You can probably tell a lot about people by the places they seek out when exploring their new neighborhood.
Kenley and I arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday (1/29) afternoon. Our first meal was at the Baja Fresh just down the street from our apartment. Baja Fresh is a relatively healthy quick-service Mexican joint, sorta like Chipotle. Marketing materials boast that it doesn’t use microwaves. Kenley decried the lack of fatty, cheesy, processed options. It was the second time in the previous three meals that I had avocados. I already felt a little more like a Californian.
For the uninitiated, “Big Lebowski” fans believe is essential to have a Ralphs membership card (the only form of ID the Dude carries).
For dinner, we met Kenley’s high-school friend and former Fling drummer, Ronnie “Romance” Cleland, who has been living in L.A. since Hurricane Katrina forced him out of New Orleans. We ate at a lovely little Italian place in downtown Culver City, which is kinda like the Vista in Columbia or Virginia Highlands in Atlanta.
Culver City is an old neighborhood in Los Angeles north of LAX, southwest of Hollywood and downtown L.A., and east of Venice Beach. “Gone With the Wind” was filmed at Culver Studios, which is still in operation. Sony Pictures also is located here. You can take tours of both.
Our apartment is off Venice Boulevard between Culver City and Palms. Venice Boulevard is a busy commercial corridor that goes east to west from downtown L.A. to Venice Beach. It’s lined with ethnic restaurants featuring Korean, Brazilian, Cuban, Thai and Mexican specialties, as well as American classics such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins — not to mention uniquely Californian options like Howard’s Avocado and Bacon Cheeseburgers. Kenley and I are looking forward to trying some of the establishments, while I’m not sure we’d be so welcome in others.
On Sunday, Kenley returned to work, and I tackled the important task of organizing our closets. I felt like I’d accomplished something after I managed to fit almost all of my clothes (and some of Kenley’s) into our walk-in closet — with just the heavier winter clothes and the linen that I still won’t wear until after Easter in our guest-bedroom closet.
Kenley wasn’t that impressed.
But it’s not a good idea to go to Trader Joe’s for your first time on a Sunday afternoon. They are not large stores, and everyone, from retired liberal hippies to wannabe movie stars, was weaving their way down the aisles trying to grab the last frozen gourmet meal and organic produce, as if there wasn’t another Trader Joe’s less than two miles away.
I managed to grab asparagus risotto, sweet potato gnocchi and a baby arugula blend, which Kenley actually likes (tolerates) when drenched with raspberry gorgonzola vinaigrette.
On a later trip, I splurged and bought the $4.99 bottle of wine instead of the famed Two Buck Chuck.
I still desperately miss Publix. The Ralphs is old and small, and you can’t find everything you need at Trader Joe’s. I haven’t yet made the pilgrimage to the Whole Foods in Santa Monica, but plan to do that soon.
Kenley was off Wednesday and Thursday, so we ventured out beyond our neighborhood. Our first destination was The Grove, a shopping center in Beverly Hills, of course. It’s known for its famous farmers market, which is attached. We spotted our first celebrities together — Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater from “Saved by the Bell” and more recently host of “Extra,”) and William Shatner, who stars in “$#I! My Dad Says,” but is best known for his role as Capt. James T. Kirk in “Star Trek.” (Kenley just made me admit that I had to look that up).
But it was Malia who got the most attention at the Grove. While taking your dog with you wherever you go seems to be an accepted practice here, everyone is used to seeing people carry tiny, yippy dogs in their pocketbooks. They are not used to seeing large snow dogs in Los Angeles. She will certainly be discovered before I become the next Rachel Zoe or Kenley becomes the next Vin Diesel (his words, not mine).
Wednesday night, Kenley and I ate at Ford’s Filling Station gastropub in downtown Culver. The owner and chef is Harrison Ford’s son. It was a little pretentious for something proclaiming to be a pub, but I’ll go back for lunch or happy hour when we can sit outside.
After dinner, we hit the far less pretentious and more divelike Saints & Sinners — which has a vibe similar to The Whig — and Bigfoot West, which is strangely like a ski resort. Both are within walking distance from our apartment. Uh-oh.
On Thursday, we hit the beach. We had lunch at an organic spot in Venice that doesn’t serve Diet Coke (Kenley choked down his meal anyway). It was Malia’s first trip to the beach. She wasn’t sure what to think when she sunk into the sand, so she stayed mostly on the walking path.
Friday night after Kenley got off work, we ate at Rush Street in downtown Culver. The restaurant was big and clubby (there’s a stripper pole upstairs), but I had my favorite meal so far: pumpkin ravioli. I’ll have to go back to try the pumpkin martini. Kenley wants to go back for ladies night.
We met Ronnie and his girlfriend at Joxer Daly’s, a divey Irish pub that very strangely had a very loud Hispanic band playing bad covers. They need to hire Kenley fast!