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 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 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 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.

Smug Cocktail Gold Medalist

Smug Scout’s favorite Smug mixologist Lisa was highly displeased to think that another restaurant, that Smug magnet Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, might offer a cocktail more Smug than any of hers. Lisa really does not need to worry about this. Yes, it is true that one drink, Lift Off, has Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and small batch ginger beer in it. Such a drink sets the bar very high for any Smug mixologist. Still, Smug Scout would like to point out to Lisa that she has created many, many very Smug cocktails, so her Smug cocktail output is much higher than that at Rustic Canyon, which has a paltry list. Nonetheless, Lisa was feeling competitive, so she decided to outdo Lift Off, if not send it crashing to the ground, by creating a cocktail whose name is still under wraps but contains Tru organic gin, fresh pressed kale, apple juice, lemon, ginger, and agave. Now it is very clear: in the Smug Cocktail Olympics, Lisa is the gold medal winner.

Smug Scout tried it when she went to Akasha on Friday. She was delighted that Lisa had someone in the kitchen cold press what must have been bushels of kale because there was a huge vat of kale juice. This drink was extraordinary. It was not only the most Smug cocktail Smug Scout has ever had, but it was also one of the very most delicious. It is the perfect embodiment of virtue and vice, the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split. In fact, since Smug Scout is also the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split, you could say that this kale cocktail is Smug Scout in drink form.

But in case you believe Nietzsche would have scoffed at such twaddle or simply do not give a fuck, Smug Scout will move on to her next topic: yet another highly annoying conversation she overheard between a polite bartender and, this time, a customer you would have no choice but to describe as a dour Nordic troll. Since Smug Scout likes Nordic people, she would like to clarify here that blonde hair and blue eyes do not automatically signify beauty. Even this gene pool is occasionally befouled by unfortunate features, pasty sickly skin, and freakish balding patterns.

This dour Nordic troll first irked Smug Scout by officiously setting up his iPad on the bar. Smug Scout would not want an iPad in front of her when she is sitting at a bar or, if she really thinks about it, sitting or standing or lying down anywhere at all in the world. Furthermore, she would not have had space for an iPad because she had a Smug seasonal cocktail array in front of her, and this is much more entertaining, not even to mention more ethical, than a gadget made by faceless serfs in China.

Smug Scout should have known that the iPad on the bar was a harbinger of greater repulsiveness. It came when this cretinous specimen spoke. Below is the conversation as Smug Scout would have handled it.

  • Smug Bartender: May I get you something to drink?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You do offer seasonal cocktails here, right?
  • Smug Bartender: Yes, here is our list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You call this seasonal? I’ve had some of these so-called seasonal cocktails before. In other seasons.
  • Smug Bartender: Do you live in L.A.?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Yes, in Silver Lake.
  • Smug Bartender: I knew it. Well, then you must know that L.A. has only three seasons: fire, awards, and summer. Fire season can be a problem unless you like Cajun blackened produce.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: So then what are all those cocktails she’s drinking?
  • Smug Bartender: Those are seasonal cocktails from the private list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Can I see it?
  • Smug Bartender: No.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Fine, just bring me a beer and some chicken wings.
  • Smug Bartender: Great seasonal choices. Would that be Super Bowl season?

Lisa has already informed Smug Scout, in terms you could call absolutely non-negotiable, that she will never be a guest bartender. Smug Scout accepts this interdiction, but she would like to keep Lisa heading towards new frontiers of Smug cocktails. What is the next one? Smug Scout thinks it is organic purple mizuna.