Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HotelChatter: Peninsula Beverly Hills' New Look

A couple weeks ago, I went to one of my favorite LA hotels, the Peninsula Beverly Hills. I admit, I got a little fixated on the fact that they gave me a monogrammed napkin to enjoy my breakfast with, but afterwards, I got to take a quick informal tour with the hotel's Managing Director, Offer Nissenbaum, to see the hotel's newly redecorated rooms.

So come along as I take you on a sneak peek on HotelChatter!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

JustLuxe: ColLAboration's Pop-Up Beer Garden

This was just a fun, quick story for JustLuxe about a special event going on in Los Angeles for a few weekends in July: a pop-up beer garden.

ColLAboration is, well, a collaboration among several fantastic beer bars around LA including The Surly Goat in my neighborhood, Verdugo Bar, and Tony's Darts Away in Burbank. They're getting together three Saturdays in July and throwing a pop-up beer garden on the Sunset Strip. Best of all, admission is just $10, and pours of fantastic craft beers from California and beyond are just $5-6 each, so you can try lots of things and meet the folks who are setting the LA beer scene on fire.

I'm going to head there on July 23 for the celebration of Belgian Independence Day, when they'll be pouring about 40 Belgian ales, including some of my favorites like Duvel Green.



Monday, June 27, 2011

MadeMan: Talking to The Points Guy

I love talking to my friend Brian, The Points Guy, about maximizing airline miles, hotel points, and all those loyalty programs that all of us are members of, and yet never really are able to use for anything of value. Well, that's where Brian comes in, of course, and shows all of us that there's actually a lot more value to all the points we've accrued than we ever could have wrung from them on our own--and he gets to jet all over the world staying in fabulous places doing it!

Meanwhile, my editors all seem to love Brian as an article topic as well since he is one of the savviest people out there at winkling amazing deals from points, is an expert on all the credit card offerings out there, and is entirely charming and relatable as he demystifies the byzantine systems by which these awards programs operate.

For my latest piece on him, I write about Brian and his tips on accruing and using airline miles in the most lucrative, efficient ways possible on MadeMan. There's still plenty of time to use points for a summer vacation, so read my interview with The Points Guy and start booking!


Friday, June 24, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Santa Barbara

Before I get to the big dining feature I did for the Summer Issue of LA Confidential (stay tuned next week!), I thought I'd include the travel piece I wrote up on one of California's classiest and perennially popular destinations: Santa Barbara.

World-class resorts, great restaurants, lovely wineries and tons of activities both sporty and's definitely a great vacation spot for all kinds of travelers. No link to the article on the LA Confidential site yet, so instead, I'll just paste the text in below so you can take a look!


The towns along the Santa Barbara Coast have something for the beach bum and city slicker in all of us.


Santa Barbara: Colonial history, beautiful beaches and five-star accommodations make this one of SoCal’s premier destinations.

Montecito: The toniest town in the area, set between the sea and the mountains just south of Santa Barbara proper. Oh, and it’s Oprah’s neighborhood. Need we say more?

Carpinteria: Surf’s up in this beachfront hamlet a few miles south of Montecito.


Laidback Luxury: The Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara is a historic hotel of spacious rooms with Spanish tiling, deep soaking tubs and plasma televisions—not to mention its gorgeous beachside dining patio and intimate spa.

Moorish Flair: For easy access to Santa Barbara’s boutiques and galleries, there’s no beating the Canary Hotel, whose rooms blend Moroccan caché and European elegance in the heart of town.

Casual Class: Across from Santa Barbara’s State Beach, Hotel Oceana features bright rooms decorated in beachy colors and several pools for sunbathing.

Under The Radar: North of town, the standard rooms at Bacara are 450 square feet of pure luxury with Frette linens, balconies, and many have fireplaces. There are deluxe pool cabanas, two golf courses and a 42,000-square-foot spa.

Haute Honeymoon: JFK and Jackie O honeymooned in the hillside cottages at Montecito’s San Ysidro Ranch, which combine rustic appeal with all the modern luxury amenities. Its Stonehouse Restaurant is also one of the best in the area.


Wine Country Cuisine: Wine Cask has the best wine list in the city, populated by both moderate quaffs and hard-to-find bottles.

Seaside Seafood: Enjoy a pier-side lunch of freshly caught local seafood at Brophy Bros., or head to the SB sequel to Hollywood’s Hungry Cat.;

Taco Time: Humble La Super-Rica Taqueria on SB’s Milpas Street was one of Julia Child’s local faves. (805) 963-4940

Beach Brews: Nothing beats a cold brew (or a whole flight of them) at Carpinteria’s Island Brewing Company.


On a Mission: The imposing 1786 Santa Barbara Mission was known as the Queen of California’s 21 missions.

Garden Path: The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden in Mission Canyon contains over 1,000 species of indigenous plants and flowers on 65 gorgeous acres.

Urban Wine Trail: Who needs to trek to wine country when you can taste in town at wineries like Santa Barbara Winery and Whitcraft?

Horsing Around: Bring a picnic or splurge on a cabana to watch matches on Sundays during the April-October season at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, which also celebrates its Centennial Extravaganza in August.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Son of a Gun

The guys from Animal on Fairfax have done it again, only this time, they've opened up a swingin' seafood restaurant on West Third Street. So, for my third restaurant review in the LA Confidential Summer Issue, I went to Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo's Son of a Gun to sample the lobster roll and the fried chicken sandwich, plus a few other fishy snacks.


Son of a Gun
You might recognize the manly men in the kitchen of Son of a Gun as the same chef-buddy duo behind the popular meat-obsessed Animal on Fairfax. With their second restaurant, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo set their sights on the seas with a maritime menu of fresh seafood that changes every day.

Expect a rotating roster of dishes that take old standards and lend them a hint of the exotic, like a crispy fried-shrimp toast sandwich with herbs and spicy sriracha mayo. Alligator schnitzel with shaved hearts of palm and orange with a vanilla-lime butter sauce hearkens to Shook and Dotolo’s Florida roots, but the fried chicken sandwich heaped with spicy pickle slaw and “rooster aioli” is a signature. For dessert, there’s a version of Key lime pie with frozen lime yogurt, graham crumble and toasted meringue.

The wine list is surprisingly sparkling focused, but the cocktail list Lindsay Nader helped create sports an impressive 20 creations—what else would you expect from the Food & Wine Cocktails 2011 deputy editor? Make reservations early, or try your luck getting a spot at the first-come, first-served communal table. 8370 W. 3rd St., LA;

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Playa

One of the other restaurants we chose to cover for the Summer Issue of LA Confidential was Chef John Sedlar Rivera's new restaurant on Beverly in the former Grace space, Playa.

In the beautifully redone restaurant, he departs from his upscale Mexican mien and delivers international cuisine in combinations that dazzle the eye and the palate.

Take a look at what I ate (and what you should order!) below.



Having evolved from his modern Mexican restaurant Rivera, owner/executive chef John Sedlar’s acclaimed Downtown LA restaurant, Playa, features a more casual take on Latin-inspired fare. The name and ambiance of the newly renovated space (formerly Grace)—highlighted by a lively open kitchen—are meant to evoke LA’s laid-back coastal lifestyle, as well as a relaxed urban-Latin vibe.

Seasonal platos, which incorporate local ingredients, include maize cakes with pork-belly confit, chile-lime jicama, pickled mango, masala and raita espuma; and the playfully titled Octo-Palm, made with grilled octopus, palm hearts, scallions and oven-dried cherry tomatoes and red onions. Sedlar aims to dazzle with pan-seared loup de mer with five tongue-twisting sauces—romesco, chimichurri, salsa verde, aji amarillo and aji panca—and equally complex (in a good way) desserts such as the Luna Mezcal chocolate cake with chocolate glaze, mezcal ice cream, caramel popcorn and Spanish peanuts.

For a different kind of treat, try a bottle from the wine list, which comes mostly from the Spanish-speaking world, or a cocktail like the Pear-blossom Highway with El Diablito pisco, Bartlett pear, Clear Creek eau de vie, citrus, Chartreuse and pear leather. 7360 Beverly Blvd., LA;

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Fig & Olive

The restaurant reviews in LA Confidential's Summer Issue led off with an eye-catching shot of Ray's and Stark Bar's Santa Barbara spot prawns, but I also covered a few other buzz-worthy openings from the past few months, including that of Fig & Olive, and East Coast paean to Southern French cooking that has finally made its way to the West Coast...with not one, but three opening parties.

My Frontiers review should have given you the gist of the place, but this write-up for LA Confidential really distills the experience. Bon appetit!


Fig & Olive

With bustling farmers’ markets and a Mediterranean climate, Southern California and the south of France have a lot in common. Bringing Provence that much closer to LA is restaurateur Laurent Halasz, who has transplanted the first West Coast installment of his New York City mini-chain, Fig & Olive, to Melrose Place.

The 8,000-square-foot space has an olive tree as its centerpiece, planters blooming with rosemary, a long marble martini bar and communal table, a private dining atrium, and a swanky Champagne bar upstairs.

Diners start with tastes from the international selection of olive oils, then it’s on to executive chef Pascal Lorange’s menu (which Halasz’s mother, Francine, helped shape) of nibbles such as crostini with mushroom, truffled artichoke and Parmesan; and fresh zucchini carpaccio with Parmesan and pine nuts drizzled with olive oil and lemon. From the grill, tender lamb chops are smoked with a bouquet of herbs de Provence over goat cheese-and-chive gnocchi and roasted eggplant.

Like the food, the wine list is exclusively Mediterranean, hailing from France, Spain and Italy. And the desserts here—including the Tropezienne, a brioche filled with mascarpone and Meyer lemon-glazed strawberries—are so good, who needs to go to Provence? 8490 Melrose Pl., West Hollywood;

Monday, June 20, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Ray's and Stark Bar

I already took a look at Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA for JustLuxe and Frontiers, but this LA Confidential piece was the reason I went in to try out Patina's newest restaurant in the first place, and we chose to feature it as the lead-off to the Dining section of the June/Summer Issue because of this arresting shot of the Santa Barbara spot prawn dish. It just makes me hungry for about you?

Find out more about Kris Morningstar's menu, Michel Dozois' cocktails, and all the other delicious morsels to be had at Ray's and Stark Bar below.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

JustLuxe: Father's Day in LA

Well, Father's Day is coming up, and though I usually get my dear old dad a card (hey, he's a simple guy, and that's all he needs to be happy), I thought I'd put together a little list of some fabulous items I've come across in LA lately that you might consider for your own paterfamilias.

It's a bit of a hodgepodge, with things like J Hilburn cufflinks, bowties from Alexander Olch, an Alexander McQueen scarf from Mr. Porter, and even a beer pairing menu from Drago Centro downtown.

So take a look, then whip out your credit card and charge up something for your father to make him feel special this Sunday!


Monday, June 13, 2011

JustLuxe: South Australian Luxury

For my latest JustLuxe travel piece, I pick up in Australia, where I've gotten to experience all three of South Australia's Luxury Lodges of Australia.

I stayed at the Louise when I visited the Barossa last year, but this year, I got to visit two fabulous properties I'd only dreamt about before. The glamp-tastic Arkaba Station in the prehistorically picturesque Flinders Range up in the South Australian outback; and one of my fantasy hotels, the Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.

I take you one a tour of all three iconic properties as we travel from a wildlife sanctuary in the south to a sophisticated wine region and then finally to the stunning wilderness again in the north of South Australia for three totally unique, distinctive and utterly unforgettable experiences.

Read more at the link below...


Friday, June 10, 2011

HotelChatter: Paws Up's Camping Butler

I've been telling everyone about it this week, so you might already know, but I flew up to the wilds of Montana to spend a few days glamping at one of my all-time fantasy resorts: Paws Up. What with my series on HotelChatter and the other articles I've written, glamping is a huge and fun focus of mine, so I was thrilled to get out to one of the properties that pioneered the concept of glamorous camping in the United States, and to experience their ultra-luxe all-new Pinnacle Camp with two-bedroom tents, en suite bathrooms with heated floors and showers and spa jacuzzi tubs, and all the outdoor activities I could handle including whitewater rafting and cattle drives on horseback.

I also talked to one of the resort's signature "Camping Butlers," Matt, about what exactly he does, and why the s'mores he makes turn out so perfectly. Check it out, as well as a photo gallery, at the link below.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

HotelChatter: InterContinental Sanya's Hydrodome

Aaaaaand, we're back to Asia today on HotelChatter to hang out at the spa of the other InterContinental property I visited on my trip there in March, in Sanya on Hainan Island.

While the hotel itself was a lovely property with water gardens, several pools and restaurants, and extended beachfront, it was actually the spa that I enjoyed most. I got a great jet lag relief massage that lasted almost 2 hours, in a private suite all to myself with a small garden. But the spa's signature installation is a super-jacuzzi-like "Hydrodome" hydrotherapy pool with nine different spa pool areas, waterfalls and more.

Check out all the details when you read my story below.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

HotelChatter: Boozy B&B's Casa Lapostolle

Back to Chile today on HotelChatter where we visit one of the wine country properties I toured in the Colchagua Valley while I was down there, Casa Lapostolle.

In addition to being one of Chile's most established premium wineries, Casa Lapostolle also has Relais & Chateaux B&B on the property, with four beautiful, freestanding casitas, as well as gourmet food served in a gorgeous main lodge.

Take a look at my story, and like me, you'll definitely booking a casita there the next time you're on a wine trip to Chile!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

HotelChatter: InterContinental Hong Kong's Club Lounge

For day number two on HotelChatter this week, we travel from South America to Asia as we visit the InterContinental Hong Kong to take a peek inside its executive club lounge.

I already wrote about the hotel in my JustLuxe guide to a whirlwind weekend in Hong Kong, but with this article, I launch an entirely new series on HotelChatter. Sort of like Jaunted's airport lounge series, we're going to take inside looks at our favorite hotel lounges from around the world, starting with this one--which is a great example, what with fabulous harbor views, excellent food, and supreme service.

Read on!


Monday, June 6, 2011

HotelChatter: Inside the Aubrey

It's going to be a bit of a hodgepodge week for me on HotelChatter, just covering some of my recent travels. So with that in mind, I start with a hotel snapshot from my most recent trip: Chile.

My fellow writers and I stayed at a charming little boutique property in the bohemian Bellavista district (home to Pablo Neruda), not far from where I stayed at the Hotel Del Patio last time I was in Santiago.

Take a look at this distinctive design property (it's in an early 20th-century mansion!) just steps from the city's main sights at the link below.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

JustLuxe: Basement Tavern Sundays

Back to LA for my JustLuxe duties with a quick piece on one of my new favorite Westside haunts (literally! there are ghosts here!): Basement Tavern.

Never heard of it? That's because it's quite literally underground, taking up a previously underutilized space at Main Street Santa Monica's The Victorian, an events venue popular with wedding planners.

These days, it's the beachside version of a speakeasy, with a more laidback vibe than you'll find in DTLA or Hollywood. Plus, they're having these quirky summer Sunday parties. The one in June (today!) is celebrating an "80's Tom Cruise Movies" theme. So come in your tighty whities and Ray Ban's because this is going to be a Risky Business. Bah-dum-dum.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jaunted: Australia's Other Wine Regions, Margaret River

For the final piece in my Jaunted series on Australia's Other Wine Regions, we return to an old favorite of mine, and the very first Australian wine region I ever visited: Western Australia's Margaret River.

Not only do you have to fly all the way to Perth to get there, but then you have to drive another three hours before you start seeing vineyards. Perched on clifftops above the Indian Ocean, it literally feels like the end of the world, and is one of the world's last unspoiled landscapes.

Plus, the wines are just plain fantastic--many of them are among my favorites from Australia. See what I mean, and start planning your own fantasy trip by taking a quick look at my article at the link below.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Jaunted: Australia's Other Wine Regions, Clare Valley

For the second day of my Jaunted series on Australia's Other Wine Regions, we travel to one of my favorite places on the continent, South Australia. There we find the country's biggest wine region, the Barossa, as well as some of its most under-the-radar treasures like the Adelaide Hills, the Fleurieu Peninsula, and the region I talk about today: the Clare Valley.

In sharp contrast to its bigger neighbor, the Clare Valley (where wine has been made for over 150 years now) is renowned for its Riesling thanks to the world-class efforts of fabulous wineries like Skillogalee (where I had lunch) and Sevenhill Cellars.

So if Shiraz isn't your thing, and you're looking to get out and explore a more off-the-beaten-path wine region on your next visit to Australia, find out my picks on where to taste, what to eat, and where to stay in the Clare Valley, check out my article below.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jaunted: Australia's Other Wine Regions, Yarra Valley

Another day, another Australia piece on Jaunted. Though this one--the first in a mini-series this week on the site--actually covers one of the wine regions I visited on my big trip there last May (2010) rather than the one I just took in April.

The series is called "Australia's Other Wine Regions," and takes a look at some of the country's other premier wine-producing areas that sometimes get shunted into the shadow of that Shiraz powerhouse, the Barossa.

So for today, we travel to the little Yarra Valley, just outside Melbourne in Victoria, for a taste of some of Australia's best cooler climate wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, though there's also a bunch of Shiraz, in case you're a devotee.

Check out my picks for where to drink, eat, and sleep at the link below.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brand X, LA Times: The Points Guy

It's been a little while since my last article in Brand X in the LA Times, but with their summer travel issue came another opportunity to write for them, and this time, I chose as my topic one of my old favorites: my friend and colleague, Brian Kelly, The Points Guy.

Airfares and hotel rates are higher than ever this summer thanks to soaring gas prices, that's why it's so important to make sure that, not only are you getting the most loyalty and rewards points possible for your spending, but that you know the ways to put them to the best use.

Specifically, I talked to The Points Guy about some of the strategies everyone can use to get the most points, as well as his favorite credit cards for earning them including the Amex Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Card.

To find out the rest, you'll just have to read the article at the link below!