Author Archive

Holiday gift guide for foodies

Still working your way through that holiday gift list? If you’re shopping for someone who likes food more than your average Joe, then check out these goodies in this holiday gift guide for foodies.

Pretzel necklace from Food52

Pretzel necklace

Pretzel necklace

Food52 also carries necklaces with pendants shaped like whisks, rotelle pasta, crawfish claws and more. All are adorable. All should be on holiday gift guides. Because food jewelry.

The Chef Says book

The Chef Says

The Chef Says

Chock full of funny and insightful quotes, The Chef Says makes a nice gift for that person who is really into what his or her favorite chef may have to say, even when not in the kitchen.

Clean Plates book

Clean Plates

Clean Plates

For the healthful eater, there are the Clean Plates books, which bills itself as “Zagat with a healthy twist.” So far the books are available in Los Angeles and New York City versions, and are also able to be personalized.

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

Huckleberry cookbook

From the creative mind of Zoe Nathan, pastry chef extraordinaire at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, comes the cookbook of the same name. This is great for the baker on your list, as it contains recipes of many of the bakery’s favorites, both sweet and savory.

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Anthropologies gold monogram mugs

Anthropologie gold monogram mugs

Because who doesn’t want their initial in gold?

16

12 2014

Bruce Kalman elevates dining with Union Pasadena

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Chef Bruce Kalman’s Union Pasadena in Old Town is good — not just good for Pasadena, but good for anywhere. That’s good news for Pasadena, but not so good for those of us who live nowhere near there.

No matter. You’ll want to try Union Pasadena’s food in any case. The menu by Kalman (The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar, The Churchill) is described as a “seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine,” but all you need to know is you want all the pasta. Yes, the other dishes are tasty, too — pork meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes, lardo and caper berries, and wild mushrooms over Grist & Toll polenta topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar — but Kalman’s house-made pasta is where it’s at.

The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured above), with San Marzano tomato, garlic and fresno chili pepper, is a classic kicked up a notch with a Californian ingredient. It’s simple and satisfying.

But when Kalman starts getting creative, that’s when he really shines. The squid ink garganelli served with lobster, fennel, meyer lemon and truffle butter is holy-moly good. The toothsome pasta sucks up all the flavors, including the richness of the lobster.

Squid ink garganelli

Squid ink garganelli. Photo courtesy of Union.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, some dishes in the pasta section change periodically. One of these seasonal dishes is a duck agnolotti with pickled fiddlehead ferns, another rich dish featuring expertly crafted pasta and two of my favorite ingredients.

Duck agnolotti

Duck agnolotti. Photo courtesy of Union.

When it comes to mains, don’t overlook the pork chops. It’s not a sexy cut of meat, but boy are Kalman’s juicy (that sounded really dirty, didn’t it?). The version I had with mushrooms, root vegetables, Marsala sauce and sage was the best I’ve had in recent memory.

I really wish Union Pasadena were closer to where I live, but that would just be selfish. I guess now I have a reason to make the “trek” to Pasadena.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena by estarLA

Pasadena’s Union is not your same ol’ Old Town by Los Angeles Times

07

12 2014

Travelogue: The Pepper Pot cafe in Dublin, Ireland

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Conveniently located just off the main shopping drag of Grafton Street, The Pepper Pot in Dublin, Ireland, is the perfect place to rest those weary feet with some lunch, tea or sweets.

I ate here twice last fall during a week-long trip to Dublin. Must have been good, right? The main reason my husband and I decided to return was for the brown soda bread, an Irish staple. Pepper Pot’s version is the best I’ve had: thick yet fluffy, with a nutty flavor that comes from the baked-in whole nuts and seeds.

The restaurant, which is located inside the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre on the second floor underneath a large, airy skylit roof, serves seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches and tarts, as well as cakes, teas and all-day breakfast. I had a salad of field greens, figs, almonds and burrata that was light and fresh. Rory had an apple and parsnip curry soup that hit the spot on a chilly fall Dublin afternoon. The adorable mismatched plates and tea cups don’t hurt, either.

Enjoying a spot of tea

Enjoying a spot of tea

I also had a breakfast dish, housemade granola with yogurt and berry compote. While the flavors were great, this was a lot of granola for me at once. I would have preferred more yogurt, but my sister-in-law said she liked the dish as it was. To each her own! Also, Pepper Pot offers various toppings for its organic porridge — not just the usual single option.

Granola and yogurt

Granola and yogurt

It’s worth nothing that the restaurant makes gluten-free and dairy-free bread for those who request it. Angelenos should have no problem finding something they’ll like here.

The Pepper Pot

The Pepper Pot

24

11 2014

Brunch gets fancy at Tanzy in Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy Westwood

Tanzy, the Chef Bryan Podgorski-helmed restaurant housed inside the iPic Theater in Westwood, conveniently offers brunch to go along with your weekend matinee (there is an express menu available inside the movie theater, too).

Once inside and embraced by the wrapping tree branch decor, you’ll find sweet and savory on the brunch menu from Podgorski (The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro Las Vegas). My favorites are the brioche French toast, which is served bread pudding style, and the bacon and eggs raviolo with a soft poached hen egg, ricotta cheese, wilted spinach and bacon vinaigrette. Both are decadent options sure to satisfy. Getting the orange currant scone would also be a good choice.

Brioche French toast

Brioche French toast

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Bacon and eggs raviolo

Other items didn’t quite hit the mark for me when I visited Tanzy. Dishes were either too salty (corned beef hash, hash browns) or suffered from poor execution (pistachio shells in the Cali Colada). But these are easy fixes that hopefully have been made by now.

Another thing to note: bottomless strawberry mimosas for $14, and any fresh juice concoction on the menu can be turned into a cocktail. Sounds like a good time to me!

Note: This meal was hosted.

11

11 2014

Beauty product review: Origins charcoal mask

Origins charcoal mask

Origins charcoal mask. From Origins.

Whenever I find a skincare product that works for me, I get excited. Like, really excited. For someone with oily skin, finding something that makes my face feel truly clean is a big deal. Enter the Origins charcoal mask.

Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask looks a little scary — it’s black — but it is one of the best masks I’ve ever used. The activated charcoal, which means the charcoal has been heated to make it more porous, pulls impurities and toxins from the skin. It’s the same stuff that’s given to people in emergency rooms for having swallowed poison, so you know it’s good. And the Origins charcoal mask is easy to use: slather some all over your face (it’s best to open your pores first with a warm washcloth first), wait 10 to 15 minutes or until it’s dry, then rinse it off. Origins says you can use it as often as needed, and it’s formulated for all skin types. I use it about once a week, as it feels soothing with no tingling sensation at all.

I’ve noticed that my skin not only feels cleaner, but it’s also clearer, since I’ve been using the Origins charcoal mask. What more can you want?

Note: This product was complimentary. Opinions are my own.

26

10 2014

5 tips for great hair

Joshua Kaplan hair stylist

Joshua Kaplan

Here’s another bikini.com post, this time on tips for getting gorgeous, healthy hair. These come courtesy of my long-time personal hair stylist, Joshua Kaplan, who has been cutting, coloring and styling hair for nearly two decades. He’s a founding member of Goo Salon on the best stretch of Fairfax Avenue as far as I’m concerned (Golden State, Animal, Plan Check and many other delicious restaurants are within walking distance). But I digress. Not only has Kaplan been cutting my hair for years, he also styled my hair for my wedding, so I trust him implicitly.

So check out his top five tips for taking care of your hair.

1. Don’t Shampoo Too Often
Oil is actually your friend, not your enemy, when it comes to hair. “Excessive shampooing dries out the hair and strips the scalp of oils that actually make your hair look better,” Kaplan says. For everyday shampooers, he says to start by trying to limit washings to every other day, then every third day and so on. For very dry hair, shampooing once a week is more than enough, with just wetting it and using conditioner on the ends in between washings. Also, “sulfate-free shampoo is always best,” he says. Sulfates are de-greasing agents found in many household cleaning products that dry out hair and fade color. Who wants that in her hair?

2. Take Biotin
“Biotin is a vitamin supplement that, when taken religiously, promotes amazingly healthy hair growth,” Kaplan says. “It gives you glowing skin and stronger nails, too.” Easy enough.

3. Lose The Extensions
Permanent extensions damage the hair because they are bonded to your real hair. “Our hair sheds naturally. This is a good thing. But when you have extensions, your hair isn’t allowed to shed, so when you remove the extensions, you lose all that hair in one shot that you would have lost over a longer period of time,” he says. “I’ve seen clients missing patches of hair from extensions and major breakage. I’ve also heard many clients complaining of headaches.” Kaplan says to use clip-in extensions if you really want to use them. But how does he really feel about extensions? “They damage the hair and look super dated. This isn’t 2006.”

Keep reading over at bikini.com to find out the last couple of tips (#4 is my favorite).

20

09 2014

Learning is fun with an Eatz cooking class

Eatz cooking class

Eatz cooking class

Looking for a fun and informative way to learn some cooking basics? Then an Eatz cooking class might be just what you need.

Located near the intersection of La Brea and Melrose avenues in a cute kitchen space, Eatz offers a variety of classes, from the casual to the technical. Go for a one-off class to learn how to make Greek food or your steakhouse favorites, or go for a series of classes to learn elevated culinary school skills.

I recently tried a Weeknights Made Easy with Chef Porsche Reid, who has a warm, inviting personality and put everyone at ease quickly. Throughout the process of making our five dishes, she explained the reasoning behind the steps and offered up tips to make cooking easier.

Cooking at Eatz

Cooking at Eatz

Our menu for the three-hour class:

  • Pan-seared skirt steak with herbed rice and jalapeno & avocado dressing
  • Cinnamon spice rubbed pork tenderloin with caramelized apples and onions
  • Chicken skewers with grilled romaine salad and a pistachio-mint pesto
  • Italian sausage and artichoke-stuffed portobello mushrooms
  • Handcrafted donuts with powdered sugar, lemon glaze chocolate glaze toppings
Spice-rubbed pork loin

Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin

I wasn’t sure how to gauge my skill level, so I went in thinking I was somewhere in the middle: a 5 out of 10. But I soon realized that my skills (most of which I’ve learned from watching Food Network shows and practicing on my own) were more on par with a 7 or 8. This Eatz cooking class suits beginners well, as all of the recipes, which are emailed to you after the class, are relatively easy to make. Bonus: You get appetizers and wine as soon as you arrive, and you make so much food that you’ll take home lots of leftovers.

Frying up donuts

Frying up doughnuts

My husband Rory with our donuts

My husband Rory with our doughnuts

Note: This class was hosted.

15

09 2014

Summer cocktails all year round

Even though summer is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink like it’s summer all year ’round, especially here in Los Angeles. From the herbaceous to the tiki, here are some of my favorite refreshing cocktails.

Headhunter’s Repentance at Sonny’s Hideaway

Headhunter's Repentance at Sonny's Hideaway

Headhunter’s Repentance at Sonny’s Hideaway

John Kelly O’Hare, who heads up the bar at Sonny’s Hideaway in Highland Park, is doing some great things. Aside from the overproof punches and barrel-aged Campari and Fernet, there’s a Tiki Tuesday menu with some of the best tiki drinks I’ve ever tasted. Some real thought went into these cocktails, which also means they’re not cloying sweet. My favorite, which isn’t on the current tiki menu but is available if you ask nicely, is the Headhunter’s Repentance with rye, chai, lime, pineapple and toasted coconut, a combination of some of my all-time favorite things.

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

The Garden Cup at Faith & Flower is a twist on the classic Pimm’s Cup. With Pimm’s (a gin-based liqueur), basil, citrus and a pickled carrot garnish, this cocktail is fresh-tasting for any time of the year. Unfortunately, the pickled carrot isn’t always available, so when you can get it, consider yourself lucky because that bit of vinegar gives the drink a little extra kick.

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman’s Pub

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman's Pub

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman’s Pub

One of the things that sets the newish downtown watering hole Beelman’s Pub apart is its take on the gin and tonic. Here it’s served Spanish style with a bunch of herbs, citrus and a cinnamon stick, taking the classic G&T to a whole new level. I usually don’t go for a gin and tonic, but throwing in a bunch of aromatics freshens up the cocktail and is sure to make you think of summer any time of the year.

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

I was going to recommend Wood & Vine‘s Black Star, which I previously described as “summer in a glass,” with its tiki-leaning combo of rum, banana liqueur, housemade orgeat, Angostura bitters, fresh pineapple and lime, but that would be too obvious. Instead, I’m recommending the Street Spirit, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh lemon juice, strawberry balsamic shrub, sherry, ginger beer and lemon peel. The shrub, or drinking vinegar, may not be for everyone, but I think it adds an interesting, funky dimension to the drink. But you’ll need to hurry for this one — the summer cocktail menu will be available for just another three weeks or so.

Note: These tastings were hosted.

07

09 2014

5 tips for waxing hair

Alexis Benveniste

Alexis Benveniste

I’ve started a new gig writing for bikini.com, covering health and beauty topics. My latest is a post on waxing, and if you’ve ever had a wax or thought about having one, then following these tips from esthetician Alexis Benveniste will ensure smooth sailing.

Benveniste, who has more than a decade of experience in skin care, started out as a makeup artist (she has worked with numerous fashion magazines, including Elle and Flaunt) before moving on to brow and body waxing. I’ve been going to her for a few years now at Wax on Melrose Avenue, and she really knows her stuff.

Here are some of her tips:

1. Wait Around 5 Weeks
About a quarter of an inch is the ideal length. “Any shorter, and the wax won’t pick it all up; any longer, and the roots get stronger,” she says. Stronger roots = more pain.

2. Know Your Cycle
“Your skin is more sensitive to waxing a week before, during and two days after your monthly cycle,” Benveniste says. Those hormones are messing with you. Plan accordingly.

3. Work Out Before Waxing
Benveniste says working out before, and not after, waxing lessens the likelihood of getting those nasty in-growns. “Working out after waxing causes swelling, and moisture from sweating can invite bacteria into your freshly waxed follicles,” she says.

Head over to bikini.com to read Benveniste’s last two tips. Hint: they have to do with those pesky in-grown hairs!

02

09 2014

Beauty tutorial: perfectly defined eyebrows

I’m not a big makeup person. In fact, I rarely wear any (I’m more about skin care). But every once in a while, I have to get dressed up, and that includes putting on makeup, especially filling in and taming my eyebrows. Since I use makeup so rarely, it’s great to find online tutorials to help me ensure I don’t look like a crazy person. This tutorial on eyebrows from my friend Sarah Sori Kim offers quick and easy directions.

Sarah Sori is a former model and beauty queen, so she knows a thing or two about makeup. She also has hair styling tips, too. Check out her Instagram for more makeup pointers.

Sarah Sori Kim

Now those are some nice eyebrows. Sarah Sori Kim.

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23

08 2014