Mais Oui! Cooking classes at Sur La Table!

TVs are set up so you can watch others at close range
Sur La Table, French for "on the table," has always been the Los Angeles go-to place for truffle oil, crab leg snappers and other sundry dining items. Conveniently located at the Original Farmers Market on 3rd and Fairfax, the prices are a little less shameless than Williams Sonoma, they sell tons of fun trinkets for gift bags and, as I had recently found out, they teach cooking classes.

Yep, I did this.
Time Warner treated us to a night of French epicurean lessons, and the fabulous sit-down meal, where we could enjoy the fruit our labors. Of course we washed the whole thing down with bottles (and bottles!) of wine, then were sent on our merry way with culinary gift bags. 

This was also me.
I recommend taking a class, even if a seasoned cook, just to brush up on some new tips and ideas. While it may be considered pretentious to "over-pronounce French words with a French accent" (the hilarious complaint in Friends with Kids) it's honorable to be able to pronounce the dishes you learned how to cook yourself. It's even better to cook with all that butter.

Do I even need to say it?
Time to sample the goods

the three amigos


Ghost Hunters of Los Angeles

One of my issues with Los Angeles is a lack of known history. I'm sure all kinds of business went down between Mexicans, Native Americans and pioneers from the East Coast. Especially when Missions were being built and cultures clashed. But because of our rocky shorelines, we've never had ships sail in to invade us from other countries. And between this being the Wild West, and the fact that so many dialects were spoken, little was recorded and much was lost in translation. Unlike the East, we had no newspapers, historians, universities or libraries to document things. Less history means means less ghost stories.

To an East Coaster, it makes things a little boring. The Atlantic coastline is rife with sordid history dating back to the Revolutionary War, even Jamestown. In high school, a friend sold a rare Civil War coin to the Smithsonian Institution, after uncovering it in her neighborhood creek. I met a girl at a party who liked to camp overnight by an old Civil War trench in her backyard, which was still hollowed out.  And the most disturbing of all: one of my friends in Virginia was digging in his yard and uncovered bones from an unmarked slave cemetery! Authorities swooped in and the family ended up on the local news. Sometimes it felt like every home in Virginia was built over bodies. Haunted tours were advertised in every town, so it was common to see a person dressed in colonial garb speaking to a crowd of onlookers. The ghost stories that we'd inevitably hear and retell would absorb us until dawn during camping trips and slumber parties. 

So you can imagine the withdrawal. And I love sordid, as many here do.

It seems that the ghost stories of Los Angeles fall into two categories:
  • Spooky events and drama recorded by monks at various missions, as they were some of the only literate people in California at the time
  • Old Hollywood tales, like The Black Dahlia or Manson murders
If you're like me and love a good ghost story, you'd find L.A. a little lacking. The buildings are all new. We don't have thunderstorms. And as previously mentioned, the past is under-recorded. There aren't legitimate ghost tours, just tours of where horrific murders took place. Usually, historic hotels make up stories of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe sightings, just to book more rooms with tourists. It seems the only things that go bump in the night are drunk celebrities on the PCH.

But you can't blame ghouLA for trying. These "ghost hunters" and enthusiasts gather for drinks, go on field trips and give speeches, all trying to drum up the excitement of supernatural activity. Though many of their claims of things being haunted are unsubstantiated, such as Maeve's Residuals being haunted, (they have no story, but overheard the bartender mention it) they do stir things up. They add excitement to this place. Like me, they are lovers of history that like getting a little spooked.



beet and paneer salad
 If it weren't for the tabloids reporting on Hilary Swank dining here, I never would have known the place existed! I've driven by Mezze countless times, but never noticed the building. Perhaps it's because when on La Cienega, I suffer tunnel vision for Absolutely PhoBulous, to feed the beast which is my abusive Vietnamese craving.

Upon entering, rows of vertical glass jars sat open, like a rustic bulk food area in a farmer’s market. Cinnamon sticks and star anise sat in open jars, welcoming patrons to smell and touch the exotic spices that awaited them in their meals. 

chicken shawerma on house-baked bread and house-fried zatar chips
One could even watch the chefs plating food, stacking it into presentations that bordered on art pieces. But unlike sushi bars and pizza parlors, this staging area was closed off behind a silent glass wall. There was no interaction, and it felt an art instillation. It wasn’t cold, but professional, almost reverential.

liver & pork pate with mint chutney, homemade pickles and puffed pita
The Mezze chefs take great care not only in presentation, but in the quality of the food. My takeaway was that they let each spice speak for itself, having its own voice when being showcased in the dish. The pate showcased the coriander, the potato chips featured zatar, the shawerma had a masculine, char-broiled flavor and the house-made pickles popped with the tang of mustard seed. It was very clear that the display of spices in glass jars was not for d├ęcor, but a demonstration of the tools used by the artists. It is no wonder that celebrities, who could dine anywhere, choose to eat here.



Family is an important thing in Los Angeles. If you're friends with anyone famous, and I mean Dana Plato anyone, it's best to make them a Godparent. That way, even if you can't get their money, they'll still feel obligated to come to your parties, making everything a little more exciting. In fact, guilt will stop them from ever being able to get rid of you

Family has many other functions too. You can adopt a bunch of kids from third world countries to distract the world from the fact that you're an annoying, ex-junkie homewrecker and an adulterous douchelord who still thinks they're cute enough to get away with bad hygiene. You can whore out insecure daughters to attain personal wealth and fame in middle age.

One must also be careful with their Hollywood families as well. Jennifer Aniston's hideous mother wrote a tell-all about her daughter, shockingly. Marlon Brando was distant with his children, which led them to this and this.

Maybe that's why so many Angelenos flee the city when they deem it time to "raise a family."


When the scene of the crime makes you hungry...

I don't take murder lightly, but I can't deny being intrigued by Vitello's. Robert Blake decided to kill his wife Bonny after dinner there, plotting for it to be her last supper. How bad could the place be? He even  left the gun in the booth by accident, and ran back to retrieve it after they finished their meal.

Soon after, she was found dead in her car outside the restaurant. Mr. Blake had knocked on the door of one of my acquaintances, pleading for help. It would be the last of his performances.

Sordid history aside, the food at Vitello's was good. It wasn't excellent, as I'm wary of any restaurant that can't even make a good marinara. Marinara sauce is like a baked potato. With good, simple ingredients, it's hard to mess up. Even Buca Di Beppo makes a mean sauce with extra garlic, and they're a chain. I did appreciate the dark, cloistered East Coast feel, as if we were in an establishment set up by actual Italians a century ago. So many L.A. restaurants go for white minimalist coldness, so it's refreshing to see a crowded room in candlelight, the dark walls cluttered with art and photos. 

Not a place for food snobs, but great for homesick East Coasters and sordid history buffs.



What is with the signs at the San Diego Zoo?

What did the ravens ever do to deserve this?


Who writes this stuff?

Even the head hole is too big.