iPhone 5 Apple Spoof ... a Foodie Must See

You will laugh.  And cry a little, because it's really kinda true.  A little.  And I promise right here and now that I will never post dimly-lit photos of Indian food that look more like dog puke than they do like actual food ... and I also swear, on my shoes, that I do actually have friends and a life.  A real one.  Even without my phone.

Please don't let this be me.  Ever.  

S'mores, Siberians & Other Simple Pleasures

Some days you need a little reminder as to why your life is pretty awesome: a raw deal at work, a friend in crisis, a flat tire on the way to the airport.  And just as some days, any little thing can come along to pop your joy bubble, there are so many equally little things (all actually pretty big) that can keep you afloat.  These are a few of mine.

S'mores indoors at Henry's Hat with good friends.

A perfect, award-winning burger, like the California Roll Burger from 26 Beach.

An expertly foamed vanilla latte from Blu Jam Cafe.

A Bloody Mary by the beach, like this one from 1500 Ocean at Hotel Del Coronado.

A happy, healthy dog.  :)

Olive & Thyme

I recently stumbled on a little slice of New York masquerading as a gourmet market and wine bar right here in LA: Olive & Thyme, in Toluca Lake.  I'd been for breakfast and adored their yummy breakfast paninis (particular the Farmhouse Panini with applewood smoked bacon and white cheddar), but it wasn't until a Friday night that I experienced the true heart & soul of the place ... which feels influenced by Manhattan.  

With its marble bar, sweets display cabinet and eclectic epicurean pantry, it feels like the kind of place you end up at after a long day of walking the city — like Casellula in NYC, only more casual and rustic Californiam.  Having popped in after a disappointing meal nearby (I wish we'd just gone to O&T first), my friend Lisa and I decided to get a glass of wine and something sweet to round out an exhausting week. 

It was burger night, we learned, and from the smells and happy, boisterous patrons, it seems they do burgers right (next time I'll skip the crappy Mexican and head here instead).  As for us, it was a glass of Prosecco and Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  Tart, sweet, flaky, amazing.  I would go back in a minute for it.  That or their selection of fine cheeses, salts and flavored oils.  Eatery + market = genius.

The Weaver Stance

Perhaps it's because most of my handgun and combat training has been at the hands of current / ex-military and law enforcement, but I must admit, there is something about the isosceles shooting stance that drives me absolutely nuts.

Me, at Angeles Shooting Range, teaching a friend to shoot my Glock 19 using the weaver stance.
With its limitations both in flexibility and motion, I'm surprised anyone teaches it at all.  Who can check their world when rooted like a tree, arms locked?  Um, it's tough.  If you need to move or twist away from an enemy, or god forbid, pursue one, you're not going far standing there like a big triangle.

Now, like anything else, I realize this sport/hobby is a personal thing, and each shooter must engage in behavior that makes the most sense to her (or him).  And there is research suggesting that in high-stress situations, the body's instinctive reaction to real-life danger is to assume an isosceles position.

Yet, as I've conditioned my body to react with a weaver stance, just like the S.E.A.L.S. and police officers with whom I've trained, I'm more inclined to think it's in any shooter's best interest to become better acquainted with this method.

Plus, you look cooler.  Case closed.

Sunday Funday at Zengo Santa Monica

As I live in the valley and it's been hot as blazes here, I decided to head over the hill on Sunday to take in some cool ocean breezes near Santa Monica ... get a bite, do a little shopping, see a good friend.  Clever me, I called Michelle (also a valley girl), who was more than happy to brave the 405 for Sunday Funday. She took me someplace new — Zengo in Santa Monica.  Holy crap.

ZENGA in Santa Monica.
At the end of the day, I'm all about the food, but this place had it all goin' on: a beautiful space, ocean air, great views, spectacular food, and an all-you-can-eat brunch with unlimited cocktails.  Yes, you read that right.  Understand, there was no buffet line, no mass-produced buckets of mediocre hash slung out for the public to consume en masse.

No, I'm talking brilliant Asian-Latin fusion fare, like Thai Chicken Empanadas, Coconut Scallop Ceviche, Chipotle Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna rolls and Sake Sangria.  Outstanding. 

Thai Chicken Empanadas.
Chipotle Yellow Fin Tuna Roll.
You order off menu, anything you like, as much as you like, for $35 a head.  There's a two-hour time limit, but let me tell you, Mish and I made good use of the time, the drinks, and our 35 bucks.  They probably lost money on us that day, but not really, as I'm blogging about it here and Mish and I plan to go back once a month.  It's already tradition.

Bay Scallop Ceviche.
Beef Sliders with Manchego Cheese.
Sincerely, it was one of the most enjoyable, relaxing, delicious, perfectly California days I've ever spent, and also one of the best meals I've had.  The ceviche was unexpectedly refreshing and crisp, with its hint of grapefruit, and the empanadas were impossibly complex and delicate.  Flaky homemade dough and deeply flavorful filling with a mango salsa.  Crazy good.

So go.  Brave the parking nightmare.  Ignore the crowds on the 3rd Street Promenade and get the to the delectable oasis that is Zengo.

Give and Take Chicken Salad
Bacon Fried Rice.
Sake Sangria.

The Bullet Ring

Straight up, I think this may be one of the coolest fashion pieces I've ever seen — for a girl like me.  I've been looking for a unique day ring that captures my own ... well, uniqueness ... and this may be it.

Designed by Karla Fox (whose Cutthroat collection is equally stunning and whimsical), this bullet ring has precise mini-bullets that spin in place.  14K gold is $1950, sterling silver is $495, and you can easily order online.  Who needs diamonds when you've got bullets?

Grand Time at Grand Lux

I'm not a big fan of chain restaurants or packaged foods.  This is no secret.  However, I am not so highbrow to miss the fact that some chains and franchises became brands because they do, in fact, know what they hell they are doing.  Can you expect wildly creative, locally-sourced, genius haute cuisine from a Cheesecake Factory?  Probably not.  But you can expect consistent food and service, simple pleasures, and a few favorites.

It is with this knowledge that I happily joined Joel at one of his favorite spots, Grand Lux Cafe in LA's Beverly Center.  I let him pretty much order (which you know means I must love him).  Gotta tell you, I was a little surprised at how yummy the food was.  Cozy booth, perfectly fried volcano shrimp and a smooth extra dirty martini?  Sign me up.

But the kicker — OMG I can't believe I'm going to admit this — was their chicken parmigiana.  I have been conditioned, as an Italian, not to like anything I don't either cook myself or get on the east coast.  Well ... I think I have to give that up.  This chix parm was pounded to the size of a small hubcap, perfectly seasoned, cheesy, tender, and came with al dente pasta in an amazingly garlicky marinara.  Shut up.  

I couldn't stop eating it.  I hate myself.  But I couldn't.  Mind you, it was so enormous that I shared it with a grown man and we still had to struggle to finish the plate, but then, that's why you go to chains, right?  Value.  Value + yummy is a pleasant surprise.

Then, oh sweet heaven, Joel insisted we get the Build Your Own Cupcakes platter for dessert.  I don't even need to describe this thing.  Look at the picture.  Pick up a cupcake and put sugar on it.  How can that fail?  When the cupcake is moist and they give you peanut butter frosting, toffee and confetti candy, it can't.

My FMF rating on this chain experience?  Amazeballs.  Thanks, Joel!

Red Obsessed

There are two critical fashion staples that I don't own: a versatile black handbag and a killer red dress.  Shocked?  Don't be.  I'm a perfectionist, and I gravitate to colorful accessories.  So ... that makes it tough to find a great black bag when I usually prefer the style in whatever other color the designer is offering.

As for red dresses ... ugh.  The combination is so easy to get it wrong.  I hate tomato red (too much orange), hate brick red (too much brown), hate pinky red (looks too cheap), and even with the right red, if the cut is wrong you can look like you're trying too hard ... at the wrong thing.

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, gets my attention: a super-hot RAOUL Wallis gown from Bloomingdales.  It's truly red but doesn't scream, it's soft, with cool overtones — and the cut is flawless.  The draping is stunning and that slit ... sexy as hell.  As my darling Joel would say, SOLD!

Sprinkles vs. Big Sugar

Look.  I'm not going to lie and say I don't worship the Sprinkles cupcake.  I do.  Frankly, no one does a chocolate cupcake better: Belgian.  Dark.  Awesome.  That said, I do believe sugar genius can be found beyond the Beverly Hills ATM (a true stroke of brilliance on the part of Candace Nelson and co.).

Yes, there are a bajillion cupcake shops around the globe thanks to Candace, many of them with yummy offerings.  But there is a simplicity and quality to Sprinkles that is like no other, keeping it tops in my book.

BIG SUGAR BAKESHOP: the Daily Special (chocolate cake with strawberries & cream filling & whipped cream frosting) and the Chococcino (chocolate cake with mocha icing).
That said, there is another player in the world of cupcakeries that I like equally, if not more, than Sprinkles ... and that is Big Sugar Bakeshop in Studio City, California.  Why the love?  Well, one observation of a Sprinkles cupcake is that it is, in itself, a meal.  Delicious, beloved, but kinda huge.  Lots of frosting.  It's indulgent.

Now, if it's possible for a cupcake to be both remarkably delicious and yet somehow not entirely guilt-laden, then it's true of a Big Sugar cupcake.  Smaller, with less frosting (and slightly less sweet), these cupcakes are light and airy ... like little sugary clouds that melt in your mouth.  I can eat two without feeling stuffed, and that's sort of amazing.  Their vanilla cupcake (and I'm not a vanilla girl) may be my favorite, simply due to its ... well ... simplicity.  It is perfection, not a production.

Do your own taste test.  See for yourself.  Mind you, I prefer a world with both Sprinkles and Big Sugar in it, but if I ever had to choose...  Oh, let's just not talk about that special hell.
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