Friday, July 31, 2009

Van Nuys German Deli - The Real Deal

I think I'm more German than my husband is. And I'm not German. At least not ethnically. No matter where I am, outside of Germany, I'm always on the search for everything German. So I'm always on the hunt for German food suppliers, restaurants, butchers, delis, bookstores, you name it.

After years of going to Alpine Village Market in Torrance for great Bavarian Weiss Wurst or Nuernbergers and Continental Gourmet Sausage Co. in Glendale for Bockwurst, I finally found another option. This time we hit the jackpot.

Van Nuys German Deli is an unassuming deli tucked in a strip shopping mall across the street from the Budweiser Plant, between car speaker installers and a liquor store.

Tobias Konrad, the owner is very proud of his sausages. He believes he makes them better than his competitors. So when we took a bite into his wieners followed by the Swiss Weiss Wurst, the Thueringer, the Nuernberger and Jaeger Wurst, we knew we found a gem.

For us, Alpine Village Market use to hold the gold standard for sausages. But Tobias was right. His is better. It's comparable to the best hand made sausages in Germany. He also sells liverwurst, hams and a variety of other meats. You can order sandwiches to go.

The best part- Tobias and his family of helpers are personable and jovial. They add to the sweet flavor of the sausages. You also can get Bretzeln (traditional German pretzel) two times a week. Although, it's definitely not as good as the ones from Alpine Village. This small deli provides the essential foods, sweets, cheeses, breads and liquor from the 'heimat' (homeland). It has become our choice destination to supply our German fests.

Van Nuys German Deli
16155 Roscoe Blvd
North Hills, CA 91343
Tel: (818) 892 2212
Fax: (818) 892 1482
T-Fr 10-6
Sat 10-5

Thursday, July 30, 2009

L.A. Fog

I'm always excited when the fog rolls into L.A.. It makes you feel like you're living in an intimate place when in reality it is a large, often anonymous metropolis.

I caught this coyote looking at me while I was mesmerized by the enveloping fog. We stared at each other as strangers passing in the night. There was a kind of connection between us. Both of us sharing an intimate moment in the fog. Then he started walking away but stopped to look at me once again. Perhaps he wanted my figure etched in his memory, just as I was etching his silhouette into my memory card. With that, he slipped away.

Pho So #1 - Vietnamese Restaurant

I had to drop off my car for a quick service in North Hills (San Fernando Valley). So while O and I waited, we decided to have lunch at Pho So #1 in Van Nuys. It's located in, guess what? Another strip shopping mall at the north east corner of Victory and Sepulveda. Next door is the Chinese supermarket 99 Ranch Market, making the location convenient.

O and I had the same Egg Noodle Soup with Seafood and Pork. O did add meat balls to his soup. The waiter first brought the standard vegetables which you could add to the soup yourself. The vegetables included soy bean sprouts, mustard greens, chili and Thai basil. We didn't have to wait long for the noodles.

The soup was light, clear and tasty. In general, it was good eats for a good price (approx. $7.00 each). O did wish that he had the rice noodles instead of the egg. I on the other hand, was happy with the egg. I highly recommend it but don't count on it being the best you've ever had. It's just great local and authentic fare.

The place is much like a typical Asian restaurant in Asia. Basic decor makes it feel down 'Asian' home-like. During the whole time we were there, the tables were filled and there were always a few people waiting to be seated. The service was no nonsense. This is a place I'd go back to when I want a quick comfort meal.

Pho So #1
6450 Sepulveda Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91411
Tel: (818) 989 6377

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Annenberg Space for Photography

I was very excited to learn about the new Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. But I missed the opening exhibition of LA Photographers which included Julius Schulman, the master architectural photographer who died just this month.

O and I went to see their second installation- PICTURES OF THE YEAR: VISIONS OF EXCELLENCE- THE WORLD IN HIGH RESOLUTION. If you're an avid news junkie, you'll have seen many of the photos published in Time, Newsweek, Reuters or countless other domestic and international news outlets this last year. But it's amazing to see the pictures in print and digital, right in your face, with stories behind them. They evoke far more emotion than if I read it on page 20 in the LA Times.

When these images are presented in a news format, there is a distance set between you and the subject. While you feel some empathy, it somehow doesn't have quite the punch when you can see into the subject's eyes.

There was one image of a throng of people in Haiti surrounding a man holding the naked, lifeless body of a young girl. Her name is Tamesha. She was swept from her bed after a hurricane flood. I can imagine the photo being published in some newspaper, in print or on-line.

The situation is tragic. But set against so many tragic stories, one is numbed by the report of yet another plight. So to be honest, and I hope I don't come off sounding disrespectful or even flippant ('cause it isn't meant to be), it probably wouldn't punch me in the gut like it did looking at it up close.

The print was large enough for me to see the child's partially closed eyes that was filled with gunk. Her little feet dangling, not from carefreeness but from lack of life force. The pain of the people surrounding this unfortunate event is all too visible within their eyes and facial expressions. You could sense their feeling of helplessness and surrender to the powers of nature after four consecutive storms.

I was choking up inside as I read the caption and looked at Tamesha's eyes. The picture is called "Angel" by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald (see photo).

Similarily, I was horrified when I saw a picture of a 7 year old boy named Lawiland, screaming in terror as a policeman approaches him with a baton in Nairobi. The police were searching protesters and supporters of Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Not only do you see the fear in the child's eyes, but you can project yourself into his future. If he ever survives to have one. You can feel how this child could grow up with hate and embody it. He could become the policeman with the baton in the picture, who is represents a government. His job is supposed to look after the welfare of its people. 'To protect and serve' so to speak. But instead, his job is to censure and silence all opposition with brutal force.

Chills went up my spine as I imagined myself in the boy's shoes. The reality of oppression and depression hit me on the head. The picture is called "Monday Screams" by Walter Astrada - Agence France-Presse (see photo)

On the other hand, the photo of the whale who was curious about the man on the sea floor, brought a smile and a chuckle to my heart. It is a lesson on respect for each other, even when they don't know each other. If only humans would take a cue from this photo. Why can't we just be curious and learn? The photo is titled, "First Encounter" by Brian Skerry of National Geographic (see photo).

As for the much touted space designed by AECOM Design, it is actually disappointing. It was supposed to be inspired by the mechanics of a camera. Frankly, it felt like a watered down idea. You really don't get a sense that you are walking through the inside mechanics of a camera.

They have curtains of metal beads hanging to represent the metal aperture curtain. This is the biggest B.S. I have ever heard. The symbolic connection is non-existent. The only time that there is some reference to camera is when you are in the main video room. And there's a huge missed opportunity as they were vaguely trying to put you inside a lens aperture.

The whole exhibit space feels like you're walking through the left over interstitial space (i.e. from the main video room), rather than a deliberately designed space for viewing images. This is especially true when you find yourself in the hallway where the toilets are and prints and video screens are on display there. It was just awkward to view images next to the toilet. I felt bad for the photographers whose works were relegated to this area.

The lighting had no drama, nor was it the best for viewing images. You'd think a place designed for image viewing, would spend much of its efforts on lighting.

All in all, the space just felt like a corporate fulfillment of a planning requirement of the city. The city looked at the huge office development and decided that in order for the buildings to be developed, the developer had to give back something to the community. So the Annenberg Foundation jumped at the chance to put into the community building, a photo space. Here we are today with a 'free to the public' space.

BTW- I like the fact that they don't call it a museum. It doesn't make precious the objects we view.

I do love that it is in the middle of where people work. It's great to inspire every day life with a little art. Actually, I'm really hoping that the images they show will bring a little humanity to the often cut throat lawyers, agents and bankers who work in the area. It would be interesting to survey the museum patrons and see what percentage of patrons work in the area.

The visit was definitely worth it. Try to give yourself some time to study the photos. The photos are presented in print as well as via large video screens. They have a couple of the Microsoft interactive screens where you can go through photos with the touch screen technology similar to the IPOD technology or CNN's interactive display screen.

July 11 - Nov 1
Century Park
2000 Avenue of the Stars, #10
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Tel: (213) 403 3000
Wed-Sun 11am-6pm

University of Missouri
Missouri School of Journalism
Administrative Offices, Suite 300
Columbia, MO 65211
Tel: (573) 822 2922

Monday, July 20, 2009

Todd Schorr- American Surreal Art

For those of you in the San Francisco bay area or better, San Jose, California....One of O's and my favorite pop illustrative artist, Todd Schorr, has a solo retrospective exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art. Todd has managed to get many of the owners of his paintings to lend to the show. So, it is pretty comprehensive. Arrested Motion, an art blog, shows photos of the opening reception.

110 S Market Street
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel: (408) 271 6840

Photo of painting by Todd Schorr
Photo of American Surreal Exhibit by Scott Beale at Laughing Squid

Sunday, July 19, 2009

BBQ Unlimited- Chinese Restaurant in North Hollywood

Here is one of my favorite 'stammtisch' restaurants. For those of you who don't know what 'stammtisch' means, please click on the word and it will take you to Wikipedia.

It's hard to find a 'real' Chinese restaurant in non-asian communities. We all know that there are many 'chop suey' type restaurants that cater to the non-authentic demanding palettes. But we did find one within decent driving distance. Actually, friends of ours, introduced us to it.

Nestled in the corner of a strip shopping mall on Sherman Way, a street lined with strip and corner shopping malls, BBQ Unlimited is an unassuming dining paradise. Its neighbor is the Bangluck Supermarket and a very popopular Thai restaurant which we'll have to try out next time we crave Thai food.

This family-style Cantonese restaurant specializes in Chinese BBQ chicken, duck and pork. You can order a whole suckling pig for large parties and catering.

The food is excellent and best of all, authentic. Their shrimp with scrambled eggs (see picture) is delicious. So are the white fish with scrambled egg white topped with an egg yolk dish, their glaze shrimp with walnuts, tofu with stuffed shrimp, sauteed Chinese greens or broccoli, hot and sour soup (picture), salty chicken with special ginger sauce (picture), all their noodle dishes and the list keeps going.

We love the basic decor. It reminds us of typical Hong Kong neighborhod eateries. Except this one is in North Hollywood.

12980 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Tel: (818) 765 7725

BTW, we love Ms. Chang, one of the waitresses, who always gives us a hug. All of the restaurant employees are very attentive and offer all manner of advice when you want it.

Victor Castillo-Illustrative Pop Art

There are over 400,000 artists living and working in L.A., so naturally, galleries are in abundance. O and I are on the mailing list of Merry Karnowsky Gallery, the best of the illustrative art galleries. We went to the opening of the exhibit titled: GAMELAND, by Chilean born artist, Victor Castillo. His beautifully executed work is pop with social, religious and political undertones/overtones. We were able to meet Victor and found him engaging and humorous. His art has a great deal of dark humor- something we love. It's definitely worth multiple visits while the exhibit is still up.

Merry Karnowsky Gallery
170 South La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 933 4408
July 11-August 8

Photo by Merry Karnowsky Gallery

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Deserted Chinatown Night

O and I were feeling restless one night and decided to explore a little night life. To spice it up, O challenged me to a competition between his Voigtlaender Nokton 50mm lens verses my Leica Noctilux 50mm. We were looking for some nightlife action in Chinatown and what we found was a deserted plaza.

We had hoped that with the selling of property and the influx of new non-Chinese tenants who are turning the spaces into galleries, that Chinatown would be revived at night. Looks like it will take some time to get it as busy as Little Tokyo.

We love this place.

FYI- the Noctilux produces a softer image than the Nokton. Both have their own merits.

Midnight Plunge

Finally, summer arrived. It was hot enough for a midnight swim in the old plunge. So O went for it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009 Presidential Inaugural Pics from TV CNN

When I look at these photos, I get a smile from ear to ear. It was a pretty wonderful day. It's fitting to look at as we move into Independence Day this Saturday.