L.A. the Blog: We Love It! Wine By the Glass, Stay Classy Los Angeles!

Copa wine by the glass display.

Wine by the glass is here!  Where wine in the box before never really caught on and gained the ire of many fancy wine connoisseurs, and the idea of a wine cooler only appealed to teenage girls but soon grew old and passe as they grew old and sophisticated women, wine by the glass holds the promise of a new marketing tool that will appeal to the upper crust of wine drinkers everywhere (or perhaps the 2010 World Wine Champion just has a back stock of there award-winning wine and needs to dump it quickly and cheaply before it turns to vinegar?).

Whatever the case the brand Copa now offers wine by the glass in cute plastic cups sealed like yogurt with a plastic snap lid.  Easy to drink in a car, while riding a bike down the road or while operating heavy machinery.  It is almost as if the display in the picture shown above got transported from some David Foster Wallace-like future, almost like it came straight from the Year of Copa Wine By the Glass.

The good news is you can get any of the fabulous types of wine such as a Pinot, a Merlot, a Cabernet or a Chardonnay for as low as $2.99.  Now I am sure you can get a cheap bottle of wine for close to the same price, but for how long?  With this new marketing ploy maybe this marks the end of cheap bottles and the introduction to expensive glasses, or are they cheap glasses?  Is that too many questions?

Anyway, if you are cruising the street and need a quick pick-me up then dip into your local store and grab a refreshing taste of the 2010 World Wine Champion.  Also of note Copa won the Dupont Packaging Award for Innovation Excellence with this nifty glass of wine.  So perhaps the glass is collectable.  Below find a few more pictures of this exciting development, or I am sure they will be next to the wine coolers in your local liquor store soon.

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L.A. the Blog: Los Candiles Night Club – Decadence Welcome (A changing city, Part 1)

The night air left little doubt that summer sat and reigned over the city. On the streets of Hollywood women wore mini-skirts and guys short-sleeved shirts as they bar hopped, waited in line for night clubs and found the nearest tattoo parlor. The signature city heat that makes Los Angeles either a massive, sweltering discombobulation of people or a destination-dream-paradise cradled the city like a blanket, and added a frenzied pace to everything happening on the boulevard as if heat aiding the movement of mass multiplied and proliferated the various possibilities alive in the night. The mass – people, traffic, love, friendship, drinking, drugging, music, sex – everything.

This city is often like a slow blooming flower, every year unfolding a new petal, unveiling a new aspect of itself for anyone looking and discerning the cities beauty. Hollywood sits close to the heart, but numerous other areas and neighborhoods combine to create the rose that is Los Angeles, or maybe it resembles more a lily or a farewell-to-spring. Forget Hollywood for the moment. This story only starts in Hollywood with a ride into the dark-rising heat of the city streets, ending just on the other side of the L.A. river directly north of downtown in a small nondescript Latin nightclub named Los Candiles. Just for the purpose of translation, Los Candiles means “the candle.”

If asked where the club resides you might say Eagle Rock just because most wouldn’t recognize the name Glassell Park. Like so many working-class neighborhoods its history and uniqueness rest forgotten and ignored among a maze of similar streets with names like Desire, then further lost in a puzzle of similar cities and neighborhoods that all fit into a mold named America. Or perhaps with a history of violence and crime people looked more towards Eagle Rock or Atwater Village for homes, writing the neighborhood off as the bad side of town. Glassell Park – the bad side of Eagle Rock, the bad area of Atwater –  goes unmentioned. For instance the LA Weekly published a story about a crime family, an AK-47 and typical L.A. violence that belongs more to the late 80s and early 90s but happened in Glassell Park in 2008. Or just the other week while talking to a resident he simply stated in sterile terms how some kid recently got beat with a baseball bat, and June 12 of this year a young woman and young man died in a shooting. Violence makes neighborhoods disappear in this city like so much bad food in the refrigerator, people must discard it or the stench and mildew ruin the pleasure of modern society. For instance have you ever heard of the neighborhood of Del Rey?

Of course for the past 20 or 30 years (if not more) a majority of working-class families have called the neighborhood home, and only recently with the whole area of downtown including everything below and above experiencing a renaissance in every sense of the word, although some call it gentrification, the neighborhood has begun to see a shift towards the middle. With middle we mean demographically. Young professionals looking to buy good real estate and others just seeking a more authentic Los Angeles find the neighborhood perfect. With beautiful large homes atop hills that lead into Eagle Rock providing breathtaking views and hidden away in trees; or authentic and great Latin food available through street vendors; or even a sense of community that exists where people live and die together daily; the neighborhood offers a friendly hello at the local gas station, that is of course if you don’t mind a rougher handshake and a little dirt covering up a gem. A gem discovered and just starting to see the light.

Take Los Candiles, an unassuming Latin dance club that sits along a main drag in Glassell Park. You find these clubs all over the city. Some like the ones in Echo Park and Venice have been converted into new sleek dance venues for indie rock and electronic acts, but most in the city still keep their original flavor and offerings. At first look nothing out of the ordinary, but like the neighborhood this club is a gem. Scouring the online website gives the first hint that this club offers something unique with the traditional Latin dance music. “Venga y disfrute con nuestro show Fantasia con Las Estrellas” that loosely translates as “Come and enjoy our show / Fantasy with the Stars”; or later when you click the ‘show’ link in the menu sidebar “Ven y disfruta con nuestro travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas” and the show Fantasy with the Stars comes up again, this time with the word “travesty” attached. Most people relate travesty to what happens during a war when innocent people die, but few relate the word to its original usage that is closer to “burlesque” than to “appalling.” In fact the Latin word “travestire” means to disguise or more literally to cover up with clothing; and travesty means a literary or artistic imitation usually incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter. Maybe it gets confused because it is so close to tragedy, or because people use the statement “travesty of justice” too often changing the meaning. So a travesty show? Call it what you will, but at Los Candides it means a drag show with singing, and don’t forget the male stripper and the DJ.

Burning through the hot night the road led through the up-and-coming neighborhood, to the unassuming Latin dance club and to a birthday party for an unknown girl with unknown people at an unknown place. The invite seemed strange at first, a phone call promised a party with a ton of women while at the same time offering a drag show. For some reason the two promises didn’t go together, I always equated drag with gay bars in West Hollywood, not straight woman celebrating a birthday in a working-class neighborhood. After learning more about Glassell Park the place even seems more unlikely since gang violence and the machismo of the hood normally make anything GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) unacceptable. Or even more so with a possible large Catholic population, you would think such a place harbors the ill will of the church. Regardless of its location and its stigma, for the ladies who arrived to the birthday it meant dancing to sweaty South American rhythms and letting loose in a place tingling with an open atmosphere that celebrates what it means to be beautiful and a women.

The local crowd loved the band playing, while the ladies loved every minute of every second. Every song brought out dancers, and the enthusiasm of the small local crowd showed they came for the music. The birthday girl found a dance partner for every song.  She often grabbed a friend, or a friend grabbed her, some of her guy friends followed the girls to the floor to dance with the birthday girl as tempos sped up and the band picked up energy.  A few times an older gentlemen, a veteran of Latin rhythm clubs would escort her to the floor and steal a few moments of youth back. Him and the other few older gentlemen masterfully controlled the dance floor leading their partners around in what from afar seemed slow rhythm combined with the quick turns and spins of ballroom dance. Looking more closely the majesty of what it takes to have that control and grace was tantamount to intricate and precise dance steps that happened quick and fast so the eye could barely follow the practiced patterns that flowed with ease. For these few gentlemen the smiles on their faces and sparkles in the eyes meant that whatever happened earlier in the day at work or home, and whatever happened tomorrow meant nothing in the moment of the dance. For some a cold beer and a shot of hard liquor washed away the day, the week and the years. For those weaving a spell with the Rumba or sweeping across the floor with a Cha Cha the dance gave them the same dignity along with the semblance of eternal youth.

The club wasn’t very packed but if everyone got on the floor room became sparse. This led to a perfect intimate spot for a birthday. As the women drank alcohol and their male friends did the same the atmosphere around the table slowly unwound becoming looser and looser. More alcohol, more drinking and finally the show started, the “travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas.” Beautiful women dressed up as famous Latina stars, the most notable Shakira in gold and flowing blond hair. In true Burlesque and travesty, sexuality permeated the singing and dancing along with a hint of the more sultry tradition of strip clubs. Every so often a famous Latin singer would mount the lap of a gentleman in the crowd shaking her hips back and forth while continuing to lip sing to the radio hits.

After a few acts of famous latinas, they unleashed the male stripper onto the floor dressed in classic cowboy attire, chaps and all. He made his way around the room to the various women at the various tables, collecting dollars along the way, unzipping his fly for extra smiles and girlish embarrassment. At this point it might be worth skipping the entire rest of the episode for a stripper is a stripper. Hunter S. Thompson in “The Rum Diaries” writes this beautiful scene during the Carnival celebration where a beautiful woman dancing with a fabulous man gets drawn further and further into seduction as the tempo and rhythm of the Samba create an explosive sexual energy. If anything about the stripper at Los Candides, his pure sexual energy should be remembered. When tempted over to the birthday girl by dollar bills and innocent eyes, her friends put her up to experiencing first hand the show and his dancing while the alcohol made anything possible, words alone and even pictures fail to describe what happened next. Never has a female stripper ever performed that well for a man, and the question remains who was more surprised – the dancer for his own abandonment in the passion of the moment, or the birthday girl for her willingness to wear a cowboy hat and straddle his lap, chaps and all. The club gave them everything they needed for a memorable night of partying. Of course if they forget they can always refer back to L.A. the Blog and the pictures we posted online of our brief time at Los Candides. We hope the girls tipped their cowboy dancer extra for that one.

Los Candides and Glassell Park might never be the same with young people looking for new exciting and fantastic neighborhoods to live. We left the girls and their friends still drinking and partying. The DJ came on before as we walked out replacing the band and his opening track rocked like a Tijuana night club. Before getting in the car we grabbed tacos from a food stand down the street. One of the best burritos we have ever ate. Maybe year after year from this point forward the murder rate in Glassell Park will slowly become nonexistent, and like so much of the city that we grow up in the neighborhoods continue to change and become wealthier as the working class moves on. Local thrift shops become small boutiques, and development slowly brings large corporate chains. Maybe Los Candides will eventually host techno clubs and indie line-ups, but for now it remains a jewel of a good time … especially for the ladies.

UPDATED: Below find some video from Los Candides …

L.A. the Blog: Two New Eateries On Hollywood Blvd.

As the machine development wheels forward unconquerable, implacable along the famous stretch of Hollywood Boulevard known as the Walk of Fame, where in golden stars immortalized forever rest the names of iconic people who bestowed years of entertainment upon us – L.A. the Blog is happy to announce two new eateries marking the mythic landscape.  They totally make the “cheap eats” list of places to grab a quick bite and both are well worth the visit.

The first place anyone from New York will recognize, and everyone else who watched Spider Man 2 the movie should remember fondly.  The silver screen made-famous Joe’s Pizza where Toby McGuire playing Peter Parker worked delivering pizza in the film’s opening scenes – yes!  Joe’s Pizza is now gracing Hollywood right at Wilcox and Hollywood Blvd., and yes!  Right around the corner of another New York staple Papaya King.  We are experiencing a wholesale invasion from the east coast.  Next will see Dunkin’ Donuts or something.

Joe's Pizza

Joe’s famous NYC Pizza

As L.A. the Blog is personally very familiar with Joe’s pizza in New York our readers can trust us to safely critique the flavor of this new Joe’s in comparison to the one in NY.  Surprisingly the pizza is very similar in taste, almost exactly the same in taste, so we give the place an A+ for its pizza.  We will point out the slight differences.  Whether it is the high-volume of pies that Joe’s in NYC throws out compared to this one, or that the cooks on the east coast have a process they are used too, the pizza at the Los Angeles location definitely was in better condition and looked as if they LA guys took time and tender loving care putting the pizza together.  The crust was a little thicker, and in LA-fashion crispy too.

Where Joe’s NYC is famous for fresh out of the oven pies, and a really thin crust that no one in their right mind would call crispy; the LA spot hasn’t reached the years of perfection in knocking down millimeters off the thickness and doesn’t do the volume to demand out-of-the-oven pizzas every five minutes.  That we believe give the NY pies their distinct difference.  Or as others believe it could be that the water in Los Angeles is different from the water in NYC.  Yeah we use less chlorine maybe?

As taste goes if you miss a slice of NYC, then head to Joe’s because it is damn close!!!  The prices for a slice were around $2.50 so this place also makes our “cheap eats” list.

The other spot that just opened is right next to Joe’s at Hollywood and Wilcox, and is a taco stand, err … truck, or restaurant, or a really awesome and creative eatery that serves up some good Mexican food.

The Calle Taco truck, once a real food truck that graced the streets of Los Angeles now sits under an old Hollywood theater marquee near the intersection of Hollywood and Wilcox, slightly back from the sidewalk with tables and chairs in front, giving costumers a place to eat what the truck dishes up.

Calle Tacos should get an award for best-designed restaurant on the boulevard.  Not only did the place take a food truck, cut it in half, and place it on the inside of their restaurant so costumers have to order from the taco truck window, they also went all out in gracing the inside of the restaurant with beautiful graffiti murals of Los Angeles, and literally made the entrance to the bathrooms the front door to the food truck too.

Why you ask?  All in honor of the many taco / burrito dishing food trucks that everyday feed us on our merry ways through the city.  Memorializing in true Hollywood fashion a staple of Los Angeles life and culture.  L.A the Blog loves LA, so we love you Calle Tacos.

The food was good, we didn’t try everything on the menu but the carne asade burrito tasted great.  While not as cheep as a food truck with tacos at $1.95 and burritos at $5.95, you can definitely get some grub for under the $5, so it also makes the Blogs “cheap eats” list.  Check out below for some picks of the place and when in Hollywood be sure to stop in!  FYI – the graffiti is by LA-based artist Hex, aka Hector Rios.

UPDATE:  We just visited Calle Tacos again and noticed that Tuesday is $0.99 taco day, every Tuesday, and right now if you visit they have a free can of soda if you check in to their facebook page, or tweet about your visit.  We scored a great lunch for $3.24!

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L.A. the Blog: Air Into Drinking Water

So while paying a handsome price for some healthy-vegan-macrobiotic-specialty sandwich (yes it had sprouts) at the LifeFood Organic retail/raw food/juice store something astonishing happened.  First let me just say the sandwich was good, and if you are looking for organic supplements and vitamins then LifeFood Organic is for you.

Getting back to the story, nestled in the corner of the shop is a water dispenser that upon further investigation is pretty darn cool.  It converts air into drinking water.  Yes, I will say it again.  It converts air into drinking water.  The first ever this writer has seen or heard about.

Upon a little minor investigation Wikipedia failed in providing any answers – right or wrong, but Bloomberg Businessweek picked it up in 2009 and ranked in the top 25 Products That Might Just Change the WorldWIRED magazine wrote a great article in 2006 that claims the Pentagon helped develop the technology to provide troops in dry conditions (Iraq for example) with water.

Wherever it came from or where in the future it is going, there is a company located in Santa Monica named what else Air2Water that makes a few of these products.  It is a local company and while they aren’t the only one that makes the machines, they have a few sleek designs.

Searching the internet for the type of machine that is featured in the pictures from LifeOrganic didn’t turn up an exact match, and the machine had no visible product name.  The specific machine will stay a mystery, but it looks like on average air-from-water machines do about 4 to 8 gallons of water per day for drinking.

What is clearly labeled is the FDA approved sticker.  L.A. the Blog tried the water and we haven’t grown a third head just yet, but the FDA symbol did make us feel better.  So now you have to reasons to visit LifeFood Organic – for the supplements and to stare at the magic machine.  A soon to be tourist attraction in Hollywood I am sure.

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L.A. the Blog: Papaya King L.A.

While L.A. the Blog is a little late on the scene reporting that Papaya King is opening in Los Angeles, well it is and it will be here this Spring (L.A. Weekly reports in April).  It is located just off Hollywood Boulevard’s main club drag on Wilcox Avenue.  The question remains how late it will be open, but 24-hours a day sounds good.

Not to be confused the Papaya Dog, nor Gray’s Papaya, but yes it is the original chain that opened back 1932.  For a little rumor history, people say that Papaya Dog was started by a former employee of the original Papaya King, and it might be said about Gray’s Papaya too.  All I know is that if the hot dogs have that New York City snap, they will be something unique in Los Angeles.

(This is a side note – if you ever get the chance go to Criff Dog in NYC, it’s worth it just to see the babe hugging the dog, and it’s yum!)

Stay tuned for more updates as they come in …

UPDATE 4/19/13:  Papaya King didn’t last long in Los Angeles, most likely from the crappy service, and is now closed.

L.A. the Blog: WTF is Boxed Water?

Straight from Grand Rapids, MI comes the newest in useless products, or gimmicky marketing ideas, or possible just plain stupidity.  Yes, it is Boxed Water Is Better.  WTF is Boxed Water you ask?Boxed Water Is Better

Supposedly it is better.  The box says it is purified water and I am sure that it doesn’t taste better than spring water, at least not as good as Fiji water, but maybe it does.  It isn’t in a plastic container and that for sure is better.  It even claims that 76 percent of the box comes from trees! Genius!  Though we seem to be killing trees all over the planet faster than we can replace them … maybe not so good.

But in turn if you go to the Boxed Water Is Better website you learn all kinds of neat stuff.  Like they donate 10 percent of their profits to reforestation foundations, and 10 percent to world water relief foundations.  Do they list which ones on the website?  No, but who cares they are giving.  They have been selling the product since 2009, and almost a year later it surfaces in Los Angeles.

The product is recyclable … but only if your city has stupid box carton recycling plants.  Sorry New York City you only recycle profitable items, and boxed cartons don’t count at all.  The website claims carton recycling is growing.  Hurray!  Except if you follow the links to find out if your community recycles the link doesn’t work, booooo.  Well, don’t worry Los Angeles for the record we don’t recycle boxed cartons, follow this link to find out what L.A. recycles.

Boxed Water back of carton

Back of carton

So maybe boxed water isn’t better.  One person when asked thought the best container for water equals glass.  Glass is recyclable.  It comes from renewable resources.  You don’t have to kill poor trees and that makes the vegans happy … dope!

Well in defense of boxed water, it is easier and cheaper to ship cartons than glass.  That means bottled water might cut down on costly fuel waste.  So mark one up for boxed water.

Most likely Grand Rapids, MI manufactures box cartons and they have way too many on hand, so they boxed up purified tap water to sell with the cartons.  That way they got rid of their stupid boxes.  They then created this funky marketing ploy.  Okay maybe too much conspiracy.

And then straight from Boxed Water’s website it says, “Part sustainable water company, part art project, part philanthropic project, and completely curious.”  So in reality it is another f’n hipster art project … sad.

Update:  So L.A. the Blog realized it never got the price for this phenomenal marketing attack.  $2.50 for a box of water, so you can not save the environment with this non-recyclable product while at the same time lose all your money … do yourself a favor, buy glass bottles.

Update 06/24/2014:  We recently updated the link that leads you to what the City of Los Angeles recycles, and we are happy to announce that Los Angeles now does recycle cartons!!!!  It is also true that New York City recycles cartons now too!!!  Progress evident in my lifetime, love it.  So now maybe Boxed Water is a little better 😉

Boxed Water Hello

The box is saying hi! Goodbye …

L.A. the Blog: Cafe Tropical

If someone said this small, nondescript cafe in Silver Lake served the best coffee in town it would be easy to brush it off and say, “Oh lord, another Silver Lake lover who can’t figure out what’s west of Western because their bike got a flat tire.  They’re just saying that because they think their town is the best.”

Cafe Tropical

Cafe Tropical

Well, Cafe Tropical might just make the best Cafe con Leche / Cafe Americano with steamed milk ever.  Yes it is in Silver Lake.  Just to make sure everyone understands … ever.  Now don’t get me wrong $3.25 for a cup of coffee is no mean deal, and after paying that much you might also ask yourself what to call this delicious drink that they advertise as coffee.

The Plate of the Day food blog covered the spot and describes the drink as Cuban.  That makes sense as they had a menu full of ham with cheese sandwiches.  With those sandwiches they serve breakfast.  An overly filling breakfast too (maybe to make up for the price of the coffee).  They had a ton of egg sandwiches, a ton of pastries, and all the servings were large (so large they single handily contribute to the obesity of this nation – did you see the size of the cookies?!).

The food was reasonably priced where the coffee was not, but the coffee tasted sooooo good, while the food was average.  No matter, if you have an extra five spot in the pocket and you need a coffee drink, go.  Maybe the best damn coffee drink in Los Angeles.

Cafe Tropical – 2900 West Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90026