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Saturday
Nov212015

Behold The Majesty Of Newport Tan Cang's Spicy Lobster

I'd been hearing the rumors for years: "The best thing you will ever eat is the fried spicy lobster at Newport Tan Cang."

I'd also been deeply hesitant about checking it out, because Newport Tan Cang is legendary for how long it takes to get a table. Like, we're talking the kind of wait normally associated with a new ride at Disneyland, or a late-era Soviet Union breadline.

And the thing about me is, I become a huge asshole when I'm waiting in line while hungry. Seriously, when I'm underfed and stuck in limbo, I get meaner than a Republican with a UTI. My extremely patient friends might say something like "Maybe you should've eaten an apple before we left", to which I respond with "Maybe you should run backwards and naked through A FIELD OF DICKS." So for the sake of preserving my relationships, I'd been avoiding making the trek to this San Gabriel Valley institution.

Besides... it's lobster. Lobster tastes like lobster. How good could this really be?

Oh man.

The Newport Special Lobster is a 6-pound behemoth that comes to your table hot enough to melt the lacquer off your chopsticks. It's been wok-fried in a benediction of chilis, garlic, black peper, scallions and sesame oil, redder than hellfire and hacked to pieces like it lost a fight with a samurai. And when you pull one of those suculent morsels out of its steaming shell and take that first bite, an strange thought goes through your head: "I've been lobstering wrong my whole life." Your fingers will smell like the ingredients even after you wash them, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

This is the very definition of "worth the wait."

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Saturday
Apr252015

The 20 Most Beautiful Places In Los Angeles

 Los Angeles is a city that hides its beauty. You've gotta be willing to seek it out. But when you uncover those little hidden pockets of splendor, it's a reminder that you live in one of the most magical places on Earth.

Here are 20 of my own personal favorites. And yes, I've purposefully left off the usual mainstays like The Griffith Observatory, the Queen Mary, the Strand bike path, and Mulholland Drive. (Everybody already know those places are beautiful; I wanna shine a light on some not-so-obvious choices.) Enjoy!

 

1: THE YAMASHIRO GARDEN & PAGODA BAR


2: TUNA CANYON OVERLOOK & ROCK LABRYNTH

 

 

 

3: EL MATADOR BEACH

4: HUNTINGTON GARDENS


5: VILLA SOPHIA SPA


6: THE NAPLES CANALS (CHRISTMASTIME)


7: FERN DELL

 

8: THE PERCH RESTAURANT

 

9: THE LAKE SHRINE TEMPLE

 

10: THE POINT VINCENTE LIGHTHOUSE

 

11: THE EARL BURNS MILLER JAPANESE GARDEN


 

12: CLIFF'S EDGE


13: THE HUNTLEY HOTEL PENTHOUSE BAR

 

14: THE PARKER MESA OVERLOOK

 

15: MALIBU CAFE/MALIBU WINES



 

16: THE GARDEN OF OZ


17: THE HOTEL FIGUEROA BAR

 

 18: VISTA HERMOSA PARK

 

19: THE POLICE ACADEMY ROCK GARDEN



20: THE COMMISARY AT THE LINE HOTEL



Thursday
Apr032014

Arby's Is Dead, and Top Round Has Peed On Its Corpse

OK -- I know that title doesn't necessarily make you say "Hmm, I sure could go for some lunch right now", but hear me out.

The western US is in a roast beef crisis. Snatch your average citizen off the street, sit them down in a darkened basement, and say "Where do you go for a cheap, delicious roast beef sandwich? Stop squirming, goddammit." Most likely, this crybaby will say "I don't know, Arby's???" They might also ask why you're wearing a Nixon mask, but by then, it will be too late.

Point that I'm making here: if most Americans think that Arby's is the endgame of roast beef sandwiches, then we, as a nation, have FAILED. I know it's not nice to pick on the smelly kid at recess, but seriously, Arby's is just the worst. I would rather eat a stack of soggy money than one of those Big Piles O' Rubber-And-Cheese they call a sandwich. Their food is only useful as a prank photo to send to someone who wants a picture of your lady-parts.

Luckily for us here in LA, we have Top Round. The pride and joy of chef Anthony Carron (who's also behind the amazing 800 Degrees pizza chain), Top Round is a polished, charmingly retro "chef-driven fast food" shack that stands proudly alongside (and in some cases, exceeds) classic LA au jus joints Phillipe The Original and Cole's. Keep in mind, those old-school spots have had over 100 years to get their stuff right. Top Round has been open for only a year, and the menu is flawless.

They've got a fried chicken sandwich that somehow manages to be as light as a croissant, and with the tang of pickle juice and buttermilk beneath the crispy breading, it basically means that nobody has to go to Chick-Fil-A ever again. They've got "concrete" frozen custards that are creamy, dreamy heavenscapes in convenient cone form. They have "dirty fries" -- curly fries cooked in beef tallow, drenched in roast beef gravy, melted cheese and carmelized onions -- that are well worth the year or two they'll shave off your life.

And the roast beef sandwiches -- slow-roasted for half a day before being knifed into a featherlight mound of juicy goodness -- are roll-your-eyes-back-as-you-take-a-bite succulent. Get the Horse and Hole -- the seared mushrooms and Provel cheese provide a savory counterpoint to the horseradish sauce, which hits your sinuses like a Skrillex bass drop hits your ears.

Take my word: it's the kind of place we're going to be nostalgic for in twenty years.

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Monday
Mar312014

Intrepid Road Trips: THE INTEGRATRON

"This one-of-a-kind 38-foot high, 55-foot diameter, all wood dome was designed to be an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel."

--Actual quote from the Integratron website (emphasis ours)

I'll start by saying this: fuck going to Bonarroo.

If you want to do something that will really bring out your inner freaky counter-culturalist, just hit up Joshua Tree's famed Integratron, a structure built in the 1950s by an aircraft mechanic/UFO enthusiast named George Van Tassell, who came up with the design after being abducted by aliens from Venus. Convinced that the structure would allow for time travel and make anti-gravity a reality (as well as attract more UFOs -- apparently he and those Venusians had a pretty kick-ass time), he spent the next twenty years building the place, without a single nail or metal screw. Oh, and it has perfect acoustics. (Which raises the question: how much did YOU accomplish the last tme you took acid?)

Anyway, here's a great idea: sign up for a Sound Bath -- AKA "kindergarten naptime for grown-ups in a sound sphere".

How it works: you ascend into the Integraton's gleaming wooden interior and lay down on a mat on the floor. You immediately find yourself in a state of hushed reverence, like you've just entered the world's most odd-shaped cathedral. From here, you shut your eyes and listen to the sounds of your guide creating tones on the rims of crystal bowls. The design of the room makes it sound as if the tones are coming from everywhere and nowhere at once -- from without and from within.

Even for someone like me -- who straight-up sucks at meditation (seriously, trying to get my brain to meditate is like trying to get the Minions from Despicable Me to form an oderly line) -- this place makes it so easy to just drift away and explore the backroads of your psyche. When it's over, you slowly amble back out into the daylight, feeling oddly post-coital -- like you've just gotten a happy-ending massage for your brain.

Trust me: this is the one second location you should follow a hippie to.

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Friday
Oct252013

The Secret Opera Happening In Union Station

What a difference interactivity makes.

Take, for example, opera. I'm not an opera guy. I'm still going through what a friend of mine calls "the womp-womp" stage of musical taste, where the sound of a zipper over a bass-drop makes me want to dance around with my fist in the air and break furniture. I figure I'll have plenty of time to learn to appreciate opera when I'm an older gentleman, lounging on my veranda, sipping a martini made from my enemies' tears, watching my pet pandas play in the fields beyond my jungle fortress. (Ok, I have some very specific ideas about what my later years are going to be like.)

Long story short: opera = zzzzzzz. But opera + interactivity + urban exploration = awwwwwesome.

Which brings us to Invisible Cities, a one-of-a-kind musical experience happening now in downtown LA. How it works: buy a ticket, show up at Union Station, and put on a pair of Senheizer headphones. A live orchestra starts up inside the ticketing area, and for the next 70 minutes, the entire train station becomes a mesmerizing wonderland of sights and sounds. A cast of sublimely talented opera singers (some of them dressed in period garb, some of them dressed as civilians) float through the station, body mics transporting their voices into your headphones. Costumed figures promenade through the night-lit gardens outside. Stage-fog fills the towering, opulent cavern of the old ticketing hall, as lithe dancers rise onto the booths in synchronicity.

The best art has the power to make us look twice at our world. To jolt us out of our default mode, and experience life with fresh eyes. Invisible Cities does that in spades. With the symphony pouring through your headphones, what was once just a train station becomes a place fraught with mystery, danger, beauty. Those janitors aren't mopping the floor, they're engaged in a dance. That grungy guy in the wheelchair you just walked past is now singing an aria in a voice forged by angels.

Coming back into the regular world is like emerging from a dream. I spent the ride home glancing out at my city passing by and wondering to myself: "Who else is in on this beautiful conspiracy?"

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