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My LA To Z: Steve Jablonsky
The composer, whose most recent scores made their way into this month’s “Ender’s Game,” conducts a survey of his favorite local spots. Here he tells us where he surprises his taste buds, gets in a good hike with his pup, and finds the best ice cream in L.A.
My wife and I like to walk down there with our dog and enjoy the view a few times a week. It has a really nice grassy area that runs along the beach. I’ll meet my personal trainer down there. It’s great motivation to look out at the ocean and try to stay healthy. Also, it’s close to the Third Street Promenade, so we can go have breakfast afterwards.
It’s a French restaurant in Santa Monica and it is our main special occasion spot. The head chef and owner is a magician with food. Every time we go, my wife and I look at each other like we’ve never tasted this flavor before. The staff is unlike any other; you can go one Valentine’s Day and not go again until the next year and they’ll remember you. I think it’s because they love being there and working there. They want to do their jobs as well as they possibly can.
Herb Katz Dog Park at Joslyn Park
Herb Katz was a friend of mine. He was the architect who designed my house, but he died before the house was complete. He was also very well known around Santa Monica, even the mayor at one point, and he loved dogs. When the city opened the park, they dedicated it to him. It’s a very nice place to take your dog to work off energy. My dog and I will start our morning workout at Palisades Park, and Herb Katz Dog Park is our final destination. It’s our version of a coffee shop since we don’t drink coffee.
Sweet Rose Creamery
This very small ice cream shop in Brentwood was opened by husband and wife team Josh and Zoe, who have three or four other wonderful restaurants in Santa Monica. My wife and I joke that these two have made some kind of pact with the Devil because anything they open seems to become instantly successful. It’s the best ice cream we’ve had in LA. You go there not really knowing what they’re going to have on their menu. Their chef is like a very nice mad scientist. She makes ice cream flavors from whatever comes to her mind and whatever she finds at the Farmers' Market. One time, I tried a spiced curry ice cream. There are traditional flavors as well, but if you’re into experimental flavors, you should try Sweet Rose.
Largo at the Coronet
All these alternative musicians and comedians play at Largo. It’s a very intimate theatre and a very cool way to see artists you usually see on a bigger stage. I really enjoy going there because they offer an eclectic mix of artists; one night you can go and see Jon Brion, who’s there all the time, and then the next night there’s Sarah Silverman or Tenacious D. You can get up close and personal. It’s just the performer and the piano or the microphone.
The Hollywood Bowl
For us, the Hollywood Bowl is a summer tradition. We’ll get a box that seats four or six and either set up a table and bring dinner or order dinner there. Every year we go see John Williams to hear him play his great film scores, and a couple of years ago, we went to watch a performance of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon music. They put on unique, cool, classical shows.
Mandeville Canyon Fire Road (Westridge-Canyonback Trail)
One thing we love about living in Santa Monica is having the Santa Monica mountains, which are just a short drive from our house. In ten or 15 minutes we can be in the hills, and from there, you can get to Mandeville Canyon Fire Road. We take the dog out there in the early mornings because it’s not too crowded. It’s a moderate hike, and the higher you get, the better the pay off is. You get to see the ocean, and at some points, you can even see Downtown L.A. With my schedule, exercise is a priority. It keeps my mind clear and starts my day in the right way.
Surfas Culinary District
If you are into food and cooking, Surfas is like Disneyland. They have every cooking tool you could ever want or need, but more importantly, they have very specialized ingredients that you won’t find at your regular supermarket. My wife is a great cook, and for the past couple of years, she’s made this outrageous German chocolate cake for my birthday that calls for interesting kinds of chocolate, and she gets all of them at Surfas. They also have cooking classes, which I would like to take someday.
It’s a new addition to Santa Monica that opened less than a year ago. It’s owned by a really sweet mother and daughter team and their slogan is “making tasty healthy.” We went in there when they opened to see what it was all about, and they have really interesting items, like the acai bowl. They have breakfast bowls and lunch bowls, too. They also have a wall of smoothies—hot and cold. Every time we go in, the owners will excitedly tell us about the new item that they just put on the menu, which is always changing and evolving. They’re very creative with their ingredients.
It’s a gym, but not a traditional one. It’s smaller with a few rooms for spin class, yoga, Pilates and weight training. That’s where I met my personal trainer, Tracy Nielsen. My wife and I see her three times a week, and our favorite spin instructor is Reilly Smith. He plays the kind of music that I grew up on. A lot of spin classes play house music or remixes, but he plays artists like Journey or Elton John, who are unusual choices but work surprisingly well and get you going. He and Tracy are the main reasons I’m in good shape.
Photograph (1) courtesy flickr.com/urbanoutbacker, (3) courtesy ladogparks.com, (7) courtesy bringfido.com. All other photographs courtesy facebook.com.