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LA Restaurants, Posts

Curtis Stone: more than just the spunky Coles guy

“Curtis Stone has brought Australia’s flare for food and flavours to LA in what goes down as one of my greatest dining experiences to date in a city with dozens of celebrity Chefs and amazing restaurants. Who knew the Coles guy was THAT good? Bravo.”

I heard a couple of months ago that spunky Australian Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone opened up a 25-seat restaurant in Beverly Hills to rave reviews and he was personally there to make sure everything goes exactly to his plan.

And what a plan it was–or is.  Nothing is left to chance, from the single-fronted front door with nothing more than the signature “M” and a gorgeous lime tree to let those in the know know where they are.  To the exquisitely styled and very warm feeling you get when you walk through the door.  To the toilets and the gorgeous coconut-scented body and hand lotion. To the “party favour” raspberry tea and copy of the menu left with us as a take-away.  To the eclectic china and featuring Australian crockery given to Curtis as a gift by Australia’s Consulate-General in LA the warm and lovely Karen Lanyon. To the fact that the gratuity is added taking the hassle out of that pesky tipping thing that goes on here.

Nothing is meant to be easy

Getting a reservation at Maude’s is not easy.  And I have to say that the trouble it caused me was bugging me and I had a nervous feeling about whether this was going to be worth it or not.

In Australia we’re used to stupid booking rules like you must call three months in advance on a full moon when the restaurant is open and someone is there to fill up the next three months’ worth of reservations in 20 minutes.  But not here in LA where you depend upon your Open Table account or personally knowing the Maître D’ (usually the later).  Click here to book.

What I was stressed about was booking two months in advance not knowing whether we’d be in town, who’d be around and whether we could make the 5:30pm reservation which is the only one I could get for a table (party) of four.  First-world problems when you’re stressed about a restaurant booking and being slugged with a $100 cancellation fee if the table is not rebooked.

Perfect styling

Alas it all came together: my husband was in town and fellow Australian friends were free to join us.  We were on our way.


Classic styling inside Maude’s–you just know you’re in for a treat the minute you walk in the door


The first thing we had to do was take in the meticulous styling: modern French Provincial with an enviable collection of old jugs, bowls and champagne buckets.  The next thing I noticed, at our table for four, was the table was big enough to accommodate us all really comfortably despite the intimacy of the restaurant.  All goes to suggest that rather than cramming in a couple of extra tables Curtis was focused on his aim to provide “equals parts comfortable and luxurious”.  And the staff were warm and welcoming, knowledgeable and not at all snooty as you might imagine they could have a tendency to be at such a special place.  I imagine this is not an accident and that warm, friendly Australian way shines through so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Melbourne or Sydney.

So not LA

The food.  Oh the food.  I’m not a food writer but I am an “enjoyer of fine food, restaurants and wine”.  I died and went to heaven.

A bit like an episode from Masterchef Curtis chooses a core ingredient and prepares a nine-course tasting menu around that.  Our core ingredient was berries–and you’d be surprised what falls into the berry family.


Gazpacho served from Australian-emblemed crockery


We started with Gazpacho, enjoyed a meticulously prepared lobster that was a textural delight and savoured the crepe with gooseberries, stracciatella and truffle that was one of our favourites for the evening.


Crepe | Gooseberries, Stracciatella, Truffle


Each taste was the perfect size to savour every mouthful and hang on every bite providing multiple orgasms per round–wanting more but being satisfied with what you had.  As  our friend put it, “there were lots of ‘oh my gods’ proclaimed”.

At the doughnut round (three exquisite round balls one each filled with custard, strawberries and apple) we were satisfied but agreed we could go again.


Berry-inspired Donuts


And as if it was a deliberate strategy out comes the mouth-watering peach melba with berries and “blah, blah, blah”.  He had us at that peach melba and we were lost for words, say what you like we had officially died and gone to heaven.

Fresh Berry Tart

The final orgasm: peach melba


Bravo Curtis Stone.  You are pushing the envelope for LA Dining.  I wonder if others will follow suit and bring the fresh food and flavours to LA that we miss so much from back home.  It is absolutely Ausmerican where LA and Sydney collide to provide nothing short of perfect.

I’ll be on that phone again on the first of next month trying to book a table stressing about whether we’ll be in town and who’ll be around and whether or not I’ll have to forfeit the booking and face the possibility of the cancellation fee.

Except next time I’ll advertise my reservation on Craig’s list as the most coveted and available reservation in LA those in the know would kill to have.

Hail Curtis Stone, the new king of LA dining.

xx It Started in LA xx

Psst: There is no Valet Parking (which I joked would be its biggest fail before arriving there) but there is a parking station right next door and I think you should book an Uber anyway to take advantage of the wine-pairing menu.

Reality TV Stars at school together?
Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Paris, Nicole & Kim

updated October 8, 10:00 LA time with new info on The Slap.

Happy Easter long weekend (although it’s now the tail of it).  And, of course, Happy Passover.  I love that we’re in a melting pot of religions here in 90210 and being exposed to Judaism and all its associated traditions.  I knew, of course, that there were many Jewish people in Hollywood and TV Shows like The OC celebrated Hanukkah and “Chanukkah” but didn’t even think about it when we were planning to move here.  I have to say that’s what’s so great about being an Expat and immersing yourself in other cultures, even if it’s fundamentally similar to your own (ie. not like our move to China!).

I love that I’m learning so much, too, about things like kosher food.  When I first got here I was having two friends over for lunch.  I sent them an email wondering if I needed to use kosher salt in my cooking as I’d seen it all over the supermarkets.

Knowing me they knew I was serious but a friends’ husband thought I was taking the piss (taking the mickey, joking).  Now I know why–if you’re truly cooking kosher it has to be that the whole kitchen is kosher and I actually even think that you then have to be practising kosher yourself.  Not sure I’ll have to look that one up.  You get the gist though … salt is not going to miraculously turn the meal kosher!

Anyway, onto this week’s Fact or Fiction question:

At one point Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie & Kim Kardashian all went to the same school here in LA.


Vote away!

Results from last week


The US is remaking The Slap for US TV.


The Australian cast featured a stunning line-up including Melissa George, Sophie Okonedo, Essie Davis, Alex Dimitriades and Jonathan LaPaglia producing an incredible mini-series that absolutely nailed it.

The answer is indeed Fact, NBC is rewriting and adapting the quintessentially Australian show for US TV.  They’ve got a great team (Jon Robin Baitzwriter for West Wing and Brothers and Sisters) behind the project but I’m betting it won’t be anything like the Australian version.

We all know American and Australian culture is very different and no one is learning that more than me as I live and play here.  The Australian version is too raw and real that it couldn’t play out in its current form.  So I’m guessing we shouldn’t expect it to be quite as confronting as the Australian version but I look forward to seeing how it goes.  If nothing else I hope it will give me some fodder to be to eloquently isolate the differences between American and Australia.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC announced it would take up the show in 2012 but it’s only confirmed that it will put it into production this year.  Watch this space …

Special thanks also to Pink is the New Blog for its digestion of the news.

Enjoy the long weekend!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: October 8. I’ve just found out that Melissa George is going to reprise her role for the US version.  Wonder if she’ll play an Australian girl but speak with an American accent.  The mind boggles.


We're all American
Posts, Soapbox

Welsh Filipina Australian American

Labelling.  I despise it.  Unless a doctor needs it for genetic or medical reasons, quit labelling me.  I never know how to tick those boxes. Would I be known as a Welsh Filipina Australian American?  That’s of course assuming I was lucky enough to be naturalised a citizen of the US of A.

We’ve all heard it before on TV–the reference to Native Americans, African Americans or Asian Americans (or another derivative thereof).

Is it supposed to be a Clayton’s label?  (Timeout: Clayton’s was a drink in the 70’s or early 80’s advertised by Jack Thompson as the drink you have when you’re not having a drink).  Actually it seems like the opposite to me.  They don’t want to label you but they’re going to label you.  Perhaps they were thinking if they put “American” in front of the label then no one will notice there’s another word there so you still get a label.

Am I missing something here?  To me the concept sounds a little …. well …. er …. racist.  Aren’t we singling “them” out?  And by them I mean the people with another label next to the label American?  Doesn’t that scream, “You’re not American American you’re something else American”.

“When do I qualify to be American sir?”

Is it the same as having Diversity day at school yet “showcasing” all things Asian.  Look, we’ve got Asians at school and we’re being “nice” to them and letting them in.  (Gasp: did I just say Asian?  I chose Asian of course because there’s Asian blood in my veins so technically I can’t be accused of being racist.)

In Australia (where multiculturalism is widespread) we’re all Australians.  No one is Native Australian or Asian Australian or Greek Australian or Lebanese Australian or Italian Australian.  That’s the whole point.  Isn’t it?  That’s why we chose to move to another country to be welcomed (just don’t mention the boats) and treated as one nationality regardless of our heritage.

In fact, I find it hard to answer survey questions or forms where it calls for my ethnicity because I’m required to choose between Caucasian, African American, Asian, Native or something else.  Last time I looked I was none of those.  And as we move through modern times aren’t I becoming the norm rather than the exception (although I do like to think of myself as pretty special I must admit).  So how does a girl who grew up in Australia, was born in the Philippines to a Welsh dad & a Filipina mother and married an Australian boy answer that question?  Thank god for the refuse to answer box.

Actually, the Social Security form asks for Race with the available answers being: Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Asian, American Indian, Black/African , American, Other Pacific Islander, White. Aren’t Hawaii and Alaska part of the United States of America? Doesn’t that make them American too? Why do they get their own box?  If you’re a Hawaiian or an Alaskan Native how do you answer that question?  And what if you’re not white but tanned?  That there my friends might just be what’s known as a trick question.

In International Schools multiculturalism–or perhaps the broader term “diversity”–is dealt with so beautifully we showcase all cultures rather than singling one out.  That’s becoming the trend in Australia now too: to celebrate the food, culture and customs from all the nationalities in our community.  At the same time.

I’m not really sure if in practice diversity or multiculturalism is better or worse here and how minorities are actually treated as I haven’t been close enough to see it first hand.  Perhaps I can keep observing to see how that one plays out and report back.

I actually suspect that maybe, just maybe, the Americans are slightly better at embracing all as one.  If that’s the case then can we please all be Americans?  Or ‘Mericans.  If nothing but to make it easier for people like me.

God Bless ‘Merica.

xx It Started in LA xx

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