Places to Visit »Hollywood Wax Museum

6767 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

No one really goes to the Hollywood Wax Museum. But Jim and I are suckers for this kind of thing and the grimier the better. There are plenty of opportunities to ham it up with all your favorite celebrities like a frightening Jim Carrey, the Crypt Keeper, and a demented Will Farrell. The wax sculptors are not always generous to the famous people they’re creating – if I were Gwyneth or Toby Maguire I’d develop some serious issues after one visit (the former with the idea of inhuman all-body cellulite, the later with a completely dimwitted expression). If I remember correctly, it’s a bit expensive (as to be expected from a tourist trap) but so worth it to show our child photos of us hanging out with Austin Powers and Samuel L Jackson – he’ll think we are sooo cool.

There are lots, maybe too many, photos below/after the jump including an up shell shot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Posted on October 15, 2010

Places to Visit »Pharmacia Millionaire

301 S Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write up Pharmacia Millionaire with you guys. It was definitely one of the more unusual spots we visited in LA earlier this year. A treasure trove of magic candles, potions, elixirs and voodoo dolls, the crowded pharmacy sits across the street from the more traditional tourist spot, The Bradbury Building. We walked away with a candle for home cleansing, which once burned to the end offered some charms that we were instructed to put under our mattress. We skipped on the vagina candle and anything black magic related but might be back one day for the bat’s hearts if I can figure out a way to use them. Even if you have no plans to purchase, the iconography and design for the products are worth a peek in this surprisingly friendly shop.

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Posted on August 29, 2010

Places to Visit »Natural History Museum, LA

900 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA

It’s taken me awhile to get this entry together because I took so many photos at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, about 50 or so can be seen below/after the jump. Since a photo is worth a thousand words, I’ll keep it brief.

The museum, even though it may not rank as a must-see among locals (none have ever mention it to me), boasts the best of the museum world: A. animal dioramas; B. dinosaur bones; and C. a killer gem room (mmmm gem rooms….).

If you find yourself in the city on a rainy day – and every time I go I get at least one of those – this is a prefect distraction.

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Posted on April 18, 2010

Spend a Couple Minutes »The Bradbury Building

304 South Broadway

Famous for its ornamental iron work and iconic design, The Bradbury Building may not look like much on the outside, but it’s worth a stop if you’re for its stunning first floor (the only floor visitors are allowed on).

Featured in many films, it’s perhaps most famous as the setting for J.F. Sebastien’s apartment in Blade Runner.

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Posted on March 28, 2010

Places to Visit »Griffith Park Observatory

Los Angeles, CA

Last time I visited the Griffith Observatory (years ago) it was in the middle of major renovation. Now, along the throngs of tourists (the is a very popular spot to catch views of the city), you can venture back inside again. And while we missed a show in the planetarium, we did get to see Foucault’s Pendulum and lighting manufactured by Tesla’s coil.

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Posted on March 21, 2010

Restaurants »Mozza

6602 Melrose Avenue

At about ten to noon (on weekends) the line starts forming outside the Mario Batali pizzeria, Mozza; this is exactly where you should hope to find yourself if you haven’t booked ahead as all the reservable tables will be booked. Ideally it’s where you should find yourself with a small party since the limited stool seats offer an amazing up close and personal view of the pizza-making which runs like a well oiled machine from the dough forming, to the topping adding, to the baking and slicing.

The menu was extensive and we decided to split the famous squash blossom with tomatoes and burrata, the classic Margherita and the Stracchino which had artichokes, lemons and olives and was – by a slim margin in a tough contest – my favorite of the bunch.

Of course, I couldn’t resist starting off the pizza feast with the brussel sprouts. I just can’t get enough of those little greens lately, especially now that restaurants are frequently serving them in so many delicious ways (locally, try Anella’s lemony delights). At Mozza they’re coated in prosciutto breadcrumbs… yum!

We also managed, due to the surprising lightness of the dough (or just because we’re gluttons), to enjoy a dessert of butterscotch pudding with salt and a pinenut cookie. Batali has done good again, this time in sunny California.

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Posted on March 14, 2010

Drinks »LaMill Coffee

1636 Silver Lake Boulevard, Los Angeles

Tasty lattes live inside LaMill, the most beautiful of Silver Lake cafes. Featuring calming French toile murals and golden chandeliers, its a perfect and popular spot to relax with some caffeine and friends. The menu is almost pretentiously long and complex, which is great if you’re a coffee snob who prefers to choose your extraction method and from a massive list of beans, but you can also order simply.

Don’t pass up the donut holes that come warm and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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Posted on March 14, 2010

Spend a Couple Minutes »Ivanhoe Books

1618 Silverlake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Right next door to the La Mill Coffee shop is Ivanhoe Books, an art and design specialty store filled with tons of great stuff. We had a lovely time browsing the collection of design, fashion, and art books and, while we were hesitant to bring any over-sized books back in our luggage, the shop introduced me to a book called Handmade Woodstock Houses that I couldn’t get out of my head and ended up finding on eBay.

While some of the books they offer can be purchased for slightly less online if you’re willing to shop around for awhile, others (like the Ossie Clark book that I really want) are priced better than other book sites. You can find some selections from their very select and tasteful collection on their site as well as on their blog which just informed me of a Soho Deborah Tubeville exhibit that I’ll try to swing by on my lunch hour next week.

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Posted on March 14, 2010

Restaurants »Loteria

6627 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA

Amazing Mexican food is suppose to be a dime a dozen in the city of angels, but Loteria Grill, so far, is the most memorable I’ve had. With an appropriate loteria card design motif (Loteria, if your curious as I was is played much like bingo but in a far prettier package), dim flattering lighting, and a menu that makes one drool just to read it, the fairly recently opened restaurant is a pleasant spot in a neighborhood that boasts restaurants of the cheesier kind. Beginning as a beloved counter top at the Farmer’s Market, owner Jimmy Shaw’s now burgeoning empire includes the Hollywood location we ate at as well as a newer Studio City branch.

The meal began with a crazily addictive salsa which I would have loved to bring home a tub of, and progressed with incredible tacos, Jim and I ordered Papa con Rajas (Potatoes with Roasted Poblano Peppers Served with Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro, Queso Fresco, and Salsa Verde), Nopalitos (Fresh Cactus Salad. Served with Salsa Verde and Queso Fresco), Pollo en Pipian Rojo (Chicken in a Spicy Pumpkin-Seed and Peanut Sauce Served with Finely Chopped Onion), and Carne deshebrada (Shredded Beef Served with Fresh Guacamole, Salsa Chipotle, and Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro). All were exceptional, the last one was insane. I’ve heard they offer great margaritas but with jet lag and an early flight, I opted for a tasty aguas frescas.

We went late on a quite weeknight and had no problems getting a table, but it’s normally wise to book a table.

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Posted on March 7, 2010

Books »LA Bizarro!

by Anthony Lovett and Matt Maranian

Shaun let us borrow his copy of LA Bizarro for our recent action-packed trip to LA (of which you’ll be hearing about over the next few weeks here) and it certainly made for a more interesting adventure; as you’ll discover after a quick flip through the pages, it’s no G-rated family vacation guide.

One entire section is devoted to all things porn and another to locations where horrific crimes took place. Laura, who was reading it in the back seat, punctuated our drive with exclamations of horror induced by the unnecessary and constant references to glory holes.

But beyond the beyond the pale, there’s a lot in these pages worth checking out from magic spell components to sailor-themed bars, and enough recommendations that I still have many saved up for my next trip.

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Restaurants »Umami Burger

4655 Hollywood Blvd

It was a couple days into my LA trip before I had a truly notable meal. After a long and impossible wait among underage drinkers at Alegria, we left in defeat and moseyed on over to Umami Burger, the home of burgers with a unique flavor that’s a little hard to describe but wildly yummy and memorable. Not surprisingly, I’ve learned that flavor is called “umami”.

Umami is the fifth basic taste that was discovered by the premiere chef in France of the late 1800’s Auguste Escoffier. Here is an NPR story all about it.

But back to the burger joint in Los Feliz: it’s delicious. My Socal was perfect with its lettuce, oven dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, “spread” and cheese and my tempura onion rings were crispy and addictive. The meal was filling and the spot boasts an excellent beer menu and a heated outdoor dining area. The only problem? the hostess was a complete eye-rolling witch. Really weird and uncalled for, right? Good thing there was great food to make up for it.

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Drinks »Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

5702 York Blvd, Los Angeles

In a town rife with nondescript strip malls, Galco’s Soda Pop Stop is amongst the most nondescript and strip mally. Its bare bones appearance would never necessarily compel a visitor or local to stop by unless they had inside knowledge that this place is completely awesome (I owe this insight to my friend Shaun and this week’s book pick, LA Bizarro). The soda pop super store has been family owned and operated for over a hundred years: a wild achievement in our world of chain super-stores.

Inside you can find almost every kind of soda pop known to man. Jim guzzled a molasses Root Beer from Rhode Island while Laura and I found bliss in a cucumber soda that the owner told us would change our lives. Not surprisingly, the beer selection is also impressive and they boast quite an array of olde timey candies. Jim dared the Idaho Spud (a coconut and chocolate covered grayish marshmallow that tastes better than I just described it). I was thrilled by a plastic-wrapped tube of just the innards of my beloved Butterfinger as well as the famed (at least in my home) Cup of Gold, a coconut/chocolate cup filled with gooey marshmallow creme: the one thing my mom craved while pregnant with me.

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Spend a Couple Hours »Jon Brion at The Largo

366 N La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Our good friend Matthew  made sure that one LA experience we had was a Jon Brion show, so I felt absolutely horrible when Jim, Laura and I began dozing off early in the performance!! In our defense: we were totally jet lagged, it was warm and dark, and Brion was playing soft, Aimee Mannish piano tinkles that could easily be released on a collection of lullabies.

But things got wildly entertaining and even the most tired of us perked up when Brion began a mind-bending and mind-blowing cover of Tomorrow Never Knows complete with a Maria Callas video loop, his own looped drumming and guitar, and video of a great looking George Harrison. The rest of the evening consisted of more audience-requested covers (though none of mine took: Sex in the Kitchen, Pony, Thunder Road…) including a xylophone and audience participation version of Don’t Stop Believing, a trippy Wish You Were Here and a straight forward acoustic rendition Gigantic. It was invigorating and amazing to watch: every element of the songs he performs is created right in front of you. He’ll start on the piano, then drums, loop them then add guitar, loop that, they play around with video and voice… it’s totally amazing.

I had no idea what I was in for: admittedly a dunce when it comes to the modern soundtrack scene of Paul Thomas Anderson, I figured Brion was a comedian or something, but in fact he’s the highly respected genius behind not only the (PT) Anderson soundtracks, but the production of Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, Elliott Smith, Kanye West, and Fiona Apple records!

At the new Largo location, the show seems to be almost monthly and sells out quickly; be sure to arrive on the early side to get pick up your tickets if you desire up close seats.

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Places to Visit »The Museum of Jurassic Technology

9341 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is by far the strangest museum I’ve ever been to and was the top thing on my to-do list after missing out on it on my last visit to LA. It’s so unusual that I can’t really explain it to you but I can tell you that it’s got nothing to do with dinosaur machines. Dark and winding, the quiet two floor space contains everything from Hagop Sandaldjian‘s Goofy sculpture the size of a needle head to a collection of Decaying Dice from Ricky Jay.

My favorite section may have been the one about various old wives tales and superstitions complete with dioramas of mice on toast, children’s hand growing hair and a man kissing a goose. I was also pretty taken with Athanasius Kircher‘s confounding but beautiful creations and where else can you walk into a velvet room and be confronted with large oil portraits of Soviet Space Dogs. There are trailer park models, more art that needs to be viewed through a microscope (the pretty but pretty insane work of Henry Dalton) and a myriad of other things that I could barely even wrap my head around. It was tough to get too many photos with the low light, but there’s enough below/after the jump to intrigue you to make your own visit.

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Posted on February 28, 2010