Less Douchebags, More Parking

I love the valley! I could scream it atop the highest of Mullholland mountains!

If you are a Westsider for life, let me try to persuade you. I mean really y’all, there is more to the valley than people shooting porn- there are also a lot of people watching porn (probably because its so hot they can’t leave the house).

But I digress…

What is more “in” than being not “in”? Literally nothing. Nothing says trendy like being somewhere that isn’t trendy. Why do you think all the Kardashians and Biebers live in Calabasas where old retired people who ride horses live? Well The Valley is not a trendy Westside, reservation required, valet only, overpriced apartment, small portioned bougie-organic-grass-fed and placed in a golden box for 28 hours and massaged ’til tender and then served to you on a cut slab of rock for $54 a pop, clothes store (I have no idea what that is, I just got mad and this is what my fingers typed- I even like organic and grassfed but it just sounds stupid to request *).  The SF Valley is easy to navigate, everything is accessible, it caters to families and old people so it’s designed around comfort, you don’t have to worry about crowds, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy (stay tuned for my post on the best nature in the valley), there is endless shopping (upscale and thrift), and most importantly there are less douchebags, more parking.

There are several food and drink places strung across the valley that perfectly align with the SF Valley’s (unwritten) mission statement  of being casual & comfortable.

The Spotperfect for after 1am

17200 Ventura Blvd, Encino

The Spot is a hookah bar & lounge that is open until 3am on weekdays and 5am on weekends. Hidden in the back of the Encino Commons complex between Louise and Balboa, it is one of the original Encino hangs (it has been around for 10 years). They don’t serve alcohol so it is perfect for after hours & late night drunchies since they serve delicious appetizer sampler plates (onion rings, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks), over 40 flavors of hookah, and fresh cut coconuts to rehydrate you and take the ache out of that next day hangover.

Surly Goatperfect for date night

17337 Ventura Blvd #100a, Encino

The sister bar to the West Hollywood pub, Surly Goat Encino opened 2 years ago and is more calm in comparison to the sardine packed Friday Night situation at the WeHo location. Some nights I have been there and it is pretty slow and other nights it’s very crowded and hard to get a seat (especially when there is live music). There is pool, shuffleboard, a photo booth, Karaoke on Tuesday starting at 9pm, bar eats like tots & sliders, and reasonably priced cocktails with a wide bourbon, whiskey, & beer selection (good for date night). There is an outside enclosed patio which is nice for a daytime drink or those nighttime smokers.

Crave Cafeperfect for casual lunch

14504 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

I’ll just say I crave the options. If your friends are never able to agree on a food genre, well Crave is open 24 hours, and has pizza, waffles, quiches, bagels, milkshakes, sandwiches, boba, burritos, salads, crepes, cakes, burgers, paninis, and even sushi (we get it – you name it they have it). They don’t serve alcohol, and it gets very busy around meal times so avoid the rush by going for a late lunch or late dinner. The salads are huge and the pizza is made fresh. You can lounge inside on couches or outside on the Ventura boulevard patio. This is the heart of Sherman Oaks so there is a lot of shopping and restaurants if you are looking to walk off your BBQ Chicken Pizza and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

El Torito Cantinaperfect for taco Tuesday

14433 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

Taco Tuesday- duh. Every Tuesday from 2-10pm. They recently expanded their Taco Tuesday bar to include more appetizers and sides, all for the low price of $3 a ticket (which you trade in at the taco bar). On Taco Tuesdays they have karaoke in the bar, and the DJ will literally bring the mic to your table and you can sing while you stuff your face with chips and guac (it’s kind of my thing there).  At least three times I have yelled “I LOVVVE SHERMAN OAKS” to the tune of “I Love Rock & Roll” after consuming 3 v-strong cadillac margaritas.

tip: this location is huge so it is perfect for large birthday dinners and it is always a loud and fun environment

HQ Gastropubperfect for dinner & drinks on the weekend

20969 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills

This place is amazing, which is why its called HQ (“High Quality”). Designed around a music memorabilia collection & state of the art A/V equipment, this sports bar/ gastropub/ lounge opened about 2 years ago. It has a great menu that is very affordable, good music, a plethora of TV’s, great staff & service, an outdoor patio, and private rooms for events. It is also located within walking distance of three other bars, perfect for a casual bar hop.

Lakeside Cafeperfect for brunch on the weekend

16817 Ventura Blvd, Encino

This is the brunch spot of the valley (though many don’t know it). Right there on the corner of Balboa and Ventura, is a hidden gem. You can sit outside by a natural springs that is shaped like a giant guitar. It is built on Los Encinos State historic land, where some of the original structures still exist (there is a museum you can visit after lunch or while waiting for a table). A description of what was once the Fernandeno Indian village was recorded as part of the 1769 Portola Expedition, so it is full of history, and what a better place to appreciate  history than drinking endless mimosas for $14. The food is great and they have happy hour everyday from 3-6pm.

The Standperfect for casual lunch or dinner (family friendly)

17000 Ventura Blvd, Encino

A block down from Lakeside, is The Stand (which is a block away from The Spot- could we get more creative guys?) It is a “hotdog” stand in that they specialize in hot dogs (over 8 types or you can DIY), but they have everything from burgers & sandwiches, t0 salads & loaded fries. This is a peaceful place to sit outside in the shade (it’s very Austin TX with the picnic tables and string lights). They have a good craft beer and wine selection and it’s super cheap.

tip: try the fireflies they are ta-die for (warning: you will probably self combust)

The Federal– perfect for brunch or dancing on the weekend

5303 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood

The Federal bar is in an old building that used to be a security bank in the late 1800s (I am a sucker for history). They have hip hop upstairs on Thursday, and it usually turns into a pretty crazy dance party on the weekends. There is usually a $5 cover to get upstairs, but if that irks you, then the downstairs saloon is a two-bar, live music, prohibition style speakeasy which is always very busy.  My fave thing at The Federal is their “One Entree & Bottomless Mimosa” brunch which is only $20. I guess you can dance all night, and sleep in your car and come right back for brunch if that is your style (PS if it is your style, you are a real trooper and A+ for being in public at all).

I will continue to update this list as I discover more no fuss, easy going valley hangs. These are just a few of the places that I suggest when people ask me, “Wuz good in the valley?”

*Footnote- I also do love the Westside, I am just a born & raised valley girl so I definitely feel the need to defend from the haters

Los Olivos

My first word was “olive”.  My mom & dad would pop black olives on all my fingers and I would repeat “O-live. O-live. O-live.” After dressing my hands in olives for years they finally realized I was just trying to say “I love you”, and subsequently I now have an obsession with olives.

It is odd that with my ‘I Love Olives’ obsession I have never heard much about Los Olivos, in the Santa Ynez valley located 30 miles north-east of Santa Barbara. I am a big fan of local vacations and staycations so when my friends decided we should do a weekend there I was totally game.

Los Olivos began in 1880 on a 5 tree olive farm, and though they grow olives, they are most known for their vineyards. The quaint three block downtown is home to  24 tasting rooms including 10 vineyards that specialize in sparkling wine  (think outdoors Austin TX vibe with music, picnic tables, and string lights).

Los Olivos is also located just 15 minutes from the Dutch town of Solvang and 5 miles south of Neverland Ranch. There is a ton of stuff to do besides eating cheese and drinking like a horse (like horseback riding, making cheese, hot air balloon adventures, and historic museums)

We stayed in the most charming cottage via airb&b and we were walking distance to the Main Street where an olive festival was happening. There is also a Fess Parker there if you want to be extra swanky. Make sure you check out the “bacon steak” at the Brothers Restaurant, Sides Hardware & Shoes (it is exactly what it sounds like). 

If you want to make it a real adventure you can take the  scenic Pacific Coast train from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and then an amtrak from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos which connects in Solvang. Perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, girls’ retreat, or mother-daughter weekend. [You can go alone too, just that’s sad and I am sorry. Ok it’s not sad, it’s good to have alone time, I just don’t like it because then the voices in my head get too loud]

Solvang
Solvang
Solvang
Los Olivos
Los Olivos
Solvang

Pan Asian Poor Pasta

This is a recipe I improvise when I am hosting any last minute parties or need to make a lot of food on a budget. It’s delicious and it costs about $6 and the recipe below could be an appetizer or side for about 10 people. It’s incredibly fresh and light and perfect for summer since it’s served chilled or great for a picnic because it’s self contained and not messy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is the casserole of pasta salads in that you really can’t go wrong with throwing all your leftovers into it.

1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped baby corn
1 cup water chestnuts
1/2 cup chopped scallions or onion of your choice
4 cups thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil or sesame oil
2 tbs sesame seeds
1 tbs garlic

Other alternative ingredients if you are lacking in the above:

Bok Choy
Sweet peppers
Peas
Corn off the cob
Edamame beans (peeled)
Radishes
Bamboo hearts

Stay away from cucumber, zucchini, and beats because it will get soggy and take away from the freshness and crispness of the dish.

Directions:

Boil your water and cook the pasta until it is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, chop the vegetables to your preferred size- smaller is better because it will absorb the sauce more.

After draining the pasta combine the oil and soy sauce and stir on a low flame. Add all vegetables and stir on and off for the next few minutes so everything is mixed well. You can alternate with any vegetable you prefer and I love adding some sriracha, sweet chili sauce, or chili flakes for a kick.

Turn off the stove and let sit for 30 minutes with a lid (if you have the time- if you don’t you can always pre-cool the pasta by running it under the cold sink water and adding vegetables after without simmering, but the flavor won’t be as well saturated).

After the pot has cooled transfer contents to container to chill in fridge for at least one hour for perfect temperature.

Serve cold and if you plan this out for a BBQ it goes well with teriyaki chicken, salmon, or fish.

RenFair 2017- Angie Verified ✓

SPOTTED: Shi & Knox Pitt out with mom at the SoCal Ren Fair in Irwindale. I missed them by a week. To think I could have been getting my face painted with Knox and throwing tomahawks with Shilo while sipping mead with Angie.  Angie, do you guys need a babysitter?

Do you even need convincing that the RenFaire is the ‘it’ thing to do if it has already been Jolie Verified?

Coachella is so 2015.  Ren Faire is so,  1415 B.C.?  From the fairy costumes, to the music, flower crowns and face paint, sometimes I wasn’t sure which festival I was attending. Though some of you might scoff the idea of going to Ye Old Pleasure Faire rather than attend your ecstasy filled music mecca, here are some reasons that might persuade you to attend the Pleasure Faire in the following years:

1. Thou Art Too Old For Thine Excrement

HMho7uS

As I age like a fine wine, I am less inclined to participate in events where I am continually suffocated between a group of neon clad rave tweens and shirtless sweaty bros wearing Raybans. I understand there are other places to sit and hang, but essentially this is the heart of the Coachella beast, and I for one would choose to avoid this nightmare in the first place.

2. Thine Shallow Bank Account

giphy

Coachella is a blowout of $800 plus for two days. If you want to do it right (and you don’t have the hookup), you are going to spend upwards of up to $1500, if not more. I would rather go to the Renaissance Fair, drink mead and buy jewelry and silver chalices and go to a nice Sushi Dinner later that night. Notice how I capitalized Sushi Dinner ? That is how much sushi means to me. Also check out Broke L.A.  (for next year), previously Brokechella, the low key version of Coachella for people who don’t have the monetary funds or luxury of getting to the mothership.

3. Thy Hearty Edibles

k7j1f

khheh

I know Coachella has better fair than Fyre Fest but I promise it is nothing as good as the selection of Turkey Legs, Gyros and Mediterranean food, Chocolate Covered Bananas,  Candied Almonds, and Pickles (among other things), at the Ren Faire.

4.   Supporting Thou Neighbor

khjje

If you are really into “F-ing the System”, then this is a perfect way to support your local artisans and small businesses.  Coachella has become a mainstream mesh of corporations and media-made-pop culture, so for all of you genuine hipsters out there despising the “man” then this is perfect for you.

6.  Thy Attire
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You might be confused when you see flocks of girls wearing long hippie dresses and flowers crowns, fear not- you are still at Ye Old Pleasure Faire. If not for anything else, go to check out the costumes…

PS: you can rent costumes for the day if you arrive unprepared!

khi7fkhiyw khiwn

k7ijt

5. Accessibility

oprahThe Ren Faire has something for all ages, and all types of people. Feel free to bring your Mom, your grandpa, your newborn (we did), your accountant, and your pizza delivery guy. I promise you EVERYONE will have a good time. There are acres upon acres of games, food, music, jousting, shopping, and just the most amazing people watching.

Here I am with a cute barbarian man
Here I am with a cute barbarian man
Here I am after I stole a pig
Here I am after I stole a pig

 

Look, if you think I am hating on Coachella, I am not. I understand the cultural experience and importance. I just think over the years it has been deflated from what it is originally supposed to be, and personally I can’t take dealing with the heat, the crowds, and the idiots. I prefer a small shorter version of that, in which I leave and don’t come back after 5 hours.

The faire runs through May 21st, so there is still time to check it out. Buy tickets and get more info here.

It’s Shmeeeeeeee

So You & Your Friends Want to Take a Cruise?

 

Something cheap,  something out of LA, something short (because you all have different work schedules), something fun, and lets face it, the boat is the best part so who really cares about the destination?

Trust me when I say you will wind up on the same cruise as me- a 3 day Carnival Cruise out of Long Beach to Ensenada= $300.

Sailing on an 80’s Bally style Walmart of America= Priceless.

This is actually the main dance club on the ship, and yes for whatever reason there was a Mrs. Potato head that wandered around the boat- wat?

The Ups:

  1. Parking was $19/day and easy, & check-in was quick and painless TIP-you can even bring your own bottles of champagne in with you
  2. The alcohol package didn’t make sense for us and it was cheaper to splurge on bottles TIP- it was only $45 for champagne bottle service by the pool
  3. The Grand Dining Room was very delicious and was all inclusive. There was also a Guy Fieri burger joint which was great for lunch by the pool
  4. There is lots of karaoke to be sung (this is V important if you know me at all)
  5. There is an 18 or older jacuzzi and bar  area which weeded out the kiddies and the jacuzzi there was not as crowded
  6. The public areas were very clean and well tended to
  7. There’s music everywhere (live bands and shows) and a small casino which is where most of the people our age tended to be
A real dancer at the Grand Dining Room on the last night of the cruise- amazing

The Downs:

  1. Drink packages were upwards of $200 total per person (it’s per day regardless and your whole party HAS to opt in) and they charge you a full day even though you don’t arrive on the boat until 6pm the first day (TIP- skip the drink package  and opt in to pre-arranged bottle service which is in your room upon check in- a fifth of Patron was $100 and lasted the whole trip for 3 girls).
  2. The entertainment was just barely hitting the mark (this is only because I have been on fancy ships with some of the best entertainment I have ever seen, like above the quality of Cirque De Soleil & broadway shows- TIP- definitely attend the comedy shows)
  3. The rooms were VERY small and dated- think airplane restroom- same size, same furnishings… ew
  4. The pool was so crowded with children, I think I counted 14 kids in one jacuzzi- you won’t want to be in there during or after the kids leave for that matter… ew
  5. Un-related to the quality of the ship, the water was very rough & if you are interested I can give yo my friends number so she can explain to you what happens when you mix a hangover with terrible sea-sickness- (TIP just wear those weird tight anti-nausea bracelets the whole cruise so you don’t even have to worry about rockin’ the boat)
Our very small cabin

 

If you book this trip as a quick getaway and don’t expect 5 Star experience, then you will have a blast. There was a point after we got over the shock of the terrible 80’s carpet and the fast food style main cafeteria where we all looked at each other and said “Just go with it.” I think we did about 5 outfit changes a day because it was just fun to walk around in nautical attire with our Patron margaritas and take pictures and eat endless food. The shore excursion we did in Ensenada was most likely barely legal as they had us kayaking 10 foot swells to get up close to the very rocky La Bufadora (and some of the participants had never kayaked before).

Moral of the story is that if you are booking with a good group of friends then you will love this trip. If you are looking for a classy vacation getaway with trendy clubs and fine dining, then splurge an extra $300 on a Celebrity Cruise. We had a great time, but 3 days was definitely long enough for us to appreciate that which we ended up calling the ‘Spirit Airlines of the Sea’.

Vegan Inside Out Smores Pie- NO BAKE!

My cousin was on a diet that excluded anything with dairy or soy in it and it was her birthday. I wanted to find something that was delicious and special that she could eat for this occasion. I messed around in the kitchen and came with a recipe that was so good I made it twice in one week!

Ingredients

Graham Crackers (1 1/2 Cup broken up into pieces)

Nuts- any kind you like/ mixed (unsalted) (1/2 Cup)

Oatmeal (1/2 Cup)

Coconut Oil (1/2 Cup) & (1/4 Cup)

Agave or Honey (1/3 Cup)

Almond Milk ( A little less than whatever amount the pudding mix calls for and add the cornstarch to this as well- should be very thick)

Corn Starch (2 Teaspoons)

Chocolate Pudding Mix

Marshmallows (2 Cups- or more if preferred)

 

In a food processor, combine the nuts, oatmeal, and graham crackers and process until it is a crumb like texture. In another bowl combine the processed mix and the agave  (or honey) and coconut oil until it is evenly mixed. This is your crust, and you can put it into the pan and push down with a fork so it shapes to the pie pan.

Combine the pudding with the almond milk and the corn starch (if you aren’t using real milk the corn starch helps it form a better consistency). Layer this over the crust you have already made.

In a sauce pan, combine the 1/4 of a cup of coconut oil with the marshmallows and keep mixing until it is mixed into a frosting like consistency and pour it over the top of the pudding. Broil the top for presentation and because it allows for easier cutting when going to serve.

Now you have the 3 layers of pie. Put it in the fridge and let it set for at least 3 hours before serving. You can garnish with chopped nuts, or cocoa powder if desired!

So delicious, made with healthy ingredients, and very rich!

It began as an experiment and turned into a delicious concoction! There are many variations you could do of this, but it is especially good if you have any lactose restrictions!

 

 

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The Industriel, a Downtown Urban Farm

Went downtown for a little fun winter skating action at Pershing Square (which ends the 19th), and wanted to find a nearby place for a small bite and a drink and found Industriel. I am all about quality and really appreciate knowing where the ingredients are from, and Industriel, the Urban Farm, sources everything locally, and makes everything- the butters, cheeses, and pickle dishes- in house. It’s French based farm cuisine, and the portions are well sized, just enough to fill you up, but not leave you with that heavy feeling- I could still successfully skate like Tara Lipinsky right after the Bibb Salad (grapefruit, goat cheese, and candied oats), assorted pickled vegetables (which were crispy and very well spiced), and a Moscow Mule (which I ordered EXTRA gingery).

Short Rib Croquettes and a Moscow Mule
Short Rib Croquettes and a Moscow Mule

I love that each morning they take a trip to their local farmers market to get their materials for the day, by picking the best available fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Industriel has an interesting way of pairing flavors, particularly spices, with their fare, like the Chevre Gnocchi, which features saged butter, or the Black Bean Fritters which use corriander.

The main takeaway, was that everything tasted amazing fresh, amazing real, and amazingly light. The vibe is shabby chic, yet industriel, meets mildly trippy- about 100 honey bottles hang on twine over a bathtub- What does it represent, is it a metaphor for life?

It’s a big restaurant, we had no problem getting a table, service was fair, and price appropriate. I would definitely recommend and probably return here soon!

If you go during the winter, Pershing Square is a block over, and it’s a perfect date night or girls night out.

Bibb Salad
Bibb Salad

Barrel & Ashes

GO NOW.

I don’t need to say much about the newly opened Barrel & Ashes besides that, because once you’re there and eating the Cheesy Baked Shells, or the Pulled Pork Poppyseed Sandwich, you will be thanking me.

The epitome of gourmet comfort food, revamped for a hipster Los Angeles. My friend ordered a diet coke and tried to return it because it came in a brown bottle labeled ‘Mexi Diet Cola Light’ (see below). I thought the vintage glass coke bottles were as hipster as you can get, but once again, Studio City has proved me wrong.

There is literally nothing on the menu that you could order and not like. I highly recommend the ‘Hoe Cake’- the salty, sweet, buttery, and crunchy outside is so good, that time actually slows down around you.

Everything is meant to be shared! I love tapas style dining, because who doesn’t like trying a  little bit of everything? Under the “Snacks” section of the menu you can try ‘The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had‘- and they aren’t lying about that. I wish all my snacks could be sandwiches.

TIP:
My favorite part of the menu is the Bartenders Choice. You can tell the bartender what type of alcohol you like, what flavors, or any suggestions and they will mix you up a surprise.
Bartenders Choice
I already have a date set to return this week. Don’t forget to check out the Frito Pie, which is made inside of the a Frito bag…
Head over to Colfax and Ventura to check out a comfort food journey, from hillbilly to hipster.

diet coke

Hoe Cake
The Best Damn Chick'n Sandwich Ya Ever Had- Coleslaw, jalapeno, pimento cheese, toasted poppy seed bun
The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had
Chili, cheddar, sour cream, green onion
Chili, cheddar, sour cream, green onion

Butchers and Barbers

I had the pleasure of dining at the Houston brothers newest venture in Hollywood last night. Their first restaurant and 8th venue, Butchers and Barbers is everything you would expect it to be and more. The one room, candlelit, Speakeasy style (of course, why would it be anything else), mahogany and tiled throwback, exudes luxury and time lost.  Reservations seem rare, and only booked online, lending to the exclusivity factor for which the Houston Brothers are known [a la No Vacancy– which is right next door].

The menu is divided into three main sections; The Garden, The Ranch, and The Sea. Everything was to die for, and the attention to detail on each plate was extraordinary. It truly felt like the dish was made specifically for you, and that the chef had gone out of his way to make it perfect.

B&B really makes you aware of what fine American dining consists, by incorporating all elements from other cultures and cuisine but still basing it in American style ingredients. Fresh market carrots and radishes in a Tahini sauce that was like none I have ever tasted. Steak tartar that seemed to melt in your mouth, on a huge toasted crostini that  complimented the juicy steak with a smokey flavor. The cauliflower with sheep cheese was so rich and light, while also being crispy, how do they do it? No flavor was too overpowering, and I usually find there is a tendency to overkill with garlic in many of these types of dishes which would give it a clear Italian nod, but these plates were so well prepared, each was literally a breath of fresh air. The drinks were amazing and  unusual as well, and the host and servers were sweeter than your grandma at Christmas.

Houston Hospitality is real. Check it out for yourself.

bar

cauliflower
Roasted Cauliflower, brown butter and sheep cheese
harrow
Farro, Egg, Broccolini, Radishes, and Parsley