Guest DJ—Eryk Pruitt

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author, filmmaker and radio host. And starting today he is also a Guest DJ! Check out this amazing playlist featuring everything from Bob Dylan and Lee Hazlewood to Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Sublime. And don’t miss our radio/podcast discussion about “Music in Crime Fiction” this Monday, Dec. 14.

The Crime SceneIf you aren’t already familiar with Eryk’s work, you’re missing out. His short fiction has appeared in The Avalon Literary ReviewThuglitPulp Modern, and Zymbol, among others. In 2014, his fiction was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and also a finalist for a Derringer Award. His debut novel, DIRTBAGS, and his follow-up novel, HASHTAG, are both available now.

He wrote and produced the short film FOODIE which won eight top awards at over sixteen film festivals. Since then, he has written several others, including KEEPSAKE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with Eryk Pruitt earlier this year.

ErykAuthorPhotoHow does your approach to short stories differ from your longer works?

I can write a first draft for a short story in a day. If I get the kernel of an idea, I can sit down and write and then set it aside and come back and rewrite a couple days later, then do it again… and after a couple weeks I will have a polished, fine-tuned little piece of fiction. That’s pretty rewarding. Finishing something is its own reward, and the short story allows you to reward yourself more often than you can with a novel.

Find Eryk Pruitt: Website and Amazon

Previous Playlists:

Guest DJ—Tom Pitts

Guest DJ—Craig T. McNeely

Guest DJ—Angel Colon

Guest DJ—Josh Stallings

29 SoCal Punk Songs

S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

@LA_SMB – Table One Marketing

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@LA_SMB is an occasional series showcasing some of the coolest small and medium-sized businesses from around the Los Angeles area.

Who: Table One Marketing – Carrie KommersPresident

What: A one woman culinary marketing consultancy

Where: Los Angeles

When: Founded in 2011

Clients: The Culinary AgencyVisit CaliforniaChefsInsight.com

Carrie Kommers wanted to have her cake and eat it too.

Image“I love the food world in a big way and wanted to be a part of it without working nights and weekends,” she said.

A former pastry chef and caterer, Kommers set off on a marketing, brand management and PR path early in her career. In 2007 she became the founding Director for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s dineLA program, where she stayed until she opened Table One Marketing in 2011.

These days, Kommers enjoys a healthy stream of referral business while always prospecting for new opportunities.

“Over the last few years I’ve been able to better target initiatives and companies that intrigue me, and pitch my value in a way that allows me to do the work that I’m most interested in,” she said. “I think the universe has an idea of what I love and just keeps it coming.”

The following interview was conducted via email. Some responses have been edited.

@LA_SMB: Why is Table One Marketing a perfect fit for Los Angeles?

Carrie Kommers: Los Angeles is a food city. It’s one of the things we do best. And the culture is deepening beyond just restaurants and events. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this growth? It’s thrilling.

@LA_SMB: What is the most unique thing about your business?

C.K.: The “culinary marketing” space is slowly becoming more crowded, but I feel like I was at the front of it in LA. My business is me – my relationships, my perspective, my creativity. There may be others wanting to serve the same needs, but there’s only one of me. It’s up to the client to decide if that’s valuable or not.

@LA_SMB: Who are your partners?

C.K.: Great question. Collaboration is huge in what I do and “clients” often end up being other agencies or freelancers who need to diversify and add fire-power to their deliverables. My most valuable partners are those who are curious to see what else is possible and like to try new things.

@LA_SMB: What is the most gratifying thing about being a small business owner

C.K.: Spending most of my time in jeans and sneakers. That and being able to make choices about the nature of work I want to do and the people I want to do it with. At the end of the day I’m ultimately responsible for my own happiness and that’s pretty cool.

@LA_SMB: What is the hardest thing about being a small business owner?

C.K.: Always cultivating new prospects, regardless of how slammed you are.

@LA_SMB: Where will Table One Marketing be 5 years from now?

C.K.: In five years there will be more structure to the Table One brand. There will be one, possibly two, internal business entities that Table One will develop and own on a b2b platform.

@LA_SMB: What challenges is your industry facing?

C.K.: Too many options. Restaurants, food festivals, you name it. LA is saturated in culinary culture right now. It’s great for consumers, but tough for operators and promoters who need to capture and HOLD attention. In LA many diners consider themselves “regulars” at a restaurant they may only actually patronize a few times a year. There are just so many choices. I feel like the evolution of local restaurant concepts have shifted to address this – smaller, more accessible and more tied to a neighborhood than a city. Hyper local. On a different note, the state’s drought is killing operators when it comes to food costs. Profit margins have always been slim in this business, but it’s going to be interesting to see how most adjust to stay afloat.

@LA_SMB: What’s next for you?

C.K.: A b2b initiative that I’ve had in my heart since I left dineLA in 2011. It’s the reason I went out on my own and it’s been a bear to build. I’m not giving up though.

Previous @LA_SMB post: Ed Donnelly – Aderra Inc.

Steve Coulter is a marketing guy, writer and drummer living in Los Angeles.

If you have suggestions for future @LA_SMB features, please send Steve a message on LinkedIn. Include the name of the business, a short description and a link to their website. Steve is a one man band, please keep it brief and expect a slow response.

Full disclosure: Steve is friends with and/or has worked with many of the businesses featured, at least for now. Thank you for reading to the bottom of the page.

Living Off the LA Landscape

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This story was originally published on GreenFriar.com.

The instructions said to meet beneath the 210 freeway overpass in the L.A. foothills neighborhood of Lakeview Terrace. We get out of the car, unbuckle the children, and head toward a group of 15 people huddled at the base of a cement embankment. A soft-spoken man collects the $20 fees and hands out small cups filled with a red liquid—a fermented soda made with wild blackberries, cherries, manzanita berries, tarragon berries and raw honey. After a morning of foraging, we will sample more of the wild aromatic infusions created by Pascal Baudar, all as pretty as they were refreshing.

Welcome to the “Wild Food Walk and Wild Aromatic Infusions Tasting” hosted byUrban Outdoor Skills, which aims to connect city people with the natural environment all around them.

“Most people who live in larger cities are disconnected from nature. Nature was part of my life from the beginning, it was my world,” said Bauder, who writes and teaches about wild food and self reliance. Baudar founded Urban Outdoor Skills in 2006, and leads weekly classes on foraging and wild edibles that range from three-hour plant identification walks to daylong desert explorations.

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This interview with Pascal Baudar was conducted via email after the “Wild Food Walk and Wild Aromatic Infusions Tasting.”

Steve Coulter: How did your childhood in Europe influence your decision to pursue foraging?

Pascal Baudar: I grew up in a tiny farming town in Belgium, so there was very little to do beside spending time in the forest. As a kid, I was already fascinated by the flavors I would encounter. I would forage all kinds of nuts (chestnuts, hazelnuts) and read books about the use of plants. So I really didn’t think in terms of “foraging,” it was just a normal activity and nothing to be scared of. It was common for us to pick up green plants like nettles or chervil to make soup.

How did you transition from your previous career in web design and consulting into foraging full-time?

It took 10 years. I never really thought I would make a career of foraging. I was just interested in learning edible plants. I really started to study the local flora, the edible and aromatic wild plants, in 1999. Originally I was more interested in the survival aspect, and I attended tons of survival classes. At one point I realized that this was not survival food, but that I was really dealing with incredible flavors and truly gourmet food. So I became obsessed with discovering the true flavors of Southern California . I probably attended over 300 classes with survivalists, herbalists and native peoples—anyone who could teach me something.

In 2006 I started to give informal classes from time to time, and in 2008 I decided to provide weekly classes.  At first I was dealing with small groups—maybe four or five people. It was a mix of survival and culinary skills. Bit by bit, the classes grew, and I started to get more and more into the culinary aspects of wild edibles and aromatic plants.

Three years ago, I was working as a photographer for a company and frankly was bored to death. I just decided to make the jump and follow my true passion. I called a few of the top chefs in Los Angeles and told them about what I do and my experience. Within an hour, I had three restaurants interested.

I should have made the jump years earlier.

What are some of the restaurants you’ve worked with?

In the last two years I’ve worked with some of the top chefs in Los Angeles, such as Michael Voltaggio (Ink Restaurant), Josiah Citrin (Melisse Restaurant), Ludo Lefebre (Trois Mec), Ari Taymor (Alma), Chris Jacobson (Girasol), and as a consultant for the television show Master Chef with Gordon Ramsay. I would say that probably 40 chefs have attended some of my classes.

Urban Outdoor Skills also does private dinners with my partner Mia Wasilovich, who is a fantastic chef herself. Our dinners are quite out there, featuring mostly local wild edibles. A lot of my inspiration comes from her, she is my muse.

I start my day between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and usually finish around 7 p.m., pretty much 7 days a week. It’s my passion. I love it.

How has this passion evolved?

When I started Urban Outdoor Skills, the original vision was to teach survival skills, wild food and preservation techniques.  At this point, it has very much evolved into research on the culinary aspect of our local terroir and a search for the true flavors of Southern California.

One day, Mia and I would love to have our own place where we can do workshops and host private dinners.

How often do you conduct classes? And what are some of your most popular classes and subjects? What kind of people do you tend to get at your classes?

I try to give a class every weekend. My emphasis is teaching people what they can do with the plants, and hopefully inspire them as well. My most popular classes are usually workshops such as making wild soda or beer with wild plants, how to make gourmet mustard with wild seeds—basically things that people can apply easily in their life.

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Why is it important for urban dwellers to have these skills?

Foraging has become quite trendy for chefs, mostly because of some of the Nordic restaurants like Noma (in Copenhagen, Denmark) or Faviken (in Järpen, Sweden), which started to incorporate wild foods in their dishes. I actually don’t follow the Nordic movement and their culinary approach much because, frankly, we live in Southern California so we’re dealing with very different ingredients. I’m more interested in the native cuisine.

So with foraging being trendy, more people are also open to the idea that “it’s okay to eat weeds.” I don’t know if it is super important for urban dwellers to have foraging skills. I think it will always be a smaller, more eclectic part of the population that wants to know about foraging and that’s completely okay—this makes foraging super sustainable.

Have you ever poisoned yourself by eating something you’ve foraged?

No. I’m obsessed with research and making sure that I can identify something 1000% before I eat it. Sometimes I spend months researching something via books, the Internet and various groups of plant experts. There is no reason why someone should poison themselves; it’s all about making sure that you achieve certainty about what you are doing.

What is the most incredible thing you have discovered while foraging in
California?

The flavors of ants. We have over 400 types of ants in North America. Some don’t taste good, but others taste like lemons, limes or even have floral qualities.

Also, a new spice: Rabbit Tobacco. I found this plant that had a curry smell to it and became obsessed with figuring out if it was edible. I found out that it was medicinal and, in an old book, there was a reference to it being used as a spice by the Cherokee. We started experimenting with it in the kitchen and found that roasting food with it infused some fascinating flavors. The Los Angeles Times critic Jonathan Gold was also fascinated by it when one of my chefs used it in his restaurant.

What makes California an ideal location for foraging?

You can forage all year long. We don’t really have a winter. The hardest time is actually the summer, when everything turns into a desert, but you can still find tons of stuff such as seeds, berries and wild cherries.

How much edible wild food is growing right in people’s backyards?

I’m still learning! You would be amazed at what can be used to create amazing dishes and preserves. We have hundreds of plants and various insects, but you can go much further and play with leaves, barks, stems, twigs, and cooking in clay.

For example, did you know that in the Middle Ages there was such a thing as oak bark beer? It’s bitter and tannic, but if you use the white oak bark (which has less tannin), it’s actually quite delicious.

Doing Donuts On Your Bike

“LA has grown into a car-dominated maze. But if you think it’s not good for bikes, you’d be wrong. The weather is perfect for all-year riding, but its a battle out here. A battle for bikes to be seen as a great way to commute without spending your life stuck in a metal box.”
—Steve Isaacs, Sweet Ride USA
This story was originally published on GreenFriar.com.

A lot of my old music buddies have gone on to do some pretty interesting things with their lives, but only one of them recently traded his car for a bicycle to promote a more sustainable future for metropolitan cities like Los Angeles.

“I never expected to lean into the bicycle advocacy world as much as I have, but it really is a natural progression. It started out as a solo thing on the weekend, where I just waited for the work week to end so I could show up in Santa Monica, spend the whole day in the sun, see hundreds of people on the beach, and zip by listening to music. It became my happy place,” said Steve Isaacs.

I first saw Isaacs when he was performing the lead in a touring production of The Who’s Tommy in the mid-90s, and then got to know his band Skycycle through the Los Angeles music scene a few years later. He’s also a one-time MTV VJ and former lead singer for the alternative rock group The Panic Channel. But these days Isaacs is a Webby Award-winning digital marketer and co-founder of Sweet Ride USA, a web series and blog built around urban bicycle culture and fueling up on desserts along the way.

“I had just gone through a breakup and realized I needed something. Destiny just kind of led me into a bicycle shop,” Isaacs says. “I decided to buy a bike and just started riding up and down the coast on the beach path. That became my favorite thing to do. Every week I would ride more miles.”

The last few times I’ve seen Isaacs around town, we’ve talked less rock and more about his love for the bicycling scene. I ride my bike whenever I can, but listening to Isaacs talk about the “multi-modal” future he sees for our urban transportation infrastructure is enough to make me want sell my Subaru and pedal everywhere.

Sweet Ride USA is a bike culture show, but I believe that it’s going to be a better world if more people start opening their minds to spending a little bit more time on their bikes. There’s got to be more people who will go through something similar to what I went through,” he said.

What he “went through” was a personal transmformation. Isaacs recently sold his car and is using his bike as his main source of transportation—along with busses, the metro and, when necessary, Uber.

“Once I became a bike commuter I realized that I did not want to use my car unless I really had to. I felt better and freer riding a bike, and when I was stuck behind thousands of cars in traffic it felt more frustrating than it ever had. I felt really trapped,” Isaacs said.

His newfound passion led him to the vibrant underground bike culture in Los Angeles, where it collided with his dessert habit. Connecting with other bike enthusiasts through online communities like Midnight Ridazz, Isaacs started doing themed group rides all over the city—including dessert rides.

Isaacs took his inspiration and teamed up with producer Debra Matlock to form Sweet Ride USA, launching their web series in June 2013. So far Isaacs has been footing the production costs for the web series (“I pay for donuts, microphones and gear”), but now that it’s gone pro, Isaacs and Matlock are looking to partner with production houses and cable channels.

Other bike-friendly destinations on his radar include Portland, New York, Amsterdam and Kyoto.

“I found myself thinking that just riding wasn’t enough. It’s really important to add my voice or effort to the bicycle advocacy movement because cities aren’t static. They don’t just sit there,” he said.

“I really believe that LA’s worth fighting for.”