Monday, July 27, 2009

Naturalmind on My Mind

So what is Naturalmind? Is it, as many in the neighborhood expect, an organic grocery store? Recent attempts at confirming what’s going on at the corner of Griffith Park and Sunset have failed to turn up much, being that the building is still virtually empty.

Dismantling of the facade revealed that prior to the cavernous Video Market, which I always suspected was some kind of front, the building housed a tae kwon do studio. Then the whole structure was painted green, apparently heralding the new business, but oddly, now it’s covered in plywood.

Naturalmind, May 2009; previous tenants include a video store and a tae kwon do studio

Naturalmind, July 2009

When the “For Lease” signs first appeared on the Video Market last fall, I begged my friend Sam from Bi-Rite in San Francisco to open an LA outpost there. (Truthfully I’d been trying to make that happen ever since I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, but finally I had the perfect location for him.) I even encouraged my friend Adam, who’s been in the organic produce business for 10+ years, to start up his own venture. Neither of them bit.

With plenty of space and even a parking lot, the site is a natural (no pun intended) for a neighborhood grocer. There’s already a popular farmers market held just outside its front door, but of course both its hours (Saturday mornings) and its variety are limited; you need to shop elsewhere if meat, cheese, and a bottle of wine are also on your list.

But then why would a grocery store call itself Naturalmind instead of, say, Natural Foods? What I'm afraid of is that rather than something that a wide swath of the neighborhood could really benefit from, we’re going to get a crappy vitamin shop, useless hemp-clothing emporium, or lame yoga studio. What would you like to see there?

*UPDATE 8/3: It is so much worse than I feared: Naturalmind is going to be a BEAUTY SALON. Ugh. This actually makes me angry.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Hour: The Desert Rose

It’s got a huge patio. And a full bar. And it’s close to home. Sounds inviting, right? Basically, it’s the hideous giant stained glass rose, the centerpiece of the restaurant’s decor, that always turned me off—and, apparently, many others around the neighborhood—from trying this place since it opened on Hillhurst a year ago. But I’d heard from a friend that there were decent happy hour specials, so on a recent Friday afternoon, Nathan and I and a couple friends decided to avert our eyes and focus on the other stuff.

Our companions opted for mojitos ($5). Fans of vanilla-flavored liquor might be intrigued by the vanilla mango mojito. I’m not one of those fans, though, and personally thought it tasted like Captain Morgan’s sweat with a splash of patchouli oil.

I ordered a John Daly ($4), which our server explained was an Arnold Palmer with whiskey. It sounded refreshing on a hot day, but either the iced tea or the lemonade tasted like it came from a box. Also, when I looked it up on the interweb later, the recipes all called for vodka, not whiskey, so either the server flubbed or the bar makes a weird version. I guess it didn’t matter since I really couldn’t detect any alcohol in it anyway, so I switched to my usual, Maker’s Mark neat. At $9 a pop, it basically subsidized the discounted beer: $3 for pints of Fat Tire, Stella Artois, or Peroni—now that’s a good deal.

For food, we went with (clockwise from top left) fish and chips ($5), garlic Parmesan fries ($3), a couple falafel sliders ($1.50 each), and the pita pinwheels with hummus and tomatoes ($3). These were good enough if unspectacular, with the exception of the falafel, which was flavorless and dry, like it’d been sitting around for a few days. Also, what’s with calling any old miniature-sized burger a “slider” (in this case, not even a burger)? GIve it a rest already.

In short, I guess it’d be worth going back for the cheap pints and sunshine. Happy hour is between 4 and 6 Monday through Friday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foamy Friday

It's mid-July and for some lucky folks, that means a weeklong vacation to Hawaii. But if the islands are a little out of reach, consider a faster and cheaper jaunt to Island Brewing Company instead. The family-run microbrewery is just steps from the state beach in the charming coastal town of Carpinteria, a mere hour and a half from LA by car. Perfect for a day trip—with a designated driver, of course. Or you could even take Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner.

Island Brewing Company, Carpinteria, CA. Clockwise from top left: a private tour of the brewing works; some labels, each of which is applied to a bottle by hand; beer flight; a selection of cold brews to take back home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fair Fare

This past weekend was the kickoff of the OC Super Fair in Costa Mesa. The main draw for me was Duran Duran, and while most people's reaction might be shock, bemusement, or even pity that the former Fab Five were playing a county fair, keep in mind that the concerts are held in the 8,500-seat Pacific Amphitheater, which easily sold out.

But since this is a food blog, let me turn my attention to an added highlight of the fair: the zucchini weenie. It's essentially a corn dog, but the dog is inside of a hollowed-out zucchini. As my friend Hannah put it, the zucchini is like a condom for the wiener! With mustard and hot sauce, it was actually quite tasty.

The zucchini weenie

Later on, Nathan spotted a Pink's stand and to our pleasant surprise, the pared-down menu included its special named after Huell Howser, one of my all-time heroes. It's two hot dogs in one bun with chili, cheese, mustard, and onions. All I can say is, "Wow... That's amazing!"

The Huell Howser from Pink's