Thursday, April 28, 2011

Copa D' Oro

Two words: Amazing Cocktails

Copa D' Oro is pretty awesome. It is a bar and cocktail lounge in Santa Monica minutes from the ocean.  Walking in was like walking into the 20's or 30's.  It wasn't over done with early decor; it was modern but classic! 

The cocktail menu was definitely reminiscent of that time though.  We went on a Monday when happy hour is all evening.  The market menu has cocktails that are just $5.  Originally we went for just 1 cocktail each but got sucked in to having a 2nd round because we were intrigued, the mood was awesome, and the drinks were gooood.  I started with a Buck Fizz which was created at the Buck's Club in London in the 1920's. It has Gin, Champagne, Fresh Orange Juice, and Cherry Brandy.  It was good and you couldn't taste the gin at all.  Grete had a Moscow Mule which has Vodka, fresh lime juice, homemade ginger beer.  This drink was invented in 1941 at the Cock 'n Bull Restaurant in Hollywood, CA.  What really makes the drinks is that they are homemade at the bar using fresh, local, organic ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.  The menu changes seasonally which adds a little more excitement.
On our 2nd round we both decided to go with something with a little more punch.  I had the Clover Club which originated at the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia around 1931.  This drink has Gin, homemade raspberry syrup, fresh lemon juice, pasteurized egg white.  It was really good except for the pasteurized egg white on top.  Every time I drank it I had to hold my breath because it reminded me of smelling raw chicken.  No Good.  Grete had the Affinity which a classic cocktail from the 19th century that has Scotch, Extra Dry Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Bitters.  Talk about strong, this drink was like drinking straight scotch but it had a lot of character and didn't smell like raw chicken so I was on board.

We didn't have any apps but there is a small food menu.  Happy hour is all day Monday and Tue-Sat from 5:30 -8.  This is a great bar to go to for drinks before hanging out in Santa Monica and at $5 a drink, its a great deal.

Check them out at:
217 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
t. 310.576.3030  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Malibu is one of two museums open to the public from the J. Paul Getty foundation.  Getty first opened up his Malibu home as a museum to show his large collection of antiquities in 1954.  After the collection became too large for his home he built the villa in 1968 on the estate to house all of it. The Villa was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman country house buried by the eruption of Mouth Vesuvius.  Many of the Getty Villa's architectural details are based on elements drawn from other ancient Roman homes in the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. The Villa opened in 1974 and the collection of art inside is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria including antiquities arranged by themes including Gods and Goddesses, Dionysos and the Theater, and Stories of the Trojan War and Roman-inspired architecture and gardens.

We arrived a couple of hours before they closed so we only had a limited time to explore.  We started with the Garden tour which explores the 4 garders in the villa and puts them in context of the time period of the AD 79 (when the original Villas was destroyed).  The Inner Peristyle garden is an intimate resting spot at the center of the Museum.  Around a narrow reflecting pool sit replicas of finds from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, including square marble basins and bronze statues depicting women who have come to draw water from a stream. Outside the Museum entrance is the Herb Garden, which includes fruit trees and fragrant and colorful annuals and perennials used by the ancient Romans in cooking, ceremony, and medicine.

The Museum's south doors open onto the Outer Peristyle, the largest garden at the Getty Villa. It has hedge-lined pathways and circular stone benches. Plants favored by the ancient Romans, such as bay laurel, boxwood, myrtle, ivy, and oleander, are planted around a spectacular 220-foot-long reflecting pool. Bronze sculptures, replicas of statues found at the Villa dei Papiri, are placed in their ancient findspots. A peristyle, or covered walkway, surrounds the formal garden and leads visitors past illusionistic wall paintings to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  Beyond the East stair in the Museum lies the East Garden, one of the most tranquil spaces at the Villa. This walled sanctuary is shaded by sycamore and laurel tree.

After the garden tour we watched a short video on the history of the museum then looked at some of the exhibits on the upper level of the villa.  Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn't get to see as much as we wanted which means we will just have to take another trip.

Definitely leave a lot of time for this museum. It is open Wed- Mon 10am - 5pm.  There's a lot to see including tours and movies.  The best thing about this museum is it's totally free you just have to reserve the tickets in advance.  Parking is $15 for the car load. After visiting this museum I'm super excited to go to the Getty Center.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Campanile - Grilled Cheese Night

For those of you that don't know April is National Grilled Cheese Month.  So in honor of one of my favorite things to eat I wanted to find the best grilled cheese in Los Angles.  I read a few places that Campanile has a whole night dedicated to grilled chesses so I really wanted to check it out.  Every night of the week the restaurant has a different theme and Thursday is grilled cheese night.  They actually boast that they were the first restaurant in LA to have a night that features a grilled cheese menu.  The menu changes seasonally which keeps it interesting.  The menu for my visit had the classic which interestingly includes grilled onions and mustard and some quite unusual ones including a crab roll and autostrada.  I was particularly intrigued by the Croque Monsieur because it was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit a few months ago and it looked amazingly delicious so I thought I'd try it out.  The restaurant itself was pretty cool - sleek and trendy.  It is connected with La Brea Bakery which is legendary in itself.  The meal started with bread (from the bakery) and a bottle of wine.  They actually had a sale on wine in celebration of tax time so certain bottles were half of, we of course took advantage of this.  We split the Croque Monsieur which came with fries and a salad.

I was surpprised that it was open faced unlike the previous pictures I had seen.  Getting past the look, the sandwhich was pretty tasty but not what I would typically think of as a grilled cheese.  The mushroom sauce added an extra layer of flavor to what I would describe as a opend-faced ham and chesse but it was missing the chessiness and greasiness of a classic grilled cheese.  All in all, the meal was satisfying and good in taste but did not meet my expectations in regards to a grilled cheese.  Perhaps next time I will go for the classic.  Before we left they corked the rest of our bottle of wine and let us take it home.  Pretty cool.

Overall, a good place to eat but I wouldn't classify it as the best grilled cheese EVER.  If you're in LA give it a try.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels is on a lot of LA must do lists so I thought I'd go see what all the hype was about.  I usually pass it on the 101 but never realized what it actually was.   The visit was inspiring and spiritual however even if you're not religious from an architectural point of view alone it is worth seeing.  It is called one of the most innovative buildings in LA.  The building is not what you would typically think of as a cathedral or religious place of worship.

It was dedicated and opened in 2002 so its fairly new and the 3rd largest cathedral in the country.  At 65,000 square feet, 11 stories and 151 million pounds, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a massive structure built to last 500 years.  So much care was taken in every detail of the cathedral.  From the materials used to the placement of art, everything has a purpose and that's what makes it so fascinating.  The interior is modern, simple, and elegant.  My favorite part of the cathedral is the Crypt Mausoleum which can house 6,000 sepulchral and cinerary urn spaces for interments in the lower level.  Most of the spaces are empty and anyone can purchase space there.  In fact, our tour guide already has his space picked out with his name engraved, which was pretty cool.

The Cathedral is open everyday with mass M-F at 7 and noon.  Sunday there are three masses at 8, 10, and 12:30 (Espanol). The tours are M-F at 1, lasts for an hour, and is totally free. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Adamson House

My friend took me to the Adamson House in Malibu and to be truthful I didn't have that high of expectations.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  The Adamson house was built in 1930 by Stiles O. Clements who is a famous Los Angeles architect and a key figure in the LA art deco movement (see a few posts back for that story).  He built the house for Merritt and Rhoda Adamson.  Rhoda's parents once owned all of Malibu thus the Adamson House is built in the Malibu Lagoon and overlooks one of Southern California's best beaches.

We opted for the guided tour which is $7 and takes about an hour.  The tour starts with the history of the property and the families that own it. Once context is set, the tour moves to the house itself. The amazing thing about this house is its filled with decorative tile from Malibu Potteries, a short lived tile company owned by Rhoda's mother.

The bathrooms in particular are bright with cobalt blue tiles.  There are also two Persian rugs made completely out of tile.  The house is filled with its original furniture and books.  The whole experience is made more exciting because you know the background of how and why the house is there.  An interested fact is two of the children that lived in the house are still alive! If you like history, architecture, or just awesome beach views go to the Adamson House.  It will be a good time!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Toyota Grand Prix

The Toyota Grand Prix is the single largest event in Long Beach.  It is an open-wheel race held on a street circuit downtown in the Pike and is apart of the Izod IndyCar Series. The Izod race is the main event however there are a ton of other events spanning 3 days.  Friday is the fun day which features the celebrity race practice and qualifying race.  There is also a night concert and a charity ball after the racing is done. Saturday the main event is the actual celebrity race as well as another night concert.  Sunday is the official Indy Grand Prix race so it's the day with the most buzz and excitement for real race fans.  Even if you're not a race fan this event is fun, there are a lot of people out, and between the music, food, and drinks you'll find something to entertain you.  The actual event was held this past weekend (ending today) so look for it next year around this time.  Ticket prices vary but if you're on a budget the best bet will be to go on Friday.   

Saturday, April 16, 2011

El Cholo

El Cholo is a landmark Mexican restaurant in LA. The 1st opened in 1927.  There are 5 in total but we went to the one in Santa Monica, the original is between Pico and Olympic in LA.  We went for the Cadillac Margarita and stayed for the authentic food :)  Anyone that knows
me knows that I am a SUCKER for a good margarita.  The Cadillac margarita is amazing and comes with a Grand Marnier float  that

you pour in yourself.  The drinks came with chips and salsa and I don't know if it was because I was hungry, or had a few sips of my margarita, but the salsa was awesome. Liz got the taste of history sampler and the  enchiladas and Chile Rellenos were amazing as well.  All in all one of my best Mexican Food experiences in LA.  This is highly recommended.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Historic Downtown Walking Tour

There is a group in LA called the Los Angeles Conservancy that works to preserve and educate about historic architectural and cultural resources in LA county.  According to it's website it was started in 1978 to conserve the LA Central Library and is now the largest local preservation group in the US.  One of the many cool things they do is historic walking tours on Saturday mornings.  Check out the schedule, there are different tours on different Saturday's of the month but the two most popular are the Historic Downtown tour and the Art Deco tour which are both held every Saturday.  Our intention was to take the historic downtown tour however we showed up a little late; a few minutes after 10 so we attached on to the Art Deco.  I had no idea what Art Deco meant or how to even identify Art Deco buildings but the tour guide was really awesome in explaining everything. 

The highlight of the tour was the Southern California Edison Building because we were actually able to go inside and also I think it really captured the essence of Art Deco. 

The Eastern Columbia Building was interesting as well which has now been turned into lofts.  Our tour guide actually said that Johnny Depp owns a penthouse on the top of the building but don't quote me on that.  In total we covered a good part of historic downtown which took about 2 1/2 hours.  I really recommend going on a tour if you want to see a different part of LA!  Tickets are $10 each or $5 if you become a member of the conservancy. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hansen Cakes

I stumbled across Hansen Cakes while visiting Little Ethiopia.  Walking by we saw amazing cakes in the display window.  The kind of cakes you would see on Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, etc.  So we went in and admired the cakes.  The wall was filled with pictures of celebrity endorsements and there were desks with consultants ready to assist us in our private cake ordering.  Fortunately, I'm not getting married so a cake tasting was not in order, however since  
my birthday was the next day I 
decided to get a couple of cupcakes.  
Besides, a friend had already gotten 
me a birthday cake the night before (thank you IO).  So we ventured from the show room to the bakery to find a marble chocolate-chip cupcake and a mini red velvet cupcake. In true birthday fashion I had them the next day with birthday candles  and all.  Super scrumptious I must say.  Usually I'm skeptical of places that have a bunch of celebrities on the wall but in this case I actually believe that all of them really love the cakes and endorse it.  The cakes (cupcakes) from this place are delish and I declare it a must taste in LA.  They have 3 locations: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (little Ethiopia), and Tarzana.  Hours vary by location and they have a multitude of flavors.  I'm sure they can make whatever cake you can imagine.  For a price effective option I suggest the cupcakes.  $1 for a cupcake and .50 for a mini.  Great deal.  If you go, bring me a red velvet back :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nickel Diner in Historic Downtown LA

Nickel Diner was featured on one of my favorite Food Network shows Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dives and after that I knew I had to go for a visit.  It's in the historic area 
 of downtown LA, and after our tour of historic downtown (blog post to come later) we really could use some food. I'd describe the food as typical diner food with a California twist.  Nothing is quite how you expect it but it's a welcome twist.  We stopped in on a 
Saturday mid-morning and it waspacked.  I really came for a maple bacon donut so instead of putting our names in for the wait we got donuts to go.  I got the maple bacon donut because of course everything is better with bacon and Grete got the Irish Car Bomb donut.  We both equally loved our selections.  This place has character, history, and glam appeal.  I recommend going for an awesome meal made by chef Monica May and getting a hand made pastry by chef Sharlena Fong.  Of all the amazing desserts I must say the next one I will try is the hand made pop tart! The restaurant is off of 5th and Main street and open everyday from 8-3:30 then 6-11 except for Monday.  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Little Ethiopia

In downtown LA there is an area on Fairfax that is called Little Ethiopia which contains a couple blocks of Ethiopoian businesses and restaurants.  While I didn't think the trip to this neighborhood would be that exciting I was thoroughly impressed.  There are a bunch of quaint thrift shops and a bounty of places to eat.  I for one have never had Ethiopian food so we decided to get an early dinner.  We stopped at an appealing place called Messob for an authentic Ethiopian meal.  We ordered the combination plate with Doro Wot (stewed Chicken), Yebeg Siga Alitcha (stewed Lamb), and Collard Greens.  We were the only non Ethiopians in the restaurant when we sat down and felt a bit embarrassed when we had to ask the owner to explain how to eat the 
meal since they don't use forks, knives or spoons. 

Basically the meal is served on top of a spongy bread called Injera which is a national dish of Ethiopia.  A side of Injera is served and you scoop the main food (stewed chicken, lamb or collard greens in my case) up with a hand full Injera (break it off to a manageable size) and eat it.  As simple as that, no silverware necessary.  The food was quite yummy and the experience was fun.  Learning how to eat a new food excited a sense of adventure that I haven't had in quite a while. As we finished our meal more non-Ethiopians came into the restaurant.  The meal was definitely the highlight of the trip to Little Ethiopia. If you go during the week I suspect I'm sure the cultural center will be open.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Olvera Street

If you're into history Olvera Street is a must for Los Angeles.  It is the birthplace of Los Angeles and known as El Pueblo Historical Monument.

I will spare you the history lesson, but you can tour the oldest existing house in LA built is 1818, Avila Adobe House.  There are about 8 more historic buildings however they were under construction during my visit.  In addition to the buildings there is a marketplace and countless restaurants to get food and drinks! Also on weekends there is usually music in the Mexican Style Plaza area.

The festivities at Olvera Street are free and it's open from 10am to 7pm. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Do it Yourself Spa Day

While here you have to live it up like a celebrity and spend a day getting pampered.  There are so many options I can't even begin to really do it justice so I will throw out a few options for people that may not have the time and or money to go to a spa.  Here is my take on a do it yourself spa day.  I started the day with Yoga to relax and soak up some sun.  Then I had a hair appointment at my favorite salon.  I go to Salon 36 in Bixby Knolls - a trendy neighborhood in Long Beach. The owner Jody is amazing and takes great pride in her art and skills.  Next, eyebrow threading.  I never had my eyebrows threaded until I came to California.  I go to Ziba Beauty because its convenient, fairly cheap, and I had a groupon.  Then of course a Mani/Pedi is essential especially if you're planning on wearing sandals.  My place of choice is Happy Nails.  There are plenty of locations and again a pretty decent price.  Lastly, a massage to end the day is ideal.  Massage Envy is great again because of there are multiple locations and they are consistent.  All of the places I chose are chains so the products are simple and of course affordable. Everything above can be done for less than $200.  You can do all of the services above or just stop in for one service on your way home from work.  The only downfall about doing a spa day like this is having to drive to all of the places, so have a friend chauffer you around!

If you really want to have an unforgettable California experience spring for an all inclusive spa.  Glen Ivy is a popular one that a friend has recommended. 

After a great day of spoiling yourself, have a drink, throw a party, or go out and dance, all of which I did after my do it yourself spa day!