Beer Plus Hymns Equals Love

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Maybe you’re the churchy type. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you grew up singing hymns. Maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. You’d have to be pulse-less not to love a good old-fashioned pub sing-along.

Gathering once a month (ish) in different parts of Orange County, Beer and Hymns OC is a collection of people who like to sing, like to drink (beer or otherwise) and like to have a great time.

On Sunday night we somewhat channeled the Irish (or the British) for the first event at Durty Nellies off of Red Hill in Costa Mesa. They opened up the bar on a Sunday night especially for us. Eighty-five people raised their glasses (I drank a Harp and possibly a bourbon) and sang together songs like “Be Thou My Vision” and “Blessed Assurance.”

We sang loud. And we sang strong. And not a one of us was drunk but who knew singing could be so much fun after a beer? I guess only EVERYONE WHO EVER DOES KAROKE, right? I digress.

This was no karoke. This wasn’t even “church” (okay, maybe for some of us it was). This was pub-singing songs that a lot of us grew up with and this was pub-singing at its best.

The band played two “sets” and by sets I mean they led the way while the crowd/choir sang louder. I’m telling you, I had never thought “In the Garden” could lend itself to a bar, but no lie, it never felt better than at Durty Nellies.

I’m so excited about this. Can you tell? You want to be there. I know you do. In fact, we can’t stop thinking about it over here at our house. And in the spirit of full disclosure, some of our besties are at the helm with this so we are fully invested.

If you're nearby, please come out in a few weeks. You will not be disappointed.

The next event is on Sunday night, October 19 at The Harp Inn in Costa Mesa. Click here for the Beer and Hymns OC Facebook, Insta, and the website with all the rest of the details.

And if you can make it in October, RSVP here!

The Only Ice Cream You'll Ever Need

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On accident I found myself at two different ice cream shops over the weekend. Hello five extra el-bees. Not really. But maybe.

It was an accident, truly.

Let me back up. My new friend and current Batch-mate sent an email around the other day asking some of us to help us find the best taco in Santa Ana. She called it the Great Santa Ana Taco Quest. Needless to say, I found myself at El Reyes del el Elote Asado on Friday. Just wow. More on that at a later date.

But later that evening we met some friends at “just a cool ice cream spot” in the Orange Plaza. “Just a cool ice cream spot” turned out to be A la Minute Ice Cream, one of the coolest spots in this part of Orange County.

I only have a few things to say about A la Minute. First. Go here. Go here now. Second, anything you order will be grand. They make (MAKE) your ice cream to order with liquid nitrogen. The shop looks like a modern science experiment but with to die for ice cream. I got the fresh Mint Chip with fresh mint (it tasted like a summer garden) and shaved Parlaiment chocolate on top. Chad got the Orange Honey and our friends got the Salted Caramel. It’s all fresh. And its all good.

Literally the next day, after an eight-year-old soccer game in the driving heat, we escaped to our friends house in the much cooler part of the county near the beach.

“Let’s go get ice cream for dinner,” one of us must have said because that’s what we did right at five o’clock when most people are jonesing for sushi or pizza. We found ice cream. But this was not your normal ice cream.

Apparently someone did what one can only dream of. They put ice cream in a donut. I’ll say it again. Ice cream INSIDE of a donut.

At Afters Ice Cream in Fountain Valley you can get their handmade ice cream traditional styled in a cup or a cone, but you can also get it warmed slightly in a fresh made glazed donut. It’s like a donut sandwich with creamy, icy goodness.

I got the “cereal-and-mik” which was MILK FLAVORED ICE CREAM (yes) with frosted style flakes on top inside the donut which Afters calls their Milky Bun. Yeah. Pretty sure I can only go there once a year. Like on my birthday or something. I’ve never had anything like it in my life.

It felt like the weekend of grand culinary quests: first tacos, then ice cream.

It all was an accident. I swear it.

Local tip:A la Minute gets a long line. But don’t be deterred. It goes fast. Their people work hard and quickly to get you your ice cream. It is very much worth the wait. There's also a location in Redlands if that seems closer to you. And at Afters, make sure you get there early (we know you get a hankering for ice cream after dinner like the rest of us) because they have a new closing time of 9pm. Both places have new menus all the time. Right now A la Minute is serving things such as Avocado and Olive Oil Vanilla Bean. Afters has Vietnamese Coffee, Churro and Almond Cookie right now. 

A la Minute is located at 117 N Glassell St in Orange. Afters is at 18030 Brookhurst St in Fountain Valley.

Anaheim Packing House: You Had Me at Grilled Cheese Bar

Friday, September 12, 2014

Think of it like a grown-up food court. Without a Subway or Panda Express. Not that either of those eateries are necessarily inherently bad, but let’s just let them have their place in the sun at the shopping mall.

This “food court” of sorts is entirely different.

Envision a two storied, giant warehouse converted into a slightly hipster, always yummy circus of gratification for all the senses. Porch swings and rocking chairs are next to sofas, long community tables as well as places to hide in the corner if you so wish. You can find craft cocktails, craft beers, craft juices, craft popsicles --- just think craft-everything --- at the Anaheim Packing House.

The Packing House (where all the food and drink are) is located within the larger complex of the Anaheim Packing District which includes the Packing House, the Packard Building and Farmers Park.

The Park has a Farmers Market on Sundays at 10am and when there isn’t a Market hopping, the Park itself is an inviting lawn with trees and colorful chairs for relaxation. 

We’ve made our way there a few times. What is about it really, is the same thing that’s fun about a mall food court. When your boyfriend wants a burger and you can’t do a burger one more Saturday afternoon in a row and you’d rather have a prepackaged salad from the deli, you can. 

You can eat BOTH places. Win.

At the Packing House, I can eat a Double Tuna sushi roll from Orange Tei and my daughter can get a Classic from Black Sheep GrilledCheese Bar (don’t you dare miss this place. You had me at grilled-cheese-bar.) And then my comfort-food husband can eat at Kroft which boasts a Chicken Pot FRIES. Yes. It’s like Irish Nachos but not. Chicken pot pie innards on top of a pile of French fries. Right? Go now. Don’t stop.

The Pop Bar is a must of course: remember the craft popsicles? They will hand dip them for you in pretty much anything sugary and bad-for-you. Also for desert is Han’s Homemade Ice Cream located near the back. 

Live music in the central gallery on the weekends is a fun way to explore local bands. However the precious and adorable band we saw was full of talent, but couldn’t have been older than about fourteen. Bless their teenaged hearts.  Who knows, they’ll probably be the next Ed Sheeran or something and I’ll think “I knew them when.”

Take your kids or not. Either way works. We have been both ways and figured out you can’t take your kids to the speakeasy (yes. Yes. YES!) on the bottom floor, so next time, right? But they were just fine after we found Han’s and the Popbar. Also, two words: Giant Chicken.

Local Tip:
The Packing House is open at 10:30 for the rest of the day for lunch and dinner. But at 9 they open a little early for juices and a few other morning-type places. The bars are open till midnight. If you are there during a high volume time and can’t find a place to sit, there is hidden seating outside along the backside of the Packing House. There is a door near the sushi place. Also, if you can’t find parking don’t be afraid of using the valet. It’s only $3 and if it’s “full” the valet told me it’s usually only “full” for a few minutes and then they have room.


The Anaheim Packing House is located at 440 S Anaheim Blvd in downtown Anaheim. They have events all the time including yoga on the lawn and organic gardening classes. Click here for a calendar of events.  Plus I saw something about a chocolate and cheese pairing! What??

You Must Be New Here. It's Okay. We All Are.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

You must be new here! It's okay. We all are.

I'm so glad you came. California Loves Culture an arts and culture blog curating local happenings and great things to do, eat and experience in and around Southern California. We'll be exploring the arts including theater and music events, local food including farmers markets, restaurants and eateries, local travel and local culture including fun places to go and things to do in and around our amazing area.

We already have curious minds around here for new and amazing things to do here, so we are looking forward to sharing them with you.

We have a Facebook page that I hope you'll connect with. Click here.

If you want to know more about me and mine, you can find it here.

And if you really want to know the daily ins and outs of what's going on, hit up our Instagram here.

If you have any ideas of great places to visit, please feel free to leave them in the comments or on our Facebook page. We can't wait to hear your ideas!

The Tempest at the South Coast Rep

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

photo by South Coast Rep
Oh my.  I’ve never seen Shakespeare quite like this.

I was a communications minor at University and all through my Junior and Senior years as part of my course work, I had to attend half a dozen performances per semester. Student rush tickets are amazing. I took my boyfriend to plays and operas and musicals and everything in between. And I saw a ton of Shakespeare: professional companies all the way down to college troupes.

But the South Coast Rep’s current iteration of The Tempest, not unlike the famed storm itself, is a force to be reckoned with.

With an intriguing small group acting as the music and “Rough Magic” including music by Kathleen Brennan and Tom Waits (right, I know!) and a magical element with acts designed by Teller (of Penn and Teller) I promise you’ve not seen anything like it. 

An amazing physical acting duo played Caliban (I found it difficult to look away from Zachary Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee) and a magician in his own right played the part of Ariel (Nate Dendy). Prospero (Tom Nelis) levitated Miranda (Charlotte Graham) briefly during her and Ferdinand’s (Joby Earle) wedding and Trinculo’s musical and comical prowess was impressive (Jonathan M. Kim).

The script was true to Shakespeare but the dress and set design was decidedly Victorian in nature. Glowing café lights reminded me of gas lamps and behind a thin curtain, the actors at times, moved through shadow and light plays.

I honestly can’t say anything bad about The Tempest at all. And because at the SCR every seat is a good one, one can’t go wrong. 

Local Tip:
You can get specially priced tickets today only for $40. Use code 10676 at checkout (not an affiliate link) for performances this weekend only!

The Tempest is playing currently and still has many tickets available for the next few weeks. Click here to find tickets and don’t beafraid to buy the “cheaper” ones. Like I said, no seat is bad in this intimate venue.

Six Things to do NOW in SoCal

Friday, September 5, 2014

All of us who call Southern California home know that some of the best time of year here is the fall. No, we don’t have the leaves. No, we don’t have the cozy, blustery days. But we do have sun. 

Oh yes. We do have the sunshine. 

Labor Day doesn’t have to signify the end of summer-type things to do for us.

September and October might be the warmest months of the year but the difference between October and July is that while it may be close to 90 degrees at Halloween, there’s a good chance that it will cool off nicely at night and be overcast in the morning. 

So what should we do NOW that the summer tourist crowds have gone home, while we still have the summer/fall sun and before we release Daylight Savings into the recesses of November?

Here are a few great ideas and some of my favorites:

       1. Go to the beach. 
      After all the kids are back in school, and the sand is still warm, take advantage of the beach in September. The summer crowds are gone or are inside pretending its fall, so why shouldn’t you extend August into September? My favorite Orange County beach is Crystal Cove which isn’t even very crowded in the summer, so September is brilliant down there below the cliffs.

2. Eat outside. 
      There are few places in Southern California that don’t have outdoor eateries because we live in PARADISE. Seriously. Make use of the summer-like weather this fall and continue to eat outside. Find a new restaurant with outdoor or beach-view seating or grill a few steaks with your favorite people. In fact Chad and I often grill through the fall, winter and spring. Check out the Roof Top Bar in Laguna beach for not-so-good drinks, but an amazing view. Hit it near sunset and you’ll forgive them for the slightly watered down mojitos. Also, get the bacon wrapped dates. To. Die.
     3. Take a hike. 
      I hardly hike in the summer. Why? Snakes mostly. I’m dead serious. There is something irrational in me that says there are more snakes in the summer but I’m sure I’m wrong. The other reason is the heat. It’s hot in the morning, afternoon and night on a non-shady hike in the summer. But in September and October, the cooler temperatures in the morning and evening make for perfect solo hikes or with friends. My favorite OC hikes: Newport Back Bay and Peters Canyon. Also, here’s a list of some great LA hikes and OC hikes you can take to beat the city.  
      4. Watch a Play. 
      We love our outdoor venues, don’t we? Many outdoor playhouses still perform through the fall. Hit up the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum for an outdoor season through the fall in Topanga. Most troupes move their performances indoors after the summer but there are still a few that operate through September. If you don't want to sit outdoors in September, you can always hit up the South Coast Rep for The Tempest this month. 

     5. Find a festival
      Of course October is great for OktoberfestMore on that later in the season, as well as many fall festivals around the southland. Head out to the Temecula Wine Country for their Autumnfest, a celebration of local food and wine. The LA County Fair happens all September long at the Pomona Fairgrounds and three local cities host Lobsterfests this month (Long Beach, San Pedro and Redondo Beach). Find a weekend, find a festival and don’t look back.

      6. Go Camping
      Now I'm aware that camping isn't for everyone but if it's for you {and you know who you are} there are a ton of local campgrounds that are close and great for the weekend. Both Caspers Wilderness Park in South Orange County and Leo Carillo in Malibu are ones I've been to personally and love. Caspers has a ton of hiking trails and great sites and Leo Carillo has beach access. What more could you want? I prefer the showers at Leo Carillo but who really takes showers when they camp?

     Whatever you decide to do this September, don't let this month get away without taking advantage of the great weather and lessened crowds. Have fun!
      What are some things you like to do in the fall months in Southern California?

Santa Ana's Batch Co-Working Space

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Co-working spaces rock. I’m just going to say that now.

When I tried to find a co-working space in somewhere semi-close to my home I had no idea what to google. I think I typed in something like “creative work space orange county.”

Whatever I typed in that day I quickly found myself at Batch.

Batch is small. Batch is like a family. Batch is freaking awesome.  

When I met Sarah Armstrong, Batch’s founder, she introduced me to a couple of the other guys who work there most days and then we sat down on a sofa in the corner and talked. We chatted up work, Santa Ana, and found we had a few mutual friends {small world}.

Every co-working space is different and runs a little differently, but at Batch, you can rent full time space, part time space (me) or just drop in. The desks are first come, first served. Wifi, printing, a small conference area, coffee and of course, some cool people are a few of the amenities.

I took a short trial period and then told her I would love to work a couple days a week. This work-at-home person needs a room of her own, so to speak.

So yes. After years of working at home or schlepping my stuff to coffee shops, I finally have a little corner to call home.
Local tip: 
It’s important to find a co-working place near your house. Batch happens to be very close to mine. There are TONS of cool, unique co-working spaces in Orange and LA County. Click here for a list of several in LA, Culver City and Santa Monica. For another cool looking space in Orange County that just opened, check out Costa Makers in Costa Mesa. 

Batch is located in the East End of Downtown Santa Ana. Click here for Batch’s Instagram feed, and here for their website.
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