Nightlife: Bringing the soul of Cuba alive in Alhambra

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THE PLACE: At the gateway to the San Gabriel Valley — the city of Alhambra — you’ll also find a gateway to Cuba. Cuban Bistro off Main Street offers a taste of Cuban culinary delights as well as live salsa music that brings the soul of Cuba alive. Helping guests to delve deeper to find their inner Ricky Ricardo, live salsa music is offered on Friday nights starting at 9 p.m. and jazz on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

THE PRICE: There is no cover charge to take in the live music. Drinks start at $6. I decided to try the tequila mojito while my partner tried the house mojito.

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The simple syrup in my drink was much sweeter than I am used to; I almost couldn’t stand to finish it. But I had a sip of the house mojito and it wasn’t as sugary. I tried the house sangria as well. It came with a nice heap of fresh-cut apples and oranges on top. This is now my favorite sangria; it was not too sweet or overwhelming but still had plenty of flavors of fruit and wine, which is what a sangria is meant to be. Appetizers ranged from $5.50 to $17.50 for a house sampler.

THE SOUNDS: You couldn’t help but swing your hips to the lively music in the room next to the bar. In the bar area, it is possible to hold a light conversation, but next door, you can barely hear anything above the beat of the drums. But most people in there didn’t want to talk, anyway.
I love dancing and I am not usually shy about it, but the skills of many dancing couples on the floor did make me feel a bit intimidated.

THE FOOD: To my dismay, I was not able to try any of the dinner platters or even appetizers the Friday evening I visited the bistro. My partner and I sat in the bar area and were handed menus by our waitress at about 10:15 p.m. and when we were ready to order, she said the kitchen closed at 10:30 p.m. I looked at my cell phone for the time: it was 10:31 p.m. I think she could have mentioned that when she handed us the menus and took our first drink order.

AGE GROUP: The restaurant is open to all groups and ages, but they card you in the bar area after dinner. The age of the crowd on Friday night varied from mid-20s, all the way up to 60s and 70s.

BEWARE: The bar gets a little busy after 10:30 p.m., and it might be tough to find parking. There is free parking in the structure behind the restaurant with the entrance off Second Street. The bar also closes at midnight — even on the weekends.

THE VIBE: There was a fun, carefree feeling in the air. Groups of friends gathered at the bar and in the dance room together. Couples canoodled in the corner while others took to the floor. If you are not the shy type, don’t be surprised if you are asked to the dance floor by another patron — male or female.

GO: Cuban Bistro is located at 28 W. Main St. in Alhambra. It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Fri.; noon to midnight Sat.; noon to 10 p.m. Sun. and closed Mon. Happy Hour is 3 to 7 p.m. Tues. through Fri. For more information, call (626) 308-3350 or visit www.cubanbistro.com

MY RATING: 4 With the music, this place gets pretty hot.

claudia.palma@sgvn.com

RATINGS: 5: Really, really hot; 4: Hot; 3: Fun, loose, low pressure; 2: Cool; 1: Just OK.

(Photos by William Hallstrom / Correspondent)

Weekend guide: Cal Phil, gourmet eats, music junkies and a barbecue deal, sweetened

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  • FRIDAY, 5-8:30 p.m.

Cal Phil Family Night, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Did we mention it’s free? Bring a guest or pack your 30-member extended family into a bus and, guess what, it’s still free. Music education activities begin at 5 p.m., and the free California Philharmonic performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Get there early, bring a picnic spread and enjoy the Arboretum in its twilight glory. (No alcohol allowed for this family event.)

301 North Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
www.calphil.org

  • SATURDAY, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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Open warehouse sale, Nicole’s Gourmet Foods

For the first time ever — and for this day only — Nicole’s is offering wholesale prices on its cheeses, charcuterie, foie gras, beverages, grains, pasta, rice, spices, specialty oils, vinegars, chocolate, tart shells, fruit purees, vanilla … you see what we’re getting at? The South Pasadena gourmet heaven is opening the doors on its neighboring Alhambra warehouse to the public, and sophisticated palates everywhere rejoice.

961 S. Meridian Ave., Alhambra
(626) 403-5751
www.nicolesgourmetfoods.com

  • SATURDAY, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and SUNDAY, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunset Junction Street Festival, Silver Lake

It’s the definitive hipster street festival on crack. Come with an open mind and deep wallets — you’ll need the cash flow if you want to stock up on the millions of bizarre goods for sale from street vendors. The weather promises some reprieve from the sweltering fests of years past. It’s not supposed to break 80 this weekend, so you can brave the crowds and blacktop without fear of heat stroke. Oh, and there’s a pretty sweet music line-up, including these headliners: Mary Wilson, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Sly and Robbie, Built to Spill, Les Nubians and Nortec Collective. Check the schedule to catch your faves.

Advance, $15; $20 at the door. 12 and under and 65 and older get in free.
3700-4300 Sunset Blvd. and 4000-4200 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake
(323) 661-7771
www.sunsetjunction.org

  • ANY TIME

Gus’s Barbecue, South Pasadena

UrbanDaddy‘s got the lush scoop on this one:

“In case you need some added incentive to make a pilgrimage for some no-frills ‘cue,  Gus’s has unleashed a little contraption called the Bourbon Box — it’s a sampling of three bourbons. In a box. For $12. Incentive approved.”

808 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-3251
www.gussbbq.com

(File photo: A variety of sheep’s milk cheese is on sale at Nicole’s Gourmet Foods in South Pasadena)

Photo finish: Revisiting the historic Octagon house, formerly of Pasadena

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The Times’ Sam Watters, in his Lost L.A. column, digs into the “multidimensional” history of the famed Octagon house:

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“Along the Arroyo Seco Parkway from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena is
a collection of 19th century buildings saved from L.A.’s busy wrecking
ball. At Heritage Square, which isn’t a square, you’ll find a house
that isn’t a rectangle. It’s an octagon, built for a family in Pasadena.”

It was built in 1893 by Gilbert Longfellow (and, actually, was not his first construction of an eight-sided home) who ran a family farm that was later taken up and expanded by his son.

After falling into disrepair, the building was moved from Pasadena in 1986 to Heritage Square. In the photo above, the Octagon house is transported down Colorado Boulevard, crossing over Fair Oaks, on Aug. 11, 1986.

It was the second move for the historic structure, which had been relocated the first time in 1917 “to a city lot about a mile north of the farm on Allen Avenue,” according to the Heritage Square Museum Web site.

Writes Watters:

“At the time of the final move, Pasadena Heritage argued that the
Longfellow house should remain in the city of its origin. But the horse
was already out of the octagon; Longfellow’s house should never have
been moved in the first place from the original location on San Pasqual.”

In the color photos above, a renovations specialist puts some finishing touches on the house, 10 years after it was moved to Heritage Square.

You can visit the Octagon house, and many other historic structures, at Heritage Square, 3800 Homer Street, Los Angeles, along the Pasadena Freeway, just north of Dodger Stadium and downtown.

Open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and most holiday Mondays from 12-5 p.m. From Nov. to March, hours are 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Guided tours of most of the structures depart hourly, from 12-3 p.m., from the Palms Depot. No admittance after the final tour has departed.

Adults, $10; Seniors, $8; Children, 6 to 12, $5. (323) 225-2700

(File photos)

Promise of creation at Art Center’s summer graduation showcase

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(Above, photo courtesy Crystal Jean Photography / Art Center College of Design (c) 2009)

Last week we attended the Thursday-night graduation show preview at Art Center College of Design to get a glimpse of some of the work being produced by a slew of summer graduates. (The actual graduation ceremony was on Saturday.)

The massive showcase was held on Art Center’s Hillside Campus and featured displays from each field of study at the design school.

We culled just a handful of the highlights from Art Center’s hallways and showrooms, every square inch of which were wallpapered with student work, promising and advanced.

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Strother has exhibited his work at Alhambra’s Nucleus Art Gallery, Pasadena Central Library and L.A.’s Ghettogloss.

His brilliantly colorized figures remind us of muecas quitapenas, but in Strother’s works the color comes, most of the time, from without.

Engaging African and Afro-American iconography and boilerplate notions in miniaturized detail, Strother’s forms are mesmerizing.

(Right, top) “Tear Down the Dancehall,” 2009, gouache, acrylic, Cel-Vinyl and silkscreen on cut paper

(Right, bottom) “Please Don’t Tear Down the Dancehall,” 2009

(Images courtesy of Devin Troy Strother)

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A skilled portraitist and illustrator, Davison’s work conveys complex ideas as radically simple visual statements.

Illustration, at right, illuminating the inflating value of the American college degree. At far right, Davison’s illustration explores the notion that people are increasingly turning to the Internet and technology as substitutes for meaningful human relationships.

Also check out Davison’s blog.

(Images courtesy of Eric Davison)

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  • Kelly Ahn

Ahn’s contemporary character designs and background illustrations blend the flavors of Tim Burton and “Alice in Wonderland” with a “Coraline” aesthetic; her work tastes to us like a colorful sweet-and-sour swirl.

At right, “Wicked Cat,” part of a clay animation project. See more on Ahn’s blog.

(Photo by Evelyn Barge)



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  • Rawn Trinidad

Trinidad was part of the award-winning Designmatters creative team that in May was honored with the Corbis Creativity for Social Justice Award & Scholarship, part of
the ADC 88th Annual Awards program recognizing the best in advertising
and design from around the world. See the Art Center team’s entry here.

At right, part of Trinidad’s graduation show display. Our take: Cube World meets Tokidoki.

(Photo by Evelyn Barge)

Levy’s sustainable tea-drinking device turns the concept of enjoying a cuppa on its head.

The single-serving Moietea uses just enough water and electricity to create the perfect serving, while wasting not — and wanting not.

The idea appeals to us, and not just because we’re known to suck down several cups of ginseng oolong in a handful of writing hours.

The green movement is becoming an economic powerhouse; There’s definitely a market for this product. We can already imagine the Ikea packaging.

(Photo courtesy of Sharon Isadora Levy)

24-hour art: Daniel Buren’s ‘A Rainbow in the Sky’ at shifting One Colorado in Pasadena

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Another large-scale public art installation is on display in the One Colorado Courtyard, and it is already garnering a lot of attention from the media and public since it went on display over the weekend.

The installation is presented by One Colorado, Armory
Center for the Arts
, and FLAX, a Los Angeles-based foundation
dedicated to fostering a cultural exchange with France
through the arts.

“A Rainbow in the Sky” is the second display in that space for French contemporary Daniel Buren. (The installation follows his 2007 work “A Colored Square in the Sky.”)

In between the Buren displays, the courtyard was home to Yoko Ono’s equally popular and interactive “Wish Trees” in 2008.


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There’s a lot of change going on in the One Colorado complex right now, with a couple arts projects taking up residence there and general retail fluctuations. The old Gordon Biersch is still vacant, but several new stores — including Dot’s Cupcakes and Jumping Jellyfish — are moving into the complex.

You can get a sense of the transition in the photo at right. Shadows from the “Rainbow” installation dance on the ground, while construction crews work on the Gold Class Cinemas that is expected to open in December.

(Photos by Walt Mancini)

In the garden: Lessons and leisure, as nature intended

ARBORETUM
301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. (626) 821-3222

  • Saturday: A Square-Foot Gardening Workshop explores the technique of more intensive and multi-level gardening, using 1/5 the space of a conventional garden and less water and energy; 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. Aug. 22, in the Oak Room. $25. There is no tilling of the soil; included are lessons on setup, planting, watering, growing vertically, pest control and harvesting. Register at (626) 821-4623.

  • Saturday: Broadway’s Best with the Cal Phil Orchestra, 7:30-10 p.m. Aug. 22. Tickets start at $20. (626) 300-8200 or www.calphil.org

DESCANSO GARDENS
1418 Descanso Drive, La Caada Flintridge. (818) 949-4200

  • Thursday: Wine tasting, For Heaven’s Sake!, Minka Terrace, 6-8:30 p.m., Thursday. $49-$54, large appetizers chosen to compliment the wines. (818) 790-3663.

  • Friday: Summer Night Walk with senior docent Jim Jackson, who leads this leisurely evening walk, giving botanical and historic highlights; 7:15 p.m. Friday. $15. Register at (818) 949-7980.

HUNTINGTON LIBRARY, ART COLLECTIONS, AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. (626) 405-2100

  • Saturday: Art of Flower Arranging, 10 a.m.-noon, Aug. 22. Designers from Flower Duet will teach a workshop, using flowers from Australia to create modern floral arrangements; participants will take home their own arrangement. $85. Register at (626) 405-2128.

  • Saturday & Sunday: Southwest Chamber Music Summer Festival, final summer concerts includes selections by Aaron Copland, Alexandra de Bois, and Franz Schubert; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 22 and 23. Loggia seating, $45; lawn admission $28. Pre-concert dinners available, $55. (800) 726- 7147 or www.swmusic.org

HOME TOURS

  • Sunday, Oct. 4: Pasadena American Society of Interior Designers 23rd Annual Home and Kitchen Tour showcases five unique homes in Pasadena and Arcadia, with kitchens from five diverse designers; 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 4. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of the tour and include a map to each home. (800) 237-2634

– Compiled by Linda Fields Gold

Nightlife: Let’s go Home for that drink

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THE PLACE: It may feel nothing like the place you grew up in, nor where you currently hang your hat, but somehow the welcome mat at Home is one-size-fits-all. The Silver Lake location proclaims in neon letters its breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails — why ever leave? — on a giant birdhouse perched overhead. So even if you’re just migrating through, you’ll always have a place to nestle down.

THE PRICE: Everything at Home, from the drinks to the dining room fare, is affordable. Drinks run about $7 to $10, with beers coming in at $5 or less. I chose two polar opposites — a cucumber-mint muddled vodka cocktail and a mudslide. Both were delicious, but the first won by a landslide — or, technically, a mudslide. It’s a perfect summer cocktail.

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THE SOUNDS: It was uber-quiet on my most recent Monday night visit. I wondered if all the residents of Home had already stumbled up some invisible stairs and and were tucked into bed. But I’ve also seen the place pop on a Friday night, including a fabulous chop-and-swap party I attended in a private area of the restaurant. Friends rented out the space to celebrate the successful giving (and receiving) of a kidney. Thanks to one friend’s life-saving organ donation, both the giver and receiver were able to attend the festivities. The staff handled the well-attended party with panache.

THE FOOD: Home has a massive menu stocked with comfort foods, and all items are available no matter where you sit, inside, outside, at the bar. The menu covers all the basics, from burgers and pizza to wraps and all-day breakfast. Just like your real home, mom always has a specialty dish. Here, it’s Mom’s Famous Chicken Almond Salad, with chicken breast, mayo, tarragon, sweet relish, toasted almonds, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber and carrots ($9.95). The Mexican Taco Salad is also a standout; At $8.95, it comes with corn, black beans, red onion, tomatoes, bell peppers and Monterey Jack, tossed in ranch dressing and garnished with tortilla chips and spicy taco seasoning.

THE VIBE: It’s so laid-back you might find yourself looking for pop’s beat-up La-Z-Boy to take a nap. My favorite spot to relax at Home is the outdoor seating area, a literal oasis — with running water fountains — amid the surrounding urban sprawl.

AGE GROUP: The restaurant attracts all ages, but in general, the masses trend toward Eastside hipster youth and working-class professionals.

BEWARE: There’s so many old-school, haven’t-drank-this-since-college cocktails on the menu. (Woo Woo? Check. Peach Fuzz? Check. Sex on the Beach? Check.) Don’t sample too many, or you might get Home-sick.

GO: Home is located at 2500 Riverside Drive in Silver Lake, (323) 665-0211. Plenty of free street parking is available along Riverside. A second location is at 1760 Hillhurst Ave. in Los Feliz, (323) 665-4663. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to close. Closing hours are seasonal; call ahead in colder months.

MY RATING: 3 Ever notice how nothing seems to change when you go home? It’s like that here — and that’s a good thing.

evelyn.barge@sgvn.com

RATINGS: 5: Really, really hot; 4: Hot; 3: Fun, loose, low pressure; 2: Cool; 1: Just OK.

Pasadena POPS will move to new venue, in Pasadena, for 2010 season

>>INSIDER

Culture Monster reported early this morning that the Pasadena POPS will move from Descanso Gardens, where they’ve played for the past 12 years, to a lawn near the Rose Bowl.

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The rendering at right, photographed by Keith Birmingham, shows what the new venue adjacent to the Rose Bowl will look like.

The POPS — along with musical director Rachael Worby — return to its namesake city for the 2010 season, starting on June 19 with a fireworks concert.

The Star-News has a gallery of photos from the press conference Friday.

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The bottom photo at right, taken in 1996, shows Victor Vener conducting the Pasadena POPS during an evening summer picnic at Descanso Gardens.

(File photos)

Weekend guide: Demonic presence, some Serendipity, a semi-permanent rainbow and TRAFFIC!

>>GO

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  • FRIDAY, noon-9 p.m. (opening, on display through March 8)

“Divine Demons: Wrathful Deities of Buddhist Art,” Norton Simon Museum

You won’t want to rub these Buddha bellies. Opening at the Norton Simon Museum is “Divine Demons: Wrathful Deities of Buddhist Art,” a contrast to the smiling Buddhas and serene enlightened beings in the museum’s collection. These figures — many of them baring fangs, drinking blood, or wearing garlands of severed heads — represent the “demonic divine,” protectors of the Buddhist faith. There are 18 paintings, sculptures and ceremonial objects from the Norton Simon permanent collection in this intimate exhibition.
Museum is open every day except Tuesday, from noon to 6 p.m., and noon to 9 p.m. Fridays.
General admission, $8; Seniors, $4
411 W. Colorado Blvd.
(626) 796-4978
www.nortonsimon.org

  • FRIDAY and SATURDAY, 8 p.m.

Serendipity, Madera Design House, downtown L.A.

Serendipity (pictured) promises to be the least stuffy of garden parties, with live installations, aerial artists, dancers and stilt walkers. To boot, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure: Interact and write your night’s story with a collection of characters and creatures with whom to play. The open invitation comes with this curious caveat: “Once you purchase your tickets, you will receive information on location and dress code.” Oh, how we love a good mystery.
Admission: $30; two for $50. Cash bar.
Information and tickets: www.treetopproductions.org

  • SATURDAY (opening, on display through Nov. 15)

“A Rainbow in the Sky,” One Colorado Courtyard

Artist Daniel Buren returns to Pasadena with a large-scale site-specific art installation consisting of 2,268 colorful, striped flags suspended over the pedestrian square. The flags move with the breeze, casting thousands of moving shadows on the courtyard below.  Best of all, viewing the display is free. Just show up.
Located between Fair Oaks, Colorado Boulevard, Union Street, and Delacey in Old Pasadena.
www.armoryarts.org

  • SATURDAY, 3-4 p.m.

Benny Chan talks about “TRAFFIC!”, Pasadena Museum of California Art

The museum hosts an artist talk with Benny Chan, who doesn’t photograph anything you’ve never seen in Southern California (got that?). He’s an architectural photographer who shoots airports, parking garages and, in his exhibit “Traffic,” aerial shots of rush-hour traffic. Chan designed a camera to capture gridlock especially for the series at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. His geometric compositions hint at the darker side of those constructions, like the loneliness of a laundromat or the chaos of our traffic system. Chan captures the beauty and monstrosity of curlicues in an interchange — in a way Google Earth never has.
490 E. Union Street
Free with admission.
(626) 568-3665, Ext. 17
www.pmcaonline.org

(Photos courtesy Treetop Productions/Serendipity)

Don’t read on an empty stomach: Culinary challenge at Roy’s in Pasadena

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It’s almost dinner time, so we thought you could stomach this post. (Although we can’t promise tonight’s microwaveable veggie burgers will have the same taste after you’re done reading about this epicurean adventure at Roy’s.)

Chef Roy Yamaguchi visited his namesake Pasadena restaurant yesterday evening for a gourmet challenge that paired culinary students from the California School of Culinary Arts with top chefs to create a five-course meal for judges.

The winning student, Ariel Fujita, earned an internship with a Roy’s chef for her creation: an Asian flank steak.

Cooking alongside the students were chefs Akira Hirose of Maison Akira; Gary Watanabe of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse Pasadena; Daniel Rossi of the culinary arts school; and Chris George of Roy’s.

The judges for the challenge were TV and movie director Oz Scott; “Dinner and a Movie” host Janet Varnay; “Cheers” star John Ratzenberger; Pasadena magazine managing editor Sarah Haufrect; and Nigel Clark, vice president of international marketing for Sony Pictures.

And now, for the main course; Feast your eyes on these yummy photos:

Let’s take it from the top: Chef Roy Yamaguchi in the kitchen at Roy’s Hawaiian fusion restaurant. Middle, the winning dish, an Asian flank steak, crafted by Ariel Fujita. Bottom, guest judge Janet Varnay, host of TBS’ “Dinner and a Movie” (center).

Clockwise below, starting at top left: Seared salmon wrapped in crunchy nori. Roy’s chefs Chris George, left, and Keith Yamaguchi working the kitchen. Miso seared foie gras. Toffee crunch bar with strawberry-guava marscapone. Pan-seared day scallops. Culinary student Stefan Lam prepares a dish before the judges’ table. (All photos by Keith Birmingham)

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