Sunday, January 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES: :HOW TO DO CHINA, JAPAN, AND KOREA IN A SINGLE DAY

Yesterday Bob and I "flew the friendly freeways" to another world just seventy miles west to meet up with Andrew in Los Angeles's Chinatown.  This is not the huge Chinatown of New York City or San Francisco, but it is impressive nevertheless. 

You know you are there when you drive under these dragons:
I get a kick out of the Cesar E. Chavez street sign that seems so out of place.

Suddenly, there is Chinese writing everywhere:

Even the crosswalks tell you where you are:

The customers of these shops still looked and sounded Chinese, even though the shops themselves look so tourist-y.  In fact, I was quite surprised at how few tourists there were overall.  We were definitely out of place:

There is lots and lots of food.  We had a great time window shopping in the various cafeteria-style food places, salivating over the roast ducks and other various delicassies.  (Sorry my pictures are so poor.  I was taking them on the sly.  I think we were the only non-Asians in the store.)

We did purchase a few very, very tasty pork gyoza.  They were quite a bit larger than what we are used to:

The bigger grocery store-style shops sold a variety of exotic things, and I could have sworn we were back in Beijing:

I really wanted to buy some of whatever fungus that is on the right for my Dear Brother Dave, but I'm not sure when we will be seeing each other again, and I didn't think I wanted to store it at my house indefinitely:

One store had a fascinating medicinal section.  Those deer tendons on the right still have the hooves attached:

We did buy a few food items.  We just couldn't help it.  Don't you LOVE the idea of "Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk"?  I DO!
Andrew, knowing that we love foreign grocery stores, next took us to Little Tokyo to an absolutely fabulous Japanese grocery store called Woori Market.  Bob, of course, had to try something a bit, um, unusual, such as this abalone sashimi:
and this salted cod fillet:
He also bought two steamed whelks (which are essentially sea snails).  To get to the meat, he had to bash the shells with the bottom of a pot when we got back to Andrew's apartment.  They were interesting, but I liked the abalone better.
 


After spending time in China and Japan, we finished off the day in Koreatown consuming plate after plate after plate of fine food from Hae Jang Chon All-You-Can-Eat Korean Barbecue with Andrew and his girlfriend Lauren.  

The first thing customers are served at a Korean barbecue is a variety of side dishes and sauces:
 

  

Then the waitress brings out a variety of raw meats, three kinds at a time, that you cook yourself on a stone slab resting on a flame in the center of the table.  We had three sets (nine different kinds) of meat.  I was shocked to find that my absolute favorite was beef tongue.  It tasted like very rich, flavorful, premium steak.

We started with (clockwise, from top) marinated short ribs, thick bacon-like slabs of pork belly, a side of kimchee and soybean sprouts, more pork belly, and beef brisket.

 Our next round included (from top) beef tongue, bolgogi (marinated beef), and spicy barbecued pork (in foil)

The first thing in our last round was a big slab of  squid, which we fried and then cut into strips:

That was followed by octopus. After it was fully cooked, the waiter came by and cut it into pieces for us.  I was glad not to have to eat one whole.  Once you get over the way it looks, octopus is really pretty good:

And finally, we finished off the meal with another round of barbecued beef:

It was a very enjoyable, culturally enriching day.   Who needs to travel?  We've got a good dose of the Far East just 70 miles to the west!

Monday, January 10, 2011

TOURISTING IN LOS ANGELES

One can only take so much of an academic conference, and besides, we were hungry and the 3:00 session didn't look all that great, so Elizabeth and I took off to find lunch (or lunner or dunch or whatever you call a mid-afternoon meal).  The sushi restaurant we targeted first was closed, so we wandered around until we found Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill in Nokia Plaza.  It had some nice outdoor seating and an interesting menu.  We opted for salads:
and a prosciutto pizza:
 
YUM!

After eating we still had a bit of time, and since neither of us had ever been in this particular Los Angeles location before, and since I had a new Droid phone with picture taking features I had not yet tried out, we played Tourist for a bit.  Nokia Plaza is part of the L.A. Live development, an entertainment complex in downtown L.A. next to the Staples Center and Convention Center.  Completed in phases over the last five years at a cost of about $2.4 billion, it includes an open-air plaza with giant LED screens (much like New York's Times Square), a red carpet area for special events (like the Twilight premiere, apparently), a music/theatre venue that seats 7,100 (where the finale of American Idol has been for the last three years), ESPN studios, a Ritz Carlton/J.W. Marriott Hotel, the Grammy Museum, etc.  We noticed imprints of LPs on the sidewalk approaching Nokia Plaza that highlighted various Grammy Awards.  I didn't take any pictures, but this is one I nabbed from the Internet:
Los Angeles likes putting things in the sidewalk, such as the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the handprints in front of Graumin's Chinese Theater:

Anyway, the Nokia Plaza is bordered by a few restaurants on one side, including Wolfgang Puck's, and by these awesomely lit trees on another side.  The tubular pieces you can see in the trees had streaming lights that made them look like icicles--California style.

 Across the plaza is the Staples Center:


After lunch and our touristing, we headed back to the conference:

Playing with the settings on my camera:


Note the airplane in the dusky sky and the modern art sculptures on the ground.

 I'm not sure if these are leaves or raindrops, but I like the textured shadows they cast on the concrete:


 I can't forget to mention that it was Elizabeth's birthday.  I think she is about 32; right, Elizabeth?  I brought a two-person bundt cake to share in the car on the way home:

All in all, we had a very enjoyable day, both at the conference itself and as we explored the posher side of Los Angeles.  I'm not sure this is what I would call a "Destination Location," but it is fun to know a little bit more about the city and its most popular entertainment venues. 
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