Los Angeles

Ace Hotel Downtown Los AngelesMy husband’s birthday was coming up. As it approached, I kept coming up with ideas. “Surf and Sand in Laguna?” I asked, as he passed me in the hall. Nothing. A few days later, “Malibu Beach Inn?” Nada. A week later, I added what I thought was a fresh idea, “Ojai Valley Inn?” Still, no response.

These are MY ideas of what to do on a birthday. We usually end up at a beach somewhere because, well, we should do something, right? Then, with less than a week until the actual date, he reminds me that it’s HIS birthday. What?!! Incredulous. And now he’s thought about it and really wants to go to Photo LA, the annual photo show, which is no longer held in Santa Monica, but at the LA Mart, downtown.

DOWNTOWN? But there’s no beach. I needed a few moments to come to terms with this. “Okay,” I peeped. He said let’s get a room for the night and check out all the hipness we keep hearing about downtown. He mentioned the Standard Hotel. But I remembered everyone, meaning my son, talking about the Ace Hotel. My husband took charge and booked it. I think he feared I would switch it behind his back to a beach hotel. He said restaurant reservations were up to me. He thinks of that as my territory. And, well, it usually is.

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ilfornaiowine.jpgWe had planned to spend New Year's Eve with friends and family but the flu and changes in schedules left us on our own. The New Year deserves to be celebrated, so we organized a dinner the first week of January at Il Fornaio in Santa Monica.

We enjoy coming to Il Fornaio for many reasons: their good food, affordable prices, and their Passporto program that rewards diners who come frequently during the Festa Regionale. During the first two weeks of every month, Il Fornaio presents a menu featuring the dishes and wines of a particular region in Italy. January's region is Trentino-Alto Adige, which borders Switzerland and Austria.

We met at the Santa Monica Il Fornaio, our favorite, because of the cozy setting and the friendly, attentive staff. Because the Regionale pairs food with wine, we came hungry and thirsty. Since we had a large group, we could order a good sampling of dishes.

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believer2010.gifI recently joined Facebook and that is another story for another time, but its relevant to what I’m telling you because I’ve never made a friend this way until recently.

I was reading my favorite magazine, The Believer. I always turn to Sedaratives when I first get it and this month it was written by a girl named Julie Klausner.  It was very funny and caused me to look up her web site where I read some of her other material. Even funnier. I wrote on her “wall” telling her how much I liked her writing. One thing led to another and I was taking her out to lunch because she was here from New York on a book tour. Her book, I Don’t Care About Your Band, had some of the funniest things I’d ever read about relationships. 

When trying to figure out where to eat, she assumed that I might have that “California” thing and be all ‘food restriction-y”. I told her I was a native and that kind of crap was usually behavior adopted by people who move here. One thing we got out of the way right immediately was that neither of us was a vegan or vegetarian. We had some really arch things to say about people who are, but I’m not going to repeat them because you never know, right?

So, I thought, “Burgers!”

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neapolislogoSometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. In the case of the epic, pre-opening meal I got to enjoy at Trattoria Neapolis last week, I just happened to be at home to get the call. Our friends think we eat out all the time, but our "foodie" cred is mere illusion. Yes, we like to eat well when we go out (who wants to get dressed up and fight traffic for a mediocre meal), however, to us the wine/beverage program is just as important and finding places that are impressive on both the food and beverage sides of the menu are rare.

I knew nothing about this new Pasadena eatery before I stepped through the door. I was suitably stuffed and excited when I left. The space is sophisticated, yet inviting, with many different areas to choose from - the bright and airy Garden Room, the cozy booths in the bar area, the semi-private upstairs balcony and my favorite the brick-walled wine room. It's an impressive space with many touches imported from and evoking Italy in a modern way.

It has been a 10-year labor of love for restaurateur Perry Vidalakis who traveled all over the Italy and the United States researching how to blend his love of Italian food and style with the life and style of Southern California. Most of the menu is familiar, yet the execution - by Chef Bryant Wigger - utilizes techniques and local ingredients that put his own fresh spin on the traditional fare.

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coffee.jpgIt’s 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, and like any well-adjusted twentysomething, I’m eating breakfast.  More specifically, I’m having brioche french toast and cappuccino at the Little Next Door on 3rd with my friend Gloria.  After living in LA for six months, I have determined that breakfast in the afternoon is exactly the sort of reckless behavior Sundays demand.

Typically in New York, Sundays amounted to consumption of greasy brunch complemented by mimosas and black coffee.  Following brunch was an inevitable headache, followed by more consumption in the form of excessive window-shopping, followed by an indulgent nap upon what appeared to be a laundry pile, but was in fact my bed.

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