Sunday, April 17, 2011

N's birthday

It was N's birthday on April 1st (he's an April Fool), and his bday request was to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara. We went there with N's parents last year, and we liked it so much we've been looking forward to going back ever since. By the way--that gift I got N last year for his birthday? They're still sitting unused in their boxes. Maybe this public shaming will push him into using them ;)

We were much better prepared for Santa Barbara this time since we were more familiar with the city. We brought Stewie with us (of course), so I looked up a bunch of dog-friendly things we could do in addition to Arroyo Burro Beach, which is a spot we are absolutely obsessed with. And it was somehow even more fantastic than the first time we went! Lots of cute Stewie pics coming up...please click on them to zoom in; it's totally worth it!

Stewie LOVES-LOVES-LOVES running and blitzing all over beach sand. He's a speeding bullet!:

 Someone had constructed this little teepee-ish structure on the beach. It was the perfect size for Stewie:

In addition to the beach, there's a few other off-leash dog areas in Santa Barbara. One is called the Douglas Family Preserve, and it's located on top of the plateau that borders the beach. There's a couple small trails you can climb up to get to the top of the plateau, and there are unbelievable views where you can look straight down the sheer cliff edge to the ocean.

A trail on top of the plateau:

A view on top of the cliff in the background:

And the birthday boy sitting near the edge of the plateau:

We also walked up and down the length of State Street where we had dessert and coffee at a very cute Danish bakery called The Andersen. N wanted to eat seafood, so we got dinner at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company which is located at the end of Stearn's Wharf. It was pretty quiet and dark and we ate at a table outside looking right onto the water. It was downright romantic! Except for the pieces of crab shell and whatnot that kept flying into our faces as we cracked through them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a small preview of my next post...

staaaay, Stewie...

good boy!



more things that happened

  • V-day came and went, along with me and N's 5-year anniversary. How to celebrate? Steak again, of course! He's such a pro at broiling+pan searing steak now that he picked up some cuts of meat from Gelson's at 7pm and dinner was on the table before 8!
  • Following LA Time's suggestion, we ate at Mapo Kkak Doo Gee--a pretty great tiny Korean restaurant. They specialize in fried fish, which I've never seen before at a Korean place. My experience with Korean food is really limited, I've realized, even though I've eaten it my whole life. And they serve a huge variety of banchan! Each kind was really good. We will definitely be going back.

  • President's day came and went, and N and I drove up to the San Francisco area to see my new niece again and to see my mom for her birthday. We all went to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley to celebrate. We watched a cooking demo taught by one of the instructors and ate at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. The food at the restaurant is cooked by CIA students, and you could watch them at work in the open kitchen. The menu was typical and the quality of the food was very inconsistent, which wasn't surprising, I guess. The steak I ordered (geez, I really do eat a lot of steak/'s so good, though!) had a huge piece of gristle running through it. I wasn't going to bother mentioning it to our waiter, but he somehow overheard me and quickly offered me a replacement for free. They also had a special whole wheat sourdough bread they bake in-house which was REALLY good.
  • One our way back to LA from SF, N and I finally satisfied a years-long dream--we ate at Sonic Drive-In. We always saw commercials for it in NYC and in LA, but there are none in either city! Why do they tempt us when they're not even around to spend money at?! Anyway, the last time we drove up to SF we saw a Sonic sign when we drove through Gilroy, and we planned to stop by next time. And that time finally came! We got hot dogs and tater tots and limeaids. It was totally fun and tasty (I'd never been to a drive-in before). I wish there was one closer by.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

LA Arboretum

Since I had no idea how our trip to E. Waldo Ward & Son would turn out, I wanted to find something else we could do around Sierra Madre in case the tour ended up lasting 10 minutes or something. I'm still getting to know the areas around Los Angeles, so I decided to Google map Sierra Madre and take a look at the nearby cities. That's when I saw a big green area south of Sierra Madre called the Los Angeles County and State Arboretum.

I figured we could head over there after the tour if we were in the mood, and we ended up stopping by...for a good two hours.

The LA Arboretum is like a big, beautiful, un-sculpted park. It's huge! There's lots of open green space and lots of wooded area. I thought things would be more botanical garden-y with specific paths and signs and plant labels, but it's more like a nature preserve. There were greenhouse areas with carnivorous plants and orchids, but the better part of the Arboretum was the open space.

There were several free-roaming peacocks in the park, which was so weird to see. And did you know that they make sounds that sound like a mew-ing cat?? While we were in the Arboretum, N and I would randomly hear LOUD mew-ing sounds and it took us a long time before we realized it was the peacocks!

There was a large lake in the arboretum..

Along with pretty flowers and waterfalls and strange plants...

While we were there, we saw a sign for a Mushroom Fair that would be held the next weekend. We couldn't make it this year, but we're definitely going next year! N loves mushrooms.

E. Waldo Ward & Son

Several weekends ago, N and I had an eventful Saturday at a orange grove/marmalade factory. Sounds random, right? Well--it was amazing.

I had heard about E. Waldo Ward & Son through LA Mag and a couple other places like LA Weekly--LA Mag listed it as the best free tour in Los Angeles. It wasn't too far from us, and seemed like it would be interesting (at the very least). N and I both really didn't know what to expect. I guessed it would be lots of orange trees, and maybe some historical photos. It turned out to be much, much more!

I called beforehand to reserve a place for me and N on the next Saturday tour. The person on the phone seemed pretty confused, which made me *very* confused. They asked me what time I wanted to come, which caught me off guard since I assumed there were a few set tour times I could choose from. I suggested 10am, and they seemed fine with it and didn't take my name or anything. After I hung up, I wasn't 100% sure if I had made an actual reservation or not! The whole thing seemed pretty disorganized, but we went for it anyway.

Sierra Madre is less than an hour's drive northeast of us. It was a very charming town--it had a combination wine country/tropical feel to it. Everything was quaint and old without any modern polish to it, which I appreciated.

E. Waldo Ward & Son actually is just a large house (it kind of reminded me of those Southern white houses you see in paintings) with a couple smaller buildings behind it--we drove past it the first time and completely missed it. Their orange trees are very few; over the years they sold off the majority of their land and are now a very small operation. Most of their business actually comes from packaging and canning other companies' products although they have their own line of marmalades and gourmet foods.

A picture of some trees with the mountains in the background...

The person who gave us the tour (and I really mean "us"--N and I were the only ones in it!) was actually Jeff Ward, the great-grandson of the original owner of the company. He was very approachable and knowledgeable about the entire production process and history of the company. And since it was just us two, we got to ask lots of questions about everything!

Some shots of the big vats/containers the jams/jellies are cooked in...

Aside from the marmalade-making process, the house and barn were just a treasure trove of old machines and all kinds of rusty but definitely charming farming/factory tools. The most exciting thing I saw was a really old manual printing press that still had plates on it! You could actually read the backwards letters and see that they once printed labels for the products they sold! I thought that was amazing.

Couldn't resist taking a picture of their shiny green truck, which is mostly just used to lead town parades:

Everything about the tour was really fascinating. They operate a tiny gift shop, and with the free tour and everything, I did not hold back when buying a sampling of their products:

I think a couple jars are missing from that photo, but we got a few marmalades (including a lime one), pumpkin butter, brandied cherries, and olives. We're slowly making our way through trying them all. And they are t-a-s-t-y.