Have you ever been to Citizens Business Bank Arena? I saw two concerts there, both in 2010. The facility just hasn’t fulfilled its potential as a music venue. As the management of the arena changes, I offer some perspective in my Friday column, along with Culture Corner items and a note about two local connections in the new Westways issue.
The Meat Cellar, 665 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Claremont), Claremont; closed Mondays
Located at the eastern entrance to Claremont, in the plaza with Blue Fin Sushi, Meat Cellar is a butcher shop that also cooks food to eat in or to go and sells wine. As a frequent visitor to the Starbucks next door, I noticed Meat Cellar as it was going in earlier this year and have been in for dinner three times — which will tell you right there that I like the place.
There’s simple seating and you order at the register, past the butcher case. There are a half-dozen specials on the board plus a short printed menu, and they will also cook anything in the case that catches your eye. On one day, the specials were lamb chops, salmon tacos, BBQ pork sandwich, halibut, and
muscles mussels with fries, ranging from $12 to $21.
Twice I’ve had steak frites ($19, above), a hanger steak atop a bed of fries, the first time because it sounded good, the second time because I remembered how good the first one was (I was not disappointed). My other visit I got herb-crusted tenderloin with mixed greens ($17, below), another winner.
Generally I’ll eat a steak maybe twice a year. I’m not one for the formality, or pricing, of a steakhouse, or one who wants to get a mediocre steak at a cheesy family restaurant. Meat Cellar makes it simpler for me. Also, due to ordering at the counter, tipping doesn’t seem necessary, which makes the meal more affordable (by, well, 15 to 20 percent, right?).
They serve beer (from nearby Claremont Craft Ales) and wine. On my visits, the music has been cool, with lots of Bowie, Tears for Fears and the Smiths. The restaurant has no freezer, with all items delivered daily, and all the meat and poultry is organic, antibiotic-free and, as appropriate, grass-fed and pasture-raised.
I like it — but then, I said that up top.
La Paloma, possibly La Verne’s oldest restaurant, opened in 1966 and is turning 50. I tell its story in my Wednesday column.
Wilson’s on the La Verne border was first a sandwich shop, opening in 1930, and later a broiler, or steakhouse. It closed in 1962 and four years later the renovated building opened as La Paloma, which is still in business 50 years later.
The accompanying, undated images are courtesy of the La Verne Planning Department. The one above seems to be the earliest. Click on it for a larger view. The sign at the far right reads “Pure Orange Juice” and the fruit stand appears to be to the left. I really want to go back in time, travel narrow Route 66, pull over at Wilson’s for a sandwich and pie, and check out the orchard behind.
Below, a Wilson’s Broiler image and, at bottom, a Sandwich Shop postcard that shows patio dining.
It was bad enough when Brand Bookshop closed in July 2014, but now its across-the-street neighbor on Glendale’s Brand Boulevard, Bookfellows, is closing at the end of this month.
Bookfellows was likewise a used bookstore, a bit more clean and orderly than Brand, specializing in fiction, especially genre fiction. Its science fiction selection in particular was the stuff of legend, with shelf after shelf of mass market paperbacks from the ’60s to the ’80s, arranged alphabetically. Ray Bradbury logged more than 20 in-store appearances, and it was easy to see why he would like the place.
The store had sections for certain prized characters, such as Sherlock Holmes, not just the books but Holmesiana such as pastiches and studies, and for classic fantasists like ERB, Lord Dunsany, Talbot Mundy, Clark Ashton Smith and the like. In many ways, this was my favorite bookstore around L.A., and the fact that it was near Brand Books and in the same block as the Alex Theatre added to the allure.
Well, the Internet has eroded the brick-and-mortar book business, making the store, open since 1999, increasingly untenable. The owners, Malcolm and Christine Bell, sell on the web too and decided to focus on that. (It’s known online as Mystery and Imagination Bookshop.) Good for them, but too bad for those of us who love wandering the stacks, carrying want lists but willing to be surprised.
I made a pilgrimage there from Claremont July 2, the day after getting back from vacation, to see Bookfellows one last time. Everything was 70 percent off. Much of the best stock was gone by this point, but if I were in more of a book-buying frame of mind (and didn’t already have a few unread books from the store) there would still have been finds.
Most of August Derleth’s Solar Pons mysteries were there, in multiple copies, and six or eight of S.S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance mysteries, which I’d never seen. A short spinner case had nothing but Agatha Christie books. Thee were short shelves of P.G. Wodehouse and Ross Macdonald.
Ultimately, I bought Lester del Rey’s “Marooned on Mars,” a ’60s paperback, as a memento to the glory that was. The store is due to close July 30. The LA Times wrote a nice feature on them.
In Chicago, Champaign and St. Louis, I got around on a surprising (even to me) forms of transit, including several types of trains and buses. I devote Sunday’s column to the topic. Above, an L train shortens the Chicago Theatre blade sign into something fashionable.
Friday’s column is about my vacation in Chicago, from food to attractions to an unusual shuttle ride from the airport. Have you been to Chicago yourself? What were your impressions? Above, “Cloud Gate,” or “The Bean” as it’s popularly known, in Millennium Park.
Snow Station, 1 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at railroad tracks), Claremont
Claremont is a good ice cream town, or more accurately frozen dessert town, for which it doesn’t get enough credit. In the Village there’s Bert and Rocky’s (traditional ice cream), A La Minute (nitrogen ice cream), 21 Choices and Yogurtland (frozen yogurt), with another 21 Choices and a Baskin Robbins near each other on Foothill. And now there’s Snow Station.
Formerly a Verizon store, and then Pie St. pizza, this little shop is at the south end of what we might call the American Apparel building. Blink and you’ll miss it. Snow Station appears to be winning the battle despite its location.
It’s a franchise of a slightly different concept, a vegan ice cream parlor, although it’s not billing itself that way. The offerings are described as a blend of ice cream and frozen yogurt, both non-dairy because soy milk is used. “No longer do vegans and lactose intolerant individuals have to watch while others enjoy ice cream or frozen yogurt,” the back of the menu reads. The result is said to be lighter in calories, which I can believe, because it’s not dense.
Flavors and toppings are reminiscent of Yogurtland.
There are three sizes: mini ($4), baby ($6) and hungry ($8). My first visit was with a friend, and we each got the mini size, which looks like the kind of cup in which you’d get two scoops. For that price you get your choice of ice cream, topping and drizzle. I went with peanut butter, bananas and honey; my friend got raspberry, Heath bar and nothing. (She was a fizzle on drizzle.)
What you get is snowy, almost like shaved ice, snow with milk or homemade ice cream from the days when you churned it yourself. (Have you had the latter two? I have, although it’s been decades.)
“This is very refreshing, isn’t it?” my friend said. “It’s very tasty. This doesn’t give you brain freeze, either.” I agreed.
I liked it enough I went back a couple of weeks later. This time I got pineapple with strawberries and honey, another good combo, at the same size. I will say Snow Station isn’t quite as satisfying as traditional, dense ice cream, or even frozen yogurt. Another customer was heard to say, by way of praise, “It’s almost fluffy.” But it’s unique, light and very good.
Also, it’s kind of cool when a Metrolink train goes by.
Books acquired: “Preston Falls,” David Gates; “From Bill, With Love,” Bill McClellan; “The Fiddler on the Subway,” Gene Weingarten; “The Silent Invaders,” Robert Silverberg; “The Best of Henry Kuttner,” Henry Kuttner; “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch; “Marooned on Mars,” Lester del Rey.
Books read: “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek; “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor.
Greetings, bookish ones! We’re halfway through 2016, a year that (among many other things) has seen me read 19 books, my slowest pace since I started these blog posts in January 2009 (a mini-essay that included the offhand promise, “If I remember, I’ll write one of these posts each month”).
In my defense, if one must defend one’s reading pace, a few of these books have been long, including one of this month’s. Too, though, I’ve taken fewer Metrolink trips, which would reliably provide time to read 50 or 100 pages, and my coffeehouse visits, rather than give me reading time, have given me laptop/wifi time.
So I’m on pace for a mere 38 books. That’s 38 more than most Americans are likely to read this year, but not up to my usual standards. I have a pretty good idea what else I’m likely to read this year, give or take, and while I might put on a burst of speed and get to 40, at this point 35 or 36 seems more likely.
Well, let’s get to what I did read. All of June, the last week or so of May and the first day of July was spent reading the 550-page “Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor. She’s the author of the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” read by many, including me, in school. Generations of students have quietly and humorously rendered the title as “A Hard Man is Good to Find.” But it’s a great story. In a college class, we read at least two of these 31 stories.
This book has haunted my shelves ever since, awaiting the day when I would read the whole thing. That day finally came — over a period of about six weeks. Actually, I intended only to reread those two stories and abandon the book, but then I read another, and another, and gave in, committing to the whole thing.
O’Connor, who died in 1964, was a Southern writer who wrote about the South in mid-century. Her stories can be funny and horrifying, sometimes at the same time, and most have a devastating impact. Some find her stories too cruel, her characters too idiotic, and it’s true too that her concerns, often race and class, as well as morality and duty, are repetitive. I ate these up. O’Connor should be as well known as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and she’s more consistent than either. Highly recommended.
“Forgotten Bookmarks” was compiled by a bookhound who photographs unusual items left in books acquired by his family’s used bookstore. He has an enjoyable blog. I expected to enjoy this book more than I did; the problem, I think, is that too many of the items are curiosities like letters left in 19th century books. There just wasn’t much fizz here.
That book was a gift from earlier this year, while O’Connor’s dates to my college days, probably 1985. There’s a sticker on the back from the University of Illinois campus bookstore, although I’m pretty sure I bought it at the campus used bookstore, Acres of Books, now long gone. Aside from my Shakespeare omnibus, from which I read a play now and then, “Stories” was the oldest unread book in my possession. My goal the past couple of years was to finish all my “Illinois” books by June 2016, 30 years after my move to California, and I almost made it. Onward to California books!
You’ll note I bought seven books in June, the result of visits to six bookstores, most of them while on vacation. I’ll post soon about the lone non-vacation store.
How was your June, readers, and how is your year shaping up at this halfway mark?
Next month: the end times (in a manner of speaking).