Bambi Recommends: Los Angeles 2017

Disclaimer: This list does not mean to discredit any of the locations mentioned. On the contrary, if you have the time, do both. However, if you’re looking for the lesser known option, this line-up offers alternatives to the landmarks that get a lot of attention. I also focused more on activities since there are plenty of food recommendation lists online (links at the bottom).

Instead of the LACMA,
Museum of Broken Relationships
Started in Croatia, this museum collects tangible mementos that are attached to ephemeral memories of a relationship gone sour. Each item has a short blurb next to it explaining the story and the museum rotates new items in every few months. Not all relationships featured are the romantic kind but they’ve got their fair share of heartbreak.

They usually have an interactive part that visitors can add to as well, be it fill-in-the-blanks or an alter for moving on. I spent the most time at these.

Instead of the MoCA,
The Broad
One of the best museums I’ve been to as far as contemporary art goes. It’s much less WTF, more FTW. With Koons, Kruger, and Murakami pieces, it’s vibrant while still having a witty intellectual critique on society’s vices. Plus some of the stuff is just weird AF so you can have a lot of fun with your camera.

Entrance is FREE but you have to wait in line for a while especially now that Yayoi Kusama’s got a whole setup there. Tickets are sold out for that but you can go early and hope to snag a few same-day standby tickets if you’re lucky.

Instead of The Last Bookstore,
$5 or Less Bookstore
Don’t get me wrong, if you make a trip to DTLA, definitely head to The Last Bookstore and peruse the shelves of affordable books, get lost in the labyrinth, and stop by Liz Huston’s shop upstairs. But if you don’t feel like heading to the city, there is a chain of $5 or $10 or Less shops that also have substantial collections of second hand stuff for pennies.

The Last Bookstore is still worth a visit but it’s poorly ventilated and parking in downtown is a nightmare.

Instead of Netflixing your Saturday away,
UCLA’s The Hammer
Currently hosting an exhibit on Radical Women: Latin American Art as part of Pacific Standard Time until the end of December, The Hammer holds 20 exhibitions and 300 events every year. It’s also located in Westwood which has lots of shops, restaurants, and public parking that isn’t a total ripoff.

Entrance is also FREE and they’re open until 8pm during the week, closed on Mondays. Another option is the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. Entrance is also FREE but they’re only open until 5pm and closed on Mondays too.

 

Instead of walking the halls of the Getty Villa,
See the Venus Shrine outside the Getty Villa
It’s hidden at the end of the gardens beyond the pool to the left if your back is to the Villa. Here, visitors have tied love prayers to Venus in the traditional Roman fashion: addressing her, complementing her, and then scribbling down wishes for her to grant. You can spend hours flipping through them only to find that everyone wants the same thing in the end: a little love and a little happiness.

Getty Villa has FREE entrance, you just have to pay for parking which is $15 or $10 after 3pm.

Instead of the local Starbucks,
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Starbucks is definitely the king of convenience since they’re everywhere but if you find yourself near the Arts District in DTLA, head to Stumptown for a real cup of coffee. And it’s right around the corner from Bestia. 

Instead of going straight to the bar,
Live Rude Girls at Second City
A lot of comedy legends emerged from this place but the 5-girl troupe that does Live Rude Girls every Friday have a knack for keeping it current, poking fun at today’s misogyny and political woes.

You can get tickets for $6 (50% off) on Goldstar. It’s not a very long show so head to Mama Shelter or Farida for drinks or food after.

Instead of Blue Star,
Primo’s Donuts
I read about how one foodie judges ice cream brands based on their vanilla flavor because it’s a fundamental flavor that will show you what a brand is really made of. I use the same logic when I judge a doughnut joint based on their glazed buttermilk. If you can’t get this basic staple right, you’re not on my radar. It also happens to be my favorite. I’m not a fan of the maple bacon cereal covered crap, just make me a classic old fashioned.

Primo’s is a family-run spot. I popped in with my little sister and met the owner who told us the whole spiel about how he took over from his dad. He then loaded a box of freebies so we could try all their greats. They also serve Stumptown coffee.

Fun fact: After first opening in 1956, they’re opening another branch in Venice soon.

Instead of Perch Rooftop,
Bacari PDR
This wine bar is out in Playa Del Rey across from Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Resto (which is a family-run Italian joint that’s on my food list). If it were closer, I’d be a regular here. It’s low-key, casual, and GOOD like a wine bar should be. Sit on the patio and enjoy the breeze around sunset. They have great wine, $14 sangria pitchers on Sundays, and yummy nibbles to share.

Instead of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 
Rooftop Cinema Club
I never made it to the Hollywood Forever screenings but a woman I gave my extra drink token to told me that she preferred Rooftop because it’s “bougie in the best way possible”  because you get seats, blankets, and decent sound quality. It’s operational in LA, NYC, and London. Only downside is the headphones can get uncomfortable after a few hours – stick to shorter films.

Honorable mentions in this category are Street Food Cinema and Eat|See|Hear. I also watched two of my favorites (Edward Scissorhands and Goodfellas, respectively) at those so my opinion is a little swayed. Whatever you choose, make sure to bring a blanket because LA gets cold when the sunshine is gone.

Instead of Abbott Kinney Blvd,
Camarillo Premium Outlets
These are not near each other whatsoever but Camarillo will offer you much more for your money as far as luxury shopping goes. Abbott Kinney is hipster heaven but I get the gross feeling that I’m being ripped off by businesses that pushed out the real artists of Venice so if paying to dress like a hobo isn’t your thing, drive out to Camarillo and pop into the outlets there – they’ve got all the big names too.

Instead of Seeing LA from the 405 for 3 hours,
LA Conservancy Walking Tours
I can’t recommend this enough. I’m a huge fan of walking tours so these were my mission for the summer. I went on all three offered: Art Deco, Historic Downtown, and Broadway. The docents are extremely passionate about what they do and, after attending each one, you will look at DTLA as more than just the seedy place it can seem to be at times. The buildings have stories and details that you overlook when you’re walking through the atrium to get to Guisados. You learn things like the fact that Broadway was once home to 32 theaters or that Biddy Mason, who was born a slave and was one of the first African Americans to purchase land in the city, had a huge impact on the development of Los Angeles.

Instead of Chick-Fil-A,
Howlin’ Ray’s
ORDER THE FRIED PICKLES. The trick to experiencing this is showing up extremely early, waiting in line for 1.15hr, and eating at 11am. Or having your cousin wait early while you’re stuck on the freeway getting there only to arrive and have your anger dissipated with fried pickles and spicy Nashville fried chicken. No but really, get the fried pickles.

They’re open 11am-4pm and you will wait in line forever if you don’t get there at around 9am. It’s worth it. Make it a Bumble date and get to know each other in line. Worst case, you’re bored to death but, in the end, you still get fried chicken.

Instead of a Broadway show that’ll break the bank,
Rockwell Table & Stage
I saw an unofficial parody of Hocus Pocus at this spot in Los Feliz (pronounced “Fee-liz” because LA) and it was phenomenal. The talent is strong – you’ll recognize some Tony winners and supporting actors – and the jokes are stronger. It was a 90s throwback for a solid hour and a half and they’ll be doing one of Home Alone during the upcoming Christmas season. 

Check out the upcoming shows here. Book ahead because they sell out. You can also go down the street to Jon’s International and stock up on Almaza, labneh, and markouk bread because that’s how you perfect an evening.

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If you’re outdoorsy, hiking is big in LA and there are so many trails worthy of exploring. Instead of sticking to Runyon Canyon and hoping to see a celeb in Ivy Park, download the All Trails app and find something suited for you based on your level and location.

Temporary shows and exhibitions are aplenty in Los Angeles . Kerry Marshall’s Mastry at the MoCA is just an example of a fantastic show that came and went while I was here. There was also Barnsdall Friday Wine Nights which are only during the summer season but worth it. To stay on top of what’s currently going on while visiting, check out these references for LA activities:

Discover LA
Studio DIY
PF Candles
We Like LA
LA Conservancy
Infatuation LA
Thrillist LA
TimeOut’s Summer in LA list
LA Mag’s Best of LA or their lists
SoCal Pulse Weekend Lists

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Bambi Recommends: Alphonse Mucha at the Vittoriano

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In the days of Wacom tablets and Apple pencils, we have forgotten the beauty of creating with our hands. Since April 2016, the Vittoriano complex in Rome has hosted the Alphonse Mucha exhibit curated by Tomoko Sato. Featuring an extensive collection of the Czech artists work, it is an impressive spectacle of the artist/graphic designer’s development as a visual communicator. Sometimes referred to as the “father of Art Nouveau,” Mucha’s work has recognizable trademarks that have made him a favorite among GD students worldwide: whimsical handlettering, floral ornamentation, and an appreciation for luscious locks. By looking at his work you will understand why “Farrah, you have Mucha hair” was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

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The exhibition has sketches showing Mucha’s process as well as the dissection of each communicative piece – the context of the female heroine that he depicts as a goddess with gorgeous hair and effortless attractive appeal. As most creatives would agree, the process is more interesting than the final product and the sheer size of the work is always shocking when witnessed in person. After creating a poster for Gismonda, Sarah Bernhardt signed a contract with him for 6 years – he was that good. His posters are the envy of the designers who slave away on Illustrator trying to emulate that same fervor using the pen tool and anchor points.

The exhibition will be on until September 11th, 2016 and costs 13 E (or 17 E if you go to the Barbie exhibit too) for students.

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Bambi Recommends: Jardins de Laribal

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Forget Park Guell and Parc de la Cuitadella. And while you’re at it, forget Fundacio Joan Miro, which is located at the tip of this green haven in Montjuic. Jardins de Laribal was designed for the 1929 World Fair and was once a part of the private estate of lawyer Josep Laribal. Barcelona’s city council bought the lands upon his death and Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier & Nicolau M. Rubió Tudurí were assigned the task of transforming the gardens into a public domain.

While Park Guell is flooded with tourists, Parc de la Cuitadella full of loud kids and fiesty parrots, and Retiro a 3-hour train ride away, Jardins de Laribal was where I could picture myself wasting a Saturday afternoon reading Cathedral of the Sea with a jamon & brie sandwich packed in my bag. Worst case, you can grab some food from La Font del Gat, a cafe named after the famous cat fountain and located in a building designed by my man, Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

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The green space spans between the Miro museum and the Jardins del Teatre Grec. Forestier linked the gardens with the Greek Theater via staircases and waterfalls, two elements that run throughout the entire area. Small fountains, sculptures, and canopies are scattered along most of the stepped paths. I personally found this to be one of my favorite spots in Barcelona because of its tranquility: you could be alone with your book under the sun while still within walking distance of the central district.

Bambi Recommends: Human+ at the CCCB

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The Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona (CCCB) currently has an exhibition going on until April titled Human+ and, if you have even the slightest interest in humanity’s future, you should go check it out.

Human+ focuses on the technological advances of humankind and projects where we may be going as a species that manipulates our natural environment. From DNA compatibility tests to genetically modified mosquitoes made to fight malaria, the exhibition walks you through the  modern day advances as well as the upcoming conceptual inventions that are right around the corner. One part focused on the idea of the “New City” and how our current consumer culture has turned the entire globe into an enormous assembly line of production, humans being just another cog in the machine.

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In terms of exhibition design, I appreciated the ominous questions and thought-provoking quotes sprawled across the walls. They are the kinds of things you ask yourself after watching any sci-fi thriller or movie about artificial intelligence. “Would you upload your brain to the internet?” Paging Johnny Depp.

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Another shocking display was the euthanasia roller coaster. Using G force and the adrenaline rush effect of a roller coaster, this structure is engineered to humanely kill its passengers by literally giving them the thrill of their lives. The G force is so intense that they pass out due to cerebral hypoxia. Sure, some say it’s an art piece but it’s a bit disturbing that this would be in an exhibition about the advancement of the species and it makes you wonder if someone out there is willing to fund its construction…or already has. This is the video that was shown alongside the model:

I’d recommend going to Dressing the Body first and then Human+ just to continue along the same theme of how we have progressed in modifying our bodies and our surroundings. The exhibition also has a series of talks and debates going on (this one seems like a winner). Check the website for more details. Don’t forget to pick up a brochure on the way out. The back of the Spanish edition doubles as a poster of this image which is now hanging on my fridge. The English version has this creepier Matrix-esque visual because anglophones be freaks yo.

Entrance is 6 Euros or free admission on Sundays from 3-8pm!

Bambi Recommends: Flax & Kale

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After being in Spain for exactly a month, I’ve realized just how much jamon and chorizo I’ve been ingesting. It’s really hard to find turkey around here and with such exquisite cold cuts, why would you want to?

Well, because my stomach can’t handle all that meat all the time. It’s heavy on the digestive system and, about a week ago, I was looking for a light clean meal somewhere. I ended up at Flax & Kale. I’ll admit that I had sent a photo of the restaurant’s storefront to my vegan sister a few days before followed by “I’m not going to go to a ‘flexitarian’ restaurant while I’m in Barcelona!” after she pleaded with me to give it a try.

Pancakes!

F&K’s Healthy Pancakes: red quinoa, soy milk, free range eggs, vanilla, olive oil, blueberry soy yogurt, blueberries, maple syrup

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The food is not only delicious but it’s also satisfying without that stuffed feeling. The fruits have been more flavorful than other restaurants that I’ve been to here possibly because of their organic produce. Their “flexitarian” menu means they’ve got 80% plant-based options but they also have oily fish and eggs on there too. There’s also a juicery.

With my love for burgers, I never thought I’d endorse a vegan restaurant regardless of my being labeled as a hipster thanks to my graphic-designer-badge. Teresa Carles, the lady behind the menu, knows how to make healthy tasty food though. I’ve had Sunday brunch there twice and I know I’ll be back again. After all, I still have to try the rhubarb and strawberry tart on their outdoor terrace.

Moscow: 3 Meals in 3 Days

The Brooklyn of Moscow

The Brooklyn of Moscow

Although this was not my first business trip to Moscow, it was the first in which I got to experience a bit of the city. Did I have stroganoff? No. I did, however, get to see some of Moscow’s hotspots. If you don’t speak Russian and you need to get around, use Uber for cashless transactions or Yandex Taxi if you have rubles on you. You can plug in your destination so you *hopefully* won’t get lost and need to google-translate your way home. Free wifi is usually available at most hotels and cafes so just linger outside of one long enough till you connect.

Buro Canteen 24/7

Buro Canteen is the latest project from Buro 24/7 Russia. If you’re wondering where the Muscovite hipsters hang out, I would imagine it’s at this cafe. The Canteen is located in the middle of an industrial-turned-hip complex that could easily be mistaken for the Highline or Williamsburg. The interior decor is a Soviet Art Deco dream made for Instagram: large vibrant posters, a hand-lettered chalkboard menu, an illustrated world map, and an instant photo booth in the bathroom – need I say more?

Apparently the spot does, in fact, cater to a lot of creatives working in big fashion companies nearby which was what Mira Duma, Buro 24/7 founder, was hoping for when she decided to open the concept there. The Canteen was created in partnership with Girl Power LLC, the group behind The Slow Kitchen and B152|Tearoom (both also in Russia).

The menu is changed regularly and has a variety of options. We ordered zucchini & feta rolls, burgers, and fries. The ketchup was a winner.

White Rabbit

Located on a snazzy rooftop of a hotel/shopping center, White Rabbit has a full view of the city of Moscow through its large semicircle windows. The decor is shabby chic, with large armchairs and psychedelic Nat Geo photographs of wild mushrooms scattered among portraits of rabbits dressed in Victorian costumes. It’s as if the Mad Hatter invited you to come have drinks and ravioli.

We had great cocktails: a raspberry passionfruit cosmopolitan and a mandarine bourbon mix. Although we weren’t eating lobster or anything of the sort, they made us wear bibs before dinner. The guys’ version had bow ties and ladies had necklaces. I think we smelled like camera-happy tourists so they wanted to give us the full experience because we got smokey sorbet on the house for dessert. Waiters speak English! Yes!

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So this is another place that I would expect to find in NYC. It’s entrance is inside the fast-food Chinese Lucky Noodles joint. To the right of the register, there’s a bouncer blocking a staircase that leads to a speakeasy-like gastropub from the 1920s. The bar has barely any chairs and you have to pay minimum charge for a table. If you plan on eating and drinking, you might as well just get a table because your bill will come out to about the same.

It gets really crowded by midnight and you wouldn’t even guess that there’s a financial crisis going on in this city. However, I’m pretty sure those affected by it aren’t hanging out at an underground pub named after the guy who discovered the periodic table. And what an appropriate name it is: the bartenders work like chemists, mixing concoctions based on what you want because you can’t read the all-Russian cocktail menu. Drinks are excellent* and the music was just like being out in Beirut, house that got deeper as the night got later.

* meaning they don’t taste like diluted alcohol and you don’t need to wait till your third to actually enjoy not tasting what you’re ingesting

5 Handcrafted Valentine’s Day Gifts

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Yes, Valentine’s Day is commercial and you don’t need a day to appreciate the ones you love. But if you love someone, what’s the harm in having an excuse to celebrate it? I’m sure each couple has their own way of doing so and, perhaps, has agreed:

a) not to exchange gifts,
b) not to acknowledge this “holiday”
c) to stay in with DVDs & sushi

Nothing is wrong with opting for a sweet bouquet, a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, and an “I love you.” But for those of you who need some ideas, I put together a list of some unisex handcrafted items you could get here in Lebanon so you don’t have to resort to Amazon and fork over shipping fees, go to Pinterest and attempt a DIY project when you’re not the artsy type, or buy a generic fluffy heart-covered monstrosity from [insert gift shop chain name here].

If you want to get your special someone a present that is thoughtful and unique, go for the personalized and custom-made. And don’t forget to wrap it up nice because half the fun is the mystery and anticipation behind a wonderfully packaged surprise. Also, feel free to contact me for a Bambi’s Soapbox love card. I’m selling them at a discount: 5,000 LL each.

5. Creative Space Beirut/Second St

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Featured last month on the blog, these two brands have hand-stitched fashionable pieces done by fashion design students (Creative Space Beirut) and Sarah Hermez & Tracy Moussi (Second St). On top of getting some stylish clothing, the monies you invest in these pieces would go toward keeping a free design school running. They’re available at the Creative Space Beirut or Memory Lane, both in Mar Mikhael.

4. Crochet Friend from Rachel K

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I discovered Rachel at Afkart in December. She has a collection of fashion pieces too but what really caught my eye at her stand was her geeky handmade crochet buddies. From Karl Lagerfeld to Mario, these little guys go for $60 a piece. You can also request a personalized crocheted version of you (or your beau) but I’d refrain from gifting a voodoo-like doll to someone you love. Unless you’re into that. No judgment.

3. GGRIL Glass Goods

From GGRIL's Facebook page

From GGRIL’s Facebook page

It would be wrong to have a list of handcrafted items without including the work of Ziad Abi Chaker and GGRIL. Whether it’s a vase for the bouquet you just got or a lamp to set the mood for the evening, GGRIL has beautiful blown glass items that make great presents. Plus, they’re supporting a dying artisanal craft in Lebanon AND recycling old booze bottles. Sold at various cafes and stores: Dar Bistro & Books in Hamra, Vide-Posh in Badaro, Bayrut Express in Ashrafieh.

2. Madame Cefanie Leather Goods

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I saw this lady’s work at Brut l’Atelier while on the Mar Mikhael walking tour. There, you can purchase a wallet or purse of various colors OR you can contact Madame Cefanie to request a customized bag with size and color of your choice.

1. Baked Goods

Try to bake some cookies or their favorite dessert (given that it’s not soufflé or anything else that would have Gordon Ramsay yelling at you). Baking a sweet treat for your person puts all the tender, love, and care into the pan of fatty goodness you’re whipping up for them. Wrap it up with some nice wax paper and ribbon: instant personal gift! Make sure to use chocolate for the extra aphrodisiac effect. *wink wink*

And when all else fails, if none of the above works for your significant other, go for lingerie (remember what I said about a “wonderfully packaged surprise”?). Buy it for them to wear or wear some yourself: everyone wins.