Search intrepid LA
Our Flickr Feed
Subscribe to intrepid LA!

Tarantino and Shakespeare: Together At Last

I'm not going to lie -- I love that we're living in the age of mash-ups. I love Bootie, the Echoplex's monthly genre-mutating dance party. I love the fact that audiences are willing to accept something called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at face value. I love that this thing exists, so I can put it on a t-shirt.

And now, I can add Pulp Shaksepeare to that list. Playing for just one more week at the Theater Asylum, it's a play that reimagines Pulp Fiction as a rewritten by the Bard in Elizabethan England -- taking two of the best wordsmiths of the English language and mashing them together, with wildly entertaining results.

The production finds clever ways to reinvent the staples of Tarantino's 90's noir. Instead of Bruce Willis' palooka boxer, we've got a knight hired to take a dive in a jousting competition. John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson's characters become knife-wielding assassins. Diners become ale-houses, heroin dealers become apothecaries, Jack Rabbit Slim's becomes "The Slender Hare", and a basement-dwelling rapist becomes (naturally) a Catholic priest. 

But this is not just a nifty exercise in fan-fiction; the material is elevated by the artfulness with which Tarantino's dialogue is retrofitted to match the 16th century London setting, with language that loops, bounces, riffs, and rages. Real thought and care went into the crafting of this, and the coherence of voice is even more surprising when you consider the play has five writers (including the director Jordan Monsell, who also has a very funny turn playing Christopher Walken's role, talking about hiding a pocketwatch "in that decrepit hole where the sun never shines.")

The performances run the gamut from merely serviceable to genuinely astounding. On the lower end of that spectrum is Sierra Fisk's portrayal of Mia Wallace, reducing the character to a one-note seductress. Drew Doyle fares better, bringing an Errol Flynnian twinkle to his besieged knight, Sir "Butch" Coolidge. Aaron Lyons injects a perverse playfulness and creepy verve into Vincent De La Vega, and his chemistry with co-star Dan White makes for some funny, lively set pieces. All that said, Dan White practically waltzes away with the production with his performance as Julius Winfield (aka Samuel L. Jackson.) His charisma is reminiscent of a Hustle & Flow-era Terrance Howard, and he imbues his role with lacerating wit, volcanic anger, and a transcendent longing that provides this mash-up with a heart and soul.

The play wisely jettisons elements that would have stretched the concept to its breaking point; the section involving Harvey Keitel's "Wolf" character and the cleaning of the gore-soaked car is nowhere to be found, but then again, that saves us from dialogue like "Do you see the words 'dead Moor storage above' my abode?" Instead, Pulp Shakespeare finds inventive ways to explore how the original movie's principal themes -- honor, loyalty, the closet morality of scoundrels, whether or not foot massages mean shit -- are timeless.

WHAT: Pulp Shakespeare
WHERE: The Theatre Asylum
WHEN: Thurs, Fri, Sat -- 8 PM. Sun -- 4 PM. Ends March 4th
$$$: $20 a ticket online, $25 at the door


Berries and Cream, Berries and Cream...

If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that there’s never a downside to splicing different species into something outside of our Lord’s plan: Zebroids, Bassuggs...those are the only two examples.  Herein, we’re focusing on the humble boysenberry: a SoCal-born experiment marrying raspberry, loganberry, and blackberry into a farmer’s market staple that’s even more delicious than deep-fried Bassugg (awwwwww...tasty.)  Oh, and it also single-handedly created Knott’s Berry Farm; not a bad pedigree.

There’s no need to complicate things: just cram a bunch of those fuckers into a pie and call it a day.  You can get a slice at the House of Pies, but if you don’t hate yourself you can also exit the 101 on Laurel Canyon and get comfortable at the Four ‘N 20 diner.  Describing this place will ring familiar to diner fans: brown decor, a lot of senior citizens (I imagine I’ll be eating at diners exclusively come 2072), a bunch of dudes in suits discussing Madonna lyrics one table over.  So will their menu: eggs, bacon, pancakes, and everything else that makes life worth living...none of which I’ve tried, because I only ever order the boysenberry pie.

I don’t mean to mince words: this is one of the best goddamn slices of pie I’ve ever tasted (take that, Mom.)  Despite being one of the cheapest items on the menu, it’s a meal unto itself: a steaming, hearty pile of baked fruit -- combining the sweetness of raspberries with the tang of blackberries -- topped with a crisp, flaky crust and a giant tower of whipped cream (‘cause that’s how we do things in America, Comrade.)  Or, for under twelve bucks (less than they charge for a steak sandwich) you can bring home an entire freaking pie, a siren song I’ve thus far avoided for fear of my inevitable transformation.

Fun fact: the “Four ‘N 20” is actually a meat pie popular in Australia.  I’ve never tried it myself, because just look at it.  Did that ruin your appetite?  Good, maybe that’ll keep your dirty hands away from my boysenberry pie.

WHAT: The Best Damn Pie Period™ at Four ‘N 20
WHERE: 4723 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Valley Village, 91607
WHEN: Mon-Fri 7 AM-10 PM; Sat 7:30 AM-10 PM. Sun 8 AM-10 PM
$$$: $4.50 per slice


E-I-E-I-Oh Yes!

Does the promise of anything offered in finite quantities tip your needle from jaded to intrigued?  (Here's lookin' at you, Kidrobot weirdos.)  If yes, then The Farmer's Kitchen might be your ideal hunger stave-off station.

Located at the corner of Selma and Morningside (call it Vine Street for sanity's sake), the eatery's close relationship to the Sunday Hollywood Farmers' Market extends beyond just the geographical.  It's a farm-fresh caffe that's actually an extension of the weekly market.  Not only does it aim to bring fresh, healthy, and affordable food to Hollywood locals, it also serves as a commercial teaching, processing, and retail kitchen, using revenue from prepared food sales to support nutrition education programs and job training as part of the Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles.

So, if you're about to get your gluttony on (which, you really ought to), you can do so without a shred of sin.

The ever-changing menu at The Farmer's Kitchen allows me to flaunt my most refined skill and talent-- indecision.  After a torturous struggle, I managed to narrow the spread of stomach-rumbling options down to three.  Pumpkin Quesadilla eventually took home the bronze, leaving me with a neck-and-neck race between the Scrambled Egg Bahn Mi and the Fried Egg Reuben.  Reuben won, and I found myself with a sandwich so fresh and perfect-looking that I wondered if it descended to Earth from the fantasyland heavens of menu photography/food styling.  One local, organic fried egg on a bed of house made sauerkraut with Russian dressing and Swiss cheese between two toasted slices of Village Bakery 12-grain.  Plus my choice of side?  $10 and well worth it.

Who knows how long it'll be on the menu?  So, like a cartoon-patterned hoodie, get one before they're gone.


• WHAT: Fresh, healthy, delicious local fare (with a purpose!)
• WHERE: The Farmer's Kitchen, 1555 Vine St # 119, Los Angeles, CA 90028
• WHEN: Lunch, Tuesday - Friday 11 - 3 * Brunch, Sunday  7:30 - 2
• $$$: $5 - $10


Mr. Farenheit

Chef Anthony Carron once spent a year hanging out in Italy and eating Neapolitan-style pizza four times a day. (Yes, he's somehow still alive. And no, you can't take over his life Talented Mr. Ripley-style, no matter how appealing that sounds.) From his time abroad, he learned the art of crafting the perfect thin-crust Italian tomato pie. Earlier this year, the globe-trotting, Brother Ali-resembling, Michael Mina protoge teamed up with the Umami Burger guys to bring you 800 Degrees -- a bustling UCLA-adjacent joint that manages to appeal equally to foodie pizza purists and broke-and-hungry college kids. Call it "miracle in Westwood."

The concept is Chipotle-level simple: belly up to the long counter and choose your sauce (marinara, margarita, or bianca.) That sauce gets lovingly ladled over a freshly hand-rolled disc of the simplest dough -- just flour, salt, water, and wild yeast. Which you then guide down an assembly line of toppings both traditional (sweet Molinari Italian sausage, oven roasted eggplant, kalamata olives) and new-school (charred broccolini, rock shrimp, truffle cheese), before finally watching it get slung like an unrepentant sinner into a wood-burning oven, where the whole shebang cooks in under 60 seconds.

Is it softer and floppier than you're probably expecting? I wouldn't use those words (I'd say supple and perfectly chewy) but yes -- and it's supposed to be. This is Neapolitan-style pizza, and Neapolitans don't go for that crispy-crust nonsense many of us have learned to associate with thin pizza after growing up on "fit-only-for-Guantanmo-prisoners" franchises like Domino's. Don't let that bother you. The pick-and-choose nature of the 800 Degrees allows you to discover flavor combintions you never dreamed of, as Calabrian chilis provide a nice kick of heat against carmelized onions and salty soppressata. Oh, and the average price of a pizza is $8, i.e. close to what you'd pay for valet over at Mozza.



The Curiosities Of Topanga Canyon

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2003, the first thing I did was buy a whole lot of hookers and cocaine taffy-red surfboard. The second thing I did was ask the surf-shop clerk about the best way to get from North Hollywood to the beach while avoiding the 405. He planted his finger on a map and said "Topanga." Thus, for the next year, three times a week, I'd strap my board to the roof of my rattling 1992 maroon Toyota Corolla (AKA "The Panty Dropper") and take the winding, tree-ensconced corridor of Topanga Canyon as my weekly commute. And the first time I came slaloming out of the mountains to be suddenly confronted with a vast sapphire blue ocean... the breath caught in my throat and I fell in love.

But oddly enough, in my nine years as an Angeleno, I never explored Topanga outside of a moving car. I only recently discovered what I'd been missing out on...

1: Pat's Topanga Grill -- a rustic cabin turned country diner, complete with a hitching post and a front porch where the human-to-dog ratio is about even. It's crowd is a mix of bikers, hippies, and outdoorsy types of all stripes. Surreal, locally-produced art adorns the walls. The menu is boilerplate and the service goes at "Topanga speed" (everyone involved in the preparation and delivery of your food will seem slightly high), but the restaurant has a frozen-in-time quality that's hard to find in progress-obsessed LA.

2: Eagle Rock Loop Hike -- up in the wilds of Topanga State Park, there's a glorious 7-mile ass-kicker of a hike that gives you a little taste of everything. There are sweeping views of the Pacific; there are ridgeline  fire-roads overlooking the valley; there are narrow corridors of sycamore trees and marshes; there are grasslands where entire packs of deer come to snack at sunset; and there's, of course, the titular Eagle Rock itself, a massive stone edifice jutting out from the mountain like an Easter Island head. Climb on top of it and beat your chest proudly. You earned it.

3: Froggy's Fish Market -- imagine someone took half a block of Mexican shanty-town, attached it to a Viking dining hall (complete with a towering fireplace), set it in the middle of a wooded canyon, and then started selling sushi out of it. That's the level of WTF Froggy's has to offer. This place literally has to be seen to be believed, and the fish ain't bad either.

Thinking back to that surf-shop where I first heard the word "Topanga", I realize: I owe that clerk a "thank you."