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Celebrity, My LA story

The Kevin Bacon Game

Do you know the Kevin Bacon Game? It’s basically where you can put any actor within six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Well … I just found out at a dinner that I can put myself within two degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon.

We went to a “rigged” school event/dinner party at a friend’s house on Saturday night.  I say rigged because it was an Auction item at last year’s end-of-year Fair and we had to buy tickets to join.  But our hosts gave us the “heads-up” to get together a fun group of like-minded people.

At dinner we played the game, two truths and a lie.  As the name suggests we had to give three facts about ourselves, one of which was a lie.

As one of the facts one of our hosts said she walked down the aisle alongside Kevin Bacon.  Truth!  Wow, she was a bridesmaid alongside Kevin Bacon.  So, she’s linked to Kevin Bacon and everyone else at that dinner table are now two degrees of to the very same.  And now, as one of my loyal readers, you are three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  See how easy this game is?  How much fun it is.

Uber

You know we love Uber here in LA.  I don’t know what the sticking point is getting it over the line in Australia but we are regular users–and lovers–of Uber.

In the last couple of weeks though we’ve hit a couple of snags.  Firstly I had a little incident a few weeks ago which clearly caused one of the drivers to rate us badly.  We thought we checked everything off with him to make sure we were all good.  He said we were but between late Friday night and early Sunday morning there became a problem.

Now every time we’ve tried to book an Uber X the drivers cancel us.  Now the simple job of getting an Uber is not so simple.

Then last weekend we came across some other unfamiliar Uber Ts&Cs.  One of our friends decided it was time to go home so ordered their Uber.  I managed to convince them to stay but the time I’d done that the Uber had arrived.  So out I go and chat to the driver and apologise and ask him if it’s OK with him to cancel.

“Sure,” he says, “no problems.  Do me a favour though and press cancel the job.  That will look better for me.”

“Will that affect his rating?” I cleverly ask.

“No, not at all,” was the reply.

“Well not a problem,” I replied while pressing cancel.  “Thanks so much,” I said.

About half an hour later my mate yells out to me, “Gwen, you owe me $10 Uber just charged me to cancel.”

And it was off, I was straight on the phone to Mr Uber driver and argued with him that perhaps he should have told me when he “innocently” asked me to cancel the trip as it will help him.

After going around in circles I told him I had a party to get back to but he wouldn’t hear the end of it from me.

Then a couple of hours later the same thing happened to us.  We got the call to say our Uber had arrived, we said our goodbyes then as we were walking out the door we saw the Uber driver driving off.  It was late so we weren’t lurking–we have been longer waiting to be picked up to go out as I finish getting ready or walk down our steep poorly paved drive.  We got charged a $5 no-show fee.

What the Uber?  We love you but it’s also possible for a love affair to go sour.  I’m putting you on notice.

Top 13 celebrity encounters in LA so far

All the talk of the last two years in LA, and my two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon has prompted me to list my top 10 celebrity encounters to date.  It’s still bizarre to me that one move as a result of one job offer puts me in LA writing a blog about some of my surreal experiences–experiences would just reply, “Get of out town” to a mere 25 months ago.

  1. Going to my kids’ first swim meet and seeing Rod Stewart sitting on the Bleachers. Then realising his son goes to our school.  After only a few weeks in LA…
  2. Saying about the son of a big-time pop star, “I would have picked him up and taken them [out], next time please feel free to ask me,” without thinking about what it means.  To me, they’re just normal people and we’re doing normal things.
  3. Looking up from my mobile phone at the Golden Globes after-party and realising I was following Rhianna.   Into a VIP section.  And being able to be there.
  4. Seeing J Lo and Mary J Blige out for dinner at one of my favourite WeHo restaurants.
  5. Seeing dozens of paparazzi waiting outside for JLo on that same night.  And posing for them.
  6. Having friends from Australia with us and apologising for the “dud” celeb-spotting night when JLo walks in. And gets sat across from us.  Then seeing the look on the face of the Maître D when he realised he’d sat her across from me!
  7. Sitting in front of Sandra Bullock at a school PA (Parents Association) meeting.
  8. Coming head-to-head with Beyonce and Jay Z on New Year’s Day night in a narrow LA street. Jay Z politely reversed up the hill to let us through.
  9. Sitting in a classroom with Warren Beatty.
  10. Telling Taylor Swift how I thought she was a fabulous role model for girls everywhere at the Golden Globes.
  11. Seeing Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves AND Hugh Grant eating together at my favourite hip WeHo restaurant.
  12. Seeing David Duchovny standing outside a sound stage at Mr H’s Studios. Then thinking it was a look-alike.
  13. Seeing Duff McKagan recently all rock-starred up (ie like he’s just finished filming a music video) rather than “conservativing-up” his look.

I’ve had to stop at 13 otherwise it will just end up being a list of all my celebrity encounters!  What’s worse is now my standards are much higher–how quickly you get acclimated (sorry climatised)!  I’m going to redo this in 6-12 months’ time and see if it changes.

Enjoy your week, go the Wallabies to beat the All-Blacks in a nail-biting but “good-for-rugby” World Cup Final.

xx It Started in LA xx

LA
LA Restaurants, Posts, Visiting LA

Shopping in LA

Did you say Shopping in LA? Let’s face it, if you’re in LA you’re going to want to shop.  The shopping here is pretty amazing and you can pretty much spend your whole time shopping if you’re that way inclined.

Strip shopping is great along Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood), Third Street (WeHo), Robertson (Beverly Hills) and of course there’s always Rodeo Drive.  Westfield has come to America and revolutionised Mall shopping and with most of the malls outdoor you don’t have to sacrifice sun time–and don’t worry it “never rains in LA”.

So here it is a run-down of your shopping options.  Whether you want to get it done quickly or randomly browse and enjoy all LA shopping has to offer, this post is for you.

LA: The Grove & the Farmer’s Market

Seen as a must-visit shopping destination in LA the Grove certainly gets busy.  It’s easy to get to by Uber, taxi or car.  If you drive be sure to check out for validations around the various stores.  And if you want to get into the LA thing there’s Valet parking at The Grove.  Do watch it though as validation is different for the Grove and the Farmer’s Market so watch where you park depending on what you’re after.  (I usually park at the Farmer’s Market–if I’m lucky enough–especially if I’m going to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.  I also found out that Nordstrom validates for The Grove parking so that’s a bonus).

Farmer's Market

LA’s idea of sightseeing: a shopping mall

Not only is it pretty but there are great places to eat and (of course) shop.  There’s a massive H&M and you have to let curiosity get the better of you by visiting American Girl.  For a complete shop/store listing click here.

Century City

After a multi-million dollar facelift and expansion Century City is making itself a must-do destination while shopping in LA.  A Westfield Mall, it follows the recipe of destination shopping in Australia like Chatswood and Sydney City.

So convenient to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and the westside there are great restaurants, good shops and very popular (you never know who you might spot).

Speaking of restaurants it has Shake Shack and our ultimate favourite from our Shanghai days, Din Tai Fung [shriek].

It has Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s AND Nordstrom’s, a HUGE Apple Store, Tesla (in case you want to buy a car) and high-end brands.  It also has the usuals like Victoria’s Secret and Zara.  More exciting for us Aussies is the Cotton On sighting as well as Typo.  For a complete store listing click here.

And if that’s not enough Century City is very dog friendly.

Doggie Treats

Doggie treats | Century City

Santa Monica

If you’re staying in Santa Monica you really don’t want to drive up to LA to shop.  And you don’t need to because there’s great shopping right where you are.

Check out Third Street Promenade–the famous pedestrian-only shopping strip with great brands and a great vibe.  (I have to say I never shop down here because when you’re in Beverly Hills you don’t need to but it’s great shopping none-the-less).

Montana Avenue has upmarket boutiques and coffee shops but still offers a laid-back beach feel.  If you’re in Santa Monica it’s well worth meandering along–you never know who you might spot.

And, for something a little more hip check out Main Street.

Like all people in Santa Monica, you’ll never have to leave :-).

Camarillo Premium Outlets

At 45 minutes from Beverly Hills it’s a bit of a drive to Camarillo but I can tell you you won’t be disappointed.  As far as outlet malls go this one is a beauty with some great brands and a decent place to shop.  There’s everything from Kate Spade, Converse and Cotton On to BCBG Max Azria and Armani and Tori Burch.

Click here for a link to the store guide and map and have fun!

Outlets: Citadel

Citadel outlets are just south of Downtown on the I5 and really convenient if you’re staying in Orange County (Disneyland or the beaches–there’s an Express Shuttle from select Anaheim Hotels) or LA.

The first time we went here we had a field day (and so does everyone else we bring).  First stop for the Aussies Converse, Vans and Nike then you can branch out to H&M, American Eagle, Guess, Michael Kors, Banana Republic and Billabong.  There are heaps of other shops too.  If you’re out for bargains and have a big shopping list be prepared to take up most of your day.

It’s not bad people watching too just quietly–you get a better cross-section of LA than you do in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood.

Topanga Mall

LA doesn’t do mega malls like we have at home in Australia but Topanga is the exception to the rule.  It’s not handy if you’re staying at the Beach but if you’re staying in Beverly Hills it’s pretty easy to get to.  This mall is it has it all: Forever 21, Brandy Melville (not in very many Malls), Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neimen-Marcus, Henri Bendall, Bath & Body Works, Wet Seal–the list goes on.  It’s a one-stop shop.  Beware though you’ll need the day–there’s a lot to get through if you’re a thorough shopper, you might need to take advantage of its late-night trading.

Beverly Centre

I haven’t been a big fan of the Beverly Centre but I’m getting used to it.  Like all the other malls it has good brands to choose from including New York’s Henri Bendel.   It’s convenient and close to Melrose, Third Avenue and Beverly Connection across the road has Target and Nordstrom Rack if you don’t have time to hit the outlets but are looking for a bargain or two.

Melrose Avenue

I just love Melrose Avenue.  The best thing about it is keeps changing.  It starts from being designer boutique paradise to vintage shopping paradise to grungier hipster shopping.  There’s a lot to look at, great street art and great photo opps.  Here’s a great site that details what’s on offer on Melrose.  And while you’re there don’t forget to cover off Melrose Place.  You might like to lunch at the Fig & Olive it’s great food & wine (and great olives and olive oil).

Check out my photo gallery on Facebook.

Robertson

Robertson is another great street for people watching and high-end boutique shopping.  Celebs and those in the know prefer to shop here than Rodeo Drive because it’s slightly less conspicuous.  Having said that it’s where The Ivy is and there are tour buses that travel along this strip hoping to spot a celeb (I wonder if they ever do?!  One time my son & I were coming out of The Ivy a tour bus came past and we waved to them, probably not the celebs they expected to see!)

Third Street

Another great strip with groovy boutiques and great places to eat including the uber-popular star-spotting eatery Joan’s On Third.

Petticoats

Petticoat anyone?

 

Beverly Hills

You might notice I didn’t mention Rodeo Drive.  It’s more of a sightseeing destination than a shopping destination–unless of course you have come with your Black Amex and are ready to do some damage.  By all means head on down there and check it out.  But if you’re that way try Beverly, just one street over.  It has great shops and a little more kind to your credit card.

Universal Studios City Walk

If you’re really short on time there are actually a few good stops at Universal Studios City Walk.  Of note are Abercrombie & Fitch and a huge Billabong shop.  And there are a number of different restaurants to choose from if you’re exhausted from your long day there.

Getting around LA

It’s pretty hard to get around LA in anything other than a car.  If you’re going to brave driving in LA drive fast and be decisive.  Other than that here’s a post on driving in LA.

Have you heard of Uber?  We love it and use it here all the time.  Here’s a link to sign up (with a promo code for up to $30 off your first ride).  Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

Happy Shopping!

xx It Started in LA xx

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.

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