Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Help Please! I Need '30 Things To Do Before I'm 30'

I know only about 2 of you (woo-hoo LK & CK!) regularly skim through sunny days a la mode, but I need your input. Lots of input. Yes, even from you, "random web-surfer who accidently landed on my page while googling for 'korean ladies in black underwear spa treatments'" person. (I know, it's really weird that my blog shows up first on google ahead of lots of asian porn for that particular search, and if that's what you were expecting, I'm sorry to disappoint).

Anyway, it's my 29th birthday in about three weeks. I'm not feeling anxiously old despite being only 365 + 21 or so days away from the big three-oh.

Especially as I feel in the last year or so that I've definitely regressed to acting more like a 22yr old than when I actually was 22yrs old; I like to think I'm finally mature enough to handle having dyed blue-tipped hair, a disregard for the 9-6 corporate world, a schedule of bar-hopping on multiple 'school nights' and finding nothing wrong with ordering Papa John's two large pizza specials all to myself and eating slices of hawaiian pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week to prolong going on a grocery run.

However, 30 is still considered a milestone of sorts. A milestone that should be marked by a yearlong pre-partying celebration of doing things I want to do.

Inspired by my friend Meriam, already a 29'er--who has 4 more months to accomplish her list--I want to make a '30 Things To Do Before I'm 30' List.

Now, these 30 things are supposed to be a LESS 'Open an IRA Because What Irresponsible 30yr Old Wouldn't Have Done That' and MORE 'Good Excuse To Buy Hot Red Stiletto's Because It's On My List Of Things To Do' (one of Meriam's 30 things to cross off) type of list.

I don't know if it's because I'm faced with so many possibilities--or that I live a pretty hedonistic (yet tame) life...the things I find hedonistically fun just happen to be pretty mild...already full of travel, food, the beach and memories of sky-diving, sleeping over in a french castle, spending a day at MJ's Neverland Ranch and other dubious 'once in a lifetime' things--but I'm finding it surprisingly hard to come up with 'things'.

So far, I only have 7 things on my list.

So, from the practical (go out and buy 3 new outfits so I'll be ever ready for a last-minute interview, cocktail party--and most importantly--a hot date), mundane (get a group of friends to go to a cemetery screening this summer), random (successfully convince a friend to visit South Dakota with me to check out Mt. Rushmore and the state's annual mashed potato wrestling contest!), ambitious (run from Manhattan Pier to Hermosa Pier and back again within 45 mins) and very ambitious (host a dinner party for friends with actual edible food that I cooked), any suggestions are WELCOME, WANTED, NEEDED!

So, if you have a moment, and a random idea, please leave me a comment and let me know! '7 Things To Do Before I'm 30' just doesn't sound as catchy. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Social Hollywood: Lights! Camera! Eat!

Last night I had the pleasure of dining at the new Social Hollywood. Like my Geisha House entry, there really isn’t anything budg. about this new restaurant, bar and private club but, also like Geisha House, it was another dining experience that was well worth the moolah spent. (Well, last night I was lucky enough to attend a dinner for press so in this case, it was well worth the theoretical moolah spent).

Occupying the former space of the Hollywood Athletic Club, the downstairs bar and restaurant have been given a sophisticated Moroccan makeover—including exposing the original, 1920’s fresco ceilings, carved wooden doors refinished as dining tables, seating accented with mosaic tiles and knotted rugs, all imported from Morocco.

The dark, very adult bar to the right of the lobby—filled with deep leather chaises, 15ft long draping red curtains, hanging Moroccan glass lanterns and etched glass walls—makes me want acquire a secret lovah (or any lovah for that matter, but I’m going on a tangent) just so I can plan multiple clandestine rendez-vous in this sexy lounge.

They have golden aged, la-di-da champagne cocktails and mint juleps but I opted for the juicy Lycheewood martini followed by a pomegranate-vodka with a floating edible orchid. Lychee. Pomegranate. Floating Edible Flower. I totally got sold just by those fun-sounding words but the cocktails lived up to their enticing ingredients and were very drinkable, too drinkable….I was nearly done with both before we moved over to the dining room for dinner.

I was lucky enough to be able to invite three guests and armed with my fellow foodie friends Chrissy, Chaya and Jess, I was confident we’d pretty much explore everything on the menu.

Appetizers included the often overplayed (but not in this case) crab cakes—this ubiquitous starter stood out for its meaty density and accompanying ‘gazpacho shooter’, a shot glass of refreshing tomato/cilantro-lime infused water—beet salad (ok, but not outstanding), fancy foie gras with ‘peanut brittle’ and tasty seared scallops over ‘rabo encendido’ (oxtail stew) which sounded like an odd combo but ended up being our table’s favorite.

Portions are small (I got two scallops) but not in a bad way—they were perfectly sized so we could each order an appetizer, entrée and dessert (oh, and a side of mac and manchego cheese) to share without feeling (too) gluttonous…although we did notice the waitstaff discreetly switched out our normal-sized plates for smaller ones so all our dishes we ordered could fit on the table.

Our entrée picks included the Loup de Mer filled with fennel-leek ‘fondue’ wrapped in grape leaves, wild salmon tagine with artichokes, sunchokes and truffles, short rib tagine with Oaxacan Mole, almond-crusted pumpkin and cous-cous, and pomegranate-glazed lamb rack over creamy polenta.

Both the salmon and loup de mer were cooked just right (not overcooked at all) and flavorful without overwhelming the fish. But the meats are where its at; the lamb was super tender and was well complemented by the polenta and although all of us skipped over the short ribs on the menu and only ordered it based on the high recommendation of our waiter/skipper, Chris, the able-to-pull-apart-with-a-fork tender short ribs was another unanimous favorite. The ribs were rich and super-flavorful without being too heavy.

Since our waiter did a dead-on job with the appetizer and entrée recommendations, we had him help pick out our desserts; we settled on the Social Chocolate, a complex and dense devils food cake dessert baked with banana and nuts, a weightless almond panna cotta capped with a sliver of chocolate, baked Alaskan Pie and another pomegranate appearance, this time a Parfait with fizzy pomegranate ‘essence’ layered with crème anglais.

The food presentation was beautiful (I had my camera but was too caught up with eating to remember taking pictures) and unlike some other shi-shi spots, the quality of the food equaled the visuals.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some of the shi-shi pretensiousness present; half the menu required an international cookbook glossary—the aforementioned almond-crusted pumpkin was referred to as a ‘Calabaza’ on the menu, and thank god we didn’t want the lobster bisque en croute with Jerez and lobster knuckles or I would have had to second-guessed myself whether I should know if lobsters have knuckles before asking the waiter, or if ‘knuckles’ is just ‘fancy’ for ‘chunks of lobster meat’. We were also assigned a ‘captain’ for the night—dressed in a very Fantasy Island white jacket—which I presume whose job was to oversee our waiter and busboy and entertain us with his Fantasy Island get-up. He did a good job keeping things shipshape as our personable waiter was very knowledgeable and accurate with his recommended picks. The pricey menu would also typically set you back over $60 per person for a 3-course meal before drinks.

Upstairs is restricted to members-only but we got a little tour of the upstairs private screening room, sleek, retro-styled game room with playing card tables, plasma screens for playstation playing as well as the original 1920’s billiards table once cued up by the likes of former screen legends Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino and adjacent (and appropriately named) avocado-green Green Room and lush, velvety Velvet Room available for private parties.

Our night at Social Hollywood was like experiencing an idealized version of retro Hollywood with the classy sophistication and glamour of that time but with a young and unstuffy vibe. Just like the Social is making a return visit to Old Hollywood glam, we’d definitely be down for making a return visit to the Social.

Social Hollywood
6525 Sunset Blvd

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Finding (Milkshake) Heaven at Lucky Devils

Last week I dropped by the new upscale late night diner, Lucky Devils to meet with the Lucky Devil himself--Lucky Vanous (for those who don't remember Lucky and his abs got their initial 15 minutes in those 90's Diet Coke commercials as the hot construction worker all the office ladies were drooling over).

I sat down with him with the initial plan to ask him a few questions for a profile I'm writing on his newly opened Hollywood Blvd spot but instead, ended up sampling several of his microbrews....and then tipsily sampling Lucky Devil's entire selection of homemade desserts with him (like 8 different sweet treats), in this case, the devil really did make me do it.

The casual eatery serves up upscale classic American fare in an unpretentious, modern diner setting (ignore the cheesy Lucky Devils cartoon logo outside and enter into a minimalist interior with walnut counters and mod'ish white seating).

Although it's also open for lunch and dinner, the 3am closing time, alcohol-absorbing comfort food and convenient locale (stumbling distance to a bunch of clubs along Las Palmas and the Cahuenga corridor) makes Lucky Devil's a heaven-sent pit-stop to hit up after last call.

Although a tad pricey for post-clubbing grubbing--their signature bleu cheese Kobe burger is $16--hungry hipsters chowing down on the gourmet comfort food don’t seem to mind. The sinful, carb-heavy comfort food is gussied up with deluxe, organic-leaning ingredients so you can feel better about loading up on a 2:30am burger run.

There's also fancy-schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches with artisan cheddar, slow-cooked chili cheese fries and organic Cobb salad (which are more affordably priced, all between $5-10, and to be fair, you really should be splitting the substantial Kobe burger at that time of the night, which would make it a more reasonable $8).And if you come before last call, they've got a bunch of microbrews and organic wines to pick from.

Desserts are courtesy of former AOC pastry chef, Karla Lomeli--I tried everything, including Meyer lemon cupcakes, Kentucky buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting, organic apple crumble and steamed chocolate cake with vanilla-cinnamon 'goo'--and they all taste as good as they look.

But if you only have $5 left in your pocket, forget spending it on fries ($4.95) or splitting the Kobe burger between three of you ($5.33 each)...or even saving it for drunken cab fare afterwards for that matter. Spend it on their amazing Toasted Pecan frozen custard shake with Madagascar-vanilla flecked frozen custard ($4.95)

Perfectly thick, not overly sweet, flavorfully pecan'y, mildly custardy and subtlely vanilla'y. If you blew your cab fare on my recommendation, I stand by it. The frozen custard shake is worth the walk.

Lucky whipped me up a shake on Monday night and I made a return visit with a girlfriend on Thursday night just to suck down more of that sublime-tasting shake. And I can't wait to party along Las Palmas just so we can end the night with a Toasted Pecan flavored nightcap afterwards. It's that good

Lucky Devils
6613 Hollywood Blvd

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bikram Yoga: Sweating for $20

After a long weekend in the desert (coachella festival), on a whim, I decided to drop in a bikram yoga class to detox a little. I didn't know much about Bikram--I've taken regular yoga and had heard it's similar, just hotter (the room is set to 110 degrees)--the thought of sweatily stretching in a steamy room with other sweaty stretchers didn't sound totally awesome but I was curious enough to try it once.

A drop-in class is $15 but the Bikram Yoga/Manhattan Beach Studio is currently offering a $20 special for first-timers. For only $5 more, students get to free classes for 10 consecutive days.

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 poses. The first pose is really just deep breathing with your hands clasped under your my 3rd deep breath, sweat is already dripping down my nose. And all I can think is "crap, i shouldn't have signed up for the $20 deal".

Even seemingly simple poses (stretching from side to side with your arms above your head, curled up in a ball on the ground) create gushes of sweat and my towel, tank top and shorts are drenched 10 minutes into the class. The guy next to me is wearing swimtrunks that are dripping like he just stepped out of a pool so I don't feel so self-conscious about my droplets of sweat rolling down my glistening arms.

The 90 minutes goes by pretty fast; a sweaty blur of pretzel-like poses and agonizing 'savasana's (laying down relaxed pose) --agonziing because I struggle to not close my eyes and pass out in the relaxing pose. Near the end, I start feeling a little light-headed and sit down for a quick break.

Afterwards, I approach the yoga instructor "is it normal to feel--"
"dizzy and nauseous? absolutely. You'll get used to it and it'll go away"

Hhhmm, I'm not sure if I want to pursue something that is supposed to make me feel sick but later that night, I felt really energetic and peppy and since I signed up for the 10 day sessions...why not get used to feeling dizzy for 10 more days?

Taking advantage of the special, I've gone 4 times this week; it's strangely cathartic and relaxing despite the intense work out and I don't even mind the lightheadedness that much.

I'm only half way through the 10 day session but have already noticed that my 'tight jeans' aren't so tight anymore---I don't know if it's the 1/2 gallon of water-weight I've been losing every day or the fact that you have to work out on an empty stomach (or you'll feel even more nauseous) has forced me to stop my all day grazing at least a few hours before the class.

The only downside is--with all my sweaty work out clothes and towels--I've also had to do laundry 4 times this week.

To find out more about the $20 deal, call 310:802-0225 or log onto
3618 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach