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Friday, August 28, 2009

Lunching in West L.A. Part Two

So today my focus will be on Beverly Hills. Just to re-iterate here is how I picked these awesome lunch spots:

1) No fast food
2) Eat in about an hour
3) Not terribly expensive (I've fudged on this a little because come on it's 90210)

Again, these places assume you've got at least an hour to eat.

L.A. Food Show - All Types
252 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Similar to CPK but with more than just pizza, L.A. Food Show is a favorite because similar to the Cheesecake Factory it has a lot of choices many of which are favorites of mine. I love the Herb Rotisserie Chicken, the Chicken Enchiladas, the Prime Steak Salad, the Artichoke appetizer and the Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles. It's a little pricey for lunch but again it's Beverly Hills. Above all I suggest the Key Lime pie from here. I am a Key Lime officiando and it is one of my favorites in all of L.A.

The Farm - Californian
439 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

You may be in for a slight wait if you go at the traditional lunch hour, but it is really really good. Also, I wouldn't go here unless you are really hungry because the food is rich, but delicious. Some of my favorites are the Cheese Plate for two, the Tuna Sashimi Tower, and the Almond Chicken Salad. My ultimate favorite is the Stuffed Baguette which consists of roasted chicken breast, mozzarella, bell peppers, basil & onions stuffed in a French Baguette and then baked with parmesan cheese. It is really rich and really good.

Yu-N-Mi - Sushi
9475 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

This is my all-time favorite sushi restaurant because they have fresh, succulent fish as well as a lot of different rolls to try. Pretty much any of the sashimi you order will be some of the best tasting you've had but if you aren't a traditionalist and want to try some rolls my two favorites are the Spicy Tuna #2 and SeaBass Rolls (this is the Treasure Roll without the scallops). I'm allergic to shellfish but people I've taken there also swear by the West Roll.

Il Tramezzino (Il Tram) - Sandwiches
454 N Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

I'll be honest - I'm not a huge fan although the chicken pesto sandwich is pretty good. I've only included this under duress because so many of my friends love this place. So try it out once and see if you're convinced.

Mulberry Street - Pizza
240 S. Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Definitely only order one slice if you are planning on getting Mulberry Street. The slices are bigger than my face and served very thin. Both the pepperoni and margarita are excellent if you want to play it safe, otherwise try their specialty the Lasagne Pizza. Before, you get too weirded out it's not like they took lasagne and slathered it on a crust. It's just a regular slice but with alternating white and red sauces that when eaten in unison taste like lasagne. Just try it.

Chin Chin - Chinese
206 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

They call it their "Famous Chinese Chicken Salad" for a reason - it is "the bomb." I do, however, like to add my own twist whenever I get it as takeout. By some of those little Mandarin orange fruit cups and then sprinkle those onto the salad. It just adds the perfect final layer to the already famous-for-a-reason salad. Other than that Chin Chin's menu is standard Chinese fare but at a really high quality.

So with that, choose wisely. As you try some of these restaurants you will see even more restaurants in Beverly Hills to try. It is a thriving luncheon metropolis with ever-changing signage so try these before they're gone! And tell me if you find some you like because I've lived in L.A. for six years and I still haven't been to all of them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birthday Getaway


I'm thinking of surprising my boyfriend with a trip to Vegas for his birthday in October so I wanted to ask you if you had any hotel recommendations? I've only been twice and stayed at the Venetian both times. Circus, Circus and Excalibur seemed to have some decent prices but not sure about the quality.



Vegas is one of my favorite places on Earth so this should be easy. My top hotels are definitely Encore and the Palms. Encore probably tops the list because it's still a new hotel so you can get cheaper prices there then the Wynn but have the same luxury. By staying at the Encore you have access to all of Wynn's amenities including their amazing pool. Encore's club, XS, is also, in my opinion, the best club on the strip with Wynn's Tryst a close second. There is an indoor area for dancing and then you can out into the outer area where there is a pool and blackjack tables. You can read a little more about Encore in my recent blog.

Flaming bottles at Tryst

The other hotel I love is The Palms. It comes in second because it is off the strip but it has a great, young-person atmosphere and by staying there you receive free passes to all their clubs so you don't have to wait in line or pay (this is very unique). The gambling floor has lower limits too which is helpful if you aren't willing to sit at a $25 minimum table which some of the other hotels start at.

The nightclubs here are also awesome: Moon, Rain, and the Playboy Bunny Lounge. Moon is really cool with a ceiling that opens to the sky and Rain has a great dance floor featuring spouts of flame every so often.


Both these hotels can be a little spendy at around $250 a night at times. If you are looking for slightly less expensive I like both Paris Paris and the Mirage. The people there are friendly and they are in the center of the best part of the strip so you have easy access to shops, restaurants, and clubs at some of the other casinos. The rooms are nice but not ritzy. Neither of these two have great nightlife in my opinion but Caesar's Pure nightclub is nearby and fantastic and you can always take a taxi.

If you are looking for good restaurants my favorites are: Switch at Encore, Alize in the Palms, Sushi Roku at Caesars, and Stack at the Mirage. Switch is steak and seafood, Alize is Italian, Sushi Roku (duh) and Stack is gourmet comfort food (ie tasty pigs in a blanket). They all have amazing atmospheres, are very romantic, and great for a birthday.

Sushi Roku

You should also check some of the hotels' websites for the weekend you decide on because there are always great concerts playing, shows to see, and more. Random things you should do: eat crepes at the Jean-Philippe Patisserie and watch the water show at the Bellagio and shop at Caesars.

Jean-Philippe Patisserie

Since you are traveling in October that will also provide lower prices because it isn't high season. The one thing you will want to do is pick your ideal weekend and then check the weekends before and after. If there is a fight in Vegas prices will skyrocket so you want to avoid that.

Hope that helps! Viva Las Vegas!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiking in L.A. = Pain in the Ass

So this weekend, I decided I desperately needed to return to my Oregon roots and go hiking. Last weekend I'd stumbled over Malibu Creek State Park online. I have to say it was a bitch even to find the address much less any other information on it but the pictures were beautiful so I decided to take the plunge.

Early Saturday morning I piled my dog, boyfriend, and cousin into the car and started the 40 minute car trek up into the hills. Driving on PCH from the I-10 freeway to Pepperdine University is absolutely stunning and so relaxing. You pass couples strolling on the beach, surf beaches packed with people, and an assortment of some of the oddest looking cars from beach bum vans to Mercedes with surfboards sticking out the back.

Once we reached Malibu Creek State Park (MCSP), we learned, to our dismay, that it's $12 to park. Normally, I would pay because it goes to the upkeep of the park but today I was feeling cheap and they stupidly provide a parking lot about ten minutes down the street for free. So we parked in the parking lot and walked over to MCSP.

We are literally about to set foot on the trail when a ranger walks by and tells us, "No dogs." I was stunned! "What do you mean no dogs????!?!?!??!! It's a fucking HIKING TRAIL. The Oregonian in me was so pissed. I'd come all this way and now I had to turn around because I'm not one of those evil people who leave their dogs in the back of their cars in 90 degree weather.

The ranger suggested we go to Paramount Ranch about 4 miles down Mulholland so we reluctantly walked back to the car and drove to the Ranch. This was the weirdest place I have ever been. When you first walk into to the park you are confronted by a Wild Wild West town. Yeah, it's like a spooky version of DisneyLand. It's in the middle of nowhere, completely deserted, and overgrown with weeds. I was ready for Jason to come out with his chainsaw and hack me to pieces.

However, at this point I was so indignant and my boyfriend and cousin were whining so much that I resolved that I would find a trail and we would hike it. So I set off on any of the overgrown paths that looked like they could be trails and finally we stumbled onto a real one. It was kind of scary. The path was overgrown with trees and shrubs on either side like the set from the Blair Witch. And there was definitely some type of large animal lurking in there because we heard it following us along the trail. It also since help that Sissy #1 and Sissy #2 kept jumping at the littlest sound.

The trail ended about a mile later. What a worthless hike.

The boys tried to cheer me up by taking me out to lunch. We stopped at a small cafe called Coogies along PCH. We had fajitas, hamburger, and the most amazing, cheesy spinach cheese dip. We also were entertained by the locals.

By locals I mean older, rich, white people who spend their later lives lounging in the "Bu," as they call it (yes obviously I am stereotyping). One such couple of sitting at the table next to us with a younger couple about my parents age. They had an eight-year son.

The older couple was clearly telling the younger couple all about their new home, the "Bu." I will refer to the older couple as The Blings. The younger man was a doctor who had recently relocated his family (yes I have excellent hearing for eavesdropping). We will call them The Doctors. Part way through their lunch another older couple walked by with their Labradoodle (The Gents). So I've set the stage for the soap opera about to begin.

Mrs. Bling looks up from her conversation at the table and cackles at Mrs. Gents. The two must belong to a country club together. The Blings then introduce The Doctors to the The Gents as "their new neighbors." You can tell The Gents don't really give a shit but this is Malibu so they will falsely excited about the prospect. As the three couples smoozed no one was paying attention to the little eight-year-old.

That was until he walked up to The Gents' Labradoodle and proceeded to mount the dog as if it was a horse. We are talking walked up and tried to straddle the animal. The look of horror on Mrs. Gents' face was AMAZING. We didn't even attempt to hide it and started cracking up immediately. The Doctors grabbed their son who kept screaming "I want to ride the horse" as Mr. Gent clutched his poor dog. Fucking hilarious.

This definitely made up for the shitty hike and provided us with tons of entertainment on the way back to West L.A.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lunching in West L.A.

I currently work near Olympic and Bundy in West Los Angeles and I'm often struggling to come up with places to eat for lunch. My criteria?

1) No fast food
2) Eat in about an hour
3) Not terribly expensive

The Apple Pan - Hamburgers
10801 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

Super simple menu of hamburgers and pie. My personal favorite is the Steakburger with a warm slice of apple pie. You sit on high chairs around a communal counter and are served by old men in old-fashioned outfits. Even the cash registers look like they belong in an antique store. But the food is anything but antiquated. It's the freshest, tastiest burger around.

Bossa Nova - Brazilian
10982 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

Cheap and delicious, I usually order the Picanha Appetizer. The menu says its sausage but every time I've had it it was steak so that's a little confusing. Their pizzas are also amazing especially the Goat Cheese Special.

FOOD - American (Traditional)
10571 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90064

FOOD is a tiny little cafe on Pico that takes "standard" American food and puts an extra twist on it. Try the oven-roasted, free range turkey breast, the classic grilled cheese or the Farmer's Market Herb Salad. They are my personal favorites.

Chan Dara - Thai
11940 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

Having been to Thailand, Chan Dara does a great job with their menu. It's quick, yet tasty. My Thai staple, Chicken Curry, is good here as is the Basil and Chili Chicken Lunch Special with steamed rice and egg roll.

Ramenya - Ramen
11555 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

I try a different type of Ramen every time I eat here and am always impressed. My go-to would have to be the Aho Noodle. One note on this place is careful where you park or you may get towed!

Sawtelle Kitchen - Japanese / Italian
2024 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90025

This restaurant features one of the more unique lunch menus I've seen. It's a fusion of Japanese and Italian with favorites like fried chicken wings dipped in light teriyaki sauce, the Japanese-style meatloaf, and the artichoke appetizer.

Today you get the West L.A. ones. Throughout the week I will be posting great lunch stops in other areas of L.A. that are still nearby.