We've all been getting into the groove of fall foods and pumpkins and such. And in case you haven't stepped foot in a drug or grocery store since September, it's also that time of year when high fructose corn syrup gets shipped and delivered in even more massive amounts. Whichever fall poisons you might pick, the following are some suggestions for food, booze and fun happening this Halloween and Día de los Muertos in honor of the first big official pumpkin event of the season.
Fun for the Whole Family:
Loads of local schools have fairs and festivals, some of which might have things to eat other than popcorn and candy corn. So keep an eye out for flyers around your neighborhood or at the grocery store to see what's happening. Stewie's Shave Ice will be at Los Feliz Arts Charter's Halloween Town (2709 Media Center Dr.) on Saturday afternoon, for example. And the Edison Language Academy (2425 Kansas Ave.) in Santa Monica hosts its annual Festival de Otoño and Día de los Muertos on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. The fall party features homemade tamales, pozole and baked goods from school parents, plus tons of kids entertainment, crafts, activities, and Day of the Dead exhibition.
Farmers markets at Pico and Main Street in Santa Monica will set up free pumpkin decorating for kids during their respective times (Saturday and Sunday mornings). Plenty of other farmers' markets are getting into the Halloween spirit this weekend, too, such as the Atwater Village market, which also has pumpkin decorating and face painting for its annual Halloween family festival. Could be a good way to get a jump start on getting the kids' ensembles together.
Time is running out to get The Counter's Halloween Candy Shake. The October special Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey and Torrance locations is a direct line to sugar coma, since it mixes vanilla ice cream M&Ms or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and topped with crumbled candy bits. Maybe it'll even become the subject of a sitcom joke.
The Burger Kitchen trusts that the appeal of the food itself will rise above all else. Otherwise it's a certain type of customer who jumps at the chance to order a Death Burger (well, that's actually a fair, accurate, and somewhat existential description of most burgers), Vampires Delight, Hangman's noose, Frankenstein's Franks, Torturer's Revenge, among other creatively named specials. The restaurant is hosting costume contests for adults and kids, and thankfully the Sexiest Costume is scheduled for the adults only competition on Saturday. PG-rated plans for Sunday include brunch and the costume contest at 6 p.m., and giveaways and horror movie screenings are planned all weekend long.
And this holiday is a chance for local sweets artisans to go crazy, naturally. Jonathan Grahm at Compartes Chocolatier in Brentwood is letting his imagination run a bit wild and using his fine chocolate-making skills to create rich and spicy chocolate skull pops, filled with 77% cacao single origin chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate spices, and dusted in gold glitter ($5 each). Special ornamented Mexican hot chocolate truffles are available, too. We can also attest to the selection of beautiful and creepy cat, ghost and mummy decorated cookies at Susina. (Just be warned that the thick coat of jet black frosting and sugar on the cat cookie makes for very messy little hands that should be thoroughly wiped before coming into contact with clean surfaces.)
Or take inspiration from the pros and learn how to make your own darn Halloween goodies from Gourmandise. The workshop held Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Surfas in Culver City (Gourmandise will soon have its own space in Santa Monica Place) won't mess around when it comes to making very messy sweets such as caramel apples, candy corn cookies, and chocolate dirt cakes with chocolate pastry cream and vanilla gravestones. ($75 per person.)
Regarding additional fall produce and pumpkin-centric meals, Sandía at Santa Monica Place has put together a special Day of the Dead slate, with roasted butternut squash soup with chipotle crema fresca; cilantro-crusted tilapia tortilla with spaghetti squash and pibil cream sauce; and pumpkin flan with sweet butter. These dishes will be on the menu through next week. Chaya Downtown has a fall and Halloween themed four-course tasting menu on Sundays for $25, which this weekend includes pumpkin ravioli and house cured salmon with pickled pumpkin.
But following what promises to be an exhausting weekend, save some energy for Self Help Graphics' 37th annual Día De Los Muertos procession and celebration on Tuesday night at the East Los Angeles Civic Center, featuring many arts and food vendors.
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The Dark Carnival at Villains Tavern gets the holiday weekend festivities going tonight and continues through Sunday. The three-night run that starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m. is full of cocktails, various forms of live entertainment, Oktoberfest brews, and $3 brown bagged beer. Its Halloween agenda is ambitious enough that Villains will spill out of its own already intense, moody space and take over the adjoining lot, where the Circus Insidious will perform inside the Red Light tent. Plus there's a lineup of other types of acts, tricks, and performances to entertain and spook you out and that kind of stuff.
213 group's collection of atmospheric venues will mark the holiday on Saturday, October 30 from 8 until 2 a.m. Seven venues -- Cole's, Las Perlas, Tony's, Golden Gopher, Casey's Irish Pub, Caña Rum Bar, and Seven Grand -- will each mix and pour a specialty cocktail for $7, each highlighting a specific spirit. And by "spirits" on Halloween, they mean the actual drinkable alcohol kind. Las Perlas continues the celebration for Día de los Muertos on Monday and Tuesday nights, with $6 margaritas and $3 Tecates.
Costume wearers are entitled to half-off happy hour prices of apps and select drinks in honor of Día de los Muertos and Halloween all weekend long at the Lotería Grill locations in Hollywood and Studio City.
Picking the featured films for this weekend in particular must be extra tough for the folks who plan the Outdoor Cinema Fest. But they chose very well, so it's Zombieland Saturday night at the Los Angeles State Historic Park and The Shining for the program finale Sunday night at Exposition Park. Maybe being in a big crowd of people will make the latter a little less scary. Then again, probably not. Saturday's food truck lineup includes Mandoline Grill, Ta Bom, and Che Truck, while Frysmith, Border Grill, Barbie's Q, and Lake Street Creamery roll into Sunday's gathering.