Sunday, December 28, 2008

Designer Delights

Lest ye think I only write about food and travel, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that "epicurean" means all things relating to pleasure. That includes material pleasure, though as Epicurus himself would tell you, everything in moderation. Thus I share with you another recent article from Frontiers in which I profile West Hollywood designer Thomas Schoos. He has designed some of the poshest restaurants in Los Angeles, as well as several celebrity homes and some hotel projects he has in the works.



One of my favorite parts of talking to Schoos and writing this article is his liberal use of metaphors, similes, analogies and plain old comparisons to talk about design. The word "design" is so all-encompassing and abstract, especially to a person like myself who does not usually consciously consider these things and is used to more concrete frames of thought. It can be used to describe everything from a watch face to an airport terminal. That is why it is so helpful to come across a mind like Schoos' who is used to explaining the intricacies, complexities...and yes, vagaries. When he puts design ideas in terms of everyday objects like trees, cars, and even sex (!), they suddenly become relatable, transparent and accessible. I just hope that my article was able to distill his twinkling tone.

Santiago!


Well, it only took a year, but I finally got my article about my trip to Santiago, Chile, into Frontiers. In it, I talk about everything from nightclubs to convents, with brief nods to hotels, restaurants and museums in between. Here's the link: http://www.frontierspublishing.com/2717/goodlife/trip_lw.html

Sunday, December 14, 2008

ASSASSINATION VACATION Rumination


This past week, I read Sarah Vowell's delightful chronicle of her pilgrimages to the sites connected to the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell is a character actress, radio host on NPR's "This American Life," and amateur historian who recently came out with a book about the Massachussetts Bay Colony called The Wordy Shipmates.

I could not bring myself to start with her most recent book, though, and instead opted for 2005's Assassination Vacation--both because my library did not yet have its copy of TWS, and because I liked the quirky premise of the older book more.

William McKinley, skilled politician and yet feeble leader that he was, has been near to my heart this past year as I researched and wrote my screenplay, REMEMBER THE MAINE, concerning the start of the Spanish-American War, and I particularly relished that section of the book.

The other two sections concern the people, places and coincidences associated with the assassinations of our 16th and 18th presidents. Though I loved the historical details Vowell was able to uncover by journeying as far as the Dry Tortugas in Florida, and as close as around the corner from where she lives to Gramercy Park in New York, two particular passages struck my fancy the most.

The first is on page 105 of my edition. Speaking of her tour of the Illinois State House in Springfield, and then of Lincoln's house later on, Vowell says, "I am invariably the odd man out on tours like this. The only people who take them are kids who are forced to endure them and elderly retirees. I am always either the oldest person on a tour, or the youngest. I prefer to be the youngest if only because usually that means I’m the prettiest by default."

I couldn't help but chuckle since, dork that I am, I have had similar experiences all throughout my travels. I am always taking tours of historical sites, cathedrals, museums, opera houses, graveyards, wineries, resorts, fish markets, factories--basically I'm a tour junkie. Anything you can take a tour of...I'll take it. And I don't mind admitting it. I want to be as well informed as possible, and you can't find a more attentive listener, so you know what, I'll say it: I love tours! Unfortunately, I'm usually the only 20-something on these tours. Whether that's because I really can't resist, or because my peers are out doing more fun things, I can't say for sure.

However, this passage made me recall a particular tour I took of Canterbury Cathedral in England, and I managed to find the journal entry I wrote about it, so here goes.

"I took a tour of Canterbury Cathedral," 24-year-old Eric says, "guided by a perfectly named man, Cyril Whitehead. Though the paragon of a provincial historical society guide, he needed a little brushup on his history not pertaining to Thomas a Beckett." Wow I was catty. I continue, however, after describing the cathedral itself, "I think it is also worth mentioning that I was literally one-third the average age of the other seven people on my tour, most of whom were self-proclaimed 'cathedral enthusiasts.' Basically, modern-day pilgirms exulting in the differences between the early, high, and late Gothic. And wattles. They all had wattles, which struck me as strange for people who presumably spend a good deal of their leisure time gazing upward at stained glass." Gosh, I was such a bitch back then! But then again, I was definitely the prettiest one on that tour!


The other passage from Assassination Vacation that really thrilled me was when Sarah Vowell drew a direct historical connection from the Oneida Community religious society in upstate New York to the TV show, "The OC." I'll let you enjoy it for yourself: "I do feel compelled, indeed almost conspiracy theoretically bound to mention that one of the reasons the Oneida Community broke up and turned itself into a corporate teapot factory is that a faction within the group, led by a lawyer named James William Towner, was miffed that the community’s most esteemed elders were bogarting the teenage virgins and left in a huff for none other than Orange County, California, where Towner helped organize the Orange County government, became a judge, and picked the spot where the Santa Ana courthouse would be built."
I've spared you her references to Peter Gallagher's eyebrows, but rest assured, they are numerous and slightly disturbing. I just wanted to include that passage in order to point out that she managed to find a historical thread with which to justify her own obsession with Josh Schwartz's teen-fluff primetime soap, and I fully applaud her. My motto lately has been, "What's old is new," and Sarah Vowell manages to take some very old, ostensibly boring stuff, and make it completely, wonderfully, entertainingly new.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Perusing the Pleasure Chest

This past week saw me completing one of my more interesting freelance roundups so far: a guide to naughty/adult holiday presents. I only have myself to thank for the assignment since, when my editor asked if I had any ideas for holiday roundups, I crassly joked that I could do an x-rated guide. Apparently he and the rest of the editorial staff liked the idea, so there I was, scrambling to find naughty playthings for adults to spice up their holidays. It brought a whole new meaning to the term "stocking stuffer." Be easy, I won't go into detail!

If you'd like to check out what I came up with, take a look at this link, and no matter what you do for the holidays, remember, you can always put your own fun, perverted spin on things!

A Gift Guide for Those on Santa's Naughty List: http://www.la.com/blog/recreation/Holiday_2008_GIft_Guidance_Gifts_For_Santas_Naughty_List.html

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Interview with Curtis Stone: TLC's Take Home Chef


One of the best parts of being a writer is the interesting people you get to interview. One of my most recent interviews I did was with Curtis Stone, better known as TLC's "Take Home Chef." Basically, this handsome chef scours a supermarket for a lovely lady who will take him home with her so he can show her how to prepare a gourmet meal for her significant other. It's half naughty, half sweet, and all entertaining.


Not only has Curtis worked in restaurants all over the world and trained under Marco Pierre White in London, but he makes some fabulous food and is just plain fun to talk to, as I'm sure you'll see in this piece.


Locavores!


I am making a pre-New Year's resolution to start posting consistently. Perhaps not daily, but definitely a lot more than I have been. Thanks to some big articles of mine that are coming out right around now, I think that will be easier to do since I will have some news to share each time one of them is published.


For instance, my piece on the local foods movement for Frontiers Magazine in West Hollywood just came out. Here is the link: http://www.frontierspublishing.com/2716/goodlife/nesting_dt.html


In it, I explain the rise of the "locavores" (people who eat food only from within a certain radius of where they live), and talk to several chefs around LA including Andrew Kirschner at Wilshire Restaurant and Simon Dolinky at BLVD 16, as well as Amelia Saltsman, the author of The Santa Monica Farmer's Cookbook.


The local food movement--with its emphasis on environmental awareness, quality produce, and seasonality--is fascinating and is evolving at its fastest right here in LA, so now is a great time to be a food critic in California!