It’s hard to find a better definition for modern urban luxury without ostentation than the Ritz-Carlton LA Live. I recently reviewed the hotel and it’s adjoined twin JW Marriott for 360 West magazine (see below) but thought I would also post some more details on the property…
The Executive Suite is a perfect expression, serious but sumptuous. Modern wood and earth tone appointments, with textural constrasts, glass and chrome, sliding heavy doors to bathroom & powder room, large dressing area with full length mirror, makeup mirror, dvd players with large 60” flatscreens in bedroom and living/dining area (the second, BluRay).
Leather desk chair, wet bar with full minibar and Nespresso coffee maker. Bedroom has thick pillowtop bedding, padded tall headboard, gooseneck reading lamps, Ipod docking radio. His and her closets with valuables safe and complimentary shoe shine service.
Bathroom has large Japanese style soaking tub and rainfall/wand shower, Bulgari products and extensive amenities (loofah), makeup mirror, ceramic hair dryer, digital scale, TV in mirror, two sinks, thick towels and soft robes. A single callalilly on the marble countertop is a nice touch.
There is also a hotel car for guests (per availability) complimentary within a 3-mile radius.
For anyone who still questions Los Angeles’ legitimacy as a food town: It’s a good thing you didn’t make it to Taste of the Nation LA yesterday in Culver City’s Media Park. Because it would have blown apart every preconception you have, like Gallagher on a watermelon (dated reference?).
LA is an incredibly complex food town, and its strengths are so far flung, geographically and philosophically, that it’s easier to find the weaknesses. You just follow the hype. But what may sum it up best, if not quality of ingredients and blending of cultures, is the flexibility between haute and street. It’s a booming trend now, but I do think LA–perhaps the fancy food truck capital of the country (even if Portland was there first)– may “get it” it much better than other cities. How else to explain that high-end spots like Hatfield’s and Patina could go cheek-by-jowl with Jitlada’s family-style Thai and Starry Kitchen’s clubkid Crazian at TOTN, and everyone was in on the joke.
Considering the entire event is a fundraiser for child hunger (via Share Our Strength), I felt terrible not finishing half of the bites I tried. But really there were so many impressive, creative, pretty, delicious things to eat, I had to try and pace myself. And still, I teeter on the edge of a cataclysmic food coma as I write.
I could blather forever, but let me just hit up some personal highlights before they fade:
Gorgeous lamb chops (each differently done) from LA Market and Culina…Fig’s beef tongue bahn mi, an amazing tamale from Rivera…perfect paella by Joe’s…a complex short rib dish by La Seine’s Alex Resnik…that hellagood fried chicken from Lex Social…awesome tacos by both Loteria and Ray’s and Stark…killer spicy chicken skewers from Mo-Chica…a complex short rib dish from La Seine’s Alex Reznik (of Top Chef repute)… a toast with I think a foie gras custard dip at Street… and other great nibbles from Chaya, Church & State, City Tavern, Craft, Lukshon, and Hatfield’s. Hey, even amazing food starts to blur at a certain point. But that quinoa and kale by M Cafe was still my favorite.
Several upcoming places also offered previews, including Michael Voltaggio’s hotly awaited spot Ink (though his booth was only available to VIPs…boo!), Mo-Chica sister Picca Cantina, Nancy Silverton’s Short Order, fonuts, and Pour Vous, a new bar filling the old 40 Deuce space.
Speaking of blurring, I blame the many fine beverage options, including La Descargas sexy daquiris and other killer cocktails from The Spare Room and Pasadena’s hot 1886 … The Bruery’s Belgian Trippel ale with Thai spice, nice brews from Eagle Rock and Firestone Walker, and a deadly Golden State float at the beer block… and of the several impressive small-volume wineries pouring, I particularly enjoyed a nicely balanced Sauv Blanc and structured Cab from Santa Barbara’s Grassini, an uncommon 100% Cinsault from Sonoma’s Frick, and Pinots from Baker Lane and La Fenetre.
Did I mention the star chefs? Besides Kerry Simon, Top Chefs Voltaggio and Resnik and Hells Kitchen’s Sively, the revived Mary Sue Milliken and perennial partner Susan Fenniger were in full effect, as was Mark Peel, Sang Yoon, Joe Miller, Eric “Elvis” Greenspan … Alas, Mario Batali and Rick Bayless did not represent.
If you attend any number of these kinds of tasting events, you start to be able to recognize when they work well, and when they don’t. TOTNLA hit a lot of high marks: the selection of participating restaurants was very strong and varied, there was a nice sampling of California wines, local beers, and some very serious cocktails by some of our best mixology bars, some fun desserts; the charity and auction aspects were well represented if you were interested, but easily avoidable if you felt you “gave at the gate.” It was also a good size, and though it was sold out, it still wasn’t overcrowded, and the location had incredibly convenient parking (free 2 hours covered lot across the street). And despite a certain unavoidable amount of corporate sponsorship, obnoxious branding was kept to an impressive minimum. Egos were, in almost every case, clearly left at the door.
In fact my only criticisms were that water was a bit hard to find at first (turns out nearly every booth had a jug, but they didn’t always make them available) and there weren’t enough garbage cans. Oh, also, the VIPs were given reusable plates, but for the rest of us, each bite was given out on a disposable paper plate which, biodegradable, recycled, whatever it was, it was still wasteful. Those are very small complaints, though.
It was also nice to put faces to names of media colleagues including Laurel House, Joshua Lurie and even Jonathan Gold–though the event was far from press-saturated, owing to the fact that we all had to have our tickets “sponsored” (no freebies, and who can whine when it’s for a good cause). On that note, an extra thanks from me to Kerry Simon, whose SimonLA and LA Market both held their own in a sea of serious talent.
I almost wish every other foodfest planner had seen this, because kids, this is how it’s done.
It may not quite be a SCOOP, but it seems to have not been reported yet that Brian Howard has taken over the day-to-day reins as Executive Chef at Comme ça in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort. Howard is known as one of the more ambitious chefs in the local dining scene, most recently executing a very molecular/fusion menu at Nu Sanctuary in Town Square that should be remembered as one of the most adventurous culinary experiences in Las Vegas dining (particularly off-Strip–and joining Carlos Guia at Louis Osteen in the Town Square too good/too soon club).
Howard, who executed a very French-leaning classic menu at the under-regarded CatHouse under Kerry Simon, is just what Comme ça needs. While top toque David Myers (of Sona/LA Comme ça fame) is devoting more of his time to the Vegas outlet than many other out-of-town chef/restaurateurs, Howard understands the competitive nature of Strip dining. In particular, Vegas has more serious French cuisine–both classic and modern–than perhaps any other American city at the moment. Just on the Strip, there’s the justifiably well-regarded Mon Ami Gabi, unjustly maligned Andre’s (and sister Alize at Palms), Aureole, Bouchon, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Fleur (if that still counts), Le Cirque, Morel’s, Payard, Picasso, Pinot Brasserie… not to mention the world-class Mansion and L’Atelier of Joel Robuchon, Restaurant Guy Savoy, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, and mIX by Alain Ducasse (no wonder Restaurant Alex couldn’t do enough numbers to combat its closure–btw, it’s closing week was allegedly one of its best ever.) Even off-Strip there are the well-regarded Marche Bacchus, Rosemary’s, the enduring Pamplemousse, and certainly more I’m overlooking. That’s a very big field, in which it’s easy to become regarded as an also-ran, even if you do a respectable job–and even having an impressive raw bar with a strong selection of oysters is, well, not that uncommon. CC also walks a tightrope between being a casual brasserie (which it is in name) and a more elegant dining room (which it is in some pricing).
Howard definitely does not want to be an “also-ran” kind of chef, and is in the process of revamping everything, along with a new Summer menu. Already, he’s tweaked Myers’ already-great burger and buzzed-about bone marrow and oxtail starter, and put together an impressive charcuterie (even Batali’s salumi master Zach Allen should check it out) and is promising more in the next couple weeks.
In the meantime, there’s already something else very exciting there for late night diners: from 10 p.m. to closing (typically 1 am, but they will stay if busy) Comme ça’s entire “Hourglass” Menu is priced 50% off. That includes, among other things, that great burger (certainly the best you’ll get for $9 bucks), and even their Grand Plateau of raw bar/cold seafood (an insane deal at $65).
They also have an excellent classic cocktails menu that, even in a property filled with fantastic libations, is a worthy contender for top tippling.
Mark Andelbradt, Paul Bartolotta, Geno Bernardo, Osamu Fujita, Martin Heierling, Jean Joho, Emeril Lagasse, Scott Linquist, Shawn McClain, Michael Mina, Rick Moonen, Bradley Ogden, François Payard, Luciano Pellegrini, Guy Savoy, Kerry Simon, Alex Stratta, Masa Takayama, Charlie Trotter, Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Actors, Directors and Personalities
Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Alison Anders, Greg Araki, Samaire Armstrong (Entourage, Dirty Sexy Money), David Arquette, Desmond Askew, John August (Go, Charlie’s Angels)
Alec Baldwin, Elizabeth Banks, Roseanne Barr, Kristin Bell (Heroes, Veronica Mars), Lorraine Bracco, Wayne Brady, Michelle Borth (HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me), Steve Buscemi
Kelly Carlson (Nip/Tuck), Kristin Chenoweth (The West Wing), Steve Coogan (24 Hr Party People, Alan Partridge), David Cronenberg, Russell Crowe, Jon Cryer
Matt Damon, Jonathan Demme, Ted Demme, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taye Diggs, Robert Downey Jr., David Duchovny, Kirsten Dunst
Jon Favreau, Jerry Ferrara (Entourage), William Fichtner (Prison Break, Black Hawk Down), Clare Forlani, Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, Wristcutters), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X)
Beau Garrett (Turistas, Fantastic Four), Janeane Garofolo, Rebecca Gayheart, Larry Gordon, Maggie Grace (Lost), Greg Grunberg (Felicity)
Anthony Michael Hall (Breakfast Club, The Dead Zone), Eddie Izzard, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Spike Jonze, Tommy Lee Jones, Mike Judge
Kim Kardashian, Stacey Keach, Arielle Kebbel (American Pie Band Camp), Ben Kingsley, Neil LaBute, Diane Lane, Heath Ledger, Tea Leoni, Doug Liman, Eva Longoria, Baz Luhrman, Robert Luketic
Ewan MacGregor, William H. Macy, Romany Malco (Weeds), AnnaLynne McCord (90210), Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), Jay Mohr (Action, The Ghost Whisperer), Sophie Monk, Mandy Moore, Bill Murray, Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
Anna Paquin, Audrina Patridge, Bill Paxton, Jesse Peretz, Todd Phillips, Matt Pinfield (MTV, VH-1), Joe Piscopo, Whitney Port, Jaime Pressly
Sam Raimi (Spiderman), Keanu Reeves, Brad Renfro, Ryan Reynolds, Emmy Rossum (Phantom), Geoffrey Rush
William Shatner, Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut, 3:10 To Yuma), Ally Sheedy, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Kevin Smith, Brittany Snow (Hairspray), Kevin Spacey, David Spade, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, Julia Stiles, Ben Stiller, Domenique Swain (Lolita)
Noah Taylor (Shine, Pirates of the Carribean), Dita Von Teese, Charlize Theron, Christopher Titus, Stanley Tucci
Gabrielle Union, Amber Valetta, Gus Van Sant, Vince Vaughn, Natasha Wagner, Paul Walker, Patrick Warburton, Estella Warren, John Waters, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Williams, Owen Wilson, Scott Wolf (Party of Five, Everwood), John Woo
David Zucker (Airplane!, Scary Movie 3/4)
Musical Artists and Producers
Atari Teenage Riot, Dan the Automator (Dr. Octagon/Gorillaz), Burt Bacharach, Beastie Boys*, Beck*, Natasha Bedingfield, Archie Bell, Tony Bennett, Jello Biafra, Bo Bice, Mary J. Blige, Boss Hog, Holly Brook, Bobby Byrd, Mariah Carey, Nick Cave, Citizen Cope, George Clinton & P-Funk, Bootsy Collins, Julian Cope, John Doe, Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers), the Dust Brothers, Hillary Duff
Earth Wind & Fire, Elastica, Perry Farrell, The Frogs, Greg Ginn, Girls Against Boys, Greyboy, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana), Gwar, PJ Harvey, Richard Hell, Robyn Hitchcock, Holland, Dozier & Holland, Jamiroquai, Jawbox, the JBs, Wyclef Jean, Jesus Lizard*
Kool Keith, DJ Keoki, KMFDM, Gladys Knight, Korn, Ben Lee, La Ley, Lords of Acid, John Lydon (Sex Pistols/PiL), Ian MacLagan (Small Faces/the Faces), Mazzy Star, Meat Beat Manifesto*, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Ministry, Monster Magnet, Scotty Moore (Elvis’ guitarist), Mudhoney, Wayne Newton, Nickelback
Ohio Players, Yoko Ono, Ozomatli, Prince Paul, Pavement, Pigface, Portishead, Phil Ramone, Red Hot Chili Peppers*, Royal Trux, Gil Scott-Heron, Adrian Sherwood, Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park/Fort Minor)
Slash, Smashing Pumpkins*, The Smithereens, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, Soul Coughing, Jon Spencer (Pussy Galore/Blues Explosion)*, Spinal Tap, Candi Staton, Supergrass, John Taylor (Duran Duran), The Temptations, Thrice, Thrill Kill Kult, Urge Overkill, Dave Vanian (the Damned), Veruca Salt, Vitamin C, Don Was, Craig Wedren (Shudder To Think, film composer), Ween*, Weezer
Moguls and madmen
Author Terence McKenna; Industrial/interior designers: Dodd Mitchell, Thomas Schoos; Master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim; LPGA Pro-golfer Natalie Gulbis; Music Supervisors Karen Rachtman; Chris Douridas, Randy Poster, Happy Walters; Brett Gurewitz (Epitaph Records); Nightclub owner Jason Strauss (Tao, the Mansion, Lavo); Photographer/filmmaker Richard Kern; Rockstar Games’ Sam Houser & Terry Donovan; Skincare guru Kate Somerville; TV producer David Saltz; Water feature engineer Mark Fuller (WET Design); Professional poker player Jennifer Harman