Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Local delis get props...

Apparently Jewish delis are hurting Back East. However, they are thriving here on the Left Coast. An article in the New York Times actually gives props to two Southland delis: Langer's, just east of McArthur Park in Downtown, and the San Fernando Valley's own Brent's.

As a red-blooded Valley girl who was raised Jewish, with family hailing from New York and Chicago, I have grown to appreciate a good Deli. Alas and alack we have none in Panorama City anymore...the Deli that was in the strip mall on the Panorama side of Woodman is long gone, and that had been on the decline for a while before they packed it up. However, good ones are not far away. I agree about Brent's, but I really love Weilers on Nordhoff at Balboa in Northridge, and Art's on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City is still totally happening.

I am less fond of Jerry's Famous and Solleys, which is really the same deli under a different name. They serve rather nondescript generic Deli food at really crummy prices. However, the place has a bit of history...all through Andy Kaufman's comedy career he worked at Jerry's in Studio City. He never quit his day job because in his view you never know when your career will be over in Hollywood, and he felt it kept him grounded. One could debate that, however, he only quit after he started getting sick from cancer.

Anyway, it would be nice if someone took the plunge and opened a deli up here again. Perhaps just a stall in the Panorama Mall food court? I'd like a place where I could walk and get a turkey pastrami Reuben on rye with cole slaw on the side. Then again, we have delis here, they are just Latino and Filipino. Rincon Taurino has the feel of a deli but serves Barbacoa con Consume rather than Chicken Soup, and Toto's and Pinoy Pinay have Filipino soul food rather than Jewish soul food on sale here. Heck, we could use a Soul Food restaurant here too...oh well...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Villaraigosa's begging bowl: shame on you, Jackson family and AEG...

This is what Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa is reduced to. Basically grovelling on the streets of cyberspace with a begging bowl.

It is good that we had a trouble-free Funeral Of The Century (tm), with not even a single drunk-in-public arrest, let alone a violent crime arrest. But that was accomplished by deploying a small army of LAPD: 3,000 cops on foot, in squad cars and on horseback. This kind of response costs lots and lots and lots of money. The peaceful nature of the gathering means the costs are merely staggering but not crippling...closer to the $2 Million lowball figure than the $4 Million "holy cow it's a riot" figure.

So now Villaraigosa is reduced to begging for help from Jackson's huge fan base to defray costs. Never mind that AEG is going to recoup its costs with sales of merch that would have been sold at the 50 "This Is It!" concerts in London, UK. Never mind that the video of the funeral was recorded in HD and will probably be released in Blu-Ray and DVD. There is even talk of a live show ala the Elvis Live! touring show, using video from the recorded dress rehearsals at Staples Center to stand in for Michael Jackson, which would make AEG tons and tons of money. And don't cry too much for the Jackson clan: Jackson's albums are selling strong again, and will likely dominate the charts the next time Billboard puts them up. In short, lots of people are going to make lots of money from Michael Jackson kicking off this mortal coil.

So why shouldn't LA City be reimbursed for this? This isn't cold, this is justice. We ponied up the law enforcement, now AEG and the Jackson Family need to pony up the dough. The alternative is just plain insulting to the city that Jackson lived in from childhood. And it will mean that LA schools and LA basic human services will suffer further deep cuts as a result. Since much was made about Michael Jackson the humanitarian during his funeral, I would think that he would be upset that the circumstances of his death would be a cause for Angelenos to suffer. Do the right thing. Cough up the bucks. Thankyoudrivethrough.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Eating good, Mexican style, in our neighborhood.

Panorama City has an embarrassment of riches with regard to Mexican food. Don't just go to El Torito or Acapulco or another chain to celebrate El Cinco de Mayo, try some local grub.

1.)Rincon Taurino, Nordhoff Av. and Van Nuys Blvd, and also Van Nuys Blvd. right next to the Ice Rink.
These are the same people. And like Stater Bros. used to say, it's their meat that made them famous. I don't eat beef anymore but I remember that their Carne Asada is especially succulent, marinated for 24 hours in a secret marinade that includes Mexican beer. Their Pork Al Pastor has just the right amount of snappy spicing and is lean and lovely. However, their Pork Carnitas is my favorite...rendered beautifully lean by having all the fat fried out of it. The interior of the meat is juicy, the outside appealingly chewy and caramelized. They'll make any meat as tacos, burritos, tortas, (Mexican submarine sandwiches) huaraches, (Slipper-shaped fried thick tostadas) tostadas or even quesadillas. If you want to maintain the fiction you're eating healthy, you can get fresh juices, "aguas frescas" (fruit ade) and "bionicos" (fruit cocktails) with your meal. Awesome.

2.)El Gordo taco truck, usually parks on the corner of Van Nuys and Parthenia. (North jog) This takes guts. The El Gordo truck usually parks a block away from Rincon Taurino, and they give them a run for their money. They are most loved for their Al Pastor but I like their grilled chicken. When you buy tacos from them they will throw in a little round totopo (fried mini tortilla) topped with freshly made frijoles de olla. (beans fresh from the pot) They also are very generous with fixins too: they allow you to take home fresh guacamole, pickled onions and carrots, cilantro, onion and two kinds of salsas.

3.) Vallarta, (the taco restaurant) Woodman and Chase, right next to the car wash. This is so you do not confuse Vallarta with the Vallarta Supermarket at Woodman and Osborne. The same people who own the supermarket chain own the restaurant. Like El Gordo, they have plenty of fixins for your tacos, burritos fact, they have a bar with not only salsas but guacamole, pickled carrots; sauteed onions, scallions and chiles kept in a heater; pickled Jalapenos, and even a sort of Mexican cole slaw that has lots of heat.

They specialize in seafood there. Shrimp or fish in your tacos or burrito or whatever doesn't cost any more than less luxurious toppings like chicken or beef or pork carnitas. They also do Mexican seafood cocktails, seafood soups and seafood plates. The prices are extremely reasonable.

4.) Dos Arbolitos, Nordhoff and Woodley. The "Mexican" combination plate is actually a California invention...tacos, enchiladas and whatnot on a huge plate with rice and beans and other goodies and served with endless bowls of tortilla chips and salsa. This is what most people think of when they think of "eating Mexican." It's restaurants in Los Angeles like El Cholo, which opened in 1927, The Original Spanish Kitchen, which opened in the 1940s and closed under mysterious circumstances in 1961, and the original Encino El Torito, which opened in 1954, that made the rules for popular Mexican restaurants to follow.

Dos Arbolitos is an institution in the North San Fernando Valley, and for good reason. They have elevated the Cali-Mex combo plate into high culinary art. If they were on the Westside they would be pulling in $20 or $25 per entree like places like Ciudad does. But they're in humble North Hills, the next town to the west of Panorama City, and so they are quite reasonable.

In 1999 they closed down because the shopping center their original location was in got torn down. Despair set in as locals jonesed for their favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant. However, a year later they opened up in their current location, and there was much rejoicing. (Yay!)

They make the standards, but try some of their more creative entrees like Pollo con Mole enchiladas and Pollo Alcaparrado which is Spanish-inflected (yes, Spanish, not Mexican!) chicken sauteed with capers and onions and served in a tangy, complex sauce.

The original chef there died a few years ago, but his protege has inherited his mantle and his secret book of recipes. His cuisine reigns supreme.

There's other good places nearby like Pescado Mojado, but these are my favorites.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Sputnik Building revealed: a great way to restart this blog.

OK, I've not really known what to do with this blog, but have hung onto it because I knew I was GOING to do something.

Anyway, I have been searching for this information for YEARS since I love this local landmark. It's now a furniture store but for most of its existence it was a bank. I think the chain of provenance went this way: it was built for Van Nuys Savings and Loan, it was taken over by Crocker Bank, then Crocker Bank was bought by Great Western Savings and Loan, then Great Western was bought by Washington Mutual Savings Bank.

Anyway, the distinctive architecture was by Wenceslaus Sarmiento, head designer for the Bank Building Corporation of America. Mystery solved.

Thank you, Charles Phoenix, for finding this out, and thank you, LosAnjealous.Com, for bringing it to my attention.

Oh yeah, this is what Charles Phoenix does for a living. Awesome.