Wednesday, November 30, 2011

JustLuxe: Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel-Air

One of the most exciting new restaurants to open in Los Angeles lately has to be Wolfgang Puck's new place at the recently renovated (to the tune of $100 million!) and reopened Hotel Bel-Air.

I got the chance to sample the cuisine at a recent preview dinner, and took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Puck himself about his vision for the cuisine and the menu, as well as to the designer, David Rockwell, who's based in New York, but has flagship projects underway all over the world.

All in all, the food was simple but delicious, the setting was absolutely lovely in the evening, and I wouldn't mind going back soon myself! In the meantime, you can read my interviews and my account of the preview dinner on JustLuxe at the link below.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Frontiers: Fall Dining

Thanksgiving might have come and gone, but there are still plenty of fabulous fall dishes to enjoy around Los Angeles, and here's a great roundup I did for Frontiers recently of some of my favorites. It's quite the comprehensive list...all right, well, not comprehensive, but there are about a dozen gourmet dishes at some classic LA restaurants represented here--along with lots of mouthwatering photos--including but not limited to: Culina at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Farmshop, ink, Larry's Venice, Michael's and Patina.

So take a look, and start making your reservations.


Friday, November 25, 2011

JustLuxe: Tasting Wine Along Portugal's Douro Valley

My most recent JustLuxe travel piece covers the fabulous week I spent wine-tasting along Portugal's Douro Valley back in September. Not only did I try the region's famous Port wines, but I also got to sample a wide swath of its Douro DOC, or non-Port wines like the Tourigas that have been appearing with increasing frequency on our menus in the States.

In the piece, I talk about some of the great things to do in the UNESCO-listed (and view-rific) city of Oporto itself, as well as some of the lovely hotels and inns I stayed at farther east along the river in the heart of Port country.

So take a look at the beautiful pictures, read about the wines, and keep an eye out for Portuguese vintages the next time you're perusing a wine list.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Thanksgiving

Still haven't made your Thanksgiving plans? Or maybe there was a run on free-range organic turkeys at your favorite local produce purveyor.

Never fear, there are tons of restaurants around Los Angeles who are putting on fabulous feasts for Turkey Day this year--including some interesting options like fried turkey at Little Dom's, as well as more upscale affairs like the prix-fixe menus at Campanile and Patina. Plus there's takeout from old favorites like Joan's on Third.

Take a look at my article, and then stop procrastinating and make a reservation before your stuck with a dinner of cold beans on Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2011

JustLuxe: Thanksgiving in LA

I'm actually missing Thanksgiving in the States this year since I'll still be here in New Zealand, but I did compile this shortlist of some of the best Thanksgiving offerings from restaurants around Los Angeles on JustLuxe, from the down-home to the most gourmet, and everything in between from places like Akasha, Jar, mar'sel, Patina and Tavern...and several more.

So put away your crockery, turn off the oven, and get ready for some great cooking that you don't have to do--and better yet, that you don't have to clean up after!--whether you want to dine in or take out.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jaunted: The Air New Zealand Wine Awards

Those of you who follow my comings and goings on Facebook or Twitter can see that I'm in New Zealand at the moment. I came down here just about a week ago for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards in Auckland, which is probably the biggest event in the country's wine industry. Since then I've actually been visiting some of the winemakers that I met there at their own wineries in Nelson, Marlborough and Waipara, with Central Otago to come next week.

But the reason I came down here in the first place was to attend these awards and use them as a lens into the country's wine scene in general. So take a look on my piece from this week on Jaunted where I talk not only about the awards themselves, but also to some of the big names in wine down here (including two of the airline's wine consultants), give you a rundown of the events, and a look back at just how far New Zealand wines have come in the 25 years since the awards took their present shape (hint: Sauvignon Blanc was barely to be found back then, but now it makes up 75% of the country's grape crop!).


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Frontiers: Vodvil

My latest review in Frontiers is of a great new concept called Vodvil. It's kind of like a hybrid restaurant-lounge game night entertainment center where guests can kick back with cocktails and nibbles, play trivia and pop culture games, sing karaoke, and just hang out.

The space is available for private parties as well, and there are special themes each night of the week, so check it out, and start studying up on your factoids.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: The Polo Lounge

For the "So Many Lunches" restaurant feature in the November issue of LA Confidential, we decided to cover another Los Angeles landmark: The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Though it's been around for decades now, the Polo Lounge is still one of the hottest places in town to see celebrities enjoying a brief moment of quiet over a meal with friends...and the food's pretty good too!

Where so many restaurants in town are just brief flashes in the pan, this one has true staying power, and in the piece, we delve into this icon's history, how a day there works, why the chopped salad is so good, and who you might see on your next visit, so read on at the link below!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

LA Confidential Online: The Pie Hole

I actually haven't written specifically for LA Confidential's online content channel before, but I got the chance to do so for the first time with this little piece on a new and irreverently named pie bakery downtown called The Pie Hole.

They have sweet pies and savory, full-size and mini, plus some specially roasted Groundwork Coffee you can only get here.

Take a look at some of the specialties, and see if you agree that pie really is the dessert of 2011 when you read my piece at the link below.


Friday, November 11, 2011

HotelChatter: Awesome Designs at Saint James Paris

I'm more of a food and wine guy than a design aficionado, but every so often in the course of my travels, I come across a restaurant or hotel that really blows me away with its decor, and during my visit to Paris last January, that's just what happened a little boutique property tucked away in a private park in the tony 16th arrondisement called the Saint James Hotel Paris.

The Saint James isn't about jaw-dropping grandeur, though there's a bit of that, too. Rather, what caught my eye were the whimsical touches like wallpaper festooned with old-timey hot air balloons (mongolfieres!), a wall decorated with mens' walking canes, and lamps made out of bowler hats...not to mention some pretty luxe chinoiserie patterns and tricked-out bathrooms.

Although I'm eager to stay at some of the bigger new hotels in Paris like the Mandarin Oriental and the Raffles Royal Monceau, I was definitely a huge fan of the Saint James and would send folks to stay there in a heartbeat. In the meantime, check out my piece from HotelChatter below.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

HotelChatter: Mandarin Oriental San Francisco

By now you probably know that one of my favorite destinations--and certainly one of my favorite cities in the country--is San Francisco. I try to get up there as often as possible, usually several times a year. It's just got everything I love: fabulous restaurants, great museums, stunning scenery, and a lot of good friends.

I've written about it as a general destination quite often in the past, for all my outlets, basically, but this time around I wanted to focus on a hotel where I've gotten the chance to stay twice in the past few months: the Mandarin Oriental.

I have to say, this is one of my favorite hotels in the city. Sure, in the evening it can be kind of dead around the Financial District, but the hotel is a short walk to a bunch of major attractions as well as the transportation to get to others, is close to my new favorite micro-neighborhood, Jackson Square, and has some of the best views of the city from its guest rooms on the high floors of a skyscraper. There's nothing like waking up to views of the Transamerica Building and the entire Bay spread out below you from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate.

The hotel also has a lot of little, old-school touches like monogrammed sheets and personalized stationery (and Molton Brown products!) that I personally love, and that's what I talk about in this quick HotelChatter post. I can't wait to see how the upcoming renovation goes--I might just have to get back up there to experience it for myself!


Monday, November 7, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Meat Cocktails

My final piece in October's issue of LA Confidential is about the hottest new ingredient popping up in cocktails all over town: meat. That's right, booze are getting beefed up with a healthy helping of protein (usually in the form of bacon).

To delve into the trend, I talked with one of LA's best known mixologists, Aidan Demarest, whose fingerprints are on cocktail menus all over the city including those at The Edison, 1886, The Spare Room, and his latest venture (in Glendale!), Neat.

We discussed why pork works so well in cocktails, why Spam might be the next big thing, and just why it is that "cocktails are going culinary," as he put it.

I also include a roundup of some of the splashiest meaty cocktails around town including some from Hatfield's, Napa Valley Grille, Locanda del Lago (which actually comes with a whole plate of fried speck), Comme Ca, Michael's and Rivera (beef jerky!).

Take a look at the article at the link below. Cheers!


Friday, November 4, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Whiskey Cocktails Guide

For the October issue of LA Confidential, I got to venture beyond my normal purview to cover the city's cocktail scene...specifically whiskey (and scotch and rye and suntori) since this is the "man issue," though ladies will enjoy these libations as well.

As with the Brunch Guide, I take you on a tour of some old favorites as well as recent openings to check out for their innovative cocktails and thorough whiskey stocks. As a teaser, some of the places I talk about include The Thirsty Crow in Silverlake, The Edison downtown, and Copa d'Oro in Santa Monica, plus newcomers like Hemingway's and Next Door Lounge in Hollywood, and Ten Pound at the Montage Beverly Hills.

To read about these and all the others (nine in total), check out my article at the link below.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

JustLuxe: New LA Restaurants October

Here's just another quick JustLuxe piece that contains a roundup of some of the biggest and most exciting restaurant openings around Los Angeles from October.

It includes Barlo at the Hotel Erwin, The Churchill, two Spacecraft Group restaurants called Naya and Osaka, Oldfield's Liquor Room from the 1933 Group (Thirsty Crow, Bigfoot Lodge) and Take a Bao in Studio City.

Lots of delicious things to eat, and lots more restaurants to come next month!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

LA Confidential Magazine: Tom Colicchio's Craft

One of the other new elements of the redesign of LA Confidential is a feature in each issue called So Many Lunches where we profile a landmark Los Angeles restaurant, talk to the chef, learn about the menu, chat about the celebrities you're likely to see while you're there, and give you the skinny on the best tables in the house.

For our first installment, we went big, with celebrity chef Tom Colicchio's Craft. It couldn't help but become a fixture on the dining scene here, with a big-name chef, and a location inside CAA's enormous, gleaming new agency office building.

The real thrill of doing the article, though, was talking to Colicchio himself, who was extremely voluble and gracious, and genuinely excited about LA's food scene and why he thinks it's so great to be a chef here.

I'd encourage you to grab an actual issue if you can since the article looks amazing, but in the meantime, you can check out the online version here: