Los Angeles by Tastes

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

-Julia Child

Hamachi Tostada at Animal

Hamachi Tostada at Animal

As I was researching restaurants for our weekend in Los Angeles, I found I was as overwhelmed as I was when researching dining options in San Francisco. There seemed to be no shortage of intriguing dining experiences. Originally, Trois Mec stood out as a must-at-least-attempt-to-get-reservations choice, but as I was practicing and preparing for the one shot I’d have at purchasing “tickets,” our evening took a different turn when a special screening of 20,000 Days on Earth – complete with a solo performance and Q+A with Nick Cave – was announced for the very same night and we decided to put our ticket purchasing efforts towards that.

I was really looking forward to trying Trois Mec, but Nick Cave will always trump anything else, so my first choice restaurant had to go by the wayside. One needs to have their priorities straight. Unfortunately, Trois Mec is only open Monday through Friday, and Friday night we had tickets for another Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert, so a multi-course tasting menu was out of the question.

The research would have to continue.

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San Francisco by Tastes

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

-George Bernard Shaw, “Man and Superman.”

Chefs at work at SPQR

Chefs at work at SPQR

Traveling down the west coast to follow Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on tour this summer provided the perfect excuse to try out some of the most noted and notorious restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles. After all, a girl’s got to eat and I figured I might as well do it up right. I started with San Francisco and began my research months in advance so I’d have plenty of time to exercise my reservation-making mojo. What was I looking for? I wanted creative chef-driven food served in a relatively informal atmosphere. I wanted food that would tell me a story, and I was open to a challenge if that’s where destiny took me. But while my selection criteria was simple, making final decisions in this world-class food city was not. I did a lot of hemming and hawing because there seemed to be an overwhelming number of options. Luckily, I had a couple of limiting parameters: two of the four nights required early meals before heading out to rock and roll shows so that eliminated restaurants with multi-course tasting menus, and one night I would be solo and wanted a restaurant with a chef’s counter where I could sit comfortably on my own and watch the action. Michelin stars were not a requirement of the selection process, but they proved hard to resist and ended up being a common thread.

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Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds – Part 3 (20,000 Days on Earth)

This day is both more real and less real, more true and less true, more interesting and less interesting than my actual day, depending on how you look at it.

-Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth.

July 10th – Los Angeles

20,000 Days on Earth. (Photo courtesy Drafthouse Films.)

20,000 Days on Earth. (Photo courtesy Drafthouse Films.)

On our first night in Los Angeles we found ourselves standing in a line that wound around the block at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater to pick-up will call tickets for a special screening of the new pseudo-documentary about Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth. Craig and I had already been lucky enough to see the film back in May at the Seattle International Film Festival, and I was thrilled to see it again before its official release in September. But that’s not all. There was also going to be a special solo performance and Q+A with Nick Cave following the screening. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world when my fabulous husband scored a pair of these very limited and coveted tickets as an anniversary gift.

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Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds – Part 2 (Do You Love Me?)

She was given to me to put things right
And I stacked all my accomplishments beside her
Still I seemed so obsolete and small
I found God and all His devils inside her
In my bed she cast the blizzard out
A mock sun blazed upon her head
So completely filled with light she was
Her shadow fanged and hairy and mad
Our love-lines grew hopelessly tangled
And the bells from the chapel went jingle-jangle

-Nick Cave, “Do You Love Me?”

July 7th – San Francisco

The Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

The Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

After meeting up with my great friend Todd on Sunday night in San Francisco and getting to relive every moment of my incredible series of interactions with Nick Cave at the Portland and San Francisco airports in the retelling of my story to him, we set out to spend the next day exploring the city we both used to live in.  In fact, San Francisco is the city where we first saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live back in 1989 on the Tender Prey tour, so it was a sort of homecoming on many levels. While I was still reeling from all that had happened on this trip already, I also realized I was only two shows into my tour and still had a lot to look forward to.

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Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds – Part 1 (Higgs Boson Blues)

Can you feel my heartbeat?
Can you feel my heartbeat?

-Nick Cave, “Higgs Boson Blues.”

Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA

Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA

A little over a year ago, I tried to put my long-running love affair with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds into words while suffering through withdrawals after two glorious live shows in Seattle and Vancouver on their Push the Sky Away tour. It was a cathartic process that had been building up over the past twenty-five years. At that time, I had no idea when I would have the opportunity to see them perform again. It had been five years since their previous tour for Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and it would not have been surprising if another five years were to go by before their next tour. Don’t let the time lag fool you. Nick Cave is a prolific artist so the time in-between tours is not because he’s idle but rather because he’s working on so many other artistic endeavors aside from his music with the Bad Seeds: film scores with collaborator Warren Ellis, screenplays, novels, an opera. But then one random day I was caught unawares and heard a rumor of another U.S. tour planned for 2014. Time – along with my heart – stopped for a moment.

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Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Seattle's Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Seattle’s Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

On Saturday, October 4th, tens of thousands of participants in over 100 countries across six continents gathered to march on behalf of wildlife worldwide in an effort to raise awareness about the toll that poaching and other forms of killing are taking on many of the world’s iconic animal species. In Seattle, approximately 200 marchers descended on the city’s International Children’s Park as part of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. Hosted by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, the pre-march celebration included music and dancing by Aguacero, and featured speeches by actor Tom Skerritt, local activist Lisa Kane, and University of Washington professor Samuel Wasser, among others.

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Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest

Knowing what we know about how chimpanzees experience the world, we believe it is wrong to use them in invasive biomedical testing. There is a compelling case for ending the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research. The United States and Gabon are the only countries left in the world still using chimpanzees in the biomedical industry.

-Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest

The Cle Elum Seven: Burrito, Foxie, Jody, Annie, Jamie, Missy, Negra

The Cle Elum Seven: Burrito, Foxie, Jody, Annie, Jamie, Missy, Negra

It must be an unexpected site to behold. You glance out your car window while driving along the foothills just south of Cle Elum in Central Washington, and up on a hillside above the Yakima River, nestled among horse ranches and other rural outposts, you spot dark shapes moving behind a fence line. Two fence lines, in fact; both electrified. Too big to be dogs, too small to be bears, it takes a few moments to focus in but when you do you slam on the brakes as you suddenly realize you’re looking at… chimpanzees?

Yes, chimpanzees!

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Rest In Peace, Watoto

No More Dead Elephants - Remembering Watoto

No More Dead Elephants – Remembering Watoto

Earlier this afternoon Woodland Park Zoo announced that its only African elephant, Watoto, had been euthanized. Zoo keepers found the forty-five year old female elephant, who was brought to Seattle from Africa at the age of two, lying down and “unable to move to an upright position, which is unusual for her.” Staff spent the morning trying to lift Watoto onto her feet, but according to a press release they issued this afternoon, “it was apparent her health was quickly declining and she would likely become more uncomfortable as hours passed,” and so made a decision to euthanize her.

As has been reported extensively here, Watoto was one of three elephants at Woodland Park Zoo, living in cramped confines alongside two Asian females, Bamboo and Chai. Controversy over the zoo’s elephant breeding program led to a Zoo-appointed task force last year, whose majority recommended that Watoto be shipped to another zoo to make room for a breeding elephant.

How Watoto’s death will affect the Zoo’s plans to continue their breeding program remains unknown at this time.

Advocates, including ourselves, have argued that Woodland Park Zoo should do the humane thing and close their elephant exhibit and retire its occupants to an elephant sanctuary. In 2012 the Seattle Times ran a multi-part exposé on elephants in captivity, publishing data showing that for every elephant calf born in zoos two die, and that in general elephants in captivity suffer and provide no real conservation value.

Our hearts go out to Watoto, and to everyone who raised their voice in her name.

We would like to strongly encourage Woodland Park Zoo to do the right thing and retire Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a space better suited for these magnificent animals than the prison cell they are currently afforded. And we would like to encourage our readers to write the Zoo, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and the Seattle City Council, and add their voices to the growing chorus calling for sanctuary.

Travel well, Watoto.

Seattle City Mayor: [email protected]
Seattle City Council: [email protected]
Woodland Park Zoo: [email protected]

Children & Nature Conservation Zimbabwe Trust

William Altoft first traveled to Zimbabwe in 2009, sparking a love for the country and an interest in all things Africa. He returned to Zimbabwe this past year to volunteer at a new project centered on conservation and education. When not volunteering abroad, he studies Wildlife and Practical Conservation at the University of Salford in the UK, where he is entering his final year.

My off-the-cuff lesson on food chains and food webs. (Photo courtesy William Altoft.)

My off-the-cuff lesson on food chains and food webs. (Photo courtesy William Altoft.)

The project that I’ve been off in Zimbabwe helping at this summer is CNCZ: Children and Nature Conservation Zimbabwe Trust. It’s a young project and primarily revolves around going to schools and teaching conservation lessons, but there is also a wildlife research element to it. The project was conceived and started by a Zimbabwean friend of mine named Evans Mabiza and is currently, and hopefully continually, based in Matobo Hills National Park, Zimbabwe. The project’s emblem is the Southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), a bird endangered everywhere it is found in Southern Africa, except in Zimbabwe. CNCZ wants to know why it does so well there.

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A Tale Of Two Lunches (Il Corvo/Lecosho)

Il Corvo in Pioneer Square.

Il Corvo in Pioneer Square.

Recently I had two lunch dates in one week: one to welcome a new arrival to the Emerald City, and the second to say goodbye. Since I’m a brown-bagger most days I was thrilled when they were both willing to come into my neck of the woods for lunch and let me pick the restaurants.

The farewell lunch was with a former colleague who is heading off to Tanzania (can you see me turning green with envy?) for at least a year and maybe forever. We met at Il Corvo, which I’d been dying to go to ever since it moved from the Pike Place Market hill climb to just a couple of blocks away from my office. For some reason I had yet to make it; maybe because it takes a little effort to get there early if you don’t want to wait outside in a long line in the rain. Il Corvo, which means “the crow,” is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm. Three pasta dishes are offered daily based on the season and the chef’s whim, and when they run out you have to go somewhere else. It’s a tiny place and we were lucky to get a table at 11:30am, as just a few minutes later the line was out the door and up the street.

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