Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Plum Catsup and Other 19th Century Recipes

Just stumbled across the website and blog for Vintage California Cuisine, a cookbook with recipes from the early days, pre- and post-statehood. How did I miss this before? But now, in time for Christmas gifting is the Amazon page for Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes From the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden Stateby Mark Thompson.

The blog link above takes you to a post about catsup. The book has several recipes, and not all are made with tomatoes. In fact, the one on this blog post was made with plums bought fresh at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Please go and enjoy the blog (here's the link again) or better yet, buy the book for someone who will appreciate it (you, perhaps?). After all, these are not recipes that are likely to show up on the Food Network or Epicurious.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mosaic: Entrance to Civic Center Metro Station

"In the Living Rock" is the title of a mosaic that lines the wall of the planter at the entrance of the Civic Center/Tom Bradley Metro --1st and Hill, Los Angeles. (Wasn't that the last line of a radio jingle?)

Outside the station, not inside. The station serves the Red, Purple, and Silver lines.

The artist is Samm Kunce, and the mosaic was installed in 2004--eight years ago.

According to an MTA press release, "Kunce used a classical composition to depict a hanging garden exquisitely executed in Venetian cake glass mosaic and supported by an expanse of striated sand colored granite. A contrasting black granite ribbon etched with poetry runs through the center of the work." 

The poet is Ovid, who lived in the first century BC--as you can see in this second picture, from the PublicArtinLA site.

Now, Venetian glass is also Murano glass--Murano is an island of Venice. I found a definition of wedding cake glass that says it is lampworked glass (meaning, glass handmade from  rods held over flame) decorated with colorful glass overlays.

I could not find a website for Samm Kunce, just a Facebook and Linkedin page and many short bios on art sites--here's one from the Metro website.  She's based in Brooklyn, manages a NY art gallery, and so most of her work is there, but we've got  "In the Living Rock." Here's the artist's statement, again from a Metro website (as is the picture above):

Organic variation and movement in the glass are suggested in this ancient material when the smalti are left in larger pieces. The mosaic has been set according to the character of key segments allowing a more natural rather than illustrative representation of plant form while the striated granite in its layering refers to geologic time”.

I am adding this picture of the Bryant Park underground station--not in LA--just to show another aspect of her work that complements ours. It comes from the MosaicOfArt blog and is credited to Franz Mayer of Munich.

Given that this is in underground NY, and thinking of Sandy, how eerie is that quote?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

1920s Holiday Home Tour & Progressive Dinner-West Adams

Here's your chance to channel your inner Gatsby!

Next weekend--December 1 and 2nd, is the 26th annual West Adams Holiday Home Tour and Progressive Dinner, in the Wellington Square area.

If you're not up to dinner, you can take a self-guided walking tour of these beautiful homes on Sunday, the 2nd.

The focus for this tour is the post-WWI era and the Roaring 20s.

But--I just checked the site and many of the Sunday tours (not all) are sold out. So better make your reservations.

Dress in costume if you're so inclined! Flapper dresses and tiaras welcome. Below right is the home where you'll have the main course--the Frederick and Mary Dee Residence, built in 1922.

You'll check in at one house, then go to different homes for the appetizer, soup, salad, dinner, and dessert courses.

Here's what the brochure (pictured above) says:

Wellington Square’s celebrated residents of bygone days have included the great jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan; Evelyn Freeman Roberts and her husband, Tommy Roberts, co-founders of the Young Saints Scholarship Foundation; actor-comedian Nick Stewart, who played "Lightnin'" on the "Amos 'n' Andy" TV series and founded the Ebony Showcase Theater; UCLA Bruins and Lakers basketball star Lucius Allen; decorated Civil War soldier Norman Ives; and Drs. John and Vada Sommerville, pioneering African American dentists, civil rights leaders and the first owners of the Dunbar Hotel (then called the Hotel Sommerville) on Central Avenue.

The Progressive Dinner tours are docent-led, and will leave every 45 minutes. They last about 3 hours. Prepaid reservations are required: $85 each ($60 if you're a member of the West Adams Heritage Association). The Walking Tour alone (on Sunday afternoon) is $30.

The picture to the left is of last year's event--just to give you an idea of how the homes are setup. It's all very cozy and intimate.

Here's the daily details:

  • On Saturday, Dec. 1, the tours start at 3 pm and the last tour leaves at 6:15 pm. 

  • On Sunday, Dec. 2, the tours start at 3:30 pm and the last tour leaves at 6:45 pm.

  • Check in for the Sunday self-guided tour between noon and 2 pm--the homes will close at 3 to prepare for the next dinner.

All the tours depart from the intersection of Crenshaw and Washington, but the exact address will be given when you register.

And how do you register? Call the WAHA at 323-735-9242, or email them at Or reserve through their website,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back to Coronado Mosaic

Walgreens is about to open a new store at the site of a former Home Savings & Loan in Coronado, CA.

That’s way out of Los Angeles County, I know, but I did blog about the mosaic (created by artist Susan Hertel) a while ago. Here's my picture.

The building had been a Petco until 2009. Before the Home Savings & Loan went in, it had been a Bank of America—going ‘way back to the days when Bank of America was Bank of Italy. In fact, there’s another piece of art from that early era which Home S&L covered up—more about that at the end of this post.

But about the mosaic, this is from a Patch Coronado article

"One of the main concerns for the city and residents alike was that the Millard Owen Sheets mosaic on the front of the building not be removed. Not only was it left in place, but Walgreens preserved it by regrouting and resealing it, Fait noted.


(Mr. Fait is an Associate City Planner with Coronado.) (And I need to post a comment to Patch, correcting the attribution--this is Susan Hertel's work, I'm very sure.)

Regrouting and resealing a large mosaic is no cheap or easy project--so bravo to Walgreens. In addition to preserving the mosaic, the corporation also put in ” a new roof, a new electrical system, new plumbing and new heating and air conditioning. . . . replaced the sidewalk and removed two driveways – which added four parking places on the street – and installed a bench under the awning.

“They also planted two new trees and added a new storm drainage system.”

Now that’s the way to reconcile neighbors to having a new chain store on the corner.

About that other work of art—here are two pictures of it taken by Gloria Tierney for Patch. I cropped them and tweaked the exposure to bring out more details, but you can see the originals and more pictures at the Patch site. (the picture at the top of this post was taken before Walgreens got involved--so before restoration.)

And here is the story, quoted from the Patch article:

Once construction began, workers discovered the mosaic was not the only notable work of art on the fa├žade. There was also a terra cotta medallion of an aged, explorer-style sailing ship hidden under the blue awning.

“The medallion was designed by the Northern California ceramics company Gladding, McBean – which dates to the Gold Rush era – back when Bank of America was the Bank of Italy. For decades, the piece was placed on all of their banks.

“When Home Savings took over the building, they set the awning over the medallion and installed the company's own corporate symbol. Now both will be preserved on Walgreens' new structure.”

And—since I’ve strayed out of Los Angeles County anyway, here’s a treat for those who appreciate modern mosaic work: a link to Mosaic Arts Now (an emag) article on the many beautiful and intriguing mosaics entered at a judged exhibition in Chartres, France: the Prix Picassiette.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More on John Montgomery

One of the treasures of the Western Museum of Flight is the reproduction of a glider flown by John Montgomery in the 1880s.

I blogged about it in 2010 (and last week), but I'll mention it again because Craig Harwood and Gary B. Fogel have written Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. Montgomery made the first  first flight in a glider twenty years before Kittyhawk--and his flight was in San Diego. (The Wright Brothers flew the world's first motorized aircraft.)

Fogel will be speaking about the book, the man, and the glider flight on November 17 at 11 am at the Western Museum of Flight, 3315 Airport Drive in Torrance. Free parking, and the talk is $5.

Montgomery's an interesting character--but why don't we know more about him?

Turns out he's been overlooked by historians and engineers for over a century. He worked in isolation, didn't seek publicity, and when he did finally go public with his work, he passed up the chance to work with aviation pioneers who would have supported and promoted him. Instead, he partnered up with the guy who developed early dirigibles--using Montgomery's work but cutting Montgomery out.

So in addition to a race/rivalry for patents and attention with the Wright Brothers, Montgomery was publicly waging other battles--all while carrying on his own research. The 20th century was not kind to him: his test pilot was killed, the San Francisco Earthquake intervened, then--just when Montgomery was nearing success--he got caught in a whirlwind and killed while testing out his own new glider. (The picture at left--from Wiki--was taken just before his death in 1911)

Quest for Flight, besides covering Montgomery, also goes into the contributions made toward flight in Southern California in the 19th century and the very early years of the 20th century.

(All this comes from a summary that the authors were kind enough to send me).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Los Angeles' Fallen Angels

Updated and revised, with a special added story about Thelma Todd's murder,Fallen Angels: Chronicles of L.A. Crime and Mystery has been repackaged and released by author Marvin J. Wolf.

This picture of Todd was taken to publicize the movie Corsair.

The book covers most of the sensational murders and crimes of our city, from pre-statehood days up through John Belushi's death. There are so many crimes in there, from Attorney General Earl Warren's 1938 battle with Tony Cornero and his gambling ship (which I haven't read yet--I'm saving it for last since I wrote my own article about it), as well as nasty, brutal murders like the Black Dahlia slaying and the Hillside Strangler spree, that you can just gorge yourself on seediness.

Yes, there are more detailed books on any of the 40ish crimes listed here, but Wolf's book gives the basics of all. Fallen Angels: Chronicles of LA Crime and Mystery was first written based on research done by Katherine Mader (now a Superior Court Judge) and published in the 1980s, and the new version is available on Kindle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chinatown Mosaic

"Four Beauties Catching Swimming Fish" is the title of this beautiful mosaic. It adorns the Plum Tree Inn  at 913 N. Broadway--a restaurant and banquet hall that gets excellent reviews on those web rating sites.

According to the blog Random Refuge, this mosaic and the two other mosaics that are mounted alongside it were created in Hong Kong in 1968. The artist is good ol' Anonymous.

A picture of all three mosaics is below. They sit right across the street from Little Joe's.

I found one brief mention of the artwork in the LA Times, back when the restaurant was the Golden Palace. In 1987, the paper said that the three-paneled tile mural was said to be the largest outside of China.

The picture above right was on a blog called TamaraTales, but now that I've enlarged it I see a copyright. Hopefully Ms. Rieckehoff won't mind that I post it here.

Here's a picture of the three mosaics together.

I suppose that technically, this is a picture of painted tile and not a mosaic. The definition gets blurry at times--not the technical definition, but how to apply it. Most people refer to these three pictures as mosaics, and they make a lovely post, so that's good enough for me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veteran's Day in the South Bay (and John Montgomery)

Many events are going on in the South Bay to celebrate Veteran's Day weekend:

  • The USS Iowa in San Pedro will host a Veterans Appreciation Day on Saturday, November 10th, from 1 to 4 pm. Children's activities, veterans' resources & info, entertainment and free food, free tours for veterans of the ship (tours are free for vets only not just on Saturday, but on Sunday and Monday too). To get more info--including parking info--scroll to the bottom of this article in the Daily Breeze.

  • In Redondo Beach on Sunday (the 11th), the Junior ROTC of Redondo HS and the LAPD Emerald Society Pipes & Drum Corps will perform in a show honoring veterans at (where else?) Veterans Park at the foot of Torrance Blvd. The Elks Club--right next door--will host a barbecue later, free to all vets and members of the armed forces. Everyone else--your $5 donation goes to fund for the beautiful Veterans Memorial. It all starts at 1 pm.

  • Back to Saturday, November 10 at  the Western Museum of Flight in Torrance: a celebration honoring veterans of the Vietnam War from 10 am to 3 pm. At noon, Lt. Col. Ben Williams will give his first-hand account of CSAR missions, and there will be special exhibits and books for sale as well. The Museum is at 3315 Airport Drive; more details here


For the following weekend:

One of the treasures of the Western Museum of Flight is the reproduction of a glider flown by John Montgomery in 1883.

I blogged about it in 2010, but I'll mention it again because  Gary B. Fogel has written Quest for Flight, a biography of Montgomery, and will be speaking about his book, the man, and the glider flight--which is pretty much man's first flight in a glider. (The Wright Brothers flew the world's first motorized aircraft.)

That talk is on November 17 at 11 am at the Western Museum of Flight, 3315 Airport Drive in Torrance. Free parking, and the talk is $5.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Grand Hope Park

One more Marlo Bartels artwork: this one by the Renaissance Tower Apartments, downtown.

These pyramids sit in the courtyard of the Towers, which is on the southe end of Grand Hope Park. The addition of the art was part of an ongoing project funded by CRA/LA (Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles) (I do not know the status of CRA/LA, since  funding for redevelopment agencies in general were cut by the state government months ago).

BUT--CRA/LA was responsible for many, many civic improvements all over our fair city, including these. In fact, my understanding is that CRA/LA actually owns the park property. These pyramids by Bartels date from 1994, and they were designed to cover the air vents in the sidewalk.

Bartels also created pillars (below left) at the same place, and some wall panels that match the colors of the pyramid bases.

I blogged about the Clock Tower at Grand Hope Park a few months ago, and that post has some of the park's history in it. Grand Hope Park is full of artwork; I could probably manage a few more posts out of it.

And danged if there's not a video of the place! The pyramids appear at about 1:20.This comes from a place called Hollywood, and tells me that Grand Hope Park was used as a location for the Sandra Bullock movie, All About Steve

To finish off, here is a closeup of one side of one pyramid, to give you an idea of the intricacy of these designs.

While the other photos here came from PublicArtinLA, this last picture is from a flicker site and is attributed to JohnWilliamsPHD. There are 4 or 5 other shots at the site if you want to see more.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Big Mac Supper Club & More McDonald's Trivia

Who remembers this?

When I went looking for info, I learned that McDonald's Big Mac Supper Club was unique to the Los Angeles area. Guess they figured there were so many out-of-work performers that it might be a draw.

So in August, 1976, at 5 pm, McDonald's put checkered tablecloths on the table--and they were cloth, not plastic--and set flowers on the tables (OK, those were plastic). They dimmed the lights to create a different ambiance. A story in the LA Times claims that gowned hostesses actually seated patrons . . . and then the entertainment began.

This was a 3-week program at select McDonald's all over the county, and the only caveat was that the performers had to be amateurs--McD's wanted no trouble with the unions, according to the Times.

Who performed? Locals. "Jugglers, jazz combos, belly dancers, Barbershop quartets, gospel singers," according to the Times. And in Pasadena, a 12-year-old who taken up the Jew's harp two weeks previously.

A follow-up letter-to-the-editor indicates that performers had to sign a contract allowing McD's to use their pictures or recordings made at the event.

BTW, the picture above left is there because 1976 was also the year that McDonald's first tried to aim ads at the African American community, which resulted in some controversy--mostly over the "Dinnertimin'" phrase above.

Back to the Big Mac Supper Club. Did it really last only 3 weeks?

I checked the Corporate Timeline, and the Big Mac Supper Club is not even mentioned. I did learn that the Egg McMuffin made its national debut in 1975, however, so this wasn't a complete waste of time. (The Egg MuMuffin was developed in 1971 by Herb Peterson, who had left an advertising agency that handled McDonalds' account to open his own Santa Barbara franchise a few years before.)

The Mac Tonight video below is from 1987 and Bob Baker created and manipulated the puppet.

Are my memories confused, or is this a redo of the Big Mac Supper Club promotion? Back to Proquest, where I learn that the 1987 Mac Tonight campaign did originate in LA, then went national--but only in 1987.

I vaguely remember a commercial for the Big Mac Supper Club in which a woman in a slinky gown sang that phrase over and over, but have been unable to find the ad on YouTube.

In LA, at least, and to the boomer generation, "The Big Mac Supper Club" entered the lexicon of hip phrases--along with "Tar-ZHAY" and "J.C. Pen-NAY"--used be those who believed they saw right through pretension and could mock those who did not. Hah!