Friday, November 16, 2007

California: Other Eats

With respect to Los Angeles, food was a determining factor regarding our choice of location. The Miyako isn't the greatest hotel in the world (in fact, our room was downright dumpy) but there are dozens of restaurants, plus a bakery and various dessert places, within a three block restaurant, most of them quite good.

In Little Tokyo, both
T.O.T. (Teishokuya of Tokyo) and Sharin (text is Japanese but this link has video) had great sushi. T.O.T. is on 2nd Street between San Pedro and Alameda, Sharin in the same block on 1st Street. Both very small, both very authentic--one reviewer called their offerings "Japanese comfort food." Likewise, we visited Sushi-Gen, in Honda Plaza, corner of 2nd and Alameda, for an early lunch our last day in Los Angeles. There were already 30 people in line in front of us by the time we showed up at 11 a.m. (the restaurant doesn’t open until 11:30), including three ladies in full kimonos.

In adidtion to sushi, we visited Kappo Ishito, in Weller Plaza (between 1st and 2nd between Los Angeles and San Pedro), for kaiseki. I’d never had kaiseki before, which is a multi-course Japanese meal prepared and presented in an almost religious fashion. (The chef was in a kimono with an apron obi and wooden clogs; his THREE assistant chefs basically bowed there heads and worked on repetitive tasks until called into service. Each course came on a different plate, each cup of tea was individually brewed. And for the first half hour we were the ONLY customers in the restaurant!)

No day was complete without a trip to Yamazaki, the Japanese bakery in Little Tokyo Plaza, for pastries (danishes, croissant, fresh doughnuts) and coffee (at least once a day, usually twice!) Likewise, the day we went to Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge we went by way of Rosemead to check out the noodes at Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen. I think it's quite possible we were the first people from east of the Mississippi River to ever actually visit Rosemead on purpose but the noodles were more than worthwhile even if the shouted greetings and farewells were a bit of a strain on my mental equilibrium.

With the Roswell Park crowd, we ventured up to Glendale's BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse for a truly humongous. Now THAT was entertaining. Huge upscale sports bar, giant flat screen TV’s all over the place, lots of “ooh rah!” every time a favorite team scored a touchdown – and gay disco music blaring on the loudspeakers, which none of the presumably overwhelmingly hetero patrons seemed to notice! Football and Madonna and Abba and, well, golly! The food was rather overwhelming (and not necessarily in a good way.) Tons of pasta, pizza, bread, salad, it never really stopped.

I think all our other dining experiences were covered in the previous post, with the exception of Carrow's, a sort of Southern California version of Denny's, in that it has similar food offerings and draws (for the most part) a similar clientele, i.e., the elderly and/or the morbidly obese. Rather scary, actually, but we were dining with a certain someone who likes to eat BIG!

All in all, we ate quite well, so much so that Naoyuki begged off my suggestion to go have even more sushi at Yukiguni, our favorite sushi place in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Thanksgiving Day. Instead we will be heading to another fave, the Peller Estates Winery Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Yum!

In case you hadn't noticed, we like to eat!

Next: Other Adventures

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California Trip: People

The nice thing about having free time AND a car was that I could get out and about. One day I drove out to California State University, Channel Islands meet my friend Steve Stratton, who is Head of Collection Development and Technical Services for the University Library.

CI is the newest branch of the Cal State system and, no, you do not have to take a boat to get there. The campus is actually in Camarillo, tucked away in between the low peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains, smack dab in the middle of Ventura County. Apparently the CSU chancellor decided "Channel Islands" was the best possible name for the campus, despite being on the mainland. (The school occupies the campus of the former State of California Mental Hospital, generically known as "Camarillo," so that wasn't going to work. Likewise, a land deal with Ventura County fell through, so that took care of that option!)

Thanks to Steve I was able to take a tour of their new library which is under construction and due to open in February 2008. In addition to Steve I met Steve’s boss, Paul Adalian, and one of Steve’s faculty colleagues, Manuel Correia. After the tour, Steve and Manuel and I went to a taqueria in Camarillo for a yummy lunch!

I was pleased to meet three online friends, all fellow bodybuilding fans, I’d never met in person before:

Doug lives in West Hollywood a and took me to Gold’s Venice, a place I’ve been fantasizing about (it’s the place they invented bodybuilding, you know) for at least 30 years. Mid-day Sunday apparently is NOT the time to go looking for celebrity bodybuilders, although Dougie did point out one aspiring porn star and I was quick to spot former pro-bodybuilder Tom Prince, who had to retire 2-3 years ago after suffering some illness (bypass surgery?) He is much smaller than he was back in his heyday but still very impressive! Afterwards Doug and I had lunch at the French Quarter Restaurant in West Hollywood. We were there about five minutes before I realized that I'd actually eaten dinner there in early 1994 with my friend Paul Camp, who works at UCLA's Biomedical Library.

Tom lives near LAX and works for a major airline. We’ve been chatting online for years. We got our wires a bit crossed so we didn’t have a chance to work out together but Naoyuki and I met up with him in Venice Beach for a cocktail at the Roosterfish and dinner at the C&O Trattoria. (Nice food, cute waiters!)

Dan is another long-time correspondent who lives in San Francisco. Dan moved to SF from the Dallas area where he was living when Jeremy and I arrived in Houston (1999.) It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long for us to finally connect! Dan was down in Palm Springs for Pride Weekend. We went out for a bite to eat our second night there (Friday), then he and I went to Gold’s Palm Springs to workout together Sunday a.m.

Likewise, while in Palm Springs we made a new friend, John, an erstwhile Canadian now living and working in Chicago. We persuaded him to join us for dinner at one of our favorite places, Haleiwa Joe’s, and explored a new one, El Mirasol, with him. El Mirasol goes on the list as another fave!

Next: Other Eats!

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California Trip

I'll do this thematically. The basics:

Naoyuki flew out on Friday, 10/26, and I followed the next day. We spent five days in Los Angeles, five in Palm Springs. That was at the end of the week of the big fires but they were mostly contained by the time Naoyuki arrived and more so when I got there (it rained on Saturday, so that helped.)


In Los Angeles we stayed at the Miyako, a hotel in Little Tokyo, about a mile east of downtown proper. Nice lobby and extremely convenient but our room was petite to say the least and not particularly up-to-date. On the other hand, the Japanese spa was nice, and, as they say:

Location! Location! Location!

The Miyako is right around the corner from Japanese Village Plaza and a block from Weller Plaza, both home to a large array of Japanese shop, eateries, and a bakery. Plus no more than 10-15 minutes (depending on traffic) from the LA Convention Center and easy access to the major freeways in and out of downtown LA.

In Palm Springs we stayed at La Dolce Vita, a relatively new gay men’s resort. This trip was the first time since I started visiting Palm Springs in 2003 (and this was at least our fifth trip since then) that I’ve stayed any place other than INNDulge. Unfortunately, because it was Pride weekend INNDulge wanted a five-night minimum and we only had four nights to spare.

A nice place, La Dolce Vita. In Deepwell, rather than Warm Sands, so in some ways a bit more convenient to restaurants and such. Plus we had a really nice room (suite, actually, with separate bedroom, bathroom, small-but-full kitchen, and living room.) Likewise, staff were very friendly. Drawbacks included the fact that there really was no central gathering area. Unlike INNDulge which has a central courtyard with a big pool and big hot tub right there, LDV has two pools and two hot tubs but they’re all separate and removed from each other. People did gather for the Happy Hour each evening but for the most part they were pretty standoffish, despite our best efforts. (Nice bar, though! They kept us well-supplied!)

Next: People

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