In search of java and unicorns

Victoria Looseleaf

FOR Grant Gershon, now in his fifth season as music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, getting through December required extra jolts of caffeine: He led his 125-member chorus through seven performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

With the next concert slated for Jan. 22, the 45-year-old Eagle Rock resident has some time to rest up. So how does Gershon -- along with his wife, soprano Elissa Johnston, and their kids, Claire and Samuel, ages 6 and 3 -- conduct his weekends?

Car-free existence

We don't want to get in our car, so we'll walk to everything on Colorado Boulevard. On Fridays, if we feel like braving the lines, we might go to Casa Bianca for arguably the best pizza pies in L.A. They're legendary.

If we have a sitter, we do a pre-dinner wine tasting at the Colorado Wine Co. I'm partial to reds -- Cabs, Syrahs and the ever-popular Pinot Noirs. It's run by a couple who just moved here from Brooklyn. Then we'd head over to Cafe Beaujolais. I like the entrecote au poivre, and Elissa likes the cute French waiters. We both love the amazing profiteroles.

Caloric workout

Saturday morning we like having breakfast at Fatty's and Co. It's owned by a local artist. They have killer frittatas and some of the best coffee this side of Florence. Claire likes the pancakes, and Samuel likes everything. Afterward, we might hike around Altadena to a waterfall, or in the mountains near Idyllwild off the 10 going toward Palm Springs. We also like running around Descanso Gardens in La Canada. The point is to get the kids outside on the weekends and get them really tired.

There's a farmers market on the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado boulevards where we'll buy fruits and vegetables. I'll prepare a big salad for supper. And on Saturday night we like the Jazz Bakery. It's intimate and our favorite place to hear music, like pianist Billy Childs.


Sundays we'll head to this bohemian coffee place, Swork, for breakfast, then take the kids to Griffith Park. We're members of the zoo, and Claire's favorite animal is the Komodo dragon. She was struck by the fact that they can evidently eat a whole horse. Of course, we go to Travel Town Museum and ride the train, because Samuel is obsessed with trains, then make our way to the merry-go-round for a spin or two.

Lunch might be at the local organic Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Hen. They have fantastic pho with free-range chickens and fresh herbs on the side. Then it's on to Tom's Toys in Montrose or the Dinosaur Farm in South Pasadena, where Claire checks out the unicorns -- she's into Pegasus -- along with wizards, fairies and anything fantasy.

Movies to massages

We love movies and might make it to the Rialto, an art-house theater in South Pasadena where they filmed part of "The Player." Back home, the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts sometimes puts on outdoor plays and films at the Sylvan Amphitheater, which we'll go to.

The Chorale's concerts are on Sunday night, so I like fitting in a shiatsu massage at the New Otani Hotel in Little Tokyo. There's nothing like strong Japanese women walking on your back. After the concert, we're holding down the bar at Kendall's or Patina, having big fat dirty martinis.


-- Victoria Looseleaf

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