LA named top Memorial Day destination

PUMP-LoungeSeats at Pump and Sur might just get a bit harder to book — This Memorial Day Weekend more American’s want to get a glimpse of LA Bravo Reality Life as LA now becomes a Top MDW destination!

That’s right Hampton’s are so last year —LA is what is hot!

This new data comes from CheapOair, who just released this year’s Top Memorial Day Weekend Destinations!

Los Angeles dominates as a top Memorial Day Destination rounding up the Top 3. While the Cubs have made Chicago the hottest destination of the year, those not after a seat at Wrigley’s are after a selfie with one of Hollywood’s most beloved reality stars!

The data also showed that prices are significantly lower this year than last, with average flight prices dropping 16% compared to last year, but insiders say flights are tentative to rise after this week!

So make your reservations before the flocks of tourists fill up LA’s hottest restaurants over the long holiday weekend.

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Del Frisco’s Grille serves up a scene

delfriscoahitacosDel Frisco’s Grille in Santa Monica never disappoints as a vibrant hangout where friends can meet up, see and be seen, and look good doing it. The crowd at Del Frisco’s for happy hour and into the night is a jubilant bunch, maybe because they are steps away from the Santa Monica beach and the action of 3rd Street Promenade, or maybe just because it’s great to be young and pretty in LA. Whatever the reason, each time I have visited this restaurant/bar it is packed and loud — though not can’t-hear-yourself-loud, just we’re-having-too-much-fun loud – and the drinks are flowing and the food is coming out of the kitchen like an assembly line.

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This hotspot has gotten the formula right for LA’s upwardly mobile millennials. Excellent location, good food, reasonable drink prices, and festive atmosphere that equals steady crowds and return customers. Granted, it’s hard to go wrong when your eatery is right on the footpath to the Santa Monica Pier, but still Del Frisco’s has managed to please its clientele with a solid menu with variety for everyone from seafood lovers and strictly carnivores to those who just came for the appetizers.

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Del Frisco’s has smartly made their starters, which they label Food to Fight Over, a large part of their menu, with variety for many tastes. Some favorites are the Ahi Tacos, with tuna tartare, avocado and spicy citrus mayo; Jumbo Lump Crabcakes with Cajun lobster sauce; Cheesesteak Eggrolls served with sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard; and for those not too worried about impressing their date with messing fingers, the Lollipop Chicken Wings, served Buffalo style with avocado ranch dressing.

As with every LA eatery that caters to LA’s diet conscious patrons, there’s plenty of salads to choose from, such as the Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with basil pesto, and the Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad with manchego and creole mustard vinaigrette, best topped with chicken for a filling meal.

For the knife and fork bunch, there’s the Prime Beef Short Stronganoff with pappardelle noodles and tobacco onions, and the Filet Meatloaf, a Southern Comfort concoction of ground filet mignon, served with mashed potatoes and wild mushroom Bordelaise sauce.

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After dinner indulgences include my favorite, the Nutella Bread Pudding with coffee ice cream and caramel sauce; and perfect dessert for the baby-faced grown-ups, an Adult Milkshake of Nocello walnut liqueur, creme de cacao, chocolate liqueur, and vanilla ice cream.

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Though the restaurant is upscale is causal, reservations are recommended, if you want to get in to eat and drink with the in-crowd.

ROKU LA-style sushi

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ROKU restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood dashes the belief that you can only get authentic sushi at an underground, insiders’ sushi bar. While there may be a certain romanticism about dining at an dive sushi bar, there is much more to be said about enjoying the ambiance of a fine restaurant while also indulging in the highest quality sushi, and that is what ROKU offers.

DSC_1229I am not a regular eater of raw seafood, but I have tagged along on plenty of sushi excursions with dining partners who are connoisseurs of this category of food art. I have been to the hole-in-the-wall sushi bars where there was no sign on the door, where you have to duck under a noren to get in. While one may find interest in the cultural experience, I much prefer the comforts and upscale environment of a modern sushi restaurant, especially one that offers an extensive menu of cooked food, like ROKU.

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As with their décor and atmosphere, ROKU challenges traditional sushi menus with inventive, modern preparations, as well as traditional style sushi for their old-school sushi enthusiasts. At the sushi bar, Chef Jiro Kobayashi prepares his recommended chef’s choice Omakase along with a variety of fresh fish daily, including Roku signature style sushi of warm rice with an innovate touch for their Ume six-piece selection or their Matsu eight-piece selection. Specialty rolls include hand rolled baked crab, Shima shrimp wrapped spicy tuna, with cilantro and avocado, and Ebi Tuna shrimp tempura topped with tuna, jalapeno vinaigrette and eel sauce.
For those who enjoy the communal and interactive dining experience of Teppanyaki, at the grill table Teppan chefs prepare A-5 Japanese Wagyu, Matsuzaka beef, Santa Barbara spot prawns and other high-quality ingredients at interactive grill tables. This dining style is offered for dinner, generally for groups of two to eight.

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On days when the weather is pleasant, which is most days in West Hollywood, the patio is open for dining; or for a serene and elegant dining experience among a garden of bonsai trees and the glow of votives, the dining room offers an environment conducive to a relaxing business lunch for dinner, or of course a date night.

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ROKU has a delicious twist on the Bento Box, traditionally a take-home or carry-out meal, but at ROKU these eat-in delights include an executive Bento Box of shrimp and vegetable tempura, tuna and yellowtail sashimi, baked miso cod, chicken yakitori, green salad, and rice.
Other entrees include kobacha and butternut squash and grilled octopus with kimchee vinaigrette , and pickled vegetables and toro tartare are prepared tableside with pomp and circumstance. The bar at ROKU also serves up progressive fare, with many Japanese whiskeys, sakes and creative cocktails, like the Matcha Mule with green tea infused vodka, ginger root, fresh lemon and honey.

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ROKU answers as the sushi restaurant that has outstanding and authentic Japanese food, personal service and an inviting atmosphere. If you are seeking the casual and dressed-down sushi experience, you will need to go elsewhere. In fact, beachwear, athletic wear and flip flops are not allowed, so wear your business causal and bring your appetite for a satisfying, new LA-style sushi scene.

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ROKU is located at 9201 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Call for reservations at (310)278-2060.

Pure (not) junk food that kids will love

If your kids are always saying “nothing sounds good” when it comes to food, add a little fun to their snacking experience with these treats, that might even be good for them.

Super veggie pizza

Do your kids claim they are allergic to vegetables?  Good luck getting them to each that spinach ice cream; but you can sneak in some vitamin-rich cauliflower without even an argument when its served up in their favorite kid food – pizza!  CAULIPOWER is a gluten-free, delicious and nutritious ready-to-cook cauliflower crust pizza that will have them asking for more cauliflower please. Available in four tasty varieties – three-cheese pizza, veggie pizza, margherita pizza and plain crust. Available at Whole Foods or on Amazon.

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Care for some chocolate, honey?

Kids love chocolate.  Kids love honey.  But who would have thought these two flavors would taste incredible together? MANUKA did. The New Zealand company known for its potent and pure honey combined these two delicious flavors by wrapping rich dark 99-percent-cocoa chocolate around honey and adding a touch of mint or ginger.  The result is a scrumptious gluten-free, no-preservative, no-artificial-colors treat that will definitely help the medicine go down – in fact, with its anti-bacterial properties that boost the immune system, you might not need any medicine.  Available at https://www.shoppri.com/

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Squeeze in breakfast

No time for breakfast? Grab some morning time nutrition on the go with Munk Pack ready-to-eat Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes, full of whole grains and real fruit bites, and certified gluten-free, non-GMO, kosher and vegan. In a spouted pouch, these palm-size pouches are ideal for a quick healthy breakfast, or as an on-the-go snack for outdoor activities or travel. Each serving has only 90-100 calories and 3-4g of fiber and nothing artificial. Available in Maple Pear Quinoa, Peach Chai Vanilla, Raspberry Coconut, Blueberry Acai Flax, Apple Quinoa Cinnamon.  Buy at Wegmans, Raley’s, Publix, Whole Food sand select grocers nationwide.

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Have a ball, er…drink

Sugary juices are the culprit in many an unpleasant trip to the dentist, so give kids a healthier, flavorful option that is not full of sugar. AquaBall, the flavored water in a ball-shaped bottle designed to fit perfectly in kids’ hands and car cup holders, is the only zero calories, sugar-free and preservative-free children’s beverage on the market. Packaging includes Disney and Marvel characters that make drinking up cool for kids.  Available in Berry Frost, Fruit Punch, Grape, Strawberry Lemonade.  Available at grocery stores nationwide.

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Mother Nature’s Candy

Candy happens.  Stop trying to fight it by offering carrot sticks.  If they are going to eat candy, at least let it be lower sugar, organic candy, like YumEarth, makers of vegan, gluten free, Non-GMO treats with no high fructose corn syrup and free of the top 8 allergens.  Varieties include candy drops, lollipops, gummies, sour beans and chewy fruit snacks. Available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans and other select grocery stores or online at www.yummyearth.com

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Trejos Tacos for any day of the week

DSC_1244The badboy of tacos expands into Hollywood, and soon Santa Monica, serving up edgy eats

If treking to Trejo’s tacos was too much of a task except for Tuesdays, there’s good news, Taco Tuesday can be today, as Trejo’s now has two locations and a truck.

All alliteration aside, Trejo’s tacos is one of LA’s best taco stops, and with more locations to serve Trejo’s fans, the restaurant is becoming as famous as its namesake, Hollywood bad boy Danny Trejo.

Traditional tacos like the Pulled Beef Brisket Taco remain favorites among patrons, but for those who don’t want their meat in a tortilla, there’s the hearty bowls, such as the Steak Asada Bowl. For variety there’s also tostado’s like the generously portion Shrimp Tostado, or appetizers like the Grilled Jidori Chicken quesadilla.

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Trejo’s has also just introduced big burritos that are several meals for person of average appetite. Not your topical taco joint, Trejo’s has unique offerings like an artichoke with two dipping sauces, and Street Corn, with spicy chipotle cream.

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For desserts, they keep it simple with a cooler of gourmet ice cream sandwiches from Cool Haus.

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Despite Trejo’s being open many months now, still each day after they open for business the lines winds around the restaurant to the street. To accommodate their plentiful patrons, Trejo’s has opened Trejo’s Catina on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood and soon will open Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts on Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica.

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Good thing Trejo runs such a badass operation, and the line moves swiftly, and the place is swarming with servers who constantly cart away done dishes and keep customers coming back, here and also at their new hopping Hollywood hotspot.

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Mediterranean style hospitality and exotic flavors await at L’Ami

L’Ami invites you for a romantic dinner, drinks with friends, or a family brunch

2017-03-10 (1)Before I appraise the food at L’Ami in Santa Monica, I would be remiss not to mention another recommendation of this charming restaurant, the atmosphere.  This Mediterranean oasis, in the middle of Los Angeles, adjacent to the popular Brentwood Country Mart, is a heavenly retreat on a summery day, where patrons can sit on the patio surrounded by olive trees and imagine they are basking in the sun in St. Tropez.  Or, on one of those chilly LA days, when the temps dip way down, to the low 60s, guests can cozy up on shearling covered bar chairs next to the blazing fire inside the dining room, where the radiant heat of the stone hearth exudes a comfort equaled to the warm hospitality of the staff.

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For those lucky enough to encounter the owner Marc-Antoine Ramaud, whose childhood culinary experiences inspired the menu, you will understand from where the spirit of friendliness emanates. Ramaud aims to please his guests in every way, beginning with creating a romantic and inviting setting, and then complementing the experience with offerings of fresh, organic and seasonal dishes that capture the Mediterranean culture and cuisine.

The menu represents the varied flavor combinations along the Mediterranean shores, such as the exquisite appetizer of carpaccio of hand dived scallops with truffle vinaigrette with Jerusalem artichokes, chives, mache leaves and shaved black truffle; or a homemade foie gras au torchon on brioche toast with fig chutney and frisée salad.  And if you love French onion soup, this is the place to have it, served with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese gratiné and croutons – scrumptious next to the fire on a cold day.

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For dinner, some of the standout excellent dishes include Baby Lamb Shank, oven roasted and served with mashed potatoes, spinach and candied carrot; Couscous Royale, in a lamb stew with chicken, merguez sausage and harissa; and you can’t go wrong with the White Sea Bass, served with seasonal vegetables and a medley of quinoa and harissa emulsion.

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On weekends, it is time to indulge at L’Ami with decadent and delicious entrees such as Grilled Filet Mignon Benedict on brioche toast with beef tenderloin medallions and hollandaise; or Farro and Goad Cheese Risotto Benedict with green lentils, kale and hollandaise.

The brunch menu also features a kids menu for $12 with a beverage and kid-friendly sections like and French toast, mini waffle with eggs and bacon or a Breakfast Pita of scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage.

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While the food deserves high acclaim, the drinks cannot go without mention.  The resident mixologist serves up favorites like 1792 Old Fashion Angostora and Peychouls Bitters, with sugar cane, 1792 bitters; and surprising and exotic mixes like Seasonal Rhubarb Beluga Vodka, a blend of organic rhubarb and  lemon juice; the Moscow Mule Vodka, a cocktail with a kick made of ginger beer, and organic lime juice;  or the refreshing Marco’s Mojito Flor, blended with De Cana Rum, fresh mint, and organic lime.

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L’Ami is located at 246 26th Street, Santa Monica, California, on the Westside boarder of Santa Monica and Brentwood.  Its entry is tricky to find, hidden behind a wrought iron gate covered in ivy, but well worth the hunt.

Dining with nature at Sundance Mountain Resort

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits.  At Sundance, the philosophy on food is art and dining is communal, making the dining experience integrated with nature, making Sundance a wonderland for  family and friends to spend quality time together and make lifelong memories, on the mountains, and over the dinner table.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

While the film festival gets greatest brand recognition, and the mountains and outdoors are the main attraction for most visitors when it comes to Sundance, the food also gets top billing with rave reviews and plenty of awards, and plenty of famous faces in the dining rooms.

Top California foodies say recipes that’got milk’ trending

 

milkCalifornia’s Culinary Experts, Including Bravo-TV’s “Top Chef” Shirley Chung and Napa’s Ethan Speizer, Showcase Milk-based Recipes For 2017

Cooking with milk and a return-to-indulgence movement is back this year, according to chefs from across the state of California who participated in a January 2017 Food Trends culinary competition. With semi-finalist recipe submissions ranging from pork chops braised in milk to Latin-fusion desserts including Coconut Tres Leches and Churro Sando with Horchata Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche, one thing is certain – 2017 will be a stellar year for milk-loving foodies.

The winning recipe – Smoky Chili Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Kahlua Milk Frosting & Vanilla Milk Drizzle – was created by Merry Graham, a Southern California award-winning home cook and published author. Her recipe combines Dutch cocoa, ancho chili, brewed coffee, Kahlua and milk for a decadent dessert.

The competition was hosted by the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), creator of the iconic got milk? and Toma Leche campaigns, which invited California-based culinary artists to submit on-trend recipes featuring milk. Notable influencers who participated in the campaign include Shirley Chung, a season 11 finalist and current contestant on Season 14 of Bravo’s popular show, Top Chef, and Napa-foodie Ethan Speizer, founder and executive chef at late-night pop-up Nuri Napa.

Chef Chung contributed a Milk-Braised Napa Cabbage recipe that incorporates Virginia cured ham, ginger, Goji berries, a reflection of her “modern American cooking with Chinese soul” philosophy.  Napa-notable Ethan Speizer contributed a traditional-style Milk-Braised Lamb Neck recipe that incorporates an array of spices and herbs such as bouquet garni and Shisho gremolata.

“The start of a new year inspires an openness to try something new, especially in the kitchen,” said Steve James, CMPB Executive Director. “We’re excited to showcase new culinary creations that demonstrate milk’s central role in expected food trends for 2017.”

Sea Level’s Californian cuisine rises to the occasion

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If you’re looking for a new scene that’s vibrant and exciting but not the same old LA crowd, get down to Sea Level. This happening restaurant and bar, adjacent to The Shade Hotel Redondo Beach, has excellent cuisine, spectacular views and a hip, cool, and comfortable atmosphere.

It’s definitely not a quiet romantic getaway, but for those who like it a little loud, this place has electric energy, with a lively crowd, and a wall of plasma TVs across the bar for even more for stimulation, if the conversation around you is not enough.

The friendly wait staff is incredibly attentive, with no fewer than four people checking in on our table to make sure everything was superb after our food arrived.

Yeah, but how’s the food?

Every menu item we tasted was outstanding. The generously portioned beet salad with goat cheese and pesto had an abundance of multicolored beets and was bursting with flavor.

Following the salad, we sampled a couple delicious plates from the raw bar. The Citrus Cured Hamachi with lime, yuzu kosho vinaigrette, marinated Persian cucumber and puffed wild rice was exquisite. Likewise, the Spicy Tuna on crispy rice was delightful, with ginger soy, wasabi, avocado and shaved jalapeno.

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It was a chilly night, so we ordered a hearty seasonal butternut squash, which was deliciously infused with nutmeg and a dollop of creme fraiche. We also indulged in the hand cut fries which were crusty with sea salt and satisfyingly crunchy.

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Looks as good as it tastes

 

As a believer in “presentation is everything,” the chef did not disappoint with his artistic talents.  All of the plates were adorned with deliciously decorative swirls, splashes, crumbles and streaks of sauces, worthy of framing.

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We had planned on ordering entrées, but the soup, salad and sushi were more than enough for a meal, and we wanted to save room for dessert.  We were glad we did.

 

We finished off this fine meal with one of the most decadent chocolate desserts I have ever laid fork into, a Black Bottom Chocolate Pot De Crème, with cocoa cake, almond toffee, chocolate streusel, and fleur de sel.  It was basically a layer of moose over a chocolate cake sprinkled with sea salt and sliced almonds and adorned with thin slab of brittle served in a terrarium.

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After such a scrumptious dinner at Sea Level, we came up for air, or rather went out for air, to have drinks by the water, warmed by the flames of a fire pit, as we watched the lights of the boats in the harbor drift by.  A perfect meal of Californai cuisine, a quintessentially LA experience, without the LA.

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