Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back To School!

I can't believe how early kids are going back to school these days. I have always loved this time of year, when it's long, lazy, last days of Summer ... end it with my birthday, then go back to school after Labor Day. NEVER before. I know kids out here who have been back in school for two weeks ALREADY. Lame. Sorry, kids.

Perhaps in this spirit, the metal lockers behind Casa Linda on Abbot Kinney are painted to look like giant books. Good disguise ... and it does kind of make one wistful for school days ... Kind of.

To all my little buddies heading back to their desks ... Learn well. And have FUN.

*PS ... Speaking of writing ... this is my 500th Blogtown story. Whoa.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kindness Is Magic

I was walking home down Abbot Kinney late the other night and saw some more street art wisdom, that just really is true ...

When you add a little (or a lot) of kindness into any situation ... you can actually see and feel the magic happening right in front of you. I appreciate these little reminders around town ... and share them with you in the spirit with which they were left. With kindness and magic. Have a great week, All!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Foodshopping In Venice

There's a (kind of) secret dinner party happening in Venice each month, and it's called Foodshop. Held in a nondescript warehouse, groups of friends and strangers - there by invitation only (and invites can be had by just sending them an email telling them a little about yourself) - sit elbow to elbow, often touching elbows, and feast on that month's five course seasonal menu.

People wait around outside until they're ready to seat you, and one guy drove by and asked if it was an A.A. meeting. It is certainly not. You're greeted at the door with an aperitif, and then your party is shown to seats based on how many you are. After the aperitif (for August it's a mezcal, hibiscus, blood orange concoction that I want again right now), it's all BYOB. It's not rare to find people sharing tastes of their wine bottles or craft beers as they meet the new and interesting people around them. You quickly make friends with your neighbors because it's a tight squeeze in there, as about forty people are seated around the long table, in the middle of what I think is someone's wood shop/tool shed when not being used to feed L.A.'s serious foodies. Nothing matches, adding to the charm, and reflecting the guests too, in a way, as all types of folks have caught on. You never know who you'll be dining with.

It feels fun from the moment you walk in the sliding door, and you smell your dinner cooking from the tiny kitchen in the back. I've been twice now, and the food is fantastic. Prepared by Chefs Hyejin Cho and Itay Zach (and their helpers), it is a thoughtful menu, always designed to feature ingredients from the current season. In June we tore through the corn soup, grilled peach salad, Moroccan meatballs, shrimp-n-grits, and a delicious summer berry tart. DEE-lish. And all served family style, so you really get to know your neighbors as you hold platters and serve for each other.

As good, if not better, than the food is the fellowship. The friends you're with soon become friends with the people on their side, then you do on your side, and pretty soon the whole room is having a blast, talking and laughing so much that each new course is almost an interruption. Which is a good thing, because it's pretty Euro in as far as how long it takes for this meal ... it is not fast. You probably shouldn't make too many after-dinner plans, because you will be late. And stuffed.

August's menu featured the above-mentioned mezcal delight when we arrived, and the parade of food that followed was a summery array of plaintain cakes, a great calamari/corn salad, watermelon gazpacho (that could have been way more chilled and strained, we left ours almost untouched, sadly), fried yucca, fish tacos (that you could see the sparks flying from as they grilled right outside the door), and a sinfully delectable dessert of homemade churros and a spicy chocolate sauce. SO good.

There is a "suggested donation" of $70, which might seem a bit steep for fish tacos and no bar, but it's about the experience, and it's a fun one. I first heard about it in Vanity Fair, where a designer I forget mentioned that it was her favorite restaurant. In Venice. And I'd never heard of it. Then my east side living friends invited me one month, and I couldn't believe I was hearing about it from them, when it's in my own backyard. It's pretty underground, and you can't find much info other than their website on the internet ... which it makes it kind of cooler.

Lives were caught up on, jokes were told, cards were exchanged, a wine buzz was achieved, and as we emerged back out into the moon-lit Venice night, you had that feeling of being in on something special. Something created by and for friends, and grown into something food lovers all over town ravenously look forward to each month.

I'll hope to rub elbows and break bread with you there soon, and as Cho and Zach sign off on their invitation each month ... Peas and Love.

*Grill and Churros photos by Jaison Benjamin.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

California Can Save Me

I was walking home kind of late the other night, with a lot on my mind, like where do I really belong ... big life stuff like that. Then - as happens a lot around here - I saw a fence that had been painted with pretty close to my exact thoughts ...

The penguin (?) could kind of be me too, since I do come from Minnesota. I love that you can be strolling along anywhere in Venice and be taught, thought provoked, amazed, blessed and delighted.

Once again filed under I Love You, Venice.


Monday, August 4, 2014

A Colorful Weekend In Venice

I don't know how the weather sometimes seems to know it's the weekend and after a week of bright sunshine while cooped up inside working, the weekend came and was all gloom, not August feeling at all. But where the sun did not shine through, and though the melanin levels suffered from no beach time, there was still plenty of color.

Saturday night we were invited to hear the Blue Oyster Cult play in the Marina from some friends' boats pulled up right next to the stage. They had drinks, a grill with tasty whole fish and hot dogs, and quite possibly the most spectacular sunset of the summer so far. The electric colors competed with the rock for everyone's attention, and the sky won until the sun fully set.

It was also a delight to see that there is a gondola available for rides around the Marina, adding to the Venice atmosphere that we appropriated from our sister city in Italy. It was utterly charming, and the passengers were treated to an gorgeous evening of epic proportions. Soon after the sun set, the (badly, badly needed) rain began to fall, and we enjoyed the rest of the night below deck, listening to the rain beat on the rood as we gently rocked and loved every minute of it. Thanks, Commodore Farrell!

Though Sunday rose as another gloomy day (August Foggest), Venice doesn't let that dampen the spirits at all. It was the annual Festival Of The Chariots and the Hare Krishna colors were flying high. Everyone looks forward to this day each year as the parade comes down the Boardwalk and invites all it passes by to join in the dancing, sharing and fun, regardless of religious affiliation. Like it should be.

Stephanie captured a little of the action, so you can kind of feel what it's like as the saffron colored flowers are tossed out to the crowd by the people in saffron colored robes aboard the chariots.


In spite of the grey skies, the weekend was FULL of color, and the kind of days that carry on with the fun, no matter what the weather does. Yeah, we weren't able to do the usual weekend solid beach days, but were instead rewarded with perfect afternoon Bloody Marys by George at The Townhouse, occasional glimpses of blue sky, rain drops on our upturned and grateful faces, and a finale of a delicious meal at the good old Galley.

Weekends are just great in Venice ... no matter what. Hope yours was exceptional too. And extra colorful!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Fresh Summer Start

Oh, man. Please forgive the slow season for stories, it's just that I've been a crazed person lately, super busy and no time to settle for a second ... and then I lost my phone. It's a long, dumb story (involving Uber, scotch tasting, family reunions and a "Good Samaritan" deleting all my contacts. All my messages. All my photos. All my nostalgic reasons (plus the keyboard) that I'd held on to my o.g. Blackberry forever for. Gone. Not backed up. Not able to synch to any new phone. It was a sucker punch to join the rest of you in the future and no longer be a complete Luddite. Even if I was completely forced. And I was strolling along today, overwhelmed with all sorts of new information and data and blah ... the streets of Venice again let you know it's all cool. Love it.

So now I'm in the Cloud, and I'm totally freaked out. It's too much for me right now, I don't even want to look at the thing (and enter a lifetime of contacts fresh). It feels all freaky and weird and too much ... as does the sick fact that I'm not at Lollapalooza right now. Another long story ...

But it's SUMMER in VENICE and there's so many stories to tell and things to learn and fun to be had that I can't trip out for very long. So I just jumped in to link us all up on Instagram (there's been a campaign of my friends for a while ... so http://instagram.com/cjgronner, y'all.

We'll see. I have no idea what I'm doing or if I want to be doing it yet, but I'm never mad at more nice things to look at. And they're everywhere. Especially in Summer ... especially with fresh starts.

How are you doing, having fun so far this Summer? I'm glad. Hope to see you in real life soon ... it's still way better than that Cloud. Blue skies ahead ...

*And please send me a text or email if your number was ever in my phone. You can join me in the future!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Brow Studio - When In Minneapolis ...

My good friend, Brook Schlosser, is the proprietress of The Brow Studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was great news for me when I could not get an appointment for my shaggy brows here in Venice at Kelley Baker Brows before I was to leave for a trip to my hometown, and it had to be dealt with.

Luckily, Brook also trained with Damone Roberts of Beverly Hills (and a bunch of other brow gurus), and was out here in Venice recently to take a master class with Kelley Baker, so I was in great- and very similar - hands.

Brook went to school at the Aveda Institute, which also always wins big points with me. There she decided to focus on the esthetician area of things, which led to her interest in eyebrows. As the old Russian woman who waxed my brows the very first time said, "Eyebrows are really the picture frame of your face." So Brook began framing the faces of Minneapolis when she opened The Brow Studio on West 54th Street in 2010, and people back there have never looked better.

Including me on my visit, when Brook not only took great care of my brows, but also gave me the most gorgeous set of eyelashes anyone has ever seen. This is a long story that I'll try to make brief ... In my family, the boys got the hair with curls and the thick, luxurious eyelashes. I did not. But being a girl, I've tried to improve these slights ever since. I tried some eyelash serum stuff that made them all fall out. I looked like an Albino. Brook came to the rescue with some new serum that not only brought back my thought-to-be-dead lash follicles, but made them flourish.

Already madly in love with her for this miracle, I'm now a total zealot about her because she gave me eyelash extensions that drag queens in West Hollywood are probably going to want to fight me for. Instead, I shall just refer them to The Brow Studio. Wow. WOW! I love them.

I just laid back on the comfy bed and shot the breeze with Brook while she painstakingly applied each individual lash. When she was done, we had done some quality catching up and my lashes were banging into my sunglasses. Perfecto.

"Our mission is to highlight the beauty in each of us," reads The Brow Studio bio, and when I left there, I felt there mission was accomplished. I've never had so many (well, any really ...) compliments on my eyelashes before, and it honestly seems kind of vain and all that, but it really did add a spring to my step as I went out batting my eyelashes all around town.

Now I'm back in Venice and already lamenting the fact that Brook isn't here to touch up my lashes in a few weeks when they'll need it. Another great excuse to visit home (not that I've ever needed one)!

Those of you fortunate enough to have The Brow Studio as your local face framer are stoked. Those of you like me in Venice may be able to get a house call for these spectaculashes when Brook comes out for her next training session in September, beauty convention or just to visit me. Stay tuned. And look out for my eyelashes swatting you the next time you see me.

The Brow Studio
616 W. 54th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55419
(612) 823.2769