Thursday, December 30, 2010

JustLuxe: Drinking it Old School at Hemingway's

For my final December article on JustLuxe, I decided to write about Hollywood's hottest new watering hole, Hemingway's.

This place, like the man it's named after, is all kinds of old school cool--kind of like a bar version of the Dos Equis man. It's got classic cocktails, a sporting 1940's vibe, and best of all, unlike a lot of Hollywood bars, it's not douchey--there's no one there whom Ernest Hemingway would want to unceremoniously punch in the kisser. That's a big plus in a town where people tend to go out based on where they'll be seen by the most people, with the right people

Enough about the downsides of Los Angeles nightlife, though. What makes it worth putting up with all that superficial stuff to live here is the fact that there are all kinds of authentically awesome places like this one. To find out what I mean without mincing any more words (I'll take Hemingway as my inspiration on that one), take a look at my article at the link below.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jaunted: First Look at Air New Zealand's New 777

If you're one of my Facebook friends or Twitter followers (or if you just know me and have spoken to me in the last month), you'll know that I have been on another adventure with Air New Zealand.

A couple days before Christmas, I flew up to Seattle to take a tour of Boeing's 777 manufacturing floor and see the first of Air New Zealand's new fleet of 777-300ER's with the all-new interiors including the SkyCouch, as well as its game-changing Premium Economy seats and the new Business Premier class.

Then, along with a cadre of other journalists and reporters, I was at the official handover of the plane from Boeing to the airline, and hopped aboard the delivery flight from Seattle down to Los Angeles. The airline also asked if I'd like to fly down on the main delivery flight all the way to Auckland, so, after skipping for joy at such a great opportunity, I said yes, and packed my bags!

I'll be bringing you more news about my trip to New Zealand, and my flights on the beautiful new plane soon, including a series for Jaunted with all kinds of interesting galleries and interviews, but for now, take a look at my exclusive preview of the new plane complete with a photo gallery and walk-through video!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Frontiers: Di Carlo Pizzeria

I could eat pizza just about every day of the week (and have almost been doing that this past week!), so I was thrilled when my editor at Frontiers asked me to head in to DiCarlo Pizzeria to taste-test a few of their pies, and nibble some pasta and other specialties as well.

Di Carlo is on a lonely little stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, right on the border of Los Feliz and Silverlake, not too far from Bar Covell, actually, but I hadn't been there before. It's actually owned by two French people, who treated me to a tasting of the restaurant's specialties, and explained some of the unique features of Di Carlo, like the almond wood-burning oven that heats the crusts just right.

Take a look at my article in Frontiers at the link below, and next time you're thinking about cooking a DiGiorno, consider a Di Carlo instead.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

JustLuxe: Caviar and Truffle New Year's Brunch at Dominick's

Though I'll be spending Christmas in Auckland, I've been thinking about my New Year's plans, and came across this decadent little brunch option at one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, Dominick's.

Forget the economic crisis, and your own possible financial ruin, Dominick's is pulling out all the stops for brunch on New Year's and offering a special menu featuring some of the most expensive food ingredients available to the general public: truffles and caviar! Seemed like the perfect story for my newest outlet, JustLuxe.

Sound delicious to you? Read on to find out about the special menus, as well as what else might be on order this New Year's at Dominick's...


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

LowFares: Tahoe Roundup

I'll say it again: I'm not much of a winter-snow-skiing kind of guy. I much prefer the warm sunshine and the crashing ocean--vineyards and beaches are where you'll normally find me.

Since this is winter, though, and California is getting a record amount of precipitation and snowfall, it was time to do a roundup of the best Tahoe hotels for LowFares.

And, after looking at how nice the Ritz-Carlton, the Hyatt Regency, and the others I researched are (not to mention the Montage Deer Valley I just wrote about for JustLuxe)...I might just think about a ski vacation for myself this winter!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LowFares: London City Guide

I've definitely done my fair share of writing about my trip to London earlier this fall, but this new LowFares City Guide is definitely the biggest.

Like your usual travel guide, it covers everything from hotels (with a special mention of the Athenaeum, where I stayed), restaurants, attractions and insider tips, as well as practical information on getting around.

However, since I'm the one who wrote it (not to toot my own horn too much), you can bet that this guide has up-to-the-minute information on all kinds of fun places and things to do that you won't find anywhere else, and isn't written in the stilted tone that guidebooks tend toward. So what I'm basically saying is--this is definitely the awesomest London City Guide you're likely to come across, and if you're planning a trip anytime soon, you're going to find tons of useful information in it. So tally ho, guv'nah, and sally forth to Londontown!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Brand X: Lady Chefs Take Over!

It's been quite a while since I last wrote for Brand X, but as I've been eating out around town a lot lately, I noticed a fascinating new trend taking shape on the L.A. dining scene: young female chefs are taking over some of the most established, big-name kitchens around town.

I decided to delve into this sweeping change by talking to five of the young ladies I'd come across, and hearing their thoughts on why this is happening, what it's like for them, and where they think all this is trending.

I talked to Sara Johannes at WP24 at the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live, former Top Chef contender Jamie Lauren at Beechwood, Waylynn Lucas at Bazaar, Giselle Wellman at Petrossian, and Megan Logan at Nick + Stef's.

Not only were they all quite voluble and articulate, but they also had fascinating perspectives on the changing nature of the professional kitchen...and how a woman's touch is responsible for it. Definitely one of the more interesting pieces I've had the chance to write lately, so take a look!


Friday, December 17, 2010

JustLuxe: Drybar, Blowing the Competition Away

Though you can often find me lounging around spas, sampling offbeat treatments, or testing new skin and haircare products, I don't actually get to write about straight up style and beauty very often. But I hope that's all going to change now that I'm the new L.A. editor for JustLuxe.

In addition to my normal beats of food and travel, I'm hoping to get more into spirits, wine, fashion and style for the site since all kinds of fun new trends and stories come across my desk. So, for my first beauty article, I decided to write about a really cool small chain of blowout salons called Drybar because I met the founder at a party a couple weeks ago, and it sounded like such a great idea, and a fun place to hang out. Plus, you get to walk out feeling gorgeous.

Sound fabulous? It is. Check out my story to find out all the reasons why.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

LowFares: Seattle Destination Guide

I'm actually heading up to Seattle next week for a first look at Air New Zealand's new Boeing 777's with the SkyCouches and the new Premium Economy and Business Premier classes. But in the meantime, I've written up another quick destination guide for LowFares about the city.

In it, I include some top hotel choices like the Ace, the artsy Hotel Max, the Andra, the Hotel 1000, and the W Seattle, as well as some restaurant picks from friends of mine who are either from there or live there now, and then a roundup of the most fun activities the city has to offer.

Can't wait to check some of them out myself when I'm up there next week, but for now, you can take a look at my article at the link below!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frontiers: Pane e Vino's Italian-Style Holidays

It's back to food-writing for Frontiers IN/LA for the current holiday issue of the magazine. Not only do I have a review of the new restaurants at Santa Monica Place, but I also have a foodie feature/interview with Raffaele Favuzzi, the new chef at the Beverly Boulevard favorite, Pane e Vino, about what he's cooking up this holiday season from his native Italy--including a mouthwatering porchetta.

So take a look at the article to see what you can expect this holiday season at one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Buon appetito!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Frontiers: Santa Monica Place Review

Though lately I've been writing a good mix of food and travel for Frontiers IN/LA, with the holiday issue, I go back to basics with two restaurant pieces: a roundup of the new dining experiences at Santa Monica Place, and a feature/interview with Raffaele Favuzzi, the new chef at the Beverly Boulevard favorite, Pane e Vino, about what he's cooking up this holiday season from his native Italy.

But for now, take a look at my Santa Monica Place Dining Deck roundup. I get to all six new restaurants there: Xino, Ozumo, Zengo, La Sandia, Pizza Antica and Sonoma Wine Garden, and share my favorite features of each place. Bon appetit!


Monday, December 13, 2010

HotelChatter: The Louise in the Barossa Valley

I've actually had the opportunity to write about the The Louise, the all-suite luxury hotel I stayed at for a night while I was in Australia's famous wine region, the Barossa, last June. The first time was over the summer, when I wrote about my time in the area for TravelAge West. The second time was more recent. I included the property in a piece for HotelHostess about the top hotels for foodies.

This little article for HotelChatter, however, was a way to let the beautiful resort, which is part of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, stand on its own. It contains not only a little synopsis of my suite's amenities, and a look at the menu I enjoyed at Appellation, the fabulous restaurant, but also a photo gallery and video walk through. I think you'll see just what a fantastic place this is--and quite the jewel of Barossa accommodations--so click on the link to my story below to take an exclusive look inside!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

JustLuxe: Montage Deer Valley Luxury Ski Resort Opens

For my second JustLuxe story, I ventured a little farther afield than Los Angeles, and reported on the opening of the ultra deluxe new ski resort opening near Park City this week, the Montage Deer Valley.

Now, covering a ski resort is outside my usual sphere of activities--I'm not much of a snow bunny, and didn't even see the white stuff until I was almost 15 years old! Usually, I write about tropical places, like my recent spate of articles on Hawaii, or living the good life in wine regions like Napa. But hey, who am I to bow out when a fabulous new resort comes along. Even if it is in the snowy heights of Utah. Besides, as I learned by reading about the hotel and checking out all the amenities, it seems like a great place for ski/snowboard beginners such as myself (see: ski valets!), and also has a host of other activities on-hand for the...less active among us. Spa anyone?

Meanwhile, check out the resort for yourself by clicking on the link to my story below!


Friday, December 10, 2010

LowFares: Hawaii's Less Traveled Paradise

Hawaii week continues on Eric The Epicure with this whirlwind roundup of activities, and places to stay and eat on three of Hawaii's islands: Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

Like my LA Confidential Hawaii Feature, this piece covers a few high-end hotels across the archipelago, but rather than just focusing on hotels, I've also included a few insider tips on eateries, the best beaches, and adventurous activities. All gleaned from fabulous friends who either lived in Hawaii, or travel there frequently.

So take a look at my article, and keep it in mind for your next trip to the Islands. Mahalo!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

JustLuxe: Four Seasons Fashion Nights

I have just recently started working with a fantastic web site called JustLuxe. I was on the London trip with the site's editor, and we got along so well, that we decided it just made sense to start working together!

Since then, she's made me the new Los Angeles editor for the site, so I'll be contributing about 4-5 pieces a month out of L.A. My first is about the Tuesday Fashion Nights happening at one of my favorite hotel properties in town, the Four Seasons Los Angeles, in December. They'll feature Robertson Boulevard boutiques like Intermix and Ted Baker, plus fabulous cocktails for a discounted (at least, by Four Seasons standards) $10.

Keep an eye out for more pieces soon!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

LA Confidential: Aloha Hawaii!

For my first major travel piece in LA Confidential Magazine (not counting my piece on the Ranch at Live Oak), I wrote a fabulous, luxury hotel roundup on some of Hawaii's top resorts. I included some of my old favorites, like the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai, the newly redone Waldorf Astoria Collection Grand Wailea on Maui, and the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island, as well as a new entrant, the Edition Waikiki.

What makes these particular properties so decadently indulgent? Take a look at my article below to find out! Or better yet, pick up an issue of the magazine on newsstands now!

Aloha, Hawaii!

The new Hawaii Five-0 has us dreaming of Waikiki’s shores and the slopes of Mount Kilauea…and Alex O’Loughlin’s abs. America’s very own paradise has some of the best resorts in the country, including these four standouts. And if you happen to see Alex O’Loughlin? Well, that’s just gravy.

Edition Waikiki

Brangelina, Bennifer, Speidi...we love hot, hyped, slightly off-balance couples, and the partnership that’s been setting the hotel world atwitter lately has been that between designer boutique impresario Ian Schrager and mega-chain potentate Bill Marriott: Edition Hotels. After much fanfare (and a few stalls), the first location of this “urban resort” chain opened early in October, bringing some contemporary swank to the historic shores of Waikiki. The hotel’s 353 guest rooms and suites come with amenities like 46-inch LCD TV’s, glass-enclosed showers, plush Frette linens, and views of the beach, harbor and city. Geeks, we mean technophiles, enjoy the specially programmed iPads, though die-hard foodies gravitate toward Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s eponymous Western-Japanese fusion restaurant. There’s also a private beach, a hidden lobby bar reached through a secret passage, and a nightclub. Just don’t indulge too much, or you won’t be able to participate in the custom-designed surf and bikini boot camps.

1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 943-5800;

Grand Wailea

This award-winning Waldorf Astoria Collection resort on Maui is looking sparkling and fresh after a $50-million renovation. All that money went into updating elements across the hotel, like Spa Grande, which is now the largest in Hawaii and features ocean-themed treatments, a fitness center with squash courts and a cycling studio, and the new Wailea Canyon Activity Pool area, which contains nine pools, waterslides, a “baby beach,” and the world’s first “water elevator.” The rooms are looking spruce with dark wood furnishings, frameless shower enclosures, flat-screen TV’s, and a new blend of Western and Polynesian décor. Guests can also rent one of the luxury three-bedroom Ho’olei townhouses on the property with floor-to-ceiling ocean-view windows. When guests aren’t playing on the Championship Wailea Gold golf course, or enjoying breezy Wailea Beach, they can peruse the hotel’s impressive art collection, including works by Picasso and Warhol.

3850 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, HI 96573, (800) 888-6100;

Hualalai Resort

This sprawling 865-acre resort, which includes a Four Seasons property, is located on the awe-inspiring island that gave its name to the whole archipelago: Hawai’i. The Four Seasons is nestled into the dramatic landscape carved by 19th-century volcanic eruptions, and recently underwent a $40-million renovation that includes 20 new suites, an expanded spa, a new beachfront restaurant, and an outdoor adventure program with surfing and fishing called Voyages. No wonder it’s the first and only hotel on the Big Island to score Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings. Guests can also choose from Hualalai’s three-bedroom townhouse villas for more privacy, while still enjoying access to the Four Seasons and its amenities. The resort’s other unique features include three restaurants (including one with gourmet Polynesian pupu platters) and two lounges, a Jack Nicklaus Signature 18-hole private golf course, a half-dozen pools and a lava rock aquarium.

100 Ka’upulehu Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 325-8000;

St. Regis Princeville Resort

We like one-of-a-kind luxuries like the St. Regis on Kauai, which is the brand’s only property in the islands. The resort is built into the dramatic cliffs overhanging Hanalei Bay, and the 252 guest rooms have unique features like a “privacy glass reveal” in the bathrooms that cloud up or clear on your command for views of the spectacular scenery. Then again, who’s spending much time in the room when there are amenities like the Makai Golf Club, a 5,000 square foot infinity pool overlooking the ocean, five restaurants and bars including the Kauai Grill from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Halele’a Spa with treatments inspired by Hawaii’s natural wonders. St. Regis is known for its signature butler services, but this hotel takes it a step further with a marine biologist on staff as an “Ocean Butler” who can escort guests on snorkeling and scuba tours of the coral reef fronting the resort.

5520 Ka Haku Rd., Kauai, HI 96722, (808) 826-9644;

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frontiers: K2 Review

For my latest Frontiers restaurant review, I checked out the new Silverlake location of an old Beverly Boulevard brunch favorite, Kokomo Cafe. This one is called K2, and is supposed to be open for dinner as well, though we're still waiting on that to come through.

In the meantime, it's a cool new little spot right at Sunset Junction to spend a weekend morning people-watching while sipping coffee and freshly made smoothies, or digging into their huge omelettes or chicken & waffles. See what I had to say at the link below.


Monday, December 6, 2010

LowFares: Best Hotel Holiday Decorations

Well, the holiday season is upon us, and that means it's time for stories on the best hotel holiday decorations! This little roundup (that's not so little) was for LowFares, and includes some fantastic finds from all over the country, and abroad.

I included some old favorites like the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Ritz-Carlton Naples, the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Opryland in Nashville, the Fontainebleau in Miami and the Coeur D'Alene in Idaho and the Snow Bar at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I also included the nouvelle tree decorations by John Galliano at Claridge's in London, the ice skating rink at Barton Creek in Austin, Santa's Village at the Drake in Chicago, and even a Hawaiian Christmas at the Sheraton Kaiulani in Honolulu.

So no matter where you go this holiday season, or where you stay, there's bound to be something festive to do!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

HotelChatter: The Living Wall at London's Athenaeum Hotel

Just another quick HotelChatter piece this week about one of the coolest hotel features I've come across lately: the living wall at London's Athenaeum Hotel. I learned more about this very special "vertical garden" while staying at the hotel on my recent trip to London, and wanted to share the latest trend in urban greenery, and one of Time Magazine's Best Inventions from 2009.

Turns out the "architectural botanist," Patrick Blanc, is the same man who designed the living wall at the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney, which I visited last June. I thought it looked familiar...

Meanwhile, take a look at my article and the accompanying video to see all the fantastic details that make this living wall so special.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Frontiers: A Week in Peru

I've been writing a lot of food articles for Frontiers lately, but I've also been picking up a bit of the travel beat for them again, including a recent piece on Santa Barbara and Big Bear, plus all the videos I've posting for them from my recent trips as well.

This most recent article for them, however, was an exciting departure (so to speak) for me, since I got to write about South America again for them--specifically about my recent trip to Peru, which I've already covered for a few of my other publications. In this piece, I cover Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, all in under 1,200 words. So it's a bit of a whirlwind. But then again, so was my trip! I think I manage to hit all the fun spots in this article though, so I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

HotelHostess: Hotels for Foodies Part 2

Yesterday, I told you about a new website I'm writing for called Hotel Hostess, which was started by the folks over at another of my outlets, LowFares.

The first piece was about Hotels For Foodies, and covered U.S. properties like the Ace Hotel in New York and the Affinia Chicago, as well as some more far-flung destinations like La Colombe at Constantia Uitsig in South Africa, an amazing-sounding property in Mexico City called Las Alcobas (pictured), and an old classic favorite of mine outside Reims in Champagne, Les Crayeres.

This second installment in my mini-series ventures even farther abroad to properties like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the Peninsula Shanghai, the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, the Thompson Toronto, and The Louise in Australia's Barossa.

So between Part 1 and Part 2, you can stay local, or you can go international, but wherever you go, you'll be eating well!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HotelHostess: Hotels for Foodies Part One

This is the first piece I have written for a new site called Hotel Hostess, which was started by the folks over at another of my outlets, LowFares.

As you might guess from the name, the new site is going to be completely hotel-focused, much like HotelChatter, though rather than a cheeky, newsy slant, we'll be doing more hotel spotlights, and thematic roundups, like this piece on the top foodie hotels around the world. I basically picked ten of the properties I've heard of lately that have most piqued my interest (and my appetite), and rounded them up in one convenient piece.

Part one features a couple of U.S. properties like the Ace Hotel in New York and the Affinia Chicago, as well as some more far-flung destinations like La Colombe at Constantia Uitsig in South Africa, an amazing-sounding property in Mexico City called Las Alcobas (pictured), and an old classic favorite of mine outside Reims in Champagne, Les Crayeres.

You can't go wrong with a visit to any of these...and you won't have a bad meal! Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series, but for now, bon appetit!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frontiers: VIDEO! Playa Viva

If you've read my site in the last couple of weeks, you'll know that I spent a couple days glamping on the Pacific coast of Mexico at an luxury boutique eco-hotel called Playa Viva. I've already written about the experience for both The Rundown and HotelChatter, and posted photo galleries and a video of my room.

However, while I was there, I also filmed a few little segments around the property, highlighting its unique elements, from the special activities, to the environmental features of the hotel and its sea turtle release program, to the wonderful local, organic cuisine they serve up family-style.

I wanted to put all of that into a single video, much like my other Frontiers travel ones, so that you could get a feel for the experience I had there, and why it's so special. It's not very long, but it gives you an inside look at Playa Viva. Who knows, maybe you'll even want to spend your next vacation there too!


Monday, November 29, 2010

HotelChatter: Montreal's Hotel Chez Swann

It's been a couple weeks since I posted an article on my trip to Canada in October, and most of what I have written had to do with the organized part of my trip in Toronto. But if you recall, I also spent an evening in Montreal, and I wanted to do one of my signature HotelChatter photo galleries and walk-through videos of the hotel that I stayed in while I was there, the ultra-new, art-focused Hotel Chez Swann.

I mean, I'm a sucker for a good Proust reference, and this hotel didn't disappoint. Especially the humongous shower. Which I'm also a sucker for. I also liked that it's relatively inexpensive (just about $120 a night!) and right in the heart of town in a great shopping and business area on rue Drummond just north of rue Ste. Catherine.

Meanwhile, check out the other room features (and natty decor choices) from my write up and photos by clicking on the link to my story below.


Friday, November 26, 2010

L.A. Confidential: Power Players, The Semler Family

Though I normally cover dining (and soon travel!) and the occasional Polo piece (tee hee) for L.A. Confidential, I hadn't done one of their "Power Player" pieces...until I was asked if I'd like to do a write up on one of Los Angeles's best known families, the Semlers.

The Semlers, headed by patriarch Ron, are the irrepressibly quirky force behind Malibu Family Wines, and the very classification of Malibu as an American Viticultural Area. Their ranch is somewhat legend as a film backdrop, wedding venue, and all-round fantastical place that's home to prize horses, zebras and buffalo in the menagerie. Ron also has an incomparable collection of vintage automobiles and carriages.

All that's just scratching the surface of this close-knit multi-generational family, and the sprawling ranch that they inhabit way up in the wild hills of Malibu.

Unfortunately my article is not in the online version of the magazine, but I'm pasting the text below, and you should definitely head to the newsstands soon to pick up your copy before the December issue comes out!

Grape Expectations: The Semler Family

“Dad can take anything—a ranch, a property, even a trailer—and make it into something. He has a vision unlike anyone I know of, except maybe Walt Disney,” says Devin Semler of his father Ron. Maybe that’s why visiting the Semlers’ expansive Saddlerock Ranch in the mountains above Malibu feels like stepping into a fantasy world.

There’s a picturesque horse ranch, garages filled with vintage automobiles and carriages (a particular passion of Ron’s), caves with rare Chumash pictographs, a faux trailer park with beautifully restored Airstream campers dubbed Camp Cabernet, a menagerie of exotic creatures including zebras he gave his wife Lisa as a birthday gift, camels and llamas, and, of course, the 65 acres of grapevines that produce Malibu Family Wines.

All this is even more astonishing considering that when the multi-faceted entrepreneur bought the first 300 acres back in 1978, the area was charred and barren from wildfires. However, he envisioned it as a place where his nine children, ranging in age from 10 to 41 now, “could experience the best of nature while still living near Los Angeles and its amenities.”

Tami would ride her horses through the Santa Monica Mountains. Tabitha would “jump off barns, hike, play, and pretend we were the Dukes of Hazzard in golf carts,” a tradition which the younger generation of kids proudly continues today. Six of them, and three grandchildren, still live on the ranch.

But Semler had bigger plans. He turned the ranch into an avocado farm, and then into a vineyard where Lisa made the first Semler wines in 2000. Thanks to their success, they have since carved out their own registered appellation, the Saddlerock-Malibu AVA.

Devin is no slouch either. He seems like a gleeful poker dealer as he hands out cards for his numerous businesses including Brazilian Blowout, the Argyle Spa and Salon at the Sunset Tower Hotel, a charity for critically ill children called Kids Courage, and his latest project, an artisanal tequila called Karma.

“Dad has instilled passion in all his kids—for business, for family, and for doing what it takes,” says Devin. That means each of the fiercely independent children has been encouraged to follow his or her own path and be productive in individual ways—whether that’s in one of the family businesses or not. Back at the ranch, though, everyone chips in, from setting up wedding events, to coaching the younger kids’ soccer teams, to helping out at harvest and designing the labels for the wine bottles.

“If you’re going to be in the family business, wine is a great one to be in,” says Tami. Sounds like if you’re going to be in a family, the Semlers are a great one to be in.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Frontiers: Santa Barbara & Big Bear Getaways

This week, I got back to basics with travel writing, and covered two fantastic destinations for Frontiers, quite different from one another, right in my own backyard: Santa Barbara, and Big Bear.

Admittedly, I am more familiar with Santa Barbara, so that's why it takes precedence in the article and I give it more space. If you're looking for a great weekend getaway up there, this is the guide for you since I include a bunch of hotels (Canary, Oceana, San Ysidro Ranch), restaurants (La Super-Rica Taqueria, Brophy Bros.), and sightseeing options (the Mission, Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Car Free Santa Barbara), as well as a little tip on where to find the best wine (Urban Wine Trail, and Wine Cask) in the city.

As winter approaches and cools things off, Big Bear is going to heat up as people start planning their ski vacations. I haven't written much about it here, but I do manage to get in a lot of good information including on accommodations, restaurants and activities, so it should give you some great ideas for where to go and what to do. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rundown: Playa Viva

You might have already seen my write-up of Playa Viva on HotelChatter last week, along with a photo gallery and walk-through video of my deluxe room right on the beach. This week, though, I wrote up the glamping-style eco-resort on Mexico's Pacific Coast for another of my outlets, The Rundown.

Rather than a blow-by-blow account of the resort and its amenities, this piece is more about how to take advantage of Playa Viva as a weekend getaway from Los Angeles, since it's just a 3.5-hour flight (and a world) away! I also managed to sneak in some of the environmental initiatives that set this award-winning resort apart.

Even just talking about it makes me want to be back there now! See what I mean by taking a quick look at my article at the link below.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Jaunted: British Airways' Galleries Lounge at Heathrow

It's time for another of my Jaunted stories on airport lounges. In the past, I've taken you inside the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney, the British Airways Terraces Lounge in San Francisco, and the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge at LAX.

This time, I take you inside the British Airways Galleries Club Lounge at Heathrow, which I got to enjoy on my last trip passing through London. No video walk-through with this one unfortunately, but there is a whole photo gallery, and a complete rundown of what you'll find not only in the Club Lounge, but also in the three (yes, three!) other lounges in the enormous complex at the shiny new Terminal 5.

To see what's in store for you on your next jaunt through London, go ahead and click on the link to my story below.


Friday, November 19, 2010

HotelChatter: Kicking It Eco-Style at Playa Viva

Many of you have read my reports from Las Ventanas al Paraiso from my trip there last month, but I happened to have the opportunity to go back to Mexico just last week. This time, I flew all the way down to Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa to experience the new eco-luxury retreat, Playa Viva, about 45 minutes south.

My piece on HotelChatter covers all the environmentally friendly details like the solar panel, the water recycling, the local organic farming, the sustainable building materials, and the sea turtle sanctuary on the grounds. It also has a photo gallery and video walk-through of the room, so that you can come along on what amounts to my first (wonderful) glamping experience on the shores of the Pacific!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

L.A. Confidential: The Old Place

I got a really interesting assignment for the Dining section of the November issue of L.A. Confidential: head out into the hills of Malibu to check out the scene at The Old Place.

Before this, I'd never even heard of The Old Place, but it's been around for over 40 years, and has a fascinating history. It's up in the mountains off Kanan Road, in a flyspeck town called Cornell. The restaurant is housed in a historic building dating back to the turn of the century, and was started in the late '60s's by a man named Tom Runyon (the canyon is named after his family). Despite serving just oak-grilled steaks and clams, with a baked potato if you were lucky, The Old Place became a backwoods landmark favored by celebrities laying low like Steve McQueen, as well as Hell's Angels, and cowboys working on studio backlots out there.

Tom passed away a couple years ago, but his son and a business partner who started the next-door Cornell Winery have revived the restaurant, expanded the menu (minimally), and breathed new life into the place. They still have the same 40-year-old oak grill, but these days, in addition to the celebrities and bikers, you'll find surfers, Malibu families, and even the occasional Eastside hipster chowing down. While I was there, I also talked to a singing cowboy named Billy who, between musical interludes, regaled me with hard-to-believe tales of the area's salacious past.

All this makes The Old Place one of the most authentic places I have ever experienced in Los Angeles, and I'm sure it will be for you too. My article isn't posted online, but you can find the text below, and if you want to see it in all its glory, be sure to pick up your issue of L.A. Confidential soon!


There are precious few places left in Los Angeles where you can find an authentic piece of the city’s checkered past, let alone have dinner. Welcome to the Old Place, which has been serving steaks to Hollywood starlets, Hell’s Angels and Malibu cowboys for over four decades.

Tom Runyon and his wife Martha opened the grill in 1970 in the hill town of Cornell in a turn-of-the-century building on the Mulholland Highway that once housed the post office and Hank’s Country Store. The Kerouac-like Runyon grew up in L.A. during the 1920’s, served as an Army pilot during World War II, and studied writing at Columbia University. He returned to California and eventually opened the Old Place, constructing a saloon-like façade, and decorating it with an eclectic mix of found and salvaged objects including wooden doors from the Santa Barbara Mission. “That’s why the Old Place has true depth and texture,” explains Tim Skogstrom, who owns the neighboring Cornell Winery, and who reopened the restaurant with Tom’s son Morgan after Runyon passed away in 2009.

Stars like Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum would come here to get away from Hollywood—though old TV and film sets litter the nearby hills. They’d settle into a booth for a dinner of steak or clams cooked over an oak fire, with a potato on the side. That was the entire menu.

These days, local characters and L.A. hipsters alike crowd the bar, and the new menu includes a wild mushroom skillet, rosemary pale ale chicken, and berry cobbler among other dishes. It’s the taste of the real Los Angeles that most folks come for, though.

29983 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA 91301, (818) 706-9001;

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

LowFares: Hawaii's Gorgeous Beaches

I have an upcoming Los Angeles Confidential piece on Hawaii to look forward to in the December issue, but I also just wrote a quick hit guide to some of Hawaii's best beaches for LowFares. Not only did I include some old favorites like Waikiki on Oahu (and the Royal Hawaiian), Kaanapali on Maui, and Hanelei Bay on Kauai (and the St. Regis Princeville), but I even found some remote spots on Lanai and the Big Island to enjoy on your own.

As winter sets on, the days get shorter, and the temperatures fall, I dare you to read this without starting to plan your own Hawaiian getaway (at least in your mind)!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LowFares: San Francisco Destination Guide

My most recent Destination Guide for LowFares happens to be about one of my favorite destinations: San Francisco.

Not only do I cover some of the hotels I've gotten to stay in recently like the Crescent, the Vertigo and the Frank, but also some of the great restaurants I've experienced (and want to experience, like Frances), and the lovely ladies of Carried Away, who showed me some of the city's best hidden treasures like Hooker's Sweet Treats Cafe. That totally sounds dirty, but it wasn't at all--the day I spent with them was enlightening, and that's the adjective I'm sticking with!

Meanwhile, to find out all my picks for SF and what to do there, take a look at my destination guide at the link below!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Jaunted: Barbados Food, Wine & Rum Festival

I know I was just enjoying tropical splendors of Playa Viva in Mexico, but now I'm dreaming of the Caribbean, and one island in particular: Barbados!

That's because this paradise is hosting a Food, Wine & Rum Festival next weekend that's being headlined by celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio, Marcus Samuelsson, Fergus Henderson and Ming Tsai.

The only downside? That I can't make it there myself! But take a look at my quick post on it tonight--which also has a nice little section on the celebrity chef trend that seems to be colonizing the Caribbean and the moment--by clicking on the link to Jaunted below.


Friday, November 12, 2010

HotelChatter: Photo & Video of London's Athenaeum Hotel

I think from the sheer volume of pieces I've already written about my recent trip to London, you can tell what a fantastic time I had there (thank you, Visit London!). I've already covered various aspects of it for Jaunted and LowFares (with another city guide to come), but earlier this week, I also posted a story about the hotel I stayed in, along with a photo gallery and room video, on HotelChatter, much like my recent posts on 21212 in Edinburgh, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo.

From the images, you'll be able to see what a truly special property this five-star, family-owned luxury hotel in the heart of Mayfair truly is, and how much I enjoyed staying there.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jaunted: Flights on a Flight, Air New Zealand's Wine Program

With this story, I got to combine two of my favorite interests, travel and wine! I got to write a bit about the food and beverage programs for V Australia and LAN based on trips I took with those airlines in the last year, but I'm hoping to begin a series for Jaunted specifically on wine programs starting with this one about Air New Zealand's.

I wrote it based on my experiences flying with them between Los Angeles and London, as well as on the selection of wines in their Koru Lounge at LAX. Not only were the wines pretty solid, but the airline produces and distributes a very handy little wine guide that talks about the particular wines they are serving at the moment, as well as about New Zealand's wines in general, and the country's individual wine regions. I found the whole experience to be quite educational...and it was just plain fun to get to try all these wines.

To find out more about the airline's wine program, take a look at my story by clicking on the link below!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HotelChatter: 6 Hotel Jobs That Are Better Than Yours

This was definitely one of the more fun HotelChatter stories I've written in a while. Basically, I had a little brainstorm about a few of the hotels I've stayed in lately and those I've learned about, and focused on ones with unique, quirky amenities, then zeroed in on the people who bring them to life.

That's how I started to make my list of the coolest hotel jobs out there, including the Reader in Residence at Andaz, the Whisky Sommelier at London's Athenaeum Hotel (which will also be featured on HotelChatter later this week), and the Ocean Butler at the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai.

Sound interesting? Those are just the first few that came to mind! This particular story has three more jobs in it, but there are dozens more out there, so I'm hoping to turn this into a little series that highlights some very special people in the hotel industry from around the world. For now, enjoy this first entry, and don't try to tell me that if you got offered to be the chocolatiere in residence at a hotel that you would turn it down!


Monday, November 8, 2010

LowFares: Colorado's Winter Park Ski Resort

I'm not much of a snow bunny--in fact, this SoCal native was almost fifteen before I saw snow for the first time! So it's not often, if ever, that I write about ski destinations. I usually prefer sunshine, beaches and wine.

This week, though, LowFares asked me to write a quick roundup piece on the lodging options and activities at Colorado's Winter Park Ski Resort, so I got down to work researching slopes, lift tickets and hotels.

And now that I know what I'm missing, I might just have to plan ski vacation for myself this winter!


Friday, November 5, 2010

HotelChatter: 21212's Restaurant With Rooms

Whatever you do, don't call Edinburgh's 21212 a "bed and breakfast"! As was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms, they prefer to be called a "restaurant with rooms." So...breakfast and bed?

Well, whatever you call it, you can be sure of finding a fabulous meal there and some sumptuous accommodations, as you'll see from this story I posted yesterday on HotelChatter.

My recent trip to Edinburgh has proven to be a very rich source of story material for me, and I've already written about 21212 as part of an article I did for Jaunted about where to eat in Edinburgh now, as well as in my LowFares guide to the city. This time, I take you upstairs to experience the room I stayed in with both a photo gallery and a walk-through video I filmed, just so you can get a better sense of being there yourself (and see just how big that bathroom really is!). Definitely consider 21212 for a stay on your next visit to Scotland, or at least a meal!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jaunted: Video Interview with Air New Zealand In-Flight Concierge

Yet another Jaunted story from my recent trip to London on Air New Zealand!

This one is a video interview with one of the airline's "In-Flight Concierges," Michele, whom I met prior to my flight in the Koru Lounge at LAX. Not only does the lovely lady explain her job and all its fun responsibilities, but she also gives me some of her recent picks of what to do and see in Los Angeles and London.



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frontiers IN/LA: Rama Thai

I was particularly excited about the opening of a new Thai restaurant near the Grove a month or so ago since we don't have too many great options around West Hollywood. I was even more excited to learn that it's a new LA edition of one of my favorite Thai places in San Diego, Rama.

In addition to talking about the cool design features, and the specialty menu items, I've also included a little guide on some other Thai restaurants around Los Angeles that I enjoy, like: Cafe Talesai, Galanga Thai Fusion, Jitlada (spicy!), Natalee Thai, and Palm's Thai (for the Elvis impersonator).



Monday, November 1, 2010

Frontiers: Melbourne's Eureka SkyDeck

My Frontiers videos continue with this cute little one I made in the all-glass elevator at the Eureka SkyDeck in Melbourne while I was in Australia last May. The Eureka Tower is the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere, and the SkyDeck is the highest public vantage point in the SH as well. As you'll see, it's also just a plain, fun, wacky experience to have in Melbourne, and one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. I hope you enjoy as much as we did!


Friday, October 29, 2010

HotelChatter: Inside Las Ventanas Al Paraiso

Here's another quick HotelChatter post I wrote up the other day on my stay at Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas, in addition to my recent pieces on the resort's Director of Romance, and my Frontiers video about all the resort amenities and the fun things I got up to in Mexico.

This one features a little photo gallery of my spacious Ocean View Terrace Junior Suite, as well as a walk-through video. I also give shout-outs to the various little touches I most enjoyed while staying there. Once you take a look at the story by clicking on the link below, you'll see just why I loved it there so much!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frontiers: VIDEO! Cabo San Lucas

In addition to my HotelChatter story on Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo last week, I also made another video for Frontiers about my experience staying there.

I included a quick tour of my room à la Cribs, I also talk about their Director of Romance, their sea turtle release program, and spending the day yachting in the bay, and up and down the coast. I think you'll see what a great time I had, and how fantastic this destination is. That's all I'll say here, because if you want to know more, you'll just have to watch my video at the link below!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

LowFares: Destination Guide Toronto

My latest destination guide went up on LowFares this week, and is about Toronto! As usual, I've included hotels, restaurants, sightseeing, shopping, and some hidden finds. That's why you'll read about:

Hotels like the artsy Gladstone and the Drake in the Queen West arts district, the exciting new Thompson Toronto, the classic Fairmont Royal York and the original Four Seasons Hotel, and the soon-to-open Ritz-Carlton and Trump Hotel.

Restaurants including Origin, Frank at the AGO, Luma at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Terroni, Nyood and Bohmer.

Sights like the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox film center, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and, of course the CN Tower.

Shopping in the Queen West neighborhood.

And a little hidden gem you'll just have to read the article to find out about!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jaunted: London's Free Bag Boys in Seven Dials

I wrote about London's fashionable Seven Dials neighborhood in my recent LowFares article about London's Offbeat Neighborhoods, but I took a closer look at one of the most intriguing new features of the neighborhood in this little Jaunted piece about their new "Bag Boys and Bag Girls" program where you can basically reserve a personal helper for an hour on your next visit, and they'll help you with your bags, make lunch reservations for you, call taxis, and give you an insider's tour of the neighborhood.

Sounds pretty fantastic to me! You can get all the details in my article at the link below.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Frontiers: Fall Dining Guide

Rather than a look at what interesting new fall dishes and ingredients chefs around Los Angeles are starting to put on their menus, this Fall Dining Guide on Frontiers is more like a round up of old favorites around West Hollywood, with a few other mainstays thrown in such as Michael's in Santa Monica, and the new Magnolia Bakery on West Third Street, where there's pumpkin, maple and pecans gracing many of the new autumnal baked goods.

Not too many surprises, but perhaps this list will remind you of a restaurant you haven't visited in a while and get you to go back. At the very least, it's worth a quick look!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jaunted: Nitro Ice Cream at Chin Chin Laboratorists

Clearly, I'm a big foodie. I mean, I travel halfway round the globe to try new things, taste great wines, and generally embarrass myself with my remarkable gluttony. That said, I'm not a huge dessert person. Sacrilege, I know! But I think I've just got to face the fact that I've got more of a savory-oriented palate (believe me, I know how foppish all this sounds).

Every so often, however, I come across a dessert that's just too fantastic not to get excited about, and today I've written about one of them: flash-frozen nitro ice cream at Chin Chin Laboratorists in Camden Lock. It's sort of like the most delicious chemistry class you've ever experienced. Read my story on Jaunted at the link below for all the fun, freezing-point related details.