Made-Up Rules for Our Imaginary Children

When Mr. Sandwich and I were married, but before we had Baguette, we made many pronouncements, as you do. Some of them still hold, like leaving the restaurant when we cannot keep her quiet and calm. Some of them remain untested (we are not fans of demanding MORE candy from people when trick-or-treating, and yes, we’ve seen that happen, but she’s not really a fan of trick-or-treating). Others have fallen by the wayside.

“No junk food before age 2! There is plenty of time to eat french fries later, but they don’t need them that young!”

At just under a year, Baguette reached up and pulled a french fry from Mr. Sandwich’s mouth and ate it. She loved it. Now I just wish she’d eat fries, because that would mean one more thing she eats.

“No TV before age 2!”

At about six months, she came home from day care with a fever. She felt awful and was exhausted, but could not quite tip over into sleep. I looked for something age-appropriate and stumbled across Yo Gabba Gabba. I thought, “Wow, this show is awful.” A minute later, she passed out on her own lap, and I thought, “This show is GREAT.” From there we found Pajanimals and Sesame Street (well, I knew about that one) and Wibbly Pig and Stella and Sam. We have never watched Yo Gabba Gabba again. That show is awful.

“We will never get a portable DVD player or own a car in which one is installed, even if we have to take a hammer to it. Our children can look out the window and play the Alphabet Game like we each did.”

We are seriously considering buying a portable DVD player for the car.

We Don’t Want to Be THAT Family

Tantrum

Disclaimer: I’ll bet this little girl is a smiling charmer most days.

When my brother and I were small–ages 4 and 6, at the most–our parents took us to a nice restaurant and explained that because we were wearing our dress-up clothes, we were going to use our dress-up manners. Very conscious of what was expected of us, we tried to behave properly. A few tables over, another pair of children were running in circles and whooping. My brother leaned over to me and said, very seriously, “Those children don’t have dress-up manners.”

Flash forward a few decades.

One evening, before we had Baguette, Mr. Sandwich’s sister and her husband came to town. We met up with one of her friends, and we all went to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. Now, this was a nice little local place, with a slightly creative menu, but a perfectly appropriate venue for children.

Except.

Except not for the child at the next table, who spent 45 minutes screaming at the top of his lungs.

Now, I get it. Restaurants are not necessarily fun for kids. But no one at that table even said, “Shh.” No one took the child outside for a change of scene. None of them tried anything. (Why did none of us say anything to our server? Because we didn’t want to be those people without kids.)

Mr. Sandwich and I have a horror of being those parents, which is why as soon as Baguette was born, we came up with this plan:

1) Come prepared with snacks and entertainment.
2) Correct her behavior as soon as it starts.
3) Take her outside, trading off so that every adult gets to eat.
4) When none of this works, pay and leave.

We haven’t gotten to #4 yet, although I’m sure we will. Early days, and all that. (We don’t think we’re magical parents, after all.) But apparently a lot of people haven’t bothered with this plan, based on this Consumerist.com post about a Georgia pizzeria’s new policy.

Seriously, folks. This should not be necessary. We all share the world.

Photo by Turkinator, via Flickr.

Panini Cafe

Sometimes I go to a restaurant just often enough to know what I like, but not often enough to want to go beyond that. Right now, that’s the stage I’m at with Panini Cafe.

I know I like the falafel wrap, although I could do without the pickle slices (?) that are included. The couscous, with nuts and raisins, is excellent (and generous–I brought half of this side dish home). But I also know that I want to branch out, at least as far as the chicken dishes. The chicken is marinated in and/or rubbed with incredibly flavorful spices, and is incredibly tender. One of my friends ordered this in a shish kebob, and we agreed on a chicken-for-couscous trade. Some day, when I have a kitchen in which I can actually cook, I may even learn how to make it.

Oh, and did I mention that they also have panini? There are several different selections with chicken and turkey, and even a ham and brie panini. If I go there often enough, I may make it through all of them–with the exception of the eggplant dishes.

Shanghai Red’s

For the life of me, I can’t figure out the name of this place. There is absolutely nothing Chinese about the food at Shanghai Red’s. A friend suggested that we meet there for brunch, and since I’d heard good things about the restaurant but had never been there, I agreed. Then I looked up the menu online and thought, “This had better be good. Because I normally save meals that cost this much for splurgy nights out with J.”

You enter the restaurant through a tropical, quasi-Asian walkway dripping with ferns. The tables are spread through several rooms, some indoor and some out. The setting is terrific–in the heart of Marina del Rey, with views of the water and boats. And who doesn’t like looking at boats?

There are at least three lavish brunch stations: a long room filled with hot dishes ranging from tamales to eggs Benedict to crab legs; an omelet and waffle station; and a room filled with desserts. Everything was excellent, down to the crisp-but-not-burned bacon (and I do love bacon).

On top of that, I got to spend time with a good friend I haven’t seen in months. And really, you can’t put a price on that. Especially when it comes with delicious food. And boats.

Quincy’s BBQ

Quincy’s serves “the best BBQ under one woof,” which is a little cutesy. However, the pulled pork is quite good, and the chicken is really tender. After several trips up and down Ventura Boulevard–and a couple of meals at The Habit (excellent burgers, fries, and onion rings, BTW), we decided that Quincy’s was our next stop. Both food and service were good, and although it isn’t our favorite place in the Valley, it’s not half bad.

Oh, and we put an offer on a house. How’s that for burying the lede?

TGIF

This week seems like it has lasted forever, but it’s finally done! J took the day off but is working this evening. I guess that’s not much of a day off. But the result is that I got home and have been lazing around ever since. At some point I should probably figure out what I’m going to eat for dinner.

Lunch was a bit of a challenge, too. There’s a new falafel restaurant in Westwood, but the line was too long for the level of hunger I was feeling (apparently I need to eat more than one packet of oatmeal for breakfast). However, I was in a falafel kind of mood. About two blocks away was a longtime denizen of Westwood–Falafel King. I remember eating there in college, although it was in a different location at that point.

What I can’t tell you is whether Falafel King serves good falafel. I liked it–salty, slightly spicy, and fried. When you put it that way, what’s not to like? Certainly I walked away full, which itself was an improvement. And I figure that now I have a baseline for comparison, when I finally do get to the new place.

Dinner, for the moment, remains a mystery. Also, I should probably make a run out to Whole Foods, so that I don’t have to go in the morning. In the meantime, though, I’ve stumbled across a TLC show called Say Yes to the Dress. What is with all the lumpy wedding gowns that seem to be out there? Yet another trend I do not get. Good thing that J and I are already married!

Well, That Was Exhausting

Yesterday afternoon, J and I drove down to Redondo Beach. The day before a race, we like to do a practice swim and practice bike ride, to get more familiar with the course. I suppose we could do a practice run, too, but that way lies madness.

So we got to the beach and I decided very quickly that if the surf didn’t go down by morning, I was going to skip the race. It wasn’t stormy, but the water was pretty choppy. I really didn’t think I could cover 1/2 mile under those conditions.

And I was probably right. The water was much calmer this morning–the waves were breaking fairly close to the beach, with rolling surges beyond that. It turned out, though that the rolling surges were much more rolling than I thought. In spite of the short distances, this was the toughest of the triathlons I’ve done, and that’s all due to the swim. The ocean was cold, murky, and dynamic (and it tasted bad–I don’t know what’s in the water in Redondo Beach, but it can’t be good).

When I finally emerged from the water, it was with the slowest time I’ve gotten (30 minutes in the water, and my official time will be longer than that)–and a charley horse. My calf muscle loosened up over the bike portion, but then I developed a stitch in my side. Everything evened out a bit during the run (which I walked all of, except for the finish chute), but on the whole I’m amazed that the right half of me was able to finish the race.

Of course it helped that I had a lot of support. My dad and stepmom and J’s parents came out in the wee hours of the morning to cheer us on, and after he finished his race, J walked the run with me. Interestingly, the run may have been my favorite portion. The company, of course, was excellent, but the course was fun too. It wound through the Redondo Beach pier and by the neighboring lagoon, which has been turned into a saltwater pool with slides.

After the race, we all adjourned to the Redondo Beach Cafe for brunch. The service was really slow, but everyone seemed happy with their various entrees. I was quite happy with the Kitchen Sink Omelet, which had cheese, avocado, ham, and onions; other dishes at our table included French toast, multigrain pancakes, a tuna melt, a chicken-salad croissant sandwich, and a French dip. The whole wheat orange pancakes and the crepes sounded good, but what I wanted most of all was protein.

In the end, I finished dead last with a time of 1:52:35–but I finished.

Not bad for someone who, after waking up this morning, was so tired that she couldn’t focus her eyes.

What’s With the Strange Apostrophes in Restaurant Names?

I came home from work to find J napping on the couch–he had come home early with a mild migraine. He was still feeling poorly, so I checked e-mail and read until it was time to go vote. California seems to have a lot of elections, although the timing isn’t quite as random as when I lived in Austin. Seriously, I’m pretty sure they sometimes held elections on Saturday there. Who votes on a Saturday?

After voting, it was time for dinner. J was feeling better, although neither one of us had a specific yearning. We walked a little bit east on Venice Boulevard before deciding that we would rather head west. Eventually we decided to go to Howard’s, home of the Famous Bacon and Avocado burger. Alas, by the time we arrived (8:09), Howard’s had closed. We turned around and headed for The Ayala’s, a tiny corner restaurant featuring Cuban and Salvadorean food.

J ordered the combination plate of chicken and shredded pork, while I had the garlic chicken. Both dishes came with rice, beans, and fried plantains, which allowed me to take all the plantains while J took all the beans. (I think this may be the secret to a happy marriage.) J found his food a little too tangy, but I really enjoyed the garlic chicken.

The standout of the meal, though, was the appetizer of fried pork and yucca. Although it arrived at the end of the meal instead of the beginning, we decided that this was the dish to revisit–next time we’re at The Ayala’s, we’ll split the pork and yucca (which is crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, as if it were deep-fried mashed potatoes) and order a couple of sides.

At the end of the meal, we were glad that we had a bit of a walk home, the better to burn some of the calories we had just consumed. We also found several other restaurants that we want to try before we move away from this part of town. Venice Boulevard is home to quite an array of multicultural eateries, including Brazilian, Mediterranean, Cuban, Salvadorean, and a whole lot of Thai. Hopefully there are more welcome discoveries to come. Just before we leave.

Super Chicken

The punctuation is odd, but the food is great. Roscoe’s House of Chicken’ n Waffles is an L.A. institution. The original location is in Hollywood, but we frequent the Pico location. “Frequent” might not be the right word; after four years of saying I wanted to go there, we made our first trip in February, for my birthday.

Tonight marked our second trip. While we planned to go after the L.A. Marathon in March, the line was just too long. Regardless of location, Roscoe’s is immensely popular. (That day, we wound up at Johnnie’s Pastrami on Sepulveda.)

Fortunately, seating seems to be fairly open at 6 p.m. on weeknights. J has a friend/former co-worker who has been teaching English in Korea for the past year, and is in town for a visit. As luck would have it, he’s a big fan of Roscoe’s–so we headed out for some food that absolutely is not good for us.

I recommend the Scoe’s #1. In fact, it’s the only dish I can recommend, because it’s the only dish I’ve ordered. Two pieces of fried chicken, two waffles with syrup . . . excellent. Order the dark meat. Last time I really liked the macaroni and cheese, but this time it was a little dry. J enjoyed the red beans and rice, although I found them a little bland–I preferred the red beans (but nothing else) at M & M Soul Food.

There are plenty of other L.A. landmarks left to visit, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to Roscoe’s.

More Disappointing Than Tragic

What does a girl have to do to get a meatball sub in this town?

Yesterday J set out for adventures with friends, and these adventures included using the car, which meant that after my friend picked me up for coffee, I was on foot for most of the day.

For the portion of the day that included laundry, this was no big deal. However, when J called to say that he and his friends would be eating copious quantities of BBQ at the Bear Pit (previously discussed here), I realized that I would need my own hearty late lunch/early dinner.

One of our favorite local haunts is The Coop, a tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza place with no seating, cash-only sales, and amazing New York style pizza (New Yorkers, don’t start with me. It may not be exactly what you’re used to, due to the water–see, I know–but it’s good). Since J doesn’t like vegetables on his pizza, and I can’t eat oregano, we usually get a large pepperoni and Canadian bacon. That provides plenty of meat and avoids the sausage.

The Coop also makes excellent meatball subs. Their posted Saturday hours are 11-9, so I figured I’d call and place the order, then walk over and pick it up. But no one answered. That suggested that they might be closed, particularly given the holiday weekend. Just in case, though, I walked over and discovered that they were, indeed, closed. On the way back I stopped at the sandwich shop on the corner of Palms and Motor. I can’t remember it’s name, it’s changed ownership at least once since we moved here, it’s nothing special. And, as it turns out, they do not have meatball subs. I toyed momentarily with the idea of a Philly cheese steak sandwich, but then realized that I had no confidence in their ability to make one–and that it would not meet my needs. A cheese steak sandwich, no matter how good, is not a meatball sub.

From there, I headed over to Kristina’s Italian Kitchen, on Overland. Now, according to the Citysearch-provided menu, they do have a meatball parm sandwich. But their in-house menu showed no sandwiches at all (thanks a lot, Kristina’s!)

In the end, I came home and reheated the leftover portion of a chicken quesadilla from Baja Fresh.

Distance walked: 1.4 miles

Meatball subs eaten: 0