Notes from the Road - Los Angeles, August 2008
Welcome to another installment of my travels and experience from the road. I had some meetings in Los Angeles and was able to work in a quick pleasure trip to the City of Angels.
Sunday started with a very early morning flight from Las Vegas and after renting a car from Hertz, I was on my way. We made our way to The Huntley Hotel (www.thehuntleyhotel.com) to enjoy breakfast at The Penthouse, with it’s 15th story location offering fantastic views of downtown Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean. With a Mimosa in hand and coffee cup steaming by my side I then took a bite into their homemade scones, which were out of this world. They had a light, flaky consistency and a taste of warm shortbread; my English grandmother would have been proud.
We then continued onwards on the L.A. experience over to Chavez Ravine to watch the Dodgers (www.dodgers.com) take on the (hated) Milwaukee Brewers. After starting with a Dodger Dog (no, I wasn’t hungry, but had to do it anyway) and a cold one, we settled into our great seats in between home and 1st, about 40 rows up. During the game we were invited (Thanks Eddie) down to the Stadium Club level, proceeding to watch the remainder of the game from the 6th inning on, 4 rows behind home plate! That made it much sweeter after watching the Dodgers blow a 5-1 lead in the top of the 9th, win in the top of the 9th on an Andre Ethier 2-run Walk-off home run (go Sun Devils)!
Dinner that night was at a place I really enjoy and have had fun times at, Robata Bar (www.robatabar.com - from the Innovative Dining Group). The food that night was really top-notch, unfortunately the service overall was lacking (it wasn’t that busy) and the were out of at least 6-8 dishes which we tried to order. We only found out they 86’ed certain dishes when the server came back saying, “Oh, the manager didn’t come by and tell you?” Classy stuff people, classy. However, the highlight of the evening was definitely the Pushback Sauvignon Blanc (www.pushbackwinery.com) we were drinking. This wine is made by my good friend Nick Floulis – stay tuned for the ‘06/’07 reds, sure to be winners! It was so good we had two bottles.
Monday I had a chance to relive my childhood a little bit, heading over to the Venice Beach area and starting the morning at Café Collage for one of the best Soy Lattes I’ve had in a long time. We continued out to Burbank for some meetings, starting with a quick tour of Power 106’s Headquarters (www.power106.com), even getting a ‘shout-out’ on live radio from the DJ (Thanks again, Eddie). Access Hollywood (www.accesshollywood.com)was the next stop, having a chance to tour The Tonight Show set past (Johnny Carson’s) and present (Jay Leno’s); a very cool experience overall. Lunch was a quick respite at McCormick & Schmick’s (www.mccormickandschmicks.com), always a good choice for a midday stop, but today the food quality was definitely lacking and more average overall. We then said goodbye to the AH peeps and headed back to the Santa Monica area for another meeting and a quick walk along the Pier, always a welcome diversion.
Early in the evening we started at The Belmont (www.thebelmontcafe.com) for a quick few drinks (cool spot, great happy hour), before going to our destination for the evening, STK Restaurant & CoCo de Ville Lounge (www.stkhouse.com). Our good buddy, Sujit Kundu of S.K.A.M. Artists (www.skamartist.com) was hosting the 13th annual celebration of his 21st birthday (for you math majors, that makes him 34) and he rented out the entire restaurant and club for the evening. The restaurant is well-designed in whites and blacks, with an indoor/outdoor setup and a prevalent bar. It was more of a banquet-style dinner, however a true highlight was the bottles of Patron Silver in ice-buckets on every table. The party definitely continued into Coco, with much more fun including Sujit’s many DJ’s (Vice, Eric Cubeechee, Kiss, OB-1, etc.) spinning late into the night.
On Tuesday morning I had a meeting which took place at The French Market & Café, a lovely little spot over in Venice. This is a venue driven by passion and dedication to the community, which you can tell by the café menu, selection of products offered to the guest and the rotating collection of patrons visiting throughout. It is a little off the beaten path, but if you have time make a side trip there for a mellow experience.
We then were able to enjoy a unique experience, heading over to the Christian Audigier (www.christianaudigier.com) offices, warehouse and braintrust for a meeting and tour in Culver City. We even had the chance to sit down with Christian himself (quite an individual) for a little while. This company will continue to take off in all aspects and industries that they are involved in; I am sure of it. The CA folks took us over to a little French café, La Dijonaise (www.ladijonaise.com) for a mid-afternoon lunch. I was actually quite surprise by the quality of food, including an excellent Escargot appetizer with garlic butter.
We then made our way over to Melrose and the Beverly Center, to relax a little bit before a quick meeting. Then, we started our Downtown L.A. adventure, stopping into J Restaurant & Lounge (www.jloungela.com) for appetizers and some drinks. This is a huge spot in Downtown, with a restaurant, outside patio, 2-floor lounge, outdoor cabanas and upstairs bar. I would like to head back there another time if I get a chance to sit down for dinner; the appetizers were just okay, but it’s worth a visit for a full meal.
The highlight of the evening was to be the Dave Matthews Band (www.dmband.com) concert, which had been planned for months! Unfortunately, we learned at about 6pm (show was scheduled to start at 7pm) that founding member of the band, Leroi Moore had passed away from complications he suffered from an ATV accident in June. It was an odd feeling knowing that someone you had listened to play for enjoyment for years was suddenly gone, there was a fog over many people entering the concert – not knowing if the band would even play. But play they did, with heavy hearts, emotional visages and with true professionalism. Rest in Peace Leroi (1961-2008).
As we really didn’t eat dinner after the concert, we had to figure out something for a post-show meal and there was truly only one option. Pink’s (www.pinkshollywood.com). This is an L.A. institution, holding it down in the city for almost 70 years. Chili-cheese hot dogs with onions were just what the doctor ordered at 1AM to end an outstanding day.
After having another meeting at another Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (www.coffeebean.com, which I think has to be my favorite coffee chain – outstanding roasted beans, quality ingredients and a dedication to its guests) we were off to one last meal in L.A. After much deliberation, I remembered I had heard much about The Counter (Santa Monica original) and them just opening in Marina Del Rey (www.thecounterburger.com). So we meandered over there and were pleased by our decision. It is a relatively sparse space, with rock n’ roll pictures on the wall, tunes blaring from the sound system and a lively staff. The menu is very straight forward, offering choices of a beef or turkey burger, or a grilled chicken breast. Next is where it gets funky with no shortage of toppings and options for the sandwich – rumor is that there is a total of 312,000 combinations available!
Then, the adventure had to come to an end, heading back to LAX for the return flight to Las Vegas. It was quite a trip, plenty of adventures and many great food and beverage experiences. The next visit is up to San Francisco & Napa for the Family Winemaker’s Event, tasting some juice (project upcoming) and more meetings. I promise to keep you all posted. Keep Eating & Drinking…