In most other cities, and in most other lifetimes, after a long, dark, cold and gray winter, the arrival of summer is celebrated. Weather warms, beach beckons. Re-string the tennis racket! Dust off golf clubs! WD-40 the wheels on rollerblades (please, don’t call them ‘blades)! It’s summer vacation under the sun.
But in a city that is perpetually 70 degrees, summer sort of slips in the backdoor unnoticed. With June gloom in LA that brings 30 days of overcast skies and shrug-weather (cardigans are so last year), it doesn’t even feel like summer, in summer. There’s no real “looking forward to” summer when we can go to the beach and play golf in December. Sandals never go on sale here because they’re always in season. In fact, summer is so hot that we have rolling brown-outs and half of us shimmy from one tiny air-conditioned car space to another air-conditioned cubicle space. What’s so exciting about the arrival of summer in LA?
It’s the Hollywood Bowl, as well as full-swing concert season at other outdoor amphitheatres. The Hollywood Bowl however, is special, not only because the Bowl itself is built right into the hills, with a gorgeous stage and a sound system that makes even the $6 ear-bleed seats pretty good; but the appeal of the Bowl is packing up a little basket with wine and cheese, trekking up the side of the hill, and picnic-ing amongst the grass and trees before the show. Few better ways to spend a warm July evening in LA, especially when we settle into orbit around Planet Electronica, with Basement Jaxx.
Let’s Make a Rendez Vous... If you have claustrophobia, then you will know better than to park in the Hollywood Bowl lots, which are attendant-less stacked parking. That means after the show, you don’t get to leave until the six carsparked behind you leave (that’s only six cars if you’re lucky) . What? No valet? No, plebeian, valet is only for Bowl VIPs who get to drive right up to the Bowl entrance. But they deserve it for paying one billion dollars for season tickets.
There are picnic grounds in the parking areas for the Bowl, which we passed on our shuttle trip up from the parking garage at Hollywood & Highland. But these grounds are out in the open right next to parked cars and polluting traffic that’s crawling up Highland Avenue. Way too LA, and it also means you have to walk all the way up to the Bowl, and then up the side of the Bowl to your seats after what could quite possibly be a picnic food coma. I kind of wanted to shout “suckaz!” out the shuttle bus window, but gee, that’s so junior high and I outgrew that two years ago.
Our ‘freak troop leader forged ahead up the hill and found a table large enough to accommodate our party way up on top amongst the trees and overlooking the city below. Good job, ‘freak! Very idyllic. And up in the greenery, in case you forget that you are in LA, don’t worry, the escalators all the way up the side of the mountain will remind you. LOL!
You Used to be My Romeo... Daily Grill, Patina, and many other LA restaurants offer picnic boxes that you order, buy and take with you. Salads, sandwiches, other cold picnic-y things, that are nice and neatly wrapped up in a compact little to-go box. They can run anywhere from $24.95 to $45.00. But, don’t fall over now, that’s per person! Uh, that costs more than six tickets to the show. So we brought our own. Daily Grill doesn’t taste that good anyway.
We started with pita bread, hummus and tzatziki. I wish I could say I baked the pita bread, but that would just never happen. Two things stand in the way. One, I suck at baking. Two, I suck at baking. So pretty much, I don’t mind spending $2.29 per package of store-bought pita bread. One white, one whole wheat. That’s $4.58 for the musicians who are keeping count. Interestingly enough, whole wheat pita finished first. Hummus is so simple it’s embarrassing – a can of garbanzo beans, drained of bean juice (nasty) and rinsed, a swirl of olive oil, a tablespoon or two of tahini, a squeeze of juice from half a lemon, all go for a sexy swirl in the food processor. If you’re a freak like me, add fresh garlic and roasted garlic.
Tzatziki is easy too, and doesn’t even require electronic appliances. Yogurt that’s been drained for a few hours through cheesecloth and a sieve, grated, salted, then squozen cucumber, super finely minced garlic another healthy squeeze of lemon juice, and some snipped fresh dill. Full fat yogurt tastes the best, but this soopa-foin body has to slip into a slinky dress come September, so we went non-fat. *raises fist in air* Oh, weddings!
Pals also brought a bunch of other stuff like cheese, crackers and fruit. We liked the cherries for dessert. And for target practice. ;)
Greek shrimp salad in a red wine vinaigrette was perfect for the evening with shrimp, feta cheese, kalamata olives, tomatoes, red onions, red and green bell peppers, and cucumbers. It pretty much geo-culinarily matched the Mediterranean hummus and tzatziki. That’s called planning. Of course, if it were good planning, we would have had spanakopita as well, but phyllo takes loving time and gentle affection and dammit! I just can’t be Super Sarah all the time, okay?! So a spin
ach, artichoke, and feta quiche was a good substitute, and more quiche practice after my first one. Here is a very random off-topic note that I just have to share. On a spell check for spanakopita, the suggested spelling is “spank pita.” Naughty!
Obviously, baklava would have been the perfect dessert, and supposedly I was going to make it the night before for Sugar High Friday. See above re: phyllo, and given that baklava alone could take two hours to make, and I had a total of three hours to make everything...Yeah, I know. Excuses. Fresh fruit worked out beautifully anyway.
Where’s Your Head At?!?!... The Bowl allows pretty much anything inside, as long as it all fits within a certain measured space, like airline carry-on luggage. Basically, ice chests, coolers, baskets and bags have to be small enough to fit under your seat to keep the walkways clear of any obstructions. But the best Bowl non-rule is that you can bring any sort of bottles, including wine and beer bottles inside. At last count (and we stopped counting after “one”), there were something like 12 or 13 empty bottles of wine before we packed up and went to our seats. The Bowl is not the time to break out the Cheval Blanc. It’s a picnic, for fox ache! Just bring whatever tastes good. Besides, by the time the show starts, they all taste the same. Even the Bacardi Silver. ;)