Tuesday, October 25, 2011

hiking - parker mesa overlook

went for a hike on sunday to really interesting weather. where we parked our car at the base of paseo miramar, it was totally socked in and about 62 degrees. about a half mile into our ascent? try 80 degrees and balmy.

deep in meditation
half & half

finally, a view from the parker mesa overlook, which kind of reminds me of the view from atop mount haleakala in maui...

pagani huayra - first look

while in vegas a few months back, we spotted a sports car atop the wynn hotel parking structure that not only had i not seen before, but i couldn't even make out what the make & model was. alas, no more.

thumbing thru a car magazine today, voila! there it was - the pagani huayra (pronounced wire-uh). quite an attractive option for anybody wishing to spend $1.4 MILLION on an automobile...

holy hell batman!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

eats - ink.

managed to snag a highly coveted reservation at michael voltaggio's ink. on saturday night due to a last minute cancellation. i've been checking for the past few weeks to no avail (i.e. i'm not considering wed 5:30pm as a legitimate option) before hitting the bounty.

i've been a fan of the younger voltaggio's style since he took home the top prize over brother bryan on top chef, but never had the chance to visit the langham huntington hotel in pasadena the year he was there. after departing in june 2010, voltaggio scoured the town for an ideal location before settling on melrose in west hollywood, where he opened its doors just last month.

upon arrival, we were told by the maitre d' upon check-in that they were running a tad behind schedule, so our 9:15pm reservation actually became 9:30pm. but not to worry, they planted us directly in front of the open kitchen, where i got to get a bird's eye of voltaggio at work on the pass.

full house inside
voltaggio at the pass

our server mentioned that it's typical to order 3-4 dishes per person (think beautifully composed as opposed to large portions), so we loaded up with seven total, including dessert. not wanting to distract from the dining experience, i opted not to take snaps of each course. our selections played out like so:

* spaghetti - giant squid, squash, hazelnut-ink pesto, piment d'espelette (highlighted by the wide swaths of ribbon-like squid resembling fettucine)
* charred avocado - hen of the woods, fish sauce vinaigrette, mushroom chicharron (the potent vinaigrette in the form of foam injecting a burst of flavor combined with the neutral avocado)
* bay scallops - lamb neck, chickpea poutine (resembling baby carrots!), yogurt curds (my favorite dish of the night)
* butternut squash risotto - langoustine, brussels sprouts, toasted rice (generous chunks of the shellfish)
* sea bass - cream of dehydrated potato, black olive oil, lemon, caper (the least adventurous of the group, yet the crispy skin was a fantastic touch)
* veal cheek - red curry, nante carrots baked in salt, fried sticky rice (nudge-with-a-fork tender with the dollops of curry sauce providing vibrant color)
* apple - crème caramel, burnt wood sabayon, walnut (absolutely unforgettable - they smoke wood chips out back, pour cream, then blast it with liquid nitrogen to create the sabayon)

underside of serving plate

throughout each of the dishes, voltaggio delicates straddles the line between refined and playful, leaving his interpretation of what he calls modern los angeles cuisine, a delicious one.

8360 melrose ave.
los angeles, CA 90069

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

go fly a kite

after sunday's race, driving back along the PCH brought back memories of our recent adventures trying to fly a kite, so we whipped out our kite "cheese" and headed to santa monica to let him loose.

though we had some difficulty getting cheese airborne in encinitas (relative lack of wind), there was no such issues in santa monica. one gentle toss in the air and cheese was never grounded after that...

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 xterra point mugu - results

well, my first trail run is over and done with and it was even more fun than i had hoped. both vim and i can take great pride in the fact that we acquitted ourselves quite nicely - i finished 60th overall and he 107th - despite again not getting to train a whole lot beforehand.

the 18k pushed off at 8am, whereas the 11k started an hour later at 9am. we arrived about an hour early to register, put on our bib and time chips, and plan out our "hydration strategy" (as the race DJ called it) for the race. the one surprise about the distance is that the 11k wasn't exactly 6.83 miles, but rather 7+ altogether.

i stopped drinking fluids about an hour out, but i did have a gatorade pre-game fuel exactly 15 minutes before the start. and because the first water station was a full 3 miles in, i decided to race with a small water bottle (20oz) in hand and a clif gel shot in my pocket.

at the start line, there was a mad dash to get out in front in the first half mile, because single track takes over for the next couple of miles as the trail narrows and gets increasingly steep with boulder climbing, steps, etc. vim & i decided to stay in the middle of the pack, so we could steer clear of those trying to win, but ahead of those who were a bit slower.

the ascent covered just over 4.5 miles in all, deceiving many who thought that the fire road at the halfway point was the peak. luckily, we were armed with that knowledge from our scout last week, so conserving energy while making the climb was vital. once the elevation flattened out and we started making our way down the ray miller trail, i kicked it into another gear. i literally flew down the mountainside, passing people one by one by barely sneaking off to the side. the view of the pacific ocean while roaring down the switchbacks was sublime and awe-inspiring.

i crossed the finish line at around 1:16, placing me 60th overall in an athletic and competitive field. felt surprisingly spry too, as if a couple of more miles or two wouldn't have been a reach. i supposed we could have went out a tad faster on the hills, but i liked our strategy of conserving for the end. vim crossed the tape a few minutes later, so we were able to celebrate amongst all the other racers.

too quick for the camera
in all my sweaty glory
had to be the socks
showing off our medals!
i felt at home during the race, feeling like the trails could be a strong suit. compared to a regular street race, there is so much varied terrain and scenery - every step is different and you have to focus - so it definitely ramps up the excitement level. plus, there's no better feeling that feeling speed thundering down a hill with the finish line as your goal...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LA beer week - naja's place

day 1 of LA beer week kicked off in grand style at naja's place in redondo beach, where stone brewing took over the taps to the tune of 40+ exclusive and rare beers to be found. not only that, but the co-founder and owner of stone, greg koch, was on hand to get the party started right.

because i was on the VIP list for the event, my $40 entrance fee was waived (thanks martin!). each admission granted you a special commemorative LA beer week glass along with ten 6-ounce tasters of any beer of your choosing. there were a ton of rarities on draft, so i opted for the following:

1. double bastard w/chipotle peppers
2. 15th anniversary w/espresso beans
3. cherry chocolate stout (collaboration)
4. special holiday ale (collaboration)
5. smoked porter w/vanilla bean
6. arrogant bastard w/coconut flakes

i wasn't able to take full advantage since i was driving, but the above six still allowed me to do some damage. the double bastard w/chipotle was my fave of the night - its sweet and spicy overtones balanced perfectly with the double digit ABV. and i was thrilled to have tried the cherry chocolate stout, as it was tapped a few weeks ago when i visited the brewery in escondido.

and a final parting shot w/the stone head honcho, who delivered an impassioned plea against yellow fizzy beer, before crowd surfing a la pearl jam circa 1994:

me & greg koch (stone co-founder, owner)

Monday, October 10, 2011

encinitas - day 2

sunday was a relaxing day, in that we enjoyed brunch on the patio at 10am. liz was sweet enough to provide for the birthday gifts that i had wrapped, so it was quite the bonus at breakfast.

we jetted off to nearby carlsbad for a yoga class at haute yoga (warm climate controlled rooms), where i proceeded to sweat my @$$ off like never before. as reward, we made a trip to the famed juanitas taco shop, where between the both of us we ordered the beef, carnitas, carne asada & al pastor tacos.

best taco shop in CA?

satisfactorily satiated, we finally packed up our ride at around 4pm and made the drive back to los angeles. another weekend in paradise, where we will definitely be back and at kate stanton inn...

heidi's birthday - encinitas

spent this past weekend in encinitas celebrating heidi's 30th birthday - definitely a milestone to remember. we stayed at the kate stanton inn, an exquisite b&b we previously visited one year ago for my birthday. innkeepers liz and carol are two of the sweetest people you will ever meet, so they took care of every single one of our needs for the weekend.

we had lunch at the healthy lotus café before taking a stroll to the self-realization fellowship & gardens for some meditation at the tranquil locale. afterwards, we hit up union kitchen & tap for a pint of sculpin IPA, before heading back to kate stanton for a birthday toast.

j street viewpoint
entrance to self-realization gardens
nature at work
union kitchen & tap
at about 6pm, we returned to kate stanton, where liz & carol surprised heidi with birthday balloons and the bottle of moscato d'asti i previously picked up for her for christmas - one of the very few alcoholic beverages she likes and can actually drink. from there, we drove to kaito sushi, where we both went omakase for the first time under head chef kazuo morita. the couple next to us were in the same boat, so it was great fun anticipating just what was coming next. a quick rundown of what we had to eat:

* amuse bouche w/salad & tuna
* freshly sliced conch
* japanese snapper sashimi
* amberjack sashimi w/yuzu kosho (a spicy green paste made from zest of a japanese citrus fruit)
* anago (saltwater eel) tempura
* saba (japanese mackerel) sashimi
* fresh salmon roe sushi
* toro (fatty tuna) done two ways

not only was the meal memorable in many ways, but the company and conversation we carried on with chef kazuo created a fantastic dining experience. he told us a lot about his childhood growing up in chiba, japan and how he is only as good as the fish he has to work with on any given day.

kaito sushi
130-A north el camino real
encinitas, CA 92024

visit - hollywood magic castle

last thursday was the first time i paid a visit to the world famous magic castle hotel! finally getting a chance to say "open sesame" after all these years - one can only visit if they've received an invite from a magician or a club member - it was quite the fun and mystifying experience.

built in 1908, the castle is basically a mansion, with different sized magic shows going thru the night. in addition to the larger shows, there are nooks and crannies on each floor where other magicians show off their wares with card tricks and whatnot. most of the invitees build their evening around dinner there, but we were able to partake in the festivities without having to do so (entrees are around $30-40, so they don't come cheap).

we took in the 10pm show in the main performing area - where illusionist jonathan pendragon sawed a girl in half - then saw an 11:15pm show based on memory and math tricks. i couldn't crack anything i saw that night and walked away shaking my head in amazement. because it was a school night, we couldn't stick around for longer, but i definitely hope to make a return trip!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

R.I.P. - steve jobs

as a faithful apple/mac user since grade school, a salute to the creative genius who has affected our lives for the better multiple times over...


10/6 update: spotted on my lunch break at third street promenade, santa monica, CA

apple store - third street promenade

hike - echo mountain + inspiration point

sunday morning we decided to do the 5-mile roundtrip hike to echo mountain in altadena, which i've done several times prior. we arrived at the start of the trailhead at 10am and quickly made our way to the intersection of the lower sam merrill trail and castle canyon trail about 2.5 miles up at 11:15am.

since we were still good with water & supplies, we opted to make the climb to inspiration point (an additional 4 miles round-trip) instead. heidi started to drag for the last mile or so, but once we saw visual indication of our goal, we made it to the top in no time at all.

push-ups (not planking)
reward at roscoe's

here's one last look at the POV from inspiration point:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

huntington library & botanical gardens

scratch yet another socal landmark off my list, as i got the chance to visit the beautiful huntington library & gardens on saturday afternoon. despite temps in the high 80s, we were able to find just enough shade throughout to enjoy its expansive grounds (120 acres!).

the gardens are broken up into various themes - chinese garden, rose garden, etc. - and the provided map outlines where everything is located. sadly the japanese garden is currently under construction, as they're gearing up for their 100th anniversary with a 2012 extravaganza.

main entrance
desert garden
lily ponds
up close
at the australian garden, kids by the boatload were scrounging up supplies to make their own whimsical constructs, whether it be a tribal face, a tent, or a pillow of feathers:

and a few snaps at the chinese garden:

mother & newborn
food pavilion
enjoying the tranquility
jade ribbon bridge
taunting the koi

at the entrance

the huntington library, art collections & botanical gardens
1151 oxford road
san marino, CA 91108