What I Learned About the Art of Tea

Mandarin Silk, Rose Lavender, Silver Needle, 1896, Gyokuro, Jasmine Pearls (clockwise, upper left)

More people drink tea than any other beverage besides water. In fact, tea is drunk at least 3 billion times per day. So when I got invited to tour the Art of Tea headquarters in Monterey Park, I jumped at the chance to demystify this ancient practice.

I had seen Art of Tea served in many restaurants and hotels around the city, so to tour the facilities of a tea maker who has successfully captured a lot of the high end market was a great opportunity. Steve Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Art of Tea, first came into tea making when he lost his mother to cancer and became increasingly interested in Ayurvedic medicine.

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The Anti-Prix-Fixe Valentine’s Day Roundup

Carnival Cabaret at Big Bar

Single or not, you won’t find me exactly chomping at the bit to try any sort of prix fixe menu on, of all nights, Valentine’s Day, only the busiest dining night out all year. A night of fighting the crowds of twosomes to order up one of the multitude of prix fixe menus during a potentially service-distastrous evening is not something I can recommend to you in good conscience, so why pretend? Anniversaries and birthdays are as great as the dates they land on are unique to each couple or person, so when a calendar designates that one particular day is the day everyone is to express one’s affection to his/her significant other, I can’t help but get a little bit apprehensive.

Here are a few fun alternatives to Valentine’s Day that take that icky obligatory feeling out of your profession of love…

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A Hotel Rooftop For All Occasions

SLS Hotel’s Altitude Pool

We’ve had quite a heat wave lately, but as it cools off (as much as it does here in Los Angeles, anyway), you’re probably going to want to spend one of these lazy days enjoying the view. Sure, there’s not as much urgency to the end of summer because we’re in lovely, if sometimes scorching, Southern California, but there are some great specials around town that are incentive to enjoy the weekend or evening panorama. Discover a new scene with opportunities like Sunday suppers, pop-up vendors and wine happy hours.

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Half Moon Bay, CA: Navio at The Ritz-Carlton

Fennel Pollen Crusted Mero Sea Bass

When you visit an outpost of such a well-renowned hotel entity as the Ritz-Carlton, its flagship restaurant has plenty to live up to. And with a location and view right on the shore at Half Moon Bay, the food better be a match to its scenery and splendor. Navio lives up to the task thanks to Chef Sean Eastwood’s imaginative dishes with ingredients sourced from nearby markets, but this is the Ritz-Carlton, and they have come to expect a certain clientele that can afford the high-end ticket – the kind of clientele that also subscribe to the mantra of “location, location, location.” With that: Scenery.

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Enjoying Scarpetta Classics at the Chefs Counter

Scarpetta Spaghetti

If you ever needed a reason to dine at Scarpetta inside the Montage Beverly Hills, I’ve got a few reasons.

After the unexpected exit of Executive Chef Alex Stratta and the re-entry of Freddy Vargas, a Scarpetta veteran, they’ve started offering a rather reasonably priced prix fixe menu featuring the restaurant’s classic dishes in a four-course dinner featuring none other than their famously simple yet delicious spaghetti (that is, if you choose it over the agnolotti, which sounds pretty decadent itself). It costs just $45 per person; the wine pairing option is additional.

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The Little Truffle Maker Cocktail Kicks Off 16-Course Black Truffle Dinner at SAAM, The Bazaar

The Little Truffle Maker: First Course in Saam’s Black Truffle Dinner

Starting tomorrow and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening only for a limited time (until March 2nd), you can taste a 16-course black truffle dinner at SAAM for the ultimate, seasonal private dining experience at José Andres’ The Bazaar. The masterminds behind the dinner are Think Food Group’s research and development Chef Aitor Lozano, Executive Chef Joshua Whigham and Sous Chef Holly Jivin.

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Nama-Stay: Fairmont Miramar and Exhale Spa Team Up For Free Week of Yoga

Photo credit to lyntally on Flickr

When it comes to The Fairmont Miramar Hotel by the beach, I’m usually raving about FIG Restaurant or covering a food event that has taken place in their driveway circle around one of the oldest trees in the city.

But it’s no secret that the balance to enjoying all the food I write about is physical activity, whichever activity you may be really into right now. While I’ve been attending Pilates classes on the reformer the past couple of years, I’m always applying the principals of yoga not only to that, but also to my minute-to-minute posture and way about moving throughout the day. Yoga is universal.

Luckily, Exhale Spa and the Fairmont Miramar have teamed up this week to offer a special rate to go with a week of unlimited yoga classes. Because who really wants to eat unlimited, heatlamped food at the buffet, anymore? For a special rate of $260 per night, you’ll get this free week of yoga included (until January 8) so you can detox with proper nights’ rest right by the beach.

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Chef Bruce Kalman Takes Breakfast at The Churchill To New Heights

Breakfast or Brunch is Served

Brunch remains the fruition of the ultimate Southern Californian snub – a meal Angeleno dilettantes could fit into their schedules almost any day of the year if they wanted to, and on an outdoor patio, at that. While I once considered the tweener meal synonymous with a certain 3rd Street spot known as much for their celebrity sightings as for their fruit cup and egg dishes, brunch has become a fact of life. There is now no shortage of restaurants – most of whom don’t even offer lunch service on the weekdays –  who open early on the weekends for brunch. It’s become a ritual, a pastime that has become justification for that Friday or Saturday night hangover. With that comes competition and an audience that is no longer enamored with the existence of eggs on the menu.

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Palm Springs, CA: The Del Marcos Hotel and Other Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Del Marcos Hotel Courtyard and Salt Water Pool

Until a month ago, I had never been to Palm Springs. The truth is that it was easy to dismiss the destination since, having grown up in the Midwest, my aversion to desert climate had clouded my view. But on a recent media trip, I got to see what I had been missing all these years. There is a ton of Los Angeles-related history in Palm Springs, and until you see it, you’re missing out on a lot of Angeleno vacationing culture.

Wexler/Harrison Steel House No. 2 (of 7)

I’m a bit of a Mid-Century Modern bandwagoner in that I chose furniture and decor of that era to decorate my own space on my most recent move. I love the clean lines, simplicity and functionality – and the desire to create expansiveness of ordinarily small spaces. And while the most obvious pop culture example on TV now is Mad Men, we all remember the recently departed LACMA exhibit, California Design 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” (which I was eager enough to see on a member preview). You can imagine how excited I was to be staying at The Del Marcos Hotel, designed by William F. Cody. It’s the hotel that actually launched his career.

It’s a perfectly sized boutique hotel – just 16 rooms – and every room or suite is unique with its own name and well-appointed with era-specific furnishings. It’s one convenient block away from Downtown Palm Springs, but a perfectly quaint getaway once you enter the glass walled, naturally lit foyer. The centerpiece of the calm courtyard, which enlists a well-curated, period-appropriate soundtrack, is a large, buoyant, salt water pool. There are also plenty of retro-styled bicycles available to ride around town. The place, with all its touches, is absolutely charming. On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Del Marcos is receiving its Class 1 Historic Site Designation – so drop by from 3-5 PM if you plan to visit Palm Springs that day, as light refreshments will be served at the ceremony.

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