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Athena Scalzi

Day 4 of Santa Monica

Athena ScalziI had big plans for my fourth day in town, but upon waking up I decided I didn’t feel like leaving the bed. So I didn’t! And I went back to sleep. I ended up sleeping about thirteen hours. I had to keep convincing myself that I wasn’t wasting my day, because rest is important, and I’ve jam packed the past few days with so much stuff that it’s okay to take it easy.

I finally got up in the afternoon and got ready to go out to dinner with family friends. They told me they wanted to take me out to a fancy dinner while I was here, so I let them pick the place. And fancy it was!

They decided on taking me to a place called Hatchet Hall located in Culver City. Upon arriving, there was a large outdoor section with tables and chairs on gravel, and those big outdoor fire lamps that I’ve only ever seen in places like California and Arizona. The transition to the indoor part of the restaurant was practically seamless, as it was all open and you could see everything, including the bar.

The menu was a small piece of paper, but was laid out in an interesting fashion.

I was then informed it was a small plates style restaurant, so we were going to get a lot of things and share them all. I was a huge fan of the idea, and I’m not picky, so I told them to pick everything.

We started with the honey dates that come in brown butter with date vinegar topped with sea salt. I did not get a picture, because I forgot that documenting was a thing, but they were the best dates I’ve ever had. Which is an odd thing to have a “best I’ve ever had” of, but it’s true. They were soft and sweet and the perfect little bites to start the meal off right.

The next platter that came was half a dozen oysters.

I had never had oysters before, and was having dubious feelings towards them. I like mussels well enough, but oysters are raw, which freaks me out a little. I knew that if I were going to have oysters, they might as well be from the coast and at a fancy restaurant, so I oughta give these a try.

And I actually liked them! I put cocktail sauce on the first one, and it was quite nice. I had been preparing myself for unpleasantness, but was glad that was not the case. For the second one, I tried the vinaigrette, and that was pretty good, too.

Next up, I got to have one of these ultra-fluffy, perfectly golden brown rolls. Hopefully you can see the pinch of flaky salt atop the honey butter on the side, because that really took this to the next level. I’m a sucker for flaky salt… and honey… and butter.

Following the rolls, we had this grilled peach, burrata, and prosciutto salad. I’m not saying my favorite fruit is peaches, my favorite meat is prosciutto, and my favorite cheese is burrata, but that is exactly what I’m saying, so you can imagine how much I loved this salad. The peaches were fresh and juicy, the burrata was soft and creamy, the leafy greens balanced out the richness of the prosciutto, ugh, it was amazing.

And don’t even get me STARTED on the next dish!

Grilled carrots with a cumin yogurt sauce, topped with fresh cilantro and dill, accompanied by honeycomb?! I was stunned. It was too delicious for words. The brightness of the herbs with the creaminess of the yogurt, the honeycomb alongside the soft cooked carrots, it was incredible. Quite possibly my favorite dish of the night.

We did have one other dish before the appetizers came, but I forgot to take a picture of that one. It was the braised collard greens. I had never had collard greens before, and they were pretty good, though probably the thing I was least impressed with throughout the night.

I was starting to get full, but the entrees were arriving. Here we have some King Salmon, with labneh and herbs. I haven’t had labneh since like 2016, so this was a welcome reunion. The salmon, underneath that crispy skin, was cooked more medium than I’m used to, but it wasn’t a bad thing, in fact it was delicious!

Underneath the giant garnish of cilantro, we have braised pork belly, with grits and cannellini beans. I don’t think I’ve ever had grits before this, but I quite liked them. My friend told me they’re a lot like oatmeal, you have to do something to them or else they’re extraordinarily bland and boring. As for pork belly, I had it once at a Jamaican restaurant, so having it again was nice. It was tender, the grits were creamy, and it was a savory medley.

Which was the perfect end before dessert.

We all decided to pick our own desserts and not share. Mine was the lil’ vanilla panna cotta on the right, with sour cherries and mulberry crumble. If I were a dessert, I feel like I’d be vanilla panna cotta. I did end up trying one bite of the giant meringue, specifically because it was so big and she needed help with it, and it was ridiculously good. Like make you reevaluate your whole life good. Of course, the panna cotta was excellent, too, as was everything that night.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the meal was over. It was amazing, and I hope I get to go back someday. Preferably soon.

Some interesting things I noticed about this place was that none of the plates matched. Heck, even some of the chairs didn’t match. It was like they got everything from a thrift store and just had mismatched silverware and plates now. Not that that’s a problem at all, it was just unique.

Oh, also, my friends informed me that their menu changes with the seasons, to ensure everything is always in season and fresh. Man I love California.

If you had eaten here, what would you have picked? Which dish looked the best to you that I tried? Are you a fan of the small plates style? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

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Personal History of Music

A Personal History of Music, Day 23: “On the Radio,” by Regina Spektor

For this series I’m picking one song per artist to represent them and why they’ve mattered to me. Usually, this isn’t too difficult — sometimes it’s that one particular song that’s resonated for me, and other times there’s usually one song above several other equally worthy songs that I thing be represents what I like and admire about the artist. In the case of Regina Spektor, however, I had an excruciating time picking between two songs: “Fidelity” and “On the Radio.” Both songs resonate almost equally for me; both songs are on my Forever Playlist.

That’s because both songs, each from Spektor’s Begin to Hope album, really quite excellently nail what it feels like to surrender one’s self to love. “Fidelity” covers the effort it takes to make that surrender in the first place, to really let someone in, and by doing so, open one’s self to the terrifying everything that comes with love; “On the Radio,” goes into what opening one’s self actually entails. Of the two songs, “Fidelity” is the more complete and lyrically coherent song on the matter; it’s also arguably Ms. Spektor’s signature song.

“On the Radio” is more scattershot — its first verse feel more like stream-of-consciousness lyrical warming up than anything else — but when it gets into gear in the second set of verses, it’s so devastatingly correct and beautiful about what it means to be in love with another person that is literally breathtaking to me:

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

This song is sixteen years old as of this writing, and I’ve heard it dozens if not hundreds of times, and rare is the time that I get out of this verse without tears. This is it; this is indeed how it works, and how wise of Ms. Spektor to recognize that fact.

And it’s a lot! You can understand why, in “Fidelity,” she’s reluctant to surrender into it at all, or why anyone who actually does understand that terrifying everything of love, can hesitate to give themselves over to it. You have to really want it and you have to accept responsibility for yourself in it. It’s certainly easier not to take it on. I don’t fault anyone who chooses not to.

But if you do, there are rewards. Are they worth it? That’s up to each person to decide. In my particular case, I can say: Absolutely, so far, and I’m working hard to make sure it stays so. I play “On the Radio” every now and again to remind myself of the feeling that saying yes to it all has gained me.

(Quick note: Regina Spektor’s newest album, Home, before and after, comes out tomorrow (6/24/22). What I’ve heard from it so far is very good. I’ll be getting it.)

— JS

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Uncategorized

Well, Poo

To begin: I’m fine. I’m double-vaxxed and double-boosted, and my symptoms so far have been those of a mild flu; and in point of fact I felt worse yesterday than I do today. Yesterday I wanted to sleep all day, and mostly did; I was in bed at 6:30pm and didn’t get back out of it (save for a ten-minute interval at about 10pm where I ravenously ate all the cheese in the house) until 9am this morning. Today I’m mildly achey but not overly tired. My brain has been useless for the last few days, which I should have taken as an early distant warning, but did not because sometimes one’s brain is just useless. My sense of taste and smell is perfectly functional, for which I am grateful. I’ve called my primary care physician’s office to report in and see if I should get Paxlovid; I imagine I’ll hear back soon. In the meantime, and again: I’m fine.

I find it mildly ironic that when I finally definitively have gotten COVID, it’s when I’ve been at home for weeks; I traveled all over the US between March and May and got through unscathed. My assumption at this point is I may have caught it when we were out and about on our anniversary, or when we went to see Lightyear. The moral of “never leave your house, ever” is not lost on me.

My immediate plan is to do nothing and to eat all the food in the house and see where things go from there. In the meantime, I would note that my prophecy that if I did ever catch COVID, my double-vaxxed-and-boosted ass would find it a mild inconvenience rather than a life-threatening issue, seems to be panning out pretty well. So, please, if you’ve not already been vaxxed and boosted, please do that. It’ll make a difference.

(Also, for those about to ask: Krissy’s fine and I’m staying away from her. Athena is in California and also perfectly fine. The pets are fine, too. Everyone’s fine! Don’t worry.)

— JS

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