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2.25.2010

Speed Post: Valentino's New Look for Spring

I have been in love with Valentino for the last year with their gorgeous feminine rosette embelishments. Now it seems that they have started to stray from the rosettes (which they have used in varying ways for a few seasons) in favor of another gorgeous feminine detail: lace and ruffles! Ooh la la!


Valentino Laceland Tote
$3,495.00,
BergdorfGoodman.com

2.19.2010

Friday Faves: Favorite Los Angeles Eats

As I enjoyed the best pastrami sandwich I have ever had at Langer's Delicatessen this past weekend, I was inspired to write this blog post for my next Friday Faves installment. After living in LA for 10 years, I have found a few favorite places for different food items or meals, and thought I'd share them here. Remember, these are my favorite places based on what I have had so far. While some are considered by many to also be the "best of" in LA, some are also just my opinion. And it is my blog after all :).

If you have any recs on your favorites in the city, or if you feel like another place has better items than my list, feel free to share in the comments! I am happy to test them out for comparison. Happy to make the sacrifice and do the hard research for my readers ;).

Margarita: El Coyote, 7312 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Consistent quality, strong, and reasonably-priced (especially for Los Angeles). I recommend sitting on the patio.

Burrito: El Tepeyac, 812 North Evergreen Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033-2620

Giant, but delicious burritos from a family-owned-and-operated establishment. Be prepared to wait in line, as the seating area is pretty small. However, the food is worth the wait!

Pizza: Village Pizzeria, 131 North Larchmont Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004

My husband and I searched high and low for the best pizza in LA, and the closest to NY-style pizza. As many of you know, there is no such thing as a true NY-style tasting pizza in LA, but Village is as close as it gets, and mucho delish.

Pastrami Sandwich: Langer's, 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, C.A. 90057

The best pastrami sandwich I have ever had, with the perfect blend of ingredients, and fall-apart-tender meat. Order their famous #19. Be prepared to wait a little bit, but also worth it.

Thai: Thai Patio, 5273 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

After our honeymoon trip to Thailand we searched for Thai food that was close to the real-deal that we ate in Thailand. Thai Patio is that place. Located in Thai Town (just east of Hollywood), the prices are great, and the food is great, authentic Thai.

French Dip Sandwich: Philippe's, 1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The place that invented the French Dip also happens to be the best French Dip around. Another place with a long line, but also totally worth waiting once you sample their famous dips.

Burger: In N' Out, Several locations

We are still sampling great burgers all over the city, but so far in our experience nothing beats a good old Double Double. I always get mine "animal style" with a side of Animal Style Fries (their hand-cut fries smothered in cheese, thousand island spread, and diced grilled onions).

Breakfast: Fred 62, 1850 North Vermont Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027-4215

Great atmosphere, great food, great prices.

Breakfast Runner-Up: Saddle Ranch, 8371 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

HUGE portions, and great Sunday brunch champagne and bloody mary varieties and specials. The perfect hangover breakfast in Hollywood.

Cupcakes: Sprinkles, 9635 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Not only the best cupcakes in the city (and totally lives up to the hype and worth the $3.25 price), but also my favorite red velvet anything. I will put a Sprinkles red velvet cupcake up against any red velvet cupcake or cake anywhere else. Every cupcake they have is great, and they are so consistently soft and perfectly baked every time. I have never had a bad cupcake here.

Irish Pub: Tom Bergin's, 840 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036-4421

Great vibe, dim with beautiful dark wood, and GREAT jukebox. We even have our names up on Shamrock's on the wall (we were inducted with a ceremonious drink of their famous Irish Coffee once we hit their official "regular" status a few years ago). This place is so relaxing and chill, but don't be surprised if you see a celeb there enjoying the chill atmosphere too.

Romantic Restaurant/Best View: Yamashiro, 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90068

My date-night of choice is the delicious Yamashiro, a Cal-Asian fusion restaurant with a panoramic view of LA and not a bad seat in the house. You can have unique sushi rolls at competitive prices or a top-notch steak. I recommend trying the Darth Vader Roll and a glass of the not-always-easy-to-find MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir.

Tuna Tartare: The Belmont, 747 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069-5203

I LOVE tuna tartare, and try it whenever and wherever I see it on a menu. So far my fave is at The Belmont on La Cienega, which is also a fun place to kick back for drinks after work. Mac n' cheese and burgers are also great here.

Mac N' Cheese: Ketchup, 8590 West Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069-2347

While The Belmont has some great mac n' cheese, the best I have had is at the modern and brightly colored Ketchup. I think the keys to this mac n' cheese's brilliance are the truffle oil its made with and the dungeness crab flakes crisped on top. I also recommend their crab cakes, and of course fries and their unique ketchup flavors (wasabi! yum!).

Hot Dog: Street Vendors

While I love both Pink's and Oki Dog, my favorite dogs are found from street vendors around Hollywood that come out at night to please the club and bar-goers. Wrapped in bacon before being grilled, and served with grilled onions and peppers. A late-night treat at its best, with an intoxicating aroma (grilled onions and bacon cooking are a killer combo for the senses).

Chinese: Rice, 3300 Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034-3592

My fave hole-in-the-wall Chinese is Rice in Palms. Great lunch special, delicious fried rice. I always stop by when in the area, as my hole-in-the-walls in Hollywood are good, but just not the same.

Martini and Best Gay Bar: The Abbey, 692 North Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Huge and creative martinis made by cute boy bartenders (with ambiguous orientations in order to appeal to both the gay male patrons and their straight girlf friends), and a really fun bar in West Hollywood.

Happy Hour: McCormick & Schmick's, 206 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210-5104

Not only do they have a second late-night happy hour (which is great for those of us who tend to work late and miss the standard 4-7 pm happy hours at most places), but they have full-size burger meals for $1.50! Good burgers too, and on Rodeo Drive of all places.

Wine Bar: Monsieur Marcel, 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90036-3191

Located in the Farmer's Market next to The Grove, this place is awesome with great wine and frommage specials.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich: The Grilled Cheese Truck, Mobile

This is a mobile "roach coach" type of truck that stops at different spots around the city. Their upcoming stops can be found by visiting their website. What makes their sandwiches so good? Nine words: Mac and Cheese and Pulled-Porked Grilled Cheese Sandwich. To die for.

Mall Food Court: Westfield Century City Mall, 10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067-6501

Not only do you eat off of dinner plates, with silverware and glass cups for your beverages, but you also have a choice of everything to eat from your standard Panda and Fuddrucker's to Lawry's Carvery, to fresh hand-made Sushi. If you fancy a sandwich, get The Great Gobbler or Chickaboom from Tacone.

Added 5/28/10: Best Fish n' Chips: Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market, 25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, One and a half miles north of Pepperdine University

Not only the best fish n' chips in LA, but possibly the best you've ever had. Just trust me on this, and try it. You will NOT regret it. It is perfect for a day you are driving up the coast, or when in Malibu for a beach day. I have recently ventured into sampling some of their other fried seafood, and can attest that if you want to try a few things, go with their fried Seafood Combination. It includes the must-have fish n' chips, as well as fried oysters and scallops. Definitely can't go wrong. But if you are not as adventurous or are on a budget, go with the staple fish n' chips, available in 1, 2 or 3 piece options.

2.09.2010

Burnt Orange and Charcoal Grey Nursery

When I found out I was pregnant, one of the most exciting things for me to do was to plan and decorate a nursery for the new addition to our family. My husband and I made a deal that if it was a girl, then I would have complete control over the décor, and that if it was a boy, then we could decorate the nursery in Texas burnt orange.

When we found out it was going to be a boy, while my husband went to shout the news of a son from the rooftops, my thoughts quickly went to our deal. My fears were that I had agreed to a potentially cheesy, over-the-top, football-infused University of Texas-themed room. Thankfully, as big of a Longhorn fan as my husband is, he is also a stylish guy with a great sense of class in our style and décor. Therefore, we amended the deal a bit to just include the Texas color, but that I could still have creative control over the room's décor. Since I love a modern look, we decided on a burnt orange, charcoal grey, and white color scheme with a geometric motif (circles and squares).

One thing I noticed quickly, and which became the center of much frustration over the months of decoration, is that it is not easy to find burnt orange fabric and accessories in the precise shade of Texas burnt orange, unless you want the UT logo completely covering it. It took a lot of creativity and scouring the internet and the downtown garment/fabric district to complete the look.

Here is our result, along with information on the components of the room:







These circle and ring vinyl wall decals are from World Decor N' More "terra cotta" and "dark grey." It took some time to place and apply them, but it was so worth it, as it really brought our geometric/circular motif to life.




The opposite wall we wanted to do in a more rectangular motif. We hand painted the wall in Texas burnt orange, which we had to color match at Home Depot. In case anyone is looking for the exact shade, the UT color is PMS 159. The measurement for the big block was specific to the size of the frame collage we were putting in it (see below).



We also used the orange paint to color the homemade G and P initial bookends (using pre-cut wooden letters from Michael's Crafts). I couldn't find any pre-made bookends that felt right, so I recruited me Dad to help make these. Only cost dollars!



Never buy basic picture frames from anywhere but Ikea! They have them in black, Maple, white, and silver, and include basic white matting for a teeny tiny fraction of the price of what you would pay to have something custom framed and mated. The pics we chose for this frame collage were pictures of the UT campus, mascots, sports stars, and other iconic UT history and football pictures that we found online and printed at Costco. Let the brainwashing begin...




To stay on a budget, we got many of the room's components at Ikea. The great thing about Ikea is that not only are their items really reasonably priced, but they also have modern, funky items which worked out perfectly with our décor. The lamp, curtains with sheer circles, curtain rod, and charcoal grey chair seen in the picture above were all purchased at local Ikea stores. The shag circular throw rug was found on eBay.



We got our nursery furniture from Walmart. The crib, dresser, and changing table are all part of the BabyMod ParkLane line that can only be ordered online. They do have free shipping if you utilize the Site-to-Store pick-up option like we did. I was very pleased to find the BabyMod line, as I was originally inspired by much higher-priced designer two-tone nursery furniture. Walmart had similar looks for a fraction of the price, and the crib is even convertible so that it will grow with my baby into a toddler and child's bed.

The nursery linens were all custom made by my aunt with fabric I purchased downtown. The only burnt orange linens I could find anywhere for nurseries were either the wrong shade of orange, or covered in UT logos, which would not have matched the feel of the nursery. Thankfully my aunt had the skills and donated her time to make a crib skirt, a few fitted crib sheets, a changing pad cover, and changing accessory holder for me.



In addition to difficulty with linens, I had a lot of trouble finding a mobile that was just right. Everything that I did like was well over $100, which I just could not justify for something I wasn't in love with. Finally, I decided that I could just make one myself after I saw something on Etsy that was almost right, but still missing something. I then made my own mobile with foam, clear quilting thread and wire, all purchased from Michael's crafts, and using some of the crafting and scrapbooking tools I already had.

And there's Grayson's room!

2.06.2010

Spring Trend Alert: Strappy Sandals

Saks Fifth Avenue is highlighting a spring trend right now on strappy sandals here at "Strap Attack".

Some of my fave strappies for spring:


Dior Caged Sandal
$850.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com


Christian Louboutin Fernando Sandals
$925.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com


Versace Patent Leather Platform Sandals
$745.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com

Also available, and equally as cute in white:




Jimmy Choo Zero Mirrored Platform Sandals
$775.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com


Tory Burch Wrap Up Sandals
$325.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com

And here are some flats:


Prada Criss-Cross Flat Sandals
$475.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com


Miu Miu Knotted Flat Sandals
$465.00,
SaksFifthAvenue.com

Man, I would rock the heck out of either of those blue ones! The great thing about this style, is that there are a lot of more reasonably-priced versions available at your regular department stores (such as Macy's), and I have even seen a lot of hot platform strappy pumps for under $100 a pair at outlet type stores like Broadway Shoe Warehouse. Now I just have to decide which ones...

2.02.2010

Travel Tuesday: Costa Rica

We went to Costa Rica this past July for our annual anniversary trip. We flew into the international airport in San Jose and then rented a car to drive to the Pacific coast to the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area.

We originally planned for our trip to be an adventurous one, with a lot of physical activities and excursions, however, as you know I became pregnant last year, so our trip ended up being more of a relaxing getaway than anything else.

With a great recommendation from a friend, we stayed in a beautiful gated community at a rented villa in the middle of the rain forest. Here is where we stayed. The accommodations were very cheap for the week, but AMAZING - I highly recommend you contact Agi and Sean if you are interested - they have amazing customer service and the property was really secure and such a relaxing getaway. We swam in the pool daily, and had monkeys and sloths coming right up to us! Very surreal, and definitely makes you feel a world away from work and city life.


An unedited photo of the Manuel Antonio sunset


Costa Rica was absolutely beautiful... and not only were accommodations really cheap, but flights were also. It was the price of a domestic flight, if not less. As always I recommend searching for flight deals on Kayak. However, I was surprised to learn that food was not as cheap, and pretty much was standard American pricing at restaurants. I found out that many of their ingredients are imported so even with the exchange rate, you will see pricing be higher than you may expect for restaurants. Another thing I was surprised about was that food was not that great in CR in general. They are known for seafood, so that is always good (but still pricey), but most other dishes seemed to me to be lacking something... I think things are just plainer than I am used to (I like lots of seasoning and spices). Not bad, just more plain than other Latin American country cuisines that I am used to. However, we did find out where the good food was! If you go, look out for places called "sodas." These are the more hole-in-the-wall type places, and are where the locals go, and where you can find really cheap and really good local dishes. If you go to Quepos, you MUST try Soda Sanchez, which was delicious!! The best food we had on our trip, and declious fresh juices. Costa Rica also has delicious coffee. In Quepos, a visit to Cafe Milagro is a must.



 

A couple meals at Soda Sanchez in Quepos

Some of the great things we loved about Costa Rica from our experience are the beautiful beaches (some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life, and we travel a lot), the amazing array of wildlife (so many exotic animals like monkeys, sloths, and iguanas all over the place), the great outdoor recreations (zip-lining, horseback riding, surfing, hiking in the rain forests), the people (so calm and laid back... they live the "pura vida" lifestyle), and of course the ability to just relax and unwind in a beautiful place.


Beach at Manuel Antonio National Park



Titi monkeys visiting us at our villa


An iguana hanging out near the beach at the national park

As mentioned above, we had originally planned to do a lot more outdoor activity while there, but being pregnant, all I ended up being able to do (besides lounging by the beach and pool :) was hiking and exploring the rain forests at Manual Antonio National Park (which were breathtaking! A beautiful rainforest right on the edge of a pristine coastline - a MUST SEE in the area). However, originally we had researched doing a lot more, and found the following cool activities at great prices in the Manuel Antonio area:

Arenal volcano: Ok, so this one is not in the Manuel Antonio area, but it is something that a lot of peopele recommended to me before our trip. Here is a good hotel we found nearby too when we were originally researching it: Erupciones Inn.

Surfing: This company has some great surfing excursions that include transfer from your hotel and a meal.

Ziplining: Great rate and also includes transfer and a meal. Some people think this is a must-do when visiting CR.

Horseback riding: This one looked awesome, hiking up to a waterfall!

Sunset cruise: Romantic and a great price. This was recommended to me by someone.

Snorkeling: Includes transfer and meal.

Other tips:

Driving/car rental: If you do go to Manuel Antonio and rent a car (the drive is very scenic), we recommend a 4-wheel drive vehicle, as the road gets steep at times and there are some interesting one-way railroad bridges close to Quepos. Also, keep an eye on the signs really closely when driving... things are not as explicit as our roads here in the states. On the drive to MA/Quepos, there is even a cool bridge where there are tons of crocodiles underneath. Very cool. Another note about driving in CR: Google it so you can get an idea of the roads, signs, how people drive, and roadside safety. It is good to be prepared, as it is not what you may be used to, however, being LA drivers, we were at least used to driving aggressively and defensively simultaneously (which is important in CR).


Crocodiles on the drive to Manuel Antonio


Spanish: not necessary to speak Spanish to visit CR, but we found it helpful to know basic things (numbers, food/restaurant terminology) when we went to the soda type restaurants (remember these are the yummy, local, good priced joints), as sometimes they did not speak English. This made for an even more authentic experience at the sodas.

TripAdvisor.com: In addition to Kayak, I also always recommend TripAdvisor for real people's hotel and activity reviews. I always cross-check this info with the best priced places found on Kayak and have found that by doing this, you don't need a travel agent to book and find the best deals in foreign countries when you travel.