Saturday, March 28, 2009


There is a new bakery in Beverly Hills called Fulfilled, which was opened and is run by the charming Susumu Tsuchihashi, a native Angeleno with Japanese parents and an affinity for contemporary Japanese culture.

After chucking a career in consulting, he decided that his real passion was culinary, so he studied Japanese cuisine before deciding to open his own imagawa-yaki shop. Imagawa-yaki are traditional Japanese waffle-like buns that are usually filled with sweet red bean paste (like mochi) and then baked. Susumu's innovation was to stuff them with all sorts of different ingredients like banana and nutella, goat cheese and honey and figs, and chorizo and peppers. He's also given them awesome menu names like Karaoke Kitty and Honey Yakuza (my favorite). The other great think about them is that they don't contain oil, and they're not fried, so they're relatively low fat. Plus, they all ring up under $4, so they make an inexpensive little lunch or snack.

Finally, a pastry to knock those darn cupcakes off their celebrity dessert pedestal!

Take a look at the video I made during my visit, where Susumu explains what led him to open up his own ima shop, and what new recipes he's working on.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Staying at Mama Shelter

It looks like I will be spending a night on my upcoming trip to France at the new, much heralded Mama Shelter Hotel in Paris. Every travel outlet has been talking about the new hotel that has recently been opened by the family that owns Club Med, and designed by Philippe Starck. The rooms are supposed to be minuscule, even by Paris standards, and the it is a ways out of the city center in the 20th arrondisement on the far side of Pere Lachaise, but it's definitely worth a look, I think. Especially for the price of 79 euros...

The New York Times apparently thought so as well, because they published their review of it this week, and I wrote about it for HotelChatter:

Friends and Neighbors Dinner at the San Ysidro Ranch

When I was in Santa Barbara last week for a quick wine-tasting blitz, I stayed with friends who live in Montecito near the fabled San Ysidro Ranch resort. They told me about a special weeknight deal the restaurants there, Stonehouse and Plow & Angel, offer. For $37 you get a three-course prix fixe with huge portions and attentive, world-class service. If you're lucky, you can even sit on the outside patio under the olive trees, with an old-fashioned oil lamp illuminating your table. It's heaven on earth:

Even Santa Barbara Feels the Recession

In a sign that the recession--or "decession" as I heard it referred to the other day in a cross between depression and recession--is hitting every sector of the economy, brands across the travel and tourism industry are slashing prices, running specials, and basically doing anything to get their hands on even a little bit of your cash...or at least just keep from going out of business. The latest deal I reported on was this one at the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara:

Wine and Cheese Night at the Huntley Hotel

Just a quick story about a new monthly wine-and-cheese night at the chi-chi Penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Hotel. The cheese part at least sounds good, and is curated by former Patina maitre fromager Andrew Steiner. The $40 is a little steep though:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hotel Biron: The Best Wine Bar Ever

Well, perhaps that's an overstatement since I've never really seen a wine bar that I didn't like, but still Hotel Biron holds a special place in my heart. It is so distinctive, from it's Metro-like bright orange sign, to its cramped cellar-like main room, to the crappy art on the walls. Sigh, it's just like a little piece of heaven on a dark, forboding alley in San Francisco's Hayes Valley. See what else I have to say here:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Golden State and Baby Blues BBQ

As I gear up for my trip to France, I'm working overtime to cover a bunch of new restaurants cropping up in LA so my editor at has reviews to release while I'm away. On Friday night, a coterie of my young lady friends accompanied me to two new places called Golden State (on Fairfax) and the WeHo edition of Baby Blues BBQ (where I saw an old college friend!), and helped me evaluate the two very different restaurants. The reviews are still to come, but I wanted to share this photo of the condiment sauces at Baby Blues--the one on the left is called XXX "Porn" Sauce, and the one on the right is the hottest sauce this side of La Brea.

Meanwhile, below take a look at my little video outside Golden State where I explain why it's named so...


Friday, March 20, 2009

Porto Cervo Wine Festival

My editor at HotelChatter assigned me a piece this week about April's Porto Cervo Wine Festival in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia. It's one of the stories about a place I would actually love to go, and as my editor put it in her email to me: "God, I want to go!!"
Alas, I don't think either of us will make it, especially me, considering I'll have just returned from France a few days earlier, but one can always dream...especially because all the hotels in the area seem to belong to the Starwood Group now, sort of like a little corporate colony, so who knows, maybe I'll be able to use my Starpoints there sometime. In the meantime, salud!

LA's Best Cheese Stores

I regard my idea to compile lists of LA's best cheese stores and the restaurants with the best cheese menus in the city as semi-genius. Little did I know that I've gotten more responses to these stories than to almost any other one I've posted, except my Napa and Sonoma guides. Turns out, everyone really does love cheese!

Review: AK in Venice

I was finally able to pop into AK on, predictably enough, Abbott Kinney in Venice for a review of former Four Seasons' Chef Conny Andersson's new California-Scandinavian fusion-y menu. He sent us out a tasting menu that was mostly fantastic, especially the herring three ways. For the full review:


So apparently this art gallery/tasting room/furniture showroom/picnic spot has been getting a lot of play in magazines like Food & Wine, and little old me got to write about it for Jaunted!

The Ultimate Wine Country Getaway

Here's another package I reported on this week, though I don't know who has the money to pay for things like this anymore!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tasting at Carr Winery

The last winery of the day on Wednesday in Santa Barbara was Carr Winery, where Tasting Room Manager Laura DiLuvio hosted us and answered all our questions about the winery, the wines, and just what she loves about Pinot Noir...


How to Taste Wine Like A Pro

Here's a quick tutorial on how to look like a pro while having fun tasting wine. And boy, were we having fun tasting wines in Santa Barbara, even if a few of them weren't so great!


Beer Tasting is Fun

Do you know why beer tasting is the most fun kind of tasting? There's actually a taste-technical reason for it, which I explain in this video taken at the Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria during my recent trip up to Santa Barbara. My friend, Emily Nordee, graciously agreed to be my video sounding board. Take a look!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cube Marketplace

My friend Julia suggested I try Cube on La Brea for a meal since the chef, Erin Eastland, is one of those rare female food prodigies, and is bound to have a lasting impact on LA's food scene. Not only that, but the cheese menu is incredible, a must try!

My Scoop on Cecconi's

Cecconi's is one of the most buzzed-about restaurants in Los Angeles these days thanks to its recent opening, the fact that several B-list celebrities have already eaten there, and its membership in the Soho House Group of properties.

Upon calling to request a review tasting, I was promptly told that they are not officially having press in to the restaurant yet, which only whetted my appetite (ah, puns!) further to try the menu. Thankfully I found satiation when my new friend Jim suggested we get lunch there and I got to be as judgmental as I wanted while wearing the untainted smugness of a civilian foodie.

I'd love to hear others' opinions on the place, but in the meantime, here's mine!

Alembic Bar

Bar Week on Jaunted continues with my entry on Alembic Bar in San Francisco. This place was a suggestion from a friend of mine named Erik, also known as Erik with a "k"...which is really helpful and not redundant when you are talking about the two of us in conversation rather than in writing where the distinction would be immediately clear.

Anyway, Erik is one of the few people whose taste I trust implicitly, and he suggested this gem of a bar with one of the most innovative cocktail menus I've seen:
Stay tuned for pieces on my all-time favorite wine bar, Hotel Biron, and Ma(i)sonry in Yountville.

Barbarella Bar

This week is "Bar Week" for me on Jaunted, since I'm writing about four, yes four, different bars. This is the one in LA that I recently visited, and which is owned by the same folks behind the Bungalow Club. They get props for decor, but the food? Not so much.
Their humongous fruity drinks, however, did make an impression, and Alex and I managed to suck down two each. The other fun part of the evening? Watching the cougar birthday party unfolding at the bar, where a bevy of mature beddies were sharpening their claws in preparation for an evening out on the prowl.

It's Midnight at the Oasis

Normally I sort of avoid Palm Springs. I'm not a sedentary or relaxed person, and I don't staying too long in places where there is nothing to do except sit in the sun or golf. That and the fact that I've already spent months of my life there accumulated over countless spring breaks, family vacays, and overnights, means that it is not high on my priority list of places to visit. I couldn't, however, resist talking about the charm of this particular package at the Colony Palms Hotel. It's only $99! And the hotel was built by the Purple Gang! How awesome is that?

Algodon Mansion Buenos Aires

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm becoming HotelChatter's resident Buenos Aires expert. That will probably only deepen as I work on an upcoming little series on the city for HC's sister site Jaunted next week. I do love the place, so I'm happy to keep writing about the goings on in the city of fair airs, but I really hope that I get to go back again soon and try out some of the newer places I've been reading about, like the imminent opening of the Algodon Mansion 10-room ultra luxe hotel:

BOND at the Langham Boston

Most bars are lowering their prices these days, just hoping to get patrons back on their barstools, but BOND at the Langham in Boston is keeping prices high and hoping that a few cheekily named drinks will draw them in. It's worth a shot, so to speak:

Tango with Hilton

This is kind of a funny deal that I had to write about. I don't know who, other than hardcore tango enthusiasts, would go for it, but you never know:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I am not much for St. Patty's Day, but I do love a few facts about St. Patrick's story...namely the fact that he was captured by pirates when he was a teenager.

Turns out St. Patrick was actually Welsh, lived in Ireland in captivity, then once he gained his freedom, he returned to the scene of his imprisonment to convert the local population to Christianity. He is also the patron saint of engineers. So instead of drinking green beer, let's build him a bridge or something!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Week in Articles

As usual, here is my weekly review of links. It was a pretty productive week--I have a feeling all of March is going to be similarly busy before I hit the skies to France--and included a few restaurant reviews, some hotel deals, and just a smidge of snarky analysis of a fellow food writer. Please enjoy!

Riva is the new Italian restaurant from Jason Travi and Thierry Perez (the team behind Fraiche in Culver City). It's just around the corner from the 3rd Street Promenade, and has a great Italian wine list, as well as some snappy seafood and a pleasing pizza bar:
Galanga Fusion: Finally! A decent Thai restaurant within walking distance of me:

The Wide World of Warhol: When I was abroad in college, there was a huge Warhol exhibit traveling around Europe, and I caught it in Paris, Brussels, Rome, Madrid and Bilbao. I thought it was pretty impressive, until I read about this new exhibition with over 250 of his works...which just happens to be showing at the Grand Palais while I'll be in Paris next month! Just not on Tuesdays:

Axel Hotel Buenos Aires: This is the much-heralded gay hotel chain started in Barcelona and opening franchises in Berlin and Buenos Aires. The BA one opened last year just after my visit, and I thought it was time to cover it on HotelChatter:

And now, the article where I really took some free rein. The entire foodie community in LA was abuzz last week over LA Times Food Critic S. Irene Virbila's rare four-star review of Jose Andres's Bazaar at the SLS. Here's my brief resume of her breathless encomium:

Restaurant Gardens!

No, I'm not talking about a garden to eat in. I'm talking about a eat. That's right, several restaurants around Los Angeles have started their own vegetable and herb gardens as a way of taking farm-to-table cuisine to the next level, and provide their customers with the freshest seasonings available. With LA's temperate climate, it's possible to grow all sorts of different things right on the premises, and at all different times of year since our seasons don't really correspond to more traditional calendars.

I'm in the process of researching and writing a story about them for, so I had a chance to pop over to blue on blue at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills to see what they're growing on the roof. I also did a little video interview with Ryan Hoffman, the Food and Beverage Manager, about what they have planned next for their little edible nursery, so take a look!