Made for a Sunny Day

This piña colada tart is fruity and crisp

Springtime gives us playful glimpses of summer. Now that it’s almost here, I am longing for the bold and refreshing flavors of fruity, crisp and light desserts. Inspired by the classic piña colada drink, this tart has an effortless crust that does not require the use of a hot oven. Additionally, it is dairy free and instead uses coconut oil to marry piquancy and a silky texture. For those who enjoy a true piña colada flavor, this tart would hold up well to a drizzling of a rum reduction sauce. Want to intensify the sharp fruit flavors? The blueberries are here to provide an enticing visual and textural variation.

Dairy-Free Piña Colada Tart
Hands-on time: 30 Minutes
Ready in: 90 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 Fresh pineapple, cubed
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 to 2 gelatin packets, unflavored
1 1/2 cup shredded or flaked coconut
13 to 15 sheets of graham crackers
Optional garnishes: blueberries and dried pineapples slices

1. In a food processor, purée the fresh cut pineapple until it is a smooth liquid.
2. Add the liquefied pineapple, sugar, salt, eggs and coconut oil into a medium pot.
3. While continuously stirring, cook the mixture on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until thick.
4. Remove mixture from heat and strain to remove solids.
5. Stir into mixture the gelatin amount according to firmness preference and set aside.
6. Begin to make the base by pulsing the coconut in a food processor to release the oils. Continue until it forms an oily, mealy texture.
7. Add in the graham crackers and continue pulsing in the food processor until it starts to come together to hold its shape when pressed.
8. Press the crust base into the tart pan bottom and sides.
9. Pour in the pineapple filling and place in the refrigerator to set, approximately 1 hour for a soft set.

 

The Violympics

LA Philharmonic violinist’s lessons go virtual

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced musicians to quickly digitize their professions and supplement their incomes.

For some, it’s new. For Los Angeles Philharmonic First Associate Concertmaster Nathan Cole, the digital transformation is underway.

On June 1, Cole will launch the Violympics, a series of six two-week training events that will give advanced violinists and violists the tools to advance their craft.

A Pasadena resident, Cole will mentor participants in the program, which will explore crucial fundamentals in a fun format while building an online global community of musicians. Violympics will culminate in a challenge piece that will bring everyone together through performance (virtually).

“It started as a way to help professional violinists and violists organize and practice during the summer,” he says. “Our seasons tend to go like the school year. In the summer, it’s difficult to find and keep that same routine, either because you have fewer performances or you’re spread out in different places.

“I came up with the Violympics to run alongside the real Olympics in Tokyo,” says Cole, who’s married to the LA Philharmonic’s assistant concert master, Akiko Tarumoto. “When everything went nuts in March, including the cancellation of the Olympics, I thought I’d still keep these going.”

The Lexington, Kentucky, native comes from a family of musicians and educators. His parents were flute teachers, as was his paternal grandfather. Cole picked up the violin at age 4; he’s 42 now.

“I can’t really remember a time before I was playing violin,” he says. “I love performing. That’s what I grew up wanting to do, but I did find starting about 20 years ago, that I loved teaching, too. I used to teach at a few different schools.

“I left all of them except the Colburn Conservatory, which is across from Disney Concert Hall, where I work with the LA Philharmonic. I stopped all the other teaching. I wanted to make time for my online program.”

The Violympics is an extension of an online teaching platform that began over a decade ago, when Cole started posting instructional videos on YouTube.

Expecting to attract maybe 25 to 50 people, he instead quickly had an online student base in the thousands. He realized there were not many solutions for advanced training online, so he refined his offerings over the years to focus on this niche. More than 3,000 violinists and violists of all ages and capabilities from all over the world, from Argentina to Israel, registered for the Violympic Trials, a one-week introductory experience that preceded the Violympics.

This 12-week program costs $797. Cole called it a nice alternative to summer schools or festivals that have been shuttered due to COVID-19. For more information, visit natesviolin.com.

“I found the best way to help people is online and in person,” he says. “When people think about or talk about teaching online or learning online, they’re focused on the negatives, what they’re missing out on.

“There are some limitations and drawbacks. In my high-level virtuoso master course, I can start everyone with videos I’ve already made and learning material. This way, we don’t have to waste a lot of that valuable one-on-one time going over things they could have learned on their own time. You save that one-one-one time—which is the hardest to schedule—to really just work on the issues that that person has.”

Cole adds his program is a nice way to fill the time during the pandemic.

“I miss performing for sure,” he says. “I have that fear if I don’t do it for a while, my skills are going to go away. This is as much motivation for me to keep me sharp for when we do return to the stage.”

Celebrate Dad

Father’s Day specials aplenty in Pasadena

Father’s Day will take on a different feel this year, as we’re all trying to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Many of Pasadena’s restaurants, however, are still trying to make the day special.       

Check out our list of treats to help honor dad on Sunday, June 21.

Celestino Ristorante

141 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena

626-795-4006, celestinopasadena.com

Celestino Ristorante’s executive chef, Calogero Drago, is celebrating Father’s Day by introducing a new summer takeout menu; Father’s Day family packages; a special chef menu; delectable Italian wines; and an open bar to go featuring aperitifs, digestives, cocktails, spirits, grappa and limoncello.

The summer takeout menu at the recently reopened restaurant features a signature selection of favorite Italian soups, salads, appetizers, traditional Italian pastas and risottos, meats and desserts.

The Father’s Day family package for four ($90) includes a family-style salad, choice of pasta or fish, a special side, and dessert.

For dads who want something special this Father’s Day, the chef menu for two or more guests ($38 per person) features a specially curated salad, pasta or risotto, special fish dish, special meat dish, and dessert.

To ensure dad has a proper Italian experience when ordering from Celestino Ristorante this Father’s Day, Drago is offering a sublime selection of daily special Italian wines, including a red, white and sparkling wine. And, for fathers who prefer something a little stronger, Celestino Ristorante steps it up a notch by offering its open bar to go, which features daily aperitifs, digestives, spirits, grappa, limoncello and Celestino cocktails to go to complement a fabulous Father’s Day celebration at home.

Celestino Ristorante will be open on Father’s Day and Celestino Ristorante is open for takeout and curbside pickup from 5 to 8 p.m. every Monday to Sunday. For more information or to order directly, call Celestino Ristorante at 626-795-4006, and to view the new Celestino Ristorante takeout menu, visit celestinopasadena.com.

Gus’ Barbecue

808 Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena

626-799-3251, gussbbq.com

This Father’s Day there is no better way to celebrate than with Gus’ Barbecue in South Pasadena.

Gus’ Barbecue will offer its barbecue takeout menu all weekend for dad and the entire family—featuring appetizers; Gus’ combos; Southern fried chicken; burgers; sandwiches; and Gus’ Real Pit barbecue offerings, which include Memphis baby back ribs, barbecue brick chicken, Texas beef brisket, St. Louis spare ribs, peppercorn-crusted tri-tip, smoked sausage and the Carolina-style pulled pork.

Each is seasoned overnight and then smoked low and slow for up to 14 hours over whole pecan logs to create Gus’ signature smoke flavor, along with signature sides, greens, kids menu (10 and younger) and drinks, shakes and malts. Don’t forget Gus’ cast iron cornbread served with jalapeño jelly and honey butter, Gus’ deviled eggs with crispy smoked ham and sweet chipotle seasoning, barbecue baked beans or its braised Southern greens.

Gus’ Barbecue South Pasadena will be open on Father’s Day, and it offers takeout, delivery and curbside pickup from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Sunday.

Krafted Spirits

Krafted Spirits kicks off Father’s Day weekend with two celebratory DIY Krafted Spirits “Father’s Day” LA Staycation Cocktail Boxes that can be preordered and delivered.

It features a full bottle of Krafted Spirits premium rum which has been triple distilled from raw sugarcane from the island of St. Croix, then developed and aged in American charred oak bourbon barrels.

The DIY Krafted “Father’s Day” LA Staycation Small Batch White Rum Box (makes up to 16 cocktails for $55) includes a full 750 ml bottle of Krafted white rum, two mixers featuring its Krafted LA rum punch and Krafted DTLA daiquiri mixes, along with one mini can of Coke and one lime for garnish.

The DIY Krafted “Father’s Day” LA Staycation Premium Dark Rum Box or Krafted Pineapple-Infused Rum Box (makes up to 16 cocktails for $55) offers a choice of a full 750 ml bottle of Krafted Premium Dark Rum or Krafted Pineapple-Infused Rum, two mixers featuring its Krafted Hollywood hurricane and Krafted Venice Beach painkiller mixes, along with one mini can of Coke and one lime for garnish.

To preorder, visit kraftedrum.com or email, before Friday, June 19, to cheers@kraftedspirits.com.

Mi Piace

25 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

626-795-3131 mipiace.com

Old Town Pasadena’s Mi Piace is offering its signature menu featuring calamari fritti, caprese burrata and bruschetta.

The insalate section offers the insalata mi piace, a Caesar, and baby kale salad, while the pasta section offers 12 options, including Mi Piace’s pappardelle bolognese, ravioli della casa, linguine pesto and fettuccine alfredo tartufo. The carne e pollo section surprises dad with selections such as the pollo al sesamo, piccata di pollo, and bistecca, while seafood-loving fathers will enjoy scampi, the fra diavolo and the filetto di salmone in the pesce section. Fathers and families can also enjoy their favorite pizza—including the margherita, classica and Old Town Speciale—or marinated chicken, New York pastrami or handmade meatball panino. Finally, for dads craving decadent comfort, the Mi Piace black label burger prepared with a special prime rib eye and brisket “exclusive” mix will also be available.

Mi Piace will offer wine, beer, spirits and cocktails for takeout, delivery and curbside pickup for Father’s Day. Mi Piace offers wines by the bottle, which include specials that rotate “daily” and include a red wine, white wine and a rosé.

Beers will be offered individually ($4 each) or by the six pack ($15), including Heineken, Modelo, Amstel Light or a rotating IPA. Mi Piace is also featuring Father’s Day cocktails ($10 each), including Mi Piace’s signature Old Forester barrel-aged Manhattan, Tito’s Handmade Vodka & Q Soda, and Hendrick’s Gin & Q Tonic.

Mi Piace will offer spirits by the bottle featuring Hendrick’s gin ($45), Tito’s Handmade Vodka ($32), and Old Forester bourbon ($22).

Mi Piace will be open on Father’s Day and offers takeout and delivery from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday to Sunday.

The Original Tops

3838 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

626-449-4412, TheOriginalTops.com

A true Pasadena institution, The Original Tops is celebrating Father’s Day with takeout and drive-thru pickup for dad.

The Original Tops will offer breakfast takeout until noon for dad and the entire family, including signature steak and egg burrito made with carne asada, scrambled eggs, homestyle potatoes, and jack and cheddar cheese.

For lunch takeout, dad can enjoy the pastrami with a slowly marinated special au jus, piled high on a French roll, mustard and pickles. For something festive, fathers, family and friends can indulge in the chili bowl made with The Original Tops’ signature chili and diced onions, zucchini sticks or French fries. And, for something sweet, save room for a classic vanilla, chocolate or strawberry old-fashioned shake topped with a cherry.

The Original Tops will be open on Father’s Day, and it offers takeout and drive-thru from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Sunday.

The Raymond 1886

1250 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena

626-441-3136, theraymond.com

Celebrate this Father’s Day and let The Raymond 1886 prepare and pack the perfect meal to eat and enjoy at home.

The Raymond 1886 takes care of all the prep with its Father’s Day Grill Boxes for Four ($120), available for preorder only. It offers two T-bone steaks; four spiced fennel sausages; potato salad prepared with scallions, sesame oil, Old Bay and Kewpie Japanese-style mayo; and arugula salad for four with cherry tomatoes, red onion, sunflower seeds and lemon vinaigrette.

To celebrate dad properly, The Raymond 1886 is also serving four special 1886 Father’s Day cocktails to go (8-ounce serves two, $25; 16-ounce serves four, $45) served in Mason jars, including the old fashioned made of bourbon, sugar, Angostura bitters and orange oil; Brown Derby, prepared with bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice and honey syrup; the Medicina Latina made with tequila, lime juice, ginger syrup and spritz of mezcal; and the Don Lockwood, a spirit-forward old fashioned-style cocktail made with scotch, bourbon and maple syrup.

The Raymond 1886 also offers three signature 1886 cocktails to go (four services, $45) created by the 1886 Bar Team and served in Mason jars. Featuring the 1886 Negroni prepared with gin, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Campari and orange oil; the Remember the Maine comprised of rye whiskey, Dolin sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and absinthe; and the Fair and Warmer, a blend of rums, Dolin sweet vermouth, house curacao and lemon oil, cocktails are aplenty.

Wine and beer will also be offered for Father’s Day takeout, delivery and curbside pickup. Wines by the bottle ($30 each) feature one white wine—including The White Queen, chardonnay, Sonoma, 2017—and red wines by the bottle, including the Chateau Tournefeuille, Bordeaux, 2015. Beer is offered by the six pack ($12.50), including Day Beer Lager—brewed with Czech Sass, Hallertauer Mittlefruch Hops, 4.5% ABV—or the Stone Delicious IPA with Lemondrop and El Dorado Hops, 7.7% ABV.

The Raymond 1886 will be open on Father’s Day and is offering its signature takeout menu for takeout, delivery and curbside pickup from 4 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday to Sunday. The deadline to preorder is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18.

Blooming Business

The Garden Natives have landscape in their blood

Native Southern Californians Sydney Harrington and Amanda Claverie are passionate about plants and nature.      

Harrington grew up gardening, while Claverie was raised by a horticulturist mom and farmer father. The two ladies came together through a love of flowers and six years ago formed Garden Natives, a landscape design and maintenance business that specializes in California native plants.

“It’s very important to us to create ecosystems for the native birds and bees of the San Gabriel Valley,” Claverie says. “We’re trying to help sustain native flora and fauna of the area.”

Claverie and Harrington began this career performing landscape maintenance, which gives them a different outlook on design. They frequently arrive at yards to fix things that other landscapers have done incorrectly—maybe there’s a plant in the wrong spot, or a shrub that is too big for the space.

“A lot of landscapers are not really used to working with the plants,” Claverie says. “We had the experience.”

The transition from maintenance to design was a subtle one. It mainly came from their clients’ needs.

“The more we worked with clients doing maintenance, the more they asked for help with designing and planting,” Harrington says. “That turned into what we’re doing now. It was a snowball effect.”

Garden Natives provides drafting and design, California native and drought-tolerant landscaping, hardscaping and installation.

“Installation is just as important to us as the design,” adds Claverie, whose team is exceptionally trained in irrigation, lighting and design implementation.

The women serve Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Azusa, Bradbury, Covina, Duarte, East Pasadena, Glendora, La Canada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.

The two adore perennials and “things that bloom throughout the seasons.” Claverie and Harrington want to create a garden that has longevity and blooms throughout the year to attract hummingbirds, for instance. They take inspiration from the local foothills to create gardens that are welcoming.

“We bring a lot of sages and poppies,” Claverie says. “Just fun things like that. We’re also really into water features. We’re big on taking out grass and installing blooming gardens. Local butterflies, bees and birds not only need food, they need water. We try and incorporate the water features for the birds and bees so they can cool down. Plus, it’s fun to see the visitors.”

Harrington fell in love with yardwork as a child, when she would help her parents garden. She worked at floral shops in college and ended up employed by the Fullerton Arboretum for five years.

“I got a lot of my training on California native plants,” Harrington says. “I worked with a lot of plants I had never experienced before. From there, Amanda and I met doing flowers and we took off from there.”

Claverie has a background in floral design, having owned a floral business, Rosebud Floral Design, for 15 years.

“That’s where we get our floral inspiration and colors,” Claverie adds. “My mom was a horticulturist and my dad’s a farmer. He’s always in the dirt.”

Harrington says the design work inspires her, especially because she’s an artist on the side.

“I really enjoy watching something go from an idea or concept to the installation,” she says. “I love the plants and thinking about how things are going to look over time. I think that’s my favorite thing we do.”

A Splash Of Creativity

Huntington Pools’ staff enjoys a good challenge

Huntington Pools’ staff believes each project should have a unique balance and connection to the property’s overall landscape and architecture.     

“We view each of our watershapes as a unique work of art and use only top industry professionals, select finish products and proven technologies,” says owner Jeff Lokker. “This skillful combination of engineering, form and fit is the signature of our watershapes.”

Based in San Dimas, Huntington Pools specializes in designing and building outdoor environments, like pools, patios and barbecues, spas and landscaping—everything related to outdoor environments. The company services the greater Los Angeles area, including Pasadena, San Marino, Hancock Park, the Hollywood Hills and the Westside.

Lokker founded Huntington Pools in 1988, but he’s been in the business beyond that. The award-winning pool designer/builder grew up with a friend whose family was involved in the pool business. He helped build the pools, but never thought he would continue with it.

After high school, he entered the Army, in which he served from 1983 to 1987, in places like Italy and Central America.

“It was a good experience,” says Lokker, who was stationed at Fort Bragg. “I think it’s good for all young people to serve a little bit. A lot of people are scared, especially during wartime. When I was in, we were still in the Cold War. There wasn’t a lot of active events going on.”

He earned a degree from California Polytechnic University in 1994 and eventually founded Huntington Pools, a gold member of Genesis 3 since 2006. An international forum, Genesis 3 advocates for continuing education and higher standards in watershape design and construction. It is a subset of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

“I’m trying to develop and raise the skillsets of construction, especially in the pool industry” he says, “That put me on a path of education in my field.”

That proves Lokker’s passion for his occupation.

“If you’re going to do something, go in with passion, be educated about it and do good, quality work that’s going to play out in the long run,” he adds.

“Instead of blasting the media world with advertising, I think it’s better to have clients tell their friends about me. A client’s word is the best advertising I can do. I love seeing clients years later and they have a smile on their face when they talk about how much they love their backyard. I like seeing the long-term appreciation for things we do.”

Lokker also enjoys the creative end of his occupation.

“The ever-changing landscape of the pool industry is interesting to me,” says Lokker, whose business is a certified PebbleTec builder. “It’s an area in which I can be artistic and develop interesting designs. I can think outside of the box between concepts and materials.”

The most-challenging jobs, from a technical standpoint, are hillside pools where water is flowing from all edges of the pool. Many times, they are integrated with patio space and a cooking center.

“What I like to do is not just think about the pools but develop the whole backyard space,” he says.

‘Kids Don’t Drown Themselves’

Roxie Forbes’ parents stand up for their child and others

Roxie Forbes was the center of Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas’ universe. Some would say she still is.   

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the 6-year-old Pasadena girl’s death. She drowned at the Summerkids Camp in Altadena on June 28, 2019.

“It took me 41 years to bring a child into the world,” Matyas says. “She was everything we could have asked for and more. She was a wonderful, compassionate bright light. Her kindergarten teacher recently said to me the mold was broken after Roxie was made.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, on February 10, Forbes and Matyas paired with state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to introduce legislation—SB 955, the Roxie Rules Act—that aims to provide more oversight of California summer camps.

“Everything is on hold because of COVID-19, but it’s a robust bill,” Forbes says. 

In researching camp safety issues, Forbes and Matyas discovered that more than a million children attend thousands of California camps and these camps are largely unregulated. Summerkids Camp, according to the LA County Department of Public Health, did not have an operating license. (It will not hold camp this summer due to COVID-19, per a statement on its website.)

“As a father myself, I cannot begin to comprehend what has happened to the Forbes family,” Portantino says.

“Losing a child is the single worst thing that can happen to a parent. It hurts even more because we know that this was a preventable tragedy. I am very grateful that Roxie’s family is channeling their tremendous grief to make sure that tragedies such as this do not happen again. I want to commend them for all the work they have done to raise awareness and knowledge of the gaps in state law regarding recreational camps.”

Thirty-eight states—but not California—have some sort of statewide camp regulations. This bill will correct this omission in state law and bring camps in line with other regulated services such as day care facilities, Forbes says.

“We subsequently discovered that the vast majority of California summer day camps do not have child care licenses because the state and the counties do not require them to have such licenses,” Forbes adds.

“Overnight camps are required to have licenses, but the inspections and oversight for all camps are woefully inadequate. Multiple children have died over the last decade; more have been victims of sexual predating and other issues.”

The Roxie Rules bill requires camps employ more health and safety measures, including background checks, emergency action plans, mandated reporter training and implementation, health and aquatics supervisors, proper safety certifications for rifle ranges, ziplining, horseback, aquatics, rock climbing and other activities.

The couple established the nonprofit Meow Meow Foundation—named after Roxie’s feline comfort doll—to educate the public about this oversight.

The couple is developing California’s first end-to-end drowning prevention solution, and they’re suing DiMassa for wrongful death.

“We’re trying to be as careful as we can be,” Forbes says. “Not because of the lawsuit, but when you have a child die in a wholly preventable circumstance, a child care facility should take a step back, take a deep breath and say, ‘Wow.’”

Matyas adds, “Drowning is the second leading cause of death for 0- to 4-year-old children.

“It was stunning when we found that out as well. We are going to create the state’s first end-to-end drowning prevention solution. It’s going to describe the best swim lesson regimen, the best pool safety gear and swim safety gear, the best pool fence alarms, and life jackets. We’re putting together the curriculum so it can be taught in schools—public and private.”

Beloved

Roxie suffered from CVID, common variable immunodeficiency, a disorder that impairs the immune system. People with CVID are highly susceptible to infection from foreign invaders such as bacteria or, more rarely, viruses and often develop recurrent infections, particularly in the lungs, sinuses and ears.

“There are only 60,000 reported cases of CVID in all the United States,” Matyas says. “It’s very rare, and Roxie was diagnosed early.”

Forbes adds, “Her (genetic) mutation is the only one of its kind in the world.”

Roxie had a relatively normal infanthood, until around age 2, when she developed her first strep throat and pneumonia. Over an 18-month stretch, she suffered eight to 10 bouts of documented pneumonia.

Roxie was treated at home, where she received human adult antibodies each week, as directed through Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 

“She was the most normal-looking, running, jumping, happy kid,” he says. “You would never know.”

Roxie attended San Rafael Elementary School, where she took Spanish immersion classes, ballet and swim lessons. She once met a boy with an overactive immune system. Roxie had a nonreactive immune system.

The boy’s mother asked if Roxie could sit with him at the allergy table.

“She not only said yes, she never left his side for the entire year,” Matyas recalls. “It was truly fascinating to watch. The world lost a good one.”

Forbes adds, “We’re not just parents doting on a deceased child. What she did in her life was pretty extraordinary. If a child fell on the playground or was alone in the park, she was the kid who would put her arm around the child to make them feel comfortable.”

Lies?

Roxie went to Summerkids for 10 days, and on her last day, she had a little cold. Her parents dropped her off, told her they loved her and walked away. Last summer was her first camp experience.

The next time they saw her, she was on life support at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“No parent should have to receive the message we had,” Forbes says. “We rushed to the hospital and she was dead. Her eyes were half open. Her brain had long since died. We removed her from life support equipment the following day at Children’s Hospital.”

Forbes says Summerkids’ owner/operator, Cara DiMassa, showed up at the hospital unannounced and unwelcome and was disruptive. She abruptly left when she found out Roxie died, Matyas adds.

Afterward, Forbes says DiMassa “lied to the greater Los Angeles community about the cause of death and the circumstances that led to Roxie’s death.”

DiMassa says Roxie had a medical event, such as a heart attack, that led to an immediate death—not drowning. However, Forbes says the coroner clarified the cause of death—drowning or “near drowning,” “which only means that Roxie’s heart was restarted after 40 minutes, even though she had long since died.”

“All first-responder reports and other medical reports proved Roxie’s heart and organs were fine and did not cause any medical event,” Forbes adds.

Various documents—emails and first-responders’ reports—say the camp and pool staff looked away between 10 seconds and 5 minutes before Roxie was found face down floating in the pool. Three counselors admitted to running away from the scene after Roxie died, Forbes adds.

Forbes says DiMassa told parents via email not to pick up their children early the day Roxie died because she wanted to keep the day as normal as possible.

DiMassa sent a series of emails, according to Forbes, that were “rather shockingly full of lies.” The DiMassas said Roxie’s parents shouldn’t be contacted and only the camp would receive flowers, food and sympathy cards.

“It’s the classic, ‘Shut down the communication. We don’t want anybody to know about it,’” he recalls. “They still held on to our $3,000 until we screamed for it. They wouldn’t give us our money back. We had to ask for it five times.”

The Department of Social Services found DiMassa was operating Summerkids illegally, Forbes adds. Because DiMassa defied the ruling and continued to operate, the state’s attorney general and the Department of Social Services filed a complaint for injunctive relief to shut down Summerkids until it receives the proper licensing.

“For the children who were campers and the children who worked there—they were age 15 to college graduates—the DiMassa family was supposed to serve as role models,” Matyas says.

“When you allow a child to die and your response to that is, ‘It’s not our fault and there’s nothing we could have done differently,’ that doesn’t help anybody become a better human. They have to learn about responsibility or consequence of action. It hurts so very bad. It’s 11 months later and I have not heard ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Roxy was a really sweet girl.’

“There has been zero outreach from anyone involved with Summerkids. They shut us out from communications, and that makes our loss even more painful. These people care about their reputation more than a 6-year-old girl who died in their pool.”

One of DiMassa’s attorneys responded to an email to her by Arroyo Monthly. Steve Madison represents the regulatory litigation with the state attorney general. (A separate attorney, who did not return messages for comment, represents DiMassa in the civil suit.)

“Summerkids once again extends its deepest condolences to Roxie’s family,” Madison says. “This was a tragic accident. There were four certified lifeguards on duty that day. The sheriff ruled this was accidental. There are issues that will be litigated in the wrongful death suit that the family is bringing. I can’t comment more than that.”

In terms of the legislation, Madison says, it’s “apparent to many people that the state law and county code are a bit confusing and arguably ambiguous.”

Summerkids has operated for 42 years and is a member of the American Camping Association.

“We read the state law as clearly allowing day camps of the kind most of us are familiar with as operating that way—not as a child day care center, such as a preschool or nursery school,” he says.

“Certainly, that legislation has been referred to three separate committees before the pandemic. There remains quite a bit of work that needs to be done on it.”

The future

Forbes and Matyas are concerned for future campers—many of whom may be in harm’s way.

“When we were in the hospital looking over our dead daughter, we were still concerned about the hundreds of other children at the camp who were unattended,” Forbes says.

The couple just wants what’s best for other children who attend any sort of day camp, not just Summerkids.

“They’re ziplining over tree canopies, horseback riding and swimming,” he says. “None of these activities are regulated.

“Also, do they require background checks for campers or staffers? I know some of them have hired sexual predators. That’s what happened many, many, many, many times. I’ve heard lots of stories of sexual predators and rapes at camps. Nobody is going to know the wiser. How can you run a camp without an emergency action plan? Camps do not have plans to contend with fires, flooding or earthquakes. That’s frightening.”

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the couple says a handful of day and resident (overnight) camps are expected to be open. Those include Tom Sawyer Camp and Camp Adventurewood in Pasadena. Matyas and Forbes are concerned for the campers’ safety. Will the parents know if there’s, say, a COVID-19 outbreak there?

The Meow Meow Foundation, they say, isn’t trying to be “merely alarmist.”

“We implore you and the CDC to include day and resident camps as nonessential businesses in all future virus-related directives until detailed social guidelines are established,” they continue. “We also encourage you to meet with us to discuss ways by which camps can implement more effective health measures.”

The American Camp Association and its lobbyists have a long history of woefully inadequate accreditation processes that require camps to meet only 18% of established standards, they wrote. Accreditation fees represent a large share of ACA revenue. The ACA only inspects its camps every three to five years. Such lean accreditation requirements make it easier for camps to part with their money to gain a seal of approval. Parents rely on this ACA seal of approval when making camp decisions.

“We believe these parents deserve to be better informed, better protected,” they wrote. “We were deeply disappointed but not surprised to learn that the ACA recently opposed our foundation’s bill for reasons consistent with its efforts to prioritize profitability over proper health and safety protections.”

Matyas sums it up.

“Very simply, the headline of it all is kids don’t drown themselves. Adults allow children to drown.”

As Easy as Pie

This maple goat cheese, pear and apple galette is even easier

Personally, I find buttery, flakey goodies like homemade pies and galettes intimidating because I struggle with getting the right texture of the crust.

I’m afraid of the crust being soggy on the bottom but burnt on the top. With more time on my hands due to COVID-19 quarantines, I decided to overcome one of my little fears. I bypassed my own imaginary roadblock and pushed full steam ahead with my personal baking goals.

To my surprise, this pastry galette dough was easy to mix and smelled so buttery while baking that I was counting the seconds until I could get my first taste.

This was the comfort food I needed. The sweet, spiced goat cheese still has savory notes and pairs well with other firm fruits to suit whatever you have in your pantry. Now that I’ve mastered the galette dough, I plan to experiment with other combinations, such as a sharp cheddar cheese base with ham and eggs.

 

Maple Goat Cheese, Pear and Apple Galette
Hands-on time: 25 Minutes
Ready in: 1 Hour, 10 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
10 oz cold goat cheese
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp ice water
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 pear (Anjou, Bosch or other)
2 apples (Gala, Honeycrisp or other)
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
Garnish: maple syrup and fresh rosemary

1. Using a food processor, pulse together flour and salt until combined. Add butter and 4 ounces of goat cheese, pulsing until mixture is crumbly. Add vinegar and pulse to incorporate. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough comes together. Turn out and shape dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 ounces of goat cheese and maple syrup until smooth. Add brown sugar and nutmeg and whisk to incorporate throughout. Store in the refrigerator.

4. Cut pears and apples in half vertically—from top to bottom through the core. Remove cores from halves. Place fruit cut side down and thinly slice, leaving the top stem intact so fruit fans out.

5. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the baking sheet to assemble.

6. Spread maple goat cheese filling mixture onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch gap from the border all the way around.

7. Fan apples and pears out and place on top filling. Fold edges of dough over.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush egg wash onto dough, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

9. Bake until the crust is golden and bottom is browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes.

10. Garnish with maple syrup and rosemary. Best served warm or at room temperature.

The Urban Forager

Author Elisa Callow finds success with her first cookbook

Elisa Callow has a simple answer about how she pivoted in middle age from a high-profile local nonprofit consultant to a trained chef and cookbook author.     

“My mother was a horrible cook,” she says.

The Altadena-based Callow penned “The Urban Forager: Culinary Exploring & Cooking on L.A.’s Eastside” (Prospect Park Books). A top seller and critical success, the book is in its second printing. In December, LAist’s food editor Elina Shatkin called “The Urban Forager” an essential Los Angeles cookbook.

“It’s a collaborative community cookbook,” Callow says. “It’s my love of this city in a different form. I wanted a cookbook that would be a love letter to Los Angeles.”

The book reflects this intention and, though rife with recipes, it’s far more than a typical cookbook. It also functions as an effective primer for the home chef. At the outset, the book outlines necessary equipment and ingredients to keep handy at the counter, as well as instructions on how to build and maintain a pantry.

The recipes are then conventionally grouped into sections—breakfast and brunch; soups, pasta, rice and legumes; salads and vegetables; seafood and meat, and desserts. Each section is interspersed with a profile of a local chef—Minh Phan, Mario Rodriguez, Jack Aghoian, Rumi Mahmoud and Sumi Chang—along with illustrated lists of his or her food influences.

Of this group, only Phan of the highly regarded Porridge & Puffs and Chang, the founder of the original Europane bakery, are practicing professionals. The others are local enthusiasts and home chefs, all of whom also provide recipes.

“Urban Forager” concludes with an eclectic, alphabetized list of 57 local purveyors of food, ingredients and equipment. From the Aladdin Nuthouse to the Vallarta Supermarkets, the list is comprehensive and compelling. The book’s cover and binding are sturdy and kitchen ready and the text is interlarded with gorgeous, full-page color photos by Ann Elliot Cutting, as well as charming illustrations by Simone Rein.

Change of heart

Callow was in high demand as a consultant to nonprofit arts organizations before she wrote “Urban Forager.” Informally partnered with Hope Schneider, Callow’s first major project as a consultant was the curatorial revamp of the Natural History Museum, which resulted in the award-winning “Interplay” program. It brought various community stakeholders into direct conversation and response to specific exhibits at the museum.

Prior to that, she most notably served as the founding executive director for the now-venerable and -beloved Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.

Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, her progressively minded father Seymour Greben was a teacher in the LAUSD until The Red Scare and the Hollywood Blacklist compelled him to leave. Her parents separated and her father joined the Peace Corps and became a program director in Malaysia, where Elisa joined him at 14 and lived for three years. It proved to be an influentially formative sojourn.

“I loved being the ‘other,’ the foreigner in another country,” she says.

Callow found herself learning the customs and tastes of a country with three very distinct ethnic populations and traditions: Chinese, Malay, and South Indian, both Hindu and Muslim. She volunteered teaching art and helping to prepare meals at an isolated aboriginal hospital, where she recognized a very distinct community.

There, she learned about rice and dried fish.

“It was a beautiful experience,” she added.

The experience was her first taste of food as an indicator of culture and community.

With the Vietnam War raging, Callow followed her father back to the states and to Washington, D.C., where he served as the Peace Corps’ public information director. Upon the advent of the Nixon administration, her father was fired and the family returned to Los Angeles.

He was hired as the deputy director of the Department of Recreation & Parks for the city and later the director of the county department.

Callow finished school at Hollywood High and enrolled in San Jose State over Scripps because, “I liked the idea of going to a public university.”

She studied studio art and then earned a master’s in art education from Cal State Los Angeles. It was during the graduate program that she joined the Pasadena Art Workshops as executive director in 1983. The educational arm of what was then The Pasadena Art Museum (now The Norton Simon Museum), the program formed the basis and impetus for the purchase and renovation of the building and programming that would become The Armory Center for the Arts in 1989.

Even though Callow started cooking as a child, her real love of cooking came out of having her own children.

As she taught, consulted and advised her children on cooking and food, she realized she had a trove of personal recipes and culinary improvisations that might make a great book.

“What if I codified what I make up all the time,” she thought.

In two years, she assembled 200—as she says—poorly written recipes and consulted with her editor at Prospect Park Books. Callow took a six-month culinary course at The New School of Cooking, and the scope of the book continued to open up.

She began to “forage” actively in the community, meeting chefs, home cooks, vendors and suppliers as she fully recognized the local area as a unique nexus point of very diverse cultures.

Asian, Latino and Eastern European traditions abound and inevitably collide in this part of Los Angeles.  It’s this dynamic and diverse landscape that provided the influence and inspiration for the next turn of Callow’s journey.

“I know how to find out about community and this city honors community food,” she says. ”

 

‘Pantry super chargers’

These are short but sweet recipes that support the notion of maintaining a great pantry as inspiration for inventive, delicious and less stressful cooking.

“That’s why I call them ‘pantry super chargers,’” Elisa Callow says.

One recipe, as shared by her cookbook contributor and chef Minh Phan, involves foraging for geranium leaves, which add a delicious and rare flavor to the pickling liquor.

Crème Fraiche

This is an ingredient you will want to have around. It is easy to make, delicious and much less expensive than the purchased version. I use it on nearly everything that tastes better with a creamy tang; it is yummier than store-bought sour cream, as its texture and flavor are more delicate.

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream (avoid the ultra-pasteurized version, as it may never thicken and has a lot of the nutritional quality blasted out of it)

1/2 cup buttermilk

Method

In a tall pitcher or other large container, whisk together cream and buttermilk until incorporated.

Cover container with a light cloth or a couple of layers of cheesecloth and leave at room temperature. The mixture will thicken within one or two days depending on the room’s temperature.

Before using, give the crème fraiche a good whisk.

Store in the refrigerator, covered, up to two weeks. 

Minh’s Geranium Pickled Baby Onions

These are not only delicious, but absolutely beautiful, resembling tiny rose petals on a plate.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

I cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup rose geranium leaves, packed*

1/4 pound baby red pearl onions, outer skin peeled, and cut in half

Method

In a 3-quart saucepan over high heat, stir rice vinegar, sugar, salt and 1/2 cup water until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Place geranium leaves in the bottom of a clean 16-ounce glass jar.

Add onions, then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions and geranium leaves.

The onions will become flavorful within three to four hours. Keep in the refrigerator covered up to four weeks.

Making Homes Safe

Mold Zero rolls out nontoxic virus-eliminating process

Five years ago, Rusty Tweed, owner of Tweed Financial Services of San Marino, started a sideline business called Mold Zero.     

Using a unique patented nontoxic process, Mold Zero tackles and effectively destroys hard-to-get-at mold in homes and offices. This process involves two steps. The first is a “dry fog” that fills the indoor space and kills 99.99% of all microorganisms (virus, mold and bacteria). The second step is an antimicrobial nano coating that is sprayed onto the surface of all objects, walls, floors, counter tops, chairs, door handles, etc. 

“We even do the interior of cars and trucks,” Tweed says. “This will destroy any microorganism that comes in contact with it for at least 90 days.”

These processes were originally developed as a sterilant against virus and bacteria, but were adapted to kill mold, which is much harder to eradicate than a virus.

“Our many years of experience in eliminating mold has made us uniquely trained and experienced to knock out any and all pathogens, of which the coronavirus is only one of many,” Tweed says.

Recently with the onslaught of COVID-19 and its attendant fears, Mold Zero has been contacted to sanitize local schools, preschools, doctor’s and chiropractic offices, medical clinics, factories and large offices. It has the capacity to tackle indoor floor space from 1,000 square feet to in excess of 100,000 square feet. 

“We are energetically taking on a plethora of both everyday environments and many truly unique situations that are being presented by the possibility of contamination by the current pandemic,” Tweed says.

“We welcome these potentially dangerous situations, as we have the background and experience that is truly unique to this industry and know we can effectively deal with and cleanse any indoor space. We are passionate about using our processes to take out and eliminate any and all dangerous microorganisms to create a truly human-friendly indoor area.”

Building for Success

Southeast Construction Products continues its legacy

Quality materials are the foundation for successful construction, design and home projects, and with summer around the corner many people want their yards and outdoor living spaces to look their best. 

Southeast Construction Products has remained a consistent trusted resource for builders, contractors and the general public since it was founded in 1939. The company is one of the largest dealers and distributors for building materials in Southern California, with five locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In addition to its main store in South El Monte, it has four other locations in Chino, Covina, Monrovia and Whittier.

Southeast Construction Products was started by Guy Mattox, a manufacturer of concrete products who built and sold incinerators. After serving in World War II, he branched out into landscape materials and his company became a household name due to its excellent service and products. Over the years it has continued to expand its offerings, which include a wide variety of materials for all types of residential and commercial projects.

“We have a vast product line and competitive pricing,” says Robert Lewis, president of Southeast Construction Products. “We offer hundreds of different types of bricks in many different colors. We also have a full-service shop and a welding facility.”

The company specializes in high-end specialty materials and has more than 18,000 SKUs. Some of its most popular products are interlocking paving brick, landscape rock, synthetic turf and steppingstones. Other offerings include stucco products, safety equipment, tools, and pipe and fittings. Throughout the years, it has helped customers complete a variety of projects, including swimming pools, backyard décor, and interior and exterior walls.

“If we don’t have something, we can get it,” adds Brian Trestrail, the company’s vice president. “When a product isn’t available, we pride ourselves on being able to get it for our customers in a short amount of time. We’re the place that people come to when they need something.”

Another unique aspect of Southeast Construction Products is that it is 100% employee owned. Lewis and Trestrail have been with the company for 35 years, and the average tenure of an employee is around 18 years.

The company offers equipment rentals and services for construction jobs, such as concrete and plaster mixers. It also provides job site deliveries, and while it doesn’t do the installation portion of projects, it is happy to provide customers with a list of trusted referrals upon request. Its website includes a series of instructional videos from its vendors on different topics, ranging from installing curved brick steps to building an outdoor stone bar.

During COVID-19, Southeast Construction Products remains open for business but is following proper social distancing measures and operating under the guidelines of the CDC, state and local officials. It is taking orders over the phone and offering delivery as well as curbside pickup. Inside its stores, plexiglass screens have been installed for additional safety and all employees are required to wear masks. Additional masks are available for customers who don’t have their own masks.

“We’re doing our best to make the customer experience convenient and not so scary,” Lewis says. “We’re an essential business and want to be able to continue servicing our customers’ hardware needs in case they encounter any emergencies.”

Southeast Construction Products prides itself on its customer service, which remains at the heart of the business.

“It starts inside at the counter,” Trestrail says. “We’re not just salespeople—we are here to educate our customers and spend time explaining how products originate, how to use them, what their purpose is, and anything else they need to know. We love seeing our customers’ successfully completed projects.”

Last year, the company celebrated its 80th anniversary by hosting appreciation days at each store location for customers. In addition to discounts on items, it offered food, games and raffles, and many of its vendors were onsite to help with projects and designs.

“We are dedicated to being better owners every day and continue to expand our resources that we’ve built over the last 81 years,” Lewis says. “Our goal is to make it a positive experience for anyone who walks in our doors, and we’ve received nothing but accolades over the years. We go way above and beyond when it comes to winning people over and getting them to come back. We look forward to celebrating our 90th year of business.”