Bright Lights, Big CityTridib Banerjee, associate dean...


Bright Lights, Big City

Tridib Banerjee, associate dean of academic affairs at USC’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, has long been interested in the urban design of Los Angeles. Part of visually experiencing the city, he says, is knowing where to stand. “Some views depend on weather, air quality or the setting sun and are not predictable.” These are Banerjee’s favorite dependable spots:

The west end of the Santa Monica Freeway. “As you exit the tunnel and see the ocean, (the view is) exhilarating.”

Mt. Olympus, off Laurel Canyon Boulevard. “After you drive through the gateway, there are a couple of spots for dramatic views of the city.”


The northern slopes of Palos Verdes. “The night views are spectacular. Also there’s a nice view of the coast from here.”

Northbound San Diego Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. “As you drive over the hump, the view of the San Fernando Valley is both panoramic and dramatic.”

Westbound Interstate 134. “As you drive west around Eagle Rock around 10 o’clock on a summer morning, the view of the smog is breathtaking.”

A Picker’s Picks

Shelley Janson, owner of the Epicurean Cooking School in West Hollywood, has dined at hundreds of places in Los Angeles, partly to scout guest chefs for her classes and partly to simply enjoy the food. She says that one indication of a great dish is when she eats the whole thing. “I’m a picker. I like to try a lot of things, so usually a bite or two of something is enough.” These are dishes that she finished:

Corn crepes with asparagus and mushroom sauce at Primi, West Los Angeles. “It sounds so unappealing. If I had not been sitting next to someone from the Rand Corp. who said ‘You’ve got to try it’ so emphatically, I wouldn’t have.”

Lobster Georges Garin at Les Anges, Malibu. “It’s the best lobster I’ve ever eaten. They infuse the head with herbs.”

Crab cakes at the Ivy, West Hollywood. “They’re crispy on the outside and very light.”

Chocolate-mint truffle cake at Spago, Hollywood. “It’s very, very rich, but it doesn’t feel heavy.”


Fried calamari at Gardel’s, West Hollywood. “It’s hard to do this dish well, and they do it perfectly. It’s fried without being oily.”

Out of This World

Sherry Gottlieb owns A Change of Hobbit, a Santa Monica bookstore specializing in new, used and out-of-print science fiction. She names her favorites without a moment’s hesitation:

“Canticle for Liebowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr.

“More Than Human” by Theodore Sturgeon.

“The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert.

“Mockingbird” by Walter Tevis.

A Healthy Appetite

Patricia Murray, a macrobiotic consultant and senior teacher with the Kushi Institute in Boston, owns the Macrobiotic Healing & Learning Center in Topanga Canyon. These are her favorite places for vegetarian meals:

East West Garden, Hollywood. “Macrobiotic food prepared with flair and good aesthetics. Reasonable prices.”

Nowhere Cafe, West Hollywood. “This is a wonderful place for people who are making the transition to superior fare. Sophisticated atmosphere.”

Fragrant Vegetable, Monterey Park. “Buddhist specialties. Meat-like dishes, such as a lemon ‘duck’ that is totally a soy product. Peaceful atmosphere.”


Fig Tree, Venice. “Where it’s possible for non-eaters of meat and dairy products to enjoy an ocean-side atmosphere.”

New Discovery Inn, Topanga Canyon. “A wide range of offerings in a charming country atmosphere.”

Mystery Lover

Ruth Windfeldt, who owns Scene of the Crime Book Shop in Sherman Oaks and makes her living selling mysteries, picks her personal favorites. (What? Agatha didn’t make the final cut?)

“Tears of Autumn” by Charles McCarry.

“The List of Adrian Messenger” by Philip MacDonald.

“The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu” by Sax Rohmer.

“Sweet Adelaide” by Julian Symons.

“Harriet” by Elizabeth Jenkins.

Tube Tops

Andy Meisler, television critic for National Public Radio, picks his favorite TV shows of all time:

“The Jewel in the Crown.” “Wonderfully written drama that trusted the viewers’ intelligence.”

“Buffalo Bill.” “Hysterically funny. But most important, it broke some of the basic rules of situation comedy writing and got away with it.”


“The Dick Van Dyke Show.” “It had funny, good-looking people who liked and respected the funny, funny-looking people.”

“Hill Street Blues.” “For the same reasons everybody else likes it. It’s seen better days, but Years 2 and 3 were glorious.”

“The Jack Benny Show.” “Existential comedy at its finest.”