Inconspicuous Consumption 

Thursday, Oct 6 2005

Friendly Percussion Just off Sepulveda near LAX is Noisy Toys (8728 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester, 310-670-9957), a store selling the greatest collection of percussion instruments this side of Pacemaker in Concert. Bill Tabot has run this storefront cornucopia of drums for more than a dozen years, offering friendly advice about which drums might be right for whatever music one has going on, whether that be a log drum, a goat-hoof rattle, a djembe doumbecs, ankle bells and finger zills for quixotically exotic dancers, or a toy celesta made in Israel. Try one out or just splurge on that huge gong beside which you’ll meditate on how James Coburn ever convinced Johnny Carson to let him demonstrate “gong vibrations” on The Tonight Show. You can even get a tambourine customized with the face of your choice, which is very therapeutic when you get passed up for that raise for the third time and you just happen to have a photo of your boss.

No Man is a Dessert Island

While most devil’s food desserts quite frankly taste like hell, there is nothing remotely like the paradise that is this pleasurable concoction, made with (in vertical order) maraschino cherry, whipped cream, hot fudge, chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake. There are different strategies in eating hot fudge cake — leaving all the fudge until last, separating the layers and eating each individually — and each can be observed by developing a peripheral vision rivaling a kung fu monk’s. Admittedly, the Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake/Burbank ( 4211 Riverside Drive, 818-843-9334) is the ne plus ultra of such things, but there are so many pesky revivalists and hot-rodders there that the Mid-Wilshire location (5050 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323-939-3317) is often a quieter place to contemplate the expansion of the waistline and the constricting of the arteries.

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Penne for Your Thoughts

One of the subtlest gifts the Young Bachelor can give himself is tradition: the jeweled heirloom Masonic shoehorn, the good turntable, the trusted restaurant. Chosen on a rainy autumn afternoon’s whim, Café Carrera (235 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-652-5992) has been my tradition for many years. The headwaiter was impossibly riveting when reading off that first day’s specials; it’s the only time I can recall paying attention to that ritual. As Italian fare goes — penne, arrabiata, cannoli, bread — theirs is utterly basic, and nourishes rather than weighs. Whenever the need has arisen to take a lady someplace quiet and intimate where, most important, staff and owner acted as if the valued Bachelor had been going there forever, Café Carrera has been there. Such details mean more than any $40-plus meal of tight atmosphere and heavy sauces.

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Much as glass-bottled milk is an antiquated pleasure, so too are sodas in glass bottles — but prithee, my liege, pay heed to thee utmost in diabetes-inducing splendor. Literally hundreds of different sodas — Moxie, Jones, Hires, Dr. Pepper — line the shelves of Galco’s (5702 York Blvd., L.A., 323-255-7115), and more appear almost daily. From the incongruously German Africola with its side-scooped curves to the teardrop-shaped Evian bottles and the cylindrical majesty of the giant Voss water vial, this store has blossomed into a global phenomenon courtesy of owner John Nese’s tireless efforts to bring back favored flavors. If he doesn’t currently stock it, he’ll try to track it down. (Sadly, no news about Bikini Cola — Oxnard’s finest — or its beta-male counterpart, OK Cola.) Nese’s refreshingly completist attitude ensures that even the humblest Mexican-bottled Coke is placed alongside such misfits of science as Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray celery soda (barf).

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