Monday, May 31, 2010

Frontiers: Hatfield's Review

Hatfield's was one of the most popular restaurants in Los Angeles, and has won a series of awards and accolades including a Michelin star, and best new restaurant of the year when it opened in 2006.

The restaurant gets its name from the husband-wife team in the kitchen, Quinn and Karen Hatfield, who actually met while working in the kitchen at Wolfgang Puck's Spago.

Late last year, the tiny restaurant on Beverly Boulevard closed its doors to move to a larger space on Melrose, only reopening a couple months ago in its new incarnation. All of LA's foodie community came out to celebrate, and after the cacophony died down a little, I headed into the restaurant to check out its new lunch menu.

Find out what I had to say about the dishes we tried, the new decor, and the lunchtime crowd--as well as a great little guide I whipped up about where to find the best lobster club sandwiches in town--in this recent review I did for Frontiers.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

LowFares: Versailles

If you follow my blog, you'll know that when I was in Paris last April, I took a day trip out to Versailles, where I was not only lucky enough to catch the famous fountains in action, but I also got treated to a trip around the property in one of their "Vehicules," aka a golf cart.

As I was writing about Paris for LowFares' first Destination of the Week this month, I chose Versailles as one of the accompanying features since it really is the perfect day-trip from Paris (within a commuting distance of the center city, really), and is a not-to-miss experience whether you're on your first vacation to the City of Lights, or you're an old bon vivant.

To find out more about the famous palace, how to get there, what to see when you do, and when you can catch the fountain show for yourself, be sure to check out my latest LowFares article at the link below!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jaunted: The Points Guy Maximizes our Miles

Lately I've been writing a lot of stories about my friend Brian Kelly, who has become "The Points Guy," a regular everyday superhero for those of us looking to make good use of our loyalty program points.

That's mainly because I think he's pretty much a genius. Not only does he amass vast quantities of loyalty points across airline and hotel programs, but he puts them to better use than anyone else I've met, scoring sweet suite upgrades at every hotel, and getting bumped up to business and first class even on those fully booked, coveted international flights. He's even helping me get to Europe myself this summer, so I'm grateful to him, and I've been writing about all the topics we've been discussing lately.

First was this article last month on HotelChatter, and then another one about elite airline status on LowFares.

On Monday, the final article of mine about him (for now!) came out on Jaunted, and has to do with how to make the most of your airline miles--maximizing them, choosing the right airline for you, and the insane deal he got where $232 earned him a whopping 45,000 miles on Delta. No joke!

Want to learn more, take a look at my article at the link below.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LowFares: Reims and Champagne

I had a really wonderful time when I visited Reims last year for a day of tasting champagne from some of the world's most famous houses, as well as touring the historic city where the kings of France were once crowned.

My first article about the region came out on Jaunted last year, and you can still read it here.

More recently, my article about both Champagne and Normandy came out in the travel section of Frontiers, and you can find it here.

But for a great overview of a day-trip to the capital of Champagne (and beyond to the heart of champagne country, Epernay), check out my latest article about the region on LowFares. It is one of the features I wrote to accompany my article on Paris, the site's first Destination of the Week. The site is currently relaunching its editorial content, and my guides and articles are going to be a big part of that--both as Destination of the Week series, as well as one-off articles like my recent post on The Points Guy.

Up next for me with them will be a week-long series on Argentina, including a guide to Buenos Aires, and another to Mendoza, plus a quick hit on how to go riding at an estancia for the day. In the meantime, though, enjoy this article on the bubbly delights of Champagne!


Monday, May 24, 2010

LowFares: Destination of the Week Paris

It's official, LowFares has just re-launched its editorial content, and the inaugural Destination of the Week is my guide to Paris!

Though brief, this piece contains all kinds of wonderful and current information, from some of the city's newest, hippest hotels, to tried and trusty restaurants, fabulous shopping excursions, and a good helping of practical tourism information thrown in. So if you're planning a trip to the City of Lights this summer, or want to leave some comments about places I might have left out, check out my article at the link below.

Check back later this week to find my guides to champagne-tasting in Reims and a day-trip to Versailles as well, but in the meantime, say bonjour to Paris!


Photo credit: Al Ianni

Rundown: Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival

While I was down in Orange County last month for the OCeanfront Shakeoff, I learned about the Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival, which is hosted every year at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort right in the heart of Newport Beach.

This year features wine-tastings highlighting offbeat regions like Washington State and France's Loire Valley, as well as gala dinners, seafood by the bay, and all manner of gourmet gallivanting. It seemed like the perfect fit for one of The Rundown's "Weekend Runaways."

Find a full roster of events by clicking on the link to my write up below.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 5-20-10

Fear not! Here’s my weekly Stir Fry roundup of tremendous restaurant specials and delicious dining deals around Los Angeles. Some really exciting restaurant openings, happy hours and wine dinners, so get ready for some good eats (and drinks) this week!

The Bruery’s Second Anniversary, Saturday-Sunday, May 22-23
Okay, technically it’s down in the O.C., but this sounded so good, I just had to include it on the Stir Fry. Just east of Anaheim, The Bruery is a brew geek’s wonderland, with a homey tasting room in which to enjoy their limited-edition, hand-crafted beers. $40 gets you a three-hour tasting and 10 drink tickets for 2-5 ounce pours of their beers. The Bruery will also be releasing a special second anniversary oak-aged Belgian-style ale (with over 14% alcohol!) called Coton for the event. 750 ml bottles of the stuff will be sold at a discounted $15 during the event. The celebration takes place both days from 12:00-3:00pm and 4:00-7:00pm. Tickets are $40, and you can purchase them at the Bruery’s site here.
715 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870, (714) 996-6258,

Red O Opening, Wednesday, May 26
Rick Bayless, the author of six cookbooks, owner and chef of Chicago’s acclaimed Frontera Grill, winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” and the chef at last night’s White House State Dinner for the President of Mexico, is opening a new restaurant on Melrose next week called Red O. The new resto will be open for dinner nightly, and offering dishes of light, California-style Mexican food like chilpachole seafood broth with shrimp, scallops, mussels, roasted potatoes and chayote; pork belly sopes with black beans, salsa negra and sesame; and goat cheese cheesecake with caramel corn and Mexican “root beer sauce.” Red O was designed by G+ Gulla Jonsdottir Design with custom furniture, brightly colored accents, an open floor plan, and a dining courtyard “crowned” by two handmade 14-foot chandeliers. There is also a glass tequila tunnel cellar showcasing the restaurant’s selection of premium tequilas. The restaurant will be open Sunday-Thursday, 5:00-11:00pm, and Friday-Saturday 5:00pm-midnight. (Photo Credit: Edward Duarte for the Chicago Tribune)
8155 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046, (323) 655-5009,

Tequila Night at Malo, Thursday, May 27
Silverlake’s go-to Mexican restaurant is holding a tequila appreciation night hosted by Mexico’s one and only female-owned and operated distillery, Sino Tequila. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 that night, and will include a selection of tequila cocktails and Malo’s famous chips and salsa. Not only is this a great chance to taste tequila made by Mexican women, but Sino also supports the arts by giving $1 of every bottle made to the Latino Arts Network. That should make the shots go down even easier than a lick of salt and a wedge of lime.
4326 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 664-1011,

Cooking Class with Michael Cimarusti at Providence, Sunday, May 23
Chef Michael Cimarusti is holding a farmers market cooking class at Providence this Sunday starting at 11:00am. He’s going to teach you how to use what you find at the farmers market to make a cornucopia of delicious dishes. This Sunday’s class will focus around a main course of local seafood, and will demonstrate sauces and sides. Then participants will get to eat what he makes for lunch. Be sure to call ahead, though, since there are only 30 open slots, and tickets cost $100 each.
5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038, (323) 460-4170,

Happy Hour at Nobu
One of L.A.’s favorite sushi spots has just updated its happy hour, just in time for summer. Now guests can enjoy $4 Sapporo, $6 house wines by the glass, $7 mixed well drinks, and $9 martinis 7 nights a week from 5:00-8:00pm, along with the normal tapas menu. Now that’s a reason to be happy indeed.
903 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 657-5711,

Gilded Hour at The Tar Pit
Whatever you do, don’t call it “happy hour”! The Tar Pit is introducing a daily “Gilded Hour” from 5:00-6:30pm daily that will feature $6 wines by the glass and specialty cocktails like their Bees Knees (gin, honey, lemon), Brown Derby (bourbon, honey, grapefruit), and Tennessee Trilogy (applejack whiskey, sugar, orange bitters). The appetizers like pickled deviled eggs, calamari, mini mac and cheese and French fries will be priced at between $2.50-5.
609 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 965-1300,

Prix Fixe Spring Menus at DaVinci
Executive Chef Jason Fullilove is introducing a $14 three-course lunch menu, and a $50 five-course dinner menu this spring at DaVinci in Beverly Hills. The lunch deal includes a daily seasonal soup or salad, any half sandwich or linguini with pomodoro, and a brownie sundae or house-made sorbets and ice cream. The dinner menu will offer 2-3 options per course featuring light starters like fried artichoke, and asparagus ravioli, entrees like squid ink linguini or Colorado lamb duo and spring pea risotto. For dessert, there’s Meyer lemon panna cotta or bruleed spring fruit.
9737 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 888-9010,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frontiers: North of France Daytrips from Paris

Well, it took a little while, but my article on the north of France finally went up in the Long Beach Pride issue of Frontiers IN/LA.

In it, I cover a day trip to Champagne, where the train trip to Reims takes just about an hour from Paris, and you can spend the morning touring the historical sites, and the afternoon sipping champagne in some of the most famous wineries in the world.

The other half of the article is about heading to Normandy to see the World War II beaches, the renowned Bayeux Tapestry, and trekking along the gourmet cider and cheese routes that run through the Pays d'Auge countryside.

If you've been to Paris before and are looking to get out into the countryside but don't have too much time on your next trip to France, this article has tons of great ideas for you!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jaunted: Flying the Gay-Friendly Skies With JetPRIDE

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a little preview on EDGE about JetBlue's recent JetPRIDE Flight #1969, hosted by Australian comedienne (and "the most glamorous air hostess in the world!") Pam Ann, from San Francisco to Long Beach just in time for the first festival of Pride season.

Well, this past weekend, I had the chance to hop on the flight myself, as well as to enjoy the Hotel Maya's Pride 2010 Package. What a fun, exhausting weekend! I'll be writing about the whole shebang for EDGE later this week, but here is the first recap of just the flight section of the itinerary that went up on Jaunted earlier today.

Not only will you get a full synopsis of all the silly shenanigans on the flight, but I've also posted a gallery of pictures from the afternoon, as well as some video "outtakes" of Pam Ann as she roused and razzed the crowd. So click on the link to my story below, and enjoy all the champagne shots, cupcakes and cocktails as you come aboard JetPRIDE 2010!


Wandermelon: Revenge of the Merlot

The folks over at Wandermelon are definitely interested to hear about my upcoming adventures in wine-related travel, but my most recent piece for them had to do with a tasting here in Los Angeles: Learn About Wine's "Revenge of the Merlot" tasting and panel discussion.

I love Learn About Wine's dynamic calendar of wine-tasting and educational events (which are also just plain fun), and have enjoyed many an afternoon of sipping and spitting vintages from far-flung places like Napa, Burgundy, Santa Barbara, and beyond.

This particular tasting focused on high-end Merlot producers from Napa and Sonoma, and before we got down to drinking, we were treated to a panel discussion with opinions from some of the best-known names in the business.

Want to learn more about Merlot, and why the guys in Sideways had it all wrong? Take a look at my piece below to read about the real deal behind the varietal, as well as some of my favorite wines at the event.


Monday, May 17, 2010

HotelChatter: Cupcakes at the Mission Inn

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to stay at the Mission Inn in Riverside. Now, I know what you're thinking: "what's so great about a hotel in Riverside?" And before staying there, I would have agreed with you.

However, the Mission Inn is one of the great historical properties of California, and is an iconic hotel with a past that rivals the great hotels of yore. Over 10 U.S. Presidents have wandered its halls, and the Nixons were even married there (the Reagans spent the first night of their honeymoon there too).

So that's the stodgy history draw--you can even take a docent-led tour during your stay if you want, and I'd highly suggest it--but now on to the fun. The hotel is also now home to a bakery specializing in cupcakes, and not only that, but you can even throw your very own cupcake decorating party. Truth be told, this was one of the major draws to the resort (though the gorgeous pool out front, and the newly expanded spa didn't hurt).

Want to hear more about the frosted treats and sprinkled sweets in store for you? Hit the link below to see my HotelChatter story on it from last week.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cheapo Air: Fabulous Under-The-Radar Wine Regions

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by CheapoAir, a travel aggregator site like LowFares or Travelocity, and asked to contribute an article as a guest writer on their newly launched blog, which already has a pretty large audience.

I was given total free rein to write whatever I want (within a certain word count, of course!), and after days of puzzling over what to choose (there were so many destinations and trends to cover!), I finally settled on one of my defaults: wine travel. But with a twist.

Rather than talking about all the wonderful places I'm sure readers know about (ahem, Napa!), I chose a couple out-of-the-way places instead, including Salta, Argentina; Wachau, Austria; and Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Want to know why? Well, you'll just have to read the article at the link below to find out!


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Rundown: Thirsty Crow Bar

A couple weeks ago on the April 29th Stir Fry, I mentioned that a new bar dedicated to hard-to-find bourbons and whiskeys called The Thirsty Crow was opening in Silverlake. I went there to try out some of their specialty Manhattans, and to talk to their bourbonista, Brandon Ristaino, about his soon-to-start bourbon tastings on Sundays at 9pm.

I wrote up the whole, delightful experience for The Rundown, and hopefully I'll start writing for them again with some more frequency, especially about my recent California travels.

In the meantime, check out my piece at the link below, and let me know anytime you want to head there for a Marmalade Manhattan!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

HotelChatter: Andaz San Diego's King-Size Bunk Beds

One of the first pieces I ever wrote as a freelance writer was a roundup of downtown San Diego hotels for a couple years ago. Back then, the Andaz San Diego was still the Ivy Hotel, but these days it's joined the Hyatt family of hotels, and is looking pretty spiffy. It still has a bit of a party atmosphere, though, as you'll see from my story on their Star Suite. As soon as I heard that it featured mirrored ceilings, a stripper pole, and king-size bunk beds, I knew there was a story to write.

Luckily my editor at HotelChatter agreed, and asked me to go on an investigative visit to the sixth-floor suite during my last visit to San Diego. As you'll see, the beds are indeed impressive, and hopefully I'll be posting a gallery of my other photos of the room including the full wet bar, the stripper pole, and the party shower (yeah, it's big enough to throw a party in). For now, just take a look at the beds and my story with all the salacious details, including a mention of the suite's first celebrity guest (guess who!).


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 5-12-10

I took a little hiatus last week, but here it is in all its glory, my weekly Stir Fry roundup of bonanza restaurant specials and dining deals around Los Angeles. Some really fantastic happy hours, cooking classes and cocktail contests going on in May!

Caché’s Midnight Happy Hour

Turning happy hour on its head, Josiah Citrin’s Main Street bistro is now offering a special happy hour on Thursday-Saturday nights from 12:00 midnight through 1:30am…because sometimes you just want the drinks at the end of the night to be cheap. As part of the deal, the restaurant will be offering special cocktails like the Kiwi Reve with Akvinta Vodka, St. Germain, Kiwi, Thyme and Bugey Cerdon for just $7, other well drinks and wines by the glass for $7, and beers for $4, plus a selection of their signature mason jar snacks including the one with duck confit and the one with eggplant tapenade for discount prices. Don’t rush, the restaurant will be offering its after-hour happy hour indefinitely.

3110 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405, (310) 399-4800,

Cooking Class With Fergus Henderson at Ciudad, Saturday, May 15

For the grand total of $95 per person, foodie fanboys (and girls) can take a demonstration cooking class in “nose-to-tail eating” from one of the culinary world’s international superstars, Fergus Henderson, of London’s St. John Restaurant. The class fee includes a multi-course lunch, cocktails, and a recipe booklet, and will run from 11:00am-1:00pm at Ciudad downtown.

445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90071, (213) 486-5171,

The People’s Cocktail Contest at Drago Centro, starting Monday, May 17

Chef Celestino Drago, and sommelier Michael Shearin, are hosting a contest to determine their summer cocktail list starting on Monday, May 17, and running for four weeks. Aspiring mixologists and amateur drinkers are invited to submit original recipes for a s hot at making it onto Drago Centro’s cocktail menu. Here’s the catch, competitors must do it via Twitter, so each recipe must be 140 characters or less, and Drago’s Twitter (@DragoCentro) followers will be asked to use a new secret ingredient each week. Cocktails will be judged on the presentation including name, appearance, aroma, taste, creativity, and compatibility with Drago Centro’s cocktail list. The winner will be announced each Friday on Twitter, with the final four invited to a “mix off” at the restaurant where the final “People’s Cocktail” for the month will be determined. So start that muddling and mixing.

525 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, CA 90071, (213) 228-8998,

Sake Pairing at Takami, Tuesday, May 18

Starting at 7:00pm next Tuesday, Takami Sushi and Robata Restaurant in downtown LA is hosting its first sake pairing dinner with a variety of premium Japanese sakes paired with tableside-prepared courses courtesy of Executive Chef Stan Ota. The special spirits include Ichisima “Silk Deluxe” Junmai paired with an unagi ratatouille (!) on crips wonton; and Yuki no Bosha “Cabin in the Snow” Junmai Negori paired with robata duck breast. Connoisseurs and neophytes alike will find something to make them shout banzai! Seating is limited to 35 guests, so reservations highly recommended, dinner will be $59 per person not including tax and gratuity.

811 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017, (213) 236-9600,

Alejandro Fernandez Wine Dinner at The Bazaar, Tuesday, May 18

Culinary whiz José Andrés is hosting master winemaker Alejandro Fernandez at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel for a special wine dinner marking the 25th anniversary of the first international shipment of Fernandez’s iconic Tinto Pesquera Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Duero DOC. No word on the special menu yet, but with a hefty price tag of $200 per person including tax and gratuity, it’s bound to be memorable.

465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, (310) 246-5545,

Wilshire Launches Cocktail Program

One of LA’s best known cocktail consultants (how would you like to have that job title?) has conceived of a new, market-based cocktail menu to match Chef Andrew Kirschner’s much-lauded cuisine. The menu debuted last week, and every Thursday, Straus will be the resident bartender mixing up his dozen new drinks. On the list? The Tequila Spa with Paqui silver, red grapes, cucumber, lemon and lime; Thai Afternoon with coconut milk and water, Han Soju, Thai basil and ginger beer; and the Sweet n Spicy with Cabana Cachaça, cherry preserve and jalapeno. We’ll be honest, we’re kind of over the corny names already, but how can you turn down a Pear Passion with Xante, Navan, cardamom and lemon juice?

2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 586-1707,

HotelChatter: Ritz-Carlton's Cheese Cave

I've been spending a lot of time down on the Orange County coast lately. As you might recall, I was asked to be one of the judges for the OCeanfront Shakeoff Cocktail Contest last month. Then I stopped back by the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel the following week to check out their new room decor, the fabulous food on their outdoor dining terrace, the Sunset Lounge, and, most importantly, to go on a very important and tasty expedition into their on-site cheese cave. It's actually more of a room than a cave, but we're not quibbling. It's housed in in Eno Wine, Cheese and Chocolate bar, right off the main lobby, so you can't miss it. Just be sure to stick around and have some wine pairings so you can get the full experience.

Here is the story of my own fateful journey into the depths of the cheese cave, complete with video and photos of the Ritz-Carlton's very own cheesemonger showing me around his workshop. See if you can read it without getting hungry...


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LowFares: Elite Airline Status with The Points Guy

I know I said it last week, but my friend Brian Kelly is a genius! He is something of a real-world Ryan Bingham, you know the George Clooney character from Up in the Air, and is starting his own business consulting on airline and hotel loyalty points programs. He calls himself The Points Guy, and has become an expert on rewards points in both the hotel and airline industries.

After he was able to swing me a business class award ticket to Paris in the middle of the summer using an embarrassingly small amount of frequent flier miles, I knew he was onto something. So last week, I talked to him for a piece on HotelChatter, which you can find here. I'll also be talking to him specifically about airline programs for Jaunted in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, he and I had another interview about how to qualify for Elite Status on airlines: ways to do it, how many miles it takes, what the point is, and how programs differ from airline to airline. All in all, I'd say it's a pretty comprehensive starting guide to Elite Status programs, and should give anyone a good idea of how they work.

To find out the best ways to qualify for Elite Status, which airlines are your best bets, and all sorts of other useful information, take a peek at my story on LowFares at the link below.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blackboard Eats: Gobi Mongolian BBQ

The last piece I wrote for Blackboard Eats was about The Little Next Door, but I actually wrote this piece about a new restaurant in Silverlake at just about the same time.

Gobi Mongolian BBQ won't be setting new dining standards, but it was still a pretty fun place to eat, and I'd actually suggest it as a decent first-date place where you won't lack for conversation about everyone's choice of what to put into their big old stir fry bowl.

My favorite fun fact I learned while researching this piece was: "Mongolian barbecue is neither Mongolian nor barbecue. That’s right, this form of griddle stir-frying originated in Japan, where it was called teppanyaki, before it became popular in Taiwan in the mid-20th century."

To read more about Gobi and why you might like to eat there, take a look at my story by clicking on the link below!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

EDGE: JetPride SFO-Long Beach

You might have noticed that I've been traveling a lot for work lately, and I have even more, and even bigger, trips planned for the coming months.

One of the next trips I'm taking, though, is a quick jaunt up to San Francisco just so that I can turn right back around and hop on Jet Blue's special "JetPride Flight #1969" from SFO-Long Beach just in time for Long Beach Pride this year.

I'll be heading up to San Francisco at the end of the week, then taking the special return flight on Friday, which will be hosted by Australian entertainer (no not Dame Edna), Pam Ann, "the world's most glamorous air hostess."

I'm not quite sure what to expect, so stay tuned for photos and video on EDGE and Jaunted, but in the meantime, you can take a look at my preview with all the details at the link below!


Monday, May 3, 2010

HotelChatter: The Points Guy

One of the biggest trends in the travel industry overall these days is loyalty points maximization. The movie Up in the Air made a joke of road warriors who hoard their points programs on everything from hotel chains to airlines to rental car agencies, but the truth is, all of us are members in one program or another (or, more likely, a higher number like 17), and we are all looking for better ways to put our points to use. Especially in this horrible economy, where our cash flow might be low, but we still have huge points balances. The thing is, it can be so hard to figure out what to do with these points, and then once you do, it seems impossible to redeem them for anything valuable.

That's where my friend Brian Kelly comes in. He has just started his own rewards points consulting business under the moniker The Points Guy, and has started helping people use their points for trips around the world, and stays at some of the world's most exclusive hotels.

When I found out Brian was starting his own business, I asked my editor at HotelChatter if I could write about him for the site and find out exactly how he manages to live a fabulous lifestyle on a tight budget.

Turns out Brian is a wealth of information not only about redeeming points for valid options, but also in terms of comparing points programs and brands, so I'll be writing several articles about him about how to achieve Elite Status on airlines (and why it's worth it!), as well as how to rack up those airline miles and how not to waste them on bad deals when you do. This first article, though, is on HotelChatter, and concerns hotel points programs, so take a look!