Exploring Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, CA


If you are looking to spend a long, lazy afternoon on a sun soaked trendy street in So Cal, Abbot Kinney Blvd. is your destination.  Food trucks with global cuisine, great coffee shops, trendy boutiques and world class dining lined up for your exploration.

On the 1400 block, you can’t miss some new street art work by French street artist JR as part of his “Wrinkles in the City” Project.

My companions for the day … the love of my life, Connie

And my mother in law Carolyn who was visiting us from Wisconsin.

We arrived in the city just around lunch time and headed straight for the Kogi food truck for Korean inspired Mexican classics – short rib tacos, Sweet chili chicken and Kimchi quesadillas.

A Pilsner Urquell from “The Brig” helped combat the heat from the street grub …

Seating area in Brig Parking lot where Kogi and a few other trucks congregate.

The Irreverently Good Dogs truck had a fabulously enticing “junk food” menu – will give it a try some other time.

If meat and potatoes is your thing … yep it’s out there … gut busting sandwiches and fries.

The Calbi Taco & Burrito truck

And Louks Greek gourmet …

Canines galore – in all shapes and sizes out with their owners.  This little guy was on the hunt for scraps.

Will shake your hand sir if you feed me …

This pug was being carted around in a baby stroller … yeeeesh!

And this groggy guy was ready for caffeine.

Looking for vintage convertibles? … plenty on Abbot Kinney – hey it is So Cal after all.  Porsche, Alfa Romeo and the Beetle Bug snapped below.

And a few good bikes … Vulcan, Enfield and Indian.

If you are a coffee enthusiast, head to Intelligensia Coffee. After passing through the iron gates facing the bustling boulevard, visitors walk down an ivy-covered hall open to the sky where they are greeted at a butcher block “concierge desk.” From this point, they are taken to one of four custom-fabricated espresso machines where their espresso drink or coffee-by-the-cup is prepared. The idea is for a barista to stay with one person throughout the interaction to create an individualized experience for every customer, regardless of how many are being served.

A perfectly executed cup of cappuccino crafted with Intelligensia’s Black Cat Espresso.

This gentleman probably had a similar cup of eye opening coffee!

Abbot Kinney boasts an eclectic mix of shops including “The Stronghold” for American made jeans and other luxury goods, “Steven Alan Annex” for classic American wear for men and women, “Waraku” for sneakers,“Jack Spade” for men’s clothing and accessories, “Topo Ranch” for impossibly soft t-shirts and “Enda King” for menswear.

Ping pong table fun courtesy of Jack Spade …

The art, the dwellings, street vendor merchandise and homes are a visual treat with a projection of edge and energy.

Death to Ken!

Later in the evening after the departure of the Kogi truck, the parking lot was filled up with 5 black Audi’s.  The attendant mentioned that it was a pure coincidence but I don’t know if I bought that line.

This cat’s expression says it all … it was a good night and time to head home …

TCG Restaurant Review: The Tasting Kitchen, Venice CA


The entrance

The Tasting Kitchen was featured early this year in GQ’s list of 10 best new restaurants in America.  In Los Angeles for the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to dine there and decide for ourselves if the lofty title was worthy.  Having shopped at The Stronghold which is 2 doors down from the restaurant, the manager at the store validated our choice and assured us that Saul, the sommelier would take good care of us.  There are two distinct areas in this smallish casual establishment … one that served as the main dining room and the other more of the communal variety close to the bar with a ton of energy.

The main dining room

View into the bar

The herb garden

The small oft-changing menu is held together with a metal clip with a specific format. Items like Veal & tuna crudo, beets, salsa rustica, Oysters and lentils rapini appear on the small plates side of the menu.  Bigger plates on this day included meat dishes such as salmon with peas, pork loin and polenta, halibut with morels and the NY strip steak for $140 (yes – Wagyu beef etc.)

The Bill of Fare

I started with West Coast Oysters simply flavored with a squeeze of lemon.  Fresh, briny washed down with a glass of Menu Pineau Cheverny that was mineraly / lemony.  Very refreshing.

Oysters with white wine accompaniment

Next up was Grilled Salmon with english peas and tendrils, garnished with grilled lemon and a lemon aioli for the sauce.  The fish was seared on the outside but the inside barely experienced any heat (mostly raw).   The crunchy peas suffered a similar fate.  The dish was flavorful but a tad undercooked.  The wine accompaniment was the Pinot Gamay Rose also from Cheverny.

Salmon with lemon aioli

The next course was my favorite … 3 cheeses – Keen’s cheddar from the UK, Ascutney from Vermont and the Monte Enebro goat cheese from Spain.  Nutty, sharp, and vegetal flavors were apparent with wonderfully thick, airy slices of La Brea Bakery’s white bread with a gob of sweet butter on a board.

The cheese course

Overall – a decent restaurant but not worthy of the distinction bestowed upon by the food editor of GQ.

The Stronghold in Los Angeles … An American Icon!


Los Angeles based The Stronghold is a purveyor of denim and other specialty / luxury goods fully manufactured  in the United States.  The building  and storefront is located on 1625, Abbot Kinney Blvd in the city of Venice and has stood there since 1895!  Store Manager Ryan Gray gave me a brief and interesting history lesson about the company and the philosophy of the owner in deciding what merchandise is carried in the store.  For me it was an interesting and timely find for an all American merchant (it’s Memorial Day weekend after all).

The store has a warm, old time relaxed ambiance as you walk through the front door.  In addition to the Stronghold label, customers can purchase classic brands of other iconic American companies like Alden Shoes, Red Wing Boots, White’s Boots, Filson Bags, American Optical, Russell Moccasins, Fox River Mills and Stetson Hats.

Upon entering the front door, my eyes were greeted to a display of Alden footwear arranged around a beautiful vase of Star Gazing lilies.  I knew I was in for a treat as I went about discovering what lay beyond.

Store Manager Ryan Gray is a friendly and knowledgeable guide and was a pleasure to deal with.  He introduced me to owner Michael Paradise, gave me a tour of the store and then helped me pick out a pair of selvedge jeans complete with complimentary and customized alterations.

Owner, Michael Paradise pictured below and featured in the video “Finding America”

The likeness of brand icon Stronghold Steve is apparent throughout. Quite an old time Americana character.

American Optical aviators on display in the showcase, more boots and women’s shorts hanging on the wall.

Made in the Northwest, Filson bags from Seattle are backed by the same guarantee since 1897 by Clinton C. Filson … “We guarantee every item purchased from us. No more, no less. Your satisfaction is the sole purpose of our transaction.”

A display of Red Wing Boots … another classic company from Minnesota that has been around for 100+ years with a rich heritage.  Their ethos is one of true American spirit and promise -” if one works hard enough, one can achieve anything”.

The South back wall of the store displays Stronghold label denim and Stetson hats.   See those decanters below?  Ryan pours his guests water or bourbon.  Nice touch.


A rich array of denim material ready for your bespoke jeans.  Some of it comes from Japan which is arguably the finest …

The store staple – straight up denim in straight and slim leg fits.  These styles are no-distress, clean, and selvedge.  About $300 ea.

More store staples – shirts, denim jackets and stylishly classic and quintessential LA hats.

Classic worker images and an appeal for labor on storefront walls …

Monk strap Alden shoes to dress up that denim.

If faded, unfussy and broken in denim is your thing, Stronghold can accomodate that too.

The store caters to the ladies as well – on display, boots for the fair maiden.

Sock monkeys in the backroom and denim cloth selections on the wall.

Mr. Interpersonal Ryan sharing his wealth of knowledge on all things denim …

And all things boots …

Comfortable seating area towards the back of the store … perfect for bourbon drinking or trying on footwear.

After a couple of hours in the store, it’s time to head out to next door to the Tasting Kitchen restaurant.  Saul, the sommelier there took good care of us.  Thanks Ryan!


Tres hombres bid us adieu … thank you gentlemen.

F.S.C Barber


F.S.C. Barber with two locations in New York has expanded to California with a 1,200-square-foot shop in San Francisco’s Mission District. Services offered include straight-razor shaves, classic cuts, with an old fashioned ambiance.  Haircuts are $40, a beard trim runs $15, and straight-razor shaves cost $40. The barbers use traditional grooming tools such as shaving brushes and military-style hair brushes. Product lines include Hawleywood’s, Malin+Goetz, and Baxter of California.

F.S.C Barber is located on 696 Valencia St., San Francisco, 415-621-9000

Also housed within is the Freemans Sporting Club boutique that carries a line of made-in-America menswear.  “Made Local, Buy Local” is the thriving tenant of the company.  The store was in the process of opening which was the reason why Ricky, the store manager was reluctant to let us take pictures.

 

Business sloppy is out!


The term “Business Casual” that started as an initiative to lose the suit and tie and promote informality in the workplace has gotten out of hand.  While common sense should be the prevailing guideline when it comes to workplace dressing, it often isn’t.  Business casual has translated to “Business Sloppy” across corporate America. As an executive at a company, one should dress the part.  Those who aspire to leadership have to think hard about what to wear.  Executives are in the business of influencing.  Clothes can help or hinder those goals.

Dressing the part:

Suits, separates:

Every executive should own a few well tailored suits.  A solid navy, charcoal, brown, a blue or grey with pin stripes.  An outstanding example of an executive who knows how to dress is Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle.  In a classic blue suit below, Mr. Ellison has the executive look down to the dimpled knot on his silk tie and cuff links.  Power dressing at it’s best!

In the next image, Mr. Ellison is dressed in a classic grey suit … a staple item that should be included in every executive wardrobe.

Ties not common place in the workplace?  That’s okay – the suit look without the tie is still polished.

Achieving the tailored look:

Far too many executives think that just putting on a suit and tie automatically means you are dressed up.  Not true in most cases.  Mr. Ellison’s look above is one you can rarely acquire off the rack in a department store.  The right fit is key.  In general, off the rack clothing rarely fits most men as seen below.

The problem with this look?  The jacket is too wide in the shoulders.  The trousers are too long in addition to projecting a baggy silhouette.  The look is essentially boxy and sloppy.  Another commonly overlooked problem is sleeve length.  The rule of thumb is for a quarter inch of your shirt cuff to be exposed under the sleeve length of the jacket.  Executives should eschew three-button suits; a ’90s trend that is not flattering.  

Prince Charles is arguably one of the world’s best dressed man.  His look is not accidental.  It is steeped in classic Savile Row tradition with a rich heritage of crafting finely tailored clothing.  Made to measure or bespoke tailoring may cost more but it’s quality worth paying for!

Completing the look:

Got the suit, jacket, pants part right?  Great!  It doesn’t stop there.  The look of a well tailored suit can be marred by not getting the rest of your ensemble right.  The shirt, the tie, belt, cuff links, and shoes and your watch are equally important in achieving the complete look.

Shirts:

I will use the the shirt manufacturing company Ledbury’s take on shirts because they say it perfectly … “Typical brands use excess fabric in the waist and torso, which creates a formless and baggy look. We think our slim fit collection solves that problem with the ideal fit. And slim fit is not just for the slim; it’s a tailored cut that is flattering on most men.”
Please watch this video:

Ties: 

It’s pretty simple with neck wear.  Quality silk ties can project beauty, power, and elegance, and enhances the overall look of any suit.  French or Italian makes are best.  Look for the classic clothiers – Hermes, Ferragamo, Burberry and you can’t go wrong.

Image by Mr. Kent Wang

Belts:

When it comes to belts, you should buy one size bigger than your pants. A 34″ waist means a 36″ belt.  The buckle’s notch should fit into the center hole of the belt (usually hole number three; most belts have five holes).  The tail of the belt should end just past the first loop on your pants.  The edge of the belt buckle, the row of buttons on your shirt and your fly should all line up vertically.  It is important to match the color of your belt to the color of your shoes.  Black with black, brown with brown.  Belts below by Ralph Lauren Purple Label.


And the ubiquitous silver tipped golf belt?  Definitely does not belong in the board room or anywhere outside the golf course.


Cuff links:

Cuff links for the executive represent a very attractive, dressed-up look.  They frame a suit quite nicely.  Quality is important so choose and invest in a few pieces that are well constructed.  Stick with the specialists like John Hardy, Konstantino and David Yurman.  All cuff link images below courtesy of Paul Stuart.

Watches:

A watch is an accessory that speak volumes about an executive.  iPads, cell phones and your laptops all tell time but a watch isn’t just about telling the time. Watches are about history, style, engineering marvel and objects that heirlooms are made of.  Classic luxury Swiss and German horlogerie houses like Patek Philippe, A Lange & Sohne,  and IWC invest countless hours of research and development into high-grade watch movements, employing the finest mechanical engineers in the world.  Their watches are about craftsmanship and style, not just about telling time. Before you say that a Timex can keep time as well as a Patek, remember that if life was that simple, none of us would own anything of quality be it clothing, transportation or housing.

Shoes:

They say the shoes make the man, and with good reason … they’re among the first things people notice.  Invest in classic styles and be prepared to spend.  Like a good suit, you get what you pay for.  Items below courtesy Mr. Porter

Wing tip Brogues by Gucci

Light brown Brogues by John Lobb

Ralph Lauren Purple Label Monk Straps

Gucci Horsebit Loafers

John Lobb Oxfords

Boots at work also work well – with laces or the Chelsea variety … courtesy Leffot.

Chelsea Boots

CEO’s … does your executive team look like this?

Or more like this …?