Showing posts tagged losangeles123
The Santa Maria Valley – My Favorite LA Getaway
Los Angelians often brag that one of the perks of living in Lala land is that you can ski in the morning and feel the warmth of the sun setting on the beach all in the same day…if you want to (no one ever does). The sentiment serves to show our variety of getaways. Whatever you love – sun, surf, sand, sailing, fishing, hiking, drinking, golfing – we have it all within a stones’ throw of our home. So when I tell you a two day trip to Santa Ynez is my favorite local vacation that means it’s more than just a wine and dine experience.
Made famous by the movie Sideways, The Santa Maria Valley, which lies just north of Santa Barbara, is literally about two hours from your doorstep. But let’s not use the scenes from the movie to paint our picture. In my opinion, aside from the gorgeous rolling hills used as a backdrop for the mens’ excursion, the movie doesn’t depict the culture you’ll find in the wine region at all. You can mimic their motel, grape gustling experience if you’d like, but I’d suggest staying at one of the beautiful inns, visiting the vineyards to hear the history of each label, and discovering world-renowned chefs who offer their cuisine in the comfort of a historic home. Sounds wonderful and it won’t break your bank. Want to hear more…
Below I offer a guide for the wine enthusiast, the outdoorsman, and everyone else in between.
Everything you’re about to read involves you being as comfortable as possible. Don’t pack heels, forget the blazers. All you’ll need is a t-shirt and shorts for the day and a button-down and blouse (if that) to pair with jeans. The area couldn’t be more laid back.
Now that that’s out of the way…..
THE MAP IS EASY
To get there, you’ll take the 101 North for a lovely drive up the coast. Two hours later, bam, they’re pouring you a glass of Pinot.
In the area are three tee-nincy towns: Santa Ynez is the smallest, Solvang is modeled on a Danish theme complete with windmill, and in Los Olivos you’ll find cute stores and fairs. All three less than five minutes away from each other so you will probably hit all three easily.
The vineyards (and an Indian casino I don’t recommend) reside in the coutryside surrounding the area. You can either hire a driver through your hotel/inn/motel, or safely visit a few without driving your car into the pasture.
WHERE TO REST YOUR HEAD
I have traveled the world and hands down The Santa Ynez Inn offers one of my favorite hospitality experiences. Since college I have been enjoying their establishment that looks luxurious, feels like home, and has a small staff attending to my every need. The antique décor is traditional and plush while the amenities in such a small spot will blow your socks off. Within your room you can sink into a large bed made with Frette linens, sip wine by the fire, rinse off the day in a marble shower or full-sized Jacuzzi tub, or relax in the steam shower. I know it sounds amazing, but you won’t want to stay in there all day long. Every day at five they offer local wines by the fire in the living room where you can meet other guests who have yet to let me down with their stories. You’ll dine in the same space in the morning for their complimentary breakfast that offers two distinct plates of deliciousness (my favorite being the banana pancakes and the cheddar quiche). In my opinion the Inn is part of the Santa Ynez experience worth every penny. My rates have ranged from $200 - $350 a night depending on the room.
There are other beautiful places to stay, but I have not wanted to venture elsewhere. The Fess Parker in Los Olivos is one of the other acclaimed Inns in the area with comprable rates.
If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, there are plenty available. The Inn is part of the vacay for me, but most would rather see more outside than indoors. You really can’t go wrong in the area.
ENJOYING THE GRAPES
MY two favorite brands of wine only offer tours of their vineyards by appointment, which I have yet to make because they have tasting rooms in town. You can find Au Bon Climat at Tastes of The Valley in Solvang and Byron at The Bench in Los Olivos.
Other than that, I can’t say there is a bad vineyard to visit. They are all beautiful and boast expansive views of the region. I’m a fan of Zaca Masa because of their Chardonnay and Vigonier, Firestone (as in Andrew Firestone) has a beautiful property, not only offers substantial wine, but also a great selevtion of grapeseed oil that I love to cook with.
If you travel up Foxen Canyon Road you can hit a lot of the bigger names in one swoop. Once you pass Los Olivos, you will hit Firestone, Curtis, Koehler, Fess Parker, Zaca Mesa, and finally end up a little further down at Foxen.
I would also suggest Rusack and Rideau because they are easy to access and offer great tastings.
Grab some cheese and crackers from the local market so you can spread out a picnic when you’re tummy starts to grumble during one of your tastings.
And don’t forget to stop off at a roadside tasting, like good BBQ, sometimes you’ll be surprised you’ll find your favorite where you would least expect it.
If you only want to explore the countryside via vineyard for one day, there are other ways to explore on your second day. You can stroll through the towns, possibly catch a local fair full of local artists and vendors. Horseback riding, cycling, and paragliding are also nearby. On my most recent visit, I went paragliding over a rolling hill that overlooked the ocean. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not at all scary or dangerous. You don’t even have to leave the ground to enjoy the glide and get a pretty good workout.
NOW IT’S TIME TO WINE AND DINE
What goes better with wine than food! Some of the world’s best culinary talents have opened establishments in small houses to create an intimate dining experience based on the local farms.
As one local told me, “the prices are all the same, you just have to decide what you’re looking for.”
The fan favorite restaurant of tourists and locals is The Ballard Inn. Don’t be scared off by formal menu, the food is approachable and you don’t have change into slacks.
Other places you should consider:
Now if you’re lucky, you’ve brought along your love and you’ll top this all off with great sex. What? It’s a romantic trip in my mind, but I have also visited with a group and my Mom, so it’s really open to everyone. You’ll see students from UCSB chatting up retired couples. There is no one too old, too young, too trendy, too broke, who can’t find something they love in The Santa Ynez Valley.
For more info, check out the region’s website.
Now pack up a duffel and hit the road!
(**Full Disclosure - “Friend” discount was given for my room at The Santa Ynez Inn because I have been coming for years. I was happy to translate that into a media discount and write about one of my favorite places in the USA. All tastings, meals, andexcursions were paid in full.)
Babycakes Moves West! (NYC and now LA)
My favorite “healthy” NYC bakery has finally made the move to the left coast, but for some reason settled down before they hit sand. Apparently the LES native insists on keeping “East” in their recipe! The trendy, gluten-free, wheat-free, sugar-free bakery is packed with downtown dwellers, but have left those of us living west of Hollywood salivating from afar. You would never know these sweet treats are better for your body than Sprinkles.
It’s definitely a step in the right direction, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a Weho location soon!
Los Angeles: 130 East 6th Street 213.623.5555
New York: 248 Broome Street (Btwn Orchard & Ludlow) 212.677.5047
My first article went up today on CultureMap.com - a digital guide to Houston’s best all laid out for you on an interactive map (very cool!). My lists below for people who have been to LA once or twice.
It’s time to pack up your burnt orange polos and head west to watch the Longhorns roll over the Crimson Tide. With all of the excitement, you might have forgotten to plan your extra day in LA. Being a native Houstonian, I know the bright lights of Hollywood and price tags of Rodeo Drive can be intimidating, so I’ve laid out a few itineraries you’ll enjoy and be able to navigate.
The Big Spender
• Enjoy a light and healthy bite at Urth Café for breakfast.
• Browse the best boutiques on Robertson Boulevard.
• Share a McCarthy salad at The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel.
• Pick up a Sprinkles cupcake on your way to Rodeo Drive to shop designer brands.
• Polish up with my favorite mani-pedi at Golden Nail ($40).
• Devour the city’s best at The Bazaar at The SLS Hotel, Mozza Osteria or Phillipe.
• Make your way to Chateau Marmont or The Montage for post-dinner drinks.
For the Fashionista
• Grab a nonfat mocha latte from Coffee Bean on your way to browse Robertson Boulevard.
• Power walk up an appetite to be satisfied at Toast or Joan’s on Third.
• Pray for sales as you shop on Melrose from West to East - Marc Jacobs, DVF, Madison Warehouse Sale Store, Fred Segal, and BCBG clearance store. Drive east on Melrose, turn right on La Brea and hit American Rag just south of First Street.
• Get all dressed up for the scene at Katana or Terroni.
• Flirt with the hottest Cali boys at The Roger Room, Winston’s, Guys and Dolls, Jane’s House or 1912.
Goofing Off With The Boys
• Fill a grumbling tummy at The Griddle (Local tip: Pumpkin pancakes are to die for).
• Take a hike up Runyon Canyon to see the city from up top.
• Devour an “animal style” burger In-N-Out (just like The Dude).
• Stroll Hollywood and see the stars.
• Take down 2-for-1 cocktails at Cabo Cantina’s happy hour.
• Make your way to Bar Marmont, Jones Hollywood or 8 ounce for a great meal.
• Hit up The Village Idiot afterwards. You’ll be able to get into this bar!
A Day Outdoors on The West Side (Don’t worry, it’s not too cold.)
• Either walk the beach boulevard on Venice Beach to people watch or enjoy a gentle morning hike up Temescal Canyon or through Will Rogers Park.
• Lunch at Café Montana or R+G on Montana Avenue.
• Stroll the shops on Montana Avenue.
• Enjoy drinks while watching the sunset at Casa Del Mar.
• Dinner at The Ivy, Cafe Montana, Father’s Office (supposedly the best burger, that’s all they have), The Wilshire
• After dinner: The rooftop restaurant at The Huntley
Custom Create Your Favorite Cake — Merengue Bakery
What a site for fashionista eyes…and tummy!
Check out this cake Mike’s bakery made the other day.
At Merengue, Mike says they can make ANYTHING into a cake. Looking at this, I believe him.
I guessed this beauty was easily $1k (after seeing that douche on Million Dollar Listing pay $700 for a 2D photo of himself on a cake. And yes, I watch that show).
Nope, it’s only $450!
With your holiday party on the horizon, a custom cake would be pretty impressive! Prices start at $80 - some chick just made her rapper boyfriend a mic for his birthday for less than a hundy.
Merengue is in Monrovia, but they deliver to Los Angeles. Cakes take a week from order to delivery/pick up.
15% off if you mention MoreThanMary!
For more info:
Staff@merenguebakery.com OR 626-358-5650, ask for George or Norma.
Readers have emailed recently asking about what to do on their upcoming trips to Los Angeles. So I offer you a weekend guide that hits all of the hot spots and makes sense geographically (which is VERY important considering the traffic).
Please note that when I say “shopping” that does not imply you have to purchase anything, it just means it’s fun to meander in that area and see the stores.
First of all, you should try to stay at one of these hotels:
- $$$ Beverly Hills - Peninsula, Montage, Four Seasons
- $$$ West Hollywood - SLS or The London
- $$$ Santa Monica - The Viceroy or Shutters
- $$ West Hollywood - The Chamberlain
- $$ Santa Monica - The Huntley
A Day in Hollywood
- Breakfast: The Griddle
- Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard
- Lunch: Baja Fresh, In-N-Out, or if you’re really being touristy hit Pink’s hot dogs.
- Afternoon: same as Weho below just reverse it. Start at American Rag
- Dinner: The Hungry Cat, Magnolia, Vinolio, Katsuya
- After dinner: there are clubs EVERYWHERE, and it all depends on which night you’re out. Ask a friend or the concierge for some recommendations.
A Day in West Hollywood
- Morning: Healthy Breakfast at Urth Cafe, shopping on Robertson (Kitson, Lisa Klein, Reiss, Chanel concept store, etc)
- Noon: Spin class at Equinox West Hollywood (guest fee is $25), shower at the gym
- Lunch at Toast, Joan’s on Third or Fred Siegel
- Afternoon: Shopping on Melrose West to East - Marc Jacobs, DVF, Madison, Fred Segal, BCBG clearance store. Drive east on Melrose, turn right on La Brea and hit American Rag just south of 1st street.
- Dinner: poolside with a view of the city at Asia de Cuba, Katana or Katsuya for a trendy scene, Koi is still my favorite for Japanese in the area, Mozza Pizzeria, Boa for steak and scene, Jones is hipster and American with and really good pizza. Phillipe (like the one in NYC) is the latest craze.
- After dinner: 1912 or Chateau Marmont
A Day in Beverly Hills
- Breakfast: coffee and muffin from Coffee Bean
- Shopping down Rodeo and Beverly
- Lunch: poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel ($$$) or the grilled chicken special (order extra hot) at Il Tramazzino on Canon. Pick up a cupcake at Sprinkles for dessert (or later).
- Afternoon: Barney’s and Neiman Marcus (see Charles for women’s shoes or Phil for men’s clothes)
- Mani/Pedi at Golden Nail
- Dinner at Maestro’s for Steak or Spago. SLS for unique experience. Expensive, but you have to splurge once right?
- After dinner: drinks at The Montage or Four Seasons.
A Day on The West Side/Santa Monica
- Breakfast - Coffee Bean or Peet’s
- Morning hike up Temescal Canyon or through Will Rogers Park
- Lunch at Frida’s in Brentwood Country Mart (order the chicken mole tacos in lettuce wraps, so good!)
- Shopping on Montana
- Drinks watching the sunset at Casa Del Mar
- Dinner at The Ivy, Cafe Montana, Father’s Office (supposedly the best burger, that’s all they have), The Wilshire
- After dinner: The rooftop restaurant at The Huntley
A Day in Santa Monica/Venice/Malibu
- Breakfast At Urth Cafe on Main Street
- Stroll Venice beach and people watch
- Lunch at the original Billy Blues BBQ in Venice
- Drive up PCH to Malibu
- Day at the beach and/or shopping at the Malibu Country Mart
- Dinner: For really good Italian Georgio Baldi ($$$ unbelievable food and you will see a celebrity), The Sage Room, or Tivoli Cafe in the Palisades. Nobu for Japanese. Moonshadows is a beautiful and fun spot, but the food is nothing special.
For a day at the beach: set up near The Pier in Hermosa Beach or Malibu.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention any malls or The Grove. You’re on vacation, please don’t go to the mall. I’m also not a big fan of Westwood, so I don’t see it as a “must.”
And… you really should find time to hit up In-N-Out Burger at some point. Don’t forget to order your burger “animal style.” :)
What are you doing tomorrow night for dinner?
Fondue sounds fun to me. Bread, cheese, wine…how can that not be fun?!
Breadbar just opened Hatchi Roku Four Elements, a concept restaurant in Santa Monica where different chefs come in to offer pre-fixed menus inspired by the elements earth, wind, air, and fire.
Their first featured chef Eda Vesterman is also a dietitian. Tomorrow she’s offering up a cheese fondue from The Beverly Hills Cheese Shop. A sommelier will be on hand to pair wine for you.
Something fun and different to consider for your Friday night.
WHEN: Friday, December 4th 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
WHERE: Hatchi Roku, 602 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90402
RESERVATIONS:$25 per person. call (310) 395-9490
(Full Disclosure: My dinner will generously be comped by restaurant for a review.)
Restaurants become a standard due to their food and clientle. And when the spot is always hot, sometimes the food slips. But when you’re calling weeks ahead to get a reservation and paying big bucks for spaghettti with meat sauce, you want it to be damn good.
The other night I ate at Dan Tana’s - a legendary restaurant in LA - and the food was horrible. I was served an unrecognizable “white” fish and friends dined on Italian classics that tasted like Stouffer’s frozen tv dinners.
After I made the list below I realized the majority of the local favorites are still reliable, but we have to keep demanding the best from them. Just because Halle Barry is sitting next to you or Robert De Niro owns the joint does not make chewy gnocchi acceptable.
Here I offer a list of LA’s most popular Italian restaurants
Salivate and Stargaze at:
Don’t Bother Setting Foot In:
“I really need a massage,” I think to myself almost daily.
“I can’t afford that,” is what crosses my mind next.
But you know what, I can actually. And so can you.
My friend Peter referred me to this place on Olympic and Barrington that gives THE BEST shiatsu massage for $40 an hour! And I’m not just saying this, I’ve had one. It’s amazing. Just what you need after a long week.
It reminds me of my place on the UWS I went to in NYC. Same deal.
Both are a diamond, looking pretty rough, but truly a gem!
Acu-Therapy Pain Clinic - 11674 W Olympic Boulevard @ Barrington (310) 473-5533
UWS spot (name?) - Amsterdam between W74/W75 (212) 877-2000
Vinolio - Los Angeles, CA
This newcomer to the Hollywood restaurant scene has been written up for it’s late night grub (it’s open until 4am), but I’m here to tell you it has more to offer you than just post-party pizza.
Wedged between Beauty Bar and some other hot spot, Vinolio is not what you would expect to find hiding on Cahuenga. Walking in, you feel like you’ve been transported to a historic European cafe. I say “European” because although the fare is Italian, the owner is French, and the bar references one of my favorite Notting Hill pubs. If the inside is crowded, you can find a quiet refuge on their delightful terrace in the back.
Whatever the interior suggests to you, there is no doubt the food is classic Italian. A affordable menu of rustic favorites is topped off with several delicious specials and a notable wine list. And for those of you who are health conscious, like yours truly, they have a flour-less (aka pasta-less) roasted veggie lasagna appetizer that is to die for.
I wouldn’t say this is a “must” for LA visitors, but definitely a no-brainer over In ‘n Out or Mel’s for your late night snack. For dinner, locals who love Magnolia and The Bowery down the street will enjoy finding a new affordable feast at Vinolio.
Vinolio - 1634 North Cahuenga Los Angeles, CA 323-856-0888
Katsu-ya(s) - Los Angeles
What once was a hidden treasure in the valley in a strip center next to Domino’s and a mom-and-pop pet store has exploded into one of LA’s trendiest restaurants. Yes, nightlife extraordinaire Sam Nazarian knows a good thing when he sees it. Instead of letting it be, he injects the concept with millions of dollars and a Philippe Starck design to make it explode across the greater Los Angeles area.
For those of you who live in LA, Katsu-ya is not front page news, and it’s far from Sam’s latest offerings. But, I think you’ve noticed, it’s still bumpin’.
Personally I’m a fan of the original, which I wrote up here. Most locals would agree with me. It’s still the best.
But for people visiting LA, I think the SBE Katsu-yas exemplify LA. First of all, the original’s signature dishes are replicated to a T. Albeit they cost twice as much, but you’re paying for atmosphere, which is always teeming with celebs, producers, hot actresses, and plenty of wanna-be douche bags. It’s the pu pu plater of LA culture! Kidding…kinda.
Anyway, as much as the locals trash it, they’re always there. The food is good, the people are pretty, and the vibe is alive.
Locations include: Brentwood (my favorite), Hollywood (filled with underage party peeps), Downtown, and…Glendale.
Dishes I devour: spicy tuny app, rock shrimp tempura, baked crab hand roll, black cod. Yum!
Tomorrow night friends and I will be heading down to the beach for the last night of the Twilight Dance Concert Series on Santa Monica pier. Patti Smith apparently was a hit a couple of years ago, so she will be closing out the season.
I’ve never been before, but tons of people have told me it’s a fun thing to do with a group of friends and a picnic basket.
Sounds like a good time to me!
Christine, my long time friend and manicurist, is featured in this month’s Alllure for her meticulous mani-pedi.
If you live in LA, stop by Golden Nail for a big bang for your $40.
Golden Nail: 9893 S. Santa Monica, Beverly Hills (across the street from The Peninsula). 310-788-9027
Comme Ca - Los Angeles
I’ve heard about Comme Ca for a while now - since Octover 2007 to be exact. Before dinner I twittered “I hope it’s not comme ci comme ca.” Apparenlty I jinxed the joint because that was exactly my feeling about the whole experience.
We walked into quite a scene (which is to be expected) and sat down to a bar menu packed with apothecary-style drinks and an impressive French wine-by-the-glass list. Good start, if that’s what you’re into. I am not a fan of either, but I like that my company always enjoys the effort they have put into their selction of people and beverages.
Another pet peeve I have is ridiculously loud restaurants. I have no interest in raising my voice to talk to the person sitting next to me. Obviously this happens at countless restaurants, I just usually don’t go back to them.
Especially after being served a meal like ours. The crab cake appetizer was mediocre and both entrees (halibut and chicken) were dry as a bone. I mean, pass the ketchup dry. Jeff had a sauce to dip his chicken in, but my halibut was pretty much unedible. So, I didn’t eat much of it - so disappointing. The hot waiter then politely asked me if I enjoyed the meal.
Speaking of the waiter, I loved his uniform (pictured on the top right). I chose this picture to post because the bar menu and waiters’ outfits were basically all Comme Ca has to offer. Another popular spot with a poorly executed menu that will
surely hopefully fall to wayside soon. It has survived 2 years now….
Bottom line, not worth your time or your tummy.
Food + Lab (Los Angeles)
Think Urth Cafe for those of us who want to eat healthy in WeHo without the celeb scene. And the food is better.
Our Lunch - Part 1
Me: Chicken curry salad sandwich on raisin pecan bread.
Andy: Grilled chicken (with amazing flavor), edamame, cranberry, and pecan salad over spinach with house dressing.
Oh so tastey and healthy…well…Then there’s part 2.