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JewishJournal.com

May 20, 2011

Valley and Proud: Valley Savvy

http://www.jewishjournal.com/tribe/article/valley_and_proud_valley_savvy_20110520

Karen Young Photo by Judith A. Proffer.

Karen Young Photo by Judith A. Proffer.

If it’s happening in the San Fernando Valley, chances are Karen Young knows about it. Not only that — she’s probably already been there, chatted with the bigwigs and written up a whip-smart recap for her thousands of online readers.

Young, a spirited connoisseur of all things local, has her finger perpetually on the pulse of what’s new and hot in the Valley. With a talent for trend spotting and a knack for neighborhood news, Young keeps locals in the know through My Daily Find (MyDailyFind.com), an online lifestyle magazine and daily e-mail blast that spotlights food, arts and culture in the 818.

Launched in June 2009, My Daily Find is now celebrating two years of “rolling out the red carpet for community,” as Young likes to say.

“People are interested in the latest and greatest in the San Fernando Valley,” said the Jewish mother of two, chatting in the family’s Studio City home. “It’s not your grandma’s 818 anymore. You can live, play and shop here. I wanted to give readers a sense of place and community — a sense that they can take advantage of all the Valley has to offer.”

These days, that includes everything from bicycle tours and tony boutiques to food-truck festivals and gourmet fare by star chefs from “over the hill.” Young features a new “find” every day, reviewed by her or one of a revolving cast of writers, with recurring columns on music, cooking and books sprinkled in.

And although Young occasionally features “My Celeb Finds” at Valley venues, her main focus, she says, is “making local businesses the celebrity.”

Karen’s Daily Jewish Find

Karen Young remembers how, back in the late 1970s, she dropped by Falafel Palace in Northridge before a Bruce Springsteen concert. These days, traversing the Valley to and from New Community Jewish High School (son Adam just graduated, and daughter Rachel will be a sophomore), Young has plenty of time to hit her favorite Jewish haunts.

First up, Brent’s Deli in Northridge. “Hands down, the best deli in the Valley,” Young opines. “Love their fish platter at brunch.”

Next, Cambridge Farms supermarket in Valley Village, which boasts gourmet and homemade kosher foods. “They have everything you could ever want,” including kosher sushi and a fresh, hot deli section, she says. “It tastes like food from your Israeli grandma.”

If Young is in the Encino-Tarzana area for lunch, she’ll often stop at Itzik Hagadol Grill, Aroma Bakery and Café or the Hummus Bar & Grill. And on the way home, she’ll swing by Super Sal Market to stock up on fresh and frozen meats — enough to feed the family, with scraps leftover for her rescued Bichon Frise, Lucy.

“I like finding new places and new things to do — that has always been my hobby,” the career entrepreneur said. “It’s all about discovery.”

Growing up in Granada Hills in the 1970s, Young discovered early how culturally different the Valley was considered from the rest of Los Angeles. She remembers the “Valley Go Home” mentality on Malibu beaches and the enormity of family trips into Hollywood.

“Going into the city was a big deal,” she said. “We’d go to Canter’s Deli on Fairfax, and it felt very far away because there was such a split between the city and the Valley.”

But Young is proud of her family’s Valley roots. Her father, Edwin Young, was vice president for academic affairs at Los Angeles Valley College, dean at Pierce College and president of L.A. City College. Her mother, Ruth Young, taught and was a school psychologist on several L.A. Unified School District campuses. Both still call Granada Hills home. Young and her brother attended Valley Kindershule and Mittelshule, a weekend Yiddish-culture school, at the recently shuttered Valley Cities Jewish Community Center.

“The Valley has always been a good place to grow up because the schools, parks and religious institutions create a strong sense of community,” Young said. “There’s something for everyone here, which makes the Valley quite family friendly.”

After graduating from UC Berkeley, Young launched a successful career in public relations. She later parlayed her love of writing into covering local news for Sun Community Newspapers, where she worked her way up to editor. When the company folded in 2008, she faced the question plaguing many newspaper veterans nowadays: Where to go next?

“There was this niche that needed to be filled — no one else was putting a spotlight on the Valley,” she said, or tracking its transformation from the hinterlands of yore into a sophisticated commercial center with trendy appeal.

“I wanted to put a face on the 818 and let people know it’s actually a thriving, progressive community,” Young said. “People told me, ‘You should start your own business online and put your ideas out there.’ ”

Two years later, MyDailyFind.com attracts about 30,000 visitors per month, from Toluca Lake to Westlake Village, above and below the 101 Freeway. The site gets hits from 127 countries, with subscribers in Australia, Canada and England. Most tellingly, Young even has readers from — gasp! — over the hill.

Karen Young checking out the finds at Emerald Forest Gifts in Studio City. Photo by Judith A. Proffer.

On the site, readers can find out which local bars are screening the next NFL game, which craft boutiques are stocking that perfect holiday gift and which pop-up eateries are setting up shop in town. The Tasty Tidbits section highlights restaurant deals and special menus. And for a zingy new libation for your dinner party, check out The Weekend Cocktail, a new recipe mixed fresh each week by local caterer Gwen Kenneally.

Young relates with relish how she has scooped TastingTable.com, DailyCandy.com and even the Los Angeles Daily News on the latest Valley happenings. Fox 11’s “Good Day L.A.” has called My Daily Find the “go-to site for everything in the Valley” on its “Maria Surfs the Web” segment.

But what’s in vogue isn’t her only focus. Young also carries a torch for the Valley’s textured ethnic communities and gives plenty of ink to off-the-grid Persian, Peruvian and Thai joints. In fact, KABC interviewed Young last year after she posted a 2010 World Cup viewing party roundup with a twist — not a single sports bar on the roster. Instead, she listed ethnic eateries from Brazilian to South African, to highlight the 818’s multicultural milieu.

Young isn’t too concerned about getting press, though. She’s already checking out the next big thing.

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