Some end of November photos

Just a few shots here and there of what turned out to be a blissful few days celebrating Thanksgiving — and time off!

Palms in sunset

The Korean friendship bell housing detail

Yet another Flying Saucer Attack style cover

Sunset over Chevron

More of the Korean friendship bell

A sunset observed

Meanwhile, a couple of restaurant reviews

Because why not?

So two new spots have opened up in Costa Mesa recently have already garnered a lot of attention — and well deserved too, it turns out. Various photos and comments via Flickr and Twitter prompted a few demands for more information so here we go…

Right near where I live, Valhalla Table is a sausage/beer spot that is essentially a riff on places like the wonderful Wurstküche up in LA. As Edwin Goei’s OC Weekly review points out, the secret to the place lies with the owners and main chefs, two sisters from Indonesia who clearly know their market. I hadn’t read the review when I first visited a couple of weeks back but I knew that was the chefs’ background and so I figured that the dishes to try would be those reflecting that cuisine. Bulls-eye — as Edwin’s review, backed up by his own family knowledge of Indonesian cuisine, confirmed and this photo of my meal shows:

Valhalla Table

So what you’re seeing there is the wild boar Balinese sausage, with sambal balado topping — Wikipedia has a sambal entry if you’d like to learn more — and the resultant rich, fiery taste is a treat and a half. Meantime, the dipping sauce for the fries was their mango curry mayo blend, a perfectly sweet but not sugary counterbalance to both the fries and the sandwich. The beer selection is pretty good for a small spot — that was one of the porters I had there — while the owners, who first opened a bakery over in Irvine, also make their own desserts; their double chocolate cookies rival the Avanti Cafe’s killer chocolate truffle cookies, and that isn’t light praise on my part. I’ve since brought other folks over to the spot and they’ve all left raving about its excellence so I figured word of mouth is going to sell this spot pretty darned quickly, and the staff are all friendly and helpful folks. And hey, it’s one block over from where I live, I can’t beat that!

Meantime, a spot down near Triangle Square that hosted the Italian/Argentine spot Pasta Connection was recently transferred to a new owner/chef. Pasta Connection is still around — they moved up the road a bit — but its replacement, Il Dolce, is also an Italian/Argentine cuisine location, and it is already knocking things totally out of the park. Il Dolce has also benefited from an Edwin Goei writeup as well as one in the LA Times, and I’ve noticed threads and discussions on Chowhound and other spots around the net. As I had the day off on Thursday I figured going down for a lazy early afternoon lunch would be the way to go — and was that ever the right decision, the place is simply stellar.

For an initial appetizer I went for a beef empanada — always a good standby if you’re trying Argentinian cuisine — and gotta say that might be the best one I’ve ever had in a restaurant setting:

Il Dolce empanada and sauce

Looked great, the side sauce was excellent and the empanada itself just tasted wonderful, the classic combination of a flaky but firm crust and the blend of meat, eggs, spices and more inside. I would have had more but in combination with a good greens salad, I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for the main dish itself, one of their pizzas. I went for the pizza patata:

Pizza patata

This wasn’t as good as it looks, folks — it was BETTER. Let me put it this way, even the rosemary was stellar, and the blend of that, the potatoes, the pancetta, the mozzarella, filling but not overstuffed…I was completely in heaven. Add in a Quilmes beer and I took my sweet time eating this one up, because I didn’t want to rush any of it. No room for dessert but next time out, that’s definitely part of the plan.

So yeah, check ’em out.

School of Seven Bells — worth the hype

School of Seven Bells

Bluntly put but true. I came to School of Seven Bells fairly cold in terms of their collective background — and you wouldn’t believe how many people were shocked to hear that I had never heard any Secret Machines before (hey, I knew the name, I was just busy with other things!) — and what I heard of their recorded work was enjoyable and a grower, but didn’t immediately make me go “OMG greatest thing ever!” as so many other people did.

I’d heard enough reports about their live show, though, to know that catching them with Black Moth Super Rainbow (a good act, not the end of the world for me but the new album’s nice) when they played the Detroit Bar was kinda key. So it proved — to my slight surprise I ended up perched onstage a bit while the show started off well about halfway through it all turned spectacularly wonderful. All three members bring something different to the stage and the sheer monstrous blast of the music — electronic rigor/feedback explosion/keening harmony — was breathtaking and enveloping. Very much put me in mind of usual suspects — Chapterhouse’s Loop fetish, Curve’s similar tech/guitar combination, MBV of course — but with their own particular stamp. So yeah, catch ’em.

Opening guy James Yuill turned out to be a pretty good act himself — ignore the ‘folktronica’ label, yeah he uses acoustic guitar and a live electronic setup but he has his own thing going and I wasn’t surprised to learn he’s remixed Patrick Wolf. Photo sets for both here and here and here’s some sample shots from both:

James Yuill

James Yuill

James Yuill

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

Into the final local votes — a county measure and Costa Mesa offices

Okay, the longer I procrastinate on this thing the more likely it is I’ll be posting about my choices after I actually voted. Er.

First off, the one countywide measure on the ballot this time around — Measure J. It requires voter approval of increases in pension funding for county employees, and this article discusses the pretty salient fact that there’s been no campaign against it. The employee unions aren’t thrilled by it — I don’t blame them at all, frankly — but they’ve concluded there was no way they could beat it, so they didn’t bother. Defeatist perhaps but hey, you have to pick your battles, and this is Orange County, after all. So there ya go — I think I’d have to vote NO on this one but it’ll cruise to victory.

Meantime, turning finally to my own city of residence, Costa Mesa (I’ve been here for over a decade now, much to my surprise). First, there’s four candidates up for two director positions for the Costa Mesa Sanitary District — hey, you want the benefits of city services, that means you look at everything, and Costa Mesa’s own program is part of the plan. At the same time, based on some initial searching beyond the candidate statements, there’s little here for me to go on right now, except that a lot of people are annoyed at James Ferryman for voting for a pay increase for himself and fellow sanitation board members in the county. Still thinking about this one but I’ll probably vote for current member Art Perry as well as challenger Dan Worthington.

Finally, Costa Mesa City Council. I actually spoke at a City Council meeting once many years back, when Dave from my favorite record store Noise Noise Noise protested a city ordinance that was being haphazardly enforced regarding stickers and posters on business windows. Speaking against it was Dave, myself and a member of the local Libertarian Party — a lineup that might not happen again. Meantime out of all the years I’ve been here only one City Council member ever canvassed directly for my vote as part of a series of neighborhood visits — and I admit I remembered that so well that I ended up voting for her. Can’t go wrong with the personal touch, after all — as Obama’s campaign has made clear this year, for instance.

But otherwise the City Council generally trundles along without me — little surprise as to why, since I’m not a property holder here, I don’t have kids going to local schools, I’m not a businessman here…otherwise I might have a greater stake in things. However, one thing I had noticed over the years was a pretty nasty bit of anti-Latino nativism that hasn’t been pretty, something the question of illegal immigration further exacerbated.

Meantime, the other week I was introduced to A Bubbling Cauldron, a local blog recommended by the OC Weekly a few weeks back as being the best political blog in the county, with a focus on Costa Mesa city politics in particular. But before I got around to reviewing it in detail the other day, I sat down and reviewed the candidates via their statements and other associations. I recognized a few names in particular in the endorsements for some that were immediate red flags due to the issues I’d noted, and I wasn’t pleased to see them back again. So after some thought, I settled on a slate of three candidates — Katrina Foley, William Sneen and Jim Righeimer. This wasn’t a case of perfection in all instances, I should note, but they seemed like the most sensible candidates of the bunch, allowing for where we were at.

Then a few days later I finally dug into A Bubbling Cauldron more thoroughly — and yesterday he linked to a lengthy letter he had had published in the local paper explaining who he was endorsing and why. As it turns out: Foley, Sneen, Righeimer. Still, after reviewing his letter and finding out a bit more about another candidate, Christopher Bunyan, who hadn’t provided an initial statement in the sample ballot, I decided he might be better in comparison to Righeimer, so I’ll probably vote him as well as Sneen and Foley.

I definitely know I’m *not* voting for Gary Monahan or Eric Bever, though.

And with that, my trundle through the ballot’s done.

Roll on tomorrow! Political Blogger Alliance

October mornings in Costa Mesa

There were a couple of classic Bloom County strips featuring Opus and company watching an endless overload of news stories about politics, war, economic doom and more besides, numbly switching off the TV and going out into a field and having a ‘dandelion break.’

That was kinda this weekend for me. And among other things I took this photo. Hope your weekend was recuperative too.

Another Costa Mesa sunrise…

…oh darn!

Sunrise over Costa Mesa

I just happened to turn around on my way to the bus stop and saw this. I love the fact that I can capture moments like this on the fly and share it with the world as desired — gotta love the 21st century.