usual stage to perform acoustic versions of songs from their intricate, soaring debut Gorilla Manor. From an alleyway to a barnhouse to an abandoned room in a high-rise, the videos do a great job of not only capturing music in a different atmosphere but also highlighting the innate talent of the band who can adapt to surroundings and still sound so darn good even in these situations.

In short, these videos are wonderful pieces in and of themselves, but also give a talented band its justice.

-- Chau Tu

Eat Out. Menutopia.

The first thing I look at before eating somewhere is the menu. What are their prices, is there a good selection, what do they have on tap (for evening outings) and most importantly, for me, are there vegetarian options?

The website Menutopia boasts nearly 3,000 menus for all kinds of eateries in Los Angeles, and around the country, including DC, NYC, San Francisco, Philly, and Atlanta if you're doing some travelling. You can pick where you eat and confidently know they have something just for you before you even set foot out the door.

How great is that?

-- Lauren Williams

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eat In. French breakfast brie sandwiches.

I'd like to consider myself a relatively healthy person. I eat raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I run at least 5 miles almost every day. But sometimes, you really just need to let loose, and the weekends are the perfect time to make a delicious, but possibly heart-stopping sandwich.

This sandwich requires just a few things: sourdough bread, Trader Joe's mulitgrain sourdough is phenomenal, jam (I think raspberry works best, but orange marmalade works fine, too), and brie. Mmm. Oh, and some butter.

OK. So just slice very thin pieces of brie to outline your sandwich and spread your jam before heating the pan, but also spread some butter on the other side of the bread so it doesn't stick to the pan -- a bit tricky. The next part needs to be quick. Plop in your jam-spread bread, butter side down then place the pieces of brie so they will melt covering all the sandwich.

Then just cook like a regular grilled cheese. The results are amazing. This is an excellent breakfast sandwich and it's good as leftovers, since the oils in the cheese seep into the bread.

The one pictured above has turkey, but I like mine meatless.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Courtesy of Closet Cooking.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Do It. A lot series.

The Long Beach Arts Council is bringing art to vacant lots around Long Beach this weekend as part of its aptly named A Lot series. Located in LB's Little Cambodia, where the largest community Cambodians are living outside of Cambodia, these performances touch upon the themes of immigration, dislocation, and "the fragile nature of 'home' ".

The program is taking some otherwise unused lots (like the one on Anaheim & Walnut, my old 'hood), and hosting visual and performance-based arts along with discussion panels.

The first is set to take place tonight at 6 p.m., with a following symposium at 7 p.m. at the vacant lot at the intersection of Anaheim and Walnut Streets. Another performance will take place this Saturday at the same location.

And there's plenty of Cambodian cuisine in the area, if you're in the mood to have a themed evening. Admittance is free, and people in attendance are urged to park at the neighboring Mark Twain library.

A lot will take place at 1546 E. Anaheim St. at 6 p.m.

-- Lauren Williams

Do It. The Scenesters at DGA.

The Scenesters is being screened this afternoon at the Director's Guild of America, for free! Very nice theater for a free screening. The L.A.-based comedy has been a favorite on the festival circuit, and with eastside funnyman Jeff Grace involved, I'm not surprised.

DGA is located at 7920 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

To RSVP, email, or call (310) 289-2033.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Do It. Andy Garcia at the Landmark.

After seeing him as the Don (The Godfather III) and more recently as a snarky casino boss (the Ocean's series), it's pretty endearing to see Andy Garcia in a role where all he wants is to be an actor. Starting today, you can see Garcia as a Bronx family man hiding his acting desires in the new indie film, City Island, which also stars Alan Arkin, Emily Mortimer and Juliana Margulies (who looks great as Garcia's fiery, stereotypical Italian-American wife).

And if you wait to catch the 7:25 p.m. showing of City Island tomorrow at the Landmark, you get the special treat of seeing Garcia in person. The actor will be on hand after the screening to discuss his new comedic/dramatic role, and sure to take some questions from the audience too.

The Landmark is located at 10850 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.

-- Chau Tu

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eat Out. 4th Street Wine [Thirsty Thursdays!].

This tiny wine shop on Fourth Avenue and Junipero Street is an excellent place to pick up a good bottle of wine any day of the week, but on Thursdays the happy hour here is unbelievable with $3 glasses of excellent wines from around the world and a hearty selection of exotic beers, too.

A cozy, if not small, seating area, good music, and a relaxed atmosphere make this an ideal place to sample a few pricey bottles of wine at an incredible cost. They also have racks of wine, so you can take home the one you fancy at the end of the night.

Snacks aren't served here however, so if you need something in your stomach before you drink, a neighboring wine bar, Art du Vin, serves up very good homemade hummus, avocado bruschetta, and glasses of the good stuff too, but at a heftier price.

Art du Vin is attached to the recently renovated Art Theatre of Long Beach and Portfolio's little sister coffeeshop, The Portfolio Annex.

This Thursday, neighboring {open}, possibly the most adorable/useful bookstore I've been to, is also having a show for $3 at 8 p.m. since it's the third Thursday of the month. (The "who" of that who/what/where/when is still a mystery.)

Sorry, I was getting carried away. But Thursdays are definitely a good place to find yourself on Fourth Street in Long Beach.

4th Street Wine is located at 2142 E. 4th Street in Long Beach.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Courtesy of Yelp!

Check It. SXSW on NPR.

NPR is just the gift that keeps on giving. Even if you couldn't take eight days off of work to go to Austin for the music/film/interactive festival, NPR is streaming all week from the craziness that is SXSW.

You can tune in online to listen to live performances and interviews. Pictured above is Sleigh Bells, going on at 5:15 p.m. ET today.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: NPR

Do It. Conversations with Frank Gehry.

What kind of mind does it take to create the single most iconic example of L.A.'s eclecticism? A Frank Gehry kind of mind, and now you can find out how it came up with the awe-inspiring design for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as his other unforgettable and incredibly creative buildings.

The world-renowned architect will be discussing his work at Barnum Hall at Santa Monica High School with Barbara Isenberg, former L.A. Times reporter and author of Conversations with Frank Gehry. The book explores Gehry's iconoclastic aesthetic, and this in-person interview is sure to dive deep into his architectural genius.

$20 ($10 for students), 7 p.m. at Barnum Hall, 600 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica.

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Walt Disney Concert Hall

Check It. Chanel's Particulière polish.

In honor of Fashion Week Los Angeles (March 17-24), I'd like to point out a trend I am loving for Spring 2010. Chanel recently launched a new line of nail polish colors that they've been using on the runway, including this putty-colored beauty called Particulière.

At $23, it's quite a splurge, but it's something you can wear everyday (for about a week at a time anyway). This is a color that works for both hands and feet, and is flattering for most skin tones. Fashion-forward Demi Moore was sporting putty-colored nails at the Academy Awards, and this week I noticed the of-the-moment shade on the nails of L.A. Times Image section editor Booth Moore too! I can't wait to get in on it with a glossy mani/pedi of my own.

If you're just not going to drop $20 plus on nail polish, Essie's Chinchilly does the trick too, and is a more reasonable $8.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do It. St. Patty's in Long Beach [Guest Post].

When one thinks of St. Patrick’s Day, they may conjure images of shamrocks, green t-shirts, large frosty pints of Guinness and maybe an annoying hangover the next day. You may want to add Long Beach to that list after this little writing. I know, I know, Long Beach? Not Boston, Chicago, St. Paul or New York City? But seriously, Long Beach has one of the largest collection of Irish pubs in Southern California.

I have been doing an extensive Long Beach/slight Seal Beach pub crawl for the past few years and let me tell you: 8 bars + 10-plus pints = day after with one nasty hangover and walk-of-shame back to car a mile away.

The following is a list of some of my personal favorites.

The Auld Dubliner is located at 71 S. Pine Street and has some of the best food that you will find on St. Patrick’s Day. Seriously, there is nothing worse then being four bars into your pub crawl and the only thing the kitchen is serving are Reubens. There will also be live music playing from 2-6 p.m., so get there early to avoid lines and all of that buzz kill. There usually is a $5 door cover, but that's common at most Irish bars on this day.
Next I would recommend Gallagher's Irish Pub & Grill at 2751 Broadway. This place has tons of Irish football and other homeland stuff on the walls and a large patio area. You've got to bring the party to the people right? There is live music here as well. Playing all day will be the band “American Wake.” If you like L.A. locals Flogging Molly, then you will love these guys. There’s nothing like punk-Irish music and an Irish car bomb to set the tone.

For dinner, I recommend EJ Malloy's Pub at 3411 Broadway, which is just a quick walk down the road from Gallagher's. They have over 15 beers on tab and amazing food. They also have a large patio area in the back, which is nice if you don’t want to look completely foolish in your green outfit and covered in hundreds of those beer icon green necklaces they always seem to be handing out.

And for one of my all-time faves, there is O’Malley’s on 140 Main Street, Seal Beach. I know it's not Long Beach, but it's so close I like to think that it's a cleaner side of LB. There are a ton of Irish pubs on Main Street and they all get crazy packed, so come earlier in the day if you can. This is one of those places that only serves Reubens, so you have been warned! Personally, I like the vibe in this place and the locals are always dressed to impress.

So go out and drink up some Harps or Jameson. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

-- Brigid McGuire

Photo credit: Gallagher's Irish Pub & Grill, courtesy of OC Weekly; bottom: American Wake fiddler Robert Keysers playing an Irish ditty.

Drink It. Irish Breakfast tea.

I know, I know, today is all about beer (and maybe some whiskey too) ... but in case any of you feel it's still too early for Guinness, Irish Breakfast tea is a nice non-alcoholic alternate that still allows you to drink something Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Irish Breakfast tea is a bold black tea blend very similar to English Breakfast tea, but a bit stronger. Like with English Breakfast, it's common to use sweetener (sugar, honey, or an artificial sweetener if you must) and cream or milk in the tea, which is served hot. "Malty" is also a word often used in describing Irish Breakfast tea, appropriate as I'm suggesting it as a beer alternate this March 17.

Barry's Tea was founded in 1901 in Cork, Ireland, and today accounts for 40% of all tea sales in Ireland, according to their website. Can't get much more Irish than that!

Cheers, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Barry's Tea is available at the Tudor House in Santa Monica, and at their online shop.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit:

Do It. Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in L.A.

Well good morning, BEATs, and happy St. Patrick's Day to you! Hope you've got your green attire on, because it's no time like the present to start celebrating...well, whatever this holiday actually stands for:

- Can't ring in another St. Patty's Day without visiting an Irish bar--our picks? Casey's in downtown (613 S. Grand Ave.) is open beginning at 6am, so start your morning off right. (Local radio jocks Kevin and Bean from KROQ will be broadcasting live, so be prepared for a ruckus.) You can also head over to Tom Bergin's in Miracle Mile (840 S. Fairfax Ave.) beginning at 6am for a mug of their famous (or so the sign says) Irish coffee. Hurry down the street around 11am to Molly Malone's (575 S. Fairfax Ave.) and you'll hopefully catch their bagpiper, who'll be followed by other live acts. Or for a whole mess of entertainment, get over to Brennan's in Marina Del Rey (4089 Lincoln Blvd.) in the early morn, where bagpipers, bands, green beer and good old-fashioned Irish corned beef and cabbage are all being promised.

- Speaking of food, the Nickel Diner in downtown (524 S. Main St.) is offering not only the favored corned beef and cabbage for lunch and dinner, but Irish car bomb donut holes (Guinness cake crumb filled with Jameson pastry cream). Or try to catch the Grilled Cheese truck for their special corned beef havarti sandwich with bacon- and beer-braised cabbage and mustard on rosemary potato bread (a mouthful already!).

- And dessert, of course. The two reigning cupcake-doms of L.A.--Crumbs and Sprinkles--are both offering green delights (Sprinkles boasts a Belgian dark chocolate with Baileys Irish cream cheese frosting AND a green velvet variety) which will surely clean your green beer palate.

Want some more St. Patrick's tips? Stay tuned here for info on how to embark on an epic Long Beach pub crawl and for a nice Irish alternative to the green beer, or check our twitter @beatofyoungla for updated tips as they come in! Stay safe out there!

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: 213 Downtown LA

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Check It. Mother (Madeo).

In a bland, dreary field of tall grasses, an older Asian woman appears. She walks closer and closer, in slow, winding steps and then stops. She sways, side-to-side, eyes looking off into nothing in particular. She raises her arms, and they sway too. She's dancing.

And so begins Mother (Madeo), a South Korean drama-thriller that just opened in limited release last Friday. This opening shot is strange and unexpected, in that artsy film sort of way, but sets you right into the offbeat tone of the film (the next scene, not to spoil anything, sets you up for its suspense aspect). As you watch this lady, a simply unbeautiful older lady, begin to move in this uninhibited way, you also can't help but see the pain and loss in her eyes, and so you start to understand what sort of dark world she lives in.

It's a world where she, Hye-ja, is a lowly merchant who lives with and takes care of her adult son, Do-joon, who is mentally incapacitated. Although always bearing a sense of hope in her son, Hye-ja is constantly worried and often overbearing over Do-joon, and things only get worse when he gets accused of a mysterious murder. The film follows Hye-ja as she fights for Do-joon's innocence, searching for the rightful killer and doing only what a mother could for her son.

Despite being a dark suspense thriller, Mother is quite beautifully shot in the way it pays attention to detail and just how it makes you feel--there's a particular cell phone-lit scene that I thought was gorgeous in its tone and composition. The actress who plays Hye-ja is absolutely superb, and makes you realize the void in American film for realistic-looking actors. You'll stay with her character to the very end, feeling every ounce of pain and despair she feels. And it's painful, sure, to watch her story unfold, but one worth the thrill ride.

Mother is playing at the Landmark at 10850 Pico Blvd. in West L.A. or the Sunset Laemmle at 8000 W. Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.

-- Chau Tu

Check It. Mika's "Kick-Ass" music video [Guest Post].

The patron saint for lost boys and girls (who want to stay lost) assembles yet another dance-youth anthem, this time with GaGa’s RedOne tucked into his shiny tailcoat pocket.

Curly locked pop-sensation Mika helms the title-track and the promotional buzz for upcoming super-hero comedy flick Kick-Ass, due out in theaters April 16. The music video premiered yesterday and is making its way through the blog circuit faster than a speeding bullet. After all, this is a superhero movie...or is it?

The cast of pimple-faced pseudo-heroes is led by relative newbie Aaron Johnson (The Illusionist) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin’ to us). These crimefighters opt for DIY-costumes and goofy theatrics, but are on that noble quest to achieve what every nerd dreams of–chicks. You’ll find yourself wondering why Nicolas Cage is in this movie, and why his ass isn’t the one being kicked. It's a mystery that looms overhead like a Bat Signal with a blown fuse, so while I go solve that crime against cinema, enjoy "Kick-Ass."

--Nairi Najarian

Do It. Save the library.

Sometimes it is really astonishing that there is a place where you can get books, including new releases, books on CD and tape, movies, music, have them for a few weeks, and then return them -- for free. But with city budget cuts, the free part may not hold true anymore and some fear new costs might be added to a place that is already declining in popularity.

Today LA's mayor and the city council are hearing out concerned citizens at 10:30 a.m. for a meeting on the fate of the LA's Central Library, and the more people that show to support the library, the better. You can also sign the petition to save the library, in case you had plans at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Public Library is really a wonder, with seven stories of book choices, fantastic art deco architecture, free computer access, comfy chairs to nap in, more choices than Barnes & Nobles and, oh yeah, they're free.

What more can you ask for?

Meeting is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. at 200 N. Spring Street, John Ferraro Council Chambers in Downtown.
-- Lauren Williams

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eat Out. Pupusas at Central Market.

For a quick but tasty lunch in Downtown, nothing satisfies the cheesy-yet-spicy combination that are pupusas served up at the Salvadorian-specialty stand at the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA.

Now most Angelenos have definitely had their share of Mexican cuisine, but El Salvadorian food? Although they are close(ish) neighbors, their food couldn't be more different. These little pancakes can be filled with a variety of meat, beans, cheese, or just cheese with a side of spicy salvadoreño-style sauerkraut.

Theses tasty little filled pancakes are made right in front of you at the stand, and the people are always super nice, giving away tons of hot sauce and pickled, shredded cabbage.

Although it's probably quicker than sitting to eat lunch, they still take a minute to make, so I wouldn't go there on a 15 minute break.

Now I've had my share of pupusas, and these are probably the best I've ever had. Definitely worth a try for any Angel City dweller.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Courtesy of Foodtruthand beauty and Dog Eat Cat.

Do It. Bid in the Crafts For a Cause auction.

In just pure devotion and stamina alone, the relief efforts for Haiti have been truly awe-inspiring. The country still needs help in rebuilding, though, so here's another creative fundraiser coming your way, which--even if you've already donated--should easily convince you to continue.

For Crafts For a Cause, Binki Shapiro--member of Little Joy, an indie-rock band headed by her boyfriend and Strokes drummer Fab Moretti--rounded up a few of her famous and artsy friends to create one-of-a-kind creations for an unbeatable kind of auction, with all proceeds going to filmmaker Paul Haggis' charity Artists for Peace and Justice.

The line-up of contributors range from the famous to the more-famous, and the items being auctioned are quite, well, priceless. Natalie Portman is offering a signed pair of ballet slippers she wore in the to-be-released film Black Swan, Spike Jonze has an original drawing to sell, Daft Punk (!) is giving away limited-edition and autographed “Daft Punk 1000% Kubricks” toy robots, Mark Ronson is offering his personal production services on an original song (!!). And that's just naming a few items, with more coming in, it seems.

Surely once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are at hand, and it all goes to a good cause! So get out your wallets and get bidding: the auction officially begins today and ends on Mar. 27 at 3pm PST. And if you win that Mark Ronson-produced song, we'd love to hear it! (and join you in the studio?? Ronson's a stud!)

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Drew Barrymore decorating a camera for auction, courtesy of Crafts for a Cause

Do It. BevMo!'s five cent wine sale.

As a young person still learning about wine, I usually opt for Merlot, most of which I like. This weekend I gained a new appreciation for Pinot Noir while at a friend's house for the Pacquiao-Clottey fight (what I assumed would be a purely pizza and beer kind of night). Two bottles of 2007 Monterey Pinot Noir appeared, and I had a glass of Pessagno. It had a sweetness to it, "impressive for the way the cherry fruit explodes in the mouth", according to Wine Enthusiast via BevMo!, that I wasn't expecting from a Pinot Noir.

On Sunday I went to BevMo! to find a bottle, and the five cent wine sale was going on. While the Pessagno wasn't part of it, Irony (the other bottle present at the party) was. One bottle for $15.99, and the second for $0.05, averaging to be quite a deal for two good bottles. I tried it later that evening, and it was just as delicious, fruit-filled and smooth as the Pessagno.

Check out the sale before it ends.

BevMo! is located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: