Friday, September 29, 2006

Mt. Diablo

THAT’S MY FRIEND MAC over there with the binoculars, on the right; I’m afraid you can’t see him very well, as this is a pretty big photo much shrunk. (Click on it to see it bigger; and thank you, Photoshop merge.)

We’re up at the Live Oak campsite on the southwest flank of Mount Diablo, the highest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we slept before taking a trek over to the North Peak the other morning. In late September, on a weekday, the park is pretty well unpopulated — perhaps partly because one of the two access roads, the one from the north, was closed for repaving.

We saw almost no one except for bicyclists. Curiously, many of them were veterans, grizzled and tough, and riding alone. You can’t help wondering what motivates these guys (the few women cycling were younger): are they riding up into the sunset? It’s not an easy climb, and the descent is worse: I did it once, at least thirty years ago, and can still remember my aching hands from the constant braking on the way down.

Those days are over, but walking’s still in the mix, and Mac and I have a very undisciplined program of getting to the area’s high points. We began this a year ago with a stroll up the fire road leading to the top of Mount St. Helena, our local mountain. That’s 4344 feet high, the highest peak in the area, and it was a clear evening when we did it, and the views were extraordinary.

Mount Diablo is lower, at 3849 feet; but its isolated position makes it seem higher. Like Mount St. Helena it sports not one but two peaks, making them seem to be volcanic in origin, though they are not: they’re both upthrusts through older volcanic-origin rock — but also sedimentary stuff.

(A few months ago I said to myself and whoever was listening, probably no one, Thank God I’m not interested in geology. The very next day Therese presented me with a birthday gift: Doris Sloan’s Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region. Discovering it in its wrappings I couldn’t help exclaiming Oh wonderful! How fascinating! And of course it is fascinating, that’s why I’ve resisted geology all these years, there’s only room for so much fascination in one lifetime...)

We camped, Mac and I, at a low-elevation site in what’s called Rock City, which is not a city at all but a site about the size of a village, studded with interesting sandstone formations — Mac’s standing on one in the photo, and stair-steps were cut into another beyond him by the Civilian Conservation Corps back during the Depression, I guess, in a better time, when Government helpfully paid the unemployed to improve the public facets, physical and cultural, of the country we all live in.

We’d had a fine big lunch in Berkeley, so after our late-afternoon explorations of the rocks we contented ourselves with bread and cheese and chocolate for dinner, chasing away the occasional hopeful raccoon, and turned in about ten o’clock of a fine starry night.

Next morning after coffee and camp-breaking we had a visit from the park ranger, an affable man about fifty who had a lot to say about the park... we ran into him twice more, at the ranger station halfway up to the summit, then again at the summit. He’s a self-described Marxist, and was apologetic about the closed summit museum, blaming the anti-tax mood of the public as much, I think, as the priorities of the state government. Hard to argue with that.

On his advice we parked at Devil’s Elbow, a mile or so short of the summit, and set out on foot for the North Peak. This is a short hike, only a mile and a half, but involving a six- or eight-hundred change in elevation — downhill to a junction, then uphill to the summit. At its steepest the trail is on scree, and the last hundred yards or so was quite steep, approaching a twenty-degree climb, I’d say — hard enough going up; harder still descending.

Alas the sky was not clear. We saw further the previous evening at twilight, when we could make out Mount St. Helena, Mount Tamapais, Mount Hamilton and Copernicus Peak, as well as Grizzly Peak and Round Top among the Berkeley Hills.

The day began with fog in the valleys below us; we were on one of many islands of hilltop above this huge sea of fog — perhaps how things will be once the polar ice caps have melted and the sea level has risen. The fog burned off, but smoke from the Day Fire, and perhaps another up near Auburn somewhere, hid the Sierra and even nearer mountains — we never saw St. Helena, for example.

But we were compensated by the colors and textures of the slopes. All the wildflowers were gone except a number of patches of bold red California fuschia (Zauschneria californica) at their peak, and scraggly fleabane (Erigeron divergens) well past theirs.

Many of the south-facing slopes were covered with what I call chaparral, and Mac, more accurately but completely casually, calls chamise — a word which, curiously, appears in none of my English-language dictionaries. Adenostoma fasciculatum is what it is, commonly called greasewood, a wonderful fuel for the sort of fire now raging in Ventura county. It must have been magnificent when in bloom a few months ago, but it’s equally beautiful at the moment, glowing red-green in the evening sky, and forest green in the late morning, and adding a fine deep layer of texture to the gold of the dry grass, the feathery Coulter pines, and the occasional groupings of blue oaks.

Like the summit of Mount St. Helena, that of the North Peak is disappointingly crowded with communications towers bristling with relay parabolas and various radio and cell-phone antennae. It’s amazing to think of the energy and money responsible for installing and maintaining these things. It’s fun, though, to think of them as carrying on the tradition of Olympian energy-distribution from mountaintops known to all people close enough to the earth to be aware of the mysterious power of peaks.

People say the Indians were superstitious because they worshiped Mount Diablo, our ranger friend told us; That’s ridiculous; they worshiped it because it is sacred. It’s a very special place, and it’s the center of this part of the world.

I couldn’t argue with him. Mount Diablo is to the Bay area what Mount Shasta is to its area; it dominates the land around it, presses it down flat, but reaches up to mediate land and sky. And when you sleep on its flank, and walk or hike its trails, you appreciate the quantity and diversity of the forms of life it sustains — including, for a few fine hours, us ourselves.

Photos of our day on Mount Diablo can be seen by clicking here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Farm Art

IN THE NINETEEN-SEVENTIES, I think it was, it was Jock Reynolds who made art that told me how much my seven years on the farm had to do with preparing me for conceptual art. In a show at the old Hansen Fuller Gallery, in San Francisco, he showed sculpture that was in fact jars of canned tomatoes, or sheaves of corn, or in one case a long box made of clear acrylic, filled with soil, planted with seedlings just leafing out.

I’m working from memory here, so I may have some of the details wrong. But I remember covering the show for KQED, and working at persuading my editor that this was indeed art. Color, texture, manipulation of light and space — no question: the removal of these items from their normal context, and of course especially their relocation into an art gallery, made them art. Marcel Duchamp, I knew, had won that point fifty years earlier with his readymades.

Twenty years later I was writing a catalog essay for Ann Hamilton, who was in residence at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, where she’d been commissioned to create a dining room — they called it a “mess hall” — and kitchen. Ann’s work is rich and complex, and while its most immediate effect on a viewer is through the eyes, its real appeal is to the mind. It involves memory, history, awareness. It was no surprise to me that she was widely read in areas already of great interest to me: Raymond Roussel and Marcel Duchamp, relating her to the French intellectual avant-garde of the early twentieth century, but also Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry, relating her to the late-twentieth-century return to the earth that feeds our bodies. (You can find the Hamilton essay on my website.)

In the arts as elsewhere the Twentieth Century presents, among many other things, this fascinating pendulum-swing: Modernism took us into abstraction, the intellect, theory, invention; but something that followed — and it is not postmodernism, which is only a late form of Modernism — returned us to a contemplation of First Concerns: sustenance and sustainability, nourishment and wellness, community.

Where is Art in all this, a friend wants to know, and that’s an interesting question. I’ve always thought that Art is a sort of transitory step in a process that begins in Mystery, moves to Religion, degenerates into Art, and winds up as either Entertainment or Criticism.

But a shorter answer is, Well, these days, if you don’t see what else to call it, it’s Art.

ALL THIS COMES TO MIND TODAY in the wake of seeing a show at the Sonoma County Museum, in Santa Rosa’s fine old post-office building. The museum is one of those uneasy combinations of Art and History — I mean that it’s obliged to give equal consideration to both, and given the nature of Art these days, and the potential volatility of History even, there’s a good chance any given exhibit or installation is going to rub someone the wrong way.

The current show, Hybrid Fields, is billed “a group exhibition of contemporary artists exploring our food systems,” and that pretty well describes it. Some of the work is toward the conceptual; some is close to conventional. The best of it, to my mind, sits firmly in the Art-As-Societal-Investigation pigeonhole, and it sits there pretty.

I particularly respond to the humor of an installation documenting The Sonoma County Mammalian Enology Experimental Pasturelands, with a detailed map of the pastures dedicated to wine-lactating rhinos, giraffes, and cows. Each wine is exhibited in sample bottles whose labels comment rather acidly on some of the enological absurdities already present on labels in your neighborhood shop. Funny: but also a little biting.

I respond also to Laura Parker’s Taste of Place, whose wine-glasses of soil samples from various Sonoma county farmsites remind the viewer that the terroir of our unique wines is literally an expression of the soil. You can sniff at these glasses, and some of, in doing so, are reminded of the heavenly scent of earthy aromas from our past.

There are a number of other intriguing works, like Steve Shada and Marisa Jahn’s Swan Song, a musical instrument played by ripe apples dropping from a tree — it’ll be interesting to see if it makes it to the end of the year, when this show closes — and a couple of outdoor installations: Susan Leibovitz Steinman’s pentangle of apple trees in stock tanks, recalling the star-shaped seed core of the familiar Malus, and Matthew Moore’s Green Roof, ten hop vines, each planted in a plastic bucket of grey water hanging alongside a low building west of the vacant lot to the left of the Museum entrance, eventually to form a pergola of vines over the roof.

Hybrid Fields helps, one hopes, to bring the agricultural past (and present!) of our county to urbanized art-happy visitors to the Museum, and to that extent it’s a successful expression of that troubling mandate to serve both Art and History. (Further anchors to the county’s ag history are in the continuation of the exhibit on the upper floor: don’t overlook them.) I hope Moore’s hopyard and Steinman’s mini-orchard suggest a permanent integration of Nature as well, when the new building approaches its final achievement.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


GEERT MAK IS A POPULAR Dutch journalist who is also a historian — a combination perhaps more common in a small well-educated nation than here, though a friend of ours, Gaye LeBaron, has made a half-century career of exactly the same kind of thing not twenty miles away, in Santa Rosa.

The combination results in more than simply popular history, though there’s nothing wrong with that. The lessons of history are learned more successfully, one would think, when they’re taught through readings that are interesting, immediate, and clearly relevant. Popular history, when documented and informed, seems more likely to remain in the reader’s mind than academic history.

Journalistic history has a special advantage, I think, in that the journalist is himself (or, as in Gaye’s case, herself) doubly involved. It’s the professional intent to observe and describe the events, and their meaning: but in doing this he’s inescapably involved in the very processes under investigation.

I was drawn to Geert Mak’s writing a couple of years ago when I read his Amsterdam (Harvard University Press), a fascinating account of the development and maturity of that marvelous city. (The book is apparently now reissued as Amsterdam: the Brief Life of a City. Since the book itself is not particularly brief, and the City’s life has run so far to seven centuries, the sub-title may be there simply to distinguish the reissue from the original publication.)

Amsterdam is one of those cities I want to live a year in: it’s full of delight and instruction, with a history involving economics, urbanity, architecture, political structure, the arts — everything one needs to study if one’s to approach the complexities of contemporary life. And I can’t imagine spending even a week in Amsterdam with having read Mak’s book — or, preferably, having a copy at hand. (Memo: buy a copy, Charles: that was one book you shouldn’t have read from the library.)

But perhaps one of the reasons Amsterdam so fascinates me, both the city and the book, is that I’m not a city person; my perspective on the world is from the country, even though I lived half a century in a suburb well integrated into a modern metropolitan agglomeration. My first nine years, if you want to know, were spent in the same suburb for the most part (Berkeley), but it was a different place in those days. I turned ten years old on the edge of a small town in northeastern Oklahoma, where our family had spent a dusty year mediating poverty and desire in my father’s homeland.

But from then until I left for college seven years later I lived in the country, without electricity at first, where we subsisted on our garden and scruffy orchard, our chickens and Jersey cows, our pigs and woodlot, while Dad commuted to town to work as a tinsmith. Those were formative years, and now that I think about it they formed much of my outlook on the nearly six decades since.

In those days one of my favorite books was by Laura Ingalls Wilder, of all people: Farmer Boy, the account of the rural New York State childhood of her husband Almanzo Wilder. It was, and remains, a fascinating account, merging folklore, even myth, with the rich detail and compelling narrative of fiction and its best — the kind of story-telling that has delighted and instructed humanity ever since Hesiod and probably for millenia before.

In Jorwerd Geert Mak has followed his study of the City with an examination of the Village, and in so doing has confronted the major event of our lifetime, an event so climactic we tend not to notice it: a farewell, perhaps the final one, to the way nearly all of humanity had lived until the last half of the twentieth century.

This was a type of social accommodation permitting families to cooperate while competing, no doubt evolved to facilitate a continual refreshing of the gene pool, enabling human survival in the environmental context providing food and shelter. Of course this took somewhat different forms in different environments, and in the changing economies that followed human evolution from hunter-gatherer to agriculture to mixed-economy. But those differences evolved slowly and, you might say, naturally as they dealt with the different demands and resources of the places humanity chose in its slow inexorable campaign out of Africa ultimately to nearly every corner of the earth.

In Jorwerd itself, a small Frisian town about halfway between Sneek and Leeuwarden in the Dutch province of Friesland, this social accommodation had taken the form of a small village: a church, a school, a pub, a grocery, a blacksmith… a few houses belonging to a few professionals and tradesmen: but above all a sort of center for the many farm families surrounding it.

There have been a few such places here in Sonoma county: Hessel (where I went to school), Jimtown, Freestone, Valley Ford, Bloomfield, Two Rock. Like Jorwerd, these places have lost their original function, and with that their character — they’re little more than bedroom communities. They’ve fallen victim to two chief enemies: the motor vehicle, which attacked them in the first half of the twentieth century, and the economic drift toward centralism, gigantism, and now globalism, which finished them off in the second half of that century, the period Geert Mak describes.

It’s all of a parcel, I think, and it all involves a decline of individual care and attention, and with that the deferral of individual attentiveness and responsibility to some often nameless Thing which (it is assumed) will handle all the complexities of modern daily life for us. Mak shows, in Jorwerd, how insidious and irreversible this is, as farmers accept the security of governmental quota systems, but at the cost of much of their independence.

The worst of this is the gradual but inexorable loss of meaning, value, comprehension in matters of daily life. This is something that city-dwellers probably experienced much earlier; and to a great extent they’ve found solace in a range of distractions readily supplied by the urban culture that’s taken the place of Nature, natural time-cycles, and labor whose purpose is immediately understood, since it directly produces food and shelter.

Of course it’s easy to be distracted by the romance and nostalgia of the life whose disappearance Mak documents. But the crisis has immediate relevance. It lies behind the unrest of the farmers who have recently balked the World Trade Organization talks, for example. And it informs such collisions of labor and management as will inevitably result from inevitable collapses of production grown too big, complex, and detached to be able to sustain themselves — in this week’s news, Ford Motors, and the overextended agribusiness responsible for the spinach crisis.

This morning, having closed Jorwerd, I realized suddenly that it belongs on a special shelf in my mental bookcase, among other books I’ve found particularly meaningful. They’re an odd lot, I suppose: next to Farmer Boy there are three studies of French village life as it has disappeared in the last century or so; an account of a thirteenth-century community of dissidents, and a couple of novels and short-story collections involving peasants in the French alps:

Pierre-Jakez Helias: Horse of Pride: Life in a Breton Village
Laurence Wylie: Village in the Vaucluse
Gillian Tindall: Celestine: Voices from a French Village
E. Le Roy Ladurie: Montaillou, the Promised Land of Error
John Berger: Pig Earth; Once More in Europa
To these books I’d add, also, Ermanno Olmi’s 1978 film The Tree of Wooden Clogs, like the books I’ve listed a lyrical, bittersweet, regretful celebration of the drives and desires that have stood for millenia at the center of what it is to be human, and that seem, too often, to be taken from us by our own inventions of ease, entertainment, and organization.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ici is here!

AMONG OUR FAVORITE PEOPLE are Paul and Mary Canales. Paul's the chef at Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland; Mary -- until a few months ago one of the pastry chefs at Chez Panisse -- is a co-owner and the muse, I would say, of Ici, an ice-cream shop that opened a week ago on College Avenue, in Berkeley's Elmwood District, just north of Ashby Avenue.

We stopped in at Ici yesterday, after a drive up from Los Angeles, arriving in Berkeley a little after five in the afternoon and definitely ready for some ice cream. And what wonderful ice cream it is! I had an affogato, only recently rather an exotic item but now becoming commonplace -- a cup of espresso surrounding a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

That sounds prosaic. But at Ici the coffee is from Blue Bottle, and the ice cream, like all the ice creams here, is fresh from a machine a dozen steps away from the display case, with its shelves of bombes and ice-cream sandwiches and fruit displays...

...and in its own room off the immaculate and roomy kitchen, where the shop's own waffle cones come off the griddle.

The first thing that struck me, even before tasting anything, was the Chez Panisseness of the flavors. After all, I have a long acquaintance with these ice creams; I remember Lindsey working out a number of them, back when she used a wooden-tub White Mountain freezer to make them for the restaurant. Now here they are in a shop, just as enticing as when she made them thirty years ago and more.

The shop's already attracted notice on a number of blogs, as Google will quickly reveal. Some people have referred to a feminine quality of its decor: I don't understand that at all. The interior is styish, even elegant, with panelling of recyled elm -- this is the Elmwood, after all -- and well-chosen typefaces for the placards announcing the flavors of the day, each hanging by a ribbon from the wall.

Berkeley's College Avenue has a fine tradition of ice cream, reaching back to Bott's, long gone and until now still lamented. Mary's ice cream, organic of course, subtle and authentic, is generations beyond Bott's. We've come a long way. And for all its subtlety, its artisinal authenticity, it seems definitely to have its audience. The place was packed when we visited it, and I can't imagine we'll ever be in the neighborhood without dropping in.

And my ice cream? Exactly the right consistency, weight, degree of sweetness. It could have been Lindsey's. And I'd have thought so even if I hadn't known the thoughtful, experienced, serious, personable, dear friend who'd made it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Racine's Phaedra


PERHAPS FORTY YEARS AGO we saw a performance of Racine's great tragedy Bajazet performed in a grand production at the University of California, Berkeley -- a production which has literally haunted me ever since. Not so much for the play itself, which I hardly recall, or for the performances, though I do recall one actress -- Roxane, probably -- frequently placing the back of her hand to her forehead as she declaimed:
But, Ah! ...
It was the physical production that so tremendously impressed me. The direction and the design were by Henry May, as I recall; one of the two or three members of faculty of the University's department of Dramatic Arts at the time. The play was on the stage of the then-new Zellerbach Playhouse, an improbably wide, shallow stage; and the stage was virtually filled, again as I recall it, with a single striking scenic invention: a shallow pool containing real water; and the entire production was black and white, starkly beautiful.

A little earlier we'd been captivated by Alain Resnais's film Last Year at Marienbad, with its re-creation of a piece of baroque French drama in a garden theater, featuring forced perspectives. Looking back, now, I see that these two impressions reinforced one another to create a kind of mental configuration central to my then-developing sense of theatrics, by which I mean the use of public space, gesture, and declamation to express artistic intention. And ever since I've yearned for classic French theater, rarely available.

TONIGHT WE SAW a performance of Racine's Phedre, ably translated by Richard Wilbur, beautifully set by the Glendale rep company A Noise Within, respectfully and properly directed by Sabin Epstein, and amazingly well performed; and my admiration for this theatric is redoubled. I've written before, somewhere on this blog, about the function of Theater in defining and celebrating that necessary human quality Community: here is a perfect example. I'd worried, a bit, in advance, as to how the dramatic arbitrariness of this plot would be received by a contemporary audience: no need to worry.

A Noise Within marvelously captures this essentially communitarian quality, as Racine did in his 17th-century poetry, as Euripides did in the original version, written when a smaller community, at a time just after the emergence of conscious awareness of society, still found it necessary to work out the meaning of blood lines, of family, of the succession of leadership, of the necessity to subordinate passion, especially sexual passion, to social propriety.

Much of what I admire in French style is classical: poise, balance, clarity, discursiveness. All these qualities are at their peak in Racine. His play was of course written in rhyming alexandrines, in a French limpid and direct enough to make sense even to my imperfect comprehension of the language -- though the subtleties of its elegance of course escape me quite, and I require critical apparatus, like that in the old Random House edition of Samuel Soloman's translations, to reveal such niceties as Racine's mastery of those ineffable French tenses.

Richard Wilbur is a poet, and his rhyming pentameter seems both conversational and poetic, both realistically sudden and introspectively discursive -- in other words, true to Racine. And in this production it is these words that hold center stage. The great role that is Phaedre grows from the person and (especially) the situation of the woman herself; but it's Racine's expression that lifts it into something really quite exceptional.

I suppose I shouldn't really tell you about this performance, as it hasn't officially opened yet: we saw the first public preview of the run, because it's the only night we're able to see the show -- it closes before our next trip down here, in early December. But I'm going to break the rule that one doesn't review previews, because it would be irresponsible to conceal this magnificent evening of theater.

Like Henry May's Bajazet, this production uses a single set: a formal rectangle within a low wall on the deeply thrust stage in this small theater. The costumes, quite effective, depict no particular time, once you get past Hippolytus's grungy tee-shirt and Levis. The language, of course, alludes constantly to Greece and Crete, the Greek gods (by their Latin names) and the fate of the house of Theseus; but the action of the play can be anywhere or nowhere or, most likely, wholly within a mental state, whether Phaedra's, or Hippolytus's, or ours.

We thought the cast superb. Jenna Cole rose to the title role with a considerable range of emotion without ever losing dignity; J Todd Adams was a methodical, believable Hippolytus; Robertson Dean an outstanding Theramenes; Mark Bramhall an effective Theseus; June Claman an edgily sympathetic Oenone; Dorothea Harahan a credible Aricia. (Sarah Rincon and Charlotte Miserlis complete the case capably in minor roles.)

The play runs in repertory until a day or two before Thanksgiving. It's a highlight for us in a year already generous with memorable theater.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shun Fat

-Monterey Park

PARDON, MADAME, mais est-ce que vous etes francaise?

We were at a rest stop, the third I think, on the way down Highway 5, and I was addressing a slim, rather elegant young woman with a short upswept reddish hairdo and, on a long leash, an equally elegant blue-haired terrier.

Un petit peu, she replied with a smile, do you speak french?

Qu'un petit peu, I apologized; it's that my wife pointed you out and said she had seen you at each of the rest stops, and she thought you were french, and I asked how on earth she could tell, and she said She looks french, so I thought I'd ask.

I'm very flattered, she said, but no, maybe a very little bit somewhere way back; we're just driving south to see my parents, and we break the trip often...

As one will, I said with quick gallantry, when traveling with livestock.

Yes, she said, but then we like to break the trip, too.

And now we're in a Best Western across the street from Shun Fat. I haven't explored Shun Fat yet, and am not likely so to do: there are too many other things to be done down here. We're here for a conference, and I don't have anything yet to say about that, and perhaps never will. But we are also here to eat, of course, and to see a play -- Racine's Phaedra, which I am greatly looking forward to.

But that's tomorrow. Today we drove 440 miles, a dozen of the last through dense smoke -- dramatic flames burning on mountainsides beyond Pyramid Lake, to the north of Los Angeles, dramatic as any coup de theatre Racine might ever have wanted. And then, after checking in, a quick drive to Trader Joe's on the way to dinner.

Why? Because our destination, Bistro K in South Pasadena, may be a bistro, but it serves no wine. You have to bring a bottle.

My wine-merchant friends (not to mention our winemaker friends) will be shocked to hear that we know Trader Joe's list pretty well. Our everyday wine used to be our own naive domestic Zinfandel, one of our own manufacture, but that was years ago; now much of it comes from Italy or, occasionally, Spain, by way of Trader Joe. And we make it a point of honor not to pay more than five bucks a bottle.

Well, you don't take a bottle of cheap wine to a restaurant, at least I don't. So tonight we splurged with a Pommard '04 from Sebastien Roux. It tasted pretty austere at first, I thought, but married well to the soft cheese that came as an amuse-guele, not to mention the hanger steak that came afterward.

Bistro K has an amusing menu which you can see by looking the restaurant up at Sea urchins, monkfish osso buco, beef cheeks, lamb's hearts, things like that. Even something as straightforward as a Caesar salad is tricked out -- it's served rolled up in a flour tortilla. Don't ask me why.

But buried there at the end of a long long list of dishes each of which seemed to contain within itself enough different ingredients to supply the index of a fair-sized book of nouvelle cuisine californienne, buried there at the end was the hanger steak. It came with mashed potatoes, a couple of roasted garlic cloves atop, and a serving of mixed vegetables: peeled asparagus, carrot, chanterelle, leek, peas. Quite delicious.

Bistro K is at the corner of Fremont and El Centro in South Pasadena, in a building called, of course, Fremont Center Theater; a building that used to be a funeral parlor; a building it shares with a small theater where, last May, we saw a number of one-acts by Ray Bradbury, of all people. Everything here is a little bit weird. It's Los Angeles.