Even as a life long resident of the greatest city on the planet — one ridden with divine eateries, coveted coffee shops, premiere clothing stores, and treasured boutiques — I still find myself Lost In The City at times. So, in the midst of a brief spell of unemployment after graduation, I have decided to learn the ins and outs of Los Angeles in order to create a continually evolving blog full of my realest, most unadulterated recommendations of the best, unique and trendiest shops and restaurants that the fabulous city of Los Angeles has to offer! In a nut shell, if you need help deciding if you should try that new Dim Sum place at the Century City mall or even if you just want to know where you can find kickass ripped jeans that fit real girls with real bodies, then you’re in the right place. Follow me and I’ll help you find your way.
If you’re tired of your regular spot and are looking for a fun and unique dining experience to spice up your weekend, then look no further! Jose Andres’s, Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, is a revolution in food preparation and presentation.
Before I attempt to explain the technical aspects of Andres’s approach and his ability to handcraft the divine flavors of my favorite dishes, I feel obligated to describe the incredible atmosphere at The Bazaar. To simply describe it as unique would be an understatement because, without an ounce of exaggeration, I can say that there are almost no two chairs that are exactly the same in any one of its four fabulously decorated rooms — including a dessert bar! Every inch of the sprawling restaurant exudes extravagance — from its ornate chandeliers, retro wall paper and uniquely crafted chairs, The Bazaar has left no stone unturned when it comes to having an unparalleled dining atmosphere.
As if the unbelievable atmosphere isn’t reason enough already to make The Bazaar your next birthday, graduation or anniversary destination, let me tell you a little bit about what makes their food every bit as unique as their atmosphere…
Andres’s Bazaar is known for its modern take on traditional Spanish tapas. To this end, Andres has become famous for his use of an incredibly delicate technique called molecular gastronomy which transforms his dishes into true culinary creations. As awesome as it sounds and as amazing as it tastes, I am barely able to understand the chemistry of how it happens. Although, after a bit of research and a dictionary at my fingertips, I can finally explain how one of my favorite dishes, the “Not Your Every Day Caprese,” is made.
As you might have been able to guess, it consists of tomatoes and mozzarella BUT in no ordinary fashion. This dish requires a technique called spherification, which results in a small, translucent ball of mozzarella that seems to be held together, as if by magic. As much as I wanted to believe that, I recently learned that this is possible by combining calcium chloride and liquified mozzarella, and then immersing it into a mixture of water and alginate. Minutes later, a mozzarella filled, tasteless gel capsule the size of a grape forms and remains as such until punctured, at which point it pops, and delicious mozzarella explodes in your mouth — Yes, it is just as magical as it sounds!
These spherified mozzarella balls are served with equally sized, succulent cherry tomatoes, resting on a thin layer of creamy pesto sauce, and accompanied by a miniature crouton. The knowledgable waiters at The Bazaar will instruct you about the method of preparation (of all your dishes), as well as the proper way to eat this dish — carefully scoop up a mozzarella ball, cherry tomato, dollop of pesto and a mini crouton onto a single spoon and — voila — you have your perfect bite.
Another seemingly magical item on the Bazaar menu is the Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) Caipirinha — a combination of Brazilian cachaca, fresh lime juice and sugar, blended with liquid nitrogen to form a delicate, flavorful and strong, frozen cocktail tastier than any frozen margarita you have ever had before. The best part about ordering this futuristic drink is that it is made table-side! You get to watch as a magician with a whisk stirs the liquid nitrogen with the other ingredients as the frozen smoke spills over the mixing bowl. It is then scooped into a glass and served to you with a tiny wooden spoon for consuming.
With every dish more exquisite and delicious than the last, you’ll have plenty of tapas to choose from to create your very own culinary adventure at the SLS’s Bazaar. Despite the seemingly outrageous combinations and preparations, I have yet to taste a dish I didn’t absolutely love — from cotton candy coated foie gras, to jicama wrapped guacamole bites, and even passion fruit and espresso foam Wagyu beef — everything somehow, magically fits together like pineapple on pizza (only SO much better).
Address: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Type: Spanish Tapas
Price Range: $18 – $100
Must Haves: Caviar Cones, LN2 Caipirinha, Not Your Every Day Caprese, “Philly Cheesesteak,” Cotton Candy Foie Gras, Brussel Sprouts, Croquettes De Pollo, Papas Canarias
Reservations: Yes – Tough
Full Bar: Yes
Dessert Bar: YES!
Parking: Street, Valet
As an easily bored, workout-aholic, I am constantly trying new routines and exercise classes to try and stay motivated and interested in my fitness regimen. But sometimes, I find myself in a lull…
The latest thing to pull me out of that lull, is SWERVE! The first class I took at SWERVE was called Yoga Booty Ballet (YBB) with Danielle Cuccio! The name of the class had me excited but intimidated because the first thing I associate with ballet is gracefulness — but gracefulness is also the last thing I associate with myself, so without knowing what to expect, I figured I was going to provide some good laughs for my fellow YBB classmates.
To everybody’s unknowing chagrin, I was in luck! Only the very skeletal framework of ballet is required for this class — keeping your feet in first and second position at times, and whatever the proper name is for holding your hands in a circular and hopefully elegant fashion above your head.
More relevant to the class than ballet, was actually the ability to let loose and feel the music. After the first 5 minutes of guided intention setting, Danielle cranked up the music and jumped into a high energy, fun, sexy and most importantly, easy to follow dance routine for the next 25 minutes. I cannot stress enough that you do not have to be an experienced dancer to keep up and enjoy this class! With Danielle showing us how it’s done at the front of the class, all YOU have to do is try to follow along.
The next fraction of YBB involved strength training through basic Pilates moves — from goblet, wide stance and first-position squats to bicycle crunches, static planks and commandos, this 15 minute segment of class will put your mental and physical strength to the test.
Finally, the last 10 minutes of class included yoga centered, stretching and a short, closing meditation which sets you up to have a great rest of your day!
To sum it up, YBB was a unique combination of intention setting, cardio-dance, Pilates and yoga that felt more like a therapy session than a work out! Their tag line is “Dance More, Think Less,” and that’s exactly what goes on at SWERVE. It was a refreshing change of pace from other classes that often forget to stress the importance of having fun as a critical part of maintaining a stable work out regimen.
With over 25 classes offered and tons of convenient class times, I have no doubts, if you want to sweat, have fun, think a little less and do a little more then you can find your perfect class fit at SWERVE Studio!
If YBB sounds like something that’s right up your alley, then be sure to check out Danielle’s YBB classes on Monday and Thursday nights at 6:30 PM and follow her on Instagram @daniellecuccio for more about her blog and somatology website.
Hours: 7 AM – 8 PM
Type: Gym + Barre, Yoga, Pilates, Dance Cardio and Meditation Classes
Price: $10 First Class Special
Reservations: Yes – Reserve Class Spots Online
Must Try: YBB WITH DANIELLE CUCCIO ❤
For those of you looking for Los Angeles restaurant and shopping recommendations, this post won’t really help you. This is my first “Hi, It’s Me” post, and here, I’ll be sharing some stories that will help you get to know me a little better — from tales of adventures I take, to restaurant and attraction recommendations in other cities I vacations to, to [SPOILER ALERT] stories about my chinchilla named Oswald, and his many silly quirks and talents. This tab won’t be for all of you, and that’s okay — feel free to scroll past it and read my other posts for plenty more Los Angeles recommendations. But for those of you who do read on, it’s great to meet you and I hope I can give you a good read 🙂
In this post specifically, expect to find out how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend along with some excellent restaurant and attraction recommendations for Monterey Bay, California!
Even though LA is my home and has somehow managed to keep a motivated and adventurous person like myself, entertained and engaged for 22 years and counting, I do still enjoy the occasional getaway and opportunity to explore the sights and sounds of cities outside of my own.
This past weekend, my boyfriend, Alec, and his wonderful family invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them in Salinas, and as an added bonus to such a flattering invitation, I was able relive some of my fondest childhood memories and visit a city I had the good fortune of visiting once a year between the ages of 1 and 10 years old.
From those childhood visits, I assembled and stored away a collection of positive memories — but 12 years later, only snippets of those images remained. Things like bagpipes, rolling green hills and clam chowder bread bowls appeared like vivid dreams in my mind, but beyond those futile images, I had no idea where to go if I wanted to find these places again. After a few convoluted conversations with my dad about these random pieces of information I had to go on, we finally figured out where the bagpipes and clam chowder came from, and how I could get there on my own.
After a quick and utterly breathtaking 5 hour drive, bright and early on Thursday morning, more or less up the California coast, we had finally arrived in Salinas, California (just a 20 minute drive from the Monterey Bay). We spent Thanksgiving day playing board games and watching the National Dog Show, switching to the Chargers game during the commercials — normally, I’m a sports fanatic, but if it ever comes down to watching football OR watching hundreds of handsome doggos prancing around and being the goodest boys, I’m going to choose the doggos 10 out of 10 times. NO RAGRETS.
Come Friday morning, bellies somehow just as full as they were the night before, I joined my boyfriend’s family for a hike at Point Lobos in Monterey. Since Point Lobos did not come up as an item on the list of activities I had previously done in Monterey in my earlier conversations with my dad, this would be a chance to make some entirely new memories.
Point Lobos was absolutely gorgeous! With about the perfect amount of rigor for a morning-after-the-largest-meal-you-eat-all-year hike, and plenty of sights to see along the way, including miles of forest in all directions, leading up to at least 10 roaring, rocky coves laden with hundreds of spotted pelicans around every weaving corner, this 3 mile hike was the perfect start to my Friday morning.
After accomplishing the Point Lobos loop, Alec and I parted ways from his parents, as they decided to head back home to LA, while we decided to seek out the clam chowder and bagpipes!
Our first stop was the Monterey Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf — home of the infamous clam chowder bread bowl! One pleasant surprise upon my return to the Fisherman’s Wharf was that there were at least a dozen places that served clam chowder and they all stationed a representative outside to hand out samples of their own famous recipe. After about 7 samples of clam chowder, I couldn’t stomach a whole bowl of it, no matter how sensational each and every sample was. Luckily, clam chowder isn’t all they serve on the Wharf. With hundreds of options, from beer battered fish and chips to crispy crab cakes, I was faced with an impossible decision — forgive the dramatics but making any decision, let alone one about what to eat, is like asking me to pick what kind of puppy I want — I want all of them guys, how am I supposed to pick just one?
After at least three laps up and down the Wharf, I decided on a little vendor that served small cups of fresh, shucked oysters, garlic and white wine marinated calamari, and miniature prawn cocktails. They were the perfect size and fresh as could be!
Alec, on the other hand, is an excellent decision maker and was set on Scale’s fish and chips from the start! I had a bite of both the fish and the chips and they were each heavenly — crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside!
The next stop on our adventure was to stop by the house my grandparents used to have up there. Even just peering in at the old home from the driveway brought back hundreds more memories.
It was nearing sunset at this point, and since the house was sitting just a few miles from where I learned the bagpipes were, we made The Inn at Spanish Bay our next stop. After running into and catching up with my cousins on the tennis courts, Alec and I took a beautiful walk along the coastline. When we turned the last corner to the outdoor patio and bar, I saw the exact image that had been etched into my memory 12 years ago — the rolling green hills! And minutes later, a man in a traditional Scottish kilt, playing a bagpipe ascended those rolling hills and played 45 minutes of charming melodies while Alec and I enjoyed a beer and a glass of wine, respectively.
Last but not least, and before we got on the road for a red eye drive back to LA, we stopped at my all time favorite Monterey restaurant as a kid — Rio Grill. We each ordered a deliciously crisp Caesar salad to start and shared the most amazing skirt steak we’ve ever had. It was lightly coated in a sweet and savory marinade and served alongside a decadent sweet potato gratin.
Full and happy, we wobbled over to our car and started the 5 hour journey back home, with dozens of new memories that we’ll be able hold onto for decades to come.
If you ever need an excuse to try on a pair of $2,000 shoes before brunch, then do I have the spot for you!
Barney’s New York in Beverly Hills’ newest restaurant and lounge, Fred’s, sits on the 5th floor of the world famous department store, with rooftop seating and classic American cuisine.
Sooo, before I get into it, I’d like to point out that one major plus of going to a fabulous brunch spot on the top floor of a lavish department store, is that you’re forced to browse some of the most elegant and extravagant shoes on the planet! On the other hand, the downside, is that you’re forced to browse some of the most elegant and extravagant shoes on the planet…
Whether you’re able to act on your impulse to buy the Gucci slippers or not, the Madison Avenue salad at Fred’s is always a great choice and a delicious way to start your day. While not the most traditional brunch item, this salad proves itself a worthwhile decision at any meal. With a dozen, fresh chopped vegetables (varying seasonally) and local greens topped with imported Italian tuna, the Madison Avenue salad is my go-to brunch item at Fred’s — And that’s coming from a breakfast food lover!
If you’re not quite as open minded as I am, and brunch for you necessarily consists of some variation of eggs or at the very least pancakes and French toast, then you’re also in luck with Fred’s. Their Cinnamon French Toast is divine! It’s made with thickly cut brioche bread, coated in a light layer of egg and cinnamon, and sprinkled with a dusting powdered sugar.
Before I start drooling on my keyboard, I’ll finish by saying that whether you swing by Fred’s for some weekend brunch or a weekday lunch, you’ll have plenty of options from herb omelettes, French toasts and lox platters to sandwiches, salads, and pizzas.
While it may cost you a pretty penny, Fred’s will make a perfect spot for anything from a classy ladies lunch to an elegant bridal shower!
Address: 9570 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Type: American Bistro
Price Range: $9 – $32
Must Haves: Mark’s Madison Avenue Salad, Cinnamon French Toast, Los Platter, Lavender Lemonade
Brunch Menu: Weekends Only
Lunch Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11:00 AM – 7 PM; Sunday, 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Parking: Self Park Garage, Valet
The best thing to happen since self-serve frozen yogurt is the innovation of the chipotle style service line. Since I coined that phrase myself, I should probably make it clear that the “chipotle style service line,” as you might have guessed, refers to the fast, casual dining experience provided by a gourmet, cafeteria style line where you are able to choose custom options from a selection of bases, proteins and toppings.
As a graduate of UCLA, and a frequent patron of the surrounding Westwood village, I am very familiar with this style of food service… There are about five restaurants on a single block that emulate this model — and for good reason! You get a completely customized order for one very reasonable, fixed price.
With so much competition in one area, let alone, on one block, it’s hard to stand out above the rest — but somehow, Cava, shines. With a healthy, Mediterranean style menu, Cava is able to provide various options for each constituent of your very own culinary creation. The first is your base, where you can choose between a pita sandwich, a bowl with either saffron basmati or brown basmati rice, black lentils, or one of five lettuce options. At the next stop in line, you have your choice of three of the six available spreads. My favorites are the crazy feta (a smooth and mildly spicy feta concoction), the red pepper hummus, and the tzatziki, which is a creamy yogurt and dill sauce. The other choices include regular hummus, an eggplant and red pepper combination, and an insanely spicy harissa (at least to my taste buds!).
If you can believe it, there are still two more stops on the road to crafting your perfect Mediterranean meal. The next choice is your protein: diced, grilled chicken, braised, shredded lamb or beef, savory beef meatballs, crispy falafel, spicy lamb meatballs or a seasonal vegetable option. My personal favorites are the grilled chicken and the beef meatballs — *drool*. And last but not least, you get to load up your meal with as many toppings as you want, at no additional charge! These toppings can vary seasonally but often include diced cucumbers, a cherry tomato and sliced red onion salad, fresh cauliflower tabouleh, banana peppers, pickled onions, sliced black olives, a tangy cabbage slaw and one of six flavorful dressings.
Take my word for it, if you do it right and load up on the fresh toppings, you can have yourself a truly gigantic bowl for less than $9! See the images below for a proper understanding of what I mean by “doing it right” and filling that bowl up to the max… 😉
TBH, the stacked line up and hundreds of possible combinations for your meal already set Cava apart from its fellow, fast-casual dining competitors, but the true hero, one we neither asked for, nor deserved, is the selection of seasonal, flavored iced teas and carefully crafted lemonades! There’s always something new and one of a kind on their beverage counter, and they never cease to disappoint! A personal favorite of mine was the watermelon limeade — it’s wonderfully cool, crisp and refreshing!
Address: 1073 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles 90024
Price Range: $9 – $15
Must Haves: Greens and Grains Bowl, Crazy Feta, Cauliflower Tabouleh, Cabbage Slaw
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM