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https://travelswithmaitaitom.com The Global Adventures of MaiTai Tom and Tracy Mon, 24 Jun 2019 18:28:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Bob’s Big Boy – Burbank (Toluca Lake), CA https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/bobs-big-boy-burbank-toluca-lake-ca/ Mon, 24 Jun 2019 18:28:58 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34809 Iconic & Nostalgic Burger! Bob’s Big Boy – Burbank (Toluca Lake), CA When I was growing up, the favorite words I heard from my dad on a Sunday afternoon were, “Let’s go to Bob’s Big Boy.” From the scrumptious double-decker burgers to the carhops to my Big Boy comics, there was no restaurant I wanted to go to more than Bob’s. Sadly, the Pasadena Bob’s exists no more, but fortunately there is still one in nearby Burbank, California. This year it celebrates its 70th anniversary.  Recently, I returned to revisit an important piece of my childhood.  Oh, who am I kidding … I was craving a delicious hamburger. Tracy and I joined friends Rob and Donna for hamburgers, fries, onion … Read more...

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Iconic & Nostalgic Burger!

Bob’s Big Boy – Burbank (Toluca Lake), CA

When I was growing up, the favorite words I heard from my dad on a Sunday afternoon were, “Let’s go to Bob’s Big Boy.” From the scrumptious double-decker burgers to the carhops to my Big Boy comics, there was no restaurant I wanted to go to more than Bob’s.

Sadly, the Pasadena Bob’s exists no more, but fortunately there is still one in nearby Burbank, California. This year it celebrates its 70th anniversary.  Recently, I returned to revisit an important piece of my childhood.  Oh, who am I kidding … I was craving a delicious hamburger.

Tracy and I joined friends Rob and Donna for hamburgers, fries, onion rings and even a dinner salad for breakfast (best to get those calories out of the way early in the day!).   Oh, and don’t forget the Hot Fudge Cake for the table.  More on that later.

Out front stands the iconic statue of Big Boy holding that delicious burger in one hand.  As I would find out shortly, Bob’s still delivers my favorite hamburger on earth. The 70-foot tall neon sign makes it a hard place to miss.

Located at 4211 Riverside Drive in Burbank, this Bob’s Big Boy was built in 1949 making it the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy in the United States.  The restaurant was designated a California Point of Historical Interest in 1993 by the state of California. It was designed by famed Los Angeles architect Wayne McAllister, and built in 1949 by local residents Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert. McAllister also designed the original Lawry’s restaurant on La Cienega, Burbank’s famed Smoke House and also the original Sands and Desert Inn hotels in Las Vegas.

                      

McAllister’s style of architecture was called Googie, “a form of futurist architecture that was a subdivision of futurist architecture influenced by the Space and Atomic Ages.”  I googled ‘Googie” and found out that this type of architecture “originated in Southern California in the late 1930s and was very popular from the late 1940s until the mid-1960s.”   Speaking of Vegas, the famed “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is an example of Googie architecture (photo from wikipedia).

Bob’s history dates back to 1936. After selling his DeSoto roadster for a reported 350 bucks, Bob Wian started a 10-stool hamburger stand in Glendale. It was initially called Bob’s Pantry.  In 1937, at the request of one of his customers (a member of Chuck Foster’s Big Band) who wanted “something different for a change,” the Bob’s Big Boy Double-Decker hamburger was born.

According to Bob’s website, “Customers couldn’t get enough of Bob’s new creation. One fan, in particular, was a chubby six-year-old boy in droopy overalls. He would often help Bob sweep up in exchange for a free burger.” According to the website, “One day Bob forgot his name and called out ‘Hey, Big Boy.’ Something clicked, and a name was born: Bob’s Big Boy.”  Another regular customer, a movie studio animator Ben Washam, who was an animator for Looney Tunes, sketched the now famous character on a napkin. (photo from Bob’s website)

One year later in 1938, Bob’s Big Boy became the official name, and that 10-stool hamburger stand had been transformed into a drive-in restaurant. By the 1950s, there were Bob’s Big Boy franchises dotting the landscape all around Southern California (only five remain). At one time there were franchises in numerous states, as well.

During my formative years, Bob’s was THE place to go late on a Sunday afternoon with my parents, sitting in the car as carhops served our food. “Big Boy … light on the relish …. fries and a thin strawberry shake, please!”  Why “thin?”  Bob’s marketed their milkshake as “so thick you can eat them with a spoon,” but I liked them more when I could drink them.  For awhile, I was addicted to Bob’s strawberry shakes. All my friends went for the thick shakes … and loved them.  I would have had one on my recent visit, but I am only allotted 25,000 calories per day.

Going to Bob’s Big Boy as a kid was always cool, and, oh how I loved those Big Boy hamburgers!  You couldn’t leave without picking up a Bob’s comic book featuring stories about their mascot (photo below from internet shows what the comic book looked like).

At their Burbank location, there are no longer comic books, but you can purchase some Big Boy paraphernalia …

… including some vintage Big Boy t-shirts, hats and mugs. They also have cartoon placemats for kids to color.

  

Some of the more famous customers at this Riverside Drive location included Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, and numerous others, including four lads from Liverpool.

During their 1965 Summer Tour, reportedly The Beatles were looking for a ”real American diner” when visiting Los Angeles. They stopped here, and there is a booth with a plaque that commemorates that moment. (“The table is the last booth on the right, where the end of the windows facing Riverside Drive stop. A plaque at the booth describes the event. The plaque has been stolen many times by fans .. and has been replaced each time.”)

Many people request the booth, and since we arrived early for breakfast (yes, hamburgers for breakfast, baby), the booth was available, and that’s where we sat. I assumed that’s why Tracy said, “I want to hold you hand.” After we finished our hamburgers I exclaimed, “I could eat here eight days a week, but it might be hard to carry that weight.”

                  

Tracy ordered an order of onion rings and said they were among the best she has tasted.  Rob helped her finish the large plate of delectable rings.

We also ordered a mountain of Hot Fudge Cake that Bob’s is offering for 70 cents (one per table) during a limited time to celebrate its anniversary.  By the way, one per table is plenty … and it’s plenty scrumptious.

In high school, after I received my drivers license, Bob’s was my #1 spot to go to for lunch or dinner. And I wasn’t alone. From a 2003 L.A. Times article, “Bob’s was more than a mere restaurant. In the age of rock ‘n’ roll and hotrods, it was a teenage play land, the hottest place to be after a high school football game.” The carhops are gone, but on Friday nights from 4 – 10 p.m. you can still catch an array of cool automobiles at Bob’s Classic Car Show in Burbank. (photo from Roadside America)

Some people even want to pose with Big Boy.  I mean, who would want to do that?

You can no longer get their famed double-decker burger, fries and a shake for 60 cents like you could in 1938, but you can still get a “Big Boy Combo” (double-deck burger, fries and a dinner salad) for $11.49.  Throw in that milkshake (thick or thin) for $5.49 and you have a heavenly meal.  Bob’s serves those famed burgers all day long, along with a host of other great dishes, including their famed “Pappy Parker’s Fried Chicken.”

There might be better hamburgers out there (“might” being the key word), but the Bob’s Big Boy double-decker will always remain my nostalgic favorite for as long as I live.

Bob’s Big Boy
4211 W Riverside Dr.
Burbank, CA 91505
818.843.9334
Open 24 Hours
https://bobs.net/

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Golden Gate Park – San Francisco https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/golden-gate-park-san-francisco/ Wed, 19 Jun 2019 17:17:11 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34707 Three Countries In Three Hours Golden Gate Park – San Francisco While visiting San Francisco, my buddy Kim said, “How’d you like to visit three countries in the next few hours?” Not having brought my passport, I didn’t think it would be possible, but Kim told me not to worry.  “We can do this without even leaving Golden Gate Park,” he quipped. Scoring a fantastic parking space on JFK Drive near the DeYoung Museum, Kim and I (along with Mary and Tracy) started our journey toward our first country.  Along the way, we viewed what looked like a large spider. As the fog and clouds scuffled with blue skies, we caught a glimpse of Sutro Tower (well, part of it … Read more...

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Three Countries In Three Hours

Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

While visiting San Francisco, my buddy Kim said, “How’d you like to visit three countries in the next few hours?” Not having brought my passport, I didn’t think it would be possible, but Kim told me not to worry.  “We can do this without even leaving Golden Gate Park,” he quipped.

Scoring a fantastic parking space on JFK Drive near the DeYoung Museum, Kim and I (along with Mary and Tracy) started our journey toward our first country.  Along the way, we viewed what looked like a large spider.

As the fog and clouds scuffled with blue skies, we caught a glimpse of Sutro Tower (well, part of it anyway).  Sutro Tower was constructed in 1973 in an effort to help Bay Area residents receive better television reception. At first, it was considered to be an eyesore by many, but is now recognized as a Bay Area icon, although not as beloved as Steph Curry.

     

In a tilting-at-windmills moment, we happened upon the Miguel Cervantes Memorial. It was presented to the city of San Francisco in 1916, and it depicts Sancho Panza and Don Quixote gazing up at Cervantes.

                                       

I loved these colorful plants, but were told by the group they can be quite invasive.

There was a Monet exhibit going on at the DeYoung, which explains the mural painted on the exterior. It made quite an impression, as did this bee buzzing in the nearby flowers.

        

The next statue had me “hooked” at first glance.  Peter Coffin’s “Pirate” is a compilation of Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Captain Hook from Peter Pan.  Like something out of Noah’s Ark, this pirate has two parrots, two pegged legs, two hooks and two eye patches. I could just hear him say, “It’s only a flesh wound. Come back here you chicken!”

French winemaking was toasted by the bronze Poème de la vigne (Poem of the Wine), created by Gustave Doré, which was exhibited at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair.  There are plenty of figures associated with the Roman God of Wine Bacchus in this 11-foot high vase. It’s been here since 1894.

It was time to enter our first country (not counting the United States). Stepping through the Main Entry Gate into a wonderland of magical scenery, we were inside the Japanese Tea Garden.  Being a tea garden, I figured it had to be steeped in history.

                    

The Japanese Tea Garden was originally conceived as a Japanese Village exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, where the first fortune cookies were served (more on that later). According to the website, “When the fair closed, Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Mr. Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity.  He became caretaker of the property, pouring all of his personal wealth, passion, and creative talents into creating a garden of utmost perfection.”

Between 1895 and 1942, Hagiwara (who passed away in 1925) and his family “resided, cared for, and furthered the development of the Japanese Tea Garden.”  In 1942, the Federal Government evicted them from their home and transported the family to an internment camp along with other Japanese-Americans.  Due to anti-Japanese sentiment, the garden was renamed “The Oriental Tea Garden.”

After the Hagiwara family were relocated, the garden fell into disrepair.  From the GGP website: “During wartime, many of the beautiful arrangements were destroyed or removed, sculptures vanished, and many plants succumbed from lack of care.”

Sanity returned in 1952, when the garden was renamed the Japanese Tea Garden. A plaque was installed here in 1974 for the Hagiwara family’s accomplishments.

The five-acre Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park is the oldest Japanese garden in the United States.  As we meandered about, we passed by one of the numerous stone lanterns that dot the landscape.

Kim and Tracy were quite fond of the purple iris in the pond.

           

This guy spent a lot of time trying to rub his back.  He was almost a fish out of water at times.

Everywhere we turned, there were enchanting trees, and even a lovely wisteria still blooming.

                                                                  

We approached a large bridge that Tracy said I should attempt to scale. Obviously, she has a larger life insurance policy on me than I surmised.

                       

The Drum Bridge was also designed and built for 1894’s World’s Fair (shipped from Japan) and afterward was donated to the city of San Francisco. Mary braved certain death and made it to the top.

The word that best describes the Japanese Garden is “tranquil.”

         

Ponds, pagodas, pines, wooden bridges and stone structures mingled perfectly with the flora, fish and birds.

           

Everyone seemed to be at peace here.

Speaking of “peace,” in 1953, thanks to the contributions of Japanese school children, a 9,000 pound bronze lantern was purchased and offered as a symbol of friendship to the United States.

                               

We were offered a Jon Stewart “Moment of Zen” in the Zen Garden.

      

You can easily lose yourself (and where you are) as you admire the plethora of different trees …

                                 

… that adorn the gardens.

Taking a look at the Sunken Garden, I was reminded of the fact that at one time the Hagiwara family had a 17-room home near this vicinity vicinity, where they resided for 48 years until they were sent to the concentration camp.  It was said that “many Hagiwara family treasures were removed or destroyed.”  The Sunken garden can be best seen from the Tea House terrace.

                                            

During the period from 1942 to 1949, Mr. Hagiwara’s Shinto Shrine was removed, and a Buddhist Pagoda was relocated to the spot. It was created in 1915 for the Pan-Pacific Exhibition.

It’s a spot where many people stopped to have their photos taken.  We were no exception.

                                            

The ornate Japanese Temple Gate is also located nearby.

        

We stopped to take a look at the large bronze Buddha, presented to the garden in 1949 from the S&G Gump Company.  It’s located near the eastern end of the Long Bridge and was cast in Japan in 1970.

       

If you’re in a tea garden, you might as well sample some tea.  We stopped at the Tea House, which was refurbished in 2011. It was here that I looked at the map and tried to scope out the rest of the journey. Kim just about fell asleep as I plotted out our next move, while Mary has that look of “are you ever going to finish?”

               

The Japanese Tea Garden is where the first fortune cookies were served in the United States during the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Baron Hagiwara first started serving them with green tea here at the Tea House.  According to author Jennifer 8 . Lee (yes, that’s her name) in her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures In the World of Chinese Food, “the history of fortune cookies in America goes back to L.A. and San Francisco.  But as a concept, they go back to Japan.”  She adds this tidbit about fortune cookies, “I like to say that the Japanese invented them, the Chinese popularized them, but the Americans ultimately consume them.”  Interestingly, the fortune cookies at the Japanese Tea Garden now come from Mee Mee Bakery located in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s a small world.

We took one more glance out at the lush gardens, and it was time to move on to our next country.

                       

Coincidentally, we were headed for China, or more succinctly, the Chinese Pavilion. After momentarily becoming lost, a hungry squirrel took time out from his nut consumption and pointed us in the correct direction.

         

Along the way, we were greeted by a couple of turtles and an inquisitive bird. I asked the bird his name, and he responded, “You can call me Jay.”  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

               

We also took a gander at some geese who were out for a family stroll.

  

Tracy then exclaimed, “Wow, check out that tree!” Looking up into the tree on an island in the lake we saw a bunch of nests full of Blue Heron.

Sitting on a bench with a telescope was a woman who knew her herons. She informed us that, “There are seven nests this year, and the chicks are seven weeks old and about four feet tall.”  Tracy inquired about when and how they learn to fly and she responded that, “They start flying at ten weeks, after learning to fly by jumping from limb to limb.”   She pointed out one nest that held four chicks, so the nests must be pretty large.  It was fascinating to watch.

As it turned out, the woman who was disseminating all this information was Nancy DeStefanis, the so-called “Heron Lady,” who has been doing this since 1993. If you ask her politely, she might even go into her rendition of, “My Blue Heron.” (No, I’m not kidding.)

This is a beautiful area of the park (well, I guess most everything is beautiful at Golden Gate Park).

   

We could see the Chinese Pavilion in the distance as we gazed across Stow Lake, the largest of the park’s 10 lakes. Had we known a ghost might be around, we might have been more cautious. According to legend, a baby drowned in Stow Lake near the beginning of the 20th century. His mom tried to save him, and she perished as well. Some say she roams the banks at night and occasionally asks visitors, “Have you seen my baby?”  Luckily, we were there during the day.

          

 

The Chinese Pavilion was a gift to San Francisco from its sister city Tapei, Taiwan, in 1981.

          

The bridge was quite photogenic, as well.

              

We took some stairs to get a close-up of Huntington Falls, a man-made falls that cascade down to Stow Lake.

According to the GGP website, (John) McLaren became inspired to include waterfalls in Golden Gate Park during a hike in the Sierras with naturalist John Muir.”

                                  

After I climbed back down to the path, I realized I was alone. Our intrepid threesome had decided to climb further up Strawberry Hill (almost as many thrills as Blueberry Hill), so they took a photo of me and and then abandoned me.

           

Their rewards were more beautiful flowers.

               

I met them back at the Stone Bridge, where I took a photo of a couple enjoying a leisurely cruise.

Passing geese and some rhododendron, we headed back to the car.

    

The Spreckels Temple of Music was completed in 1900. Everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to The Grateful Dead have performed here.

A 19th-century statue of a Roman gladiator looks out at the California Academy of Sciences.  All the while, the Sutro Tower was still trying to break through the clouds.

       

There were a few more statues to visit along the way, like The Apple Cider Press from 1892. This statue was originally a drinking fountain, and some say that cider flowed out of it instead of water. It was created by American Thomas Shields Clarke. Clarke studied in Paris and received a medal of honor in Madrid for this sculpture.

The bronze statue of Padre Junípero Serra was dedicated in 2007, and was the work of Douglas Tilden, whose works can be seen throughout Golden Gate Park, although none of Padre Manny Machado could be found.

                

Soon a statue stood in front of me, and I admit I’d never heard of this gentleman. From the Art&Architecture website I found out, “Thomas Starr King was an American and Unitarian minister, influential in California politics during the American Civil War. Starr King spoke zealously in favor of the Union, and was credited by Abraham Lincoln with preventing California becoming a separate republic. He wrote a book about Yosemite National Park, where there is a peak named after him. He died of diphtheria in San Francisco March 4, 1864.”
The pedestal is made of pink Missouri granite.

As we made it back to the car, I said to Kim, “I thought we were visiting three countries.” Kim answered, “Hang in there, soon we’ll be in the Netherlands.”

It was a relatively short drive to the Netherlands, and there in front of us was a giant windmill. Of course, after hearing renowned scientist Donald Trump’s recent speech on the dangers of wind power, I thought for sure I’d catch my death of cancer from the deadly windmill, but we pressed on.

Sadly we had just missed by about a week a dazzling array of tulips at the Queen Wilhelmina Garden …

        

… but there stood the North Dutch Windmill (built in 1902) that at one time (along with the Murphy Windmill) “pumped 1.5 million gallons of water daily for irrigation use to a reservoir now known as Stow Lake.”

We still had one more windmill to see, so we hopped in the car and drove to the recently restored Murphy Windmill. Constructed in 1905, the Murphy Windmill was, at one time, the largest in the world.  Some contend it still is today

Fun Fact: According to Atlas Obscura, “In 1921, the daredevil Velma Tilden climbed aboard the mighty sails and held on for 25 full rotations for a prize of $25 worth of chocolates.”

That concluded our morning and afternoon at Golden Gate Park.

We had only touched a small piece of the 1,017 acre park, which incorporates 680 acres of forests, 130 acres of meadows, 15 miles of drives and 33 acres of lakes. By the time 2020 rolls around and Golden Gate Park celebrates its 150th anniversary, I hope we will be able to explore even more of this spectacular space.

Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Japanese Tea Garden
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Phone: 415.752.1171
Admission: Monday, Wednesday, Friday free before 10:00 am
Adult: $6.00 (Residents), $9.00 (Non-Residents)
Senior (65+) and Youth (12-17) • $4.00 (Residents) • $6.00 (Non-Residents)


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Mr. C’s Grilled Flank Steak with Chile, Cinnamon and Cumin Marinade https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/mr-cs-grilled-flank-steak-with-chile-cinnamon-and-cumin-marinade/ Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:25:40 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34672 Marvelous Meat Marinade! Mr. C’s Grilled Flank Steak with Chile, Cinnamon and Cumin Marinade Main Just in time for grilling season … Summer weather in Southern California came late this year (yay, for May Gray!), so we only recently fired up our gas barbecue.  Speaking of fire, there was one small problem … when Tom turned on the barbecue there was an explosion, and flames shot out from underneath the grill where the propane tank is located!  We ran away (well, I ran, while Tom inexplicably stayed close to the barbecue), and I dialed 9-1-1 fearing it was going to explode. The firemen arrived, quickly extinguished the fire and inspected our barbecue for the cause (pan drippings fell onto the … Read more...

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Marvelous Meat Marinade!

Mr. C’s Grilled Flank Steak with Chile, Cinnamon and Cumin Marinade

Main

Just in time for grilling season …

Summer weather in Southern California came late this year (yay, for May Gray!), so we only recently fired up our gas barbecue.  Speaking of fire, there was one small problem … when Tom turned on the barbecue there was an explosion, and flames shot out from underneath the grill where the propane tank is located!  We ran away (well, I ran, while Tom inexplicably stayed close to the barbecue), and I dialed 9-1-1 fearing it was going to explode.

The firemen arrived, quickly extinguished the fire and inspected our barbecue for the cause (pan drippings fell onto the propane tank catching fire, causing the plastic cap on the propane tank to ignite).  Fortunately, it was safe to use again, which is great since a Weber Genesis is not an inexpensive barbecue AND it was Tom’s retirement gift to himself.  Before departing, the firemen did recommend that we clean the barbecue more frequently … looking at you grill-master Tom!

Here is another terrific recipe from my step-father, Mr. C.  While he always used this marinade on flank steak, it’s also great on Tri-Tip or chicken.

Two tips for this recipe … the first is to heat the spices until just fragrant, which opens the aromas of the spices.  Don’t skip this step, it really enhances the flavors.

The other is to slice the meat across the grain as thin as you can (about a 1/4 inch or so).

We served this steak with a Watermelon, Arugula, Mint & Feta Summer Salad (recipe coming soon) and a Grilled Street Corn on the Cob, which Tom learned about at a recent cooking event he attended. This is summer grilling at its best!

Ingredients:

1 t. ground cinnamon
4 t. cumin
2 t. chili powder or cayenne pepper
3 limes (one zested and three squeezed to make ¼ c. fresh squeezed lime juice)
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
¼ c. good quality olive oil
2 T. molasses
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. Herbs de Provence (dried oregano or Italian seasonings will work too)
1 t. Kosher salt

1 ½ – 2 lbs. flank steak
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (green and pale green parts only)

Directions:

In a small skillet, whisk the cinnamon, cumin and chili powder together over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until just fragrant, about 25-30 seconds.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk the cooled spices, lime zest, ¼ cup lime juice and remaining ingredients together (except the steak and green onions).

Place the steak in a large ziplock bag.  Add the marinade and turn to coat completely.  Press out the air and seal tightly.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or better yet, overnight, turning occasionally.

Bring meat to room temperature before grilling.  Heat the grill to medium-high (400-450°F). Grill over direct heat with the lid closed, turning once to sear. Grill to desired temperature (8-10 minutes for medium-rare).

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for ten minutes.

Thinly slice across the grain and transfer to a serving platter.  Garnish with the thinly sliced green onions.

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Celebrating National Pollinator Month https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/celebrating-national-pollinator-month/ Fri, 07 Jun 2019 14:35:26 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34622 The Birds and The Bees and The Caterpillars … Celebrating National Pollinator Month June is National Pollinator Month (June 17-23 is Pollinator Week 2019), so I thought I would share some photos from our garden, as well as a little background on why I love to garden.                   When Tom and I were first married, we had a small yard that I thought was well stocked with flowers, but I was mortified to learn it was “flower light” after we found a baby hummingbird lying in the driveway. We carefully picked him up and immediately called Hummingbird Rescue.  The rescue lady drove over in a van full of baby hummingbirds in cages.  Apparently … Read more...

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The Birds and The Bees and The Caterpillars …

Celebrating National Pollinator Month

June is National Pollinator Month (June 17-23 is Pollinator Week 2019), so I thought I would share some photos from our garden, as well as a little background on why I love to garden.

                 

When Tom and I were first married, we had a small yard that I thought was well stocked with flowers, but I was mortified to learn it was “flower light” after we found a baby hummingbird lying in the driveway.

We carefully picked him up and immediately called Hummingbird Rescue.  The rescue lady drove over in a van full of baby hummingbirds in cages.  Apparently they have to be fed almost continuously when they are young, and the rescuer did not want to take the chance of being gone too long and not being able to feed the babies.  She located the nest, which had another baby in it and put the fallen bird back in.  The mother arrived and immediately knocked him out of the nest!

Next, she wired a small nest adjacent to the existing nest, but the momma bird would have nothing to do with the twin.  The rescuer surmised that I did not have enough flowers in my garden for the momma bird to sustain two babies!  She took “our” baby bird home with her to be fed and cared for, and then released it when it was ready to be on its own.

Long story short (well, sort of), I now rarely plant something that does not support a bird, pollinator or insect.  When we originally landscaped our bigger garden at our newly purchased home years ago, we decided upon an English garden (and English roses), which started my passion for roses that has now grown to (gulp) 76 bushes!

       
The last few years of drought have been tough on the garden and rose bushes, but I refused to throw in the trowel and plant cactus.  I have, however, added many natives and other drought tolerant plants from similar climates as long as they can support a pollinator or bird.

                       

To save water, I keep a bucket in the shower to catch the water while it is heating up, and Tom has the partially torn rotator cuff from lifting the bucket to prove it!  That, plus a rain barrel and other measures, and we were able to reduce our water usage and still have a decent looking garden.

With all the rain this year, my garden is lush and the roses prolific.

             

We have hosted two weddings over the years …

… but with no weddings on the horizon …

                                       

I have been making bouquets like crazy.

                                                           

I even tried rose-scented linen spray.

This year I converted my vegetable trough to a “Nectar Bar” planting Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Brazilian Verbena, Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) and Milkweed (Asclepias).

The hummingbirds have already found it, and I was excited to see a couple of Monarch caterpillars in there as well.  (Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars only feed on milkweed plants –  so plant a couple dozen or so!)

      

Because of our dogs, and because I want to encourage the pollinators (and the beneficial insects!), I only use organic products in the garden.  Praying mantises and ladybugs should naturally help to keep pest populations in check.

            

I choose roses for their color and re-blooming properties rather than scent so not all of my roses are aromatic.  The David Austin English Roses are the most fragrant in the garden.  A favorite is the Evelyn rose named on behalf of Crabtree & Evelyn who use it in their rose products.  I also love the lemon scent of the Jubilee Celebration I planted this year; and the Pat Austin which has a strong tea scent and the added bonus of being a gorgeous copper/apricot color too.  Don’t you love the color of the Lady Emma Hamilton on the right?

       

As far as the non-English roses, Shelia’s Perfume (hybrid tea) and Gold Struck (grandiflora) are very fragrant.  My “current” favorite rose is Cabana, a yellow and deep pink striped hybrid tea.

                           

In case you’re wondering, I love, love, love Otto & Sons Rose Nursery in Fillmore (and, no, I don’t get a discount).

                  

This year I added five new bushes to the garden – Gold Struck (2), Polynesian Punch, Jubilee Celebration and Boscobel.  It is kind of a trek, but you can see hundreds of roses in bloom all at the same time to see which ones you want to purchase.

                         

It’s not only roses that flourish in the garden.

          

If you only want to look, visit the Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library which has 3,000 individual plants and more than 1,200 different cultivated varieties of roses, as well as 120 acres of planted gardens.  Also nearby, Descanso Gardens and the L.A. Arboretum are great places to enjoy your garden fix.

I hope this inspires you to get out there and plant a pollinator garden!

Need more info?  Here are a few ideas:

https://pollinator.org/pollinator-week

https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/

https://www.fws.gov/pollinators/

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Grace Cathedral – San Francisco https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/grace-cathedral-san-francisco/ Tue, 28 May 2019 16:15:23 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34537 Bay Area Treasure Grace Cathedral – San Francisco Visited: May 2019 During the April 2019 fire at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, I learned that San Francisco and Paris are Sister Cities, and that Grace Cathedral was constructed in Notre-Dame’s same French-Gothic style.  What I didn’t know was that a section of its interior is patterned after another famed and beloved Paris religious site, and there were also doors that would transport us back to Florence, Italy. The history of the Episcopalian Grace Cathedral dates back to the Gold Rush Days, when in 1849 Grace Chapel was built on Powell near Jackson.  In 1860, Grace Church was started at California and Stockton. It was consecrated in 1868 and destroyed by fire … Read more...

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Bay Area Treasure

Grace Cathedral – San Francisco

Visited: May 2019

During the April 2019 fire at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, I learned that San Francisco and Paris are Sister Cities, and that Grace Cathedral was constructed in Notre-Dame’s same French-Gothic style.  What I didn’t know was that a section of its interior is patterned after another famed and beloved Paris religious site, and there were also doors that would transport us back to Florence, Italy.

The history of the Episcopalian Grace Cathedral dates back to the Gold Rush Days, when in 1849 Grace Chapel was built on Powell near Jackson.  In 1860, Grace Church was started at California and Stockton. It was consecrated in 1868 and destroyed by fire in 1906 during the San Francisco Earthquake.

                           

The construction of the “new” cathedral commenced in 1927 on land donated by railroad baron and banker, Charles Crocker (their house had been located on this spot, but was destroyed in the fire after the earthquake), but it was not fully completed until 1964.

According to the Grace Cathedral website, “Grace Cathedral architect Lewis Hobart chose French Gothic. The cruciform plan, twin towers, central fleche and polygonal apse are all French in origin, with the cathedrals of Amiens, Paris (Notre Dame), Beauvais and Chartres being principal influences.” (Photo of Notre-Dame is from our 2006 Christmas visit to Paris.)

It was at Grace Cathedral where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon in front of 5,000 people. Other notables who have preached here include the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even Jane Goodall.

We had a little time before heading to dinner at the fabulous Roma Antica in the Marina District, so friends, Kim and Mary, along with Tracy and I decided to check out Grace Cathedral at the corner of California and Taylor Streets on Nob Hill. Since it is San Francisco, there was no street parking available, but we found a parking lot situated underneath the church where we parked and headed upstairs.  We were greeted with a glimpse of its stunning interior.

                                       

We checked out Benjamin Bufano’s statue of Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals, who seemed to be giving us a welcoming grin.

If you come in October for the “Blessing of the Animals,” there’s a good chance you’ll see dogs hanging out in the aisles and kitties being held by their owners. Our corgis’ barking would surely drown out the sermon.

           

Fun Fact: Originally from Italy, Bufano was a pacifist. After the United States entered World War I, Bufano accidentally cut off a portion of his right index finger. Not wanting to let that accident go to waste, Bufano “decided to mail the ‘trigger finger’ to President Woodrow Wilson as a protest against the war.” Subsequently, the legend grew (but not his finger) that he had intentionally severed it for this purpose.  Now that’s what I call, “Giving someone the finger!”  There are numerous Bufano sculptures located throughout “The City.”

Nearby St. Francis stands a large baptismal font.

On the floor is a 35-foot-wide labyrinth patterned after the 13th-century one at Chartres Cathedral in France. It’s said that walking the labyrinth will “calm the mind.” There is an app you can download to your phone that gives directions on how to walk the labyrinth (and also highlights many areas of the church). There is also a labyrinth situated outside the church.

The walls of Grace Cathedral are lined with a number of murals, many depicting scenes from events in San Francisco history. They are primarily the work of Polish-born John Henryk De Rosen, and Bolivian-born Antonio Sotomayor.
  A World War II war refugee from Poland, De Rosen emigrated to the U.S. in 1939. He created the “Founding of United Nations 1945,” which portrays people from various countries. The United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco in 1945.

                       

Antonio Sotomayor created the murals depicting the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires.

                 

Each mural in the cathedral is quite striking …

… and after a couple more …

              

… it was time to admire the stained glass windows.

                                                

There are “68 named windows by five artists,” some containing famous figures such as John Glenn (Photo courtesy of Grace Cathedral website.) …

… and Albert Einstein. Not being an Einstein myself, relativity speaking, I didn’t catch a photo of that one either.

The Rose Window is stunning, from inside and out. (photo on left courtesy of SFGate)

                                                    

Thankfully, Kim (aka “Mr. Ceiling Photo”) was able to crane his neck upward for this fantastic shot. I tried the same, but nearly had to call a chiropractor afterward.

The pulpit on the right is where many notables have spoken. Dr. King’s speech was made before a standing room only crowd. The downloaded app contains a portion of that sermon.

There is a tribute to Winston Churchill, which was a donation from the British Commonwealth Association in 1974. On the right is a copy of a cross made in Kent, England in the 8th century. Cut in stone from the walls of Christ Church Cathedral in Canterbury, it was dedicated in 1962 by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

             

The oldest section of the cathedral is the Chapel of Grace. To the left of the chapel you will see Mary Magdalene in her “brilliant red robe” holding an egg, which was dedicated in 1990 by Barbara Harris, the first female Episcopal bishop. The downloaded app tells you the story of Mary and the Roman emperor, and why that meeting is one of the reasons we dye eggs at Easter.

The Chapel of Grace was inspired by another iconic Paris attraction, Sainte-Chapelle.

Grace Cathedral contains three organs. The main organ was built in 1934. It’s one of the largest in the western United States. It contains 7,466 pipes, most of them hidden. Duke Ellington, Art Garfunkel and Al Stewart are among the many artists who have performed here.

                       

If you get a chance, take in one their organ concerts.  Fortunately for us, while we walked around, we were able to hear one of the organs in action. If the organs aren’t playing during your visit, you can hear them on the downloaded app.

 

                             

You also get a long-distance view of the Rose Window from here.

Interesting pieces were interspersed throughout our self-guided tour.

                            

The bust on the left is of William Ingraham Kip, the first Bishop of California, who was elected in 1856.

The Woman of Samaria was a 1963 gift.

This is simply called The Door.  We would see a replica of another famous Door (not Jim Morrison) shortly.  John De Rosen’s work could be seen again in the Chapel of the Nativity.

                                                  

Many works of art can be found throughout the cathedral. This rather bizarre piece is entitled Unearthed, a large bronze-cast uprooted tree stump. They went out on a limb to branch out and showcase it here.  I was stumped at the meaning.

We passed by the Aids Interfaith Memorial Chapel. According to the cathedral’s website, “The chapel was completed and dedicated in 2000. In 2017, a restoration of the chapel was undertaken and it was rededicated on World Aids Day, December 1, 2017.”  The bronze and white altarpiece is the showcase of the chapel (Photo courtesy of Grace Cathedral). The artist who created the altarpiece, Keith Haring, died of Aids two weeks after its completion. He was 31.

I did take a photo of the fabric panels of the Aids Quilt from just outside the chapel.

The below work is called The Brotherhood of Man, although United We Stand was not playing. In reality, it was commissioned to commemorate the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco on June 26, 1945.

                         

Walking outside we were in paradise, actually The Gates of Paradise, which we have seen in Florence, Italy. The bronze doors here are reproductions of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s 15th-century originals that were installed at the Baptistery of the Duomo. The panels depict Old Testament biblical tales, and each door weighs more than 2,500 pounds.

I walked down The Great Steps to get one last photo, and we were off to dinner.

There are also guided tours available, and on certain occasions the guided tour will take you up to the top where there is a great view of the City and a carillon with 44 bronze bells. (photo courtesy of SFGate).  The bells have been rung during many important historical events (and sadly has “marked the number of Golden Gate Bridge suicides”).

Grace Cathedral is the third largest Episcopal Cathedral in the nation after its sister cathedrals located in New York and Washington D.C.

It’s definitely a worthwhile place to stop while visiting San Francisco.

Grace Cathedral
1100 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: 415.749.6316
Hours: Most Days – 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (check website for service times)
Cost: Free
Tours: Download audio guide (free) • Guided Tours (check website for details – $25)
gracecathedral.org

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Roma Antica – San Francisco, CA https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/roma-antica-san-francisco-ca/ Tue, 21 May 2019 17:48:20 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34486 A Little Bite Of Rome in the City By The Bay Roma Antica – San Francisco, CA Visited: May 2019  •  Italian I’m always on the prowl for a great cacio e pepe, and recently I found one of the best I’ve ever tasted at a small restaurant located in San Francisco’s Marina District.  Roma Antica specializes in making authentic Roman recipes, which is no surprise since one of the owners hails from Rome. On a recent jaunt to Northern California, we dined in San Francisco with friends Kim and Mary.  Their daughter lives there and is a fount of excellent dining knowledge.                                           … Read more...

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A Little Bite Of Rome in the City By The Bay

Roma Antica San Francisco Cook Inside the Kitchen

Roma Antica – San Francisco, CA

Visited: May 2019  •  Italian

I’m always on the prowl for a great cacio e pepe, and recently I found one of the best I’ve ever tasted at a small restaurant located in San Francisco’s Marina District.  Roma Antica specializes in making authentic Roman recipes, which is no surprise since one of the owners hails from Rome.

Roma Antica San Francisco Exterior with Italian Sports Car

On a recent jaunt to Northern California, we dined in San Francisco with friends Kim and Mary.  Their daughter lives there and is a fount of excellent dining knowledge.

                                                       Roma Antica Sidewalk Menu

We arrived early on a Friday evening as no reservations are accepted and just beat the crowd at 5 p.m. (15 minutes later, it was jammed)

                           Roma Antica Interior

We were seated in the rear next to the small bar with a view of the super busy kitchen and pizza oven.

      Roma Antica Bar AreaRoma Antica Bar Seating Area

I had looked at Roma Antica’s menu before heading north as well as some reviews touting their cacio e pepe, so I knew one of the dishes I would be ordering on this evening.

Before dinner, we perused an interesting wine list featuring vintages from many of Italy’s wine regions. There were also French and California wines, but we gravitated toward Italia.  For the red selection, we chose a spectacular 2016 Ruvei Barbera d’Alba ($50) from the Piemonte region, where the four of us had visited in October 2018.

2016 Ruvei Barbera d’Alba

Mary and Tracy preferred a white vino choice, and after sampling, a couple of wines went with a 2017 Vermentino ($42) from Tuscany.  I had never heard of Vermentino before.  It was also quite tasty.

                                                              

Mary started with the Insalata della Casa; Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, croutons, fennel and balsamic vinaigrette ($8).  Kim ordered, you guessed it, an Insalata di Cesare ($9).

Insalata della Casa

Tracy also ordered to form an Insalata di Barbabietole: roasted beets with baby spinach, salted ricotta, and extra virgin olive oil ($10).

Insalata di Barbabietole
I was starving after a day wandering for miles through various cand exploring Grace Cathedral.

                                 Gardens at Golden State ParkGrace Cathedral San Francisco

Instead of salad, I thought I’d make it a two-pasta dinner. Whenever I do this, my dining companions shake their heads in caloric disbelief.  I started with the cacio e pepe; handmade tonnarelli with pecorino Romano and black pepper ($16).  It was cooked to absolute pasta perfection, a tad al dente with flavors bursting in my mouth on every bite.  It might be the best cacio e pepe dish I had ever eaten. Wow!!!

cacio e pepe at roma antica san francisco
For their main course, Tracy and Kim ordered Boscaiola; rigatoni, mushroom, onion, Italian sausage, cream or tomato sauce ($19). It was excellent.

Boscaiola rigatoni, mushroom, onion, Italian sausage, cream or tomato sauce

Mary went with the Sacchetti; pasta filled with Italian cheeses, fresh pear and gorgonzola sauce ($18), which garnered the restaurant another “Wow” for the evening.  This dish was delicious. (I begged Mary for a couple of bites, and she obliged.)  The pears paired perfectly with the pasta (say that three times), and it equaled the cacio e pepe in deliciousness.

Sacchetti; pasta filled with Italian cheeses, fresh pear and gorgonzola sauce
As a person who has rarely met a risotto I didn’t enjoy, I ordered the special Risotto of the Day; mortadella and mascarpone cream sauce ($23). It was a huge (and delectable) serving, and I almost finished it, but, alas, I fell just short.  It was probably for the best since my Expando Belt will not go above certain waist sizes.

Risotto of the Day; mortadella and mascarpone cream sauce

With as much as we ate, there was no room left for dessert, but not to worry, we will be returning in July and will not leave without trying a couple of their dolci.  Friends have told us that Roma Antica’s Porchetta; a slowly roasted, herb-stuffed whole pork cooked in a wood-fired oven is their favorite dish here.  Or perhaps I’ll try their Stracciatella, arugula, pesto & prosciutto di parma pizza.  Decisions … Decisions!        In mid-May, Roma Antica opened its sister restaurant in Larkspur.

Everything we tasted at Roma Antica was cooked to perfection, and the service impeccable.  Even with a 3% San Francisco surcharge tacked on, the price for this restaurant was quite reasonable.  Next time you’re in the “City By The Bay”

       

… be sure to make Roma Antica one of your choices and don’t miss the cacio e pepe.  Buon Appetito!

Mai Tai Tom Rating – 4.7 Mai Tais (out of five)

SAN FRANCISCO –
Roma Antica
3242 Scott Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 am – 10 pm • Friday/Saturday 11 am – 11 pm

LARKSPUR –
Roma Antica
286 Magnolia Avenue
Larkspur, CA 94939
Hours: Monday – Sunday: Noon – 10 p.m.

Parking (in San Francisco): Street (metered if you can find a space)
www.romasf.com

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Citrus Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Kumquat Infused Syrup https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/citrus-olive-oil-bundt-cake-with-kumquat-infused-syrup/ Tue, 14 May 2019 21:53:47 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34452 Sensational Citrus Cake Citrus Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Kumquat Infused Syrup Dolce I never know what to do with the kumquats our tiny tree produces.  This year it was particularly prolific, probably due to all the rain.  In the past, I have made Kumquat Infused Vodka, but this year I was pretty much just letting the corgis and squirrels eat the fruit, but then I chanced upon a recipe for Candied Cocktail Kumquats from chef Ben Mims in the LA Times.                                                    (I had to get those kumquats off the tree before the Corgis … looking slightly guilty … … Read more...

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Sensational Citrus Cake

Citrus Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Kumquat Infused Syrup

Dolce

I never know what to do with the kumquats our tiny tree produces.  This year it was particularly prolific, probably due to all the rain.  In the past, I have made Kumquat Infused Vodka, but this year I was pretty much just letting the corgis and squirrels eat the fruit, but then I chanced upon a recipe for Candied Cocktail Kumquats from chef Ben Mims in the LA Times.

                                                  

(I had to get those kumquats off the tree before the Corgis … looking slightly guilty … and our visiting squirrel … he eats well at our house … decided to make them part of their 5 A Day program.) 

                                   

The recipe is quick and easy.  Just cook the kumquats in sugar, water and Cointreau (or white wine vinegar for an alcohol free version) and “Wow!”  The concoction is great in vodka martinis or even eating the sweetened kumquats straight out of the jar.  If you have ever tasted a fresh kumquat they are just a tad (ok, a lot) tart.  (Truthfully, I don’t like them all that much alone, but the tree makes a cheerful, orange focal spot on the patio.) 

This recipe takes away (most) of the bite of the kumquat.  After tasting this I knew I had to pour that kumquat infused syrup over a cake …. Think of a citrus Baba au Rhum cake (yum!).  When in Paris we always try to order a Baba au Rhum for dessert, which is often served with a tray full of different rums to pour over your slice of cake. 

But then Tom reminded me of a fabulous Orange Cake we used to eat at a now closed restaurant called Girasole in Larchmont Village.  The owners were a husband and wife team from Vittorio Veneto in Italy.  The husband ran the front of the restaurant, while the wife was the chef.  The secret ingredient in the Girasole cake was orange marmalade.  I did not have any orange marmalade, but I did have a jar of grapefruit marmalade from Laura Ann’s Jams (love her jams!). 

After all that, I ended up making an olive oil cake with grapefruit marmalade, candied kumquats and kumquat infused syrup. Whew! 

For the olive oil cake, I started with my Naked Lemon Olive Oil Cake from last year.  Be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil, the kind you would use in a salad dressing or drizzled over focaccia bread or pasta.  Don’t worry if you aren’t a big olive oil fan as the olive oil is not the main flavor of this cake, but it does make it rich and moist; so moist, in fact, that the cake is actually better a day or two later.  

With each bite, the tiny bits of candied kumquats add a bright, citrusy note to this deliciously moist cake.  So, here you go, Citrus Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Kumquat Infused Syrup … the only way to eat a kumquat!

                         

Ben Mims’ Boozy Candied Cocktail Kumquats: (Make at least a week in advance so the flavors can meld)

Ingredients:

2 c. kumquats (cleaned and stems removed)
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. water 
Pinch Kosher salt
2 T. orange liquor (Cointreau, Triple Sec or Grand Marnier; for a non-alcohol option use white wine vinegar)

Place the kumquats in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the sugar, water and salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally.  The recipe says to simmer until the kumquats swell slightly and look glossy, about 5 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the liqueur.  Carefully transfer to a quart-size glass jar.  Close the lid and let cool to room temperature.  Store in the refrigerator for at least a week before using.  Use within 3 weeks.

Citrus Olive Oil Bundt Cake:

Ingredients

1 c. Candied Cocktail Kumquats. diced and seeds removed (about 40 – 45 kumquats.  If you don’t have enough kumquats, add some orange zest to make up the difference)
2 eggs at room temperature
1 c. sugar (plus some for dusting the cake pan)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 t. Kosher or fine sea salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

2/3 c. good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. marmalade (orange, grapefruit or lemon
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. kumquat syrup from the Candied Cocktail Kumquats

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare a 10-cup (9 inch) Bundt cake pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and dusting with sugar to coat the sides.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl.  In another small bowl, combine the olive oil, marmalade and buttermilk. 

In a mixer on low speed, beat the eggs and sugar until pale, thick ribbons form (about 5 minutes).  Add the vanilla.  With the mixer still on low, add dry and wet ingredients in three additions, starting with the dry and ending with the wet.  Stir in the diced kumquats. 

Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick in center comes out clean (35-40 minutes).  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake.  Spoon ¾ cup of the kumquat syrup over the cake and let soak in for 10 minutes. 

Invert the cake onto a rimmed cake plate and drizzle the remaining ¼ cup syrup over the top.  (Use a rimmed plate so the syrup doesn’t run off.)  Cool completely before serving. 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

                                     

Enjoy!

Recipe for Ben Mims’ Boozy Candied Cocktail Kumquats in the LA Times.

Check out Ina Garten’s recipe for Baba au Rhum cake from Barefoot in Paris.

 

 

 

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The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Garden Edition) – San Marino https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/huntington-library-art-collections-and-botanical-gardens-garden-edition-san-marino/ Tue, 30 Apr 2019 21:20:50 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34246 The Indoor/Outdoor Museum Experience Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Garden Edition) – San Marino Last Visit: March/April 2019 With the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino (just south of Pasadena) celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, I thought it would be a good time for Travels With Mai Tai Tom to revisit what I consider one of the greatest museums not only in California but the world.   It helps that we’re Huntington members because that way we have photos of nearly the entire complex from our numerous visits.            There are a lot of things I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a kid.  They include Mozart, a good bottle … Read more...

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The Indoor/Outdoor Museum Experience

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Garden Edition) – San Marino

Last Visit: March/April 2019

With the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino (just south of Pasadena) celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, I thought it would be a good time for Travels With Mai Tai Tom to revisit what I consider one of the greatest museums not only in California but the world.   It helps that we’re Huntington members because that way we have photos of nearly the entire complex from our numerous visits.

          

There are a lot of things I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a kid.  They include Mozart, a good bottle of bourbon (well, I didn’t drink bourbon as a kid) and an excellent museum located virtually in my backyard.  As a youngster, the gorgeous gardens at the Huntington Library were just a pretty cool place to play an extended version of hide and seek from my parents (who I think were happy not to find me at times).

                               

The Huntington was founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, a businessman who built a financial empire that included railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings in Southern California, and his wife Arabella (Huntington’s second wife, who was well known in both Europe and New York).  At one time, she was described as “the richest woman in the world,” and her story is an interesting one.

                                     Henry E. Huntington

Huntington was quite renowned during his life, so much so that 40 miles south of San Marino the town of Pacific Beach was renamed to Huntington Beach.  The Huntington Beach Company, now the Huntington Company, was the primary developer of the city and is still a major land-owner in Huntington Beach.

When Henry Huntington purchased what was then the San Marino Ranch in 1903 ($225,000), it was a working ranch with citrus groves, nut and fruit orchards, alfalfa crops, a small herd of cows and poultry.  Huntington and his superintendent, William Hertrich, who was introduced to Huntington by George Patton Sr.), worked together to mold that ranch into a botanical garden featuring rare and exotic plants.  Huntington created the small city of San Marino to protect his investment.  Hertrich loved purchasing rare and exotic plants, and interestingly his most significant competitor in the area was oil tycoon Edward Doheny, who Tracy and I learned about a couple of years ago when we toured Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills (photos from our day at Greystone below).

                        

In 1919, Henry and Arabella signed an indenture which transferred their San Marino estate with its collections of art and books, to a non-profit educational trust. (In a 1927 Atlantic Monthly article, Huntington was described as the “greatest collector of books the world has ever known.”)

It was opened to the public in 1928.  Neither Henry (who died in 1927) nor Arabella (who passed away in 1924) were around to witness the opening.  Today, the Huntington attracts 750,000 visitors a year. The botanical gardens cover 207 acres (120 landscaped) that include 14,000 different varieties of plants and flowers. 

This installment will include all the gardens, while the next post will cover the art galleries and the Library.  (The photos are an accumulation of ones we’ve taken over the past few years, but about 90 – 95% of them are from March and April 2019.)

Visitor Center Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

A new visitor center was opened in 2013, and as you stroll down the olive-lined allée (the California Garden) toward the entrance, you pass by beautiful drought-tolerant flowers and foliage where you can pause for a moment in one of the “Hedge Rooms,” complete with tables and benches.  (Resting might be something you need to do after enjoying a day of walking miles around the expansive property.)

                                                 

The first garden you see upon entering is the Celebration Garden.  Such plants surround the rectangular pool of recirculated water as Spanish lavender, kangaroo paw, California poppies and more.

            Celebration Garden The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

As you gaze out at the nearby foliage, you’ll see this will be quite a colorful experience.

Listen carefully, and you might hear some strange sounds emitting from the area near the end of the Celebration Garden.  On your left is a shell-shaped structure, which is NASA’s Orbit Pavilion. Step inside to hear the sounds made by the International Space Station and 19 Earth Science satellites.  Installed at the Huntington in 2016, this traveling exhibit was only supposed to be here for a short time, but it is now extended until September 2, 2019.

                 Orbit Pavillion the huntington library art collections and botanical gardens

Walking back toward and past the Celebration Garden, on the right stands the library with its fascinating, historical and educational collection, which we will visit in the next installment.

Henry and Arabella’s Beaux-Arts mansion

A little further on the left stands what was once Henry and Arabella’s Beaux-Arts mansion.  It now houses The Huntington Art Gallery of European Art (including the famous Gainsborough paintings, Pinkie and Blue Boy).  We’ll go there in the next post also.

         

Near the gallery are sculptures of Bacchus and Neptune.  I assumed Bacchus turns Neptune’s water into wine.

                                   

A small pathway takes you into the Camellia Garden.  The 80 types of Huntington camellias have their big bloom in January and February, but a few stuck around for our March and April visits this year.  It’s no surprise that camellias flourish here. They were Hertrich’s “passion.” He served as Superintendent of the gardens from 1903 to 1948.

          

Speaking of sculptures, as we walked along we came upon the North Vista (which I have always called the Sculpture Garden).

Not surprisingly, there is a multitude of 18th-century statues lining the extended, rectangular grassy area, where authorities once admonished me for throwing a frisbee as a youth.

           

I guess they frown on potential statue decapitation.

      

The 17th-century Baroque Fountain has a unique story.  Huntington purchased it in 1915.  From the Huntington website, “It was shipped from New York in 48 boxes that filled an entire railway car.  Oddly enough, the fountain arrived without assembly instructions and with a few extra pieces.  It eventually was installed five years after the 1916 completion of the main house.” That story reminded me of the bookshelf I once purchased from IKEA.

17th-century Baroque Fountain

We wandered into the Shakespeare Garden, where my favorites, the delphiniums, had only recently been planted.  By mid-May, they’ll look something like this. 

                                           

I was disappointed, but Tracy said, “You’re making much ado about nothing.  As you like it, we’ll come back in May.”

Snapdragon … Pop!

We admired the Crabapple trees and the Chinese Snowballs (no throwing, however).

               

An American flag towers over the Shakespeare Garden, although the Bard died four years before the Pilgrims arrived.  Similar to the pilgrims, the flagpole arrived in Redondo Beach by ship from the Pacific Northwest in 1909.  Made from a single trunk of a Douglas fir, upon landing, it wove it’s way through the streets of Los Angeles on top of two horse-drawn wagons.

                                                         

We entered the adjacent Rose Garden (no sign of Lynn Anderson), and before admiring the roses, which were beginning to bloom, we took a quick look at a Tabebuia “Apricot” tree (which is a trumpet tree … trumpet trees don’t have fruit) that I want in our front yard.  I asked whether we could transplant this tree, and the docent double-checked whether I was really a member.

Sparkle and Shine roses greet you upon entering the Rose Garden, created in 2008.  How much did Henry and Arabella like roses? 

                    

According to the website, “Household records indicate that in one year alone more than 30,000 flowers were used in these massive bouquets, 9,700 of which were roses.” I hope Tracy doesn’t take that as a challenge (we currently have 76 rose bushes planted in our garden).

                                       

For the centennial, there is a ”Huntington’s 100th Rose,” which was just beginning to show off its colors.

No matter whether in February or April, the recently restored Tempietto (aka small Renaissance temple)  entitled Love, The Captive of Youth, always brings a smile to me. 

                             

Not coincidentally, the flower garden surrounding it contains a bed of Passionate Kisses roses.

Love and the scent of flowers are prevalent in this three-acre garden containing 3,000 different plants and 1,200 different cultivars.

         

If tea is your bag, make a reservation to indulge in a High Tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room.  I’ve heard prices for the High Tea are not steep.

Next, to the Rose Garden room, we entered the 1/2 acre Herb Garden.

                    

There are fruits, vegetables, and colorful plants mixed in with the herbs. May is a great time to explore the Herb Garden when the colors really show up, and by the time you leave, you’ll be singing Parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme.  I hear the sage duo of Simon and Garfunkel made a mint on that song.

          

Strolling back through the Rose Garden …

                                           

(hey, what are you doing in the Rose Garden?)

  we entered the Wisteria covered entrance …

                  

…that would take us to the path to get down to the nine-acre Japanese Garden, an attraction that has been visited by 20 million visitors since its opening to the public.  It was completed in 1912, 15 years before the Huntington opened to the public. The garden underwent an expensive ($6.8 million) renovation in 2011.

The first view of the Japanese Garden is always inspiring with its bridge (which you cannot walk across now but could in the 1930s) and sculptures interspersed among the beautiful foliage.

             

In May, this is what you can expect with Japanese Maples taking center stage.   Gorgeous.

I’ve always loved this bridge.

                   

On the left, as you walk down the steps to the garden is a bell purchased in 1914.

The house on the other side of the garden was shipped to Pasadena in 1904 and bought by Huntington in 1911.

                                    

There is also a ceremonial teahouse from Kyoto, plus collections of Bonzai and a Zen Court where you can touch and rub the suiseki (viewing stones).  Walk through a little bamboo forest, and you’re at the waterfall.

                            Japanese Garden  the huntington library art collections and botanical gardens

Leaving the Japanese Garden …

… it’s a short and lovely walk to the Chinese Garden, one of the largest of these style gardens found outside of China.

         

This has become one of my favorite gardens.

          Chinese Garden

The rocks in this garden come from Lake Tai, one of the largest freshwater lakes in China.  I might call the Chinese Consulate to see if they can rename it, Lake Mai Tai.  Where’s Trader Vic when you need him?  It is such a tranquil place, and we always take a walk over the bridge.

                                          

In April we fell in love with this Redbud Tree.

Redbudd Tree

Hungry?  Stop by the Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House, with a fabulous view of the lake.

There are lots of colorful flowers in this area.

               

Back in 2012, we told a museum employee we wanted to see the mausoleum where Henry and Arabella rest in peace.  He replied, “Did you see that sign that said ‘Do Not Enter’?”  We had because we had already entered.  “Well,” he added, “that’s the way to the Mausoleum.”   Being scofflaws at heart, Tracy and I followed his advice, and after passing groves of orange trees, we stumbled upon the mini Jefferson Memorial, or so it seemed.

There’s a reason it looked so familiar to us. The guy who designed this also designed the Jefferson Memorial.  This is from the Huntington Library website: “Constructed of Colorado Yule marble, the mausoleum of Henry and Arabella Huntington overlooks the gardens from a knoll in the middle of the orange groves. It was a spot that Mr. Huntington loved.Mr. Huntington selected John Russell Pope, one of America’s most distinguished architects, to design the mausoleum in the form of a Greek temple. Pope believed the classic circular peristyle (or double colonnade) and dome were well suited to the nature of the Huntington grounds because it presented a perfect front from every angle, and was a combination of two perfect forms, the circle, and sphere. Pope later used a similar design in the construction of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.”  We returned in April 2019, and it looks like it’s in the process of being renovated.

     

Tom and I reminisced at Monticello in 2018.

Now it was time to walk (a long walk) to the “other side” of the Huntington where more gardens awaited.  On the way, we passed by a Children’s Garden where parents can sit while their kids wear themselves out.  I know, because I was one of those hyper kids.  Nearby, a lizard received a helping hand.

Next to the Children’s Garden is The Conservatory, and it’s not the one where Colonel Mustard stabbed professor Plum with a knife.  Sometimes I don’t have a Clue, although, come to think of it, I have seen a “Corpse” in the Conservatory before.

The Conservatory is a 16,000-square foot greenhouse that comprises three different habitats (a lowland tropical rain forest, a cloud forest, and a carnivorous plant bog).  Tracy said the photo on the right reminded her of Mick Jagger and gave her much satisfaction.

         

Oh, that corpse I told you about?  Five times since 1999, the Huntington has displayed a blooming Amorphophallus titanum, known by many as a “corpse flower.” Yes, it stinks, although when we visited last, the stench had pretty much worn out (except for my old t-shirt).  Hopefully, it will bloom again, so I can say, “Something stinks at the Huntington!” (When the first one of these bloomed at the Huntington in 1999, more than 75,000 people showed up, since this was only the 11th time one had bloomed in the United States.).  So when I sometimes say the Huntington “stinks,” it’s not a bad thing.

                                

Tracy and I visited on one of those rare rainy days last spring to check out the Conservatory.

Walking by the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art and the sculpture of Goddess Artemis …

… we ran into this cute family.

         

There was no doubt that “mom” (or is that dad?) meant business and did not want us getting close to the kids, so we just took a gander at the geese.  It seemed I was first in his pecking order.

Walking behind the European Art Gallery, we took a downward path (a life pattern for me).  It really is a jungle down there, which makes sense because we were in the Jungle Garden.  Even though Guns N’ Roses didn’t sing, “Welcome to the jungle,” it’s still a cool place to hang out, especially on a hot day.  The shade of the vast trees protected us from the sunlight.

                                            

A little waterfall flows through the jungle.

     

One of the highlights of the Jungle Garden is the ombu tree, “which grew from a seedling received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1914.  It had been growing in the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden since 1912.”

In a nearby pond, you’ll find a 1939 sculpture entitled Junge Frau (Young Woman).  

 

This guy was just hanging out getting a tan.

Speaking of ponds, there’s a place that is well worth the effort to visit, especially in July.  We carefully attempted not to disrupt this family’s picnic on the way to the Lily Ponds.

The Lily Pond was the Huntington’s first garden, started by Hertrich in 1904.  Clara Huntington, Henry’s daughter, sculpted a statue of St. Francis in the mid-1920s.

       

Of course, being the Lily Pond, lilies are the star from mid-Spring through mid-August (which is when these photos were taken last year).  Don’t be coy and take a picture of the koi in the pond where, no matter what the season, everything seems to go swimmingly.  I think I heard a bullfrog (might have been Jeremiah) say to Tracy, “Hey, come on over to my pad.”

 

In July, stop by around the second week to catch the summer flowering lotus that was planted in 1905.   

(For another Lotus extravaganza, check out the Echo Park Lake Lotus Bed, about 25 minutes from here, in late June and July.)

Although we didn’t visit on Palm Sunday, we did view an abundance of palms.  I never knew there were more than 200 palm tree species, and at the Huntington, there are 148.  The Palm Garden suffered numerous setbacks back in the early part of the 20th century, mainly due to frost.  Today, it has formed its own sort of microclimate, and the palms have expanded slowly through the decades.

        

Our last garden stop was the most surprising and colorful.

     

Four decades ago, in another lifetime, I was a country music DJ in California’s High Desert.  Desert landscape did not appeal to me, although Waylon Jennings did.   We visited the Desert Garden at the Huntington in April 2019.

Wow!

According to its website, the nearly 100-year old Desert Garden “is one of the largest and oldest assemblages of cacti and other succulents in the world.”

       

There are 2,000 different species of succulents, and between the color and oddly shaped ones, this suddenly wiped out all my preconceived notions about the desert.  I never realized desert flora could be this beautiful.  The Desert Garden is also where I found out that Tiger Woods had won the Masters, so I’ll always have the answer to, “Where were you when Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters?” Thank heavens for our DVR.

    

Note:  For Huntington savants, you might notice I left out one of the extensive gardens, the Australia Garden.  Well, it was not for lack of trying.  One day during the week I came by myself, and a sign in the Rose Garden pointed the way to the Jungle Garden and Australia Garden.  I walked, and I walked, and I walked, and for the longest time, I didn’t see a sign to Australia.

Finally, I saw another sign pointing to the Australia Garden.  It seemingly took as long to reach these gardens as it would to fly to Sydney.  As a nod to Australia’s terrain, I was bushed.  Had I walked further, I might have had to be buried “Down Under.”  I decided to forego the garden, but at least I saw more beautiful flowers and trees on my fruitless search.

      

You could spend an entire day here just wandering through all the gardens at the Huntington, and if you often visit (like we do as contributing member), you’ll see something different blooming virtually every time.

There’s also a good possibility you’ll run into creatures small and smaller.

    

Remember to give them some room. That’s why your camera zoom was invented.

               

The gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens offer an enjoyable experience for both old and young.  You can also take a free garden tour led by one of Huntington’s docents.  These tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Times vary depending on docent availability.  No matter what time of year, expect the unexpected in the gardens at the Huntington.  You might say, “The  Huntington is a riot … of color.”

        

In the next installment, we’ll head indoors and explore the art galleries (Huntington Art Gallery of European Art and the Scott Galleries of American Art), along with a visit to the famed Library Exhibition Hall. There we’ll witness some of history’s most important documents and manuscripts, a historic Bible, plus a giant book that’s strictly for the birds.

 

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
Phone: 626.405.2240 
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Monday
Cost: Weekdays $25 • Weekend $29 • Seniors/Students $21 & $24 

Youths 4 – 11  $13 • Under 4 Free
Tours: Free, Paid and Audio available (check website for details)
www.huntington.org

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Mr. C’s Southwestern Quiche with Cayenne Pepper Crust https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/mr-cs-southwestern-quiche-with-cayenne-pepper-crust/ Thu, 18 Apr 2019 16:22:24 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34214 Quiche-y Keen! Mr. C’s Southwestern Quiche with Cayenne Pepper Crust Breakfast & Main I make a pretty good Quiche Lorraine, but this is my absolute favorite quiche and so easy to make!  This dish is our go-to recipe for brunch and, as it is even better the next day, it gets bonus points for being able to be made ahead.  Except for holidays, after my mom turned 45, she stopped cooking.  My stepfather, Mr. C, stepped up to the plate and took over cooking duties, usually barbecuing.  He did, however, have a few delicious specialties.  One of those is his Southwestern Quiche with Cayenne Pepper Crust.  (Tom note: In the photo on the right of Mr. C, he reminds me … Read more...

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Quiche-y Keen!

Mr. C’s Southwestern Quiche with Cayenne Pepper Crust

Breakfast & Main

I make a pretty good Quiche Lorraine, but this is my absolute favorite quiche and so easy to make!  This dish is our go-to recipe for brunch and, as it is even better the next day, it gets bonus points for being able to be made ahead. 

Except for holidays, after my mom turned 45, she stopped cooking.  My stepfather, Mr. C, stepped up to the plate and took over cooking duties, usually barbecuing.  He did, however, have a few delicious specialties.  One of those is his Southwestern Quiche with Cayenne Pepper Crust. 

(Tom note: In the photo on the right of Mr. C, he reminds me of Lincoln before giving the Gettysburg Address.)

                                                 

Adding cayenne pepper to the crust is a brilliant idea.  It adds an unexpected bite of heat without being too spicy.  If you don’t care for spicy foods, either leave the cayenne out or halve the amount.

Mr. C always used Betty Crocker’s Pie Crust Mix (or, as I called it, Pie-In-A-Box), which I sent Tom to the market to buy.  He couldn’t find it at first since I gave him the wrong name.   Just add water and cayenne pepper, and you are good to go. 

If making your own pie crust or using a pre-made crust, be sure to get a deep dish one, so everything fits.  Of course, if you use the pre-made crust, you will be unable to add the cayenne pepper to it. 

Mr. C’s original recipe called for Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.  As you know, here in MaiTai Tracy’s Kitchen, we embrace the heat, so I substituted a Spicy Jack Cheese for the Monterey Jack (our favorite is Cabot’s Hot Habanero cheese).

This quiche dish is an excellent recipe for brunch as it can be made the day before, just bring to room temperature, lightly cover with foil and reheat in the oven until just warmed.  Serve with a side of your favorite guacamole or a nice green salad, and you have an entire meal with little effort.  Yum!

Ingredients:

1 box Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mix
1/2 t. Cayenne Pepper
6 oz. Sharp or Medium Sharp Cheddar Cheese (not Extra Sharp), freshly grated 
4 oz. Spicy Jack Cheese, freshly grated
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 t. Kosher salt
1/4 t. white pepper
1 1/2 c. half and half
1 – 4 oz. can diced
jalapeños, drained (for lower heat content, use diced green chiles)
1 – 2 1/4 oz can sliced black olives, drained (optional)
1 bunch green onions

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Prepare the pie crust according to box directions for two crusts adding cayenne pepper to the mix.  Using a 10-inch quiche pan or 9-inch deep dish pie pan, press the pastry into the pan and up the sides of the dish, but not on the rim, trim if necessary.  Do not prick the bottom. 

pie crust preparation for Southwestern Quiche

Toss the cheeses together to combine, and spread in the bottom of the pie crust.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, white pepper and half & half together.  Stir in the jalapeños and onions (and black olives if desired) until combined.  Pour the egg mixture over the cheeses, pressing down gently with a spatula or spoon to be sure the ingredients are fully submerged.

                 

Bake 45-50 minutes until golden brown and knife inserted in the center comes out clean, but the center is still just a tad wiggly.

                

Best served warm or at room temperature.  8 Servings.

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Spoke Bicycle Cafe – Los Angeles (Frogtown), CA https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/spoke-bicycle-cafe-los-angeles-frogtown-ca/ Fri, 12 Apr 2019 20:25:33 +0000 https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/?p=34172 Breakfast & Lunch With Frankie & Remi Spoke Bicycle Cafe – Los Angeles (Frogtown), CA Breakfast/Lunch Last Visit: April 2019 Being a native Angeleno I thought I knew just about every nook and cranny of the city, but while walking the dogs, a neighbor told us about having a great breakfast at a place called Spoke Bicycle cafe in “Frogtown.” I was perplexed. Google, being one of my best friends, became the source of some riveting information about this area. True to its name, Frogtown (its official name is Elysian Valley) is a neighborhood adjacent to the Los Angeles River (yes, we have a river here), which received its name because frogs would congregate near the river on the grass … Read more...

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Breakfast & Lunch With Frankie & Remi

Spoke Bicycle Cafe Frogtown Los Angeles

Spoke Bicycle Cafe – Los Angeles (Frogtown), CA

Breakfast/Lunch

Last Visit: April 2019

Being a native Angeleno I thought I knew just about every nook and cranny of the city, but while walking the dogs, a neighbor told us about having a great breakfast at a place called Spoke Bicycle cafe in “Frogtown.” I was perplexed. Google, being one of my best friends, became the source of some riveting information about this area.

True to its name, Frogtown (its official name is Elysian Valley) is a neighborhood adjacent to the Los Angeles River (yes, we have a river here), which received its name because frogs would congregate near the river on the grass banks.  It was a rough neighborhood for years.  Gangs in the area took the Frogtown name, which is never good for business.  As a matter of fact, in a 2014 LA WEEKLY article, one local taco stand owner said, “Ten, 15 years ago there was a shootout every weekend, The bullets would fly right past me, right into the walls of the house.”

However, since this part of town is located near downtown Los Angeles, it would only be a matter of time before gentrification would come this way.  (So gentrified, that a condo project going up next to Spoke has a sign that says, “STARTING at $800,000”).

Over the past few years, Frogtown has seen a river adjacent park renovation (the kids made a quick stop)…

                                     

… and an extension of the northern section of the Los Angeles River Bike Path, which runs adjacent to Spoke Bicycle Cafe. 

Tracy and I, along with corgis Frankie and Remi, decided to try out Spoke one Sunday morning (the dogs are always up for a new adventure).   We drove the streets of Frogtown with its small houses and found parking on the street near the restaurant and walked into the patio dining area. 

       

It’s a colorful building.

        

When Spoke opened in 2015, it was a combination bike shop and spot to get some coffee or other beverages.

     Spoke Bicycle Shop

However, in 2017 the eatery upped its game and now serves a killer breakfast and lunch.  We know that because we have eaten here a couple of times since our initial visit.

You order your food inside, are given a number for your table, and the food is brought out to you.  And so far, the food we have had here is very, very good.  

                                               

On that first visit, I had the breakfast tostada with roasted rosemary potatoes; two stone-ground corn tortillas topped with refried black beans, greens, two scrambled eggs or tofu, pico de gallo, avocado mash, chipotle sauce ($12).  It was a knock-out.

Breakfast Tostada Spoke Bicycle Cafe

Tracy tried the avocado toast; avocado mash, lemony arugula, fire-roasted corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, pepitas, and red pepper flakes ($8.50) which was served on what she thought was the best bread she has ever tasted.  She also said it was the best avocado toast she’d ever had (full disclosure: it was the first avocado toast she’d ever had).  Tracy has ordered avocado toast at other places since our visit, and she still contends this is the best one.  You never forget your first avocado toast.

The incredible bread is from Bub & Grandma’s which makes bread for many of our favorite restaurants in LA.  

We started our morning with a slice of the blueberry pie, which was pretty tasty too.  I am sometimes amazed at the quantity of food we eat.  Then again, looking at recent photos, maybe not.

On our second trip to Spoke, we went for lunch.  I ordered the Grilled Cheese sandwich with bacon and waffle fries; aged cheddar, provolone, and roasted tomato chutney grilled on toasty sourdough ($8.50).  Add-ons included bacon (which I ordered) or tempeh ($3.50). 

                 

The only other grilled cheese sandwich I had ever tasted that was comparable was the Cheese Toastie at Kappacasein Dairy in London’s Borough Market (photo below).  Tracy makes a killer copycat Cheese Toastie (recipe here).

Oh, and the waffle fries were out of this world.  Frankie and Remi gave them eight paws up!

Recently we popped in for breakfast with friends Kim and Mary, along with their dog Fenway (that’s him below asking for one of Mary’s waffle fries … the corgis had called him).  For decibel concerns, the corgis stayed home on this trip.  We brought them back some waffle fries.

I tried the Breakfast Bun; soft-scrambled egg, bacon or tempeh (I chose bacon), cheese, caramelized onions, and special sauce on a griddled soft bun (($8).  I thought it looked small at first, but it certainly filled me up.  Lots of perfectly scrambled eggs inside.   Of course, being the glutton I am, I also ordered a side of their delicious crispy potatoes ($3), which are roasted rosemary potatoes.

Tracy enjoyed her Classic California BLAT; rustic sourdough, heirloom tomato slices, crisp lettuce, special sauce, avocado, and choice of applewood-smoked bacon, tempeh, or oyster mushrooms ($14).

Mary devoured the grilled cheese sandwich, while Kim ordered scrambled eggs, toast, and potatoes; two eggs, buttered rustic sourdough toast, and crispy potatoes ($10).  Spoke serves breakfast all day and also has a great selection of sandwiches, salads, bowls, and many vegan options.  The hamburger looked great, and I’ll add thoughts on that to this post at a later date (probably soon).

 If you are not biking, there is limited street parking but check signs for street cleaning day. 

                    Spoke Bicycle Cafe Hours

Note:  Although dogs are allowed on the bike path, we don’t feel very safe with the bikes whizzing by, as there is not much room to move off to the side of the way, so we didn’t walk any further.   Instead, we sometimes pop over to nearby Griffith Park and walk the three-mile path around the golf course instead (park at the Crystal Springs Picnic area or the other end at the Autry Museum).

Spoke Bicycle Cafe has now become one of our favorite breakfast and lunch stops in L.A. (stay tuned for more of them in a new section we are creating).  The food is fresh, and every dish has been a winner.

I like it so much that I believe I should become their Spoke(s) man!  So put your pedal to the metal and get down to Spoke Bicycle Cafe.

Mai Tai Tom Rating – 4.75 Mai Tais (out of 5)

Spoke Bicycle Cafe
3050 N. Coolidge Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039 (Frogtown)
Phone: 323.684.1130
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday – Thursday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.  •  Friday/Saturday until 10 p.m.  Sunday until 9. p. m.
Parking: Street (free) • Bicycles (and dogs) welcome
www.spokebicyclecafe.com

 

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