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June 20, 2007

eating is good

i was tagged by Maven de Mucho herself to name my favourite local eateries. she listed chains and independents, but i'm going to have to change that a bit. i don't eat often enough at chains -- not snobby, just blessed to live in Los Angeles, where many fine eatieries abound. so i'll list my top five indies, and then, since this is a blog meme, promote some of my fave food blogs.

HadashiWorld likes to eat at:
1. Tokyo 7-7. 3839 Main St Ste. B, Culver City, CA 90232 (310) 204-5728. oh Tokyo 7-7, how do i love thee? i was first brought to this tiny lunch/breakfast coffee shop by one of my best friends from college. he was living in the neighbourhood, and discovered it by accident -- it's not visible from the street and you have to access it through a parking garage and an alley. he was almost giddy as he ushered me in the door -- "you're going to love this!" he gibbered. i was initially unimpressed -- the decor looked like it hadn't been changed since the seventies, and the atmosphere was decidedly greasy-spoon. however, one look at the menu changed my mind: i could get a root beer float and sunamono. fries and gyoza. a tuna melt and yakisoba. a cheeseburger and green tea. cole slaw and curry rice. i was totally in love.
now, years later, i live within walking distance of Tokyo 7-7 (pure coinicidence, i assure you!). it is almost a weekly breakfast pilgrimage for T.T. and me (when i first brought T.T. here, when we were dating, i knew if he didn't "get" the place and like it, we would be over. he claims he was totally unaware this could have been a dealbreaker.). the Japanese owner, and the three wee oba-chans who serve as waitresses, have been there for over twenty years. here's hoping for twenty more, despite Culver City's recent bizarre metamorphosis into an L.A. foodie destination. if Tokyo 7-7 goes under due to rising rents, you bet there will be an uproar.
2. A.O.C.'s cheese bar. 8022 W 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048 (323) 653-6359. while A.O.C. is a deservedly "it" restaurant that serves an incredible menu of tapas and wines by the glass, it is not the reputation that i go for. no, it is the spontanous community of the cheese bar, which is a first-come, first-served bar at the back of the restaurant where the chartecurie and cheeses are prepared. since A.O.C. is very much an impress-your-date-slash-clients-and-be-seen-doing-so type place, most people are vying for (probably already reserved) tables, so the cheese bar doesn't always have lots of competition. you always become friends with the server behind the cheese bar, and almost always with the people sitting next to you...especially after a large glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. this is the de facto celebration site for all occasions with the fabulous Ms. Jen.
3. Sushi Zo. 9824 National Blvd Unit C, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (310) 842-3977. this is, hands-down, the best sushi i have ever eaten. chef/owner Keizo has the best omakase (chef's choice) around, and although it's definitely not a cheap eats experience, it is remarkably fairly priced, and absolutely an experience. when T.T. and i need to celebrate and can pinch enough pennies (or when the generous sushi aficianado Uncle Richard comes to town), this is where we go.
4. Renu Nakorn. 13041 E. Rosecrans Ave., Norwalk, CA 90650 (310) 921-2124. back when i lived too close for comfort to Norwalk, this was the place i first began to learn the joys of Thai food. i had no idea it had a stealth following as the "best Thai food in L.A." i'm wary of any restaurant that is the best of anything in this town, especially ethnic food. in any case, it's the site of many good eating memories, and even if your idea of Thai begins and ends with pad thai noodles, those are pretty darned good too. sadly, it's been closed for building renovations for some time now, and i bet a whole lot of people are desperately waiting for it to reopen. i am.
5. El Camino Real. 303 N Euclid St., Fullerton, CA 92832 (714) 447-3962. i started going to this family-run Mexican eatery years and years ago, back when my food budget forced me to spread $.99 store spaghetti sauce on outlet bread, put it in the toastie maker, and call it pizza. El Camino had about the same budget, i think, because they were a take-out counter with incredibly delicious yet stunningly affordable burritos, tacos, etc. weekends there were tamales. now El Camino takes up three adjoining mini-mall spaces, and the lines are out the door. however, the food is still stunningly affordable and of course, still delicious.

HadashiWorld likes to read about eating at:
1. Triplecreme -- good source for eating around my 'hood. Bree is not afraid of pastries, or trying new things, which is huge plus.
2. Eating L.A. -- Pat's got the hookups all through L.A. but keeps her blog chatty, conversational, and non-snobby. lots of ethnic food reviews, and good food gossip.
3. Chowhound's message boards -- not so stoked on the recent redesign, but it's an excellent source for finding new -- and rediscovering old -- places based on cuisine or neighbourhood.
4. OMG Food! -- love the title. love the snarky writing. love the blog post titles. plus, i often agree with Tina, a.k.a. PoetKitty, so of course i have to lurve her.
5. Mr. Breakfast -- this site for all things breakfasty. i have an odd emotional attachment to good breakfast -- possibly its connotations of leisure, relaxation, and conviviality -- no, that's just overthinking it. i just heart most "breakfast" food. bonus: he sends me a monthly newsletter with new recipes.
(you can find all these blogs under my blogroll to the right, or visit them directly from this post.)

though i like being "tagged," i usually don't "tag' others...but i would be extraordinarily interested in what anyone else's opinions might be about what makes a fave eatery just that. comment please. opinions definitely NOT limited to SoCal.

Posted by hadashi at 2:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2007

naked with strangers

i've been back for a few days from Germany now, and i'm still dreaming about fresh pretzel bread and all that wee German village bakeries have to offer, local fizzy wine, just-picked asparagus and strawberries, today's catch broiled in a wood-burning oven... hmmm. i must be hungry. no wait, i'm always hungry...
in any case, it was a good visit, and true to my word, we here at HadashiWorld would like to report that it is frickin' AWESOME to get nekkid with a bunch of strangers if it involves a 16-step, 3 1/2 hour spa routine in a gorgeous hundred-year-old Roman-styled series of baths, called Friedrichsbad. basically, you show up and pay a ridiculously small amount of money to a nice person at a counter. you then go to your respective gender's locker room, put every single thing you have on into a locker, and go naked as the day you wuz borned into the Glorious Temple of Bathing. an attendant hands you a towel/sheet thing and a pair of shower slippers, so you don't burn your toes in the beautifully tiled sauna rooms.

here's the basic rundown: shower for 5 minutes, lie in sauna at 54°C (129°F) for 15 minutes, attempt to breathe for at least 5 minutes in the crazy hot 68°C (154°F) sauna, shower again. now for the 2nd best part: get a 15-20 minute massage with soap and a brush from a very expert gender-appropriate attendant who will exfoliate you like you've never thought possible. compare self to cat being brushed and begin to purr. shower again. then sit and think happy thoughts in the steam bath -- there's a sort of pyramid of benches in the middle of the room, and the temperature is hotter towards the top, of course. spend 10 minutes on a lower bench, 5 more towards the top. exit into the thermal baths section, and beware, oh you modest people: this is where it's mixed company. 10 minutes in a smaller pool at 36°C (97°F), 15 minutes in the jacuzzi-like mineral pool at 34°C (93°F), then plunge into the round pool under a glorious rotunda and swim easy laps around it for 5 minutes. you're almost done: back into the gender-separated section. shower yet again. then attempt to not squeal repeatedly as you plunge into the shockingly cold 18°C (64°F) bath. as the cold rejuvenates your every pore, think about the hot towel the attendant is about to wrap you in next. when you're dry, you are given a fresh-smelling lotion that you apply to all that newly-clean skin, head to toe. now the 1st best part: the attendant will take you into a big, airy room with lots of beds. lie down. she or he will then wrap you like a little fresh-smelling burrito in blankets and leave you to blissfully nap for 30 minutes.

ahhh! i get all woozy with pleasure just thinking about the experience. if i lived in Baden-Baden, you can be sure i'd have the yearly pass to go any time. one of the attendants was very surprised i was American; she said not many Americans can deal with the complete nudity, especially not with men and women together. they usually head over to the other big spa, which is more "modern" and requires bathing suits to be worn, but is nowhere near as comfortable or relaxing.
now, i'll never be a nudist, and living in Los Angeles, i think i'm a lot more modest in skin shown than many other women i see regularly. but it seems to me no big deal to be enjoying an age-old bathing tradition in the nude because it's so contextually normal. there was nothing icky or inappropriately sexual about the experience; in fact, people are so in their own little happy worlds no one looks at anyone else, really. it actually felt more comfortable than the locker room at my gym in L.A., where everyone is either bizarrely self-conscious or annoyingly exhibitionist. besides, going through the sixteen steps is so healing and so restorative, that i would think that if by the third shower you're not totally into the experience and still worried about how you look, something's wrong. you're spending over 3 hours honoring your body, cleaning it, resting it, re-energizing it -- that doesn't happen much in the outside world. i came away from Friedrichsbad not only clean on the outside, but feeling much more emotionally clean about myself than usual. being made to appreciate and pamper my little body that doesn't really fit society's definition of the paragon of female beauty made me feel powerfully, deeply lovely. i felt like i'd just had a 3 1/2 hour date with my physical self, and let me tell you, i'd ask me out again in a heartbeat!
so yeah, getting naked with strangers of both genders isn't necessarily for everyone, but it's worth a try. and if it makes you appreciate and love your own body more afterwards, that's even better than the soap massage.

Posted by hadashi at 9:51 PM | Comments (0)