Off the Hook Brunch at CiCi's



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That's right, I said off the hook.  On point.  Out of bounds.  Or, to quote myself instead of Guy Fieri, freakin' magical.  CiCi's Cafe in Tarzana, California is the first restaurant I've been to ... and I've been to many eateries ... that literally inspired me to write an email to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives begging them to get Guy out there immediately.


Why?  Check the menu.  Check their listing on Yelp, which had at last count 699 reviews and 358 photos (um, people don't take that many pictures of mediocre food).  Check that it's in the valley, when Angelenos are used to going downtown, to Beverly Hills or to West Hollywood for noteworthy grub.  It's unassuming.  It's accessible.  And they have unique, who-they-hell-thought-that-was-a-good-idea combinations like caramelized sweet corn and coconut pancakes and chocolate French toast with pistachios and strawberries.  It's just effing delicious.


Let's go back to the photos.  Each plate is enormous, ridiculous, impossible.  A mountain of beautiful food that was so clearly made with love and passion you can't help but order three different items off the menu because you can't narrow it down to one human portion (leftovers rule).  Okay, I was with my amazing friend Michelle, who's slender and stunning and eats like a longshoreman (I love you, Miche), but we still covered the table with enough food to feed 6.


Oh, and don't be sidetracked by the carbs.  The savory we shared — Cee's omelette, with turkey sun-dried tomato sausage, spinach, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, boursin cheese and crispy potatoes — made me cry.  Eggs.  Made.  Me.  Cry.

Guy Fieri, if you or your team is reading this, get your ass to Tarzana.  Now.  We waited an hour to get a table (and it was worth every second), but I have a feeling they'll make an exception for you.  Oh, and you're welcome.

Jar Steakhouse



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Some things are just simple and good.  Like Jar on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, a retro-esque steakhouse owned and operated by chef Suzanne Tracht.  The space itself is the definition of simplistic — a mid-century modern enclave which borders on a shrine to brown paneling — but it's calming, and casually chic.  Honestly, I dig it.


As for the menu, the wine list is excellent.  I had a 2011 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec that drank like spicy silk.  God love Argentinian wines.  My filet was flawless.  Perfectly seasoned and rare, and it cut with my fork.  Sounds easy ... it's not.  Steakhouses fail at this constantly, and it's irritating given the usual prices.


Now, when it comes to steak, I can be a bit of a traditionalist.  Especially in a room that sort of makes me feel like I've accidentally fallen into the late '60s.  Creamed spinach, green peppercorn sauce.  Both were delicious.  Dining with my brother, whom I adore and can surprise me with his adventurousness, we decided to try the duck fried rice as our second side, in lieu of potatoes.

While he didn't adore it, I ... well ... did.  It was Asian and unctuous, and the duck fat gave it just enough body to let it stand up to the steak, yet not be greasy.  I ate the leftovers cold the next day.  That's a good bowl of rice.  A hit all around, and I can't wait to go back.

Zombies and Fake Eyelashes



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I love two things equally: getting dirty and cleaning up.  Oh, and I love zombies.  Who doesn't love zombies?  The walking dead apocalypse is coming, peeps, and when the bullets run out, the only survivors will be those who can out run.

I got in some serious training this past Saturday at the Run For Your Lives Zombie 5K in Temecula, California — one part race, one part obstacle course, one part protecting your brains from the clutches of rabid zombies, and all parts adrenalin rush awesome.


This is a shot of my exhausted self after outmaneuvering hundreds of brain eaters while racing through mud pits, under electrocuted wires, up man-made towers and through pools of foul, filthy zombie guts and dirty water (that red flag meant I survived with my life, by the way). And oh, girls ... don't be afraid of dirt.  There's a reason boys have so much damned fun in it.

I was primed and ready for this session of fit fierceness after my previous Saturday, where I reveled in being the anti-tomboy.  All makeup and high heels and glamour, I wore amazing fake eyelashes for the very first time as my exceptionally talented friend Stephanie christened her new studio and photographed me for Full Metal Fabulous.


Her philosophy at Simpson Portraits is that all women are beautiful, and just as a pursuing zombie brought the survivalist badass out of me, Stephanie found my innate glamour girl and made me feel undeniably feminine.  She's truly gifted, and that day was an equally remarkable blast.

This is why it's so awesome being a girl.  Full Metal and Fabulous.  Why choose?

Best Mexican in Los Angeles



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When I first moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago, knowing nothing yet of the city or its many pockets of social and culinary character, my landlady recommended La Cabanita in Montrose, California as the best Mexican food she'd ever found.  She is a genius.  To this day, La Cabanita is still the best Mexican I've found, and there is a lot of Mexican in this town.


Better even than the fare one can find on Olvera street downtown, this food is simple, fresh, authentic, regional, and just freaking delicious.  Everybody offers free chips and salsa, but these aren't just chips and theirs isn't just salsa. The chips are warm, thick and home cut, the salsas a selection of light and spicy salsa verde and deep and smoky red sauce.  You'll be addicted in under a minute.


On the main menu, the many varieties of stuffed poblano peppers are remarkable, and a true standout.  Another standout is the soup -- whether it's carrot soup, corn soup, or their ridiculously cravable caldo de pollo, with its fresh onion, lime slices and corn tortillas, you will go home warmed, amazed, and satisfied.

But my favorite dish is still probably their carnitas platter.  Delicately fried chunks of pork with rice, beans, guacamole, and tender homemade corn tortillas ... all the usual suspects, but all elevated in their authentic taste and superior quality.  The downside? This dish and this place with ruin you for pork or Mexican anywhere else.  A risk worth taking, I say.

9 Millimeter Bullet ... Earphones



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Listen up, gun junkies.  Literally.  I own a Glock 19.  I buy 9mm ammo by the bucket load.  I therefore feel it is my personal responsibility to own a pair of these, and I think you all should join me.


9mm earphones.  Bullets you put in your ears.  On purpose.  That is all I have to say.

BTW ... I may need to rethink my relationship with the dear friend who turned me on to these via thefancy.com because he's going to send me to the poor house.  I just needed to say this publicly.
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