Column: Oldies act has nod to Ritchie Valens’ history at fair

One tidbit I couldn’t squeeze in abbreviated form into Friday’s column on the fair gets a longer treatment in Sunday’s, as I highlight the coincidence of asking if there was any Ritchie Valens tie-in at the fair (Valens played there in 1958) and then stumbling across one. That item doubles as a mini-profile of a musician and his wife who perform at the fair. That’s followed by a few Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette. To steal from a Valens song title: Come on, let’s go…to my Sunday column!

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Column: LA landmarks pop up at fair

I visited the LA County Fair on Wednesday for the first time this season to take a walk around and see some sights. I focused on the LA Pop Architecture show on the hill, but also stopped at a vegan food stand and the Millard Sheets Art Center. That’s all part of Friday’s column.

It was a fruitful visit that will result in a column item or two on Sunday and possibly a full column next Wednesday. Above, the trippy art piece “Emergence.” Stand in front of it and the elements might appear in motion.

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Restaurant of the Week: Kiku Sushi

Kiku Sushi, 3090 Chino Ave. (at Emerald Way), Chino Hills; open 11:30 to 10 p.m. daily

Chino Hills has more good Japanese restaurants than any other Inland Valley city. I tried Kiku Sushi recently; it’s in the same center that has a Harkins 18 cinema and a few so-so restaurants. Kiku means “chrysanthemum.”

A friend and I arrived just as the place opened for lunch, which I say to explain the photo below of a seemingly empty dining room. The restaurant was nearing capacity by the time we left.

Apparently Kiku is known for its all you can eat sushi, but that’s how I (crunch) roll. I just ordered off the sushi menu.

I had albacore ($6.50) and yellowtail ($7.50) nigiri sushi, with large pieces of fish. Unusually, besides the two pieces each on rice, a third piece of each fish was provided. That was new to me, but a nice bonus.

I also got my standby, the salmon skin cut roll ($6). (As the tuna melt is my baseline sandwich, the salmon skin cut roll is my baseline sushi.) Not the best version I’ve had by any means, but acceptable.

My friend got the tonkatsu bowl ($7), a fried pork cutlet over rice. No Japanese food enthusiast, she liked it.

Service via an English-language server was helpful. A giant video screen played YouTube music videos, which was a little tacky. A better touch were the slatted screens over the windows, which muted the light coming in from outside. It’s hard to block out an ocean of asphalt, blinding noontime sun and throngs of people headed for the multiplex a few yards away, but the screens did a commendable job of creating a cozy atmosphere.

Kiku is fairly average as far as Japanese restaurants go in Chino Hills (and some on Yelp say it’s really gone downhill after an ownership change), but I’d go there again for a semi-civilized meal before or after a movie. It’s got to beat Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Column: Stories onstage, anxiety backstage at ‘Unheard LA’

Do you want to know about the “Unheard LA” show in Claremont last Saturday that had yours truly as a participant? I went back and forth on that, before deciding that perhaps you would, even if you weren’t there. Tipping the scales, writing about it was a simple way to share the video for the show. Read about it in Wednesday’s column, and if you watch the video, be kind. (I start at about 33:00, but all 90 minutes are worth watching.) Above, a view of me from the audience. Look at all the people! Maybe it’s just as well I couldn’t see them.

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Reading Log: August 2019

Books acquired: none

Books read: “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle; “American Fried,” “Alice, Let’s Eat,” “Third Helpings,” Calvin Trillin

Happy September, readers! Welcome to our monthly books chat, here at the end of beach reading season. We don’t seem like a beach-reading-season crowd, but ehh, it seemed like something to say.

All the books I read in August had to do with food. How many books, though? It depends on how you count.

You’ll see four named above and only three in the photos. That’s because “The Tummy Trilogy” is, as the name suggests, three, three, three books in one. But when I bought it, I already owned one of the books individually, unread.

You could say accurately that I read two: “What to Eat” and “The Tummy Trilogy.” On my personal list of unread books, I listed all three “Trilogy” titles individually. So I’m saying, also accurately I believe, that I read four. To bolster my case, I switched from the “Tummy” paperback to the “Alice, Let’s Eat” hardcover at the appropriate time before returning to “Tummy” for the third book.

Book lovers will be arguing about this for years, I predict. (Note: Not really.)

Now, let’s dig in.

“What to Eat” (2006): Fair and sensible advice by America’s best-known nutritionist based largely on what you’ll find aisle by aisle in your supermarket. Marion Nestle advocates for food with fewer ingredients, less added sugar and fewer chemicals; thus, in the scheme of things, Coke is better than no-cal versions, butter better than margarine. While I learned a lot in reading this, it’s also true that of the probably 10,000 facts in these 500-plus pages, I’ve retained about a dozen. But they may serve me in good stead.

“The Tummy Trilogy” (1994): “I’m a specialist; I just eat,” Trillin says of why he doesn’t cook. This collects his three books about food — published in 1974, 1978 and 1984 — all of which I found equally enjoyable. The New Yorker writer travels far and near to investigate catfish, crawfish, country ham, pan-fried chicken and other regional favorites, often with commentary from his wife and daughters, with frequent laudatory mentions of his native Kansas City. This is as much domestic comedy as it is food writing. His youngest’s finicky tastes inspired the last piece, “Just Try It.”

Where did I buy these three, er, four (or is it five?) books? “Tummy” came from Changing Hands Books in Tempe, Arizona, in 2009, “What to Eat” from Borders in Montclair in 2008 and “Alice” from I’m not sure where circa 2007.

Will you let us know what you read in August in the comments? Provide your own count of your total, please. I’m worn out.

Next month: a few cc’s worth of titles.

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Column: Rialto cousins went to LAX to greet the Stones

In my third (!) column about the Rolling Stones relating to San Bernardino, two cousins tell me about a teenage adventure in which they went to LAX to see the band arrive on June 3, 1964. Their moms and siblings came along. Also, a man shares the story of watching the band flee Swing Auditorium after their first concert there, and, jumping ahead to a couple of weeks ago, a friend tells me about her adventure with the band at the Rose Bowl concert. So many adventures, all in Sunday’s column.

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Column: ‘Unheard LA’ storytelling event coming to Claremont

I write about preparations for the KPCC-FM live taping of “Unheard LA,” to take place Saturday in Claremont and in which I’m taking part, in Friday’s column. Also: I reveal my superpower (unexpectedly, it relates to the new Tarantino film), offer a couple of Culture Corner items and close with a vignette about an astronaut. Above, a familiar face at the run-through in Pasadena Tuesday, shot by Allen Callaci. (I shot him for my column and he returned the favor.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Maniac Mike’s Cafe

Maniac Mike’s Cafe, 1749 W 13th St. (at Benson), Upland; open daily, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cable Airport has had a restaurant going back at least to the 1970s, gaining the name Maniac Mike’s in 1999 under new owner Mike Stewart. Like most restaurants at general aviation airports, there’s the food and then there’s the chance to see small planes take off and land, or to just enjoy the ambiance of a low-key airport.

Mike’s closed after a fire and the owner’s death in 2018, as I’ve recounted; it’s reopened in the same family but with a new look. At this writing it’s still in the soft opening phase until the patio can be completed. A friend and I ate lunch there two weeks ago and I may as well file a report on it.

The menu is largely the same as before, with hot and cold sandwiches, pancakes and such. My friend (whose name is Mike, but who is no maniac) ordered the “biplane,” a half-sandwich and soup or chili ($10). He got roast beef, piled four layers high, and chili, which as you can see came with cheese and onions. He washed it all down with a Runway IPA, one of the beers on tap ($6). “It was good diner food,” he said.

I got my baseline sandwich, the tuna melt ($8.55), the one by which I judge a diner. This tuna melt was above the baseline, tasting fresh. I got steak fries as my side; they were OK, but boring, and I left most of them behind.

The airplane kitsch is gone, replaced by handcrafted tables of reclaimed wood, teak paneling, tile and hanging copper lamps. The staff described it as “modern chic.” It’s almost a gastropub look. The patio will triple the seating and should be a popular spot.

The only disappointment, unless the fries count, is that during an hour lunch, only one plane was seen in action. C’mon, pilots, step it up.

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‘Unheard LA’ in Claremont

The KPCC-FM storytelling show “Unheard LA” goes on the road to theaters around Southern California. Its next edition is in Claremont. And as the photo above hints subtly, I’m in it.

Eleven people will tell personal stories that have something to do with SoCal. I’m there to represent Claremont. (Represent!) The show is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. RSVP at It’s free, but there’s a lot of interest, so you have to reserve a seat to get in.

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Column: Workers crush it during grape harvest in Fontana

Grapes are being harvested in north Fontana off the 210 Freeway by workers for Galleano Winery. At 220 acres, it’s the largest vineyard in the Inland Valley. The grapes are great, Galleano ways, but the property’s long-term future is in doubt. I write about this age-old tradition in Wednesday’s column. Above, passerby Carly Palomar takes photos of a gondola full of grapes.

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