Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "new project" 15

Knock knock. Are you still there?

Just checking.

It's been a while, a long while, since I've actually posted anything. But, lo-and-behold, I am still alive and kicking, er, eating.

I just started a new project in LA, not too far from my alma mater. The downtown hotel I am now staying at is less than a five minute walk from my old apartment, so I find myself oddly comforted by somewhat familiar surroundings...the Coffee Bean next to the bus stop that I would frantically try and grab some morning caffeine at before the bus pulled away from the stop, the gym that I belonged to but walked by more than I walked in, the McCormicks whose happy hour seemed to be such a steal, and the IHOP that we'd visit when we had one too many drinks at happy hour and needed some (cheap) grub. Yet, it's a whole new place in some regards. For years, people talked (and currently talk) about the downtown revival, focusing around the Staples Center complex and the Walt Disney concert hall...and now projects like LA Live and Grand Avenue. New luxury apartments, condos and lofts were planned and built. There were promises of a downtown Ralphs opening, yet I never saw during my time as a student. Coming back to LA, I expected it'd be the same as when I left - not a soul in sight after 5pm.

Now I find myself in a "urban boutique" hotel where once stood a historic (read: run-down) 1920s building when I left. Think a smaller version of the W hotel chain. Across the street is that long promised Ralphs - and it's one of the nicest grocery stores I've ever encountered. There are restaurants galore and wine bars to boot. The room service menu here lists truffle parmesan tots, heirloom tomato salad, swiss chard and barley soup, wagyu burger, and a chocolate lava cake...and that's just a sample. I woudln't say downtown LA is done revitalizing itself, but it's astonishing to really notice the difference what a couple years have made.

On to the food - there are foodies on my project team! I couldn't be happier! While talking to my fellow foodies, I realized I had experienced very little of the upscale dining LA has to offer - being a penny pinching college student inevitably does that to you. And that makes the upcoming weeks exciting with all the potential dining. I think my lists of places to try far exceeds the numbers of days I will be in town. I stand to gain a "new project 15" if I lose the workout reigm I managed to start recently.

And today's little venture certainly doesn't help my case - at the request of a friend, I ventured out to the Baklava Factory. He brings baklava back to the Bay Area with every trip he makes to LA. I may or may not have devoured an entire container in a few days. As in a pound of baklava. And so it is my turn to return the favor, so up to Glendale I went. Located in a small strip mall, the view through the windows made me blink a few times, rub my eyes, blink a few more times, and wonder to myself "Is that really all baklava? Or is there a big mirror in the store that makes it appear to be twice as much?" No mirror. Trays, and I mean GIANT trays, of baklava more or less line two walls of the store. I'm not good with decisions, so "three sampler containers with three of each kind please" resulted in me walking out the door with THREE AND A HALF POUNDS of baklava. And that's leaving out a good handful of the types. No worries - I'm sharing at work and home. :)

As I walk out the door, I noticed a Zankou Chicken next door. The Hollywood location was one of my first LA eats (we'll forget about my real first LA meal at Sizzler across the street from campus because there was nothing else open at the time and we were too scared to accidently venture the wrong way in South Central). All I remember is the garlic sauce and that was enough to have me in the door despite the heavy weight of the baklava reminding me that I didn't need more food. As I waited for my chicken wrap (extra garlic sauce please!), I noticed little ketchup packets and wondered who on earth would need ketchup at a Mediterranean place. Upon closer examination, I was tickled to discover they were not ketchup packets, but packets of Tapatio hot sauce! The silliest little things make me entirely too happy...

(Forgive the mirror image - photo booth was the only camera I have on me)

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