Insufferably Smug Restaurant in Culver City: Lukshon

Lukshon exteriorIn Los Angeles, January has come to signify something other than hot weather, wildfires, and non-hothouse local tomatoes: “dineLA Restaurant Week.” Smug Scout now puts that entire event in quotation marks for three reasons: a lower case letter should not start a (made-up) name, it does not occur in Louisiana, and it lasts five days longer than a week. Still, since Smug Scout has such a long list of restaurants she wants to try, restaurant “week” is an exciting time for her. She spends hours reading and analyzing menus before narrowing down the final choices. Usually she is happy with the results, but sometimes she makes a big mistake.  It is not always easy to distinguish among “good” Smug, “bad” Smug, and “insufferably and unspeakably awful” Smug. Such was the risk with Lukshon in Culver City. For example, these annoyingly precious excerpts from Lukshon’s web site put a big scowl on her face but do not offer conclusive proof of the Smugness valence:

It is exquisite and modern takes on authentic South-East Asian Cuisine and its wonderfully diverse ingredients.

Lukshon is a drink and a bowl of noodles at the bar, an intimate dinner under the calm of an LA evening on the patio, a celebration in the elegant and comfortable booths, a night shared with friends and strangers at the communal table, the theatre of a completely open kitchen, the rattle and hum of the service, the teak walls with hand-crafted flower inlays; it is the fusion of style and function.

Unfortunately, Lukshon landed squarely in the third category: “insufferably and unspeakably awful” Smug. Why? Well, the problem started because Smug Scout does not eat pigs (which she does not do because they are smarter than most humans she meets). Smug Scout always checks restaurant “week” menus carefully to ensure that there are pig-free options, especially in view of the bacon (and all its domestic, international, and “international” variants) mania still gripping the nation, but Lukshon’s menu caught her off-guard, and she had the below conversation with the server. Now Smug Scout’s readers know that some of the dialogues she reproduces are not verbatim transcriptions but rather embellished or even totally fabricated. This time, however, she is providing you with the exact words.

  • Smug (hereafter, for the sake of authenticity, 飄飄然) Server: I just realized I should tell you that the relish on the scallops has pork.
  • Smug Scout: Can’t the chef just leave it off?Lukshon scallops
  • 飄飄然 Server: No, I’m afraid not.
  • Smug Scout: A relish? Why not?
  • 飄飄然 Server: The chef has a vision for each dish and removing anything ruins that vision.
  • Smug Scout: So why doesn’t the menu say that there’s pork on it?
  • 飄飄然 Server: It does.
  • Smug Scout [looking at menu]: Where?
  • 飄飄然 Server: You see it says “deer island scallops lap cheong relish, pickled kohlrabi, cilantro, pine nuts, black garlic [sic].”
  • Smug Scout: Where does it say pork?
  • 飄飄然 Server: Lap Cheong is Chinese sausage.
  • Smug Scout: So you’re telling me that I would have needed to know Chinese to know that this scallop dish has pork in it?
  • 飄飄然 Server: Yes.

Smug Scout was uncharacteristically speechless at that point, but then she had a grimly delayed epiphany: Sang Yoon, the chef, had obviously not attached his previous alias to his new restaurant. He used to be known as “Burger Nazi” after he transformed a laid-back beer bar, Father’s Office, into a slick, Smug mob scene with open-mouthed rubes all clamoring for a legendary burger with a straitjacketed preparation. No additions, no subtractions, no substitutions. He scoffed at those who wanted wine (rather than beer) with their burgers but “allowed” it. He served fries in, of all foolish receptacles, a mini shopping cart and with Smug Scout’s tricked-out-mayo nemesis, garlic aioli. No ketchup. Although you would be right to claim that Smug Scout has a high tolerance threshold for such American sins as elitism, snobbery, and pretentiousness, she draws the line at this kind of guns-blazing ego and customer-repellent attitude. In fact, she finds this behavior less befitting to a chef than a communist dictator.

Lukshon barley puddingSmug Scout did make it clear, much to the server’s relief, that she would not be returning to Mao Sang Yoon’s empire, but she still wanted to try a dessert. She ordered something totally unappetizing sounding called barley pudding, which came with puffed barley, banana ice cream, and caramelized banana that looked and tasted more like rubbery refrigerated tofu. The server described it as “very unique and different, kind of like having breakfast after dinner.” Even if the idea of “breakfast after dinner” appealed to Smug Scout (unless “breakfast” is code for “Bloody Mary”), she must disrespectfully disagree that it is either “unique” or “different.” Have the dictator and his minions never heard of Rice Krispies Treats?

Oh, how eerie, Smug Scout is now having a “vision” of her own. It seems to be a prophetic one. It shows her dramatically reenacting the above conversation to a vast audience, if one whose interest level covers the vast range between slight and nonexistent. She will relish it nonetheless.

Smug Handmade Upcycled Xmas Presents

Belgian chocolate pine conesSmug Scout is a big fan of handcrafted items. She seeks them out everywhere from the streets of Paris to New England church fairs and has been known to meander aimlessly for hours on the Etsy web site. She does not, however, use her own hands to craft much of anything, largely due to the damning combination of laziness and ineptitude. Still, once in a while, unexpected forces converge that lead to a frenzy of production. Today those forces led to handmade Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cone Xmas gifts.

Smug Scout has been thinking about upcycled pine cones for the last few days following a lively exchange with her favorite distant Smug scouts (one in NH, one in flyover territory, one in the squalid snake pit of Key West) on the popular and exciting subject of upcycled objects (so popular and exciting that even one of her favorite distant Smug scouts quickly bowed out of it). Then this morning Smug Scout woke up facing a grim amount of work from the job that has an actual income attached, so not surprisingly she was vigorously motivated to go for a nature walk (she even pretended it was cold enough to wear her North Face fleece pullover) to collect pine cones. She found assorted pine cones and some other curious looking cones to bring home (but not without getting sticky pine cone goo all over her hands, the unnecessary North Face fleece pullover, and even her hair). Then, after a failed attempt to rid herself of the pine cone sap (which Smug Scout discovered you need alcohol to remove, though she doubts red wine will do the trick without creating a new and messier problem), she made six Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones using ribbons she had kept from Hermès scarf boxes, Godiva and Neuhaus boxes from Belgium, a Bavarian jam jar, and some unknown domestic packaging.

Hermes pine coneHow can you make your own Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones? Here is a list of materials for this project:

  • Pine cones or other cones you pick up off the ground
  • Ribbons from various packaging you somehow could not bear to discard

Smug Scout does not herself have patience for overly complicated crafts projects, so even a clumsy amateur is unlikely to struggle with the instructions. Here they are:

  1. Pick up pine cone or other cone.
  2. Tie ribbon around it in some fetching way.
  3. Do all that again for the other cones.

Bavarian and Maine pine conesYou will see that that Smug Scout also has one cone with a lobster cocktail stick awkwardly emerging from it like a harpoon because she wanted at least one Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cone to represent New England. Smug Scout is not really sure how many people will covet these Upcycled Multi-Region Pine Cones (or even politely accept one for that matter), but if you are Smug, you will at least appreciate the environmental benefits of upcycling, specifically in this case that the pine cones are happier and more productive wearing pretty ribbons (themselves spared a smelly interment in a landfill) than lying in whatever unceremonious spot they landed after being cast off by their trees. Furthermore, they are unique, handcrafted, and not available for purchase anywhere.

If any readers have other easy ideas for upcycling pine cones, please share them with Smug Scout, especially during this so-called “season of giving.” She “rescues” almost every pine cone she sees on the ground, and there are only so many Smug local object tableaus you can display at home without seeming impossibly précieux (unless of course you are from Portsmouth and your entire house is a Smug local object tableau). Now who wants to “rescue” some extra Smug New England pine cones for her?

Smug Rocking Chairs in Portsmouth

Lobster trap rocking chairSmug Scout recently spent a long weekend in Portsmouth, which as usual meant an unrelenting onslaught of Smugness (aside from one very very sad absence of Smug camaraderie). Smug Scout had an especially packed agenda because she brought her friend Smug Eastside Actor, who had never before set foot in New Hampshire. One of Smug Scout’s other friends in L.A., Smug Ex-NH Bartender, even touchingly called him a “little NH virgin.” Smug Eastside Actor’s deflowering was as painless as his photography was prolific. Because he is an actual actor, not simply a Smug one, he has almost 3,000 friends/”friends” on the social media site Smug Scout has renamed One Billion Monuments to Narcissism (1BMN), all of whom enjoyed beautiful and alluring photos at five or ten minute intervals all weekend. As a result, the local tourist board is offering him an incentive to return in the form of a free lobster roll at State Street Saloon. (Well, yes, Smug Scout completely made the last part up, but she wanted to give a special mention to that quietly Smug watering hole for its appeal to the most impossible New England chowder and lobster roll purists/elitists. The bar itself is of course not new to her, as the friend who recently abandoned Portsmouth for the bowels of Key West [now Smug Conch Collector? Smug Seedy Florida Bar Trawler?] used to take her there late at night for its colorful local clientele and the legendary “White” Bloody Mary.)

As excited as Smug Eastside Actor was by his new experiences, because Smug Scout comes to Portsmouth four or five times a year, there are not so many surprises for her anymore. Thus she was thrilled by the discovery of Smug rocking chairs made out of lobster traps outside of a ridiculously Smug new store on State Street named Pickwick’s Mercantile. First of all, let us review the key features of Smug chairs:

  1. Absolutely no new materials, only reclaimed and/or repurposed from another, preferably more practical, utility.
  2. Violently uncomfortable.

Smug Scout did not know that all of the grounded lobster traps she sees all over the place in NH and Maine were waiting to be reclaimed and repurposed; she thought they were just regional outdoor decorations, sort of like the dead, rusted out cars on cinder blocks one sometimes sees in less sophisticated Smug-repellent rural or blue collar neighborhoods. So she may be ignorant about all practicalities related to lobster traps, but she does know that chairs made out of them offer a punitive discomfort. They do not have cushions or even contours, though the back meets the seat in a way that is somewhat curved to fit a human body–as long as that body is made of Jell-O. Smug Scout believes it would feel like sitting Indian style on a sewage grate. Even Eames wire chairs appear plush by comparison; at least they are sculpted and have leather seat pads made specifically for them. In fact, the only difference between “Lobstah Rockahs” and medieval torture racks is that the former do not feature spikes and do come in six fashion colors with contrasting mesh drink holders (ideally proportioned for the bottle of vodka you will need to dull the physical pain from your sitting experience). Smug Scout cannot think of who would truly enjoy sitting in a “Lobstah Rockah,” but she believes that the chairs’ biggest fan base would be actual lobsters, who would be only too delighted to find their underwater death chambers turned into pricey furniture.

Smug Scout did some research and found that the company making these lobster trap chairs is called Sea Rose Trap Company from Scarborough, Maine. Naturally, she was fascinated by the descriptions she is reproducing below in red (of course, right?). Her responses remain black.

The Original Lobstah Rockah™!

Sturdy and comfortable, these lobster trap rocking chairs are made to last! Pressure treated rockers, vinyl coated wire, and poly twine will all withstand the elements for years to come. Each rocking chair has all the details you’d find on a real lobster trap. This is the genuine article!

Wire choices: black, green, yellow, blue, lime, grey
Twine choices: yellow, orange, blue, black

Smug Scout is very confused about why “all the details you’d find on a real lobster trap” are a selling point for a rocking chair, which is supposed to provide a relaxing experience rather than an entrapping one. Smug Scout is also confused about the writer’s use of “on” rather than “in” here, but she knows this type of nitpicking makes most people cross.

Lobstah Rockah™ Loveseat

The latest addition to our product line – The Lobstah Rockah™ Loveseat. Now you can enjoy all the benefits of the Lobstah Rockah™ with anothah! Durable and weather resistant, this loveseat is made with vinyl coated wire and has pressure treated rockers. This chair has every detail that you would find on a real lobster trap. 

Wire choices: black, green, yellow, blue, lime, grey
Twine choices: yellow, orange, blue, black

Do not assume that Smug Scout has no romantic fantasies set in New England; she has many. You will not be surprised to find out that these tend to feature reclaimed wood, especially birch and knotty pine. Not one of them, however, features either a “Lobstah Rockah Loveseat” (to put you in the mood for an…altahcation?) or a phonetic transcriptionist who turns “another” into “anothah.” Smug Scout is happy to listen to New England accents, but transcribing them is another story. All this “lobstah” and “chowdah” and “steamahs” nonsense is just gimmicky drivel meant to sucker punch rube tourists from newer (read: inferior) states.

She does laugh when she sees NE residents write “scollops,” though.

Smashing Pumpkins at the Portsmouth FM: Violent, Wasteful, Anti-Smug

1380833_648037781895109_2003147997_nFirst of all, the title of this post is not a reference to the 90s rock band. Second of all, Smug Scout did not take the photo that accompanies this post because she is not in Portsmouth now (she brazenly lifted it from the Portsmouth FM’s Facebook page). Smug Scout would do anything to be in Portsmouth right now, especially because she hates fall, or more accurately the lack of fall, in L.A. In fact, Smug Scout has minimized and re-named the seasons in L.A. to reflect what happens here in the absence of any actual weather. Thus, L.A. has fire season (September – November), awards season (November – February), and strawberry season (all the other months, plus all year). If there is any difference here between “summer” and “winter,” it is that you are more likely to get sun in January than June, though the temperature in both months averages 60 degrees (well, mainly along the coast, where Smug Scout lives). “January,” in some weird Pavlovian way, triggers the locals to get out their parkas, mittens, mufflers, snow boots and other Arctic camping outdoor gear (aggressively peddled to Angelenos by cynical North Face and REI marketers) that would suffocate Smug Scout in such springlike conditions.

Uh-oh, Smug Scout has really digressed! Her seasonal malaise is surely causing her to focus excessive attention on mocking L.A. and idealizing Portsmouth. So be it. Still, she would not have wanted to be at the Portsmouth FM this weekend to witness an unspeakably un-Smug spectacle: smashing pumpkins. First Smug Scout was puzzled when she looked at the accompanying picture. She could not believe her eyes. Was that a Smug little colorful Portsmouth gargoyle preparing to obliterate a pumpkin on a tree stump with a…croquet mallet? (She also wondered if the burly, belted, and gloved troll in front of the pumpkin dead piles could really be a woman, but that question is hardly germane to her critique.) Why? Would redneck flyover states hold pumpkin shooting contests to promote gun use? Smug Scout finds this kind of “fun” violent and vicious. Smug Scout would never have participated in such a gruesome event in her miniature form because she would have felt too sorry for the murdered pumpkins. (She did win a pumpkin decorating contest at one time, however, by using corn kernels to make a toothy ghoulishly grinning face.) Actually, Smug Scout in her “grown-up” form feels the same way. She vaguely hopes the vindictive Grand Pumpkin (from the Simpsons, not to be mixed up with the harmless Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown) will come and devour some of these mallet-wielding children. Or she would if that were not a violent thought.

On top of finding this activity violent, Smug Scout finds it incredibly wasteful. Is this the very same FM that gave free food to furloughed federal workers just one week ago? Now they can return for free pumpkin pie “ingredients”? Does no one else object to the metamorphosis of viable local produce into scraps of pulverized pulp, scraps as ill-suited to third world baskets as pre-bagged, dirt-free kale?

Smug Scout found some barely comprehensible edification on the topic of waste when she visited the event website: “Don’t worry, the smashing don’t go to waste, we feed ’em to the pigs.” What kind of interior bumpkin illiterate came up with “smashing don’t”? Did this non-grammarian mean “smashings”? For that matter, did this non-punctuator mean a semicolon? Smug Scout supposes the pigs will find this contest debris tasty enough, though she grimly acknowledges they will come to a violent end as well.

Smug Scout does not believe lessons on violence and waste should come from the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. These are lessons better taught by horror movies, slaughterhouses, and the lower classes (both poor and moneyed), not a bastion of Smug correctness. Smug downgrade!

If you would like to read more faux folksy, grammatically slapdash, and, let us say, whimsically punctuated text, visit the below site:

Smug Disgusting Smoothie in Hollywood

Body Factory exteriorSmug Scout recently had the most disgusting smoothie of her life. She recognizes that “disgusting” and “smoothie” do not usually appear in the same sentence. People usually associate other words with smoothies, such as “delicious,” “refreshing,” “absurdly caloric,” and even “ridiculously overpriced.” Honestly, Smug Scout does not usually fritter her money away on such trifles, especially since she could have one minuscule artisanal cocktail for the price of three massive smoothies, and she is well known for her thrift. She can make her own smoothies by repurposing fruit that she may have neglected to eat in its prime whole form and mixing it with anti-Smug “L.A. County” milk she rescues from her workplace, thus sparing it a grim one-way trip to the landfill.

Body Factory smoothie menuHowever, on the occasion under review, she and Smug Eastside Actor were in Hollywood (which Smug Scout has renamed Ghoulywood to highlight its overpopulation of grotesque, cretinous, daylight-averse residents) to attend a screening (because actors never just “see a movie,” too plebeian). They would not be able to have dinner until about 10 pm, so they decided to participate in a popular L.A. ritual: drinking coffee to delay starvation. Smug Eastside Actor suggested they go to a place called the Body Factory to get coffee, and though Smug Scout had no notion that a business by that vulgar name would have anything to offer her, she changed her mind when she saw the smoothie menu, essentially because of both what that menu boasted and what that menu left out. It boasted that each smoothie has 35 grams of protein and no added sugar. It left out all prices. This report will focus on those two elements.

IMG_140435 grams of protein/no added sugar. What does it mean to have all that protein? Smug Scout thought it meant the smoothie would dull her hunger for four hours. What does it mean to have no added sugar? Smug Scout thought it meant the smoothie would taste like fresh local fruit. She was correct about the former and dead wrong about the latter. Smug Scout is sure her hunger was dulled because that smoothie tasted so awful it befouled the very idea of eating. It had the consistency of clay and looked like wet sand, like a beautiful beach poisoned by toxic algae, some sickly pale green kind. She almost needed a boba straw, if not a scoop, to get that sludge from the cup into her mouth. You may notice Smug Scout has not told you what flavor she ordered. That is Smug Eastside Actor’s fault. He recommended one called “Body Fuel,” which promised the following ingredients: “Pineapple, Banana and well…don’t ask, don’t tell…” Does that mean the smoothie contains pineapple, banana, and a gay member of the US military? Despite Smug Scout’s distaste for the military, she thinks even that would have tasted better than the chalky, gritty slop that fueled little more than an unpleasant exchange between Smug Scout and Smug Eastside Actor, whose punishment for this failed recommendation was being forced to help her consume it. He claimed he got a chunk of something (maybe pineapple? mud?) in one sip, but Smug Scout did not taste anything resembling fruit: fresh, local, petrified, or otherwise. Sugar added, subtracted, multiplied, divided, or given a calculus test would not have helped.

No prices. What is this charade? Is it like in that Sheila E. song “The Glamorous Life” when she sings about “if you have to ask you can’t afford it lingerie”? (Smug Scout would have punctuated that differently, but she does not believe Sheila E. cared about precise, or even any, dash use.) Well, Smug Scout decided to ask. Here is a slightly embellished version of the exchange.

  • Smug Scout: I see there are no prices. Is everything free?
  • Body Factory Worker: No.
  • Smug Scout: I see. So is there some reason the prices are not posted?
  • Body Factory Worker: All of our products are priced differently.
  • Smug Scout: At least now I understand. What do the smoothies cost?
  • Body Factory Worker: All of our smoothies are priced based on transportation costs for the ingredients and may rise if there is any trouble along the way.
  • Smug Scout: So if the banana flies through a hurricane or has a bad run-in with a drug lord, I pay more?
  • Body Factory Worker: You may.
  • Smug Scout: You really don’t want to tell me, do you?
  • Body Factory Worker: I prefer to show you on this iPad.
  • Smug Scout: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is more than just a smoothie ingredient here isn’t it?

Smug Scout cannot even remember what she finally paid. Maybe $6? Yes, after that ridiculous flimflammery, she feels like even more of a mark than before. Still, she is perversely curious to find out if other smoothies could possibly taste as disgusting as “Body Fuel,” so she plans to return to this smoothie bunco parlor.

Smug Sidewalk Ornaments in West L.A.

Ewan Chung at ChocovivoSmug Scout was delighted by a recent visit from her friend, Smug Eastside Actor, to her distant Westside neighborhood. To help him recover from his long journey, Smug Scout suggested walking to a miniature Smug restaurant row (only three places) where they had the exciting prospect of racking up a jaw-droppingly high bar-hopping tab in just a few hours. However, before they reached their first destination for $14 petite artisanal cocktails, they passed by a business that arrested their attention: ChocoVivo Dark Chocolate Tasting Room. Now Smug Scout was already familiar with ChocoVivo chocolate from having tasted and purchased some at two of her local FMs (long before the store opened). Smug Scout finds it more than acceptable, for it features all the required markers for Smug chocolate: handmade (by a woman no less), small batch, no animal products, apparently the barest minimum of non-white, non-imperialist, non-racist sugar (Smug chocolate is never so vulgar as to be sweet), locally made with allegedly local ingredients like sesame seeds and black peppercorns (maybe India is closer to Los Angeles than Smug Scout thought), and an exclusive price ($6/bar).

ChocoVivo tree stumpHowever, as she and Smug Eastside Actor were thirsty for their artisanal cocktails and adamantly demand alcohol in any establishment billed as a “tasting room,” they really only stopped to gape at the sidewalk ornaments. What are these woodsy curiosities? They are tree stumps on wheels that are chained to the sidewalk. Both have scars from amputated limbs, suggesting that these “stumps” were actually segments of a large log, not its base. One of them shows off a bouquet of local vegetation (i.e. sidewalk crack weeds), placed rebelliously near the edge. Of course, what makes these rolling imprisoned not-quite-stumps especially Smug is their utter lack of practical utility. You may think they are seats, though that is a lazy and superficial interpretation. One of them is clearly a table for the flowers (thus giving that one some practical utility for the vase). The other one might work as a seat, if an unstable one, or even perhaps eco-friendly transportation, though you will not get far without a chain cutter. Or could ChocoVivo want to start an urban version of the logroll? In any case, if Smug Scout wants a seat that is backless and spinning, she prefers that it be a bar stool (at a real bar, not a chocolate bar). If she wants “Earth-sensitive” (see endnote) transportation, she prefers a Radio Flyer wagon because she can at least put Smug local produce in it (along with a Smug local child, if one is at hand). If she wanted anything to do with a logrolling contest, she would move to some place where they do that (hillbilly backwoods flyover territory near a river) and become a lumberjack.

Smug Scout did not go in for an explanation, though. She knows she is overflowing with sarcastic rhetorical questions, most of them better left unasked. She knows that certain recipients of sarcastic rhetorical questions think she is an irritating smart aleck or even a dimwit. She knew it was time to put a drink in that big mouth of hers. She and Smug Eastside Actor ditched the sidewalk logjam and relocated to some aggressively uncomfortable plastic architectural bar stools that gave them crippling backaches. Those punitive stools are at a place called A-Frame, which Smug Scout believes to be a reference to the medieval torture device known as the Scavenger’s Daughter, though the owners may claim the name refers to the shape of the building, which originally housed that vile mass-produced pancake slinger IHOP. Well, the bottom line is this: Smug Scout wishes all stools were decorative and made of reclaimed wood. 

Endnote: Credit to Smug Barrington Bartender for that word pairing and Smugly unnecessary capitalization.

That chocolate? Go get it!

Smug Cafe in Venice

Kreation Kafe exteriorJust two weeks ago, Smug Scout was in the deepest doldrums about leaving her beloved Smug east coast habitat and having to return to L.A., where she has to trouble herself with that tedious interference to her traveling, eating, and drinking whirlwind: the very job that finances these activities. Yuck. But Smug Scout was happy to receive a visitor from San Francisco, her longtime friend Smug Caustic Critic. If his name does not clearly reveal why Smug Scout loves him, she will elaborate: he makes Smug Scout laugh her head off, a rare gift. She loves his brutally sarcastic and absurd wit!

Kreation Kafe interiorOne day during this four day visit, Smug Scout and Smug Caustic Critic were walking around a local Smug epicenter, Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, when they spotted an outdoor cafe that had reclaimed looking wood everywhere in sight: sign, building, walls, fence, doorway, tables, and even tree stump stools. Smug Scout first wondered if it was a mirage, like those swimming pools and lemonade stands in boiling hot Looney Tunes deserts, but then it turned out she and Smug Caustic Critic could cross this magical threshold and order a virtuous non-alcoholic drink (but not food, as they had a difficult-to-get reservation at another Smug hotspot, Tasting Kitchen).

Kreation menuSo a pale, wan, indifferent sylph brought them to a table and deposited some menus that seemed awfully tattered and shopworn for a place that has only been open a few months. The contents of the menu appealed to her: all organic and local produce from the legendary Santa Monica FM, cold pressed juice, and even a category called “Ageless Wonders,” which sounds Smugly spiritual, though she cannot for the life of her figure out either its meaning or its business on a drink menu. Smug Scout decided on a smoothie called Green Dream, which featured almond milk, green apples, a frozen banana, parsley, and of course kale. Smug Caustic Critic ordered some unpronounceable herbal tea.

Kreation Green DreamWhen Smug Scout’s Green Dream arrived, of course with a green straw and in a repurposed jar, she loved it so much that she offered Smug Caustic Critic a taste. Though she hoped he would also love its intense greenness and kale-ness, his face and in fact his whole mood soured after one tiny sip. He announced that it tasted like “lawn clippings in my mouth” and even proceeded to offer a sarcastic revision of the process of making it: “They take a full lawn mower bag, extract the clippings, pulp them, and serve them in overpriced smoothie form.” And while on the subject of grass, Smug Caustic Critic slammed Kreation Kafe for its Astroturf floor material. Though Smug Scout attempted to suggest that Astroturf is practical in desert ecosystems (like L.A. had a few centuries ago) because it requires no watering and is also a sensible repurposing of discarded rubber tires, Smug Caustic Critic was having none of it. He archly informed Smug Scout that Kreation Kafe should be renamed Polymer Palace for its shameful incorporation of UN-sustainable and UN-local materials.

Torchiere coverSmug Scout enjoys such rants and encouraged Smug Caustic Critic to continue. He denounced Kreation Kafe for promoting its reliance on local organic produce but then putting Persian Sumac and Pink Himalayan salt on the tables. (Smug Scout agrees that there is plenty of salt in the Pacific and doubts anyone in L.A. puts sumac on anything voluntarily.) He denounced Kreation Kafe for exploiting Malaysian forests for their virgin trunk wood. (Smug Scout does not know how he could look at tree stump “chairs” and know anything at all about their provenance, unless he is a dead tree medium.) And he most vehemently denounced Kreation Kafe for covering its “carbon emitters” (known to others as heat lamps or torchieres) with what he called “reclaimed Afghan burlap burqas.” (Smug Scout looked at the hole in the burlap cover, saw what he meant, and burst out laughing.)

Kreation Kafe toiletSmug Scout was laughing and laughing…until she had to go to the bathroom. After sitting in that woodsy Smug outdoor oasis, Smug Scout was not prepared for the shockingly primitive squalor of the restroom. Remember, Smug readers: this place has barely been open three months! Thinking back, Smug Scout did not mind the backwoods experience in the Cafe Stella restroom, which really just meant cold water and nowhere to dry your hands. This one is just plain disgusting. The wall has water stains (did it rain sideways here?), the toilet paper dispenser has broken off (which actually was inconsequential, since there was no more toilet paper anyway), and the broken paper towel dispenser (not shown) evacuated its dry towels to the sink, so they were all soaked. This is not a Smug nature experience. This is a third world slum dive bar after last call. Smug Scout thinks even an outhouse could be more hygienic, tasteful and ecological than this hideous pit.

Kreation Organic windowSmug Scout left Kreation Kafe feeling like a dupe. While Smug Caustic Critic was ludicrously trying to determine if the owners of the place were squirrels, warthogs, geese, cows, or some other ruminants (since he was a broken record on the topic of drinks made with the help of a lawn mower), Smug Scout was thinking that whatever creatures run this “kafe,” they are very cynical. They know that Smug customers will flock to the beautiful reclaimed wood outdoor tables, spend a lot of money on pressed and pulped vegetation, and only later discover the rank, ugly bowels. Smug Scout has thus made a decision: she will only return in a dehydrated state, perhaps even hungover. The Green Dream will taste better that way anyway.

Smug Scenes from the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market: Iconic Shoppers

Smug Scout knows she has been very remiss in her writing duties, if not her actual Smug scouting duties. She has been as busy with the latter as ever, especially during her summer vacation. Now that she is in Portsmouth, she feels very inspired again, most likely due to its uniquely jaw dropping level of Smugness. She has already spent two Saturdays at her favorite Smug epicenter, the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. She is happy to report that virtually nothing has changed since last summer, but in the almost nine hours of amazed and amused viewing, often sneakily from the periphery, she captured some iconic images that she would like to share with her readers. You may be tempted to critique Smug Scout for photos of middling quality, but keep in mind that she was using her zoom lens to avoid unpleasant confrontation with her unwitting subjects. She is still not sure how she would have explained to some of these locals why she was taking their pictures, but she knows any attempt would have gone poorly or even worse.

IMG_1143Smug Family: Smug Scout loves watching Smug local families arrive and depart, ideally without screeching sound effects. Though this picture does not show the wealth of detail she wishes it did, you will still notice some classic Portsmouth FM hallmarks:

  • The Radio Flyer wagon has a Whole Foods tote bag filled with produce, while multiple onions roll around loosely in a layer of dirt at the bottom of the wagon. (Smug Scout may have made up that last detail, but she did see onion stalks sticking out.)
  • The parents are carelessly dressed, as if they purposely wanted to provide a dreary, sloppy backdrop to their colorful daughters. The mother’s hair is a nest of frizz, while the father wasted not a second on brushing or shaving.
  • The girls have their hair in some youthful feminine style and wear brightly colored sundresses. The girl in blue with the pink Crocs unwisely takes after her father in shoe taste, though she has not yet advanced to the murky, rank dishwater color scheme he prefers. (N.B. At one time, the Smug Barrington Bartender told Smug Scout that Smug children prefer to wear Crocs in two different colors, but Smug Scout has yet to see this. She suspects that the Smug Barrington Bartender knows of other epicenters that outdo even this one. She wonders why the Smug Barrington Bartender is withholding these locations from her.)

Loading the Forrester Loading a Subaru: Smug Scout does not plan to move to Portsmouth, though she dreams of it often. However, if she were to move here, one of the first things she would do is buy a Subaru Outback or Forrester. Then she would go to the Portsmouth FM and take part in a ritual that occurs with astonishing regularity:

  • Buy many plants and flowers
  • Leave them lined up on the sidewalk (no fear of theft here!)
  • Retrieve Subaru Outback or Forrester from parking lot
  • Drive back to sidewalk
  • Park Subaru
  • Slowly load plants and flowers into trunk
  • Arrange and rearrange plants, flowers, and other purchases
  • Depart 15-20 minutes later, maybe longer if another Subaru does not pull up to do the same thing in the same location

Smug Scout realizes this activity may sound terribly banal, but she simply cannot believe how many owners of Outbacks and Forresters engage in this ritualistic activity every single week. She wonders if the Subaru owners manual instructs its drivers to have gardens established through these exact means. (“You may NOT buy plants or flowers at Lowe’s. You MUST seek out a local market. You may NOT load them carelessly or quickly. You MUST display them tastefully in the trunk.”) So fascinating, these Smug New Hampshire natives with their Subarus.

IMG_0904Hairy and Tattooed Shoppers: You simply cannot spend five hours at the Portsmouth FM without seeing all manner of excess hair and tattoos. Smug Scout grabbed her camera when she saw this archetypal couple (left). Note intentionally wild and style-free hair, colorless outfits, and ghoulishly pale limbs with indecipherable images tattooed all over. Smug Scout is not, however, impressed that these otherwise Smug locals did not bring reusable bags or third world woven baskets with them. Even if they forgot their bags/baskets, they could have bought new reusable totes from Black Kettle Farm or the Seacoast Local organization (motto: “You are where you eat”). This next one (right) did better in the Tattooed shopperecological department. Though her hair “style” is equally slapdash, her outfit equally dingy and drab, her skin equally ghostly, and her tattoos equally garish and impossible to interpret from the safe distance Smug Scout was forced to keep, this hairy and tattooed shopper at least had the good sense to bring a large third world woven basket and fill it with flowers, herbs, and greens that she, in classic Portsmouth fashion, arranges for display more than protection. Some of those flowers may be beheaded if someone–for example, a terrifying looking uncouth visitor from the backwoods interior of the state–bumps into her roughly, but she will probably make sure to be nowhere near such yokels.

Stay tuned for the second part of the Smug scenes from the Portsmouth FM series. The next one features a new age farm, a precious local band, and kale. Start brewing your Smug White Heron tea. Smug Scout will have the post for you very soon.

Smug Coffee Update

Geisha Santuario beansThough you, Smug readers, may have long since tired of the subject of overpriced coffee, Smug Scout was still smarting from her disappointing trip to Intelligentsia’s Chicago birthplace (subject of last week’s post “Smug Scout Shutout in Chicago”), so she was very relieved to return to the lap of Smugness in Silver Lake. Imagine her delight when she saw that Geisha Santuario was available in two forms: by the bag and by the cup. However, because Intelligentsia wants to exaggerate the exclusivity of this coffee (not unlike Hermès with “wait-list only” $10K Birkin bags), apparently to justify the jaw dropping cost for Smug suckers, the availability was limited and reluctant. On the shelf, behind the sign advertising half a pound for $80 in purposely fuzzy script, sat one lonely bag.

Geisha santuario signThen, when Smug Scout went to order, the Depression-era hipster café chimiste (or whatever Intelligentsia calls its employees) had to find out if it was even still possible to sell a cup of this exotic moneymaker. Smug Scout acted polite and excited, though she felt sardonic and foolish. She shelled out her $10 with alacrity (inexplicably $2 cheaper than in Chicago) and then of course had to wait twenty minutes while the café chimiste did all sorts of things with beakers, flasks, test tubes and other unidentifiable chemistry lab apparatus. Smug Scout hated chemistry in high school, so you can count on the fact that she does not know what she is talking about here, but she is nonetheless fairly certain that the café chimiste was stealthily using an antique Bunsen burner to get the coffee up to 210 degrees because she cannot imagine any other explanation for having to wait so fucking long for one cup of coffee. As she was waiting, she had plenty of time to think about the geishas and wonder if they got into “boutique” bio-diverse shade grown direct trade coffee because they were tired of dealing with rightwing paramilitary cocaine traffickers or if they realized they could make more money with Smug coffee than coca plants. (Again, Smug Scout is not an expert here. Most of what she knows about Colombian cocaine production and distribution comes from “Miami Vice.”)

Geisha Santuario Anyway, when Smug Scout finally got her coffee, she was anxious to see if she could detect how the “bouquet of jasmine and orange blossom greets the palate, followed by the effervescent acidity of tangerine, raspberry and black currant.” She even drank it black so she could be more sensitized to these tasting notes. No luck. No matter how much sniffing, swirling, and oxygenating she did (i.e. pointlessly treating it like wine), the best she could come up with is “better than Starbucks.” The main thing she noticed was that despite allegedly being heated to 210 degrees, it got cold within minutes. So was it worth it? Not exactly. On the plus side, however, when Smug Scout went in for a second, cheaper ($5) cup of coffee and earnestly asked the café chimiste for a recommendation of what to drink following the Geisha Santuario–either Indonesian or Ethiopian varietals with zany names intended to stymie all pronunciation attempts–Smug Scout was amazed to find that the café chimiste actually comped her this one! Only in L.A., Smug Scout thinks. Smug Scout’s friend Rosa also believes it was a reward for being the first friendly mark customer at Intelligentsia. Rosa believes Silver Lake hipsters would never ask a café chimiste for an opinion because they are all already experts. Is Smug Scout now an expert on Geisha Santuario coffee? Yes, as long as you do not mind that she made up half of what she has written about it. If you do not like that level of accuracy, then Smug Scout will recommend that if you have questions about cocaine you should probably not ask Don Johnson.

Smug Scout Shutout in Chicago

Intelligentsia Chicago exteriorSmug Scout has a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles. She loves the restaurants, the farmers’ markets, the palm trees, the monotonously bland weather, and the local political races featuring a homogenous blend of Democrats. She hates the driving conditions she feels were devised by Satan. She also does not believe she could have a pure love for any place she has to work, but of course work pays for her favorite pastime: traveling. And so whenever Smug Scout has even a three day weekend, she hotfoots it out of L.A. Her most recent trip was to Chicago over Presidents’ Day weekend. She loves Chicago and was excited to do some serious Smug scouting there. Too bad this plan failed.

Intelligentsia Chicago menuThe first failure occurred at the original Intelligentsia. Since Smug Scout is such a slavish fan of the Silver Lake outpost, she was absurdly excited to see where that ne plus ultra of Smugness began. As soon as she arrived, she thought she had reached Smug coffee Shangri-La when she saw that she would be able to order a cup of the most insanely overpriced coffee she has ever seen in her life: Santuario Geisha from Colombia. Smug Scout loves the idea of a coffee plantation that is also a sanctuary for beleaguered  geishas, though she knows that geisha is really just a coffee bean “varietal” from Panama. But regardless of this mundane reality, she could not wait to shell out the extortionate sum of $12 to see if she could detect the promised notes of jasmine, orange blossom, and black currant. Unfortunately, her excitement turned to dismay when the Smug yet hat-less coffee artiste (Smug Scout refuses to use that silly word “barista” and doubts Intelligentsia tolerates it either) announced without even the slightest trace of fake apology that Santuario Geisha was sold out. In disgust, Smug Scout ordered the cheaper, purposely unpronounceable Zambian one, which she felt tasted less like apple, cherry, and caramel and more like coffee. To add insult to injury, none of the three milk canisters contained soy milk. She recalls that two of them contained whole milk. What an outrage! No one in L.A. drinks whole milk!

Ruxbin exteriorThe second failure occurred that very same evening. While riding in the car, Smug Scout spotted a Smug epicenter called Ruxbin. She knew this restaurant was Smug when she saw the intentionally unreadable pseudo old fashioned “typewritten” sign (though she does not recall any old typewriters that used a meat cleaver to represent the letter “b”), the bizarre playhouse looking contraption, the studied placement of twigs, and barely varnished reclaimed wood everywhere in sight. If Smug Scout is being perfectly honest, she does not believe she has seen a restaurant that advertises Smugness so aggressively anywhere else in the world. She had to find out more. She had to have dinner there. Uh-oh. She could not have dinner there. Ruxbin had no space for Smug Scout! Ruxbin, which scorns that bourgeois reservations nonsense, dismissed Smug Scout and her two Smug Chicago friends, though they arrived one hour before the restaurant’s final seating. After being turned away without even the slightest trace of a fake apology, Smug Scout noticed that Ruxbin posts “House Rules.” You can read the rules on the web site (, but here is Smug Scout’s summary if you do not want to bother: “You may not complain about waiting, even if it is two hours. In fact, do not waste our time or ink by allowing your name on our list if you are the type to dislike two hour waits for a precious reclaimed wood table that we will then rush you away from because other marks are waiting for it. Keep all Apple products off and concealed.” Such brazen and hostile Smugness.

After this disappointment, Smug Scout had to content herself with the web site, which offered such a rich, engorged feast of Smugness that Smug Scout almost lost her appetite for the real experience. Here is some useful information from the “About” page: (

With Ruxbin, our goal is to create food that goes back to the etymology of what a restaurant is meant to embody.                                                                                  res·tau·rant \ˈres-t(ə-)ränt also -t(ə-)rənt, -tərn                                                            Etymology: French, from present participle of restaurer to restore

Maybe Smug Scout is not smart enough for Ruxbin, but she does not really understand how food can “go back to an etymology”; she thinks someone has pretentious meals mixed up with linguistics. Still, she is grateful to know that she has been correctly pronouncing “restaurant” all these years.

The Space: Ruxbin emerges at the junction of Wicker Park and West Town. This 32-seat American Bistro hosts a steam-punk decor in a sepia-toned menagerie. Time periods and materials flair together with the Refurbished, Repurposed, and Reclaimed. Vintage and salvaged compositions furnish every surface of the dining room, creating an inviting respite.

This passage takes Smug Scout’s breath away. What does she love best? The use of “flair” as a verb? (Could it be related to flairer, the Old French word meaning “to scent”? Just ask the Ruxbin etymology experts!) The idea that a place can “host a…decor”? (Does that mean the restaurant can kick out the decor if it becomes unruly?) The utterly unhelpful imagery: “steam-punk decor in a sepia-toned menagerie”? (Are brown-tinted animals present?) No, while that last one is close, it is not her favorite. She loves the capitalized Smug adjectives!

Smug Scout is already planning another trip to Chicago. You will restore her then, Ruxbin! And get the geishas to harvest some extra beans, Intelligentsia!