Thursday, February 26, 2009


Q: What happens when Mr. Monkey finds a JetBlue flight to Seattle for $119?
A: We embark on a whirlwind three-day trip to Victoria, British Columbia!

We landed in Seattle late tonight. We'll board a ferry early tomorrow morning.

Q: Where do we stay when we'll only be sleeping for less than seven hours?
A: In a $50 room via priceline at the Homewood Suites by Hilton.
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Simple modern styling, flatscreen TV, free wireless Internet, Aeron chair, Neutrogena products, curved shower curtain rod, and free hot breakfast.

For $50?

Slightly thrilling.

Yeah, I get excited about deals.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Proven Peruvian

It's a given that, when we take Big Red to be serviced at the dealership, we eat at Mamita's Peruvian Restaurant (714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 243-5121) while we wait. We've gone enough times that we've developed favorite dishes. Even so, I figured I'd take some photos since I had my good camera with me.
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Clockwise: aji sauce, maracuya (passion fruit juice), Kola Inglesa, chicha morada (purple corn drink spiced with cinnamon, clove, pineapple, and sweet pepper).
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All drinks were $1.95 each. I loved my chicha morada!

Ensalada de calamares ($10.95). Nice and tangy. The calamari was fresh with a good snap, but the dish wasn't my favorite. Not my order, and I wouldn't order it again if I had the choice.
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Chicharron de pescado ($10.95). Crunchy golden fish bites? With criolla salsa? Yes, please! Even Little Monkey Niece gobbled these up. We told her they were chicken nuggets. It's easy to trick three-year-olds.
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Tallarin de camaron y carne ($13.95). This stir-fried spaghetti with shrimp, beef, onions, and tomatoes was very Chinese-like. Yummers.
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Mojarra frita ($11.95). I love whole fried tilapia! This guy looked straight at me and said, "I'm effing delicious!" A very self-aware fish.
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By the time we left, the place was completely packed.
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And with good reason.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This Little Piggy Went to Long Beach

When we came back from Catalina Island, we stopped by for a quick bite at Carnitas Michoacan No. 9 (31 W. Broadway, Long Beach). How could we resist a pig in a top hat?
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The place was dark, dingy, and decorated with fake flowers.
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Mr. Monkey's large horchata ($2.50) was quite delicious.
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Mr. Monkey ordered three tacos ($2.10 each for hard shells) -- carnitas, al pastor, and cabeza. Yes, cabeza. You may know these things as "pork," "adobo pork," and "beef cheeks." I found the cabeza a tad too fatty for my taste. Everything else had a nice rich flavor.
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I got the chuletas con nopales ($7.50). That's "pork chops with cactus." Could've been more tender, but yummy nonetheless. I ate the other half for lunch the next day. Still good reheated.
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Quick meal. Quick post.

Recessionista Eats!

dineLA may be ending, but fear not!

Brought to you by the L.A. Times -- a great list of L.A. fine dining deals!
And here's Winnie's famous WeezerMonkey: A Study of Gluttony collage just for the hell of it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rocky Service

Drago Centro is well-designed. Modern. Chic. Cool.
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The wine cellar reminded me of Aureole.

But that's where the similarities ended.

While the service at Aureole was fantastic, the service at Drago Centro was anything but. Despite our reservation, we had to wait awhile for our table. So incredibly annoying. Bad start.

The real downer of our night was our server, who was none other than a facsimile of the Soviet meathead in Rocky IV -- dense, rude, and ultimately a loser. He ruined what otherwise would have been an enjoyable dinner. Hate him! Boo!

Salmon puff amuse bouche. Bland. Sort of slimy. Not amused.
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Glam's i rigatoni all'amatriciana (rigatoni, smoked pork jowl, onions, tomatoes, pecorino) ($16). The pasta was perfectly al dente. The flavor was hearty and reminiscent of home cooking.
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Giggles' i carciofi (grilled artichoke, Belgian endive, Bronte pistachios, EVOO sabayon) ($14). Rather tangy. Not my favorite, but I'm not a fan of artichokes, so it's a bit unfair for me to judge.
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La suppa (butternut squash soup with vanilla oil) ($9). I was thrilled with my soup! I hate soup that is merely warm. This was piping hot and rich and smooth and wonderful. The vanilla oil worked so well! Sweet without being overpowering!
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Glam's il pollo ruspante (truffle-crusted chicken breast, forest mushrooms) ($24). My memory of the bite I had is sort of a blur...just like this photo.
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Giggles' il merluzzo alla fiorentina (roasted cod, spinach, cipollini onion) ($27). Good but not seriously-bowl-you-over good. Nice texture but lacked oomph.
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I was the winner with la quaglia (focaccia-stuffed quail with cannellini beans) ($27). Super flavorful! Super golden! Super crisp! Super tender! Super super!
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So adorable! Squeeeee!
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Glam's ricotta cheesecake was palatable. Light with a bit of citrus.
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I thought Giggles' torta di cioccolata e crema alle nocciole (chocolate hazelnut tart, caramel gelato) ($9) was lovely. I quite enjoyed my tiny bite.
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I felt I triumphed again with the panettone di natale (spiced bread pudding, marsala foam, candied hazelnuts) ($9). The flavors were so interesting and scrumptious -- a little Bollywood dance in my mouth!
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Complimentary chocolate.
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Sadly, the check was far more hospitable than our server. Nice dinner marred.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Smooth Operators

As you know, we woke up our third and final day on Catalina Island to heavy rain, wind, and mud-covered roads. Lucky for me, by the time I got out of bed, Mr. Monkey had already taken care of everything. He'd called Catalina Express to find out if and when any boats were coming to the island, switched our tickets, and booked spa appointments for both of us in the interim.

Jealous? You should be. We should all have a Mr. Monkey. Smooth Operator #1.

We grabbed some goodies from our hotel lobby's complimentary continental breakfast offerings and noshed and relaxed until it was time for our spa treatments. Mr. Monkey had a deep-tissue massage, while I had a body scrub accompanied by a massage. Our masseuse had magic hands. Smooth Operator #2.

After my body scrub, my skin was so incredibly soft. Smooth Operator #3.

Before we headed to the dock, we had lunch at Cafe Umami (205 Crescent Avenue, Avalon).
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The place is adorable, filled with organic this and that -- perfect for a light lunch and for feeding even your pickiest vegan friend.

Notwithstanding all the vegan options, we opted for a tuna salad sandwich, beef shawarma, and sides of pasta salad and Middle Eastern barley salad.
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Everything was fresh and delicious. We also had some fun bottled sodas.
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While we relaxed at our hotel, got spa-ified, and enjoyed our lunch, the huddled masses waited for hours here in the cold. They weren't as smart as Mr. Monkey.
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I almost felt a little guilty about showing up so fresh-faced, rested, and well-fed when we joined these folks in line to get off the island with our pre-reserved tickets. The wind whipped through our hair and through the palm trees.
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Armed with a dose of Dramamine, we braved the 10-foot swells of the sea. We saw the gnarly white caps through our window, but we felt nothing. Our captain was so artful in his navigation! And that, my friends, was Smooth Operator #4.

A few notes and answers to questions asked in previous comments:
  1. The Catalina Country Club where we had dinner our first night is not, in fact, a "country club." That's just its name, and all members of the public are welcome to dine there.

  2. While we really liked The Aurora Hotel & Spa, I want to caution any readers out there that I didn't exaggerate when I said the room was the size of a ship cabin. The shower was seriously tiny for me, and I am not a particularly large person. All this being said, the hotel's amenities (free breakfast, Keurig single-cup coffeemakers, large flatscreen TVs, Tempur-Pedic beds) and great service (they let us stay in our room well past checkout time on the day of our delayed departure and even gave us a cab voucher to the dock) really made us love the place.

  3. According to Mr. Monkey's research, another good place to stay is the Hotel Metropole, which is also rather modern. It is far larger than The Aurora but also more expensive. We chose to save some money by sacrificing the space.

  4. If we were to do it all over again, we'd likely just stay one night and rearrange our activity schedule to make this possible. The island really is quite small, and even two days and one night would be sufficient for a lovely leisurely trip.
One last interesting bit -- is the L.A. Times lurking here or something? Today there was an article in the Travel section about visiting Catalina Island during the off-season! Sounds like the reporter went the day after we left!

More photos of our trip here.
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