just. wow.

kelly wearstler’s accomplished quite a bit–playboy “playmate of the month”  turned big time interior designer and now, fashion designer as of spring 2011.  of course, being married to brad korzen of viceroy hotel group doesn’t hurt either.  my company has worked with her studio on a few viceroy properties and i’m especially a fan of the the 7th floor of department store bergdorf goodman.  i forgot to visit the last time i was in nyc, but i will make sure to go this february when i’m there.

she’s really translated her hallmark whimsical style into fashion apparel successfully.  but her marketing team especially is doing a fantastic job.  the  upcoming look book shot by jamie beck of from me to you fame featuring kelly framel of the glamourai notoriety in malibu is just stunning.

i apologize for the many photos, but there are a lot.  and there are so many good ones.  and what would a nod to jamie beck be without a cinemagraph?

shot on pacific coast highway

and speaking of jamie, how cute is this post on her other half?

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MOVE. EAT. LEARN.

so apparently that cool travel video i posted several days ago was part of a series for sta travel.  the one i posted was entitled “move”, and the other 2 are “eat” and “learn”.  i must say these are pretty effective viral marketing tools.  i know i like to move (travel, not exercise), eat, and learn (well, sorta) anyways.

 

 

and here’s “move” again so you can see them all together:

hotel missoni

i’m pretty excited that my firm’s working on hotel missoni belek, antalya in turkey.  we have some amazing designs and projects, but unfortunately i can’t afford to stay at any of these luxe hotels.

to give you an idea of what it might look like, here are photos from the other hotel missoni properties.

hotel missoni edinburgh

hotel missoni kuwait

hotel missoni belek, antalya isn’t slated to open until 2014.  other locations in the works are oman (2013) and brazil (2014).

i normally find missoni clothing too loud and 70’s-looking but i’m loving how it looks as an interiors palette…especially the vibrant colors and patterns.  now i’m really excited for the target collaboration.

and here’s a sneak peak to that!

over 400 products, priced all the way from $2.99 to $599.99…thankfully, most are supposed to be under $40.  i’ll be counting the days until september 13th.

…and the food tour!

i visited 5 schools within 10 (well, really more like 9) days so i didn’t have much time to play.  especially in chicago, where i only had about 2 days for 2 schools, and philly, where i was only doing a day trip to do an information session.  i have been to both chicago and nyc before for fun so i had done a lot of the touristy sight-seeing things already, so the only fun things i had planned prior was to eat good food.  and i did have a lot of good food!

also, the first time i went to nyc, it was pre-yelp so we never looked into food too much during that trip.  it was mostly sight-seeing and shopping.

CHICAGO

HOT DOUG’S

the first time i visited chicago, hot doug’s was in my itinerary but it never happened because it’s not located in the downtown area and because they close at 4 pm.  i regretted this more as i heard from friends about their amazing hot dogs.  so this time, i told myself i would definitely go.  this proved trying for this trip as well.  i had wanted to try their duck fat fries, which are only sold on fridays/saturdays, but that would’ve been impossible for me with my schedule since i landed at midnight on thursday and left saturday morning.

but i was determined!  i decided after landing at midnight thursday, taking the train to my hotel downtown, waking up bright and early the next morning for my 8:30 am campus visit at booth near hyde park, i’d conclude my visit with a student lunch, take the train up to hot doug’s to wait in line and eat before they closed, then walk about a block to eat at kuma’s corner (since i’m in the neighborhood right?).

the line, starting from the inside

the menu

autographed by its namesake

doug sohn himself, manning the register

a history of wieners

this great piece of art was in the ladies' room. i was told by another customer to check out the bathrooms.

the men's room

i didn’t really want to try any of the specialty dogs (sounded too cheesy or unappealing to me in general) or the game dogs (i don’t like game meat).  so i ordered the marty allen, which had beef, pork, and garlic, chicago style, which is garnished with tomatoes, onions, sweet relish, pickles, mustard, and celery salt.  while my friend ordered the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage dog.  you can also choose how you want your sausage cooked–grilled, fried, or boiled i think (of course mine was fried).

hot doug’s became famous with their foie gras dog because foie gras is banned from chicago due to cruelty to animals.  doug sohn refused to stop serving it and has been fined multiple times.  i’m not a huge fan of foie gras or pate, but i tried it anyways…it was pretty good, but i liked mine more.

left: foie gras dog, right: chicago-style

so this was one of my priorities in the chicago-leg of my trip and i really went out of my way to go…was it worth it?  yes!  the distance and wait weren’t all that bad.  the difference is truly in their sausage.  i didn’t really care for my (non-duck fat) fries but the sausage part was really good.  i think the bun could be better though.

portillo’s is really good too and it’s located in downtown, cheap, and pretty big.  much better than the location near home!

KUMA’S CORNER

so at that point, i’m full and really don’t need to eat anymore.  i had  slices of pizza only about an hour earlier followed by fries and a hot dog with a soda.  but kuma’s corner was so highly recommended and it was only about 2 blocks away from hot doug’s…how could i not?

when we got there, the wait was pretty crazy.  it’s not a very big place but there were a ton of people waiting–fine by me, i’m full anyways.

it definitely has a metal/rocker vibe to the place and has about 20 different burgers.  i ordered the lair of the minotaur (they all have these crazy rocker names) which had caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, and a bourbon-soaked pear;  it was really tasty.  as full as i was, it was still one of the better burgers i’ve had–that should be a testament to how good this burger was.  unfortunately, i could only finish 1/4 of it and although i boxed it up and took it back to the hotel with hopes to eat it again, it never happened.

kuma's corner

POPS FOR CHAMPAGNE

it’s kind of funny how we ended up here.  we were supposed to meet another friend at a different restaurant/bar, but we took a wrong turn and i saw this place.  i remembered it because i had wanted to come here the first time i came to chicago but didn’t–i think it was closed the day we came or something.  we turned back and went back to the meeting place but the restaurant/bar/lounge was really busy and loud so our friend suggested we go somewhere else and i suggested pops for champagne.

it had people inside but wasn’t really that busy.  they sat us in what was basically a corner in an unoccupied side of the lounge…eh.  i didn’t eat but my other 2 friends did…i think they said it was pretty good.  i had 1 or 2 cocktails that were good/fine.

and that concludes day 1 of chicago.

EARWAX CAFE

i have a friend from high school that happens to work at northwestern, so after my visit at kellogg concluded, she very kindly took me and picked my friend up from the art institute (which apparently has a contemporary art wing now–must revisit!).  she took us to wicker park, which she described as the “hipster” area (stark contrast to the “yuppie” description i heard from my other friend the previous night) but i soon understood when i got there: some streets had nicer, more high-end shops, while other streets were more independently 0wned and small.

we walked into a cute little thrift store for a little bit then she suggested we eat at earwax cafe, a vegan restaurant.  apparently my friend wants to be a nutritionist.  the decor felt “hipster”…i think i ordered a mexican hot chocolate and some sort of soft taco platter.  it wasn’t bad, but not really my cup of tea–nothing beats meat (although i do like veggie grill).  i decided there that i would finish the rest of my kuma’s corner burger when i returned to my room.

iCREAM

after earwax cafe, we decided to go to nearby icream for ice cream/frozen yogurt.  the selling point of this restaurant is that the ice cream/frozen yogurt is made with liquid nitrogen.  i shared an ice cream with the girls…i forgot what it was called but i think it had white chocolate and strawberries.  the shop itself was very small and you can watch the employees in the “lab” making the cold treats as the mist spills over.   it took a while for them to make ours but it seemed to get a lot of traffic.  the ice cream was pretty good; the texture was a little different than regular ice cream i guess.

after, my friend drove around and i saw areas of chicago that i had never seen before, like boystown (the appropriately-named gay district).  what was interesting to me was how official it seemed.  i’ve been to the castro in san francisco but boystown had actual city fixtures heralding their pride.  we also drove by wrigleytown and wrigley stadium and i attempted to take photos of it while we were at the stop light.  my friend is allergic to alcohol so we couldn’t think of what else to do and she dropped us off at our hotel.

but it was our last night in chicago!  we couldn’t just stay there!  so i looked up a nearby bar and out we went.

THE DRAWING ROOM

this was pretty close to our hotel but it’s a little hidden.  it’s not a speakeasy but there’s only a closed, window-less door to indicate its location.  after going through the door, you walk down and the restaurant/lounge is underground.  it was a good size…not too big or too small and low-lit with some nicer decor.

it was pretty busy when we got there and although we saw the couple in front of us steal a table, we were told we would have to wait for a while.  it didn’t take too long before we were seated at a table though.  we requested some girlier drinks and the waitress said she could recreate some based off their valentine’s menu.  they were all really yummy, and still packed a punch–just what i like. fun fact: as i was looking up their website, i just learned that their bartender charles joly won the $100,000 prize for nbc’s reality tv competition on the rocks and the winning absolut tea time cocktail’s now being served at the drawing room.  congrats to them and can’t say i’m too surprised.

we also ordered the bacon2, which is bacon-wrapped duroc pork belly and it tastes even better than it sounds.  when i cut off a piece i could tell it’d be so good because of how tender it was.

bacon squared @ the drawing room

my friend was pleased to receive a free dessert after she checked-in on four square–her first!  i forget what we got, ice cream i think.

i plan on returning when i come back to chicago.  it was a really good way to conclude my visit to the windy city.

lupe fiasco | “i’m from the city in the midwest, best city in the whole wide wide world”


NEW YORK

CRIF DOGS

when i got into nyc, i called up my friend who lives in brooklyn to meet up.  i feel bad for making him try to figure out what to do/eat and pestering him the week i was there.  but he said there were some places he wanted to check out that he hadn’t been to before and i’m pretty much down with anything.

we decided to eat something small at a few places.  he had been to crif dogs before and i don’t think any tourists really stop in here.  we shared a good morning dog, which is a bacon-wrapped fried hot dog smothered with melted cheese and a fried egg.  a tad too cheesy for me but yummy.

PORCHETTA

after crif dogs, we walked a little to porchetta, known for its pork belly.  i certainly am eating a lot of pork this trip!  we shared a plate which includes their pork belly, cooking greens with garlic and chili oil, and cannellini beans.  the place is really small so i suggested that we sit and eat on the bench right in front.  the pork belly was pretty good and even the beans, which i normally don’t like, were not too bad.  my friend decided at the last minute to add a side order of roasted potatoes and burnt ends and i am so glad he did–they were easily the best part of the meal.  burnt ends are the crispy, salty pieces of the pork belly–so good!  while we were eating, we were joking that porchetta should pay us to eat in the store front because a lot of people were walking by and looking at us eat and commenting on how good it smelled.  there was even a couple with a baby boy that ended up buying some food after asking us what we were eating.

we were joined by his other friend who tried the porchetta sandwich and said it was amazing.

BURP CASTLE

after food, comes drink.  we headed off to this dive bar that had a monk theme.  i didn’t know any of the drinks listed on the chalkboard so i just got a hard cider.

BUA

then onto the next bar.  this was probably the nicest bar of the evening and was pretty busy.  this is more my style type of bar to hang out in and was happy to see a lot of the bars i went to in nyc had caipirinhas, but i ordered the bees knees (gin, honey, lemon juice).  but i think my friend thought the place was too “fancy” so we headed off to the next dive bar.

BLUE & GOLD TAVERN

apparently my friend comes here pretty often, and with drinks this cheap, i can see why.  i bought a round of 3 drinks and i think it was like $10 or something.  nyc is freaking expensive so a place like this is awesome.  it was really busy and has a pool table or two.

again, i didn’t know what drinks they had so i drank hard cider.

several of my friend’s other friends joined us and we all went to a house party in chinatown.  it felt like a house rave and my friend ended up being a drunk hot mess at the end of night (he could barely even walk).

and that’s how my first day in nyc ended at around 5 am.

BROOKLYN FLEA MARKET

my friend was hungover but since the brooklyn flea market’s only on the weekends, i wanted to check it out since i was leaving the next saturday.

it was much smaller than i expected it to be.  i thought it’d be bigger, or at least as big as, the melrose trading post.  everything was inside a smallish parking lot and there was plenty of space.  what was really nice was that on sundays, it’s located in a more gentrified (this term seemed popular this leg of the trip) area of brooklyn and it was right next to the river, with a beautiful view of manhattan and the bridges.

i was more interested in the food vendors at the flea market, although there was one shop with cool, old typewriters.

i was deciding between the lobster roll or the smoked meat sandwich.  on one hand, it’s pretty hard to get lobster rolls in southern california.  but the roll they were selling didn’t seem quite as good as the one i had at the the lobsta truck so i opted for the cheaper smoked meat sandwich.

the brooklyn flea market

MILE END DELI

i love pastrami and while it was called a smoked meat sandwich, it was basically pastrami on traditional rye bread.  it was a rather small sandwich but it was really good.  the meat was smoky and tender and i loved that the rye bread was of good quality too.

SCRATCHBREAD

there was a bread vendor too and the various fresh breads looked amazing.  i walked by it a few times debating whether to buy something.  there was one guy roasting garlic and spreading it on the bread with olive oil and sprinkling it with sea salt–that smelled so insanely good.  i had to buy a piece and was a little disappointed by how tough the bread was to eat.

since my friend was badly hungover and he lives in brooklyn, we parted ways and i thought it was going to rain so i just stayed in the apartment…a somewhat boring end to day 2.

BROWNIE’S CAFE

after my class visit at columbia, i yelped a good place for lunch in the area since i was planning on meeting someone there in a few hours.  given how close the campus is to harlem, i wasn’t sure if i wanted to venture off too far by myself.

i found brownie’s cafe–a cafe in the school of journalism building that had better reviews than the off-campus restaurants.  i literally spent like an hour walking around campus trying to find the darned building!  even asking random students, people didn’t know where it was.  it’s in the basement level of the building and i ordered a roasted turkey sandwich with brie and sliced apples and a bottle of real ginger ale.  the sandwich was really good; they make it fresh and i could tell the brie was pretty good quality…very tasty.  if i end up going to columbia, i’m sure i’ll come here often.  i couldn’t finish my sandwich so i gave it to the girl i met with and she really liked it.  even though she goes to columbia, she didn’t know about this place (different dining options in different buildings in different schools).

after i left columbia, i swung by the discovery museum in times square to check out the harry potter exhibition.

HALAL CART ON 56TH ST/3RD AVE

i went to the lupe fiasco concert at roseland ballroom with my good friend–which was amazing, but i won’t get into that…this post is about food.  on our way there, we decided to eat at the infamous halal cart after.

my other friend who went to law school in nyc briefly said i MUST eat there as soon as i land and i heard from another friend about how much this place gets talked up.

after the concert, we rushed over (to beat the crowds) and ordered the standard chicken and rice plate.  i don’t know if it’s because i didn’t add enough white sauce, or i didn’t add the correct hot sauce, or if it’s because we took it back to her apartment to eat instead of on the spot–but i didn’t get the hype.  yes, it was good…but crazy good?  no.  out of the food i ate my entire trip, i think this was toward the “less tasty” end of the spectrum (but to be fair, i ate A LOT of good food this trip).

the end of day 3.

JOE’S SHANGHAI

after having a glass of wine with an editor at b bar & grill, i headed to chinatown to try joe’s shanghai for their soup dumplings.  i’ve never had the highly raved ding tai fung soup dumplings, but joe’s shanghai’s supposedly puts those to shame.

i had one order of the pork soup dumplings, which i think is about 8, and a side order of the green onion fried pancake.  the soup dumplings were so good.  i usually have to be very careful not to break the skin, spilling all the delicious soup and even then, it breaks anyways.  but at joe’s shanghai, i didn’t have that problem…very good.

the green onion pancake was good too…very oily and crunchy–that’s how i roll.

i later saw another location near the apartment, and apparently there are several–a little disappointed that it’s a chain but the original chinatown location has better reviews than the other locations so i guess it’s ok.

INK48

later that night, i took a cab to ink48, a boutique kimpton hotel in hell’s kitchen, for its roof-top bar to meet my friend and the new guy she’s dating.  i had a really tough time getting a cab because my friend lives in midtown in the theater district and i think the shows had just finished.  it wasn’t too far from her apartment but hell’s kitchen is supposed to be kinda seedy at night.

since the kimpton is located pretty far west, it offers lovely views of the city at night.

the view from ink48

i had one drink…i think it was pretty good.  after some conversation (about cannibalism), i headed back and called it a night to day 4.

LOMBARDI’S

and since i’m in nyc, of course i have to try the pizza.  apparently the debate for best pizza in nyc is between lombardi’s in manhattan and grimaldi’s in brooklyn.  i decided on lombardi’s simply because of the convenience of location.

unfortunately, at a restaurant-style pizzeria, i can only order by the pie, not slice…so even though i was eating alone, i ordered an entire pizza for myself.  i got the standard margherita (mozzarella and basil) with pepperoni.  it was really good with fresh, quality ingredients.  i think i still favor mozza because of their more inventive and special variations (there are a limited selection of toppings at lombardi’s) but it was quite good.

i ate half (!) the pizza for lunch, bagged the rest and stuffed it into my bag while i finished my day with the new museum and visit to nyu.  i ended up eating the rest of my pizza for dinner.  it didn’t taste as good as it did at lunch, but still pretty good.

HECHO EN DUMBO

between lunch and dinner, i met up with my hipster brooklyn friend at his office where we walked to hecho en dumbo for a drink.

it was my first time having a michelada, which is like a mexican bloody mary.  this boy is introducing me to so many drinks.  i like bloody mary’s as it is so the michelada was pretty good.

dumbo is one of the newer areas of new york…i think it stands for down under manhattan bridge overpass.  my friend was telling me that when he was talking about it to someone who used to live in nyc, that person didn’t know what it was.  it’s amazing to me that somewhere as dense and developed as nyc is still growing and developing new neighborhoods.

we decided we’d do our own thing for dinner (pizza for me), and then i’d head out to his place in brooklyn and hit up some bars.

BARCADE

after watching a little bit of the voice at my friend’s apartment while he finished cooking and eating, we headed out to barcade, a nearby bar and arcade (not like dave & buster’s).  it has a lot of the old arcade games and apparently the guy who holds the donkey kong record (chronicled in king of kong) frequents this place and of course, holds barcade’s dk record.  i think i had a black cherry lager that didn’t really taste like black cherry (because they never do, hints of = not to your untrained palette).

LARRY LAWRENCE

this is a hidden bar that has no sign on the outside and no windows.  i guess you just have to go with someone who knows.   it was pretty empty (wednesday night) but looked like a cool place.  the interior was decently sized and it had couches.  there’s an outside area up the stairs for people to smoke and hang out.  i think i had a gin & tonic here.

LUCKY DOG

so i insisted that we go somewhere where i could try a pickleback after hearing about them for the first time on saturday.  i think it came up when he ordered some other pickle kind of drink from bua.  apparently it’s not a new york thing since he’s had them in san francisco, but i still wanted one.

picklebacks are typically a shot of bourbon chased by another shot of pickle brine juice.

i don’t like bourbon/whiskey/dark liquor, so i had a shot of vodka with my pickleback.  the pickle juice is a nice chaser…totally covers the taste of alcohol, but i like pickles.  i have my jar of mcclure’s spicy pickles from the brooklyn flea market for more picklebacks.

before heading home to conclude day 5, we snuck into his friend’s apartment building to hang out on the roof…just talking while looking at the view of manhattan.

SHAKE SHACK

i had lunch at the shake shack in the theater district because it was close to my friend’s apartment.  there was a line but i’m sure it wasn’t nearly as bad as the original location or what it used to be before they had multiple locations.

it’s kind of cool that each location’s menu is slightly different.  i ordered the stack burger even though i don’t like cheese that much…it’s a cheeseburger with a deep fried portobello mushroom stuffed with cheddar and muenster cheese.  i also made the mistake of ordering a vanilla malt and the great white way frozen custard (vanilla custard, marshmallow sauce, crispy crunchies)–it was like 2 of the same thing!

the burger was pretty good.  i’ve heard it compared to in & out but i didn’t really see the similarities.  i think i still prefer in & out though.  i liked the great white way a lot because i love rice crispy treats.

HUDSON TERRACE

after my columbia information session, i wanted to check out their weekly happy hour.  my friend knows someone in the program so we were supposed to all hang out.  i got there first and was pretty bored and lonely for about 2 hours until my friend got out of work.

the happy hour was pretty much over at that point, but the after party continued off-campus at hudson terrace.  it’s like a bar/club in hell’s kitchen near ink48.  i think the cbs students took up like 80% of the venue.  the place was decently sized and wasn’t that classy or anything.  the music was pretty good though.  i had about 2 drinks and we danced a little before my friend and i left to eat and go home.

i don’t remember the name of the thai restaurant we ate at, but i know there were like 3 of them on the same street and they’re all pretty close to each other.  i had the pad thai and it was ok…nothing memorable and the end to day 6.

PHILADELPHIA

THE BURGER & SANDWICH STOP

my trip to philly was so brief that i feel like i shouldn’t even writing about this one.  i was a little apprehensive coming here after i heard the night before about how 3 people my friend knows got mugged their first week at wharton.

i wanted to try a real philly cheesesteak sandwich but i was short on time and bravery so i just ate at the food court.  i got a cheesesteak from the burger & sandwich stop and it was ok…but man was it massive!  look at this thing!

maybe it’s not obvious how big this thing is from the photo but let’s just say it’s much bigger than a 1′ long from subway…this thing’s like vomiting meat.

…AND BACK TO NYC

TURKISH KITCHEN

as my last night here, i was hoping to eat at babbo, mario batali’s restaurant, but i couldn’t get reservations.  my friend and i were going to try walking in anyways but i came back from philadelphia later than i expected to.

my friend and the guy she’s dating suggested turkish food, which i’ve never had so i said ok.

we ordered several dishes, none of which names i remember.  i know we got 2 lamb dishes and i think another chicken.  it was pretty good…even the lamb, which i normally don’t like (ed: geez i sound picky in this post).

INOTECA

after dinner, my friend and i walked a little to this wine bar.  since it was my last night, my brooklyn friend was coming out too.  i went to the bathroom and proceeded to walk in on a couple having sex…classy.

i had about 2 drinks that were pretty good.  my brooklyn friend got a free drink after checking-in on four square (his four square list actually helped me remember where i went during my trip).

my friend was totally falling asleep here so we sent her home in a cab and stayed out a little longer.

ME BAR

this was a rooftop bar at the la quinta in koreatown…pretty random.  actually, we had planned to go to the ace hotel but the bouncer said only hotel guests were allowed inside…bummer.

me bar is pretty off-the-radar and it’s not tall enough to offer crazy views, but you do see neighboring buildings.  the drinks were pretty cheap and we stayed outside, drinking and talking until it got too cold.

JACK DEMSEY’S

i wanted to stay out longer but we didn’t know where else to go so we were sort of just walking around.  we ended up here…it’s sort of like tgi friday’s.

that’s pretty much how i ended my trip on day 7.

GOLDEN UNICORN

the next morning i went out to eat dim sum with my friend at golden unicorn in chinatown before i had to fly back home to california.

my friend from brooklyn was supposed to join us but he overslept.

it wasn’t busy and the dim sum was really good…one of the best dim sum i’ve had.  i’m not used to seeing dim sum in the traditional bamboo steamers–all the places i eat at at home use the steel ones.

it was odd that they didn’t have the pork spare ribs since that’s pretty standard.  but they had bacon-wrapped shrimp deep fried with a mayonnaise dipping sauce…doesn’t really seem chinese and i’ve never seen it before, but it was good.  it even came with some pringles.

after we ate, we hung out at her apartment for a little watching tv before i caught a cab to jfk (he ripped me off!).

other comments:

  • i had to buy new shoes (toms) because my feet were hurting from walking around so much in nyc in my tory burch flats
  • my only souvenirs from the trip are a necklace from the harry potter exhibit and a jar of pickles
  • longchamp’s folding le pliage bags are a travel must…i’m proud that i was able to fit 10 days worth of clothing and toiletries into my carry-on and another bag!
  • chicago > nyc, at least in terms of cleanliness, beauty, space, and ease of navigation for the public transportation system
  • while i was gone, i felt like i had adjusted to living there…especially nyc
  • i must always remember to bring my ear buds on flights in order to get sound while watching tv

photos of the new museum:

this post took forever to write and i’m sure to read as well, so if you made it all the way through–you’re a champ.

i think it’s funny that the purpose of my trip was to visit business schools, and my post on food is several times longer and more interesting.

earth hour @ trés

several weeks ago, i won a contest on twitter for a candlelit dinner for 2 in the private black room inside trés by jose andrés at the sls hotel in beverly hills.  the contest was to celebrate earth hour, a global initiative organized by wwf standing against climate change by having participants all over the world turn off their lights for one hour at the same time.

so on saturday march 26th, boyfriend and i headed over to the sls for our reservation at 8:30 pm.  we had only been there once before to dine at the bazaar by jose andrés but it was pretty odd seeing the hotel all dark; we almost missed the entrance.  after walking past the other patrons dining and chatting by candle light, we were seated in the black room and given a sustainable dining menu in honor of earth hour.  it was pretty easy choosing since there were only 2 options per course; so we ended up ordering every item off the sustainable menu.  we were also given a complimentary cocktail/glass of wine each–boyfriend got a fancy ultimate gin & tonic and i had a bellini (with a “very cute japanese peach”).

tres after the lights came back on

the black room chandelier

it was pretty exciting eating inside the black room since it’s private–but it did feel a little bit more like a conference/function room than a dining area.  i don’t remember exactly what i ordered but i think i had:

  • [appetizer] sls mixed greens with a red wine-shallot dressing (unsure; i know i had a salad) – this was just ok, nothing really special.  i do remember that the leaves were uncut so they’re long and leafy.
  • [entree] rotisserie jidori chicken – this was quite tasty.  i like that the skin was crisp and the meat was very tender.  apparently they slow-roast the chicken for like a day, or something.  the mashed potatoes were good too.
  • [dessert] tres leches lime soup with coconut sorbet – this wasn’t really a soup like the name says; it was a dessert with i guess what you can call a juice.  this was quite good too and probably the most inventive dish of the meal.

boyfriend had:

  • [appetizer] grilled artichoke with tomato tapenade & st. maurie goat cheese – this was pretty good; much better choice than my salad.
  • [entree] seared wild salmon with cannellini beans, heirloom tomatoes, meyer lemon preserve, and a seabean herb salad – i don’t really like fish/seafood, but this was probably the best salmon i’ve had.  very tender and crisp on the outside–not at all fishy.
  • [dessert] hazelnut pear clafoutis with coffee ice cream – this was pretty good too i guess, i liked mine more so i didn’t try too much of it.  it tasted heavily of the coffee ice cream.

roasted jidori chicken with a bellini

the black room

the meal was pretty good and i was very happy to have won.  since we were ordering off the sustainable menu, most of the selections were more traditional–this is a little disappointing since my favorite part of jose andrés’ food is how inventive and fun it is.  i can’t complain though; it was an excellent experience.

the service was good and the sls hotel not only comped the meal and drinks, but also the tip/gratuity and valet parking.  i think it was about a $150 value!

outside of trés

outdoor seating

i hope to be back soon for the afternoon tea–chocolate pop rocks!  thank you again, sls!  i love you!

the weekend in review

this weekend, i watched rango and dined at bottega louie in downtown los angeles; this is my review for both.

RANGO

friday night, boyfriend and i used the discounted amc tickets we purchased through various groupon-like sites to watch rango.  until the movie came out, i had little desire to watch the movie based on the trailer.  to be honest, i am pretty biased and tend to think the worst of most animated family films with the exception of pixar.  but the reviews for rango have been very good with many people already claiming that rango will win best animated film at the oscars.  and if there ever was a year for pixar to lose, it would be the year cars 2 is released.  why?  because cars is their worst reviewed and just plain worst project in their portfolio.  it doesn’t mean the movie is bad, just that it isn’t nearly as good as their other films.  for them to release a sequel is based mostly on the profitability of the franchise (nascar is huge) and john lasseter’s own fondness for cars and route 66.

anyways, back to rango.  the movie indeed was very fun and good.  this is george lucas’ industrial light magic (ilm) studios’ first foray into feature film animation and they have done an amazing job.  not only did the graphics look great (and life-like at parts), the animation was superb–the characters’ movements flowed naturally.  and i was pleasantly surprised to find that the cinematography was very stylized and beautiful even.

the plot follows a pet chameleon, who gets through his lonely, caged life with thespian theatrics, as he gets lost in the desert.  he stumbles upon the town of dirt, which is experiencing a severely diminishing water supply, and creates a new identity for himself as the sheriff.  the overarching themes of the story were hope, identity,  and self-discovery.

i had previously read in reviews that the movie is more for the adults, rather than the kids and i definitely agree with this.  many of the jokes were adult and i found myself wondering if kids would really enjoy this movie since i think they might not get 70% of them.  some of the aspects of the movie that i found fun were the references to other movies and figures (fear & loathing in las vegas; the good, the bad, and the ugly; and clint eastwood) and so many characters had mustaches, including one of the villains, rattlesnake jake, whose mustache was more like painted on since snakes don’t have hair.

rattlesnake jake in rango

the animal characters were not cute at all…maybe because westerns are gritty.  i couldn’t even tell what a lot of the animals were.  the film is essentially an animated western and influenced by the those that came before it; this can be seen in the visual style.

conclusion: i recommend the movie and wouldn’t be surprised if it did win best animated film at the oscars this year.

 

BOTTEGA LOUIE

700 south grand avenue
los angeles, ca 90017

bottega louie is an italian restaurant located in the heart of downtown los angeles.  with over 2,000 reviews and 4 stars on yelp and rave reviews seemingly everywhere, i’ve been wanting to try this place and finally did so on saturday night for dinner.  bottega louie doesn’t accept reservations and as boyfriend and i were heading over there around 7 pm, i read yelp reviews on how the food was mediocre to delicious; the service was horrible to excellent; the wait time is long; and the environment is beautiful and loud.

we parked at the $6 valet next to the restaurant (there isn’t really an other alternative besides searching for street parking, there are other lots that are cheaper, but not by much).  we quickly realized that we had seen bottega louie in passing before and had said we wanted to try it out because it looked so interesting.  the restaurant was once a parking lot with homeless people that was transformed into a dining destination in 2009.  it has tall glass windows all around and is a huge space that includes the restaurant, bar, and patisserie.  as we stepped inside, we ogled at the large space, the hordes of bodies dining or waiting, and the beautiful architecture.  the simple white contrasted with gold, high ceilings, and intricate moldings transported us from the grime of downtown los angeles to new york city.  i think the high ceilings also had a hand in creating the echoey loudness of the restaurant.

we were greeted by a line of people–a line just to put your name down for a table.  expecting at least a 30-minute wait, when the maitre’d told us it would only be a 15 minutes, we agreed that it would definitely be longer than that then hurried over to the patisserie to check out the decadent desserts.  it couldn’t have been more than 5-10 minutes when the hostess tapped me on the arm and asked if i was part of mr. boyfriend’s party and told me our table was ready.

upon seating, we were given complimentary sparking and still water and asked if we had any food allergies.  i think the service throughout the night was very good.  the waiter explained the menu/dishes and gave a few recommendations since we were first-time customers.  we decided on the portobello fries small dish and a 50/50 pizza of the sausage and napoli to share, i ordered the orecchiette pasta, and boyfriend got the recommended trenné.

bottega louie portobello fries, photo from tummy diary

the portobello fries are the most reviewed item in the bottega louie yelp reviews and were also recommended by our waiter.  they’re strips of portobello mushrooms battered and fried and served with a garlic-based aioli.  they were delicious and one of the highlights of our meal.

bottega louie sausage pizza

the sausage pizza is made up of fennel sausage, tomato sauce, and mozzarella while the napoli is made up of red onions, mushrooms, olives, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.  the sausage half was better than the napoli because, well…meat > veggies.  the pizza was pretty good and would have been much better if the center wasn’t so soggy.  i don’t know if it’s because they put too much sauce on it but the center of the pizza was droopy and soggy.  as i ate away from the center toward the crust, the pizza got better and the crust was very good.  i think mozza’s pizza is still better in terms of their dough and flavors, but bottega louie’s would be a strong contender if it wasn’t so soggy.  i’d still want to try the pizza again on my next visit to see if the sogginess is just how the pizzas are made or maybe we had a “bad” one.

bottega louie trenné pasta, photo from gourmet pigs

boyfriend’s trenné pasta was pan sauteed with braised prime rib eye, tuscan black kale, and shaved granna parmesan.  this was my first time seeing trenné pasta; it’s similar to penne but more triangular shaped rather than circular (for the opening).  i had a bite and i liked that the pasta was crisp on the outside.  the noodle itself tasted heavily of the rib eye and i don’t think it’s a dish i would have personally liked and probably won’t order it in the future.  but boyfriend enjoyed it…especially the large shavings of cheese.

bottega louise orecchiette pasta, photo from i heart yummy

the orecchiette is house made with sausage and olive oil in a a swiss chard ragù sauce.  i love pasta but thought this dish was just ok.   i also normally love tomatoes but thought the cherry tomatoes in the pasta were much too sweet;  the dish tasted better after i started avoiding them.  i was getting pretty full after the portobello fries and the pizza so i boxed some of my pasta so i could save room for dessert.

bottega louie le grand macaron, photo from dt diaries

i have a sweet tooth and love macarons so we ordered le grand macaron–french vanilla ice cream sandwiched between a vanilla macaron served with berries.  i paired this with my favorite wine–moscato d’asti.  the wine was good as always and the macaron was also good.  it was difficult to eat with a spoon/fork though since the outside of the macaron was so hard.

we were surprised by the bill–in a good way!  we were expecting the bill to be pretty high since it’s a nice place but the total (before tip) was a very reasonable $75.  i was amazed–i was sure they must have left something off our bill, but nope, they got everything: appetizer, pizza, 2 pastas, glass of wine, and the dessert.  we will definitely be back again.  after boyfriend paid the bill (thank you, dear!) we went back to the patisserie.

there were 5 flavors of macarons available when we went: chocolate, earl grey, lime, raspberry, and vanilla.  i wanted to try earl grey since it’s one of my favorites and was also interested in the lime yuzu.  we also thought there might be more flavors available in the patisserie since it looked like there were a lot of colors.  unfortunately, lime was sold out but apparently there are new batches/flavors every 4 hours and they paint them by hand (probably why the colors looked so different for the same flavor).

we ended up buying 2 earl grey, 1 chocolate (for boyfriend), and 1 raspberry (for me) macarons.  i also got a tiny blueberry tart and pistachio cupcake and boyfriend got a raspberry chocolate ganache tart.

bottega louie cupcakes

the cupcakes are so cute because they are covered in sparkly sprinkles and topped with a tiny macaron.  the pistachio is pictured in the photo above, bottom right.  i ate the blueberry tart saturday night after we got home from the restaurant and thought it was just ok; i prefer the fruit tarts at porto’s.  the macarons were very good and i look forward to sampling more flavors in the future.  i had the pistachio cupcake a few hours ago and was surprised by how light and fluffy the cake was.  most cupcakes i’ve had from western bakeries (like sprinkles) have dense, thick cake.  the cupcake is vanilla with black cherries on the inside, pistachio cream frosting, and topped with pistachio nuts, sprinkles, and a mini vanilla macaron with pistachio cream inside.  i was a little hesitant of cherry and pistachio but it was pretty good.  because the cake was so light, it reminded me of sponge cake–which i really like.

photography disclaimer: all bottega louie photos in this post are from the bottega louie blog unless indicated otherwise.