Toad in the hole


Some friends and I made an inaugural visit to the Tam o’ Shanter, a Los Angeles restaurant. The Tam (2980 Los Feliz Blvd.) opened in 1922 and is said to be the city’s oldest restaurant in its original location and owned by the same family. (It’s also said by Jonathan Gold to serve the city’s best classic cocktail, the Moscow mule.)

I saw toad in the hole on the menu and couldn’t resist. I’ve never had one, and what a great name. It’s described as filet mignon with onions, mushrooms, burgundy wine sauce and Yorkshire pudding. I couldn’t picture it but was ready to be surprised. And was.

Yorkshire pudding, it turns out, is basically a puffy pastry. I don’t know what the toad is, and didn’t see any holes, but I liked it. That said, if I return, and I may someday because the Scottish theme, cozy setting and history make the Tam a unique spot, I’d probably opt for something different; one friend got a hand-carved prime rib sandwich on an enormous poppyseed bun.

What is toad in the hole? My understanding is there are various versions, and the American style can differ from the original British. The Simply Recipes site¬†says the English version is sausages in Yorkshire pudding, while the American is “an egg cooked in the hole cut out of a piece of bread.” You’ll note that these two dishes have absolutely nothing in common.

One reason for my interest is the old stand at the L.A. County Fair named Toad in the Hole. It was there from 1933 until 2008, when it was bulldozed. The stand’s motto was “The Aristocrat of Foods.” Its last decade, it was Toad in the Hole Pizza, which seems less aristocratic somehow. As for what the stand served, Charles Phoenix said it was “filet mignon tucked inside baked potato,” while a Fair spokeswoman said it was “a piece of toast with an egg fried inside it.”

It’s not surprising these recollections differ, is it? Anyway, above is the Tam o’ Shanter version, below is the Tam’s sign and at bottom is the Fair’s stand, as seen on the Panoramio website by Pomona’s Danny Mac.



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Oldest surviving restaurants in LA


The Los Angeles Beat blog compiled an amazing list of LA and environs’ oldest surviving restaurants, organized by year of opening. Oldest: Santa Clarita’s Saugus Cafe, 1905. A number of Inland Valley restaurants are on the list, including Sycamore Inn (1939), Vince’s Spaghetti (1946), Magic Lamp (1955), La Paloma (1966) and more, even if they can be hard to spot in scrolling.

Oldest restaurant out our way: 1918’s Golden Spur in Glendora. (Photo from the KoHoSo site.)

See the list here, and congratulations to Nikki Kreuzer for the labor of love in putting it together, and in adding to it based on reader comments.

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A day trip in LA


Wednesday’s column is about Grace Moremen and Jacqueline Chase, two Claremont residents who’ve written a guidebook, “Loving LA the Low Carbon Way: A Personal Guide to the City of Angels via Public Transportation.” For the column, we took a Metrolink trip together. The online version has hyperlinks to more information about some of the sights we saw. Here are some photos from the day, all shot by me except the one I’m in, which is by Moremen, an enthusiastic photographer.

Above, Moremen, left, and Chase walk through Union Station; below, Chase and I knock on the World Peace Bell (clang! clang!). If world peace doesn’t break out, it won’t be our fault. Below that, they look at books in the Central Library’s children’s room, a lovely space with enormous windows, custom carpet and murals.




Above, the Rendezvous Court of the Biltmore Hotel — so swank! — and, below, one of the wall panels in Biddy Mason Park.



The Bradbury Building, above, is ornate and filled with natural light. Below, Moremen and Chase relax on a sofa in the Last Bookstore.



Moremen and Chase chat on the Red Line subway back to Union Station. Below, a Virgin of Guadalupe mural adorns a wall off Mariachi Plaza.



Moremen photographs a Buddhist temple in Little Tokyo from a Gold Line train. Below, our Metrolink train pulls into Union Station for the ride home. We were tired, but it was a good kind of tired.


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Al Martinez, 1929-2015


The longtime LA Times columnist died Monday at age 85 of congestive heart failure.

I met him in Pomona in 2009. He was at Pilgrim Congregational Church as part of the Big Read for Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” to talk about his career, which included a book about his dog, Barkley. I had him sign my copy of “Dancing Under the Moon.”

I was, darn it, too shy and awed to really engage him in conversation, what with so many people around, but I did write a few paragraphs about what I observed at the dinner afterward. Martinez and his wife, Joanne, whom he called in print Cinelli, her previous name, had a conversation about his speech that was much like the exchanges that enlivened his columns.

Martinez: Could you hear me all right?

Cinelli: I could hear you pretty well.

Martinez: What does that mean? Could you hear me or couldn’t you?

Cinelli: I could hear you fine.

Martinez: Then why did you say ‘pretty well’?

Cinelli: You don’t project.

LA Observed, the site where he continued to write after the Times retired him, has a tribute.

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Two moments of Zen


One of the little-known public spaces in downtown L.A. is the Japanese rooftop garden at a hotel in Little Tokyo: formerly the New Otani and Kyoto Grand, now a DoubleTree (120 S. Los Angeles St). I read about the garden perhaps eight years ago and visit now and then, always feeling as if I’m in on a secret. It’s accessible to the public, either from the hotel’s lobby elevators or from Weller Court, the adjacent minimall.

I was there again on Sunday on a visit to Little Tokyo in which I followed the path laid out by the book “Walking L.A.” by Erin Mahoney. It was a good day for it because I wanted to catch the last day of the “Marvels and Monsters” comic book exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, which is the first stop on the tour.

So, I took Metrolink and the Gold Line, visited the museum, saw some public art and the garden (above) and ate ramen in Weller Court.

My next stop was the Japanese American Community Cultural Center (244 S. San Pedro St.), which I’d never seen before. The guidebook led me to elevators that took me to the basement, where there is … a Japanese garden.

This is the James Irvine Garden, opened in 1979 and featuring a 170-foot stream. See below.

Two public Japanese gardens in downtown L.A.? I was humbled by my ignorance. I could see the DoubleTree from the Cultural Center garden and wondered if I might have been able to see the Cultural Center garden from the DoubleTree’s garden. I’ll have to go back sometime and check.

Incidentally, they are friendly folks at the Cultural Center. On my way out of the garden, a woman introduced herself as the CEO and president, handed me brochures and invited me to the opening of a ukelele (!) performance area in the coffee shop upstairs. I only popped my head in, as I had a train to catch, but it’s cool when a place is so welcoming.


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Rally Bear makes them quake


The so-called Rally Bear who briefly, and unauthorizedly, entertained the crowd at the Dodger-Cards game Monday night was — local angle alert! — Mark Monninger of Rancho Cucamonga, a former Tremor for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. LA Weekly talks to him about his stunt and posts a funny video of his antics. (That second split looks like it hurt.)

Monninger is banned from the stadium for six months, which I guess means he can’t attend baseball games this winter. Gosh!

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The Apple Pan


West L.A.’s venerable Apple Pan was mentioned in my column last Wednesday and I thought I’d post about it here as well. After all, as it’s been around since 1947, surely some of you have eaten there. It’s in the shadow of the Westside Pavilion mall. “Quality Forever” is their motto, and like In-N-Out, they do only a few things but do them exceedingly well.

Burgers, fries and pies are the main items, although they have a few other sandwiches, including what’s said to be an amazing egg salad. (I’d try it, but as I eat there about once every five years, I stick to the burgers.) The weird name must have to do with their apple pie. Well, the name is memorable.

Everything about the place is vintage, including the staff, who wear paper hats and aprons, and the cash registers, which ring you up in pre-electronic style.

I had a steakburger with cheese, Coke (with a paper cone of ice in a stainless steel holder) and banana cream pie. The bill came to $17.10, but was well worth it. Check out the pie: Unusually, the bananas have their own layer, with the cream part above and below. Delicious.

As I headed back to the 10 Freeway on Overland, I saw a portion of the Expo Line under construction. If it’s a station, as I think it is (the map is here), that will put the Apple Pan within walking distance of a transit stop, and after its 2015 opening I’ll probably go more often.

You can read more about the restaurant on its Wikipedia page, and for the definitive take, read Charles Perry’s lengthy 60th-anniversary¬†piece from the Times.



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He takes in a museum doubleheader


Above, “La Gerbe (The Sheaf)” by Matisse at LACMA.

You can keep your baseball doubleheaders. I took in two museums in one day, the Hammer and LACMA, and both were free, thanks to a Bank of America deal offering free admission to certain museums the first weekend of the month for customers. Naturally I did the whole thing on public transit. The most expensive thing I did that day was a $10.50 lunch. You can read all about this outing in Sunday’s column.

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