Friday, November 27, 2009

winged cacophony

Ah, fall -- the season when the parrots of Temple City and Arcadia take a little vacation in Pomona. A pretty large flock just flew overhead a few minutes ago, sounding like a swarm of demons, and I've seen them a few other times this year. I wonder why Pomona and why late fall every year? I've read what I could on the subject of the local pandemonium of parrots, but the question goes unanswered.

For those of you not up on your local parrotry, this particular flock dates back to well before the 1920s, and it's made up of at least six species -- one of them not even a parrot at all, but a parakeet. Their base of operations has been the current LA County Arboretum since back when it was Lucky Baldwin's giant estate. Apparently our tendency to plant very tall trees and exotic non-native plants is particularly conducive to urban parrots.

The important thing to know is that San Francisco and Brooklyn got nothin' on us. (Okay, maybe they have a few things on us, but nothing psittaform.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

good bread, good meat, good god, let's eat

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. This is my favorite holiday of the year -- no religious or patriotic foofaraw, just cooking, eating, and hanging out with your favorite people. And maybe a little drinking. Perhaps some football (touch or spectator). Even the neighborhood cats (all 25 of 'em) were in a festive mood when I went out to get the paper: They were zooming around and playing together, which you never see on a work day.

In honor of all the eating we're about to do (and to procrastinate on getting into the kitchen and making pie), I thought I'd post about a meal earlier in the week and far from home.

Tuesday night, Dave Allen and I hopped the train and met K. at Union Station, from which we traipsed over to Bottega Louie, in the Jewelry District (or is it the Furniture District? I get confused on where one district ends and another begins).

It's in a huge old building that used to house Brooks Brothers, and the inside is enormous in all three dimensions. The walls are undoubtedly plaster like any other wall, but they've turned to marble in my memory -- not only because they are gleaming white but also because the place is louder than the Glass House during an International Noise Conspiracy show.

I don't get restaurants that are designed to be noisy. Yes, I know it turns tables, but surely wanting to talk over a meal isn't just for the middle-aged. Are there really that many people who go out to dinner with people they'd prefer not to talk to?

But we were there for the food, and I was impressed. The menu is pretty swoon-worthy, and I had a helluva time trying to decide. They have a few pizzas, a few pastas, a few salads, a few sandwiches, a few mains -- and three dozen small plates, each of which looks more delectable than the last.

In the end, K. got the carpaccio and the arancini (little balls of rice with cheese inside, fried to look like oranges -- hence the name). D-Bomb got the clam, roasted red peppers, & thyme pizza and a side of broccolini. I got the trenné (a triangular tube pasta -- imagine a pup tent) with prime rib and kale and a side of corn, bacon, & chard. K. had some eclectic beer I can't recall, D-Bomb had a vanilla Italian soda, and I got a $5 glass of Barolo that was mighty tasty (and a generous pour).

I didn't try the carpaccio, but K.'s arancini were perhaps the best I've ever had (I'm not normally a fan), although he said they were too spicy for him. It must have been the sauce (which I didn't get much of), because I detected no spice at all. D-Bomb's clam pizza was very tasty, although I wasn't expecting the clams to be breaded and fried before baking. I could have done without that, I think (and I imagine it didn't improve for breakfast -- D-Bomb took part of it home).

My pasta wasn't what I was expecting. I started out disappointed, but by the time I finished it, I was quite happy with it. Which is not to say that I couldn't recommend improvements. It's a very light dish: pasta, plenty of bits of prime rib, Italian black kale, shavings of parmesan, all in a light flavorful beef broth. My first recommendation is predictable: more kale! I am a huge fan of the dark leafy greens, and this could have used a lot more. Also, for some unknown reason (novelty?), they sauté the pasta after it's cooked, but that runs counter to the brothy spirit of the dish.

The corn, bacon, and chard side dish was fine, although it wasn't as good as I was hoping. The bacon was unsmoked, and there was barely any chard in it at all -- but it gives me ideas for making it at home, where I have fancy bacon from up in the holler (bacon made from a pig with a name, who got his ears scratched daily!) and enough chard to choke a cheetah.

I really liked BottLou except for the noise. I imagine it would be great during off hours, and great with a huge group, but by 8pm, it was a freaking zoo. (One that, as Jonathan Gold observed, seems to be staffed according to the terms of the USC Sorority Full-Employment Act.)

In food&bev news closer to home, we're going to begin Thanksgiving (cooking, not dining) with a magnum of Segura Viuda champagne (okay, cava) -- $10 at Cost Plus World Market in San Dimas, which is quite a deal! Meg-Bob says stock up for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

was that a masonic boom I heard?

I know that most of our readers are devoted followers of D-Bomb Allen, but for the few who aren't, allow me to recommend Jennifer Cappuccio Maher's slideshow of Pomona's Masonic Temple (which is celebrating its centenary) associated with D-Bomb's column from last friday. I've loved that building since the moment I clapped eyes on it, and it's great to see pictures of the inside.

Both my grandfathers were Masons (well, one was a Shriner)... I wonder if they'd let me in on the grounds of family connection and admiration of their architecture?

Hey, John and other PoHer bigwigs: Can we get the Masonic Temple on the home tour?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

toasted and tossed on foothill

Alas, poor Tofu Kitchen, I knew it, Horatio.

Neighbor/co-worker Rod and I tried to hit Tofu Kitchen for lunch yesterday (it's on our regular oh-my-god-get-me-away-from-this-place lunch rotation) but there was a For Rent sign in the window, plus a note taped up on the door saying "Closed. Will reopen under new management."

Tofu Kitchen wasn't great, but it had some homestyle Korean dishes that I liked pretty well. The kimchi stew was good, as were the cold-water noodles. (Their bibimbap, not so much.) I'm sorry to see it go.

We ate instead at Hayato and had a tasty mess of grub.

barred and grilled on second street

We finally got around to trying the new 2nd Street Bar & Grill last night with a pal. Overall, I think it's an improvement.

The decor is pretty much the same (which I have always liked). And the general personnel style is similar too -- an eager-to-please owner, a couple of waitresses dressed in black. The cook is now a pony-tailed Anglo rather than a shaved-headed Asian, but the energy level is the same.

The menu is the biggest difference, and I also think that it signals the best chance of success: It's significantly simpler than before, and significantly cheaper. There are perhaps half a dozen appetizers, maybe 10 sandwiches (burgers and paninis), a few salads, and a few mains (pastas etc.). The sandwiches are all $7-9, and the mains aren't much more. This is in stark contrast with the Bistro menu, which had way too many items at way too high a price.

The one thing the Bistro menu had over the Bar & Grill menu is font size. The new menus are in a very spidery font at about 12 points, which is far too small for the lighting conditions there.

All three of us had panini -- me the Brasato (hot Italian sausage, cheese, tomatoes), K. the Forestiere (mushrooms and fresh mozzarella), and Friend the Caprese (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil). The bread is a very pale baguette that I watched the cook cut up fresh.

K. won the food sweepstakes; the Forestiere was pretty tasty. My Brasato was good too, although K. (who has experience in such matters) opined that it had "Hot Pocket nature." I didn't taste Friend's Caprese, but I am of the opinion that mid-November is not the time for Caprese anything, at least not north of the Tropic of Cancer. Friend said it was okay but not great.

Panini come with either salad (field greens with dressing on the side) or fries (frozen out of a bag, but reasonably good).

Their beer selection isn't an embarrassment -- some yellow stuff plus Sierra Nevada. Their wine selection kinda is -- house red (Red Rock merlot) or house white (didn't ask), and that's it.

The service was friendly but not all that professional. The owner's name is Ruben/Reuben. He's a fairly young guy (maybe under 30), and he's friendly and anxious for the place to be a success. But he and the wait staff spent most of their time sitting at the rearmost table eating and drinking with some friends, so it was nearly impossible to get water glasses refilled.

Overall impression: Same great ambience. Improved menu. Pretty good food. Inexperienced personnel that really wants to make a go of it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election Results In!

It looks like we have four new board members for the Pomona Unified School District. And if you don't think your vote counts, realize that some of these races were VERY close.

From the Daily Bulletin web site, with 100% of the precincts reporting, here are the results:










Precincts Reporting
Total Precincts
% Precincts Reporting

For the one-year seat, it was:







Precincts Reporting
Total Precincts
% Precincts Reporting

Noting that there are 59,473 registered voters in the school district (different than the city), that means that there was a 9.25% turnout of voting (5843 votes cast).

So, do we see any trends? I note that with Jason Rothman's election that he only beat incumbent Steve Lustro by 129 votes. I, personally, would tend to attribute that to the strong effort made by the teacher's union on his behalf.  However, taking into consideration Wong's strong showing, I might also conclude that it might have been a strong indication of voting from South Pomona (Phillips Ranch) and Diamond Bar areas of the district.

The poor showing by Robert Torres, despite a strong push by Assemblywoman Norma Torres via robocalls and a lot of signage, might indicate that there was apathy in North Pomona, and that not getting the teachers' endorsement hurt as well.

But how influential were the teachers? Only two of the people that they endorsed (Rothman and Pearlman) won, while their arch nemesis, Wong, won handily.

Oh, and if you're interested, the Mt. Sac Board race was:







Precincts Reporting
Total Precincts
% Precincts Reporting

So Water Board Commissioner, and perennial candidate for Mt. Sac Board, John Mendoza was once again rejected.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

an ashen-packed lunch

I had lunch plans with my co-worker Rod, who recently bought a house down the street from me. As he was waiting for me to hit send on one last email, he noticed huge smoke clouds out the window, billowing over what looked like Lincoln Park.

First thing we did was call the non-emergency cop line and ask if our houses were burning down. "Where do you live?" the dispatcher asked. Upon being told, she assured us that oh no, it's south of there.

The next thing we did was hop in the car and follow the smoke. And then once we got close, we found a taquería (Tacos Mexico at the corner of Garey and Olive), sat in the window, and watched the tankers.

And man, were the tankers out in force. There were two fixed-wings and three choppers, all dropping what looked like black paint. They got the fired knocked down in pretty short order, too. When we arrived, at 12:30 or so, the hillside south of the 71 had a number of rivulets of flame running along it, plus giant plumes of smoke. By the time I'd eaten my ceviche tostada and Rod his chile relleno, no flame was visible and the hillside was steaming more than it was smoking. And the car was covered in ash.

As for Tacos Mexico, it was perfectly fine but nothing special, for the most part. Too bad the fire didn't occur tomorrow -- we could have enjoyed 60¢ tacos!

And yes, that photo is by me.

one more item for your to-do list

Don't forget to stop by the polls sometime today, if you haven't already. And if you've lost your sample ballot [raises hand guiltily], you can download another one here, as well as seeing where your polling place is. Perhaps I'll see you there...