Referral Friday: Harry & David pears

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby! I've mostly given up on giving gifts for the holiday season.

Personally, I have everything I need, and most of what I want; the rest, I am being very careful to let into my life only after careful consideration. An intense bout of decluttering does nothing so well as point out how very much your stuff can own you if you stop paying attention.

I also am of the belief that while it's lovely to receive and give gifts, it's stressful for most people in the context of this season of high expectations. If you have kids, fine: you get a pass. The BF has gotten some lovely gifts for his kids, but even those are much more carefully chosen "big" gifts they've thought about for awhile: an iPod Touch (with an accompanying email address, which may be the biggest deal) and a "today my son, you are a man" gift to the World of Warcraft. (Ugh. But I liked enough weird stuff when I was their age that I can't really say anything.)

What I want most around the holidays, or any days, these days, come to think of it, is time: to think, to noodle, to dream and rest and frolic and plan, and to do it all as the spirit moves me, solo or in partnership.

But I also want pears.

Big, fat, juicy, golden-with-a-blush-of-pink pears, each wrapped in its own foil jacket, nestled in its own green-tissue-papered cubby, delivered to my door from magic trees in Medford, Oregon by fruit elves. Okay, the USPS, by way of Harry & David.

We have given these pears to each other in my family for, well, I forget. Long enough that it's unthinkable to give up the tradition. I may have skipped a year right after the Great Giver of Pears, my dad, passed on to that pear orchard in the sky, but it just ain't a holiday without those ungodly delicious, indescribably glorious, HEAVY pieces of What Heaven Must Taste Like.

Today (Friday, December 18) is the last day you can get free Christmas delivery on your Harry & David purchases. I suggest you jump on it while you can.

Ho ho ho.

And you're welcome.



Referral Friday: Flan King

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Welcome to Flan King!

I have been anticipating this day for years now.

Not because I can't get my own mitts on delicious Flan King flan any time I want to, because I can. I know the King; the King and I are like this.

No, I'm thrilled that the Flan King finally ships nationwide because now I can share the awesomeness that is Flan King flan with every one of my friends in these 50 United States. And by "share," I mean "tell you all so you can order it for yourselves." I am not made of money any more than I am the magic combination of ingredients that makes Flan King flan the most addictive of all desserts (and one of the few I will always go off the SCD for).

Special holiday shipping schedule for Flan King flan is here.

And remember the Communicatrix's unofficial slogan for Flan King: Even people who don't like flan will love Flan King.

Happy holidays!


Clearing my (psychic) clutter, Day 11: Cafe du Village, and the beauty of disposable goods as reward


I was hit by the blow of the decade last week: my beloved Café du Village, delicious, unpretentious and relatively reasonably-priced, indoor-outdoor French eatery on famed (and a wee too twee, but oh, well) Larchmont Boulevard, was getting the boot by the building's owners.

Or rather, they weren't exactly, but raising the rent 100% overnight makes staying put a difficult proposition for a small, family-owned eatery in the middle of the worst economic downturn we've enjoyed (ha!) since the Great Depression.

The good news? They've been given a three-month reprieve. That's three months to load up on the Monsieur Cobb, the curried chicken salad, or the yum-diddlee-yum Nicoise.

Three months of grilled chicken, ham & swiss or my own personal fave, Le Bandol (kinda like Frenchy gyros) on ciabbattina (sic), with a split side of yummy salad and skinny fries (are there any other kind?) on the side. (SCD-ers take note: Le Bandol is also delish served atop the salad alone; order double-meat like the fat, proud, American pig you are and thank me later).

You like breakfast? They do a nice breakfast! And a non-crowded dinner, with a special or two in addition to the regular menu. Personally, I'd get my coffee elsewhere, maybe Peet's, down the block, but coffee in general ain't the best in L.A. What can I say? We get the nice weather instead.

I plan to eat at Cafe du Village as often as humanly possible over the next few months, both to get my fix and perhaps generate some positive juju flowing their way, that they might be asked to stay a little bit longer. It is my fondest wish that if you are an Angeleno or just passing through, decluttering or not, you make Cafe du Village your destination for breakfast, lunch or dinner at least once in that three-month window as well. It is hard to find great places to eat clean (although I've been known to succumb to a fry or two in my weaker moments), and I'd like this one to stick around, or at least enjoy such a rollicking business that they're compelled to re-open in a new (and less twee, maybe?) location if they do get the boot.

Decluttering and all, I'm still considering the purchase of one of their ultra-cute tees, in solidarity with them. But reward enough for me will be Le Bandol on salad, double-meat, with a fruity-ass iced tea on the side.

Eminently delicious; 100% biodegradable.



Cafe du Village
139 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 466-3996

(open until January; call first, just in case!)

Photo © flao via Flickr.

Referral Friday: LOCAL


Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Funny that until I'd actually typed out the name of my new-favorite local eatery here in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, the aptly named "LOCAL", I'd never thought of the potential for shifting the stress to the other syllable and making it "Lo-CAL", a world away in meaning, for want of some punctuation.

LOCAL is about many things: fresh, delicious, simple ingredients prepared with love in novel and exceptional ways; a laid-back, neighborhood-y vibe in which to enjoy your squares; and, yes, hot guys (see above photo for documentation, living in hipster L.A. has its advantages). What it is not about is anything lo-cal, by which I chiefly mean food-esque items that have been manipulated into simulacra of real food, only with whatever extracted so that you don't plump up around the edges. You know: the diet, lo-cal crap you find packaged in stores with labels like "Healthy Gack" or anything with the extra consonants in the word "light" removed.

Then again, LOCAL is hardly a fat-fest, and should you bring your level head along to direct your mandible, I'm guessing you'll come out alright. (Or, if you're local and walk or bike there, you can pig out with relative peace of mind.) But there are things like pig in various delicious forms on the menu, and there are eggs, and there is butter. Tasty, tasty butter, as in "a good pat and a half on my thick-cut, fresh-baked slice of rye toast." Sweet Jesus, carry me home.

There are also plenty of yummy vegetables to balance things out. My dining (or rather, breakfasting) companion had a mind-blowing side of sauteed spinach, yes, spinach, laced with thyme and apple matchsticks. And that was only the obvious and/or visible prep: our host and pork-enabler, Lee, explained the rather elaborate three-step process the spinach went through before things like heat and apple matchsticks were introduced. And something-something locally sourced and organically grown and OH, LOOK, A BUNNY!

Whatever, Lee! Just keep those lovingly-pulled Americanos coming and smile at us with your icy-blue orbs of magical goodness, and we're good. Nay, great.


Local Restaurant, Silver Lake
2943 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Open for breakfast 7 days
Open for dinner Tues - Sat
See site for hours.

Image by steven damron via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Barbara's at the Brewery


Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

One thing that drives me batty about Los Angeles is the paucity of excellent, low-key, non-gross hangs for a nice-sized crowd.

I hail from Chicago, you see, where the hardest thing about picking a place to meet is choosing which one to meet at. Maybe it's because the rents are cheaper; maybe it's because the people are.

Regardless, when you find a great venue to host a crowd, one with terrific draft beers and tasty food at reasonable prices, plus a big comfy space in which to hang, you must note it. And cherish it, and tell others, the right kind of others, hopefully, so that the cash will continue to flow its way and the vibe will persist in its awesomeness.

Barbara's at the Brewery scores on all the above counts, and it's easy to get to, and it has copious free parking on site. What's more it's the hang of choice (for obvious reasons) of the very nice tenants of the Brewery Arts Complex, an off-line brewery that was converted to artists' lofts long ago, and which is the place for the twice-yearly, super-crazy Artwalk at the Brewery.

They're even the unofficial headquarters of the KERNSPIRACY designers' list, meatspace division: I've enjoyed many a glass of Cab mingling with designers, photographers and other delightful creative folk.

If you live in Los Angeles and you're not a tool (sorry, tools, nothing personal!), please consider having your next party at the awesomely accommodating Barbara's.

And tell Mike that Colleen said to say, "Hi!"...


Photo © 2009 Aaron Wulf.

Barbara's at the Brewery
The Brewery Arts Complex

Referral Friday: Cuppa cuppa Barry's Tea


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

For the first two and a half years I was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I was very, very good. Which is to say, I was, in the parlance of Elaine Gottschall and hard-core SCD-ers, a fanatical adherent.

That meant many, many things were out, both in their whole form, rice, sugar, wheat (although who the hell wants to munch on wheat is beyond me), and, worse, as trace elements: the fillers, extenders, and sweeteners that make life both delicious and convenient, albeit frequently unhealthy.

Coffee was entirely out, as the only acceptable forms of it and its caffeinated cousin, tea, were "black" and "weak." I'm fine with the former but sweet mother of pearl, what is the point of weak coffee except as some kind of ingenious torture? No, I switched immediately to black tea with honey, and then spent the next two and a half years looking for the best-tasting variety of each.

Thanks to The BF and his own interesting travels, I discovered Barry's.

Deeply Irish, with some of the ugliest packaging this side of a tampon box, Barry's is everything a tea should be: robust, clean and emphatic, even at the low volumes an SCDer is forced to enjoy it at. At full strength, it would likely kick your sorry ass all the way to Killarney, even as it had you boo-hooing for more. Barry's is EFFIN' DELICIOUS, my friend, and highly addictive.

Yes, you will have your fancy types talking up PG Tips (or yer hoi polloi insisting that grocery store-available Twinings is so refined). Smile, and let them. Only turn on your bestest of friends to the Barry's, and they will speak your name with the hushed tones of wonder and adoration usually reserved for saints and Malcolm Gladwell, pre-Outliers. (Oh, like you didn't know he'd tipped.)

If you live in a big and bustling metropolis, I urge you to seek out your local purveyor of imported Irish (and sometimes English) goods. I buy mine from the lovely ladies at the Irish Import Shop here in Los Angeles, two boxes of Classic Blend at a time, since the hardnoses refuse to accept my Mastercard for purchases under $10, no matter how much business I bring their way.

You can also purchase from them online, which I highly recommend, as then their brick-and-mortar shop with its fresh, fresh bounty will stay in bidness. Or, if you have a thing for Amazon and skipping sales tax, well, at least you can buy your Barry's through this link and net me a few pennies into the bargain.




Image by malias via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Kaldi Coffee & Tea


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Yes, we have Peet's here in Los Angeles.

We also have nearly two outposts of Chicago-based Intelligentsia, a handful of local indie joints that ain't bad (albeit one among them that drives me batshit crazy with its goddamned preciousness, which quality should be kept OUT of coffee, thank you), and a robust locally-based chain that at least beats that national one.

Here's what I love: Kaldi.

I love the way it smells when you walk in. I love the crazy Japanese candies and snacks on display (they have regular baked goods, too, although as a non-partaker, I can't vouch for them). I love the mix of people who go there and how cool and dark it is inside and how funky-frozen-in-time the Atwater Village street is outside. I love that the wifi is free, even if I never use it.

But mainly, I love that every single time I go, I have gotten a superb Americano with perfect crema and no 'tude.

In Los Angeles, this is not easy. But when it happens, it is delicious...


Kaldi Coffee & Tea
3147 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 660-6005

Image by atwater village newbie via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. There ain't always a cookie contest going, so caveat, and all that.

Referral Friday: Cafe Tropical


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

I'd always suspected Los Angeles got shortchanged in the espresso department, and it took an extended trip to Seattle to prove it. More good coffee there than you should shake a stick at, although why you'd go around shaking a stick at delicious, delicious coffee is beyond me.

We have a few decent cuppas here on the East Side in the Lake of Silver 'hood: our local outpost of Chicago-based Intelligentsia serves an outstanding Americano, and I'll grudgingly admit to a sort of liqueur-y excellence to schmantastic LAMILL's brew. But there's no non-carb-y grub at the former and only outrageously priced (albeit tasty...grudging, grudging) at the latter, and Intelligentsia is a chain (albeit small and excellent and definitely to be chosen over all other chains) and LAMILL just aggravates me to no end. Too twee.

What is in the Lake of Silver Land and not twee? So not twee that its outdoor seating area could generously be described as "colorful" and/or "sun-baked"? So far from twee that it has photo signs of food you can point to when placing your order, hosts the hipster AA meeting, and has only TWO available coffee options, negro or con leche?

Why, Café Tropical (rhymes with "bop yer pal"), of course!

Not only that, but, I shit you not, Café Tropical serves up what I've come to believe, after vast sampling, one of the finest and most generous Cobb salads in town, and at the low, low price of seven (or eight? WHATEVER) bucks. Feeds two non-greedy people easily, with some left over if they're really non-greedy. (I'm on the small side, and I can usually get three small meals out of it.) Who the hell eats a Cobb salad with a steaming hot cup of Cuban-style Americano, you ask? Hell if I know, bub. I make a separate trip lunchtime or after.

Of course, there is also an insanely great array of Cuban pressed sandwiches and pastries to make those on low-carb diets weep with frustration and drool with envy. My friend, Ritzy, brought a whole guava-with-cheese pie (a specialty, and hot damn, I know why) to a gals' night I hosted and damned if I didn't cave...and didn't care. Freakishly delicious.

I know, I know, this is a local shoutout, and all y'all come from all over. Grant me a few gimmes, huh? So my fave local spots stay live and local?

And if you find yourself in L.A. and East Side, hell, in L.A., period, toddle on over. It's one of those neighborhood gems no one visiting from out of town used to stumble upon, in the time before Yelp. (I suppose it may have made Zagat's, but I can't imagine a middlebrow write-up of Tropical' making it sound that enticing.)

Go. Drink. Eat. Hit a meeting, if that's your thing.

Just make sure you save some room for the guava pie...


Cafe Tropical
2900 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 661-8391

Photo ©Food GPS, via Flickr. More yummy shots of the food here.

The Greatest Condiment in All the Land

family giardiniara packTwo of the greatest things I ever got out of any relationship came from my marriage: an introduction to honest-to-God, Italian-American "gravy", as my former in-laws called it, (or "red lead" as Tony Soprano calls it) and to the Chicago-style giardinera that goes so perfectly with it. For the uninitiated, giardinera (pronounced "jar'-din-AIR" if you're from Chicago) is basically chopped vegetables and spices either marinated in oil or picked in vinegar.

The former, especially when packed with the exact jalepeno-to-celery ratio to achieve the proper level of fiery goodness, perfectly complements the dense, musky flavor of a long-simmered gravy and creates instantaneously and out of nowhere a weird, cocaine-like addictive grip on the unsuspecting diner that never really goes away.

The latter is overly crunchy, usually filled with weird, inappropriate vegetables like carrots and cauliflower and, as far as I'm concerned, is ass. Ah, well. Chacon à son gout.

I've looked and looked, but I've never found REAL giardinera anywhere outside of Chicago. Certainly not in L.A., which is not exactly renowned for its Little Italy. (Oh, wait, we don't have a Little Italy.) And I was so plumb frozen on my last trip back there that I plumb forgot to check the overpriced grocery store near my hotel to see it they stocked it.

Fortunately, my other ex-Chicago ex-partner who now lives in L.A. was still there. I put out a giardinera alert, and he graciously purchased (and had his aunt ship) FOUR, count 'em, FOUR bottles of Dell'Alpe. They arrived today, mostly intact, and I immediately jumped online to tell all 12 of you about it.

Of course, in my search for an image to upload along with it, I found the online order form at the Dell'Alpe website. For nine bucks, I can get three bottles shipped to me any time the jones strikes. Which really does make me happy...when it's not making me feel like an idiot.

xxx c