Monday, May 27, 2019

California Dreamin' - Day 3: Fossils, Jesse Pinkman, and acting like Kevin McCallister (Desserts!)

Here we are on Day 3 of 6 of our Los Angeles Vacation Extravaganza that was the week of November 11-16th of last year.  Check out Day 1 and Day 2 here.  Lots of good eats and fun sites on Days 1 and 2, and we kept it up!

Per our m.o. for the week, we got up quite leisurely.  First up we met a friend of Zac's for a late breakfast/early lunch (yes that's technically brunch, but does brunch exist on a weekday??) at Canter's Deli on Fairfax. It's been around since 1931, serving up authentic and traditional Jewish fare.

How on earth to chose???

Matzo ball soup

Fish platter: Lox, baked salmon, white fish, bagel

"the Sunrise" breakfast sandwich
As if that wasn't enough, we decided on some bakery items to-go to enjoy later.  Ok it was 20 minutes later......

chocolate babka and an eclair

We took a short walk from Canter's down to the Original Farmer's Market, founded in 1934, and a historic landmark in LA.  My grandparents took my mom here as a kid when she'd come to visit them! 

Fruits at the farmers market

Next up was the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, which was another very short walk from the Farmer's Market.  I can remember visiting this a kid like it was yesterday - that tar smell!  I can remember how intense it was, and surprised that there was bubbling tar in the middle of a city, with fossils in it (which I also thought was super cool as a kid, and still now). 

On the way we walked through/past this giant rock exhibit behind the LA County Museum of Art.  See I'm levitating the rock above my finger....

This was a GIANT structure under construction behind the Academy Museum of Motion Picture.  Death Star? 

And we are here! La Brea Tar Pits. Literal pits of tar bubbling up in the middle of the city.  Many moons ago the tar trapped animals, and they died, now there are lots of fossils here.

I can smell the tar just looking at this picture

Woolly Mammoths

Saber-toothed tiger

A bit eerie, these are all dire wolf skulls found at this site.  Just a small % of them found....

Now to head off to the Sunset Strip!  We Uber'd across town, and got out near the Roxy Theater.  We walked East down Sunset Blvd passing by the Roxy Theater, Whisky a Go Go, The Rainbow Room, The Viper Room, Tower Records (now closed), and The Comedy Store, ending our walking tour at Chateau Marmont.  Lots of pop culture history along that route! 

I had never heard of Chateau Marmont before our trip.  It's a hotel where a lot of famous people stay, it's expensive, historic, and well, it's got the word "Chateau" in the title.  It also has a fine dining restaurant and a bar.  Another fun fact: John Belushi died here in 1982 of a drug overdose.  After lots of time on our feet, stopping for some refreshments sounded like a grand idea.   Travel Tip:  If you think perhaps you are not supposed to be wandering around a posh hotel where there are possibly famous people, just act like you belong there and are famous yourself.  Usually works.    

Another hint - when you DO see a famous person, DON'T FREAK OUT.  Just act normal and sneak a picture with your phone.   See the head in the distance?  Scroll down....

It's Jesse Pinkman! Or as he is also called, Aaron Paul.  

Some refreshments at the Chateau Marmont

Time to rest. We head back to the hotel in time to catch another awesome Los Angeles sunset from the roof of our hotel, before thinking of dinner....

One perk of staying at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills is they have a car service.  Not just ANY car service, your own personal ride to destination of your choice (within 5 miles) in a brand new Rolls Royce Phantom.  I had not heard of a Phantom before seeing it, but knew without a doubt it was super fancy.  MSRP of half a million dollars fancy.   So for one night, we were people who ride in the back of half a million dollar car taking them out for dinner in Beverly Hills. 

You can't at all see the car, because it's dark, but here we are in it. 

The ceiling lit up like stars

It's the white car, just dropped us off. 

For dinner we went to the Indian Restaurant Anarbagh, near the Rodeo Drive area.   Oh, and about a block from the restaurant we saw Ron Artest walking down the street.   Both Zac and our driver spotted him immediately.   Honestly looked like he was on his way to a birthday party....

Crackers and dipping sauces for the table
Sadly, we can't remember exactly what we ordered at Anarbagh (downside of waiting 6 months to write about it), but it was all very good!!

All that food gave us the energy we needed to do some more exploring! We walked around Beverly Hills and to an area called Tri-West, and the Urth Coffee shop on Melrose. 

Now for the creme da la creme of the day - Dessert.  I may have mentioned in an earlier post, but we had $50 per day to use at the hotel on drinks and food, came with our Hilton Gold status perks.  We didn't have breakfast at the hotel that day, so guess what that means..... 

What you see here are two grown people acting like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2, when he's at the Plaza without proper adult supervision.   Chocolate Tort, cookie sampler, vanilla milkshake, and an ice cream sundae, all brought to us on a fancy cart that turns into a table for us to eat this in our room.  

Some of the chocolate tort.  My mother in law says this looks like our President....

And that my friends is Day 3 of our trip.   Next up is Day 4 - we head downtown!  LA Food hall, some family history, LeBron James and the LA Lakers!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

California Dreamin' - LA Vacation Part 2 - Ethnic Food Day!

Day 2 of our trip (11/12/18) - Ethnic Food Tour day! If you want to catch up on Part 1 of our trip, click here.  We booked a group tour through Urban Adventures for a 3.5 hour ethnic food tour of LA, followed by a 3+ hr customized private evening tour of Hollywood, focused on food and drink venues with old Hollywood/movie history.  Man what a day!  I have enjoyed looking back through the pictures, and thanks to our wonderful tour guide for emailing all the eats and stops we made throughout the day, or else I never could have kept track!

The tour didn't start until the afternoon, so we had some time to enjoy a leisurely late breakfast at the hotel, and relax by the rooftop pool area of our hotel before heading out for our packed afternoon/evening.  If you didn't read Part 1, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills (!!!!!). Amazing place! 

No one there but us! Mid to upper 70s on a sunny mid November LA Monday.  Perfection!  

Views Northwest (on and they had a hot tub too of course, which we enjoyed). 

Views West

Views East with Downtown skyline in distance
Perfectly relaxed, we were ready to embark on our all afternoon and evening grazing of ethnic foods and old Hollywood dives! 

Our tour guide, Tom Dennis, was just spectacular.   Our group was just the two of us plus a local family that lives across the Hollywood Hills from downtown (married couple and their son).  The tour guide got to know everyone, our interests etc, and put on an awesome tour for us.  Our tour was all in LA proper areas of Koreatown, Little Armenia, and Thai Town.  We walked most of it, and hopped on and off public transportation.  All the food was pre-selected for us to give us lots of variety.  

First up - Koreatown!  We started at the Gaylord Apartments and adjoining HMS Bounty pub. Lots of history there.  This is also near the site of the old Brown Derby restaurant, which has been torn down. Directly across the street from the Gaylord Apartment was the site of Ambassador Hotel, site where RFK was assassinated (The hotel was torn down, it is now a memorial park and school).  Due to proximity to the Ambassador hotel, lots of famous people and world leaders stayed and ate at the Gaylord Apartments. Winston Churchill had his own booth at the pub.  

Ham Ji Park: BBQ pork ribs (dwaeji galbi) & banchan & Korean salad:

Zion Market in City Center: Coco Hodo (walnut pastry ball) 

Bungeoppang (sweet custard fish bread) - The only thing "fishy" about it was the shape. This was one of my favorite things all day! No surprise - it was sweet.  

We made a couple other stops (no pictures) to see some historic buildings in Koreatown, old markets, and areas with historical significance.  Neat stuff.  

Next stop - Little Armenia!  We hopped on a public bus to get there, just a few stops from Koreatown.  Being the silly pair that we are, we snapped a pic of us on the public bus "being like a local".   My mom said as a kid when visiting family in Los Angeles, we rode a pubic bus at some point and I hated it.  So I mainly took this to show her how much I've matured since I was 8.  See mom, I enjoy public transportation now! So mature! 


Restaurant = Sasoun Bakery, cheese borek.   Full disclosure, cheese is one of my favorite things.  I am so sorry for everyone that is lactose intolerant.  I should be thankful for each time I eat cheese because it is so wonderful.  Especially hot and melted. 

We have no idea what "yogurt drink" is and did not try it.....apparently quite popular

cheese borek

He liked it. 

Spicy & BBQ (yes that's the name of the restaurant): "Khao Soi" Northern Thai egg noodle soup and Thai iced tea known as Cha-yen (cold tea)

Thai iced tea.  I'll admit, not my thing. Glad I tried it though.  I don't actually like regular tea, so.... 

The soup.  The restaurant has the name "spicy" in it for a reason!  Dang it was good. 

Falafel Arax - Falafel (w hummus).   I haven't had a lot of falafel in my life.  Mostly due to lack of exposure to restaurants that serve falafel.  After this experience in LA, if other restaurants make it like this, I'd eat it ALL. THE. TIME.   It was deep fried with a perfect crunchy exterior, with hummus that somewhat melted with the heat of the falafel.   ALL. THE. TIME.  

From Little Armenia we had good views of the Griffith Park Observatory (look below the red light) and Hollywood Sign.  Later in our trip we visited the Observatory and got up close view of the sign and AMAZING views of the sunset and city lights at night, one of the highlights of the trip!! Stay tuned for that....

Last Stop - Thai Town! Once we got off the bus, we walked past this sign and I couldn't resist taking a picture.  I shared this at the time and informed everyone I'd gone to LA and joined a gang.....(ok not that funny, but a little funny).  

Bhan Kanom Thai: Khanom Bueang (Thai tacos or Thai crepes), made of a thin crepe, coconut creme, and shaved egg yolk.   This sounds a little weird, but believe me, it was delicious! 

And that my friends ended our Ethnic Food tour of LA!  When visiting other cities we will definitely look into using this same tour group or something similar, they have locations all over.  Great way to see a city! 

Now for our private evening tour.  We said goodbye to our fellow Ethnic Food Tour family, and off the two of us and our guide went to Hollywood.  This time we took the subway, first time for doing that in LA.  The subway in LA is not well regarded because generally it doesn't take you places you want to go....but in this case, it did.  

We started out at the iconic corner of Hollywood and Vine, and got a view of the Capital Records Bldg (or the round building form all the movies as I called it).  Walked by the Pantages theater (Oscars 1949 thru 1959), and stopped in the Frolic room dive bar for some beverages. The Frolic room is famous for the Black Dahlia, and LA Confidential filming among lots of others. On our walk our guide pointed out the Pretty Woman apartment film location.

Inside the Frolic Room

Pretty woman apartment film site

We then went to Boardners Tavern which is a popular filming location, lots of Mafia history, and a speakeasy cover during Prohibition.....Had some more beverages and snacks.

Boardner's Tavern entrance, old Speakeasy entrance

When it was a Speakeasy, this was covered up with table for gambling.  Part of the Mafia hangout area as well. 

Next up: Musso and Franks historic restaurant walk by, Miceli's Italian (Italian ambiance, chianti, music), Egyptian Theater (Hollywood's oldest...AFI Step and Repeat) and went in the Pig N Whistle.

Outside Miceli's 

Inside Miceli's
During our trip the AFI was hosting an event at alot of the theaters, screening some movies (including Sandra Bullocks netflix movie Bird Box, we saw lots of her fans/stalkers waiting for her to come out....).  A red carpet was set up outside the Egyptian Theater, and we couldn't resist the photo-op. So we hopped the rope and.....

Egyptian Theater

Next up was the Snow White Cafe, yes that Snow White.  History is back when the movie was being written/animated, the staff would come to this cafe/bar to unwind.  They renamed it the Snow White cafe after the movie was released in honor of the staff and movie.  The original animators painted the artwork inside of it, all in Snow White Theme.  This is not on the normal tour, but the guide, through is getting to know us, realized quickly I like Disney things, so made sure to take us here.  Oh, and there is an old area speakeasy upstairs, to which Charlie Chaplin was a regular.

Our route ended at the iconic block of Hollywood with the Chinese Theater and El Capitan Theater across the street.  (The Sandra Bullock movie was being screened at the Chinese Theater).  Think Times Square but literally only one block.   I got more photos of this area in the daylight later in the week when we went to the El Capitan and saw Jimmy Kimmel Live!   

Chinese Theater (Sandra Bullock is inside)

All along the evening tour we were walking on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Got tons of pictures of famous peoples stars, and while not actively seeking it, found these, two of my favorites!! 

Full afternoon of good food, sites, and Hollywood movie history!  

Stay tuned for more on our trip - LA Lakers game, downtown food halls, Griffith Observatory and views, and all our good eats along the way!