hometown hits: orange, california

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Orange County, California is more than housewives and McMansions. Granted, we do have our fair share of overly plasticized people, sprawling estates and vapid teenagers, but anyone who visits will encounter a far different vantage than what you might have seen in a show.

What they don’t show on TV is a 3 million + populated area filled with cultures from all corners of the world.  There’s Little Saigon, Korean District, and Little Arabia to name a few neighborhoods around.

But, what started it all, and what was most attractive to settlers to this part of Southern California was its miles and miles of orange groves, hence the name of the county.

Before Walt stuck his spike down to create Disneyland, this whole area was filled with ranches amongst the fruit trees.  And in some pockets of the area, you can still unearth some of the history of this county, especially in appropriately named Orange, California.

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weekender in LA: good as gold

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If you’ve ever read food writing in or about any city other than Los Angeles, then you’ve probably never truly experienced how transcendent and indispensable the Counter Intelligence column was to food and culture…and to life in Los Angeles.  Its author was a king in the food world, imparting a Midas touch on any eatery he liked, no exaggeration, as his name was appropriately, Jonathan Gold.

(That was my piss poor attempt to write second person as he did so well).

As a lifelong Southern Californian, hearing about Mr. Gold’s sudden passing was heartbreaking.  You can’t really know how pervasive and revered his opinion was unless you lived and breathed and ate what he ate.  He ate, and ate…real food.

He believed that it was the stick to your soul, sizzling off the wok, fatty soup belly that creates the indelible memories and experiences of a grand food life lived.  And of course, he was right!  Jonathan Gold was the one who would gently steer you in this direction, showing you the light, making things that seemed inaccessible or scary become familiar and expected.

Mr. Gold brought to the masses what all children of immigrants in SoCal have known for years…that the best meals happen in somewhat shabby strip malls, in the sticky dining rooms of mom and pop shops — often times with no white linen table cloths in sight.  Although he wasn’t that discerning, there was a time and place for those experiences, too.  He taught us that all types of cuisine, and on a larger scale, all types of people could and should be celebrated.

He was a champion of the unadorned, the unpretentious, whilst peppering his reviews with esoteric references that elevated the intelligence of his reader.  Only a true master of his craft could achieve such a feat.  And he was recognized for it, having been the only food critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize for food writing.

He was a legend in a city of stars.  Undoubtedly, one of its most influential characters; after all, it was often his opinion that brought everyone to the table.

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weekender in LA: the sequel

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Living so close to LA, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the culture and attractions of la la land without having to actually live there.  I get it, you really have to let the place grow on you and you have to be patient.  Let it in.

My friends from the midwest dislike visiting LA a lot.  Like a lot, a lot.  It’s because it’s so hard to get from point A to point B, and near impossible if you want to cross town to do anything.  But…you can get a ton done if you plan things out well (yes I’m a nerd, but we get the job done).

Here’s another itinerary for an LA weekender

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36 hours in Oakland: NBA finals edition

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shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang, I am the warrior

When I was living in Northern California, I went to Oakland all the time.  But I’ll admit, most of those excursions had been to attend the Alameda Flea Market.

What? This should be no surprise, I’m ancient.

I have, however, attended games at the Oracle Arena and Oakland Coliseum, so in light of the Warriors hosting another Finals appearance starting with Game 1 tonight, here’s some tips for those heading to the games.  See, I had to be equal to Cleveland — I’m Switzerland in this battle, I’m just here for good basketball.  Of course, it may be cheaper to literally buy a game ticket, plane ticket, hotel and rent a car to go and see the NBA Finals in Cleveland…because tickets to see Steph and Co. at home are, as they say in NorCal, hella pricey.

Oakland definitely in the house…

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3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: Ontario (ONT)

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No, not Canada.  To continue the Coachella prep, for out of town friends joining in on the party, consider Ontario, an Inland Empire airport into which you can fly.  There’s not much there, so enjoy the animal style above instead.  The best thing about this airport is that there’s an In-n-out across the street.  Otherwise, it’s a hard sell unless you’re flying Southwest.

But remember, #1 rule on this blog: avoid LAX at all costs.  PSP is ideal, but it’s probably going to be pricey for the average general admission holder.  SNA is further and more expensive. Ontario is about a 90 minute drive from Indio, and it’s a really efficient and gets you from point A to point B.

There are two terminals, numbered 2 and 4, and a separate international arrivals area for a total of about 28 gates.  It is an international airport, with flights to Guadalajara and Taipei — but mostly it’s Southwest locoregional flights on the west coast.

Remember: ✈ = ontario, CA to ✈✈✈✈✈ = ontario, CA (you can decide which is which)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈✈✈✈ — it’s pretty small

Convenience of security lines: ✈✈✈

Dining: ✈ (there is a Coffee Bean, but you should really consider eating elsewhere before — hence the In-n-Out)

Bathrooms: ✈✈ (there could be more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈✈  (free wifi available, not many charging areas)

Amenities: ✈ (you’re not here to shop, you’re here to get in and out)

weekender in Palm Springs (Coachella tips, y’all)

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In two weeks is a weekend that is one of my favorite of the year, first weekend of Coachella, the granddaddy of all music festivals.  Sure, Lolla is great, Governor’s Island is hip and Outside Lands is chill, but Coachella is the one they all aspire to be, for the star power and cool factor alone.  I mean, watching hundreds of musical acts in sunny California is ideal.

In my twenties, I looked forward to actually attending the festival, but now that I’m a little (read: a lot) older, I look forward to the mass exodus of festival goers from LA/OC (less traffic, reservations!).  But, I do have fond memories of attending the festival, so here are some tips to aid in your weekend of revelry.

Hopefully with no Beyonce biting…

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3 days in Napa Valley

So I have to confess something here.  I’m not much of a drinker.  I know, I know.  Is it too late now to say sorry?  Just kidding, I’m not sorry.   You’re wondering: how could a light imbiber possibly have anything to say about the most famous wine producing region in the US?

Turns out, there’s a ton of things to do here that don’t necessarily involve spirits, and don’t worry, I will feature some absolutely fantastic wineries on our journey through the beautiful Northern California countryside.  There’s just one question you have to ask yourself:

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: Los Angeles (LAX)

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I have often called LAX the eighth portal of hell, and I mean it.  There is no worse pain than landing at LAX on a Friday afternoon/night.  Well, maybe there is if you’re Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.  Y’all need to stop what you’re doing right now and read about their 8 hour flight from LAX to LAX due to a passenger snafu last night.  I would die.

Anyway, if you’re flying into LA, hope you didn’t make any plans because you’ll be stuck for an hour before you can even reach Century or Sepulveda Blvds.  It has one of the worst traffic flow designs of any place that is allegedly supposed to serve that many people.  Like the architect deliberately thought, how can we purposely make it so there’s only one route out that bottlenecks like crazy?

Even though it one of the worse places on this planet (you think I’m exaggerating.  I am not), it’s a necessary evil that has to be dealt with because you can fly almost anywhere from there.  One of the busiest airports by volume, if you’ve flown internationally from SoCal, you’ve likely flown out of LAX.  It is the second busiest airport in the US by passenger load, and maybe for this week it is a little better than the busier ATL (at least there’s power).

There are 8 numbered terminals separate from the Tom Bradley International terminal.  1= Southwest; 2 = Delta and SkyTeam members: Aer Lingus, WestJet, Virgin, Aeromexico.  3 = Delta, Copa, Avianca, Interjet; 4 = American 5 = American, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country. 6 = Alaska, Virgin America, Air Canada, Mokulele, Great Lakes. 7 and 8 = United.  There are random exceptions in terms of check in counters for some of the international carriers of the codeshare alliances, but all international flights return to Tom Bradley (TBIT).

I will give it one thing though, there’s some good shopping there, particularly duty free.  And if you’re uber wealthy, there are separate luxury lounges that are not connected to the terminals where you can get checked in and taken to your plane by SUV.  There could be more restaurants, as the selection is dispersed sparingly amongst the terminals.

Remember: ✈️ = welcome to the jungle to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = i love LA (we love it)

Convenience to the city: ✈️  (theoretically it is, practically it is not; may the odds be ever in your favor if you’re flying in during peak hours, rideshares help but it takes awhile)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️  (you’re at the mercy of shuttle buses on the tarmac that wind passengers around planes from terminal to terminal)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ ✈️ (fairly efficient for its size)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (three planes because the eateries are good, but limited in each terminal, so there’s not that many given options.  But…you should look for Ink.sack by Michael Voltaggio in TBIT, La Brea Bakery in Terminal 1, lots of Coffee Beans and Starbucks as well as local coffee shops around; Pinkberry locations, Panda Expresses, Shake Shack in terminal 3, Wolfgang Puck eateries in 6, the Habit and Wahoo’s fish tacos in 6; LA’s hipcute cafeteria Lemonade in 5, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza, SlapFish, etc)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (don’t expect them to be that clean unless you’re in a recently renovated terminal)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (no free wifi, which makes complete sense)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (every lounge ever (including a luxe Qantas), retail from bliss spa, Spanx to Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Harley Davidson — wish there were more options per terminal, but hey real estate is a premium here.  I took one plane off because the Sanrio store closed.  Also, don’t forget to check out the spacey Theme Building on arrival, home of the former Encounters restaurant (wasn’t actually that bad food wise) but now is a viewing deck on the weekends)

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know before you go: Long Beach (LGB)

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As we start traveling for the holidays, I have to shout out to one of my home airports.  Ah Long Beach, a lovely little secret.  I like flying into this tiny regional airport.  It’s no frills, quick, easy and it makes you feel like you’re in the 60s or something because you go out directly onto the tarmac when you come and go.

LGB is a hub for JetBlue, but now Southwest even has some flights out of here. There a couple of regional Delta and American flights as well. It’s one small terminal split into North and South concourses with 11 gates for the whole airport.  JetBlue has gates 1-5. There’s not much food, but what are you doing eating at the airport? You’re likely coming from LA/OC anyway.

Overall it’s a nice airport to get from point A to point B quickly.  The fact that you can skip LAX to get to NY and Boston from this no fuss airport is awesome and worth giving up on amenities and dining.

Remember: ✈️ = so much drama in the LBC to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sublime

Convenience to the city: ✈️ (it’s in Long Beach, off the 405, may the odds be ever in your favor)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (I think it takes 5 minutes from one end to the other)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (not a lot of traffic = fast lines)

Dining: ✈️ (bring your own food)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not that many of them)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️ (what are amenities?)