Truism of Life: When one of LA’s most up-and-coming rappers invites you to a 420 function, you go. That’s just how it is. And thank God I did, because Chef Sean really knows how to throw a party.
‘Vanderpump Rules’ James Kennedy Celebrates Candy Pop + Cookie Pop launching into Ralphs stores at the W Hollywood in Los Angeles
Popcorn is my favorite food. That’s the first and last bit of information on ALL my dating profiles. Okay? So when I got invited to SNAX-Sational brands’ premiere popcorn Cookie Pop and Candy Pop’s poolside soirée at the W Hollywood, it was an easy yes for me, dawg.
I Gotta say I was waiting for this one.
Real-life is scary. We’re harassed, harangued, maligned, imitated, and infiltrated. Time and again we flip those feelings into art, and the world marvels at our resilience in the face of THEIR oppression. Ain’t that something?
OK, listen. I’m gonna take some heat for this one, because I have some hyperbolic things to say.
As we all know, LA is a taco town. In fact it’s THE taco capitol of these here United States. As such, I have had millions. I also live in Boyle Heights, where some of the world’s best tacos are made. All that said…Chicas makes the best tacos I’ve ever had. Officially going into witness protection. Taco opinions start wars here!
Launched in 2016 by brothers Chris and John Blanchard, Chef Eduardo Ruiz and Nicolo Rusconi, they just last year opened a wildly popular Culver City location, then followed that up with a très cool Beverly Grove location, then ANOTHER on La Brea. Talk about growth.
They specialize in Northern Mexico-inspired cuisine with a Southern California flair, and best of all, they take smart risks throughout their expansive menu.
I was fortunate enough to swing by the Beverly Grove spot with my dear friend Beatriz Moreno. We showed up excited and in kind of a silly mood: two people from the hood reviewing tacos in Beverly Grove. We made it!
And thank heavens we did. First off, the design of this place is lovely. The pink and aqua motif, ‘Eat-at-Joe’s’ style vintage signage, and industrial light fixtures make you feel like you’re in a time warp: 1950s American iconography and Baja-inspired pops of color.
And now ze food. We tried seven tacos, each alike in dignity. My favorite was the braised pork taco chile verde con verde with caramelized onions, an absolute bomb of succulent flavors. You know how sometimes you eat something new and it sort of has to grow on you, like an edible arcade fire album or something? This taco is not like that. It’s love, immediately.
Chris says the taco he’s ‘most proud of’ is their beer-battered fish taco, and lord, I see why. It marries classic Ensenada-style with an unexpected flourish: a Cesar salad on top. I had no clue cesar salad was invented in Tijuana in 1927. Chris came through with the facts, yall.
This isn’t just about trivia, though. This taco hit. Like HIT hit. I’m sort of partial to fish tacos and have had thousands, but this one takes the cake for its delectable flavor and inventive construction. Shawty thicc.
Next up was the impossible taco, which did in fact slap. This one’s served on a crispy hard shell with neon-bright daiya cheese, an ode to the tacos your parents would make when they wanted to switch things up on you. Who didn’t love taco night? I miss my family!!!
I could sing the praises of every taco here, but as I’ve said in previous reviews if I do that there’s no TENSION. There have to be stakes!
Massive shoutout to their morita salsa, which is smoky and mature and elevates everything it touches. I’d also like to highlight the chipotle barbecue chicken pizza Beatriz and I absolutely housed, which is made with two 12” flour tortillas. Absolute madness!
We also really loved their tortilla chips, which are sourced from La Princesita in my neck of the woods.
Service was impeccable and super-friendly, and I left happier than when I arrived. Bless my heart!
My relationship with Eight Korean BBQ is so pure. Whenever I’m entertaining friends or trying to impress new business partners, or trying to simply throw down solo on lean and savory meats, Eight is there to make sure all parties leave happy.
There are moments in ‘Judas and The Black Messiah’ where Lakeith Stanfield looks like he might tear at the seams. He plays William O’Neal, the infamous real-life FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panthers and gave information that leads to the death of charismatic revolutionary Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
There’s a moment in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ the August Wilson play adapted for the screen starting Dec 18th on Netflix, when the tension between characters Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and Cutler (Colman Domingo) grows so thick you’ll want to hold your breath. They’re fighting about God, about America and their own humanity, when Boseman delivers lines that cut you to the bone, sentiments so connected to my thinking I almost leapt from my body.
The camera jumps to Cutler, aghast and awash in a mix of fury, hopelessness and guilt. This scene is one of the finest I’ve ever seen. The danger is presented so insidiously, a textual snake in the grass waiting to sink venom in you.
‘That scene does bring up a lot of things that we may feel, personally. Those fears that we may have, and what god’s will is,’ said Domingo.
The Fear of the Walking Dead star is an absolute standout in a film teeming with brilliant performances. Translating art from stage to screen is notoriously difficult, but what works so great here is the deft camera work executed under the tutelage of broadway legend George C. Wolfe, and the thousand watt talents of this cast.
If anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Domingo, an adventurous spirit who got his start in theater, and has brought an ineffable fire and grace to every role, a commitment and love that are as admirable as they are aspirational.
‘You can’t come halfway with Viola and Chad and Michael and Glynn, you gotta bring your whole A-game,’ he said.
The cast was fully aware not only of the gravity of performing the work of the world’s most-celebrated Black playwright, but also of the gravity of Chadwick’s performance.
‘I’m sure there’s a piece of me and a piece of Chad in there. So that’s why it was so…painful. It was painful. But we had to give it our all, cause that’s what the work requires,’ he said.
Viola Davis is nothing short of staggering as Ma Rainey, a gay blues singer in 1927 who speaks her mind and lets her evocative voice fill in the rest. Watching her work isn’t just impressive, it’s a joy. It imbues in you words that are always hard to find, allows you to feel the humanity and self-love that’s just out of reach.
Another gobsmacking scene is between Rainey and Cutler, with the former finally feeling comfortable after spending much of the film in conflict. She’s talking to Cutler about how the blues is more than just catharsis; it’s a roadmap.
‘You don’t sing to feel better. You sing cause that’s a way of understanding life,’ says Rainey.
I told Domingo I had a knee-jerk reaction to Ma’s brusque energy, a self-flagellating urge to tell her to shrink herself for the sake of getting through the session. Domingo addressed it with the artful forthrightness he brings to his roles:
‘I think immediately people look at her as a trope of being angry, like she’s gonna be a destructive Black woman,’ he said.
‘But in actuality, as the film goes on, you see how it’s justified. She’s basically just saying I want my worth and that’s it. And it takes the Ma’s of the world to make change.’
Let’s all bring some Ma into this next year, cause it’s gonna be tough. Sing the blues, but carry a big stick.
Steve McQueen’s rousing 5-part film series ‘Small Axe’ is set to be released weekly starting November 20th on Amazon. These pugnacious and sensual films highlight the experiences of West Indian people in London in the 70s and 80s. Three of the features premiered at the New York Film Festival to great acclaim, building a wave of anticipation for their wide release.
Exclusive: Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby Talk Starring in Steve McQueen’s ‘Mangrove’ [Video]
Steve McQueen’s rousing 5-part film series ‘Small Axe’ is set to be released weekly starting November 20th on Amazon. These pugnacious and sensual films highlight the experiences of West Indian people in London in the 70s and 80s. Three of the features premiered at the NY Film Festival to great acclaim, building a wave of anticipation for their wide release.