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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saturday in LA

There are many things I love about living in Los Angeles.

One, is the gorgeous weather we are blessed with in Southern California. You can’t beat our mild Winters – and Spring and Fall is just absolutely gorgeous here. Two, because of our climate, Southern California produces an incredible variety of high quality produce – from huge vegetables, beautiful fruit and a breathtaking array of flowers. Three, there is an incredible amount of diversity in this city. From cultures, cuisine, traditions and art. It is all a wonderful melting pot of people from all over. Four, living in LA has never made me feel too disconnected from life in Manila. There are parts in LA that remind me of things I hold dear and familiar. And lastly, there is just so much to see, hear and do in this city! I’ve been here for the 5 years and am still finding new things to do every day.

This weekend is wonderful way to illustrate all the things I love about LA.

Because of the beautiful weather, my hubby and I spent Saturday morning exploring a local Farmers' Market at the Charles Wilson Park. Now this is really special since most of the country is experiencing winter snowstorms, we here have been blessed with a sunny but cool March morning.

The Charles Wilson Park Farmers' Market is a tradition where local farmers bring their freshest produce into the city every Saturday morning. We get to sample these treats right off the farm! Walking around there are endless rows of fruits and vegetables (the largest beefsteak tomatoes I have ever seen, my favorite Haas avocadoes, huge artichokes, bright orange tangelos, plump strawberries, green onions stalks that are two feet long, and so much more). The Farmers 'Market is bustling with so many people walking around – enjoying the cool air, the live music from local artists, and of course, the free samples from each of the stands!

(Beautiful flowers for sale, next to a stall selling California-grown
nuts, dried fruits, and jars of jam and jelly)

(Sampling the different varieties of oranges and apples
at a fruit stand)

At one end of the Market is a row of food stalls that really showcase how diverse this city has become. Side by side there are booths like: an authentic Thai booth dishing up hot curries and pad thais, a Salvadorean booth serving hot pupusas, a Korean booth with beef short ribs and kalbi chim, a French booth making fresh crepes, an Italian booth serving up sausages and calzones, a Texas barbecue booth with slow cooked tri-tip and brisket, a Japanese booth frying up shrimp and vegetable tempura, a Mexican booth with fresh salsa and hot tamales, a Peruvian booth with saltados made of pork, beef, chicken or shrimp, and more. The air smelled of freshly popped kettle corn and brewed coffee. And the rows of stalls selling all sorts of bread, cheese and pies were just too good to pass up.

(The stall with the yellow banner is the Hot Tamales stall and
next to it is the one serving sausages and snow cones)

At the end of the day, my hubby and I had a bags of groceries (broccoli, avocados, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, baby carrots, freshly pressed olive oil infused with garlic, a pound and a half of California Cheddar cheese, and two thick loaves of Ciabattini bread), and our lunch – a trip-trip sandwich smothered in BBQ sauce for him and a pupusa with chicken and cheese for me.

Jojo’s tri-tip was very tender and very juicy as a result of being slow cooked all morning. The toasted sesame seed bun was lightly buttered and toasted which was great in holding all the tangy sweet barbecue sauce. My pupusa (a Salvadorean delicacy is a thick handmade corn tortilla stuffed with a local cheese and pieces of chicken) was so good – crispy on the edges but chewy on the inside. I couldn’t really taste the chicken as much but the cheese they used was great. It was very mild and melted in your mouth. The pupusa was complimented by very spicy pico de gallo and shredded pieces of pickled radish with red onions and lemon juice.

(Pupusa on the right, tri-tip sandwich on the left)

After our trip to the Market, we came home and washed our produce – that’s the only thing with going to a Farmer’s Market, most of our veggies still had dirt on them. Unlike the supermarket variety where you get things pre-washed and pre-cut, this is a small price to pay for freshness. I usually wash up my produce all at once and then keep them in large Ziplock bags ready to use the rest of the week.

That afternoon we went to the Eagle Plaza Plaza to celebrate the 7th birthday of the son of a good friend. This mall really reminds me of the SM stores in Manila. Because Eagle Rock boasts of such a huge Filipino community, the mall is crowded with so many Filipinos and they have so many stores and restaurants that are found in many of our malls back home (Chowking, Goldilocks, Jollibee, Seafood City, and even a Bench store!). I was so amazed and a little bit nostalgic for home after seeing that!

The birthday party was held at Chuck E Cheese which is a wonderland for kids but a workout for parents! Think of a huge amusement center with all sorts of arcade games, mini-rides, and carnival type booths. Since all of my in-laws were also invited, we took turns herding all my nieces and nephews around the place and dropping tokens into every game their hearts desired. All between being entertained by Chuck E Cheese himself and eating slices of greasy pizza, cold chicken wings and a sad looking plate of wilted greens they called a salad. Chuck E Cheese is all about the kids – it is not a culinary experience nor is it a relaxing afternoon for the adults. But in the end, we did manage to enjoy ourselves after all.

We left the mall around 7 and joined my brother for a late dinner at Afloat Sushi in Old Town Pasadena. Since I went to school in the Alhambra area, I am familiar with Old Town – but in the last year or so that I have not been there, a lot of new places have opened up along Colorado Blvd. Our dinner at Afloat was good and worth the over 40-minute wait. We sat around the sushi chef’s counter and picked plates of sushi and sashimi around a conveyor belt that paraded the dishes right in front of us. My favorites are the spider and dragon sushi’s made with soft shell crabs. The hot bowls of miso soup were also good and helpful in warming us up. Yummy!

Afterwards we walked down the street and enjoyed the cool night air. It was very crowded everywhere since everyone was out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with beer and flowers dyed green. Interesting night to say the least! Especially since we had to stop at a sobriety checkpoint before we were allowed to get on the freeway. I am sure with the free-flowing beer last night there were a lot of people who weren't allowed to drive home!

So, that’s how we celebrated a Saturday in LA, enjoying the great weather, the fresh produce, the diversity of the city, things that remind me of home and getting to enjoy something new!


jml said...

What a wonderful way to spend a weekend. Your food choice at the farmers market seems very interesting. Am looking forward to trying it myself and perhaps learning how to prepare it as well. Wish we here could have a spell of your glorious spring weather.

jol said...

Lovely photos and picturesque description. There are so many beautiful places in Southern California; visit and enjoy them on your weekends. They will be your treats for the work pressures during the week.

leslie Ty said...

Jo, i'm so inggit that you can visit exciting new places every weekend....i really think you and jojo should do this more often to take your minds off work :)

love the pictures....:) it wouldn't surprise me if you want to study photography next. :)

hey...i want to see more pictures of you and jojo too :)

Junarakasa said...

Hey Les,
Happy Birthday! I sent you an email - hope you can check it out :)

leslie Ty said...

Hi Jo :)

thanks for the greeting...i read your email and i replied already :)

Wish you were here to celebrate with me :)

miss you!