Happenings, Things To Do

14 Unusual, Offbeat & Fun Things to Do For Valentine’s Day in L.A. (Whether You’re Single or Not!)

February 5, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Drown your bitterness in bitters. Photo: Breakup Bar

Whether you’re alone this Valentine’s or simply aren’t into candlelit dinners or romantic overtures, we’ve got you covered. Feeling bitter about love? Check out the Breakup Bar pop-up or the Sad Bastards Nite. Looking to connect with friends? How about a v-steam among pals or a top-tier cooking class? Over people in general? How about kicking it with goats instead? Check out these 14 V-Day events suitable for singles, friends, and casual couples.

Breakup Bar Popup

Embittered exes may find a respite from romance at Breakup Bar, a pop-up located next to Severance on Melrose. Here, guests enjoy a selection of snacks and desserts, including French macarons, baked Alaska, and a chocolate fountain that serves up to 12. Champagne can be sabered tableside, or guests can try one of the signature cocktails. They include the Cold Day in Hell (Amontillado & East India sherry, rooibos & chamomile tea, lemon, ginger), the Ghosted (Milk Stout, PX sherry, bitters, lavender foam), and the I Dealt With Your Parents For Years (Caperitif, lime, grapefruit soda, habanero bitters, black salt rim). Additionally, breakup films will be screened nightly, while a Wall of Broken Relationships invites guests to pen anonymous missives to their exes, creating a tableau of heartbreak over the pop-up’s two-week run.

Where: 7276 Melrose Ave., Fairfax
When: February 1-14. Tues.-Thurs., 7-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 7 p.m. to midnight.
Cost: $20, includes one cocktail or a sparkling wine flight.

Bacchus Uncorked: Love, Loss, and Libations

The Getty Villa will host a tour of mythology’s most famous lovers including “the gods and mortals whose passions took them to Hades’s realm.” What could be more romantic than learning about love so fierce its celebrants literally went to to the underworld for it, huh? After the gallery tour, sommelier Giammario Villa will offer a tasting of wines from Southern Italy. The event complements the exhibition Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife, which remains on view through March 18.

Where: Getty Villa
When: February 9 & 16, 4-7 p.m.
Cost: $75, includes parking

Lucha VaVOOM Photo: Timothy Norris

Lucha VaVOOM

Every Valentine’s Day, Lucha VaVOOM puts on on a fantastic show, offering lucha libre wrestling, burlesque, vaudeville, comedy, music, and more. This year’s theme is Amor Prohibido (that’s “forbidden love”). In addition to a full lineup of masked contenders, other performances include music from Christeene, burlesque from MOSH and Michelle L’Amour, and more. If you haven’t yet encountered Christeene, you could watch the genderqueer artist’s very NSFW video “Butt Muscle.” Comedian Jeff Davis will host this wild ride.

Where: The Mayan Theater, 1038 S. Hill Street, DTLA
When: February 13 & 14, doors at 7 p.m.
Cost: $40-55

Lover’s Rock

Grand Park’s Valentine’s celebration is free and appropriate for the whole family. Dub Club DJs will play reggae tracks throughout the evening, while food trucks will supply snacks and desserts. Remember the night with a photo booth or participate in all-ages crafts for a small fee.

Where: Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., DTLA
When: February 14, 6-11 p.m.
Cost: FREE

Learn to cook Photo: ICE Pasadena

The Institute of Culinary Education

If splurging on a fancy prix fixe dinner does not appeal to you, you can learn how to cook one instead. The Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena is offering two cooking courses for two: New York steak and handmade pasta. Chef Richard Hanna will teach the former course, during which students will make a shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, New York strip with beurre maitre d’hotel (compound butter), creamed spinach, truffled mashed potatoes, and mini New York cheesecakes topped with strawberry compote. Chef Peter George will lead the pasta class, during which students will prepare pappardelle with Bolognese; burro e salvia (butternut squash ravioli with sage butter); tomato basil bruschetta, and shaved fennel and radicchio salad.

Where: The Institute of Culinary Education, 521 E Green Street, Pasadena
When: New York Steak on Feb. 14, 6-10 p.m.; Handmade Pasta on Feb. 15, 6-10 p.m.
Cost: $240/couple (Not that you have to bring a significant other; learning with a friend is fine, too!)

My Vintage Valentine

The historic Queen Mary’s My Vintage Valentine will conjure “old-world glamor” with a four-course dinner and a show. The event takes place in the ship’s Windsor Salon, where a love story will unfold over dinner via burlesque and vaudeville performances by Cirque Berzerk and Love in the Fire. Afterward, guests may stick around for cocktails and live music.

Where: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
When: February 14, seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $125-135/person, drinks not included

Psyche’s Wedding by Edward Burne-Jones

The Ominous Marriage of Cupid & Psyche

Disco Dining Club always delights with lavish, decadent, themed dinners that repeat the mantra, “consume everything.” Partnering again with The Grim Wreather, DDC’s latest theme revolves around the myth of Cupid and Psyche. According to legend, Psyche is a mere mortal so beautiful that the goddess Venus becomes envious of her. She sends her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with an enchanted arrow and cause her to fall in love with a human monster. Yet upon seeing her, Cupid is so stunned by Psyche that he shoots himself and thus, falls hopelessly in love with her. Chaos ensues from there.

Tickets are all inclusive and feature a five-course meal from Chef Laurent Quenioux; themed cocktails from Happy Hour Agency and table wine from Disco Vino; oysters from Hama Hama and caviar via East Boston Oysters; post-dinner coconuts from Coco Lily; immersive theater, live music, and dance performances; gift bags, and “late night perversions” from North Hollywood adult toy company Doc Johnson.

Where: A secret location in West Adams
When: February 14, 7:30 p.m.

The Things We Do

Nothing says ‘I appreciate you’ like going steaming with your best pals. The Things We Do at ROW DTLA is offering a Gal-entine’s Day special during which guests may enjoy a V-Steam session and, concurrently, a Cryo-Cloud facial. V-Steams, as you may know, achieved notoriety when lauded by Gwyneth Paltrow. Their devotees claim the process helps with cramping and libido. 

Where: 787 S. Alameda St, Suite 100
When: Feb. 1-28
Cost: $125/person, call 213-278-0358 for reservations

Half-off for loners here on V-Day Photo: Không Tên

Không Tên

Vietnamese restaurant Không Tên will offer two specials for Valentine’s Day. Through the month of February, couples who matched on any dating app will receive 50% off drinks provided they can show their server or bartender their phones and prove their love connection. On Valentine’s Day, singles who sit at the bar will receive 50% off drinks all night. And maybe, just maybe, those singles will meet one another.

Where: 11520 Pico Blvd., West L.A.
When: Through February
Cost: No cover

‘True Romance’ Photo: Warner Bros.

Cinespia Presents ‘True Romance’

Cinespia presents 1993’s romantic crime caper True Romance, in which Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) work to free Alabama from her heartless pimp, Drexl. Things go awry when Clarence realizes a bag he grabs at Drexl’s brothel isn’t full of Alabama’s belongings, but a lot of cocaine. The night will feature photo booths, DJ sets before and after the film, and full bars with signature cocktails.

Where: Los Angeles Theater, 615 S. Broadway, DTLA
When: February 14, doors at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $30-$80

Sad Bastards Nite

For communal brooding, check out Sad Bastards Nite at Bar Henry. There will be music. Genres listed include death rock, synth, folk, soul, esoteric, 90s, and indie, which is an admittedly diverse list. However, all songs spun will unite in a single theme of melancholy. In honor of the especially sad, anyone who can prove a recent tragedy—including job loss or divorce—will receive a free drink. The event is held in memory of Nacho Nava, co-creator of Mustache Mondays, who passed away in January.

Where: Bar Henry, 1228 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
When: February 13, 9 p.m.
Cost: Free with RSVP

Olivia Bellafontaine at Deviled Eggs Photo: Forest Casey

A Very Vaudeville Valentine’s

Drunken Devil presents A Very Vaudeville Valentines’s on Saturday, February 9th. This bawdy, 1930s-era burlesque brunch will feature Valentines-inspired performances, interactive characters, and an aphrodisiac-infused brunch menu with items including double chocolate pancakes, lox crostini, mushroom and potato hash, sweet and spicy bacon, and more. Your ticket will include brunch and the show, while beer, wine, cocktails, and bottomless mimosas can be purchased for an additional cost at the bar.

Where: Brack Shop Tavern, 525 W. 7th Street, DTLA
When: February 9, 11 a.m.
Cost: $50-$120


Couples and singles alike are invited to Madcap Creative’s Sensuali-tea, which will explore how to connect to your own sensuality via a tea ceremony. This is an interactive workshop in which each participant will be invited into a private, candlelit loft for a tea ceremony, guided meditation, and a discussion on using plants for wellness. Each guest will also create their own personal “love potion” using herbs and aphrodisiac plants. The workshop is led by Toska, a witch, artist, and herbalist who hosts the Sex Magic Podcast. Madcap Creative is an all-women entertainment company that “takes fetish performance out of the darkness and into the candlelight.”

Where: Private venue in DTLA
When: February 7, 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $30 (materials included, but bring your own mug)

Angeles Crest Creamery’s goat hike Photo: Angeles Crest Creamery/Facebook

Valentine’s Goat Hike and Picnic

Who needs romance when you have goats, arguably one of the cutest mammals of all time? Angeles Crest Creamery invites guests to take an hour-long, gentle hike in the San Gabriel Mountains with their goats, as the animals leisurely graze to their heart’s content. The hike will include a talk about the goats, their seasonal behavior and foraging, and sustainability. According to the organizers: “Shepherding dairy goats in the San Gabriel Mountains is an experiment in developing a low-input dairying system by matching the appropriate animal to the available forage and using ancient techniques like shepherding not normally practiced in the United States. I’ll share what I’ve learned from the land and the herd 3 years into the project.”

Where: Angeles Crest Creamery, 19830 Big Pines Hwy, Valyermo
When: February 16, 11 a.m.
Cost: $25 (bring your own picnic lunch & drinks)


Wisdome Art Park Brings a Brand New Immersive Experience to the Arts District

February 4, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Wisdome Art Park Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

As “immersive” continues to reign as an art and entertainment buzzword, two factions have emerged: those experiences that ask you to forget your phone and just be present, and those that exist mostly for selfies. Wisdome Art Park straddles both as part-gallery and part-immersive experience, all spread among a series of domes in an Arts District lot. The current exhibition, Samskara, takes guests on a journey that includes paintings, optical illusions, virtual reality, and one very trippy video projection.

According to Marketing Manager Maria Aldarova, Wisdome Art Park first opened in Moscow in December, while their Los Angeles location near the corner of Alameda and Palmetto will remain up for at least the next three years. Exhibits will rotate, beginning with their current exhibit from artist Android Jones.

Android Jones is a digital artist whose colorful, psychedelic paintings and experiences have been displayed at Burning Man, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and on the side of the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House. Eastern religion is a clear inspiration in his imagery, as well as the title of this exhibit. In Hinduism, samskara refers to rites of passage, but it can also mean the impressions our past actions leave on us. The latter definition seems to be the one the exhibit caters to; the info page defines a samskara as “a soul’s impression, the hardly felt emotional track in the subconscious. We travel from life to life between strange worlds and spaces, but we are not able to remember this, just keeping the samskaras.”

“We started working with [Android Jones] three or four years ago and just fell in love with his art because it’s so personal and so deep,” Aldarova said. “We made the immersive experience Samskara together and were showing it at [festivals like] Lightning in a Bottle and Boom. Here, we have something quite special.”

Wisdome Art Park Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

What’s special, in particular, is the size and the duration of the exhibit. Each dome varies in square footage, and each one contains something new. Guests enter through a hall of mirrors where ethereal, ambient music plays, like the world’s most relaxing fun house. This leads to the first dome, where holographic paintings flicker and transform as you move in a slow circle around the space. They’re interspersed with black-and-white optical illusions, which appear to undulate as you sway back and forth. The next dome is larger, this one containing the bulk of Jones’s work, including several paintings, projections, and a projection mapping installation where guests can wave their arms and see their movements reflected on a screen.

For those feeling particularly introspective, a series of questions and musings are posted throughout the exhibit. Some spark spiritual introspection. One, which accompanies an image of two lovers, asks, “When does time begin?” Does it, the statement ponders, begin with an explosion of gas or “the exploding love of our parents”? Yet another encourages the guest to selfie freely. We like selfies because of the value of ourselves, it suggests, but “self” is different from “selfish.” “Enjoy your selfie,” the note concludes.

The next section offers a handful of VR experiences, each one contained in its own smaller neon dome. These interactive experiences allow the guest to propel themselves through surreal worlds while drawing starbursts with a controller.

The next dome is the largest and features the centerpiece of the exhibit: a 22-minute video projected on the concave ceiling of the dome. For peak enjoyment, you’ll want to snag a seat on a futon towards the middle of the dome, then lean back so you can comfortably look upwards. Swirling faces, fractals, and other visuals swoop over and at you to music. Sometimes the faces whisper phrases. It’s mellow enough that fans of ASMR may feel right at home, while everyone else is apt to find it at least pleasantly enchanting—the way solar system planetarium visits were when you were a kid.

A fifth, smaller dome occasionally offers additional video content or, periodically, activities like yoga and sound healing. (We encountered a tea ceremony on our visit.) This dome is also where the Samskara video will play when Wisdome hosts special events in the larger dome. These events are varied and have included a live performance of Pink Floyd music and after-dark parties with outdoor fire pits, food trucks, and a cash bar.

If you’re starting to get the impression that maybe opening such an art experience in a state with legalized cannabis wasn’t a terrible idea, well, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. Everything here lends itself to a mind-altering aesthetic and it’s no surprise that it’s done well at festivals. However, it should be noted that a dayside visit is family-friendly. And while it lacks the prestige of a modern art museum like The Broad, it’s can be a fun, spacey time for those who enter with the right mindset.

People should plan to spend one to two hours for a traditional visit or more if attending an after-dark or special event, but there’s no real time limit.

“We definitely don’t want ‘fast entertainment,’ where you just kill another two hours of your time and then say, ‘oh, what have I seen, actually? What was that?'” Aldarova said. “This is a consciousness-expanding immersive art and music venue so people can get here and forget about all the material things like bills, taxes, requests at work, and all the stress and dive deeper into a different state of mind.”

Wisdome Art Park is located at 1147 Palmetto Street in the Arts District. Open Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 11 am. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $29 for adults, $19 for students, and $9 for children. Special event prices may vary.


Food, Where to Eat

Fiona on Fairfax Offers Global Comfort Food Paired with Exceptional Pies

January 18, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Fiona Photo: Alan Gastelum

When writing, it’s easy to ramble. Verbosity is the enemy. Succinctness is the challenge. Even Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Chef Shawn Pham believes the same is true in the kitchen.

“If you’re a writer, the biggest skill in writing is editing,” he said. “Anyone can put words together. It’s picking the right words—when to use them, how to use them—that takes a tremendous amount of skill and thought. With cooking, if you really think about every single ingredient and its place and how it’s necessary, you make a bigger impact with less.”

Pham says he shares a fondness for simplicity in cooking with award-winning pie genius Nicole Rucker (formerly of Gjelina). Together, they’ve opened Fiona, a sunny all-day cafe, restaurant, and bakery on Fairfax. The pair became friends when Rucker worked at Pham’s previous restaurant, Simbal, which closed in 2017. When Rucker mentioned she was looking for a chef to partner with on her first stand-alone restaurant, Pham expressed his interest.

Their collaborative menu is small, but has plenty of warm comfort foods. On the savory side, there are toasts and sandwiches, made with thick slabs of the house-baked bread; hearty bowls of soup and stew, and pancakes made with celery root or sweet potato. The Vietnamese Beef Stew is particularly flavorful, with hunks of tender short rib that fall easily apart. It’s served with a wedge of lime and a sizable, freshly baked sourdough baguette.

Dahi Toast Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Pham describes the Dahi toast as an Indian-inspired dish piled with crisp curry leaves.

“We fry [the curry leaves] with black mustard seed, yellow mustard seed, and cumin seed, then it’s served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys,” he said. “It has a very unique aroma and taste that a lot of people have never experienced before.”

Some of these dishes carry over into dinner, while new ones—like the hamachi crudo, beef tartare, and ‘duck for two’—are added for evening service. Guests may enjoy their meals with coffee and tea—plain or concoctions like sparking matcha with yuzu and ginger—or something off Fiona’s curated beer and wine list.

Then there’s also the sweeter side of Fiona, which can be found in the bakery case. There will always be a handful of pies, for which Rucker is legendary—she scored a blue ribbon for her apple pie at the National Pie Championship in 2013. On any given day flavors include banana cream, key lime, and Rucker’s famous chocolate chess, which is kind of like a perfect, velvety brownie transplanted onto a delicate, flaky crust. (There’s a lemon chess, too.) Other treats might include cookies, cake, and nightly special desserts one can see advertised via Rucker’s Instagram. Like this:

Fiona itself is cute and homey. Sunlight filters in through street-facing windows casting over a black-and-white tiled floor and green accent walls. Guests order at the counter, then take a number and a seat if dining in. You might not guess that the pretty cafe’s name came about during the media buzz surrounding a hippo born two months premature at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. (Don’t worry; Fiona the Hippo is doing just fine now.)

“‘Fiona’ just kind of stuck, and then it morphed into [the idea that] it could be anything. It could be a relative, an aunt, a grandma. We like it because it’s vague and allows us to define it,” Pham said.

The vagueness works for the restaurant, which can be a lot of different things, depending on your mood. It can be a quick, casual lunch; an afternoon spent reading a book over a bakery item and a cup of coffee, or a cute spot for a first or hundredth date. Whatever the occasion, definitely try the pie.

Fiona is located at 339 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles CA. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Century City’s Dreamscape Immersive is VR You Have to Experience to Believe

January 10, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Blu: Deep Rescue Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

Dreamscape Immersive, the latest contender in location-based virtual reality, has opened in the Westfield Century City mall with three unique adventures. Each one is truly beautiful and a testament to the possibilities of VR. It’s all-ages escapism at its finest and an experience that cannot be replicated at home.

Arriving at Dreamscape is like prepping for a flight, minus all the TSA hassle. From the mall’s sunny second floor, you’ll enter Dreamscape’s “Departure Lounge” where you’ll have three destinations to choose from: the otherworldly Alien Zoo, the Indiana Jones-esque Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, and the breathtaking deep-sea mission, The Blu: Deep Rescue. Whether you’ve purchased a ticket in advance online or snag one upon arrival, you’ll receive a boarding pass printed with a three-letter code, just like an IATA airport code. The boarding process hints that you’re headed somewhere else, somewhere beyond the confines of a bustling mall.

Unlike some VR experiences where you don’t see yourself in VR or see only a pair of floating hands, this is a full-body experience for up to six guests at a time. You and your teammates will all appear in VR as various avatars, dressed appropriately for whatever world you’re exploring. You choose your avatar at check-in (there are male, female, and gender neutral options), then wait for your trip in a lounge area where seating and concessions are available. In the center of the room, cases display various ephemera from the three missions, including sketches, artifacts, and letters that supplement the stories.

Dreamscape Immersive’s Departure Lounge Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

When it’s time to depart, an attendant escorts your group to get suited up. Each guest wears tracking devices on their feet and hands, as well as a backpack and headset. They’re easy to put on and fairly comfortable. Finally, you’re led into a plain black room which is, despite all appearances, where the magic happens. Some might find it disappointing to see the bare bones of the space without the fantastical VR skin, but I like it; when I was a little kid, all I wanted was my own personal Star Trek: TNG-style holodeck.

With your headset on, you’ll see yourself and your teammates as your selected avatars, complete with personalized name tags bearing your initials. And then, a new world appears.

Each adventure is considerably different. In The Blu: Deep Rescue, a partnership between Dreamscape Immersive and Wevr, you’re a team of elite divers sent to find a missing whale.

In Alien Zoo, you soar on a transport pod through a wildlife refuge in space. The creatures live in their own sort of biodome. There’s the mischievous Frog Cat—comprised of a frog head, a cat body, and the tail of a leopard gecko—and the carnivorous Sicari, who may fail to differentiate human visitors from her lunch.

In this scene from ‘Lavan’s Magic Projector,’ guests can actually reach out and hold onto the rail as they overlook the splendor below. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

In Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, you get a story within a story. The eponymous “magic projector” is a device that allows you to step inside a film—not unlike a VR headset. The Lost Pearl is the film you enter, casting you as explorers on the hunt for a precious artifact hidden inside an ancient temple. You begin in a virtual theater watching the film The Lost Pearl, but soon step through the black-and-white screen into a verdant jungle. It is a truly enchanting moment, enhanced further by the sensation of wind rushing against your face. Moments like these are what Dreamscape Immersive CEO Bruce Vaughn, formerly Chief Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, refers to as “Dreamscape moments.”

“We put an emphasis on the story. Story comes first, and the technology is there to enable immersive storytelling and experiences. So we put a lot of time and thought and design into the moments that blur the line between the virtual and the physical. We literally map those [moments] out in a certain kind of cadence,” Vaughn said.

You can reach out and pet this curious creature in Alien Zoo. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

In Alien Zoo, for instance, there’s a sequence during which a savannah full of alien creatures is revealed. It’s that ‘whoa’ moment you might remember from the first time you saw Jurassic Park. A group of horse-like creatures curiously trot up to your transport and when you reach out, that horse is physically present. You can stroke its snout, the way you might interact with an actual animal. In Magic Projector, you can grab a torch from a holder in a temple wall and use its firelight to interact with objects in the temple’s winding, booby-trapped corridors. At times, you are separated from your group. You can see them waving at you from across a deep chasm. You forget all about the much smaller black box you were standing inside back in the real world. In The Blu, you’ll hop on scooters and navigate your way through ocean trenches. When you sweep your hand through a school of fish, they sense your presence and scatter. When you approach the whale, you get so close that you can see the individual barnacles attached to the underside of its fin.

The one thing you won’t do in these experiences is shoot at monsters or robots or rack up points. While much of VR is rooted in gaming, Vaughn sees Dreamscape’s VR as a new medium with overlapping elements of immersive theater, theme parks, cinema, and gaming mechanics. The focus is on telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end, as with a piece of theater or a film. The gaming mechanics give the guests a sense of agency.  Instead of gripping a plastic gun, a guest might instead hold a flashlight, which allows them to light up and explore pieces of their environment as they will. As Vaughn explains, the guest isn’t just a voyeur in a 360 world, but becomes the interface.

Alien Zoo Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

“You find that really allows our audience to find themselves in the center of the story. They might not think that when they step in, but by the end, it’s really about them. Wonderment and wish fulfillment is what we’re focusing on in the end,” Vaughn said.

He continues, “Because [the experience] is so sensory rich and because you’re experiencing that virtual world just like you do this one—you’re hearing it, seeing it, touching it, smelling it, feeling it—the memory of this functions more like a real memory from the physical world than it does [like] watching a movie. If you had seen [Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl] in a movie theater, you’d say, ‘I went to the movie theater and saw The Lost Pearl. I think when you talk about this now, you’d say, ‘I stepped through [the screen] and was in The Lost Pearl.”

This is an important piece when it comes to Dreamscape’s location inside a mall. While millennials have been accused of killing department stores—and napkins and light yogurt—malls have not been declining in popularity. Rather, malls have been changing their offerings. Bridget Johns of store analytics firm RetailNext told USA Today that while many anchor stores have closed, “a lot of those anchors have been replaced by more experiential-type environments like bowling alleys and high-end restaurants … that appear to be doing a really good job of driving traffic to those properties.”

Guests can pose with Frog Cats outside the storefront. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

Virtual reality experiences like Dreamscape Immersive and The VOID at the Glendale Galleria are just too sophisticated for at-home consumer headsets. You have to go somewhere to actually do them. And because they both run about 30-40 minutes, including on-boarding, participants are apt to make a day of it by eating at the mall, visiting various stores, or catching a movie. In fact, movie theaters—another industry striving to be more experiential to avoid millennials slaughter—are next for Dreamscape Immersive. A partnership with AMC will allow for the opening of four new locations across the U.S. in mid-2019, some stand-alone and others housed in movie theaters. As for the Century City location, it will remain the company’s flagship and will both add and rotate out new experiences in the future.

Know Before You Go:

Dreamscape Immersive is located at the Westfield Century City mall,10250 Santa Monica Blvd, on the 2nd floor near Eataly. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online (recommended to get your desired adventure at your preferred time) or in-store. Online tickets are subject to a convenience fee of $1.50. Each adventure can accommodate up to six people at a time. All are family-friendly, suitable for ages 10 and up.

Happenings, Things To Do

40 Things to Do on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles (2018 -> 2019 edition)

December 27, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Photo: Grand Park/The Music Center

If you don’t have New Year’s Plans yet and would rather go out than binge a TV show with take-out, we’ve got you covered. Here are 40 options, including indulgent dinners, dance parties, and themed galas.

Alcove & Big Bar’s International Cocktail Tour

Alcove & Big Bar have a unique annual tradition. Beginning in the afternoon, their team of expert mixologists will offer a new “timezone cocktail” every hour until the clock strikes midnight here in L.A. They’ll also be changing the music every single hour. In all, that’s ten time zones, ten cocktails, and ten playlists. Things kick off at 3 p.m. in Paris with the Poussin de Côtê with Hennessy black cognac, star anise/cinnamon-infused Cointreau, and lemon. At 10 p.m., expect the Piña de mi Corazon, with pineapple-infused tequila, lime pineapple, green chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur. Each one comes stamped with a special timezone sticker.

Where: 1929 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz
Cost: No cover

Clifton’s Cafeteria 

Clifton’s New Year’s Eve Ball at the Crystal Forest takes the already magical Clifton’s and transforms it into five immersive floors of wintry, woodsy wonderland (some floors and areas accessible to VIP and platinum ticket holders only). There will be cocktail and champagne specials throughout the venue, with certain tickets granting access to a buffet dinner and complimentary champagne. Winter fantasy garb is encouraged.

Where: 648 S Broadway, DTLA
Cost: $45-250

Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills

At the elegant Viceroy L’Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills, a special three-course dinner with champagne will be served from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Choices include hamachi tartare or lobster consume, venison osso buco or seabags with black truffle risotto, and champagne granita with berries or white chocolate vanilla créme brulee for dessert.

Where: 9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills
Cost: $75/adult, $55/child

Prohibition NYE

Prohibition NYE, a Jazz Age-themed fête, returns for its seventh year at Union Station. Entertainment includes burlesque from Dollhouse Entertainment, a disco set from Classizz, music from Lyndsay and the All Nighters, a midnight ball drop, and more. Tickets also include access to an open bar.

Where: Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., DTLA
Cost: $160 and up


Downtown Pasadena venue NOOR will host an 80s dance party with DJ Richard Blade, an open bar, complimentary hors-d’oeuvres, dessert, party favors, and more.

Where: 300 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
Cost: $125 and up

EVE at Universal Studios Hollywood

On New Year’s Eve, Universal Studios Hollywood will extend park hours until 2 a.m. to ring in the new year. Festivities include DJs, live music, and a fireworks show, which guests can experience by simply purchasing a standard park ticket. Upgraded VIP tickets are available and include private lounges and bars, a buffet dinner, a champagne toast at midnight, and express access to rides and attractions.

Where: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Cost: $124 and up, or $379 for Ultimate EVE package

Keith & Margo’s New Year’s Murder Mystery Dinner

At this NYE event, you get dinner and the chance to solve a mystery. Tickets include appetizers, a three-course dinner, party favors, DJs and dancing, and, of course, an interactive who-done-it to piece together throughout the night.

Where: Matteo’s, 2312 Westwood Blvd., Westwood
Cost: $125

Hal’s Bar + Grill

Hal’s Bar + Grill Playa Vista will offer a prix fixe dinner with a champagne toast and music from pop/rock band Weekend Celebrity. Dishes include a Sorell salad; halibut with acorn squash, prime rib with purple mash, or cacio e pepe with truffle, and pavlova for dessert. Guests may choose between two seatings: 4:30-6:30 p.m., or 7-9 p.m.

Where: 12751 Millennium Drive #140, Playa Vista
Cost: $45-60

New Year's Eve 2017 Aboard the Queen Mary

New Year’s Eve 2017 Aboard the Queen Mary. Photo credit: The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary will transform its decks and ballrooms into visually spectacular themed clubs for New Year’s Eve, including the black-lit Cat’s Meow, the honky-tonk Hotsy Totsy, and speakeasy Capone’s Hideaway. Entertainment throughout includes burlesque, dueling pianos, DJs, and a fireworks show.

Where: 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
Cost: $115 and up

No Cover New Years

If you’re looking to hang out somewhere chill without a pricy cover, Angel City Brewery’s the spot. They open at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, with live music from The Vignes Rooftop Revival starting at 9 p.m. A midnight toast of Bir Royale Champagne Beer will be provided, and Downtown Taco Co. will be on site if you get hungry.

Where: Angel City Brewery, 216 Alameda St., Arts District
Cost: No cover

Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A.

One of L.A.’s largest NYE celebrations is held annually at Grand Park, drawing some 50,000 people. This year’s theme, LA DREAMS, will incorporate the artwork of L.A. County fifth graders during the countdown to midnight. Other entertainment includes musical performances from Aloe Blacc, Maya Jupiter, and DJs Spiñorita, Ericalandia, and Kronika. Festivities kick off at 8 p.m. Find a complete lineup and schedule for the family-friendly fest’s two stages here.

Where: 200 N. Grand Ave., DTLA
Cost: Free

New Year’s Eve Ball

If you’re looking for a party where one ticket gets you everything you’d want in a single night out, The Raymond 1886’s all-inclusive NYE Ball will do. Guests will enjoy passed appetizers, buffet stations, desserts, an open bar, a champagne toast, party favors, and performances from Marquis & The Rhythm Howlers and DJ Spinboy.

Where: 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
Cost: $175/person


Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is offering both a three- and four-course prix-fixe Italian dinner, as well as the Windows Lounge New Year’s Eve Party with live entertainment, party favors, and a champagne toast.

Where: 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills
Cost: $95/person for three-course dinner; $150/person for four-course dinner plus gala access; $60/person for gala only.


ROKU in West Hollywood will offer a six-course omakase dinner with seatings at 6 p.m., 8 p.m., and 10 p.m. with dishes like snow trout sashimi with yuzu pink peppercorn. Those who wish to stick around can enjoy DJs and a champagne toast at midnight. Similar festivities will be available at the sushi restaurant’s Santa Monica and Pasadena locations as well.

Where: 9201 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Cost: $90/person

Photo: OUE Skyspace LA

Skyspace NYE Party

Skyspace’s party will have one of the best views on NYE, taking place 1,000 feet above street level. Your ticket includes dancing, DJs, an open bar, a champagne toast, and passed appetizers and unlimited Skyslide rides until 10:30 p.m.

Where: 633 W 5th St., DTLA
Cost: $150 and up

New Year’s Eve at Terranea Resort

The Grand Ballroom at this luxury resort will host a New Year’s party with entertainment including DJs, dining, vaudeville and circus acts, and late-night savory and sweet food stations.

Where: 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes
Cost: $175 and up


From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., Baldoria will offer a buffet of their signature and off-menu pizzas, nachos, ice cream, and more. A champagne toast will occur at midnight, and happy hour prices on drinks will go from 10 p.m. until close.

Where: 243 San Pedro St., Little Tokyo
Cost: $40 in advance, $45 at the door

Hotel Shangri-La

Santa Monica’s Hotel Shangri-La is offering a 9 p.m. cocktail hour and five-course dinner, complete with a bottle of champagne and live entertainment. Or, you can check out the Onyx Rooftop Lounge for with DJs, a champagne toast, and a four-hour open bar.

Where: 1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
Cost: $150/person for the dinner, $90 and up for the party.

La Peer Hotel

Le Peer Hotel’s celebration begins with a four-course meal, followed by a masquerade ball with bottomless prosecco, DJs, and dancing. The festivities will overtake the entire first floor of the West Hollywood hotel.

Where: 627 N La Peer Dr., West Hollywood
Cost: $100 and up for dinner; $50 for the party; $150 and up for both.

Scratch Bar & Kitchen

Scratch Bar and Sushi Bar both have multi-course tasting menus, each with three seatings over the course of the evening. Scratch Bar will feature a 12-course menu with items including a5 wagyu ribeye, foie gras, caviar, and more. Sushi Bar will feature a new 17-course menu. Afterward, diners are welcome to head on over to sister bar Woodley Proper to ring in the new year with a complimentary glass of champagne.

Where: 16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino
Cost: $250/person, includes welcome cocktail reception

Castaway is known for its sweeping views Photo: Courtesy of Castaway


There are two ways to celebrate at Burbank’s Castaway. Guests can enjoy a five-course meal and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for two, accompanied by a live jazz quartet in the restaurant. Or, in the Verdugo and Starlight ballrooms, the Welcome to the Jungle party will include food stations and passed appetizers, live entertainment, dancing, and an open bar.

Where: 1250 E. Harvard Blvd., Burbank
Cost: $125 and up for dinner; $195 and up for the party


New Westwood restaurant Broxton’s masquerade ball includes passed appetizers, an open bar, photo booth, and a champagne or beer toast at midnight. Guests are encouraged to dress up for this one, which goes from 8 midnight.

Where: 1099 Westwood Blvd., Westwood
Cost: $99 in advance, $120 at the door 

Tony’s Darts Away

At this neighborhood beer bar, guests can enjoy unlimited craft beer and pub food. Throughout the night, they’ll also raffle off beers straight from Tony’s private cellar.

Where: 1710 W Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
Cost: $80/person

Candi Pop

The Candi Pop dance party at The Satellite may be celebrating 2019, but the music will be all 90s and early-aughts. Think Spice Girls, boy bands, Hanson, and S Club 7, all night long. Doors open at 9 p.m.

Where: 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake
Cost: $15

Dita Von Teese NYE Gala

Dita Von Teese and a cast of burlesque pros will perform at the glamorous Orpheum Theatre. Guests will also get to view some Von Teese’s own costumes in the lobby, and some fans may score meet-and-greet tickets, too. “The Orpheum Theatre has a rich showbiz past, a stage made for vaudeville and burlesque shows, so it’s especially exciting to invite the audience into this historic space…it’ll be a night you’ll tell your grandkids about!” Von Teese said via a release.

Where: 842 S Broadway, DTLA
Cost: $49.50 and up

Minimal Effort

Minimal Effort returns for another night of techno and house music, this time featuring Skream, Sasha, Layton Giordani, Justin Jay, Yokoo, and more, spread across four stages.

Where: Belasco Theater, 1050 S Hill St. DTLA
Cost: $59 and up

Markus Schulz

German trance DJ Markus Schulz, also known as the Unicorn Slayer, will be playing all night at the Avalon, starting at 9 p.m. Schulz has performed all over the world and hosts the Digitally Imported radio show Global DJ Broadcast.

Where: Avalon Hollywood, 1735 Vine St., Hollywood
Cost: $70 and up

Riot! at the Disco

Not into top 40? Riot! at the Disco is a night of emo and pop-punk kicking off at 9 p.m. DJs Dan Sena and Bar Mom will play lots of Jimmy Eat World, All Time Low, AFI, Taking Back Sunday, Coheed and Cambria and, as the name might imply, Panic! at the Disco.

Where: 4067 Pico Blvd., Mid-City
Cost: $15

The Varnish

It’ll cost you to herald in 2019 at The Varnish’s disco-themed celebration, with tickets starting at $350 for a table of two. However, you will get a French dip sandwich; snacks; cocktails, beer, wine, and select spirits for sipping, and midnight champagne service. Walk-ins who don’t mind standing will be admitted on a first come, first served basis with drinks served a la carte. Entertainment comes via DJ Max Maxey, who will be spinning disco on vinyl throughout the evening.

Where: 118 E. 6th St., DTLA
Cost: $350-1,050, includes tax & gratuity

Part Time Punks

DJ Jose Maldonado will spin indie 80s, 90s, Britpop, post-punk, new wave, dark wave, and more for Part Time Punk’s NYE party at The Moroccan Lounge. Artists you can expect to hear include NIN, Pulp, The Smiths, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Cure, New Order, and more, so get your black eyeliner ready.

Where: Moroccan Lounge, 901 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo
Cost: $20-25

Gatsby’s House

Gatsby’s House returns for the sixth year at the W Hollywood hotel. A ticket will get you two rooms of music, three lounges, party favors, and a premium open bar for four hours. Expect Top 40 tunes from DJs including Splyce, Dr. Coolwhip, and Eric Cubeechee. Casino games available on a first come, first served basis.

Where: W Hollywood, 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Cost: $115-3,345

Bar Clacson & Slipper Clutch

Don’t feel like paying a hefty cover? Downtown’s Bar Clacson will host an “Enchantment Under the Sea” party with live music, specialty cocktails, champagne, and oysters. Head upstairs to Slipper Clutch for their “Go F* Yourself Under the Sea” party where DJ Heather Leigh will be playing punk all night. There’s no cover at either bar, though you can get bottle service—Miller High Life, that is—for $20 at Slipper Clutch.

Where: 351 S. Broadway, DTLA
Cost: Free

New Year’s Eve Metal Madness

There’s no shortage of pop dance nights on NYE, but 5 Star Bar is one venue offering a full night of metal. Acts include OLD Blood, Sick Mystic, Beyond the Roots, The Faint Endless, and SPEED OF LIGHT. The party starts at 8 p.m.

Where: 5 Star Bar, 267 S. Main St., DTLA
Cost: $5 before 9 p.m., $10 after

LCD Soundsystem vs. Daft Punk

Perhaps not a battle for the ages, but a solid night of dance music from DJ JoelAtTheDisco. Expect music from artists like Chromeo, Justice, Ladytron, Crystal Castles, Peaches, Cut Copy, and, naturally, the two contenders. Tickets include party favors and a champagne toast at midnight.

Where: 1720 E. 16th St., Central Alameda
Cost: $15

Two Bit Circus. Photo by Christina Champlin

Two Bit Circus

If VR and gaming are more your speed, check out Two Bit Circus’ NYE packages. For $75, guests can get unlimited games in the venue’s midway and arcade areas, tickets for two main attractions, two drink tickets, a champagne toast at midnight, and late-night food. For $100, guests will get VIP seating and access to a private bar. Main attractions include their virtual reality offerings, as well as their Story Rooms, which include two escape room-style adventures and four-person VR shooting game The Raft. The event starts at 8 p.m., 21+ only.

Where: 634 Mateo St., Arts District
Cost: $75+

The Normandie Club and The Walker Inn

Cocktail favorites The Normandie Club and The Walker Inn, both located within the Normandie Hotel in K-Town, are offering food, an open bar, and a champagne toast at midnight for ticket holders.

Where: 3612 W. 6th St., Koreatown
Cost: $100

Honeycut’s Champagne Supernova

Honeycut is only selling 100 tickets to their annual Champagne Supernova party. It’ll score you an open bar, including free-flowing white and pink champagne, plus 2000s pop and hip-hop (plus a little disco) from DJs The Mojito Boys.

Where: 819 S. Flower St., DTLA
Cost: $80

The Victorian

The Victorian in Santa Monica—a venue originally built in 1892 but moved to its present location in the early ’70s—will transform into a “winter wonderland” for NYE. Ticket holders may explore all three floors of the venue, plus receive a champagne toast and open bar access.

Where: 2640 Main St., Santa Monica
Cost: $100


Enjoy rooftop dining before the ball drops at WP24. They’re offering two dining options: a three-course menu with dim sum and a la carte options, or a seven-course pre-fixe menu with items including day boat scallops and prime rib New York sirloin.

900 W. Olympic Blvd., DTLA
Cost: $85 for three-course dinner; $175 for seven-course dinner

Lethal Amounts’ Sex Cells NYE XXXtravagazna

Gallery Lethal Amounts is hosting their annual New Year’s Extravaganza at the Echoplex. Expect performances from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Egyptian Lover, and Sateen, plus DJs Matthew Pernicano and Danny Fuentes.

Where: The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park
Cost: $25 in advance, $30 day-of

Food, Happenings

This New Arts District Museum Showcases the World’s Most Disgusting Foods

December 11, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Sardinian maggot cheese Photo: The Museum of Disgusting Food

The average American would be revolted by pickled sheep eyes or black licorice caked with salt, but The Disgusting Food Museum is here to showcase that one person’s nightmare is another’s delicacy. Presented alongside fruit bat soup and musk-flavored candy, visitors will find a can of root beer that, for many, harkens back to the halcyon days of summer vacation—and for others, tastes like toothpaste.

The Museum of Disgusting Food first debuted in Malmo, Sweden in the fall of 2018, and has now come to the A+D Museum in downtown Los Angeles. It’s curated by Dr. Samuel West—who also curated The Museum of Failure, which came to the A+D Museum in last year—and Andreas Ahrens, who serves as the director of the Swedish museum. The Disgusting Food Museum features some 80 food items from around the world to suggest we reexamine “disgust” as well as consider alternative sustainable protein sources like insects and lab-grown meat. Exhibits fall into a variety of “disgust” categories, which may include their taste, appearance, smell, texture, or the manner in which they are prepared.

“What I want to happen and what’s actually been the response so far is that people say they came [to the museum] for the shock value, and they left with a better understanding that food preferences are cultural, period,” West said. “Disgust is culturally conditioned. You see both foods that you like right next to ones you find utterly ‘disgusting,’ and they’re on the same table with the same respect. I think the contrast between the different cuisines and cultures is as interesting as the subtle similarities that people don’t really pick up on until they’ve immersed themselves into it. What’s the real difference between eating a guinea pig and a regular pig?”

Both animals are featured in the museum’s collection, which calls into question the antibiotics pigs are injected with prior to their slaughter and consumption. Guinea pigs, also known as cuy, are often eaten in parts of South America.

Fried tarantula, a Cambodian delicacy Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Elsewhere you’ll find displays of insects and animals—or animal parts—not typically consumed in the U.S. The Mongolia Mary is just like your standard Bloody Mary, save the whole, pickled sheep eye, while a Peruvian health smoothie is made by blending honey, vegetables, and endangered Titicaca water frogs. (It should be noted that most of the animal displays in the museum are either taxidermied or toy figures.)

Some of these meat dishes are included in the museum because their preparation methods are considered cruel. Dishes like Foie Gras and ortolans may be considered rich delicacies by some, but are often boycotted or banned due to the treatment the animal must endure. Ortolans, small songbirds, were traditionally eaten with a napkin over the diner’s head, both to keep in the aroma and, supposedly, to hide the shame of eating one. French menus have been banned from offering the birds since 1999, not that it stops some from trying to acquire them. In the NBC series Hannibal,  gourmand (and cannibal) Hannibal Lecter explains how ortolans are prepared to FBI Agent Will Graham, right before they eat them in the clip below:

A few of the dishes at the museum contain fluids one might consider surprising. There’s the English’s blood pudding; Sok Z Kiszonej Kapusty, a Polish sauerkraut juice; Kumis, or fermented horse milk, from Russia; Garum, an ancient Roman sauce made by fermenting barrels of fish guts in the sun; and Three Penis Liquor, a rice wine breweries with seal, deer, and dog penises that is said to increase virility. Shirako, a Japanese dish that translates to “white children” and consists of fish sacs, typically full of cod sperm. It’s said to have a creamy, slightly fishy, milky taste.

Perhaps the oddest among them—at least for the audience most likely to stop by the Los Angeles museum—are “Virgin Boy Eggs,” which hail from Dongyang. According to the Reuters, the traditional dish calls for eggs to be boiled, then simmered for a day in the urine of boys, preferably no older than 10, which is often collected at primary schools. Vendors sell them for a quarter and they are so popular, they have been deemed an “intangible cultural heritage” by the local government.

Shirako, or milt, is made with fish sperm. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

It’s in the smell section where one finds The Altar of Stinky Cheese. Dare to open the jars next to the visual displays and you’ll understand why each has been chosen. The smelliest among them is Vieux Boulogne, an unpasteurized cheese from Boulogne-sur-Mer made from the milk of cows that have grazed on sea-sprayed grass. The cheese is then matured for around two months, then washed in beer. A panel conducted by Stephen White of Cranfield University determined that Vieux Boulogne was the stinkiest cheese in the world. According to the Independent, it has hints of “wet earth, mushroom, and of rotting leaves,” or, for the less sophisticated, cow poop. (I smelled this and can confirm.) It shares its altar with Gamle Ole, a well-aged Danish cheese, and the Stinking Bishop, a U.K. cheese that surged in popularity after a character in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit uses the semi-soft cheese’s scent to rouse Wallace from the dead.

Then there’s the Sardinian cheese, Casu Marzu, in which a whole rind of pecorino cheese is sliced open and set outside so that flies can lay their eggs in it. The museum’s display allows one to watch live maggots squirm in the center of the cheese. The cheese is illegal in the EU, largely because surviving maggots, if not removed, can cause a whole host of issues in a diner’s bowels. This is not the only dish within the museum’s purview that is potentially dangerous. Live octopus is considered a delicacy in South Korea, but still-moving suction cups can stick to a diner’s throat and kill them. According to the museum, about six people each year die this way.

Other items are less deadly, but might make you laugh because you’ve never considered them disgusting. Ahrens noted some Australians were peeved to see vegemite, a popular sandwich spread, in the exhibit. Americans might be surprised see Pop-Tarts and Twinkies in the mix.

“We thought about taking out the Twinkies and Pop-Tarts for the American exhibit, and then I did some semi-scientific surveys and people at the museum, the Europeans, all found Twinkies and Pop-Tarts to be disgusting because they are too sweet and represent the artificial foods of America,” West said.

Many Americans are surprised to see this popular ‘breakfast pastry’ in the exhibit, but West says Europeans detest them. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Which is one of the key points of the museum: disgust is on the tongue of the beholder. I tried and abhorred the salt licorice. But while I grew up eating the occasional S’mores Pop-Tart before school or sipping on a root beer, Ahrens spent his youth popping salt licorice. We each find the other’s childhood favorites, to quote Ahrens, “absolutely vile.” Meanwhile, West, who grew up in both California and Sweden, loves root beer and says his children love salt licorice.

“Disgust is one of the universal emotions. It’s there to protect us from dangerous food, poisonous food, rotten food,” Ahrens said. “So, we get this initial reaction of ‘I shouldn’t eat this’ to protect our health, then we learn through our upbringing that some of the things that we should find disgusting are not. So, for me, salt licorice, when you first taste it, it kind of stings your tongue. But when you are used to it, you crave that feeling.”

Both West and Ahrens, for instance, have learned to enjoy the smell of durian—a spiky, Southeast Asian fruit with a pungent odor that contradicts its sweet, custardy taste—after sampling the fruit so many times. And how many of us have gone from shunning vegetables in our youth to craving them in our adulthood?

Several packages of salted licorice, a popular Nordic candy. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

“My hope is that if we stop judging the food of other cultures as disgusting, maybe we will be more tolerant towards cultural behaviors that we might not be used to and realize that we think they are strange because we are not used to them, not because they are actually strange,” Ahrens said.

If you’re interested in evolving your own palate, The Museum of Disgusting Food is offering tastings of a variety of items, including stinky cheeses, a handful of insect dishes (which West promotes as the key to eating less meat and a sustainable future), century eggs, global candies, and, for the very brave, Hákarl. Hákharl is an Icelandic dish of aged, fermented shark. Of all his culinary adventures, Anthony Bourdain once described the dish as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever tried. I tried it myself and my first thought was, “This is what drinking embalming fluid must be like.” This thought was likely due to the dish’s ammonia smell, which lingers in the nose after consumption. To be fair to the shark, ammonia is not formaldehyde, but I will not be eating Hákarl ever again.

The Disgusting Food Museum is open December 9-February 17 at the A+D Museum, located at 900 E. 4th Street in the Arts District. Hours are Weds.-Fri., 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. & Sun., noon to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. (On December 14 only, hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Tickets are $15 on weekdays or $18 on weekends or $10 for children 12 and younger. Those interested in bringing a party of 10 or more should send an email to More info here.


13 Immersive & Offbeat Things to Do in L.A. for the Holiday Season

December 5, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

If waiting in line for a mall Santa isn’t quite your thing, maybe you’d prefer strolling through a mesmerizing garden of lights or taking to the streets with a Krampus or two. Or perhaps you’d prefer to visit with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future in virtual reality.

Either way, if you’re looking for something different to do this month, here are 13 ways to get immersed in the holiday season in and around Los Angeles (numbered for reference, listed in no particular order).

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare  Photo: Aaron Sims Creative

1. Chained: A Victorian Nightmare

Nineteenth-century Victorians used to gather round to tell one another ghost stories on Christmas Eve. The most famous tale of them all is arguably Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has been reimagined in myriad ways since its original publication in 1843. But it’s never been done quite like this.

From MWM Immersive and Here Be Dragons, director/creator Justin Denton (Legion FX HoloLens experience), and Ethan Stearns (producer of Carne y Arena) comes Chained: A Victorian Nightmare, a part-VR, part-immersive theater retelling of the classic Dickens tale that places one audience member at a time in the role of Scrooge. Well, sort of: you’re in Scrooge’s role, but the answers you offer to questions about your life and legacy will be your own. This spooky self-discovery experience begins by knocking on a foreboding chamber door in real life, but guests will soon find themselves using a VR headset to access the spirit realm. While the VR component allows for fantastical virtual sights, you’ll also be interacting with real actors and objects at the same time. To achieve this effect, motion capture tracks a live actor who speaks to and guides the guest, all while appearing as a foreboding spirit. It’s very cool, and something a lot of people have likely never experienced with this technology before. The overall aesthetic is creepy, reminiscent of gothic horror stories, with chilling artwork from Aaron Sims Creative (who also created Stranger Things‘ Demogorgon). But, it’s not specifically a horror experience, so don’t expect to be shrieking at jump scares or gore.

Tickets for the first wave of Chained are sold out, but new tickets will be released daily through December. Sign up for their mailing list for updates.

When: Nov. 29-early January
Where: The Great Co., 1655 Beverly Blvd., HiFi
Cost: $40

2. X-Mas for One

Things take a dark turn when three employees are forced to provide the entertainment at their company’s annual Christmas party in the dark comedy X-Mas For One. In this immersive staging, the audience is cast as co-workers of the trio, occasionally getting “roped into workplace drama” as chaos ensues. The show is written and performed by Lucas Coleman, Will Huse, and Pablo Rossil, the same team behind Blowfish: A Horrific Immersive Experience. This event is not suitable for kids.

When: Sunday, December 9, 8 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
Cost: $18-35, plus a 2 food/drink item minimum.

Krampuslauf 2017 Photo: Paul Koudounaris

3. The Los Angeles Krampuslauf

In Austrian folklore, Krampus is the counterpart to St. Nick. He roams the night looking for bad children to whip with switches, toss in a frozen lake, or drag to the underworld—so, worse than a lump of coal. The Krampuslauf (or Krampus Run) is an annual parade of the horned beasts, and Los Angeles will have its own on December 13, coinciding with the Downtown Art Walk. The monsters will be out to swat the naughty while St. Nick will make sure they don’t get too wild. Also, expect an authentic steam car from the 1800s to make an appearance. Then, head to The Lash for a performance from Hammerstein Musik Bavaria. And, if you have your own Krampus suit (who doesn’t, right?), send a picture to Krampus Los Angeles by December 12 to participate. More info here.

When: Krampus Lauf, Thursday, December 13, 8 p.m. After party to follow at 9 p.m.
Where: Winston St., between Main and Los Angeles, DTLA. The Lash is at 117 Winston St., DTLA.
Cost: Free

4. Nightmare Before Christmas Beer Festival

The Queen Mary will host a beer fest inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas, featuring over 20 different brews from local favorites; an immersive HalloweenTown with character interactions and photo ops; karaoke with Oogie Boogie, and live music.

When: Friday, December 14, 6:30-10 p.m.
Where: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
Cost: $42 and up

Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light Photo: Cal Bingham

5. Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted: Forest of Light

Enchanted: Forest of Light is one of the most beautiful and innovative holiday light displays you’ll find in L.A. County. The experience eschews  red-and-green cliches for a one-mile journey through otherworldly installations like singing Oak trees, fields of illuminated, color-changing tulips, and a Japanese garden lit with red lanterns.

When: Nov.18-Jan.6, 5:30-10 p.m. Closed Dec. 24 & 25.
Where: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge
Cost: $28-30 (Members get $5 off)

Here and Now transforms into Blitzen Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

6. Blitzen’s

Here & Now in the Arts District has become Blitzen’s, a holiday pop-up featuring seasonal decor, live performances (like a roving Bad Santa), and a full menu of seasonal offerings. Food includes potato latkes; the Leftover Turkey Sandwich with turkey, cranberry chutney, and mashed potatoes, and bread pudding. Cocktails include Oh Holy Nog (Cognac, Avua Cachaca, Becherovka, Amontillado, Egg, Coconut Cream) and Eight Crazy Nights (Plum Brandy, Vanilla infused Palo Cortado, Amaro Montenegro, Strawberry Rosemary Compote, Powdered Sugar). For added immersion, linger outside in the bluster of their snow machine. Additionally, garner a free cup of punch for every quart-size plastic baggie of toiletries you bring along to be donated to nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).

When: Nov. 28-Dec. 31
Where: Here & Now, 300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Arts District
Cost: Free

Immersed in Wonderland Photo: Alexa Meade

7. Immersed in Wonderland

If you can’t afford anything on Rodeo Drive, you can at least go see artist Alexa Meade’s pop-up installation, Immersed in Wonderland. Meade has painted a series of 3-D paintings that place guests inside a holiday vignette and that, when photographed, present the illusion that you’re actually inside the painting. The set also includes a piano, which guests are free to play.

The exhibit is part of Beverly Hills’ BOLD Holidays programming, which also includes live music, art, and ice sculpting, holiday art walks, and more. See more information here.

When: Now through Dec. 23, Mon.-Sat., noon to 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
Where: 262 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
Cost: Free

Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights Photo: Mission Inn

8. The Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights

The Mission Inn’s 26th Annual Festival of Lights celebration is one of the most intense holiday light displays you can see in Southern California, if not the nation. The sprawling display incorporates over 5 million lights, 400 animated dolls, a life-size gingerbread house, live performances, and more.

You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to check out the lighting display, but if you do decide to stay overnight, you can wander around and check out the mismatch of architecture that makes up this historic property. The hotel began as an adobe guest house with just 12 rooms in 1876, but turned into the behemoth it is today under the leadership of owner Frank Miller. The hotel was never a mission, merely “mission-themed,” and also served as a place for Miller to store and display artifacts acquired during his travels. This includes his collection of hundreds of bells.

When: Nov.23-Jan. 6
Where: 10705 Magnolia Ave., Riverside
Cost: Free

Miracle at The Everly Photo: Melissa Horn

9. Miracle at The Everly

Miracle is a Christmas cocktail pop-up bar launched in 2014 in NYC, but it’s since spread to over 80 locations around the world. Miracles are marked by fun, holiday decor; creative seasonal cocktails served in kitschy glassware, and heaps of Instagrammable nostalgia. Guests will find Los Angeles’ only Miracle this season at Kimpton Everly Hotel’s lobby bar, Ever Bar. Cocktails include the Run Run Rudolph (prosecco, gin, mulled wine puree, lemon, cane syrup) and a hot milk punch titled Bad Santa.

When: Nov.23-Dec.31
Where: 1800 Argyle Ave., Hollywood
Cost: Free admission, food + drink for purchase 

Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Photo: Universal Studios Hollywood.

10. Universal Studios Hollywood

What could be more magical than Christmas in Hogsmeade? Guests to Universal Studios Hollywood will experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in full “winter” splendor, complete with nightly snowfall, holiday decor, an a cappella Frog Choir, holiday merchandise and seasonal offerings (hot Butterbeer!), and a light show projected against Hogwarts Castle.

Additionally, guests can check out Grinchmas, complete with a 60-foot tree, characters, and live performances, daily Dec. 1-2, 8-9, and 14-30.

When: Nov. 17-Jan. 6
Cost: $99 and up

11. Ya Filthy Animals

Ya Filthy Animals is a pop-up bar inspired by holiday movies including Bad Santa, A Christmas Story, and, of course, Home Alone. Expect themed drinks, photo booths, movie-themed installations (including a collage that explains the best booby traps for protecting your home from burglars), and an outdoor ice rink and winter wonderland with falling “snow,” a Christmas tree farm, and a fire pit. Food is available via onsite trucks.

When: Dec. 1-Jan. 6. Weds-Sun., 4 p.m. to midnight.
Where: Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood
Cost: $40 in advance/$50 day-of. Includes admission, ice skating, and a custom cocktail.

Knott’s Merry Farm Photo: Knott’s Berry Farm

12. Knott’s Merry Farm

The monsters and ominous fog of Knott’s Scary Farm are gone and a festive yuletide celebration has taken its place. Guests to the family-friendly theme park will enjoy visits with Santa in his cabin, Snoopy and friends on ice, the musical It’s the Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown, carolers, crafts vendors, live stagings of A Christmas Carol and Gift of the Magi, tree lighting ceremonies and lighting spectaculars, and seasonal treats.

When: Nov. 16-Jan. 6
Where: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
Cost: $50+

13. Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is offering a winter wonderland on their second floor featuring a ball pit made of “snow” for all your Instagram needs. They’ve also recruited the Hollywood Men dancers (that’s L.A.’s own version of Magic Mike) to pose as sexy Santas with guests on December 8 from 1-3 p.m. So, if you want your family back in the Midwest to know you’re really living life, there you go. Guests can also enjoy a 15-minute Polar Express experience in 4D, complete with complimentary Ghiradelli treats.

When: Through Dec. 31
Where: Madame Tussauds, 6933 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Cost: $16.99 and up

Food, Happenings

Union Station Has a New Brewery, Restaurant, and Cocktail Bar Packed with History

November 27, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Imperial Western Beer Co. Photo: Frank Wonho Lee

Passengers rolling into Union Station have a new place to enjoy drinks and bites with the opening of 213 Hospitality’s Imperial Western Beer Co. and adjacent cocktail lounge The Streamliner. The space they take over is an old one, dating back to a railroad restaurant chain once so famous that MGM cast Judy Garland in a musical about its employees. But that was then. Today, the employees might not be appearing as characters in studio pictures, but the nods to history are everywhere, the beer flows daily, and the throwback decor makes for one heck of a hangout spot in DTLA’s busiest transit hub.


In the mid-1800s, a teenager named Fred Harvey moved from England to the United States where he quickly found work in New York restaurants. His first attempt to own a restaurant came several years later in St. Louis, but Harvey lost everything after he and his business partner got into an argument over the Civil War. Harvey sided with the North; his partner took all their money and went to fight for the Confederacy, leaving Harvey broke. Harvey eventually found work in the railroad business, which gave him firsthand knowledge of the meager food offerings rail travelers endured in the American West. Trains west of Chicago had no dining cars to speak of. Instead they stopped at “eating houses” every 100 miles, where travelers could subsist, if they could actually stomach the food, that is.

Journalist Stephen Fried, author of Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild—One Meal at a Time, writes about the quality of eating houses in his essay, “The Comfort Foodists of Union Station”:

“These featured largely inedible food because the local owners knew it was highly unlikely they’d be seeing most of their traveling patrons any time soon. (They also purposefully served their fare minutes before the train departed, so patrons could barely eat—then they scraped the food onto new plates for the next customers. Yum.)”

This is how Harvey got the idea to start what would become America’s first chain restaurant, a place where passengers could expect a reliable, quality meal every time. He opened his first Harvey House restaurant at the AT&SF railway depot in Topeka in 1876, then several more as the line expanded. The first Los Angeles outpost opened in 1893 at La Grande Station, which is where you’ll find the One Santa Fe development the Arts District today. When Union Station was built in 1939, it included a Harvey House that could accommodate up to 300 diners at a time.

An old photograph of Harvey House. Year not listed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Harvey himself died of intestinal cancer decades before the Union Station restaurant bearing his name opened for business. His last words are said to have been about ham, but what exactly he said is up for debate. One version suggests he told his sons not to slice the ham in their 15-cent ham-and-cheese sandwiches too thin, thus maintaining quality. Others claim he told his children to slice the ham thinner, to maintain profits. Either way, Santa Fe magazine noted that manager reports indicated the ham slices remained “as thick as ever.”

It wasn’t just the food that adhered to strict guidelines across the Harvey restaurants, but the employees as well. Customers were served by an all-female staff, ages 18 to 30, known as Harvey girls. They lived in work-adjacent housing, had strict curfews of 10 p.m., and were not allowed to get married until they’d worked at least one year. Richard Melzer, author of Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest, notes that most Harvey girls were white, at least until after WWII. The women wore demure outfits with high collars and long skirts, and were the subject of both a 1942 novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams and a 1946 MGM musical adaptation starring Judy Garland (by today’s entertainment standards, it does not seem even a little progressive).

Union Station’s Harvey House was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who served as the Fred Harvey Company’s interior designer and architect. It boasts a tiled floor meant to look like a Navajo rug, towering ceilings, and a striking balcony that overlooks the cavernous space. The company also ran a soda fountain, newsstand, barbershop, and shoeshine, according to the book Los Angeles Union Station.

The restaurant itself closed in 1967, as train travel diminished in popularity. According to the Los Angeles Times, the vacant restaurant transitioned to a private event space and filming location. Jeff Cooper, a locations manager, told the Times that this is where Steve Buscemi’s character is shot and falls backwards from a balcony in the 2005 dystopian sci-fi flick The Island. “You should have seen the dummy they used for him. It was so realistic you’d ask it for an autograph,” he said.


Today, the space retains the glory of the original after a meticulous, four-year revamp from 213 Hospitality (The Varnish, Seven Grand, Normandie Club), during which 213 Proprietor Cedd Moses said the company worked with both L.A. Metro and the Los Angeles Conservancy. Much of the decor—including the floor, light fixtures, entrance and sign, and parrot-themed tile work near The Streamliner—is original. According to Brewery Manager Bryan Garcia, the balcony’s railing is a replica recreated from old blueprints, as the original was, at some point, stolen.

Imperial Western Beer Company, named after a Southern Pacific train, is ideal for a post-work beer or a casual meal while waiting for a bus or train. There are two bars, and you’ll find plenty of seating at either main-floor tables or booths tucked away in the corners. Those looking to kill some time can enjoy their many game tables, which include pool, shuffleboard, and chess. There’s also a small back bar servicing an outdoor patio, near where the brewery’s many tanks are located.

The menu comes courtesy of Chef David Lentz (Hungry Cat) and offers a solid list of American staples, including buttermilk fried chicken, pork ribs, and a rich burger with gruyere and bacon. But the bulk of the menu leans towards seafood, with fresh or grilled oysters, a ceviche of the day, fish tacos, and clam chowder. A $1 oyster happy hour is available on weekdays from 4  to 7 p.m., while brunch is served on weekends from noon to 3 p.m.

Beers comes via Devon Randall (formerly of Pizza Port, Lost Abbey, and Arts District Brewing), and is split into categories like “Light & Refreshing” and “Dark & Broody.” There are some interesting brews in the mix, alongside the IPAs and pale ales. There’s the Fordie, a smooth, dark mild which you can order brewed with coffee and on nitro, or decaf. It’s presumably named for Fred Harvey’s son, Ford. The Le Grande is a stout brewed with West coast oysters, while Bells & Whistles is a very peachy sour. Expect around 19 or so brews at a time, with choices rotating often.

The Streamliner Photo: Frank Wonho Lee

For something a little stronger, The Streamliner is the adjacent dark and cozy cocktail bar, offering an uncomplicated menu of classic cocktails, including martinis, Tom Collins, and an Old Fashioned. The emphasis here is on making the affordable cocktails with efficiency (not unlike 213’s Slipper Clutch bar downtown), and you can expect to pay $7 to $9 for a drink. The bar is standing room only, but booths—featuring original amber bubble glass and curved walls in the Streamline Moderne style—extend down a long narrow hall reminiscent of a train car. The cocktail lounge opens daily at 4:47 p.m., a time selected for The Streamliner trains’ former schedules.

Imperial Western Beer Company and The Streamliner are located at 800 N. Alameda St. at Union Station.

Food, Happenings, Where to Eat

Here and Now Offers Cocktails, Comfort Food, and L.A. History in the Arts District

November 23, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Here and Now Photo: Bread & Butter

Here and Now is an Arts District cocktail bar that pays homage to interesting tales from Los Angeles’s past. It takes over the space previously occupied by train-and-travel-themed bar Westbound, but it’s not an entirely new concept. Rather, it’s a partnership among Westbound’s Sarah Meade and Va’La Hospitality’s Aaron Melendrez, Othón Nolasco, and Damian Diaz.

Much of the interior will be familiar to Westbound regulars, but they may notice the lights are a little dimmer and the music’s a touch louder. Nolasco said they’ve also put a lot of thought into the service, even in the smaller details, to make people feel more at home.

“We fill water glasses all the time. We don’t drop a bottle of water,” he said. “Because that one interaction where you’re dropping water, to me, always seems like you’re too busy to refill people’s waters, whereas if you were sitting at the table with them you would always refill everyone else’s water before your own. [Refilling water] allows us to check in with guests, whether they need to grab a check or order something else, or something as simple as [answering] a question they might have.”

The food and beverage offerings are also all new. Chef Geo Delgado works with the four partner’s to create their varied interpretations of “elevated bar food.” The result is plenty of vegetable plates, in addition to a few decadent bar staples like pork belly fries and a burger. According to Nolasco, the latter is inspired by their love for Au Cheval, a diner-bar combo in Chicago well-known for its burgers.

“[Au Cheval’s] single burger is actually two patties and a double is three patties, so it was very important for us to have a double patty,” Nolasco said.

Here and Now Photo: Bread & Butter

The two brisket-short-rib-and-chuck patties are topped with white American cheese, shallots, and Here and Now’s homemade Boyle Heights sauce, which is made with dill pickles and charred Fresno and Caribbean chiles. Nolasco, who was born and raised in Boyle Heights, said the sauce is inspired by a style of thousand island dressing he enjoyed at the neighborhood’s Jewish delis.

For those who don’t eat meat, they do have an Impossible Burger on the menu, as well as several seasonal vegetable dishes. The Beluga Lentil Dip with pickled onions and queso fresco offers a lighter take on bean dip, while the Mushroom & Polenta topped with crispy brussel sprout leaves and a 63-degree egg works as a flavorful comfort dish.

The current cocktail menu is titled “Los Angeles in Three Centuries as Told by Four Angelenos” and several drinks reference the city’s history. This isn’t new for the space; Westbound took its train theme from the fact that it stood on the former site of the Le Grande Station.

But a little history lesson can be even more fun with a cocktail. The boozy mezcal-based Zanjero takes its name from the official title given to the person who oversaw Los Angeles’s early water system, the zanja. The zanja system consisted of several ditches that connected the L.A. River, then called the Río de Porciúncula, to 1800s Los Angeles. The zanjero was seen as such an important position that it paid a few hundred dollars more than even the mayor and city marshal’s wages.

Angelenos used to pay to hang out with gators. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

The Alligator Joyride—made with Suntory Whisky, Metaxa, Barenjager, and dry and iris vermouths—refers to an alligator farm where children could see and, yes, ride alligators. The California Alligator Farm was opened in 1907 in Lincoln Heights by Francis Earnest and Joe Campbell, who charged a quarter for admission. The farm was home to both baby and adult alligators who are seen being walked, cuddled, ridden, and fed by Angelenos in old photos. The farm moved to Buena Park in the 1950s and shuttered in 1984. If you just want a solid classic, they do have an excellent Bloody Mary on the list. (But that’s English history, not L.A.)

“We have to look at the past and enjoy the present state we’re, while still looking to the future to stay on top of our goals,” Nolasco said. “That’s why we’re ‘here and now.'”

This particular cocktail menu will shift when Here and Now transforms into the festive Blizten on November 28, with holiday cocktails and food specials, carolers, and a snow machine. If you’d like a free cup of punch, bring along a quart-size Ziploc bag of toiletries to be donated to nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).

Here and Now is located at 300 S. Santa Ave., Suite N in the Arts District. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. to midnight. Closed Mondays.


LACMA’s Latest Exhibit Puts Self-Taught and Trained Artists Side-by-Side

November 21, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Outliers and American Vanguard Art at LACMA Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In LACMA’s latest offering, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, the goal is to highlight a period in American art history when avant-garde artists and outliers (that is, artists without formal training) intersected, and grapple with the questions provoked by this juxtaposition. The exhibition includes several fiber sculptures created by three women: Nancy Shaver, Judith Scott, and Jessica Stockholder. Each has their own story to tell.

Shaver studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in the late ’60s, while Stockholder has an MFA from Yale. But Scott, who was born with Down syndrome and has lost most of her hearing, spent 35 years in an Ohio institution until her twin sister Joyce became her guardian and moved her to California. There Scott grew into a prolific fabric artist after witnessing a demonstration in the medium at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland. For Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the works all deserve equal treatment.

“I don’t think we need to segregate the work of Judith Scott…from the other two,” she said during a press preview of the exhibit. “I think they work very well in the same context. And if we don’t see a difference, then why do we make a distinction?”

These are the kinds of questions one might ask in this exhibit, where trained artists—the “vanguard” portion of the title—are presented alongside the self-taught or the “outliers.” If someone is privileged enough to study art in an academic setting, is their work any different from the creator who makes art their own way, using what is available to them? What is found at the intersection of these artists?

LACMA is the third and final stop for Outliers following its D.C. debut and a stint at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Cooke’s detailed curation features over 250 pieces by some 80 artists, all organized into three chronological sections: the mid-1920s through the early 1940s, the late 1960s through the early 1980s, and the mid-1990s until now. Each offers specific moments in art history where the avant-garde and ‘outliers’ intersected in their work. These moments include the Great Depression, WWI and WWII, and civil rights movements.

If you’re looking to make a trip to the art museum into a game, you could try to figure out which artists on display were formally schooled in art and which ones were not. It’s kind of like those person-on-the-street taste test commercials, but instead of trying to pick a brand out of a lineup, you’ll be learning a lot about American art history.

For instance, in the same space as the fiber sculptures, one might notice several quilts. Some reference the 2002 touring show, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, in which quilts and other works made by black women in the Alabama community Gee’s Bend—population 275, as of 2010—were displayed. These selected works hang with quilts by Rosie Lee Tompkins and Howardena Pindell. Both are celebrated artists, but, in the spirit of the exhibit, have very different backgrounds. Tompkins learned to quilt from her mother in rural Arkansas, then resumed the practice while working as a nurse in Northern California. Howardena Pindell is a highly educated abstract artist and professor who earned her MFA at Yale and worked at MoMA in NYC for over a decade.

Two photos by Lee Godie Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In a gallery of feminine images, visitors will find work from acclaimed photographer Cindy Sherman, as well as from self-taught artist Lee Godie. Godie never had the opportunity to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, but she did sell her work on its steps. The exhibit includes both her drawings and self-portraits she took in photo booths while using clothes and makeup to create different characters and styles. Ralph Rugoff, director of London’s Hayward Gallery, which featured an exhibition of Godie’s work in 2013, called her photos as “gripping as works by any trained photographer.” She is said to have kept her clothing in a department store locker while living on the streets. PBS reports that she supposedly had a fur coat in her wardrobe, which she’d open to reveal art for sale.

Visitors will also see work from transgender artist Greer Lankton, including drawings and dolls. In one case, two detailed dolls stand side-by-side, one of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in her iconic pink suit, the other of Warhol Superstar Candy Darling in nothing but heels and an open, feather-lined robe.

Sculptures by John Outterbridge Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Another gallery contains work from artists Betye Saar, John Outterbridge, and Noah Purifoy, who began creating work using “black collectibles” (items for sale that featured racial caricatures) following the Watts Riots in 1965. The following year, Purifoy and several other artists used debris from the aftermath of the riots to create 66 pieces of assemblage art, calling the exhibit 66 Signs of Neon. In his final years, Purifoy moved to Joshua Tree where he created a massive outdoor museum of assemblage art.

Yet another space features art from the American South, including pieces from Mississippi blues musician, grave digger, and sculptor James “Son Ford” Thomas. Among his many creations were human skulls, modeled from clay, occasionally using real human teeth or dentures to line their gums.

Elsewhere are watercolors by Henry Darger, a hospital janitor whose massive illustrated fantasy epic, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, was not revealed to the public until discovered by his landlord. Darger is believed to have spent years quietly creating the bizarre 15,145-page tale.

Morris Hirshfield’s ‘Girl with Pigeons’ Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In the chronologically earlier galleries, one might be drawn to the drawings of Martín Ramírez. The self-taught artist completed more than 300 pieces during the last 15 years of his life, during which he was institutionalized in the DeWitt State Hospital in California. Also of note are Morris Hirshfield‘s colorful “Tiger” and “Girl with Pigeons” paintings. Hirshfield owned a lucrative clothing business before enjoying a retrospective at MoMA in 1943, despite his lack of formal art training. The press hated the work of this so-called “primitive painter” so much that Alfred Barr, the museum’s very first director, was forced to resign, despite not actually orchestrating Hirshfield’s show.

Today, however, Hirshfield’s work has a place among his fellow artists, “outlier” and “vanguard” alike. And for those who find themselves frustrated by the idea of monied and degreed gatekeepers, a diverse show like this can be particularly inspiring.

Outliers and American Vanguard Art is located in LACMA’s BCAM building, level 2. Open November 18 through March 17.                            

Food, Happenings

Inside Mrs. Fish’s Elegant Pivot to Japanese Restaurant and Modern Art Gallery

November 14, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Mrs. Fish Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In 2014, the owners of rooftop bar Perch opened Mrs. Fish in the basement of the Pershing Square Building, an office tower built in 1924 by architect duo Curlett and Beelman. Notable for its 5,500-gallon fish tank, the subterranean supper club spent those first years of its life as a live music venue. Now, Mrs. Fish has a whole new look, pivoting to a modern Japanese restaurant that puts sushi, contemporary art, and whisky at the forefront.

According to Director of Operations Alex Reznik, Mrs. Fish’s “ownership”—the owner keeps their identity an enigma—was inspired by travels throughout Japan, during which they personally purchased each piece of art that now hangs in the restaurant.

“We wanted to create a zen-like environment with beautiful lights that really showcased the art collection,” Reznik said. “We wanted to create an environment where guests would feel like they were having a specific experience, almost like a journey into Japan while visiting us.”

To accomplish this aim the space is broken up into multiple environments. Those familiar with the old Mrs. Fish will recognize the suspended saltwater tank and the black and white checkered floor. The main floor dining room has “more of an open vibe where you really get to feel the 30-foot high ceilings and look at the fish tank,” Reznik explained. On the upstairs mezzanine, a five-seat omakase bar allows an intimate dining experience for adventurous palates. Nearby, a cozy lounge with leather couches and patterned rugs offers a curated selection of over 60 Japanese whiskies. The lighting throughout is soft and blue-hued, but spotlights shine on the artwork and each table has its own small lamp (ideal, perhaps, for those who must photograph their meals).

Most of the fish is sourced from Japanese markets Photo: Courtesy of Mrs. Fish

There’s plenty of sushi on the menu, the fish shipped in from Tokyo. Despite the long flight, the fish tastes remarkably fresh, especially when presented in the sushi and nigiri or dishes like the smoky albacore warayaki.

“It’s the freshest possible [fish] in the United States,” Reznik said. “Literally, the same day we get it from the market, we slice it. That’s why…we don’t open on Sunday or Monday, because we can’t get the quality of fish we really need.”

Other menu items include a rich uni pasta made with uni sourced from Japan and locally sourced lobster and topped with bonito flakes, and the Japanese Mountain Yams, which are fried until they’re crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, then covered in a sweet soy glaze. Meatier options include steaks, a tender short rib in a sunchoke puree, and a variety of skewers, including pork belly, Jidori chicken, and rock shrimp tempura. For dessert, we’d suggest a slice of their creamy yuzu cheesecake.

Short rib with sunchoke puree Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

The bar program leans heavy on the aforementioned whisky, which you can have on its own or in a highball, a simple cocktail of whisky and club soda that’s incredibly popular in Japan. According to Mic’s Hidden Histories series, the highball was likely invented in the U.S. and has been around in Japan since the 1920s. But it really picked up steam mid-century when Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii opened Torys, a chain of bars that featured the highball on the menu. Suntory also created their own machine that produces a highly carbonated soda for what is supposedly the perfect highball. Mrs. Fish is the proud owner of one such machine.

If you aren’t in the mood for whisky, they also have beer, wine, sake, and cocktails (including three non-alcoholic concoctions).

Hideaki Kawashima’s “Speech” Photo: Courtesy of Mrs. Fish

The art is worth a walk around before or after your meal. Near the entrance, visitors can glimpse a self-portrait from Satoko Nachi. Upstairs, Hideaki Kawashima’s “Speech” depicts a young man pontificating while wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. A stunning image from Tomomi Nitta features a woman in a yellow dress, cut into four sections; it hangs behind the main bar. “Candy Girl” features a blond, blue-eyed woman reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland gazing upwards. It’s a piece from Yoshitaka Amano, who worked on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Dream Hunters, anime Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and several early Final Fantasy games. Shohei Otomo, son of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, offers a monochrome drawing of a fully tattooed woman so realistic it looks like a photograph at first glance. There are also several pieces by artist Ai Kato, otherwise known as Ai Madonna, including a series of anime portraits and scenes.

For those on a budget, Mrs. Fish offers nomikai Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. In Japan, nomikai (“drinking party”) is when co-workers of all levels come together to share drinks together after work. The menu features a selection of $5 drinks, including that Suntory highball, and $6 bites.

Mrs. Fish is located at 448 S. Hill St. in downtown Los Angeles. Open Tues.-Thurs., 5 to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 1:15 a.m., and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.

Happenings, Lifestyle

These Two 1926 L.A. Hotels Have Both Undergone Incredible Restorations

November 8, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Mayfair Hotel and the Hotel Figueroa were both built in 1926. The glamorous Mayfair played host to the Academy Awards’ first afterparty, while Hotel Figueroa was founded by the YWCA and offered lodging to women travelers, something that was relatively rare in those days. Both hotels underwent massive renovations in recent times, revealing their updated looks in the summer. If you haven’t yet revisited these two historic Los Angeles hotels, here’s what you’re missing.

The Mayfair

The Mayfair Hotel Photo: Courtesy of The Mayfair Hotel

Westlake’s The Mayfair was designed by Curlett and Beelman, the same architect duo behind the Culver Hotel. When the hotel opened, its 14 stories made it the tallest building in the west—today, the Wilshire Grand holds the title, thanks to its decorative spire. The Mayfair does have a 15th floor but, like many American hotels, is missing its unlucky 13th.

According to Nathalie Fintzi-Gibson, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, the last time the Mayfair got an upgrade was prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics, which Los Angeles hosted.  Designer Gulla Jónsdóttir handled the renovations, bridging modern details with elements of the hotel’s past. For instance, cube-shaped chandeliers in the spacious lobby are cut to cast patterned shadows upwards, recreating details found in the original tin and copper tile ceiling. The focal point of the lobby is a white sculpture behind the bar, visible from the street when the doors are flung open. The piece is known as the Mayfair Flower and is meant to remind the viewer of the hotel’s Jazz Age roots.

The Mayfair’s lobby Photo: Frank Lee/Wonho Photography

Other historical details in the guardrails that line the mezzanine; they reflect design elements from the hotel’s exterior. It’s also where you’ll also find a peaceful seating area around an olive tree. Some of the guest rooms pay homage to the past with a 1929 map of Los Angeles printed on their walls. The hotel appears in a cut-out, alongside Westlake Park and Elks Temple. Elks Temple, once known as the Park Plaza Hotel and today as The MacArthur, was another Curtlett and Beelman project.

While Hollywood’s Hotel Roosevelt would host the first Academy Awards in 1929, it was The Mayfair’s ballroom where the stars converged for an afterparty. Today, the renovated ballroom boasts a vapor fireplace and an 800-crystal chandelier.

Elsewhere, Old Hollywood glam is eschewed in favor of hard-boiled detective fiction. It is said that author Raymond Chandler stayed at The Mayfair in the late ’30s while writing the short story “I’ll Be Waiting.” As the story goes, Tony Reseck is the “house detective” for the 14-story Windermere Hotel. He soon encounters a young, red-haired woman named Eve Cressy who’s been staying at the hotel for five days, awaiting the return of her ex-con husband. She sits alone in the hotel’s communal radio room, listening to music in the wee hours of the morning. Reseck soon finds that Eve is involved in a caper, and so is his own mobster brother, Al.

Eve American Bistro Photo: Frank Lee/Wonho Photography

This story is where the Mayfair’s contemporary restaurant, Eve American Bistro, derives its name. The hotel’s private dining room bears Chandler’s name, and two suites—the Vivian and the Marlowe—are named for other Chandler characters.

The Mayfair, akin to the fictional Windermere, once had something of a radio room. Fintzi-Gibson said in the 1930s, there was a live broadcast that took place out of the hotel. The Mayfair offers a modern take on that concept with a glass-enclosed podcast room, which can be rented out and used to record shows.

Dining options include the aforementioned Eve, helmed by chef Scott Commings, serving lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends. A porthole fireplace allows people to peer from Eve into the lobby or vice verse.

The ground floor also features Chicago-based coffeeshop Fairgrounds. This is the chain’s first West Coast location. They open at 6 a.m. daily for breakfast items, coffee, and tea. The usual suspects are on the menu, but so is a matcha and espresso bar, and a list of espresso- and tea-based “elixirs,” including an espresso old fashioned with walnut bitters. There’s no booze in these; for that, you could head to the M Bar in the lobby, or, behind M Bar, the sultrier, darker Library Bar. Here, you’ll find a collection of artworks, including Daniel Cohen’s “Periodic Table of Drugs,” in which a number of illicit substances are framed like, well, a periodic table. The piece somewhat ties into the hotel’s cheeky mantra.

Daniel Allen Cohen’s “Periodic Table of Drugs” Photo: Courtesy of The Mayfair Hotel

“The hotel tagline is ‘a hotel under the influence,’ which we leave up to your interpretation,” Fintzi-Gibson explains. “Art, food, music, beverage, whatever that may be.”

For additional art, the Mayfair brought on Kelly “RISK” Graval as the hotel’s artist-in-residence and curator. Graval’s work can be found alongside artists including Patricia Torkan, Jason REVOK, Shepard Fairey, Joey Colombo, Geoff Melville, and Alex “Defer” Kizu. It’s definitely worth a stroll through the hotel’s common areas to see the art, and it’s worth listening, too. The music has been curated by talent collective Regime 72, and that includes performances and DJs that take place at the hotel, as well as the daily and nightly playlists.

Future plans include the addition of a swimming pool to the third floor of the parking structure.

Hotel Figueroa

The Hotel Figueroa Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

Craig Robertson, author of The Passport in America, told National Geographic that it was highly uncommon for women to travel by themselves in the 1920s. And married women could only get passports in their husband’s name, e.g. “Mrs. John Doe.” Traveling solo was even harder for women of color.

Downtown’s Hotel Figueroa was built by the YWCA as a safe place for women traveling alone to lay their heads. Men could only stay at the hotel if they were with their families, and only then on designated floors. According to Marketing Manager Natalie Terceman, the hotel, at a cost of $1.25 million, was then the “largest project funded, owned, operated, and managed by women—and it was for women.”

The hotel’s first manager—and the first female hotel manager in the nation—was certifiable badass Maude N. Bouldin, who is depicted atop a motorcycle in a red-washed painting by artist Alison Van Pelt that hangs near the concierge. Under Bouldin and the other women who ran the property, the hotel bustled with social activity. It offered a writing salon, art exhibitions, musical performances, and lectures on social justice.

The YWCA’s triangle logo is seen in this original fireplace, located in a private event room. Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

The YWCA would lose the hotel following the stock market crash of 1929, though they would keep their headquarters on the property through 1951. The hotel remained operational and continued to serve both women travelers and locals looking for art and lectures for the next several decades.

Following a period of decline in the ’60s and ’70s, Swedish entrepreneur Uno Thimansson purchased the hotel in 1976 and gave it a Moroccan makeover. The hotel remained this way for over 30 years until it was purchased by Brad Hall in 2014, with the most recent renovations taking place from 2016 through this past summer. Today, one can only find Moroccan vibes in the lower level space, Tangier, which is available for private events.

Get a Gintonico and lounge in the lobby. Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

The renovation comes courtesy of Santa Monica-based design agency Studio Collective, and accounts for the entire property. The new lobby is posh, yet offers a homey feel, with plenty of comfortable chairs and sofas to tuck away in with a cup of the hotel’s fig tea or a cocktail. 

At the lobby bar, guests can choose among a number of bespoke gin and tonics or “gintonicos,” each one infused with fruits, spices, and botanicals. Throughout the hotel, these and other cocktails were programmed by Dushan Zaric, the man behind the cocktails at West Hollywood’s Employees Only. For food, there’s restaurant Breva, helmed by chef Casey Lane, and specializing in Basque and Mediterranean-style fare.

Should one require sun, a stroll down a short hall lined with L.A. street scenes shot by photographer Estevan Oriol will lead to the pool. It’s coffin-shaped, and no one knows why. It’s flanked by two bars: the breezy Veranda, where one can order flatbreads, salads, and mains; and Rick’s, where tropical, poolside-appropriate cocktails are served.

A look at the top floor of Rick’s. Photo: Courtesy of the Hotel Figueroa

Yet another bar, Bar Alta, will open in December. It’s a hidden, 28-seat cocktail lounge, accessible via reservation only.

“The drinks are not served over the bar. The bartender comes around and serves you,” Terceman said of the concept. “It’s a more engaging experience. There will always be five classic cocktails, and then whatever [Zaric] creates from there.”

Inside the Casbah Photo: Courtesy of the Hotel Figueroa

There’s one way to access Bar Alta that’s particularly fun. The Casablanca Suite features a secret private dining room, Casbah, that one finds behind a bookcase by pressing the correct spine. Casbah contains one possible entrance to Bar Alta, for those who need to be as clandestine as possible.

Finally, if you’re looking for a scavenger hunt, try to find all the triangles. The triangle symbol associated with the YWCA can be found in several places, including the exterior of the building, over the fireplace in the Gran Sala event space, and hanging over the lobby entrance. While you’re looking, you’ll get a chance to see the hotel’s art collection, specifically curated with women artists in mind, including Lily Stockman, America Martin, and Alexandra Grant.