This morning Jascha and I headed up to Lum-Ka-Naad in Northridge for a last meet up with Dave, Naomi, Owen, Chad, Isabelle, and Clara before our trip. Lum-Ka-Naad came highly recommended on both yelp and chowhound, and its extensive menu of both northern and southern Thai cuisine sounded most appealing. We ended up with a table full of dishes to sample, including larb, Thai/Burmese curry, nam kao tod, chicken satay, tum makua (eggplant salad), Thai pork sausage combination plate, som tum, and steamed basil mussels and scallops. The nam kao tod was a bit unusual (in a not so good way) in that it was prepared with a sweetened tomato paste sauce rather than the usual fish sauce and lime juice dressing. The som tum was also not so ideal, too heavy on the fish sauce and limp papaya. The remaining dishes were prepared with fresh ingredients and quite good, especially the tum makua, a spicy eggplant dip, and the larb. We are planning a repeat visit when we get back.
After a detour to REI we headed down to east L.A. for Self Help Graphic's 35th annual El Dia de los Muertos celebration. Since the 1970s SHG has provided graphic arts training for local up and coming Latino artists. Sadly, the L.A. Catholic archdiocese covertly sold the building to helpy pay for sexual abuse-related legal settlements. SHG stands to be evicted in early 2009 unless funding is secured. Although the event was smaller than in E Oakland, but included community workshops in papier mache skull decoration. We did a quick tour of the altars and gallery space, then walked over to Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita. We split a cemita de milanesa y quesillo and an horchata. The cemita roll was perfectly toasted and came with thick slices of avocado and a roasted chipotle chili. I would have preferred if the cheese was melted, but overall it was excellent.
On the walk back we stopped by the huge maze-like mercado on the corner of Lorena and E 1st. It felt like I was back in Mexico with its botanicas, porcelain saint displays, cheesy CDs, piles of dried fruit, and buckets of mole. It didn't take too long to get our fill. We cut through a back alley and came across wall after wall of incredible graffiti, a fine ending to our excursion.