Posted on February 25, 2015 by & filed under eat, travel.

arepascafebolivarJPG

 

One of the greatest parts of living in Los Angeles isn’t the weather, the beaches, or even the celeb sightings. It’s about being in a city where you can literally travel through your tastebuds.

My native town is home not only to a vast expanse of international communities and a wide variety of culinary delights that comes with them. And a perfect example of the great diversity our city has to offer is the simple sandwich. There are are endless international iterations for these hand-held meals around town. One could even say that sammies are the language spoken round the world.

I wrote about my favorites— from Venezuelan arepas and Turkish doner kebab to Danish smørrebrød —for LAist, which you can check out right this way. 

Posted on February 15, 2015 by & filed under eat, travel.

mardigras

 

Seeing all the Mardi Gras posts around the interwebs right now, I am flooded with memories of my first trip to New Orleans a few years ago. I had such a blast exploring the food and culture in what’s since become one of my favorite American cities. I had a blast, and hopefully I’ll be able to visit again sometime outside of Mardi Gras. (It was fun, but definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type thing.)

Like any adventure, there are plenty of spots I didn’t get to hit that I wish I could have: Chef Sue Zemanick killed it on one of the episodes of “Knife Fight” I judged last year, and I hope to see what she has cooking over at Gautreau’s sometime soon. I also wasn’t able to lock down a table at the classic NOLA establishment Commander’s Palace due to all the Mardi Gras traffic. I also didn’t get a chance to hang out much in Bywater, which I’ve been intrigued by since one of my writers did a travel piece on the area back when I was editing Brand X.

But I did get to eat a lot of great local dishes. Oh! And if you’re in Los Angeles, you can still get a taste of the Big Easy. There are some great spots around town — in fact, it’s becoming a trend to do NOLA-style bars and restaurants here. Here’s a list of my favorites locally, and below my list of favorite spots in the Big Easy:

cochon

Cochon Restaurant

James Beard Award winner Donald Link served up one of my favorite meals during my trip to NOLA, including incredible gumbo and pork parts of all kinds. (The restaurant is called Cochon, or pig in French, after all.) Link does all the Creole/Cajun classics at his cozy restaurant, like fried gator tail or pan roasted shrimp with cornbread & country ham butter, and the incredible turkey, kale and black eyed pea gumbo pictured above. What’s really wonderful is that all of these Louisiana classics are done using local produce and proteins. They also had fantastic cocktails. It was definitely my splurge meal, but so well-worth it.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

I know, this is culinary blasphemy for some, but fried food just makes me feel icky. The exception to this rule has always been fried chicken. I can’t get enough of the stuff. And I’ve never had better than at Willie Mae’s in NOLA. Seriously you guys, it’s perfection. The breading is just so crackly and salty and delicious, and the meat inside just impossibly juicy and tender. I literally at half a bird to myself. No, I am not ashamed. And you won’t be either — unless you’re in New Orleans and don’t take the journey to Treme for this James Beard Award earning joint. Trust me, it’s not to be missed. Apparently there’s a more central location that just opened in Uptown, too, but I’d say head to the OG to take a peek at the classic.

acmeoysterhouse

Acme Oyster House 

I am a sucker for oysters. It’s actually a problem, actually. I shouldn’t be trusted around those lovely little bivalves alone. Order a dozen and share them with me, and you’re lucky if you get more than one. So naturally this renowned home to Louisiana seafood was a must, and it lived up to the hype. I just love divey old spots with history, and Acme Oyster House — which opened in 1910 — is just that. They do po’boys and fried oysters, but I like mine naked, or with a splash of lemon at most.

dsc_3500

 

Central Grocery and Cafe Du Monde

I realize that these are sort of “touristy” spots, but again, I am all about the classics when visiting a historic city like New Orleans. Central Grocery is known for creating the muffaletta — a massive, oval-shaped focaccia-like loaf split and stuffed with layers of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, and provolone  – perfect for toting around for a picnic. (You can easily split one with your travel buddies, if you have one.) And Cafe Du Monde, I mean, COME ON! Is there any doubt that you have to try their beignets and chicory coffee. They are to die for.

The Spotted Cat

Not only does The Spotted Cat have the most amazing live jazz nightly, but they also had pupusas in the back. Being from SoCal, I really miss Latin American cooking when I’m on the road, so when I saw a woman making fresh, cheese and pepper stuffed El Salvadorian street food out of the back of this club, I was elated. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was the taste of home I was looking for. Plus the vibes on Frenchman Street are amazing.

 

 

Posted on February 6, 2015 by & filed under travel.

There’s been a trend of reviving historic 1920s L.A. buildings, turning them into hotels, bars, and restaurants that nod to the past but have a decidedly modern feel. To me, that never gets old. The Hotel Normandie, developed in 1926 by famed Los Angeles architects Albert R. Walker and Percy A. Eisen, is no exception. They’ve been rolling out their renovation— which includes the addition of Le Comptior,  Cassell’s, and a lovely bar called The Normandie Club — throughout the past year, and I’ve been covering it along the way for various outlets. Here are three reasons why I’m excited about what’s shakin’ over at this Koreatown property.

ksimmonscassels4

 

1. The ridiculously good tuna melts and burgers at Cassell’s.  Chef Christian Page poaches the tuna belly to perfection, and the burgers are up to snuff with any of the other “bests” in L.A. And did I mention the pies? You can read more about it and see my full photo gallery of all the great pie-n-burg porn in my piece for LAist here.

NormandieLobby

 

2. The stunning art-deco era lobby and simple but cozy rooms.  In the lobby a crystal chandelier casts a soft glow on the checkerboard floor, Persian rugs, double-height fireplace and baby grand piano. This is definitely a place you can hang out for a while. You can read my full hotel review for Jetsetter here. 

NormOrig0095

 

3. The fantastic bar program and mellow vibes at The Normandie Club. This new, bare bones hotel bar has a great neighborhood feel, and features exotic spirits, like my new personal fave, a Bolivian brandy produced by Steven Soderbergh. (Trust me, this stuff is great. You can read about how the bartenders use it to make the most outrageous daiquiri here.)

Posted on by & filed under eat, travel.

noma

A dish from Noma’s Tokyo pop-up photographed by Satoshi Nagare

My, my, my, how time flies! I can hardly believe February is already here. I launched my Dining Agenda Column for Departures last month, and it seems like SO much is happening in the world of food in 2015 in just the first two months.

A few highlights from this edition include: Nordic chef Rene Redzepi, four-time topper of San Pellegrino 50 Best List, has temporarily relocated his Copenhagen restaurant Noma to the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo; the Michelin Guide releasing their rankings for France, taking Alain Ducasse’s reopened Plaza Athénée down to two stars from the previous three; and Blue Bottle finally opening their first international outpost in Tokyo.

There’s plenty more to check out in my column, which gives you the absolutely essential restaurant openings and announcements around the world, plus this month’s most delicious, not-to-miss events. Please read on right this way.

Posted on February 4, 2015 by & filed under design, travel.

IMG_2305

 

Traveling for a living means that I get to see some pretty incredible properties around the globe, so you can imagine my sense of hometown pride when I heard about the happs at the brand spankin’ new Hotel Covell in Los Feliz. This itsy bitsy boutique hotel is technically a B&B by official standards, as it only has 5 rooms. But man oh man, are they stunners.

Owner Dustin Lancaster is a first time hotelier, but he’s also one of my favorite restauranteurs in L.A.; he owns L&E Oyster Bar, Covell, El Condor, Hermosillo, Sidebar and Highland Park Brewery, which I adore. So when I caught wind of him opening above his great little wine bar on Hollywood Boulevard, I knew I was in for a treat.

I had major apartment envy touring the space while chatting with Dustin, and it gave me some inspiration for my own dream home. (Someday I will move out of this itsy bitsy 1920s Spanish apartment. My kitchen is just plain teensy, as you can see here.) For now, though, I’m setting a goal to just have a little staycation at this dreamy little property.

I plucked a few of my favorite detail shots from my feature on the hotel that I did for LAist below.

IMG_2304

Like the Ace Hotel properties, each room comes decked out with a record player and some amazing vinyl.IMG_2312

The hotel’s theme is based off of a fictitious author named George Covell, and most rooms have great writing nooks. This one was my fave.

covellkitchen

I mean this kitchen! The Heath Ceramics, the Chemex, copper strainer, the Bronner’s. I can’t even!

For more photos of this amazing space, and the full story on this stunning new property in one of L.A.’s coolest neighborhoods check out my story here.

Posted on February 3, 2015 by & filed under eat, travel.

Though grannies around the globe have been serving some form of bone broth to their ailing grandkids for ages, Marco Canora at Brodo in New York City and many other chefs are trying to turn this super concentrated stock into the new cold-pressed juice. Even in L.A., where the weather hardly ever gets below 70 degrees, it’s being served at restaurants like Asian Box, Villiage Tavern, and Belcampo Meats. So, naturally, I decided to do some research and figure out how to make my own at home.

Turns out those Cantonese and Italian grannies were on to something. By using a pressure cooker, I figured out how to make bone broth in just 2 hours instead of multiple days. Not bad eh?

Making bone broth does admittedly require quite a bit of high quality bones and meat, and that’s what makes it different from a stock — the fact that there’s a higher portion of meat and bones to liquid, as well as the fact that bone broth is made with plenty of seasonings, unlike stock. Those keeping paleo believe that bone broth fortified with a mix of bone marrow and other high-collagen parts is good for ailing joints, aiding in digestion and keeping your skin purdy. (The Huffington Post even sited it as one of the ways you can eat healthy while traveling the globe.)

While I can’t speak to the health values just yet, I will say that it’s rich and delicious, the perfect cure for what ails you during the cold winter months — especially when you add some minced ginger, garlic, honey, lemon juice, and sea salt into the mix.

You can read the proper recipe after the jump.

Read more »

Posted on January 30, 2015 by & filed under eat, travel.

wheretoeatscottsdale

 

Though Scottsdale, Arizona is often thought of as a resort destination with little more than golf courses and luxury properties, there’s a strong undercurrent of creativity in this Sonoran desert city that’s fueling a diverse food scene. The same energy that brought Frank Lloyd Wright and Paolo Soleri is inspiring a vibrant cadre of chefs, artisans, and purveyors to use the bounty of the region to make some seriously good eats. And the weather is perfect for a visit this time of year — especially if you’re heading out for the Super Bowl.

Here are some of my favorite eats in the area.

Posted on January 22, 2015 by & filed under eat, travel.

ivank

 

To kick off the New Year, I launched a new column with Departures Magazine, which covers the absolutely essential F&B news from around the globe. There are a hefty amount of openings and events I covered in the first edition, but a few of the goings-on that I’m most looking forward to checking out are:

The new three-star Michelin chef Guy Savoy’s intimate oyster bar L’Huitrade in Paris, where he’s sourcing bivalves from local fisheries; the opening of chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of the Parm/Torrisi/Carbone empire new coastal Italian concept Santina on NYC’s High Line; and critically acclaimed Tokyo-based Ivan Ramen finally taking online reservations for up to six people, meaning I can finally bypass the lines at their Clinton Street ramenya.

My to-do list for 2015 is getting bigger by the minute! You can take a peek at the full January’s edition here.

Posted on December 23, 2014 by & filed under design, holidays, inspire.

This year I got really into the DIY holiday spirit and decked my apartment out with all sorts of homespun elements. Thankfully I was able to elicit the help of my favorite elves, Michael and Bento. All of these little projects were super simple to execute, meaning you still have time to add them into your repertoire before Christmas.

Here’s what we came up with.

UC5A1284

 

To save on paper, we wrapped our gifts using scrap fabric from Mood and recycled brown bags paired with some great ribbon from both Pulp Paper Goods and Mood. The gift tags are from one of my favorite local graphic designers Emily McDowell, who I wrote about here.

 

UC5A1306

 

I blinged out these pomegranates and pinecones with some of Krylon’s new chrome and glitter spray paints. You can read how I did that project here. I’ve also collected some seasonal release craft beer coasters over the years to pull out this time of year. Lord konws I love a good freebie, especially if it involves gnomes.

 

UC5A1402

 

We made traditional German hexenhouse, or A-Frames, using a cool kit imported from Germany by Trader Joe’s. They were a steal at $7.99 each, and are insanely aromatic even weeks later. They were super simple to assemble and taste pretty darn great, too.

cookies

 

For my cookie platter this year, I used a few of my favorite recipes. First I started with my riff on James Beard’s bourbon spiced persimmon bread. I also used Martha Stewart’s technique for making swirled bark, but added stick pretzels, craisins, and macadamia nuts from Michael’s grandfather’s tree. I used the leftover white chocolate to do a white chocolate cranberry bark for a bit of color variation to the plate. I also did some white chocolate oatmeal cookies studded with pomegranate arils for a hit of tartness. Finally I whipped up a batch of Giada’s lemon ricotta cookies with a lemon zest glaze, which I discovered at the opening party of her new restaurant out in Vegas. They remind me of lemon bars, which are some of my favorite desserts, plus they add a bright hit of acid, which you rarely get on sweets during the holidays.

UC5A1262

 

I made this tablescape using mismatched cocktail glasses and those blinged-out natural pieces I mentioned earlier. If you glazed over that one, don’t worry about it. You can read how I did it here.
UC5A1332

 

I picked up this longhorn steer head from an artisan selling them on the side of the road in the hill country outside Austin. Michael disassembled the polished horns from the skull on the side of the road so we could pack it as checked luggage. Crafty guy! I then took these old poinsettia candleholders and slipped them on the horns for a festive flare. A little more exciting than the typical Santa hat skull, I reckon.

 

UC5A1323

 

A big selling point of my teensy apartment was the faux fireplace and mantle with Spanish tiling — so much so that it made me overlook the miniature kitchen. I loved decking it out for the holidays with all my homespun accents.

 

UC5A1303

 

The vintage bar cart makes a cameo next to the tree. This year I made a tree skirt out of an old Brazilian coffee jute sack that the folks at Blue Bottle DTLA so kindly donated to my cause. All I did was cut the seam to turn it into one large piece of fabric. I paired the rustic jute sack with a checkered tablecloth to match with my Soutwestern/Texas theme. (You can see more of the jute material in the photograph  of the wrapped presentes up at the top.)

 

kristamichaelchristmas crop

 

Now that we’re all decorated, I can enjoy what the holidays are truly about: spending time with your loved ones, in this case my two favorite guys: Michael and Bento.

We wish you all the merriest Christmas and a deliciously inspired New Year!

Posted on December 11, 2014 by & filed under travel.

IMG_1122

 

In my mind, feminism’s freshest face isn’t a pop star, but backpacker Cheryl Strayed, who’s portrayed in the awesome new film staring Reese Witherspoon, “Wild.”

Watching the movie, which is based on Strayed’ book that recounts her time on the Pacific Crest Trail, reminded me of my experience backpacking around the globe solo. There are lots of things that we as women face while on the road alone that men simply don’t have to deal with, which I talk about my Op-Ed with the LA Times:

“There were times, like Strayed, where I felt incredibly vulnerable simply because I was a woman traveling solo. Then there was the questioning, which I still get when traveling for work, namely regarding the whereabouts of my husband, followed by queries as to why a nice girl such as myself doesn’t have one at my age, and finally why on Earth would I ever travel alone? Then there were the warnings of how I could get robbed or raped, or worse yet, might never find said husband because I was too busy globetrotting…

To be fair, being on the road can be quite dangerous. I questioned myself, just as my family and friends back home did, when money was low or when life got lonely, or I was simply just dying for a hot shower or a warm bed to sleep in. And there are plenty of things I had to consider as a female on my own that a man would never have to worry about.

But those challenges weren’t an excuse to quit, or worse yet, to never start.”

You can read my full Op-Ed piece here. And travel on.

 

[new_royalslider id="1"]