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 (http://www.ruxbinchicago.com/site/hours/house-rules), 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: (http://www.ruxbinchicago.com/site/about/)

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!

Smug Home Inspection: Derek

Smug Scout lives to locate Smugness in its natural or, better yet, completely contrived habitat. One of her favorite places to do this is in other people’s homes. Sometimes, of course, a favorite place for her may be far from a favorite place for her subjects to invite her. For example, she is fairly sure she annoyed the Smug Barrington Bartender by asking to see her refrigerator a few too many times (after a few too many of Smug Barrington Bartender’s Bully Boy artisanal small batch organic white wheat whiskey cocktails). Smug Scout is sure that Smug Barrington Bartender’s refrigerator is full of multiple varieties of kale, local artisanal spirits, and handcrafted products from her Smug country store. She certainly has nothing to prove to Smug Scout. On the other hand, Smug Scout’s friend Derek had much more to prove after tantalizing Smug Scout by saying she probably would not want to see his messy Portsmouth apartment. She said it would be more than enough just to see the Smug decorative corn stalks on his “balcony” (more like a way station for trash that has been carried outside but not down the stairs), but when he invited her in, his place became fair game for a spontaneous Smug home inspection. What caused Smug Scout to be initially quite dumbstruck was the way Derek’s apartment effortlessly combined Smugness with absolute squalor. At first, Smug Scout did not really want to look around, let alone sit down, because she thought she was in the filthy, debauched lair of a frat boy. Imagine her surprise when she discovered a slew of Smug accoutrements mixed into the rubble:

  • Locally grown Marina di Chioggia. At first Smug Scout could not believe her eyes. She even said: “You have a Marina di Chioggia?” Derek breezily informed her that this Smug, wart-riddled green pumpkin was a gift from local farmer friends. Smug Scout wishes that she had New Hampshire farmer friends who would share such a Smug bounty.
  • Fair trade bamboo bath mat.  In addition to its sterling no-exploitation Derek's bamboo bath matpedigree, this item is Smug because it does so poorly at its only job: soaking up water after a shower. It has zero drying ability, but at least it gives the impression of walking barefoot in some sustainable Southeast Asian forest. You have the added benefit of not having to worry about poachers, smugglers, frightening insects, infectious tropical diseases and other problems that bedevil sustainable Southeast Asian forests. We can probably agree that freezing and wet feet are better than malaria, dengue fever, or being shot with a tranquilizer dart by some cretinous scoundrel poacher who mistook you for an elephant.
  • Derek's coat rackHand forged cast iron coat rack. Smug Scout did not know right away that she was even looking at a coat rack because no matter how long or hard she stared at it, she did not see one single coat. She then realized that Derek does not wear coats (though he has since bought a bright green Marmot jacket) and that he preferred to use this hand forged cast iron coat rack as a wall decoration. Even the following month when Smug Scout attended parties in Derek’s apartment, she noticed that no one put coats on the coat hooks. Smug Scout assumed this was a house rule of Derek’s, so she put her own Marmot winter wear on the back of a chair that seemed far enough from drunk people’s drinks to be safe. Meanwhile, guests piled their coats on the couch. Smug Scout smirked at the idea that the coat rack was empty while the couch was unusable for its original purpose: sitting.
  • Handmade birch bark candles. At first Smug Scout thought she was looking at some phony imitation of birch bark, so Derek had to inform her, quite archly in fact, that these candles were made from repurposed birch trees from the New England woods. These trees, he had to point out Smugly, were not savagely cut down for commercial reasons but rather died of natural causes and reincarnated as a Smug eco-friendly light source.
  • Local and artisanal salts, spices, rubs, spreads. Smug Scout was delighted to see this impressive collection of exotic flavored salt, lavender infused raw honey, and Smug Stonewall Kitchen products from the eponymous store down the street. However, what elevated this display’s Smug quotient is that it is just that: a display. Smug Scout was stunned to discover that Derek neither cooks nor eats in this kitchen.
  • Soap and spoon contraptionArtisanal handmade lavender oatmeal soap and local handcarved wooden spoon “sculpture” to prop up broken window. Smug Scout was especially fascinated by this contraption because it demonstrates critical yet at the same time paradoxical elements of Smugness: ridiculously expensive and handmade products stripped of their intended utility only to receive another, apparently more important one. You see, if Derek neither cleans nor cooks, he may as well use the soap and spoon to perform a function like holding up a broken window that he would rather not pay to have properly fixed. Smug Scout understands this choice very well because she balks at spending money anywhere other than Smug restaurants, stores, and vacation destinations.

Still, as impressed as Smug Scout was by the random, yet oddly comprehensive, array of Smug products, she could not help but turn up her nose at the squalor. These were the worst sightings:

  • Horrific refrigerator. Smug Scout does not know how to put this politely, nor does she have the slightest inclination to try: she was repulsed by the contents of Derek’s refrigerator, not even to mention the legion of unidentifiable stains decorating its surfaces. She thinks any product bearing a Market Basket label, such as “Fat Free Cottage Cheese,” already a vile over-processed product, must border on inedible. (For those not from the region, Market Basket is a bargain supermarket for those of low taste, lower class, and lowest standards, though Smug Scout has never actually set foot in one to confirm the certainty of her position.)  Another nightmare of chemical processing, Entenmann’s “Softees” donuts, certainly comes from the same anti-Smug source. She does not even want to know what the “homemade” very dark brown liquid in the seltzer bottle is (probably not artisanal black birch liqueur).  She does approve of both the Stonewall Kitchen Chipotle Ketchup and the Sriracha, though the latter container does not look safe to handle.
  • Beheaded cabbage patch kidGrotesque tableau. Smug Scout is pretty sure that Derek got the gourd from the fields of his New Hampshire farmer friends, but she does not believe the same could be said of the Cabbage Patch head. She does not know what the white plastic rat has to do with local gourds and bloody doll heads (nor they with each other for that matter) but vaguely wonders if it has something to do with the Pied Piper. And while she received a similar gourd as a gift from Derek, she will not be re-imagining this grisly trifecta in her own home.

Thank you so much for the tour, Derek! Smug Scout recalls that you sent an updated photo of your “re-Smugged” refrigerator, but it has disappeared into BlackBerry oblivion. Perhaps you would like to re-send it? Smug Scout welcomes any photographic rebuttals!

Smug Cleaning Products Review and Workout

Method Ecover Seventh Generation cleaning productsSmug Scout is not a natural born housekeeper. In fact, to put it more accurately, she combines an innate disinclination and indifference with a spectacular level of incompetence. She is tempted to pay someone to clean her apartment, but because she prefers to spend her money on food, drinks, vacations, and things to wear, and because her apartment is only a cell-like 650 square feet, she feels she should be able to handle this task on her own.

So handle it she does, albeit rarely and poorly. This morning, however, she could not avoid it because she is having company this afternoon, and with all the (fucking) sun shining in, any dirty spots would be glaringly illuminated. Thus, she got to work using the Smug environmentally friendly products in the above photo.

This post is not really a review of those products, however, nor is it a comparison of them. Why not? Method, Ecover, Seventh Generation, whatever. They are all sensitive to animals and the planet, they are all free of noxious chemicals, they all smell pretty good, they are all available for a high price at Whole Foods, and they are all simply dreadful as cleaning agents. That is as much as she cares to review them because the real issue is the second part of the post’s title: workout. Using these products means actively using all the muscles in your arms and legs. It is not like those TV commercials for environmentally ruinous cleaning products that show a smiling Stepford wife spraying the product on some unidentifiable filth and then effortlessly wiping it away in one smooth gesture. Smug Scout is not sure those products are that miraculous, but she knows they do not involve so many “reps” of such grueling, laborious scrubbing. For example, a small red wine stain on the kitchen floor does not simply come off with a quick spritz of Seventh Generation “Green Mandarin and Leaf All-Purpose Cleaner.” As Smug Scout is on her hands and knees violently rubbing her biodegradable European dish towel over the stain, she vaguely wonders how the hell unripe mandarins and random leaves became qualified to work as cleaning products. She believes unripe mandarins and random leaves need to go back to their day job.

Smug Scout will not be doing such intensely athletic cleaning again for quite some time. Furthermore, she believes she needs to drink more white wine, so if she clumsily splashes a drop on the floor, no one will see it. This is the only kind of cleaning solution at which Smug Scout excels.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 1/13

Lion's Mane mushroom signSmug Scout is back from her winter vacation. Smug Scout slightly regrets that she has been so busy scouting in recent weeks that she has taken no time to write, but now that she is back at work, she can return to her writing duties. On Sunday she was feeling glum about being stuck in bright, sunny Los Angeles when she would rather be in grim, gray, dismal, rainy France, Germany, or Belgium, but a trip to the Mar Vista FM was helpful in distracting her from this preposterous longing. The market was offering greens at virtually every stand, so she of course bought assorted varieties of kale and chard as well as some fascinating skinny-leafed speckled lettuce that was almost the subject of this post.

However, when she saw the sign for lion’s mane mushrooms (along with its name in Latin, surely a necessary reference for all the customers who may otherwise only know it as Japanese yamabushitake or pom pom blanc), she knew she had found her winner. Smug Scout was attracted by the sign’s promise: “rare – delicious – nutricious [sic].” Now we already know that all mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, and it seems like this one delivers on both counts: it can taste like lobster, it is 20% protein, and it has been proven to reduce anxiety, improve memory, and even regenerate dead or dying nerves (or something like that, but you are not reading Smug Scout for scientific accuracy).

Lion's maneSo that is all fascinating, but what makes this mushroom so Smug is the fact that it is rare and thus unknown to most people, even other mushroom cognoscenti. It also seems like it will stay that way because not many people are even able to buy these mushrooms from Tanya the backyard farmer from Thailand (previously introduced in “Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/7”). In fact, when Smug Scout says “not many people,” she means “one.” Yes, Tanya showed up to the FM with a table full of oyster mushrooms and one single lion’s mane. She offered to sell this solitary specimen to Smug Scout. As Smug Scout was photographing her prized bounty, she found herself mixed up in an unfriendly exchange with a disgruntled rare mushroom seeker.

  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: Wow! You have lion’s mane mushrooms!
  • Tanya: Not anymore.
  • Smug Scout: I got it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: But the market just opened five minutes ago! And what does she mean by “it”?
  • Tanya: There was only one lion’s mane mushroom…
  • Smug Scout: …and I just bought it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [still to Tanya]: That’s outrageous you came to the market with only one single mushroom to sell!
  • Smug Scout: I guess you need to get here earlier next week.

At this point Smug Scout received a look of death from Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker, who then stormed off fiercely. Tanya was unfazed by the outright hostility (Smug Scout believes some of that was lost in translation, the rest in indifference) and actually went on to tell Smug Scout that she took Smug Scout’s recommendation to roast oyster mushrooms with olive oil and grilling spices and was so delighted by their uncanny bacon flavor that she stopped buying bacon altogether and has even asked for permission from the FM manager to bring samples for customers so she and her non-Thai husband can market the oyster mushrooms as a bacon substitute. All because of Smug Scout! Yes, Smug Scout is shamelessly proud of her influence here, especially because she advocates for pigs, who would certainly also support this new marketing of oyster mushrooms.

The lion’s mane, on the other hand, tasted like a crab cake (a good one with no filler). Smug Scout is happy to advocate for crabs, too. But she will have to get to the market next week even before it opens to avoid a mushroom fueled version of “High Noon.”

Smug SmackDown: Christmas Trees in Los Angeles

Smug Scout is not a big fan of major holidays except insofar as they free her from work, which, grimly enough, is almost always at the same time as large numbers of riffraff and ruffians who moronically clog stores and roadways. She has a particularly strong distaste for what these same riffraff and ruffians treat as “drinking holidays,” mainly New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, and July 4th. Smug Scout does not need an officially sanctioned holiday to drink more than joyless Puritans believe she should.  Miraculously, perhaps, she manages to create special occasions for drinking that do not require fireworks, dwarfs in green, or throngs of obscenely stupid revelers. She designates these (actually quite frequent) special occasions “going out to dinner.”

Unlike trumped up American booze holidays, Christmas does not inspire quite as much hostility, though she also does not especially like it. Drippy and overplayed Christmas songs make her scowl, excessive cheap and flashy decorations make her shudder, and grinning imbeciles in Santa caps and reindeer antlers make her want to throw up. She is somewhat amused watching television footage of brutal stampedes at low class chain stores. And although she generally insists on doing all of her shopping at FMs and local independent stores, she will admit she took advantage of Neiman Marcus’s free seasonal rush shipping to reward herself with a pair of handmade Pedro Garcia shoes that she will not be able to wear until she is in L.A. again in two weeks anyway.

Yes, Smug Scout is celebrating Christmas on the East Coast, where the air is cold and living trees outside match the decorated corpses inside. She does not feel any Christmas atmosphere in L.A., though the city’s flagrant phoniness seems well suited to that of the holiday. On the plus side, what L.A. may be lacking in old fashioned or noncommercial authenticity, it scores generously in Smugness, especially Smug Christmas trees. Smug Scout will present to you now three Smug Christmas trees, one from Hollywood and two from Silver Lake, and would like to see if you can determine the winner of the Smug Christmas Tree SmackDown.

Los Angeles-20121209-00105#1: This Smug Christmas tree is from the Hungry Cat, a restaurant in Hollywood that specializes in seafood and seasonal cocktails. The tree is green. Many of the ornaments are made from repurposed oyster and clam shells with cheery handwritten seasonal messages inside them. There are no gifts, only gift ideas under this tree: Hungry Cat spices and gift certificates. A cute pumpkin sits next to those.

Barkeeper Christmas Tree#2: This Smug Christmas tree is from Bar Keeper, a store in Silver Lake that sells retro barware and glassware, exorbitantly expensive artisanal small batch spirits, and local drinking related crafts, such as handmade coasters. The tree is silver. The ornaments are their own coasters, ribbons, and beads. The gifts under the tree are actual full bottles of champagne. These are great gifts, Smug Scout hints to her readers.

Intelligentsia Christmas tree

#3: This Smug Christmas tree is from Intelligentsia, the breathtakingly Smug “coffeebar” in Silver Lake that sells single source direct trade coffee at the highest price and for the longest wait you could find anywhere. The tree is flaming hot pink. The ornaments are glittery snowflakes and the company’s own branded cups. There is not a single gift to be seen anywhere near this tree, though if you want to give your Smug loved ones 3/4 pound bags of whole coffee beans for up to the not quite bargain price of $80, you will find a large array on the shelves to the right.

Winner: #3. Come now, any competition that involves Intelligentsia is practically over before it starts. But for the record Smug Scout would like to announce that she would not want anyone to spend $80 on a 3/4 pound bag of coffee for her, no matter what kind of fucking Columbian geisha santuario it comes from. Merry Smug Christmas! Or Merry Smug Xmas for you pagans out there.