Monday, July 2, 2012

North Hollywood Sunday Escape

Those of us with limited vacation days but who are afflicted with the travel bug, must become creative in obtaining the feel of vacation without the actual crossing of borders or puddle jumping on planes...we must find novel ways to get a taste of an escape.

A Sunday afternoon/evening in North Hollywood is one way to achieve this.  Now, some of you may scoff of the idea of Hollywood feeling like a vacation, what with the traffic and complications of getting from point A to point B that Los Angeles is infamous for.  However, there are pockets of the City of Angels that can truly feel like you've left So Cal and ventured somewhere new.  North Hollywood can be such a place.  It seems less like the Los Angeles of skyscrapers, and more like a small town suburb somewhere in the Mid West or East Coast.

My adventure with my fellow wanderlust companion began with a lunch at SweetSalt.  A friend of mine works there, so he joined us for the meal, answering all our menu inquiries so we did not have to give our actual waitress the usual inquisition (we're not cruel, but infinitely curious).  They have an open kitchen, so you can watch your food be prepared, which is always reassuring that you are getting a quality meal.  The food does not disappoint in portion, presentation, or palatableness.  The menu changes frequently but there is surely something on that menu to please everyone: salads, sandwiches, soup, and DO NOT leave without a pastry: we had a sampling of macaroons (citrus, pistachio, and salted caramel).  The decor is simple and clean, inviting.  If I lived near by, I'd certainly become a regular.  This clean, well lighted place struck me as a fabulous venue to do some writing: the space is so open and full of light that it frees up room to let words resurface in the mind.

For something to do after your macaroons, check to see if the Crown City Theatre is having any matinee shows.  We caught one and found ourselves in a tiny theatre with about 50 seats or so tucked away behind St. Matthew's Church (about a mile from SweetSalt).  Small venues are truly the way to experience a play, you feel more a part of the production, and you feel you know the characters by the end.

After the play, we traveled (after some Yelp research) off to Thailand via the Rustic Spoon.  Although the location is somewhat hidden, it was overflowing with hopeful and hungry patrons - always a sign that you have chosen well for your dining delights.  The menu holds the usual Thai specialties, noodles and curries, but beautifully presented such that you almost feel bad for digging in.  We're rather tight on our dollar, but the price and portions were just right for us.

The real reason for our journey to North Hollywood was to attend a concert at Ford Amphitheatre.  Parking onsite is $10 which is steep (for us) but well worth it in terms of time/cost value, especially when you are trying to fit in multiple components into your day "vacation."  I'd never been to this venue, but after visiting I wonder why more shows aren't outdoors.  Well, I know there is the sound science of acoustics involved, but that aside (and potential rainy weather too) sitting amongst fellow fans and watching a musician you admire OUTDOORS simply can't be beat.  Of course, we hit the conditions just right: twilight hour the bled into clear-sky night, pleasantly cool but not cold, and a periodic gentle breeze made the ambiance nothing short of perfection.  The venue lets you bring in food and blankets, so you end up feeling like you're just watching a jam session of friends in your living room.  Magical.

We ended our day exhausted and, of course, met unexpected (or rather ALWAYS expected) traffic on the way home. But it mattered not, we were high on the glow of a novel escape to North Hollywood, and a day full of journeys into culinary worlds, theatrical realms, and kingdoms of melodies.