A few months ago we noticed that one neighbor's lawn was not like the others. Quadrants of green grass were replaced with rows of raised vegetable beds in the yard and parkway, and single-file sprouts emerged next to hand-written markers: snap peas, fava beans white radish ...
After multiple attempts to unintentionally bump into the gardener and talk veg, maybe even get some tips on how to salvage our sad attempt at a tomato trellis, we stuck a note in the front gate. "Beautiful garden!" we said. "We'd love to chat sometime."
This is how we met our urban farmer friend, Courtney Guerra, a tall and slender former AVP pro beach volleyball player who gardens in post-morning-workout yoga gear with her long blonde hair tumbling out of a large floppy sun hat. She's a down to earth, down to the earth Southern California girl who's taking the concept of "farm to table" to smaller farms and bigger tables. Home at her Flower Ave garden in Venice, Calif., her front yard veggie beds and backyard grow house brim with an unexpected variety of vegetables, herbs, and land snails (escargot), harvested exclusively for Chef Ari Taymor of Alma, a fine dining restaurant that impressed Jonathan Gold with butter-soaked carrots.
Taymor, a Palo Alto transplant, started Alma as a pop up at Flake on Rose Ave in Venice before settling Downtown. The two struck up a partnership for Guerra to grow, forage and procure the freshest ingredients for Alma's seasonal, locally-sourced menu that changes almost daily.
"I was lucky enough to go work at a restaurant in France that had its own farm, so I was able to see the way food changes when you get things that are almost alive," says Taymor.
Guerra studied culinary arts at Meadowood in Napa Valley, which is where she also picked up a passion for culinary gardening. She's cooked at Melisse in Santa Monica and keeps her knife skills sharp behind the open counter at Alma once a week after she delivers her morning harvest.
While Taymor and Guerra share a passion for the art of culinary gardening, they believe that fresh-picked, healthy food is not a novelty but a necessity that should be accessible to everyone, no matter their budget. Alma's outreach program teaches elementary, middle school and high school students in the Downtown area how to grow and prepare nutritious meals.
And when Guerra's not in the kitchen or in her garden, she's meeting with landscape designers and restaurant owners to develop plans for soon-to-come urban gardens throughout Los Angeles.
Thanks to Rich Kuras (filming, producing), Ted Beke (editing) and Ryan Horns (original music).
There's no shortage of festivals and events in Venice. There's First Fridays on Abbot Kinney, the Art Crawl every third Thursday, the farmer's market every Friday. There's a spring Music Fest, a summer Music Fest, and the annual Abbot Kinney Fest every September. But our favorite event of them all is the annual Venice Garden and Home Tour, happening next weekend on May 4. Tickets are $60 in advance, $70 at the door. The tour goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Garden and Home Tour is a living exhibit of Venice design, architecture and lifestyle, a magical place where it seems that L.A. building code requirements must not apply because none of the homes look like anything you've ever seen. It's a mashup of ultra-modern and whimsy, fine art and handcrafted, home design and landscape architecture.
This year, the 20th annual Venice Garden and Home Tour, burns the spotlight even brighter on GQ's coolest block in America, by featuring 30 homes and artists' studios within blocks of the now famous Abbot Kinney Blvd.
The Venice Garden and Home Tour is the perfect way to get lost in home design fantasy land. Sure, you could visit L.A.'s best design exhibits for less, but the charitable event benefits the Neighborhood Youth Association, and as anyone who's taken the tour will tell you, there's just nothing quite like it.
Happy planet day, fellow earthlings! Hopefully you've had a chance to get outdoors, if only for a quick, cold-pressed-juice break, and feel the sunshine on your nose. Maybe you've pondered your cosmetics and detergents. Are they free of harsh chemicals? Do they come in biodegradable containers? Are they tested on animals? Or maybe you're feeling inspired to experience the wonder of Mother Nature firsthand. You're finally going to get that veggie garden growing, and you're looking for inspiration. If that's the case, then feast your eyes on this. Our neighbor recently transformed her entire front lawn and parkway into a personal produce section with lettuce, and herbs, and adorable little pea shoots weaving through the front fence.
I finally had a chance to meet the green goddess responsible for this front lawn makeover. She offered me samples of snap peas, lemony ice lettuce, edible blossoms (boradge) that taste like cucumber, sweet herbs, and she walked me through her garden and greenhouse.
There's more to come on who calls dibs on these rare and tasty garden treats and where she picked up her serious gardening and gourmet skills. Hint: If you've visited a fine French restaurant downtown in the past few months, then chances are you've enjoyed edibles from this Flower Ave garden.
Yesterday we ventured up to Brentwood for a private garden party showcasing the home's landscape architecture. We knew that we were in for a treat by the metallic-silver tree trunk in the parkway. The house is California modern, a ranch style updated to create a continuum of indoor-outdoor space. Beyond the double-door entry there's a modular courtyard with white tile flooring, a wall of rustling bamboo and an all-weather wicker sectional centered around sculptural-bronze water and fire features. The inverted fountain and gas fireplace were designed by landscape architect, Pamela Palmer, and her team at Venice-based Artecho. They also repurposed a dilapidated fence into a modern showpiece by cutting off the edges and layering the boards horizontally between bronze posts. Today's intimate gathering was one in a series of Garden Dialogues hosted by the Cultural Landscape Foundation throughout the spring and summer months all across the country. The homeowner, landscape architect, (and interior designer in today's meetup), detail their collaboration in designing a unique garden space. The goal in this project was to unify the indoors and outdoors with complementary design, colors and materials, and to ensure plenty of playroom for the homeowner's beloved pups. The visual space is open and airy. From the courtyard, you can see straight through the living room, out to another courtyard and beyond to a line of eucalyptus treetops somewhere in the neighboring distance. The second courtyard is punctuated by a lemon yellow fountain to match the adjacent citrus trees and complement the chartreuse leaves of the michelia and silvery-blue podocarpus. The backyard design echoes the modular pattern, layered into quadrants that evoke the sense of multiple rooms. A lush green lawn of festuca rubra looks lively with its tumbling texture, while a trio of neon Frank Gehry Left Twist Cubes invite guests over to a sunken sitting area grounded with crunchy loose gravel and lightly shaded by a lone jacaranda.
In the mailbox today. The annual Venice Garden & Home Tour is celebrating its 20th anniversary and will feature 30 homes within blocks of Abbot Kinney. Tickets are $60 in advance / $70 at the door, benefitting the Neighborhood Youth Association.
St. Patrick's Day is almost here, but instead of hunting four-leaved clovers, we scouted the neighborhood for the surest sign of an L.A. spring awakening. Jasmine.
Lucky for us the neighborhood was in full bloom with billowing white clouds of the sweetly fragrant flowers. Next to succulents, jasmine has to be the happiest plant in the neighborhood, minding its own and requiring little more than an occasional quench and lots of sunshine. The restless vines tumble over gates, weave through chain-link fences, spiral up street signs and decorate everything in its path. Here are a few photos of L.A.'s most punctual perennials letting everyone know that spring is right around the corner.
DRINK ME: For a soothing sip of nature's most intoxicating springtime treat, try the jasmine tea at Cafe Gratitude on Rose. The I AM GLORIOUS jasmine green tea is infused with fresh blossoms.