Daily Archives: June 1, 2008

Universal Studios backlot fire

Woke up this morning at 5:30am to the sound of several loud pops, like someone slamming their car door shut over and over again. Figured it was the Times’ delivery dude making his usual racket, and though I was tempted, I somehow resisted the urge to throw open the window and bitch him out.

Then, a few minutes later, I heard helicopters. Circling. Overhead. Forever! I’m not kidding, it sounded like they were landing in our front yard. Realizing that the last few hours of my Sunday slumber were completely shot, I opened the blinds to see massive plumes of dark smoke swirling skyward.

In my groggy state, I actually entertained the notion that my “Lost” obsession had really gone too far this time and that the island’s black smoke monster was coming to take me home. But NBC4’s trusty Ted Chen quickly put those concerns to rest when he reported that a massive fire (of unknown origin) was roaring through the Universal Studio’s backlot.

And the footage he showed was insane! Flames and red hot ash shooting into the air at Universal City — which is like, minutes from our place — it looked like a Goddamn volcano! And it smelled — and continues to smell — like what it really was, burning sets, props and scads of videotapes from the Universal vault.

I know it’s terrible, but at least that big old fire on Barham last year smelled organic, you know, like trees and shit. Everywhere we went in Burbank this morning — still looking for that elusive Wii Fit — smelled like burnt plastic. And with no wind in sight, I think it’s gonna stay that way…

According to Ted Chen — who referred to the Universal-backlot-shot “Bruce Almighty” as a “classic” in his frantic, man-on-the-scene reportage this morning — the Universal videotape vault is completely backed up elsewhere, so nothing truly valuable is gone forever. That goes double for the film archive, which was nowhere near the fire. So, whew…

But, man alive, that backlot tram tour is gonna be real short ride in the next few months. With almost all of New York Street and the “Back to the Future” town square set leveled, the aerial shots look like a war zone.

Seriously, that backlot is totaled. And with the fire contained, but smoke still billowing skyward as I type, I don’t imagine there will be much to salvage anywhere on that lower lot.

But there is some good news in all this…according to the last thing I heard from my boy Ted, the MTV Movie Awards will still be taping live tonight from the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal, and despite the fact that the “King Kong” attraction was burnt to the ground, the theme park will be open for business as usual today starting at noon.

Hooray! Nothing says summer theme park fun like riding “Jurrasic Park: The Ride” with a damp towel clutched to your nose and mouth the whole time.

So, while we desperately try and make up for lost sleep — the fire is over, go home helicopters! — wanted to thank the firefighters for putting that thing out hella fast, Universal Studios Theme Park for bravely keeping your doors open to tourists (even during the worst of times!), and most of all, thank you, Ted Chen for making this morning’s chaos so, well…classic!

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under See

Downtown L.A.’s “Ciudad”

On their very cool website, Ciudad invites one and all to “experience the bold and seductive flavors of the Latin World” and last night, we took them up on it!

Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, Ciudad is the brainchild of world-renowned Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger and though a little pricier than their fare at the similarly-themed Border Grill in Santa Monica and Las Vegas, Ciudad is worth every penny you pay. Seriously…it’s kind of magical.

Although Christine has eaten at Ciudad a number of times over the years — her workplace, downtown’s Central Library is practically across the street from the restaurant — I had only been there on one other occasion, but the memory of that meal has stayed with me ever since.

So after enjoying the sunset from the rooftop bar of The Standard nearby, we hiked on over to Ciudad for a late dinner with some of Christine’s co-workers. And seeing as the late night happy hour at Ciudad had begun just minutes before we walked in — incredibly enough, they have house mojitos, sangria and a number of other rocking good cocktails for only $4 a pop from 9-11 on Friday nights! — we could not have planned it better!

The only hitch to the late night happy hour is that you have to enjoy your drinks literally at the bar and cannot move to your table until after you’ve settled your tab. Fine by us! So we drank ourselves silly at the bar, settled the tab and stumbled to our table around 10-ish.

And the food? Wow…word’s cannot do this place justice. Fusing delicious new and classic authentic dishes from Spain, Mexico, South America, Central America, Cuba and even Portugal, the menu is almost as rich, colorful and varied as the crazy hip decor and art work inside.

We started with some incredible tapas-style dishes. And though the Peruvian Ceviche with plantain chips and Argentine Empandas (with wild mushroom, warm chipotle sauce and swiss chard!) were fantastic, I gotta say that my favorite of the three appetizers we shared was the Fried Spanish Brie. Dios mio, that stuff melted in your mouth…it was incredible.

And this from a man who is not a huge fan of the Brie…don’t get me wrong, I love me some soft cheeses, but Brie has never been my favorite. Until now!

And dinner was even more amazing! Not only were the hip, mid-century dishes super groovy to look at, but the plating of this food was out of this world. Beautiful culinary art on every plate…just gorgeous!

I had the slow-roasted Niman Ranch Carnitas with mashed yuca, organic black beans, fried plantains and grilled corn salsa. Wow, even just typing those words is making me drool. It was probably the best carnitas I’ve ever had anywhere…and that mashed yuca is something I wanna make at home, like, every night. I loved it!

Christine had a huge crusted pork chop from the “Specials” menu that not only tasted like heaven, but rivaled the Brontosaurus bone on “The Flintsones” in heft. That thing was enormous!

And that lovely pork chop was not alone in the size department, because, unlike other hipster haunts downtown, the portions at Ciudad are authentically gigantic. That’s right, they don’t eat dainty in any of the countries listed above, so why should we do it here? Sí se puede, indeed!

I don’t have any pictures to back this all up of course — Christine forbid me to photograph my food in front of her work friends — but you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that even the heartiest eaters out there will not leave this joint hungry. It’s just not possible…

So next time you find yourself downtown on a Friday night between 9-11PM — gotta hit that happy hour, I mean, come on, regular-priced Supremo Mojitos are $15! — check out Ciudad! Sure, it might cost you and arm and a leg, but I swear to God, the food you eat here will flash before your eyes when you die.

Yep, it’s that good!

2 Comments

Filed under Eat