The Tequila of L’Scorpion

In ancient Chinese folklore, the scorpion was believed to be one of the Five Poisons, which were five creatures that could cause great harm to people, especially during the summer months.  The first of these five were the snake, centipede and scorpion.  The last two would either be the toad, lizard, spider, or tiger depending on the source of the information.  But all of the sources agree on the first three.  During that era, it was believed that special amulets would protect the wearer from these so-called troublemakers.  It was more likely, however, that these little fiends were probably attracted to the cool environment of buildings from the harsh summer heat, hence why they would cause mischief more so in summer.   The Chinese were not the only ones to notice these  pests.  In Lebanon, The Temple of Eshmun is an ancient sanctuary devoted to the Phoenician God of Healing.  One of the only remaining frescoes on these ruins depicts a snake, centipede, scorpion, and crab, all symbolic of injury and illness.   In modern times, while the scorpion can still cause trouble,  it has redeemed itself in a variety of ways.  Medicinally, scorpion venom has been used in many applications, such as in the treatment for brain cancer,  in dermatological use, and as a pain reliever.  Of course, there is one scorpion that I find to be highly beneficial, and that is tequila serving one known as L’Scorpion.

My friend Katherine and I came here the other night for an incredible tequila tasting, and we were both quite impressed.  The lounge is nestled among costume stores and restaurants on Hollywood Boulevard, not too far from Hollywood and Highland.  I love the elaborate metalwork on the bar and glass doors.  Shades of vibrant red throughout, from the outside awning to the booths upholstery in back, add passion and warmth to the environment, as does the sensual lighting.

Lanterns and sconces, as well as a vintage tin-tiled ceiling are the prime examples of the metal in the space.  I love when buildings incorporate brick into their design, be it natural brick or brick veneer.  Here it  adds a beautiful and stylish earth element to the setting, which acts a bridge between the fire and metal elements.   The curvature of the metalwork adds a much-needed water element to the area, with the rectangular shapes of the bar and the very room itself symbolizing the final element, wood.  Even though it is made of metal, I would also venture to stay that the stripper pole in the rear of the lounge is another example of wood energy feeding fire – or as creative energy feeding passion.  It’s discretely displayed, while still being very attainable to all the patrons – should the mood strike them to use it.  Neither Katherine nor I felt the inclination.  The enormously high ceilings – I’m estimating them to be about eighteen feet high – also assist in a good flow of chi throughout the environment.

Four different tequilas were served to us, ranching from mescal (with an actual scorpion inside the bottle) to a nine months aged tequila.  All of them were good, but my favorite by far was the third option provided by Don Julio – which happens to be my favorite brand of tequila.

Guacamole with Chips – A generous portion of guacamole was served to us on a large platter, with strips of white corn tortilla chips.   L’Scorpion’s guacamole has a sting to it, with fresh green jalapenos added to the party.  Zesty and sensational;  I loved it!

Carnitas Tacos – We each got two carnitas tacos, and they were incredible.  The carnitas was some of the best I’ve ever had.  A small mound of refried beans accompanied the dish.  I added some to my tacos, and it was perfect!  I also like the modern presentation of the tacos on rectangular plates.

Flan – I feel all flan should be consumed by candlelight.  Light-as-air, this was the ideal addition to the meal.   It was impressive on its own, but when paired with the tequila, it was overwhelmingly  good.

In addition to their abundant tequila selection, L’Scorpion also offers a choice drink menu.  I went with their Jalapeno Margarita, because I like it spicy and full of yang energy.  On the rocks with salt and limes, this was a refreshing and strong libation.  The jalapeno in it offered just enough of a slap to get one’s attention.  I may get it just a little spicier next time, just to see how it is.   Katherine ordered the Paloma, which consists of tequila and Squirt soda mixed together with fresh lime juice.  Unbeknownst to me, it is quite popular to mix Squirt and tequila together in various parts of Mexico.  Citrus is the main forerunner of tastes in this beverage.    Intriguing.

As it’s located in the heart of Hollywood, parking can be a difficult task.  I would suggest bringing cash for one of the paid lots.  Another option is to take the metro and exit at Hollywood and Highland.  I did this and then walked the two short blocks to the bar.  Just remember the subway closes around midnight.  If you are going for a more mellow, yin mood, I would advise  going early in the evening when they open at 6:00.  However, if you want more of a lively, yang mood, go later in the evening after 10:00.  L’Scorpion will definitely needle its way into heart and soul – but don’t worry.  The perfect inoculation is more tequila.

L’Scorpion Tequila Bar

6679 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

951 250-3800

Hours:  Sunday – Friday  6:00 pm – 2:00 am,  Saturday 1:30pm – 2:00 am

http://lscorpion.com/

Raphael: An Artist Studio

The color yellow in feng shui is an alluring example of the earth element, introducing a vibrant cheerfulness to any environment.  Some color researchers feel that this shade can  strengthen one’s immune system, confidence, and well-being.     For feng shui guidelines, it is best used in living rooms, kitchens, dining areas, and entry halls.   Yellow can work for other areas, too, but it depends on which pigment is selected for which location.  A primary yellow, for instance, would be much too yang in its energies for a bedroom; the occupant would have trouble sleeping and could become agitated.  But a pale yellow would work well for rest and rejuvenation.  Yellow can also bring a glowing fire element into a space, depending on the hue.  The luminosity of the various yellows in the painting above adds depth and sensuality to the piece without the effort of  reds or purples.   It also brings a brightness to the restaurant hallway in which it resides.   Be it citrine, amber, or goldenrod, the color yellow makes a valuable  impact to one’s surroundings.

Nestled amidst the bustle of Ventura Boulevard lies an artistic oasis of the cultivated kind known as Raphael.   I came here the other day with my friend Hanh, and was highly impressed.  All of the elements here are beautifully displayed, and the use of color is that of a painter’s palette.   The main dining area of the restaurant is tastefully decorated.  Intriguing art, comfortable seating, and unique light fixtures are some of the striking features here.  One of my favorites was the lavish yellow wall panels.  These golden room dividers help to add a sense of warmth and luxury to the dining experience.   Another item that captivated my attention was a handmade glass light fixture.  With its fiery tints and triangular shapes,  it can act as one’s own personal sun if they sit at this specific table (pictured above).

The outside of Raphael is a stoic stone edifice that masks the style and grandeur that awaits inside – until you see the succulents.  A massive wall of living plants encloses the outdoor terrace dining, adding a rich and lively wood element to the earthen structure.

In contrast to the robust yellows of the dining area, the lounge is hued in shades of blue and green, with wood-paneled walls and squared lighting.  I love the use of  rectangles and squares here, providing a stability while dining.   A medium-sized bar lies directly across.  One aspect here I did not care for – feng shui wise – was the mirrored ceiling, which can be glimpsed in the top left corner of the photo.  Reflective ceilings are considered very high energy, and will cause difficulty in one being able to rest.  However, being that this is a place of business and not a residence, I found this to be a rare exception to the rule.  But no one should hang a mirror over their bed on the ceiling – ever.  In addition to the tawdry tackiness of how it looks,  the occupant of the bed will suffer a variety of problems.  Don’t do it.

And now on to the food!  Raphael is experimenting with their Happy Hour at present, but we sampled their selection of three small plates for $12.00.  The selection of the three items changes daily upon the discretion of the artist, chef Adam Horton.  He combines various Asian cooking elements into his nouveau cuisine.  The three masterpieces above were sublime in both taste and presentation.

  • On the left we have Amberjack lounging about in a pool of delicious curry sauce, with baby carrots.  A coconut puree acted as garnish.  Incredible.
  • In the middle we have tomatoes, burrata cheese and kimchi, served warm under glass.  When I lifted the glass up, smoke billowed out.  Dinner and a show – I love it.  Tasty and tantalizing.
  • On the right we have Wagyu beef accompanied by bacon-onion jam.  The little half egg roll garnish is filled with a mellow bleu cheese.  Mouthwatering.

And below are the other things I sampled:

Savory Martini – A gin based martini with celery bitters, dry vermouth, Parmesan stuffed olives, and a solitary cocktail onion.  I love martinis – especially a Gibson – and this one combined my love for cheese into the concoction.  Also available with vodka.  Decadent and classy.

Roseberry – An ideal summer beverage!  Fresh pressed raspberries, lemon, and gin pool their talents together wonderfully.  Garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary.  A prime example of yin and yang, with the savoriness of the gin and rosemary, and the sweetness of the fruit.  I love the ruby color of the drink as well.  Addictive.

Ginger Shandy – Ginger beer, vodka, Corona, and liquid ginger perform exquisitely in this lush summer cocktail.   I especially liked the use of yuzu foam across the top, giving it a nice froth.  These are dangerous – I could drink them all day.

Macaroni and Cheese – A small crock of steaming macaroni and cheese.  Comfort food at its finest.   Unlike other versions of this classic, Raphael uses jalapeno juice in the compound, adding a spicy yang element to the entrée.  Hanh and I were only going to share one order, but it was so good we couldn’t resist and enjoyed a second round.  Piping hot and satisfying.

Habanero Tincture
Photo courtesy of H. Nguyen

All of our beverages were created by our bartender, Chris Parke.  A true mixologist, Chris educated us on the ingredients on each drink, as Adam had on the food.  One interesting bit of knowledge I learned was what a tincture is.  In the world of mixology and bartending, a tincture is an essence of something to its most potent form.  Used in some of the libations at Raphael is their own homemade Habanero Tincture.  I sampled only a few drops, and it packed a powerful punch.  I quickly followed it with some water.   I can see how it would be amazing in a food or beverage, though, once it was diluted.  Hanh and Chris were much more courageous than I; they each took a whole shot of the tincture (pictured above).   It gives whole new meaning to the term fire-eater.   On my next visit, I plan on savoring some wine from their choice selection, and perhaps take in the best of all artistic creations:  Dessert.

Raphael, A Dining Experience

11616 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604
818 505-3337

Hours:  Lunch:  Monday – Friday 11:30 – 2:00,  Dinner:  Sunday – Thursday 5:30 – 9:00,  Friday – Saturday 5:30 – 10:00,  Happy Hour:  Tuesday – Friday 5:00 – 7:00

http://raphaelonventura.com/

Note:  Closed Mondays for Dinner, and weekends for Lunch.

Ganoderma and Camping

Miner's TentWhen camping in the wilderness, it is best not to eat random mushrooms one finds in the forest.  Indeed, some of these toadstools are not fun guys at all, causing anything from stomach cramps to death if ingested.  Since I’d rather avoid death, I tend not to eat mushrooms when embracing nature.  Unless you count the ones in my coffee.  It sounds odd, I know, but recently my friend Kari introduced me to a flavorful company called Organo Gold.  All of their products, including their coffee varieties, have a secret ingredient in them called ganoderma.  Ganoderma is a flat, table-like mushroom that grows on wood.  This beneficial chanterelle is known for it various health properties, including the control of blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation, relief of fatigue, and bolstering of the immune system.  China, Japan, and other Asian countries have known about ganoderma for centuries.

Brown and Cream Mushroom

I was quite pleased when my friend Kari became a distributor for Organo Gold.  Although ganoderma is available from a variety of sources, no other company has been able to make it taste as tempting as the good people of Organo.   Coffee, in itself, brings a wonderful earth element to the table, with its rich brown hues and terrene aroma.   It is mostly a yin beverage, but I feel this also depends on how sweet one makes it – yin is sugary, whereas yang is more savory, from a sweetness standpoint.  There’s also the argument that it’s stimulating effect is more yang in its origins.  Personally, as someone who has chosen coffee as a lifestyle choice (not an addition), I would be lost without my two cups in the morning.  So, I would say it’s more yang in its energies due to the caffeine.   Also, coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 Diabetes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.  I tried two of the impressive Organo beverages, and was astounded to say the least.

The most popular of their products, their Black Coffee has a distinct nutty taste to it, almost like hazelnut.  This is what I like to call the Frangelico Aspect.   The nuttiness flavor stems from the ganoderma extract in the brew.  Very, very tasty.

Organo Gold’s Black Coffee in Cafe Latte form.  Already sweetened with cream and sugar, this is just like having a latte ready at one’s fingertips.  The Frangelico Aspect is here as well.  Perfect for those who love hazelnut lattes.

Another reason I praise Organo is that all of their beverages need only one additional ingredient:  boiling water.  As a mircobrew, the coffee comes prepackaged in individual servings, with each box having multiple packets.  This is the ideal product to take with you when your coffee maker isn’t close at hand.  It is especially perfect to enjoy while relaxing on some seafaring vessel – or when one is camping in the wilds of nature (I prefer Cabrillo State Beach above Malibu).  Kari’s website for Organo Gold is below, and if you have any questions about the coffee, feel free to email her at kari.larson21@yahoo.com.     I am looking forward to having their hot chocolate this winter, perhaps by a roaring fire…

Update:  Due to some incredible and positive career changes, Kari is no longer selling Oregano Gold.  To find a distributor near you, please refer to their website:   http://www.organogold.com/

The Feng Shui of a Burger

In Ancient Egypt, the onion was highly revered as a perennial icon.  The people of that time believed that the many layers, rings, and orbicular shape of the onion symbolized eternity and longevity.  Part of this was probably due to the face that onions were one of the few foods that did not spoil during colder months.  And of all the vegetables to be recreated in various precious metals by Egyptian artisans, the only one ever  to be made out of gold was the onion.  My own personal love of onions came out about when I was a kid, in the deep fried form of onion rings.   Those golden circles of deliciousness were so good (especially at Carl’s Jr.).  I also remember dried onions atop the ever-popular green bean casserole.  Yum.

Earlier in the week, I visited the Toluca Lake location of The Counter, an international burger chain.  Unlike other burger establishments, The Counter lets patrons custom design the sandwich of their dreams.  From fried eggs to Gruyere cheese, the multitude of different combinations is astounding.  And it’s very easy to do – The Counter provides a check sheet, and patrons mark off what they want on their sandwich.  Being able to create a burger to one’s exact specifications is an excellent feng shui experience – you create the ideal burger for the environment of your stomach and taste buds.   Some locations offer different toppings than others, including what they call their MP Selections, which differ from location to location.  Here’s what I went with:

  • Multigrain Bun
  • 1/3 Beef Patty, cooked Medium
  • Brie Cheese
  • Burmuda Red Onion
  • Lettuce Blend
  • Grilled Onions (Did I mention I love onions?)
  • Roasted Green Chiles
  • Basil Pesto

The sauce selection is also served on the side, because sometimes burgers can be too dry or too moist.  My creation was absolutely ambrosial in its taste, and cooked to perfection.  But how is this burger feng shui?  Well, first, lets look at the colors, and how they represent the five elements.  The brown shades of the meat itself and the multigrain bun are very earthy.  The purple of the Burmuda onion is fiery.  The grilled onions have a slight metallic sheen to them.  The brie would also be metal, because it’s white.  Then there is the lettuce, roasted chiles, and basil pesto, all of which symbolize wood in their green hues.  Color-wise, water is not represented.  However, I had a glass of water with my meal, so I wasn’t completely without the water element.

Let’s look at the yin and yang of the ingredients of the burger.   I’ve mentioned yin and yang theory before, which is the belief that opposite components interact within and opposite each other in a complimentary way, and cannot exist without their opposite counterpart.   This theory presents itself all the time in life, especially in food.  In this sandwich, the thick yin of the burger mingles well with the sharp yang of the Burmuda onion.  The yin of the melted brie gently opposes the yang of the basil pesto.  These flavorsome combinations are evident in all cuisines.  Yin and yang can also be attributed to how food is prepared.  My burger is very much yang, as it was fried, the onions grilled, and the chiles roasted – all of which are yang food preparations for yang foods.  Also, look at the texture of the ingredients.  If the food is soft in consistency, it is yin.  But if it is hard or crunchy, than it is more yang.  I would say the burger is much more yin in its texture, as everything in the burger except the Burmuda onion was soft.  The Burmuda onion wasn’t exactly hard, but it had more of a crispness to it, making it more yang in its structure.

And of course, a burger needs a side dish.  Upon my server’s suggestion, I went with the Parmesan Cheese Fries.  Fine shreds of Parmesan  and garlic aioli completely transform the common potato to Pharaoh status.  Although they are fries, I suggest using a fork with them rather than ones hands, as the aioli brings a greasy goodness to the dish.  Fresh rosemary adds a wonderful, savory wood element  as well, adding a yang touch to a yin food.  For my beverage, I selected the Menage a Trois Blend.  A fantastic red combination with hints of raspberry and blackberry.  I’m not sure on the year, but I think it’s a 2009.   The wine accompanied the meal flawlessly.

One  thing that I really like about this branch of The Counter are the pictures on the walls.  Photographs of a rock band and their instruments hang on the Eastern wall.  I love the creative fire energy this brings to the metal-dominated interior.  My favorite of the display is pictured above.  My server, Pamela, was absolutely golden in her service.   Personable and charming, she took care of my every need to ensure that I had a great dining experience, including walking me through the burger checklist.   Should you be visiting this specific location, I advise sitting in her section.  Parking options abound in Toluca Lake, but I usually find free parking on some of the residential streets – just check the signs for restrictions.  On my next journey here, I plan on trying The Counter Cobb, and perhaps the yin energy of a chocolate malt.

The Counter Toluca Lake

10123 Riverside Drive, Suite A, North Hollywood CA 91602

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday 11:00 – 10:00,  Friday – Saturday 11:00 – 11:00

http://www.thecounterburger.com/Toluca_Lake_CA/