Della Terra (Hollywood)

Della Terra

Della Terra is a fairly upscale Italian restaurant in Hollywood on the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Spaulding.  The menu includes some standard Italian standbys but I decided to try one of their specialty dishes and was thoroughly impressed.  

I had the Filet Mignon Skewers which were wonderful.   The filet mignon was delicious, tender and flavorful, not a bit compromised from being cut up.  They came with fries that were also a delight.  The French fries are obviously made fresh and come as flat strips.  Anyone looking for crispy fries may be disappointed since these are very soft but that’s exactly how I like them.  Though I can’t speak to the other menu choices, I was blown away by this dish and plan on having it every time I go there.  The atmosphere is laid back, perhaps too laid back for some people as the service also tends not to come around very often.  For some, even that may be a plus if you want to just sit and talk with friends and not be bothered.  Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Della Terra immensely and plan on returning soon. 

The Groundlings

The Groundlings are the number one comedy show in Los Angeles.  There are some impressive places for comedy here but none provide the consistency of the Groundlings comedy troupe.  The group has been around since 1974 and has an alumni many, many brilliant minds in comedy.  I’ve been training with them for about three years and haven’t gotten anywhere near the performance level.  Still, I go as often as I can to see their shows and I have never been disappointed.  The Wednesday and Thursday shows are improvisation but I most recently went to their main show which is Friday and Saturday.  The main show consists of written sketches and it changes every few months.  The current show is called Groundlings Singles Cruise and it holds up to the high standards of the company.  The sketches also rotate but there were a few so damn good I’m sure they will still be there.  A seminar on confidence by two women with no reason for confidence.  A life coach coaching just a bit too much and look into the kind of people who would go to a Dan Fogleberg concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  This show seemed to focus on characters more than situations and the strange ways people try to love each other.  The show should still run for another month or so.  I highly recommend catching it while you can.

Saddle Ranch Chop House (Hollywood)

Whoa, even I forgot this blog existed but I couldn’t resist talking about this place.  The Saddle Ranch is an interesting restaurant that has become a fixture on the Sunset Strip but changed since it’s original heyday in the 80’s-early 90’s.  Back then, The Saddle Ranch was a disgusting, sleazy dive where the sediments of the Sunset Strip hair metal scene collected to share drugs and loose women with giant AquaNet cemented hair.  Now, it’s a theme restaurant where its theme is its notorious reputation.  Seriously, it’s a place like the Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood where tourists and families come and are hawked merchandise in a clean, courteous setting.  This strange meta-fiction of restaurant ambiance intrigued me and I tried to go earlier but was unsuccessful since I didn’t have a reservation.  Last Thursday night, with more pre-planning, I was able to get a table.  

The first thing to notice is that parking is wonderfully cheap for Hollywood, $3.75 next to at least $6.00 anywhere else nearby.  The next thing, the most prominent feature of the place is the mechanical bull.  It’s basically like a very creative stripper pole.  Sure men can and do try it, but nobody pays the least amount of attention to them.  No, what makes it their centerpiece attraction is watching drunk girls bounce around before hilariously flying off.  Sex and violence in even such a mild form is endlessly entertaining and cheap for the restaurant since it’s the customers providing the entertainment.

  As for the stuff you actually are paying for, the food, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that great.  I had a burger as opposed to one of their steaks and it wasn’t bad but very plain.  Their alcohol is pretty good.  I had a Mai Tai which came served in a giant carafe and last most of the night.  As with many such restaurants, your paying for the theme and the Saddle Ranch’s is pretty good.  The restaurant was in fact so committed to their aesthetic that when we sat down, Riki Rachtman was sitting at the next table, now that is some fidelity to their concept.  Overall, I would say it is a place worth going, the food might be nothing special but the liquor’s good, the music is great, you get to see people be thrown from a mechanical bull and there’s an extremely good chance you’ll see a celebrity.  I’m not sure about making it a weekly thing but it’s the perfect place to bring out of town guests.  As for me, I’ll probably be going again.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So the end has come, kind of.  We just watched the first part of the last story of Harry Potter at the AMC IMAX at the Century City mall.  It’s a nice plays to see a movie, clean and comfy.  As for the movie, I definitely enjoyed it more than the The Half Blood Prince which felt like a lot of waiting around for the inevitable conclusion.  This one is exciting from the first and it feels as if there is real risk for everyone as main characters start dropping like flies.  I do think it was a good decision to split the story up.  It lets the story breathe and include little details that would otherwise be rushed through.  I was told there would be a lot of camping and there is a lot of camping but it gives a good sense of isolation and desperation.  My biggest complaint about the movie the author, J.K. Rowling create a wonderful world full of excitement and interesting characters but so little of them actually do anything of any importance.  This is basic part of storytelling that is frustratingly absent and especially glaring here where we see plenty of big name actors from previous installments come in, have no dialogue and then disappear.  It’s like if The Two Towers was solely about Frodo and Sam who occasionally wondered what the rest of the characters were doing and then said, “Eh” and went back to their business.  Still, it’s hard to argue about what the movie lacks when what’s there is so good.  I eagerly await the finale.

Gaucho Grill (Brentwood)

Gaucho Grill is an Argentinian steakhouse.  They have a number of locations around Los Angeles and I’ve meaning to try it for a while now.  This week we did and were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the dishes we tried.

First off, they give you bread with bell pepper sauce and chimichurri sauce.  I can’t say I’ve ever had fresh chimichurri, tres chic, and delicious.   

Dawn had the skewers which our server was nice enough to take the rods out of.

 

I had a steak sandwich.  Both are meals were exceptionally good.  Juicy steak in my sandwich and good chicken in Dawn’s skewers.  I would definitely recommend The Gaucho Grill.  Their food is certainly not cheap but very much worth the price.  These people know steak; know how to season it and cook it even though I ordered mine well done it was not dry in the least.  

The Counter, Santa Monica

For picky eaters like me, going out can sometimes mean a laundry list of clarifications, cancellations and caveats that lead to the sincere hope the waiter doesn’t spit in your food for being so difficult.  It’s not that I don’t like food, I’m just very particular.  For people like me, The Counter is a paradise.  They build burgers exactly to your specifications, giving you a dizzying array of options to choose from on their menus

Marking your preferences can sometimes feel like a math test but once you’ve gotten over the initial fear of building an inferior burger, you can truly experiment with some wild possibilities.  The last time I was there, I eschewed beef altogether and got a chicken burger.  Madness you say?  There was a method to it.  I wanted to create a profoundly sweet sandwich that needed a milder meat not to become muddled in flavor.  I picked Grilled Pineapple, Carrot Strings, Dried Cranberries, and Apricot Sauce (which was almost like a glaze).  Also Mixed Greens and Avocado because I’m not completely insane.  I was so keen on my creation I devoured half of it before I captured it with my cellphone. 

It was magnificent.  Will I try it again?  Maybe.  We don’t let a month go by without going to The Counter, even when we’re not in town, there are locations all over California and they’ve spread as far as Australia and Ireland.  Also, no matter what I’m eating I always get the Sweet Potato fries.  

Just awesome.  

Mario’s, Huntington Beach

Since I haven’t been able to do anything with such a rehearsal focused schedule, I decided to review a restaurant in Huntington Beach where my play is.  Not technically Los Angeles but what are you going to do.  

 

I went to Mario’s because I was looking for a place to take my family when they come see me and Mario’s was the highest rated Mexican restaurant on Yelp.  The atmosphere was pleasant, with a lot of booths for privacy and even very large booths for groups.  I have to say the menu revealed the biggest knock I can give the place.

The prices see pretty normal until you realize everything costs extra.  $1.89 for guacamole, $1.19 for sour cream and $1.99 for meat in your food.  Also, sodas are $3.00.  I decided to go with flautas since meat is included.  

The flautas were very good.  I had one chicken and one beef and they were both very juicy and flavorful despite being the much thinner kind more like taquitos.

The beans and cheese were also good, the beans suitably cheesy and a good consistency.  The rice however was a bit on the dry side.

Overall, I would recommend this place based on what you are looking for.  The price is definitely higher but the entrees do seem to get very good attention.  As for myself, I’m not sure the higher cost is worth it.

Picasso Cat

Dawn finished her Picasso

She used a different method of tracing three times, once over the real one, then on the back of the tracing paper then again on the front side with the tracing paper over the canvas

Here is the original

And the one she made

Picasso 2.0

So, due to being crazy busy and coming down with a horrible cold this weekend I have been unable to really go out anywhere.  Meanwhile, being shut in the house did allow me to finish my second Picasso.  This one is actually of the Lapin Agile and I think it came out way better than my first attempt. 

Here is the original

And here is mine

One of the hardest parts about creating these is knowing when to finish.  Dawn did one as well and I will upload it if she is ever satisfied with it.

How to paint a Picasso with no talent whatsoever

                           Poster

So, being cast in Picasso at the Lapin Agile as Picasso, (Trust me I’m gonna be bragging about that for quite a while) Dawn suggested I try my hand at painting and took me to the craft store.  I decided I would attempt to paint one of Picasso’s works, specifically, from his blue period since the play is set in 1905.  

One problem, I can’t draw, much less paint, for shit.  My sense of spatial relations is all out of whack.  This is about the best I can do with the human anatomy

                           Figure

Well, I decided to fall back on the technique I learned in Junior High, graphing out the original and copying it piece by piece.  Artistically suspect perhaps, but the only way I was going to make something remotely good.

The first step was choosing a painting.

Old Guitarist

The Old Guitar Player.  Simple shapes, not many colors.  I figured it would be a good place to start.  So, I printed out a copy that was 4x5 since my canvas was going to be 8x10.  Next I taped some tracing paper over it and traced it.  

Window

You can see I put it against the window so I could get some back light.  Some of the contours in the darker areas were especially hard to make out.  Then, after I had traced the major outlines, I penciled in graph lines to make 1/2 inch squares over my sketch, then over the copy I made and finally 1 inch squares on the actual canvas.

 Graph

With my canvas graphed out I used both smaller versions to try to make a bigger version on the canvas.  I very carefully looked at each square and tried to copy the line I saw.  What I lack in surety of hand, I at least make up for in patience.

Here’s the sketch I put on the canvas

Sketch

The hardest parts here were the fingers which also proved the hardest part of actually painting.  We didn’t have many brushes and the cheaper crayola brand just wasn’t cutting it to get the detail I wanted.  So we took a trip to Michaels to get so nicer brushes and even then there were a lot of things I realize I’m completely ignorant about like shading and blending.  It came out decent though and was fun to do so I guess it worked out all right

Final

I’m already considering what I’ll try next, probably the actual painting Lapin Agile

Hopefully I learned something by doing this and that one will be better.