Food, art, OC news: Looking back on 2021

By Kathryn Barnes

Cafe Vida in Culver City opens their patio for sit-down diners and offers takeout, July 2020. “I'm hopeful that landlords can have empathy for their restaurant tenants so these wonderful spaces that are cornerstones of the community can keep going,” says Eater LA’s Mona Holmes. Photo by Amy Ta.

The holidays give you a chance to slow down for a moment, take a sip of mulled cider or egg nog, and reflect on the year gone by.

We asked our Greater LA contributors — Eater LA Reporter Mona Holmes, CARLA Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Preston Zappas, and LA Times Columnist Gustavo Arellano — to sum up 2021 in their respective fields of dining, art, and Orange County, and share their wishes for the new year.

Holmes: “I was just remembering a year ago where we were scrambling to write stories about the second surge of COVID, where restaurants were completely eliminating indoor and outdoor dining. Then June opened everything up. It's hard to get a reservation. It's challenging to secure staff. You can definitely see that people are out and about, and that we love to see.

I'm hopeful that landlords can have empathy for their restaurant tenants so these wonderful spaces that are cornerstones of the community can keep going. Number two, make it so that I can get a reservation at my favorite places because, oh my god, it's been really hard this year. Certain restaurants you got to get on a waitlist or just get in there very early. Number three, telling everyone to go to Hollywood again to go to these amazing new restaurants (like Horses and Grandmaster Recorders) that feel grand and new and really fresh.”

Preston Zappas: “Early on in 2021, museums were able to reopen, a lot of these canceled or postponed exhibitions were able to come on, so I feel like in a way, it was sort of a catch up year. We got to see art in person and celebrate that again. The Jennifer Packer show was one of the first museum shows I saw at MOCA, Pipilotti Rist at MOCA, Cauleen Smith at LACMA, a lot of shows that really highlighted being there.

There's a ‘Gallery Climate Coalition’ of a bunch of LA galleries that's trying to figure out how the art world and the gallery world responds to climate change and better practices. My hope for this coming year is that we don't forget those community and environmental initiatives that are so important to our ecosystem and health as an art world going forward. I just hope we remember that community and mutual support.”


Jennifer Packer, “Idle Hands,” 2021, oil on canvas, 90 x 84 inches (228.6 x 213.36 cm). Photo courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, Corvi-Mora, London.

Arellano: “You start and end with COVID [for 2021], specifically with all the ‘pandejo’ here in Orange County that remain. The people who still believe coronavirus isn't real still are protesting at City Council, Board of Supervisors meetings, school board meetings. … So as Omicron starts bubbling up, let's just hope that the Christmas letter of this year doesn't turn into a goodbye letter for next year.

My wish list is always for Orange County to continue to join the 21st century instead of the mid 1950s, where too many people still believe we belong, a time when there was no diversity. Bad wacky, stay away from Orange County, good wacky, continue to thrive and blossom.”


LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano coined the term ‘pandejo’ this year to mean people who are willfully ignorant about coronavirus and proudly wear it as a badge of honor. He says it’s a miracle that his papi, Lorenzo Arellano, agreed to get the COVID-19 vaccine this year. Photo by Gustavo Arellano.

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