Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

LOS ANGELES: Hidden Los Angeles, Part One - J's Picks

Recently for an assignment, I had to write a feature article that used several sources and was to be written on a pretty tight deadline. So naturally I turned to my friends, and naturally I chose a topic that I thought could be put worked into an article in a short amount of time: Hidden Los Angeles.

The problem was, I got way too many interesting suggestions for my little old article. So while I only ended up using a portion of them in the article (I got an A, by the way. Yay, me!) I wanted to feature all of them. So the next several posts will be a series featuring the secret joys of the city of my favorite people. You know they will be cool, because you know that anyone I think is cool - is THE COOLEST.

First, I begin with my husband, who is both handsome and hip. I can vouch for all of his selections as I have been to all of them. Some are more hidden than others, but all of them are neat.

Museum of Jurassic Technology: This is perhaps the craziest place you will ever go in your life. After I went there, I had to buy a book about it in order to try to figure out what I had just seen. It’s a cross between museum and art installation, and once you enter its walls, you can’t really be sure of reality until you step back outside. The Museum was founded in 1989 by David and Diana Wilson. Even if you read about the place before you go, you won’t be quite sure what to expect.

The museum bills itself as a “specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities.” Confused? Don’t worry, you’re meant to be. The museum itself houses an eclectic mix of exhibits that is modeled on the 18th century “cabinet of curiosities,” which was a private collection of historical and scientific artifacts and the predecessor of natural history museums.
The fact is that the exhibits are a mixture of fact and fiction, science and art, and it is difficult for the observer to separate one from the other. As you are drawn further into the museum’s riddles, you begin to wonder if the exhibits marked as “Out of Order” ever work, or if it is yet another part of the game the museum creators are playing with their audience.

The permanent exhibits include “The Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall,” purported to be a horn that grew on the head of a human woman; “Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home Parks;” and “Eye of the Needle,” a collection of miniature paintings and sculptures placed within the eyes of needles. When you leave, you won’t really know what to make of what you just saw, but you will want to go back again in the hopes of someday figuring it out.

Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 836-6131


Giant Robot: Located on Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles's other Little Tokyo, Giant Robot is the store form of the Giant Robot magazine, a celebration of Asian and Asian-American pop culture. The two founders/owners are hometown guys (Go, Bruins!) and really, really nice guys as well. Giant Robot, and its down-the-street-neighbor, GR2 house an eclectic selection of t-shirts, books, graphic novels, magazines, toys, stationary, collectibles, and art that are either a part of, or based on, or referring to Asian culture, or are just cool.

In addition to just being a store, they have all kinds of special events, including art exhibitions. While you are at it, take a stroll around the area and partake in one of the great restarants. Have some sushi or Japanese curry - you won't regret it. Or pop into the market and stock up on all those mystifying Asian treats you can't find elsewhere.

Giant Robot Store
2015 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
(310) 478-1819


Silver Lake Wine Store: There are stores, and there are stores. Most stores just do their job, i.e., be a place where you can go to buy certain things. But some stores are a little bit more than that. Some stores you can go in and you feel like you want to hang out there. You want to not only purchase their wares, you want to talk to the people there about their product and be their friends and learn from them. Some stores are special. Silverlake Wine is one of those stores. It is a small wine shop, the selection is carefully chosen and constantly updating.

The proprietors are committed to providing the best product at all price ranges, and they put on really fun tastings. I am not by any means a wine expert. Usually I just go to a wine store with the intention of picking out something I've heard of, or what the store person recommends, but at the Silverlake Wine Store, something happens to me. I go for a wine tasting and come out with at least six bottles in my arms. And they are always good.

Plus, Gingergrass is right across the street! I can think of no better way to spend my time than at a tasting at the wine store followed by dinner at Gingergrass with one of my new bottles of wine.

Silverlake Wine Store
2395 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 662-9025

Gingergrass
2396 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 644-1600


HMS Bounty: I kind of hate to do this. The people who have this as their own little place are going to be angry, but if you are in the Koreatown area you could do worse than to spend the evening at this Los Angeles relic. The Bounty is the kind of place you could imagine your grandma and grandpa going on a nice date at one point in time. It's like the Miss Havisham of bars - you feel like it has never changed, only the world around it has changed. The waitresses certainly haven't changed. Sometimes I wonder if the waitresses are in the same time warp that the bar/restaurant is in, that they just serve people in this bar for all eternity and I wonder if that's a punishment or a reward.

You can go here just as a bar, or you can eat dinner here as well. The selections are as old-timey as the decor and the staff, including baseball steak, london club, and the fascinating - yet repelling - Monte Cristo sandwich. The prices are equally old-fashioned, which is a huge plus. The menu perplexingly warns that prices are subject to change while you are dining, but it hasn't happened to me yet.

While you are here, you must order a classic cocktail, because they do them right, and you must take a trip to the bathroom, which I challenge you to find. It's a strange and sometimes frightening journey. You also should check out the walls as you can learn a little about the actual HMS Bounty. And many a drunken night here has inspired me to go home and read about this ill-fated ship, which I now know more about that is really necessary, including what breadfruit is, what STDs the sailors transmitted to their Tahitian wives, and the fact that the poor mutinied captain actually fared the best of all the crew. If you are tired of paying double digit prices for your drinks, a night at the Bounty may be just what you need.

HMS Bounty
3357 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010



Scoops:
I don't know that Scoops is that hidden anymore, and if you read my blog, it's not hidden at all, but I got two recommendations for this place, and it's my favorite, so it's going on the list. If you love gelato and especially if you are adventurous, Scoops is the place to be. Owner Tai Kim lovingly crafts each flavor himself, experimenting with ingredients both expected (strawberry-honey, peach-riesling) and unexpected (wasabi-fig, chocolate-bacon).

The best part about Scoops is of course, the product. But also good is Tai Kim, who is extremely friendly and seems extremely happy with his chosen path in life. He has the wonderful habit of encouraging to try as many flavors as you can before deciding what to buy. This means you can taste what fois gras or taro root gelato is like before ultimately settling on more workaday flavors. The price is right as well. Two dollars for two scoops for exotic and luxurious gelato is one of the best bargains in town. And if you've got a flavor combo you've always been curious about or is near and dear to your heart, put it up on the suggestion board and maybe you can get your gelato dreams turned into reality.

Also! Several vegan flavors for you dairy-resisters out there.

Scoops
712 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 906-2649


American Cinematheque: American Cinematheque is an organization dedicated to promoting film in all its forms. Classic films, obscure films, short films, whatever, you can see it here. Coming up: on January 10, it's "Focus on Female Directors," featuring short films by female directors. On January 12, a seminar with Foreign Language Golden Globe nominees, Marc Forster, Ang Lee, Cristian Mungiu, Marjene Satrapi & Vincent Payronnaud, and Julian Schnablel. In addition, there are classic and not-so-classic films screening almost every day. Check the website for details.

American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
(323) 466-3456

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