Not everything about LA is delightful.
The first four days we were there we treated it as a celebrity safari . There was certainly some hilarity, but the pollution nearly made The Hungry One break out in hives.
In the 28 hours to kill in Los Angeles before we came home, I think we managed to capture the best spirit of LA.
Here’s how it goes;
Check into a hotel near the beach. The rest of LA is plastic and strange and there’s plenty of both of those things on Venice Beach, but the sea breeze helps push it away. If you’re flush, you’ll want to stay at Shutters on the Beach. For us it was the Best Western Marina Pacific Hotel & Suites. It was lukewarm in the budget stakes and was right on Venice Beach. I learned quickly that if you stray too far up the sand towards Santa Monica you might find fewer people selling henna tattoos on your doorstep, but you’ll also pay twice as much for your bed.
Get your skates on. It’s a cliche that works. Rollerblading up and down Venice beach is great for the following reason;
a) Unlike half the other people doing it; you don’t have to do it wearing a bikini. Jeans and a top will be just fine.
b) It’s a swift way to see a lot of the area; start at the hippies and track your way up to Muscle Beach past the Baywatch stands.
c) If you’ve been traveling through California for three weeks or are just about to; surely it’s time you got a little bit of exercise. At sunset it’s lovely.
Get dressed for dinner. You’re going out.
The Penthouse at the Huntley hotel in Santa Monica has a mixologist, a 360 degree view from the 18th floor that floats on to Malibu and beyond. There’s enough space between your table, the cougars, studio execs and blonde bambi eyed bimbettes that will surround you that you can hear enough of their conversation to chuckle, but still manage to digest your food. That’s a good thing, because the food and booze is pretty grand.
For me it was a cucumber thyme amnesia cocktail to start with a little floating island of cucumber with a tree of thyme- perfect to pocket if you need to fix your eye puff in the morning. White cranberry, gin with some pressed cucumber juice feels light and trickily boozy at the same time. For The Hungry One it was a ‘celery filthy sexy’- I’m serious. A savory style margarita with cilantro and chilli. For $US13 each they more than get you on your way.
We were equal fans of crabcakes that come the size of hockey pucks with a salad of shaved apple and a honey dijon and white truffle sauce. It works- the crab slightly sweet, the apple gives a light crunch and the white truffle flutters around the edges and plonks down every now and again to return it all to the ground.
There’s lots more at reasonable prices that’s all good; DIY steak tartare with squares of multigrain grilled cheese sandwich on the side, a spicy tuna tartare buried beneath a squishy carapace of sliced avocado, a salad of primary coloured beetroots cut out in discs with shavings of spanish sheep cheese, chunks of toasted hazelnut, fresh herbs and a flummery style yogurt bavois.
Then there’s the flatbread, a long pizza festooned with apple smoked ham, caramellised onion, shallots and mozzarella that could easily feed two for dinner. Sadly for us and our propensity to over order- it’s course 6. But it does help soak up the baby cotillions of Provencal rose ($US10) which blush pink, sweet with an underlayer of resistance- like a midewest pageant winner on the cusp of being led astray.
There’s an apple terrine for dessert and more cocktails by the fire as we realise this was one of the only great meals we had in LA.
The Penthouse, Huntley Hotel
1111 Second Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Get yourself to the Farmers Markets
Every Wednesday and Saturday morning at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica there are farmers markets. It also helps restore faith in what is simple and good in the land where billboards tell you how to get finance for your lap band surgery. For breakfast you’ll want some fresh berries if they’re in season and three quarters of the way up the market there’s an Italian stall that does excellent toasted panninis for breakfast.
Get yourself a coffee
If you feel like driving somewhere, Intelligentsia was one of the only coffee places in LA to pass The Hungry One’s muster. Quality crema, he appreciated the complementary glass of sparkling water with his ristretto and it’s quite a groovy little place, all ruby arches and ironically cool kids sitting on lap tops discussing their screenplays.
Get yourself a burger
Apple Pan was the first place we went to when we landed in California. It was around the corner from our hotel and it was the only place still open at 11 pm, within walking distance. There’s a U shaped bar to which you pull up a stool. The service is grumpy, the menu is short. They’ve been there since 1947 (and from the look of it, most of the staff have been there since then too).
The hickory burger comes slippery with smokey sauce and a solid chunk of ground steak, bound together and broiled. There are fries on the side, iced tea, buttermilk or sodas to drink. For dessert you need to try a slice of deep dish apple pie with two scoops of cheap ice cream on the side. You’ll be in and out within 20 minutes, but feel like you tasted something real.
10801 West Pico Blvd. (at Westwood Blvd.), Los Angeles 90064
Now it’s time to go home.