Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adventure LA: Feeling Good in Silverlake

I'll be the first to admit that I once had a Woody Allen-esque LA-phobia. I'm not sure if I developed it by simply watching one-too-many films or by spending so many years in a city where I wasn't dependent on cars, stars, and bathing suits. Nonetheless, my phobia didn't subside until I moved to California and actually started to spend quality time in Los Angeles. Although an unhealthy attachment to a car is unavoidable, so are charming neighborhoods, incredible eateries, and inspired boutiques. Now, with many LA jaunts under my belt, no neighborhood offers a better way to spend a sun-kissed afternoon than combing the streets of Silverlake, LA's off-the-beaten path bohemian enclave.

Reform School: This is one of my all-time favorite shopping experiences. Reform School is full of home-spun household adornments, books, art, clothing, and personal accessories. Their website, set-up like a school office filing cabinet, is loads o' fun, too. Details:

Dean: Shop Dean for a fun assortment of purses, Unisex bags, recycled leather goods, and hand-made watches. Need I say more? Details:

Yolk: The design-obsessed owner of Yolk collects Scandinavian-style children's furniture and wares and combines it with adult "free range design" amusements. The collection includes everything from the globe's hand-made textiles to home-based designer skirts. Details:

Lamill Coffee: For a delicious cup o' really high-quality joe or for a refreshing iced spearmint tea, plan to please all your senses in this over-the-top beauty. Details:

If you're still in the mood for more creative gifting, check out the very fun and quirky A+R (, play a while in Monkey House Toys (, or try Silverlake's much-anticipated seasonally rustic dining edition, Reservoir (

Email this article!

Obsession: Servin' Up Surfas

An LA staple since the 30s, Surfas has served the restaurant community and hard-core home cooks with restaurant-quality equipment, speciality food items, and hard-to-find ingredients. Not only does their website offer all of these incredible wonders to the home shopper, it also includes recipes, gift baskets, and an over-abundance of gourmet food finds. Details:

Email this article!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gastronomy: Slow-Cooked Pork

Since moving to San Diego, one of the most notable revelations has been the accessibility to mouth-watering Mexican food—in particular, the pork of the gods. Whether visiting a street vendor, a take-out counter, or a sit-down venue, local Mexican chefs and cooks alike pride themselves on their pork dishes and brag that their offering is the best. They may have different methods and names like asada (grilled), al pastor (marinated), or carnitas (roasted in pork fat), but each one, in its own right, is always a meal to remember.

Although Mexican food in San Diego is both inexpensive and abundant, as an armchair cook, I desired to know the secrets that infused these memorable taste sensations. As a result, I embarked on a culinary journey of my own. After collecting and testing several asada, carnitas, and al pastor recipes, I finally mixed and combined my favorites to create a dish that rivals some of the best. The result? Tender, velvety, and rich pork—and always a family favorite.

Carnitas Roasted in Salsa Verde (green salsa)

2 lbs boneless pork shoulder (often referred to as pork butt); or 4 lbs pork shoulder, bone-in
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
½ t salt
½ t fresh ground pepper
2 T olive oil

1/2 c white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 ½ c chicken broth
3 t grated orange zest
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, finely chopped
2 t fresh cilantro, chopped
1 t fresh oregano, chopped, or 1/2 t dried oregano
2 t fresh mint, chopped
2 t fresh basil, chopped
2 t lime juice
Green onion or chives, finely chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pork by rubbing with 2 of the minced garlic cloves and seasoning with salt and pepper. In large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork; brown on all dies, 12-15 minutes. Remove the pork to plate and set aside.

Deglaze Dutch Oven with white wine. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium; sauté onion for 6-7 minutes. Stir in remaining minced garlic clove, jalapeño pepper, and tomatillos; continue to sauté until all vegetables are tender, 5-10 minutes. Add chicken broth, orange zest, and oregano to Dutch Oven.

Return pork to Dutch Oven, coating with juices and vegetables. Cover and place in pre-heated oven; roast for 2 to 2.5 hours or until pork is tender.

Remove from oven and carefully lift pork to cutting board. If using pork shoulder, bone-in, separate meat from bone. Shred pork with fork (the pork should pull apart very easily); set aside.

To the remainder of sauce in the Dutch Oven, stir in cilantro, basil, mint, lime juice, and black pepper to taste.

Place meat in bowl and spoon sauce to taste over top; sprinkle with green onions or chives. Serve with warm tortillas or rice.

Email this article!

Obsession: Gift Giving Reinvented

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become extremely bored when forced to shop for yet-another neighborhood kid’s birthday gift. It’s not that I don’t like celebrating, it’s just that buying one more typical marketing-backed toy has become a little redundant. Now that I’ve found Optical Toys, I’ve never been so excited to get the party started.

Just visiting the Optical Toys' website is a treat! They offer a series of old-fashioned flip books (e.g., Thomas Edison’s record of a sneeze), paper toy reproductions (“choose among 12 unique hairstyles for this elegant lady who desperately needs a full head of hair”), and a series of antique book remakes (think shadow books and movie scopes). Although you may still need to buy the hottest, new-fangled toy for your birthday recipient, next time, accompany your gift with an Optical Toys’ purchase and become the life of the party. Details:

Email this article!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Style: Niche Apparel with Broad Appeal

Although my sister and I are full-blooded relatives, we couldn’t be more different in size and shape. I’m a big-boned 5’9” and she is a small-framed 5’4”. Needless to say, we have never been good clothing partners—not because we don’t share similar tastes, we simply don’t fit into the same styles.

…until we discovered Neesh by DAR.

Neesh by DAR has been around for about 10 years; “DAR” is the designer and manufacturer, Denise Allen Robinson. Denise has created beautiful, individual pieces that can be mixed and matched with almost anything—elegant enough for a night on the town or relaxed enough for a PTA meeting. As she describes her clothing, “every item features couture construction in a youthful, vintage yet modern look designed for a woman of any age.” Her skirt designs are particularly special—each one consists of unique patterns, colors, and fabrics. And, more importantly, they complement almost any shape and size.

Although Denise doesn’t offer online purchases (yet), you can find a boutique that sells her designs in almost each of the 50 states. In addition, Denise is affiliated with half a dozen retailers that sell her clothing online. Although my sister and I still don’t wear the same size, we can now easily sport the same skirt when it’s from the broad-niche, Neesh by DAR collection. Details:

Email this article!

Obsession: The Tour Diary

Artist Allison Cole and my new San Fran love, The Little Otsu, have collaborated to create this very fun tour diary. If you're like me, before each trip I end-up with a mess of printouts, books, photocopies, and addresses that I cram into my carry-on bag. With The Tour Diary, you're able to organize and combine your trip itinerary and travel information into one, little guide.

The diary includes space for packing lists, tour information, restaurant plans, and important translations for out-of-country travel. Plus, it's just plain ol' cute, making trip preparation almost as fun as the trip itself. Details:

Email this article!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventure San Francisco: My Mission, The Mission

Tourists flock to San Francisco and are easily spotted riding the Powell-Hyde cable car line, loitering on every corner of Fisherman’s Wharf, and trudging the thigh-busting streets of Chinatown. Like all tourists, I can be picked out of the crowd, sporting my camera and snapping pictures of just about anything that moves. Unlike the typical San Fran visitor, however, I’m on a relentless hunt for the local haunts—the neighborhoods that boast unique boutiques, exceptional eateries, and distinctive encounters that leave you wanting to move in and truly mix with the locals.

On our latest trip, I stumbled upon my dream hood—The Mission District. Anchored firmly by Valencia Street, The Mission is home to the outrageously funky and the down-right delicious. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Little Otsu (LO): Oh, little LO, my small press shop…my inspiration…my muse. From your gumball machine that churns out artist-made buttons to your soy-based ink and “tree-free” diaries, I can’t seem to get enough. LO collaborates with artists and designers to deliver zines, drawings, crafts, and any other one-of-a-kind oddity that brings out your DIY-spirit, inspires creative gift giving, and makes you wonder why you spend so much time and money on the big box stores. Details:

Paxton Gate: What’s more fun than a marriage of taxidermy and carnivorous plants? The answer: Paxton Gate. This shop manages to weave the macabre and morose (glass eyes, bone jewelry) with the hauntingly beautiful (resurrection ferns and an extraordinary orchid collection). It’s a museum, a side-show, and a botanic garden rolled into one and perhaps the easiest way to kill an afternoon. Details:

Dosa: Working up an appetite? Follow your nose to Dosa—The Mission’s award-winning Southern Indian cuisine. Dosa’s warm atmosphere serves as the perfect backdrop for this spicy comfort food. Specialties that keep you wanting for more include roasted rice crepes and pancakes, lovingly stewed lentils and veggies, and freshly, complex chutneys. Details:

Bi-Rite Creamery: A few blocks off Valencia’s main drag, find artisanal ice cream that can transform the dessert-averse into a raging fan. Each dip is made from organic, local ingredients (some from their own farm) and draws from a rich-palate of flavors. Along side some delicious standards, try an orange cardamom, double ginger, honey lavender, or salted caramel cone. Don’t be daunted by the long lines—one lick is worth the wait. Details:

Other more-than-honorable mentions include Dave Egger’s 826 Valencia’s pirate shop and writing center (; Dema Grim’s “twisted classics” clothing line (; The Curiosity Shoppe (see Obsession); Ritual Coffee Roasters for the ultimate cup of foam-kissed locally roasted joe (; and Dog Eared Books for an eclectic selection of music, mags, and reads (

Email this article!

Obsession: The Curiosity Shoppe

After my recent visit to San Francisco, I came home hungering for more. Thanks to online shopping and The Curiosity Shoppe, I don't have to completely leave behind the city that feeds my artistic impulses. At The Curiosity Shoppe, the place for “crafts, kits, and curios for the creatively inclined,” experience talking paintings, mustache key holders, and origami hamburger sets. Browsing this collection online is about a much fun as chomping through the real deal. Details:

Email this article!

Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
Questions? Comments?

Is Mod City Mom loading incorrectly? Try upgrading your browser of choice.