18 June 2009

If your coffee can't be local...can your coffeeshop?

Something has gone terribly wrong in Venice. And it's called Intelligentsia Coffee. One of these "coffeebars" landed on Abbot Kinney this past Monday in the old Scentiments (flower shop) plot. Donny and I walked in there last weekend and were not sure if we were still in Venice; in that bad way.

The coffee was good. And the pistachio scone was yummy. But the interior decoration and overall design went way too far. I love modern and I love to try new concepts, but this was too much and not Venice. Every espresso machine was see-thru, as in you could see the mechanics. There were at least 4-5 espresso coffee stations. Every countertop that wasn't glass or stainless was some sort of wood looking material. It definitely didn't look like reclaimed wood, compared to the tables at Gjelina. And it didn't even come close to the simple, minimalist style at Axe. The baristas were all wearing uniforms, which was a big red flag that this meant corporate. It felt contrived and overly commercial. I'm there to get a cup of coffee, not feel like I'm in a commercial for coffee AND all of its machines, beans, cups, accessories, etc. There were more things to buy than flavors of coffee.

And the clientele. For having been open not even one weekend prior the place was buzzing. I felt as though I was on a TV set filled with happy, trendy people sipping lattes and having just the Most Amazing Weekend! That maybe real for some people in LA, but its not my neighborhood.

My house has a stoner who lives in his car and several cats that roam the streets like they own it.

I never thought we "needed" another coffee shop on Abbot Kinney. I think we have done just fine with Abbot's Habit, 3 Square, Groundwork and the Dola newsstand (see photo), which incidentally sells Intelligentsia coffee. Now, I already know that the owner of the otheroom has plans for a cafe/market of his own so that you can buy snacks and drink beer next door to the bar. Somehow even though I know he has at least 5 bars between NY, LA and Miami - it still feels like a local joint. Maybe its the interior design, maybe because I've met the owner and he's a cool guy or maybe because its just a fun place to hang out and there are only 2 other bars on Abbot Kinney.

Something has to change and I'm not sure what that something is. I am worried that my lovely hippie, arty, often wealthy, yet weird neighborhood has gone too far and raised the real estate prices too much. No one else can afford to own a shop. A good friend of mine opened up a lovely shoe boutique just down the street. They sold designer shoes. Both she & her partner live in Venice. They were open for about 2 years and just closed because they couldn't sell enough to cover the rent. Within a year I fear that twice the number of stores will have valet, t-shirts will cost more than $200 and Abbot's Pizza will be a distant memory. Venice has a lot of history & heart. I didn't sign up to live in Beverly Hills or 3rd Street or even Santa Monica. Venice is my home.

In closing, here is a little taste of Intelligentsia's mission in creating the Venice coffeebar:
...another re-imagining of what a coffee experience can be...guests are not met with the standard experience of waiting in line. After passing through the iron gates facing the bustling boulevard, visitors walk down an ivy-covered hall open to the sky where they are greeted at a butcher block “concierge desk.” From this point, they are taken to one of four custom-fabricated espresso machines where their espresso drink or coffee-by-the-cup is prepared. The idea is for a barista to stay with one person throughout the interaction to create an individualized experience for every customer, regardless of how many are being served.

Intelligentsia hired Ana Henton of MASS Architecture & Design to execute the Venice coffeebar. Henton created a space that contains very little in the way of defined seating, and there is no counter or register, which will create a more communal sense of setting.

09 June 2009

Disposable Technology

Found pic on Gizmodo this morning. I think this is something we can all relate to and don't think about often enough.
art by Kyle Bean

05 June 2009

Local Q&A: Canning et plus

Q: So my girl and I wanna figure out the best, cheapest setup to can some vegetables over the summer. Mostly tomatoes, if that makes a difference. We don't have too big a garden. 10 tomato plants, 4 pepper plants, some beets and onions. We're not preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Just wanna avoid tossing what we don't eat fresh. Also, how are you?

A: Canning is a lot of fun if you make a day or evening of it. Open a bottle of wine and crank some good tunes...it is time consuming, and has to be done all at once. There are two main methods to canning. One is the "water bath" method. This can be done in a large pot (sometimes I use my biggest soup pot.) This method can be used for jams, pickles and other food items with lots of preservatives (salt, sugar, vinegar) Basically you put the goods in the clean jars, submerge them in water and let them boil. Tomatoes are high in acid and are not usually prepared in those preservatives and therefore need to be prepared with the pressure cooker method. I bought a canning pressure cooker at OSH for 40 or 50 bucks. This method increases the temps. Pressure cookers can be a little nerve wrecking since they can explode at any minute. But todays pressure cookers are pretty safe, as long as you use them wisely. I wouldn't trust the one my grandma used to use. The other really important thing to know is that EVERYTHING must be sterilized. Jars, lids, and canning tools should be clean and sterilized. I use a couple of other pots of boiling water. I also use clean towels so I don't have to touch the jars. There is plenty of info online about cooking times for various items. It really depends on the recipe. I recommend "Preserving the Harvest" by Costenbader and "Pickles and Relishes" (if you are into that sort of thing) by Chesman for good recipes. Both books also have chapters on methods and cooking times. Good luck man. That is awesome that you are growing some food.

I'm not sure when the last time we spoke, but we moved into a new house in Highland Park. We're renting, but the landlord is a friend and let's us do whatever we want to the yard. We've removed most of the grass in the back yard and are working on turning it into a large garden. We also just got 3 chickens. Should be sweet once [they] start laying eggs. Their names are Edith (black) Mildred (brown) and Prudence (blonde). We wanted to name them good Depression Era names. Here are a few pics. (see above) You can see how fast they have grown in only three and a half weeks. Hope all is well with you.

04 June 2009

Local Aphid Resurgence

Donny checks the tomato plants every day. He waters them, makes sure the leaves are growing above the ladder rungs and if they're not he trains them to.

He is also on the lookout for aphids. Last season we had a bountiful amount of fruit, but just as many leaves covered in the green slimy suckers. Aphids can not only prevent your fruit from growing, but it can quickly kill your plant. Next to rodents and lack of sun, aphids are a burden to all gardeners.

Donny learned from the head gardener at our local nursery, that when you find aphids you can clip the leaves and put them in a plastic bag. These leaves should go in your trash and not in your compost, which risks infesting all future fertilizer.

And last night, Donny found that the aphids had returned, so he made an emergency run to Anawalt
for a container full of adorable little red ladybugs. The directions advise you to present the ladybugs in colder weather and that if you do not have aphids, the ladybugs will just leave. If the aphids have taken over, then the ladybugs will sit on the leaves and eat the slimy suckers.

Ladybugs are a great non-toxic option to chemical repellents. It also doesn't hurt that they are pretty adorable to look at and see roaming around your garden. They definitely can't hurt your plants, so I suggest giving them a try.

All photos featured here - by Donny Martino Jr.

03 June 2009

1st sign of Summer Flowers

In my mind the best kind of summer flowers are that which turn into tomatoes. In the past week almost all of our tomato plants in the rooftop garden have begun to produce fruits. I've seen maybe a half dozen of the tiniest tomatoes you could imagine. The rest of them are little flowers that almost look like marigolds. Any day now they will all be that gorgeous red color. It is very uplifting to know this year's crop is likely to do really well. We are already looking into canning options.

02 June 2009

Do you "Bike in Style"?

Donny and I ride our bikes on the weekend almost exclusively. Getting dressed for riding bike is no different than figuring out what to wear to work or going out to a nice restaurant.

There are times where we take 4 hour long rides to/fro Redondo Beach and on those occasions it makes sense to wear something in the neighborhood of my converse sneakers, comfy shorts and a tank top or t-shirt plus lots of sunscreen. Often times I'll bring a simple hoodie if its windy. On other days we will casually ride to the farmer's marke
t on the Promenade or go to a friend's house for brunch and then I might sport some cute flats and a summery dress. We've also been known to hit up a fancy dinner at Via Veneto on Main Street. On those nights I like to get really dressed up in a party dress and wedge heels.

Fortunately nutcase has come out with some very cool helmets that could go with any attire; not only for biking - they've got water & snow helmets as well. (see below for the checkerboard helmet I picked up at LA Brakeless recently.)

I am not ashamed to say that for all occasions I like to look stylish, but also be comfortable as to not impede from riding fast.

And just today it has come out that Louis Vuitton's own parent company may launch some pieces/line for those looking for more out of active bike wear.

LVMH, the luxury brand that brings us Pucci, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, set a "Bike in Style" challenge for some Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) students in New York City. They asked the students to create "stylish, practical and affordable bike clothing & gear" in support of Mayor Bloomberg's bicycling and green initiatives for the city. Specifically they were asked to design a set of biking essentials: a poncho, a jacket and a travel bag for both men & women. Not exactly biking essentials for SoCal, but it's a start.

The winner, Jessica Velasquez, was announced today (see her winning drawings above). The designs will debut at Summer Streets; a series of (3) August Saturdays when Park Ave and connecting streets (from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park) are closed to motor vehicles.

Financially the "challenge" was supported by a grant from LVMH to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

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