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Blood, Dumplings, & Nicotine Gelato: Esotouric's Unusual LA Tours, With Food

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Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 2:00 PM

It still feels like summer vacation, and whether you have guests, or just feel like exploring a bit, Esotouric isn't your cookie-cutter tour company and promises an "intelligent, unpredictable ride into the secret heart of the city we love." The tour's themes integrate literature, rock and roll, architecture, classic film noir and true crime--"Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA, focused on Bukowski's passions--writing, screwing, and Los Angeles," or "Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits' LA," for example. Guides are enthusiastic and knowlegable about their subject matter, often including facts gleaned from original research in tour presentations. Also unusual is the care proprietors Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, take with snacks and restaurant associations on tours--food is not an afterthought, but an integral part of the experience, and considered as much an element as a particular landmark or bit of history. The way they see it, "Food is such a central part of memory," and as such, helps tell the story of some of LA's most fascinating--and some of its weirdest--places and people.

click to enlarge Buy booze where Bukowski did. - RICHARD SCHAVE
  • Richard Schave
  • Buy booze where Bukowski did.

For example, the couple conduct a "Blood & Dumplings" tour, part of their True Crime Series, that journeys through parts of Alhambra, Temple City, Monterey Park, Rosemead and El Monte, covering forgotten crimes and oddities from the San Gabriel Valley's past. Some highlights include the "Man from Mars Bandit," a bride who spent her wedding day buried under her parents' house, and a real castle. Another high point is an array of steamed dumplings from 101 Noodle in San Gabriel Valley--happily on Mr. Gold's 99 essential Restaurants list.

On the "Real Black Dahlia Tour," participants explore one of LA's most famous mysteries, the unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. Stops include the Biltmore lobby (second-to-the-last place Short was seen alive), Greyhound Station, and ends up at the site in Leimert Park where Short's body was discovered. Along the way, the tour stops in East Hollywood, where Cooper and Schave have worked with Tai Kim of Scoops, who enthusiastically came up with 12 new flavors especially curated for some of Esotouric's tours, according to Cooper, "he came up with 'white flavors' and dark, noir-ish ones, even one that looked suggested blood running through it. Nicotine gelato, anyone?

click to enlarge Noir flavors at Scoops. - KIM COOPER
  • Kim Cooper
  • Noir flavors at Scoops.

Other food fun on Esotouric's adventures include a stop at Canter's during the Tom Waits tour, because the famous food fight at the Troubadour between Waits and his crew and some Eastside punks, was relocated to Canter's. The Route 66 tour stops at the 1891 E. Waldo Ward Farm in Sierra Madre, where the original farm buildings are still used to make preserves and marmalades; and the Bukowski tour includes stops at Clifton's, in honor of Bukowski's poem about it, as well as a break at the Pink Elephant Liquor Store, which probably provided much fuel for Bukowski's poems as well. Oh, and Schave always brings along homemade cold-brewed coffee on every tour, you can have a cup to go with the Krispy Kremes from their cop-approved doughnut stop.

click to enlarge They're cop-approved on Esotouric's True Crime tours. - KIM COOPER
  • Kim Cooper
  • They're cop-approved on Esotouric's True Crime tours.

Find out more at www.esotouric.com.

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