December 20 – January 7
The next morning, we met Heather for breakfast at another longstanding favorite, Maxwell’s near the Marina del Rey. Here is a review I wrote about it back in 2014:
I’ve been going to Maxwell’s Cafe since the 1980’s and have always enjoyed the food. Not the cheapest or the most expensive, the quality is always top notch and with good portion sizes. The famous garbage omelet is my go-to here, either the one with ham or the one with avocado. When I was in grad school at Loyola Marymount, I’d head over there on exam days around noon (my exams were at night) and put one of those omelets with home fries and toast into my tank. Later on, a diet coke and an energy bar would be all I needed to get through the three-hour exam, the omelet providing the needed reserves. Daily specials are unique and tasty, particularly different variations of pancakes or waffles. Of all of the places I return to when in Los Angeles, Maxwell’s get a visit each time.
After breakfast we dropped the rental car off at LAX and using Lyft, returned to the house to relax a bit before we all made our way to Festoon, an event space on West Washington Boulevard where the wedding was being held. It would be a lovely occasion, the mingling of a couple of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds (Chinese, Persian, etc.) that exemplify what it means to be an American, that is we all came from somewhere else, we are all immigrants. And over time we we mingle and marry and the barriers that exist between the races begin to dissolve as we all assimilate and take our place as dutiful citizens.
After the official event was over we drove into the heart of Culver City for a last round of drinks on the outdoor patio of the Culver Hotel, a national historical landmark built by Harry Culver, the founder of Culver City, and opened in 1924. A six-story Renaissance Revival Flatiron shaped building designed by Curlett & Beelman, it fell into disrepair over the years until being partially restored in the 1990’s and then fully brought back to life in 2007. Seated at a nice spot on the crowded patio, we found that as long as you sat in close proximity to the space heaters, it was remarkably comfortable for a late evening in December.
We all slept in a bit late on Sunday and somewhat hastily packed and cleaned up the house for check out, and then drove to the corner of Rose and Lincoln in Venice to meet Ron, Linda, Chelsea, and Brandon for brunch at a favorite spot of theirs, Casablanca. We’d gone a few times ourselves many years ago but had not returned in some time to this place known for their seafood (particularly calamari) and large selection of tequilas.
We were there for the brunch and what a bargain it turned out to be, unlimited Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, or Sangria along with a nice selection of entrees. We’d order a spectrum dishes including Carne Asada and one special request of the Calamari Mojo de Ajo only with Shrimp instead. All for the remarkable price of $16, crazy good given this is West Los Angeles we’re talking about.
From there we drove down to Solana Beach to spend the holiday with our west coast family, Kim, Marty, and Kris’ brothers Taylor and Simon. We would do many of the things we’ve done in the past and visit a number of familiar haunts. First up would be Pizza Port that Sunday night; the guys heading over to order a couple of pies to go and while waiting, enjoying a couple of beers, particularly the Pliny the Elder they had on tap, a rare find but often encountered here.
Monday, we drove down to San Diego to that great seafood market Blue Water Market and Deli for lunch and to pick up the fish we would prepare for dinner Christmas Day. Joanna and I split an order of the Lobster Bisque and a taco apiece, for her the Track Taco (grilled fresh wild pacific shrimp marinated in chipotle butter with Maui onion, mango slaw, melted cheddar, dressed with homemade white sauce, tomatillo sauce and avocado on a fresh corn tortilla) and I the Blue Water Taco (swordfish, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, homemade white sauce on a warm corn tortilla).
I don’t seek out fish as often as I should, a holdover from my childhood in a home where we didn’t eat it at all (except for the occasional meal of fish sticks) as my Father didn’t like it. But I’d eat this stuff every day if I lived nearby, the freshness, flavor and preparation pulling you in. We picked up our large order for Christmas Day (Swordfish, Halibut, Mussels, Shrimp, Salmon, and Scallops) and returned to the house.
A quiet afternoon ensued with group participation video games on the TV taking center stage and a large jigsaw puzzle picking up the stragglers. Much later, a little bit of hunger setting in, we did some searching around to see who might be open on Christmas Eve and discovering that Union Kitchen and Tap, a familiar haunt from the days when Kim and Marty had the apartment nearby and so drove up to Encinitas to eat once again.
We ordered a round or two of cocktails and as usual Joanna and I split something, this time the Country Poutine (House Seasoned Kennebec Frites, White Cheddar Curd, Maple Sausage Southern Gravy, Bacon Lardon) that was just the right amount of food to end the day. We returned to Solana Beach to await the arrival of Santa Claus and the holiday to follow, at home with folks we know and love, the best place to be any time of the year.
Culver Hotel: http://www.culverhotel.com/
Pizza Port: https://www.pizzaport.com/brewpubs/solana-beach
Blue Water: https://bluewaterseafoodsandiego.com/
Union Kitchen and Tap: https://www.localunion101.com/