Danny Ginsburg and Real Soda

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Danny Ginsburg started collecting bottle caps when he was 4 years old. It  had started as a game when he was much younger… with baby food lids.He would save, organize, memorize the product codes and collect, until life moved on and baby food was no longer the cuisine du jour!

Did I mention that Danny is one of the smartest people I know?

At four years old, on a family hike, he was tired, bored and complaining. His mother suggested finding something to do for fun and pointed at a Pepsi bottle cap on the ground. She said how they were a ” different kind of lid” and that there would always be bottle caps to find, no matter how old you were.

Smart mum!

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So began a search for caps, research into bottling plants and factories, stops at the rest areas on highways to see what truck drivers may have thrown out and letter writing to anyone who might have interesting bottle caps. His dream was to get a driver’s license and car, and go drive to where bottle caps where!

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The collection grew, and with it the need to find more and more bottled beverages. By the time he was a teenager, he was heading out to find sodas in other cities, unusual local brands from old time manufacturers, often just as they were thinking of closing up shop.He hoarded the diminishing brands, and ever the entrepreneur, brought back some extras to share or sell to friends.

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In an industry dominated by a few, really big players, there were possibilities and opportunities, and over the next few years Real Soda in Real Bottles managed to not only track down unique and obscure brands, but to create the beginnings of a distribution network. From a small start in the 1980’s, to obtaining a business license in 1991, Real Soda in Real Bottles is now the major distributor of independent, artisan sodas and a manufacturer of it’s own distinctive brands.

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At the same time there was a growing awareness and  desire to drink soda from a glass bottle, which can easily be re used and recycled. Every bottled soda is one less can or plastic nightmare.

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There is immense charm and silliness, and an abundance of joy which pervades the world of Real Soda in Real Bottles. The products range from kid favorites to grownup  & sophisticated, historical to hysterical. 100% juices and coconut waters to caffeinated energy concoctions.Neon to crystal clear, healthy to downright decadent. Lots of old time regional brands from across the USA and imports from across the globe.

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No wonder Danny describes them as the ”world’s best beverages”!

The names and labels are priceless. Boom Chugga Lugga Ginger Ale anyone?

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From a HUGE warehouse in Gardena, bottles are shipped across California and to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado.And now across the world.

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It’s hard to be wildly enthusiastic about aisles of cheap canned sodas at the supermarket, even when those big companies spend millions trying to convince us to partake.

So much more fun to find a bottle of bubbly yumminess at a favorite coffeehouse, corner store or speciality deli.

mmmmmmmmm:)

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http://www.realsoda.com

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Xian Wei

Xian Wei, brainchild of Chef Luther Bob Chen and General Manager Kenny Lui is nothing short of breathtakingly ambitious. When 20 year old Luther says he’s “always had a 12 year plan” you can be assured that the future, when realized, will be big!

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Now a unique pop-up supper club, soon to be artisan street food truck and then a “couple” of fine dining restaurants, Xian Wei explores the complexity, history, and flavors of Chinese cuisine. The supper club, based around seasonal menus, operates from a private home in San Pedro. Limited to 8 guests, the 9 courses are an elegant homage to Chef Luther’s background and passion.

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Diminutive, deconstructed, and visually stunning, they travel the gamut of texture, taste and region and with a couple of amuse bouche provide well over 4 hours of delicious dining and conversation.

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Strangers become friends and fans with Luther joining the table to talk, answer questions, and share stories. Both Luther and Kenny grew up in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles with a lifetime of “xian wei”, meaning fresh flavor or what the Japanese call umami under their belts. After school “cheffing” and the decision to attend CIA in New York placed Luther on his trajectory early, followed by a solo expedition to China and Taiwan, visiting relatives and soaking up food and cultural treasures. Xian Wei the business was born.

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Kenny Lui, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, is responsible for developing the vision and direction of the next phase: the Shao Kao BBQ food truck and leading the team in execution and business operations.

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This menu is based on skewers and categorized into REDS (meats such as lamb, hangar steak, poussin wing), BLUES (seafood options like whole squid, oysters, pike, prawns, and fish balls) and GREENS (eggplant, mushrooms, young bamboo, sweet potato) Permitting for the truck build has just been ticked off the list and the team hope to be serving food first quarter in 2015.

http://www.xianwei.com

http://www.shaokaobbq.com

Hayden Tract : Exploring LA

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Years ago I worked in Culver City.

The area was dodgy and rundown.
Driving home, often at midnight, I’d head out through the warehouses to La Cienaga, making sure the windows were locked, hyper mindful of the drug dealing, violence and potential bad stuff that could happen. During daylight the area was dull and forlorn: beige warehouses, dusty trees and trash.

So what fun to return and park on one of the same back streets and find myself in an LA architectural happening.

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Unknown to most Los Angelenos, this 8 block area (wedged between Ballona Creek, National Boulevard and the rail line) is one cool place to walk around. And I dare you not to go crazy photojournalist!

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This visually arresting experiment/real estate development is the result of 2 developers (husband & wife, Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith) who bought up a lot of those old warehouses and architect Eric Owen Moss, director of Southern California Institute of Architecture, generally regarded as the most avant garde of US schools.

To quote the developers, “The ambition was to go into a very destitute neighborhood—which it was—to improve the economics (via job creation) and to introduce art and culture. We wanted to make no place, someplace.”

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To that end they handed the warehouses to Moss who created contemporary, reworked and repurposed buildings.

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The architecture is jarring, industrial and angular.
And a walk down Hayden St is an adventure…..

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Concrete, glass, metal… twisty facades and towers, hanging cactus gardens, famous tenants (HQ for Beats by Dre just up the road) and art installations.

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Moss, whose office is on the street, is still creating unique and singular buildings for the Samitaur Smiths, like the amazing art piece, Samitaur Tower and the Waffle, a bendy, egg crate-structured conference center. The buildings name’s sum up the atypical looks: the Stealth, the Beehive, and The Box.

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The area is now morphing into a neighborhood with the Expo Line station close by, wiggly treelined bike paths in between the buildings, fellow starchitect Thom Mayne’s Morphosis office across the way and SF hipster bakers, Craftsman and Wolves about to open their LA outpost.

Another quirky pocket of LA to explore 🙂