12 August 2008

from sea to shining...muffins

Colors. They're everywhere. So pretty. Red, green, blue, yellow. So simple. Right?

Wrong. Oh, so, wrong.

With the basic exterior construction done, it was Time -- Time to Decide on what color the Curious Palate should be. What color best represents how delicious life can be? What color would inspire in our customers the yummiest of dreams, lure them in by the thousands with promises of delectable delicacies and glorious goodies that satiate their very souls?

And how do we go classy without being bland? How do we stand out without being gaudy?

The wrong color....and we may as well kiss it goodbye.


So you see (maybe) how playing with colors turned into week-long nightmare. I spent hours creating layers upon layers of options on Photoshop: white door, sage green awning, brick red façade? Red door, dark brown awning, cream façade? Sage façade? Navy awning? Brown door? Or will it help to call them food colors: artichoke, 70% chocolate, salted butter and ricotta?

It was like a wedding careening out of control, with me and a triad of dusty, musty men (Mark, Elliot and Stefan in full construction mode) wrestling over color combos. But somehow, we managed to narrow down our options, and once I managed to persuade Elliot to try swatches of paint rather than go for the whole thing at once, we schlepped to Home Depot, the bastion of low-budget renovation, for said samples of paint.

The next day, the paint went up. And we realized... one of our colors, a grey-green, was virtually identical to the questionable housing units in our back lot. And the other color, a pretty light "sage" (aka "Sea Foam")... not only looked more like a pallid mint, but bizarrely blended into the two buildings on either side of us, a sky-blue Mexican flower shop (see left) and a white...something. I'll find out.

So it was back to square one. We put up more colors. Everyone had an opinion. And I mean everyone: our helper Joe, a woman on the street waiting for her friend, and god knows how many others who came and went while I tried not to think about it back at home. And every single person had a different opinion. At one point, Stefan even piped up with what I can only call delusional blasphemy: he liked the original yellow-orange of the (gasp!) Taqueria Chihuahua.

Thankfully, Elliot's wife Keri stepped in. And she picked what was Mark's favorite all along: (...drumroll...) warm muffin. (It's a pale creamy yellow. Scrumptious.)

The whole store is painted now, with a terra cotta red on the side that will probably also be used for the door and trim, and the muffin basking (baking?) in the afternoon sunshine in front.

And really -- who could argue with a warm, sunny muffin?

Note: those ugly tiles on the bottom will be covered and smoothed over with a stained mortar. So the makeover continues. Now -- what colors should we paint on the inside....?

06 August 2008

ready, set...

...and we're off! On July 14th, 2008, Mark and Elliot signed a 3-year lease (with two additional 3-year options) to the building at 12034 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. Previously known as La Taqueria Chihuahua, the little yellow shop is a stand-alone structure in an up-and-coming neighborhood that bridges Culver City, Venice and Mar Vista/Santa Monica (all cultural/food hotspots on the West Side). It's also literally around the corner from the Mar Vista farmer's market on Sundays, where we'll open a booth at some point to sell paninis (or something) and reach out to the community.

Unbelievably, almost a month has flown by since they put their names on the dotted line. Since then, we've christened the place with a few family dinners... demolished the front door and ceiling, to expose the wooden roof beams... sold a bunch of the kitchen equipment, and "auditioned" various vendors for the right replacements (like the Rationale and the Alto-Shaam "Combis" and the Cook-Hold-n'-Smoker). I'm still working full time on Dr. G, but doing what I can to help with decision-making on design, construction materials, color palette, etc etc.

Working with us on both the design and construction front is Stefan, a woodwork artist who Elliot befriended when fixing his car (Elliot is a mechanical genius).

More to come, but that's the big update for now. The original Venice location on Abbott Kinney Blvd. went to Le Pain Quotidien, a national chain -- and though the building owner was bending over backwards to bring us into the space (even knocking down the wall to create a bigger space), the costs involved in putting in a brand new kitchen and all the permits and engineering maneuvers that would require just didn't all add up. (Or added up to too much, I suppose.) The Santa Monica location never made up their mind which of their three top contenders, including us, they wanted to pick. And then one day, Mark saw the Taqueria up for sale on Craig's List. And so the story begins....

We're hoping to open in mid-September. A very aggressive schedule, no doubt -- that's 31 days from now! I could eat a different flavor at Baskin Robbins' every day and we should be open by the time I've gone though the list. Though they must come out with new flavors every month too. Hmmm.

P.S. That storefront graphic is not supposed to be blue...but I give up...