I first visited the space owned by Bill Didonna and Charles Kelly when it was Allston Yacht Club. Since then, the space had taken a 180 degree turn away from its incarnation as a casual, neighborhood spot. Though there’s no warmth lacking from the feel that emanated throughout Allston’s dining room, it has evolved to the kind of environment that encourages diners’ curiosity for new things.
For awhile after I started food writing, there was a point where I had let go of all physical activity. At some point, I felt the repercussions, and decided to give the Pilates studio a few blocks away from my new Hollywood apartment a go. I had an inkling that I’d like Pilates, but I ended up really loving it.
I’ve gone through the distance running, Bikram yoga, Anusara-influenced yoga and spin phases in my child through adult life, but I found Pilates to be just what I needed, because I really need consistent strength training – especially since I’ve had shoulder surgery and am now perpetually conscious of it and my upper body strength. I have also found my prior yoga training really helpful for proper form while I’m on the reformer, and now whenever I’m not even in the studio, I love the extra attention I subconsciously pay to my posture, even while at the desk. In short, I highly recommend Pilates!
But it all wouldn’t have been possible without Heather Dorak, the still-twenty-something entrepreneur extraordinaire who started it all. She is an inspiration, just as working out regularly has also had an influence how it has influenced how I think about food. I asked a Heather a few questions about her lifestyle and her relationship to food:
Now would be a great time to finally and formally introduce you to my “Upcoming Events” column over on the right (–>). It’s but a few months old, but a great way to short-handedly let you know about the best things that are coming up as far as goings on in Los Angeles. It also means less pre-event write-ups, since you can get the skinny right in that column. (You’re welcome.)
For now, though, I’ve anticipated a slew of food events in our beloved city – especially while everyone’s trying to get everything wrapped up before the holidays. I believe the following, however, warrant special attention. Be sure to make your reservations & buy your tickets. Here they are, in order of date:
1. Now: LudoBites 10.0 Reservation Window Now Open (until 10:59 AM Thursday, November 29, 2012)
Right now we’re in the middle of a 24-hour window that first opened at 11 AM PST. So until 10:59 AM tomorrow (Thursday, November 29), you’ll get to enter the lottery for a reservation on one of 14 days (weekdays, December 4-21) of LudoBites 10.0 at Gram & Papa’s in Downtown LA. No guarantees that any of you will actually GET a reservation, but all we can do is try, try, try, right? (No seriously – don’t submit that form twice. It will make Krissy very mad. Just once, guys.) Protip: To increase your chances of getting a reservation, be sure to be as available as possible, since you have to fill out your available days and time slots. Or maybe that was obvious.
And if you don’t know what LudoBites is, by now, I’m afraid I can’t help you…or can I?
Mark your calendars, walkers, runners, bikers and proud Angelenos. You won’t want to miss the Great LA Walk this Saturday. It’s a 17-mile walk from Downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a way to say, “People DO walk in LA.” It’s a day-long appreciation of this city, whether you’re stopping for lunch, walking through one of countless urban enclaves, learning little-known facts about a historical landmark or stopping in to see a shop you’ve never even heard of before. Let’s be honest: It’s also bragging rights.
And this year, it’s a way to really get to know Melrose Avenue.
As November 6th rolls up, we’re reminded, again and again, that the best reason to vote is to realize our civic duty. We, as a society, have been preparing for next Tuesday for a long time (Californians, with all our propositions, you know what I’m talking about). Decisions will be made as a collective whether or not we decide to personally participate, so why not embrace it?
Whether you take-away a savory dinner to enjoy at home or await the returns in camaraderie at one of the viewing parties, your “I Voted” sticker will score some points with your taste buds and your wallet anywhere around town. If you voted absentee, perhaps you’ll want to carry your stub or some other proof with you so you can make your case. Check below for a deal near you:
People do walk in L.A., but – let’s be honest – they mostly still don’t. People drive alone, and they carpool. They vanpool and they shuttle. They ride their bikes. They Über or Taxi Magic all over town. And yes, we Metro railway. Do you ever get the feeling that just because we’re not New York, that’s the only thing they’re rubbing our noses in?
Which is not to say that I’m not envious of their subway access – and many other things. Yet having passed the 2-year mark living near a Hollywood Metro Red Line stop, I’ve learned a lot in the process about our own public transportation options. The Expo Line has opened during that time. And we’re looking forward to more. Just experiencing the drastic transformation in how people choose to get around – myself included, and not only on the rail – have provided so many eye-opening revelations. So when Slate says that L.A. is being turned into “America’s next great mass-transit city,” we’ll take that little bit of validation.
Beer cocktails. Beer floats. Sour beers. All-you-can-drink beer. Beer crawl set to music. Crappy-for-happy beer trades. Prickly pear beers from all over town. Los Angeles is comin’ up beer. And in its 4th year, not only is LA Beer Week bigger and better than ever, it’s also more unified. The camaraderie around the LA beer community is unmistakable – so get ready to drink some tasty brews while learning a lot and meeting some cool people along the way.
After perusing the 10-day schedule, I’ve come up with a few events I’d personally want to attend. With the LA beer scene at the strongest it has ever been, there’s bound to be some (or a lot of) conflicts during this extravaganza, but all we can do is do our best, right? While you’re at it, you might as well check off the four quandrants of this LA Beer Week Bucket List. Then, bring your four stickers to the LA Beer Week Festival on September 30th and get a free bottle of the official beer of the week, Unity, from Eagle Rock Brewery – a play on a traditional Berliner Weiss, yet jazzed up with a touch of rye as well as red and green prickly pear. You’ll also get to enter a drawing for tickets to the BAM Fest on October 6th in Santa Monica.
(If you don’t complete the bucket list, never fear – it’ll be on draft at select retailers throughout Los Angeles and Orange county as well as at the LA Beer Week Festival itself.)
Without further ado, here are my Top Ten of LA Beer Week:
Who doesn’t love a good rooftop in the summer? Fortunately, there are a few hotels around Los Angeles that are holding special events designed especially for the high peaks from which we can enjoy our Southern California sun … or sundown. At night, the city lights make for a beautiful view. Why not watch a movie against the outdoor backdrop, high in the sky?
The ION at JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE is hosting Blues & BBQ event every Sunday through September 2, 2012 from 12 – 4 PM at the outdoor poolside deck. Blues and soul musical guests like George Dez Blues Band and Gregg Wright “King of the Rockin’ Blues will be performing. For $18, you get one main entrée with side dish accompaniments
- BBQ Chicken brined in fresh herbs
- Grilled Skirt Steak with brown sugar spice rub
- boneless Baby Back Ribs with pineapple-bbq sauce wash
- slow-cooked baked beans, corn cobettes
If you’re more into Taco Tuesdays, they’re also offering $3 tacos, $3 tortilla chips and salsa with specially priced margaritas and Mexican beer from 5 – 8 PM.
“Five years ago at Tales [of the Cocktail], it was just a small group of us from L.A. The guys from Portland, New York, OH MAN SAN FRANCISCO … would ask, ‘Where are you from?’ … ‘L.A.? Oh, that’s nice. How’s the bottle service?’” – Aidan Demarest, Tello Demarest Liquid Assets
“The Varnish didn’t just win. All of us, all of L.A. won.” – Cedd Moses, 213 Nightlife
I’ll never forget my first time in New Orleans this past weekend at the 10th Anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail. There’s something about getting to witness your favorite bartenders in your home city come together to celebrate their craft with their big shot counterparts from other cities. Going from seminar to tasting room to industry party to Spirited Dinner (while catching some not-to-miss eats of the city in between) in the humid, 90° swelt of The French Quarter was a new junket to me, but the presence of Los Angeles was unmistakeable, making Tales all the less intimidating and more familiar, much faster.
We are all bartenders, brand ambassadors, educators, writers, photographers and more – with many wearing more than one hat – and as with every year at The Spirited Awards on the last night of Tales, the best of the best are officially recognized. A winner in each category is announced after an initial top ten finalists are narrowed down to four. Though Eric Alperin and The Varnish have been our bastions of Los Angeles in these awards for the past couple years, it was the 2012 Spirited Awards when the L.A. bar community finally felt taken seriously.
There was a plethora of Top 10 finalists representing Los Angeles, announced back in May. Their mentions are below, with the Top 4 denoted by an asterisk: Eric Alperin(*) and Vincenzo Marianella of Copa d’Oro were recognized in the American Bartender of the Year category. The Huston Brothers and Steve Livigni’s and of course Pablo Moix’s Harvard & Stone and 213 Nightlife’s The Varnish(*) were both nominated for Best American Cocktail Bar(*) and World’s Best New Cocktail Bar.
When it comes to the new food and beverage choices that accompany the gentrification of Downtown Los Angeles, there’s a constant balancing act that goes on between lunch-friendly business spots and places with offerings hip enough to entertain night life. (What kind of nightlife? A whole other question.) But the 3-weeks-old Towne might just be the spot to fulfill both those needs, thanks to their manageable menu and stellar food by chefs Eric Hara & Ryan Morrison as well as outstanding cocktail menu by Jason Bran.
Located in South Park’s upscale Watermarke Tower (you’ll be dining beneath a many Dodgers’ quarters, to be sure), Towne offers an enticing menu with something for everyone. Looking for original yet un-fussy bites? A delicious Clover Club? Or maybe just the $18 per person pork shank that is braised for 10 hours before being deep fried, enabling a super tasty, tender-yet-crispy feast of texturized, steaming and rich meat.
Towne is just the place to wean Los Angeles off its addiction to run-of-the-mill gastropubs – and with it being this early in the game, it seems they’re doing it with plenty of ease. Favorites included their unique rendition of Lobster “Mac” ‘n Cheese, with house-made pasta casings filled with mushrooms and Fontina cheese and whole chunks of lobster topping the array. Other favorites utilize their wood burning oven, which give much of Towne’s dishes a distinctive flavor – such as the delicious Grilled Octopus with tomato puree and apricots but also artichokes and squid ink to match its savory profile. The Lobster Smokey “Pig” in a Blanket also benefits, and the result is an anything-in-a-blanket you’ve never had before.