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August 30, 2007

The Larry Craig Scandal

IMG_4771, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Now, I'm not typically one to protest when a scandal takes down a Republican candidate. But I just want it to be clear that Senator Larry Craig from Idaho is being asked to resign because he's gay.

You can't actually say, "You should resign because you're gay" anymore, so everyone talks about 'lewd' and illegal behavior, but that's all code for the things those people do, isn't it?

What's tragic about all of this is that, like Foley, Craig has spent a fair amount of his career supporting anti-gay legislation just to prove he's got no sympathy for the "homosexual agenda."

It's Carnival Time in Brooklyn

IMG_3323, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Labor Day approaches and along with it the annual Carnival festivities. I haven't decided if I'm going to be out flag-waving this year, I'm not sure if I can deal with the crowds. Wouldn't mind getting some Roti and Jerk chicken though, so we'll see.

Having moved away from Nostrand Avenue, one of the major West Indian thoroughfares in BK, the events had almost entirely slipped my mind until Shelley from Bloggers@Brooklyn Museum asked to post one of my photos from last year's parade.

If you want to catch the spirit, check out my West Indian Day Parade 2006 set on Flickr.

August 22, 2007

Merv Griffin's Revenge

My first morning back in LA, I woke up feeling not so right. My stomach started bothering me right away and it just got worse over the day. I have no idea what could have caused it, but it's safe to say that I'm not going to be getting out so much this time around. Hopefully my appetite will be back this evening and I'll get at least one good meal out of this trip...

Moo Cards

IMG_3470 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I got these narrow business cards printed up through Flickr and I've been showing these off to everyone I can. I first heard of them a few months ago when I met some Flickr folks at Luna Park's show in Brooklyn Heights. Both Luna and C-Monster had cards of their own printed up. As soon as I had a chance I had to get some of my own cards done.

The company that does it is called Moo and their prices are incredibly economical, priced at $20 for 100 cards. The cardstock is great quality and the images come out perfectly crisp. The only problem I had was with the shipping, mine got lost in the mail, which meant I had to wait two weeks before being able to report them as having not arrived before they'd send out another set. The second set got there very quickly, even though it was coming from the UK.

I've been going through my shots and cropping them for the cards. I plan to put these cropped shots to other uses here on the blog as well.

August 20, 2007

In the Air Again

These days, It seems the only time I find to post is when I'm cramped into an airplane seat. Between work, wedding planning and so on, life has been more than a little hectic. I'm most grateful for this second trip because it has removed me from the clutches of whatever terrible seasonal spore that incites my allergies every year about this time. The last few days of watery eyes and irritated sinuses had me rather looking forward to an escape.

August 10, 2007

Deja Vu

Due to a glitch in the matrix that is the the corporate world, I'm going back to LA in a week and a half. This trip is much shorter, only a couple days, but I hope to use the time to catch some of the things I missed last week.

I'll be staying in Glendale, which I'm told is a bit more convenient to the places I might want to go.

If anyone has ideas for where I might want to go, let me know.


August 8, 2007

Pizzeria Mozza

I'm loathe to ever admit that anything is better outside of New York. It's a very difficult thing fo me to do. I love to travel and I think about living elsewhere all the time, but ultimately the deficiencies I may see at home are owing to some larger national or regional issue than anything specific about New York.

So when Eric told me that he thought the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza was better that Otto, owned by the same folks here in New York, I was skeptical and very confused. I've learned to respect Eric's opinion about such things over the 20 years we've known each other. yet here it was, he was claiming that LA, the anti-New York had a better pizza pizza! than a place in the city of our birth.


Yet, I headed out there Sunday night after the games were all done and had a meal that I only wish were available back home. And this isn't like going to France where everything is butter and fat (which is to say fat and fat) and finding that everything is better, of course that's better. No, this is head to head, chef to chef, even sharing the same owners and backing and LA topping New York.

The key is the crust. It comes from La Brea Bakery, a neighborhood place that provides all the pizza dough for them. It's chewy and fluffy in just the right ways. The topping of a spicy salami and chile peppers were also perfect. Without setting my mouth ablaze, it managed to spark a pleasurable tingling that spread after a few bites.

We started with fried risotto balls, filled with cheese and peas and meat and surrounded with a light, sweet tomato sauce for dipping. My only complaint with this antipasti was that there wasn't enough of it. The balls were a bit on the small side, so I never got enough of that savory filling in a bite. But then, I suppose for a starter, not having enough is sort of the point.

I rarely eat dessert. I usually prefer a nice glass of port or a muscato. When I saw that they had a caramel gelato, I was intrigued. When I saw it was available in a copetta, a sundae, I caved. The gelato was creamy and the gooey caramel was mixed throughout, on top were pockets of marshmallow fluff, whose texture contrasted just enough with the caramel to feel the two bend and warp in my mouth without ever actually mixing.

My dining companion, who had declined dessert, ended up having nearly half of it. After a taste, he realized the folly of skipping dessert and dug in. I take a special pleasure in sharing the experience of good food with folks who don't usually chase after it the way I do. So I was gratified when he told me that this was one of the best meals he'd had in ages.

In the end, I may have to swallow my pride to accept that there is at least one thing that LA has over New York

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036



While in LA, I managed to check out both branches of Musha, an excellent izakaya out there. As mentioned earlier, I got recommendations for Musha from two expert sources, Eric and the TOJ. My visits completely reinforced my faith in both of them.

I had the Musha Fried Chicken at both places. It's excellent. A crispy breaded boneless chicken thigh sliced into strips. The presentation reminded me of Tonkatsu, the breaded, fried pork cutlets I had in Japan. The flavor was something else entirely.

According to the Menu, the Musha Fried Chicken is "Marinaded in soy sauce, sake, ginger and garlic served with 2 kinds of grated daikon and a ponzu sauce." The flavor of light citrus permeated, particularly when dipped in the accompanied sauce made up of soy sauce and ponzu. Sweet, salty and tangy all vied for my attention in each bite.

The photo above is Tanshio, salted beef tongue, that I cooked on a Shichirin Griller, yakiniku style. The small charcoal grill was the perfect size to fit on the counter in front of me at the Santa Monica branch.

On my visit to the Torrance branch, I had Unagi, broiled eel sliced into chunks and mixed in with rice in a variation in its typical presentation. There was also Braised Pork Belly, served in a soy sauce based broth and cooked with sweet potatoes. My dining companion had a wonderful Ahi Poke, Hawaiian style tuna tatare.

I was also very interested in Musha's Cheese Risotto, which is served out of a giant block of parmesan cheese. I only skipped it - along with noodles and most rice in order to save room for other dishes.

More after the jump!

As you may gather from the food, the folks at Musha like to experiment. At the Torrance branch, the menu begins with a warning on the front page:

"To call an Izakaya a home away from home hardly does it justice. Home is where the spouse and kids lived [sic]. An Izakaya is your place. And so the quality most prized in these traditional pub-restaurant isn't artistry or creativity or even really good food. It's familiarity. Plain, predictable, even a bit dowdy that's what "REAL" Real Izakaya Lovers love.

No doubt Musha has disappointed sme of the purists. For the message here is that an Izakaya doesn't have to choose between old-fashioned and newfangled. It can be both. Please come to Musha and see traditiona; transforming before your eyes.

Please ask about our foods and drinks and we'll be delighted and be able to tell you all about Musha."

With apologies to purists out of the way, it moves on to offer food with roots reaching as close to Japan as Hawaii and as far as Italy.

The menu is artistically designed and fun to read. Rather than offering two menus, one lists dishes in both English and Japanese. The captions are tongue in cheek, offering insight like, "As you know Japanese people likes noodles [sic]" over the noodle section.

The difference between the two restaurants are obvious upon entering the door. In Torrance, the cry of "Irrashimase!" cascaded throughout the space immediately, echoing from the kitchen before we could even get our bearings. The space is dominated by a single communal table, with only a few private tables and a handful of seats at the counter. This location is in a strip mall surrounded by a Japanese video store, a Yakiniku restaurant and a Japanese mall down the block. The fact that the menu here sported a message to purists seems to be fair warning to a large clientele clearly expecting traditional tastes of home. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed, though.

Santa Monica is an entirely different environment. The vibe is different. As TOJ noted, it's much more trendy and much more central. The welcome greeting was there, but not nearly as dramatic. The seating was arranged much more like an American restaurant, full of private tables. I sat at the counter and watched Taku the preparer, cut fish, greet customers and chat with regulars about his upcoming wedding. The decor was more hip than the sedate Torrance location and on a Monday night, it quickly amassed a crowd requiring a half hour wait. I thoroughly enjoyed both locations although I do tend towards the more relaxed atmosphere in the boondocks of Torrance. I'd happily return to either and find myself trying to figure out where to best get a similar experience here in New York.

Musha (Santa Monica)
424 Wilshire Blvd,
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 576-6330

Musha (Torrance)
1725 W Carson St,
Torrance, CA
(310) 787-7344

Double Double!

IMG_0280, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I love In n Out Burger. Amazingly, when I first tried it, in San Francisco a few years ago, I wasn't so into it. The one I had was too dry. Thankfully, I tried it again last year when I was back in LA. Then I tried it again. And again. This time around I only got my Double Double fix once, but I take what I can get.

Louisiana Fried Chicken

IMG_0239, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This was quite possibly the best fried chicken I've had. The breading was thick and crunchy and full of spices. Underneath the crusty skin, the meat is juicy and flavorful. There was a hint of garlic in there somewhere. The hot sauce is served in a cup for easy dipping, which was perfect. The sauce was tangy with a heat that creeps up on you.

Some folks had brought some back to the trailer for the crew and I was blown away. When I found out that it was just a few blocks away, I headed out there for lunch the next day. Louisiana Fried Chicken is a total hood spot. It's got the bulletproof window at the counter, the whole thing. If it wasn't in a strip mall, I'd have felt like I was back at home.

Stormy Weather

I got home just in time for a storm of biblical proportions. Thankfully I work a later shift today and so got the warnings about subway shutdowns. I waited it out until I got notice that the A/C was up and running again. I'm working my way to the office now.

The train is crawling, but we're going somewhere. From what I hear, it was all much worse earlier.


Update: I ended up finding that my connecting train wasn't running and wandered around in the sweltering grossness until I found an alternate route. Still not awful, just damp.

August 5, 2007

I Lost My Cellie in El Segundo

Originally uploaded by ultraclay!
With Apologies to A Tribe Called Quest, I did lose my cell phone in the hotel, which is actually in El Segundo.

Thankfully someone turned it in to the Lost and Found. There's something to be said for having a phone no one wants to steal. I had just managed to finally get all my numbers synched across all my devices, I'd have been pissed if I had to do that all over again.

I also discovered how to use my own MP3s as ring tones on the SLVR, which I wondered for ages. I found it on the Interweb posted by someone named UVADaniel. I've reposted it after the jump.

First, make sure your phone is set to handle both iTunes and data

right click on mobile phone in iTunes and click phone options

Under phone, check "enable disk use"

Next transfer MP3s to memory card by drag-and-drop into [Phone/mobile/ringtones]

Disconnect the phone

On the phone, go into My Stuff > sounds

Push the menu button and switch storage device to the card

select the MP3 you just transfered, push the menu button and select move

Move the song to the phone

On the phone, it can be set as a ringtone.

[One edit made to make it more Mac-friendly. ]

Now I have to figure out what to use that won't be totally annoying.

August 4, 2007

Centrally located across from the airport

IMG_8904, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Or something like that. My hotel is really pretty good. It's got a steakhouse as its only restaurant, so I really don't have much alternative to eating steak whenever I feel like it. It's tragic. Really.

The only drawback is that it's directly across from the airport. Like, right there. The pic above was taken from my room. And that's not really an issue for the expected reasons. The windows are thick enough that you barely hear the planes at all.

The problem with being near the airport is that there's nothing worth doing near the airport. As good as the restaurant and bar are at the hotel, I'd really like to hang out somewhere else for a bit.

So far, I haven't gotten to see much of LA this time around. With the exception of a fantastic meal at Musha and a couple hours in Santa Monica the first night I haven't gotten out at all. It's making me a little antsy. The biggest problem is that I just don't know this place well enough to be able to get in the car and go somewhere. The fact that I can't drive is a close second, given that getting in the car requires a second person who's up for whatever I feel like.

Typically, by the time we get back to the hotel, I can't even fathom the idea of considering where to go. I don't know where anything is and unlike most travel, there's little in the way of a central area to go wander around. I may make another trip to Santa Monica just for that, really.

August 3, 2007

LA Observations #1

Last night, the shuttle driver and a co-worker were talking about smog in LA. According to the driver, the smog's only in the valley. He said something about the wind from the ocean blowing it away every where else.

He followed that up by talking about how much more smog there is in New York because of the humidity and the concentration of traffic in a much smaller space.

I left it alone, but laughed to myself a few minutes later when we passed through a tunnel getting off a highway:

The walls were black with a thick layer of soot collected from the exhaust fumes of the million cars that had passed through it. The only clean spots were scrapes and graffiti that industrious taggers carved out of the filth.

August 1, 2007

Tips from the TOJ

The Tower of Justice, an eating buddy much more familiar with this land of highways and movie stars than I sent me some recommendations. I'm not sure when I'll be able to go off the reservation and actually check out some of these places, but I have hopes:

It will be hard to find good food without a car if you're staying by the airport, unless you have in mind establishments with pole dancing as their primary attractions. If you can manage a car, here are a few suggestions. Alternatively, if you're on a tight schedule, I would recommend taking a cab up to Santa Monica and just walking around in that area. Lots of good places to eat there.

Musha Restaurant (Santa Monica): I took Guy to this little trendy dive of a restaurant in Santa Monica, and I resisted making bathroom runs for fear that Gallo would swipe any remaining morsels on my plate. This place serves Japanese pub food, and Sapporo beer on tap. Highlights include: braised pork belly, octopus omelette with noodles, musha fried chicken, udon noodles with shimeji mushrooms and clams.

Versailles (Palms/West L.A.): this place serves Cuban food. It's a fun place, and if I recall, they have a couple of killer pork dishes.

Zankou Chicken (West L.A.): this is an Armenian owned joint that serves the BEST rotisserie chicken. It also offers hummus and other middle eastern goodies.

Let me know if you have a more flexible schedule and will have access to a car. The list of great restaurants in LA is endless, so once I know where you're heading, I would be more than happy to give you a more targeted set of recommendations.

Eric suggested the Musha in Torrance last year when I stayed in that area, but I never made it. Maybe that'll be dinner tonight...