Celebrating a Frozen February

In keeping with last month’s theme of official National Days celebrating weird stuff, I took a look at the February calendar to help me figure out what to cook this month. (Yeah, I make a monthly menu…it’s a chef thing.) I have always followed a seasonal and market guide, but using the National Day Calendar as inspiration is a first, and I feel like I have struck inspirational gold.   

Besides putting obscure foods (or those I gave up on long ago) back into my repertoire (such as Tater Tot Day — Feb. 20, Banana Bread Day — Feb. 23 and the [oddly specific] Crab Stuffed Flounder Day — Feb. 18), this calendar also allows me to combine food and nonfood observances for the betterment of mankind. For instance, Feb. 16 is both National Almond Day and National Do a Grouch a Favor Day. (I’m not making any of this up.) So, if you’re feeling generous, you can make the world better by presenting your grouch with a delightful almond cookie (or have him over for trout amandine). Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day, but also National Organ Donor, Ferris Wheel and Cream-Filled Chocolates Day. But, to be clear, when I am up on that Ferris wheel on Valentine’s Day, I’d better be presented with a box of cream-filled chocolates, and not a donated organ.

Feb. 15 is both Singles Awareness Day and No One Eats Alone Day, which I assumed were combined to cancel each other out, until I read their official websites. They explain that Singles Awareness Day champions the benefits of being single on the day after Valentine’s Day — a comfort to depressed singles the world over who spent Valentine’s Day watching everyone else donate organs to each other on Ferris wheels. However, No One Eats Alone Day, as it turns out, is about kids being nice to each other in the lunchroom, which I like and therefore will not mock. 

I assumed Cherry Pie Day was related to George Washington’s birthday, but it falls on Feb. 20, which is neither George Washington’s real nor fake birthday. He was born on Feb. 11, 1731, but the Julian calendar was used at that time. When Britain switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, his birthday moved 1 year and 11 days, to Feb, 22, 1732. I spent several hours in a deep dive into this historical calendar switch, which is fascinating. (But probably only to me, so I’ll spare you the details.) Also, the cherry tree story is a lie. 

Regardless, cherry pie will definitely be on my list of things to bake this month, because I love cherries, pies and George Washington. I never use canned cherries or cherry pie filling. I cannot abide the corn-syrupy gel goop. I will pit real, fresh cherries for this pie when they are in season (not in February) or buy them whole and fresh-frozen, then flavor them with something delightfully subtle, like cardamom, lemon zest and a dash of orange-flower water. 

Nonfood-related days I’m looking forward to this month include Feb. 11 — Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk Day — on which I’m going to be super positive, always look on the bright side and try not to serve anyone a glass of milk, just in case. I’m also super psyched for Feb. 28, which is National Public Sleeping Day, encouraging naps nationwide, as if I needed an excuse.

But my favorite day this month is right out of the gate, on Feb. 1, and it is a day I will most definitely be celebrating culinarily. This is the day that celebrates my favorite dessert to both make and eat — baked Alaska. 

Baked Alaska was created at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City, which opened in the early 1800s and is still open today. (And though it claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York, it has not been operating continuously, as there was a short break in service for about 70 years. Also, another Delmonico’s creation was stretching the truth.)  In addition to baked Alaska, this iconic restaurant originated several classic dishes, including eggs Benedict and the Delmonico steak, which was originally two hearts of boneless ribeye tied together with twine, creating a fattier, more tender version of the filet mignon. Today, however, the Delmonico steak is usually a New York strip.

The baked Alaska, initially named “Alaska-Florida” because of its contrasting temperatures, was first served in 1867 to celebrate our purchase of Alaska from Russia. It consists of a walnut sponge topped with banana ice cream, encased in meringue with an apricot compote on the side.  The entire concoction was then browned under a broiler, the meringue acting to insulate the ice cream and prevent it from melting.

Delmonico’s was a happening place, and this dessert was the epitome of Gilded Age dining, enjoyed by everyone who was anyone, including all the Rockefellers, Samuel Clemens and Charles Dickens. Today Delmonico’s serves the original version, which delighted me but horrified my youngest, as she finds bananas revolting. It is her only character defect. 

I have made this dessert in more variations than I can count. I have served it in every restaurant where I have worked, and included it in every class I ever taught. It can be large and presented to the whole table, or in cute individual portions. It can be drenched in rum and lit aflame tableside, or browned in the kitchen with a torch or under the broiler. I have used all sorts of cakes, brownies and cookies as a base for the rest of the ingredients. The key is to choose something stable that can structurally support the rest of the ensemble. The ice cream can be of any flavor, and I have often used sorbet or sherbet. Some of my favorite flavor combinations include a gingerbread or gingersnap base with eggnog; apple or orange ice cream; brownie base with peppermint or coffee ice cream; or lemon cookie — or even lemon bar — base with tart lemon sorbet. I’m sure you can come up with your own personal favorite. (An easy version includes a graham cracker base with chocolate ice cream, which takes on a s’mores effect when the marshmallow-esque meringue is torched. Magnifique!

The meringue that insulates the ice cream is the tricky part, although after a few tries you’ll find it easy peasy. Most recipes call for the Italian meringue style, which requires cooking sugar syrup to a precise temperature before whisking it into a meringue. I have learned over the years, however, that a Swiss-style meringue is easier, less finicky and faster. Swiss meringue consists of egg whites and sugar combined in a bowl over a bain-marie (simmering water bath), stirred until the sugar dissolves, then whisked into stiff peaks. This meringue is then piped or plopped and spread over the ice cream and cookie, completely concealing it all in a soft, fluffy snowball.

The final step is to brown the Alaska, which I usually do with a propane torch (a pastry chef’s best friend). It can also be popped quickly under a broiler. All of the steps, minus the torching, can be done in advance and the work-in-progress stored in the freezer until the time comes for you to impress your guests with the flame. But don’t wait for guests to make an Alaska. Make it for yourself. If this article is about anything (which I admit is sometimes questionable), it is about year-round celebrating.

Serves 6

This recipe is for the individual-style Alaska, which I prefer. You can, however, bring all these instructions up a notch and assemble it on a 6-to-8-inch cake or cookie base. All of the instructions still apply.


6 cookies (2 to 3 inches) or small slices of
   cake. (The flavor is up to you. Bake them
   yourself or buy ready-made.)

6 scoops of ice cream or sorbet, well frozen.
   (Again, the flavor is up to you.)

4 egg whites (or ½ cup)

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of sea salt


1. Place cookies or cake slices on a baking tray, well spaced. Top each with a generous scoop of ice cream. Try to give the ice cream a flat bottom, so that it will sit securely on the base. Place these into the freezer until very firm. (This step takes several hours; a day ahead is ideal.)

2. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof mixing bowl, ideally the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Place over a pot of simmering water and stir, gently but continuously, until the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. You will know the sugar is dissolved when you touch the mixture and can no longer feel the sugar crystals between your fingers. Immediately remove the egg mixture from the heat and whip it on high speed until it reaches stiff, shiny peaks. Spreading is easier if the meringue is stiff but still a little warm.

3. Pipe or spread the meringue around each ice-cream ball and base. There must be no holes whatsoever. If ice cream is not completely covered it will melt and leak during the browning stage. Best to work with one ice cream/base at a time, pulling it out of the freezer to cover with meringue, then popping it back in when complete. The meringue-covered ice cream can stay in the freezer like this for several hours or overnight.

4. Final preparation requires browning the meringue. If you have a torch, simply pass it across the meringue quickly and evenly until it is browned. (Be sure to do this away from any parchment paper or doilies that might be lying around — another tip brought to you by “learning the hard way.”) To brown in a broiler, preheat the oven, then pop in the entire tray directly from the freezer. (Again, be sure this tray is ovenproof.)

Once browned, the Alaskas must be served immediately. Transfer each one to a serving plate, decorated with sauce or garnish of your choice. You may also ignite your Alaska tableside by sprinkling with a high-proof alcohol and lighting with a match and dramatic flair. When you serve your Alaska, be prepared for a standing ovation. Or just stand and clap for yourself.

Unusual Dining Experiences

Virtually any local foodie can tell you that SoCal has been in the midst of a dynamic and diverse dining boom in recent years. Indeed, I am not the only observer who is happy to declare the region the world’s currently reigning epicenter of food and dining. It’s a bold claim, but it’s not difficult to defend. From the highly conceptual, otherworldly tasting menu at Vespertine in Culver City to the tooth-pick lamb at Chengdu Taste in Alhambra, restaurants are combining  attention to fresh, quality ingredients with an openness to experimentation bridging cultural traditions and techniques.

The possibilities seem endless.

Pasadena and its environs arrived somewhat belatedly to this raucous party, but there are now plenty of interesting options.  From chef-centric innovation to authentic and obscure ethnic preparations, we have a wide variety of local culinary choices. But what may still go unnoticed are offbeat dining experiences that can only be had in our area and exist quite apart from the relative tumult of the restaurant scene.   

You may need the right contacts and connections or just a good sense of timing, but the following culinary adventures can only be found right here in Arroyoland:


The Huntington’s Chinese Garden

One weekday morning a while back, my daughter and I were musing over breakfast possibilities. An enthusiast of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (where I maintain a basic membership), she had already expressed interest in visiting going posted her interest in visiting. Having recently discovered the Huntington’s newly renovated dining options, I suggested we try the dim sum place at the Chinese Garden. By then, the Huntington’s dining program had been redesigned and relaunched by Border Grill’s Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken in conjunction with Kajsa Alger, Feniger’s collaborator in the now-defunct Mud Hen Tavern and Blue Window. Freshwater specifically showcases Alger’s influence.

Arriving about 11 a.m., we strolled past the stately gallery buildings and arrived at Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle just as it was opening at 11:30. (Reservations are not accepted.) We ordered chicken-chive dumplings in broth, soothing chicken congee and a bowl of Hunan cumin-beef noodles at the small enclosed stand and then found a table overlooking the small placid lake, latticed with pale white bridges and the swooping roofs of copper-tiled pavilions. From the blooming lotuses to the bordering sweep of willow trees, the surrounds are landscaped as luxuriously as the rest of this famous, expansive former estate. More important, we noted that we were completely alone. A stillness settled over the lake as we unwrapped our chopsticks and marveled at our good fortune. We had the dining pavilion and patio on the lake completely to ourselves as we sampled our delicious selections.

Granted, it was an otherwise random weekday morning before any lunch rush. On weekends and holidays, this is a wildly popular spot where you can often expect to wait 20 minutes to order and find a table (though the food arrives swiftly). If you have a spare weekday morning, plan to arrive first thing and you just might experience a moment of idyllic dining solitude that can’t be found anywhere else.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino. Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. Call (626) 405-2100 or visit huntington.org.


Descanso Gardens

Arroyoland is blessed with a profusion of lovely public gardens and parklands beyond the Huntington. From The Arboretum in Arcadia to Eaton Canyon to Descanso Gardens in La Caňada Flintridge, we have an impressive array of options for communing with nature. At Descanso, the onsite restaurant Maple offers culinary exploration along with a survey of the gardens’ flora in a recently renovated Craftsman farmhouse-style space.   

Part of the Patina Group portfolio, Maple is typically open only for weekend brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner service is occasional, with specially devised menus crafted throughout the year to correspond to seasonal garden displays and holidays, such as January’s annual Camellia Wine Dinner coinciding with the blossoming of Descanso’s signature blooms. The event featured a six-course dinner with custom wine pairings, and this month, Maple will host a Valentine’s Day dinner of wagyu beef and Maine lobster tail, among other entrees, from 5 to 9 p.m., and a Spring Blooms Wine Dinner on March 22. Additional upcoming dinners will be announced the website.

I attended a dinner celebrating Descanso’s Enchanted Forest of Light during the Christmas holiday season. Patina principal and San Marino resident Chef Joachim Splichal manned the stoves himself with Chef Philip Mack and recommended the whisky short rib entree, which was predictably velvety and delicious. Maple offers reliably imaginative menus in a beautiful natural refuge.

Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Dr., La Caňada Flintridge.

Call (818) 949-4200 or visit mapleatdescanso.com


California Institute of Technology

A mere stroll away from the bustling laboratories at one of the world’s great research universities, The Athenaeum is the private dining club at the Caltech in Pasadena. You have to be a faculty member, employee, student or alum to obtain membership. If you don’t qualify and are otherwise unlikely to be granted admission as a freshman anytime soon, find some members and implore them to escort you as a guest to the prime-rib buffet, a Wednesday evening institution at the elegant and storied dining room.

The history of the rib buffet tradition now seems obscure. General Manager Marisu Jimenez said in an email, “I have been at the club for 25 years and the buffet has been at the club before my time. I do not know, unfortunately, how the prime rib night got started.” Chef Kevin Issacson, who has been at “The Ath” for the last 13 years, provides novelty to the well-worn Wednesday tradition while doing an admirable job of keeping all the regular lunch and dinner menus fresh.

The buffet is lavish. Besides the carving station and changing selection of side dishes and other entrees, there is a generous selection of salads and cheese plates, as well as a raw bar of fresh oysters, shrimp and crab legs. A sushi station features a selection of nigiri, rolls and sashimi as well as seaweed salad. A chef’s specialty station changes weekly and might feature anything from customized risotto to pasta or mashed potatoes. The dessert bar includes a variety of pastries, cakes and pies as well as a bananas Foster station, where the dish is prepared to order, flambéed, of course.

Exclusive? Yes.

An utterly unique local experience? Yes.

Worth the trouble of stalking a hapless local scientist?  Again, yes!

The Athenaeum is located at 551 S. Hill Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 395-8200 or

visit athaneaum.caltech.com.



Longtime observers of the local restaurant scene may recall the impressive run of Chef Onil Chibás at Elements and Elements Kitchen, a seven-year venture that pioneered true chef-centric cuisine next door to the Pasadena Playhouse, ultimately leading to Chibas’ recent experiment in catering and events. Last June, Chibas opened Deluxe 1717 on Washington Boulevard in Pasadena with the intention of maintaining his booming catering operations, while exploring the possibility of hosting or curating culinary events in the location’s storefront dining room and patio area.   

“I don’t want to do a pop-up every month,” says Chibas, who lives in Garfield Heights. “It’s too much work.” What then?

“I’ve always had the idea for a cookbook club. This is supposed to be … my [culinary] home!” The dining room accommodates 16 guests and, with the ample kitchen in back, the space offers all sorts of creative possibilities. “I didn’t want it to be a restaurant. It’s me cooking… maybe four or five courses.” Chibas ‘philosophy? “I tend to like rustic or homey fare presented elegantly. I call it Grandma Chic!”.

When can we join him at the table?

“I don’t know. Whenever I feel like it. It’s very capricious.”   

So stay tuned to his website or pitch an idea yourself. The point is that one of the very best chefs in town has a test kitchen and dining room that promise some very unusual culinary moments.

Deluxe 1717 is located at 1717 Washington Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 818-3963 or visit chibasevents.com.  

A Bibliophile’s Paradise

How is a bibliophile made? How is it that a seemingly reasonable person decides to surround himself/herself with books, beautiful books that clutter whatever space is available as though it’s reasonable to hoard books because of, what really? That books might vanish like extinct birds or that they need good homes and no one will care for them; or that there aren’t enough well-heeled institutions, like the Huntington Library, that house fantastically rare books to visit? No, it’s more than that. To have that particular book of your desire is motivation enough to spend lavishly to own a literary art object

I am a bibliophile, though constrained by having a smallish house with children.  (Plans are afoot for an office in the backyard that will house a library.) I lust for books that I don’t have the time to read, I haunt library book sales hoping beyond reason that I’ll come across a signed first edition of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man with a beautiful dust jacket. The fact is, every good thing in my life has come from my passion for reading — my children, my wife, my house, my damn dog…all of it.  I owe everything to the writing and reading gods.

I live in Pasadena because it’s a writers’ town with many wonderful writers, and writers as a species are drawn to bookstores. I make my Wednesday rounds visiting many of them. I stop by Century Books on Green Street, then walk up to Colorado Boulevard for a stop at Book Alley to browse its lush and eclectic offerings, then over to Comics Factory to buy a few comics and chat with my friends; then from there I’m on to Vroman’s Bookstore, California’s oldest bookstore, to write at Jones Coffee.

Life in Pasadena has been great for a bibliophile, but then life recently became exponentially better: When driving in Old Pasadena, I noticed a new bookstore under construction on Union Street.  I was delighted but skeptical, fearing that somehow I misread the signage. Until then I didn’t believe our city could support another bookstore, but that was my lack of imagination. Even I had begun to succumb to the idea that a passion for physical books was an anachronistic fetish.

But it was true: A new bookstore that specialized in very rare books, a kind of Rolls-Royce dealership for the upscale literary devotee, was opening and my heart raced. More good luck: An assignment came my way to cover the launch of Whitmore Rare Books and I happily accepted — an early Christmas present. Soon after came an invite to the opening reception. Whitmore Rare Books is a beautiful light-filled space with bookshelves made of gorgeous woods that stretch to the ceiling.  The books hang like jewels behind glass, tantalizing bibliophiles of means and those who aren’t but might have an even greater lust for the book of their dreams.

I didn’t get a chance to spend much time talking to owner Dan Whitmore that night, so we met soon after for coffee at Intelligentsia Café near his shop. I couldn’t help doing what one does in the film capital of the world — Dan’s a handsome guy who resembles Chris Pine, has a fine sense of humor and seems well-rested for a man with a demanding business and four young boys at home. He’s a Pasadena native who completed a B.A. in economics from Middlebury College in Vermont before earning his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He and Darinka Whitmore, his wife and art director, run Whitmore Rare Books with Miranda Garno Nesler, who serves as the specialist in women’s history and works with institutional clients. She has a Ph.D. in literature and gender studies from Vanderbilt University.

Dan Whitmore is a passionate lover of books as objects of value, aesthetically as well as financially. He turned from life as a lawyer just as he was making serious lawyer money because he couldn’t see himself living the lawyer’s life; it just wasn’t for him and, as a colleague said, “If you can pay your bills you should do what you want.”  Dan knew what he wanted and that was a life in the world of rare books

Dan told me of his epiphany, that moment of awakening that revealed his life’s work. While out for a bike ride, he passed a guy on the curb selling what looked to be various kinds of garage-sale junk, but he caught a glimpse of a book that intrigued him. He stopped and saw that it was Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, one of Dan’s favorite novels. He bought it and, when he examined it later, was delighted to discover it was a first edition…a first edition that didn’t have a dust jacket and that was one of a huge print run because Hemingway was one of the world’s most popular writers at the time. That particular book wasn’t worth much but the book bug bit Dan. Working in the field of rare books would be central to his life. He earns his living understanding the market for rare books of great value, while contending with the expenses of travel, catalogs and outfitting a beautiful space to showcase wonderful and rare books. When he talks of helping to foil the theft of an extremely valuable book, he’s transported, just as when he discusses the papers of an important poet he’s been commissioned to handle. Or when he looks at a writer’s signature on a signed copy: A broken signature is a dead giveaway that that signature is forged to drive up the value of that book.

As a novelist I feel fortunate to have been paid for my books. Dan’s secondary market sales are so far removed from those of us who create books, but it’s part of the ecosystem of how books of great value are preserved. It’s certainly about money, but the commerce for rare books — the passion to own these objects that contain all the permutations of narratives of the human experience — helps to preserve them.

It comes down to this: My heart races walking into Whitmore Rare Books in a way that doesn’t happen walking into the Tesla dealer on Colorado. We’ve come so far technologically, but I’m grateful we can keep a part of our literary past with us. 

Whitmore Rare Books is located at 121 E. Union St., Pasadena. Call (626) 714-7720 or visit whitmorerarebooks.com…Jervey Tervalon is an award-winning poet, screenwriter and author of six novels, including his latest, All the Trouble You Need: A Novel (Atria Books; 2018). He lives in Altadena with his wife and two daughters.

There is Nothing Finer than an Altadena Diner

Since Altadena still has the allure of an old-timey town, it’s no surprise that the diner mentality is expanding here. The Little Red Hen has been around over 50 years. Fox’s was recently purchased and upgraded (by the folks who own Cindy’s Diner in Eagle Rock), maintaining its 66-year legacy, and the stalwart 92-year-old Millie’s Diner in Silver Lake has added a second location nearby in Pasadena. Apparently, the Alta-diners (and their diner neighbor) are making quite a statement.

The American diner is an institution. The term “diner” referred to a dining car when railroads had their own onboard restaurants. Downtown Los Angeles’ Pacific Dining Car, which opened in 1921, is a perfect example of one that isn’t going anywhere. But the origins of the diner can be traced to Walter Scott, a Rhode Island pressman who repurposed a horse-pulled wagon and parked it outside the Providence Journal, where he sold sandwiches, coffee, pies and eggs to the newspaper’s night owls. For Scott, it was what today we call a side hustle — a second job to help pay the bills. By 1872 running his wagon was a full-time job, thus birthing the American diner (and eventually the American Diner Museum in Scott’s hometown of Providence). Fifteen years later, in 1887, Altadena launched as a subdivision, though diners and people would take time to populate the foothill town.

Technically, diners were small prefabricated roadside buildings, where cheap prepared food was served in a fast, convenient way. Diners flourished until the mid-1950s when competition in the form of chain restaurants like Denny’s, IHOP and Sambo’s spread across the country. According to AmericanDinerMuseum.org, a revival of diners began in the late 1970s. The few remaining diner builders began to fabricate restaurants that were new but old-style — retro-looking diners specifically evoking a 1950s feel. Johnny Rockets is a good example. “The renewed interest in diners can be attributed to Americans looking backwards for inspiration and the values of yesterday in a time of moral and economic uncertainty,” the website says. And nothing says consistency and comfort like the tried-and-true diner, a neighborhood place where you always know who’s there and what’s being served. Like the Cheers theme song, we all want to go to a place where everyone knows our name.

Fox’s Restaurant has been a landmark in Altadena since 1955 when it was opened by Paul and Edie Fox. The physical building was moved from a different location in 1948 to its present place at 2352 N. Lake Ave. Previously it had been a private home, a pet store, a real estate office and even a restaurant before Paul and Edie took it over. In 1967 the Foxes’ son, Ken, bought the restaurant and continued the family business for another 50 years. When Ken decided to sell in 2017, he found another family of restaurateurs, husband-and-wife chefs Paul Rosenbluh and Monique King, who helm Cindy’s Diner in Eagle Rock. The couple decided to keep the name Fox’s and maintain its legacy of nearly seven decades. “We’re way up in Altadena, so it’s really a destination,” Rosenbluh tells Arroyo Monthly. The area is woefully underrepresented in terms of new restaurants and Fox’s new chefs have the benefit of an already loyal following who would “roll down the hill,” as Rosenbluh puts it, to visit Cindy’s. Now their commute is a little shorter. And he’s brought the same from-scratch menu items to Fox’s. “It’s really an adorable little place, a slice of Americana, and I wanted to maintain the 1950s feel,” he says.

TRY: the Southern Denver omelet with house-cured pork-butt ham, peppers, jalapeňos, cheddar cheese and house-grilled potatoes.

Just a mile from the Fox is the Hen: The Little Red Hen to be precise, located at 2697 Fair Oaks Ave. It’s been under the same name for 60 years, but 50 years ago the Shay family bought it from the original owner and now it’s one of the oldest black-owned businesses in Altadena. Most customers are familiar with Lonzia Shay, who ran it for many years, although his sister Barbara has since taken it over. “I was 17 when my mother bought Little Red Hen,” Barbara Shay tells Arroyo Monthly. “It’s a rarity for an African-American family to be doing this for 50 years.” Throughout the decades this spot has remained true to the diner concept: good food served quickly in an unpretentious environment. The Hen is small, comprised mainly of counter stools, and it isn’t retro or even vintage — it’s a unique dyed-in-the-wool place. “Cooking is a way to put my displaced hostility in a pot and mix it up,” Shay tells me with a laugh. “My spin is soulfully delicious recipes,” which include the use of organic food without being preachy about it. In addition to traditional menu items, Shay provides vegetarian and vegan options. She’s also active with her own cooking show, Cuttin’ Up in the Kitchen, through Pasadena Media public access and YouTube.

TRY: Shrimp and cheesy grits étouffée with organic greens.

When Millie’s Cafe first opened its doors in 1926 in Silver Lake, it was one of the area’s few dining establishments. And at the new Millie’s Café, which opened last November at 1399 E. Washington Blvd., business is hopping. Weekend waits are at least 20 minutes and it’s packed inside with a line out the door. Owner Robert Babish bought the Silver Lake location in 2000 and his move to Pasadena was precipitated by loyal customers in the area. “We always give you good service and good food, and that’s why we’re still in business,” he says. They have long used Alta Dena Dairy products, which might seem like a marketing ploy, but it’s not.

TRY: Neptune’s Nest — three scrambled eggs mixed with smoked salmon, cream cheese, salsa, guacamole, scallions, sour cream and sherry.

What Little Red Hen, Fox’s, and Millie’s all have in common is an emphasis on homemade food, generous portions, friendly service and a look and feel that’s both comfortable and unpretentious. Dining out never goes out of style and neither will Altadena diners.

Wine with Wings and other Trends for Oenophiles

Wine’s lineage stretches back over 6,000 years, a particularly long legacy that struck me a few years ago during a visit to the Greek island of Crete.
I recall standing inside the Temple of Knossos, staring down at a 4,000-year old wine-crushing stone. Not much has changed in how grapes are fermented and turned into wine. How we consume said wine is another matter. What wine trends prophesy our collective future libation consumption?

Premium Wine in Cans

Canned wine might seem tedious. After all, wine has been sold in cans since before anyone reading this was born. And who wants the soda-pop sound of a can of wine being opened during your romantic dinner? Though trending, it’s nothing new. The first canned wines began appearing in the mid-1930s, then intermittently disappeared and reappeared again over the decades. The problem was one of acidity eating away at the metal, and the can imparting a metallic taste to the wine, which was cheap bulk quality to begin with. Canning fine wine didn’t take off until recently, when the inner linings of cans stopped transferring off-flavors, canned wine had lost its stigma and premium wine producers started paying attention.

Phil Markert supervises liquor sales for Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions, whose South Pasadena store offers 1,100 different wines. The recently remodeled Vons on Colorado in Pasadena and the Arcadia store both offer more than 2,000 wines, plus a wine cellar, daily wine tastings and a full-service staff. Wine in cans, he says, will not go away any time soon. “This is a trend that is happening in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The biggest driver is a younger consumer who wants packaging that’s more environmentally friendly but also wants convenience,” he says.

And wineries are quickly jumping onboard. “It had become apparent to me that people wanted to be able to include consciously made wines in more areas of their life where bottles are a limiting factor,” Faith Armstrong Foster, owner and winemaker at Sonoma-based Onward and Farmstrong Wines tells Arroyo Monthly. The wines she sells in cans are the same exact vintages she’s been putting in bottles for years; she expanded into canning when she recognized the need for a more portable package, for beach days, hiking, camping, poolside, picnics, movie theaters, etc. “However, this is also offered as my small format, so really anyone who wants a half-bottle option has one. They are light, portable, chill down fast and make wine drinking more accessible,” she says. The most popular wine in cans according to Markert? First, sparkling rosé, whites like pinot gris and sauvignon blanc, then pinot noir.

Leave the cork. Take the can.

Paso Robles as the New Napa

California has the highest number of federally recognized wine-producing regions in the U.S., with 139 American Viticultural Areas. While 46 of California’s 58 counties produce wine, Napa is still considered the state’s wine mecca, although newcomers are muscling in. Chief among them is Paso Robles, situated midway between L.A. and San Francisco. The small city, whose wines are huge in Arroyoland, isn’t new to the wine game; small vineyards date back as far as the 1880s and large-scale vineyards were planted in the 1920s. Currently 63 varietals are in the ground, planted by about 250 wineries; the main focus is on cabernet sauvignon and Rhône wines, like grenache and mourvèdre. “This is a localization trend primarily driven by millennials who want to support local wineries, want to know the history and legacy of the winery, want to know who is making it and what their values are,” says Merkert. Christopher Taranto, a Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance spokesman, says Paso wines offer good value-to-quality ratio, offering highly rated vintages for less than you would pay for those from other better-known regions.

“Paso wine country is still seen as a discovery, which is the paradigm we as wine lovers live in,” Taranto says. “We love discovering something new, then sharing it with family and friends.”

Beyond that, Paso Robles has something millennials want that other wine regions don’t necessarily have — winemakers their own age. You don’t find as many young start-ups in Napa or Sonoma, or even in the less-renowned AVAs Monterey and Santa Barbara. “Paso is exploding with young, talented winemakers who don’t have a lot of money but they do have a passion for wine,” says Peachy Canyon Winery owner Doug Beckett. “The dynamics have changed so much in the last 40 years. It’s in the hands of the younger generation now.”

Drone Delivery

Want your albariño by air? Try a drone delivery.

The very first drones were a byproduct of wartime, and the original UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were large pilotless planes operated by remote control. These days drones are ubiquitous. Will a drone be able to deliver wine to your door? Yes. Will that be widespread in 2019? Probably
not. Amazon Prime Air has already been testing wine delivery by drone. The Pucari Winery tested drone delivery in 2016 in its home country, the Republic of Moldova. Other companies that have looked into drones include Über, Chipotle, Oscar Meyer, Domino’s Pizza and Southern Comfort.

None of these experiments has materialized as completely viable…yet. “Drone delivery, while seemingly amazing, has a lot of hurdles to overcome before becoming mainstream,” says wine-industry analyst Paul Mabray, CEO of Emetry, whose innovations include using digital data to map consumer behaviors for wine companies. “Regulatory challenges aside, there are still social and economic consequences (predicted and unforeseen) that will inhibit mass usage of what is currently a novelty,” says Mabray. “It sounds great in theory,” he tells Arroyo but adds that pressing issues remain, such as ensuring adult signatures, temperature control, breakage and weight challenges (drones are not built to carry more than 40 pounds). “None are insurmountable, but all add friction to this being a primary delivery category.”

But stay tuned. The day will come when a drone will deliver dolcetto to your door.

The cannabis component won’t get you high, but it might make you well

CBD is billed as the panacea du jour.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating chemical component of cannabis, touted as a treatment for just about everything — anxiety, acne, insomnia, digestive problems, arthritis, epilepsy, nausea, pain, depression, headaches and tremors — and for overcoming addiction’s persistent urges. You name it.

My college-age daughter and friends use CBD sublingual (under the tongue) tinctures for anxiety flare-ups, from overwhelming academic demands and a too busy university life. My adult son eats CBD gummies for insomnia. A neighbor gives CBD to his arthritic Labrador retriever who, before CBD dosing, could not even stand up. Now she walks a mile a day, a slight hitch kicking her tail into a whirligig.

It is a half-billion dollar industry, projected to soon hit $22 billion, according to Brightfield Group, a Chicago-based market research company focused on cannabis. And that figure was calculated before the U.S. Congress legalized industrial hemp as a crop when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill last month. Growing hemp is already legal in California, and CBD is nearly everywhere — in Pasadena-area health food stores, foodie eateries, CBD-only storefronts, artisanal coffee houses and boutique hotels. You will find elegantly packaged CBD gummies in minibars, CBD-infused foods and smoothies, CBD tinctures, CBD-infused waters and CBD gel pills. There are also topical treatments like CBD-infused salves, lotions and body oils. I can walk to a health food store and have a dropper of CBD added to a juice tonic for $4. Pet food stores sell a range of CBD tinctures for beloved animals, lined up behind the cashier, beckoning as you buy premium-grade chow.

But there is trouble in CBD-land.

All ingestible CBD products derived from industrial hemp are being sold unlawfully, according to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. CBD or CBD oil can be derived from both industrial hemp and cannabis. The distinction is this: Hemp or industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa L. plant species, which has no more than .3 percent of THC (the psychoactive component). The only lawful places to buy ingestible CBD — as long as the CBD is derived from cannabis plants (which have 5 to 35 percent THC), not of the industrial hemp variety — are marijuana businesses that are state-licensed and locally permitted to sell marijuana products.

The prohibition on selling hemp-derived CBD ingestible products elsewhere is fairly recent. In July, the California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch stated that CBD is a prohibited food additive and that cannabis cannot be sold in any retail food operation such as restaurants, coffeehouses or grocery stores. CBD oil or CBD ingestible products derived from cannabis — that is, the non-hemp variety — can be sold only in state-licensed cannabis retail stores and businesses, according to the CDPC. The prohibition is based, in part, on the grounds that CBD derived from both hemp and cannabis is a federally regulated controlled substance. Cannabis and CBD is listed as a Schedule I Drug, along with LSD, heroin and cocaine. A Schedule I Drug is defined as a substance with no known medical use and a high potential for abuse under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, according to the federal Department of Drug Enforcement (DEA).   

“Until the FDA rules that industrial-hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive or dietary supplement,” the CDPH website states.

Ingestible CBD products derived from non-hemp cannabis plant species are legally sold in licensed cannabis retail stores and businesses, which are required by state regulations to lab test all products. Strictly regulated and licensed cannabis businesses protect consumers from mislabeling and contaminants like mold or pesticides, the state says. There is no regulatory agency that has oversight of CBD-oil production from industrial hemp, the CDPH website states.

None of the ingestible CBD derived from industrial hemp is being sold legally in brick-and-mortar stores or online. But you can probably still buy it over the counter at your local health food store, get a café latte with a shot of CBD in it, purchase tinctures online or cruise Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where there are two freestanding CBD-only stores in operation.

As for Pasadena, the city bans all sales of cannabis, including CBD from cannabis or hemp, said Lisa Derderian, Pasadena public information officer. “Cannabis operations have been prohibited from operating since 2005 and in [October], we shut down two of them and the city attorney charged them with operating without a license and operating illegally,” said Derderian.  “All of it, including CBD that is derived from cannabis or industrial-hemp CBD, is illegal.”

But that will change this year. Pasadena voters passed measures CC and DD in 2018, a move that allows the city to permit limited legal cannabis businesses within the municipal district. Pasadena will be permitting six cannabis retailers, four testing labs and four cannabis cultivators in 2019, Derderian said. A November workshop attracted 250 cannabis business interests, some from as far away as Canada, she added.

Confusion over regulating a market that has exploded well in advance of laws, permits and licenses needed to govern it, is normal for all things cannabis. But there is a multipronged effort in the works to push the state to address the lapse in regulation specifically addressing industrial-hemp-derived CBD ingestible products. “There is a very broad coalition of cannabis industry associations, individuals and legislators working to tackle hemp-derived CBD regulations,” said Josh Drayton, communications outreach director for the California Cannabis Industry Assn. (CCIA), a trade group based in Sacramento. “There has been hesitancy at the state Bureau of Cannabis Control to deal with this because they weren’t specifically tasked to do this. Everyone is so careful of the language used, because we don’t want to overtax, overregulate or overburden hemp and hemp-derived CBD the way cannabis has been.”

Refining the language in a proposal to write regulations for hemp CBD is one of CCIA’s top priorities for 2019. There is a new state legislature with many new members, along with a new governor, Drayton added, so many of the people the coalition had worked with have moved on and fresh connections must be forged to move proposed regulation forward.

Quality control and labeling accuracy is a reasonable concern. A November 2017 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) study found that nearly 70 percent of all cannabidiol products sold online contained either higher or lower concentrations of CBD or THC than indicated on the label. What that means is these mislabeled products are ineffective or potentially harmful. Pure CBD should be THC-free, the study’s lead author Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in JAMA. Underlabeling was less concerning because CBD appears to have no serious harmful consequences at high doses, but “the THC content observed may be sufficient to produce intoxication or impairment, especially among children,” Bonn-Miller wrote. He called for manufacturing and testing standards and oversight of online medicinal cannabis. (Bonn-Miller and co-researcher Ryan Vandrey reported receiving personal fees from cannabis industry groups, nonprofits and pharmaceutical companies.)

The regulations simply have not caught up with the public enthusiasm for CBD and its potential to alleviate a raft of health issues without devastating side effects. One FDA-approved drug based on CBD is Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company. The drug, approved by the FDA in June, is the first prescription cannabis-derived medicine available in the U.S. It is used to treat two forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gaustaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.  Both are among the most difficult types of epilepsy to treat, according to the FDA. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome usually appears between the ages of 3 to 5 years old, and Dravet syndrome starts in the first year of life. Both are lifelong conditions that can be catastrophic. An estimated 30,000 children and adults have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome; fewer have Dravet syndrome.

Epidiolex was approved by the FDA after GW Pharma submitted beneficial results from three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials conducted on patients with both forms of epilepsy. The medication is now available at local pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS. The DEA had to classify Epidiolex’s precise CBD formula as a Schedule V, indicating a low risk for abuse; this is the first time the DEA has listed a cannabis product as anything other than a Schedule 1 substance (i.e., the most dangerous) under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Epidiolex is proof of CBD’s promise. CBD, whether drawn from cannabis or industrial hemp, is being investigated for a wildly diverse array of physical and psychiatric maladies. Studies are ongoing, but it’s a slow laborious process getting a cannabis-based drug through research trials to final FDA approval. The time frame depends in part on delays in getting all of the federal regulatory approvals for the research and then gaining access to product. It could be four years before there are published results from a given cannabis study, according to J. Hampton Atkinson, a psychiatrist and co-director of UCSD’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR). U.S. and international clinical trials either completed or in the process of recruiting participants number 167, said Atkinson.

The studies are focused on various conditions, including CBD treatment for cannabis withdrawal and cannabis abuse, heart failure, bipolar disorder, acute schizophrenia, alcohol and cocaine abuse, Crohn’s disease, infantile spasms, various types of childhood epilepsy, Tourette’s Syndrome, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic-stress disorder. At CMCR, Atkinson said, researchers plan to study CBD’s efficacy in treating early psychosis (in addition to conventional antipsychotic drugs); anorexia nervosa anxiety; low-movement tremor; and childhood autism-spectrum disorders. In childhood autism, for example, CBD has been shown to reduce anger and repetitive behaviors, like turning in circles and head banging, thereby improving a child’s social skills and ability to attend school.

“The published evidence lags way behind the enthusiasm,” Atkinson said in an email. “There is some evidence from two human trials that CBD may help reduce anxiety and negative self-talk in people with social phobia. There is some evidence that it may help with certain kinds of insomnia and conflicting evidence on whether it is effective in psychosis.”

Some physicians are already using cannabis medicine to treat patients. Sherry Yafai, an emergency medicine physician who is founder and director of Releaf Institute, a medical marijuana clinic in Santa Monica, treats patients for cancer, pain, insomnia, tremors, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and multiple sclerosis. “My big gripe about this industry is we are allowing people who don’t have the expertise like I do or my colleagues do to advise people,” said Yafai, who credits licensed cannabis shops with at least lab-testing their products and following regulations that protect consumers. “The question about dosing is going to take into consideration, what else are you taking?  I am going to ask you 50 questions. You know, it really is a challenge because we have people who don’t know any better.”

So for now, when it comes to grabbing hemp-derived CBD ingestible products off the shelf at a health food store or ordering them online, it is buyer beware. Bonn-Miller advises consumers to buy from reputable sources or have the products tested yourself in an independent lab, adding cost. To be sure, a great many hemp-derived  tinctures are from locally based companies with compelling inception stories rooted in a desire to help an epileptic child, grandmother or cancer-stricken mother, and to avoid sometimes horrific side effects of pharmaceutical medications.

These admirable product narratives are compelling, moving and relatable. Still, consumers should be mindful that for now, when buying hemp-derived CBD tinctures, gel pills and salves, they are accepting product labeling at face value. Proceed with caution. Or head to a licensed cannabis store for tested and vetted CBD products.

A Hemet woman with a severe form of breast cancer gets a surprising new lease on life at City of Hope

City of Hope has lived up to its name for breast cancer patient Linda Collins. When the Hemet resident visited Duarte’s comprehensive cancer center for a second opinion, she had no idea that she was literally saving — or at least extending — her own life. “The treatment my regular oncologist planned for me would have been totally ineffective and useless,” she says. “It might even have killed me.”

Collins, 57, arrived at City of Hope a little over a year ago with a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and a prognosis of about one year to live. She met with oncologist Yuan Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., who took over her care and then designed a clinical trial for women with triple-negative status, one of the most difficult types of breast cancer to treat. After a year of treatment with Yuan’s innovative combination of drugs, Collins has become what City of Hope calls “the first success story” for women with her type of disease. Instead of feeling like she’s at death’s door, she says she feels good. Her cancer is now almost undetectable.

“I still can’t believe it,” Collins says. “I haven’t quite absorbed it yet. It’s just too wonderful and I feel very humble.” But she’s also realistic. “There is no cure yet for metastatic breast cancer, which is what I have,” she adds. “Dr. Yuan has explained it all to me. She’s amazing.”

In 2011, Collins was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. “The chemo was very strong for this type of cancer,” and it was devastating, Collins says. Her hair, eyelashes and nails fell out, she lost 60 pounds and she felt sick much of the time. But the chemo worked. She remained cancer-free for the next five years, after which she had to start with a new oncologist due to a change in her insurance plan.

“He continued to monitor me with mammograms and blood tests, and all tests came back clear,” she recalls. She was just beginning to relax and enjoy her cancer-free status when she detected pain in her lower back. Her oncologist kept saying it had nothing to do with cancer, because all his tests proved she was okay. But the pain persisted — and so did she. “He was about to send me home yet again because my blood tests and mammogram were still clear. But I told him, ‘You say I’m okay, but I don’t feel okay. I need you to do something.’ So he finally ordered a scan.”

The scan showed she had three masses in her chest, which were then biopsied. “It was breast cancer that had metastasized and spread,” Collins says. Her oncologist set her up with a treatment plan that consisted of the same kind of chemotherapy she’d had before. She was terrified to go through that again, but saw no options. Then her niece, a physician’s assistant, urged her to get a second opinion at City of Hope, where, the niece said, all sorts of new targeted therapies were being tried, some of which might not even require chemotherapy.

Once under Yuan’s care at City of Hope, Collins learned that the treatment her prior oncologist had prescribed for her was based on a false assumption: that her metastasized cancer was the same type of cancer she’d originally been treated for, which is called ER positive. If he’d done the needed tests, Collins says, he’d have found that her new cancer was a different type, called triple-negative. It would not have responded at all to the treatment he proposed.

But even had he done all the right tests and treatments, he probably still wouldn’t have been able to do much for her. Triple-negative breast cancer is a less common form of the disease, and there’s been little success treating it, says Yuan. “The prognosis is 12 to 18 months,” she notes.

We asked Yuan how she decided to create Collins’ clinical trial. “Breast cancer is such a common disease and affects so many people’s lives,” Yuan says. “Early stage breast cancer, thanks to all the previous research and medicines, is largely curable and treatable. But every day we face folks who come to us with so-called metastatic or noncurable disease. It has metastasized to elsewhere and creates a limited life span. So that’s where our passion is. We want to bring more novel treatment to help these women and one day cure them, just as nowadays we’re curing lymphoma and leukemia. But so far, we haven’t cured a lot of solid tumors.”

Is metastatic breast cancer considered a solid tumor?

“Yes, it can be melanoma, lung, brain, colon or other kinds of cancer. With metastatic cancer, the cancer is there, but it’s probably microscopic disease that we can’t diagnose” until it shows up as a solid tumor, Yuan says. In Collins’ case, she explains, extensive testing revealed not only the bad news — that her patient was triple-
negative for all three hormone receptors and therefore not a candidate for targeted therapy — but also a smidgen of possible good news: Collins tested positive for
androgen receptors, which are cells that respond to the male hormone.

There is a drug for prostate cancer in men that targets androgen, Yuan explains. That drug had already been tried in studies of triple-negative breast cancer patients like Collins, but with limited success. Yuan wanted to try it again, this time combined with state-of-the-art immunotherapy drugs that boost the patient’s immune system and had recently become available. “I applied to Merck, which got FDA approval for Keytruda in 2016, and we got Merck to sponsor this study which combines an androgen-receptor modulator with new immunotherapy.”

Collins was enrolled in the trial, along with a number of other women with the same cancer profile, but she was the one with what Yuan calls “the most durable result.”  Of 15 patients currently in the trial, there have been four or five “responders,” Yuan says, meaning women who have benefited to some degree from the drugs.

Collins’ result has been the longest lasting and is “very positive, but it’s too soon to declare anything,” Yuan says. “We can say she has good cancer control with the current regimen, and she continues treatment.” And bear in mind, Yuan adds, that the regimen Collins is on is appropriate for only 10 percent of triple-negative breast cancer patients — those with androgen receptors. So this trial is for just a small subset of triple-negative cases.

For those who’ve wondered why, after all these decades of research, there’s still no cure for cancer, it becomes clear from talking to Yuan that cancer is not just one disease — it’s many different diseases, each of which has different subsets with characteristics that respond to different therapies.

Collins says she feels good while taking the medication recipe prescribed by Yuan. Unlike chemotherapy, the drugs have had few side effects, she says. She has a port implanted, and goes to City of Hope every three weeks for an infusion of Keytruda; she also takes six androgen-targeting pills each day at home.

Yuan says she currently has six or seven trials focused on metastatic breast cancer, using various immunotherapy drugs in conjunction with targeted therapy drugs. Innovation in treating breast cancer is generally moving away from chemotherapy, toward newer therapies that kill cancer cells specifically and have fewer side effects. Other research doctors at City of Hope are also conducting many such trials in a hunt for cures for numerous kinds of cancer. One of many she mentions is the prominent City of Hope professor and surgery department chairman, Dr. Yuman Fong, who is conducting “the very first human study using an attractive new tool called ‘oncolytic virus,’ also known as the virus that eats cancer.”

For those of us not familiar with medical lingo, we asked Yuan to explain targeted therapy. “There are many drivers that cause the cancer to continue growing. Cancer cells are unique, because they don’t know how to die. Some of the molecules are constantly turned on, or mutated or amplified. They’re constantly active. Targeted therapy is designed specifically to alter those particular cells, whereas chemotherapy is very broad.  It kills healthy cells as well as cancer cells.

“Later on, those cancer cells learn how to become resistant to the chemotherapy, and they revive, so that will not be the answer. One of the target therapies we’re now using is immunotherapy, which can be pills or I.V. injections. But it’s not like conventional chemo; it doesn’t cause hair loss, nausea, etc.”

Yuan says the idea behind immunotherapy is that people without cancer have healthy immune systems that can detect cancer cells and kill them before they form a tumor. It’s all very complex to describe, she explains, but a number of immunotherapies are being tested that will help strengthen the immune system and prevent healthy cells from being hijacked by cancer cells. One therapy involves removing tumor cells, re-engineering them and returning them to the patient. “We put them in a petri dish, treat them to change the property of the cells, then infuse them back into the patient so they are able to function.”

Collins, who teaches art and music to elementary school children in Hemet, is the married mother of three grown children who’ve “been very helpful to me throughout my illness. One of my daughters really battled with my health insurance to get approval for me to go to City of Hope, which the insurance at first denied.”

We asked Yuan if patients and their insurance are required to pay for clinical trials, or if the trial host pays. “Nowadays, it’s a kind of hybrid model, because patient costs for a clinical trial are extremely high,” she says. “The most common model is that insurance pays for standard care, for example, doctor’s visits, standard blood draws and standard imaging, such as CTs and bone scans. The study pays for all the stuff that normally wouldn’t be standard care. That includes the study drugs, the study nursing time and all the specific biopsies, special imaging, special blood tests and other items that are required for the study but wouldn’t normally be done for standard care. For example, we collect stool samples for the study because there’s interesting data showing that our gut bacteria actually may determine if we are responding to immunotherapy or not. So we do a lot of types of special studies that patients do not pay for.”

Yuan is married to Kuo-Sheng Ma, Ph.D, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Loyola Marymount University. They live in South Pasadena and have two daughters, ages 6 and 9.

Does she think that within her lifetime there will be cures for metastatic breast cancers? Or if not cures, then therapies that will allow women to live relatively normal lives while keeping the cancer under control?

“Absolutely, I think so. There’s lots of hope. If you look back over the past few years, changes are incremental, but they are happening and there’s been lots of recent progress. It’s now a speeding train, and it will get faster and faster, with more new drugs all the time. Of course, if you have a friend who’s sick now and can’t get helped, it is so sad.” She sees that every day, she says, and that’s what the doctors at City of Hope are trying to change.

The holidays may be over, but that’s no excuse to stop celebrating

Sometimes, after the holidays, I feel a little low. The build-up to the new year gets so hectic that when it’s all over, it’s not uncommon for me to experience a little post-season funk. Having just spent the last month cooking and decorating and entertaining, I need something to look forward to. While searching around for a reason to get excited, I was reminded that nearly every day of the year is a national holiday! Or rather, a National Day. 

There is no federal committee declaring National Days. In fact, there is no official way to get a National Day. You can simply decide to start celebrating something. The key is getting your day to catch on. That’s what friends John Baur and Mark Summers did, after they decided talking like a pirate was super fun and cool. They shared their Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) idea with humorist Dave Barry, who wrote about it in his syndicated column. Now, all the cool kids talk like a pirate that day.

There are, however, some private enterprises that recognize and publish National Days in a semi-official capacity. Chase’s Calendar of Events is considered the definitive guide to National Days. This almanac was founded in 1957 by two brothers, one of whom was a librarian looking in vain for a single comprehensive listing of annual observances. When none could be found, they created their own. The first Chase Calendar (for 1958) had 364 entries. Today there are 12,500. Also included are special weeks and months as listed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chase Calendar receives 10,000 requests annually for new national days, from which they select about 20. (The most popular request is a day named after really great girlfriends.)

There is also a National Day Calendar, which began publishing in 2013. This group selects 30 new days annually from nearly 20,000 applications. They currently track about 1,500 National Days. If you think the National Day idea has gotten a little crazy, you’d be correct. (Hence, National Crazy Day, Oct. 24.)

What I like best about National Days is that there is always something to celebrate, and you can find a day to celebrate pretty much everything — Kazoo Day, Heimlich Maneuver Day, Harvey Wallbanger Day, Multiple Personality Day, Proofreading Day, Bowling League Day, Mud Pack Day, Clerihew Day (a Clerihew is a funny biographical rhyming poem; e.g. “Sir Humphry Davy, Abominated gravy, He lived in the odium, Of having discovered sodium”).

Of course, as a former chef, I particularly enjoy the food days. What a joy to discover that everything I love has a day — anchovies (Nov. 12), pecan pie (July 12), eggs Benedict (April 16), coffee (Sept. 29). This first month of the year has some doozies, including marzipan (Jan. 12), granola bars (Jan. 21) and croissants (Jan. 30). But the best is Jan. 2: National Cream Puff Day! It is my hope that everyone will partake of a little cream puff action, and to encourage this, I offer you my best pâte à choux recipe. Make a batch for you and yours, and rest easy knowing the holidays are not over, after all. There is so much celebrating still to do!

Cream Puffs

You don’t actually need a National Day to enjoy these puffs, but it certainly helps with your justification. (The rumor that puffs eaten on their national day are calorie-free has not been authoritatively confirmed.)

Makes about 1 dozen large puffs

2 cups water

5 ounces unsalted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

  cup all-purpose flour  

7 eggs    

1 extra egg

Sweetened whipped cream

Chocolate sauce

Powdered sugar


1. Combine water, butter, sugar and salt in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. At the boil, add the flour and stir for 3 minutes over high heat. (This is going to be hard, so just tough it out. Three minutes is crucial, or the flour will not be properly absorbed, the gluten in the flour will not be activated and your puffs will not puff.) The mixture should resemble mashed potatoes when ready. (It’s best not to use wooden spoons — they have a tendency to snap in half during this step. Use metal.)

2. Remove from the heat, cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then add the eggs, one at a time. (I always do this by hand. It is hard, but worth it. Some chefs take it to a mixer for this step, but I find that the mixer overworks the dough and makes it a bit runny, which makes it hard to shape your puffs. Mixing by hand yields better product and puts you [or at least me] into a zen-like oneness with the cooking process.) It’s okay to rest for a minute in between eggs if you must.

3. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Use an ice cream scooper, or two teaspoons, and scoop large-walnut-size pieces of dough onto the prepared pan, about an inch apart. Fill up the whole pan. You’ll probably need to make several oven batches. Whisk up the extra egg with a pinch of salt and brush it lightly over the puffs, then pop them into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 5 to 10 minutes. They should be dark golden brown, firm and well-risen. If they aren’t, reduce the heat to 350° and continue to bake until they look done. If they are not golden and firm, they will deflate once cooled. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. When cool, cut the puffs in half horizontally, and fill the bottoms with sweetened whipped cream. (Try it using pastry cream or chocolate mousse too!) Replace the top halves, drizzle with chocolate sauce and dust with powdered sugar.

Unfilled puffs freeze really well, and will last for several weeks. To refresh, simply reheat in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

P.S. Filled with ice cream, these puffs become profiteroles. When piped 2 to 3 inches long, they become éclairs. Filled and piled into a pyramid they become a croquembouche. You can even use this same recipe to make gougères, my favorite savory cheese puffs. Fold in a cup of grated Gruyère cheese and a couple of tablespoons of chopped chives just before baking. Sadly, gougères don’t have a National Day…yet!

The functional fitness workout method strengthens your ability to accomplish everyday tasks

On an early Sunday morning, the blaring horns from the “Rocky Theme” echo off the gym walls at Function and Fitness in La Crescenta. My workout buddies and I stop chatting as our effervescent coach Jessica Rose hollers a long “Woooohooo,” while raising her arms and racing around the room. Grab your water bottles, folks. The Sunday sweat session has officially begun.

Class participants of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities gather around Coach Jess as she demonstrates the morning’s exercises. There are side lunges. Kettlebell swings. Squatting with sand bags. Chest presses with the TRX Suspension Trainer. The dreaded burpee. We hear a rendition of her silly “Hinge Song” reminding us about proper form. Demonstrating a plank pose, she admonishes us that, “Even though we are on Honolulu Avenue, this is no time to do the hula. Keep those hips up!”

Finally armed with our workout regimen, Coach Jess leads us in a warm-up before beginning a 45-minute routine specifically crafted to target common movements and muscle groups that assist us in our daily lives. It’s sweaty, exhausting, challenging and, yes, I’ll admit it, fun.

The motto “Train Movements, Not Muscles” is displayed on the wall, a subtle reminder that this place — like a growing number of fitness facilities — embraces a functional fitness training concept that doesn’t promise you six-pack abs or deeply chiseled biceps. Your reward is being able to easily master a flight of steps, effortlessly squat down to pick up a dropped iPhone and comfortably place your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin.

Indeed, functional fitness has hit the mainstream. Self magazine calls it one of the “Ten Biggest Fitness Trends of 2018,” but many coaches, devotees and others in the fitness industry say this workout method has been around for years — there’s just a new light shining on it.

Maybe the heightened attention comes from aging Baby Boomers who want to stay in shape but don’t strive to be super hard-core athletes. According to the Mayo Clinic, “This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life…. [It can help] older adults improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.”

According to Christine Clark, owner of Function and Fitness, there are six main functional movements that are usually incorporated into her facility’s workouts: squats, lunges, rotations, hip hinging, pushing and pressing. “What we do is teach basic patterns of movements because every day we push, every day we pull, every day we lunge, hinge and squat. Our hope is that you take the stuff you learn here and apply it outside — at work, at home, the store, wherever — so you can stay healthy and safe.” Clark explains that the idea is to prevent the type of injuries most people suffer, usually from doing something as mundane as putting groceries in the car. “People typically throw out their backs because they haven’t strengthened those rotational movements,” she adds.

Today, all of Clark’s exercise classes are led by coaches who supervise the carefully programmed weekly small and large group sessions that build upon the prior week.

Clark started her fitness career as an instructor at a big-box gym and then met clients in rental spaces until she opened up this workout facility in 2014. At fitness conferences, she sees new expensive equipment for sale and crazy workout techniques. “But you won’t see any of them the next year because they didn’t catch on. You know what works? Good old-fashioned dumbbells, kettlebells and resistance training.”

Indeed, the power of functional training is vital as we age, contends Tom Strafaci, owner of Functional Fitness, which has locations in Monrovia and Arcadia. Most of Strafaci’s clients are older — and many come to the facility “fearful of movement,” he says. “Often simple things, like climbing stairways, getting into a car or using the toilet can be difficult for older people,” he says. Strafaci and his coaching staff train one-on-one for a more personalized exercise session. They know their clients’ backstories; many have diabetes or knee replacements or a history of heart attacks and strokes.

“Sometimes a good workout that day doesn’t mean sweating like crazy,” he says of his individualized approach. “Maybe it’s a series of eye drills to help with balance because that function is way off that day. We meet clients where they are at that moment. Our goal is to train clients so they can maintain their independence.”

With more than 34 years in the world of fitness (including a previous career as a physical therapist), Strafaci has seen many fads come and go, but he’s excited about one of the industry’s newest trends. “It’s not a piece of equipment,” he explains. “It’s better-educated trainers who have college degrees and know what is really important. We now better understand the body and how it moves and ages — and we know how best to keep it working.”

Enter a cozy workout space on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock and you will see the customary weight rack, stability balls and balance boards — as well as numerous oversized hooks placed on walls at different heights. This is where class participants attach the resistance tubing that is a hallmark of The Dynamic Advantage boutique fitness center. The mini watering-hose-like tubing comes in six colors indicating levels of resistance from three to 90 pounds which, when combined with other functional movements, can challenge pros as well as novices.

One afternoon, Coach Marlene Maroun-Flowers leads a small group through a series of fast-paced but carefully timed exercise sets. After warming up and working with hand weights, participants fasten colored tubing at various heights for specific exercises with whimsical names like “the power bar” or “coffee cup row.” “Bow down and keep your chest up high!” exclaims Coach Marlene.

The tubing is “versatile, safe, efficient and effective. It allows people to train in a way that gives them a multitude of options without a lot of excessive gear,” says Brandon Flowers, who owns the studio with fitness partner Rick Caputo. The duo has been training clients since the 1990s; they capitalized on their love of fitness when both were laid off from their corporate gigs — Caputo in aerospace and Flowers from insurance. After receiving certification, the two trained clients in their homes and rented spaces before opening a studio in Eagle Rock in 2001; they moved to their current location in 2012.

Understanding and strengthening the biomechanics of movement is at the heart of the workouts. The two stress the concept of micro-progressions — that is, encouraging clients to intensify their workouts at a slow but steady pace. “What we do here is focus on correct movements that strengthen muscle, posture and balance,” says Caputo.

A client’s age and ability may influence the intensity of the move but, as Flowers says, “No matter what condition you have — injury, illness — your elbow is your elbow. Your knee is your knee. They all do the same function. At the beginning, we give clients the proper dosage of exercise and they slowly creep up with ability and confidence.”

Dynamic Advantage opened with only one workout session a week; now 24 sessions are offered at their main location, and other weekly classes are held at the Cancer Support Community Pasadena and onsite at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The mix of exercises is excellent and uses the whole body,” says Mike Kleine, an acquisition advisor at JPL who has been participating in the Dynamic Advantage sessions at the space-research facility for nine years.

An avid fitness nut, Kleine says functional training complements his other activities — Pilates, cycling, skiing, hiking, kayaking and running. People often mistake him for a much younger man (he’s 69), and he credits that to spending more time moving. “I don’t take the shuttle around the JPL campus, I walk,” he says. Like many, Kleine wants his fitness to propel him into the future. “I’ve seen so many young vibrant people bent over, heavy with weight and with poor posture. It’s painful to see,” he adds. “When I’m older, I want to hike the landscape, not see it from a tour bus.”

Flowers says that’s the highest compliment he or anyone in the fitness industry can hear from clients who embrace functional fitness. “We have a lot of people who are in their 70s and 80s and who travel a lot — and they are able to do that because of their fitness levels,” he says. “They are out there living their lives and that is huge. We keep telling everyone that the road to fitness really has no finish line. You are on
it for life.”

The Jamestown Settlement tells long-lost tales of diverse women — and much more — in colonial America

The role of women in early American history is being re-examined in a new exhibition at the Jamestown Settlement museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. Through documents, artifacts and interpretative text, Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia (through Jan. 5, 2020) is part of a movement by many cultural institutions to take a broader and more inclusive look at history, one that tries to encompass the participation of women, American Indians and African Americans.

Take the case of Pocahontas, the only woman from that period whose name most of us know — a museum display tells us how important she was, yet we also realize how little we know about her. That account by colonist John Smith about her saving his head from the chopping block? Probably just yarn-spinning on his part. And no, she did not marry Smith, as the Disney cartoon tells us; she married a tobacco planter named John Rolfe. Unfortunately, she left no firsthand accounts of her life and times.

For history buffs — or those who like to combine education with their vacay — this part of Tidewater Virginia offers a bounty: Three major sites of early American history are contained on one peninsula, bounded by the York River on one side and the James River on the other. Together they make up the Historic Triangle — Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, named one of the top 15 U.S. cities in Travel +Leisure’s 2017 World’s Best Awards. First came Jamestown, named after King James I, who in 1606 granted a charter to the Virginia Company to found a colony on North American land claimed by the crown. After its three ships landed at Cape Henry in 1607, Jamestown became the first permanent English colony in North America. After Jamestown, the capital of the Virginia Colony moved a few miles inland to Williamsburg from 1699 to 1780; the 18th-century capital was resurrected into a full-scale historical restoration in the early-to-mid 20th century, thanks to the Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church and his benefactors John D. and Abby Aldrich Rockeller. Not far away, Yorktown was the site of the final great battle of the American Revolutionary War, when the Continental Army forced the surrender of General Charles Cornwallis and his Redcoats in 1781.

The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation runs two of the important museums here — Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown — and both have family-friendly galleries filled with fascinating documents, maps, artifacts and videos. The new show, Tenacity, is at Jamestown Settlement, and it highlights the roles of English, Native American and African women with illustrations, text and 60 artifacts, many borrowed from other institutions.

The native population initially had fairly harmonious relations with the new English settlers. Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of Powhatan, the chief who oversaw about 30 tribes in the area. Her story has a prominent place in the permanent galleries, which are being revamped, as well as at the museum at Historic Jamestowne, which is on the original site run by the National Park Service. (More about that later.) Much of what we know is probably myth — John Smith, one of Jamestown’s first colonists, didn’t write about Pocahantas “saving” him until after he left the colonies. However, historians agree that she served as an important emissary between the colonists and her people — a display at the Historic Jamestowne museum calls her “Mother of Two Nations.”   

Her participation didn’t come about willingly. In 1613 she was kidnapped by the English during the first Anglo-Powhatan War, and during that time she learned English and was converted to Christianity.  She later married tobacco planter John Rolfe,  an alliance that contributed to many years of peace between Indians and colonists. A Jamestown Settlement museum display features various depictions of Pocahontas, mostly done after her death and highly imaginative. One painting is based on the only portrait made during her lifetime — Simon van de Passe’s 1616 engraving of Pocahontas, whose English name was Rebecca, splendidly dressed in a tall hat and Jacobean court attire with a semi-circular lace collar. The portrait was commissioned by the Virginia Company as propaganda for the colony, after having brought her and her husband to England in 1616. Pocahontas was reportedly treated like royalty, especially since she must have been quite a surprise to the English, who thought all Indians were uneducated savages.

Tenacity covers some other, lesser-known stories, including three that are highlighted. One concerns Anne Burras Laydon, who arrived in 1608 at age 14 as a maidservant, only one of two women on that second voyage (there were none in the first).  Another tells the story of Cockacoeske, an Indian woman called “Queen of the Pamunkey,” who ruled the tribe until her death in 1686. There’s also Mary Johnson, an African woman who arrived in 1623, working on a Southside Virginia plantation until she was able to gain her freedom and her own plot of land. Artifacts include the clothing they might have worn, household items they might have used and a page from the records of the Virginia Company (known as the Ferrar Papers), borrowed from Magdelene College, Cambridge, which lists the brave women who came over
in 1621.

Like the 90 women who’d arrived the previous year, these 56 women were purposely recruited to become wives and helpmates for the Jamestown men. While the page is faded, one can read the full list on a nearby interactive screen, which includes each woman’s age, parentage and references.  For example, on the ship the Marmaduke came Allice Burges, “Age 28 borne at Linton in Cambridgeshire her father and Mother are dead, hee was a husbandman.”

One outstanding feature of both Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum (ARM) are the outdoor “living history experiences.”  The former includes a full-scale reproduction of the original Jamestown fort, which was actually rather small, and the primary buildings within. Actors play the parts of soldiers, blacksmith, etc., and relay the story of the buildings and their work roles. ARM has recreated part of a Continental Army encampment, and one can witness an actual cannon being loaded and fired (into the woods, fortunately) — a multi-step procedure that involves three soldiers and an officer to bark out the commands. The encampment is worth as much time as the museum, as costumed actors demonstrate and explain how an army on the march would function.

The cook, for example, stands in a circular trench where stoves have been built into the earth. During my visit, the “cook” tells us, “Soldiers were given daily rations, including a portion of meat, hardtack, dried beans.” She shows us a sample of hardtack: a thick, unappetizing-looking biscuit that was easy to carry and long-lasting. “You can imagine how difficult this was to eat — soldiers might soak the hardtack in water or stew to soften it.” The medical tent displays a sample doctor’s kit with metal tools, and the “doctor” tells us about medical treatment on the battlefield — fast and crude. Further along is a Revolution-era farm based on the farm of Edward Moss
(c. 1757–1786), where interpreters describe agricultural and domestic life in those times.  Although not a landowner, Moss leased 200 acres and owned six slaves to help him work them — a grim reminder that slavery quickly became an institution in early America.

While in the area, be sure to visit Historic Jamestowne, the actual site of the first settlement, excavated and run by the National Park Service. The perimeters of the triangular fort are marked by posts, and you can see how it was situated right by the James River. You will also walk through some swampy areas that illustrate why many early settlers fell sick and died soon after they arrived — the location chosen was far from ideal for human habitation.

Buildings were eventually erected outside the fort, and they can still be seen as ruins and outlines as you walk around the park; only the small Memorial Church next to the fort has been rebuilt. Don’t miss the Voorhees Archaearium Archeology Museum where the excavated objects have been collected and displayed with excellent explanations.

Life in early Jamestown was hard, very hard — especially during one period when the English were at war with Powhatan and settlers were so starved and desperate they succumbed to cannibalism, evidence suggests. The museum is frank about the troubled relationship between the English and the Native Americans. While at first Powhatan seemed welcoming and traded goods, he must have eventually realized these foreigners were not going away. A tour through the actual landscape brings all this history alive in a most compelling way.

Jamestown Settlement is located at 2110 Jamestown Rd., Williamsburg, VA. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until June 15 through Aug. 15, when it closes at 6 p.m. (Closed Christmas and New Year’s.) Admission costs $17.50, $8.25 for visitors 6 to 12; children under 6 are admitted free. A combination ticket that also includes the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown costs $26, $12.50 for 6 to 12. Visit visitwilliamsburg.com.