Just Back From

Just Back From: Joshua Tree and Los Angeles

by Daniel Schwartz
Sunrise, Sunrise in Joshua Tree. Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

Gentedimontagna editor Daniel Schwartz left wintry New York for a few days of Southern California sunshine. He found so much more. 

LOS ANGELES – You’ve seen this movie before: Stressed-out New Yorker flies west in search of sun and relaxation, splits an extra-long weekend between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, finds fantastic food, a cool new boutique hotel, and painterly desert landscapes along the way. 

Cue the highlight reel.

Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

Stuck in an Energy Vortex in Joshua Tree

The three days my two friends and I spent in an Airbnb in Yucca Valley felt like a week. It was like we were stuck in a very nice energy vortex. It rained heavily the first day, which put a dent in my ambitious itinerary — for the better. What we got around to — hiking Joshua Tree National Park, grabbing great Mexican food at Kasa Market and Taco Shop, listening to live blues at Joshua Tree Saloon, piling on breakfast at Crossroads Cafe — left enough time to enjoy each other’s company and the pacifying desert landscape. Which is why we came out here. 

If I had to do anything differently next time, I’d book a sound bath at the Integraton way in advance and make sure I made it to La Copine, the desert’s coolest restaurant, during operating hours (Thursday to Sunday, 2 to 7 p.m.).

Cholla Cactus Garden. Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

A Bump in the Road in LA

Congratulations, Daniel: You got into your first car accident. 

Nothing major, besides the headache. You don’t have auto insurance (because you don’t own a car), but your rental through Turo came with basic coverage. Phew. 

You were on your way to try the flourless tangerine cake with fresh raspberries at Fiona. You didn’t see it coming. Life has a funny way of, well, just happening. 

On your next trip, take your own advice: Look into travel insurance.

A Pit Stop at the Apple Store for Weed

I was just looking for muscle relief, I swear. Traveling with heavy cameras takes its toll. Plus, there was a Medmen just outside LAX. I wanted to take a look. (All in the name of journalism...) An employee in red (they all wear red) scanned our IDs at the door. Everyone inside had a souped-up iPhone with a scanner and a smile on their face. Did they all just come from a product quality-control meeting? I don’t know, but they were nice and answered all my questions. The store had all the trendy cannabis brands. (Yes, that’s a thing now.) I bought a non-psychoactive body relief patch from Papa & Barkley. There was an old man on the packaging. (Appropriate.) My friends purchased edibles. Good edibles, they later told me. This is the future, but also not really: Bring your debit card, as Medmen doesn’t accept cash or credit.

Simonette restaurant. Photo courtesy of Palihotel Culver City.
A king room. Photo courtesy of Palihotel Culver City.

The Lowdown on Culver City

If you're wondering whether Culver City belongs on your LA itinerary, the answer is yes. See: the following. 

The hoteliers at Palisociety, who run lovely properties around the city and are behind the sexy and soon-to-open Silver Lake Pool and Inn, just opened Palihotel Culver City in the heart of the neighborhood's downtown core. I spent two nights here. The rooms are adorable and make great use of their space. The lobby restaurant, Simonette, has a nice bar and courtyard and is where I would work if I lived nearby and needed a change of scene from the home or office. 

Culver City also has a Roberta’s, which I know from Brooklyn. (Go figure!) It’s located in Platform, a super hip mall of sorts with a Bobba Guys, Aesop, SoulCycle, Poketo, and Van Leeuwens, among other very nice shops. The highlight is Margot, a very photo-friendly rooftop greenhouse restaurant, where I had a spritz and a focaccia sandwich and split a bunch of greens for brunch. So LA. 

Culver City ain't no Beverly Hills or Venice, but its youthful energy coupled with movie-industry chops (it's home to Sony Studios) make it a cool place to stay. Plus, there’s a hobbit house in the neighborhood, built by Disney carpenter Lawrence Joseph. How awesome is that?

The bar and table spread at Margot. Photos by Daniel Schwartz.

One of LA's Most Anticipated Openings Is a SF Bakery

The folks behind San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory partnered with chef Chris Bianco (of Phoenix’s acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco) to bring amazing bread and other culinary delights to the Brooklyn-esque warehouses of ROW DTLA. The Manufactory, as the sprawling complex is called, has an ice cream and coffee window, a tapas-style food counter and shop called The Market; a swish, all-day eatery called Tartine Bianco; and a wonderfully aromatic bakery that supplies all the food operations but is sadly not open to the public. An upscale dinner-and-weekend-brunch-only restaurant called Alameda Supper Club and a coffee lab, which will use beans from a separate on-site roastery, are both in the works. 

I had dinner at Tartine Bianco, which, despite its all-day status and very large dining room, had a warm and buzzy nighttime feel. Or maybe that was all the bread and wine I had. Dips, toasts, and open-faced sandwiches were expectedly delicious; a dish of sweetbreads, crispy rice, yams, and chili paste and a whole hot fish plate (for the pescatarian at the table) lent the meal good variety and heft.

Tartine Bianco. Photo courtesy of Tartine Bianco.
Corbarina (squash blossom, burrata, cherry tomato, gremolata) pizza. Photo courtesy of Pizzana.

I'll Admit It, This Town Knows How to Do Pizza

If places like Bestia and Pizzeria Mozza taught us anything ("us" being jaded slice-joint-worshiping New Yorkers), it’s that LA knows how to do a pizza. 

Pizzana in Brentwood is another testament to the fact. People love this place. The late food critic Jonathon Gold called the cacio e pepe pizza a small miracle. And he was right. It tastes just like the classic Roman pasta dish, with crust built-in. About that crust: It’s made in a wood-fired oven with naturally fermented dough using a generations-old recipe. I split a few pies — cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and funghi made vegan, all of which were delicious — and wished I had saved room for dessert, which comes from Sprinkles co-founder (and Gentedimontagna contributor) Candace Nelson.

Keep Exploring Los Angeles

Gentedimontagna LA Guide
What It's Like Inside the Apple Store for Weed
In Good Spirits: A Cocktail Expert's Guide to LA Boozing