December is traditionally a time of shopping, socializing and reflection, when many La Cañadans gather together to put up the decorations, bake lasagna for the float builders, and plan for various cliffs, fiscal and otherwise.
In the spirit of winter celebrations, the following is the Around Town annual top 10 list of Southern California's greatest people, things and places, in and around the 91011.
But first, a disclaimer. In years past, Peggy Stevens, the owner of the Apple Cart gift store, has supported our family's various cancer research fundraisers, including the search for a protein biomarker for liver cancer by La Cañadan Michael Harrington, M.D., which was published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the current research by Faye Eggerding, M.D., Ph.D., into non-coding RNA markers for a variety of cancers. The research was funded in memory of our late son, 2nd Lt. Andrew Torres, U.S. Marine Corps, through six memorial golf tournaments and several cocktail parties. Peggy did the heavy lifting for several of those events.
As a part-time freelance journalist and a full-time lawyer, the preceding disclaimer is made out of an abundance of fair play. The Apple Cart's charm, success and other attributes would make it unfair to leave it off the following list.
1) Shop local at the Apple Cart. They have gifts, baby gifts, teacher gifts, jewelry, purses, Brighton, watches and dishware. They even have umbrella stands. The store is decorated for Christmas, the complimentary gift wrap is great and the owner is a sweetheart. The Apple Cart, 1518 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge CA 91011-2917; (818) 952-3342.
2) The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation. Not many towns can boast a volunteer operation that raises millions for the public schools. Even if your kids attend a private school, consider attending one of their fabulous events. Colin Cowie should be jealous. Martha Stewart would not have been indicted, if only she had joined the LCFEF. Bowling. Movie night. Devoted parents. Little kids. Better than a flu shot, you can build up your repertoire of immunities and drink chardonnay. Support your local schools.
3) Descanso Gardens. As one commentator has noted, “in 1769, the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola claimed the area which includes Descanso Gardens for the King of Spain. The rest is history.” Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011 (818) 952-4391 www.descanso
4) “Getting to know you... getting to know all about you...” With the term-limit stand-down of Anthony Portantino and a bit of redistricting, La Cañada now has a new state Assembly representative, a 38-year-old native Angeleno named Mike Gatto. The newly reformed 43rd District includes La Cañada. One reason to like Gatto, even if you are a Republican: The Sacramento Bee reported that Gatto was one of the most independent Democratic legislators in the state Assembly. Maybe he'll come to the next LCFEF screening of “The Hunger Games.”
5) This year, Porto's has competition. Another Cuban bakery is in the region. Merengue Bakery & Café in Monrovia is famous for amazing cakes. The R2D2 cake. Groom's cakes in the shape of basketball shoes. The 5-foot-tall cupcake. Wedding cakes. Potato balls. Cuban coffees. It's all good. Merengue Bakery & Café, 110 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia, CA. (626) 358-5650.
6) In 2011, Flintridge Prep football forfeited games due to low team turnout. Moms didn't want their sons to grow up to be running backs. This year, the team was reborn. Flintridge Prep's football team, coaching staff and cheerleaders rocked out this year. They beat Poly and made it into the post season, which puts Rebel football, including the excellent coaching staff, on the 2012 Around Town Top 10.
7) More football: In two days, Navy will meet Army for the 113th Army-Navy football game. Naturally, Navy will win, again. Best sports event in December. Fear the Goat. Army knows how to march and Navy knows how to score.
8) Zeli's versus Starbucks. There's no line at Zeli's and the pastries are better. On the other hand, rumor has it that columnist Joe Puglia hangs out at Starbucks. Solution? Two cups of coffee. Go to Zeli's first, then go to Starbucks.
9) Best cocktails in the region? Trattoria Neapolis on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Zagat rates it one of L.A.'s top 12 newest restaurants. Ask Chris to make you an “Eve's Desire” — handmade with apple-and sage-infused bourbon, fresh lemon, celery bitters and cinnamon. Try the avocado Caesar salad. Or the spinach pizza. Trattoria Neapolis, 336 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101, www.trattorianeapolis.com.
10) Best farmer's market? Every Saturday at 1346 Foothill Blvd., here in La Cañada. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The croissants are amazing, as are the artichokes, the local honey, the cranky cheese guy and all the veggies.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.