Best Of :: Monterey Park/ Alhambra/ S. Gabriel
Best Celebrity Legacy: Vincent Price Art Museum
Despite the wealth of art inside the Vincent Price Art Museum, the institution remains a bit of a secret among Angelenos. You might be forgiven for thinking this is a collection of movie posters and costumes related to the actor best known for his horror films. It's not. Price wasn't just an art lover; he also was a proponent of arts education, and in the 1950s, he and wife Mary Grant donated a considerable amount of art from their personal collection to East Los Angeles College. That gift launched what has become a treasure chest tucked inside the Monterey Park community college. Today, the Vincent Price Art Museum has swelled to a seven-gallery complex, hosting an eclectic mix of shows that bridge art's past to its future. Price's interest in pre-Columbian art became the basis for the museum's permanent exhibition, "Form and Function in the Ancient Americas," which focuses on artifacts from western Mexico and Peru.
Sichuan cuisine is known for its use of lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and perspiration-inducing chili pepper heat, but it's so much more than that. Well-executed Sichuan food features many nuanced flavors. At Szechuan Impression, nostalgia for home-style cooking pairs with trained chef technique in dishes ranging from fiery spiciness to those with more subtlety. Illustrating this best are two dishes from the Sichuan city of Leshan: bobo chicken, skewered chicken bits and offal served in a vat of spicy, chili pepper–laden chicken broth; and qiao-jiao beef combination soup, a mild, milky-looking broth with brisket, tripe, braised turnip, scallions and cilantro. There are fish filets in red oil, or with green pepper, the latter showcasing the citrusy note of the Sichuan peppercorns. Yes, the menu includes mapo tofu, kung pao chicken (served here in traditional form) and wontons in chili oil. But the real joys are found digging deeper, for dishes such as ginger frog, or rabbit and "potato strips on street corner" — slightly crunchy, crinkle-cut fries dusted with chili powder, fresh chili peppers and peppercorns, perhaps the best version of fries I've had.
You could choose Dutch chocolate, rum raisin or toasted almond when you go to Fosselman's ice cream parlor. You could even go for the more exotic flavors of taro, lychee or the seasonal Cookie Monster ice cream, resplendent in luminescent blue. But it is the chocolate shake at which the family-owned Fosselman's absolutely excels. It's a veritable chocolate Matterhorn, made only with chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream in a ratio that remains a closely guarded secret. It melts slowly and gracefully, threatening to burst the bonds of its plastic cup with all the power of maximum chocolate heaviosity. A draw on the straw is not as uvula-shattering as some chocolate shakes tend to be, nor is enjoying a Fosselman's chocolate shake the diabetic coma-bomb awaiting you at those corporate fast-food places. It's challenging to do a simple thing exceptionally well, yet Fosselman's has, perhaps due to the fact that it's had decades to perfect the craft since opening in 1919.