Popupla editor Daniel Schwartz left wintry New York for a few days of Southern California sunshine. He found so much more.
LOS ANGELES – You’ve seen this movie before: Stressed-out New Yorker flies west in search of sun and relaxation, splits an extra-long weekend between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, finds fantastic food, a cool new boutique hotel, and painterly desert landscapes along the way.
Cue the highlight reel.
Stuck in an Energy Vortex in Joshua Tree
The three days my two friends and I spent in an felt like a week. It was like we were stuck in a very nice energy vortex. It rained heavily the first day, which put a dent in my ambitious itinerary — for the better. What we got around to — hiking Joshua Tree National Park, grabbing great Mexican food at , listening to live blues at , piling on breakfast at — left enough time to enjoy each other’s company and the pacifying desert landscape. Which is why we came out here.
If I had to do anything differently next time, I’d book a sound bath at the way in advance and make sure I made it to , the desert’s coolest restaurant, during operating hours (Thursday to Sunday, 2 to 7 p.m.).
A Bump in the Road in LA
Congratulations, Daniel: You got into your first car accident.
Nothing major, besides the headache. You don’t have auto insurance (because you don’t own a car), but your rental through Turo came with basic coverage. Phew.
You were on your way to try the flourless tangerine cake with fresh raspberries at . You didn’t see it coming. Life has a funny way of, well, just happening.
On your next trip, take your own advice: Look into travel insurance.
A Pit Stop at the Apple Store for Weed
I was just looking for muscle relief, I swear. Traveling with heavy cameras takes its toll. Plus, there was a just outside LAX. I wanted to take a look. (All in the name of journalism...) An employee in red (they all wear red) scanned our IDs at the door. Everyone inside had a souped-up iPhone with a scanner and a smile on their face. Did they all just come from a product quality-control meeting? I don’t know, but they were nice and answered all my questions. The store had all the trendy cannabis brands. (Yes, that’s a thing now.) I bought a non-psychoactive from Papa & Barkley. There was an old man on the packaging. (Appropriate.) My friends purchased edibles. Good edibles, they later told me. This is the future, but also not really: Bring your debit card, as Medmen doesn’t accept cash or credit.
The Lowdown on Culver City
If you're wondering whether Culver City belongs on your LA itinerary, the answer is yes. See: the following.
The hoteliers at Palisociety, who run lovely properties around the city and are behind the sexy and soon-to-open , just opened in the heart of the neighborhood's downtown core. I spent two nights here. The rooms are adorable and make great use of their space. The lobby restaurant, , has a nice bar and courtyard and is where I would work if I lived nearby and needed a change of scene from the home or office.
Culver City also has a Roberta’s, which I know from Brooklyn. (Go figure!) It’s located in , a super hip mall of sorts with a Bobba Guys, Aesop, SoulCycle, Poketo, and Van Leeuwens, among other very nice shops. The highlight is , a very photo-friendly rooftop greenhouse restaurant, where I had a spritz and a focaccia sandwich and split a bunch of greens for brunch. So LA.
Culver City ain't no Beverly Hills or Venice, but its youthful energy coupled with movie-industry chops (it's home to Sony Studios) make it a cool place to stay. Plus, there’s a in the neighborhood, built by Disney carpenter Lawrence Joseph. How awesome is that?
One of LA's Most Anticipated Openings Is a SF Bakery
The folks behind San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory partnered with chef Chris Bianco (of Phoenix’s acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco) to bring amazing bread and other culinary delights to the Brooklyn-esque warehouses of . , as the sprawling complex is called, has an ice cream and coffee window, a tapas-style food counter and shop called The Market; a swish, all-day eatery called Tartine Bianco; and a wonderfully aromatic bakery that supplies all the food operations but is sadly not open to the public. An upscale dinner-and-weekend-brunch-only restaurant called Alameda Supper Club and a coffee lab, which will use beans from a separate on-site roastery, are both in the works.
I had dinner at Tartine Bianco, which, despite its all-day status and very large dining room, had a warm and buzzy nighttime feel. Or maybe that was all the bread and wine I had. Dips, toasts, and open-faced sandwiches were expectedly delicious; a dish of sweetbreads, crispy rice, yams, and chili paste and a whole hot fish plate (for the pescatarian at the table) lent the meal good variety and heft.
I'll Admit It, This Town Knows How to Do Pizza
If places like Bestia and Pizzeria Mozza taught us anything ("us" being jaded slice-joint-worshiping New Yorkers), it’s that LA knows how to do a pizza.
in Brentwood is another testament to the fact. People love this place. The late food critic Jonathon Gold called the cacio e pepe pizza a small miracle. And he was right. It tastes just like the classic Roman pasta dish, with crust built-in. About that crust: It’s made in a wood-fired oven with naturally fermented dough using a generations-old recipe. I split a few pies — cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and funghi made vegan, all of which were delicious — and wished I had saved room for dessert, which comes from Sprinkles co-founder (and Popupla contributor) Candace Nelson.