Wednesday, March 31, 2010

LA Confidential Review: Checkers Downtown

Checkers Downtown at the Checkers Hotel (now a Hilton) is a landmark Los Angeles restaurant that has been a hotspot since the Rat Pack hung out there in the '50s. A little known chef named Thomas Keller also made his name there...before going on to open The French Laundry, and the rest of his restaurant empire.

Meanwhile, the hotel that houses it was recently bought and renovated by Hilton, and the restaurant, too, received a long overdue makeover. I was invited to dinner there a few months ago to try the new menu courtesy of dynamic young chef (and San Diego native, like myself!) Todd Allison. Well, I had a great meal, so I wrote about this restaurant's renaissance for Los Angeles Confidential.

You can see what the spread looked like in the magazine below, or keep on reading for the full text of the article.


Checkers Downtown

After nearly two decades of obscurity since Thomas Keller departed as chef, both the restaurant and the hotel at Checkers Downtown are back on the scene. Hilton has renovated the hotel and redecorated the dining room in muted corporate tones of silver and gray, while it is Chef Todd Allison who has relit the kitchen fires of this Los Angeles landmark property.

Allison trained with Chef James Boyce (“who was like a second father” to him) at Montage Laguna’s Studio, and cooks with a sense of play that balances tradition and innovation.

The Dover sole meuniere with baby artichokes and crispy potatoes would satisfy both Julia Child and a modern downtown loft-dweller. The lobster bisque is creamy but light, and is enlivened by assorted wild mushrooms, pairing beautifully with a South African sparkling rosé.

Save room for the chocolate-banana bread pudding topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s worth the extra gym time.

535 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90071, (213) 624-0000; checkersdowntown.com

Wandermelon: Bustucker Aboriginal Foods

While I was in Western Australia last November, one of the most fun activities we enjoyed on the trip was a morning Bushtucker Tour at the mouth of the Margaret River. It included a canoe ride up the river mouth, learning about the native flora and fauna--not to mention the avian wildlife--as well as Aboriginal culture and beliefs. It all culminated in a little bush-food picnic near some caves that included several Australian specialties and even "superfoods" like the anti-oxidant rich bush lime.

Though the Bushtucker Tour was just one of the activities I wrote about in my recent Wandermelon piece, I took a great video of our guide, Kris, explaining all the otherworldly goodies we were eating that day, and Wandermelon decided to post it on their YouTube Channel.
So click on the following link to see the video, with some cameos by yours truly, and to learn about all the fascinating foods of Western Australia. It's a kick!

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joVLGj0UMk8

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LA Confidential Magazine: The Tar Pit

I love working with the folks over at Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, and luckily, they seem to like working with me, too, and throw me some assignments for their issues.

The most recent issue, March, with Vera Farmiga on the cover, features a couple of my pieces on new restaurants around L.A., including the lead restaurant piece on The Tar Pit. The Tar Pit is the latest venture from Campanile's Mark Peel. Though Audrey Saunders from New York's Pegu Club was originally a partner in it and has since exited her deal, the new Hollywood supper club still seems to be going strong thanks to a blockbuster design job by Tracy Beckmann, who was my last LA.com FACES interview subject, a fun menu of updated uber-Americana classics (Steak Diane, anyone?), and fabulously nostalgic cocktails. I'll save you the details here, but check out my review below.

You can see the page layout from the magazine, which I've pasted just below here. But to see the review itself, either click HERE to go to the page on the magazine's website, or keep reading below where I've pasted in the text!



REVIEW TEXT:

TRY THIS RECIPE: Start with famous local chef Mark Peel (Campanile), add a jigger of mixology from New York bar owner Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club), then muddle them together in a lounge space that’s a classy throwback to 1930s supper clubs. What you get is The Tar Pit.

You’ll notice lots of things when you walk in the door—the dark marble-topped bar, the ornate glass chandeliers, the live band playing old standards on a small side stage and the Art Deco partitions separating the plush booths. Peel says the Golden Age of Hollywood design was inspired by the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey starring Carole Lombard. “There’s a club all the characters go to at the end of the movie called The Dump, and we based The Tar Pit on that,” chuckles Peel.

That lighthearted sense of nostalgia is evident in Peel’s menu, with dishes such as pickled deviled eggs sprinkled with Smithfield ham, crab cakes with preserved lemon remoulade and duck sliders with orange gastrique. Steak Diane gets updated with green peppercorns and cognac in the Madeira sauce, while cornichons and fried capers modernize the shrimp Louis.

Then there are new versions of the old-fashioned cocktails your grandparents would have ordered at their first USO dance, including a Gin-Gin Mule with mint, lime, simple syrup and house-made ginger beer and the politically incorrect Old Cuban—basically a mojito made with aged rum and Angostura bitters finished off with Champagne.

Now if we could just get FDR back in office.

609 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 323-965-1300; tarpitbar.com

Friday, March 26, 2010

Final Glamping Post: Best of the Rest

As with all good things, my Glamping Series on HotelChatter had to come to an end...but not before I made a whirlwind dash around the globe to cover the best of the rest from Europe, Asia and even Antarctica.

We start today in Switzerland, where the glamping experience takes on a...polar flavor at an igloo village outside of Davos. The "romantic suite" one even has a heated whirlpool, and all kinds of kitschy lovey-dovey accoutrements. Then we actually head toward the pole with a stop in the northern Lapland region of Finland, where there are still more igloos at Kakslauttanen Hotel and Igloo Village, though many of the ones here are made of thermal glass so that guests can enjoy the Aurora Borealis at room temperature.

Then we jet off to Asia for a Gobi Desert destination at Three Camel Lodge, where adventurers can spend days trekking in the desert, then come back to tricked-out yurts for some high-end hospitality.

The property that most typifies glamping that we came across is actually in Thailand's Golden Triangle area, and is run by Four Seasons. Though the nature hikes and river cruises seem great, the real draw is the rooms, which look gorgeous, and are kitted out with 19th century glam trappings like hand-hammered copper bathtubs.

From there, it's off to the Indian subcontinent for a little tiger stalking (only for photos!) at Aman Resorts' Aman-i-Khas in balmy Rajasthan, another fabulous tented village with style to spare.

Finally, we hit the most extravagant glamp on our list, White Desert Antarctica, where guests pay over $50,000 for a week of antarctic exploration...with champagne on hand the whole time, of course.

The bottom line is, there are just far too many wonderful glamping properties and experiences to profile in a single week, especially when I've got to hop continent to continent. These are just a few of the interesting ones that I came across, and I look forward to discovering many, many more (as I've already done in the past few days even!). Got any that I should know about? Leave a comment and tell me!

Until then, take a look at some of the Best of the Rest around the world in my article here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/25/233754/132/hotels/More_Places_to_Go_Glamping_The_Best_of_the_Rest

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry 3-25-10

My weekly LA.com roundup of restaurant specials and dining deals around Los Angeles.

Included in my fabulous finds this week:
Sunday Supper and a Passover Seder at Eva

The Counter Brings Burgers to West Hollywood
LA Sake Festival from Drink: Eat: Play

Yellow Submarine Party at the Hideout at the Hollywood Heights Hotel

Seven Year Specials at Grace

Tax Day "Happy Depression" Cocktails at Copa D'Oro

Link: http://www.la.com/tablehome/ci_14756342?source=rss

Part Three in Glamping: The Americas

Of course, we Americans are known for our camping prowess as well--what would family vacation be, after all, without a tent rolled up in the trunk, so marshmallows roasting over a campfire, and little-used fishing rods dusted off just in time to catch dinner? Not that I ever took vacations like that, but still, a guy can dream.

So for today, I decided to stick to the Americas (not just the U.S.) for some high-style nature loving. I start with one of the glamping resorts that has gotten the most press, Montana's Paws Up resort, where a butler will set up your overnight tent by the river if you want, start your campfire, and track wildlife so your hikes are interesting.

On the more rustic side, I came across the Sequoia High Sierra Camp in northern California, which sits at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, and only opens for summer. Not wishing to leave out our neighbors to the north, the next resort I mention is the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort on British Columbia's Sushine Coast...mainly because the tents look fabulous and the outdoor spa treatments, divine.

Then it's time to head south of the equator to Inkaterra's Canopy Tree House in Peru's Amazonian rainforest. But naturalists with a real yen for exotic wildlife should hit the next destination, the Galapagos Safari Camp in Ecuador, on one of the island's Darwin made famous with the chronicles of his trip around the world.

Finally, we head all the way to the south of Chile for a stay in the geodesic domes at EcoCamp in Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia.

Getting tired yet? I hope not, because there's still one more day to go! Check out the Americas article here first: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/24/192732/000/hotels/Keep_on_Glamping_in_the_New_World_The_Americas

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Glamping Series Part Two: Australia!

Day two of my HotelChatter Glamping Series picks up in the land down under, Australia, glamping's next frontier. Outback ranchers, beachcombing environmentalists, mystical motorcycle enthusiasts, and even English princes (I'm talking to you, Harry!), can all find a glamping experience to enjoy thanks to the variety of properties on the massive continent.

The piece starts with two "stations," or ranches as they're called in the U.S., in South Australia's Flinders Range, a region of prehistoric rock formations that is hauntingly beautiful and desolate. Arkaba Station is a converted 19th century homestead that offers luxury accommodations, and five-star overnight camping (or, "swag") experiences, while the newly expanded Rawnsley Park Station offers guests the latest eco-villa lodgings (with moon-view retractable roofs) in Australia. Both are working sheep stations.

From there, it's a quick jaunt east to Queensland for the tented delights of Spicers Canopy , with its gourmet dining and drool-inducing wine collection. Then we head all the way west to the Indian Ocean for some environmentally friendly beach bumming at Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat Broome.

Finally, I had to mention Australia's best-known glamping destination, Longitude 131 Degrees Luxury Wilderness Camp Ayers Rock, which is near one of Australia's most visited tourist sights, Ayers Rock (or Uluru), right in the center of the country. It is here that you can survey the mystical deserts of the north from the back of a camel...or the back of a Harley.

Want to find out more? Read my full story here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/23/202543/781/hotels/Glamping_Australia_If_Prince_Harry_Can_Do_It_So_Can_You

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Part One of My Glamping Series: Out of Africa!

I decided to start my HotelChatter glamping series in the birthplace of the trend (and of humanity itself), Africa. That is where five-star safari camps have been springing up for nearly a century as big-game hunters and animal enthusiasts have flocked to the continent to witness its natural wonders.

I start with an "Out of Africa" luxury package in Kenya that commemorates the 25th anniversary of the film. Then it's off to a newly redone sister property in Tanzania, before poking around a luxury villa-lodge on a private South African game reserve.

We make two more stops in the south: one at the Mahale Greystoke Lodge on the shores of Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika, where guests enjoy the best of both worlds--watersports on the lake, and jungle hiking amongst the large wild chimpanzee populations that inhabit the nearby hills. The second stop is the Vamizi Lodge on Mozambique's Indian Ocean coast for some sea-breezed R&R, the freshest seafood in the world, and a more-than-modest amount of spa pampering.

Finally, I didn't want to forget that Africa has a vast, untamed north as well, and so the last stop on today's itinerary is in the Tunisian desert at a Bedouin oasis that has luxury tents, a hammam, and a plethora of desert exploration activities.

Sound fun? Read about these and more in Day One of my Glamping Series here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/22/193930/074/hotels/HotelChatter_s_Guide_to_Glamping_Out_of_Africa_Style

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Glamping Series on HotelChatter

This coming week, I will be writing a series about one of the biggest trends in the travel world: Glamping!

No, that’s not a typo (even if my spellchecker does refuse to accept it). Glamping, as you might have guessed, is a mash-up of the words “glamorous” and “camping.” That doesn’t sound so bad. And it doesn’t look so bad either, based on the research I've been doing lately. In fact, some of the properties and experiences I've found look as nice as five-star luxury hotels, and LEED-certified eco-lodges. The trend is so mainstream at this point, that even USA Today and the LA Times have reported on it, though I'm going to be taking a more in-depth look over the course of this week.

I'll be honest, I'm not exactly outdoorsy, and I'm not really a camper. I think if you polled my friends, they'd be shocked to learn that I used to spend my childhood summers at a ramshackle camp on Catalina Island where you were lucky if your open-air cabin had doors. These days I'm more about the pampering, but I can still hike a trail, rig a sailboat, shoot an arrow and start a fire. That said, I'd rather have a personal butler do it for me!

So join me this week as I hike across the globe, trendspotting, and taking you on a tour of the more intriguing properties I came across while researching the Glamping scene. Day by day, I'll span the continents, starting in Africa, where I'll tell you about an “Out of Africa” package in Kenya, island-hopping in Mozambique, nomading like a (really pampered) Bedouin in Tunisia, lake-living in Tanzania, and a slew of upscale safari options.

Then it’s on to Australia, where the flavor is a little more cowboy-ish. There’s cattle-ranching deluxe in South Australia, a station (or ranch, as we’d call it in America) with a restaurant that would make any gourmand drool, riverside remoteness in the far northwest of the country, and eco-conscious mysticism (with helicopter tours and Harley Davidson rides!) in the shadow of Ayers Rock.

For the third day, I'll tour the Americas, where the experiences range from trekking through the salty highlands of Bolivia, to the Galapagos’ “evolving” lodge scene (tee hee), to perching in a Peruvian canopy tree house, to braving the windswept stretches of Patagonia…in tricked out chalets, of course.

Finally, I'll cover the best of the rest, including a chance to hop a private jet to a camp site in Antarctica, geodesic luxury pods in the Swiss Alps, sauna-ing in style in northern Finland, sheltering with friendly camels in Mongolia, prowling with tigers in India and a tented camp in Thailand’s notorious Golden Triangle.

Intrigued? So am I…almost enough to order up a backpack and some fur-trimmed boots from L.L. Bean, and not just because they accentuate my shapely calves. So stick around this week for my Glamping series, and see where those in the know will be “roughing it” this year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 3-18-10

My weekly LA.com roundup of restaurant specials and dining deals around Los Angeles.

Included in my finds this week:

StarChefs.com's Rising Stars Gala at FIG at the Fairmont Miramar

"Runner's High" Happy Hour for the L.A. Marathon at the Hotel Erwin in Venice

The classic cars Dine and Drive Sunday brunch at the Peninsula Beverly Hills

Family-style Sunday suppers at Cecconi's
GO Pop-up at Chaya Venice

The new casual dining concept at Casa Del Mar's Catch Restaurant

Mini burgers and penny pitchers at Oak Fire Pizza

For all the details, take a look here: http://www.la.com/tablehome/ci_14704057?source=rss

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

EDGE Destination California Series Part 2: San Diego

Last month was the first installment of my Destination California Series on EDGE Publications, which covered central Los Angeles.

This time around, I talk about my very own hometown, San Diego, covering downtown, Hillcrest, and the surrounding areas, including hotels, some of my favorite restaurants in town, plus all the usual attractions (plus a few for history dorks like myself).

Sometimes we take our own hometowns for granted, but writing this piece gave me a new appreciation for just how much there is to see, do, and taste in "America's Finest City." Now if I can just make up an excuse to get back down there soon...

In the meantime, see for yourself what I'm talking about by checking out my article here: http://www.edgeonthenet.com/index.php?ch=travel&sc=&sc3=&id=101860&pg=1

Monday, March 15, 2010

HotelChatter: St. Regis Monarch Beach


You might have seen my recent story about Michael Mina and his Stonehill Tavern restaurant at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, where I recently stayed for a few days, experiencing all the fun perks the resort has to offer, from personalized butler service, to seaside golfing, to gourmet food and wine, to impromptu dance club nights in the lobby.

The whole experience was really wonderful, and I made a quick video with the resort's Sales and Marketing Director, Michael Mustafa, detailing the particular amenities guests can enjoy. I also wrote up the experience for HotelChatter, and you can find the information and a link to the video in my article below.

Link: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/9/245/95427/hotels/Golf_Gourmet_Food_And_Cougars_at_the_St_Regis_Monarch_Beach

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jaunted: High-Altitude High-End Dining on V Australia


It's been a few months since that trip to Western Australia back in November, but the memories of my excellent experiences in V Australia's International Business Class are still fresh, so I was thrilled this week to get the opportunity to write about their stellar food and beverage service for Jaunted.

It made me realize just how much I ate (and drank!) on the flights, and though it's true, the food isn't ever quite as good as on the ground, it was still pretty delicious, and certainly among the best eats I've had up in the air. Ryan Bingham would drool. Meanwhile, I hope that you marvel as much as I did at the sheer number of photos I took, and get as much enjoyment reading about my flight (of wine) on a flight as I had sampling the vinos.

To learn more about what's on the slab on board, read my full article here: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/3/10/132251/151/travel/High-Altitude%20High-End%20Dining%20on%20V%20Australia

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 3-11-10

This week's LA.com roundup of restaurant specials and dining deals around Los Angeles.

Included in my finds for this week:

Tender Greens Opens in Hollywood

St. Patty's Fest Benefits the Children's Tumor Foundation

Hudson House Celebrates its First Anniversary

Brasserie Night at Campanile

Tapas and an Accordionist at Royal/T

Patina Opens Market Cafe

Veggie Grill Gets Booze

For all that and more, get the details here: http://www.la.com/tablehome/ci_14665828?source=rss

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frontiers: Cliff's Edge and Escargots Around LA

Cliff's Edge in Silverlake is routinely voted one of Los Angeles's most romantic restaurants, and is also one of the Eastside's most popular brunch spots. My editor at Frontiers asked me to head in there for a review dinner a few weeks ago, courtesy of Corsican-born owner Pierre Casanova (yes, that's his real name!). My friend and I had a great time on the leafy, torch-lit patio, as I'm sure you'll be able to tell by reading the review.

Then, as part of Frontiers' new format, I create a short roundup at the end of each review of other restaurants where you can find excellent versions of one of the dishes I mention. This time it was one of my favorites, escargots. So, where should you go to get some of the best snails in Los Angeles? Well, I only had room for four entries, and I didn't want to repeat any of the bistros I had included in my roundup of the best moules frites in town with my Frontiers review of Delphine, so this time I talked about: Bouchon (probably the best dish I had there!), Church & State (the most interesting presentation of escargots I've ever seen), Lilly's French Cafe and Bar (an old Westside classic), and Pinot Bistro (what a great setting, and in the Valley, too!). To find out why I chose the four I chose, read my piece in Frontiers below.

Link: http://www.frontierspublishing.com/2823/nightlife/nl_eat.html

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wandermelon: Australia's Wild West

It's a week of firsts for me, with my articles first appearing in several new publications. Continuing the trend is this roundup of the best outdoor/nature activities from my recent trip to Western Australia that I wrote for a relatively new travel site started by an accomplished bunch of travel editors and writers called Wandermelon. Wandermelon is devoted to experiential travel, meaning that its features cover everything from five-star to no-star, as long as it's meaningful.

Well, thanks to the auspices of Tourism Western Australia, my trip was heavily on the five-star side, but it was still packed full of meaning...and wonderful, exceptional experinces, and in this article I get to talk about many of them. Included in this article about Australia's Wild West are: the diverse flora and fauna of sprawling Kings Park Perth, the wacky wildlife and jaunty bike paths of Rottnest Island, the mystical power of Swimming with the Rockingham Dolphins, learning about Aboriginal culture and foods with Bushtucker Tours while canoeing up the Margaret River Mouth, spelunking in the stalact-icious Ngilgi Cave, and wandering down the spectacular Cape to Cape Track between the lighthouses as Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.

To learn more about each experience take a look at the highlights in my Wandermelon article by clicking on the link below.

Story: http://wandermelon.com/australias-wild-west/

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BrandX: Lompoc Wine Ghetto

My first article for BrandX, the L.A. Times's edgier magazine insert, just came out last Wednesday and is up on the web site now. It's about the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which I visited right around this time last year, and which I'm looking forward to visiting again next week when I'm up at Alisal Ranch!

Rather than the tourism aspect of visiting the Ghetto, I talk about the larger trends that led to its development, and what exactly winemaking in such a close-knit, bare-bones environment is like...and why the wines that come out of it are so darn good!

While researching it, I got lots of great ideas from the winemakers I talked to, including Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars, Peter Work of Ampelos Cellars, Steve Clifton of Palmina and Brewer-Clifton, Victor Gallegos of Sea Smoke Cellars, Rick Longoria of Longoria Wines, and Joshua Klapper of La Fenetre. Speaking with all these talented individuals really helped get to the heart of just what makes the Wine Ghetto (and the whole Lompoc/Santa Barbara County community) and its wines so special, as well as what sets it apart from California's other wine regions (ahem, Napa, Sonoma!).

So take a look at my article below, and see what you think.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

LA.com Review: Hunger Market and Cafe

Unlike most Angelenos, I try to stay out of my car as much as possible, and do many of my errands around the neighborhood on foot. That is how, one day, I noticed that what used to be a Judaica store on Santa Monica Boulevard had suddenly become a new gourmet cafe-market (just as the bar across from it that used to be the Normandie Room had become GYM Sports Bar).

That market is called Hunger Market Cafe, and is staffed by a corps of friendly folks just waiting to share the fresh pre-composed salads, hot-pressed panini, savory soups, and clever coffee concoctions.

Find out more about what to shop for and what to eat when you read my LA.com review below.

Review: http://www.la.com/arts-entertainment/ci_14493208

Friday, March 5, 2010

LA.com Review: House Cafe

The owner of Cora's, Capo and Brentwood has opened up a fourth restaurant, on Beverly Boulevard this time, in the former home of Pastis. It's called House Cafe, and the menu is a hodgepodge of that L.A. hallmark: market-fresh ingredients blended into bistro fare from all four corners of the globe.

Since it's a neighborhood spot, it also serves breakfast and lunch, has some great beers on tap, and is generally genial. To read more about the ambiance and specific dishes on the menu, check out my review below.

Review: http://www.la.com/arts-entertainment/ci_14493204

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 3-4-10

This week's LA.com round up of restaurant specials and dining deals around Los Angeles.

Included on the docket this week:

Fabulous Zinfandels at a Seghesio Vineyards dinner at One Pico at Shutters on the Beach


A wine tasting at Street of Italian vinos curated by Jill Bernheimer from DomaineLA

Culina opens at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills
The announcement that Wolfgang Puck will open a new restaurant called WP24 at the Ritz-Carlton at LA Live

Quadrupel Brasserie, a cross between a Belgian beer bar and a French bistro, opens in Pasadena
"Mad Scientist" cocktails at The Lab

A new Japanese Beer Garden on Mondays at Chaya Downtown

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LA.com Review: Pizza Fusion

I'm always on the lookout for good pizza in the neighborhood (which explains why you'll find me at the gym so often, working out to avoid the negative results of successful finds!), so that's why I was excited to see a new location of Pizza Fusion had opened up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

The small chain features a menu of fresh, seasonal pizzas and other dishes, made when possible from organically sourced and hypo-allergenic ingredients. Not only that, but the wine and beer list takes care to explain the environmental commitments of each entry. Oh, and the waiters are all super friendly and cute. If only I could eat pizza every night....

Review: http://www.la.com/arts-entertainment/ci_14493199

LA.com Review: The Mercantile

Much-touted in December, The Mercantile is the newest venture from the man behind The Bowery, Delancey, Mission Cantina and Tamarind--all in Hollywood. Only this time, he's brought in an established chef who is already a fixture on the L.A. scene, the fabulously named Kris Morningstar, previously of AOC and Blue Velvet.

It's hard to say exactly what The Mercantile is. Part gourmet food store, part patisserie, part wine bar, part comfort food kitchen, part gelateria, it is a veritable epicurean emporium, and I tried to cover its many facets in the piece...see if you get a better idea of the experience from reading my review below.

Review: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_14493178

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

LA.com Review: Lazy Ox Canteen

Little Tokyo is fast becoming one of Los Angeles's most exciting dining destinations, with fun new restaurants popping up all the time. One of the most eagerly anticipated this winter was a new partnership between Michael Cardenas of Sushi Roku, and Chef Josef Centeno, an international small plates emporium called the Lazy Ox Canteen.

The menu is a dizzying dervish of dishes that combines flavors from many of the world's great culinary cultures. In fact, there were so many dishes, it was almost impossible to choose from them, especially when you factor in both the regular menu items and the specials scrawled on the giant chalkboard in back. That said, I think that eventually the menu will settle down a little and focus on some strong, core dishes. And the happy hour special with $3 drinks and $5 menu items is one of the best deals in the area.

To read more about what I ate, and how I liked the astro-turfed walls, open kitchen, and hanging ox yolk, take a look at my review below.

Review: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_14493190

LA.com: FACES Interview with Tracy Beckmann

Back in November, the big foodie news in Los Angeles (apart from the opening of Thomas Keller's Bouchon Beverly Hills, that is) was the opening of The Tar Pit by Mark Peel (the chef-owner of Campanile) and Audrey Saunders (New York's Pegu Club). The restaurant-lounge is a Golden Age Hollywood wonderland, reminiscent of polished movie supperclubs, with a menu of classic Americana gourmet items to match, and an incomparable cocktail list that livens up old standards like a Moscow Mule and the ubiquitous mojito.

Rather than interview a restaurateur, chef or sommelier for this month's FACES interview on LA.com, I decided that it might be interesting to explore an unusual angle of the food scene and talk to the interior designer of The Tar Pit. That would be Tracy Beckmann, who discussed her work with one of L.A.'s other top designers, Kelly Wearstler (Avalon and Viceroy Hotels), the cinematic inspirations behind The Tar Pit's look, and what it's like designing commercial projects like restaurants and hotels.

It was all a revelation--a stylish, manicured, impeccably articulated revelation. For more take a look at the full interview by clicking on the link below.

Interview: http://www.la.com/arts-entertainment/ci_14493170

Monday, March 1, 2010

Palate Press: Wining and Dining Through Western Australia

As you may recall, I got to take an amazing trip to Western Australia in November, and I recently wrote a brief travelogue about it, as told through the wines I tasted in the Margaret River, for Palate Press. In it, I talk about the individual wines I was able to try, the winemaking scene in general there and how it differs from other parts of Australia, and the history and topography of the region.

Basically, I tell the story of the trip once we hit the Margaret River region part of the itinerary, and focus on the fabulous wines we got to try in Australia's under-explored far southwest. I think readers will come away with a better understanding not only of what is coming out of the region (and the appellation of Margaret River in particular), but also a quick hit list of some great wines to to try from there.

Stay tuned for another story about the wild experiences, literally wild, as in, nature, that I had while on the other side of the world, coming soon on Wandermelon, but in the meantime, drink in this story of the good life on Palate Press.

Story: http://palatepress.com/2010/02/wining-and-dining-through-western-australia/