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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dlimg_9723.jpgOne of my favorite restaurants isn't close to where we live. Adana is forty-five minutes away in Glendale.

The light and airy dining room suggests a banquet hall in an elegant European boutique hotel. There are white tablecloths on all the tables, pastel landscape murals on the walls and delicate wrought iron framing the windows facing busy San Fernando Road.

I would enjoy the food at Adana at any price, but with large entrees costing from $6.50 to $10.95, there's a special pleasure in being served an affordable, well-prepared meal.

Even though there are 15 kababs on the menu, I mostly stick with the dark meat chicken kabob, the pork chops and baby back ribs. A friend who joins me on the trek likes the lamb chops kabob. They are all delicious.

Waiting for our entrees, we have an Armenian coffee, share a large plate of tabouli and catch up about family, work and movies.

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coupa-cafe-icon-logo.jpgShakespeare once wrote, “a place for all reasons and all seasons” and those words are a great intro to Coupa Café, a lively restaurant and wine bar situated on North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. I know there are about 15 restaurants along that well-known restaurant row and at least 13 of them are Italian and another one is Chinese. So if you are looking to dine on cuisine that is different and delicious then the Venezuelan treats at Coupa Café are your best bet. A very welcoming aura pervades the spacious dining room, with the umber painted walls, friendly bar and large outside patio. Well-informed staff serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and can answer any of your questions.

The owner Camelia Coupal who hails from Venezuela is well versed in her nutrition and cuisine. She works in tandem with the modern slow food movement and promotes the use of organic and fair-trade ingredients. This has been a family business for 30 years and besides the Coupa Cafe in Beverly Hills her family have opened four Coupa Cafés - on the grounds of Stanford University, one in downtown Palo Alto and of course the parent one in Caracas.

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caneleoutside.jpgA canelé is a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France. A small pastry with a soft custard center and a dark caramelized crust. They are eaten for breakfast, as a snack, and for dessert. Canelé is also a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Just a few walkable blocks from home. Robert and I were there on a recent Friday night. We have often wondered how the recession is affecting restaurants. It didn’t seem to be having much of an affect on Canelé this particular night. The restaurant was full and people were still waiting for tables when we left around 9:15 or so.

It’s great to see this place doing so well. The food has been called French-California-Mediterranean. And it is, but some of the menu items are classic French. Those are the ones I like the most. Like the bouef Bourguignon with buttered noodles I had on my first visit, and the pissaladiere with herb salad. They also have sides like pommes Anna, a very old-fashioned potato dish of layered potatoes and butter; starters like leeks vinaigrette, and brandade, a salt cod dish originating in the Languedoc and Provence regions of France.

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standoutside.jpg Not only were we celebrating our nation’s birthday this past weekend, but the birthdays of two of our closest friends as well, one born on the 4th, one on the 5th. Since nothing says summer like burgers and hot dogs, we all rendezvous'd to "The Stand" in Encino to get our grilling fix with no preparation or clean-up necessary on our part.

This modern diner/burger joint is so right up our alley we couldn’t believe we’d never heard of it before, especially since it’s only 15 minutes from our house in Studio City. My husband has an uncanny knack for sniffing out any establishment that serves a true Chicago-style hotdog, so perhaps its location on the west side of the always-congested 405 Freeway has something to do with his failure to find this place. I think the constant traffic must have jammed his radar.

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