Browsing Tag

la dining

LA Restaurants, Posts

The Church Key

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.

(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).

Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.

The Church Key… Just ✋. 😍 #canthandlethecute #thechurchkey #latergram #bestdonutsever @thechurchkeyla

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The bar. Love it @thechurchkeyla #thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #aussiebloggerinla #aussiebloggerinla #Itstartedinla

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It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.

Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).

Last one I promise! I want one of these drinks carts @thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #Itstartedinla #aussiebloggerinla #thechurchkeyla

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The menu is a sharing one—my preference to get a little taste of everything and not forced to pick just one thing. We sampled:

AGED CHEDDAR FONDUE—Asparagus, Artichokes & Carrots / Pretzel Twist

AHI TUNA TARTARE—Apricot / Greek Yogurt / Pistachios / Serrano Chili / Pappadam

BRUSSELS SPROUT “CAESAR SALAD”—Tomato Raisins / Sunflower Seeds / Parmesan Cheese

RICOTTA GNUDI—Corn Espuma / Parmesan / Brown Butter / Chives (my personal fave)

 

JIDORI CHICKEN “TIKKA MASALA”—Dehydrated Mango / Cilantro Raita / Basmati Rice

And next time I’m going to try (just don’t know what I’m going to swap for):

ENGLISH PEA “HUMMUS”—Vadouvan / Cherry Tomatoes / Grilled Paneer / Garlic Chips / Nigella Naan

OSOSKY’S POTATO PIEROGIES–Peach Butter / Aged Gouda / Crème Fraîche / Chives & the

CRISPY PORK BELLY—Gochujang Glaze / Cashew Butter / Radish / Pea Shoots / Cilantro / Sesame

RIGATONI PASTA—Fennel Sausage / ”Red Sauce” / New Olive Oil / Parmesan Espuma

TAPIOCA CRUSTED TAI SNAPPER–Broccoli Rabe / Sushi Rice Cake / White Soy Vinaigrette

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

 

Be sure to make it to the toilets as there are a few photo opps!

I lied. A couple more for the blog. Link in bio 🍷😍🍸#thechurchkeyla #lafoodie #ladining #livingthedream #myreality #weho #aussieexpat

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So next time you’re in LA eat somewhere nice! Here’s the website for more info & to make a booking.

I look forward to the thank-yous in the comments ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: For more LA Dining suggestions visit my Pinterest page.

Maude's
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.

Maude's

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

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

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.

Donuts

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.

Four Seasons LA/BH
Celebrity, LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Four Seasons in LA? Well of course.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Beverly Hills Hotels

 

 

 

Are there four seasons in Beverly Hills?  But of course.  The Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills to be precise.

Stay at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for five-star treatment without pretension. If you don’t know LA you might think the location is not for you but actually you’re right in the middle of great shopping, amazing restaurants and have my two favourite areas, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your doorstop. With 100 of the 285 rooms being suites there’s a room for everyone but don’t be fooled the standard rooms are roomy and well kitted out.

It Started in LA rating: 5 ticks √√√√√

How a hotel makes you feel is so important: it can make or break a stay don’t you think?  Absolutely I say.  Let’s face it if you’re not Kim or Kanye or JLo you still want to be treated like you are.  You’re important.  You’re special.

Well it’s no secret yours truly believes in that premise: I want to be treated like I’m a VIP (and understand to most people I’m not damnit).  When I visited the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills I felt like the red carpet had been rolled out for me and so here I am telling you all about it.

Unlike the Beverly Hills Hotel where I walk in and immediately take on a strut (with swag) you don’t feel the need to do that here.  It’s comfortable and unassuming.

I didn’t realise the Four Seasons is reputed to be the number one hotel in LA for the entertainment industry.  (Hmmm truth be told had I known this I probably would’ve been in a bit sooner so I’m telling you now).  Apparently it’s the venue for the majority of Hollywood’s press film events.  You get that sense when you see a mini version of the Marilyn Monroe statue as you pull into valet.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn statue as you enter Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills

 

Guests are anyone from pop stars (there was a very well-known one staying there the day I visited) to celebrities to agents.  (In the leisure category it’s popular with us Aussies so it must be good.)

This was my first visit to the Four Seasons.  As I said had I known what it was known for I probably would’ve visited sooner.  It makes sense that one of the families from school (who ran one of the top Studios) nominated the hotel as their favourite staycation location.  I immediately popped it on my list but it’s taken until now for me to get there.  Better late than never I say.

The first thing that hits you is the impressive display (and aroma) of flowers.  Not just a centrepiece in the lobby but throughout the hotel and gardens.

Lillies

Those lillies are stunning and positively fragrant–not even Pepe le Pew could upset you

 

Beverly Hills-renowned florist Eric Buterbaugh’s inspiring displays made me feel like I was back in the flower markets in Shanghai: so many flowers.  And that smell of perfectly scented lillies was powerful enough that not even Pepe le Pew the skunk could spoil it.

Flowers

Flowers anyone? Simply stunning

 

The flowers are no accident.  The property’s owners (it’s managed by the Four Seasons), the Cohen family, were in the flower business so their passion is reflected in the hotel’s design and mood.

The next thing I notice is that, despite its five-star rating and smartly dressed staff (rather than the preferred dress-down approach of many local hotels) it’s not stuffy or snooty.  On the contrary it’s welcoming and unpretentious.

What are the rooms like?

OK.  I love them.  The standard room is really spacious, not at all claustrophobic.  Nice touches are the floral theme (in the most tasteful way) through the bedheads and carpet (some of the nicest carpet let alone hotel carpet I’ve ever seen).  A vase with fresh orchids in the bathroom showed that nothing escapes the detail put into the rooms.  Toiletries used are Bvlgari which also makes for a nice touch.

There are many different categories of Suites catering for the breadth of guests the hotel attracts.

Adjoining rooms

There are about 20 adjoining rooms ranging in category from suites to standard rooms offering different combinations of sleeping arrangements.  If you’re anything like me the most frustrating thing about booking via an online travel company is finding or securing adjoining rooms.  I get that they’re limited and cannot guarantee but help us out guys and give us a guide as to what’s available.  If you fall into this category call or get in touch with hotel direct and make the booking.  Less headaches and a better chance of getting what you want.

Naturally suites can also provide the option you’re looking for too.  The Executive suite has a pull-out couch in the main room and the Luxury Suite offers two full bathrooms (and a wrap-around balcony).  If you happen to have a huge family the Presidential Suites, Royal and Luxury Suites are all big enough to cater for larger numbers.

Four Seasons

Rooms at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills feature lush carpet and beautiful flower motifs

 

So LA

If you’re looking for that LA feel the Four Seasons Beverly Hills has nailed it.  There’s no mistaking it caters for entertainment clients and is in touch with what LA is about.

The pool is stunning with obligatory cabanas (for Beverly Hills anyway) and plenty of room for sunbathers.

Four Seasons Pool

The pool at the Four Seasons is quintessentially LA with that vintage look and feel (love the green & white)

 

 I work out

It wouldn’t be an LA hotel without great workout facilities and the Four Season’s is outdoors.  That’s right, Muscle Beach comes to the Four Seasons.  Check it, it might even encourage me to work out!

Being LA you can line up a personal trainer to make sure you’re not slacking off while you’re away from home.

Gym

The outdoor gym at the Four Seasons is temperature controlled giving the best of both worlds

 

If all that doesn’t scream: “So LA!” then the dining options will.  LA has sooo many fantastic places to eat.  Here in LA people go to the hotel restaurants to eat.  If it’s good.  (I don’t know why we don’t go to them much in Australia, you certainly do in Asia).  So you better make sure your restaurant is good–or offers something unique–to bring the people in.

Dining Options

The Four Seasons Beverly Hills has its own little secret known as the Cabana Restaurant, tucked up behind the pool and open to the public.

Culina

Culina at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills

 

I just love that the menu is broken down into four categories: indulgence, antioxidant, energy boosters and comfort food.  How LA is that?!

Don’t believe me? Check out the lunch menu here.  Did you click through and notice the smoothies?  Antioxidant (Goji Berry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Papaya) and Jet Lag (Orange Blossom Honey, Nonfat Plain Yogurt, Orange Juice, Banana, Strawberries, Bee Pollen).  Can’t get more LA than that.

I’m so impressed that the Four Seasons knows and understands its clientele and market.  It attracts a younger clientele (think celebs people).  You can’t be offering burgers, burgers or burgers to a dieting Kim Kardashian (not that I’m saying she comes here.  And not that I’m saying she doesn’t).  But if that up-and-coming Blogger Gwen John goes to visit as much as she wants to be good and go and antioxidant menu there’s a good chance she’s going for comfort.  So you’ve still got to offer it.  Right?  Right.

I was treated to breakfast at Culina–its destination restaurant aimed at keeping guests in and Los Angelenos coming.  Word is the Sunday brunch is to die for so we’re checking into that one ASAP.  Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which is June here and not September–you’re welcome) are big ones so book early.

I was so impressed by the breakfast that I’m going to blog about that separately.  Watch this space.  Really quickly though there are healthy options and your traditional fry up options and lots in-between.  OK I had the sinless Eggs Benedict which was to die for.  If eating healthy was this good and this easy yours truly might be a skinny fashion model rather than a Blogger.  The other highlight for me was the freshly squeezed juice bar.  You can order one from the menu (I had the Antioxidant Booster–it was Monday morning 🙂 ) or you can create your own.

PS:

If you’re an LA local you’ll be pleased to know there’s a fully kosher kitchen. So LA.

Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel if:

  • you want five-star Beverly Hills luxury without the snootiness or pretension
  • you want to feel part of the “younger Hollywood” crowd
  • you’re looking for healthy yet yummy dining options that are so un-American yet proudly Los Angeleno
  • you want to be centrally located between West Hollywood, Third Street, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills (never mind Rodeo Drive, you’re right near the boutiques on Robertson)
  • you’re prepared to embrace the LA thing and drive everywhere (there are cars to drive you within a two-mile radius of the hotel).

 

I said it for my last review and I’ll say it again.  I made the mistake of not appreciating LA for what it was when I first came to visit some 20 years ago (I think the words were “been there, done that, never coming back”.) I know better now. Do your research before you hit LA.  And I don’t mean which theme parks you might visit.  Understand what LA is all about and it will be your friend, expect something it’s not and you may as well give it a miss. Thankfully I’ve grown up now, made that rather naive mistake and fate took me back here. I count my lucky stars everyday.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Again I’d recommend you compare prices online but try booking through the hotel direct.  Rack rates are becoming a thing of the past (I have absolutely no proof of this except through my own booking experience) and hotels offer competitive online rates.  Sometimes it’s so much easier to get exactly what you want when you book direct.

All pictures with thanks to Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

To find out more about Beverly Hills Hotels visit my Pinterest board.  I’m pinning to it faster than I can blog!

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

Living the dream on Golden Globes weekend

I know the Golden Globes are in the distant past but this story felt right, a nice reminisce about why it’s so cool to be living in LA hot on the heels of the Oscars (I’m still a little hungover but I have to say I was more hungover after the Golden Globes!).

So, on Golden Globes weekend an old friend from school stopped by LA.  It was a real blast from the past as we hadn’t seen each other in more years than we both care to remember.  Thanks to Facebook though we weren’t total strangers.

She was up for a weekend of celeb-spotting and all things LA.  Because I was going to the Warner Bros/InStyle after party at the Golden Globes Sunday afternoon was dedicated to my hair & make-up.

Friday night dinner would be my favourite celeb-spotting restaurant in West Hollywood.  It’s hard enough to get a booking there so some things have to be my little secret–unless you come to visit then I’ll happily take you there.

Dinner didn’t disappoint.  Neither did the celeb spotting!  We hadn’t got out of the car and there were some tourists taking a photo with a celeb couple.  Jackpot!  Then on the way in we heard a guy on the phone.  Our ears twigged when we heard, “paparazzi”.  Double jackpot!  In nearly five months in LA (at that time) I hadn’t really seen any paps and I thought I’d see them everywhere I went.  Disappointed much!

JJ

Joshua Jackson

We walked in trying to spot said celeb couple.  The guy was hot.  It was none of than Joshua Jackson (Pacey from Dawson’s Creek) who’s grown into quite the stunner of a man!  We had no clue who his girlfriend was–nothing a quick Google couldn’t fix. (Diane Kruger if you’re as useless as me on celeb trivia).

We got to the bar and I laughed–it’s Paul Hogan, no bloody way!  Well it wasn’t him but some rocker dude who looked the spitting image of him.  He was at a table with nobody we could recognise except that they were aging rockers plus one familiar-looking actor donning a baseball cap.  (We never did find out who any of them were).

The atmosphere was fab, we had a great night and a great meal.  Then all of a sudden flashes went off like Marilyn Monroe had just walked in but we couldn’t work out who they were for.

As distracting as they were my girlfriend turned around and announced as calmly as possible, “OMG it’s Bette Midler.”  Sure enough in the corner booth is The Divine Miss M herself.  Score.

More flashes.  We didn’t know where to look, who to look at, let alone carry on a conversation.  Then there was birthday cake delivered to the table next to us so we joined in the happy birthday wishes and before that was over we caught the eye of the gorgeous Joshua Jackson once again.  Was he leaving?  Was he going back to the bar after dinner?  No, the valet had come inside to get his keys and bring his car to a secret exit.  Gold.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

More flashes.  Who are they trying to pap?  Then the birthday table leaves and it’s some guys from the Big Bang Theory–sitting next to us the whole time!

It was the most overwhelming night of people watching, living the moment, taking in the ambiance and trying to carry on conversations with the people at our table.  Because we haven’t seen each other for years and then we’re thrust in this situation where it’s difficult to engage in normal conversation.  Thank god everyone at the table (bar Mr H) was into it otherwise it could have been a very awkward way to start the weekend.

The whole weekend was more of the same.  It just goes to prove if you’re out and about at the right spots and you’re lucky enough the paparazzi really is everywhere and celebs are just trying to go about their own business being normal people.

I heart LA.

xx It Started In LA xx

PS:  It is my “thing” not to take pics of the celebs I see out & about, especially if it’s in an intimate restaurant.  I think it’s only fair to maintain their privacy.  Nor do I generally ask them to take a pic with me either.  Do I regret it?  Hell yeah–a lot but that’s just the way it’s going to have to be.  Until I’m famous myself and then it’s all bets are off!

Paps
Celebrity, Posts

Which one’s Craig?

We’ve got a few more friends coming in to town so I called one of my favourite restaurants–our go-to when we have friends come to LA–to secure a couple of reservations.

The guy on the phone took my details, you know? When, what time etc.  Then he said, “Name?”

“Gwen,” I replied.

“Oh Gwen, how are you sweetheart?” I knew immediately who it was on the other end of the phone.  One of my first LA girlfriends had recommended I go to this popular restaurant and was instrumental in getting my 9:30 booking changed to the more civilised time of 8:00.  She’s a regular and knows Craig well.

From that time the Matre D’ acknowledged me telling everyone I was Renee’s friend.  Then I had moved on from being Renee’s friend to being “Gwen”. I was in.

So, you can imagine how chuffed I was that even on the phone I was recognised.  I’ve made it and to no less than one of the restaurants to be seen at in LA.  I posted it straight to Facebook and was happy our transition to LA was looking very good.  I’m doing my job well: give yourself a pat on the back Gwen.

Fast forward one week to yesterday.  I looked up the website to call to see if I could get a last-minute dinner booking for my hot date with my son.  I knew it was a long shot but it was worth the try.  I clicked through to an article in the New York Times on the birth of the restaurant and how Craig had gone from being Matre D’ at one of LA’s finest to running his own restaurant.

I knew that so of course I assumed the Matre D’ was “Craig”.  That’s a pretty fair assumption, right?  Exactly what I thought.

Well that’s not what the pic on said article showed.  No, it’s the guy who schmoozes around half working, half chatting up the guests.  Well it makes sense now I say it that way–and I know who the real Craig is doesn’t it?  Duh!  Really, how could I have been so amateur?!

One of my friends I’ve taken there recently described him as the classiest pimp in town–sitting at the booths with the gorgeous chicks and hot celebs, being one of the guests.  I suppose he has one of the best jobs in the world.  He lets his (very professional and gorgeous) Matre D’ do all the hard work while he does what he does best–keep the celebs (and me) happy!

Looking forward to dinner there tomorrow night.  I’ll be careful who I call Craig.

Only in LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

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