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Feel Good Guide: Orange County
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Feel Good Guide: Orange County

Picturesque vistas that span out over the vast ocean, community kitchens that lead the way for small businesses, and mesmerizing glass blowing; it’s not LA, not San Diego—it’s Orange County.

Often thought of as “that place between LA and San Diego,” perhaps to go to a beautiful beach or Disneyland, Orange County has over 3.1 million residents and is the 6th most populated county in the US.

Within Orange County sits the city of Santa Ana. The city advocates for entrepreneurs, and it’s the only city in Orange County where recreational cannabis can be sold. So we head to our first stop, Bud and Bloom.


BUD AND BLOOM

Designed with a keen eye on creating a phenomenal cannabis experience, Bud and Bloom is a welcoming space with high ceilings, wooden fixtures, and brick walls. As you walk through the glass doors, a neon sign sits directly in front of you, almost drawing you through the space to the back of the store.

We meet up with Emily, who tells us they opened up in 2016 when Prop 64 was passed and are proud to be a part of the local community. In fact, they have a monthly shuttle for retirement communities to bring senior citizens in for cannabis education, and of course, to snag some goods.

With sites to see, we grab a Spark pen, thank Emily for showing us around, and head out.


4TH STREET MARKET

We meet up with Danika Brysha at a food hall (not to be mistaken with a food court filled with fast-food chains). This food hall is a space filled with local, artisanal food vendors and 4th Street Market goes above and beyond to cultivate these local businesses.

Danika points out a saying written on the wall above the communal kitchen, which reads “in-cu-bate: a unique infrastructure designed to nurture small food businesses by helping them thrive and grow.”

Danika owns of one of those small food businesses called Model Meals, a Whole30 and paleo delivery kit company. She tells us she started in 2014 with the simple notion that she wanted to change how she was eating in order to feel good.


After chatting, we look for something to eat that may be a bit less on the healthy side, so we hit up Supernatural Sandwiches for an Aphrodite. This must-try sandwich monster is a grilled cheese with shrimp and bacon.

With such a masterful sandwich, one must pair it with a side. Loaded fries, perhaps? We go to Dos Chinos, who call their mountain of fries + pork + cheese + avocado cream + a fried egg…stoner papas.

After we’re filled to the brim, it’s time to check out one of the best views in Orange County.


THE MONTAGE

Yes, it’s a hotel, but damn, the Laguna Beach view from The Montage just takes your breath away. You walk in and to the left is a roaring fireplace, adding the perfect touch of heat to the cool ocean breeze wafting in through the open-air patio ahead. To the right, a pianist softly playing “If It Ain’t You” by Alicia Keys.

Straight in front of you is a deck that overlooks the rectangular pool leading your eyes to the ocean. As the pool and lawns open out onto the water, you see rocks that slightly jet out of the sea, keeping a constant light splash to the waves, in a peaceful and serene movement.

Now, one couldn’t properly take in this breathtaking view without a beverage. We go for the Ginger Mint Cooler. The spice from the ginger immediately overwhelms the palate and the freshness of mint and lime combine in a melody, almost dancing together.

With that, we’re off to see some local musicians and artists. We tear ourselves away from the view and head out as the tunes of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” are stroked skillfully on the grand piano.


THE SAWDUST

A space built by the community for the community. Since its inception, the Sawdust “has celebrated and supported the work of its hometown artists.” Walking in, we come upon numerous stands housing the work of local artists. A band plays next to a small waterfall as people enjoy tacos and beer from the various food vendors.

As we explore, we stumble upon on a large cage with an enclosed fire at its center. Bruce Freund, one of the craftsmen of the space, enters the cage and gets to work.


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This…is glass blowing. The age-old art of taking pieces of glass, melting them down, shaping them and transforming them into works of art.

Bruce has been doing this for 40 years and says he still loses about 20% of all the work he does…it’s that difficult. We grab a taco, listen to some of the local bands and call it a day.

While this may be one of the larger populated counties in the US, it’s shown to be a community of locals, happy to share how they live. Until next time, Orange County.

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Feel Good Guide: Culver City
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Feel Good Guide: Culver City

Culver City…one of the many smaller, lesser known cities and neighborhoods that make up the greater Los Angeles area. Yes there’s Hollywood, its sidewalks dusted with stars, engraved with the names of those gone by, and its towering iconic sign. But Hollywood’s not the only town in LA that’s making dreams come true on the big screen.

Within the heart of Culver City sits the film lots of Sony and Amazon Studios, among others. But that’s not what we’re exploring in this often passed through city, nestled between the crashing waves of the west side and the hustle of Downtown Los Angeles.

We’ve come to dive into the food that makes this place so magical, take in some art, have a drink, and of course —grab a pre-roll or two.


HIGH NOTE WEST

We start at High Note West, a dispensary that makes a statement on today’s cannabis culture, simply by the way you enter the space. We walk into a small room, no bigger than a hallway. The welcoming staff checks us in, excited for what’s next. We’re directed towards a mysterious bookcase which, yes, you guessed it, doubles as the door to get in to see the goods.

Richard, the director of retail, tell us most of their customers come from the airport, and the High Note’s speakeasy vibe is a fun way to experience recreational cannabis that travelers may not have in their own state.

He speaks to the parallels between the prohibition era and today’s “behind closed doors” cannabis culture. While we know legalizing cannabis is the right thing to do, he says, the speakeasy entrance is a nod to that current political climate. We thank Richard for telling us about the store, grab some Spark pre-rolls and step out into the beautiful morning air.


LODGE BREAD

Warm, the size of your head, piled high with goodness. That’s right, it’s that trendy toast craze, and at Lodge Bread, it’s not to be missed.

We’re not talking about that pre-sliced, thrown-in-your-toaster type of bread either. This is handmade and fresh baked on site every day. We opt for the “ace ranch” garnished with purple radishes, sea salt, and olive oil, as well as their ricotta and jam. And damn, it’s good.


After a few mouthwatering bites, we chat with Javier, one of the managers. He tells us how the place runs almost as two spots. The bakery, which kicks out 200 to 300 loaves a day, and their other half, a coffee, beer and pizza joint with a wood fire oven pressed against the window luring in passers by.

Javier tells us they follow the seasons, so their menu changes every four months with local and organic ingredients. The place is full of locals, some with their kids in strollers and a couple, limbs tied together in a warm embrace, sipping a beer with their morning pastries… Sounds like a perfect start to the day.


FP CONTEMPORARY

We jump onto the convenient city bikes that litter the street. It’s a beautiful sunny Southern California day and we feel the ocean breeze as we cruise down to check out FP Contemporary in the Culver City Arts District.

We meet up with their director Paul Dahmen; he takes us through the gallery that holds upwards of 5,000 artworks at a time.

“I sell art that people want to live with,” he says. And it shows.

The outstandingly beautiful and thought provoking pieces are just…cool, and would certainly be a talking point in any home.

Paul tells us about the various pieces and the masterminds behind them, but we gravitate toward a piece called “Genesis” by Phil Hawkins. Its array of color seems to shift as you walk past. And as you look closer, you realize that the piece is smaller on one side, making an odd play on your own depth perception. After some art taken in, it’s time for something to eat.


PASTA SISTERS

Snuggled in the historic Helms Bakery District between La Dijonaise Café and The Rug Warehouse, sits Pasta Sisters.

The streets of the Helms Bakery District have been closed off for people to stroll through, take in the town, find something new for the home, and snag something delicious. We find a table outside at Pasta Sisters and are immediately given a plate with fresh bread. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar sit on the table, eager to be poured onto the plate for your bread to take a swim.

First up, burrata atop pasta with pesto clinging to it, ready to be fork spun. The cold of the burrata paired with the warm pesto sauce creates a perfect harmony of cheesy, pasta goodness. Next up, the pappardelle Bolognese with thick, thick noodles in a meaty sauce. To round it all out, porcini mushroom gnocchi. Soft, deeply satisfying. It’s need-to-take-a-nap-after-this good.


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BLIND BARBER

After getting some carbs in, we cruise over to the Blind Barber. We’re not here to get a cut, but rather to grab something refreshing after our bike ride and mountain of pasta.

We walk in and to the naked eye, it looks like an old school barbershop. An aisle down the middle of the long room leading to the broom closet with big black barber chairs lined up on either side and people getting their haircuts, all while sipping on old fashioneds.

There’s no bar in the shop and yet everyone’s having a grand ol’ time drinking their perfectly crafted whiskey cocktails, so where’s the bar?

No one bats an eye as walk straight to the broom closet door at the back of the store. Turns out, that unsuspecting door leads us to a full on bar/restaurant cloaked as the storage closet.

We go with the bartender’s suggestion of the tequila-based Hot Heather cocktail. It’s sweet, with a spicy kick to it and a smooth finish garnished with a grapefruit wedge. Gotta admit…that’s a feel good drink right there.

As they say in the movie biz, that’s a wrap. Until next time Culver City.