Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stir Fry 10-1-09

This week's roundup of dining deals and restaurant specials just went up on Included? Some soup-can philanthropy from Cheesecake Factory, a chef shuffle at blue on blue (henceforth oliverio) at the Avalon Hotel, and a few numerological deals from Katsuya and Checkers Downtown...quite the assemblage!

Bar Marmont's Fall Menu

I admit, I haven't spent too much time at the Chateau Marmont since I don't really get to hang out with celebrities, and the valet parking costs around $20. Theoretically, I could walk there since it really is just a few (uphill) blocks from me, but it just seems like such a pain. Bar Marmont used to be popular as a drinks date destination for aspiring agents and producers, and was even a little divey, but now there seems to be a new chef and a new menu taking shape and making the place a little more upscale to match the rest of the property.

I wrote about the dishes previewing on their fall menu in this HotelChatter piece yesterday. And what do you know? I kind of felt myself wanting to stop in there to sample a few of the dishes myself...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pasadena Wine Festival

This was just a quick preview I wrote for the upcoming Pasadena Wine Festival on October 3-4 at the Los Angeles Arboretum. Looks like it could be fun, though the ticket prices seem a little high. I'm interested to see which wineries will be there beyond the few that they included in their informational packet, so I'm hoping to get over there at some point this weekend!

Farmhouse Inn Saunas

The Farmhouse Inn is a fantastic (and expensive) little place in the beautiful town of Forestville, right in the heart of Sonoma's Russian River Valley. I wrote about their new Barn Rooms last month, but on a trip up to the area last weekend, I had the opportunity to actually stop by and take a tour of some of the rooms, as well as eat in the Michelin-rated restaurant.

I think my favorite amenity at the inn, whose rooms are just lovely and decorated in a sort of rustic chic kind of aesthetic, would have to be the redwood saunas that come in some of the cottage rooms. I mean, how often do you get a hotel room with your own private sauna. What makes it even more interesting is that these cottage rooms were actually built in the early 1900's as housing for the farm workers. What a different life they have now!
To read about more of the features and amenities at the Farmhouse Inn, as well as to see a video walk-through I did of the room, take a look at my HotelChatter piece here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Eva Restaurant

Eva is the new restaurant in the old Hatfield's space on Beverly Boulevard, just next to BLD. The place is tiny, but wonderful, with tables scattered on the front porch, the neutral-toned interior, and the side deck, with two great windows looking in on the activity of the kitchen.

The food is pretty fancy, but the prices are not, with nothing on the menu costing above $20...even for the biggest entrees. The wine list, too, has some extremely interesting options solely from California and France, with a mark-up that is well below what you normally find at restaurants.

The final bonus? $35 Sunday Farmers Market Suppers with a new menu each week that includes wine. How can you pass up a deal like that.

Though I will let you read about the food in the full review below, I thought I'd mention a few of the dishes along with photos so you can see for yourself what a treat my dinner there was.
Oyster with a Shiso granita.

Foie gras with summer melon in a maple glaze.

Udon linguine with mushrooms and clams.

Poached beef with charred cauliflower and salsa verde.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Avalon's blue on blue become oliverio

No, that's not a typo in the title line. blue on blue (no caps) has become oliverio (again, no caps, so you see my notation reasoning). I am still trying to get the full story on why Chef Scott Garrett left the Kor Hotel Group's Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills and was replaced by Cecconi's Mirko Paderno, so hopefully I'll be able to pop into the new, Italian-skewed oliverio for a meal soon to find out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Storming the Sazerac at New Orleans' Hotel Roosevelt

Every so often, I get to dork out in a major way and indulge my history hysteria, even on minor assignments like this post about an event at the venerable Hotel Roosevelt New Orleans.

Last Friday, ladies were invited to "Storm the Sazerac," in a commemoration of an event 60 years earlier when New Orleans women took over the famous hotel bar in a bid to be treated equally with men. You see, before then, women were only allowed in and served one day of the year: Mardi Gras. Since the first storming, however, they have been allowed access and service year-round. Now that's something worth standing up for.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall (Ex)Foliage at Four Seasons Aviara

Because I've been writing so much about food and travel, I don't often get spa stories to do, so I was happy to get an assignment to write about the Four Seasons Aviara Spa's new Fall "Ex"Foliation treatments. My favorite part? Where you get to mix your own treatment oils. I have a feeling most people walk out of there smelling like an entire herb garden. Ah well, still sounds fun.

I'll have to check it out next time I'm visiting my folks down in San Diego because it's right near their house...and the Carlsbad Outlet Mall (Barneys!).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Orquidea Del Sur Hotel, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Ever since I wrote about the Hotel Contempo outside Managua a couple months ago, I have been longing to visit Nicaragua. I hope to have the chance to do so for a few days in November, but am still waiting to hear back about whether I can go on the trip. It sounds fabulous, with time in colonial Granada, beachy San Juan del Sur, kayaking on Lake Nicaragua, a forest canopy tour, and exploring the Masaya volcano. What a change of pace from the Old World wine travel I've been doing lately!

Fingers crossed that I'll get to go, but in the meantime, I learned about this new boutique hotel in San Juan del Sur, so I asked to post about it on HotelChatter. Now I just need to practice my surfing...and Spanish.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Review: La Cachette Bistro

This was my favorite meal from last week, and I have been tempting everyone I've talked to about it with my description of the coffee-rubbed buffalo short ribs. Among my other favorites? The tuna with candied ginger and black garlic, and the torchon-style foie gras. Delicious!

Chef Jean-Francois Meteigner really seems to have given his creative energy free rein with this new restaurant in Santa Monica now that he doesn't have to cater to the more staid crowd of Century City and Westwood. Everything is more relaxed, fun, and playful here...even if the prices are pretty much just as high. I would also give high props to the wine list, which had some excellent entries from both France and California, including a Gerard Gauby grenache I would have really liked to have tried! Ah well, next time...because I am certainly going back!


High Holy Days Package at Hyatt

I was assigned a story today by HotelChatter about a special High Holy Days package at the Hilton Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

I just thought it was a funny story in general since what observant Jew would possibly be away from home on the most important holiday of the year. I also thought it was funny that I was the writer assigned this story, seeing as what a nice Jewish boy I am. I hope I earned some NJB points by heading home for Rosh Hashanah this past weekend at least!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: Boa Sunset

I have been anxious to try the new incarnation of Boa Steakhouse on Sunset. The old location at the Grafton Hotel closed several months ago, and the new restaurant just west on Sunset at Luckman Plaza has become the flagship location thanks to over 10,000 square feet of space, several individual events areas, and some interesting art installations.

The menu is pretty much the same as the Santa Monica version (which is still around), but with a few minor adjustments. And apparently the new Sunset place is quite the celebrity-spotting scene, especially around the fireplace out on the front patio.

As it is, I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch there, so I was happy to write about it. Nothing surprised me on the menu, but then again, I place an inestimable value on knowing I'll get a good meal.

Shorebreak Hotel

Last night, I was invited to a Tapas and Tagines dinner at Zimzala, the restaurant at Joie De Vivre's Huntington Beach hotel, the Shorebreak. It was hosted by chef Joyce Goldstein, and included some fantastic dishes like baked olives, fish chermoula with couscous, and cardamom panna cotta...not to mention some really interesting Spanish wines.

Afterwards, I got the chance to stay overnight at the hotel, and I took this little video of it for HotelChatter. I really had a great time at this property--I do love all the JDV hotels--so I'd recommend it to everyone. Just go for the rooms with views since the sunset is spectacular!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Studio at the Montage Laguna

It was quite a coincidence that I was headed down to Laguna last Thursday to visit a friend, and then the LA Times food critic, S. Irene Virbila, came out with her review of the restaurant at the Montage Laguna Beach, Studio.

Unfortunately, I did not get to try the food (or even stop) at the Montage during my brief visit, but the food and the views sound amazing. It will definitely be a must-stop destination for me in the future!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stir Fry: 9-17-09

I sort of got a head-start on this week's Stir Fry, so I actually turned it in yesterday, and up it went. That's okay because I haven't found out about any more interesting deals or news since then, so it was basically only a day early.

As it is, it was chock-full of cool tidbits like culinary tours of Little Saigon, the Emmy's menu at the Governor's Ball, and Septemberfest...the American beer festival. It all sounds like a lot of fun--I only wish I could attend everything myself!

Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

I was writing a lot about Laguna this week, including this deal on a new prix fixe menu at Michael Mina's restaurant at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Stonehill Tavern.

For $39, you get three courses. The menu is different each night of the week, so they have to play it safe with classic, easy dishes, but it still sounds pretty fab, and the setting is supposed to be magnificent.

As I drive past it on the 1 tomorrow, I will give it a sad salute, and try to plan a meal there in the future!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One & Only Saint Geran Foodie Package

This is one of those stories that really sparks up the wanderlust in me. Don't get me wrong--I realize how lucky I am to get to visit all the amazing places I've been just in these past couple of years...but Mauritius sure does sound cool. Especially when your host for the weekend is culinary superstar Alain Ducasse. That's what made this foodie package so interesting to write about. You get to stay at ultra-luxe One & Only's Saint Gerain in Mauritius, and enjoy a menu personally overseen by Alain Ducasse at his Spoon des Iles restaurant at the resort. Heaven!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Caffe Roma

I will be honest, I was a little disappointed in this restaurant. It is the latest from restaurateur Agostino Sciandri, who also owns Toscanova at the Century City Mall which I reviewed, and Ago with Robert DeNiro.

Before going in, I looked over the menu at Caffe Roma, which is in Beverly Hills, and experienced deja vu. Turns out I'd seen this menu Toscanova! Literally word for word the same menu. Some of the entries were shuffled about, but the two were almost identical.

The meal was fine, not bad, not great, but just fine. The real highlight was sitting two tables away from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now that is a real A-list celebrity sighting. Perhaps the best moment was when the octagenarians eating lunch next to me turned to look at his table, which was occupied by successful-looking men sharing a joke and a hearty laugh, and asked, "What's he got to be happy about? The state is in terrible shape!" Here here!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taste of Santa Monica, Sunday, September 13

This Sunday, as part of the Santa Monica Pier Centennial celebrations, I'll be headed to the Westside for the Eighth Annual Taste of Santa Monica event. It goes all afternoon, with live music, and plenty of food provided by over 40 restaurants, as well as beer and wine (paid separately from general admission).

Looks like it should be a good time, so if you're interested, peruse my preview here:

Friday, September 11, 2009

FACES: Adam Horton

The subject of this month's FACES interview series on was the young chef over at the Saddle Peak Lodge in Malibu, Adam Horton.

Horton is only 26, and yet he has worked with some big names not only in Los Angeles (Josiah Citrin, Warren Schwartz), but also at a few famous kitchens across the Atlantic. Since coming to the venerable Saddle Peak Lodge, he has revitalized the fusty game-meats reputation of this Calabasas hills standout, and has created a dynamic, fascinating menu, which you can read about in my review.

For now, take a look at the interview I conducted with him to learn his thoughts on seasonal cuisine, sous-vide cooking, and where to get the best Thai food in the Valley.

Taste Envy's Menu Designs

This was an interesting story brought to my attention by one of the PR firms I work with a lot, Bread and Butter. They are representing a design firm called Taste Envy that designs restaurant menus and other materials for hospitality industry businesses like hotels. I don't often think about menu design, but when I sat down to write this little piece, it occurred to me that a well designed menu makes a huge difference to the restaurant experience. Knowing that a restaurant has invested the time, energy and money in their menus makes you think that they have done the same with other aspects of their operation, including in the kitchen and the general design.

In any case, researching some of the firm's work, and looking at the menus they put together were really eye-opening, and this was one of the more thought-provoking posts to come across my desk lately. What do you think?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Weekly Stir Fry 9-10-09

This week's Stir Fry of dining deals and restaurant news on was a pretty interesting one, with tons of good events taking place over the next week and places all over town. My editor also managed to find this hilarious photo to accompany it thanks to my inclusion of the a whiskey and cigar tasting (or, nosing, as they put it) night at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena.

I can't decide whether I should laugh or be frightened by it--a reaction shared by many friends. You can decide for yourself, but in the meantime, be sure to check out the roundup here:

Tapas and Tagines at Shorebreak Hotel's Zimzala

Next Thursday looks like it's shaping up to be quite a day for me. First I've got some nephew-sitting to take care of in the morning, then later in the afternoon, I'll be heading down to Laguna Beach to meet up with some college friends whom I haven't seen since they got married three years ago. After that, it's back up the coast a little bit to Huntington Beach for the Tapas and Tagines special dinner at the Shorebreak Hotel's (JDV) Zimzala restaurant, which will be honoring chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein.

I was debating whether I should spend the night at the hotel, or just go down and see my folks in San Diego afterwards since I'll already be halfway there. So I'll say farewell to L.A. for a couple of days. At least I'll be well watered and fed by then, though.

In the meantime, the dinner is open to anyone who wants to spend $75, and the menu looks pretty delicious. You can find the details in my story below.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Frontiers: Vienna

Though I have a few more in the pipeline, this is my first big piece about Vienna to come out (so to speak), and it is in this issue of Frontiers. I really love many of the sites and publications I work for because the lead time is so short that I can go on a trip in August, write up the story a couple weeks after I get back, then have it in print or up on the web within a week or two of that. It makes

Meanwhile, I think I really managed to capture many of the most interesting places I saw, the restaurants I ate in, and fun I had in this article.
I talk about hotels like the Wine and Design, restaurants like Artner and Oesterreicher im Mak, the MuseumsQuartier and the Haus der Musik, Rainer Christ and Stefan Hajszan wines, Schonbrunn Palace, and a few of the fun gay hangouts like Village Bar and Mango.
Whew, what a trip! I hope you enjoy reading the article as much as I enjoyed exploring Vienna and writing about it!

Review: Bistro LQ

Every so often, a really fancy restaurant opens its doors to this lowly restaurant reviewer, and I get to experience a truly special meal. Dinners like this require research, preparation, and...a good appetite.

My dinner last week at Bistro LQ was one such meal. Not only did I have to look up a few of the ingredients in some of the menu items, but I also had to work up an appetite for exotic foods like heart, tongue and head cheese that you just don't find too often on menus around Los Angeles.

Because of the complexity of the menu and the distinctiveness of Chef Laurent Quenioux's cuisine, I took the liberty of expanding upon my usual 300-words-or-less format, and gave the restaurant an extended review. I hope it gives you the real feel and flavor of a meal at the restaurant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A "Killer" Night Out At The Hollywood Heights Hotel

Last week, a couple of my friends at BlinkLA told me about an upcoming event at the Hideout at the Hollywood Heights Hotel next week when The Killers are playing the Hollywood Bowl. Stoli is hosting the event and selling Killers-themed cocktails, while partiers who dress up like Brandon Flowers are entered into the running to win a free dinner for two at the hotel restaurant. Sounds like a blast--and I managed to have a little fun by working in as many Killers song titles as I could think of. I hope you'll enjoy "All These Things That I've Done." Tee hee. Also, kudos to Juliana Shallcross for this awesome picture she photo-shopped!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review(s): Hash at Hotel Erwin

I have written a couple stories about Joie De Vivre's Hotel Erwin already, so I've been waiting to go in and try the new restaurant there, cheekily named Hash as an oblique reference to one of the commodities sold (and smoked) on the nearby Venice Boardwalk.

Not only did I get to go in and enjoy a meal, but I got twice the work out of it since I had assignments from both and HotelChatter to cover the restaurant. This was a little problem since, instead of just having to write up one quippy, quirky, succinct review...I'd have to write two...and make them both original. Granted, this is a good problem for a writer to have, and it does come up fairly frequently for me (I have four article assignments and counting just about Vienna from my recent trip), but it still presents an interesting challenge. How to write fresh, original content about the same dinner within a short amount of time for two different publications? It helps when you can focus on a specific aspect that each particular publication will be interested in, or when you are talking to audiences interested in different themes--for instance, hotels versus restaurants. Then again, when it's a restaurant review, the food is front and center, and describing it takes up the main meat (so to speak) of the article, so sometimes the work is done for you.

To see what I came up with, take a look at my two articles below.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cubicle Dreamin': Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand

Today, I was asked to contribute to HotelChatter's "Cubicle Dreamin'" series, where they ask their writers to pick a fantasy destination, explain where they'd like to go, and why.

After two trips to Europe this year, I've been thinking a lot about heading in another destination. South America (Peru, specifically) is high on my list. Or why not go in completely the opposite direction and skip over to Asia or the South Pacific?

My laser-like wanderlust has focused lately on Australia and New Zealand because they are just so far away...and I'm eager to learn more about their wines, of course. That is how I came up with my destination for today: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. The 26-room lodge on New Zealand's North Island seems like it's at the end of the world, hours away from Auckland or Wellington, and situated on the sea coast of one of the country's most important wine regions, Hawkes Bay.

The resort itself looks gorgeous, and has won all kinds of acclaim for its country-luxury decor, its world-class golf course, and its gourmet restaurant. Add in some winery tours, kiwi safari hikes, paragliding lessons, and amazing clifftop views, and I think I just might have found paradise on earth.

Oh, and if you're wondering why it's called Cape Kidnappers, the story goes that when Captain Cook was sailing around the world, one of his Tahitian interpreters was kidnapped by Maoris at this very spot. When Cook's ship fired on the raiding party, the translator managed to jump overboard and swim back to safety aboard the HMS Endeavor. Not the most climactic tale, but the name stuck.

To read more about this destination, and just why I want to go there so much, check out my story here:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Weekly Stir Fry: 9-3-09

This week is a big one for my Stir Fry roundup of dining deals and restaurant specials. There are a few things going on in Santa Monica at FIG and Le Troquet because of the upcoming Santa Monica Pier centennial, as well as some end-of-summer fun things happening around the city, like a Belgian beer-tasting at Red Carpet Wine. I think my favorite this week, though, has to be the "20 in 20" Italian wines special that is taking place all month at Cube Marketplace in honor of their Wine Spectator restaurant wine list award.

To see all the details, take a look at the link here:

Breuer Ruedesheimer Schloss's Glockenspiel

At HotelChatter, we are always on the lookout for quirky perks, amenities and features at the hotels that we cover (see my story on parallelogram beds at Bernkastel's Marchenhotel). With that in mind, I made a video of the clocktower glockenspiel at the Breuer's Ruedesheimer Schloss in the charming little town of Ruedesheim am Rhein in the heart of Germany's famous wine-producing Rheingau region.

As you'll see, the sound is quite distinctive...and it plays every hour. Luckily for me, they only start at 10:00 am because my room was right in the tower! The songs did lend a certain charm to my visit, though, and everything stops in the hotel and on the streets of the town as tourists race to see the little show that takes place.

Apart from that, the hotel is a great option for touring Germany's wine country, and is less than an hour from the Frankfurt airport, making it terribly convenient. The rooms are large and well-priced, the food at the restaurant is excellent, and the wines that Georg Breuer makes are famous throughout the world. You can even go on vineyard tours and sunset hikes in the surrounding hillsides where the grapes are grown, as well as tastings in the winery's centuries-old cellars, and those of other winemakers in the town. All in all, I'd highly recommend the hotel...not least because of the glockenspiel.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review: Recess

I came across this new little breakfast and lunch spot in Glendale because it happens to be a few blocks from where my brother and sister-in-law live. While babysitting my nephew Charlie on one of our weekly Wednesday outings, we stopped in to pick up lunch, despite Charlie's repeated remonstrations to "eat here, Eric!"

I ordered a bunch of different things to try, and while we waited, the friendly staff plied Charlie with baked treats like praline bars and berry scones. The chef himself even came out from behind the counter to say hello. It pays to have a really cute toddler with you when you're going out on incognito reviews!

For more on what we ate, what else is on the menu, and why you should go, take a look at my review here:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Review: Henry's Hat

Henry's Hat is yet another gastropub that has just opened in Los Angeles (or Studio City, rather), but it is a little more homey than some of the others I've reviewed since it's on an out-of-the-way stretch of the Cahuenga Pass near Universal Studios, and the menu is more like down-home Texas bar food than upscale gastronomic gourmandises. The people behind Luna Park are also behind Henry's Hat, so it's got that nice comfortable, upscale vibe without too much attitude.

I, for one, enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich and the Mission 24th burger, as well as the crunchy fries and the excellent beers on tap. Plus, they have tons of boardgames to play just in case your date gets boring and you need something to take your mind off what a bad time you are having.

For the full review on, check out the link here:

West Hollywood Restaurant Roundup

I am finally getting back into writing for Frontiers, the bi-weekly newspaper in West Hollywood. Though I have some travel pieces coming up about my recent foray into Austria and Germany, as well as a roundup of lovely wine regions to visit, my first few articles back have all been for the restaurant section of the "Indulge" department that deals with fine living.

In an effort to liven up Frontiers now that there has been an editorial shuffle and it has merged with its former rival-then-parent-publications, IN/LA, I suggested a few restaurant roundups with shorter reviews to my editor. He went for the idea, so we've started with a West Hollywood three-restaurant roundup of new places I like, and then there should be one I wrote for the Westside coming out soon as well.

For now, I chose Cecconi's, Primo Bistro and Mexico, all of which have opened in the past several months and which are finally starting to get some word-of-mouth. It's about time the WeHo boys tried something new, so hopefully they (and you) will like my mini-reviews enough to eschew routine and stop in at one of these new places.