Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Retro Nuevo Googie

Cruising the Boulevard

I'm calling the architecture of the new Norm's Restaurant in El Monte "Retro Nuevo Googie." Googie architecture has been defined as space age, atomic, having dramatic and soaring angles and geometric shapes, utilizing a lot of glass, steel and neon. The term was coined after a John Lautner designed coffee shop in Los Angeles called "Googies." Another feature of this Googie style was to bring the burgeoning car culture patrons of the post-WW II period out of their cars into the business. So many restaurants and coffee shops were designed in this style with huge windows so speeding cars could see customers inside, enjoying their meals.
The new Norm's in El Monte achieves all of the above. The restaurant faces Valley Boulevard, a major thoroughfare. The windows of Norm's are large enough so you can easily view the inside from your car. The architectural style definitely mimics the original Googie style of the famous Norm's on La Cienega Blvd. in West Hollywood, down to the neon flashing sign.
Plug-In Parking Spots for Electric Vehicles

I say "Retro Nuevo," because the style is a broad interpretation of the original Googie style, using new materials. It's good, but a bit faux for me. Orange is my favorite color and they've used it liberally in this El Monte design. Paired with wood tones, gray, white and teal, the interior is clean, streamlined and interesting to the eye. I would have liked to see a bit more terazzo and patterned formica, maybe some Rocky Mountain Stone, so popular in the '50s and '60s.  

Excellent Light Fixtures

The light fixtures are great. Looks like the final landscaping around the perimeter has not been completed. We will go back in a few months to see how it looks.
Morange Lipstick and Orange Signage

Larry and I visited last Sunday, during their opening week. The place was packed at 2 o' clock in the afternoon. This particular Norm's is very large. The staff was super efficient and the food is always good here. 
Nice use of wallpaper that echoes the tiles

Cashier Counter and Linoleum in Waiting Area

Soffit over counter area
I did not take a photo of the folks sitting at the counter. This was a major fail for me. The counter had movable, uncomfortable metal stools placed at the edge. I would have liked to have seen built in, upholstered counter seats like all traditional coffee shops. I suppose the area is more flexible this way. Also, the free-standing chairs at some of the tables looked like outdoor, patio chairs. Reproductions of Eames molded plastic chairs are readily available, however, they are probably more expensive.

Once the grand opening balloons pop, the interior will improve
A pictorial history of El Monte landmarks. Where's the historic El Monte Legion Stadium? #rock'roll
Since it was 2 in the afternoon and we'd had a late breakfast, Larry and I just split a snack. He loved his milkshake! Even though the place was packed, our server was attentive and speedy!

All in all, they did a good job with the design on this modern version of Norm's Restaurant.  I only have some minor decorating problems as stated above. We shall definitely return.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Baroo - Fermentation Delight!

Menu at Baroo

Talk about a fascinating and unusual lunch! Wow! Brit was out of town for the Knitgrrlz b-day  soirĂ©e last Sunday in Malibu, so she offered to treat me to lunch this past Saturday. We were thinking about a few different Thai restaurants, in honor of restaurant critic Jonathan Gold's birthday (RIP), but then Brit suggested Baroo. Here is Gold's review of Baroo in 2015. 
First of all, there's NO SIGN over the door of the restaurant. It's located in a nondescript strip mall on Santa Monica Blvd., at Wilton in East Hollywood, between a 7/11 and a pupusa place. 
Strip Mall Exterior, Baroo. Ghost sign of previous restaurant

The parking lot is deathly. I found a spot on Wilton and walked the broken pavement sidewalks up the block to the restaurant. It was 12 noon and very hot. The restaurant opens at noon. There was a short line outside the door. When I saw Brit drive up, the restaurant staff opened the door and we streamed inside.
Jars of science experiments and other fermenting items
The interior is small and sparse. There is a long, communal table with the menu on the wall above it. There is a counter of sorts near the cash register and another counter with stools next to the tea and water bar and shelf of fermenting food-stuffs. Fermentation, mold, gluten free, vegan and more...that's what it's all about at Baroo. Click on the link above for Gold's review to read more about this. Needless to say, Meat-Eater Ellen thought there wouldn't be anything here for her! I was wrong. Everything we ordered was DELICIOUS.
BimBim Salad
The BimBim Salad consists of assorted grains with oat, quinoa, & bulgur, vegetable crudite with fennel, celery, asparagus, baby radish, and heirloom, toasted pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds, gochujang + san marzano dressing, herbs coulis, passion fruit powder, baby kale, and Asian pear.
Noorook is made from mixed grains (Job's tears, kamut and farro), roasted koji beet cream, kombu dashi, toasted seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), macadamia nuts, finger lime and rose-pickled onions.
Ragu Style Handmade Pasta
The pasta was perfect. The sauce was divine. I really want to return to try ALL of the other dishes! When we walked into the restaurant we noticed a cameraman. We asked what he was filming. He was expecting Chef Ludo Lefebvre in a few minutes. CNN was filming Ludo at his favorite L.A. places. Ludo came in with his entourage and proceeded to sit at the counter right next to Brit! Watch for this CNN special. You're sure to see the back of Brit's head in many of the shots!
Ellen, CNN Camera Guy, Brit and LUDO
Baroo's Chef Kwang Uh brought many dishes for Ludo to taste. They had multiple conversations while we were eating and talking. SO exciting!
Chef Kwang Uh in Baroo's tiny kitchen
The Community Table at Baroo
I really feel like I was on an international vacation while eating at Baroo. After lunch, Brit and I were lingering in the parking lot, talking. Ludo came out, put on his leather jacket, getting ready to ride off on his Yamaha motorcycle. We spoke briefly to him and asked him where his next stop on his CNN tour of L.A. would be. He said, in his charming French accent, that they were going to "Kaktoos" next, a little shop in Echo Park. Kaktoos? He must have meant The Cactus Store! Ludo said that there is nothing there to eat, but the shop is wonderful with all sorts of interesting things.
Brit caught a quick pic of Ludo riding away into the East Hollywood traffic!
Ludo rides away into the depths of East Hollywood
Thank you, Brit for the wonderful lunch, the fab gifties and arranging to have two famous chefs at our lunch!

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Vintage Photo Friday

Truck Crash at Stearns and Pico, 1951. USC Digital Archives, Herald Examiner Collection

I like to peruse vintage photo collections of Los Angeles. This morning I was looking at the USC Digital Archive's collection of photos from the old L.A. Herald Examiner Newspaper. SInce I've lived near or on Pico Boulevard for most of my life, I typed "Pico" in the search window. Look what I found!
This is a storefront at 5998 West Pico Boulevard at Stearns Drive. It's on the south/east corner. There were five photos of a car and truck accident from 1951. The description reads, "Truck accident (Pico Boulevard and Stearns Drive), November 6, 1951. Jose C. Ramirez, 41 years (driver). Truck accident. Truck loaded with chili powder in 5 pound cans and 25 pound barrels was going east on Pico when a car driven by Mrs. Esther Lerner going north on Stearns Drive, came out onto Pico in front of the truck driven by Ramirez. Truck swerved to avoid hitting her. The truck load shifted causing the truck to overturn and crash through the store window."
Imagine all of the spilled chili powder on the street! I wonder if the powder stained Mrs. Lerner's car paint?
Inside of store, after crash
Stearns Drive side of store with overturned truck
Looking at the front of the store in the first photo, I noticed an art-deco style building. From the various signs in the photos above, the store looks like a mattress and bathroom fixtures shop. The building looked familiar. Through the magic of the internet, I looked up the corner. THIS BUILDING IS STILL THERE! For years this location was the Levantine Cultural Center. The banner of the center covered up the upper portion of the building.
Levantine Cultural Center, Pico Boulevard Los Angeles
Within the last couple of years, this building has been preserved and brought back as The Green Table Cafe. The full design of the original building is apparent. I'm not much of a vegetarian or vegan, but I really must give this place a chance! I do appreciate that they have maintained this lovely building.
The Green Table Cafe, 5998 W. Pico Blvd., at Stearns Drive, LA
As you drive around the City, really LOOK at the buildings. They may have had a former life!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Frida Abundancia!

This year's "Frida" themed birthday gifts

Yes, I admire artist, Frida Kahlo. This has been evident for the past 35 years. I love the surrealism of her paintings. I love how she adapted traditional Mexican dress into her life. I admire her perseverance while suffering great physical pain. 
I became acquainted with Frida's artwork and her story almost 35 years ago. I was lucky to attend an exhibition of her work in 1987 at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights. It was so enlightening to see these paintings in person. Most are rather small. Frida was plagued with pain due to polio as a youth and also a severe bus accident when she was young, so she had to paint sitting down, hence the smaller canvases. 
"Frida and Diego Rivera," 1931. Wedding portrait by Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was married to artist, Diego Rivera. He was a very well known muralist. In the art world, from the 1920's through the 1970's Kahlo was primarily known as Rivera's wife. During the 1970's her work was looked at more closely and she became known more for her activism and as an icon for Chicanos, feminists, the LGBTQ movement. Her face is everywhere now!
I purchased the painting, "Frida, Pain and Glory," by artist Sonya Fe in early July. This prompted a few of my friends to gift me with Frida-themed gifts for my birthday this year!
Diane crocheted a wonderful amigurumi key chain of Frida!
Diane's amigurumi crocheted keychain, "Frida." I added the earrings!
Natalie sewed and quilted a beautiful bag, using a replica of Don Loper's palm frond fabric as a background with an applique of Frida on the front and a garland of flowers on the back.  I love that palm frond fabric, also known as "Martinique." It's so Beverly Hills!  I even noticed a white on white Tapa cloth double pocket inside. Oh, that Natalie!

"Frida" tote by Miss Natalie of Hollywood. Front
"Frida" tote, back
Larry went overboard and found the Mattel, Barbie "Frida" doll for me on eBay. It seems that a grand niece of Frida Kahlo was not happy with the way Mattel interpreted Frida Kahlo or if Mattel even had the rights to Kahlo's image. The Frida/Barbie has stopped production for now. You can read about the controversy HERE. 
"Frida" doll by Mattel, part of the "Inspiring Women" series.

I must admit, this doll looks more like Barbie than Frida! Yesterday, I was telling Larry about how we used to play with our Barbies when we were kids. We'd march them around on the carpet, voicing all types of scenarios for them. Usually the stories were about shopping, boyfriends, going out to dances, etc.There were always many wardrobe changes. 
might have to take my other Barbie dolls out later today, along with Frida/Barbie and think of some underground, Communist scenario to stage. Larry suggested I find a tiny easel, canvas and paintbrush for Frida/Barbie. I was thinking something even darker...like Barbie in her dream roadster, careening off the road, smashing into Frida/Barbie's wheelchair. Then, we'd have to find some sort of Barbie ambulance to come roaring around the corner! Sorry. 
1962 Barbie had an Austin-Healey Sportscar

Maybe I could beef up an old Ken doll and make him look like Diego Rivera and work on some sort of destructive story with Frida and Diego! Oh the possibilities!
Ellen's vintage Barbie Dolls
Thank you again to ALL of my talented friends and family who helped me celebrate my birthday in a most wonderful way!

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Monday, July 23, 2018

SOME B-Day Highlights

It was a whirlwind week for my stay-cation birthday celebration. It was extremely hot in Los Angeles, so we tried to minimize our time outside and in the car. Movie theaters are an excellent respite!
Larry, pretending to be Mr. Rogers at "Won't You Be My Neighbor" screening. Click on photo to view larger.

On the actual evening of my birthday, Friday, the 20th, Larry, Mom and I had a wonderful dinner at Da Pasquale in Beverly Hills. I just really like this place! The atmosphere is friendly and casual. The staff is welcoming and the food is YUMMY! An added plus, you can park in the easily accessible Beverly Hills lot right next to the restaurant. 
Da Pasquale, Beverly Hills
Ellen and Roz, Beverly Hills
We started out sharing the mozzarella caprese. Larry ordered pasta with shrimp. I order the special risotto with tiny meatballs and mozarella. Mom ordered the vegetarian lasagna. We were all thrilled with our meals! A glass of Pinot on the side and a divine flourless chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream - sformatino al cioccolato!
Dinner at Da Pasquale
Birthday Cake at Da Pasquale

There were MANY delicious meals before and after my birthday. Lunch at Sage Bistro in Culver City with Joan. Lunch at The Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea with Amie. Lunch at Carnival Restaurant for Lebanese food in Sherman Oaks with Marilyn and Carolyn. Lunch at Langer's Deli for the BEST pastrami sandwich in the United States with Larry. Another lunch at West Jeff To Go for divine brisket pannini, again with Mr. Larry. Yummy Salvadoran and Mexican food at El Baron in Culver City with Rhoda and more!
Ollo, Malibu
Top: Natalie and Mary Jo. Bottom: Darcy and Ellen

On Sunday my besties treated me for brunch at Ollo in Malibu. Sadly, Brit is still in Florida. We missed her! Darcy, Natalie MaryJo and I had a fab time, laughing, eating and drinking!  We all ordered breakfast-y dishes and beverages.
Eggs with various ingredients. Check out MJ's Tater Tots!
My birthday gifts were off-the-hook! Thanks to Mary Jo for recording my various expressions of delight!

My friends are all so clever and fun! THANK YOU!
I had a great time at ALL events. Thank you to my friends and family for helping me celebrate!  I'm happy to be back at the office chillin' in corporate air-conditioning!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Once Upon a Time is Now!

Photo by Adriene Biondo. Neon signs for the Pussy Cat Theater, Supply Sergeant and Musso & Franks have all be restored and re-lit!

The retro Los Angeles community is buzzing this week! All of my friends that ADORE vintage buildings and pop culture in Los Angeles have been posting photographs and information about Quentin Tarantino's new film, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." It appears that Tarantino has taken over a block of Hollywood Boulevard, between Cherokee and Las Palmas for the location shooting of his new movie. He is re-painting and propping the store-fronts so that it is 1969 once again. I do believe that the film takes place between 1969 and the early to mid-1970s.
Photo by Alison Martino. Re-creation of The Supply Sergeant and Peaches Record Shop
I drove past the location this morning, but of course, it was a traffic jam. I couldn't park, let alone take any decent photos. I will rely on the great photos of my friends, Adriene Biondo, Alison Martino, Peter Chaconas and a few of my own for this post.
Photo by Peter Chaconas. Re-creation of The PussyCat Theatre and a bit of the original sign on Larry Edmunds Cinema and Theatre Bookshop
The film is a mystery, crime movie that takes place around the time of the Manson Family murders. There is an ensemble cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Burt Reynolds and more! Read about the film HERE. Scroll down and read EVERYTHING! The premise is that a TV actor and his stunt double try to make a name for themselves in Hollywood. I'm assuming there will be many plot points that may or may not come together in the end. I do love Tarantino films, no matter how violent they are. This time, it appears that Tarantino is going to a lot of trouble to get the look of Hollywood just right!
Photo by Alison Martino. Re-creation of vintage TV and small appliance store on Hollywood Boulevard
There were a series of posters from the era that depicted movie stars of the 1920s and 1930s. These posters were everywhere at the time. Many of these posters were published in 1968 by Royal Screen Craft, Inc. They encompassed psychedelic art of the era and nostalgia for old movie stars like The Marx Brothers, Clara Bow, Mae West, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin and more. The artist was Elaine Hanelock. This image is being painted facing the parking lot at Musso's on the building next door. I hope they leave this mural after filming is completed!
Photo by Alison Martino. Re-creation of Elaine Havelock poster, circa 1968
I'm sure that Tarantino is using other locations around Southern California, but having him bring back our memories of the Hollywood Boulevard of our youth is worth more than gold. Thank you, Quentin! The film should be released in 2019 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca Murders.
Vintage Chevrolet and filming in front of Musso &n Frank's Grill, Hollywood Boulevard
I wonder if Quentin Tarantino realizes that so many Los Angeles historians are watching his every move and verifying those locations?

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