Archive for the ‘Hotels’Category

Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month this April

Short rib grilled cheese

Short rib grilled cheese by Govind Armstrong. From Epicurious.

April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and Los Angeles has lots to offer in this department. We’re not just about vegan-gluten-free-macrobiotic juice cleanses, OK? We like to eat, too, and that includes gooey melted cheese on perfectly toasted bread.

The grilled cheese that really changed the way I look at this particular sandwich was Chef Govind Armstrong’s short rib grilled cheese with red onion marmalade. The first time I bit into this ingenious concoction was at the now-shuttered 8 oz. Burger Bar on Melrose Avenue, and I loved every flavor-packed bite, making me realize that the lowly grilled cheese could be anything you want it to be — which in this case meant stuffed with slow-cooked meat and onions. You can still get it at Armstrong’s Post & Beam, thankfully.

Then the Grilled Cheese Truck came along, with its Cheesy Mac and Rib carb-on-carb sandwich (short rib, caramelized onions, and macaroni and cheese) and delightful dessert grilled cheeses. There’s a reason why the lines for this truck are so long. And the brick-and-mortar/truck combo The Melt has a good spicy version in The Mission made with pepper jack and jalapeno on sourdough.

And while we wait for Chef Eric Greenspan’s temple to this comforting sammy (simply called Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese) to open, which is slated for April 11, and lament the end of the Grilled Cheese Invitational on April 12, we can visit BLVD 16 at the Hotel Palomar through Sunday, April 13, for specials, including a prosciutto, truffle pecorino and arugula pesto grilled cheese.

Or, we can make some of our own interesting combinations, courtesy of Loews Santa Monica Beach and Loews Hollywood hotels.

You may recall the pastrami doughnut sandwiches I sampled at the Loews Hollywood recently. Now a similar version called Mister Crunchy will be offered all month at the hotel’s H2 lobby bar. And Loews Santa Monica’s Fireside Lounge will have its Fiesta Grilled Cheese, appealing to our Californian tastes. If you want to try your hand at making these yourself, check out the recipes:

Mister Crunchy

- 1 “Telera Style” yeast/raised doughnut roll
- 3 oz. thinly sliced Virginia Smoked Ham
- 1.5 oz. thin-sliced Wisconsin Cheddar
- 1 oz. thin-sliced Monterey Pepper Jack

Split the doughnut roll. In a Teflon pan, over low/medium heat, lightly brown the cut side of the roll until crisp. Turn roll sides over to lightly brown the outer sides of the roll. Preheat the top broiler in the oven to 500 degrees. As this is taking place, layer the ham and cheddar slices on each side. Cover pan. After the cheese begins to glisten, place the 2 halves together to form the sandwich. Top the sandwich with the Pepper Jack cheese, and glaze under the top broiler. Cut and serve.

Fiesta Grilled Cheese

- 3 oz. jalapeno pepper jack cheese
- ½ avocado
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ½ lime juice
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- 1 tablespoon butter

Coat grill with butter and heat. Spread butter on both sides of sourdough bread slices and place on grill. Add cheese to both slices of bread and let melt. Add ½ of avocado sliced along with lime juice and lime zest. Remove from grill. Sprinkle roughly chopped fresh cilantro on top of the avocado. Put two slices of bread together and slice.


04 2014

Loews Hollywood classes it up with renovated hotel

After nearly two years of renovations, the Loews Hollywood Hotel is now sleek and modern. And with the unveiling of its new H2 lobby bar, the hotel is now a legitimate place to relax with a drink away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Boulevard, and even the Hollywood & Highland complex located right next door.

Loews purchased the former Renaissance property back in 2012, and it’s a good thing it did. I remember the old hotel, with lots of primary colors (green and orange stands out in my mind) splashed across its walls and carpets. It was not what one might consider posh.

The new version is much improved. I had the opportunity to stay overnight in one of its renovated rooms, which offer lots of space with an average of 400 square feet each. You get free wifi in your room and throughout the hotel (score!), and Loews properties are pet-friendly (double score!).

King room at Loews

King room at Loews

Sofa area

Sofa area



View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland

View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland and the pool

The H2 lobby bar just opened last week, so its food and beverage menus are still being worked out, but until then, if you tell the bartender what kind of spirit you like, he’ll make you something that will surely please. I got a nicely crafted New York sour, complete with a pretty red wine float.

New York sour

New York sour

I also sampled some dishes that are currently being considered for the bar menu. The pastrami sandwich on doughnut buns was a big hit, and I was pleased to find that the doughnuts were not frosted (because that would be, like, ew).

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

The lobster pups (mini lobster corn dogs) were some of my favorites, too. It’s fried. It’s lobster. How can you not like this?

Lobster pups

Lobster pups

As part of our tour, I was able to visit the hotel’s helipad and take in the view with a glass of champagne. Ah, the Hollywood life. Word has it that the Loews Hollywood is planning on offering special experiences on that helipad in the future. So if you’re looking for a way to pop the question or celebrate some other notable milestone, the hotel’s helipad might be just what you’re looking for.

Overlooking Highland Avenue from the helipad

Overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue from the helipad

Note: The visit to the lobby bar and the overnight stay were complimentary.


03 2014

Get healthy at The Hotel Wilshire

The Roof on Wilshire restaurant at the Hotel Wilshire

The Roof on Wilshire restaurant at the Hotel Wilshire. From Eater LA.

So, January is nearly over. It’s time to take stock of your new year’s resolutions. Personally, I don’t really buy into this once-a-year resolution idea, but I think it’s always a good idea to improve your health. And so does The Hotel Wilshire (this is Los Angeles, after all).

The Hotel Wilshire’s Live Like a Local program offers complimentary bike rentals, in-room yoga service and access to gym LA Fitness. On top of that, the hotel’s New Year New You package ($325/night) includes welcome amenities of bottled water, fresh fruit, healthy snacks and a jogging map; two vouchers for a complimentary yoga class at nearby Hot 8 Yoga; and a $50 dining credit for breakfast at the Roof restaurant or Roof on the Move picnic offerings.

Since Chef Eric Greenspan is at the helm at the Roof, the food should be top notch. Some of the healthier offerings on the breakfast menu include a yogurt granola parfait, steel cut oatmeal, and an egg white scramble with kale, squash, avocado and sriracha. There are also some tonics, including the Greendog with kale, green apple, almond, cucumber and cinnamon. Most items on the Roof on the Move menu are pretty healthy: think seared tuna with lentils, olives, cauliflower and dates.

So next time you’re visiting Los Angeles or looking for a staycation, The Hotel Wilshire will be there to make sure you have a good, healthful time.

Kimpton’s The Hotel Wilshire
6317 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

New Year New You Package
Through March 15, 2014
Rate code NYOU


01 2014

Elevated food at Santa Barbara’s El Encanto

El Encanto tableI imagine The Dining Room and Terrace at El Encanto hotel — high up on a hill overlooking the city of Santa Barbara — is a lovely place to enjoy an expertly crafted meal. The hotel, which opened in March and is the first West Coast location for Orient-Express Hotels, offers what look like spectacular views of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. I wouldn’t really know because I haven’t actually been there. But I have had Chef Patrice Martineau’s nicely executed and delicious food.

Martineau and the El Encanto team recently hosted a tasting in Los Angeles (now that’s what I call service), and it was so impressive that I now have a trip to Santa Barbara on my list so I can enjoy one of Martineau’s meals in its native environment. We tasted some of the regular menu dishes, as well as some special bites, including some aged cheddar made from the milk of El Encanto’s own Holstein cow, Ellie.

We started off with a crab salad, which was served alongside cranberry gelée, chilled ginger verbena hollandaise sauce and a raspberry vinegar glaze. The sweet crab meat was tempered with the tartness and acid in its accompaniments, creating a perfect balance.

Crab salad

Crab salad

Next up was the slow-baked organic Scottish salmon in a yuzukosho crust served with baby vegetables and glazed gnocchi in a smoked bonito orange broth. The yuzukosho, a fermented Japanese seasoning made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, gave the salmon an interesting Asian twist complemented by the bonito broth.

Scottish salmon

Scottish salmon

We also had Martineau’s braised short ribs, which are braised in white wine instead of the more common red wine, which lightened the flavor of the meat up — a nice touch, given the heaviness of short ribs. Roasted fennel, crushed celery root, basil, tomatoes and roasted tombolina carrots rounded out the dish.

Braised short rib

Braised short rib

Ellie’s Silver Mountain aged cheddar, served with fresh figs and cream of balsamic vinegar on a bed of edible wheatgrass, was a tasty was for us to get ready for the sweeter desserts, which included chocolate truffles and little almond berry tea cakes. But the main event was the Manjari Chocolate “Florentine,” a classic chocolate mousse topped with almond and hazelnut nougatine. While the dessert wasn’t really a florentine, it contained the flavors of the classic Italian dessert (I guess that’s why its name has quotation marks in it), and with the chocolate mousse made for a rich ending to a lovely meal.

Ellie's Silver Mountain cheese

Ellie’s Silver Mountain cheese

Tea cakes and truffles

Tea cakes and truffles

Manjari Chocolate "Florentine"

Manjari Chocolate “Florentine”

Note: The meal was hosted.


11 2013

Travelogue: the Peloponnese, Greece

Corinth Canal

Corinth Canal

After a few days in Athens, my husband, Rory, and I headed for the open Greek road on the Peloponnese. We hit up Corinth, Nafplio, Stoupa (for the wedding) and Ancient Olympia.

Driving in Greece

Driving in Greece wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. For one thing, the Greeks drive on the right side of the road, so we didn’t have to worry about driving on the left. There’s also a national network of highways that never seems to have any traffic, so that’s also a plus. It’s only when you’re driving through small villages — which we did on our way back to Athens from Olympia — that it gets tricky. Yes, some of the streets in Athens are small, but some of the “roads” in Greek villages are only roads in the academic sense; they really did not look like any road a car should be driving on!


Our first stop was Corinth, where we stopped for pics of the canal (pictured above) before we made our way to the beach. Pro tip: while you can find English speakers in much of Greece, the folks who worked in the restaurants along the beach in Corinth did not speak English very well. We were surprised since Corinth is only an hour outside Athens. This made trying to find beach towels to buy difficult! However, we discovered here that restaurants often have beach chairs that you can use for free as long as you buy something, even if it’s just a drink. They have servers who come out to you, too. I wish we had this kind of service in Los Angeles as a matter of course!

A beach in Corinth

A beach in Corinth

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10 2013

Travelogue: Athens, Greece

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece, at night

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece, at night


So much of what has been in the news about this country lately has been negative — a bad economy, mass demonstrations, worker strikes, general ennui.

But what I experienced in Greece was nothing but nice, accommodating — and proud to be Greek — people, not to mention gorgeous views. Unfortunately, prices weren’t as low as I thought they might be (the euro was worth about a third more than the U.S. dollar). Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any strikes.

Traveling in Greece

Getting from point A to point B in Greece isn’t always a no-brainer. My husband Rory and I needed to go to a wedding in Stoupa, which is south of Kalamata on the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese region. I thought it would be easy getting from Athens to this area since there’s an international airport in Kalamata, but apparently flights between Athens and Kalamata are inconsistent and not always available. Also, the only port that runs ferries to the Cyclades islands is in Athens.

Because we planned to travel around and because this turned out to be much harder than we thought, we went with Athens-based travel agency Fantasy Travel. Even though it was a bit tough making the plans given the 10 hour time difference between Los Angeles and Athens, the folks at Fantasy Travel took care of everything, including transfers to and from airports, rental car (which was delivered to our hotel!) and hotels. I just gave them my budget, and they made it work.

Staying in Athens

We started our trip in Athens and stayed for about three days at Central Hotel in the Plaka, the old part of the city at the base of the Acropolis with narrow, labyrinthine streets (some streets are so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other; we saw many a car backing up to let the other pass). It took us nearly the whole three days we were there to get our bearings, and we never did find a particular restaurant that supposedly served delicious lamb. But no matter; we had fun exploring!

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08 2013

A tiki bar to end all tiki bars: Tonga Room San Francisco

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

If you’re a fan of tiki bars and haven’t been to the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in The Fairmont San Francisco hotel, then you don’t know tiki bars.

This Polynesian paradise, or “the greatest place in the history of the world” per Anthony Bourdain, is the perfect combination of kitsch and upscale dining. Not only can you get a ridiculously large, sugary and potent drink — preferably aflame — but you can also get contemporary takes on Asian and Polynesian cuisine while dining alongside a pool, periodic rain showers and a live band on a floating stage.

When it comes to strong drinks, this is the place. The Pineapple Royale, a huge portion of aged rum, brandy and fresh pineapple juice served in a hollowed out pineapple, is dangerously good (and fun!). You could easily share this with someone, and you might want to just to split the $17 cost. The Singapore Sling ain’t no slouch, either, with Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, cherry Heering, fresh lemon and pineapple juices, Angostura bitters, and a Benedictine mist.

The Quintessential “Pu Pu” Platter, with BBQ Kona pork ribs, shiitake egg rolls, chicken skewers, and coconut prawns, is a good bet, and the restaurant’s inventiveness comes out in dishes such as the Forbidden Blend Fried Rice, which features forbidden black, white jasmine, Bhutanese red and jade pearl bamboo rices.

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

The well-known Huli Huli Chicken — boneless fire-roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, red onions, sweet peppers and scallions — was too sweet for my taste, but it was cooked nicely.

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken

Check out Bourdain and Chef Chris Cosentino’s visit to the Tonga Room for “The Layover” to see some of the tiki drinks and the rain storm in action.

Note: This meal was hosted.


07 2013

Celebrate National Junk Food Day in style

Junk Food Platter at L.A. Market by Kerry Simon for National Junk Food Day

Junk Food Platter at L.A. Market by Kerry Simon. Photo courtesy of L.A. Market.

National Junk Food Day is Sunday, July 21, and it’s the best snack food day of them all. You know why? Because it’s all-encompassing. You could eat just about anything to celebrate!

L.A. Market by Kerry Simon at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE gets it. That’s why the restaurant offers the Junk Food Platter ($17) with coconut Bounty, Snickers cake, banana Nutella macaroons, baby churros, red velvet whoopie pies, brownies, cookies and cotton candy (and maybe popcorn, if you’re lucky?).

And then, because you’re already at a hotel, why not crash in one of the J.W. Marriott’s rooms with views of the downtown skyline? There’s also a rooftop pool to lounge by while enjoying even more junk food, if you’re so inclined.

So pig out! Why not? It’s summer.

J.W. Marriott Junior Suite

J.W. Marriott Junior Suite. Photo courtesy of J.W. Marriott.


07 2013

Nashville Dreaming at the Hotel Preston

Hotel Preston in Nashville

Hotel Preston in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Provenance Hotels.

Ever since I visited the Music City last year, I’ve been smitten with Nashville. So when a television show popped up about the place, of course I started following it (no matter how cheesy it can get!).

And when I heard that Hotel Preston is now offering a Nashville Dreaming getaway package, giving guests the chance to experience some of the best of Music City, then of course I was interested.

Located outside the city center and close to the airport, Hotel Preston is a modern-yet-comfy place where you can get unique amenities, such as in-room lava lamps, rubber duckies and pet fish (no, you don’t get to keep the fish). And with the Nashville Dreaming package, guests will get two tickets to a backstage tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and a shot at the mic in the Ryman’s recording studio to record a professionally engineered song to take home on a customized Ryman Records CD. Guests will also get a $25 gift certificate to The Bluebird Café to see a show at Nashville’s most famous songwriter’s venue. And, if that’s not enough, guests will get two tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame and copies of Volumes 1 and 2 of the “Nashville” soundtrack.

The special package is available through Dec. 30, 2013, and priced from $219, plus tax.


06 2013

O Hotel keeps scoring with Bar + Kitchen, Oasis City Spa

O Hotel lobby. Photo from Orbitz.

O Hotel, a downtown L.A. boutique with 67 modernly styled rooms, recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. And with the addition of lauded barman Matt Biancaniello to its restaurant Bar | Kitchen, and a 6-month old day spa, O Hotel has lots to be happy about.

While I haven’t seen the hotel’s rooms, I have visited Bar | Kitchen and Oasis City Spa, both of which offer some pretty impressive amenities for such a small hotel. The spa has some St. Patrick’s Day weekend specials for those of you who partied too much (or for those getting ready to party): a signature organic facial with green herbal mask for $100, green tea mint scrub for $55, and a mani/pedi for $40. If you can’t make it this weekend, Oasis also offers a $25 mini facial and esthetician consultation, the cost of which can be applied toward a future facial or spa products. Prices are reasonable, and the facility is simple yet elegant.

Bar | Kitchen is no slouch, either. Chef Vahan Tokmadjian has created a well-executed, seasonally appointed menu with gems such as shrimp and grits with Spanish chorizo sauce (this is one of the better S&G dishes around town), mushroom bread pudding and pork cheek hash.

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits

Pork cheek hash with quail egg

Pork cheek hash with quail egg

And Biancaniello, whose moves have been closely watched since he left Library Bar last year, has brought some of his best-known cocktail recipes, including those for Last Tango in Modena (gin, muddled strawberries, balsamic vinegar and St. Germain foam) and Kentucky Bubble Bath (bourbon, Cynar, lavender simple syrup and lemon), which I could drink all day!

Kentucky Bubble Bath

Kentucky Bubble Bath

Given the hotel’s combo of good food, drink, decor and spa amenities, I would recommend a stay here for those looking for a downtown hotel with some style.

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03 2013